On both sides of the Weissbruck canal, the two elements of the party make progress to Altdorf, the capital of the Empire.
Now that Ulrico and Finja have the assistance of the roadwardens, they arrive roughly around the same time as Borri, Eckhardt and Johann, albeit from different gates. Fancy that!
Borri and co pay the rather exorbitant fee of 100 pence (leg tax +horse tax) when asked by the gatekeeper whether or not he’s a registered coach company. The honest dwarf replies that he is not, and thus, is slapped with the horse tax fee as well as the leg tax.
After a quick whip around, they pay and are allowed entry into the majestic seat of the Empire. Sigmar’s city.
Ulrico and Finja however are entering from the west gate, riding with the wardens. They stride past the gatekeeper and avoid paying the toll. The wardens quicken their pace through the city and make way to Shallya’s temple which lies on the north side of the city.
Once at the temple, the wardens dismount and hand Liliana over to Ulrico and Finja. The captain of the wardens bids his farewell to them.
Carrying Liliana, they make their way up the temple steps. Both of them notice that on either side of the temple, Ulrican and Sigmarite warriors lie severely injured, but separated from one another. Looks like they’ve been having a go at each other, but the Sisters of Shallya are doing their best in keeping them apart.
Ulrico and Finja walk past them and into the temple carrying Liliana. There, one of the priestess’s tends to their needs, putting Liliana on the ground and examining her. Becoming greatly concerned for her well being and suggesting that she may already be at Morr’s gates, she summons four Sisters to carry Liliana into the inner sanctum.
Finja offers up a donation of 2 crowns to the temple which is appreciated greatly, and they make their leave. As they do, Borri’s carriage shows up outside the temple, having previously agreed before they left Bogenhafen to meet up at Shallya’s temple.
Johann has already jumped out and makes his way up the steps. Finja spots him and follows behind as Ulrico makes his way down to the carriage. Borri asks him to keep an eye on Eckhardt who is asleep, and currently hungover…
Unbeknownst to Johann however, Finja wishes to besmirch Johann’s character and is currently arguing with him as he makes his way up the steps. The argument, briefly summed up, is Finja’s view that Johann has been disregarding the care of his sister greatly to the point that she now may face death due to her brother’s actions.
Finja slaps him across the face, but Johann simply turns and walks away from her.
Finja pursues and jumps on his back, screaming abuse and acting like a mad woman. Johann gives her a slight elbow to the face, but its Borri’s actions that separate the two children from one another. Borri demands to know what the hell is going on, and is left with Finja as Johann continues his way into Shallya’s temple.
A clearly unhappy Finja briefs Borri about the recent happenings of their group, including the last known sighting of Kall Horst.
Johann heads on into the temple and is shown to his sister. There, he see’s Liliana being treated by two Sisters where she is receiving clean bandages as a disinfectant bath is prepared.
He pleads for them to help her in anyway they can, but their reply is that he simply must pray now, for only faith will be his guiding light.
Johann leaves the temple and slumps down onto the steps. Borri greets him with a curiously absent Finja, who Johann discovers is making her way to the Boatman inn with Ulrico, which is where they first met Ernst Steurmann.
Content to let him sit and wallow in his own sorrow, Borri leaves him as he jostles up Eckhardt and prepares to do something about this extra baggage… That extra baggage not being his waistline, but rather the carriage and the two horses.
Borri asks around and a citizen guides him over to the Ratchet Line, a well known ‘budget’ carriage service.
Asking one of their workers, and getting treated in a rather unpleasant manner, Borri eventually meets the bossman himself as he comes out of the coach house to greet him.
Borri at firsts states that he’s looking for work, but the boss, who gives his name as Abelheim, is not interested in hiring him, specifically not interested in hiring a dwarf. Avoiding any future racism rows in a very public street, Abelheim dodges around the issue and instead asks if Borri is looking to sell this fine looking carriage.
Borri nods, and the two discuss business. However, Abelheim is very suspicious when Borri is unable to answer some questions as to the nature of the carriage, how it became into his ownership and even more so when Borri is unable to come up with a name of the previous owner due to forgetfulness. Not even a makeyup name! Ah, the prevailing handicap of dwarf honesty…
With this suspicion in mind that the carriage may be stolen, Abelheim offers him a sum of 95 crowns for the carriage. Including the horses. Now, 95 crowns is a lot of money, and to any other commoner possessing the average IQ – which on average is very low when concerning the average peasantry, at least according to the Nobles Guide To Citizenry – would possibly jump at the offer, Borri possesses enough sense, not much, but enough to realize that 95 crowns for a carriage and two wellbred horses is a complete and utter rip-off, even if they’re stolen.
Borri strongarms the negotiations somewhat, and the offer soon climbs to 140 crowns. A still paltry amount, but one that Borri knows isn’t going to get any higher.
With the Graf’s carriage sold along with the horses, Borri pockets his earnings and distributes it over to various parts of his hairy body.
Eckhardt and Borri then make their way to the temple of Morr, as Eckhardt needs to follow up a line of inquiry and possible protection that was promised to him by brother Lambke.
Elsewhere, Finja and Ulrico get private rooms and some grub to boot at the Boatman. Johann soon follows up, but doesn’t spot any of his companions. Johann heads back and makes his way to the Black Velvet, where he was accosted by a street harlot on his way down earlier.
He realizes that he’s missing a crown and 6 silver, and the harlot was the only one recently to have put her arms around him. When he confronts her however concerning his missing coin, she slaps him hard and walks off. Johann, having enough of getting slapped today, asks around for the seediest place around. He is shown to an area known as ‘Harlots Row’ and a place called the Ruddy Wrench. There, he buys a tankard of brown for a single pence, and rents a cheap (and possibly flea invested) private room for 6 pence.
Still reeling from his previous injuries, he puts his feet up, says a prayer to Shallya, and tries to get some sleep.
Johann’s Prayer: “Shallya. I don’t know much about you, because I’m not much of a godly man. I’m probably dirt in your eyes, I’m a violent, whoring drunken pirate after all. But your sisters said that praying was all I could do for Lil, so here I am on my knees before ye praying as hard as I can. She’s the only thing I got now after all, so I wouldn’t be a man if I didn’t try to get her fixed up. I’m willing to do anything Shallya, I’ll give up the drinking, the whores, this bloody pipe; anything. Just keep her form Morr, even if you need me to serve ya the rest of my days. A life for a life seems fair to me… but I’m not too good with words either Shallya, so if you want me; give me a freaky vision or something. I’ll be good as dead minute my eyes shut… so if you want me, all I ask is you help my sister.”
Eckhardt and Borri however have made their way to the temple. As they approach Morr’s temple, a blackened building set amidst a vast cemetery, they spot two rather intimidating figures that clearly belong to the mysterious Black Guard, flanking both sides of the large double ironed doors that lead into the temple.
It is in fact these type of fellows that Brother Lambke from Weissbruck had promised, or rather, suggested to his superiors in Altdorf that would be safeguarding Eckhardt and company from a possible vendetta for Eckhardt’s killing of a vampire.
Eckhardt and Borri head past them. They do not budge. Stepping into the temple, they immediately notice a chill in the air, and Eckhardt heads over to one of the acolytes who has buried himself into a dusty tome.
Mentioning Brother Lambke, the acolyte perks up, and motions for them to follow.
“Brother Valdric would like to speak with you…”
They follow the black-clad priest down a corridor, where a room sits at the end. The acolyte heads in, motioning for them to wait. They hear whispering beyond the door, and after a few minutes, they are allowed in.
There, they see a priest clad in plain black robes, sitting behind a desk, a tome lies open in front of him.
He gestures for them to sit, and they do as the acolyte that showed them in departs, closing the door behind them.
“I am Brother Valdric, tender to the needs of Morr’s doing here. And you must be… Eckhardt, correct?”
Eckhardt extends his hand, to which the priest hesitantly contemplates shaking it, and after a moment, he does.
“So, an interesting tale is told in a letter that was sent to me. Brother Lambke believes that a vampire belonging to an ancient family lineage known as Harkon, may be… interested in you. I was greatly concerned when I received the letter. I had thought that he meant Harkon of a different lineage, one that is far more powerful and shrouded in mystery, for which we know little. But fortunately, that is not the case. Although nevertheless, this particular lineage is still dangerous, and thankfully, we know much more. While they may assume the name of Harkon, my long-dead educated peers in this here tome seem to suggest otherwise. The assumption of the name Harkon is merely a… tribute, as you will, to an ancient and powerful vampire heritage, and frankly, the less I speak of it the better, for your sake and mine. The original name of this family is long dead, and lost to time. Regardless names matter not.
“What I can tell you is this; the family lineage extends out from Araby. That is where their true foundation stems from, but, they have, or rather, had, family extensions throughout the Empire as well. It is believed that the family has long died out. But Brother Lambke has stated in the letter that you had handed him the crest of their ancient family from that young vampire you slain. Troubling news indeed.
“Now, onto the pressing matter as to why you are here. Brother Lambke promised you protection. However, my colleague in Weissbruck may have… overstepped his authority somewhat when he suggested that we have a member of our esteemed Black Guard escort you for a certain length of time. I’m afraid that is simply impossible. We cannot spare any members of our Black Guard as our resources are stretched, and I will be frank… even if we could, I would not permit such an action. Even if you were of noble birth and requested our services, I would not permit it. The Black Guard is not for hire. To anyone. However…
“I cannot let you go in good conscious knowing that you may be hunted and soon at the mercy of one of these blackened hearts. So, I will permit you some alternative protection.”
At this, Brother Valdric heads over and picks up a small bell, and proceeds to ring it. And rings it again… After a few more ringing of the bell, he goes over to the door, opens it, and extends his arm out, ringing it so that it echoes down the corridor.
Satisfied once the loud ‘stomps’ are heard, he sits behind the desk and waits patiently.
“I will give you the services of a companion of mine. Now do not be alarmed at the sight of him. He is quite tame. As long as he doesn’t consider you food…”
The door opens voilently, and a large 9 foot tall ogre steps through, or rather, crawls on all fours to fit through the doorway.
“Ya call’ed Boss?”
“Yes, I did. I want you to meet these two. You’ll be keeping watch over them, specifically this one here.” Valdric points to Eckhardt, but he’s ignored as the big ogre goes over to Borri, and starts sniffing him…
Borri realizes what it is and takes out a large piece of chicken, and hands it to the big fella, which Borri gets a pat on the head.
“Yes, well… That’s one way to make friends. His name is Gutz Ironside, and if you accept my offer of alternative protection, he will safeguard you on your journey until we can be assured that you no longer face this vampiric threat.”
“Is he safe?” asks Eckhardt.
“Yes. Well. More or less. Just don’t anger him. I’ll write you up a writ confirming his employment. Gutz tends to attract a lot of attention, usually always bad, and usually from authority. This writ should protect you from arrest, and from him being speared by fearful guards. Concerning his upkeep, well, it’s a simple matter. Gutz has been thought the value of money, and the basic principles of counting. He’ll pay his own way, and he’ll have his own wagon of food which I would strongly suggest that neither you or anyone attempt to leech from, nor would I suspect anyone of sound mind and body would do so.”
“Me Gutz Ironside! Me Strong! Me Smash!”
“Yes, very good. Now, was there anything else?”
Borri asks for some grounded protection, to which Valdric agrees to give him and his company six hawthorn stakes, and instructs them in the basic principle of use.
“Drive them into the blackened heart of the monster.”