The party wind up staying in Altdorf for a further 3 days…
Kall Horst arrives on the morning of the 2nd day, and meets up with the group. He’s heavily injured, and seeks the services of Ulrico and the Temple of Shallya.
Borri picks a bad time to go smithing as there is some heavy debate as to what to do with this newfound delay. After selling the carriage, and dealing with the business concerning the Temple of Morr, Borri decides to head over to the dwarf district. He enters the shop of Tot Blatter, a smithy among many within this particular district. He seeks out an apprenticeship, and after putting on a display of his work, Blatter realizes he doesn’t need an apprenticeship at all, but rather an evaluation by the guild. He pays the 50 crowns needed to be evaluated, and after proving his work by smiting a fine mail coat, the dwarf council for the Dwarf Guild decide that his work was indeed excellent, and that his evaluation was a successs.
Borri Rognisson is now a guilded member of the Altdorf Dwarven Guild Society, attaining the rank of Journeyman, and his guild certification.
Borri continues to smith over the period of 3 days.
On the 2nd day, the party hear rumors concerning a disease coming out of the town of Rechtlich. It is confirmed by the Sisters of Shallya. The party learn that refugee’s are arriving on the outskirts of Altdorf, setup into makeshift tents.
The party know that Rechtlich was the town in which Jacob Grimm, Handrik Grimm’s brother, was believed to be, and told them that Ilse was believed to be in his care. But every decision the party made led them further away from Rechtlich, and only delayed their search further.
Finja and Ulrico head out to the refugee camp after getting some masks bearing the symbol of the Holy Dove of Shallya as protection. They hope to learn more about this disease before deciding on what to do concerning Rechtlich, after all, as Finja pointed out, the party’s promise of a pardon relies on finding that girl.
Borri and Eckhardt call their endeavors foolish, and have decided that the risk is too great. Earlier on, Borri had arrived with news of a new possible avenue for money. The dwarf guild have given Borri a task to seek out and investigate a Signal tower, south-east of the city along near the banks of the river. Apparently some dwarfen engineers went missing, others were found paralyzed to death, and they would like him to visit after paying him the sum of 35 crowns in advance. Borri hopes to convince his party members, but such convincing doesn’t go as planned as they rebel on him, with exception to Eckhardt. The party is splintered as to what action to take.
Should they go south-east to this signal tower? A 3-4 day walk, or to Rechtlick, a 2-3 day walk, and even less on horseback. Kall points out that their pardon may be in Rechtlick, but the news of a disease has the others greatly concerned.
Finja and Ulrico make their way to the refugee camp. They do not get close to any of the tents, keeping their distance. Instead, ask one of the sisters for the particulars of this disease. They are told that the disease is quite unusual. It seems to affect men more than it does women, and the symptoms are bizarre. Accelerated growth of hair, teeth and prolonged features of the body, mainly around the face. It’s already got a nickname… The Beast Within.
Finja and Ulrico head back to the gates, but doing so without checking a vital source of information: could Jacob Grimm be lying in one of those refugee tents? Could even Ilse be there unknowingly? But the thought doesn’t rise, and they continue back to the city.
Eckhardt brings Kall back to his room to rest and recover. Borri makes his way back to do some smiting when he’s accosted by an old crazy man.
“How much?” he asks right out, coming up to Borri.
“How much!” he asks again.
Borri is confused, and replies, “For what?”
“For the Banana!”
“How much you offering?”
“500 Crowns” the man replies, and shows Borri a hefty bag. Borri takes a gander and see’s that there’s nothing but pebbles, but the main claims its gold all the same.
He goes rooting in his back for any such signs of a banana, but the man gets frustrated.
“No you soft-headed fool! I want that Banana!”
“The one that’s sticking out of your ear!”
Borri is pretty certain that the old coot is crazy, but none the less he begins bargaining with the man for his invisible banana.
The cost climbs up to 1,500 pebbles. But Borri is backing out of the deal, instead telling the man to meet him later.
“Give me the Banana!”
“I’ll visit you later and I’ll give you a different banana.”
“No! I want that Banana! GIVE IT TO ME!”
The man drops his pebbles and goes for Borri’s ear, Borri doesn’t resist much as the man’s filthy fingers dabble in his eardrum. Then the old coot pulls away, holding something in his hand, but there is nothing there.
“It’s mine! Heheheheheh,” the crazy man runs off. Borri shrugs and carries on.
On the 3rd day, a lot of events unfold.
Johann wakes up after a particularly disturbing dream.
In his dream, he finds himself at the Temple of Shallya. He see’s his sister, Liliana, her back is turned away. There isn’t much light, and the air is cold, snappy. Liliana turns to face him. Johann see’s that his sister is blind… For where there should be eyes, are nothing but empty black sockets.
“I cannot see…” she says, “Johann, you were suppose to protect me.”
She approaches him, “Why can I not see, Johann… Why were you not there to protect me?”
Johann replies that he tried, and that he was sorry, but Liliana continues to repeat her statement.
Johann has started shouting now in desperation as Liliana repeats. Suddenly the room goes dark, and he finds himself in an eerie spot.
Johann is alone. No weapons but the clothes on his back. Darkness surrounds him, except for a strange light above that shines down upon the path that he is on. The path is littered with skulls and bones. Johann can hear whispers in the dark… and a voice, a taunting demonic voice, “Eyes are the windows of the soul. Shatter them, forever…”
“There is no escape from my domain. Feed on my hatred… ”
“They are all going to die…”
Johann tries to put the voice out of his head, and concentrate on this strange place. (Following part is written by the player who plays Johann, Darren)
Before him stood the tentacles, ever hungry and writhing. They emerged from the void and had an air of patient danger, like a spider laying in wait. Johann realized this to be some kind of test and gripping a skull from the pathway devised a solution. He quickly tossed a skull towards the tentacles, dashing through without a scratch.
A sense of joy and relief filled him and he quickly paid due to Shallya. “The bleeding heart protect me and the white dove guide me.” Before the whispers once more beseeched him. Realizing his faith was being tested as much as his mind or body; Johann faced the second set of leaping tentacles. Instead of a skull, in his hand he had the symbols of his past life – his belt; crafted from finest leather by Marienburg artisans owing his family a favor and his right sleeve – emblazoned with the Karling-Satou crest.
He tossed his past away, discarding them to the hungry tentacles and dashed through, ducking low as the shred of his old life were devoured in an instant. Shallya’s light filled him, as the whispers receded for a moment.
He gave due; “The bleeding heart protect me and the white dove guide me.” Before the whispers renewed their assault as severe as a Winter’s tide.
The third of his trials loomed; thicker, thorned tendrils that looked far more fleshy than the previous pair. The questing limbs dripped a sizzling acid; small piles of smoke rose from the skulls beneath the tentacles… Johann first removed his boots; forgoing his past life’s comforts. He then removed the symbol of Shallya he had paid to be added to his trademark green jacket in Altdorf. Holding the bleeding heart emblem in a clenched fist, he wrapped the boots up in his jacket and launched it into the acidic viper’s nest and dashed across the bone floor barefoot.
It was a narrow thing and his feet were rapidly opening in his movements. But he met one more test, one which seemed impossible. An obsidian pit, deeper than even the black abyss surrounding the rest of the path beckoned. The gap was large and the mess of fleshy vines interweaving and snapping at the edges with mouths on stalks practically dared him to try and pass. He heard a female voice, one he presumed to be Shallya speak;
“Trust in your faith as you trust in my faith in you.”
Surprisingly the sinister whispers agreed. Telling him to jump across.
With a curse and continued muttering of his mantra Johann and sprinted to the pit; leaping as soon as his toes met the edge. Despite the repeated lunges of the tentacles, none found their mark and with Shallya’s blessing he landed safely. Spying a familiar small chest.
For next pair, he does the same, although discarding bits of his clothing to serve as distractions. Johann gets to the end after making a very daunting jump over a black pit of obsidian, while clutching the bleeding heart that he embroidered on his jacket sleeve.
At the end, he see’s an altar, flanked by two Sisters of Shallya, praying, their eyes are closed. On the altar, is a small chest. He recognizes it as the one that Liliana gave him.
He approaches it and opens it. There, he see’s a pair of eyes. His sisters eyes, green as ever. He picks them up.
Behind the altar, he see’s three statues. On the left, a bestial daemon, snarling. It’s claws are stretched out, as if waiting for something. He hears laughter coming from behind. He does not recognize it, but he feels his sister might…
In the middle, a statue represents Shallya. She is holding out a bowl. A single tear is shown on the statue, dripping down her cheek.
On the right, another statue, this one also demonic in nature, yet, the face is very much human. He recognizes the face… His oldest brother.
Johann approaches the statue of Shallya, and puts the eyes in it. A radiant light comes out, blinding him. Now, he finds himself back at the temple, in Liliana’s room. There, he see’s Liliana, embracing him, while saying, “I can see again Brother!”
The dream ends.. Johann wakes up in a heap of sweat.
It is early morning, the sun is just coming up. Johann decides to head down to the docks after picking up some menial labour for a few pittance. He’s no stevedore, but his help is appreciated regardless.
While working on the docks, Johann spots a familiar sight… The Berebelli!
It pulls into the pier, and Johann heads up to the barge. He see’s Ernst Steurmann, battered, bruised and nursing some recent injuries, but none the less alive. He steps off the barge and onto the docks. Johann is glad to see him, but Ernst is surprised.
“What are you doing in Altdorf?” he asks.
“We brought our sister here, to the temple of Shallya.”
“I wish to see her…”
They head over to the temple, but Johann is met with a very excitable priestess.
“You must come quick, it’s your sister!”
The two of them head down to Liliana’s room, and by all the miracles, there, they see the one-arm bandit that is Liliana, sitting up in bed and drinking some hot soup.
Johann is on the brink of tears as he hugs her, and Ersnt simply smiles.
The two catch-up, and plans are made. Ernst says that he was planning to head back to Marienburg, after he met a ‘friend’ of his in Altdorf, and that Johann and Liliana are welcome to come.
Liliana needs time to recover, and Johann feels now’s the best time for it.
Finja has left in secret during the early morning. She left a message with the innkeeper to relay to the others. Her destination; Rechtlich. Her purpose; to find Ilse, the daughter of the Graf.
A few hours pass, and the others eventually get up, make their way down for breakfast. There is no sign of Finja, and the innkeeper relays the message to them. The party are unsure what to do. They have no horses so they can never catch up, unless they are lucky enough to find a carriage that happens to be riding out right about now. Ulrico decides that Borri should know, and proceeds to make his way out of the boatman.
As he opens the door however, he bumps into Johann. And beside Johann, he see’s Ernst Steurmann.
The two shake hands. Ernst says he has urgent news that can’t wait, and that he should fetch the dwarf. The rest of the party wait up in Kalls room as Ernst chides Kall on his recent injuries, always getting into trouble.
Ulrico comes back with Borri in tow.
Ernst sits down and begins to relay them the news.
“Graf Wilhelm von Saponatheim is dead…”
“How did he die?” asks Eckhardt.
“Rumors are bedridden and in his own filth. Although I believe the Countess may have had a hand in that, I think we all know that. That sorceress bitch also tried to do me in, sending her men after me. I was ready for them though… I discovered something however that you lot may be interested to know. 4 of the 6 men I killed had Purple Hand tattoo’s on their chest, which leads me to suspect that the Hand is involved in this. If that is the case, then it spells dire consequences for us all.”
The party ponder on this, as Ernst continues, “There’s something else. The Countess called off the search. I must admit I fear the worse for poor Ilse. With the Graf dead, and Ilse still missing, I think there’s little to no hope of a pardon now. I plan to go to Marienburg, hide it out there for awhile, let things simmer down. But… I may be able to help you lot. I’ve a friend to meet tonight. It’s the reason why I’m here. I’m hoping they might be able to help us all. I suggest if your interested, make your way down to The Three Emperor’s Inn on the Street of a Hundred Taverns.”
The party agree, but Borri tells Ernst concerning Finja, and that she went alone early in the morning, only leaving word with the innkeeper.
Ernst frowns, and says that he knows a stablemaster in Altdorf that can lend him a horse for a few hours if its urgent. He’ll try and catch up.
Ernst leaves through the south city gate, and gallops ahead down the road, hoping to catch up with Finja.
After a couple of hours, Finja spots him making his way down the road. She draws back her cloak and gets his attention.
The two converse, but Finja turns her back on him in typical woman fashion and continues on down the road, leaving Ernst to trail behind, while trying to talk some sense into her.
Alas, despite telling her that the Graf is dead, and that the Countess has called off the search, and also stating that Liliana is awake, Finja continues on. She says Ilse may still be able to issue a pardon, but Ernst is not so sure on that. Regardless, he calls her stubborn and foolish, but it’s her decision. He turns back and heads back into the city, giving the news to her former companions that Finja Dietrich is gone, and is unlikely to return.
After an hour just before sunset, the party meet up at the Three Emperors. Ernst is already there, helping himself to some ales. They get some drinks in and sit down for the next few hours, drinking and chatting.
Only a couple of hours before midnight, the place starts to get roused up. The patrons are slamming their tankards down on the tables, shouting, “Dahlia! Dahlia! We want Dahlia!”
This repeats for a few moments until the chant is replaced by cheers as a well dressed man in colorful attire steps onto the stage, and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen. My esteemed patrons, I have the pleasure of introducing you to the one and only, the beautiful, the talented… Dahlia Blackheart!”
And indeed, a young blond woman steps onto the stage, carrying a lute, and holding a chair. She plots the chair down and sits, stringing her lute.
Then, she starts playing a tune…
The song captivates the crowd, and they are utterly silent as the song continues.
Once Dahlia finishes her song, the crowd cheer and stand, applauding her. Then, as if nothing happened, they go back to their drinks and chat amongst themselves as Dahlia steps off the stage.
She puts her lute away, and approaches the far back table in which Ernst and company currently sit.
“Ernst, you old dog.. It has been too long.”
Ernst stands up, but gets pushed back into the chair. “Not here Ernst, too much familiarity.”
She pulls up a chair. The party learn that Dahlia is actually the contact Ernst spoke about, but not only that, but she is a member of the Palisades. An organization that they never heard about until now. Ernst tells them that the Palisades deal with problems, before they become a problem. They are primarily concerned however with the protection of the establishment, rather than global threats. As such, they safeguard Elector-Counts who come to the Capital, and see to it that the Emperor is well and truly protected from external and internal threats.
Dahlia is somewhat displeased at Ernst blowing her cover, but Ernst says that they are good people, and that they need her help, and that they may be able to help concerning this Purple Hand business.
Ernst goes on to explain the last recent events concerning the Graf’s death, then the Countess and her possible involvement in the Purple Hand. Eckhardt explains to her also about the Purple Hand’s interest in him, and how he has a dead doppelganger. This definitely gets Dahlia’s interest… He also explains about the inheritance, for which Dahlia requests to see this so-called letter.
Dahlia reads it, while letting out a few chuckles to herself. “I must apologize. You see, the inheritance was our idea. And there was no inheritance to speak of. We wanted to lure out one of their high ranking members for questioning, and it seems that Kastor Leiberung met an ill-fate on the road, and by some strange coincidence, you happened to come along and take his place. Again, apologies that you got caught up in this. But, perhaps we can take advantage of this. Nobody but you seem to know that this man is dead, right?”
Eckhardt nods, but states that the Purple Hand may not be… happy with him. He says his last encounter with one member was in Weissbruck. There, he managed, or at least hoped, to have led them on a wild goose chase back to Bogenhafen to find this inheritance that doesn’t exist.
“Perhaps there is another way… You are already involved in the Purple Hand, and they seem to be interested in you. Perhaps we can help each other out… Would you be willing to travel East, to Kemperbad, in the services of our glorious Empire?” The party slowly nod in agreement.
“Good. There will be a meeting taking place in Kemperbad. We do not know the exact time or day, but we do know it will initiate once our agent enters the town. We would like you to go there, observe, report and follow. Our agent will be leaving Altdorf in a couple of days time, we would like you to get there before and… wait. There is more details of course, and I’ll show one such detail now..”
She takes out a letter, and gives it to Ulrico to read.
“As you can see, we have a contact within the Purple Hand. However, the cult is splintered into different groups. Sorta like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, otherwise I’m sure we would have known about the Countess.
“Now, under different circumstances, I would not be having this meeting. Ernst, you and I may go a long way, but not long enough for me to consider doing this. You see, my hands are tied, and I fear that there is a leak within the Palisades, otherwise we would have relied on our own sources to deal with this.
“There is more detail, but now I must know if you are all in. If not, then this conversation never happened.”
The party agree to go all in.
“Good. You’ve chosen good company Ernst. I will make arrangements for a barge tomorrow. It will have no one on-board, except someone who we consider to be a reliable sort. A halfling by the name of Tafwick. He’ll accompany you and aid you in this matter. I’m sure Ernst here will show you the robes concerning the operation of the barge. Ernst, have you got a map on you?”
Ernst gets out a map, and displays it onto the table. Dahlia draws a dagger from her boot, and starts making pointed marks on the map.
“You’ll journey down the river from Altdorf, heading to Kemperbad… here. Once in Kemperbad, you’ll wait for our contact to show up. You do not need to know the name of our contact, just yet, for security reasons. You’ll recognize the contact from a distinctive feather cap. It is a blue feather with a light orange tip. Our contact knows to wear it for the meeting. Once there, observe and report. Our contact will not be able to risk writing a report for us during and after the meeting, so we will be relying on your report. Then, we suspect judging by the letter, our contact will be heading down to Wittgenstein castle, here on the map where Wittendorf is.”
Eckhardt recalls Wittendorf, a small village in which he was pulled out of the river, many months before he met up with the group.
“Here’s where it gets tricky. We want you to infiltrate the castle. Our contact has their own mission, but recent events has me concerned, and has forced us to act sooner. Baroness Ingred von Wittgenstein lives a secluded life at the castle, along with her only living daughter, Lady Magaritta von Wittgenstein. The family keeps to themselves, but for quite sometime now we started to suspect odd goings on at the castle. Reports of abductions from the nearby village, and other strange goings on. We wanted to investigate, but every time we did, we would get blocked. I suspect the Baroness Ingrid knows someone very powerful indeed to keep us off their backs.
“It was only until recently however that a link between the Purple Hand and the Baroness was established. Once again, more nobility seem to be allying themselves to this cult, for whatever reason. We want to know what the Purple Hand is doing there, and if at all possible, put an end to it, without compromising our contact. If outsiders do this, all the better.”
Eckhardt slowly puts the words together, “You… want us to kill the Baroness? I thought we were getting help to get out of trouble, not get into more of it.”
Dahlia replies, “If the Baroness is engaging in treasonous activity, then perhaps it would be best for all concerned, if she… would take a trip up the river, if you get my meaning. But do not concern yourself with trouble, you’ll have more than enough to contend with. But not with the law. As I said, the von Wittgensteins are a reclusive family. They do not engage in the political affairs of other families and keep to themselves. This would normally be, an internal matter. But… recent events have forced me to seek outside help, such as yourselves, and Ernst here has kindly presented such an opportunity. The rumors concerning the recent disappearance of the Emperor from public showings, and the rumor mill that he’s ill, is… somewhat true. Ever since then, my superiors are blocking my efforts to investigate this cult along with the Emperor’s health. Something is going on, and I’m afraid for what that might mean for the Empire. You do this for us, and we will be in your debt, and part of paying that debt off, will be to ensure that the Bogenhafen authorities lose interest in you. The Witch Hunters are a.. different matter, but we’ll try and pull some strings. If you have any further questions, now’s the time…”
The party remain silent.
“Good. I’ll give you an address to carry messages too. Be wary of using pigion carriers, and do so only if absoloutely urgent. Otherwise, try and meet me in person here at the Three Emperors. Praise Sigmar. Praise the Emperor.”
Dahlia gets up, and leaves
The party are not sure to be relieved, or utterly frightened.