The party make their way onwards down river towards Kemperbad. It will be at least 22-24 day journey on the river.
Before they departed the signal tower, the party had opted to burn the corpse of the foul Necrach, turning it into blackened ash, and then carefully putting that ash in a chest. For some bizarre reason, the party decided to bring the ashes onto the barge. Perhaps their plan was to give the ashes to a temple of Morr in Kemperbad. Not a bad idea, if it wasn’t so far away.
Unfortunately, vampires are not so easy to kill. The weaker bloodlines can be sufficiently killed with a stake of hawthorn wood, ash or rosewood, driven into their blackened hearts. Even then, that isn’t enough. Burning their bodies is highly recommended and scattering the ashes in all directions to ensure that they do not come back.
This is more than sufficient with dealing with vampires whose bloodlines are diluted and are of not pure-bloods like the infamous von Carsteins.
But what do you do when you are faced with a much more powerful undead entity whose very spirit was free from such constraints of the mortal realm. A Necrach is, thankfully, a rare thing to meet. The one the party had faced had just regained its old bones, usurping von Liddleston’s (the grey wizard necromancer) magical entrapment’s. As a consequence of this, it was slightly weaker (The GM had debuffed some of its stats to take this into account) but still a formidable foe, as Durgin will no doubt testify as a result of his injuries. But even when it was dead, and burned to a fine ash, its spirit remained tied to its remains.
A very specific old ritual known to Morrites and veteran vampire hunters is involved in making sure such foul things do not come back. Unfortunately, the party were blissfully unaware of this when, 2 days into their river journey, the Necrach’s spirit reached out and clamped onto the mind of Kall Horst.
It spoke to him in a faint weak whisper, “Kill… Kill for me… Do my bidding… Kill them all…”
Kall Horst had failed his check to resist, and as a result, he stood up in one motion and went over to Eckhardt who was busy drinking over the side of the barge.
Kall Horst slowly drew his pistol, loaded it, and aimed it at the back of Eckhardts head at point blank range. Eckhardt had unfortunately took a sip of some of Borri’s Bugman’s stock earlier and was in happy happy land when the shot came, then the searing pain and the blood starting to pool out of the back of his head. He would have been surely a dead man had he been injured in the fight earlier, as Kall Horst single shot had caused him to go from unhurt to 3 wounds remaining.
With Eckhardt dazed, injured and confused, the rest of the party jumped on Kall Horst and promptly tied him up.
Kall Horst snaps out of his trance and plays the innocent routine, which is genuine as he doesn’t remember anything.
Durgin suspects that the Necrach is at work, and he did have a dream previously in which the ghost of his long dead rememberer tried to warn him, but alas he only remembered fragments of it.
With this information at hand, Durgin proceeded to pick up the chest filled with the black ash and then scatter some of it over the side of the barge, picking up a handful of it at a time.
The party erupt in collective protest at this – for some reason lost to the GM – and Durgin had closed the chest with the remaining ash inside.
At this point the party notice that they are being followed on the west bank river.
A mounted cloaked figure was following them. Eckhardt thought it might be a witch hunter, the others were unsure. After a brief time of calling to him, he eventually showed himself and came out of the shade from the forest.
Durgin and Borri recognize this man from earlier. He was on the riverwardens boat, and had gone up on deck to stare at them, and then promptly went back down.
They call out for his intentions, and the man makes his way on horseback towards the side of the barge. Tafwick is literally shaking and terrified, his bow feebly aimed at the man which doesn’t seem to bother the hooded man.
His voice is but a whisper, barely audible as he tells the party his intentions. It turns out he’s a vampire hunter, and was trailing the party after their fight with the Necrach. He was after the ashes…
After some internal discussion amongst the party, they decide to give him the ashes. The man says he knows how to ensure that the fiend remains eternally dead.
He also helps the party out, albeit giving them little choice in the matter as he stomps his way past onto the barge. He gives Kall Horst a small vial containing a white milky liquid. It tastes bitter, salty and has a hint of silver to it. Eckhardt had proclaimed earlier that it was he, and not the halfling, that killed the fiend. This seems to have impressed the hunter, and he threw Eckhardt 6 silver-coated bolts as well as a bag of grounded silver dust. He also treats Durgins wounds, making sure there’s no necrotic infection.
After that, the party continue on.
A day passes by and they come across Castle Reiksguard.
Castle Reiksguard is a formidable fortress located on the western cliff-face of the river reik. It is where the main chapter of the Reiksguard is located and where the Reiksmarshall is usually found. There were rumors of late that the heir apparent of Karl-Franz is currently at Castle Reiksguard under guard. Some have said that the young prince Luitpold Schliestein (the heir apparent) was placed there for his own protection, others have said he is mentally retarded and kept away from public.
At the foot of the cliffs is a rowboat, and the party notice a man face down in the river. Kall Horst, ever on the lookout for new fashionable tastes, ponders whether or not the man has good fashion. Apparently soggy wet clothes belonging to a dead cadaver is quite salvageable in Kall Horst’s book.
The party opt to move on rather than investigate. Unbeknownst to them, the man was shot from a patrol out of Castle Reiksguard after seen climbing the cliffs. He was in fact a poacher, poaching eggs from an alcove nestled into the cliffs. Had they investigated, they would have come across a stash of the eggs which could be valuable to sell or to be used for cooking.
The rest of their journey is uneventful. For once. The party rest up, and Eckhardt’s nasty brain-scattering wound is soon healed up. For once, in a long long time, perhaps for the first time ever, the party have no wounds to speak of once they arrive at Kemperbad.
As towns go, Kemperbad is unusual. Situated on the cliffs, 500 feet (yes, 500 feet!) above the River Reik, and approximately 250/300 feet above the River Stir, Kemperbad would prove troublesome for anyone attempting to siege the town. Kemperbad is an important commercial hub, but an expensive one to do trade at. However its semi-independence allows it to have in stock trade goods that are harder to get elsewhere, and a trader would do well to stop off at Kemperbad to see what the local stores have to sell.
Getting into Kemperbad is difficult. If arriving by boat, you have the rather ingenious method of lifts that face the east cliff-side of the town. These lifts come in varying sizes to allow both person and cargo to be uplifted into the town. The local dwarfs operate the lifts and are responsible for maintaining the lifts also since they constructed it. The lift baskets operate on a pulley system, and they are crucial to the commercial development of Kemperbad. River trade makes up around 90% of Kemperbad’s trade traffic, with the rest devoted to foot traffic. It’s an understatement to say that the dwarfs play a crucial role in all of this. In fact, Kemperbad is as much as a dwarf town as anywhere else. The dwarfs who live here enjoy tax exemptions, and are treated with a bit more dignity and respect than elsewhere. Cause the mayor of Kemperbad knows that without the dwarfs operating the lifts, Kemperbad would cease to function.
The party pull into the busy harbor as Ulrico struggles to guide the ‘Strumpet’ into a tight spot. He pays the docking fee and they depart. This is not Ulrico’s first visit to Kemperbad, having briefly stayed here on his travels. He warns the party to keep an eye on their coin purses as Kemperbad can be a rough town.
As they depart, they hear a trumpet and look further down the docks at an assembly of Kemperbad guards, lined up in a formation.
“Make way for the Chancellor! Make way!”
A boat, about as 3x times as big as a Reikaal barge pulls in. It’s plank is drawn and a carpet is laid upon it as a rather large opulent plump man steps off it. A flag bearing that of the Reikland province is seen hoisted on the boat.
The man is surrounded by guards as he makes his way towards the lifts, skipping the ques and his escort pushing anyone who gets in their way. Tafwick shakes his head at this display of noble arrogance.
The party continue onwards towards the lifts, but its Tafwick whose head turns towards a figure coming off the same boat that the Chancellor was on.
Tafwick takes note of her appearance, and remarks to the others that they are here to look out for a woman with a feathered cap. Ulrico gets a good gander at the feather; blue tipped. Dahlia Blackheart, the Palisade agent had told them to keep an eye out for a woman with a blue tipped feather and wearing a feathercap.
Thanking their good fortune, the party follow her discreetly with Tafwick saying he’ll follow her if they need to split up.
They lose sight of her however as she heads up on one of the lifts, and the party are forced to wait in the que.
Once on the lifts, they reach the top. There’s no sign of the woman. Durgin is somewhat frustrated and dying for a drink. He looks around and goes in the nearest one. Unfortunately he mistakes it for a Brothel, and departs quite hastily.
The rest of the party follow Ulrico’s suggestion and head towards the Seagulls Nest. Just outside the inn, there’s a notice board that’s hard not to notice (ha!). Of particular interest is the wanted posters…
A rather illiterate notice concerning a missing cat, a half-illiterate notice concerning a potential job followed up by several wanted posters. Eckhardt remarks at his rather unflattering image, Kall Horst, upon seeing his mug proudly displayed, decides to head back to the barge with his hood up and to stay low. There’s also a poster concerning someone called Alric Eisenhower who is worth an awful lot of crowns. 200 crowns in fact.
But Durgin scoffs at the familar faces on the board, and heads straight for the inn. Although his charge into the inn is stopped abruptly by an old man sitting at the door.
One-eyed old Jack he is known as. A harmless old codger who loves telling stories. Unfortunately for him, Johann isn’t here, so nobody is willing to listen to his tall tales the least of which is Durgin who brushes past him.
Inside, they notice a familiar figure sitting in the corner, having a drink on her lonesome.
It is the feather-capped lady. Tafwick loudly proclaims that he is waiting for someone and perches himself down, facing the doorway to keep an eye on her. The rest get drinking. Tafwick notices a parchment of the Kemperbad times on the table, and reads it to himself, then sharing the news to the others.
Some of the more important news concerns the recent edict that declared all mutants as legal and killing them would be an unlawful act. Grand Theogonist Volkmar the Grim has repealed the edict, declaring it false and void. Whether or not this has ended a potentially explosive religious war or has just merely delayed it has yet to be seen as Boris Todbringer has demanded an meeting among-st the Electors. The Al-Ulric, well…
An hour passes and the others decide to stock up on supplies. Eckhardt and Tafwick are the only ones remaining as the rest go off.
Durgin and Borri help themselves with some small kegs of dwarven ale. Going through the plaza, they witness an arm wrestling contest concerning a dwarf, looking for challengers. The buy in is not cheap, but the reward is a black well groomed hound sitting next to the dwarf. “Best out of 3 if you can beat Brognus Hammerhand!” a man loudly proclaims.
Durgin walks on by, not wanting to risk a good shaming at the hands of a burly dwarf.
Borri and Durgin make their way to the barge to drink, and drink, and drink some more, not wanting to dwindle their supply of Bugman’s ale, they opt for third-rate dwarven ale. Durgin is not impressed but Borri finds it suitable to his taste. They stay on the barge as Eckhardt drinks his sorrows away and Tafwick keeps an eye on the lady.
Eckhardt however is given a rude awakening when the barman leans in and says, “So… what did you desert for?”
Eckhardt is left stone-faced and unresponsive for a few moments when the barkeep continues on, “Your mug is on my notice board outside. Your either incredibly brave, or very foolish, or perhaps a bit of both to walk in like that. Not that I care mind you, it be more trouble than its worth to hand you in. So… what did ya do.”
Eckhardt tells him the story. He says that he was with his regiment from Ostermark when he his sergeant came very ill. Plague or worse, possibly taint. The rest of the troops were showing symptoms as well. Not wanting to get what he’s having, he deserted.
The barkeep, seemingly somewhat disappointed at this rather dull telling, remarks, “Well, I’d wager you’d not be welcomed back then.”
Tafwick notices a stranger walk in. A deep scar is seen on his cheek.
He looks around the room, and catches a brief glimpse of Tafwick, who makes the odd choice to raising a tankard to him. The man stares at him for a moment, and then saunters over to the table with the lady with the feathered cap.
They both begin conversing. It takes a good 30 minutes or so before they get up and leave. Tafwick follows behind. He follows them down to the docks at the bottom of the cliffs of Kemperbad, and overhears some of their conversation.
The man – “In good time my lady. There is a slight concern as to why the Hand has chosen you however, to conduct this meeting. The baroness was looking forward to engage with Ethelka Hersen, her usual contact. She is not fond of new faces, and you my good lady, is a new face.”
The woman – “Understandable. But Ethelka is needed elsewhere. The Arch Lumen himself has given me leave to carry out this inspection. You needn’t worry.”
The rest of the conversation is unheard as the two make their way onto a river barge. Tafwick feeling a sense of urgency heads to the Strumpet where Durgin, Borri and Kall are at.
Durgin and Borri are not one for listening as they are both pissed or getting there. He gives the description of the man to Kall, and tell hims what he heard. Something jogs Kall’s memory however, when Tafwick describes a man in leather and plate armour, a deep scar running along his cheek and a distinctive yellow eye.
Kall does indeed remember this man…
– Castrum von Shultz
Kall remembers back at Bogenhafen, during Godfrey de Montforts jousting that there was a man with a deep scar on his cheek, and a yellow eye. Kall remembers him well cause he caught him good with a cabbage with some of Baumann’s stinging powder, giving Godfrey an easy win.
Tafwick heads back to the inn. However, there’s a trail of blood leading out from the inn down onto the pavement. Fearing the worse, he steps in. A sigh of relief as Eckhardt is still at the bar. Eckhardt tells him that a witch hunter came in not long after he left, and was looking for someone called Tonin. He went up to this man and then shot him, killing him and then dragging his body out.
Not wanting to stick around, and with their two targets that they are suppose to spy on heading south down the river, they get ready to leave.
The Strumpet barge undocks and the party follow the other barge down the river towards Wittgenstein.
And an ill-wind flows in from the south, a chill is felt…
Or is it blowing from under the floorboards of the Strumpet barge that they are on? As Borri has, and continues to have, in his possession, Heinrich Kemmler’s abridged journal, that he had taken from the signal tower earlier. There was a brief discussion that they should hand it in at the nearest temple of Morr, and they had the opportunity to do so at Kemperbad, but it seems a buried book belonging to an infamous necromancer under the floorboards is easily forgettable.
The GM shall endeavor to remind them of it…