Michel Bastide wakes up. He finds himself tied to a chair. Two sets of candelabras surround him. He can see no more than 5 feet in front of him. His head still hurts from the thump he got on the back of the head.
A voice from the shadows speaks out, “Michel Bastide. Born and raised in the Dukedom of Gisoreux. Parents were Harcourt Bastide and Juliet Bastide. Your father committed treason against your liege lord, and was hanged for his crimes. You fled Bretonnia with a band of outlaws. Crossed the Grey Mountains and found a new purpose as a tracker, a hunter of men. How’s that trade working out for you then?”
“Pretty good,” Michel replies. The voice returns, “Really? Any good catches lately? Don’t bother, we both know the answer to that. I’m not here to pass judgement on your capabilities as a hunter of men. I’ve a far more serious matter to discuss.
“You broke protocol. You made a serious breach in trust. You led strangers into the temple of Verena and exposed your Verenian contact, putting him at risk for a benign matter concerning a corrupt official. Explain yourself.”
Michel explains that he did what he thought was right. The voice says, “I appreciate your sense of justice, but your judgement has exposed your contact and put him in danger with people we do not know. I don’t see how this has got anything to do with Alric Eisenhower, the man you were tasked to hunt.”
The voice begins to question Michel about his traveling companions. Michel says that while he has not known them for long, he trusts them. He states that they all have a stake in hunting for the Purple Hand.
The voice asks, “I trust that the Verenian order in Altdorf briefed you on the Purple Hand? What did they tell you?”
“Not much,” Michel replies.
“Hence our problem. You know as little as we do. But what we do know is that they are planning something. And Alric Eisenhower is involved somehow. He is in this city. He’s still in the city. We have men watching the gates carefully, and a few sewerjacks on our payroll encase he’s foolish enough to try escaping that way. He came here for a purpose. The Purple Hand is very active in this city. It must be otherwise Eisenhower wouldn’t have been able to escape our notice so easily.
“Did you know Michel, that the Grand Theogonist is due to arrive in Middenheim for a high level meeting with the Ar-Ulric?”
Michel says he did not. (A Town Crier did announce it in one of the game sessions prior, but Michel was not there for that, or did not pay attention to it.)
“In 4 days time to be exact. Near the end of the carnival. Do I need to tell you that with a powerful cult whose motives we have yet to understand, may present a danger to the Grand Theogonist?”
“No you do not,” Michel states.
“So you can see, there is an urgency to find Eisenhower, and where he might be hinding. We are confident he has had direct access to the Purple Hand. He may knows names. He may know faces. We need information. And we need him alive to provide it. Understand?”
“There is one other problem, Michel. Your breach in protocal has shattered the Verenian trust in you as their operative. They will no longer work with you, and you are no longer welcome back into the Temple.
“But I may have a use for you. You have no attachments. The only living family you have is your mother, who remains in Gisoreux. You have not shown any particular loyalty to one faction over another. You don’t come across as a particularly devout man. And I would say perhaps you hold some bitter resentment towards your Bretonnian overlords. And by all accounts, you chose the Empire as your destination for safe harbor. Not to mention your chosen profession, a man who hunts down criminals and brings them to justice. You are, by all accounts, a lone wolf seeking justice in a world where there is none.
“Which makes you a perfect candidate. Tell me Michel, have you ever heard of the Palisades?”
Michel says he has not.
“I didn’t think so. The Palisades are an organization that protects the Empire from hidden threats. We are mostly concerned with the safety of the Emperor, the Elector Counts and maintaining order, for without order, there is only chaos. And we seek to fight chaos at every turn.
“Does this, Michel, sound like something that you wish to be part of?”
After thinking it over for a moment, Michel replies, “Yes, yes I think it would.”
“Good. A man who knows what he wants.”
The figure in the shadows steps into the light, showing his face. Michel recognizes him. He had very briefly encountered this man when he was in the Altdorf asylum. Michel had previously been on the trail of Alric Eisenhower, picking up his bounty notice and tracking him since Eisenhower left Wittgenstein. He eventually crossed paths with him, and very nearly caught him. But Eisenhower had smashed a vial at Michel’s feet. Putrid green gas enveloped Michel, making him nauseous, and eventually, collapsing. Eisenhower escaped. When Michel awoken, he found himself delirious with madness, raving and ranting. He was eventually committed the Altdorf asylum, where he had an encounter with this man.
– Ernst Steurmann
“We have met before, you know. Back in Altdorf when you were locked up in the aslyum. I had gained your freedom to put you to work. You were the only one to have had contact with Alric Eisenhower after he fled Wittgenstein. I had a notion you would be of use to us. And here we are again. I am once again gaining your freedom, and putting you to use to serve a greater good.
“You may now consider yourself an associate of the Palisades. Do right by us, and you will find your deeds rewarded. In time, perhaps, you may even become an operative. For now, you work for us on the outside. I’ll be your handler from now on. You’ll not betray my trust like you did with your Verenian contact, understood?”
“The Verenians are soft. Their sense of justice prevented them from killing you outright. We’ll not be so kind. We’ll be providing a safe house for you. If your feeling generous, your traveling companions may make use of it. The safehouse does not compromise our position, it is one of many. So do with it as you see fit. I hope I don’t need to tell you not to make any mention of the Palisades to anyone.”
Ernst steps forward, producing a small glass vial with a red liquid in it. “Drink this, when you wake up, you’ll find yourself in the safe house.” Michel asks him to drink it first, Ernst replies, “If I wanted to poison you, I wouldn’t ask you. Drink, or it will be the hard way.” Michel drinks it, knocking it back down his throat. He suddenly feels quite tired, sleepy.
Meanwhile… Jurgen Noffein has handed in the letter to Wolf Lord Brunner that he retrieved from Gunther Wagner’s room. Brunner seems to not be all that surprised by the letters contents. He locks the door to his quarters, and offers a drink to Jurgen, which Jurgen hesitantly sips. Brunner pours one for himself.
The Letter – \\My very dear good friend,
It seems you need another lesson in how this works. Its rather simple. You support the upcoming vote to introduce the new tax legislation, and I needn’t share the rather compromising letters you and the good Frau Dietrich have been exchanging. Can you imagine what a scandal that would be? Tut-tut, don’t get upset. Your dirty little secret is safe with me. As long as you show support to the new laws, then you and I need not exchange any further correspondence. Wouldn’t that be nice?
As always, yours truly,
Frau Kenner. XxX //
“Tell me Jurgen, who do you think this letter was meant for?”
Jurgen proceeds to tell Lord Brunner his honest opinion. Stating that the letter mentions a vote, and as far as he’s aware, the only ones present in the temple with a vote on the council is the Ar-Ulric himself. Lord Brunner nods, “I know. I know exactly what it means. Jurgen, you are now part of a very small group of people. Myself, the Ar-Ulric, and you… who know of this. Perhaps even Klemet knew. Maybe that’s why he was murdered. I just wish he had come to me first.”
Jurgen has few words to say concerning that, other than expressing that the Wolf Lord can have his confidence in the matter.
“Understand that we will have to sit on the facts surrounding Klemet’s death. Murder raises questions. Questions we need to avoid. However, now that you’re aware of this, you can fully look into this matter. Frau Kenner is a person of interest that we would like to… meet. Yet we do not know who she is. As for the other woman mentioned in the letter, Frau Dietrich… That is Eva Dietrich. Perhaps that’s a good starting point. Although I would advise caution, she is the Graf’s Paramour after all, and it would be wise to thread carefully.
“There’s one other thing. The Ar-Ulric is making a sermon tomorrow. I suggest you attend. It starts on the 8th hour after dawn.”
Jurgen relays his thanks and leaves to get some much needed sleep.
Erika Johann and her uncle, Piet Johann, are outside the guild. The fire has now been reduced to an ember, smoke is all that remains as the collective magic might of the Magisters cause a localized storm over the guild. Although snuffing the fire out on one of the domes, the magic doesn’t go according to plan as the localized storm spreads over the city, causing a heavy downpour.
Piet chastises Erika once again, asking her if shes the cause of it. Erika is in no mood for her uncle however, she runs round the back of the guild towards the gardens. She heads towards the secret trap door that most of the students are aware about, and tend to use it to sneak out of the guild during classes and such. She’s looking for footprints, but fails to find any (after failing her perception roll). Piet catches up to her and demands to know what shes doing. Then a voice from behind, “Young lady! It is past curfew! And you, you are on guild property, you are to leave right now!”
– Deputy Janna Eberhauer
Erika apologizes for her behavior, and then for her uncle when Piet says he won’t budge, and is taking his niece with him.
But Deputy Janna isn’t having any of it, and casts a spell. Suddenly, the vegetation surrounding Piet comes alive with the power of Ghyran, the wind of magic belonging to the Jade order. But Piet stomps at the vines twisting up to grab him (he passes his wp roll to resist magic) and laughs it off.
Erika defuses the situation before Piet gets more magic blasted at him. She goes with Deputy Janna, and the Deputy gives a scathing warning to Piet to get off the guild grounds at once or she’ll summon for the guards.
Piet obliges, knowing that his niece will at least be somewhat safer now as she’s escorted to the student dormitories.
Erika spends the rest of the night awake in her room, restless and alert.
Piet leaves the guild grounds, and makes his way back towards the Bloated Toad, until a whistle distracts him. He turns to see a hooded figure standing outside a tavern. He gestures for him to approach. Piet makes his way over, and some whispers are had…
Over to Ser Gado… Gado is at the Blazing Hearth, the halfling run establishment. Its well past midnight and into the third day. Having his full share of drink and food, the weary sorrowful knight hits the bed, wondering if he’s ever going to get revenge for his sister.
Ser Gado dreams…
He finds himself in familiar territory. The Dukedom of Carcassone, on the river Brienne on the outskirts of his fathers castle. He sees himself as a young boy of 12. He looks around, and sees his sister, Adelcia, playing by the river. He remembers this day… He remembers his sister falling into the river. And she does. Gado rushes over to snatch her out from the flowing shining waters as she cries for help. He pulls her out of the river, his sister clearly distressed, “O my dress! Father is going to be so angry! You won’t tell father I was playing by the river again, brother?”
Gado reassures her he won’t. She says, “He always says I shouldn’t be playing near the river, but if I have my big brother to protect me, I needn’t worry right? Will you always protect me big brother?”
Gado assures her that he will always protect her. “Adelcia, your supper is ready!” a servant of the Duval family shouts out.
Adelcia scampers off for supper as the young Gado looks on.
“Such innocence. She never did let go of it in the end.”
The voice came from behind. Gado turns to see a young woman, clad in black.
Black of hair, piercing dark eyes coupled with a slender physique. A black cat sits on her shoulders, its gaze never leaving Gado. Gado now sees himself not as a boy, but as he is now. The very air around him changes. The landscape turns to a frosty white. Snow begins to fall. The river Brienne turns to ice. Gado can’t help but feel a deep unnatural chill as this woman gazes into his soul.
“Who are you!” he shouts out.
“My name isn’t important. Whats important is your grief being put to rest…”
She speaks, again, “You came a long way brave knight of Bretonnia. Over the grey mountains, through such hardship. And now sorrow. The love you have for your sibling is powerful. Yet the hatred you have in your heart, for the ones who took her away from you, is just as powerful.
“You desire vengeance. You wish to bring your killers to justice. I can give you that justice. I can give you the revenge you seek against those who have wronged you. It is a dangerous path, but you are no stranger to such paths.”
Gado says he needs no aid from such as her, as he has the Lady to guide him. The woman appears unmoved by this, saying, “I knew your sister. Adelcia. Such a sweet thing. Yet behind that sweetness lay a power. A great power that was wasted in that swampland you call Bretonnia. But she was taken from me. As she was taken from you.”
“The norsecan is the one I seek!” shouts Gado.
“Indeed, the one who can answer that is the one you seek. You’ll find him at the South-gate district, where the rats go. The Drowned ones… But you should hurry. He is in danger. There are those who wish to silence him. They know your looking for him, and he is a loose end. Till we meet again.”
The dream starts to fade, and Gado bolts up from his bed, covered in sweat. Looking out the window, the hour is still late, and he has had little sleep. He decides to rest, and first morning come, he plans to leave for the south-gate.
Down in the cellar of the Drowned Rat, Gerhard Kramer finds himself in a precarious position. He is keeping odd company… The norsecan. “What were you doing up there!” the norsecan demands. Kramer still passes himself off as a lowly beggar, which he does surprisingly well. He tells the norsecan that he saw the hooded men enter the premises and leave shortly after. He was merely looking to see what happened.
For now his story seems legit, as the norsecan asks him if he saw where they went. Kramer tells him that they had all split up and went their separate ways. The norsecan heads over to the back of the cellar and axes to death a wood beam covering a medium sized gaping hole. A stone stairway leads further down, far far down.
“Well, are you coming?” the norsecan snorts at Kramer, as he turns to leave, not waiting for a reply. Kramer, not wanting to wait around for the watch or anyone who might watching the place, decides to follow the norsecan.
After what seems like an eternity heading down, a sudden foul smell hits Kramer. Sewage… And then the rushing sound of a sewer river. They’re in the sewers.
“Stick close or you’ll find yourself going for a swim…” the norsecan mutters out.
Kramer follows him for what could be an hour or more until a light is seen far off. They get closer to the light, and see a sewerjack carrying a lantern. The norsecan seems to know the man, “Bernhold, I need your help.”
The sewerjack approaches, “Hanz… You in trouble again?”
“You could say that. Need a place to stay.”
“Sure, if you got the piece…”
The norsecan hands him a silver piece coin, but it doesn’t look like any ordinary coin. It has the face of a jackal on it.
Bernhold takes the coin. “And him?” says Bernhold, looking at Kramer.
“He’s with me,” says the norsecan.
They follow Bernhold, navigating the nauseous sewer paths that twist and turn every way. Scurrying rats scamper this way and that way as they continue onwards.
Eventually they stop at the foot of a ladder. Looking up, a manhole covers an exit. The norsecan gives a nod to Bernhold as he climbs, but parts with a warning to Kramer, “Don’t say a fucking word,” he says to Kramer.
They head up and find themselves in a backroom. They can hear gambling, banter and drinks being had.
The norsecan enters the room first with Kramer in toe. He heads over to the bar to have a quiet word with the barkeep. Kramer follows closely behind, and in the corner of his eye, he spots a familiar person…
Piet Johann! He spies Big Piet in the corner, sitting at a table. With him, is Nickel Kess, the bailiff that has been causing a lot of trouble for Kramer.
– Nickel Kess
Has Piet sold out Kramer? It certainly looks that way.
Kramer curses under his breath, which he tries to muffle. The norsecan finishes talking with the barkeep, and nods for Kramer to follow. They head upstairs and find a room. It’s small, with a single bed. “You take the bed. By morrow we split.”
The norsecan takes the floor as Kramer prepares to bed down.
But he won’t be getting any sleep…