It’s just going past 10pm as Mannslieb makes its way across the nightly sky. A light snow has started to drift in from the north.
It has been over an hour since Prunkvoll left for the estate of Law Lord Reiner Ehrlich. Helnacht has left, stating that he wishes to check in with the sigmarites at the Temple of Sigmar to see if he can learn or gauge the ‘temperament’ of the city. He bids them farewell, for now at least.
Rhea is in the living room, falling asleep by the side of Praga, Prunkvoll’s mother. Not long after Helnacht made his departure, a heavy thud is heard at the front door. Gado goes to see what it might be, ready to draw his sword at any moment. Looking from a side window, he spots a plain dagger, pierced through a parchment and stuck into the door.
He opens the door and quickly grabs both parchment and dagger. He quietly makes his way to the kitchen area without trying to alarm Praga or Rhea.
Inside, he unrolls the parchment in front of Sibillia, and his heart drops when he sees several long horse hairs float to the floor. He recognizes them; Geoffrey. The parchment reads, “If you do not wish to become a horseless knight, hand over the girl to our man across the street. Horse or girl. Choose now.”
Emotion stirs within Ser Gado as Sib tries to comfort him. Gado is on the verge of charging across the street to cut down this agent of theirs, but Sib persuades him not too, stating that how will she possibly defend against anyone taking Rhea. Gado sees sense and backs down. He is loath to do nothing, but nothing is precisely what he can only do.
Gerhard Kramer finds himself in a small cell in the main watch barracks of Middenheim. None of his companions has been brought here, instead they were brought to the temple of Shallya for treatment. Nor does he spot any sign of Hans Riklof, the Norsecan, who was earlier arrested by the watch and told to see their captain.
Kramer has been waiting for sometime in the cell. Nobody has come to speak with him or even feed him. Finally however, a visitor arrives; a guard. He tells Kramer he is heading to speak with Captain Hammerstein, and takes him out and leads him across the barracks. There, Kramer spots several watchmen going about their business. Some dealing with rowdy drunkards coming in from the festivities of the day. He also spots a bruised and battered sigmarite who obviously got into a fight.
Getting to the captains quarters, the door is already ajar as the guard steps through, letting out a cough to get the attention of the captain.
“Yes yes, sit him down an begone…” the captain bluntly remarks.
Perhaps surprisingly however is the revelation that the captain is a dwarf; a rare sight indeed to spot a dwarf in authority over men. Yet Middenheim is a lot more liberal when it comes to their ex-pat dwarfs.
– Helmut Hammerstein
Kramer sits himself down in front of the captain as the guard takes his leave. Kramer spots Hammerstein reading a book… but not just any book, his book, the one he had retrieved from that stranger on the street. Unfortunately, Kramer never did open the book to check its contents despite having the opportunity to do so; so its contents remains a mystery to him.
Then, Helmut snaps the book shut and looks up at Kramer, blowing a smoke ring towards him as Helmut puffs away on his pipe.
“Gerhard Kramer, right?”
“Yes sir,” Kramer replies.
“Ya can wipe that frown off ya face boy. You are free to go as soon as you answer some questions. Several witnesses at the scene have made statements to the fact that you did not start this fight. Even those two ulrican brutes we brought in say as much. I see no purpose in holding you any further. But you will answer my questions manling, that you will.”
Helmut asks him about Kess, and why Kess seemingly wanted to do him harm. Kramer is upfront about it, stating that he found evidence which shows that Kess is corrupt, using his position as a bailiff to extort money from others. Kramer makes no mention of Goebbels however, but does say that the evidence he has on Kess was given to Law Lord Reiner Ehrlich.
“We’ll make enquiries as to that fact. Kess is on the run, he won’t get far.”
Kramer then asks about the book… Helmut replies, “Yes, I was going to ask you about the book. Where did you find it?”
Kramer describes the man who gave him the book, Helmut seems to know the man; “You refer to the family lawyer. We interviewed him in relation to the deaths of the Hattendorf family. I think another chat might be due… As for your connections to the family, well, have you ever met Lord Hattendorf?”
Kramer states he has not, but he is aware that the family have recently died.
“Very well. You are free to go. We will be keeping your book as evidence in our ongoing case concerning the Hattendorf deaths. You may collect your belongings from the quartermaster, and you will be escorted to the temple of shallya where your companions are. They are also free to go. I suggest you all remain in the city however, should I have any further questions.”
Kramer is shown to the quartermaster and collects his belongings. He asks his guard escort about Hans, if a norsecan was brought in recently. The guard says he knows nothing about that. Kramer tells him that he was arrested by guardsmen who said the captain wanted to speak with him.
The guard believes that this is something that Captain Hammerstein would want to hear, and shows him back to the captain. Kramer tells the captain what he knows; that 5 or 6 guardsmen had approached them and taken Hans into custody and that they were dressed in Middenheim guard regalia. The captain appears concerned about this and asks Kramer if he spotted any of the guards who made the arrest, in the watch house. Kramer says he does not, to which Helmut states that he will look into it.
Kramer is shown to the Temple of Shallya, and there, he meets up with Michel Bastide and Jurgen Noffein.
Both are being treated for wounds, but Jurgen is worse off for wear.
Jurgen asks Michel to head to the Ulrics Temple to deliver a message for him to Wolf Lord Brunner, to let it be known that they have the girl, Rhea, that Jurgen made reference too earlier.
Michel takes his leave.
Not long after that, Kramer and Jurgen get chatting, but the two come to a conclusion that it might be best if they head to Wolf Lord Brunner rather than risk Michel being turned away, which is quite likely for a foreigner.
They make their way to the temple, and can already here trouble before its in sight. Over a dozen or more sigmarites are outside ‘protesting’ in the form of shouting out abuse at the ulricans who stand guard at the entrance. But these are no ordinary ulricans; they are White Wolves. There is only 6 of them blocking the entrance, but they don’t appear intimidated at all by the rabble in front of them.
Before Jurgen and Kramer arrive, Michel witnesses a sigmarite initiate trying to bull-rush a White Wolf in a feeble attempt to get into the temple grounds. Unfortunately he chose the wrong Wolf to charge at. Rather than pushing him away or knocking him out, the White Wolf lashes out at him with axe in hand, embedding it into his shoulder. The man immediately collapses in pain and loses consciousness. Michel can’t tell if he’s dead or not, but he sure looks it. The other sigmarite priests look on in horror at this; anger starts to fester but they are unarmed, while the White Wolves are not. The White Wolf that dealt the blow issues a stern warning for them to stay back.
The watch, who are nearby in force and have been watching this unfold, step in to force the sigmarites away from the temple. Jurgen and Kramer arrive, with Kramer supporting Jurgen, just as the watch are dragging off the sigmarites and carrying their dead or unconscious bloodied companion.
Jurgen asks what happened, and Michel tells them that the sigmarites are blaming the ulricans for the attack upon the Grand Theogonist by the Sons of Ulric. And that one of them charged at a white wolf trying to get into the temple but was cut down. Jurgen couldn’t believe it; while the White Wolves are known for their zealous and extreme ways, the White Wolf did something incredibly foolish that puts him almost in the same boat as a Son of Ulric fanatic.
He relieves himself from Kramer and asks that they follow him from behind as he tries to toughen up and make his way through the temple. He is shown no resistance but his companions are forbidden to enter. Jurgen convinces them that they are hear to speak with Wolf Lord Brunner. (After passing a charm check) Jurgen is allowed entry with his two companions.
They find Wolf Lord Brunner in the temple gardens, alone, sitting by a fountain, seemingly in contemplative thought. Jurgen approaches him alone.
Jurgen delivers his report in full, leaving nothing out. He tells Brunner about Rhea, about the attack in the alley and the corrupt bailiff. His report is extensive and full of new facts, seemingly unrelated to the task that he was given; find Frau Kenner (Ethelka) and deliver her to him. Yet Jurgen has no news to share on that front, but suggests that Rhea may know something. Wolf Lord Brunner is doubtful of this…
“A young girl who was apparently sold to this brothel, drugged up and given over to them by a cult, a cult you say that this woman Ethelka is in, yet you did not see her, and only this Bret has seen her. The same Bret who spoke about mutants and perversion of the blasphemous sort taking place at the brothel…”
Lord Brunner tells Jurgen that he sent two of his most trusted wolf brothers to the brothel to investigate the allegations that were made earlier. They found no signs of mutations despite ordering all within to strip; nor did they find any blasphemous perversions taking place other than what already takes place at a brothel. However, he does state that the two statues were indeed offensive and the brothel was ordered to remove them at once, for which they obliged.
Jurgen tells Brunner that he believes Ethelka is involved in all of this; but Brunner is not happy, and lashes out verbally, “Noffein! You were instructed to find this woman! And you come to me empty handed with two strangers and a bizarre tale. I did not ask you to get into a back alley scrap with some bailiff, corrupt or not, it is not temple business and I do not care. None of this seems to tie to Ethelka! You speak of his boss being seen at the brothel! What of it! So he has sinned; shall we chase down everyone that visits a brothel and make them pay penance for it!?! How does this tie into Ethelka Jurgen! You speak of a cult, for I do not see any signs of that. I see one woman! Yes, she has allies, for surely you were nearly killed at the hands of one of our own initiates. She is certainly implicated in Klemets death. But a cult!”
*Cue more lashing out*
“Jurgen… I appreciate your effort, but I feel you are walking down the wrong path. Give me Ethelka. That is all I desire. Stay on the path and you will find her, that I trust. Now, show these two strangers out, and report to my study at once.
Jurgen, somewhat deflated, thinking that he had done good work, leads the two out of the temple grounds.
Michel and Gerhard make way for Michels safehouse. Along the way, they cannot mistake the feeling that they are being followed. They try some attempts to hopefully lose whoever it may be following them, before entering the safehouse. They can only hope it was enough.
Jurgen on the other hand, has reported to the study of Wolf Lord Brunner. Brunner isn’t there, so he waits. Finally Brunner arrives, closes the door behind him and locks it.
“How much do they know,” he asks, as he makes his way around to his desk.
“Nothing, I told them nothing concerning the Ar-Ulric.”
Brunner proceeds to lecture Jurgen about staying on the hunters path and finding Ethelka, not getting distracted by other means.
After this, he says, “There is something else I wish to ask you. All that I desire is openness and honesty from you pup. Tell me, what do you think of the situation that the Ar-Ulric finds himself in.”
Jurgen is hesitant to answer, but he does answer.
He tells Brunner that he is disappointed that the Ar-Ulric showed weakness and finds himself in this predicament, and that the Ar-Ulric will need to show penance for what he did.
Brunner nods, “I appreciate your honesty. Are you aware of our way, Noffein? Of how advancement is done within the order?”
Jurgen nods telling him that the strong takes over the weak.
“If someone would to… challenge the Ar-Ulric, would you support that person?”
Jurgen replies, “Ulric would favour the strongest as Do I.”
Brunner thanks him for being frank, and tells him to stay on the hunters path in his quest to find Ethelka, and that he is excused. But he warns him to thread carefully, “Now more than ever, we must be careful. Tensions have reached a boiling point. The recent… incident at the gates is only going to make matters worse. We must make sure that our enemies do not gain leverage on us.”
Jurgen is excused and makes his way back to his quarters to bed down, his injuries still hurting him from the previous fight.
Meanwhile, Siegfried Prunkvoll has arrived back at his estate and is talking with Ser Gado. A meeting has been arranged with Law Lord Reiner, and urges them to come at once with his niece. They do not dally, and make haste over the back garden wall. They arrive at his estate, ever cautious and vigilant.
– Mirissi, the halfling servant to Reiner Ehlich, opens the door. Rhea runs into her arms as Mirissi comforts the girl, “O Rhea, thank the gods that you are safe child. Please, come in, all of you. My lord will want to speak with you all.”
As they step in, Reiner Ehrlich looks down from above the staircase. Rhea spies him and runs up to him as she hugs him, “Uncle Reiner!” she shouts they embrace.
Reiner is shaking with emotion as he hugs Rhea. “Mirissi, take Rhea out into the kitchen, see that she is fed and taken care of. I will wish to speak to our friends.”
Reiner asks them to accompany him into his study upstairs, for which they follow. Siegfried however stays behind, wanting to keep watch outside. Ser Gado is suspicious but does not wish to impede him.
Inside Reiners study, they spot the old man pouring himself a brand, for which he offers Ser Gado some.
“You have made an old man happy, for I did not think I would ever see my niece again.”
Gado regales how they rescued Rhea from a brothel, a statement that makes the Law Lord very angry. “What fiends could do such a thing to a child, I do not know. But you have my thanks. I can only pray that she is still the same girl I knew before she was taken.”
They ask him about the details of Rhea being taken. “I do not know… all that I know is that they are powerful, whoever they are. I received a message telling me that my niece was taken, and that if I ever wanted to see her again, I would support the tax legislation. I’m afraid I had no choice. I do have my… suspicions however, as to who may be behind this. But I do not know… I can only speak of him cause I inherently dislike the man, but I would not put it past him to kidnap a child.
– “Law Lord Joachim Hoflich… he is a foul beast of a man. We do not see eye to eye, and he has always been an advocate for the new tax laws. Alas I only have my suspicion, and nothing else.”
Sibillia makes mention that she has met two Law Lords now, and when asked by Reiner who was the first, she says, “Wasmeier I think his name was.”
– Reiner replies, “Ah, you refer to Karl Wasmeier. He is a good man, and one who opposed the taxes. How did you come to meet him?”
Sibillia tells him briefly about the killer who visited her room and how she and Luigi was caring after Steffan.
Reiner sighs, “I fear a conspiracy is at work. I do not know what aid I can lend you. I pass laws… and my influence is not what it once was. I do not control the watch, nor do I know who to trust. I will need a nights rest to think about what to do, and what aid I can lend you in your task to rooting out these monsters.”
Reiner proceeds to get up and makes his way over to a safe embedded into the wall. He then places to coin purses in front of Gado, “100 crowns, 50 in each bag I believe. I hope it will suffice, I wish I could do more.”
Gado thanks him. They decide to make their leave.
Leaving the estate, they head to the Blazing Hearth… Gado wants to confirm that Geoffrey is no more… But when he gets to the stables, he sees his beloved horse still there, gnawing away on some hay. He runs over and hugs his horse, whispering sweet words into his ear.
The stablemaster scolds him for late pay, for which Gado hands him 2 crowns! That certainly pleases the man and changes his attitude quickly. The stablemaster also tells him that a ruffian had snipped some horse hair from his horse, and that he tried to chase after him but the thief was too quick.
Sibillia is given Gado’s room for the night while Gado opts to sleeping into the hayloft of the stables.
The whole party bed down for the night, as the 4th day of the festival takes hold.
That morning, Sibillia rushes into the stables and urges Gado to wake up. She tearfully tells him that ‘Smiley’ visited her during the night. When asked who Smiley is, she tells him its the killer she spoke of before. That he snuck into her room during the night and thanked her for delivering Hans to him. “He has Hans Ser Gado! They have Hans!” But Gado doesn’t seem that concerned, “What of it? Why should I care that they have the norsecan?” Sib tells him that Hans was against the Purple Hand and could be of use. Ser Gado sighs and says that there is nothing that can be done about it, for now at least, until they find out where they are keeping him. Assuming he’s still alive…
They both make their way to Michel’s safehouse in the hopes of meeting the rest of the party. Michel and Kramer are there, and after meeting up with Gado and Sib, they opt to find Jurgen at once. They all make their way towards the Temple of Ulric.
Yet they’ll have a hard time getting through… Outside the temple, what looks like a whole congregation of sigmarites standing outside, shouting abuse into the temple grounds. Rather tellingly, there is no sign of any White Wolves about, instead; the Grafs personal Knights Panther regiment stands firm, blocking any entrance into the temple.