In which the newly-forged band of investigators set off to see the province together, passing through places and meeting people they will doubtless encounter again if their lives continue to take them around Averland (the bridge you burn today is the river you swim across tomorrow).
After being charged with their mission by the professors, and given 10 shillings in advance, the investigators have the rest of 17th before leaving Streissen.
Brun goes to the Skull and Rose Inn and asks around what mercenaries know of the route to be travelled. The Old Dwarf Road from Averheim to Grenzstadt is well travelled, the greatest danger bandits though most stick to rustling “cows don’t shoot back”. Plenty of work escorting merchant caravans beyond that, as the Old Dwarf Road continues through Black Fire Pass and joins trade routes into the Border Princes territory and Tilea. The additional step of the path to Hammelfels monastery isn’t known to those he asks – suggesting there’s not much work for mercenaries guarding people on that route.
Erasmus, or Raz, goes to see Auntie. He mooches some tasty pastries such as only a halfling cook such as Auntie can make and is told to look in on her cousin, Poppy Oatcakes, who owns a coaching inn on the Old Dwarf Road (special pastry card given in exchange for fortune point).
Morning of the 18th, a Red Arrow Coach leaves for Averheim. After a stop-over for the night of 19th at the obnoxiously moral Welcome Rest Inn, co-located with the Hospice of Valour’s Rest, it reaches Averheim on the 20th.
At the Welcome Rest, Brass Brun and Raz slept in a common area with other brass travellers. Silver Otto and Matthais shared a double, Harek would have to share with a random silver traveller but instead payed out of his own pocket to upgrade to a single bed silver room. Harek continues to do this for the whole trip.
In Averheim’s Plenzerplatz, the investigators hear an agitator calling for free speech and free cities and railing against Sigmarite witch hunters trying people outside the Empire’s common law (the sort of stuff only whispered in Streissen). At the coach line Journey’s End Coaching Inn they meet their coachman for the main journey, Rudy Scharf and a fellow passenger as far as Heideck. Young Andreas von Mecklenburg is familiar to Matthias and Harek as another first year student at Count’s College (no one asks his reason for travelling, that becomes apparent in Heideck).
They see some merchants and a Sigmarite priest arguing with a well-dressed man, who Rudy identifies as Graf Friedrich von Kaufman, owner of the line. Brun manages to make out that they are angry at being put off tomorrow’s coach and the Graf is promising them a make-up coach will be laid on before week’s end. Rudy explains the Graf is always willing to help the university.
(there were five people put off, not Andreas, Andreas being noble after all).
During the trip the investigators talk a bit, Matthias makes sure everyone understands he can shift into wolf form as a proper Amber Wizard etc. (asking Harek to keep custody of his coinage as metals won’t shift with him). Andreas hears all of this of course, and is fascinated (it’s considered a good thing for later if a fellow student who is noble knows Matthais is a college wizard-shape shifter).
On the 21st the coach reaches Cock’s Crown coaching inn and Otto manages to avoid giving affront when the inn patroness Helga Bűcher tries to line him up as prospective suitor for her daughter Greta – after all the Lutterburgs have settled at nearby Muhlendorf and a regional partnership makes so much sense. Otto convincingly argues he must make his fortune before thinking of marriage.
Other guests include pilgrims heading towards Grenzstadt, following the path of Sigmar’s Exodus, and a merchant heading towards Averheim. Talking to the merchant, Ludwig Ploetz, he speaks of political trouble as the handover of power in Heideck is not going smoothly. He offers a healing draught for sale and Otto buys it.
The coach reaches Heideck late on the 22nd.
Along the way, the passengers realize Rudy is saying something whenever a stream is crossed, and pouring a bit of water out. At a stop-over, Matthais asks him about this (having only managed to hear enough to figure out it’s a prayer but not naming any official god). Rudy explains he’s offering to the spirit of Immerdurst, a daughter of Old Man River Altaver.
Folklore recalls the poem about a daughter of Altaver who defied her father and ran off to hear the elves’ music in the hills and was condemned to never return to him – banned from all waterways flowing to the Aver. Her ever thirsty spirit wanders the banks of rivers and an offering gains her mercy, otherwise river banks can be dangerous places. The investigators realize that Muhlendorf is within the area her spirit is said to wander.
Arriving in Heideck, the coach comes into an unfolding scene. Through shadows lengthen as the sun sets, more and more people are coming into the streets as the coach tries to get to the town square (and destination inn) until the coach is trapped.
It appears Countess Magda von Leitdorf’s denial of her husband’s death continues but all others have recognized it and with the end of his male line, their only child being ten year old Eloise, the entailment of Heideck in the male line means it reverts to the Mecklenburg family. The lady, her daughter, household staff and small house guard are on the footsteps of their manor overlooking the square, facing off against the incoming Baron von Mecklenberg who is supported forty soldiers in smart-looking gold-black state uniforms and three knights (a Folklore 1D test recognizes that the red-white tabards with a vertical half-sword dividing line marks them as Knights of the Broken Sword, the southern-empire, ‘fight till your sword breaks and then fight on’ nobles with connections to fallen Solland order).
As they come upon the scene it is mostly townsfolk of differing sentiments who are arguing back and forth, however exchanges between the captain of the Leitdorf house guard (as Lady Magda does not deign to speak directly) and Baron von Mecklenburg are inflammatory, the attempts of a Shallyan with the Baron to moderate failing, and a small riot starts.
Andreas leaps from the coach crying Mecklenburg Stands! (some sort of family motto it seems) which attracts some pro-Leitdorf ruffians.
At this point the “Lovely Riot” card comes out to establish difficulty/risks of various options from trying to get people out of way of coach to getting someone in particular (such as Andreas) out of the mess, and initiative is rolled for those ruffians.
Otto and Brun both try their own strategies of leadership and intimidation to get people to move out way of coach (failing) and Harek tries to get Andreas back in coach (failing, and being rebuffed by Andreas). Matthias tries to channel (failing), while Raz remembers the last riot he was in and stays low. Andreas takes a scratch, Matthais transforms into a wolf to try to help scare people away from front of coach. Efforts to get people away from coach are still failing (Otto falls and takes a wound, CHAOS STAR) when the Knights spring into action and head for the altercation between Andreas and ruffians.
Brun moves to intervene, ready to take on a mounted, armoured knight if it turns out they are targeting Harek but it turns out they are targeting the ruffians – who exercise better part of valour, as Andreas cheers “Felix!”, pointing at the lead knight, “That’s my brother”. Knights on armoured warhorses are still a recipe for mayhem and they did leave a trail of trampled flesh through the crowd.
The coach was slightly damaged (a misfortune die on a later roll).
Belatedly (failing first free Observation, making a second on later), Otto and Brun both recognized people in the crowd. Otto recognized his uncle Oswin and cousin Krugar (the family’s cattle-broker agents in Heideck) and Brun recognizes Captain Ulli and other Sons of Sölland scattered about the crowd “with intent”. When things got nasty with knights charging in, Oswin and Krugar avoided harm (as Otto never saw them in time to do anything, resolved randomly) and the freikorps members start moving ‘non-rioters’ out of the square.
Raz gives Auntie’s pastries to Matthais to eat to help him get over the stress of the situation (they were going to be stale in another day anyway).
[metagame – any chaos star after Andreas took wounds meant the knights would spring into action, I do have the stats for those in my ‘background doc’ though I admit I wasn’t planning on throwing one at a PC just yet]
The Countess and her retinue take over the Silver Arrow inn where the travellers were to stay but fortunately Oswin Lutterburg can put his cousin and companions up for the night.
Brun seeks out Ulli to find out what was going on. Ulli and the sons had linked up with Felix von Mecklenburg coming back from the war, on their way to see about work fighting greenskins to clear merchant routes etc. They had agreed to lend a hand here in Heideck with a few “cheers” in the crowd for Mecklenburg, but as they saw the situation turning violent changed their minds (they had not been paid anything yet). The freikorps exists to fight the enemies of the Empire etc. not fight peasants as part of inheritance disputes.
They are going the same way the investigators are but the Sons are marching so will be behind them (they will get to Grenzstadt about 3 days after the PCs).
The next day, the 23rd, the party gathers to board the the coach, Otto’s uncle and cousin coming to see them off.
However, they are met not only by Andreas, there to see off his sister, the Shallyan who was with the Mecklenburg delegation, as it turns out she is Andreas’ older sister, Sister Katharina (von Mecklenburg), but also the Knight of Broken Sword Felix von Mecklenburg as well.
During the trip from Averheim, when passing Heinzstadt, the coachman had observed this was the seat of the Gravin Clothilde von Alptraum. Brun asked his fellow passengers who this was and Otto had made an off-colour comment suggesting either she was low class or promiscuous.
Andreas was non-plussed but said nothing at the time, but apparently he has relayed this comment to his older brother and sister.
The family resemblance is clear (they all have a slight oval cast to eyes or “almond shape” think Merle Oberon), though Felix has a nasty scar on his throat and his eyes have a shiny glint (enthusiasm, inspiration, zealousness, psychotic intent, weirdroot high – who can say).
Andreas points Otto out and Felix asks Otto, “Are you the one who spoke of a great lady in terms more appropriate to a street walker?” – his voice is a hoarse whisper (sort of like how batman is in some movies – evidently that was a bad throat wound).
Otto responds, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I was merely retelling the gossip of Streissen to while away the tedious hours spent in a long carriage ride. No offense was meant to her ladyship.”
Felix would respond, “Repeating gossip is feeding it”, and ask his brother “Andreas did he say this was only what some said?”
Andreas says Otto did not say he was repeating something, he simply labelled the Lady so – indeed saying she was low class and implying sexual misconduct, and that he has heard no such gossip about the Gravin and lower classes.
Felix then draws his blade and challenges Otto, on the “presumption that that shiny stick is an adequate weapon, do you have sufficient honour to support your words with your body”, (a challenge to a serious injury not death).
Otto’s efforts to blather his way out of things fail (Fellowship roll fails) and rather than duel or see what Felix does if he refuses, he gives an abject apology.
Katharina had been going to join the coach for the trip to Grenzstadt but now declines.
[Metagame, is she had just been a noblewoman and not a Shallyan it would have been Otto put off the coach instead but being a Shallyan that’s not her style]
During the rest of the trip, travellers are asked and relay what they know of Grenzstadt.
[And with that three Mecklenburgs have all been encountered directly or indirectly – Student Andreas, Knight and Adventurer Felix, Shallyan Katharina – and their attitudes influenced]
Harek sees if he can recall anything about it (Education with dwarf bonus as there are dwarf connections). He recalls that Grenzstadt is the centre of what humans call the “dwarf antiquities trade” and what dwarfs call “tomb robbing” – as many abandoned dwarfholds and other sites have what the humans consider valuables and the dwarfs consider grave goods or just “things best left were our ancestors left them”. Grenzstadt cooperates surrendering thieves to dwarfs but doesn’t really suppress the trade or investigate it themselves.
The night of 23rd of Nachgeheim, the coach stops in Willenfeld, a small village in Heideck’s territory. Word hasn’t reached the roadwardens stationed here yet, they’re still all wearing Leitdorf colours (red, gold and black).
[Note the colours no one needs to make checks to recognize are Averland gold/black, Leitdorf red/gold/black and Alptraum gold/black/green]
Roadwarden Captain Felix Albers is present with his full band of a dozen men (unusual). He is depressed it is learned, partly from him but mostly from his men, because two trappers who had been enlisted to help locate smugglers were killed (their bodies are in a cart in courtyard). Albers feels guilty about getting them involved.
The smuggler in question is the “Gentleman” called “the Ogre” for his size and viciousness – he controls the profitable smuggling route up into Stirland to supply dwarfs with lower cost luxuries.
On the 24th, the coach reaches the Black Tusk Way Temple. This is a small Sigmarite temple with rooms for travellers (way temples are maintained by various cults, most are not on commercial routes). Though their way here too is paid, Brother Ranfeld is so good at stirringly describing the history of the temple (founded as a place for refugees after the 18th century devastation by Gorbad’s WAAAGH!, resisting falling to an outlying force of Grom the Paunch’s WAAAGH! just over a century ago) that both Brun and Raz find themselves dropping a penny in the collection box (Brun cursing himself later, stress) [Easy Discipline check failed]. Others resist.
On the 25th, the Oatcake’s Inn is reached. This Halfling-owned coaching inn is co-located with a fortified human farm (fresh eggs and milk!). It is also base for a band of roadwardens but they are all out at the moment.
A Strigany band is encamped beside the inn. Mother Suraya offers to tell fortunes by the bones (special dice) or cards for a shilling. Only Erasmus is interested and he opts for a card reading. Matthais professed distrust of anything supposedly supernatural outside of College of Magic traditions and Brun claimed he had no silver to spend.
Erasmus’ Card Reading.
A standard 5-card layout is used with Erasmus cutting the cards and putting them out as he chooses into each space (not turning over before placing).
Most Significant Past – The Missionary; Risk of Harm – The Abjurer Reversed; Source of Help – The Ghost; Foe – The Merchant Reversed; the Focus – The Innocent.
Muttering and passing her hands over the cards, Mother Suraya seems to tremble a little, “A great weight falls on small shoulders, be sure your companions are true.”
“The focus is the Innocent – there is a threat to one undeserving and unaware of their danger – someone important to you – no not just one, many – all faces you have seen in the past eight days and all places you have been, all this land is in peril. The threat is the Merchant – of the suit of coins – speaking to those governed by material desires for worldly wealth, influence or sensation and reversed speaks of deceitful transactions and dealings which threaten disaster to the unsuspecting innocent. A vast fraud places all in great peril. The ghost is your greatest help in opposing this danger – it is a secret, a memory hidden long ago and now only a shadow of the truth that was – this truth is the key to shifting circumstances. It is about one in the past, long ago, the Missionary is a man who tried to spread wisdom but failed. The suit of glyphs is one of spirituality, this was a man of faith. Find what truth remains. Your greatest risk of failure is the Abjurer reversed – the abjurer stands for reason and logic but reversed it means an overlooked clue. You have already failed to see clues about the threats you face – if you continue to fail to see the clues, you will be destroyed.”
metagame – with all the PC threads and the various threads I have contemplated for campaign I was pretty confident any reading could be managed, might inspire something new to me, but this one was the universe reaching down to play its role perfectly – I didn’t have fudge one thing in that reading – right down to “what would help, abjurer reversed – missed clues!”
Erasmus talks with Poppy Oatcakes and stays up late into the night getting her to open up about troubles. She’s worried about smugglers, not the Ogre and the Zhufbar-destined trade, but what is called the “new trail” (smugglers refer to different routes, which are ‘owned’ by different captains among them, as trails).
She’s been offered to buy things from it but doesn’t like the mix of things she’s offered as it feels like the product of banditry (sometimes assorted goods, sometimes personal effects). Smuggling to avoid tariffs is practically just a business (that is a very widespread view) but dealing in the sort of stuff being offered would turn her stomach (the standard test of Halfling morals – would it spoil digestion).
On the 26th the travellers will continue on, with one more stopover before Grenzstadt.
Two PC’s (Brun and Harek) have been wearing armour during their coach ride, which will factor into their “how sore am I after that trip” check.
(All the events during a trip may factor into it. A late night with an innkeeper may be a misfortune die as well for that PC. Any particular efforts to relax or refresh be it baths or social activity might have added beneficial dice.)