Resuming the evening of Aubentag, Nachgeheim 31st in the dining hall of Hammelfels Monastery.
Brunhart Katzlmacher and Erasmus Sprinthoffer are seated with men-at-arms and monks, Otto Lutterberg, Matthias Hofmeister and Harek Harginson are seated at the Abbot’s table with the monastery senior monks, noble Lady Julianne and knights.
- During their travels Brun and Erasmus have developed more Discipline (perhaps having to endure nobles and jibes and other matters during this trip), Matthais is progressing in his knowledge of Nature Lore (walking through the wooded hills of the Spechthardt), Harek is becoming more Observant (looking about him more), and we learn that though Silver Tier, Otto’s family believed in an Ascetic Upbringing.
Ideally we will continue to narratively track character developments, showing how they are are warranted.
Brun tries to strike up comradely chat with the men-at-arms but is rebuffed. The men-at-arms consider themselves above mere mercenaries and freikorps sorts, being in service to Knights of Sigmar’s Blood (they are all wearing tunics in the same red-gold colour scheme as the two knights seated at the main table). [failed charm roll]
(This is an example of play establishing something I hadn’t – a different role and it could have turned out men-at-arms of Sigmar’s Blood are salt of the earth comradely types).
Erasmus learns from a monk that the dwarf mine’s precise location is unknown. It has been operating for about 10 years – they’re not sure exactly how long. The dwarfs just appeared taking their silver down to Grenzstadt one year and have been making such a trip down, taking supplies back up about twice a year ever since. For a guide who might know the way, he is recommended to seek out the trapper Ernst Fallenstaffer in Kleinsdorf.
At the Abbot’s table, the Medicus Conrad wonders why Torch College sent no one (apparently it’s apparent there are no devout Sigmarites in this group). Lady Julianne asks for news, particularly of her family, the Leitdorfs. Matthais recounts, diplomatically, events in Heideck and the change in power there from Leitdorf to Mecklenburg.
Lady Julianne takes the news surprisingly well – amused at thinking of what Lector Stromni would think if he knew the outcome of his convincing Maurice into entailing estates against the female line was to see a holding transferred to the Mecklenburgs. When asked she explains Stromni was Sigmar’s Lector for Averland in the closing years of the last century (Maurice von Leitdorf was father to Marius, Lucas etc. – so when he gave Heideck to Lucas it was entailed in the male line).
Harek seeks to gain entry to the monastery’s library but fails (Charm), being advised that the library is for the use of Sigmar’s faithful.
The goblin threat is inquired about – the greenskins are lurking in wooded hills to the west and not in the river valley to the west – they would not want to risk being caught out in the open.
After dinner, the travellers are offered a tour of the monastery by Sakrist Markus including its great murals of Sigmar gathering the tribes to face the Greenskins at Black Fire Pass and Sigmar and the wildmen before the raging Aver, with Altaver raising from the waters to deny the greenskins passage while the twelve tribes mustered. A potted history of the 700 year old site is given going back to its founding on the site of a manor destroyed in Gorbad Ironclaw’s invasion and successful resistance and sheltering of villagers from the region during Grom the Paunch’s WAAAGH! 103 years ago, when Sigmar’s Holy Fury smote the greenskins and spared his faithful.
On Marktag the 32nd, last day of Nachgeheim 2523, the party leaves the monastery. It is raining heavily, obscuring distance vision and possibly hindering bows and blackpowder weapons.
They are accompanied by a mounted party Lady Julianne, her maid and the elderly Sir Quintus – who suggests those on foot travel first as otherwise they will be muddied following the horses. These riders set a slow pace so walking with them is easy – Lady Julianne being a tiny little old lady in her 70’s. The lady is going to the Gruber farmstead where some children have a fever – she wishes to help and trade herb lore with Emilie Gruber.
On the way, Otto talks with Lady Julianne explaining his background and asks if there are any among the monastery’s monks he should be particularly careful about (there being some Sigmarites who are intolerant of other faiths). Lady Julianne is quite chatty with Otto, and says that the Librarian (the even more-elderly than she Elder Berold) and the Medicus (Conrad) are the most conservative and likely to see followers of the Horned God and Green Goddess as sliding dangerously towards Chaos worship with their naked woodland frolics.
(Otto having rolled 4 successes and a comet and party also wondering if students antagonized anyone at monastery) – Lady Julianne does not recall any antagonism between students and monks – the one young man from Torch College (Gustave Hesse) was planning to become an initiate and got on well. The other young man (Franz Bessels) was polite enough. Lady Julianne also recounts that the Librarian stuck up a very friendly conservation with the students’ bodyguard (she does not use the name, presumably this was Vilmar) and even invited him to share a glass of wine together (the Librarian has a private stock).
After following a well-marked trail through the wooded hills of the Spechthardt for about five hours the two groups come to the Three Stones Ford over the Hochstrom. Along the way Harek had kept an eye out for anything that might have caught the students’ eyes and lead them off trail, but saw nothing.
The river is low this late in year and at this site it widens to about 20’ and becomes shallower. Stones have been placed into the riverbed to create almost a “cobbled walkway”. On the other side three menhirs can be seen, each about 16’ tall arrayed in a triangle or circle (depending on how one prefers to see it).
Lady Julianne’s party continues on a less-travelled trail that leads east, towards the Gruber farmstead while the investigators turn downriver the short walk to Kleinsdorf.
Not long after splitting up, they encounter a tinker with a mule and cart, a couple of mangy guard dogs who is coming up from Kleinsdorf. The tinker is wary of the strangers he meets, making a point of noting he has pots and pans – no “small valuable highly portable objects” and complains about the poor trading prospects in the valley. There’s hardly 2 pennies in the whole region, everyone wants to pay in chickens. There’s only so many chickens a man can use.
They continue, first seeing the fields and river-side mill and then the small village with its palisade. The village headman Liebert Muller (yes the owner of the mill) meets the visitors and asks their business. When they ask about students Muller says the village never saw them, though they seem to be popular with so many asking after them – this prompts inquiry and Muller says smugglers, The Gentlemen, and a tinker have both been asking. Yes, the tinker who was just here.
At this point Brun and Matthais decide to chase after the tinker to ask him about his interest (the topic didn’t come up when they met him). Once out of sight of the village Matthais shifts to wolf form. The two set a fast pace (Athletics check) and manage to catch up before sunset (on the other wise of the ford, in the wooded hills).
The tinker is wary when hailed by Brun and a wolf. Brun tries to be intimidating and draw closer – then seeing the tinker was a concealed shortsword he is drawing and a fight breaks out. Burn and Matthais (wolf form) face off against the tinker, who is handier with a sword than he looks, and his two dogs who are trained to fight with him (prevent him being flanked, lend aid in terms of fortune die at times).
The tinker wounds Brun (critical – pulled muscle) and Matthais manages to get the hang of biting foes (mangy dog doesn’t taste so good). Brun is fighting too recklessly to try subduing and kills the tinker. One dog also is slain and the other runs off (morale check failure). They search the tinker and his cart thoroughly finding only one thing of interest (reported below). The cart is pulled off the trail and tinker’s body hidden in the woods, his mule left to wander.
Meanwhile, in the village the possible guide Fallensteller has been found (the headman shouting was sufficient and luckily he was in the village at time). Fallensteller thinks he knows where the dwarf mine is, having seen them come out of a box canyon once. The way to reach it is to go up the Hochstrom to Waldenschmidt’s farm, overnight there and then go south-east into the foothills where the canyon is.
[A reminder, the Hochstrom, ford, Three Stones, Kleinsdorf are all in a valley – to the west lies the Spechthardt hills and to the east lies the foothills of the World’s Edge Mountains – whose peaks are clearly visible from the valley]
Otto puts off talking fees until after breakfast the next day.
There is no inn or tavern in town. The investigators can bed down in a barn. The benches under a tree where villagers sometime gather are unoccupied today with the rain.
Asking about Three Stones, the investigators learn the site is sacred to Taal and Ryha and has been there “forever”.
While settling in a shrieking noise is heard and steam starts coming out of a shed, there are shouts, “the dwarf’s still!”. Harek goes to see, with several villagers, and finds the shed holds an “improved” still that is operating under pressure and seems about to explode (which would send potentially deadly shards of metal flying about) – he manages to make an Average Dwarf Engineering check to shut it down safely (he doesn’t roll well enough to actually fix it). This gives Harek a Fortune Die in all future interactions with villagers.
Later, Erasmus amuses villagers with tales casting peasants in a good light (Folklore check, per Performing Arts). He does well and earns supper (no rations used that day). He asks what local tales villagers have and they relate the story of the haunted wood downriver, the Trauerwald where a maiden’s ghost punishes anyone who has been unfaithful to a lover, and the abandoned village of Schrobenheim upriver – everyone died of Plague over 20 years ago and the site is avoided and said to be haunted.
Plague is a somewhat generic term in the Old World can could mean any epidemic or could mean the actual “Plague” itself, a deadly Severity 5 disease.
Brun and Matthais return and in the barn late that evening relate what happened and what they found (it is late day with all this, party must sleep in or be less well rested next day).
The mysterious tinker had no valuables or clues on him except one thing. He word a bronze medallion with a Sigmar-hammer mark on it (a typical peasant/commoner religious token) – but Brun recognized it to be like one Vilmar had worn all the time Brun knew him. Brun had been in Vilmar’s company often enough he had once seen the back of Vilmar’s medallion and spotted a mark there, he assumed the maker’s mark. However the tinker’s medallion has exactly the same mark on the back.
Harek and Matthais try to recall if they have learned anything about such a mark and both have (in the same book, see PC-only material below). The mark is a combination, by superimposing, of N O F – standing for the Novo Ordo Fidelum, a suppressed sect of Sigmarite fanatics that emerged during the Dark Ages as a reborn version of another sect of fanatics, the Ordo Fidelum which had been suppressed in the 6th Century.
Is this Vilmar’s medallion, or do they both belong to the same sect of Sigmarite fanatics? Vilmar was a Sigmarite (albeit disenchanted with church). Did the students run afoul of some fanatics? How do smugglers fit into things? Are there answers in Hammelfels, was there something more to Vilmar’s talk with the Librarian? Yet, everyone seems to be lookingf for them and whoever is looking for them presumably isn’t the reason they are missing, unless they went into hiding. The investigators are up for a while puzzling over these questions.
Fallensteller’s fee will be determined by a Charm check, and he will take a guided party around Schrobenheim – though the investigators decide they want to check it out (as it’s a place someone might hide if trying to not be found). He won’t take anyone “to the mine” just to the canyon as he doesn’t wish to antagonize dwarfs.
(this is “Dargo’s mine”, Dargo being the cousin of prospector Yadri who found ring that started all this).
We break and will resume the next day, Backertag the 1st day of Erntezeit. This is the day to sleep in (less done) or be a bit fatigued starting out with less sleep. This is most acute for Brun and Matthais.
Ah, Pie Week and the Wine Festival in Averland being missed. Pie Week tends not to be celebrated in less sophisticated village backwaters.