Or “How I Learn’d to Stop Worrying and Love Sigmar”
As Grudge heads off to von Bruner’s Mansion, Yuri and Immolatus race to Aschaffenberg for the (hopefully) self-interested Aschaffenberg cavalry. Torus starts off for the City Watch, but (with fortuitous prescience) quickly applies principles of economic laissez-faire capitalism to the combat scenario and decides that public service based military support will be no substitute for his own private sector participation and hurries after Grudge. Of course, at no time did any of these thoughts actually pass through his head…
Grudge arrives at the von Bruner mansion just one step ahead of the ravening, blood-crazed, chaos-obsessed mob, and looks around for a raised site from which he can address the crowd from a suitable height. In the absence of a 10 foot pedestal, he makes do with a small rise near the gate. Even worse than the fact that he can scarcely make eye-to-eye contact with the front row of the crowd, it appears that to get the initial attention of the rowdy participants will require leadership skills before Grudge can even attempt intimidation. Of course, being ugly, unpleasant and of doubtful intellectual skills, he has no hope. His fall-back is to stand before the gate and ask “who dies first?”. He never expects that the answer might be him.
Realising he can’t get through the growing crowd, Torus climbs up onto a balcony to get a good vantage point for the inevitable shotting of arrows.
As he does so, the ravening pack of religious zealots gets a little too close to Grudge for comfort, and Grudge responds by landing a huge blow on the leader of the flagellants, only to get surprisingly hammered in return. Torus lets fly with an arrow which hits the leader’s head.
Meanwhile, Yuri and Immolatus arrive at the Aschaffenberg manor and inform his men-at-arms what is going on, then begin to hurry back to the von Bruner mansion.
Torus shoots again, and with telling repetition drops his bow. None of the flagellants or participating townspeople have been killed as yet, but things are looking mighty grim for Grudge, who decides discretion is the better part of cowardice, drops to the ground, and begins crawling through the feet of the crowd, wounded and getting dangerous close to death as he endures a rain of blows.
Suddenly, an imposing figure arrives at the scene, announcing his arrival with shots into the air from two pistols. The shocked crowd parts as he walks to the gate. He is a hard man, in the latter half of his life but still vigorous and dangerous-looking. His beard is white, and his face is a mass of scars.
“Go back to your homes,” he says to the crowd.
“But they’re witches..!” [“he's got a wart!”]
The warrior tells the crowd that all will be decided in time. Turning to the adventurers, he asks “is your friend alive?”
“Only just… he’s on the verge of death” [because of your Sigmar loving flagellant bastard friends]
“Get him to the Temple of Shallya.”
“Just out of curiosity, and not a big thing, but you are….?”
“I Am Matthias Krieger, witch hunter” [no shit on the Witch hunter bit. Are there any more weapons that could be hung on that self-righteous frame?]
The flagellants are still inflamed, but cowed by the presence of this mighty witch hunter of Sigmar.
Yuri’s attempts at first aid are successful, but Grudge remains unconscious.
“There will be an inquiry after I return from my missions to the Cursed Marches near Marienburg” [Don't hurry back on our account]
“You have handled a dangerous situation well,” says Krieger to the adventurers, “Sigmar’s blessings upon you.” [Oh, everything’s OK then] “Oh, and by the way—don’t leave town while we sort this out.”[Yeah, like to see you try to find us. On the other hand, maybe not...]
Ahhh, nothing like a deus ex machina—can’t live with ‘em, can’t live with ‘em. With 20:20 hindsight, the party should have waited for ol’ Matty the Witch Poker to save the day. Of course, they actually could have had absolutely no idea that they could afford to sit around playing cards to let him save the Von Bruner mansion. So damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Damned generally really. Clearly a Grim World of Perilous Adventure rather than a Fairly Mild World of Logic and Fairness. Perhaps an investigation of jobs with the Accountancy Guild is on the cards….
The adventurers return to the Temple of Shallya, despite thir unreasonable fear of glove-donning temple healers. Another donation is made. Grudge is healed—to an extent; the worst of his critical wounds are healed anyway. Of course, the symptoms of the Green Pox still manage to cling with their metaphorical slimy fingers to Torus and Immolatus.
Next morning, a figure appears behind the curtain around Grudge’s bed at the Temple of Shallya hospice. It is Sister Sonya, the blind woman at Grunwald Manor. Great—lots of good memories from that particular location.
Sister Sonya seems excited. “It is Shallya’s wish that we should meet again. Korden Kurgansson died last week, and he entrusted something to me— his hammer. His last wish, above all things, was for it to be returned to his ancestors at Karak Azgaraz.”
Grudge is not your typical dwarf however, and uunmoved by things such as ancient debts of honour. Besides, that place kicked him out. Sister Sonya doesn’t appear to be interested in taking no for an answer, however.
Later, the adventurers meet with Piotr Koch, von Saponatheim’s man, who entusts them with a small task before the night of masquerade ball arrives. Von Saponatheim wishes to solidify his links with the ‘common folk’ of Ubersreik, but it seems they are one step ahead of him and wary of talking to the men of a noble. He wishes them to track down the location of the local Temple of Ranald.
On the way to von Holzenauer’s, Torus feels his purse tugged, and have been once bitten, is twice shy. He whirls about and grabs a street urchin, whom he interrogates. He learns the best lead for finding the Temple of Ranald is to talk to the a fellow called Kraemer, who can be found at Rugger’s Boarding House.
The adventurers visit Rugger’s, a two-story half-timbered cheap boarding house run by an aging widow known as Gran’ma. Asking for Kraemer, they are directed upstairs, where a bodyguard stands outside a nondescript door.
The door leads to one large room with five circular tables at which men play cards or dice games and a bar along one wall. Various ruffians play cards and hang around. Everyone seems suspicious of newcomers, but Kraemer, playing cards at one of the tables, is pointed out to them.
“My name is Torus Lavarar—you may know my father. Mr Kraemer I presume…”
Kraemer is friendly enough but not about to divulge the location of the Temple to just anyone. He asks for proof that Torus is a Ranald disciple but Torus is unable to come up with any of Ranald’s basic precepts. So instead, he challenges Torus to a game of Sigmar and Gertrude, with a gold piece at stake. Luckily, Torus wins in a close game and Kraemer is as good as his word, and tells him the location of the Temple and the secret knock to get in.
Back at the Axe and Hammer, the adventurers pass on this information to Piotr Koch, von Saponatheim’s man.
Back to the Red Moon Inn, and there the adventurers again meet Leonhard Zauberlich, Aschaffenberg’s man, who emphasises again that as a deeply pious fellow, Aschaffenberg wishes to distance himself from the adventurere and their activities. The other adventurers are anoyed and leave him to return to the Temple of Shallya for healing, but Yuri stays behind and attempts a more diplomatic approach, which seems to win Zauberlich over somewhat.
As the day comes to a close, the barman at the Red Moon informs the adventurers that three envelopes have been left for them. Inside, they find three invitations to the masquereade, one each from Aschaffenberg, von Saponatheim, and von Holzenauer. Three disparate employers… things have only just started to get really complicated…