An Uneasy Alliance

At the Gibbous Moon Inn in a small, nameless village just outside of Ubersreik, near the Grey Mountains of the Reikland, four troubled, disparate—and desperate—characters happen to be in the common room when a man runs down the stairs and loudly enquires of the innkeeper whether the coach from Altdorf has arrived. When he is informed it is now a day late, he turns to the room and asks in a troubled voice “which of you men will undertake to find that coach and retrieve an important parcel for me? I’m paying 25 silver shillings.”

Chairs are pushed back and the three men and one dwarf gather together and gruffly introduce themselves—Torus Lavarar, a bounty hunter; Immolatus, a scarred and wild-eyed bright wizard in red robes; Yuri Ilich Stubbindrikov, a fighting man from Kislev, and a dwarf from the mountains who introduces himself only as ‘Grudgebringer’.

Torus makes a brief and unsuccessful attempt to hold out for more money, and as they leave the innkeeper tells them to look out for the roadwarden with the coach, a man by the name of Rutger Abend. Soon the four hastily assembled companions are on the muddy road north under an overcast and grumbling sky, looking for the missing coach. After some three hours of brisk walking, they round a bend and come across a terrible sight. The coach is halted by the side of the road, its front axle broken, its horses dead in their traces. The coach driver appears to be lying dead on the ground nearby. Around the coach, terrible creatures cavort and howl.

Two of them—green-skinned, short and scrawny, with large pointed ears and noses and mocking toothy grins—stand near the back, pulling off boxes and packages from where they were strapped to the top of the coach, and hurling them to the ground. Two more beat at the coach door.
A fourth creature, much larger and stronger, with a hulking, broad body and long, heavily muscled arms and wielding a huge cleaver, stands near the front of the coach, attacking a roadwarden, most probably Rutger Abend! Abend is already badly wounded, and his attacks are growing more feeble.

The adventurers run quickly forward to help; Grudge and Yuri through the trees and around to the other side of the coach, and Immolatus and Torus in full view towards the goblins, who see them, cry out, and rush towards them. Torus pauses to pull back his shortbow and unleash an arrow, which strikes true right through the head of a goblin and into the head of another! As they fall, Immolatus feels the pent up anger and magic within him grow, and in one explosive moment he channels the winds of Aqshy, or Fire magic, and unleashes them—in the form of a blast of flame that turns the remaining two goblins to ashes.

Grudge and Yuri near the coach and discover another hulking orc lurking in the trees on that side; it rushes towards Grudge bellowing a war cry and strikes furiously, the crushing blow inflicting a horrible wound on the dwarf. Grudge bellows in return and lets fly with a mighty reckless cleave with his great axe, and the orc is almost finished. Yuri steps forward and runs it through with his sword.

Seeing his fellow warriors sliced and fried is too much for the remaining orc; he breaks off combat and runs for the forest, taking a last arrow from Torus in the shoulder as he escapes. Abend collapses gratefully to the ground.

Finally thunder cracks, the heavens open and a heavy downpour begins. From within the coach come the sounds of whinging, pleading and berating. A fat merchant called Klaus von Rothstein arrogantly demands the adventurers collect his things and fix the coach, telling them there’s a ‘shiny shilling’ in it for them. Grudge complies and starts collecting the discarded luggage and packages. Yuri climbs over the coach and looks through the other window, spying a package under the interior seat with a seal on it—the package they were instructed by Hendrick to retrieve. But von Rothstein refuses to cooperate, insisting that everything belongs to him and the adventurers must get him to Ubersreik as soon as possible.

After receiving his shilling, Grudge begins to threaten von Rothstein; Yuri tries to employ logic and reason, and Torus attempts to fool him by saying he has spotted more goblins on the way. Von Rothstein is astonished at the arrogance of these grotty menials, but eventually Grudge brings the discussion to an end by completely losing his temper and tearing off the coach door. Von Rothstein is shocked into quiet compliance.

The adventurers retrieve the package, gather some of von Rothstein’s belongings, and the group sets off back to The Gibbous Moon Inn. They arrive back at the inn muddy, soaked and exhausted. Von Rothstein quietly goes off to a room. When Hendrick asks for his parcel, Torus suggests the price has changed; this however does not sit well with Grudge, and he and Torus engage in a heated argument which ends with Grudge thwacking Torus about the head with a tankard, another grudge written in the dwarf’s little book, and both threatening future consequences.

Will these hotheaded young adventurers be able to work together in future? Only time will tell …

Hendrick receives his parcel for the original price, and probably against his better judgement—and the fact that there is no one else even vaguely competent to hand—he offers the adventurers a job at Grunewald Manor, an isolated fortified lodge in the Reikwald Forest under the shadows of the Grey Mountains. Hendrick’s master, Rickard Aschaffenber—a nobleman from Ubersreik—has recently been betrothed to a member of the powerful von Bruner family, and entrusted with the care of the lodge until the youngest von Bruner son, Leopold, comes of age.

However since Aschaffenberg has arrived the lodge has not only been attacked by beastmen, but Aschaffenberg suspects that something is not quite right with the surly, uncooperative staff. He therefore entrusted Hendrick to employ some men to get to the bottom of the affair, under the pretence of them helping with moving in his goods.

The adventurers negotiate and agree on a fee, and the next morning they all set off for Grunewald Lodge on a wagon piled high with Aschaffenberg’s furniture and possessions. They travel for several hours through the increasingly gloomy and ominous forest, and the adventurers begin to suspect that shadowy shapes are following them under cover of the densely packed trees to either side of the road. Their suspicions are confirmed as they arrive at the clearing dominated by the lodge compund. From the overgrown ditch surrounding the wall charge several beastmen, while several more break from the forest behind them and begin running towards the wagon.

Hendrick climbs on top of the piled boxes and brandishes a dagger, shouting to the guards on the gate tower to open the gate and let them in (who seem in no hurry to do so). The adventurers meet the beastmen charge and dispatch them without too much effort. The arrows of Torus and a fiery spell of Immolatus make short work of several beastmen, though the power of the winds of Aqshy overwhelms Immolatus with a insane manic fervour, which luckily he manages to control. Finally the gate is opened and the wagon allowed into the compund of Grunewald Lodge, where they are met by Rickard Aschaffenberg, a great bushy-bearded bear of a man, who invites them into the house. Surly staff, some of them with bandaged wounds from the earlier beastmen attack, unhitch the horses. As they walk up to the main house they notice a figure watching them from an upstairs window that quickly slips back into the shadows when spotted.

Carrying boxes, the adventurers, Aschaffenberg, and Hendrick walk through the impressive main hall, up the staircase and into Aschaffenberg’s bedroom, where he fills them in on the situation. Although he suspects something strange is going on at the lodge, he does not wish to get the authorities involved because he wants to avoid a scandal for the powerful von Bruner family.

The adventurers immediately get to work. They walk down the corridor to the hospice that has been set up in the guest bedroom, where those wounded in the recent beastmen attack are being cared for. There they talk briefly with an uncooperative Dr. Stefan Sieger, and meet Sister Sonja, a blind Sigmarite sister. Grudge listens to the strange rantings of Korden Kurgansson, a dwarf who seems to have been driven insane since the attack and babbles incoherently about ‘the eyes’ and ‘the hammer’ and begging them not to let them shave his beard.

A nearby stairwell leads the adventurers down to the kitchen, where they meet the cook preparing the evening meal. She has the smell of alcohol on her breath. Torus walks over to the guardhouse to talk unproductively with some of the guards.

Immolatus returns to Aschaffenberg’s bedroom on a hunch; examining a bookcase he discovers scrape marks on the floor that suggest a secret passage behind it. As he talks with Hendrick, the butler Gregor Piersson arrives and introduces himself.

Yuri heads for the run-down shrine to Sigmar in the gardens. He finds it neglected, though a recently-used candle points to a worshipper having been there in the not-too-distant past. He notices that the hammer in a weathered brass wall triptych looks suspicious, and discovers that it is in fact a real hammer concealed in plain sight. After examining it he returns it to its place, and goes off to meet Torus at the guardhouse.

Grudge visits the library, where he discovers a corpulent fellow with bushy mutton-chops reading in a comfortable armchair. Scanning the room and immediately focussing on an ornately-patterned rug, Grudge lifts it and discovers a trapdoor underneath. Immolatus arrives at the door, and seeing Grudge discover the trapdoor, he goes off to find Torus and Yuri. Ignoring the librarian’s offended protests Grudge opens the trapdoor and climbs down into a cellar passageway which leads to a large chamber lit by torches that apparently has been used for some dark ritual. The room is dominated by a six foot long block of jet-black granite covered in dry blood, and an eight-pointed star is sketched on the floor.

Clearly all is not as it seems at Grunewald Manor.

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