We Swore What Oath?

33rd Kaldezeit IC 2522 (con’t)

The adventurers are searching the showboat of the Slaanesh cultist theatre troupe they just fought and killed, when they are confronted by a watch sergeant and four watchmen on the dock at Halbherzig. The sergeant demands they drop their weapons and gather on the dock as he sends one of his men to check over the boat. duCourt points out that they have just thwarted a gang of cultists; the sergeant becomes obstreperous. As the confrontation becomes more heated and villagers begin to gather around, three horseman ride out of the shadows and, showing great authority and some form of identification to which the watch immediately submit, order them away and take over the proceedings.

The adventurers recognise the leader, a tall, rangy, muscled fellow with a scar down the left side of his face and dark hair and blue eyes, as Wolfhart Reise, the guide who stole their horses back in Delberz. He offers his real name, which is Matthias Hoffer. With him is a heavily built man in full plate armour and closed helmet called Jacob Bauer, and a man wearing a black cloak and big black hat with a silver buckle, whom the adventurers recognise, to their surprise, as Father Odo the Sightless, the smelly, crazy priest at the Temple of Sigmar in Middenheim. His real name, it seems, is Ulrich Fischer.

After an initially friendly meeting, Hoffer and duCourt argue over Hoffer’s demand that they come with him and the other two witch-hunters to Altdorf via the road. duCourt in turn demands that they go by river on their boats. Eventually the argument gets so heated that they fight until first blood—which duCourt achieves with a quick slash to Hoffer’s upper arm.

Lavarar, Fitzue and Bierschtin attempt to defuse the situation, and eventually Lavarar manages to calm Hoffer down enough to allow them to organise a later meeting with Bernhard Dampfler, the owner of the Maria Borger, in Altdorf. Hoffer and duCourt, both glowering at each other, agree to suspend their hostilities until later …

Eventually the group, accompanied by a couple of guardsman and a cluster of fifteen or so mutants and heretics chained together and wearing head cages who bring up the rear, are riding through the forest and then south to Altdorf.

1st Ulriczeit IC 2522

Bierschtein attempts to make small talk with Fischer but the man is keeping to himself. Lavarar tries to smooth things over with Hoffer but he is obviously one to hold a grudge.

2nd Ulriczeit IC 2522

The next day they suddenly come upon a rough barricade across the forest road and simultaneously hear a deafening WAAAARGHHHHH!!! from the forest. Arrows fly from the shadows, hitting both Bierschtein and Fitzue, the latter in the head! Then twelve orcs rush out from the darkness of the forest, wielding rusty choppas, their leader a huge black orc rejoicing under the name of ‘Ballbasher’, who waves a huge axe around his head as he charges for Fischer.

A fast and bloody battle follows, punctuated by duCourt and Hoffer shouting out “ONE!” then “TWO!” as they slice their way through the attacking orcs. Eventually duCourt finishes off the last (his fourth) orc, and Hoffer (at three) leans nonchalantly up against a tree and gives him a slow appreciative clap. He seems impressed with the way the adventurers have handled themselves in the ambush, and the ice between he and duCourt thaws a little. Later on the journey duCourt even offers Hoffer an apology for their initial clash, to the great surprise of Lavarar, Fitzue and Bierschtein.

3rd – 7th Ulriczeit IC 2522

After several days on the road the group arrives in Altdorf—city state, Imperial capital, largest city in the Empire. The city’s size, the sheer number of people in the ever-crowded streets, the height of the buildings towering over the roads and cutting out light, the unbelievable range of smells—it is all overwhelming. Humans, halflings, elves and dwarves, in the dress of every known nation, are jostling one another in ill temper in the streets. Buildings are all tall, at least four stories, grouped close together, so the streets are in near-permanent shadow, with only a narrow strip of sky visible. It is Ulriczeit, and the weather is cold and wet; there is a soft black drizzle of rain blackened by smoke and soot and a heavy fog rolls through the streets at night.

The party rides slowly past the refugee camp crowding the North Gate, past the guards without challenge, and into the city proper; down the wide and busy Königstrasse and eventually across the Three Toll Bridge close to the meeting of the Reik and Talabec rivers and the chaos of the busy Altdorf docks. They catch their first glimpse of the mighty Cathedral of Sigmar, probably the most impressive structure in the known world outside of the Elven homelands. Into the side streets around the Templeplatz and eventually to a nondescript alley and an iron-bound door, where Hoffer knocks, speaks a whispered word to the guard behind a slot in the door, and the door is opened. The group files within into an antechamber. The poor prisoners (including the actress/Slaanesh cultist Fran Poppenbutel) are led through a side door and down a spiral staircase into some deep Sigmar-forsaken dungeon below from which cries of despair echo; the adventurers are taken through another door into comfortable living quarters and eventually into a well-appointed, wood-panelled room. Behind an imposing desk sits a cruel-eyed, grey-haired man in his mid-fifties who introduces himself as Kaspar Eschlimann and invites them to sit and pour themselves a glass of an excellent Tabecland vintage. They are in the presence of the head of the secretive Ordo Fidelis, the legendary order of witch-hunters.

Eschlimann informs the adventurers that the Ordo has been watching them for some time, and feel they have the right ingredients to become members. He can offer them “support, funds, information, authority, training and most of all, a purpose.”

When asked what the Ordo Fidelis is, he answers: “we are the most effective of the orders of Witch-hunters of the Holy Temple of Sigmar. We operate in secret, unknown to all but the highest functionaries of the temple. We find that there are less … complications … that way. And we hate paperwork. And besides, agents of Chaos, when captured by more conventional authorities, often go straight to the stake. We prefer to effectively question them, learn their affiliations and masters, and thereby root out the deepest, strongest cancers instead of just scraping away the surface sores.”

He offers a part in “the most glorious battle of all— the destruction of Chaos and the victory of the Empire”.

The adventurers listen and decide to think on it until the morrow. In the meantime they give the mysterious mask that cost Krauthösen’s life to Eschlimann. Then they are given rooms at an inn called the Burning Table in the city’s north, and Lavarar spends the night having a very good time indeed with a waitress and some excellent drugs after perhaps his most difficult seduction to date.

By the morning they have all agreed to take the Ordo oath and join the organisation, though all, especially duCourt, chafe at having to follow orders, even those from a powerful and secret organisation which would supposedly give them more power and resources to continue doing what they have been doing.

8th Ulriczeit IC 2522

Back at the Ordo headquarters, they submit to a small ceremony and repeat the words of their oath with their hands resting on a huge bound volume of Sigmar’s words. Eschlimann makes a point of pressing upon them the seriousness of the oath they have taken and the secrecy of the Ordo, saying that it protects its own ruthlessly, and just as ruthlessly it pursues those who betray their oaths to it.

It transpires that they know of the so-called ‘Crusade of the Child’ that has recently erupted in Marienburg and wish the adventurers to insinuate themselves into its hierarchy, find the heart of Chaos that beats with in it, and snuff it out. But first, Eschlimann has a small mission for them—“call it a test, if you will.”

The Hermann von Wolkenstein the adventurers killed in Halbherzig has a brother in Altdorf named Erasmus, a theatre owner who disappeared a month ago. The Ordo has suspected him for some time of being in league with Slaanesh, and information gathered from agents such as Krauthösen has confirmed it. They suspect that he is involved with a new craze in Altdorf, the ‘Theatre of the Damned’ (he gives them a copy of the flyer that has been posted throughout the city, which under a picture of laughing and crying theatre masks says ‘Tikkets, look for X’). He wishes them to find von Wolkenstein, clean up any foulness they find with him, and bring him back alive for questioning.

Hoffer returns and invites the adventurers for a strong Zhufbar ale at the nearby sign of the Flayed Wench, which has a back room reserved for the witch-hunters use (with a trapdoor under the rug for quick escapes).

Lavarar meets Bernhard Dampfler at a tavern on the docks called the Voyager’s Spirit (or locally, as the Voyeur’s Spit) and, slightly to Lavarar’s surprise and certainly to his admiration, Dampfler hands over the 230 Karls he owes for the boat. Lavarar returns 50 of them as an investment in Dampfler’s next cargo.

Lavarar has recognised ‘X’ as the symbol for Ranald, god of tricksters and the criminal element, so he and Fitzue go to the Drecksack district, the scummy area of town, and Lavarar disguises himself in a comedic costume intended to be a parody of Dietmund Falkenheim, an Altdorf noble well known for his large ears, penchant for polo, and affair with an older, uglier woman. An urchin runs past and steals his hat as he gets changed in an alley. He then stands on a soap box where two main muddy streets meet and skips about on a wooden hobby horse, making strange noises of feined pleasure and basically satirising the aforementioned noble riding his horsey paramour. A few local peasants gather but none seem overly impressed by the performance. Fitzue, embarrassed, retires to a nearby pub called the Black Swan and watches from its window over an ale.

Lavarar’s antics achieve little, but quick enquiry of a local tells them that the tickets can be got from members of the Brotherhood of the Oiled Palm, a local gang that hangs out at The Black Swan. There they see a heavy-set fellow with beady eyes and a receding hairline sitting at the back, his legs up on the table; two crossed nails embedded in his boot-heel make an X sign. He lowers his feet as Lavarar and Fitzue approach.

This is one Anton Schopranus of the Brotherhood of the Oiled Palm, and a few questions and some passing of gold crowns convince him to sell them tickets to the Theatre of the Damned that very night.

Meanwhile, duCourt has dressed in foppish upper class finery, and accompanied by Bierschtein, who has sourced less obviously Sigmarite armour and weaponry from the Ordo and is posing as duCourt’s bodyguard, they find a gambling tavern in the upper class Palast district. There duCourt quickly joins a game of cards at a back table with other young nobles and presents himself as a somewhat flighty and silly noble from out of town looking for fun and excitement. He loses several rounds but wins the last and comes out 20 Karls ahead. He also learns of the Theatre of the Damned—one of the nobles is going that night in fact, the noble had his servant find the tickets at a pub called the Black Swan in the Drecksack district, and the ticket was actually tattooed on the servant.

Back at the Black Swan, Lavarar finds a drunken sot lying in the gutter behind the pub and shaves a good hunk of skin off his upper arm, which he takes down to the Swan’s basement and presents as his ‘skin’ to be tattooed. A wiry, elderly chap called Nadel, with a long scar running over his blind left eye, takes the skin and a bribe, and twenty minutes later the adventurers have their tickets to the Theatre of the Damned. They are told to be at the south gates of the Ruhstatt Cemetery in the Reikhoch district, near the river, unarmed and at midnight.

The adventurers are there just before midnight as a fog rolls in from the river and curls among the gravestones and the high gates of the cemetery. The area is dimly lit and no watch patrols are in sight. Other retinues start to arrive and soon an excited, yet nervous, buzz of conversation fills the air. Nobles in the crowd are all ‘slumming it’, and their ragged outfits seem to be a source of much delight and bemusement to the giggling ladies.

Precisely at midnight a manhole cover scrapes open and a dirty, ragged jester climbs up, followed by an armed thug carrying two lanterns. Gleefully the jester cartwheels to stand in front of the gathered crowd, welcomes them with a toothy grin full of rotting teeth and proceeds to check everyone’s tickets. Then he addresses the crowd:

“If the play you want to see,
Then you follow me.
But keep a handkerchief close,
Or the stench will surely sting yer nose.
And always listen to my bell and keep the lanterns in yer sight,
Or you will get lost and take fright.”

The jester unlocks the gates and the theatregoers nervously follow him and the thug. After about ten minutes wandering through an area of narrow ‘streets’ formed by mausoleums they arrive at one in particular. The iron gate is opened and within it is lit with braziers, and empty coffins line the walls. A staircase leads down opposite the doorway. Cheerful music can be heard coming from below. At the bottom of a long flight of stone steps the Jester stops at an archway and announces in a ceremonious voice, “behold, the Theatre of the Damned!”

The theatre is built in an old, large burial chamber, perhaps Dwarven made. About thirty feet above, a narrow gallery leads around the room, lined with alcoves, some which still hold statues. The large space is littered with hundreds of candles, and at times the air is thick with smoke; shadows dance on the walls.

The theatre is full of cheery people and there is a lively mood and an excited buzz of conversation; most of the theatregoers are dressed in rags or worn clothes, and many wear masquerade masks. Mugs of ale and sugarcoated apples are served for a few shillings; entertainers of many sorts perform amongst the crowd, jugglers, dancers, musicians with their out of tune instruments, even fire-eaters. The stage is a large square sarcophagus in the centre of the room, standing four feet above the floor. A section of it has collapsed, leading to an underground room from which the performers will presumably emerge.

When all the theatregoers have arrived, a hunchbacked figure hobbles on to the stage and blows a trumpet three times to signal the start of the play. All the actors are dressed in lousy garments, and their acting skills leave a lot to be desired, but it appears the humour is black and to the point, as soon the audience roars in laughter (except for a few whose turn it is to be insulted). After a few comedy bits, a pompously dressed, handsome man takes to the stage, introduces himself as Erasmus von Wolkenstein, and receives roaring applause. The adventurers recognise him as he looks much like his brother Hermann, though he is older.

Hermann makes a speech introducing the climactic act, and three golden ropes fall from the ceiling to the stage. Three female figures dressed in flowing diaphanous robes begin a display of sensuous acrobatics. Slowly they descend; the audience looks upward in fascinated silence; slowly the robes fall off to reveal their naked, mutated, scaly, daemonic bodies.

The crowd gasps in horror and sick fascination.

Suddenly a horn being blown is heard. A captain of the Knights Panther charges into the room from the stairs, accompanied by a band of zealots; he proclaims in a loud voice:

“I am Captain Ezekel Aichorn of the Knights Panther. The Mutants of this blasphemous theatre, and all persons associated with them, are forthwith cast out from Our Holy Sigmar’s graces, and declared Heretics as stated by the laws of His Empire. The penalty for this crime is death, put into effect immediately. Cease and desist!”

There is total pandemonium. The daemonettes drop to the floor and bar the escape of von Wolkenstein, as the adventurers rush to capture him.

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  1. Lord Robert
    Posted October 12, 2008 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Great as always. One small thing – the final orc was in fact my fourth orc (one more than Hoffer or Jack Bauer, not that I made a big thing about it…)

  2. Posted October 12, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Superb account, although I seem to recall that the term for the night I spent with the barmaid was “Spectacular sex”.
    I’ve also been reading the section about the Empire in the handbook – a lot of things I never understood are becoming clear to me, like just how much Chaos there is for a start. I can see why these people want to employ us, there’s a huge demand for lunatics who are prepared to risk their lives fighting endless hordes of demonspawn.

  3. Lord Robert
    Posted October 12, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    “Mind blowing” was how I recall Lucidius described it, unbidden, over breakfast the next morning (via the GM). Sparing us the details, fortunately…