This scenario continues the adventures of the Trouser Bandits, a group of four ne'r-do-wells started in 'Cheap Tickets' and 'In a galaxy far, far away
Winds of change (1)
The man was big. And ugly. Very, very ugly. There were small tattoos, almost words, all up his arms and across his shaven head, as well as larger, picture-like tattoos down his chest, disappearing below the waistband of his trousers. He leaned forward into the face of the smaller, rattish-looking man and placed a hand firmly on his shoulder. He glowered. “You’ve been asking questions. Lots of questions. I don’t like it.” He slid his hand round to take the man by the throat and, lifting slightly, raised him to his tiptoes. “Understand?”
His victim waved his hands as he slowly turned blue.
“What? said the big man, still squeezing but turning slightly to face his two equally disreputable looking companions. “I can’t hear you.” They chuckled appreciatively.
He dropped his victim onto the table, which collapsed. “Speak up, little man. Do you understand me?”
The smaller man crawled from the wreckage of the table, wobbling a little. He attempted to say something.
A strained cough and a pause, then, “Er, large yellow fruit that looks like a willy?*”
There was a puzzled silence as everyone in the tavern tried to puzzle out what had been said.
“What?” said the tattooed man, frowning. “Are you taking ... “
He was interrupted by the bonging sound of a wooden bench striking him on the back of his head, wielded by someone even uglier, even more tattooed than him. “Stitch that, Jimmy,” growled the one-eyed dwarf, as the big man slumped into unconsciousness.
Meanwhile, the man’s companions were having their own difficulties. A nattily dressed woman playing cards at the next table snatched up her drink and, throwing it into the eyes of one of them, stood and, almost carelessly, kicked him solidly in the testicles. An involuntary groan went up from all the men in the room.
The second man, jumping back from the melee, managed to get his sword half out before he felt a sharp blade digging lightly into his left kidney. He froze then flew backwards as the dwarf, turning away from the big man, hit him with his trusty bench.
There was a profound silence in the bar. These four had just taken down the hardest men in Ogasse in under a minute. What would they do next?
There was a giggle, and the man who’d held the blade moved forward. There was an evil light in his eyes as he stroked his dagger on his palm. “Let’s steal their trousers!”
(*I’ll explain later.)
Petra Nunce, Reiklander - ex-gambler, thief
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander - scout
Grim Grimmson, Dwarf - trollslayer
Jeremy Dewbender - apprentice grey wizard
Cat - a cat (and familiar)
After recovering in Ubersreik, the four adventurers set out for Altdorf. Jeremy, our grey wizards apprentice, must report the failure of his mission in Stromdorf; something the others have their doubts about (‘they’ll just blame us!’), but Jeremy persuades them to come with him. He suggests that they may well be rewarded for their part in the investigation, despite the not-so-favourable outcome for the inhabitants of the town. After some debate, the rest of the Trouser Bandits agree, partly because Jeremy lets slip he has lodgings in the city payed for by his well-to-do parents (He’s rich? Petra is already in love!), and partly because the magistrate investigating the disaster has been looking to apportion blame for the mishap.
Getting to the city proves remarkably easy; Petra ‘finds’ a gold piece in her super-secret boot cache (left over from the Stromdorf debacle), and offers to pay for the others tickets as long as they pay her back. Much shouting and arguing ensues, and Petra finally agrees, in a headlock, to pay all the travel expenses gratis, with the promise of some vague future favour.
And so to Altdorf, city of shining spires. After an uneventful journey, the four desperadoes (plus cat) are dropped off in the Konigsplatz, midst the hustle and bustle of the great city. Wes stands staring with his mouth open, pointing in wonder, and is pick-pocketed almost immediately. Jeremy, having lived here for many years, has all his valuables secreted in an inside pocket, whilst Petra nods and strokes her nose in a certain way, and is miraculously left alone. Grim, having no visible hiding places except down the front of his trousers (shudder), is also left alone.
“This way,” says the wizard, leading the group off down the street. No-one has much sympathy for Wes’ losses, the general feeling about Wes being ‘what a plonker’. He takes to glaring at everyone nearby whilst clutching his dagger, and suddenly spinning around. This ensures everyone leaves him well alone, but make signs against the evil eye behind his back.
Jeremy leads his companions speedily across the great city, ignoring the sights. They pass the docks and cross over one of the great bridges, moving further and further into the old city, each step taking them deeper into the slums. By now, Wes is not the only one clutching at his weapons; Petra flips her tatty cloak off her shoulder for easier access to her sword, and Grim slows his walk to a lazy Troll-slayers strut, all glaring eyes and rolling shoulders.
Suddenly a group of dirty-looking men seem to materialize ahead, blocking the way, and Wes, Petra and Grim hurriedly pull out weapons. Jeremy, however, merely turns the collar of his cloak, showing a simple tin sword badge, and the gang stops, then slinks away.
“Nice,” says Petra, “but do you actually know where you’re going? This area’s a bit, well, tatty for one of the great colleges.”
Jeremy merely grunts, then stops in front of a sagging, four storey flophouse. He leads them down a dark alleyway next to the house, and stops before a scarred and warped door. “Here,” he says, leading them in.
Inside, they find a remarkably well appointed room. There are fine desks and a candelabra, as well as clear glass in the windows. A tall, thin servant seems to be expecting them and bows, before gesturing Jeremy forward. He waves the others towards a comfortable couch and table arrayed with a wide variety of cold meats and snacks, which they descend upon like wolves.
Strangely, time seems to pass in a rush, and before the ‘bandits more piratical instincts can kick in (some of the fittings are very fine indeed), Jeremy re-enters the room. He looks pale and worried.
“They’re talking about throwing me out of the College!” he whimpers.
There is a distinct lack of sympathy. “Oh dear,” says Petra, throwing olives up and catching them in her mouth. “Perhaps you could do something different?”
“Bunch of old men wearing dresses. Better of out of it, there’s something not right there!” growls Grim.
“Can I have your sword badge if you have to leave?” adds Wes.
Jeremy stands frozen, contemplating his companions complete indifference to his plight. “I have only one chance,” he says pleadingly. Blank apathy. He tries again, “Let me rephrase that. We have only one chance.”
Petra’s head raises in alarm. Jeremy continues. “We have only one chance if we don’t want to be handed over to the investigators of the unfortunate events at Stromdorf.”
This it seems, is a horse of an entirely different colour. “And what is it, exactly, we will be doing?” asks Petra, suddenly more focused.
“Well, it seems that one of the apprentices here, Herman Gratz, has disappeared somewhere in Ogasse ... “
The four spend a very comfortable night in Jeremy’s digs (‘Treat it as your own home,’ he said, and they did, taking numerous small but valuable items away with them when they left). The next day they set out armed only with a sketchy description of Herman Gratz (‘skinny with a grey cloak. Oh, and a wizard’), and walk to nearby Ogasse to begin their investigations.
At the first tavern they reach on the edge of the Ogasse, the ‘Wren’, Wes and Grim pop in for a bit of ‘investigating’. They arrange to see the others back there later, and immediately start to research the ale. (Phil and Tish, who play these two, wont be joining in till later.)
Meanwhile, the remaining two stalwarts begin asking the locals wether they’ve seen Herman Gratz. Initially, Jeremy is completely shunned; he has a posh accent, he’s obviously a bit of a do-gooder, and worst of all, he’s a wizard; no-one wants to talk to him. Petra does better, she turns her cloak inside out, adopts a stutter, stoops and, with a shapeless grey hat stolen from a passerby pretends to be a scribe (her disguise card). She soon strikes up a conversation with a fellow scrivener, Rudo Rudsson, a dwarf. He shows her a poster for ‘the Monster of Ogasse’, and has several rather unusual explanations of what exactly it is. Nutter, is her estimation of the dwarf, and he knows nothing about Herman Gratz.
The two heroes push on into Schmutzplatz, a rather down at heels city square showing signs of former glories. They chat to a number of quite busy locals, before meeting one of the local watch, Captain Steik, who tells them more about the monster of Ogasse. He mentions a reward, much to the gang’s interest, but still nothing about the missing apprentice.
On the other side of the square, Petra sees a local shop she’s heard of - ‘Magpie’s Pawn Shop’, the base of a rather well-connected local fence. They enter, and Jeremy begins to browse, whilst Petra chats to the proprietor, Magpie himself, a rather well spoken halfling.
At the back of the shop, Jeremy comes across a collection of charms and knick-knacks, similar to the ones apprentices wear - there’s even a sword badge, like his own. The two attempt to question the fence about where they came from, but he’s reticent, claiming the man who sold them to him found them on the ground. Petra decides to come back later, out of disguise, and talk to Magpie again in her thief persona.
More walking and this time they reach another inn, the ‘Eagle of Luccini’. Dank, dirty and ill-lit (and this is the morning!), neither character is too keen to enter. Instead they chat to a local pie-seller, Thomas Bratchen, who can’t tell them anything about the missing apprentice, but gives them the names of a few people who have supposedly seen the beast.
By this time our two intrepid investigators are quite confused, and take time out to discuss the problem. Herman Gratz, by nature of being an apprentice wizard, is eminently noticeable, but no-one has seen him. Why not? On the other hand, everyone seems to have seen or heard about the monster. Are they connected in some way? Perhaps they are the same thing! Herman, somehow overcome by a stray magical vortex, is changed into the monster - he stays in this area trying to communicate with the people here, who just see him as a beast, and flee in terror! That’s why no-one has been killed by the monster, it’s just trying to talk to them!
[No, no, no. The beast was around before Herman disappeared, and what about all the magical knick-knacks? People have disappeared, you just haven’t found out about them! Once again the rock steady crew have got things completely wrong. I suspect Jeremy has a plan about trying to talk to one of the beasts if he can catch it. Gulp].
Anyway, the two investigators start out for the Wren to link up with Grim and Wes. They stop off at the local Shalyan soup kitchen, the ‘Dove of Love’, and chat to a couple of the priestesses there, Lena and Ethel, one of whom is even kind enough to serve them a simple snack of boiled eggs and bread (Uh oh!). They chat with the women, who know nothing about the apprentice, but have heard vague rumours about the monster of Ogasse.
(At this point the Ethel, evil cultist of Tzeentch, aware of the Trouser bandits investigations, decides upon more proactive measures. She fetches some of the eggs from the larder, but dosn’t have time to make sure they’re tainted - I give a 50/50 chance of eating a chaos egg. It would be too big a clue as to whats going on if one of the crew were to suddenly sprout tentacles, so I’ve decided to run the entire corruption thing a session late, ruling that mutations etc wouldn’t be instantaneous. Fortunately only Petra gets a demon egg, and passes her corruption test, but gains one corruption point).
Outside the soup kitchen Petra and Jeremy try to chat with a couple of the down and outs. One is terrified of Jeremy’s whole wizard-vibe and flees; the other asks for money for a meal, which strikes them as strange; why ask for money when there’s a whole soup kitchen full of (reasonably) tasty food next to you?
“Poison,” says the man, Joseph Hoppe, glancing around for eavesdroppers. “All the food here is poisoned, thats why everyone keeps disappearing. Last time I ate here I was sick for days.” He looks at the two companions carefully. “You didn’t eat here, did you?”
Jeremy looks a little green.
“You did, didn’t you?” Herr Hoppe backs away carefully then dashes off. “It might be infectious!” he shouts over his shoulder.
A little unsettled, Petra and Jeremy walk across Ogasse to the Wren, cutting short any more investigating (Tish and Phil - Grim and Wes - have just arrived). Seeing that the other two members of the gang are happily drinking, Jeremy sits down for a rest, feeling queasy. Petra, made of sterner stuff, heads for the toilets and changes out of her scribe disguise, then gets involved in a card game.
Almost at once the door to the Inn flies open and three large and angry-looking men enter. They glare around obviously searching for someone, then nod when their gaze rests upon the wizard. They walk straight up to Jeremy, flexing muscles and jutting their chins aggressively. They stop right in front of the hapless apprentice, and, grasping him by the throat, attempt a little intimidation.
When he’s able, Jeremy shouts “Large yellow fruit that looks like a willy!”
(What he meant to shout was ‘bananas! - a reference to the ’99’ call of the British Lions, which was a shout the group had worked out for instant bar-room brawl. I ruled that as Jeremy had never seen a banana he had to say something resembling it. It very soon got out of hand, as you will see).
After a short pause, the biggest of the bullies is felled by Grim with a handy bench. Pausing only to bellow, “Remember that place in the desert where lots of people died!” (the Alamo), he turns looking for a new victim.
Quick as a flash, Petra is on her feet, and, throwing her whisky in the face of another of the thugs, kicks him solidly in the testicles. He collapses without a sound. (Petra has a new purpose designed card ‘Fight Dirty’, only usable once in an encounter, and only from surprise. It can be played before another card, and if successful, awards 1-3 fortune die. She is stoked it worked so well, her signature move, she calls it).
The third man almost manages to get his sword out, but is stopped by Wes pricking his kidneys with a dagger. He freezes and is felled by a vertical smash from the bench wielding dwarf. “Er, deity preserve the female ruler of a small nation in an parallel universe!” (God save the Queen) screams the Slayer at the unconscious man.
(Its story-telling mode here, a bar-room brawl without the need for lots of dice rolls. Three men down in three moves, looks like the Trouser bBandits are going to make some enemies here).
After removing the unconscious men’s trousers, (and stealing all their money), the crew stand around feeling a little lost. And then it happens. One of the reasons I so like (and fear) this group.
“You know, that big bastard there is the hardest man in Ogasse don’t you?” says a little man in the corner. There are murmurs of agreement up and down the bar.
“Vicious, is he?” asks Petra.
The man nods solemnly.
“He’ll hold a grudge, you reckon?”
Petra draws a dagger, and, rolling the biggest of the three over, makes two quick cuts. “Sorted.”
What she actually does is cuts the webbing between the thumb and forefinger of Yuri Popov, thus ensuring he can’t use a weapon for a number of months. One of the biggest guns of the Broken wheel sect neutralized like that. It’s gonna get nasty.