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Winds of change


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#1 reg

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 09:24 PM

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.

 

 “Speak up!”

 

 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.)

 

   

 

Characters

 

  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 investigation

 

 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?” 

 

 More nods.

 

 Petra draws a dagger, and, rolling the biggest of the three over, makes two quick cuts. “Sorted.”

 

 

 

Post script

 

 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.



#2 reg

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Posted 29 January 2014 - 06:00 PM

Winds of change (3)

 

 

 

 There was the smell of bird on the air, plump and juicy, chicken perhaps. Fresh, sleepy and not-cautious. Scrumptious and tasty, full of crackling bones and high pitched help-cries, flapping broke-wings and bleeding leg-meat; she only had to take it and what kill/food/torture pleasure would be hers. Divine.

 

 She licked her lips and pressed on, slinking up the roof of the great tall man-tree, silent as a ghost, elegant as, well, anything. No, more elegant than anything. Much more elegant. She stopped briefly to ponder this pleasing thought and smooth her face fur into perfection. She shook herself. Mustn’t get distracted, time for that after the kill.

 

 A belly low crawl and she was at the crest of the building, high above the rest of the smelly human cityscape, the great juicy stupid chicken waiting to be caught just over the tiled ridge. She raised her head cautiously, just peering over the crown of the roof, and saw It.

 

 A chicken. A great fat, juicy chicken. A great fat, juicy chicken as big as a man. A great, fat, juicy, hungry looking chicken as big as a man. And it was looking at her.

     

 

 

Characters

 

  Petra Nunce, Reiklander - ex-gambler, thief

  Wesley Smitt, Reiklander - scout

  Grim Grimmson, Dwarf - Giantslayer

  Jeremy Dewbender - apprentice grey wizard

  Cat - a cat (and familiar)

 

 

 The team are awoken from their pleasant slumbers by the screams of one of their party. Jeremy, the Grey wizards apprentice, is having a nightmare, shouting and screeching.

 

 “Bloody giant chickens!” mutters Grim, rolling over and trying to get back to sleep. “At least be a bit more original, can’t you!”

 

 More screaming, this time definitely feminine in nature, though the expletives demonstrate a less-than-delicate character. “Oh for feck’s sake,” mutters the dwarf, rolling out of bed and joining the crowd in the hallway.

 

 “... bird, a giant bird, after my eyes ...” Jeremy

 

 “ .... and tentacles sprouting from my chin like a hideous living beard ...” Petra.

 

 “... I payed good money for this Inn, I don’t need to be woken by madmen!” Random customer.

 

 “Mummy, they say there’s a giant chicken coming to eat me!” The Innkeepers daughter.

 

 “... demonic, it must have been, to attract me ...”  Jeremy again.

 

 “I’ll have the watch on you, disturbing the peace an’ all!” The Innkeeper.

 

 “... I could feel myself changing, twisting inside ...” Petra.

 

 “Is there any breakfast?” Wes, yawning.

 

 And finally “Will you all shut the feck up before I’m forced to kill you?!” Grim.

 

 There is a shocked silence, and the slayer drags his companions into his room. He mollifies the rest of the patrons by grasping his sword in both hands and glaring at them. (Successful intimidate test). The Inn slowly returns to normality, accompanied by much muttering and slamming of doors, and a cry of “I want you gone by the morning!” from the Innkeeper.

 

 Back in the dwarf’s rather smelly room, Petra explains that when she got up to see what Jeremy was shouting about, she glanced in the mirror and saw tentacles sprouting from her face; not a nice experience. (I gave her the corruption token from last episode). Everyone looks at her askance; mutation is not something to be taken lightly in the Empire, even in a dream.

 

 Meanwhile, Jeremy has been cogitating about his dream, when suddenly he sits up straight. “It’s Cat! Something’s after Cat!” he shouts, looking around wildly. His eyes glaze over as he establishes contact with his familiar. “That way!” He points at a wall. “A giant chicken has got him trapped on a roof!” 

 

 Shocked silence and much rolling of eyes. “Loony,” whispers the dwarf. “He’s finally cracked. That’s what you get for wearing a dress.”

 

Jeremy ignores the jibe and closes his eyes again briefly. “The clock tower! Let’s go!” A moment of stunned silence whilst the gang consider the possibility of giant chickens invading the rooftops of Altdorf. Possible, maybe even likely considering what they’ve seen recently.

 

 Complaining, the crew throw on their clothing, strapping weapons and armour on as they leave. By now the Inn is completely awake, and people stand in doorways swearing at the Trouser bandits. Shrieks issue from the Innkeepers rooms as his young daughter has hysterics thinking giant chickens have come to eat her alive. No amount of moody glaring from the dwarf can make this right, and the landlord swears to have the watch arrest them and confiscate all their goods. Lucky everything they own is on their backs, eh?

 

 Out into the street, and a dash across the Ogasse district, turning and twisting through narrow, dirty streets, heading towards the rickety clock tower visible over the surrounding buildings. A couple of toughs step out from the shadows, but the sight of a semi-naked tattooed slayer pounding along the street, bared sword in hand, encourages them to step back.

 

 Finally they reach the clock tower, to find it as quiet as a tomb. A couple of curtains twitch as locals peer out at the disturbance, but no-one comes into the street.

 

 “Seems pretty quiet for a giant chickens roosting spot,” sniggers Petra.

 

“There’s nothing there,” says Grim, staring at the skyline. “No evidence to suggest that an evil super chuck is crouched on the rooftops waiting to swoop down on unsuspecting late night revellers” [Evidence? Is this the man the slew the friendly beastman Foaldeath on sight? Who single-handedly charged the goblin infested mines outside Stromdorf? Who fell face-down amidst a gang of marauding undead whilst attempting a flying drop kick? Never!]

 

 Wes, always one for (not-so) witty repartee, is strangely silent. He points at a splash of white visible in the darkness at the foot of the tower.

 

  The four heroes approach, but stop some distance from the whiteness. They see a bird dropping the size of a football splashed about the corner of the clock tower, as though a bucket of whitewash had been thrown from the roof.  The stench is indescribable, and the dung is speckled with unidentified viscera and small bones.

 

 “Cat!” shouts Jeremy and rushes to the clock tower door. Locked. “It’s eaten Cat!” 

 

 [No you plonker. Cat is your familiar, you would know if she was dead. Also how long do you think it takes a giant chicken to digest an animal?]

 

Petra strolls over and with minimal effort has the door open. Inside, the tower is dark and musty smelling, with a rickety ladder ascending to a trapdoor. The crew stand around looking at one another. This has the smell of a trap.

 

 “You’re the thief,” says Grim, “sneak up for a look around why don’t you?”

 

 “And you’re the bloody hero, meant to be looking for a glorious death. Scared of the dark?” mocks Petra in a girlie voice. 

 

 Grim changes tack. “But we have an expert on wildlife amongst us,” he points out, nodding to Wes. “After all, he did notice the subtle signs of the beast-chickens presence.”

 

 “Er,” says Wes, at a loss. Then, “It’s not my bloody cat. Never liked the creature in the first place.” He glares at Jeremy.

 

 [And so thats how we find the least combat qualified member of the Rock Steady Crew leading the advance up the clock tower. The ladders creak and groan so alarmingly that only one person at a time climbs each ladder, meaning Jeremy is essentially by himself, unable to be quiet and is forced to use both hands for safety. Go bandits, this will end well I’m sure.]

 

 Jeremy leads the climb, the ladders and floors creaking alarmingly as they ascend through four musty smelling rooms, full of rotten furniture and sheets. Not really much of a chance of sneaking, but the wizard presses on regardless.

 

 Finally they gather in the top floor of the watch tower, standing some distance from each other as the floor threatens to give way at any moment. No-one speaks in an attempt to surprise whatever may be on top of the tower, and there is much gesticulating and pointing as the crew decide on who should lead the final glorious charge. Jeremy loses again.

 

 [What fun. I tell the players that they cannot speak from now on if they wish to try to surprise the creature. Much hilarity as they try to decide who will go first with gestures and mouthed words].  

 

 Jeremy manages to climb the ladder amazingly quietly. He shrouds himself in shadows, even managing to dull the creaks from the ladder somehow. Reaching the trapdoor at the top he gives it an experimental push and, mercifully, it opens noiselessly. He pushes it gently, half opening it then freezes. 

 

 [Again I make the crew run this in silence, exchanging post-it notes with Jeremy - yes tacky I know, but really effective for short periods; the rest of bandits are squirming {quietly} in their seats trying to find out what’s going on.]

 

  The wizard finds himself face to face with a feathered fiend, who has bent to look at the opening trapdoor. They stare eye to eye, neither moving at all, Jeremy hardly breathing. In the background, Cat can be seen crouched down under the eaves of the towers mansard roof. There is absolute silence as man and monster regard each other.

 

 Then, inevitably, there comes sound from below. “What’s going on up there you great poof?” 

 

 The monster bird strikes fast as lightning, and Jeremy throws himself backwards off the ladder. Cat, seeing a chance to escape, darts between the creatures legs and leaps through the trapdoor, landing on Wesley’s face. The wizard, striking the floor hard, goes straight through it, taking much of the surrounding deck with him, and lies stunned on the floor below. Wes, trying to pull Cat off his face, follows Jeremy down the hole in the floor; the second impact causes that level, too, to collapse, and both men tumble down another level, the cat jumping away lightly and looking enquiringly down at her two companions lying stunned on the floor below.

 

 Petra, unbalanced by the collapse, teeters on the edge of the hole, but manages to grasp a floor beam, hanging precariously over the drop, before pulling herself to safety on the level below.

 

 Meanwhile, the dwarf, Grim, seems to be stood on the only solid piece of flooring in the whole building, and is completely unaffected by the collapse. He stares up at the feathered fiend who is peering curiously down from the roof. It makes a satisfied trill, then moves off, gliding over the rooftops.

 

 “That’s not a bloody chicken!” he mutters.

 

 [I really thought I had it then, two floors collapsing from successive falls by Wes and Jeremy; I’d even contemplated a glorious scene where the gang brought the entire tower down around their ears. With only Petra to go I played her corruption token to try and force the test but she passed, unfortunately. Interestingly, the crew actually took more damage from this non-combat encounter than they had for a long time; even more of a surprise, Grim was completely untouched!]

 

 A few minutes later four dust covered figures emerge from the wreckage of the Clock Tower; amazingly there are no watchmen waiting to arrest them, but all the curtains in the surrounding house are open, and their inhabitants gape openly at the Trouser Bandits as they stagger away from the ruined building.

 

 At a loss now, the group wander the streets. They can’t go back to their Inn as the landlord will have them arrested. They will probably be ‘persons of interest’ to the watch following the clock tower debacle, and they have no idea what is going on. Also the trouble with Yuri Popov seems likely to rebound on them in the not-too-distant future. What to do?

 

 Thirty minutes later, ensconced in the corner of yet another late night drinking hole, the four battered heroes go through their thoughts and options.  After a good dose of recriminations all round, Grim points out that, as the ‘lost sheep’ was a wizard’s apprentice, it seems pretty clear this whole mess is all about magic. Tentative agreement. Also, has anybody realized that today is Geheimnis, the most magical day of the year, with Geheimnisnacht to follow?Anything that is going to happen is bound to happen tonight. Stunned silence follows; that Grim had the ability to actually reason is a bit of a shock, let alone the fact that he’s probably right!

 

 (I’ve started using clue cards as the bandits are just that bad at investigating. I mean, I don’t have to give them at the right time, do I. There’s also the possibility of a ‘red herring’ card.)

 

 Wes digs out the paper he’d taken from Yuri Popov’s pocket the previous night, which appears to be a random set of interconnecting lines. “Map,” he says. “Sewers?” he suggests. Stunned silence. (Smarts seems to be catching; this was without a clue card!).

 

 “OK, so we nip down the nearest entrance to the sewers, keeping us out of the eyes of the law. Then we line up the map, find Herr whats-his-name, kill who-ever’s holding him, nip back to the Grey College and we’re away. Sorted!” says Petra.

 

 Oh dear.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 


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#3 reg

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Posted 04 April 2014 - 08:00 PM

Winds of change (3) - Dead parrots

 

 

 

 

 

 The underground space was huge, separated from the rest of the sewers by a pool of effluent, probably caused by the cave-in that had revealed it. Part of a spiral staircase could be seen set into the wall, climbing to the city above, and runes and carvings could be seen on the walls. Lanterns were lit, and in their light, a number of large cages could be seen, each containing a slumped figure. 

 

 “The apprentices,” whispered one of the watchers.

 

 A great chaos star was scribed on the floor, with the cages at the tip of each arm. Strange shapes and colours could be seen swirling around it.

 

 “Magic ceremony,” muttered a second of the watchers, a little smugly.

 

 A cowled man stood at the centre of the pattern, his figure edged with a nimbus of power. He gestured vaguely with a feathered wand and the strange colours seemed to deepen slightly.

 

 “The evil sorcerer,” said the third of the watchers with a nod.

 

 The hooded figure stopped what he was doing and bent down to a small cage for a moment, before standing and gesturing again. The swirling otherworldly lights seem to double in intensity, leaving strange after images in the air.

 

 Long pause. “A parrot?”

 

 

     

Characters

 

  Petra Nunce, Reiklander - ex-gambler, thief

  Wesley Smitt, Reiklander - scout

  Grim Grimmson, Dwarf - trollslayer

  Jeremy Dewbender - apprentice grey wizard

Cat - a cat of indeterminate gender

 

  After leaving their comfortable watering-hole, the heroes wander distractedly around the streets. They don’t really have a clue where they’re going, but figure something will come up. (Yes, it’s the boredom, I can’t keep ad-libbing all evening). Eventually they come across a manhole, and they gain access by the simple expedient of wrenching the retaining bar off the cover.

 

 “Down you go, lad,” says Grim, gesturing towards the hole.

 

 “Not me!” says Jeremy, “I went up the bloody clock tower. It’s got to be little miss prissy-pants’s turn. She’s the thief!”

 

 “Not in a million years, dress-boy. We professionals prefer a more cautious approach. How about the scout? Sneaking around and spying out the land. Jobs made for you.”

 

 (And so it goes. Again. Eventually they play rock-paper-scissors and Wes loses).

 

 “Off you go then,” says Grim with a smile. Wes swears gloriously, then starts to descend. Ten feet down, he stops.

 

 “There’s no more ladder!” he complains, and starts to come back up.

 

 “‘Course there is, you fecking half-wit, you’re just having a man-look” mutters Grim and starts down. His feet meet Wes’ head and they argue for a few moments, Wes losing because Grim places one foot on his head and forces him back down the ladder.

 

 “There really isn’t any more ladder down here,” shouts Wes, then distracted by Grim’s foot, he slips and falls down the manhole.

 

 Unfazed, Grim descends further then stops. “He’s right, there really isn’t any more ladder down here you know!” he shouts up to his companions. 

 

 (No, there really isn’t. All the ladders from the sewers end ten feet off the ground to prevent unwanted visitors. But this is getting boring, time to push the plot along a bit).

 

 There is a whistle, and the sound of running feet. Six men appear, armed and armoured, and demand the Trouser Bandits surrender. 

 

 “****, the watch,” mutters Jeremy. “Quick, Grim go down!”

 

 “But there’s no fecking ladder, you idiot. I’m coming back up!”

 

 Petra, realising that the dwarf coming back up out of the sewers to confront six armed and excitable watchmen would be a Very Bad Thing, slips her boot under the back end of Cat, who’d been smugly watching the proceedings down below. She flips her down the manhole directly onto Grim’s face, who claws wildly at the spitting monster trying to tear his face off and promptly falls off the ladder. More wet squishy sounds. More swearing.

 

 Jeremy, seeing his familiar falling quickly clambers down the ladder, followed by Petra. He drops the last few feet into a pool of effluent, and is just getting up when Petra lands on his head. “Thanks,” she says stepping off the choking wizard and onto the walkway next to the sewage channel. “Let’s move along.”

 

 And they come face to face with there first problem, no light. But, surprisingly, Phil, (Jeremy) has already sorted this out. After discussion with me, his advance for last session is a custom made spell card [‘Eyes of the Moon’] that gives the group the ability to see in darkened areas as if the illumination was two levels greater than it was. Complete darkness, however is treated as the lowest level of illumination possible. 

 

 

 The crew stagger along in the sewers, again not really knowing what is happening but enjoying squabbling about who’s fault this whole mess is. (But this time I don’t fall for the old boredom trick, and unleash my secret weapon - encounter cards). 

 

 “Cor Grim, have you farted?” says Wes, and Grim, recycling the old joke points out if it had been him, he’d be dead. More infantile banter, and they push on. (And that’s it. First encounter, gas, and they’re completely oblivious. No light, so no flame, so no exciting explosion. Ah well).

 

 The crew push on, getting more and more lost, and eventually Jeremy suggests they start scratching crosses on the wall, so they can find their way back. 

 

 “Yes, but to where? We’re bloody lost already,” points out Petra.

 

 The wizard snootily points out that they can’t possibly get any more lost, so why not, and has she got any better ideas, when Grim calls out. “Movement!” 

 

 The gang tense up. Indeed there is some movement. One or more large shapes can be seen ahead (It’s totally dark, so ‘Moon’s Eyes’ only gives minimal details). Behind, the sounds of something wading through the effluent behind can be heard. The bandits bunch up, expecting an attack, but nothing happens. Nervously, they start to move on slowly, and again the sound of wading can be heard.

 

 Suddenly a shape jumps over the sewage channel ahead, there is a scuffing of claws then silence. Odd clicks and whistles, then nothing. The heroes wait tensely, then move on again. “How the hell can they see …,” starts Wes when something strikes out from an alcove in the wall, a large claw cutting deeply into his back. The sound of wings, and a dim shape flits out of the dark, enfolding the Trollslayer in its wings and striking at him with a sharp beak, driving him off the walkway and under the liquid of the sewage channel. 

 

 More wading sounds, faster this time, and Petra turns to find something large charging towards her. She draws and strikes instinctively, and the creature staggers back, wounded. (Oh yeah, one for the bandits!) A terrifying screech, and another shape swoops along the tunnel, but this time Jeremy turns,  spouting strange words and slashes with his sword here, into a shadowed corner. There is a cry of pain there, and a massive winged shape tumbles to the ground (Blade in the dark spell. Nice.)

 

 Wesley, staggering from the sudden attack manages to draw his blade, and, flailing wildly fends off his attacker, another one of the monstrous birds they’d seen earlier. Petra, calm as ever, inflicts another wound on her attacker, splitting it’s head open, spilling brains over the wall. Dead. Jeremy, instead of using his arcane powers, dashes forward and slashes at the injured monster bird on the floor. Bad move, he misses and receives a slash across his chest for his trouble as the bird blurs suddenly and leaps to the attack.

 

 There is a moment of calm as various opponents eye each other, considering where to strike next, when suddenly the filth in the middle of the canal erupts and Grim appears, dripping ordure, mouth bloodied and spitting feathers. “Troll Slayer’s Bite!” he screams, flinging the lifeless corpse of a feathered fiend at one of the survivors, and scrambling up onto the walkway. This is too much for the remaining creatures, who turn tail and gallop away from the party. Cat, appearing from the shadows, hisses wickedly at their back’s.

 

 (Anyone notice my mistakes here? Feathered Fiends suddenly seem to possess X-ray vision; perhaps their original stock was owls I justify to myself. Oh, and they fly! Oops! Anyway, they’re magical beasts, so what the heck. And they certainly scared the bandits!)

 

 After this skirmish, the fantastic four seem to be less keen on Petra’s whole ‘wander around a bit in the dark and see what happens’ approach. (Why? It’s always worked for them before!). After considerable argument, Jeremy dispatches a very reluctant Cat to scout on ahead, and they move on slowly, Grim leading, sword bared, with Wes at his shoulder, an arrow knocked on his bow. The rest follow cautiously, weapons gripped tightly.

 

 Scarcely ten minutes later there is an ear-splitting caterwaul and Cat streaks around the corner, climbs Jeremy like a tree and sits atop his head hissing and spitting. Hard on the felines tail follows a small but vicious-looking dog, yapping excitedly, that runs full-tilt into Grim’s legs. Stunned, the dog staggers  back a little, then unleashes a barrage of barks.

 

 Before Grim can do anything precipitate to the annoying dog, a bright beam of light half blinds the adventurers. Petra steps forward, shading her eyes, and hails the figure half-concealed by the lantern. “Ratcatcher?” she calls. 

 

 The figure directs the beam of light away from the heroes. He eyes the Trouser Bandits suspiciously. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

 

 Surprisingly, Petra settles on (almost) honesty. “I am Petra Nunce, adventurer, and my companions and I have descended into these foul sewers in search of a foul sorcerer and to rescue a poor unfortunate. Not for fortune, not for glory, but for honour, for simple decency, for…”

 

 Before long, the hapless Ratcatcher is completely under the golden-tongued thief's sway. He listens to a story of glory, loss and betrayal. He is shown the crude map purloined from Yuri Popov’s pocket and points out exactly where they are. Hells-bells, he even volunteers to take the Trouser bandits back to his lodgings to rest before another attempt at the sewers, avoiding the watch (“They are full of the sorcerers minions”. He nods knowingly) and lending them his second best lantern! 

 

 

 

 

The sewers, one more time, with feeling

 

 

 And so, bandaged, fed, rested and with a bit of illicit spirit in their bellies (the rest is hidden in Grim’s pack) the four banditos head back into the sewers. A simple length of rope with a hook means the bandits can enter and exit the city drains with ease.

 

 The Ratcatcher waves them off from the entrance to the sewers (he’s gullible, not brain-dead!), and the four desperadoes head off into the depths of the cities underground. They leave the lantern unlit, relying on Jeremy’s Eyes of the Moon for dim vision, and have all their weapons at the ready. Cat slips away into the darkness, “Scouting,” says the wizard, like a proud father.

 

 “Hiding, more like,” mutters the dwarf sourly.

 

 More sneaking in the dark, and the wizard opens up his magical sight. Strange rainbow streaks can be seen in the winds of magic, thickening as they approach their destination. Up ahead he notices a huge confluence of the strangely attractive aethyr, and as they approach dim lights can be seen, seeming to come from an opening in the wall of the sewer.

 

 Crawling on her belly, Petra slithers up to hole in the wall of the tunnel. A great vaulted space lies ahead, separated  from the sewer tunnel by a pool of effluent almost like a moat. Several cowled figures can be seen, and there are a number of the monstrous bird creatures wandering about, seemingly unconcerned by the hooded men amongst them. 

 

 Quickly, Petra waves her companions forward, and they all lie on the lip of the effluent moat, staring into the cavern. A figure of some kind can be seen carved into the floor, and a number of iron cages are arrayed about it, containing slumped figures. “Gratz, I’m betting,” whispers Jeremy, “the Grey Wizards Apprentice we’ve been looking for.” He points at a figure standing in the centre of floor carving. “Evil sorcerer.” He gestures again, taking in the rest of the room. “Minions.”

 

 For some reason everyone looks at Grim. He smiles. “I have a cunning plan.” (I think I know where this is going) He looks thoughtful (difficult) “OK, we kill the evil sorcerer. We kill the minions. We kill anything in the cages that looks troublesome. Then we steal everything valuable. Oh, and we free the apprentice if its not too much trouble.” (Thought so). He raises his eyebrows at the rest of the party.

 

 “Yeah,” says Petra.

 

“Not bad,” says Jeremy.

 

 “Brilliant!” says Wes.

 

 A whispered discussion, and the Bandits are set. Cat sneaks round one side of the moat and disappears, whilst Petra slides around the other edge, before blending into the shadows. Grim extracts the half bottle of rotgut from his back-sack and fashions a crude molotov cocktail using the sewers map as a wick (hmmm). He then lowers himself into the effluent and wades across to the entrance of the cavern. Jeremy and Wesley move apart a little and ready themselves for action.

 

 (For all the arguments they have, the rock steady crew really are quite decisive when they get down to the nitty gritty. The cat and the thief creep closer, the Giant Slayer moves into charge range and the wizard and the scout get ready for mayhem-at-a-distance. And they all pass various sneaking tests!).

 

 The first the chaos worshippers know of their impending doom is when a fireball explodes between two of the feathered fiends, sending them scurrying apart in terror, flames licking at their bodies. A third is struck by an arrow that pierces its neck like a rather ugly ornament. Unable to cry out, the poor creature can only thrash its head uselessly as a black shape then flies onto its skull, clawing at its eyes (Cat). Mortally wounded and unable to see, the creature blunders about the cavern, knocking into men and monsters alike, Cat clinging to its head like a demonic furry jockey. 

 

 One of the acolytes, staring in horror at the mayhem overtaking the cave makes a choking sound and is pulled back into the shadows (Petra). Another is struck by a blade that seems to materialise out of the shadows to plunge into his side.

 

 (That’s the surprise element out of the way. Now lets see what happens when the chaos crew recover).

 

 Grim drags himself out of the sewage pool and charges the apparent leader of the chaos coven. He unleashes a mighty Troll Slayer Strike that has Hugbert Munghaus flying back, badly wounded, falling onto his caged parrot. 

 

 Petra, unable to backstab anyone else, moves forward to engage another of the cloaked figures. In a flurry of blade work they exchange wounds, and the thief quickly finds herself engaged in a lightening-fast duel with a slim woman at least as skilled as she is.

 

 One of the uninjured monster birds, catching sight of Wesley, charges and leaps over the sewage pool. Again, reality seems to blur around the creature and it throws itself forward, landing on top of the scout. They roll around, the creature trying to disembowel Wes with its back legs, while he desperately stabs his dagger repeatedly into the monsters gut.

 

 (I rule the ritual is well and truly ruined, what with dead bodies, flaming pools of brandy, squashed parrot familiars and maddened giant killer-chickens blundering around the place. Only thing is the Trouser Bandits have done so little investigating they have no idea who is who amongst all these people they are killing. And they have yet to meet Bobo).

 

 Munghaus, the leader of the coven, instead of being angry at the Bandits attack, looks terrified lying on top of the squashed parrots cage. He tries to get up, then stiffens, a look of shock on his face. He moans in fear.

 

 Meanwhile, Jeremy, preparing another spell, is distracted by showers of rainbow power surrounding the coven leader. Worried, he looks closer and realises they its source is not the leader, but something underneath him, something bigger than it seems. Something scary.

 

  “That …” he begins.

 

 Petra exchanges more blows with her opponent, both scoring wounds. She is very good.

 

 “… is not …”

 

Wesley manages to drive his dagger deep under his opponents ribcage, piercing its heart. Blood pours from its mouth.

 

 “… a dead …”

 

 Grim intercepts the maddened blind killer-chicken as it careers in front of him. He slices its head off with one blow, jetting blood into the air and catapulting Cat across the cavern floor.

 

 “… parrot!”

 

 Munghaus, atop the flattened birdcage throws back his head and screams as a great clawed arm emerges from his chest. His body tears in two as a massive iridescent feathered form emerges from beneath his corpse.

 

 (Bobo the demon's here).

 

 Screams. Where before the cultists and their creatures were fighting to get at the Trouser Bandits, they now fight to escape, desperate to flee from the demon. Two of the feathered monsters leap the moat, ignoring Wes and Jeremy and dash away down the sewer tunnel. Petra’s opponent turns her back, ignoring the possibility of a knife in the kidneys and throws herself into the sewage pool, moaning in terror as she claws her way to the far bank.

 

 The Trouser bandits stare in horror as an immense form seems to materialise before them. Wesley feels a familiar warm wetness on his legs, and lies frozen, pinned under the corpse of a feathered fiend. Petra, ignoring her fleeing enemy, falls to her knees in shock. Even Grim, the fearless, suicidally brave dwarf is immobile with fear, mouth agape. Of Cat there is no trace.

 

 Only Jeremy seems able to move, and he can only use the simplest of his powers, his most basic cantrips. He flicks his fingers, and blots of shadow dart from his hand, striking the twisted form with little sparks of power.

 

 The creature turns it’s head to regard the wizard and, mocking Jeremy’s action, flicks an arm/wing, and a brightly coloured feather darts at the wizard, striking him in the chest and driving him back. With a contemptuous shrug, it looks away from Jeremy, surveying the cavern, the fleeing acolytes, its ruined ritual, the terrified Bandits. The demon turns it’s attention to the dwarf standing before him. “Slayer,” it says, in a sibilant voice, “Hold burner. You’ve done this before, I think.”

 

 (Lots of things going on here. I ruled that the appearance of Bobo would be enough to send anyone even vaguely aware of his personality [very, very vengeful], fleeing wildly. As a counter-balance, I also ruled that any of the players failing their terror test would be frozen in terror - unfortunately three of  the four of them did so! As to Grim, the oracular powers of Tzentchian(?) demons in general means that they have some insight into his background, the reason for his taking of Slayer vows. A good way of introducing a bit of backstory).

 

 The demon gestures towards Grim, and the dwarf seems to fade a little, colours from the glowing monster overlaying the Slayers form (Bobo casts  the ‘unravel reality’ spell, stacking on stress, corruption and a temporary insanity!). He falls forward onto his hands and knees before the demon, shaking his head. The monster grins, revealing rows of jagged teeth within its beak.

 

 But all is not lost! Petra shakes herself free from the soul numbing terror (she remembers her gamblers luck re-roll) and throws herself at the huge creature, slicing along its back with her sword. Wes, hand shaking with fear, manages  to loft an arrow that misses the creature by a few inches (nice one Wes). Finally Jeremy, pulling himself upright, shouts a word of power and, stabbing into the darkness at the base of the wall, strikes at the creature through the shadows at its feet.

 

 A great shriek splits the air, and the demon dissolves into a rainbow wash of light. “Do not think me defeated,” the creatures voice is both intimately quiet and skull splittingly loud. “I will be back.” And the rainbow light flits away down the sewer tunnels. 

 

There is silence for a few moments, and then in a shaky voice the Wesley asks "What the feck just happened?"

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#4 reg

reg

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Posted 08 April 2014 - 07:29 PM

Winds of change (4) - Epilogue

 

 

 

     

Characters

 

  Petra Nunce, Reiklander - ex-gambler, thief

  Wesley Smitt, Reiklander - scout

  Grim Grimmson, Dwarf - trollslayer

  Jeremy Dewbender - apprentice grey wizard

 

 

The rescue of eight young apprentices from the depths of the cities underworld was an overnight sensation.

 “Pervert Priests Pinched My Pants!” 

proclaimed one of the more sensationalist pamphleteers, along with a crude woodcut of our heroes, bleeding from many wounds, leading out a group of young people in various states of undress. (Wesley, as well as looting the bodies of the dead cultists, had also plundered the unconscious bodies of the apprentices, then gone on to steal their trousers! The rest of the crew, in a state of near hysteria brought about by their near-death experience, had not thought to stop him. [Though Jeremy had ensured the Grey Wizard apprentice, Gratz, was not de-bagged, as it was not ‘in keeping with the dignity of the College’])

 

 The gutter press loved the Bandits. Grim, after a disastrous meeting with the town dignitaries, is wined and, well wined again by various reporters, leaving a trail of pissed-up journalists and wrecked drinking dens in his wake. Wesley, his blank stare and patent stupidity mistaken for taciturn woodsman’s philosophy, was taken on as an advisor by a local bowyer, and received a rather impressive longbow. Jeremy was hailed as a hero by the Grey College, partly for rescuing Herr Gratz, but mainly for embarrassing the other colleges by undressing their underlings (in fact ‘keep yer trousers on’ was fighting talk in the magical colleges local watering holes for years afterwards).

 

 Petra was the only one who was disappointed, discovering that though the aristocracy may look like inbred cretinous painted fops, quite a few were considerably better at cards (and cheating!) than they looked. Still, despite owing large sums of money, she managed to outfit herself according to her new station, keeping a few steps ahead of her creditors by the simple expedient of climbing out a lot of hotel windows in the early hours. She even managed to acquire a pair of matching pistols in one of her few successful gambling sprees!

 

 As for the authorities, after interviewing the Rock Steady Crew they gave them their blessings. None of them seemed to have a clue what had really been going on, and were surprisingly reticent on the matter of the killer-demon parrot. The touch of smut was enough to distract and disgust more discerning readers from the discovery of yet another chaos cult in the city, and led to some unusual headlines in the more eccentric sections of the press 

 

“No trousers - a secret chaos signal?”

 

and

 

 “Chaos underpants - a sign of the times?”

 

being two of the more interesting captions.

 

 With their lives now seemingly on an even (and prosperous) keel, our band of brothers rapidly discovered they wanted nothing more to do with each other. So they separated, each to their own comfortable little circle of friends/drunks/creditors/fetishists. And if they gave each other a thought it was on the lines of “thank the @!#% they’re not about anymore!” completely oblivious of the immense shitstorm that was about to descend on them. 

 

 The first inkling of any trouble was an urgent summons from the Grey College, individually addressed, on nice parchment with an important looking seal affixed.

 

 And so, with no idea what was to come, the four smug heroes found themselves at the rooms of one of the more senior of the wizards in the Grey College. On finding their erstwhile companions waiting there also, their greeting was as warm as ever.

 

 “Oh crappola, it’s the pervert!” (Petra to Wesley).

 

 “New dress, you big girls blouse?” (Grim to Jeremy, poking him with his (new) axe).

 

“I thought there was a smell in here. Ever heard of washing?” (Jeremy to Grim).

 

 And after a few moments contemplation, “Feck off the lot of ya!” (Wesley).

 

 Honour satisfied, the four waited happily for their interview, thinking warm thoughts about money/fame/beer/trousers. 

 

 The door opened.“Greetings!” said the under-Magister, smiling and gesturing them in. They took seats.

 

 His smile makes him look a bit like a shark, thought Jeremy, glancing idly around the room.

 

 “So pleased to greet such illustrious … characters,” continued the wizard. His smile widened and he spread one of the more colourful pamphlets out in front of them.

 

No Pants - No Chance!

 

 Oh ****, thought Petra, not another one of the looney perve’s who want their underpants checked for chaos stains.

 

 “This pants … erm … motif, seems to crop up in the most unusual places,” continued the wizard. “I’m sure I’ve seen it somewhere else.”

 

 He pulled out another piece of paper and idly tapped it on his desk before opening it.”Ah, here. One of our operatives reports capturing an associate of your friends in the sewers, one Yuri Popov. A big, tattooed brute, found sans trousers, so to speak. Do you know him?”

 

 Denials all around. Petra began to feel a little, well, worried. 

 

 “And here, another, a stage robbed just outside Lachenbad, its passengers and crew stripped of their trousers. Strange.”

 

 Silence. He turns over another piece of paper. “And then there’s this.”

 

               The Trouser Bandits - 100 crowns reward

                  Three desperadoes wanted for highway

                      robbery and various lewd acts.

                  A dwarf, a woman and a short man.

 “Ah,” says Petra, scenting an escape route. “But there’s four of us.”

 

 Wesley counts in his head, then nods agreement. “Yeah, four. And there’s three of those wicked robbers!”

 

 “True,” agrees the Magister, then looks closely at the bottom of the poster. “Oh but look, a date.” He looks at Jeremy. “Hmm, I seem to recall your departure date from the college as some time after this, eh, apprentice Dewbender? That would leave three again.”

 

 Jeremy, recognising a lifeline, grasps it vigorously. “Oh yes, well after then. Always thought they were bad-uns, them, always stealing trousers, oh yes.”

 

 Silence. The rest of the Trouser Bandits glower at the turncoat wizard. “And yet you failed to tell us of your suspicions?” The lifeline turns to dust.

 

 More silence. Petra’s hand slips to her sword belt. Grim rolls his shoulders. Jeremy looks more than a little frightened, whilst Wesley is still taking one from four to get three. 

 

 “But what is a little matter of petty larceny amongst friends?” He smiles again. (Oh yes, a great big shark, thinks Jeremy. And we’re very small fishes). “If it was just me, well, I wouldn't worry. These things happen.” He turns his mouth down. “Unfortunately it seems that these same people, as well as stealing a few items of clothing, also managed to acquire a document with a more, well Imperial connection.” A serious look. “Now that is a horse (or a pair of trousers, ho-ho), of a very different colour.”

 

 (Oh ****. The secret Imperial message from the very first game. No-one can really remember anything about it - good for me as neither can I - but it’s probably something bad).

 

 “It seems an Imperial Investigator, one Herr Gobbsplatz, has been in the Ogasse asking questions about a certain group of criminals.” He taps the poster for the Trouser Bandits suggestively.

 

 Petra, realising that the Magister could have had them arrested immediately, scents an escape route. “Cut to the chase, Herr Magister. What do you want us to do?”

 

The wizard looks a little put out by Petra’s blunt summation of the situation, but bravely continues. “Very well. It occurs to us here at the College that there may be a benefit in us having a few, well, agents, of your calibre working for us. (Ha!). Investigating. Delivering messages. Solving problems, that kind of thing. But completely deniable.”

 

 The Bandits fall over themselves in affirming their willingness to work tirelessly for the College, all the time (in Petra’s case at least), planning to cut and run at the earliest opportunity.

 

 “Do we get to kill lots of things?” asks the dwarf. A nod from the wizard. "Dangerous things?" Another nod. “Well, it sounds like our kind of work. We will die gloriously in your service.” He raises his axe and spits on the table. “We so swear!” (Petra and Jeremy exchange horrified looks).

 

 “Erm, not to be too pushy, but what exactly do you want us to do first?” asks Jeremy. (‘And how much does it pay?’ hisses Petra).

 

 “A good question. It seems that one of our number, a seer no less, has been troubled by dreams of a most upsetting kind. Death. Destruction. Fat cows and thin cows.And in each of these dreams, they have seen a shadow over Bogenhafen!” 

 

 (Oh crapolla).

 

 

Epilogue

 

 After the heroes had left, a dusty curtain in the wall is swept back. “Ah, Herr Gobbsplatz. All to your satisfaction, I trust?”

 

 The Investigator nodded happily. “Completely.”

 

“And do you think these … agents …, will be useful?”

 

 When he’d finished laughing, the detective wiped his eyes. “Of course not, they are complete morons. But we build them up as our top operatives, the fearless Trouser Bandits, only they’re pretending to be completely incompetent to lull the opposition into a false sense of security. We send them places and see what happens. Hell, we could send them anywhere, and something would happen!”

 

 The Magister nodded his agreement. “But won’t it be terribly dangerous?” 

 

 The Investigator nods his head. “You’ve got to hope so!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






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