62nd Advance, Anselm's player absent
In which the heroes learn more of the boy Karl and hear differing views of him.
A reminder - spoilers if ever planning to play the published adventure 1000 Thrones, even if I am tinkering.
Hero's Call Arrives
Father Erich is now a Warrior Priest and Hans reveals that counselled by his mentors he is a Battle Wizard (yes a Battle Wizard of Light, laughter breaks out each time this is mentioned thereafter).
In their interviews, Hans asks if anyone induced Eldred to get involved with this movement and Wandalina says he just heard about them and went to take a look, came back going on and on about the special child.
Elsewhere, Father Erich asks if Lady Therese has seen more and she has not, having arrived after the boy left. In fact, since she sailed from Altdorf and heroes took barge, she left Altdorf after they did – meaning she heard of them as the heroes who frustrated vampiric conspiracies involving Graf Steirlich von Bruner (nobles keep up on gossip about nobles) and she connects Father Erich, asking if this was he. He humbly admits so and her eyes take on a particular shine now as she speaks to him.
Father Erich asks about Lady von Sydow's plans, which were to return to Altdorf in a week but she will delay if the situation calls for it. Father Erich appreciates that and says in any event the heroes will return to Altdorf and they may meet there. She offers to fund horses or other means of helping the heroes overtake the Crusade assuming that becomes needful (as a large mob is moving at half or so the pace a hardy group could make on foot, never mind mounted – to think of it mathematically, if you left on foot 10 days after they did you would overtake them before they were half way to Altdorf or sooner – assuming you had fewer complications they then of course and they don’t all freeze to death or get massacred by local nobility on the way).
Both Father Erich and Hans tell their patrons that they will report back with whatever they learn.
The heroes reconvene and compare notes, Hans reveals his uncle Baron Eldred has gone off with the Crusade and Father Erich tells how a visiting Reikland noblewoman, Lady Therese von Sydow, has asked him to look into the background of this boy Karl. Hans recalls (education check that the von Sydows are a minor but still very prosperous Altdorf noble family with extensive holdings).
Hans and Father Erich head to the Winkelmarkt, the bustling lower class market that lies stretched out between the busy wharves of the Suiddock and the poverty of the Doodkanal.
Findulas meanwhile follows up on the letter he dictated to Hans and had sent to the High Elves of Marienburg when they were in Fauligmere, warning them of Dark Elf intrusions in the region, heading to the Elf Ward. He has no idea who to talk to really but ends up meeting with a high elf (sea elf as they call them hereabouts) named Avatil of the Foamstrider House.
I had no plans to introduce Avatil having two other patrons from the published adventure woven in, but the player's choices naturally lead here.
Avatil is aware of the letter and the investigation that was pursued, the high elves scouted the area to be sure there was no other threat from Naggaroth (the realm of the Dark Elves) and found none. With the underground river destroyed, the Dark Elves are unlikely to pursue trying to pass through that area. Much as they would like a route into the interior for their slave raids, the dark elf foe wants one they can sail on.
Findulas takes a wild shot and asks if Avatil has heard of the Crusade. Avatil becomes more measured and is regarding Findulas carefully, even suspiciously, saying that he heard of some band of fantatics, asking more about what brought Findulas to Marienburg. He says these things usually harmless but sometimes tools of Chaos. Humans are such weak creatures, prone to corruption. Findulas agrees, and Avatil adds it’s just as well humans are short lived (less time to become corrupted). Findulas leaves not sure what Avatil’s unexpressed interest/concern was.
The high elves are curious what game the wood elves are playing in Bretonnia and know that something is going on, Findulas is not the first wood elf to pass through city following the Crusade (a fact that might have been learned in the Winkelmarkt but wasn't, in part because Findulas himself didn't ask around there to be told he wasn't the first one).
Father Erich finds that for once in his life being a priest of Sigmar is not a route to deference and help as attitudes to Sigmar are so different here. He learns little in the Winkelmarkt. Hans looks first to find somewhere serving his favourite food – blood sausage – and then broaches the topic with other aficionados of this delicacy (a more roundabout route but ultimately one with more bonus dice). Bits and pieces of information are revealed ~ not always agreeing with each other bit:
-- The Crusade of the Child is run by conmen who plan to use threat of the boy to blackmail the Emperor for noble titles and trade concessions - as if Jan Vanderpeer would be involved if there wasn't coin to be made. The whole business with taking on those cultists with the hammer was a trick - there weren't even any bodies!
-- Now that Helmut and the Shallyan Abbess have revealed the boy is the Heir of Sigmar, the faithful are marching to Altdorf with him so the Child can lead them in a great battle against the Chaos Hordes that will soon invade the Empire from the north.
-- They say the boy is Sigmar Reborn because he appeared at noon, out of a shaft of golden light from the east, with the mark of a twin-tailed comet on his chest. A dozen evil men attacked him, but the boy brained each of them with a single blow of his hammer.
-- It wasn't cultists that the boy escaped from, it was daemons - you could tell by the way they dissolved when slain. He hardly had to tap them before they fell to pieces - Sigmar reborn!
Stories about Karl’s heroic actions at the blacksmith’s have the heroes tracking down this site where they are accosted by a seller of “relics of the holy boy Karl” who does not impress Father Erich. The workday is ending as they find it and talk to the blacksmith.
He tells how the boy came running, being chased by evil looking men, and picked up a hammer to defend himself – dropping one that melted away (must have been a daemon says the blacksmith). This matches the story the heroes heard, though after that point it seems the popular story has elaborated on facts. According to the blacksmith, it was he and his lads, with help of some passersby, who dealt with the other would-be-kidnappers, not being inclined to let such a nice lad come to harm. The blacksmith is not a Sigmarite and doesn’t hold with all that stuff about Sigmar Reborn, didn’t see anything supernatural about him, but says that some in the group claim to have. The heroes get a good description of Karl from the blacksmith.
Karl is a good looking boy of 9, big for his age, with blonde hair and dark eyes. His features are kindly and he is the picture of innocence.
The old priest of Sigmar Father Helmut came by and the boy went with him.
The heroes got several not all rumours from official adventure, modified a bit by me - more than enough to lead them on. I was ready for the decision to investigate the blacksmithy cited in rumours as it was logical move.
As dusk is turning to dark, and the night is cooling rapidly (Marienburg is on a warm ocean current that moderates winter but still it gets quite cold at night this time of year) the heroes come to the Wings of the Dove orphanage - on the edge of the seedy Doodkanal.
Father Erich easily gains admittance as the nuns believe he was sent from Altdorf because of Karl (they were expecting someone just not so soon). Father Erich did come from Altdorf and is here about Karl and does not correct the unspoken assumptions the nuns are spinning around those facts. He is taken in to see Abbess Lutzen.
Abbess Lutzen confirms they have cared for Karl for seven years but is vague about where he came from before then. She is a “Karl fan” extolling his virtues. Hans thinks she is holding something back about his history and engages in a ‘staring contest’ to break her down but (as Findulas suspects) she is experienced with wilful boys and does not crack, deciding these people are not here to recognize Karl’s holiness and ending the interview.
Hans switches to intimidation (upping the stakes) and the Abbess is shaken (success can look different in different situations) and as she summons sisters to ensure the heroes leave she offers excuses that she can hardly be accountable for things, having only just become Abbess, and the conflict between the heroes and her is obvious to others, so much so that another sister slips a note into Hans’ robes:
Lutzen is a Sigmarite fool who lies to you and herself. Speak to the true Abbess if she still lives, outside the old Temple of Sigmar in the Templewijk. The boy is in danger. One Who Is Silent but Not Blind
Father Erich remarks on the peculiarity of the Abbess Lutzen being a Sigmarite fool (since she's a Shallyan nun).
Going to a local tavern, Father Erich looks for a local guide to take them to the Temple of Sigmar in the Templwijk (the district where all the major temples are located). He is successful and (two boons) actually finds a Sigmarite, who regrets not going with the Crusade but couldn’t due to his bad leg, he is happy now to help Father Erich. He transports the heroes in a small skiff and takes them to the island on which the old temple of Sigmar stands. Once grand (of course), in the decades since Marienburg’s secession many of its building stones have been carted off and only one small wing really remains – the rest of the ground being a slightly uneven open area. From one column in this area hangs an iron cage in which a figure is huddled.
The heroes also see four city watch (2 pairs of 2) patrolling the area. Their guide points out the “witch who tried to denounce holy Karl” in the cage.
Approaching the guards, Father Erich speaks with them and with the application of his personality and some silver gains access to speak to the witch - former Abbess Maida Widmann. She is in a bad way, from exposure and abuse. Hans examines her for “signs of witchcraft” (mutations etc.) and finds none. She manages to tell the heroes her story..
Karl was brought to the orphanage seven years ago by witch hunter Osrik Falkenstein. He rescued the boy from a cult in the Cursed Marsh. They named the boy Karl, in honour of the Emperor.
As the years passed she saw him being praised more and more and treated as more important than the other children, though he himself was always good and generous, sharing all the gifts given to him with the others.
Widdmann sought to keep more isolated and made inquiries to superiors here in Marienburg. The priestess sent declared him a charming, healthy boy and the sisters merely guilty of excessive mother's pride. Widdmann comments that this was Sister Astrid von Nimlshein, had to flee the city a few weeks later after suggesting that mutants were entitled to Shallya's mercy.
She sent to Altdorf for further advice but never received an answer.
Then the orphanage was assaulted and poor sister Hirtzel killed, the boy taken. She is sure they were no natural beings that preformed the atrocities done poor sister Hirtzel and the fact no sign of how they entered or left was found.
When she heard of a boy the Priest Helmut declared to be Sigmar’s Heir the next day, "I knew it could be no other than Karl."
She brought Gerda Lutzman and the other Sisters to reveal the truth but Gerda and the others denounced her instead, saying she was a pawn of Chaos like Sister Astrid and sought to keep Karl from the people.
She emphasizes that Karl has never himself been anything but kind and good, but she cannot see the hand of any god in these matters [obviously referring to her present circumstances] and he never had any mark of Sigmar on him. If the witch hunter Osric still lives, he is the only person who can lead you to the boy's origin.
The heroes wonder why she was not affected by him. Widmann says she was impressed but was often away from the monastery - it's a full time job wringing donations out of the city's merchants to support the orphans.
The heroes are unwilling to leave her to her fate, she will die in one or two nights left where she is in this weather. She appears to be convicted on the strength of Father Helmut’s word (as the watchmen say, the one thing Sigmarites are good for is sniffing out witches and chaos) and the fact that her sisters from the orphanage were not objecting.
Father Erich goes to the local watch captain to present his views, as a Sigmarite, that Father Helmut was mistaken. It’s not easy for a Sigmarite to persuade Mareinburg authorities of anything but they are trusted on witchcraft etc and the idea of one Sigmarite saying the other erred and falsely condemned a Shallyan as a witch has a certain “cachet” (what would get misfortune dice in the Empire gets 4 fortune dice here). Father Erich is successful with a Chaos Star (well really, there was a Chaos Star inbuilt into succeeding in this particular effort, “Extra Extra, Sigmarite Priest Wrongfully Condemns Shallyan Nun Who Runs Orphanage, so says Other Sigmarite Priest, Extra Extra).
The next day, Vorhexen 13, the heroes try to track down Osric Falkenstein. Father Erich narrowly averts a dunking in the canal by some dockworkers who say that Osric doesn’t need no Sigmarites. Hans is more successful and learns he suffered some injuries at the hands of Karl’s followers and is “convalescing” in the Golden Lotus “dreaming club”.
Going to the seedy establishment at the end of Three Penny Bridge, the heroes endure the strange vapours (Findulas finds his eyes water and the disgusting scenes are stressful to Father Erich) till they locate the injured and (willingly) drugged witch hunter (who does have broken limbs and looks black and blue – several criticals in game terms). Passing a few coins to the doorman, they take him away to a nearby inn (Grey Gull, serving sailors).
Hans applies First Aid in an effort to get Osric revived enough to talk (otherwise it would be next day). Osric is not happy to be conscious (he was “feeling no pain”). Father Erich cures a critical but Father Erich’s attempts to reach out to him fail (despite his healing and initially favourable reaction when learning the heroes helped Widmann) – Father Erich can’t catch a break with the people in this city.
Hans does better and Osric relates what he knows of Karl: rescued him from cultist/mutants out in the Cursed Marshes seven years ago, most of whom died trying to complete a ritual with him, a sacrifice Osric thought. He now believes that the boy must be a mutant or daemon the way he inspires such fanatical devotion - thought him a jolly lovable tyke all those years ago, would run him through or shoot him dead on the spot now.
We break with the heroes debating whether to investigate the site in Cursed Marshes to try to learn more of Karl’s origins (Osric noted it was too wet to burn and that a few survivors escaped the mercy offered them), it being perhaps 3 day journey into Marshes though one “in the opposite direction” (well not really but as good as) to the Crusade’s path inland. The crusade is moving slowly of course and heroes could overtake it on foot never mind with horses.