It is the morning of Backertag, 18th day of Sigmarzeit, the first day of summer 2522 when our attention is called to Averheim.
Almost two years ago Elector Count Marius von Leitdorf died in the Third Battle of Blackfire Pass where Averland and Imperial troops held back a horde of greenskins from entering the Empire and Emperor Karl-Franz himself appeared to defeat the greenskin warboss that has slain Marius. The wounds suffered by many are now scars and flowers bloom on the graves of those who died to save the Empire from a greenskin ravaging.
Barges have recently off loaded the Southland’s Expedition’s findings to Graf Kaufman’s warehouse in the Upper City. Averland’s prosperity continues although the effects of prolonged lack of political authority can be seen in the lax attitude of city guards, the growth of petty crime and the lack of progress on the maintenance or expansion of public works.
Dams to control the Aver remain as much a “plan” as they were two years ago, and as the late spring rains lash Averheim, causing the Aver to rise and fall, many in the lower city now keep an uneasy eye on the flood walls.
In the Upper City, the Sulky Sun (Sun of Solland Theatre) has a hit with a revival of the 24th century cross-dressing comedy Hexenachtabend (the heroine, Violetta, disguises herself as her brother for much of the play).
However, all the world is a stage, as Tarradasch once said, and our interest is instead in the play involving a particular set of actors.
The dramatis personae of our play.
Wilhelm von Döhnenleiter is youngest son of a noble family, by way of second marriage, and battle-scarred veteran of the Third Battle of Blackfire Pass. He recently took a voluntary discharge from the Pistolkorps to avoid a scandal over activities of the Young Blades Dueling Society to which he belongs. He was asked on the 17th to look into disappearance of retired servant Franz Schlemmel by former interest Amalie Steiner. His family are von Leitdorf supporters. Gold Tier
Magnus Holck is also a youngest son of an Ostland family that serves the interest of the noble von Hoffs of Ostland, Magnus being their Agent. He arrives as a foreign messenger by coach in Aveheim delivering messages to von Hoff trading partners von Kaufman (they are interested in the return on investment in that Southlands expedition), to the Wilhelm's family with whom they also have some relations though more personal as it is whether there is any news of Magnus’ two older brothers who served at Blackfire Pass and afterwards joined the Southlands Expedition. For the past week of his trip, as he road down from Wurtbad, Magnus was in the company of the dwarf slayer who works as a guard on the Red Arrow Coach line at times. Silver Tier.
A dwarf of Karak Azgaraz, who with his two brothers went to fight gobbos at Blackfire Pass. His brothers perished and he sword to have a glorious death beside them but instead woke up later to discover not only that he lived but that an elf had saved his life. Such was the shame that he took the Slayer Oath and became a self-imposed outcast. To make things worse, the bookish elf never exposes himself to a menace other than paper cuts thus making it hard to repay his blood debt and get on with finding an appropriate foe to face. This has all driven him to drink, which he funds by working as a guard on the Red Arrow coach line at times, having met Magnus Holck a week ago in Wurtbad though this channel. Brass Tier. When he arrived in town on the 17th he heard news the wife of a man he owed a debt to was looking for help down on the docks. The dwarf regards himself as already dead and does not tell people his name, making him variously “the dead dwarf”, “dwarf with no name” and “The Slayer” (which would make Korhadriel his “Watcher”).
Korhadriel Valandar, a high elf student and academic, has left Ulthuan to escape his overbearing father’s interference in his life. Too proud to return even though he has been reduced to poverty (Brass Tier), Korhadriel has ended up in Averheim after trying to sign on as a scribe with the imperial army and instead being given a bow (after all, you’re an elf) and sent off to fight at Blackfire Pass. He manages a good dinner and some at least passingly interesting academic conversation from time to time as a member of the Sun Society. Korhadriel has an interest in the peculiar dwarf species and saved the life of a dwarf soldier he was “observing”, resulting in the odd outcome of the dwarf lingering about to try to return the favour. Korhadriel recently received a letter from his cousin Eothlir Valandar but lost it somewhere in the docks area before he could read it.
Harry (Hieronymous) a survivor from a village wiped out by elf cultists of some sort when he was in his teens. A sad childhood, in which he ran away from the opportunities offered by Curd Weiss of the von Kaufman household, though Curd still respects his fundamental character. A criminal forger, Harry also fought at Blackfire Pass as a crossbowman. A shady sort, Harry is still a patriot when it counts having tried to frustrate a smuggling shipment when he realized it was of something dangerous to Averheim, an event in which he crossed paths with Wilhelm (while the latter still in Pistokorps). A fixation with elves and grudge against them was softened when he saw an elf save a dwarf’s life in the battle though he still keeps an eye out for anything elven such as lost packets of letters an elf academic is looking for. Harry’s own life was saved by Wilhelm, which he sheepishly admits, he disregarded Wilhelm’s orders to fall back when he should and was almost killed. Only Wilhelm’s intervention saved him, and it was this intervention that left Wilhelm wounded and convalescing after the battle, unable to sign up with the Southlands Expedition. Brass.
The curtain rises:
The actual table time of play this session was about 90 minutes as much of session was completing character creation and weaving backgrounds together.
On Backertag, 18th of Sigmarzeit, Wilhelm von Döhnenleiter finds himself more interested in doing a favour for Amalie Stein, lady in waiting in the von Kaufman household, than heading over the Temple of the Hammer to stand through hours of hymns and praises to our Eternal Emperor and Founder Sigmar (this being Sigmarfest). They once walked out together and she has asked him to find a retired family servant who has gone missing. He rendezvouses with Magnus Holck, who arrived in town yesterday with letters to deliver and is staying at the von Kaufman household (where they met and reacquainted yesterday when he went to see Amalie). Magnus is looking for word of his brothers from the Southland expedition and going down to the docks in search of this missing retired servant Schlemmel fits with asking around down there about them. Being a Taalist, he too isn’t keen on going through a high Sigmarite service.
As they head down the Bruckburgstrasse, the well-dressed pair run into the “looking a bit threadbare if you look closely” high elf Korhadriel Valandar who is heading down to the docks to meet Harry (who is not religious at all, thus explaining why the third human is also not at a temple this Sigmarfest). Harry’s a ‘lowtowner’ but like Wilhelm and Korhadriel a veteran of Blackfire Pass and known to each other. Korhadriel lost (perhaps had stolen) a letter while in the docks area from his cousin and Harry has apparently managed to find it and sent him a message to meet him at the Upright Pig Tavern to reclaim it.
The “dead dwarf”/”dwarf-with-no-name” Slayer is shadowing Korhadriel as usual though satisfied to be heading to docks since he heard yesterday that Olga Klinski, wife of a man who saved his life, is looking for help.
[few rolls are required as most conversations are simple, occasionally a roll is needed to prompt a memory or get more out of an NPC who would just as soon go on about business]
As they come down to the Griffon Bridge district, Korhadriel sees a crudely written note offering a reward for finding a missing man, Rolf Haller.
At the Upright Pig, a colourful tavern of saucily dressed ladies, gambling, quiet nooks with nondescript fellows conversing, merchants and tradespeople etc, they all get a table with Harry who passes over the letter (which he separately paid to have translated due to his great curiosity in things elven). Korhadriel reads his letter while Harry watches him closely. As he is so occupied, Magnus sees Frederick Grosz and goes to ask him hoping for word of his brothers, the Slayer goes to talk to Olga who is at her fish stand nearby, and Wilhelm goes out to ask around on street after Schlemmel ending up talking to the busking girl Ute.
The investigators learn that the Southlands Expedition wares have been whisked up to the Upper City under guard, the von Kragsburg mercenaries in charge (Grosz says they’re nasty ones). Grosz would be very interested in learning more about what the Graf von Kaufman has stored in his Red Arrow Coachline warehouses now up on the Plenzerplatz (coins in it for someone), but has no word of Magnus’ brothers. The Slayer hears Olga’s tale of her missing husband Jurgen, missing since the 10th, lost looking for wood on a rainy night. Ute doesn’t know a “Schlemmel” but knows (to see) old Franz in his faded waistcoat. She hasn’t seen him since the 11th (she remembers because the last time she saw him he was being harassed by some youths and tripped into the mud on that rainy day). She appreciates the couple of shillings Wilhelm gives her and promises to ask around. Wilhelm notes the eyes of several dockers on him as he talks to the teenage waif.
They regroup and share their information, Korhadriel recalling that the note about a missing Rolf said to “sea Werner” at east docks, Harry knowing (Easy Folklore for Criminal) that that is almost certainly Werner Klebb headman of the Wharf Rats Docker Gang. They decide to go down and check out this third missing person story, though as they prepare to go Wilhelm realizes (having failed an Observation check) that his purse is empty – cut open at bottom (some cutpurse hit a jackpot, the Affluent Gold Tier Wilhelm was carrying all his cash on him). [He is Int 2, an "ideal" gold tier character for Brass to hang out around]
After Magnus pays the 2 shilling tab (the role of the Silver Tier, to pick up nobles’ bills for the privilege of their company), they make their way to the east docks.
Gunnar and Harry try to find someone useful to talk to on the street, eventually settling on the gong farmer Gotfried. He relates that most people assume Jurgen fell into the Aver when drunk – they haven’t told Olga as it would mean revealing Jurgen’s many trips for firewood were really to the White Horse for a drink and respite from his wife. He was last seen leaving the tavern soused and saying he was going to “fill the Aver” before going home. The river was high that night and it was still raining and messy out.
At the same time, others enter the White Horse – a lower class though striving to be clean (if not completely odour free) establishment that manages to look a bit more proper (working class) than the colourful Upright Pig. Talking to the Wharf Rat Boss they hear of Rolf Haller going missing after leaving the tavern (though unlike Jergen steady on his feet). The Wharf Rats are sure the Fish have done for him and will pay 30 shillings for proof. Intuition suggests the docker boss is telling everything he knows.
Investigation continues as Wilhelm talks to the Shallyan initiate running soup kitchen down street (it’s late in day, winding down, recalls Schlemmel as a regular who was here last Backertag but not today, doesn’t think any other regulars missing), the White Horse tavern keeper (relates a similar tale of Jergen as Gottfried and says that Schlemmel comes into a bit of money every month, spends a few days drinking at the Upright Pig, as funds decline at White Horse and then out on street cadging for the last bit. By the time he vanished, Schlemmel was in his “street” phase).
This makes the tally Backertag Sigmarzeit 10 – Fisherman Jurgen Klinski last seen drunk leaving White Horse late at night in rain; Bezahltag Sigmarzeit 11 - Docker Rolf Haller last seen sober (relatively) leaving White Horse late at night in rain, aging former servant Franz Schlemmel last seen during the day on street close by Griffon Bridge (Ute’s location).
Magnus goes to check out the bridge and river, seeing nothing he ends up asking Ute about his brothers. She is pleased to chat with another gentleman but doesn’t recall seeing anyone like them (big strapping northern sorts), saying how many of the expedition seemed to stay in Marienburg and rest are up guarding its findings in the Upper City.
Korhadriel, the Slayer shadowing him, decides to look around the neighbourhood for anything suspicious. It is late afternoon when, going down a laneway behind the warehouses on the Handel Weg he finds a body. A hard faced man (broken nose, scars) has been stabbed and left here, not exactly “hidden” but you have to look to see the corpse in the corner. Korhadriel suspects he has found the missing Haller. The slayer stays to keep watch and the elf returns to the east end of docks to gather his fellows and report to Werner the Wharf Rat Boss. Werner knew it! That’s Fish territory, them filthy Marienburger scum did for Rolf!
Werner rises to go with the investigators and identify the body, summoning other Wharf Rats to come as they head towards Fish territory. As the boisterous crowd draws closer to Bruckburgstrasse, Fish dockers see them coming and call to each other, rushing to come forward and defend their turf…..
It's not Rolf of course, the description of body not being decayed etc. should have tipped off it's not a week old, but Korhadriel glossed over that apparently.
[Note the letter has the information Korhardiel might find helpful writing his paper about magic for the Society as well as other information alterting Korhadriel to his cousin's concerns about some of the expedition's findings and asking Korhadriel to "keep an eye" while Eothlir looks into some things, it also includes at least one relevant tid bit for the observant that does not appear to have been absorbed…]