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Friday, February 10, 2006

My little Old World: The Poisoners' Trail #1

Advice and assistance from friends old and new
Commander Ulrich Schutzmann, Midden Marshal of the Middenheim City Watch pondered the matter of consequences and responsibility. The very last thing he'd've expected, when he'd brought those adventurers in to investigate Morten's murder, was for them to end up becoming full time watchmen, let alone freebooters moving with such apparent ease through some of the highest circles of the city. Their persistence, not to mention their sheer good fortune, could not be denied.

Greimold had chuckled when Schutzmann had expressed his concerns about so much resting on such shoulders, but the Commander hadn't responded, knowing that that was exactly the desired reaction to his friend's teasing. Schutzmann knew that humour was Greimold's way of coping with the horrors he had confronted. He knew too that the priest considered him too unbending in his exercise of authority. But Greimold knew little or nothing of high responsibility, always having had someone to turn to for instructions, a superior to tell him what to do.

His old friend's insouciance wasn't the issue though. It was the unpredictability of these adventurers that was plaguing Schutzmann. Far from disappearing back into the woodwork after solving the Morten case, they'd gone on to perform a vital- and still irritatingly vague- service for Liebnitz, only to return just in time for the outbreak of the events now threatening the peace of an already tense city. As the Midden Marshal of the Middenheim City Watch, Schutzmann didn't like unpredictability. He liked order. When he shouted jump, he wanted to know in advance in which direction and how far people would go.

These musings reminded Schutzmann of Matthais Hoffer's judgement on these people: that whatever else they were, they were loyal to the cause of righteousness. Schutzmann was amused to find himself taking comfort in that Witch Hunter's words. Hoffer had confirmed that they hadn't violated the trust he and Greimold had placed in them all those months ago. And anyone who could get anything past Hoffer and still remain untainted in the eyes of that Ordo Fidelis fanatic just had to be trustworthy in the end.

Schutzmann certainly hoped so. The fate of his city might well depend upon them.

**********

The interview with Liebnitz complete, the party lingered in his office to await confirmation that the green glow from the poisoned water had in fact been caused by the vile substance Warpstone.

Meanwhile Mordrin was making haste to the Watch headquarters through the quiet streets of a late night Middenheim under curfew. The young Runebearer kept his eyes open for patrols to inform of the threat to the city's wells. In the event he only encountered 1 patrol, of militiamen. Mordrin decided against passing on the news to these irregulars.

Arriving at the Watch headquarters Mordrin didn't have to wait too long before he was admitted to Commander Schutzmann's office, where he found the Midden Marshal in the company of Father Greimold of the Temple of Sigmar. Schutzmann was a bit grumpy at the interruption and he didn't offer the dwarf a glass of the port that he and Greimold had been sharing. Invited to explain the reason for his arrival at this late hour, Mordrin glanced over at Father Greimold. Schutzmann told the dwarf he could speak freely in front of the priest.

The Watch Commander's attitude changed quickly on hearing Mordrin's report. Schutzmann asked the young dwarf a few questions to clarify some details, then commended Mordrin on his decision to bring this news to his attention. Reminding the dwarf of the oath of secrecy he'd sworn in front of himself and Father Greimold a few months ago, the Commander expressed his conviction that the green glow of the poisoned water had been caused by Warpstone, and explained the evil substance's importance to the Skaven. Then he told Mordrin to get something to eat and have a rest- he had to make plans.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party headed to the Temple of Sigmar to see how Berthold was doing. The young scribe was sufficiently recovered from his attack of the Galloping Trots, so he joined his companions, and they all headed off southwards, thinking to look for an entrance into the undercity sewer system to begin a search for Skaven. Soon enough, they were met by a Watch patrol. The patrol informed the PC's that they had orders from Commander Schutzmann to bring the party to Watch headquarters.

The PC's had to wait outside Commander Schutzmann's office when they arrived at the Watch headquarters. Mordrin joined them while they waited. The wait continued after their admission to Schutzmann's office. After a few minutes Father Greimold arrived, in the company of Matthais Hoffer of the Ordo Fidelis, and the briefing began.

Commander Schutzmann's first concern was to find out what Deputy High Priest Liebnitz's intentions were. The PC's explained their mission to save the wells from the poisoners. The discussion turned to the nature of the plot. Grundi suggested that they should look for the underground sources of the city wells, since Skaven might have poisoned the wells at source. Schutzmann and Greimold were impressed at this suggestion, but had to point out that no one knew where the city wells found their source.

After a while, it became obvious that there was nothing for it but to mount a watch on the city's wells. Commander Schutzmann shared Deputy High Priest Liebnitz's concern about panicking the city's populace, and didn't want the threat to be made public. So, he explained, Hoffer and his companions would share the mission with the PC's.

Eventually the plan was formed to focus attention on those wells used by the most people, since those wells would give the poisoners' vile plan the greatest impact. Schutzmann noted that the PC's had arrived in the city as part of the Untergard refugee party, which meant that they were most familiar with the south city. So they could keep watch there, while Hoffer and his Witch Hunters would work in the north city. The decision was reached that the PC's should head for the Southgate/Ostwald, where the influx of refugees after the Storm of Chaos meant that several wells were used by more people than any other in the city.

All this decided, Schutzmann noted that several noses had been put out of joint when Graf Todbringer had appointed a follower of Sigmar to the post of Midden Marshal of the City Watch, and that the party were acting on behalf of Deputy High Priest Liebnitz in any case. Also, he noted, if the poisoners' evil scheme couldn't be nipped in the bud, then it would be better if the Watch's authority wasn't undermined by association with failed efforts to undermine the scheme in the first place. For this reason Schutzmann instructed the PC's that they must continue to operate independently of the Watch, so that they shouldn't take their uniforms with them.

As the party took this on board, Commander Schutzmann concluded by telling the PC's that this mission might keep them busy for some time to come, so it would be for the best if they took time to get something to eat and to have a brief rest. Then he reminded the party of their oaths of secrecy and sent them on their way.

So it was then that, some time later, the party found themselves secreted around a small square in the Ostwald district. They hadn't been there for long before a hooded figure of human size and gait appeared and began to cross the square. Berthold decided to play a drunk, and staggered out into the square after the figure had passed his own hiding place. Hearing the noise, the figure looked round. He ignored the disturbance, and continued across the square and into an alleyway.

Siegfried was hiding on the rooftop above that alleyway. He jumped across to the other side and climbed down to confront the hooded figure before it disappeared. The figure turned and ran back the way it had come, at which point the rest of the PC's moved in and quickly overpowered the man.

A quick search of the man revealed that he had a purple hand tattooed on the back of one hand and a strange symbol identified to be the mark of Tzeentch on the back of the other. He was also carrying a small sack which Alane's magical sense quickly told her was full of Warpstone. Content that they had their poisoner, the party decided to deliver him to Deputy High Priest Liebnitz at the Temple of Ulric.

As they dragged the man off, a small scrap of paper fell from under his cloak, and one of the PC's collected it. Scrutinising this, the PC's soon realised that it was a map. Eventually they agreed that it showed the well they had been watching, so that the route marked on the map surely led back to the poisoners' lair. Something else for the pot they thought.

The party returned to the Temple of Ulric without falling foul of the Watch patrols. There they explained to the guards on the door who their captive was, and the man was promptly marched off to the cells. The PC's then showed the guards the sack of Warpstone, explaining that it contained something dangerous that had to be taken straight to Deputy High Priest Liebnitz, but that they weren't at liberty to say anything more about it.

Confronted with the PC's insistence on danger and on maintaining an air of mystery, the guards were less willing this time to follow the PC's wishes. Protestations that this was the substance that had poisoned the temple's well, and that all the guards had to do was to see it safely delivered to Deputy High Priest Liebnitz were to no avail: the guards certainly didn't want anything to do with something that could cause mutations, and they were quite happy to tell the PC's to deliver it to Liebnitz themselves when the Deputy High Priest returned.

Thus stymied, the party decided to pursue the poisoners to their lair themselves. Grundi was left behind to take care of the sack of Warpstone while the others headed southwards again [his player was absent]. Siegfried's local knowledge meant that they had no difficulty in reaching the location marked on the rough map, again successfully avoiding contact with the Watch patrols enforcing the night-time curfew. The location turned out to be a warehouse in the Southgate district, not far from the Watch headquarters.

Related@RD/KA!
The Poisoners' Trail
- #2 Where lurks evil in the hearts of men?
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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