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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My little Old World: Swimming with the Sharks #1

High poltics and mixed demeanours
Berthold, Grundi, Mordrin and Seigfried sat in the Sword and Flail tavern feeling very aware of the hostile glances of the locals and the searching scrutiny of the barkeep. They noticed that, of the 3 tables in the tavern's taproom, theirs was the only one occupied even though the place was beginning to fill up.

After a while, a well-dressed halfling walked in. Expecting the locals to provide a bit of a show at the halfling's expense, the PC's were surprised to see the small figure was given what passed for a friendly welcome from the locals at the Sword and Flail. The halfling approached the PC's. Ah, I see you've been keeping my table for me he said before introducing himself as Doddy Farthingale. Siegfried introduced the party. So, who sent you then, asked the halfling, as a local came up with a drink for him.

The PC's were a bit nonplussed by this, wondering what information this stranger could have on them. The conversation passed back and forth and the PC's found out that Farthingale was expecting to do business with them. It began to dawn on our heroes that Farthingale was probably a local fence and that this was his table. Seigfried made a last ditch attempt to persuade Farthingale that the party had in fact been sent by someone to do business with the halfling, but Farthingale was having none of it. The confusion notwithstanding the halfling was friendly, and he quickly put the party's minds at rest by ordering a round of drinks.

Just at this moment a woman came into the tavern. She hailed Farthingale and came across to his table. As she reached the table, Siegfried recognised her as Beyer- first seen in the guise of a man back at the Strutting Cock- and who he had been sure for some time was actually a woman in disguise.

Meanwhile, at the Guild of Wizards and Alchemists, Alane had found Bright Magister Nellie Eschlimann. The elf wanted to speak to Eschlimann about becoming a journeyman Bright wizard. Eschlimann explained to Alane that she would need to get herself a grimoire, and that grimoires are rare and expensive items. The Magister told Alane that she could offer her no particular help at the moment.

Alane's conversation with Eschlimann was interrupted by the arrival of Celestial Magister Valdric Gebauer. Gebauer was the wizard in charge of the research taking place at the Guild in Middenheim into the effects of the Storm of Chaos on the Winds of Magic. He had been Alane's stern taskmaster while she had been working at the Guild assisting the researchers with their work. Gebauer sent Alane on an errand to the Scholar's, an inn in the Freiburg frequented by wizards and scholars. She had to go and fetch Hildegund Reifsneider, a Grey Journeyman Wizard whose presence was required at the Guild.

Arriving at the Scholar's Alane soon found Reifsneider, playing a game of chess. The woman was irritated to be interrupted, but knew she had no choice but respond to Gebauer's summons. She made sure that Alane bore the brunt of her irritation though.

As the pair were leaving, Alane heard Deputy High Priest Claus Liebnitz's voice from an alcove. In the company of Gold Magister Giselbrecht Bacher- who Alane recognised from the Guild, and a stranger of striking appearance and nagging vague familiarity, Liebnitz was gloating over the success of political manoeuvres that had forced Commander Schutzmann to bring the Bauer trial forward to the very next day. Continuing past the alcove, Alane looked back to see Liebnitz staring out at her. The Deputy High Priest's face betrayed both surprise and malicious glee at the sight of the elf he had last seen in the dungeons beneath the Temple of Ulric.

Back in the Sword and Flail, Beyer had recognised the party too. She greeted them in a friendly manner as if appearing as a woman in front of people who had hitherto known her as a man was a mere bagatelle. Siegfried meanwhile was simmering with anger. He challenged Beyer about the message she had passed on that had sent the party on their long wild goose chase all the way back to the Strutting Cock.

Beyer was surprised to hear that the message had turned out to be false. She insisted that she had passed it on in good faith, explaining that it had in fact been passed on to her by none other than the same Doddy Farthingale sat at the table with the party. Beyer and Farthingale were pressed further on the matter, and the party were persuaded of their sincerity.

Farthingale was asked if he would say who had passed the message on to him. The halfling willingly agreed, noting that he had a reputation to maintain. He told the PC's that his source had been one Merkel Trachsel, a human scout who had recently been working for the city of Middenheim, guiding parties of refugees safely into the city. Hearing this, Siegfried asked if Trachsel might've known Baumer, a woodsman recently found murdered in the city. Farthingale replied that he didn't know about Baumer, but that Trachsel certainly knew many such people in the local area.

As the conversation continued, Alane was making her way to the Sword and Flail, having decided that she must pass on to her companions the news that they didn't have as much time at their disposal as they believed. She managed to make her way the short distance from the Freiburg to the Neumarket with no difficulty and soon arrived at the tavern. The elf's arrival caused a bit of a stir- and not a few leers- among the locals, but these calmed down when she joined her companions at their table with Farthingale and Beyer.

Alane passed on her news quietly to Seigfried, interrupting him in his- not unsuccessful- efforts to strike up friendly relations with Beyer. Meanwhile, Mordrin decided that it was time to see if he could get any information out of Farthingale or Beyer about the party's mission in the Sword and Flail. So, he announced, I hear that there's a rumour going round that there's a chaos cult here in the tavern. A stunned silence fell at the table.

You know what I mean, the dwarf continued, that Witch Hunter who's going on trial? He's supposed to have found a chaos cult here. This effort to retrieve the situation just made things worse. Beyer and Farthingale quickly finished their drinks and, bidding everyone a polite farewell, made a hasty exit from the tavern.

After their companions' departure, the party fell to discussing Alane's news. Her description of the peculiarly familiar stranger's bald head, bushy eyebrows and hooked nose rang bells in the minds of several other PC's. Soon enough, someone remembered that he had been seen a few times back in Erntezeit when the party had first arrived in Middenheim with the Untergard refugee party. He had had the air of a petty official, but that was all that anyone could recall.

By this time the PC's had decided that just hanging around drinking in the Sword and Flail wasn't going to achieve anything. It was time to leave. Outside, it was decided that Berthold and Seigfried would hang around in the Neumarket to keep an eye on the tavern, while Alane, Grundi and Mordrin would head off to the Temple of Sigmar to see if they could find out more about this mysterious stranger.

Back at the Freiburg, the 2 dwarfs and the elf found that sullen locals still hung around outside the front of the Temple of Sigmar. A strong Watch presence made sure that they were behaving themselves. So the PC's headed round the back, where they saw wagonloads of lumber heading for the nearby Square of Martials where tomorrow's trail was to take place.

Mordrin banged on the door, which was opened by one of the Temple Guard. The dwarf announced that he had to see High Capitular Werner Stolz immediately. State your business, replied the guard. It's a secret, said Mordrin, insisting that he be let in immediately. The guard was having none of this, and again told the dwarf to state his business. As Mordrin repeated his demands in the face of the guard's continued stubbornness and increasingly self-evident disbelief, Alane decided she didn't like the look of the dwarf's rising temper: she took to her heels to rejoin Berthold and Seigfried back in the Neumarket.

After a couple of minutes watching Mordrin getting angrier and angrier in the face of the temple guard's refusal to admit him without an account of his business, Grundi decided to intervene to prevent Mordrin from taking his axe to the door. It was time to try the front door.

Round the front, a watch sergeant intercepted the 2 dwarfs as they headed for the front door. Once again Mordrin insisted on being admitted to see the High Capitular. Once again he was asked to state his business. On replying that it was none of the Watch Sergeant's business, Mordrin was told in no uncertain terms that it was precisely the Watch Sergeant's business because his duty was to guard the temple.

The confrontation between the obdurate and the bloody-minded looked like being as futile as before until the name of Father Greimold came up. The Watch Sergeant agreed to check if Greimold would see the 2 dwarfs. A Watchman went up to the door, and Greimold appeared soon after. When the dwarfs joined him, he took them inside. Pausing just inside, he asked them what their business was.

The dwarfs passed on Alane's description. Greimold told them that the description matched Maximillian Lang, a city official. Mordrin asked if Lang was known to have any dealings with Liebnitz. Greimold said that the pair were known to cooperate politically, citing as an example Liebnitz's support for Lang when the latter was put forward for the position of overseeing Middenheim's efforts to support the influx of refugees into the city in the aftermath of the Storm of Chaos.

Mordrin pressed Greimold on the issue, looking for hints that there might be a darker dimension to Lang and Liebnitz's cooperation. Father Greimold could only reiterate that, as far as he knew, it was all just politics. In the course of this discussion, Mordrin was surprised to discover that Father Greimold knew nothing at all of the party's imprisonment by Liebnitz in the dungeons of the Temple of Ulric.

Eventually convinced that there was nothing more to learn, Grundi and Mordrin took their leave to return to the Sword and Flail. They had given Father Greimold something to think about. And he had perhaps taught them a lesson about how information works in the upper echelons of the Old World.

As these events had been unfolding, Alane had rejoined Berthold and Seigfried outside the Sword and Flail in the Neumarket. The 2 humans were aghast to hear that she had left Mordrin on the point of fighting his way into the Temple of Sigmar. Best left well alone then they decided, and concluded that it was time to pay another visit to the Sword and Flail.

Related@RD/KA!
Swimming with the Sharks
- #2 Assaults in and on the Sword and Flail
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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