Via Imperial Post
ex Nuln ad Wolfenburg
Greetings from the city of Nuln Master Silverforge! I hope the golden rivers of commerce flow freely through your Great House.
The heavy rains have started here in the Reikland. Nuln has just finished off Gun Powder week. We were treated to the unveiling of this year’s Dwarven Rifle, the winner of Nuln’s annual contest for the finest firearm in the empire. Many complained that the dwarves had only won the contest this year because they have the ear of the Arch-Lector of Nuln. This is not true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes: the Dwarven Longrifle of Nuln looked to be a serious competitor to the Hochland Longrifle.
This last week I’ve joined up with an odd group of adventurers, all come to Nuln to make their fortunes: a human named Wertha Brandenburg, a Halfling called Rudi Roundtopp, a dwarf Imperial Jailor called Gottri Truehammer, and two elves, a fierce knifethrower by the name of Haleon and a male scholar by the name of Laurenor—although a touch of some illness has kept him within spitting distance of a chamber pot for several days. Anyway, we arrived to Nuln on the same river barge, around midnight, seven days ago today. Much of note has happened in these seven days! Strangers in the city, we spent our first rain-soaked night in Nuln searching for lodging, fighting a band of footpads who must have thought we looked like easy marks, (an assumption that cost two of them their lives), and chasing a burglar who had sought to rob us in our sleep. Treacherous city!
We quickly learned that the Deutzelm was the place to look for work in this city, so we tried our luck there on the second day. Adventurers, rogues and travelers gathered round the massive tree, reading, or having read to them, advertisements for contracts that needed completing. We pulled one of the notices off the tree, which led to a retrieval contract for one Albrecht Oldenhaller, which went smoothly and put us into contact with a resourceful smuggler named Dirk Huydermans (more on him below). For our next contract, we were hired by a prosperous butcher to track down his missing daughter. It took us two days, but we found her, and in hideous condition: warped beyond recognition by a rival butcher’s poisoned sausages! Her father had her brought to a Shallyan Hospital and we tracked and slew his rival, a man who was in league with Chaos. We then converted the man’s river barge to our use and are in the process of acquiring an Imperial License to operate the barge on our own account for river trade.
In less than one week, we had made enough coin to live modestly for a number of months, even accounting for our purchase of suitable armor and equipment for our new careers as adventurers. In any event, Gottri still had one last task to complete as an Imperial Jailor. He had been tracking a criminal named Karl Warburg who escaped the hangman’s noose two weeks ago in Altdorf. The trail had gone cold, but Gottri suspected that Warburg may have returned to Nuln to take up his former career as a bandit and cutthroat. He showed me a picture of the villainous scum, a man bleached white as a bone, with a jagged scar on his left cheek. He had been convicted of multiple murders and robberies on the Imperial Highways. 100 gold crowns for his return! At the thought of such a bounty, my eyes lit up and I inquired as to what was known of the fellow. In my experience, simply tracking a criminal usually isn’t enough; one must step into the shoes of the larcernous, murderous filth you are tracking. You have to learn to think the way they do. You must taste the rotgut and feel their joy in violence run amuck against all natural sense or reason. Unpleasant but profitable work.
We had met a man Dirk Huygens in our recent execution of the Oldenhaller Contract and thought he might be able to lead us to our quarry, or at least put us on the track. Dirk is a smuggler accustomed to working in the grey areas of the law. We visited him on our seventh night in Nuln at his customary booth at the Merry Halfling. He told us that although he had neither met nor seen Karl Warburg, he would tap his contacts for more information on Warburg’s location. The only catch was that we needed to assist him that very night with an “easy” job that he had been contracted for. I was suspicious, of course, just like you taught me to be. An “easy” job with high pay, is always a bad combination when you’re working the law’s shadows. It meant there was something you didn’t know that could get you killed.
He told us that he had been hired by a man he didn’t know who called himself “Dieter.” This didn’t seem much to go on and I was suspicious. Our fellowship cast sideways glances at each other, signifying that we each had the same thought: perhaps Dirk had taken a job he shouldn’t have, perhaps out of some perverse pride or perhaps to refill his coffers. Still, we had no other leads, so we agreed to meet up later that night to assist Dirk with this mysterious job. We positioned ourselves at an inn across the way to watch for any odd comings and goings at the Merry Halfling. Dirk had also told us to make sure we were not followed when we returned that evening at the strike of eleven. We did notice later that some of Dirk’s men went into the bar that evening.
I paid the barkeep for the damages and inquired about my “friends” that had left so abruptly. A piece of gold bought me a fake sympathetic look for missing out on my engagement with my “friends,” and the barman’s impression that “they were a sickly pair, one of ‘em smelt of cheese and the other had fat, back flies buzzing about him.” I told him to let us know if he saw similar men at his establishment and gave him our previous address at the Reaver’s Return (a decidedly odd establishment, seeing as it’s land locked and not really close to the docks at all). We made our way back to the Merry Halfling with the excuse that paying the tab took longer than expected. With a side glance to the party and a shrug, we signaled that we knew little of the two who had been watching us.
In exchange for our help Dirk was going to give us the information he had on Karl Warburg. The help turned out to guarding Dirk and his men as they retrieved a box from a warehouse near the docks and took it to an inn outside of town called the Empire’s End. At a quarter past eleven by the Deutzelm clock, we left for the pickup location. We quietly mulled over the situation, and I was still a bit worried that Dirk and his men might have ill intentions. We were also puzzling over the two mysterious men who were watching us. Were they some abominable cultists? It seemed likely from the signet rings. But how dangerous were they? Were they out for revenge against Dirk or perhaps they simply wanted to rob him of his cargo?
When we got to the warehouse area, we stopped about twenty yards from the pickup spot. It was the center of a four way stop so we decided to coming at it from three sides. If something was in wait we would have a bit of an advantage from the shadows. Dirk and he men having a lantern would be the first to be spotted if something went wrong. Walking into the alley, Dirk and his men were the first to discover that something terribly wrong had already happened. The bodies of five men were strewn about a battered wooden crate with iron chains broken. Blood was pooled with rainwater and beginning to run off into a sewage drain. Three of the men seemed to have died from sword and knife wounds, while the others looked like they bore the wounds of some beast. One man’s neck had been broken, turned nearly all the way round and hanging at an impossible angle.
We spotted two drunks in an alley across the way and approached them .The two men demanded payment in drink before they would talk to us. Gottri was having none of this and grabbed one of them and lifted him off his feet—no easy task if you think of the difference in stature. Without a kind or gentle world or attempt at persuasiveness he demanded that the men talk lest they be forced to drink of a bottle not of rotgut but of their own blood fresh from the beating he was about to administer. Gottri can get his temper up, that I can tell you. This sobered the man up and related to us in shaky voice what he had so recently witnessed. “A coupla shady fellas come from the docks and walked straight right inna tha’ alley. They hadda box widdem. Warn’t too long ‘fore I hears the clash a’ arms. I recognize tha sound ‘cause I was in th’ Imperial Infantry, Twelth Regiment, a’fore the Greenskins took me legs. I sees two men runna out, and they was as white as death, and they had fear and terror on their face and in their eyes. I seen that look on men who ‘ad seen too much death themselves.”
At this point you could see that the drunkard was starting to relive the events himself, or maybe he was remembering some brutal Greenskin attack on a remote outpost that he survived. Anyway, you could see that telling this story made him go white with fear. He stared off a moment in horror, recognition or who knows what. Fortunately, several slaps to the face from the dwarf encouraged him to continue. “We seen…well, what we seen next was a flash a’ light, like un a cannon flash and…well, then…well she war’n’t no woman, no regula barmaid or even no fancy lady, but we seen a lady outta a man’s loneliest dream come all floatin’ like outta that alley, on Sigmar’s honor. She was … she looked like some queen from a fairy tale she did. She’s whiter ‘en white, like we coulda missed ‘er if the she were lost in the moonlight. She looked about her an dinna see us, thanks to Sigmar. She headed straight inna town before all was silent.”
We examined the site of the gruesome battle, and noticed that two of the men were cloaked in dark robes with the same eight-point starred rings on their dead fingers. We knew them to be dread cultists of chaos, “agents of the Ruinous Powers,” as you used to call them. When we lifted their cloaks to reveal their faces and we thought they looked very like the men who had been watching us earlier in the evening. Both men had swollen boils on their lips that looked in desperate need of lancing. We could see that they must have fallen upon the other two crate-bearers, the two who had escaped in a trail of blood, and whatever their intention it was not carried through. I pocketed the two chaos rings and then we inspected the crate. We first thought that the crate had been dropped but quickly dismissed the idea. It would have needed to fall a great distance to do that much damage. No, looking at it, you could only reach one conclusion: the crate was shattered from a force emanating from within the crate itself! The chains that were once locked around the crate were scattered about the alley in pieces.
Dirk and his men were stunned, speechless. They knew now that indeed they had gotten involved in something “complicated.” Dirk looked and me and said: “I don’t like complicated. Complicated gets a man killed. But I recognize these men,” Dirk pointed at the two men who had done battle with the cultists, “as part of a Bretonnian smuggling gang led by an old rival of mine, Jacques Perriot. Friendly rivalry….well as friendly as business gets I suppose. I like Jacques, he knows all the best places for wine and brandy in Nuln. Let’s go to him, he’ll talk to me. Tomorrow, though, for tonight we should return to our quarters.” The evening had begun with a simple job that turned out to be just as bad as I expected. Proves your point again, Master Silverforge! But what were we to do? We went to sleep late that night not realizing that we hadn’t even seen the worst of what this whole dangerous affair would have to offer.
We found Jacques Perriot at his favorite establishment, the Golden Mead. A well-dressed man in his late 30s, Jacques looked us up and down as we approached his table. Several other men started to move towards us, but Jacques waved them away. “Dirk! It is a pleasure to see you!” The man spoke with a soft Brettonian accent. Nodding towards us: “Who’s this odd-lot you’ve brought with you? “ We introduced ourselves and Dirk spoke with Jacques for a minute or so out of earshot. When they faced the group again Jacques began speaking in a low voice: “Three days ago, I was approached at this very table by a man who called himself Dieter. He said he knew who I was and that he had an easy job with good pay. My men would pick up a crate from a river barge called The Andronicus. The crate would be marked “Brettonian Brandy. Special Vintage.” We were to hand this crate off to a second set of hands at an appointed spot in the warehouse district. We figured it was some kind of contraband item, or that someone simply wanted to avoid the Empire’s ruinous excise and shipment taxes.” Dirk said: “Ruinous, perhaps, but good business for us, no?” Jacques smiled and nodded.
Jacques had two bottles of very good Tilean wine brought to his booth and a large flagon of real dwarven beer for Master Gottri, whereupon his mood lifted considerably. We sat and drank and listened. “I sent four men to the docks last night and only two came back, one of them, Francois Levesque, mad with fear and the other man, Clement Petit, recovering from a nasty head wound upstairs. Here is what Clement told me. Close to midnight last night, Clement, Francois, Jean and Davide met the barge called Andronicus at the docks as agreed. They had a small cart with them to move the crate. They could barely see Andronicus at the end of the pier because of the fog. They began to approach the ship. About halfway down they were met by a well-dressed man who called himself Viktor accompanied by six or so rough-looking characters who were unloading the crate. Viktor spoke with a Sylvanian accent. He said ‘Here it is. This should be easy enough. You are clear on what you must do? Good, then you’ll be out of the cold night air in no time.’ Clement instructed the other three men to lift the crate carefully onto the cart and noticed meanwhile that the Sylvanians watched until the crate had been carted off into the warehouse district. Moments after reaching the appointed area, they were set upon by three men. Two were hooded with purplish cloaks and bore studded maces as weapons and the other looked to be a footpad who had perhaps seen a chance to make a fast gold crown off our troubles. Clement’s a good man and has been in his share of scrapes, some deadly. So, quick as a cat, Clement drew his longknife and before the footpad could position himself to strike, stabbed the man clean through his leather jerkin, a killing blow. But just as quick, he was struck from behind and dropped to the ground. Before he passed out, he heard the two hooded figures chanting and shouting in a kind of frenzy. At that moment there was a loud noise and blinding light and he passed out. When he awoke soon thereafter he saw that Jean and Davide lay dead. And he saw the three other men were also dead. He retrieved Francois and they stumbled out into the night and back to the Golden Mead.”
Jacques took pity and deposited Francois in a Shallyan asylum ward, paying for his care for the indefinite future. Jacques then told us that he didn’t know the contents of the crate and, like Dirk, was instructed not to open it. We surmised that Jacques’ men has been ambushed by chaos cultists in a robbery gone bad and had ended with both sides losing the cargo and whatever had been in the crate coming to town on its own accord. Both Jacques and Dirk were concerned that whatever had happened here, they would be better off knowing a bit more about it, if only for the sake of self-preservation. We toldJacques that we were willing to help with this and that all he needed to do for now was to obtain a crate and shackles. If he did that, we would deliver the crate and discover what was behind all this. We made some further inquiries about the circumstances of the job. When we compared both men’s stories about the events leading up to this incident, we asked them to described the man Dieter who had hired them: they both described “Dieter” as being very pale, with a jagged scar down his left cheek. Of course, we knew immediately upon hearing this that Dieter and Karl Warburg, Gottri’s escaped criminal, were one and the same!Dirk decided that perhaps it would be best to go ahead with the drop-off as planned, at the very least to get paid the other 50 gold crowns. Of course, we also needed to capture Dieter, so we offered to complete the delivery to the Empire’s End coaching inn outside of Nuln for half of Dirk’s 50 gold crown payment. Dirk was quite intrigued as to how all this would play out. He could offer no man brave enough to accompany us but he was willing to provide a mule and mulecart for the delivery.
We decided that we would hide Rudi Roundtopp inside the crate in case in became necessary that we place a man on the inside of whatever criminal ring (or worse) we were to be dealing with. We headed out of town. The rain had increased tenfold since we had left Nuln and the roads were beginning to flood. We soon arrived at a darkened Empire’s End, which was in no way reassuring. We looked inside and saw that the bar was empty. Not empty as in a slow night, but completely empty of any person. I noticed that food on the table was still warm and then I remembered Rudy and unlocked the crate. The mule seemed spooked about something but Wertha calmed him. The three of us joined the dwarf and elf inside.
Searching around the bar the only thing out of place was the broken mirror above the bar. No one was in the cellar, in any of the private rooms or in the kitchen in the back on the main floor. The main floor had a few rooms off the main bar area and a private dining room. Here was another oddity: one of the barred windows was pushed out and ripped apart from the inside out. The mirror was smashed as well a single drop of blood on the broken glass did not sit well with us and added to the peculiarity. Whatever had happened, we realized as we went upstairs, had emptied the inn quickly. I searched the grounds and the horse stall for tracks.
Suddenly through the pelting rain I heard an eerie, short horn blast. As the horn blew I dashed back inside, slammed the door shut and overturned a table: “Beastmen Warband” I said. We had only a few minutes before they would be upon us. We quickly barricaded doors and windows. I suggested that we hole up in the private dining room, at the end of a long corridor with only one door. We did so. The clatter on the side of the building and then heavy clumping of footsteps overhead suggested ladders trying to get in from the second floor. They begain to batter the front and back doors. They broke into the kitchen first and we could hear the grunts and howls of the mad Beastmen as they clambered into the main room. We heard more commotion now with greater frequency at the front door and the hallway to our room had more visible sounds now as a Beastman clammered down the hall. I remember the doors being kicked open and loud snorts and whinnies as they searched each room for signs of life.
Two of them darted into our hallway. They were wearing leather and chain and carrying wicked-looking axes. As soon as they were through the door Haleon had stuck one in the eye with a heavy throwing dagger while Wertha was upon him with a barbaric shout and heavy mace, crushing his skull bringing him crashing to the floor. The second creature charged forward and then suddenly realized that it had overcomittted: it had run into a room full of foes and all it could do now was to bleat to its comrades out in the main room, but not before we brought him low with sword, mace and axe. Three more Beastmen entered the hallway. Haleon and I blindsided one of them, knocking him off balance while Gottri and Wertha took advantage of the opening to kill him with two crushing blows from axe and mace. The hallway was now slick with blood.
There were now three Beastmen corpses piled in the hallway. Their two comrades stepped over the corpses and charged snorting and grunting into the hallway. These two each bore a bottle of brandy and torch with the intention of burning us out. I acted quickly and sent a crossbow bolt down the hallway and set the brandy alight in their hands. We then charged them while they sought to extinguish the flames. Gottri doubled back to guard our exit as the rest of us pressed our advantage. Wertha and Haleon blocked the door to the hallway and kept three Beastmen at bay, while I shot a bolt or two past my comrades into the crowd. Both women yelled back at me that I should watch what I was shooting at. Wertha threatened to break my head for me if she managed to survive the Beastman assault.
Haleon wailed in injury and I shouted that she should back away from the door. Rudi popped his head around the door exclaiming that he and Gottri were busy with the leader of the warband so we would need to hold them off a bit on our own. I shot my last bolt my, dropped my crossbow to my side and drew my sword. As I waded into the melee, I felt the bite of an axe on my chest and saw Wertha fall badly wounded soon thereafter. I sensed that the tide was turning in the Beatmen’s favor. Fortunately we still had Gottri and Rudi as our rearguard. Haleon and I brought down two more, with the help of Rudi’s dirk, which he slipped between the ribs of the larger of the two remaining Beastmen. Gottri and the Beastman leader exchanged blows, Gottri’s axe grinding against the Beastman’s nasty, sawtoothed doublehanded blade. The Beastman took blow after blow from Gottri’s axe, but was well-armored and stubbornly resilient. Gottri was yelling what could only have been a series of oaths and curses in Dwarftongue and the Beastman roared and grunted in return. Between the blood and the rain driving in through the broken window, the floor beneath them both was very slippery. The Beastman slipped on the slickness beneath him and lost his balance but for a brief moment—giving Gottri just the opening he needed to drive the blade of his two-handed axe into the chest of the Beastman. As the creature lay prone, Gottri stood on its chest and delivered the killing blow to its head.
We finished off any still-living Beastmen and then Gottri treated Wertha’s nasty chest wound by cleaning it, setting the broken ribs with bandages and fashioning a splint has he had learned to do. With tired limbs we stripped the Beastman of their armor and weapons. Gottri took the small purse of the warband leader, a prize, he said, for felling him single handedly (for the most part.) We were too tired to argue. As a bounty hunter, I knew that we should collect the Beastmen heads as gruesome proof to the authorities that we were entitled to reclaim any available bounties. We looked outside and saw that our mule had been half eaten and was very much dead. We searched the rest of the inn, took whatever spoils we could and packed tem away in the crate. It had been a very long day and we debated briefly if we should go back that night on in the morning to Nuln. Instead, we piled the corpses at the end of the long hallway, double barred and barricaded the doors and windows and went upstairs to sleep.