“Interlude” (A-line story)
A special “interlude” session between the end of Chapter 3 and beginning 4.
Cast: Bronan, Ranthin, Archibald, Cedric, Dellin
Two days after their harrowing experience at Dandrich’s estate, the characters have recovered their health and composure in Nuln. They’ve spread the word that Dandrich tried to ambush and assassinate the heroes of Nuln. Rumor has it that Dandrich has left town, ostensibly on an important mission, but more likely to evade any repercussions of his failed attack.
Ranthin, Cedric, and Dellin are lodging at Rolph Loffhofner’s Crossed Pikes Inn, where the heroes get free room and board. Bronan, deciding that he’s upset with the gentry class, has taken a room at the luxurious “Velveteen Pillow” of the upper quarter, where he does his best to be as annoying as possible. Archibald stays at the third most important temple of the light in his newly upgraded quarters for annointed priests. That evening, assassins sneak into Dellin and Cedric’s respective rooms and succeed in wounding both with poisoned throwing daggers before fleeing back out the windows. Dellin was gravely injured, but Cedric’s wound seemed less serious. He was able to spot the fleeing assassins running down a dark alley too fast for Cedric to do anything about. Dellin is nearly killed by the potent toxin, and Cedric, after alerting Ranthin and waking the inn keeper, also takes a turn for the worse.
Archibald and Bronan are summoned from their respective lodging, as well as a town healer and many guards. Archibald uses magical healing to purge the poison from the wounds, and the town healer does a good job bandaging and sewing up the wounds. Dellin and Cedric live to fight another day. Wondering why Ranthin wasn’t also attacked, upon investigation Ranthin’s window is warped in such a way that it is very hard to open and makes a loud squeaking and shuddering noises when it is opened. But Cedric only saw two assassins fleeing the scene.
The next day, a much-recovered Cedric uses his “organizational connections” to see if he can dig up info on the would-be murderers and also to verify whether or not Dandrich has indeed left Nuln. He encounters Mr. Tuetlaars in a dank alley as a particularly large cloud obscured the sun. After some banter, Tuetlaars indicates that the Dandrich job is considered completed and should Cedric require any services, it would simply be a matter of an “everlasting friendship” and a permanent bond of brotherhood. Cedric is tempted by Tuetlaars offer of bringing him the assassins dead or alive, in whole or in parts, in a box, in a bag, in a cart, etc… Cedric begs leave and returns back to the Crossed Pikes after finding nothing of interest in his queries.
Meanwhile, Rolph has hired additional private security for the Inn, including Josef Krunk, who left the Faithsworn because he felt they were up to no good. He tells the group that Sgt. Keft has been left in charge of the remaining faithsworn, and that they’ve taken “heretical” townsfolk into the “inner sanctum” of the manor house, and he’s pretty sure doing very naughty things to them! That, combined with their unexplained attack on the heroes, caused him to lose his faith in their organization and seek other work. And here he is! Bronan gives him a gold piece and hires him on as a permanent guard for the group. So happy with the deal, Krunk patrols the perimeter of the Inn, at maximum foot velocity, continuously for a few hours until exhausted.
Archibald receives a missive from a church functionary that one “Mortimer Shaefer” of Ostermark and his small retinue would very much like to meet with him and his companions. Agreeing, they meet later that evening outside the Velveteen Pillow. Mortimer turns out to be Britt Veebel’s (the Ostermark Alchemist) apprentice. Mortimer is clearly not right in the head, having suffered some recent trauma during the “Battle at Teife Vollegstein Mine.” Mortimer has a cart full of his alchemical reagents, black powder, and numerous other devices. Mortimer’s rag-tag retinue consists of: Oscar, a peasant who was a childhood friend of Mortimer’s and helps translate his ravings into sensible communication. Oscar has a dairy cow named Mathilda. The cart is pulled by Durdles, an enormous and somewhat deformed man who seems not much smarter than a domesticated animal. Durdles reportedly can lift 200-lb iron balls with ease and helped save Mortimer and crew during the Teife Vollegstien battle with other feats of strength. Finally, there’s Handy, a competent bodyguard that watches Mortimer’s back and tries to steer him clear of trouble.
The characters quickly learn never to touch the cart…it both infuriates Mortimer, who shouts things like “Ignorant children must never touch the powder!”, and also disturbs Durdles, who has been commanded never to let anyone touch the cart (other than Mortimer, of course). At the urging and un-subtle hints of the Velveteen Pillow’s staff, the characters and Mortimer’s crew head back to the Crossed Pikes, where the can all stay for free. They converse along the way (well, sort of…Mortimer is “just this shy of the crazy fence” afterall…) They learn the following news of Ostermark.
After the Bull of Ostermark passed, Braden the Younger ascended to rule the Duchy. One of his first acts was to open the Teife Vollegstien mine in order to raise revenues for the Armies of the East, which are no longer being adequately supported by Altdorff military appropriations. Shortly after opening the mine, which was closed decades ago by the Bull because it was cursed, the Beastmen Raiders plagued the eastern marches (as the Characters vividly remember…Battle of Kerepault watch, etc.) They are led by Herre Stormur, the blue warlock, and seem to be based out of the mine. In fact, the Beastmen seem to be spawned from the depths of the mine somehow. After Kerepault, Braden the Younger decided that a new Field Marshal for the Armies of the East would be appointed to lead the military effort to retake control of the mine and remove the Beastmen plague.
So he hired a friend of his from Altdorff, an officer named Von Hesse. A highly decorated officer, trained at the Imperial War Academy and supposedly the veteran of many successful campaigns in the west, Von Hesse was installed in an Ostermark ceremony as the new Field Marshal of the Imperial Armies of the East. Thus, the previous Marshal, Boris Hargrave, a.k.a. “The Bear”, or “The Grizzly”, was demoted from the position he held during the last two decades under Braden the Elder. Boris is missing his left forearm, and can only speak in a whisper due to massive scarring on his neck, and “hasn’t slept in a real bed in 25 years.” Rumor also has it that Boris, approximately the same age as Braden the Younger (50-ish), may be the Bull’s illegitimate son. So it’s not surprising, perhaps, that the new Duke would wish someone “more appropriate” for the second-highest military command in the Empire.
Von Hesse installed new officers to top positions and planned his attack. He commanded the Alchemist to build six versions of his new siege weaponry and provide a consultant (his apprentice, Mortimer) to quickly train selected soldiers on how to fire the Ferrum Bombardum. So Von Hesse, with his very impressive shiny armor, riding a shining horse bearing a tall standard of the house of Ostermark, led his equally impressive and shiny metal-clad cavalry officers, supported by the Bombardae and ranks of infantry and pikemen, on an assault of the mine. The initial bombardment shook the ground, but didn’t collapse the mine. Like a swarm of angry bees responding to a shaken hive, hoards of Beastmen charged from the various mine entrances and other tunnels in the hillside. Completely confident in the superiority of his heavy cavalry, Von Hesse led the charge, just as a figure in an ice-blue robe literally flew out of the main mine entrance and brought down the fires of heaven.
Electricity shot from the skies, and the tall metal spikes adorning the officer’s stylish and shiny new helmets attracted the lightening…but none more than Von Hesse’s tall standard waving from the back of his horse. He was “lit up like a holiday beacon”, and then the lightning coursed from one cavalryman to the next, “pop! pop! pop!” as each man popped like an overcooked blood sausage in a frying pan. Von Hesse’s first campaign as Marshal of the East ended in his death within 15 minutes, and totally wiped out the other officers within the next few seconds. The pikemen and infantry fought a desperate retreat behind the Black Powder Catapults, but one-by-one the Ferrum Bombardum blew apart, as the inexperienced crew mispacked the powder or made other mistakes. All but the one manned by Mortimer, Durdles, and Oscar. Durdles, loading iron shot with frenzied speed and strength, combined with Mortimer’s expertise in measuring out the powder and calculating the appropriate firing angle, managed to escape the battle. But not without trauma, which is why Mortimer seems to have more cracks than the overworked cannon used in the battle.
Not entirely the fool, Braden the Younger has given the unofficial command of the Armies of the East back to Boris Hargrave, and has sent Mortimer to Nuln, accompanied by military liaisons, to begin mass fabrication of the Ferrum Bombardae. They’ve brought the surviving weapon, but it’s more to serve as an example of how the device should be built than for any further military use due to dangerous cracks in the metal. A mutual friend of the empire (hinted to be “Frederick” a.k.a. “The Lanky Man”), has instructed Mortimer to seek out the heroes of Nuln and accompany them on their mission in Marionburg, once his duties in Nuln are completed.
While learning all this (mostly told by Oscar), it is apparent that Mortimer has been working to miniaturize the Ferrum Bombardum technology to a hand-portable scale. (Think Blunderbuss). He has several prototype devices and wishes to test-fire them and observe how well they work, compute correct powder loads, etc. The characters suggest that they should be field-tested at an estate outside Nuln, aiming to have Mortimer’s black powder technology there to help them as they attempt to take down Sgt. “Tickles” Keft and stop whatever atrocities that may be happening at Dandrich’s estates. The characters convince (easily) Captain Tanner that Keft is evil and needs to be arrested, so Tanner sends a contingent of guards with the characters on their mission.
So the characters lead the assault on the manor house late that night. Keft refuses to surrender, of course, and the fanatical faithsworn loyalists engage the guardsmen in combat. Keft and his core followers engage the characters in the center of the battle in front of manor’s entrance. Durdles, Handy, and Mortimer (with his cart) are there to help, and to observe how well the new black powder weapons work in field testing. Josef Krunk is also there to aid his new employers and friends. Ranthin, Cedric, Dellin, and Bronan each have an experimental Blunderbuss, and they charge to the attack. Archibald uses Dazzling Light to dull the senses of a few of the faithsworn, while Bronan, Ranthin, and Cedric let loose with their Blunderbusses, which prove effective in both wounding several opponents as well as causing fear. But the faithsworn continue the charge, and Bronan, Dellin, and Krunk bear the brunt of the charge. Bronan and Archibald both take significant wounds, while Keft shouts orders from the rear. At one point Keft orders Krunk to attack the characters because Krunk is still faithsworn. Krunk replies that he owes no oath to naughty-spawn, and demonstrates his loyalties by helping the characters in the fight.
The tide of battle is abruptly turned back to the characters favor when Mortimer lobs some sort of Alchemical grenade at the enemy line and with the help of Ulric’s Fury, kills three of the faithsworn with excessively potent acid that instantly eats away their flesh and sizzles on their armor. About the same time, Durdles was ordered to “fetch” one of the faithsworn for some additional tests. Durdles wades into the fray and lifts a hapless soldier by his face and slings him over his back, turning to trot back to Mortimer with his prize.
Just then the doors to the Manor House explode outward and a beast of Nurgle, complete with sucking tentacles, slime trail, and horrific toothed maw, oozes its way onto the porch, seemingly under the control (or at least in coordination with) Sgt Keft. Unfazed, Archibald summons the light and banishes the beast with a small aethyric “pop”. Durdles, a half instant later, before he could realize the danger was gone, flung his captive at the beast, and the 200 pound man flew spinning head-over-heals, smacking against a column with a sickening back-breaking crunch.
Seeing this, Keft immediately surrenders, and the remaining faithsworn are taken into custody by Tanner and his men.
Thus ends the Interlude. Characters each earn 200xp.
Epilogue: Dandrich’s estate is searched, and hard proof of the cultists’ activities is found. While the beast of Nurgle was banished without a trace, the signs of the summoning ritual are apparent in the “inner sanctum,” as well as the sacrificial victims, etc. Dandrich is now a wanted man in the Empire, and Keft and the faithsworn loyalists are turned over to the inquisition for in-depth interrogation, inquisition-style.
The characters reputation as heroes is escalated another notch, and Josef Krunk’s wild stories about huge angry snails are finally taken seriously. Yet, they can’t stay to enjoy the accolades, as they must hurry to Mix Riggen’s rescue before it’s too late!