Chapter 3 Conclusion (Part I)
Cast Part I: Dellin, Ranthin, Archibald, Bronan, Cedric
The characters involved in bringing down Strussel and defeating the bone shrike are hailed as heroes in Nuln, especially Archibald, who is busy for a few days alternately being congratulated and then debriefed by church officials. Their exploits have earned them a discount at local shoppes in mid and lower quarters, and essentially free lodging at Rolph Loffhofner’s Crossed Pikes Inn.
They learn that Manfred Matterly is a spy, formerly in service to the Bull of Ostermark, Braden the Elder. In talking with Manfred, they learn off-handedly that the Bull passed away during the hard winter and Braden the Younger is the new Count Ostermark. Matterly, not being part of Braden the Younger’s trusted men (and not liking the new Count very much) is now working for Frederick. In that service he was instructed to find them and relay some important information.
Firstly, Frederick hopes that they’ve taken care of their personal vendetta and are ready to serve the Empire once again. Their untimely departure from Ostermark left Frederick with quite a mess to handle, especially since his erstwhile ally, the Bull of Ostermark, had passed away. Braden the Younger has foolishly re-opened the long dormant warpstone mine, seeking to regain the monetary wealth that has fled from Ostermark as the Emperor’s hand has “reallocated” the funds used to support the armies of the east to other programs. Manfred relates that another of Frederick’s spies has reported that the beastmen and Herra Stormur (the storm wizard) control the remote mine, and that beastmen seem to spawn from its very maw. Bismark and the armies of the Eastern Marches are still battling the beastmen, while simultaneously trying to hide everything from the local populace and the empire as a whole.
Secondly, Manfred was to pass the message that Frederick has learned that Rictor Von Kruger has been taken prisoner, and was last seen being held somewhere in Marionburg, awaiting “transport” to powerful interests from Brettonia. The characters surmise that Lady De Rochelle captured Mix Riggins after the debacle at Toltevsky’s lair, and is now likely using him for terrible experiments (because he regenerates ala Jonas Whitespore, and Rochelle has Toltevsky’s notes…) Manfred is a native of Marionburg and will help the characters pick up the trail. Also, Marionburg was formerly part of the Empire, and is an extremely wealthy independent city-state that controls the mouth of the Reik river (through which all sea-trade into and out of much of the Empire must flow). Frederick believes Rupricht is maneuvering to start a war by which the Empire can regain Marionburg. Forces have amassed in the northwest (and is another reason for the late Ubersoldaten program and the reallocation of funds from the East.) Of course, Brettonia would rather the Empire not regain control over Marionburg…so they have forces nearby as well….and De Rochelle factors heavily in their strength.
After these revelations, the characters decide they owe it to Mix Riggins to try to rescue him…but since Manfred will need a few days to re-establish his contacts in Marionburg once he gets there, they figure to take care of the Dandrich contract quickly and then head north a few days behind Manfred. Finally, Manfred seems to have arranged an invitation for the Heroes to be commended by the Countess Clarisa of Averland, Graf of Nuln, for their valorious deeds. Manfred suggests they be careful around her, keep their eyes open, and understand that she’s probably pleased that Strussel was proven a counterfeiter and killed — thereby conveniently erasing a substantial debt that she and other persons of power owed to Strussel. The Countess is believed part of a secret society of powerful women that believe women have the same rights as men, should have the same educational opportunities, combat training, etc. She is known to rescue women who’ve been treated badly and recruit them as her servants and guards, thus inspiring extreme loyalty.
The heroes get cleaned up as best they can and endure a decidedly uncomfortable encounter with the Countess. She is a collector of rare items, including a Bronze Statuette of Esmeralda (wow!), and a huge chunk of a purple crystal stone (that to Cedric’s magic sense, appears to warp the aethyr in its proximity.) She takes a liking to Dellins new lode-stone bolas (his magically attractive balls), and is eager to witness Ranthin’s archery skills. Although the Countess is about 50 years old, she still has a good figure and was in her youth quite stunning…and Ranthin is enraptured by her, ah, huge tracts of land. Ranthin, eager-to-please, manages to shoot a grape being held by a nervous guardsman in his teeth. Dellin demonstrates on this same lackey how his magic balls can wrap around the opponent and bring him down. Then she starts asking questions about Archibald’s magic rod, and how he uses it. To top it off, Cedric managed to reveal the previously unknown fact that they killed Murdoch Einhorn — that he was in fact the demon. This is something Countess Clarissa finds very interesting and the characters wonder if they’ve just put their necks in a noose. The Countess really wants Dellin’s “balls” and Archi’s “rod”, and it’s all that Cedric can do to charm her out of this notion. An uncomfortable meeting, indeed, but it seems to end well enough…
So the characters eventually return to the Crossed Pikes, Dellin’s new balls still intact, and are met by Josef Krunk, initiate of the Faithsworn, who eagerly invites them to visit Dandrich’s estate, where Dandrich seeks to meet and congratulate the heroes. So off the characters go again, enjoying their current fame and elevated social status, and take a coach out to Dandrich’s countryside manor house for more wine-and-dining. They figure to perhaps find a way to convince Dandrich to leave, or at least scope out the place for later action.
Well, they have a nice discussion, Dandrich is compellingly charming, and several hours later, after dark, the characters are escorted out the front door where they wait for their coach to be brought back around from the stables. Instead, they are ambushed by the Grimm’s Reapers (yikes!) and several archers who’ve hidden behind the bushes. The characters try to flee back into the manor house, but the door was locked behind them…the archers are wearing the uniforms of the faithsworn, so clearly Dandrich was involved in the setup!
Out numbered and taken by surprise, a few of the characters take wounds before they can bust down the front door and retreat from Grimm’s cavalry and the supporting archers…of course, inside the house awaits Sergeant “Tickles” Keft, Dandrich’s new enforcer, and a dozen faithsworn. Archibald, seriously wounded, drinks the party’s only healing drought, and summons Radiant Gaze using the rod of his holy order. [This is where Part I stopped.]