To serve a higher power than oneself is a great privilege and joy, though a small monetary reward would perhaps have been nice.
It's been a week now since you and the refugees from Untergard arrived in Middenheim. After the relief of seeing the Emperor's flag flying, the grimness of life in the City of the Bear has set in.
After another morning spent moving rubble and pulling down buildings too dangerous to be left, you sit drinking foul thin ale in the newly named Harpy's Rest inn on the outer walls of the city, watching water pour in through the sacking hastily pegged over the hole in roof caused by it's namesake's entry during the battles with Archaon's forces. The head of the monster hangs over the bar.
A man comes in and walks over to your table. "I hear you've been looking for work?" He pulls over a stool and sits next to you. "I represent the Bogenhafen civic society, and I need a delicate cargo delivering. We, in partnership with local church leaders, have commissioned a new window for the city temple, and I've been here weeks trying to find someone to transport the verdamnt thing. It's a ten day journey, at ten silver a day, payable on delivery, plus one crown in advance. I have the window loaded on a cart ready. Interested?" The stranger's precise Reikland accent, decent clothes and mundane job offer all speak of a world apart from the daily misery of the war's aftermath and you're glad of the opportunity for coin and escape.
"Well, shit. I knew it was too good to be true." Dieter raises his hand, indicating a halt. He narrows his eyes and scans the surroundings, looking for signs of an impending ambush, and for signs that the trees might not have fallen on their own.
Nodding, Leon pulls on the reins and brings the cart to a halt. Moving slowly, he reaches back for his axe, watching the woman and the road ahead for trouble.
Keeping his eyes on the scene ahead, Dieter says out of the corner of his mouth, "What do you think, Leon? Have we got space for a passenger? And can we find another way around?"
Frowning, Leon looks at the woods to either side of the road. "I reckon we'll have to move the logs, this cart ain't made for rough terrain. The window definitely isn't." He gestures to the woman up ahead. "We can probably fit her on, though."
"Well, better get a move on." Clearing his throat, Dieter calls out to the woman. "Ahoy there! You needn't worry, we're peaceful folk, despite the look of my friend here. Do you need a hand getting to Bogenhafen?" He starts trotting his horse forward to meet her. Smiling in as friendly a manner as he can manage, Leon urges the cart forward, putting his axe out of sight to avoid alarming the woman.
As you approach the woman you notice the coachman lying on his seat, a bolt though his chest. The corpses you saw earlier are those of two large men with multiple stab wounds. [Dieter notices a blood trail leading off the road and into the forest.]
The woman regains her composure and turns to face you both, seeming undisturbed by your appearance.
"Oh, good day to you. Bandits came at us from both sides of the woods. My bodyguards, Kurt and Helmut, tried to fight them off but they were outnumbered. Those poor men died defending me, and for what? All of my belongings were stolen anyway, and the blackguards who did it got away." She pauses and looks you all over, in you though, perhaps Sigmar has answered my prayers. You look like a competent pair, and I do need assistance. The bandits stole some very important papers from me and I need them back. If you can track down my belongings and return them to me there's five gold crowns in it for each of you."
Dieter quickly flicks a hand in the direction of the blood trail, tipping Leon to its presence. "Well, you seem fine anyway. I'd say you were lucky to get away without injury or worse." He stops and thinks for a moment. "And they left you with ten crowns? Did they search you at all? Or were they after something more specific?" He grins down at the woman, showing his teeth. It's not completely friendly.
She's a little unnerved, but not flustered. "It seems you have the mind of a merchant, sir" She says this with a certain weary amusement. "Since you ask I don't have any gold on me, they took that along with everything else. So of course, I can't pay you until you find my things. Will you try for me?"
"No, no, just amazed at your own good fortune. As to the job..." Dieter tails off and looks over to Leon, shaking his head slightly. "I have a feeling this one is for the watchmen. Besides, we have our own job to be getting on with - one which we're close to completing."
Leon sees the blood trail and Dieter's shake of the head, and nods slightly. He turns to the lady, and rubs his unevenly bearded chin thoughtfully. "We could give you a lift to Bogenhafen, ma'am, and maybe once we've done the job we're on, we could talk about getting your papers back?"
"Well, seems that would be best. Sorry, I didn't catch your name, miss?" Dieter dismounts, and starts unhitching the coach. "We'll need to use these horses to clear the logs."
"Magirius. Elise Magirius."
She looks downcast when she realises you won't be heading straight after her stolen possessions, but as rain clouds gather and the wind picks up, the events of earlier seem to be catching up with her. She accepts your offer of transport.
As you start unhitching the horses, you realise the coachman is still alive, albeit unconscious and in bad shape. As soon as Elise realises the coachman isn't dead, she asks you to move him to the cushioned bench across from her side of the coach "He was so brave, I'll have my doctor tend to him as soon as we get back."
Moving the logs takes ten minutes of dragging and hatchet work, and then the road is clear. "Don't worry lady - it's only another day to Bogenhafen." Dieter brushes his hands together to clear them of the twigs and bark, then re-hitches the coach. "Hey, Leon, how're we going to drive this thing? Tie them to the back of our own cart?"
Leon looks thoughtfully at the two vehicles for a moment. "Well, the coachman ought to stay in the coach - it'll be more comfortable, and Miss Magirius can tend to him and ride in comfort. Probably the easiest thing is if you hitch your horse to the back of the vagon and drive the coach."
"Are you crazy? I don't know how to drive a coach! Look, keep the two carts together, the one behind can just follow in the tracks of the one ahead. I'll make sure nothing goes wrong."
Leon chuckles to himself. "It doesn't take skill to drive a cart, you know. But I'll see what I can do about hitching the two together though - best to have a scout if we can, I guess."
"Great. Great. I'll give you a hand." Dieter continues to lead the coach to one side, allowing the cart to pass. He and Leon tie the two together; that done, he swings back into his saddle.
Clouds cover the late afternoon sky as the four of you set off slowly down the road, the coach following in the tracks of the cart. Just after you crest the hill and start the descent down the road to the town on the river, you hear the sound of thundering hooves coming from behind. Turning to look, you see a pair of roadwardens riding at full speed on nearly exhausted mounts. When they spot you they slow, and one rider raises a hand, calling out for you to stop.
“Balls. This could be unpleasant.” Dieter makes sure all his weapons are stowed in a non-threatening manner and brings his horse to a stop, resting his hands on the pommel of his saddle. Pulling on the reins of the cart, Leon brings the cart to a stop and waves back at the roadwardens.
The roadwardens dismount and approach you warily on foot, eyeing up the coach and cart, hands resting on the pommels of their swords. They both have shields and pistols holstered at their sides.
"What's going on here?"
"Afternoon, wardens. My companion and I are on our way to Bogenhafen. We ran into the owner of this coach up the road, she said she'd been ambushed so we've agreed to escort her back to town. We've wounded; the lady is tending to her coachman inside."
"Then you're not connected with the party from Grunberg?" One of the wardens approaches the coach, while the other stays watching you. "Madam, we've been dispatched by the Graf to investigate a theft. And have reason to believe there may be stolen property on this coach. If you wouldn't mind stepping out, we'll have to search it I'm afraid." He turns to you "We'll need to search your cart as well, I'm sure you understand."
Leon nods slowly. "Sure, but be careful not to break the window, though." He gets down from the cart and stretches his legs.
Dieter nods in agreement. “Wouldn’t want to get in the way, warden.”
They search the vehicles while Elise protests that she doesn't know what they're talking about. After 20 minutes or so they give up.
"What about your two bodyguards, and the coachman. Might any of them have been involved?"
"Absolutely not. Those brave men fought and died defending me, and Rolf may yet lose his life through his heroism." She goes on at length about how courageous her hirelings were, and eventually the warden relents.
"Thankyou for your cooperation," he sighs "it looks like we've been given a false lead. If you do hear anything about the item, a necklace, we'd be grateful if you let us know. For now, you'd best get on your way."
The roadwardens remount, and turn to head back the way they came.
"Well, that was a little odd." Dieter watches the roadwardens go, bemused.
Grunting in agreement, Leon checks that Elise and Rolf are shut up in the coach properly before he pulls himself back up onto the driving platform of the cart. "Shall we get moving?"
The woods give way to pleasant fields as you approach the town. Green, fertile land, vineyards, open up around you. It's a stark contrast to the dense, dark forests of Ostland, and the cold grassy plains of Kislev. Most striking is the lack of obvious impact from the war. At first glance at least, one could almost believe the Storm had never happened.
Bogenhafen is a prosperous looking walled town. As you pass through the west gate you're assaulted by the sites and smells of urban life. Entertainers caper and prance, while in the darker corners beggars hold out their hands. It's a busy, bustling place. Wealthy looking merchants and poorer workers try not to rub shoulders as they go about their business, you can hear the calls of the longshoremen down at the docks, street vendors plying their trade, and a temple's bells in the distance.
Elise directs you to her house in the Artisan's Quarter. Elaborate dwellings stand next to unpretentious workshops and the streets are full of people going about their business. Her home is a two storey townhouse, with a small stable area and coach house round the back. When you arrive, a stable boy comes to help unhitch the coach, and Elise calls upon a pair of servants to take Rolf to his quarters inside.
She turns to thank you for escorting her back, looking at you a little anxiously.
Dieter remains more or less indifferent to the hustle and bustle, being more used to the open road or plain. Still, it's hard not to be impressed at how the upper crust lives in this day and age.
"Well, looks like you'll be safe here, m'lady. Leon and I have got our job to attend to, now, but perchance we'll be available for further engagements shortly..." Dieter looks to Leon, "...what ARE we going to do here, anyway? Live amongst the slums till we find our next job?" He stretches he neck from side to side. "I certainly could use a hot bath - shame my funds don't stretch to the wench to bathe me."
"I want to deliver the window and get the money, and then find an inn. A bath sounds good, and a shave." He roughly rubs the fortnight of growth on his chin. He looks at Elise, and nods cheerily. "Iff'n you like, we can come back and discuss retrieving your stolen goods, once we're scrubbed up some."
Dieter nods in agreement.
"Thankyou, I would be most grateful. If you're looking for an inn, the nearest is Cadbury's, just down the road."
You wave to Elise and head to the Gottenplatz, the town's main temple district. The Temple of Sigmar dominates the square, which boasts temples to most of the major and several minor deities of the Empire. The Temple of Bogenauer, patron deity of the town, stands nearby. It has a central hall, with two wings, enclosing a central courtyard in which stands a statue of the god. A minor temple official comes out to greet you as you arrive.
"Can it finally be, do you have a window for us?" He smiles hopefully as he approaches the cart.
Dieter grins his best grin. “We certainly do, good sir, just as soon as the promised one hundred silver are here for us. The horses and cart are, as far as I know, free of charge.”
Leon grins, and makes sure the cart is fully stopped. "Aye, here's your window. You got a back yard we can unload it in?"
"Of course, of course. Bring the cart round to the back and I'll fetch your payment." He goes inside and you drive round to a small courtyard at the back. He reappears with a small leather pouch. "If you could just put the window down over here for me, carefully now, we'll have the craftsmen come to fit it tomorrow. Here is, as agreed, your one hundred silver," he hands the pouch over "and, ah there is indeed no charge for the hire of the cart. You can leave that here too."
Leon gets off the cart, and heads around to the back to start the unloading of the window, assuming that Dieter is checking the money.
Dieter rolls his eyes and dismounts, securing his own horse before taking the pouch and opening it. He checks the amount quickly by hand while he moves around to the indicated courtyard to help Leon unload the window.
The money in the pouch is correct, and it doesn't take long to safely unload the window. "Thankyou, we've been waiting such a long time, with all the trouble up in the north. I'm glad someone was finally able to bring our window! Now, unless there's anything else I can do for you...?"
“Nothing but your Blessing, milord.”
Leon turns to Dieter. "What do you reckon? The Cadbury sound okay?"
"I dunno, sounds a bit upmarket to me. We’ll probably want something a bit more ‘appropriate to our station’.” There’s clear sarcasm in the last words, though he means what he says. “Besides, it’s not like we’re rolling in it – cash that is – and upper class nobs get on my nerves.”
"You're probably right. We ought to look for somewhere called something like the Sword and Strumpet. Speaking of which, are you sure there isn't enough money for a couple of girls?"
“Hey, your share is your share.” Dieter shrugs. “’Spose we’ll have to see when we get there, wherever that is.” He pats Norse Berserker’s flanks, “Whoever they are, they’ll need a stables. Shall we head on out?”
Leon nods, and heads out, keeping an eye open for an appropriate tavern or inn.
There are many inns and hostelries about the town, the nearest ones you can see are The Wailing Widow (next to what turns out to be the Mourner's Guild) and the Journey's End. Both have stabling, and look affordable, though the Wailing Widow looks slightly more comfortable.
Dieter shudders. "Much as I like the look of the Wailing Widow, I've seen quite enough of them already, thanks. Fancy the Journey's End? Kind of ironic, don't you think?"
Leon looks at them thoughtfully for a moment, and then nods. "Yeah. Also, I'm not sure I fancy sleeping next to dead people today. Let's take the other one."
The Journey's End is a single storey stone building with a thatched roof, situated not far from the Gottenplatz, just inside the artisan's quarter. A stable hand takes Norse Berserker, and 8 pennies for a night's stabling. Inside is dark and relatively empty, the barman is putting down fresh rushes for the floor as you enter. "Morning gents, lunch'll be starting soon, anything I can do for you in the meantime?"
Dieter rubs his hands together in anticipation, dislodging a shower of trail dust that forms a tiny mound at his feet. “Yes, I’ll have lunch, and a room for the night if you’ve got one, with bath. Meantimes, I’ll have a pint of beer, and one for my friend here.” He indicates Leon.
The Kossar nods, running a hand through his tangled hair. "Can you make that two rooms and two baths?" He pulls up a chair at the nearest table and sets himself down heavily, sighing heavily.
Dieter taps his foot impatiently and looks at the barman. "Hello? I know there's only two of us, but you could at least make the effort."
"Ever so sorry sir, I was miles away." He pulls a couple of pints and heads behind the bar. "I've told the maid to get your rooms ready, she'll take you to them when you've finished your drinks."
The rooms are small, but fairly pleasant. A bed next to the window, small table with a basin full of hot water, and somewhere to hang your cloak. Washed and changed, you head back to the common room for lunch. The place has filled up with various craftsmen and passers by, come in for a meal.