And so our story begins, in the mighty city of Altdorf, capital of the Empire, the greatest nation in the Old World. It is the seat of Emperor Karl Franz’ power. The glorious crown of the nation.
Yet we are not concerned with the majestic spires of the Imperial Palace or Colleges of Magic, nor the vaulted splendor of the High Temple of Sigmar. No, for we must delve deeper into the city, past it’s lavish opera houses and grand parade grounds, deeper yet than the opulent town houses and market plazzas, further yet than the crowded tenements, seedy backstreets and reeking dockyards. For we must mingle amidst the vile underbelly of this great city, amongst the stinking scum and villainy that lurk in the shadows and drinking dens. For it is here that fate, in its unfathomable way, found it’s unlikely few.
A relentless drizzle shrouded the austere stone buildings of the Courts of Justice, making them appear even more miserable and uninviting in the early morning light. Locals referred to them as the Palace of Retribution, for the judges there were well known for handing out harsh sentences for even the most petty of crimes.
The most imposing building, the Imperial Courthouse, sits astride the ‘Widows Plaza’, a public execution ground. It dominates it’s surrounding with tall, guard patrolled walls, giving it the appearance of an ugly, squat fortress. And it is beneath the Courthouse, in the small prison complex used to house the most dangerous of accused during trials that our tale begins in earnest…
Johann shifted his weight as he tried in vain to ease some of the cramp from his aching legs. The damp stone floor upon which he sat was cold and uncomfortable.
‘I do believe’, he said to Nak, ‘that were I to own the Palace of Retribution and the Chaos Wastes, I would live in the Wastes and rent out the Palace.’
The sullen dwarf grunted, belched, and kicked him in the head. This was not the sort of treatment usually accorded those of Johann’s genius.
The room in which he found himself confined was barely twice the size of the average privy and stank three times worse. He shared quarters with six others, none of whom he would have, given the choice, selected as companions, owing to their lack of both decorum and intellect. Each had a tattered blanket, except Oswald, the smallest, who had, upon the application of some little force, generously given his away to Boose, the largest. Yet whilst Johann had quickly realized that the hulking Middenland brute was obviously not to be trifled with, it was the darkly brooding elf Aedaris that really set him on edge. Something in those calculating, alien eyes told him that were it not for their confinement, and the presence of one of the elf’s ancestral enemies, that Johann would already be laying dead in a gutter somewhere bereft of his personal possessions.
The sound of footsteps outside the cell door broke his revere. Everyone looks up apprehensively. A key turns in the lock, the door squeals open, and two guards enter followed by the ever scowling Sergeant Himmel.
‘On yer feet scum!’ he bellows.
‘Taking us to our last meal?’ asks Johann.
‘Yer last meal’ll be my boot in yer gob if y’don’t move. Now file out!’
You shuffle out of the cell, the heavy chains around your ankles clanking noisily against the flagstone floor. Two more guards wait in the dimly lit corridor outside. They follow behind Sergeant Himmel as he leads the way. You stagger along behind them as a heavy door is thrown open and you are forcibly manhandled into the chilly morning air, your eyes struggling to adjust to the wan grey light. The hackles rise on your neck and your pulse quickens as you look upon the gallows standing ominously in the centre of the courtyard.
‘Keep moving you bastards!’ roars Himmel as you are marched across the slick cobbles towards your impending demise.
A dour faced priest of Morr stands patiently beside the gibbet, his dark robes and lank hair slick from the persistant rain. As the ragged column of condemned approaches he begins chanting one of his Order’s grave litanies. Beside him stands an ominously hooded figure, his hand resting on the lever that would soon plunge the men to their agonising demise.
The men are lead onto the wooden platform. Rough canvas hoods rank with the stench of stale vomit and blood are forced over their heads. The heavy fabric blocks the light and muffles all sound. Then the heavy, coarse ropes are pulled over their heads and pulled tight, making it difficult to breathe through the thick canvas.
The Morrite priest’s invocations grow in fervour and volume. Suddenly, they stop.
With an audible creak of wood the floor is pulled from beneath the men’s feet and they lurch downwards, the ropes jerking them upwards as they pull taught. Their lungs burst with fire as their throats are horrendously constricted. Their legs jig around uncontrollably and their bladders and bowels evacuate uncontrollably. Unbearable pain explodes behind their eyes as pressure builds within their heads and their life is choked from them.
Sudden sensation of falling, then an explosion of pain in their knees and a savage blow to the head as they hit the platfrom heavily. Gasp for breath as ropes pulled from around their necks. Tendrils of snot and vomit dripping from their faces as hoods are dragged off.
Guards sneering down at them.
‘You sure these are the ones?’
’That’s what he said. Lucky bastards.’
‘Not that lucky. When he’s through with them they’ll be wishin’ they’d had their necks stretched instead.’
Two men still hang from the gallows. Excrement drips from their still twitching bodies.
‘Up, up, on yer feet scum!’ yells the Sergeant.
You are dragged back towards the gaol, and through a small door. After descending many a twisting stair, you are ordered into a low ceilinged chamber that smells of wood smoke and hot iron. You swallow nervously as you look around. Manacles and cages line the walls, along with grim instruments of torture; racks, grid-irons, barbed hooks and metal masks to name but a few. In one corner a man in a leather apron tends brands that glow in a bed of hot coals.
‘Eyes front!’ bawls the sergeant, his rank breath blasting your face. ‘Dress ranks! Atten-shun!
You stand there for what feels like an age while the sergeant glares at you, his spittle drenched chin mere inches from your own. Then, just as you feel your knees can’t take it any longer, a door in the opposite wall opens, and three men enter, stooping beneath the low archway.
The sergeant salutes them, ‘’The prisoners, my lords’.
The young man’s icy blue eyes survey you from beneath a fringe of shoulder length dirty blonde hair.
‘Gentlemen, I am glad you could join us’, he flashes a predatory smile. ‘I must apologize for my poor timing, it was not my intention to leave you hanging around in the cold. Indeed, were it not for the foresight of my esteemed companion, he gestures towards the younger man in the dark blue cape, I may not even have arrived in time to offer you something you did not have an hour ago. A choice.
I trust your hosts have treated you well, as befits your station?’, a malicious grin plays at the corners of his mouth.
‘Bin treated liked princes sah!’ Himmel barks.
The blonde man flashes that mirthless smile again.
‘Their names and crimes, sergeant?’ he asks, his authoritative tone marking him as a man used to being obeyed.
‘Gladly sah’ bawls Himmel, moving to stand eyeball to eyeball with the first ragged detainee.
‘Aedaris m’Lord’, he yells, spittle flying. ‘This one’s a right thievin’ toe-rag sah, one of them filthy, stinking Reavers. Cock-of-the-walk of them what likes a good jemmy sah, could steal cheese from a Breton says they. Right cunnin’ bastard he is, and quick with a shank, mark my words. Stick you in the back sooner’n look at you sah. But then what do you expect from one of his kind.
*Leupold Konig : noblemans son. killed fellow officer in duel
*Nak Grimjaw : Wanted in Nuln. Stole Imperial hanguns from the Gunnery School and sold ‘em to dirty foreigners sah.
*Bosse : fatally striking an officer
*Johann Kepler : The worst of the lot. A sorceror of the foulest kind. Wanted for the multiple murder of innocent folk sah. Women and children sah. The temple say he’s bin summonin’ up foul creatures. Don’t know as I’d recommend him m’lord. The other three are wicked men, but this one sah, he’s the enemy!’
‘But where are my manners?’ he continues, ‘I am Jakob Fesseln, agent and vassal of Lord Frederick von Walder III of Talabheim. My Lord is an honourable and powerful man with influence throughout the Imperial courts and beyond. Yet he does not suffer fools, layabouts or poppinjays. But Otto here has scryed that you are not frivalous men, and that you possess attributes, however villainous, that could be of use in furthering my Lord’s cause.
‘So, I make you this generous offer on his behalf. You can swear fealty to my Lord’s household and serve him gratefully in resolving a matter of no small risk, or you can hang from the gallows again this very eve. You will learn the nature of this ‘mission’ only once you have volunteered for it. The choice, however, is entirely yours.’ he says, his evil grin widening with every word.
‘Now, ’sirs’, give me your answer.’
All prisoners except for Leupold agree reluctantly
Jakob draws his heavy blackpowder pistol and shoots Leupold dead
‘Sergeant, prepare them’
‘Aye sir, with pleasure’ Himmel says, sneering at the regged line. ‘Lets be ’avin ’ol Reaverheart first’. The man signals the guards.
All prosoners except for Aedaris are forced into a small, caged off area.
Two guards lead you to the far side of the room where the man in the leather apron stirs the coals.
The guards kick your legs until you kneel. Your hands are shackled to a stained wooden bench and your grubby tunic torn off. One of the guards puts a spear to your neck, ‘Just hold still you bastard, this won’t hurt a bit’ he laughs sardonically.
The man in the apron picks a brand out of the fire. The glowing tip is in the shape of a broken hammer, the sign of the deserter. The torturer presses the brand into the flesh of your shoulder-blade and your body explodes with waves of searing pain. Your cries of pain join with the audible horrific sizzle of your flesh. Lights dance before your eyes as unconsciousness engulfs you and you collapse heavily to the floor.
Now that we have you leashed we can proceed.
*Jakob offers them food and water which they devour greedily.
You have been chosen for a great honour, and offered a clemency which none of you deserve. So if any of you attempts to abuse this ‘kindness’ by trying to escape, by betraying our company to the enemy, by killing each other or sabotaging this mission, on my honour I guarantee you that I will make the rest of your very short life a living hell the likes of which would make the depredations of the Daemons of the ruinous powers be like a Mootland country fair in comparison.
Do I make myself clear?’
Lord von Walder has heard talk of a Sigmarite Priest who claims to have found Sigmar reborn in the form of a child. He preaches that his claims are backed by ancient prophecy.
The Priest’s claims are being rejected by the newly appointed head of the Sigmarite church as heresy(Volkmar has travelled to do battle in the north).
This is causing a violent schism within the Imperial cult.
Lord von Walder has had dealings with the priest, Luthor Huss, in the past and thinks him an honourable and pious man. While Lord von Walder does not believe all the claims made about the child, he does feel that if Huss thinks them important then there must be something to it.
My Lord wishes us to join with Huss’ growing band of followers and report back about the child, and the validity of the extraordinary claims about his divinity.
Lord von Walder has a cousin, Lord Aschaffenburg, who has recently married into the Heissman family and acquired property near to where Huss’ crusade is currently camped. Furthermore, the Library at Grunewald Lodge is well stocked and may contain documents relating to Huss’ prophecy. As Lord Aschaffenburg has been encountering some problems with his new staff, he has agreed that in return for investigating the malaise affecting his household, he will grant us full access to his library.
So in short, we must travel to Ubersreik to rendezvous with Lord Aschaffenburg’s man, Vern Hendricks, and investigate the strange goings-on at Grunewald Lodge. Whilst there, I will scour the library for the texts asked for by Lord von Walder.
We will then attempt to locate Huss and his followers and infiltrate their encampment to learn what we can about the child.
We leave at nightfall. Are there any questions?