Saturday, 20 February 2010

Their Fated Travels... (Chapter One)

My Warhammer Fantasy adventure story. This is an introduction to the characters and to my writing style. I hope you enjoy it.

I have posted this at Da Warpath and some other sites as well. Please view it here.

Their Fated Travels...

Chapter One

The Two Headed Goose

Murder was in the air this night…

The year was 2522 IC (Imperial Calendar) on a (what we would call) beautiful spring day. The setting sun was disappearing over the oddly mis-matched rooftops of the houses around the docks district of Altdorf, capital city of the Empire.

A place where three great inland rivers met, home to the palace residence of Emperor Karl Franz himself, home to the great church of Sigmar that sat just across the street from the palace, residence of the colleges of magic, the city of countless varied guilds and home to thousands of ideas of human ingenuity, be it for the good or ill of mankind. Such were the way with the greatest of ideas and best of intentions.

This was the city that shone the brightest, like a glowing supernova in the galaxy of mankind, but that which did burn brightest did also cast the longest shadows…

An inn sign gently swung, creaking on its rusting chains from the docks breeze. The image upon it – a two headed goose, depicting the name of the establishment – was a strange sight to see in a city that took any sort of mutation seriously.

The rain began to fall, heavy and sudden, dripping off of the sign immediately tapping the ground below like a well rehearsed drum beat from years of practice. The steps below it attested to that, with a worn water stain in them.

Just below the sign, the door burst open. A Marienburg man whose richly woven and colourful clothing looked a little ill fitting on his skinny frame came out of the inn with a wench on each arm. Their width three wide at the already narrow doorway blocked entry to a gentile looking woman attempting to step up to the door. The man looked drunken and red faced and examined the woman before him. He hadn’t seen many like her around these parts. She was dressed in white, all over, except for some red trim here and there and remained hooded, long before the rain even fell. She wore glasses. Beyond all of that though from what he could see, he reckoned her to be quite attractive but not quite his type anyway. The ladies with him were both dark skinned, a clear indication that they hailed from a foreign land far far from the Empire. One looked much older than the other, perhaps it was her mother, thought the woman in white and then shook off any further thought on the matter. She was nervous just having to be present in this quarter of the city and now she was being delayed access to the inn, a place she would never willingly enter of her own volition.

The man stood swaying on his feet wondering what to do next and the woman in white tried to step to the left, bringing her white metallic staff close to her to allow the three to proceed down the steps. They too had shifted left though. Then the woman stepped to the right, as did the group. This was getting them nowhere, she thought.

“Please” she started, “I have been called on an urgent errand I need to enter”.

The man looked at her quizzically rubbing his stubbly chin and swayed a little again.

The woman touched her staff to the man’s forehead and concentrated. He was too inebriated to care. She closed her eyes and seemed to expend a great deal of power in a short amount of time, channelling it through her staff and into the man. He smiled at the tingling sensation through his body which began to glow a little. Suddenly his face changed to one of cognitive realisation once more. Somehow the strange robed woman had brought him to his senses, sobering him.

The man looked at her in surprise as if seeing her for the first time in his life, then at the women on his arms. He especially regarded the older one with some surprise, turned them all around and stepped back in through the inn with them. He had decided he would need more drink first.

Just before the door closed behind them Rissandrea caught a glimpse of the smoky interior and mixed classes of patrons inside, none of which looked savoury enough for the likes of her to mix with. She had a duty to enter though, as an initiate of the Shallyan order, she had been commanded to visit the inn on business deemed too low for the priestesses to attend to. She knew that her presence here meant that greater good was being done elsewhere, a worthwhile sacrifice she thought.

She realised that her staff had pushed into the door at the bottom, stopping it from closing. She had unconsciously stopped it from doing so, perhaps fearing that if it closed this time she would not bring herself to open it. Already she was blushing, unused to such surroundings as these and the embarrassment of interaction with drunken locals already. Rissandrea Elquina-Vhor took a deep breath in, preparing herself to go inside. Once she’d opened the door she considered not breathing out at all. Quickly she made her way to the barkeep trying to ignore the eyes and mouthed comments of nearly every occupant present.

A little later that evening, the bar area of the inn had filled up considerably. The rain had driven more customers inside to ready themselves with a drink or five before braving the storm in a walk home.

Some patrons were here to enjoy the company of human interaction, to unwind and find a bed for the night. The table nearest the bar saw an inebriated man playing a card game with a ruddy cheeked Halfling, dirt smeared upon his face. The human man’s build was large, and his sword and garb suggested a knight in training, perhaps a squire, wearing the colours of the white wolf of Ulric.

A shady figure was sitting in a corner keeping an eye on everything that happened in the bar area. He sat and watched the door open as someone in particular left but still he did not move from his secretive spot. He had somehow extinguished the candle above him and as such he didn’t have to make much effort to remain concealed in the shadows that now surrounded his table. Two glasses of red wine sat in front of him. The one nearest him was still full. The furthest glass positioned in a place as if someone had been sitting opposite him had been drunk down to its dregs.

Within moments the inn door opened once more. This time it remained open but no one came in. Some of the customers nearby moved their heads over to see who it might be in the doorway behaving in such an unexpected manner.

There stood two men. One was a muscular bearded broadly built Kislevite, six foot five inches tall and the hat of a kossar that looked as if it had never been washed upon his head. He carried with him a kislevite hunting bow, a scimitar and a shield. He was lightly armoured but looked hardy enough to not need any armour at all. His features were chiselled and grim like that of a heavy mountainside on a stormy day. It just so happened that the weather around him added to the effect right now.

The other man with him was very different indeed. He was of average height, wore the fine garb of a noble house and carried an air of authority naturally about him. He wore a pair of bizarre looking spectacles, bizarre in that their ear supports were super reinforced with a rubber like material for stability. The right hand lens socket was built up off of the frame with a screw shape inlaid pattern going around the metal on the inside. He carried a simple looking wooden quarterstaff with him, a backpack and a sack he carried over his shoulder. He too had somewhat of a beard and moustache, but it was much wilder and uncontrolled in its grooming than that of the larger man’s. He was greying in places but was only twenty-eight years old.

Both men stood there in the doorway with the sign rain droplets plopping down onto the smaller man’s forehead making the watery beat take on a new tone. He seemed blissfully unaware, with a big smile upon his face as he looked up at the sign above his head and started, “Gosh I say Tordrad, look at the sign of this establishment too, it reminds me of something I saw in my youth…”

Still, rain water splashed off of the man’s face and ran to the ground below as the larger of the two men rolled his eyes and looked up and away as if in protest at how silly the smaller man was.

“Well that decides it then. One last night in the city shall be spent here.” said the smaller man, and immediately began marching into the inn, swinging his arms in a pronounced manner with every step.

The larger man, Tordrad was now very slowly walking in but his concentration was on looking up at the sign.

“Come on my good man” came the smaller man again, not even looking around before adding out loud to no one in particular, “perhaps the barkeep will have some darts, I could use the practice…”

The finely dressed man stood near to the bar waiting to be served. As he did so, he looked around at his surroundings and sniffed the water out of the nostrils of his large nose as he wiggled it this way and that. He raised a finger to the barkeep but was unnoticed in the crowd. “I say, my man, we would order some drinks perchance?” Still nothing.

The Kislevite, Tordrad finally caught up with him and pushed through the crowd, parting them like they were corn in a field. He held up two fingers and said “Vodka” in a strained Reikspiel attempt. It was clear that the Empire’s language did not come easy to him at all.

The noble like man rushed forwards quickly and said, “oh not for me Tordrad, I’m not drinking that again.”

The Kislevite replied with eyes beginning to look at the ceiling, <“I know, that is why I only ordered two”>. The only problem was, Tordrad could only speak Kislevite and so his reply did not get through to the smaller man. However, he had gestured those same two fingers at his own chest as he said it and that was enough for the barman to understand. With that the barman placed the whole bottle of vodka on the bar before Tordrad. A big grin appeared on his face. This was his kind of bar!

“Well, jolly good then” said the smaller man as he settled up upon a bar stool next to Tordrad. “And I would partake of a glass of milk barkeep”. Some of the nearby men scowled at him. It wasn’t just his drinks order or his clothing, there was something about his voice, in its refinement yet high pitched eccentric tone that would grate at some people after long enough exposure to it.

Some of the men here tonight had arrived in the city for the first time earlier today. The smaller well dressed man though had lived in this city all of his life and tonight might well be the last time he’d ever see it, he felt. Fate had a strange way of dealing with Maestro Rophel Illefescion. It was as if it had a plan for him but it always meant him doing the opposite of what he truly wanted to do. He’d given up so much just to get to this point and now he was about to give up his whole world, as he saw it, all to keep the higher powers happy…why were they so worried about him anyway? He wondered. He had no idea, because like with so many things around him he was oblivious, living in a little world of his own. He had never truly lived.

As he sat on the bar next to Tordrad, he considered that he was perhaps the joke of fate itself, with it even conspiring with the Emperor to expel him from the city, his city, from his home and his comforts. He shook off those uncomfortable thoughts and spoke to the barman.

“My good man, I must confess, the reason I am here now is the name of your establishment being such.”

The Barman feigned interest at what he perceived to be an upcoming conversation he’d had thousands of times already and replied, “Ahh, you’re curious about how it got that name?”

Tordrad was shaking his head and looking down at the bar as if embarrassed by Maestro.

“Well yes” came the fine clothed individual, “in my younger years I once saw a two-headed goose, or I thought it was at least…turned out to be one goose standing in front of the other…heh heh…in the end.”

While Tordrad couldn’t speak Reikspiel, he had an uncanny knack of understanding roughly what Maestro was saying. This was clear as his face was now in his palm.

The barman was pouring another drink of vodka into Tordrad’s glass and answered, “The day we opened we got a two headed goose in for the cookin’ pot. More meat for the same price, I thought it was a lucky sign.”

Maestro nodded as if impressed.

Tordrad downed his freshly poured glass of vodka, snatching it up as soon as the barman had finished pouring and said quietly in Kislevite, <“They’re both idiots really.”>

Maestro smiled at Tordrad and quickly replied with an enthusiasm that didn’t match his companion’s, “Yes I agree Tordrad, it definitely does sound fortuitous.”

A little while later, the bar had become smokier still. Maestro was stood at the oche playing darts on his own. Tordrad was at the bar singing a song in Kislevite, getting everyone else to join in mumbling a parody of the words in drunken content.

The shady figure remained there still, the wine had not been touched and the bottle nearby was as full as it had been. The bar wenches seemed to naturally stay clear of his table, seemingly without realising they were doing it. It was as if it didn’t even exist.

The white robed and hooded woman finally emerged from upstairs where she had promptly gone soon after arriving after she’d talked to the barman. She had a mask tied across her face, the like of which would be seen worn by the Priests who visited the plagued to offer some comfort. Those present in the bar had seen her come downstairs in that attire with prayer book in hand and in concern most of them rose to leave. A Priestess or at least an initiate of Shallya was not hard to recognise.

As she reached the ground floor she pulled the mask off and everyone relaxed a little but that still didn’t stop them leaving the bar. It was soon 80% cleared of patrons. Those who remained were either too drunk, oblivious or set about their own tasks for the night that they would not be uprooted by the threat of plague.

She had been called in tonight when a patron refused to leave his room after his money to pay for board had run out, claiming he had contracted plague. It was true that he had become covered in spots and redness but it was also possible that this man was trying to stay at the inn for free. The order of Shallya had been contacted to find the truth in the man’s words. That is how she had arrived here.

The barman asked readily, “So? Is he pulling a fast one miss?”

Rissandrea considered the man’s words for a moment and then put him out of his misery, “He is sickening, the man you speak of, but it is not plague.” With that the barman sighed a relief as Rissandrea continued, “he has the effects of an allergic reaction about him.”

Suddenly the barman became hard faced, “Yeah, an allergy to paying his bills more like.”

Rissandrea ignored the anger in his voice and continued, “He must have inhaled or consumed something that does not agree with him. Either way, I have advised that his best route of recovery is away from here. He is getting ready to leave now.

“Hah” came the barman’s cynical narrow minded response, “He probably knew he was allergic to a bit of chicken or the like and snuck some in here to eat after booking a room.”

Rissandrea sighed, “That would be unlikely. He has been very ill, this man. I have given him salves for his skin rashes and prayed from the holy scripture.”

Rissandrea turned to leave as the barman held up the piece of paper with the man’s bill on it, “This is the only scripture that is holy to me miss and I mean to see it fulfilled.”

The woman pushed her glasses gently back onto her nose with her back turned to the bar now and asked, “I trust you will settle the matter of your donation in payment to the church before tonight?”

The barman was about to kick up a ruckus about the loss of more funds and then thought better of it. This woman was essentially a good person. “Aye” he said, “twelve chickens ready for stuffing, they’ll be plucked when you get them.”

Rissandrea nodded gently and began to walk away. The barman left his post and walked upstairs, leaving a wench to serve for him. Before the Shallyan initiate could leave, a man sitting beside the door grabbed her forcibly by the wrist. He was clearly drunk, the offensive smell of his liquor fumed up at the woman and she pulled the hood across her face a little more with her free hand.

“Heyyy gorgeous *hic* how about a bloody good drink on me? On my tab and on my lap, hahacsh”

Rissandrea looked at the man with utter contempt, “I do not drink.”

The man didn’t let go, he pulled on her arm to yank her over to him and suggested, “and what about a place on my lap for the evenin’? *hic*”

Rissandrea took her hood down, getting hot and clearly angered in her deep dark brown eyes, behind her black framed glasses. This effect seemed to only make the man more excited, as he saw her fresh smelling chestnut coloured hair sensibly tied up in a bun. She looked so fresh she could almost be a virgin, he fancied internally to himself.

“I do not spend…time with men either”.

“Aww rubbish, what sort of wench doesn’t lay with a man, espesh *hic* espeshully one as grand a man as I…be *hic*.”

“I am not a serving wench. I am an initiate of Shallya, a devout of the Vhor sub-sect, who do not drink or partake of emotional comforts whatsoever. I have never known love, nor will I. Now will you let me go or is this going to become a problem?”

The man smiled with an awareness suddenly about him, through his drunken state, “ahh so you’re a dyke then. I’m not choosey, I’ll buy you a drink if you’ll let me watch your girly-friend lover and you.” The man smiled pathetically, showing a set of partly broken and chipped teeth, “you know, doin’ the baaad thing.”

Rissandrea had no idea what the man was going on about.

Tordrad was looking across with concern on his face. Already he had stepped down from the bar stool and began a walk over to the scene at the door but was beaten to it by a grizzled looking sailor, with a cigarette that he seemed for all appearances to keep in his mouth so often that the dry skin of his lips made the permanent dent for it that was now there.

He grabbed the arm that held Rissandrea, “This girl said no to you Guvnor.”

With that the man rose from his chair and pushed the sailor’s arm back off him, freeing the lady in the process. Now it was confirmed in her own mind here, the evidence of why she didn’t venture to such places, especially alone, and all to try and do some good, she thought ironically. With her hood up and glasses on she had looked much older, but now the reality was clear, she was barely in her twenties.

The sailor put two fists up in a fighting stance and continued, “the girl has already told you she isn’t interested, ‘n’ if your ears need more, I’ve two willing fists for ‘em.”

The drunk man looked down at the lady, trying to catch a bit of leg on display and realised that he could see none, perhaps it was the robe that was covering those nice legs up like that, what a shame, but then why was she in robes if she was a bar wench?”

“How is this goin’ to play out then friend? Your choice.”

The sailor’s words shot through into the man’s skull and made him retreat backwards until the rear of his foot hit the door. At this guiding aid of self awareness of his placement, he turned swiftly around and left through the door with a forward stumble.

The sailor made to leave too. Rissandrea stopped him with a word, “wait.”

The salty sea dog looked around at her, smiling as she made her point, “Don’t follow him and continue this fight, It’s not worth it. Let him go home and sober up. I’m sure he’ll regret it.”

A hardy laugh left the sailor’s belly, “oh no lass you don’t understand do you? That man is my best friend; I’m going to see that he gets home alright”.

“But, I don’t understand…”

“Hah, well it’s like this miss” he explained, “I’m sober and he’s drunk, but when it’s the other way around I’m acting like he was here and he like me. It’s how we look after each other when we’re too deep in it, so to speak. Accostin’ a Shallyan holy type, now that’s pretty deep right there. Course, bein’ the hero to some girl has its advantages too sometimes, eh?” and with that he winked at her.

Rissandrea crossed her arms angrily, “You both disgust me!”

The sailor laughed heartily as he left the bar, stepping outside into the pouring rain.

Tordrad looked across with a mixed stare of relief and disappointment. On one hand he would have enjoyed a good bar fight, but he was also glad that it now wasn’t going to interrupt his drinking.

Maestro threw a dart which missed the board and fell short, sticking into the wall underneath it.

Tordrad’s good time was spoilt at seeing this thinking to himself, perhaps I should get you a bow to fire them with. He liked his own joke and that put him back into a good mood again. With drink in hand he soon forgot about the debt he owed the small Altdorf man for some while to come, soon they were to depart for the road for who knows how long and he was determined to make this a night to ease that pain, in his mind he hoped that one night would stretch to do it. He was wrong. He knew that deep down.

The shadowy figure that had been sitting in the corner was nowhere to be seen. The candle was lit once more, as if it had never been out and the glass of wine was tipped over on its side, its contents running out across the table with red drips of it splashing to the floor beginning to puddle.

Suddenly the strange figure was at the back area that led out to the kitchen. He whispered something into a serving wench’s ear and she froze to the spot to let him past her with her train of thought interrupted at, “sorry sir but customers can’t go out that w…”

For some time the serving wench stood there with wide open eyes, zoned out of reality somehow, seemingly unable to move from the spot. Eventually she came to her senses, prodded by the chef, the barman’s wife who was trying to get past her. She came to as if nothing had even happened and continued about her business. During these minutes of darkness outside, a dark figure had emerged into the back alley behind the inn and moved swiftly down it towards a wooden fence that was blocking access to this private alley.

A locked door barred the way, but the figure did not care. He waited confidently as a wagon pulled up and parked on the other side of the fence then he climbed onto a box, jumped onto another and leaped with almost supernatural dexterity onto a third stacked yet higher than the rest. He grabbed the top of the fence and pulled himself deftly down onto the wagon which he then calmly left, down the passenger side. Authority showed in his walk as if he owned it. When he was clear of the vehicle he quickly moved towards another alleyway and was out of sight. Very few people were around because of the downpour of rain, but any who were, were too concerned with getting soaked through to notice the strange way the rain shimmered around the figure’s body as he moved.

As the sun rose once more, the rain began to settle down, as if it had finished its working shift to be replaced by daylight across the city. It was a particularly refreshing heartening day, enough to uplift the spirits of every citizen in the great city of Altdorf, all except for one that is, the man who was trudging menacingly along the cobbled streets of the docks quarter. His tall boots creaked as he walked, their straps were tightened in place and the buckles were polished immaculately. He wore a uniform that made the people around him gasp in astonishment at his approach and then quickly move out of his way. His sword and pistol were visible to all, holstered quite plainly in sight, perhaps as a warning. He was a tall man, seemingly taller than anyone else on the streets that morning. That or perhaps everyone else felt smaller compared to him. The wide brimmed tall hat he wore helped extend his menacing height further still. Even animals knew to stay away from him.

Malvanius Witch hunter Captain for the Emperor’s city of Altdorf was a man who got results, no-matter what the cost may be. He was a believer in the old Witch hunter creed that punishing ten innocents was far better than letting one guilty man go free. His face seemed to be in a permanent sneer. This was due to a facial muscle injury he had incurred some years ago when he was a soldier fighting the orcs and goblins in the Emperor’s armies. A rampaging orc big boss had brought him close to the Gates of Morr when it sliced deeply into his face that fateful day. His jaw bone had been righteous enough to allow him to clamp his teeth down on the weapon locking it in place long enough for his pole arm to sever the green beast’s belly open, spilling its insides across the ground. Even then it didn’t realise how dead it should be and made to finish him off with his bare fists. Even when the brute died after Malvanius had taken a further beating from the monster, its body fell dead towards him seeking to finish him, seeking to push the blade all the way through his face and out the other side, seeking to test his resolve and more importantly his faith. Somehow he had reached his feet up in time and supported the weight of the dead brute long enough for another man in his company to pull it off of him. A great ally that man was, some years later he caught up with him, and had been forced to put him to death for chaotic stigmata upon his skin, he admitted, his Swordmaster Captain had been a great man. That is why he made his execution swift and on the spot. He executed him without even delivering the sentence.

Last night Malvanius had been summoned from his bed chamber to attend the site of a terrible crime. His division of men were already hard at work interrogating and seeking clues but it was the nature of this crime that had called for Malvanius’s presence more than anything. The last drops of rain hung from the end of his bent nose, as if clinging on to remain in existence for just a little while longer now the rain had stopped. The man came to a halt and brought out an embroidered handkerchief with which he proceeded to blow his nose upon. In one corner were the markings of his family crest and that of the Emperor in the opposite corner.

The place he had stopped had brought his foot to rest upon a cigarette butt. He picked it up and smelled it suspiciously, putting it away in his long jacket. He had stopped at a particular inn. His eyes rose up to read the hanging sign. “The Two-headed Goose! What blasphemy of creation? What chaotic mutant is this? It all makes sense now.” He promptly walked into the bar area and made sure to not remove his hat. His long flowing cloak was wet and he troubled himself enough to take it off and shake it across the bar floor. Those present stared in horror, absolute abject terror at seeing a Witch hunter in the same room as them. It wouldn’t matter that it was a public place, Witch hunters had the ability to decide upon law immediately, they were a law unto themselves and worse still this one was the Captain of their zealous lot. One man lost his nerve at this and edged around Malvanius by the longest route he could find, then when he reached the door he bolted straight outside. Malvanius hadn’t blinked an eye. Others looked hopeful as if they too could get away with this action. Suddenly the man re-appeared again, walking backwards through the door with a sword pointed at his throat held up with a threatening certainty by one of Malvanius’s Witch hunters.

Malvanius finally took the time out of his busy day to look at the scared man, “You’re bone dry and you arrived here only an hour ago, you had no reason to run from me, fool.”

The man’s eyes widened first with surprise and then hope took over. He asked, “Does…does that mean I can go now…Sir?” He coughed to cover up the wavering in his voice at the end of the sentance.

Malvanius smiled at the man. It was an unnerving sight, even though the smile was an attempt at being pleasant, the man’s facial deformity made anything like that seem sinister. Of course it was sinister anyway for a pleasant thought to him was unpleasant for anyone else. “You have not committed this crime.” Malvanius seemed to study him a lot more closely all of a sudden and continued, “but the fact that you were trying to run away meant that you judge yourself unworthy of being in my presence, unworthy of being innocent.”

“I haven’t done anything Sir, I was just scared that’s all, I promise that’s all.”

Malvanius laughed, “Scared? You don’t know the meaning of the word”, as the other witch hunter began to bind the man’s hands together behind his back with rope, “The place that you’re being taken to will teach you what fear is. There’s something I don’t like about you. You may not be guilty of a crime yet but I want to find out what it is that lies deep inside you, that is worried it might commit some foul deed in the near future. Get him out of my sight”. With that, the man was promptly gagged and hooded then removed from the inn and taken straight to a waiting coach outside which hastily rode off. The others in the bar looked even more nervous, not wanting to speak out of turn here, not wanting to speak at all! Tordrad was already sitting downstairs nursing a hangover and watching proceedings evolve in front of him. The soldier in him made him keep short hours aside for sleep. He stood out as different here, being a foreigner, this could get ugly he thought, especially as he could not speak Reikspiel.

Malvanius had looked at everyone once, but had not looked at anyone else twice, yet. The imposing figure of a man moved across to the bar and stood waiting expectantly before the barman. “Well?” he asked eventually, tired of waiting. The barman seemed scared and confused and answered, “You want a drink?”

At this moment it occurred to Tordrad that the barman looked a bit like a dwarf. He was clearly human, that much was obvious from his six feet of height but he seemed to remind Tordrad of an overgrown dwarf.

“A drink?” came the Witch hunter’s reply, “You seek to pervert the course of justice by plying my good mind with the devil’s lament? What do you have to hide?”

“Nothing…sir,” came the barkeep’s reply, “you just seemed to want something, so naturally I assumed…this being a bar.”

“This is no bar” the Witch hunter replied. “This is a den of dark desires and sin. Not only that, but you have the gall to display it in plain sight for all the good people of the city to see. You disgust me.”

The barman thought about this for a moment and plucked up the courage to speak, “I’m sorry you don’t approve of the name Sir, I’m happy to change it if that is your wish, but I’m also ready to help you in whatever investigation you’re involved in.”

“I was waiting for you to tell me about the murder. What do you know of it?”

“Murder? I don’t know nothing of any murder, when?”

“I was hoping you could tell me…tell me anything you can and I’ll be out of your way and on to someone else.”

The barman knew that this was a possibility for an easy way out. He had no idea about a murder but the potential for escape from its coming interrogation was an attractive proposition. However, if he made something up he knew he’d be lying. It was never a good idea to lie to the Witch hunters, in any situation, his grandpa had taught him. Those were his dying words when a Witch hunter put a sword through him all those years ago funnily enough. The barman stuck to his guns and didn’t lie. He answered, “I honestly know nothing of a new murder round ‘ere.”

The Witch hunter nodded in some satisfaction at this. He had baited a trap for the man. No one inside the building should know of the murders yet and if this oaf had taken the easy way out he would have been admitting to being in on it. “I still don’t like you, you’ll still need investigating but I sense the truth in you at least. That means that whatever other sick thing you’re hiding, will be found out all the faster while we look in the right direction.”

The room was beginning to fill up with a squad of Witch hunters. They wore the common city colours of the Altdorf order’s watch, but Malvanius’s garb was a mix of the usual dark tones along with bits of blue coloured lining and trimmings. Then of course there was the rank insignia he wore upon the chest of his long leather jacket. Finally there was the blue band he wore around his hat.

One of the Witch hunters that entered had the white robed woman from last night held firmly between his two hands. Malvanius looked around with a disturbingly pleased look upon his face. His subordinate let the woman go with the slightest almost unperceivable nod of their leader’s head.

Rissandrea rubbed her arms where she’d been roughly “escorted” here, dragged out of her bed in the middle of the night. Her hair was not in a bun like before, but down and in a dishevelled mess. Tordrad privately thought to himself how disgusting this treatment was but he was not shocked by it. His home land of Kislev also had Witch hunters in. It was a small blessing that he didn’t understand most of what the tall one, their leader was saying to the poor girl now or he might have lost his calm and freed her forcefully. It was at that moment that Maestro came downstairs eating an apple. He saw the crowd of worried patrons faces and said in a friendly manner, “oh gosh, is there some fun to be had this morning?”

Malvanius’s eyes narrowed as he looked upon the man. He looked deep into his eyes even from such a distance away as he was and perceived something about them. They were grey, but in their outline was a ring of purple - Most unusual for a normal noble dressed as he obviously was…for anyone in fact. He considered the possibility of stigmata and pondered upon it internally while outwardly he maintained his presence to the newcomer, “Is it tainted?” was all he asked the newcomer.

Maestro was chewing quite a mouthful of apple in his mouth, and held up the fruit in his hand, “I hope not, I’ve eaten half of it already, I didn’t see any maggots.”

“Not the apple you imbecile, the path you walk that brings you into my gaze.”

“The…stairwell?” Maestro began nervously looking at the stairs he stood upon incase of wood worm.”

Malvanius saw that this was genuine and began to get a little flustered. He quickly calmed himself. It had been a while since someone had got to him like this.

Tordrad’s palm was already over his face. As Maestro’s bodyguard it was his duty to protect the man no-matter what happened. He didn’t fancy the man’s silly manner getting him killed from being pulled into an un-winnable fight before they’d even set off on their trip.

The Witch hunter would often attempt to give people the merest suggestion of a question and let them fill the rest of the gaps for him, usually out of nervousness. It was a technique that normally worked on the general populace but not on these fools. He took a long look at the Kislevite but before he could speak he was interrupted by Maestro from behind, “Excuse me, umm yes, he’s with me. He’s my bodyguard yes.”

Malvanius didn’t turn around, he simply asked, “What concern is that of yours for what I wish to say to him? You don’t speak for him do you?”

Maestro replied instantly, with the chirpy spirit of a student even though his age didn’t fit the temperament, “Well no, nobody does, he can’t speak a word of Reikspiel.”

Malvanius felt his eye twitch. That was a bad sign. The situation was beginning to irritate him, to effect his pragmatic investigative mind. He uttered to himself a saying in the long dead classical tongue of the Empire, “

Maestro took another crunch of the apple, his long hair was lank and untreated, his beard was covered in apple pieces, “Ahh yes, a fellow scholar, ‘tis by Markus Tveid is it not?”

Malvanius raised an eyebrow, or raised nearly the whole eye socket at this man’s understanding of the finer language of the past. “Yes” he conceded, “you are indeed knowledgeable but how corrupt has that knowledge made you so far?”

Maestro beamed at the man happily and produced a piece of paper that the taller of the men could read even the fine print upon from where he was standing, his eagle eyes and thick eyebrows also suggested as such.

Maestro still replied because he didn’t know of the man’s skill at far reading, “Not that corrupt so far, I’m still only an Apprentice Wizard.”

With that the whole room gasped, including the barman. He dared to say “A wizard under my roof and I had no idea!”

“Not much of one yet!” Maestro argued, as if putting himself down was a good thing in this case.

Malvanius knew that this more than likely explained the man’s strange eyes. It meant he would be the bloodline of a powerful mage before him. He now had the guestbook in his hands and was regarding it like a school teacher in the middle of calling the morning registry for those students present or absent, “And what is your name, Wizard?” the final word had quite an aggressive bite on it. Maestro realised he’d given the man something else to hate him for.

“I am Maestro Rophel Illefescion in the flesh!” replied the wizard with a naturally occurring dramatic flair in his delivery.

The Witch hunter decided to throw a weak threat out there, “Well Apprentice Wizard, if I do not discover what I want to hear from you, I might yet interrogate you without the flesh.”

Even Maestro went quiet at that.

Malvanius looked content at last. “Some of you have already been interrogated, others we have discovered alibis for already, but this group of you here” he gestured to those he’d recently spoken to “you will come with me now - except for you innkeeper. Your wife testified to your whereabouts last night, but that’s more of her investigation...” This seemed to amuse Malvanius somehow but made the other man’s shoulders slump.

Rissandrea looked angry again, angry and tired. She had been interrogated in the jails for a few hours and dragged back here to the site where she was attacked last night.