Thursday, 25 February 2010

Their Fated Travels...(Chapter Three)

The WHFRP fan fiction continues as the group begins its investigation to save themselves!

Their Fated Travels…

By Robert James Freemantle

Plot Events by Lory Cozens

Chapter Three

Investigative Means?

Once they were clear of the area, the halfling introduced himself. “I am Tobias Wilwart, a master at the Celestial College of magic.”

Rissandrea nodded her head peacefully.

Tordrad pointed at himself and replied in his dark monotone, “Tor-drad”.

“Dieter”, came the trainee doctor’s unenthusiastic introduction as he did his best not to even make eye contact with the newcomer.

Maestro gestured emphatically like he’d done before in the Two Headed Goose, “I am Maestro Rophel…”

“I know who you are you nincompoop Maestro!” Tobias butted in, “I’ve been calling you by name haven’t I?”

Tordrad smiled. He enjoyed seeing this little man get flustered.

Tobias began to walk on and the others followed with him, like lost sheep.

Maestro started, “You…wait a moment, you say you are a master at the college? My College?”

Tobias answered sharply, “I am.”

Maestro was left dumbstruck at this, “How…can… that be? Halflings as you so clearly are the race of.”

“Oh thank you for noticing.” Interrupted Tobias.

Maestro continued without understanding the sarcasm, “That’s perfectly fine. Well Halflings are perhaps the least magical of people in the entire world! There has never and could never be a halfling wizard, so they say.”

“Indeed they are right as they say it.” answered Tobias smugly, enjoying the fact that this confused Maestro further still, as was clear upon his face.

The halfling peered at him through the thick lenses of his round rimmed spectacles and started, “It is for…” only to pause a moment, interrupted by spotting the strange spectacles that Maestro wore before continuing, “It is for that very reason that I am hired. It is useful to have an academic amongst the cosmological illumine who will never present the threat of magical backlash or even sudden involuntary spell casting, for those sensitive times…Of course my folk are also naturally resistant to magical effects from others too. That is why I am here for you.”

Maestro stared as if he half understood. Rissandrea saw this and asked Maestro, “What is that supposed to mean, Maestro?”

Maestro took a noticeably audible breath and spoke to the group, wanting to clarify things in his own words before the halfling could do it for him. “My magical attunement is a little unusual…My own spells though only considered petty magic focus on the blue wind, the Azyr lore of Heavens for their power. Eventually I will learn the actual spells of that school, to control elements of the sky and the stars. However, when I am around others who are magically imbued, I have a tendency to let their winds of focus, no-matter which of the lores - seep into mine. It’s quite involuntary I assure you. It might mean that instead of seeing the spell come out as lightning for example, I might see fire if around my master who is a bright wizard. It hasn’t been serious yet. I mean, the intent of the spell still comes out the same, but it’s usually just a different colour…heh heh…”

“It’s not just a matter of colour!” snapped Tobias, “Colour! You think that is all there is to it? Once you have learnt more of our college’s lore you will have a bigger variety of spells to draw from, and therefore greater danger of mishap because of this.”

Maestro felt embarrassment flush his cheeks, “Well I suppose there is that. My tutors call it ‘empathic channelling’. They say it’s quite a unique problem. So unique that before me, there has never before been a case of it. Heh…”

Tobias looked up at Maestro with one eye sharply focusing upon him, like a magistrate looking at a nearly convicted criminal.

Tordrad listened but could understand barely anything from what was being said between the others. He felt so alone, so distant. It was probably for the better though, he told himself. They were not like him. The people of the Empire could never truly understand what it was to be a Kislevite, to live the life and grow up in that cold and harsh land. He had understood the word “magic” though. In Kislev, male casters were thought of suspiciously. Kislevite males who became magically gifted would not be allowed to practice the art in their kingdom. Terrible things would then happen to them, he remembered. Only women were considered pure enough to safely wield magic. The Tzarina, supreme ruler of his country was so pure that the power she wielded was not from the winds of magic at all, but from the land itself - an ice magic, a different sort of power altogether. Tordrad knew this as he had spent quite some time in the presence of the great lady…but that was in the past. That was a time that was long behind him now. Tordrad considered Maestro to be dangerous, by his people’s standards. He silently told himself that if he saw any element of foul chaos ever mutate in the man, if he saw any taint come about him at all he would slay him immediately, regardless of how much he had been paid to protect him. Tordrad inwardly challenged Maestro to prove him wrong. He hoped he would…sometimes he hoped he wouldn’t. That was usually when the wizard would blather on and make his head hurt from senseless talking. Though he couldn’t understand much of it, he always knew from other people’s faces that his suspicions were true.

Tobias continued, “I have been instructed to make sure that you leave the city as promptly as possible. At which point our paths will part I assure you.” The halfling was quick to make that particular point and continued, “Unfortunately that means helping you out with your current predicament. The masters wanted someone to give you one last initial assessment, seeing as you had remained in the city one last night. I am the safest candidate to deliver that final report before you leave. After all, I have no magic to interfere with yours as you attempt to…deal with this situation you’ve foolishly gotten yourself into.” His last words were particularly scornful and snobbish. Tobias promptly pulled out a notebook and began taking notes in it, as if this new point he’d angrily made inspired him to write something already.

Maestro stared at the notebook nervously and then looked back at the group, “Well there we are then, uhh, so, where do you all think we should start our search?”

Tordrad was quickest to respond, “Tav-ern!”

Maestro and Rissandrea looked a little disappointed with that. It made them realise that they were really a team of four, as far as this murder investigation went.

Tobias replied, “No, I think your shaved ape may well have it. That’s a perfectly good place to start.”

Rissandrea looked questioningly at the halfling who continued, “Not to drink you silly girl, to gain information. One of those men is a sailor. He must frequent other bars in the area. I know of one in this district that captains tend to frequent together. Perhaps we can find this man’s superior.”

The group decided to follow Tobias. At least someone knew what to do. This seemed to make him all the more smug. Maestro decided that he didn’t like this fellow. He’d be glad to be away from him after all of this.

They arrived at a tavern that they couldn’t discern a name from by looking at on the outside. A sign did hang from the building, but it had been defaced with a strange black liquid. Perhaps very old and dry blood thought Tordrad.

Rissandrea became nauseous at the thought of entering yet another place of drinking, where men would become uninhibited. This usually meant stupid as well, she thought.

The halfling squinted at the building with a smile, “This is the place, the nameless tavern. I was instructed of the place before coming to meet you.”

The group peered at Tobias with a look of surprise. He answered their questioning gaze, “Once your situation became apparent last night, a master wizard did use his gift of future sight, thus divining that we would end up coming here and informed me of such. I then did my research about the place before coming to meet you. It shall be the first step on the path to…getting you out of Altdorf, Maestro.”

Maestro sighed and slumped his shoulders at this. Yes he thought, that did indeed sound like the way the masters of his college operated.

Tobias continued, “And before you ask, no they saw nothing more. We were pressed for time as it was.”

Dieter listened and said nothing. He found the idea of future sight interesting. It reminded him of his ability to divine in dreams. He considered that Morr had perhaps selected him for a greater purpose, but for Dieter that was unacceptable. He would never follow someone else’s purpose - even a god. No, he would follow his own course. He had ample proof of what letting fate carry you along achieved. It created unhappy bullied people like Maestro, he thought.

Tordrad was first through the door, followed by Tobias. Next come Dieter. Lastly Maestro and Rissandrea entered together at the back, feebly pushing the door open between the pair of them. They both instinctively waited by the entrance. Tordrad went straight to the bar and ordered vodka. He had not eaten breakfast yet he considered, and asked for a raw egg which he cracked in it and drank down. Luckily the Kislevite word for egg was similar to the Reikspiel word for it. It had then just been a case of Tordrad stopping the barman from putting it into a pot by taking it from his hand. The barman had been the only staff member working at this hour.

The others looked around the bar. A few men sat at tables here and there, slumped heavily over them or drooping down in their seats, still effected by the last night’s drinking.

Tobias cleared his throat and spoke loudly to the bar as a whole, “Is there a man here who recognizes a ship mate by the name of Marlbrow? He would be a man in his middle years. Always smoked a cigarette.”

One man grunted a little, from a seat further along the aisle off to the right. He seemed to not care enough to actually speak or rise from the chair though. Tobias and Dieter proceeded to walk over to him.

Maestro walked into the tavern a little more and looked at Rissandrea again. When she looked across at him he quickly looked away. She had noticed him doing this since they first met. She was used to men behaving bizarrely around her, but never one to actually look nervous like this man did when he glanced at her. She wanted to get to the bottom of this. Maestro inched away from her and walked over towards Tordrad at the bar.

The human trainee doctor was small by human standards but he too was much larger than the halfling. They had looked at the man at the table and seen that his eyes were now closed again. Dieter shook the man’s arm, “Are you alright? Perhaps I can help? I have medical knowledge.”

“Whuu?” came the captain’s reply, “Bahh, doctor is it? Sod off. The day Cap’n Barbickle needs helpin’ after splicin’ the main brace allowed of his rank, is the day he don’t deserve it no more.” With that, the man leaned back in the seat and started snoring loudly, with his eyes still open.

Dieter looked a little cross and frustrated at this. Tobias saw this on his face and raised a calming hand. “No Dieter…what, what is your surname anyway?”

“De’ath” came the man’s reply in between the captain’s awake snoring.


“De’ath!” Dieter stated again trying to keep his cool.

“Yes well…well I was going to say, we can’t handle this in a way where we get frustrated and agitated in our tone. It will agitate this man here too.”

With that, the halfling turned to face the captain straight on, braced himself and delivered a quick short sharp kick to the man’s shin.

The snoring sound took a quick upturned tone, “Snooorrrraaaark” as the man sat up attentively with eyes wide.

“What was that?” asked the man in the seat.

Tobias replied, “I’m not sure, I came over to ask you a couple of questions and you seemed to jump awake. Perhaps you were having a strange dream.” Before adding, “What do you remember of it?”

The captain considered this properly and blinked his eyes five times quickly trying to remember. “Ah” he said at last, “Fer some reason I ‘ave a passin’ recollection o’ thinkin’ o’ Marlbrow. He’s me second ta half cousin ‘n’ shipmate ‘im.”

“What a coincidence” Tobias said humouring him.

Dieter looked at the drunkard as if he was a pathetic waste of space as Tobias continued, “It is strange indeed, very strange that you should be dreaming of him Sir because I bring you news of that very person.”

The man looked expectantly at Tobias with an impatient gestured hand. The halfling took the cue and continued, “I bring you most terrible news. He has died Sir.”

“Died?” the captain exclaimed. “You must have someone else, the man has skin thicker than the sails of our ship.”

Dieter answered the man, privately inside his own head. His internal reply was: Well that is good news then, because you are going to be able to use it for your ship now, with him being a corpse as he is. He was very glad he hadn’t said it, but it amused him to think it.

Tobias replied, “I’m sorry Sir, it must have come as a shock, but I saw the body myself. I am an official of the city after all.”

Captain Barbickle looked at the halfling, summing him up and came to a conclusion of agreement. Aside from his clothing, his snooty self assured way of speaking was enough to convince him of that. A look of sorrow came over his face. The captain considered never getting to have a drunken fight with the man ever again and it was appalling. He clenched his bottom lip upwards in a sign of sadness.

Tobias continued, “Yes, it is terrible and it was a dreadful murder too. Chaos symbols were involved…”

The captain became interested when the halfling had said this, “Chaos you say?”

The halfling nodded.

Dieter decidedly asked, “Do you perhaps remember anything that could help us determine who his killer might be? Had he been under suspicion of mixing with chaos cults or the like recently?”

The captain nodded as if he knew something.

Dieter stated, “If you know something, tell us. The ruinous powers are your enemy too. We are on the same side.”

The captain stared at the bar, considering if it was too late or perhaps too early to have another drink. He wasn’t quite sure what the time was right now. He didn’t want to risk looking at the window, it looked bright. That would perhaps suggest day he thought and then saw the look of concerned anticipation on the faces of the two who were bothering him here.

“Alright, if it will get me some peace.” He began, “Old Marlbrow’s friend, a landlubber who had grown up with him here, well I started to have my concerns about him recently. There were rumours about him…you know?”

“No, I am afraid I do not, please enlighten me Sir” said Tobias.

“Oh come on, you know?” started the captain, “That he was into the sex scene around here.”

Dieter considered that this was taking too long and they didn’t have all day…he hurried the conversation along, “A sex club, connected to a pleasure cult perhaps?”

The captain nodded. “Well, it’s not a sure thing, but men who frequented that place too long were often found attending much darker places, after getting offers, you know, from mysterious strangers who’d approach ‘em.”

Tobias asked, “This friend, what was his name?”

The captain answered, “Hal Fausten is his name.”

Tobias gripped his beautiful notebook with its ornate carvings upon it and confirmed, “Yes, well that is the name of the other dead man.”

The captain looked truly shocked at that and added, “Look, I’m sure there’s more to it than I know, or want to know, an I’m startin’ to sober enough to realise that it’s better the less I know. My ship ain’t set to sail for another two days. In that time a man can find a knife in his ribs from knowing too much.”

Dieter considered the captain’s words privately and spoke, “Then we will leave our line of questioning at that. Thank you for your assistance. We will be gone as soon as you tell us the address of this…club.”

The captain seemed unwilling to speak its name, instead grabbing for the halfling’s notebook. Tobias took exception to this and held it firm, despite the man’s tugging at it. A stern look of requested common sense came from Dieter. Tobias let it effect him and he loosened his grip. In truth, Dieter already knew the address of this club, but it wouldn’t do the others knowing that he knew of it, he assured himself.

The captain wrote the address into the page as Tobias lamented his fine book being touched by such filthy unwashed hands.

As soon as the book was returned to him, they made their way to the door and called the others. Tordrad drank down his vodka in one and came outside to join them.

Notes were compared and the next destination was set. As soon as it was revealed that they were going to a strip bar, Dieter remained silent, Maestro had managed a quavering expression, Rissandrea looked horrified and stated that she would have to wait outside. Maestro agreed and considered that he should do the same. Tordrad had cheered loudly and said something crude in Kislevite. Tobias sighed long and expressively.

The walk took them quite some time. The middle of the day was looming up ahead of them already but eventually they had arrived at their destination. It had looked like any other building in the run down area. That’s because it kept that appearance to maintain its business being able to operate under the radar. Only those who wanted it would look hard enough to find it and finding it was strictly word of mouth.

Maestro reminded the group, “I don’t want to go in here. I would rather delve into a tomb filled with Nehekaran bodies than enter here! No if Rissandrea can wait outside, so can I.”

Tordrad looked at him questioning the man’s masculinity. This one seemed to be a bit too concerned, even for a weakling like a wizard.

As the group approached the door, a well built man dressed in black who had been stood outside came over to meet them and asked, “What can I help you with?”

Tordrad indicated a finger towards the door. The man nodded his head sarcastically back, what else could he want?

“Alright” he started, “Only nobles may enter here. This one amongst you,” and he pointed to Maestro, “you’re a noble I can tell, you’re the leader of this group are you?”

Maestro took a moment to realise that the large man was talking to him. Dieter elbowed him sharply in the arm from the back which made the wizard jump and begin speaking immediately, “Ah yes, they are my entourage my good man.”

It was then that he realised that he had been cornered into having to enter now, or else no one would get in.

Rissandrea waited outside as the others went into the inconspicuous enough looking building.

Inside, it looked like a normal bar. They could see that the interior was dimly lit, with red and white lighting barely giving indication of the floor space around them. There were too many shadows in the club for Tordrad’s liking.

Dieter led the way, taking the initiative to move over to the coat depository cupboard. He began looking through the coats at once.

Tobias looked around and noticed that there were quite a number of people in there, more than he had expected at this time of day. They were busy with discussions amongst themselves, card and rune stone games or just leaning back listening to the weak warbling skinny woman singing softly on a tiny makeshift stage to the left of the bar. Her clothes looked dirty and ragged, as if she had been dragged here straight from a kitchen somewhere and made to sing for them. Maestro doubted that this could be the case though…

Tobias understood Dieter’s idea and helped him in his search of the coats. Maestro didn’t even care. He was more concerned with what was going on around him.

Tordrad kept his eyes fixed on one place, a section of wall with nobody in his line of sight, but it was a spot that his peripheral vision could perceive the rest of the club from on both sides, just not with any great detail.

“That’s one is damp.” Said Tobias as he ruffled one coat in particular.

“What is its ticket number?” asked Dieter.

“Good thinking” replied Tobias, “Number twenty-three” he added. Dieter nodded solemnly in response.

Maestro’s eyes focused on something strange across the room. An innocent looking man that was moving towards a back room had pulled a brown leather glove back to reveal the back of his hand, the skin of which was tattooed with the symbol of Slaanesh.

Maestro’s heart began beating faster, as another man waiting at the exit saw this and gave the first man an envelope. He then went through the opened door and disappeared into darkness.

Maestro hurriedly told the others what he had seen and it was soon decided that he and Dieter should proceed after the man, on Dieter’s insistence. The other two were forced to agree and decided they would keep checking the coats. Whoever owned them will have been out in the rain last night and for some reason had decided to stay at the club, perhaps laying low thought Tobias.

As they approached the door the man had left through, Dieter whispered to Maestro out of the side of his mouth, “Stop looking so nervous, you’ll blow our cover.”

Maestro for a moment looked even more nervous and then corrected himself appropriately.

The security guard waiting at the door hadn’t believed it, but laughed to himself. He was used to seeing nervous nobles entering this area. He gave them a nod. Both men nodded back politely as was expected of them, they thought.

Dieter opened the door and was surprised to see a short passage that ran on for perhaps only six feet before ending in a black velvet curtain that went all the way down to the richly carpeted floor.

Dieter gestured with his head as if to say, come on, and pushed through the curtain. Maestro followed with much trepidation.

In that cramped space, both men had realised that the other had about them a curious smell, hard to identify but unlike anything either of them had known before.

As Maestro pulled the curtain back, he saw Dieter already walking into the room, unbothered by the half naked women walking around him. The patrons weren’t likely to notice him either, with their eyes firmly being elsewhere.

Dieter quickly moved forwards and took a half full glass of some orange coloured drink from an empty table so that he would have a prop in hand to blend in with.

Maestro kept his distance from Dieter, knowing that he they split up they would stand out less. He tried his best not to look at the topless women spinning seductively around the poles on stage, to music provided by a band of miscreant weasel faced traveller types.

The man they had seen previously was over by a corner talking to a second man, smiling enthusiastically. Dieter was closer to them but his eyes were fixed down and away, somewhere near the floor. Even though it would have been out of earshot for most people, Dieter was able to overhear some of the conversation, a particularly skilled ability at hearing that he decided he wouldn’t share with anyone else, yet.

Maestro was watching the men and trying his hardest to understand what they were saying. He had managed to lip read several phrases: “Temple of Verena” and “today” were two in particular that caught his attention.

Soon after the two men left the room together.

A short while after they had departed from the room, Maestro and Dieter made eye contact and established at a distance that they should leave now.

Upon getting back to the rest of the group they confirmed that the two men had passed through the bar area and left out through the front door.

Dieter mentioned that he had overheard them talking about daemons and that today was the day. Maestro quickly compared this to what he had been able to lip read.

Finally Tobias explained that they had found a second damp coat. It had the number seventy six on it. He quickly referenced these numbers against the visitors log book as Dieter and Maestro kept the book keeper busy and they found that the log in times were suspiciously late last night. What really did it, was when he turned the page and saw that the two men who had logged their coats out just now were numbers twenty three and seventy six.

The entire group walked outside where a concerned looking Rissandrea was remaining inconspicuous across the street by standing underneath a fruit and vegetable shop’s canvas roofing, protecting the stalls set up outside and bathing the area in a lot of shadow.

Rissandrea quickly made her way to the others and surprised them all by speaking first, “Those two men who just left, I know them. They are members of the cult of Verena.”

The others looked surprised but grateful for this knowledge. It confirmed that the information they had learnt pieced together in a way that was suspicious. They realised as one that they should investigate the Temple of Verena at once. Tobias stated as much and there were no objections.

They set off immediately, with Rissandrea showing them the way.