We finally found that rotten wizard Etelka Herzen, or rather she found us. We were at the Shooting Star Inn and decided to check on the boat. On the way out the door, we bumped into none other than weasely Ernst Heidelmann. That one’s been busy since we left him too shy to say two words in a coach. We were on the way out, and he was on his was in, and he heard us talking, and said “about your boat…” Well, that’s all Larry needed to hear before he was pushing past and heading for the wharf. I thought I would listen to the fella, since he was last seen with Etelka and all, but Larry started yelling “where’s my boat?!” The rest of us rushed down to find out what the deal was.
The boat was gone, and Larry’s men were mulling about the wharf looking all caught between a rock and a hard place. They explained that our boat had been confiscated by Sergeant Kratz from Wittgenstein Castle for not paying a wharf fee when we docked. Filthy rotten snakes! Larry argued with them, but the men said the Sergeant brought 20 armed men to commandeer the vessel. This was the chaotic scene when our stuff starts plummeting out of the second storey of the inn. We looked up and there was Etelka, or her doppelganger, holding the miller’s granddaughter, our informant, captive and pointing a long stick at us.
Well, that wasn’t any good, her all threatening-like and pointing stuff at us, so I started back up the hill toward the inn. Just as I did, an explosion rocked the wharf behind me. Old Etelka had thrown a spell that cooked half the people on the wharf and charred two of them to death! I don’t need to be around when fireballs start exploding, so I continued up the hill to the inn.
My plan was to sneak up on her from inside. Well, partway up I see Ernst outside doing some spellcasting mumbo-jumbo, so I flattened myself on the hill out of his sight. Then I slowly crawled up to jump him. While I was going up, Ernst started coming down.
When Ernst was in just the right spot, I jumped out from behind a big rock and tried to tackle him. Well, the little blighter slid down the muddy hill away from me. But from there it was just the little man vs my fisticuffs. I kept him busy until one of the mercenaries and Gottlieb took him prisoner.
While I was busy keeping Ernst out of our trouble, Larry played the hero and cut Etelka’s leg off, killing her instantly. Everyone else came out OK, if just a bit singed.
It was time to grab our gear and get out of the “town” proper. We didn’t want to meet any follow-up attacks, from guards or from magicians, until we were good and ready…on our terms.
We laid low at the graveyard until Hilda said we should head up to the bandit camp. We left the wounded and followed the miller’s granddaughter through the woods. And the woods weren’t normal, either, just like the grasslands near the Barren Hills. Shapes moved at the edge of our sight, roots constantly tried to trip us up, and there were some twisted mushrooms with faces like little people. We were hesitant to carry on, thinking everything smelled of a trap. But we also have some tough hombres with us, and we carried on.
The bandit camp was completely different than the rest of the forest. The group couldn’t explain why, but it wasn’t creepy there. Creepy had encroached, but never entered their small territory.
The bandit camp contained 20 people, barely actual bandits at all, led by a woman named Sigrid. She was an ex-priest of Taal who had lost her husband to questionable circumstances. Now she loosely led the rag-tag group. We spent a lot of time with the bandits trying to come up with a viable plan for assaulting the castle. We could either scale the walls and try to let everyone in the front door, get a new boat and sail in through the river gate, or explore some tunnels the camp knew about but didn’t dare to take. As a backup plan, I started the arduous process of forging some documents to give Othmar legal claim to Wittgenstein castle.