The head of the watch met the party as they returned through the east gate to Stormdorf. The man had a thin, humorless face and a long-waxed moustache. A black leather eyepatch covered his right eye. His good eye had a piercing stare. He wore a black wide brimmed flat hat set at a rakish angle, and he wore a breastplate over black jerkin. His jerkin and his close-fitting hose were both fashionably slashed. His left arm ended in a stump at the wrist. A splendid sword of obvious superior craftsmanship dangled at his belt. He introduced himself as Arno Kessler. “What did you find? Should I expect any trouble from out that way?”
Rolf responded, “We took care of it. All of it.”
Captain Kessler looked in the cart where the lightning stone sat. “What’s that thing?”
“Stone taken from the beastmen.”
“Is it going to be any trouble?”
The party cast some dubious looks at each other, but assured that the stone wouldn’t be anything the watch had to worry about. Kessler tells Rolf he can get his wound looked at tomorrow by Rolf Messer, the barber-surgeon.
As explanations and niceties happened at the marketplace near the east gate, Zarkon decided to head back to the Hogshead Inn. He popped into the Thunderwater Tavern to search for his dancing partner, Denise. He found her, and most of the rest of the town, and she went with him to the Hogshead Inn to hear his story. He set Denise and Keila Cobblepot down at a table and told them everything. He even spoke well of the Holtzes.
A number of people at the market overheard the watch commander asking questions, and they started to crowd around the group. A voice in the crowd offered to buy the party a round at the Thunderwater Tavern. “You took care of it? They took care of it! Huzzah!!” The crowd might not have really been sure what “it” was, but it seemed to make Captain Kessler happy, so they ran with it.
Everyone besides Zarkon went to the Thunderwater Tavern.
When the party arrived at the Thunderwater, it seemed everyone in town was already there. And they were eager to hear the party’s exploits. First, Kraft told the party that while they were gone, she joined the town in a hanging of two sheep rustlers out on the Field of Verena. She was able to pick up a couple rumors, too. First, she was told the town has a pillory for anyone who needs time in the stocks, but murderers and persistent felons get the gallows out in the Field. Secondly, she heard that the last person they punished on the Field of Verena was a scholar. About a year ago, Lazarus Mourn, who turned out to be a Necromancer, was burned there on a pyre. Even the rain stopped that day! No grass has grown in the spot since that very day.
Caius told everyone at the Thunderwater Tavern of glorious battle and how they took down the beastman. Kraft was not there, and had not heard the story, so it was a good tale for the villagers and to get the missing party member caught up. When he mentioned taking the beastman leader’s axe, Rolf held the axe up for all to see. There was cheering from everyone in the room.
While everyone was busy, Nim ducked out to the stables to move the lightning stone from the small cart to Kraft’s larger cart.
After the tale of the defeat of the beastmen, the party was able to hear so rumors and stories about the history of the town. It seemed a lot of trouble happened in this relative nowhere. One common theme seemed to be undead. From the stories, years ago (at least 50 now) the town’s militia captain, Lothar Mauer, defeated a small vampire army outside of town near the River Tranig. You can see Lothar’s statue on Market Square.
As far as the local graveyard goes, there was the graveyard in town, but that was full. Plus, they said it was helpful to have the Garden of Morr outside the gates, in case the dead ever rose again like they did when the vampire army attacked.
Speaking of the Garden of Morr, the rain has never stopped falling over the Garden since Lothar was buried there. Sigmar himself weeps inconsolably over the grave of the hero.
“The rain? You know why the rain never stops, don’t you? Hundreds of years ago an evil sorcerer lived out on the Tempest Knap. The sorcerer angered the gods with his hubris, and they struck him down…him and his tower. They’re still angry to this day. That’s why the storms never stop.”
Then, there were two other rumors that seemed to stand alone. The first was that Stormdorf used to rely heavily on its upland flocks for revenue, but a hundred years ago goblin tribes drove most farmers from the hills.
Finally, the party heard that there was a wizard staying at the Lord Dorian Inn. Word was that he was from Altdorf. The townsfolk seemed to like him, as every Wellentag he teaches the local children their letters in the common room of the Thunderwater Tavern.
Not long after that rumor, the Wizard, Niklas Schulmann, walked in the front door.
Dressed in flamboyant midnight-blue robes, this young man’s high cowl, skullcap, and flowing cloak were decorated with esoteric golden sigils. A small telescope, an elegant dagger, and several scrolls hung at his belt, and his staff was topped by a clockwork representation of moons and planets orbiting a golden sun.
Schulmann had a handsome face with a forked black beard. His deep brown eyes had a haughty stare. He portrayed himself with smug self-assurance as an eminent wizard, a prodigy of the College of Magic in Altdorf…which he brought up any chance he could.
“Where are the ones who brought the stone?”
Warily, giving away nothing, Rolf invited Niklas to sit at the table as they tried to get a feel for him. Kraft was quickly dispatched to get Zarkon. Schulmann barely scowled as he dusted off the offered chair before sitting. He greeted the party and expressed great interest in the stone, being as polite as someone in such a higher station can be to a ragtag group of wanderers.
Nim covertly used his skills of Magical Awareness to verify Schulmann was, indeed, a wizard.
Zarkon immediately left the Inn for the Tavern. Just seeing Schulmann, Zarkon was in awe. He quickly asked about getting some training from the eminent wizard.
“In need of training, are you? Yes, yes! Do come on Wellentag when I teach the locals how to read!”
Zarkon assured Schulmann he could read. He actually could use some pointers on Battle Magic.
“No? Not reading? Magic? Well, we can’t just start out with Battle Magic. No, no. That would never do. Poor, poor education, that. I suppose you already have Identify Plants? That’s pretty much a given…” Zarkon did not have skills in Identifying Plants.
“No Identify Plants? That’s simply unheard of! What if you walked right by some Cloudberries without even knowing what they were! Appalling!”
“And I absolutely MUST insist on Rune Lore before any Battle Magic. That is non-negotiable! We will have you a right proper foundation in no time at all!”
The party decided to show Schulmann the cart, if only to change the subject. Zarkon was all-in, trusting Schulmann explicitly.
Niklas Schulmann gave the lightning stone a cursory examination. He then told the party he was an expert in ancient elvish, and he could translate the text. He only needed a day or two to decipher the script. The party was agreeable to let him take the stone back to his rooms at the Lord Dorian Inn, but Zarkon was not going to leave the stone’s sight. Incidentally, Zarkon had been trying to find a way to get into the Lord Dorian since they first arrived in town. This helped with all his goals.
The party transferred the stone out of Kraft’s cart and back into the smaller cart so Zarkon could haul it over to the Lord Dorian. Schulmann shared a bit of his goals on the way over. It seemed his elders at the College of Magic in Altdorf had sent Schulmann to find these stones, which together form a map pinpointing a source of magical powers they wanted investigated. Schulmann was certain that his dissertation on the subject would grant him tenure at the College when all was done. He was also certain that the party would be rewarded if they were able to discover all the stones.
Zarkon was gone, and the party at the Tavern wound down. The others decided there wasn’t going to be any more searching for Florian Wechsler or the guild ring that night. Everyone went to the Hogshead Inn to go to bed.
As people were starting to fall asleep that night, an ill wind swept through town, waking some up while giving others uncomfortable dreams. Nim and Zarkon felt a little sick to their stomachs. Zarkon and Schulmann told each other of visions they just had of the undead.
Not half an hour later, everyone on the west side of town was awoken by battering at the door of the Thunderwater Tavern. Nim went to the window to look down at the front of the Tavern. The owner, Sebastian Brenner, is also looking down out of his own window. There are three humanoid shapes banging at the door. Brenner curses at the louts, loudly. Even the soundest sleepers are awakened at this point.
The door to the Tavern crashed open, and Brenner disappeared from his window. Nim gathered the others and headed down. On the way over to the Tavern, the party heard the deafening blast of a blunderbuss. When they get to the Tavern doorway, they see Brenner behind the bar with his blunderbuss and two of his brothers fighting two zombies hand-to-hand. One zombie lies on the floor with its head blown completely off.
There were a few moments where party members had to overcome Fear of the walking dead before they could join the melee. When they did join, the Brenner brothers let the party take up the fight as they backed away to safety. Kraft recognizes the two zombies as the hanged sheep rustlers from the Field of Verena. To confirm, the two still had nooses wrapped around their necks.
It was a prolonged fight, but ended up not harming the party. Investigation of the third zombie showed that it wore the uniform of a guard. The party was heading outside to check the west gate when they heard more yells from outside. A purple robed old man was hobbling toward the group from the direction of the market, a look of terror on his ancient, wrinkled face. “It’s alive! It’s alive!”
They calmed him down enough to learn that the skeleton in his study has come to life. Nim led the party to the old man’s house, with Hektor sent to collect Zarkon. Zarkon declined to join the party at the study, stating the minor disturbance not worthy of his attentions.
Everyone else entered the old man’s house and found his study floor to ceiling with books. Somehow in and amongst all the books, there was an articulated skeleton (as one might find in a medical student’s room) hanging from the ceiling. It was flailing about madly, its teeth chattering. A few blunt whacks pulverized the bones.
The old gentleman thanked them profusely and introduced himself as Professor Kopfchen. He offered them his gratitude and a mug of steaming tea. They quickly accepted the tea, and then headed back out into the town to see if anything else was amiss.
They were near the graveyard, so decided to check it out for more undead. Nothing moved inside the graveyard in Stormdorf. The Garden of Morr was outside Stormdorf, and just a bit beyond safe distance in the middle of the night. The party checked on the west gatehouse.
They met Captain Kessler at the gate house. A quick examination found that the guard had been jumped and quickly killed. Tracks dragged to the house from the Field of Verena. Captain Kessler assured the party he had doubled the guard and nothing more could be done that night. His watchmen were sending everyone back to their homes. “Nothing to see here, go to your homes.”
The next morning, the party, including Zarkon, were all awakened in their rooms by a summons to meet the Captain of the watch at the steps of the townhall in one hour. Zarkon noticed that Schulmann had already awoken and left the apartments.
At the Hogshead Inn, the party heard murmurings at breakfast. It was said there was a vast army of the undead approaching Stormdorf, led by a Vampire Count determined to seek revenge for the defeat of his kind by Lothar Mauer 50 years ago.
The party was on time meeting Kessler at the steps of the townhall. The watch Captain bid them good morning, then dove straight into business.
“The burgomeister wishes to talk to you. I was surprised when he summoned me; the man hasn’t stirred from his room since that young lass committed suicide in the town well, Morr bless her. He wants a task performed, and in my opinion you’re the best for the job. Follow me, the burgomeister can tell you himself what needs to be done.”
Kessler led the party into the townhall, up the grand stairway in the reception hall. Just before he knocked on the heavy oak door on the second floor, it opened and Niklas Schulmann emerged, still talking over his shoulder.
“Yes, yes, it’s necromancy, but I’m afraid I really can’t be bothered – terribly busy. Just kill the necromancer and your problem is solved. Oh, hello, here are the heroes of Stormdorf! Splendid. So you shan’t need me at all.”
With that, Schulmann left and Kessler, with a snort of disgust, ushered the party inside. Within was a large office, a layer of dust over the floor and furniture. One of the oak-panelled walls was devoted to books, another to shelves of parchment and scrolls. A door exited in the opposite wall. A large rain-spotted bay window looked out over the market square. Slumped on a red leather armchair was Phillip Adler, the burgomeister, behind a cluttered desk. He was holding a small portrait of a beautiful young woman, smiling from the canvass. She had long raven hair and wore an elegant, purple dress.
Phillip Adler himself was in his late 40s, but looked older. His height was diminished by slouched shoulders, and his fine clothes hung untidily from his thin frame. Red-rimmed eyes peered from under receding grey hair. His gaunt, unsmiling face bore an unkempt beard, and a whiff of unwashed odor lingered about him.
“My dear Madriga,” sighed the burgomeister, staring sadly at the portrait. “She was buried in that dress.”
He reverently placed the portrait on the desk and turned towards the party, his eyes tired and bloodshot.
“Last night she came to me. Her flesh hung on her bones, her dress torn and decayed. She clutched the silver pendant in her skeletal hand, my last ever gift to her, and her blue lips moved. ‘Save me!’ she wept. I woke shivering, and I dared not sleep again.”
He looked from one member of the party to another, as if searching for answers. Zarkon also mentioned having disturbing dreams last night.
“I need to know what she means. I need Brother Grabbe to come to interpret my dream, and if need be, to lay her spirit to rest.”
“It doesn’t take a genius to guess that Herr Adler’s dreams and these abominations might be linked,” interrupted Kessler, sternly. “The smart money’s on Lazarus Mourn being involved – we burned him at the stake nigh one year ago, but if we’ve learned anything from last night it’s that the dead don’t always stay that way.
“Brother Grabbe – the priest of Morr who presides over the Garden a mile southwest of town – is the resident expert on both dreams and the walking dead. We need him here. I’d send some of my men, but for all I know the town’s about to be invaded by an army of corpses, and we’ve got no Lothar Mauer to save us this time. I can’t spare anyone. And I can’t just send some messenger boy – we have no idea of the situation at the garden. This could be dangerous.”
Adler thanked the party profusely and tearfully, shaking each person by the hand. Kessler escorted the party out of the townhall.
Kessler offered each party member 50 silver coins, not bad for a day’s work. When they spoke of needing missile weapons, he offered bows and arrows to those needing them, instead of the silver.
“I organize the watch and the militia. Bows and arrows are often more readily available to me than silver or brass.
“The cemetery is only a mile to the southwest. If you leave within the hour, you should easily be able to bring back the priest by early afternoon at the latest.” Kessler saluted the party and wished them luck.
As Kessler left, Schulmann approached – he must have lingered outside, waiting for them. He looked very tired, as if he had slept short and poorly. He made sure to tell everyone, not just Zarkon, that he dreamed a dead woman leading a dead army, and a dead hero rising from the grave, wielding a greatsword and clad head to foot in armor decorated with dragons.
Schulmann sensed that this hero may be the guardian of one of the elven stones he was searching for. He urged the party to bring him the stone if they found it, as it was vital for the investigations of his elders at the College of Magic in Altdorf.
“My work here is greatly important, and this task is well within your capabilities. I have seen it in the stars.”