Altereuropa, Into Drachenheim

The Adventure Begins
Scene-setting

THE SCENE:

As the Curtain readies to rise on our Drama, Six diverse and hitherto unrelated figures find themselves brought, by chance or by fate, to the Goal of the Prince of Mirenberg, Forced Companions by Circumstance.

But before we see how these reluctant Companions fare, let us take a moment to see how it was that they got there, and who these Six Strangers, Noble, Base and Uncouth, really are…

It is the Year 2500 3E, and it has been roughly 1500 years since the Second Flow of the Third Era- An Event which saw the Emergence of the Concordate and the end of Free Arcane Magic, an Event which saw the Western Lands ravaged and forcibly united into their current configuration. Little is remembered of these events, save by the Dwarves and Elven Bards and Minstrels. The Dwarves keep their own silence on these great events, and the Elves sing Great Sagas and Ballads, full of flower and beauty, but little fact or significance.

The Humans remember these times through the Canticles, recorded Great Deeds of Saints, Heroes and Martyrs. The Gnomes write the Canticles, and rewrite them as and when needed, to keep society’s moral fibre strong.

War- Total War, that is- has not been seen in many decades, with the Last Great Crusade being the 7th Crusade against the East- a Drive made by the Knights Executor from their Headquarters in Pomeranen to destroy the Lich King of Novogorsk once and for all. The Crusade was a success, but Novogorsk remains a den of iniquity, and independent of Western control.

Prince Albrecht von Mirenberg was on that Crusade, and the Events that transpired on it will contribute to our tale…

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Our Humble Cast
PCs

The Sisters in Selune’s Service

It was early in the Spring of 2500 3E that 2 long-time friends found themselves travelling together the Long Road towards the Dacian Borderlands, to join an Elite Unit of the Morean Empire, preparing a crucial deep-strike against Ostermark. These Two were as like Sisters, and they were Eirian Tsimiski and Eliaenora, named Firefox for her skills as a Divine Mage who could channel the element of Fire.

It was their first real millitary assignment, and they were carefree in spirit. But their caravan, indeed, the entire thrust of the attack, had been anticipated. Through means both mystical and treacherous, the Elite Unit had already been detected, and even as the Sisters in the service of Selune wound their way through densely wooded trails, a significant force of Ostermark Uhlans had engaged the Moreans, and forced the Elite but numerically inferior force to scatter.

But strangest of all was the force of Knights Executor, who came that day on a very specific mission with very specific orders. Two Sisters were demanded, baring the mark of the Moon and its Flame. At the same time that Osterlander Hussars were battling furiously with Imperial Khataphraktoi, the Knights in black attacked, discplined mounted crossbowmen cutting down escorting sentries, before riding in at the charge, war maces held high to crush the skulls of weak dark elf males.

Through cleverness, divinely-granted skill, and uncannnily accurate information, the Two Sisters found themselves, despite furious resistance, the last survivors of their caravan, and the bound prisoners of the Knights Executor.

Treated with the bare minimum of civillity, the dour millitary zealots escorted the captured Preistess and Divine Mage, nullifying their abilities to escape by safeguarding their divine focuses, and by excericising brutal efficiency in keeping them weak and well-guarded and well-watched.

For Two Weeks the Sisters travelled together, through dark forests and across wild hills, crossing far beyond Ostermark and into the Heimmark. They were then put into Iron Wagons, shut off from the light, and kept seperate from one another.

Another miserable, long, agonizing week passed, untill finally, the silent rumbling of the Iron Wagons stopped, and they were handed from the care of the black-tabarded Knights to the colorfully-attired guards of the Prince of Mirenberg. They were his Prisoners, Their crime being their existence. With the careful, and somewhat lustful, attentions of a Concordate Magi, the Prisoners were taken to a large holding cell in the Prince’s dungeons, there to await their new captor’s pleasure.

The Questing One In the Winter of 2499 3E, The entire Fuhrhardt Trading Family was brutally murdered in the City of Danzen, as they gathered to prepare for Sunfall, the annual winter festival marking the lowest point of the year. The only surviving witness was a totally shell-shocked young kitchen boy, who told confused stories of a man of grey rags, dancing amongst the Family and Servants, like a Fool at Morris Day, except in each hand he had a long, wickedly serrated blade.

His story was barely credible, but when half a Watch Patrol was wiped out after spotting a similar figure murdering whores in an alleyway, the authorities knew that they had a serious problem. They turned to one of their best- a brooding, mature Watchman who had a reputation for efficency and integrity. He was given the dangerous task of finding and bringing this Grey Dancer- as he had become known- down.

Little did he know to what ends his journey would take him.

Lars Surtrson, Urban Ranger, began his investigation in the sordid Harbour Slums of Danzen, but the Grey Dancer always seemed to be one murderous step ahead of him, mockingly leading the skilled Watchman on a wild goose chase.

Eventually, the Dancer’s trail led out and south- into the mess of petty states that make up the rest of Heimmark. Reluctant to leave Danzen, but equally determined to apprehend this murderous phantom, Surtrson applied for permission to leave and track this strange ragged man. He was given it, but a warning- although Silesia is wealthy and stable, much of the rest of Heimmark is not. A wilderness of petty borders, robber barons, bandit lords and hostile, suspicious peasents awaited him. Tracking the Grey Dancer would not be easy.

Living rough, pausing only rarely, the Hunt began. Surtrson was determined to bring this strange serial killer to justice, no matter the cost. Maybe the Dancer reflected his own personal demons, maybe he was under some strange geas, or maybe he was sick of the ease in which people lik the Dancer could do as they please in lawless Heimmark. Whatever the reason, Lars followed him far, far into the south, crossing dozens of states, narrowly avoiding patrols, toll booths, roaming bandits, and crossing thick wilderness. But somehow, he was always able to follow the Dancer, who left body parts wrapped in strange grey rags, sometimes arranged in grisly pathsigns, as a deliberate means of enticing Lars on with the chase..amongst other grisly, peculiar calling cards… mocking and coyly leading the Watchman on.

The Urban Ranger never ran out of determination or patience, but his luck did. His trail took him into Mirenberg, and towards Mirendorf itself. For the first time in over a month, the Grey Dancer was deliberately leading him towards a highly populated area- an area where he was just another Freeman rogue, little better than the Bandits that ruled the wilderness.

That night, his sixth sense flaring, he caught his elusive adversary in the act at last- an entire Inn, the Prancing Goat, a bloodbath by the strange ragged dancer’s whirling blades. Surtrson launched himself at the savage murderer, determined to kill or capture this menace at last. But the figure easily deflected his blows, his mad laughter muffled by the rags that shrouded his face. Capering easily out of the Ranger’s reach, Lars was distracted from further pursuit by the sudden arrival of the Mirendorf City Guard- men loyal to the Prince.

Yet, like a flickering shadow, the Grey Dancer had escaped. And Lars found himself amidst a slaughtered tavern, heavily exerted, both blades drawn. The evidence against him was circumstantial at best, both most damning of all was his lack of ‘travel papers’, and obvious foreign dialect.

Knowing better than to resist, he surrendered to the Watch, who put the boot in something fierce. These men were not the proud Lawmen of Danzen, but hired, uniformed thugs, charged with keeping the peace with the same methods as those they combatted. They dragged the Ranger to the Cells, and was thrown into a mass holding cell. He was not alone, and was suprised to find he shared his space with a sad, elven woman. He would be even more suprised when they threw in his old accquaintance Mira a few hours later, and then, a day or two later, two dark elven women.

It was going to be interesting…

The Red Knight

In the Spring of 2500 3E, Gerard Laroche was beginning his assignment as a true Paladin of the Knights Vigile, and was eager to begin learning what it really meant to be a warrior in the cause of the Protector. He doubted not his skill nor his courage, but he doubted he could maintain the Virtue of Patience.

His Superiors, for reasons best known to him, had seemed eager to send him to learn how to be a Paladin, in what seemed the furthest corner of nowhere. He chided himself for such unworthy doubts. Clearly, he reasoned, it was only by bringing Law and Order to the Frontiers could he prove himself in the eyes of the Protector.

He arrived at Lachbad, the Fortress-town maintained by the Knights Vigile here on the Borders between Dacia and the Ostermark, and was suprised to find it in a commotion. Apparently a force of Knights Executor had ridden through here but a day previously, on some unknown mission, and had commandeered some strange wagons on the way.

The Knight-Provost was a grim man, but he soon cheered up upon reading the sealed order Gerard Laroche had brought. Clearly, Gerard thought, they spoke glowingly of his prowess as a Paladin, and the Provost was in need of such Champions.

“We have need of…men of your mettle, Sir Laroche.” said the Provost pointedly. “The damned Dark Elves are planning something to the south, and we have to help locate the bastards for the Ostermark Reichsprince. But we have another damn problem- Been getting strange reports from up in the Hills. We need you, oh mighty Paladin, to check em out.”

It was this Quest which would make his name, and he was determined to prove himself worthy. “I will not fail the Order, Sir Provost.” he bowed stiffly, and rode off, to investigate these Reports of strange doings in the Lachenbad Hills.

Two Weeks later, his head spinning, he wakes in a dimly lit cell. It is a Nobleman’s hold, and is sparsely yet comfortably furnished, and even has clean rushes on the floor. There are candles on the small wooden table. Struggling to remember, flashes of memory enter the Paladin’s memory- a circle of stones, a rearing black horse, and a circle of masked men. The cell door opens, and a man in unfamilliar tabard cheerily bids him to come forth. “Rise and shine, Sir Laroche. Got a fine Quest for you. Come this way, you have to meet your travelling companions.” Head still swimming, he reluctantly nods. Was it possible he had gotten drunk? Was he dreaming? He could not be quite sure, but the men seemed friendly enough, and were perhaps local Heimlanders. He was sure his memory would come back soon…

Shadow’s Daughter

The Spring of 25003E brought great change to Danzen, a City broiling with unseen tensions. The City Watch found its resources stretched. It seemed the murders committed by the Grey Dancer were part of a larger pattern, touching off social tensions and causing widespread civil disorder.

Mira Brunic, a streetsmart rogue and skilled runner for the Thieve’s Guild, noticed this, and was confident she could help her old friend, Lars Sutrson. The trouble is, she had no idea where he was. Before she could begin making preperations to try and track him, however, she was given an urgent mission by the Guild. The recent deaths of a family of smugglers had apparently endangered a lucrative drugs trade the Guild was running on the docks, and she and a few others were to go in and make sure the dealers remembered who was boss. Her role was a simple one-spy on the dealers without their knowledge, and report everything back to her Nightmaster.

But something went wrong. She got to the dock warehouse where the “inspection” was to commence. Her Taskleader, Journeyman Thief Krastoff, was there alone, apparently unaware of her imminent arrival. He was passing something to the dealers, the other “inspectors” nowhere to be seen. She was shocked at the blatant treachery. Nobody crossed the Guild. Certainly not someone as highly placed as Krastoff.

Slinking away to report her grave findings to the Nightmaster, she left just in time to witness a City Watch raid, which smashed into the warehouse, a dozen armed and armoured Watchmen armed with clubs and catchpoles moving swiftly to neutralize the dealers and capture the Journeyman. It seemed somebody else had betrayed the betrayers.

But Krastoff was her Taskleader, and worse, a Thieve’s Guild Journeyman. This sort of crackdown could endanger his entire Covey of Apprentinces and Foundlings. Especially if he’d gone rotten, and was willing to sell his knowledge to avoid the Wheel.

As she returned to the Nightmaster’s Den, she realized that the Guild would have to move her. She was considerably suprised to find the Nightmaster accompanied by a shrouded figure she had never seen before, one whose face was completely obscured. “Your early, Mira.” said the Nightmaster, suprised. She was about to speak, but the shrouded figure raised a black-gloved hand, and spoke, in a gravelly, harsh voice. “No, she is on time. Make your report.” A little taken aback by the figure’s interruption, and wondering if he was one of the Legendary Twilightmasters, or even a Guild Fox. She made her account of the night’s incredible events as quickly and as detailed as she could, with the Nightmaster listening intently. Finally,frowning, he looked edgewise, oddly, at the shrouded man. “It seems circumstances, grave as they are, favour you, Mira. It seems they have need of you in the Mirenburg Den. You will follow this Gentleman here south. We need to relocate you anyway- It’s not safe.” His eyes hardening, the Nightmaster glared angrily, briefly, at the Shrouded Man, who did not respond. “I have to deal with this matter. I’ll leave you with…Mr.Noman here.” Leaving swiftly, Mira found herself alone with the gravel-voiced, faceless man. “Pack swiftly, Young Mira. We have work for you in Mirenberg.”

Her Journey was largely uneventful, and she travelled in disguise as a Travelling Maid, as part of the Shrouded Man’s- Nemo the Merchant, was the alias he went by-Caravan. She had not done much travelling in her life, and Mira was amazed at the resources this strange figure, who did not like to be seen in public or daylight, evidently commanded. She made a few attempts to question him, but he skillfully misdirected her or outright ignored her efforts, reminding her in his gravel-voice that she was under his direction now.

When she finally arrived in Mirenberg, she was temporarily distracted by the excitement of a new city, a new vibe. It was much smaller than Danzen, and seemed to be run in a much more brutal manner by its Ageing Prince. The place was ruled by the Iron Fist rather than by any sort of organized City Watch, and Mira realized that she would have to learn a whole new way of thieving if she was to thrive here.

A week after her arrival, she heard of some violent murders, and realized with shock that it was the Grey Dancer. Amazed at the luck, she wondered if perhaps Lars might not be too far behind. She decided the only way to find out was to track the Grey Dancer herself, and she tried to become friendly with the Shrouded Man’s network, but things were different here, and she was the outsider.

She recieved a tipoff about a place called the Prancing Goat. Hurrying there, she found it cordoned by the City Guard, who were not letting anyone in. Determined to find out what was going on, she stepped in to ask the Sargeant what was happening, pretending to be a concerned common woman. The Sargeant looked at her oddly, and then called over another Guardsman. They then grinned, and she realized with a sinking feeling that she was known. With preternatural speed, she ran in the opposite direction, only to run straight into a Black-robed Mage of the Concordate. He leered at her sinisterly, and raised his hands. With shock, she realized she was paralysed from the neck down, and only the air was keeping her up. “How convenient! It seems we wont have to raid their little lair afterall. Bring her to the Castle. She shouldn’t struggle…much…” The Mage snickered evilly.

Laughing nastily, the Guards manhandled her into a cart, making sure to get themselves hefty handfuls of her person. Although luckily, neither of them seemed incline to take further advantage of her paralysed condition.

Her magical paralysis wore off once she entered the Castle, but by then escape was impossible. The portcullis slammed behind her, and they unloaded her in a broad courtyard. Grabbed roughly by both arms, she was swiftly surrounded by a large force of guardsmen. She regarded them coldly, Wondering how far these uniformed thugs were willing to go. She was relieved and alarmed to see the Mage again, chuckling sinisterly. “Maybe later. The Prince demands her immediate incarceration. He has another batch soon on the way.” With obvious reluctance, the guards escorted her into the main castle, along the darkened corridors, down a flight of steps, and to the group holding cells. Rudely deposited on the rush-strewn floor, She was amazed to behold an old friend in the gloom. Although they talked much, and tried to converse with their other prisoner, They found they could do little but wait in silence. However, A week later, The Guards came in force again…

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