24th Of Jahrdrung 2512
It was only after fearful hesitation and much ponderment that I decided to make my way back to the grim, wonderful city of Altdorf. If I’d been told but a few months ago I would be chasing up work detailed on a tattered shred of parchment skewered to a pub noticeboard in Carroburg, I doubt I would have believed it. But, such is life. Not all things can be determined in advance by consideration of patterns in the beads of an abacus. Particularly not the strange whims of the heart.
My journey toward Altdorf was, for the most part uneventful until I reached a rather run-down coaching inn, simply named The Coach And Horses. I arrived early in the evening, and, tired from the road, I barely noticed a wagon, bearing down on me like a beast. Myself and a few other weary travelers were almost mown down by the road-hog.
As is often the case with victims of traumatic incidents, we bonded over the incident, and sat together over some ale and rather simple vittles. The group comprised:
Brusche; A rather brusque but extremely straight-talking dwarf. Stout of body and honest of aspect, I developed a quick respect for this gentleman. His demeanor reminded me of some of the more noble, stoic war veterans who I used to occasionally collect tax from. They were among the most dependable payers I ever met, despite their limited means.
Bad Milk; A seemingly dreamy young creature, interested in youthful pursuits of face-pulling and music. Bad Milk impressed me greatly with her ingenious and tender pan-pipe playing. I’m no critic, but I felt as though with a little more discipline and technical ability, she could easily perform at courtly events, and perhaps even join the Royal Philharmonic (would that they permitted pan-pipers into their ranks!).
Gornelius Bragbutton; Clearly a soldier, and obviously a man with a story, Gornelius seemed both to be friendly and mysterious to me. He had great stature, and formed an unusual friendship with one of our other party members. Frugal and firm, Gornelius struck me as a no-nonsense sort of fellow; dependable, principled, compassionate.
Pettifer Crünk; Never in all my life have I met someone of such small stature, with such impressive oratorical skills. Truly, when this three foot tall whippersnapper opens her mouth, it’s impossible not to listen. Believe me, I tried. Pettifer claims to be a princess from a place I have never visited, The Mootland. She seemed endearingly vulnerable. Perhaps there is more to her than meets the ear?
Caspar; A smooth talker and a gambling man, Caspar seemed savvy and dextrous. Something about this fellow reminded me of myself, if it’s not a nonsense to say. He proved himself to be brave, and physically hardy. It’s rare I’ve seen someone so quickly and violently injured drag himself to his feet to aim yet another unsuccessful blow at an enemy.
Myself; Modesty prevents a description.
As we ate, we were interrupted by a rather striking chap called Phillipe, a Breton with an outrageous accent and a friendly aspect. He inquired as to whether we might want to indulge in a wager. When some of us accepted, he dealt a few hands of a deceptively simple card game.
At first, fortune was with us, and we took some money from the fellow. Just as the stakes were raised to unreasonable levels however, his luck turned. Caspar noticed that something wasn’t right; the cur was cheating! Rather than engage in a brawl over such a small amount, we decided to leave him go to his room. He who gambles should always be prepared to lose.
We discussed our respective situations, and it turned out we were all headed to Altdorf. No only that, but we were all responding to THE SAME mysterious note! By Morr, a stroke of luck! Caspar suggested we all travel together on his cart and so it was decided – a loose fellowship was formed.
The majority of us slept upon the ground that evening, save for Pettifer and Gornelius, who elected to overnight in one of the last remaining rooms. You can tell a lot of a person by how they choose to spend their evenings. Normally I would wonder as to the wisdom of spending money on a soft mattress, but something about the charitable way the halfling offered to pay the fee for the room, and the gracious, surprised way Gornellius accepted the offer made me smile.
After a quick breakfast we headed onto the road. There was another cart, and they asked whether we could travel together. Naturally we accepted. I saw that charlatan Philippe among the cart’s crew. It took all of my willpower not to shout out in rage, but I calmed myself.
Progress was slow. Caspar was a fine driver, but the cart ahead seemed determined to have a relaxed, rather than quick journey. Shortly, we had to do something about it, and overtook them. It was around this time that we met a mysterious figure, travelling on a steed, also heading to Altdorf.
Lev; This noble, enigmatic Kislever proved himself to be an excellent shot with a bow, and a fine swordsman. Although we didn’t talk at length, he seemed to be extremely outdoorsy and rugged – a fine addition to the party. I’m sure we will learn much about him in the following days.
To pass the time, Pettifer told the story of her birth. I suppose the kindest way to describe it would be to say that it was extremely detailed. Sensing that the mood was souring, I took it upon myself to put on a quick dance, even though I had neither the correct shoes, nor the space to do myself justice. Bad Milk provided the music, and I, rather embarrassingly, provided a pratfall.
However, I picked myself off the floor and danced again, responding to the strange emotional range of the piece she played. I whipped my hair back and forth, I whipped my hair back and forth, I whipped my hair back and forth, then I did a backflip. It went down quite well. Then, disaster struck!
In the middle of the road up ahead, there was a grim image:
A man, covered in boils and pus, chewing on the remains of an employee of a coaching company. When he saw us this man (though I am loathe to call him such) turned and ran at our cart, screaming and frothing at the mouth.
As he came closer, it was with shock that I recognised him: Rolf Harding – a former debtor of Lord Varker, always late to pay and of most wretched, self-defeating attitude. Looking at him like this though filled me not with the righteous ire of a debt-collector, but rather the concerned, melancholic pity of a long forgotten friend; what had happened to poor Rolf? I shouted out to him, but his snarled, inhuman response indicated he was beyond help. The only kindness remaining for poor Rolf was the mercy of the blade.
Most of the group cowered in fear, but myself and Caspar jumped from the cart, drawing our weapons. The first blow though, came from our newest companion, Lev. He fired a shot straight and true from his bow – for a moment, I felt the fight might be over almost before it had begun, but sadly, the creature carried on running, before striking Caspar brutally in the leg. He shouted and fell, and it was clear to see that his limb had become extremely numb.
I tried to stab the beast, but got a sword to the side for my trouble. Thank the Gods the wound had not been more serious. It fell to Lev to dispatch the creature, which he did with brevity.
With two of us injured, and so far from civilization, things looked grim. Our spirits were lifted when Pettifer decided to forage for herbs. She quickly found some healing plants.
It was then we realised that the members of the other coach hadn’t come to our aid! Whatever happened to the camaraderie of the road? The fellowship of travellers?
Hearing noises up ahead, Brusche and Gornelius cautiously surveyed our onward route. An even grimmer sight met them: three twisted creatures, mutants stuck somewhere between man and beast had downed a coach and were feasting on its passengers. The two scouts returned and we formulated a plan – rather than blunder into another risky fight, we sent the other carriage round the bend. Brusche, a man of honour, was not overly fond of the scheme. However, because of how reluctant the other group had been to come to our aid, we felt as though it was only fair they should bear some of the burden of danger. Caspar was positive that it was the correct way to proceed, and we signalled the carriage to pass.
We heard screams, shouts, then gunfire. Shortly, the mutants were either dispatched or fleeing. Luckily, there were no casualties on our side, and because of our charitable decision to help (mostly at the insistent behest of Brusche) the other carriage were not too upset we’d sent them in to their potential deaths.
We searched the bodies for a clue as to why they may have been killed, and we were faced with perhaps the biggest surprise of an already singular day;
One of the bodies was the spitting image, and I mean the almost perfect twin of Caspar. On his person, we found an interesting note, the contents of which I fear may well inform our next actions.