[WFRP 2e] Renegade Princeps Interlude 14.5

Vaervenshyael - Female Elf Protagonist

My companions
Tankred "Silver Bear" Tenneckermann - Human Mercenary
Wilhelm Hechland - Human Engineer
Doctor Johann Wilhelm Woeller - Human Barber Surgeon

(Previous Notes)

Johann's expression darkened quickly in the face of Tankred's request for payment. All trace of mirth and mad giddiness disappeared and was rapidly replaced with an uncharacteristic determination and darkness that was...strange...and disturbing to see on the face of the Doctor. Though, for a brief moment, it does seem somewhat familiar.

"Will you truly not see the desperation of our situation? A madman is head of this town, and would gladly slit our throats without so much as a second thought. He is ready and willing to end us for even the smallest edge in his attempt to survive and thrive, and believe me when I say that I have had much experience in recognizing and running from men like him. He is a zealot, not much unlike the men we slaughtered except in his capacity for cleverness and intelligence. A psychopath through and through. I do not plan to tempt this man to murder, and neither should you. Those bodies must be burned, and I need men to do so and keep quiet about the affair. If ever it were to come out that members of his faith were destroyed in so brutal a manner by the very men he trusted to carry out his will we would be subject to a wrath that we have never before beheld, and would likely not have the chance to experience again. I plan to avoid such conflict, quietly and without fanfare. I should hope that you would see the benefit in aiding my endeavor."

Here the Doctor continued to maintain his posture, and did not waver even in the face of the massive Bear of the Princeps. "What do you say?"

Tankred tried restating, "And I am saying that my men are mercenaries. They work for money, and they don't ask a lot of questions, as long as the pay is good. When the pay is bad, they grumble and they talk. Do you understand?" 

Vaervenshyael noted, "It is my personal experience that the halfling is not as devout as he would have people believe."
Johann's demeanor softened, but only a little. Mixed in was a slight look of contemplation.

"Would they accept services in payment instead of money? I can, of course, see to any wounds they may incur. I assume that such things may be commonplace in your line of work."

Johann also looked to Vaervenshyael and said, "I'm not sure I'll be risking such a thing. If he ever feels a need to keep up appearances by bringing 'justice' to the murderers of his brothers in faith then who could be the recipients other than us? No, I won't be risking a knife to my neck or the hangman's noose."

Wilhelm, absent from the previous conversation, wandered into the bath, commenting that 'Asking them to risk their lives and offering them healing as payment seems a bit... WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE?!?!?'. Seeing Vaer in the bath, Wilhelm jumped back behind cover.

Tankred looked at Johann sternly. "Doctor, I don't know much. But what I do know is that life is nasty, brutish, and short. That no matter what you do, we can all be certain that we will die, and nothing will stop that. So while we are alive, it is best to grab what joy and meaning we can, and that costs coin. My men don't work for free, or for favors, they work for gold. Gold they can spend on food, beer, women, and a place to rest their head where they can forget what it means to make your living butchering people for money. If it will ease your conscience, spend the Sultan's gold, and not your own. They won't care, gold is gold.

"Oh, hey, Wilhelm, grab a bath, don't be shy. We're all just a bunch of soldiers here."

Johann hardened once more. He matched the gaze of Tankred and whispered, "Shortsighted...." He stopped again to take a moment and spoke, "It is not a matter of joy. It is not a a matter of some nihilistic and cynical views of 'life' or 'death'. We, in the short run, in service of long term survival, must forget our hedonistic pursuits of pleasure. We cannot look away from the clear and definite presence of danger to our lives just for coin. And if you and yours will not help me, then I will seek others. I will see to our survival, even as you forget to do so."

He paused for a brief moment and looked once more to Vaervenshyael, "It would surprise me greatly to see an elf place any sort of faith in the mercy of humanity. I definitely expected you to take your fate into your own hands." With this he began to leave, but not without a final message to Wilhelm:

"My dear Wilhelm.... You look to be uncomfortable." He visibly softened, and took on once again the normal look of the clearly insane, but certainly benevolent doctor.  "Do join in the bath with Vaervenshyael and Tankred. Do not forget to add the formula! There can be no extra 'little friends' in our quests!"

With this final message he shot a last, disappointed glance at Vaervenshyael and Tankred and left the bathroom to seek help from a new source.

Vaervenshyael noted, "The doctor is showing unusual passion, normally reserved only for cutting things. I do not share his worry, but I would be in his good graces the next time I am wounded. I had no particular desire to return to the megalith, but perhaps I will join his quest."

Tankred shook his head "I don't think he understands what he is asking for, V. He wants laborers who will work and keep their lips shut. Neither the work, nor the forgetfulness is ever free. I've been in this business far too long. You pay them to guard the train to the tower, and to toss the corpses in the steam vent, as if it was any other clean up job. A few coins extra not to ask too many questions. Between Bretonia, Estalia, and Tilea, me and mine have disposed of so many corpses that one grave looks like any other and they all blend together. But do something weird that stands out, and the men get to gossiping.

"And, Wilhelm, you look terrible. Get yourself into one of the tubs, and refresh yourself. Take care of those lice so you can get a good night's sleep before we go back out."

Vaervenshyael stopped thinking about the doctor and looked to the engineer. "Wilhelm, while you are right here, I require your assistance. I wish to learn how to use my new pistols, and your aim seems quite keen. Will you teach me?"

Wilhelm jumped at the change of topic.  'Of course! How many barrels do they have?'

Tankred arose out of the bath. "Right, if the shooting is going to start, that is my cue to exit. I have supplies and people to organize."

Vaervenshyael continued, "There are two weapons, each with only one barrel. I have some powder from the megalith, but I will need some ammunition. I am quite uncomfortable with these dwarvish contraptions, but I will do my best to learn. They seem to have been very valuable tools in our recent journeys."

Tankred, drying off,  "If you need ammo, swing by my shop. My brother and I have a few die for the rounds. Lead melts easy enough over a camp fire that you can cast your own rounds. It is powder that was always the problem. 

Vaervenshyael looked to the mercenary, "Indeed. I do not want someone to shoot the powder so it explodes in my hands."

Tankred dressed. "For powder, or to maintain your pistol in working order, you need to talk to Wilhelm. I know metal, but not the mechanics or alchemy."

Wilhelm paced the room. 'One barrel? Oh that will make an excellent beginner's pistol. Just need to worry about aiming at one target at a time. As for how to use it, why it is just like a crossbow! Except that you use gunpowder instead of tension, a bullet instead of a bolt, and ...' Wilhelm the proceeded to launch into an hour long lecture about why gunpowder explodes, the metal composition of the pistol, and how the phases of the moon affect the tides. He completely forgot to instruct Vaer on how to load the weapon or which end you point at the bad guy.

Vaervenshyael, confused and fully pruned from being in the tub so long, stood up. "That is a more than adequate background. Maybe next time we can learn how to properly load and shoot." This is like listening to the doctor teach me how to bind wounds, she thought.

--The Next Day--

Each member of the party woke to the thunderous ringing of bells. Each considered the continuous peal of echoing bongs for a moment. Bells in Padua?

There was the bell in the stubby, bat infested tower of the Temple of Sigmar, but that hasn't worked since any of them arrived.

Vaervenshyael shook off the haze of sleep and remembered that Maximillian made a hand-wavy promise to the aging priest of Sigmar to fund fixing the tower and bell. The bells tested the ear drum of Vaervenshyael; healing may yet occur.

No one attended throngs in Padua. Many run to the Border Princes for less church attendance or attention to the gods.
What day was it anyway? Wilhelm looked out over Padua. That bell, that seemingly was made of bat guano, was brass or bronze or ... what were bells commonly made of, again? Ugh, the aches and pains had finally caught up with him. And only two days since the constant terror, pain, and near death of the tower. It must get better. Maybe Johann had something for the aches and sharp pains.
Tankred rolled over, away from the bells. Bronze. Too much tin. Doesn't hold an edge, too soft. "Who is ringing that infernal bell!? And make them stop!"
Johann stood on the porch to his shingle in Padua. Others were opening windows, and a few of the oddest characters from the shacks behind the main thoroughfare were emerging to the sound of the bell. Yes, that's the Temple of Sigmar. Johann considered the day: Festag. Made sense. Wait. No, not in Padua. Is that old priest calling a Morning Throng?
The priest clanging a smaller, but more obnoxious, handheld bell was not the old priest. This one looked like a young firebrand. And he seemed to be taking note of the lack of piety in the streets.

What exactly happened in these last four days?

This couldn't be good.

Johann felt a slight panic grip him.
"I was right," he whispered. "Right about the danger, but apparently not the source...."

Johann jumped up and began preparing for a journey, packing rations, poultices, and tools of his trade all while murmuring about "Sigmar" and "Witch pyres" and "Infernal bell!"

Johann immediately stopped his preparations. The bell. It was still going, along with the racket outside.

"Should I go to the gathering?" He thought to himself, "Would I be missed? I hope not. That would be strange and inconvenient."  Johann paced about his shop and thought

And thought.

And thought.

He stopped again, and came to a conclusion. He sighed and said, "I must go. I must know the news. But first, a disguise!"

Johann grabbed his hooded cloak and donned it. He left his pack behind, though there was a moment of hesitation in the choice. He turned to the door and exited, locking it behind him, and setting off to the throng of people....

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