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Warhammer: Shadows of Empire - The Parliment of Talabheim

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The huge Parliment Chamber was a series of raised chairs surrounding a central speaking area for great oratory. It was designed in a horseshoe so the sound from the lowest seats carried the farthest. The 'nose-bleed' seats, were the lowest ranking back benchers sat (five rows back). There was also room so that the various factions did not have to sit next to one another and each seat had a small desk in front of it so notes could be written and missives sent.

The Countess and her closest supporters held most of the low seats in the Noble Section. Heln and her ally Richter Faber (Weaver's Guild) held the low seats for the Guilds. Mueller and Schoppner held the seats across from them for the Merchant Families. They were closest to the entrance/exit too.

The Temples sat on the lowest rung, to the right Countesses seat, Taal then Verena being closest. The Jade Tower representative sat in the row behind the Churchmen. The Churhes remained a disunified faction, despite their recent attempts to create a new police unit. Such cooperation had been short lived; too much history and too many differences.

The more powerful a noble family, the closer they were to the center, even if they were enemies of the Kreiglitz-Untern faction. Recently there had been overtures from some of these nobles to the guilds and merchants. While in the minority, they could combine in a faction powerful enough to sway other undecided families into some real opposition.

The Countess may rule the city, but laws and taxes were the province of the Parliment. For some, it held the dream of becoming the true power behind throne. For the commoners in the assembly, it was something more. It was a chance at some real equality in their home town.

Heln arrived to much movement and nervousness on the guildsmen's part. They were not comfortable being in opposition to the Countess and were second-guessing themselves for the vote a few days earlier. Some of them needed a backbone. The Merchants seemed to be in less turmoil.

Already the pages of the assembly were running messages back and forth to various members. Others were talking, or arguing and a few threats were being leveled. IT was an ordinary day for parliment.

Mikhail walked to his seat trapped in his own mood. No one wanted to talk with him and less wanted to stand in his way. He was a Mage after all. Once he took his seat, the Priests of Ulric and Shallya were spotted turning to him, but nothing was said.

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Heln hated this as much as she hated her business partner. Actually, she was sure she hated him more, but only but a small faction. Keeping her smile in place, she circulated through the crowds, making sure her agreements that she'd arranged earlier were still in place. Five of the guilds stood with her; four of the merchant factions. She hoped it was enough - increased duties on iron ore would be a good way to punish her for the failed vote earlier, and Heln didn't want her people to pay that kind of price. Bah. I hate politics.

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Of course, some noble business HAD to be concluded before the Speaker would acknowledge Heln. Important matters like 'too much poo on a statue in the park' and 'How the Parliment House needed an abuttment' so they could walk from their carriages to the House without a drop of rain touching their cherished hats. Both measures were hustles off to committees.

Heln got her moment and made her impassioned speech about the need for a reduction in the tariffs on imported ores. Several of the Commoners nodded their agreements while more than a few families sneered about a 'loss of needed revenue'. One of The Countess's cronies stood up for a long, drool speech about how this matter would harm the many while benefitting a pampered few. Heln felt her blood rising when when a page appeared in front of her. He handed her a note with The Countess's personal watermark upon it.

What is good for the city ...

The drool Baron was finishing as Heln was puzzling out the message. The Countess stood up and asked to address the assembly. The Speaker acknowledged her and she began to speak. She spoke about the long service of the ironworking professions, of how this would increase the productivity of said guilds and how that would increase revenues in the long run. She backed up her speech with precise numbers and promising predictions on what would be gained. She spoke about putting the good of the city first.

And the ploy was laid out for Heln to see and feel. The Countess had put the seed of this Tariff Reduction in Heln's mind, she had laid out the legal groundwork, and Heln had worked up the needed votes to make THEIR motion pass. Now people who had once seen her as being a worthy ally opposing The Countess would see her as being "bought off". How could they trust her now?

In the future, Heln would need more of The Countess's support for passing guild measures, increasing her influence in that sector. Heln might be a long way from being an ally, but she had been bumped down that road.

At least when the vote came, it was a solid decision in her favor.

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Mikhail glowered. He stewed. He gave off enough bad vibes that nobody in the vicinity wanted any part of him. He watched as some woman from the guilds lobbied for a reduction in the ore tarrif and was backed by the Countess. An ally of hers? Perhaps, perhaps not. As the floor was opened back up to new measures Mikhail stood. Before he could be recognized he realized he had nothing to propose, he knew not what to say or propose. With a grimace he sat back down. "Bloody hell and damnation."

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A few minutes passed then a page appeared before Mikhail with a message. It was written in flowery prose and had an impressive watermark.

What matter do you wish to have brought before the assembly?


It wasn't much, but the dialouge had been opened. The person on the other end was making the attempt to realize that not everything was a political ploy.

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Mikhail took up a pen and quickly produced a reply explaining the presence of a new plague that was working its way through the refugees and had been found inside the city walls. He explained that it appeared to be capable of airborn transmission between people. More information is required, a cure must be found. The pestilence appears to have started near the river, it would be wise to send an expidition up stream to ensure that no chaotic forces are poisoning the headwaters themselves.

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The page took the message without looking at it and wound this way through assembly until he came up behind The Countess. She read the message but gave only one sign of understanding it. She rubbed the bridge of your nose then looked around the room. The Countess Kreiglitz-Untern scrawled off two quick messages.

One began weaving its way back to Mikhail. A different boy stopped in front if Mikhail and earned him a concerned look from Sister Martta.

Be prepared to help out in this measure and don't look for too much too fast. We will also start to move people out of Taalagad asap. It is hard to move things in the right direction as I think you are coming to understand.


Mannfred also stole him a look, not letting his curiousity overcome his discretion.

The other message wound its way around the other side of the Grand Horseshoe to ... Heln Ironwight. The boy waited intentively while the message was read, which was a bit odd. Apperently an immediate reply was needed.

If you would kindly repay the favor. A matter has come to my attention. A good number of refugees have been trapped in Taalagad since the fighting, a few amongst them are smiths. Could you propose a measure to allow selected refugees to be moved to various communities around the City to alleviate the burden on our port town.

Between you and me, there is a reliable rumor of plague breaking out in Taalagad so time is of the utmmost importance. The Sisters of Shallya have already sent a mission to investigate and we may well deal with this before a breakout occurs. Be discreet less panic ensues and we are forced to close the Taalbaston to all trade and traffic.


Faber turned to her and whispered,

"You look pale. What is it?"

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"Hrm," Heln growled, which was Heln-speak for 'not now, maybe never'. She looked at the boy and nodded. "Just tell her I'm about to..." The page was looking wide-eyed at her. Grumbling, she took a piece of paper and scrawled a quick message.

Favors get repaid.


Heln passed the page the paper and nodded to him. She then straightened her clothes and stood, waiting for recognition.

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Like magic, the Speaker turned and recognized the Heln, another sign of Heln's supposed new-found favor. Her allies looked to her. They had thought their battle fought and won. Now Heln was reaching for something else and they were somewhat concerned. Their alliance was new and barely tested. Where could she be trying to lead them and who would be the first one to break ranks ... and earn her wrath.

"The Chair recognizes Heln Ironwight of the Smithies Guild," rang out in the chamber.

Heln could barely make out the slightest of nods from The Countess even as her messanger was still moving through the theater.

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Heln resisted the urge to rotate her head and crack her neck. Instead, she cast a reassuring glance to her allies and cleared her throat. "Members of the Parliament, only recently, we spoke of the charity that this city provides when its members are in need. Right now, our port city suffers from a flood of refugees. I propose each of us to move selected-" She was sure to emphasize that to cut off opposition right from the start. "- individuals to communities within our city. The Smiths are ready to do their part."

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Baron von Kritzer rises up and is recognized.

"As long as it is the city is doing the selecting, something can come of this to profit the city."

While he was supporting Heln's measure he was glaring hate at her as well.

"I suggest we have the Countess appoint a small number of our number for an oversight committee and have it headed up by one of our Roaming Jurists. I nominate Magistrate Sorland Hohenlohe who has a long and distinguished record of service. I also suggest a Priest or Magister be chosen or volunteer."

"We need to end this crisis and since the Count-Elector of Hochland has taken not steps, it fals to us solve this issue, Taal be praised. I say we move these poor unfortunates to a place they can become assets to the community and taxpaying members of the City-State of Talabheim."

With that, he abruptly sits down, still glaring at Heln.

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Mikhail stood. "If it pleases the parliament ... I have recently returned from Taalgad and the surrounding area. I would be willing to help oversee the selection of the incoming refugees." Because somebody needs to be aware that every person coming in might be bearing the plague. He sat down and waited, wondering just what he had gotten himself into.

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Baron von Taaben called for a final vote three speakers later. The matter passed somewhat along faction lines. For the third time in as just a week all the Guildsmen and most of the merchants voted together as a bloc. The Law passed with Heln Ironwight of all people being credited with it.

As the meeting was breaking up another round of messangers were sent out from the Countess's table. Both Heln and Mikhail were informed that they were on the Short Committee to oversee the resettlements, along with Barons von Kritzer and von Taaben, and a merchant named Urmine Freisch. They were were to select which outlying villages the refugees were to be moved to. The were to define the criteria for Magistrate Hohenlohe to work under ... unless any of them wished to personally go to Taalagad.

As the other were breaking up, the five selected parlimentarians gathered in the central area. Von Kritzer was glaring still at Heln and Von Taaben seemed constantly ready to speak but never did, so Friesch took the lead.

"Healthy, young families perfered. Let's get the children out of those slums. I think a balance of 50% Hochlanders and 50% of our own folks should work out nicely. I'm sure the city can pay some local merchants for their carts to facilitate this."

Looking to Heln,

"More work for the Cartwrights and Wheelwrights, no?"

"We'll make it up in trade and taxes. Subsitance villages are bad for the economy. We need some surplus tradesmen to get our trade curciuts profitable again."

"That seems thought out," mumbles Von Taaben distractedly. "Our new subject may speak funny, but they will be greatful to be out of that hell hole. Must keep the people loyal and all that."

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Quietly Mikhail says what needs to be said. "It is imperative that we allow only fully healthy people to move. There is some plague that is spreading and we need to be certain that we can isolate the sick to prevent it spreading."

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That earns Mikhail some looks. Von Taaben pales and Friesch puts a hankerchef over his mouth. Only Von Kritzer and Heln seem to take the news in stride. Von Kritzer's glare lightens only slightly, but enough to say,

"Do you have a way detect this plague early? We need to keep this out of the city definitely."

His eyes get a distant look to them,

"We all have people out there on the streets. This could be a nightmare if it got within the Taalbaston."

"The refugees too need to be removed from this unless we have to burn the whole town to the ground."

Then he goes back to scowling at Heln.

"Well, we will have to send the Magistrate. Who else shall we risk in such a foolhardy endeavor," Von Taaben wheezes. "Maybe we can send one or two other functionaries over the Wizard's Road before we have to close the Taalbaston."

Friesch speaks, "We had better look to our own devices if a plague is upon us."

He looks ready to leave.

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"From what I have heard and know it has already made its way into the city. Perhaps only a few have it perhaps not, I do not know. We must avoid a panic and try to make it such that as few people as possible get sick. We must also find a cure, or find the source and eliminate it." Mikhail's voice was unusually quiet but carried all the force that a man of his stature, both physically and socially, could bring to bear.

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Heln hid her dismay as this man announced to all that the plague was around. It was going to bring on a panic, especially if all these damned nobles decided to do whatever it took to make sure that they weren't the ones getting sick. Unfortunately, she couldn't hide her dismay and show shock; she wasn't that good of an actress.

"Siddown, Friesch," Heln sighed. "We need to finish here and quickly. Who else is going to the Taalbaston?"

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Friesch raised a haughty eyebrow, but he did stop.

"I will go today. I have trade that is coming in soon and some that needs to go out. I don't have a choice. I will be back tomorrow afternoon."

He sighs.

"I can take the Magistrate with me, but I will not stay. I suggest those who follow me find something in the City to help them resist the disease, or have a Shallyan on hand."

Baron von Kritzer growls,

"I have a kidnapped daughter to locate. Once she is returned, I will go to the Taalbaston and consult with the officials there. I will make sure I have the full authority of The Countess."

Baron von Taaben remained noticably silent.

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"If I am able to spare the time I will be talking to the apothocaries in the area and attempting to coordinate knowledge between them. Perhaps together we can find a cure, or at least a way to slow down the sickness." Mikhail was hopeful but that hope alone could not cure the plague.

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Heln nodded slowly. "We can't have a panic," she said softly. "That would be as bad as the plague itself, and if we have both, it'll be a nightmare." She needed to leave herself, to start finding places for the smiths to go. She'd take all of them, and maybe some others. She wasn't sure, yet, what she could do precisely.

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"I say we let nothing out. We don't need a panic, as Guildmistress Heln mentioned. We need to keep the unwashed in Taalagad were they can perish in thier own filth and not pollute our city. Save what little needs saving, but be prepared to close the gates at a moment's notice. If it can be stopped, we should leave it in Taal's and Shallya's hands and keep to our own prosperity," Von Taaben states cautiously.

"This city will be besieged, you idiot," whispered Friesch so that only Heln and Mikhail could hear.

He then speaks up.

"I will send word to Fraulein Ironwight's business as soon as I find anything out from the contacts I have on the docks."

Seeing that not everyone understands his intent,

"Fraulein Ironwight's is the closest house to the Wizard's Way. I don't dare send a message concerning ... illness to the Courthouse of Edicts. Some numbskull clerk will come arcoss it and the secret will be out."

"Magister ... Petro - wich? Will you be coming with me. I leave in two hours. You can come to Freisch Fine Foods and we can depart with the Magistrate. I'll gather him up."

"Taal be with you. I will come when I can," says von Kritzer grimly.

"Are we done?" says von Taaben softly. "I have ... estates to attend to."

Friesch looks to Heln,

"He'll be in the Spas at Dankerood by nightfall," he says under a cupped hand.

(Dankerood is a hamlet on the far side of the Crater, but inside the Taalbaston, and a famous Exclusive Resort for the well-heeled)

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"Petrovich. And I will see you in two hours then." Mikhail made to leave, "Gentlemen, lady, I bid you well." He headed back to the tower and prepared for his trip, again. Before leaving he checked on Hetta once more, a scarf around his face.

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Hetta seemed to be making a comeback today and was sitting up and reading some papers when he came in.

"Grading some old reports," she said with a tired smile and a sniffle. "Need to keep the students on their toes. Oh, could you tell Faust to talk with Brandt and Thaddeus when they get in? It's been over a week since they headed out with Nayobee and I haven't been checking in with them ... if you can find the time."

In a somewhat ashamed face,

"Go save the city first, of course. I'll be up soon. Just you wait and see."

The Magi met up with Freisch at his business. A ramrod straight man with greying hair rode with him.

"Magistrate Hohenlohe, Magister Petrovich."

The stern man nodded, studying him for a moment before looking away. Freisch handed some papers over to Mikhail, stamped with the city's seal.

"These explain what our mission is to those officials we will need to interact with. It also gives us undefined 'discretionary' powers."

"You find the source of this 'problem'", Magistrate Hohenlohe states, "and I will handle the moving of people out of town under cover of this new Ordinance. Is there any type of person you are looking to save? I already know I am to look out for the smiths."

He seemed either bored, or emotionless. A man who had a long career in the justice system was likely to be either.

When they left Freischer a caravan of empty wagons was being assembled for a trip up the Wizard's Way. The Merchant was definitely trying to get one more load of goods into the city before the bottom fell out.

The three men road up throught the Taalbaston, were dutifully questioned, and allowed to pass. Mikhail saw no sign yet of a strengthening of the city's watchfulness.

Down on the Taalbaston side, thing still seemed 'normal'. There was filth, worker going about doing their tasks, or looking for a job, and refugees begged, or stood around looking hopelessly. Magistrate Hohenlohe found an inn, the Eel's Tavern, and sets up shop. He immediately uses a combination of paid informants and city watchmen to begin assembling various refugee families. He also tries to hire some guards to protect them.

Around the same time, Freisch heads out to visit with various Dock Masters, Foremen, and Ship Captains to find out what he can. He promises to meet with Mikhail back at the Eel after sunset.

For Mikhail, he is only temporarily at loose ends. Late in the day, he sees Wolfgang leading a battered company of knights and men at arms over the Taalagad bridge. Wolfgang greets his friend heartily, but confesses that he as been in a battle the day before, defeated a horde of Slaanesh worshipers and cutting down their head.

Wolfgang has to send most of his people back to the Temple to heal up, but can keep four with him (two knights - Lady Leoni and Krom and two selectmen - Pieter and Lars). He is more than willing to help, and after a private conversation, volunteers his people to help out in any way possible.

Leaving his people at the Eel, Wolfgang and Mikhail go over the ground he went over two day's previously. About half of the sick have passed, but some have gotten better and rapidly so. Still, the disease seems to be spreading and in new sectors. Many dock workers are showing the first signs. This is a plague in the offing.

They go to meet Apothecary Widenhoft once more. He has more information. The disease seems to have changed from something more akin to a mass poisoning into a disease. The pollutant seems to come from affluent upstream about a league or so - maybe an illegal mining vent? Beyond that, he wants them to come back in three days when he should have more concise findings based on location of the toxins as well as a cure. He is certain of this and is in communication with Captain Nerhaus, Captain of the Taalbaston guard who is aiding with his search. STill, tell no one else of what they are doing. The Captain fears enemy action.

What he has discovered is that the disease (first form anyway) takes three days to show signs and runs a total course of ten days, inwhich the victim either dies, or recovers, with the majority those who get attention surviving.

That evening at the Eel, there are people around the corner of the Tavern. Hohenlohe has a list of over two hundred name for the first list and is already working on a second. He has hired four ex-caravan guards to protect the two hundred, but needs more.

Freischer confirms much of what Mikhail and Wolfgang have discovered, but also says that the next stop downstream is showing no sign at all of a sickness. The same goes for upstream. So far, there seems no sign of sickness beyond the river crowd and those drinking river and not well water. Unless Mikhail needs him, Freischer plans to be gone at first light in the morning. His personal opinion is that the town is ripe for the plague and they need to get out of town and back to the city post haste.

What do our heroes do? Do they stay to guide the refugees to the village of Breitblatt? Do they return to the city?

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For Heln, the meeting ends and she heads back to the Guildhall, Von Kritzer's eyes boreing a whole in in her back. Once there she has an apprentice go through the guild records to come up with some names of smiths outside of the city who have requested to set up shop. She comes up with three names and sends four messages over the Taalbaston wall. The first goes to Magistrate Hohenlohe to inform him of the prospective applicants, and the other goes to each applicant to inform them to seek out Hohenlohe to get assigned to their village.

Her Guild duties done for the nonce, Heln returns to get an honest half-day's work done. The purity of the forge cleans her, yet at the same time, when she finishes, she notes how her anvil looks, all worn with work and age. Somewhere out there, she has given three young smiths the chance to mould thier own forges into something like this - with a place, and a home, and prosperity.

That night, she dines with her Apprentices and Micah, going over their lessons and tracking what they have learned. Everyone agrees that being the head of the Guild is not very fun, and laugh about the quality of smith who would want the job.

The next morning, she is early to rise, beating Rachel to the lighting of the fires. She helps with this earliest of tasks, building up the heat gradually in order to make the heat even and deep. That done, and some breakfast quaffed, Heln gets down to work. It is a beautiful day, it is a glorious day, it is a day full of promise.

It is so grand a time creating a blade of unquestionalbe elegance, that Heln rewards herself and Micah with a lunch at the Three Pears Inn. It is a little farther away from work than she normally takes, but the food is excellent and the service is always good, without being fawning. It is also a place were traveling guildsmen can find a room at a reasonable rate.

It is also the place where she meets Diarmuir and Nayobee and her life begins its slow spiral out of control. But, that is another story.

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Mikhail's hands ball into tight fists and his knuckles pop under the strain. "I will go with the apothacary to seek out the cause of this ailment. I leave it in your hands to ensure that the immegration goes smoothly." Mikhail kept his tone even as he spoke with the Magistrate. Turning to Wolfgang Mikhail claps his freind on the shoulder. "Comrade I would be in your debt if you could lend your men and your knowledge to this task."

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For all his great intellect, the arts of healing and science were all but lost on him. The same, in varying degrees went for Wolfgang and his men. They could break men apart and they knew enough to fight the plague with fire and pyre, but they didn't know how to break a plague before it started.

Nor did they have the will to drag the poor apothecary Widenhoft away from his practice, one of the few real healers in Taalagad. What they did do was take some equipment, some instructions to find animals along the river's edge, and fish, noting were they were taken and at what time. They were also to take and seal with wax water samples along the river bank, again noting locations and times.

On the fourth day, just when they were ready to return to the town, one of the squires found a suspicious gray-white powder down by the river. It didn't look natural, so they scrapped up a sample. That is when Mikhail spotted a series of Beastman-like clawed footprints near the sight in the river mud.

That night they returned to Taalagad, but found the apothecary's shop already closed and no amount of pounding could rouse the man. When they went to the Eel Tavern and found the place filled with angry men and women. The Magistrate was gone and the mission to resettle the refugees had gone with him.

Then they realized that the Watch wasn't on the streets and the Taalbaston was well lit. Plague had come to Taalagad. That night the got rooms in a stable with their horses, and only got that much by judicious use of gold and threatened hammer blows. Later, in the middle of their sleep, shouts and cries broke out. Flaglleants roamed the streets, setting fire to the homes of the sick, or the supposedly sick. The town's militia could do little, abandoned as they were in the face of this danger.

As they went back to a fitful sleep, Wolfgang and Mikhail noticed that Lady Leoni and both of selectmen had developed the hacking cough that was the plague's first sign. They could do little for them at this time, save find a cure.

Next morning, the troop went back the apothecary's and this time wouldn't take no for an answer. Watching the street for any trouble, Leoni and Wolfgang put hammers to the door and broke it down. They then went inside and the two selectmen propped the door back up and waited. Mikhail, Wolfgang, and the two knights went through the building, ending up at his office.

There they found the end to this small mystery and the beginning of another. Gottard Widenhoft had been murdered. A single throwing blade is buried in his neck. The blade resembles three individual blades that are overlaid at the edges. The edge has a tar-like substance on it that no one dares touch. The origin of the blade remains unknown.

The man has fallen dead over his work. The shape and disposition of the body suggests that he has only been dead a day, or so. Searching his office reveals many papers written in Classical that all give scientific notes, which, while meaningless to the current company, could be helpful elsewhere. They also found more of the powerder in the office and a blue tube with a small amount of bluish liquid in it. The Blue tube comes wtih a notation in Reikspiel - [1]Not an inoculant - an antidote.

They also find another note of some importance:

Good Sir,

Here is the sample of whihc we spoke. Tell no one, Widenhoft. I can not emphasize this enough; tell no on - their eyes are everywhere. Work with all speed.

Taal preserve us, R. Nierhaus

They gather up his papers, the powder, and the blue vial and head out. They make their way to the wall and request an audience with Captain Nerhaus, not at all sure what reception they would get.

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"Bloody hell. We need to find out what is going on here. Hopefully we can find somebody able to continue the man's work. We can't let more people die." Mikhail gathered up the vial and the note and as much of the apothecaries other research items and prepared to go. At the wall Mikhail waited, his impatience making it all the more difficult as he could almost imagine people dying every second that he was delayed.

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They climbed up the Wizard's Way under the watchful bows and cannon of the Taalbaston Guards.

"State your business," demanded a sentry.

"We come on The Countess's business," Mikhail responded, "to see Captain Nierhaus."

He branished his fancy paperwork before the guards. In response, they lowered a bucket and took up the papers to be read. After two minutes, a head poked out over the wall,

"You alone can come this way. The rest must wait."

"This man," Mikhail said gesturing toward Wolfgang, "is the Lord Fang of the Church of Ulric. What he has to say is for the captain's ears only," Mikhail lied. The truth was that Wolfgang was the better persuader and if things got rough, there were few others he would have at his side.

There was a pause, a long pause then,

"Alright, him too."

The gates creaked open and the sentries on the ground all had woolen masks on over their faces. One had even painted his cheeks in bright red circles, an ancient charm to ward aff the Pox.

The allowed the men inside and had them dismount. The Guardsmen were courteous enough, though wary of getting too close. A sergeant led them into the hold and down a side passage to a door with two men with halberds standing at attention. Captain Nierhaus read the sign.

"Come in," came a voice from inside. The sergeant opened the door and stepped aside.

The captain is an average sized man with penetrating blue-grey eyes that can make all but the strongest willed turn away. His hair is light blonde and closely cropped. It thins a bit at the top, but nothing else betrays his age. What is most noticable is that he has two drawn pistols and is pointing them at the two of you.

"You claim to be officials and that's what your papers say, but how can I trust that? Why are you really here?"

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Mikhail bristled, "You call us imposters? Liars?" He stopped and forced himself to take a few deep breaths to calm down. "We have been investigating the cause of the plague in conjunction with apothacary Widenhoft." He pulled the letter they had found out of his satchel, but kept the vial hidden in his coin purse. "The apothacary was found murdered, knifed in the back a day ago. This letter was found on his desk. I was hoping you would be able to fill us in."

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His eyes widen and he visibly pales. He sags slightly in his seat.

"They know, by Taal, they know.

"Who?" Wolfgang commands to the failing Captain.

"The Rats who walk as men," Nierhaus whispers. He snaps back to reality. "Do you have Widenhoft's notes?"

Mikhail thinks on it a moment then nods.

"You must get into the city, but I can not let you take the way. There is a man named Eladio, an Estalian. Ask for him at the docks. Tell him Nierhaus says These must ride the Dragon's Tongue. In the city, seek out the apothecary Daubler."

Before either man can reply,

"Guards!" he crys out and the two guards at the door appear.

"These gentlemen were just leaving."

As the are leaving, Nierhaus looks at them teary-eyed,

"Go! All of our lives are forfiet if you don't do as I say. They will know, or at least suspect something. May Taal have mercy upon you all."

An air of tragedy surrounds the Captain as they depart. The guards dump them back with their companions. Some crossbows and arrows can be seen on the wall, suggesting that departure is the best course of action.

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As the doors shut behind him Mikhail simply frowned. "That didn't go as I had envisioned it." He shrugged, "I guess we go and do what he said. It would seem there is more going on than we have yet to hear of." With Wolfgang in tow Mikhail heads toward the docks.

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Wolfgang snorts,

"I haven't had taverns were I've been caught sleeping with the owner's daughter roust me out so fast."

That earns him some gaffuws from his weakening men. Sir Krom alone seems to be in full health. They make their way back to the docks were they are given a wide berth by the local predators who know them by sight. Finding the Estalian is almost too easy, though the man appears to be nothing more than an average angler.

Eladio tries to sell them some fish, seemingly unimpressed with the plague, or the party of armed men around him.

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"Ah ha Signore," the swarthy man counters. "I know just the thing. How many are to dine?"

Mikhail and Wolfgang look at each other then Mikhail answers,

"Six for dinner."

"I will delive them to you tonight, eh? I'll meet you outside the Crooked Shoe Tavern, at ten bells, right?"

He gets a nod of assent from his 'diners' then waves a hand to them.

"Now begone. No more you foul ruffians. Get away from my shop," he says in his thick accented Reikspiel.

They withdraw and wait until the evening. Mikhail knows the tavern in question from his sweep through the riverside dives. Leoni seems to be bouncing back while the two selectmen are getting worse. At the tavern at the chosen hour the party encounter the Estalian once more. This time (in a somewhat familiar situation) he steps out of a darkened alley and points a loaded pistol at them.

"You will speak and speak swiftly," he says in unaccented Reikspiel, "Who are you and why do you wish to enter the city?"

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Mikhail groaned inwardly, Some days it doesn't pay to try and do the right thing. He considered for a moment then shrugged, "I am Magister Mikhail Petrovich of the Jade Tower, this is the current Lord Fang of the Church of Ulric and his retainers. We have urgent business inside the city. It many mean the difference between this sickness becoming a full blown plague or becoming little more than a footnote in some historian's tome."

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Eladio lowers his pistol.

"You look familiar, Green Man. I'll put some trust in you. I will also tell you this - after you came to me, I checked with the Captain, but he is not going to be seen anywhere this side of Morr's Garden. He put a pistol to his head."

"Now, we must go."

He hands each member of the group a black cloth bag then heads off down the back alleyways of Taalagad, moving swiftly. Every attempt at a question earns the questioner,

"No time now. Later, in the tunnels."

Two hours later, they are at the foot of the Taalbaston and Eladio stops at a particulary large oak. Mikhail can sense its age and the memory coursing through it. This Tree has a story or twelve to tell.

The Estalian pulls out two lanterns, hands one to the man in the rear and says,

"Come along."

He steps right into the tree, or so it seems. Mikhail's Life Lore teaches him better and he catches the man step through a cunningly designed gap in the tree's roots and down a spiral stair case. The tunnel the stairs lead to are smooth and dry and lead deep into the earth. They come across some signs fo the ancient Undgrin Ankor - the underground tradeways of the dwarves that are said to cross the whole of the Old World.

An hour later they come upon a natural cavern and Eladio calls a halt. The ill members of the party are failing and falling behind.

Click to reveal..

Make a Challenging (-10) Perception Test

If you succeed, you see three hooded figures come running up one of the tunnels. Lantern light reveals them to be pathetic figures in torn rags. The first one blinks, its eyes looking red in the darkness. The second one has milky orbs that must be sigthless, and the third one has no eyes at all, just ragged strips of leather boudn over its face.

All three sniff the stale cavern air and hiss in unison. Their rat like muzzles pull back, revealing yellow teeth as they brandish rustly weapons and attack. - You may attack freely -

If you fail,

Eladio jumps up and in a frightened voice goes,

"By the Gods, my tales come to life!"

He draws his rapier and pistol with blinding speed and prepares to fight. The Skaven are upon you. -Defend yourselves!-

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Mikhail is caught unawares. Anastasia is leaning against the wall just a few steps away but it is a few steps he can scarcely afford. With a curse he casts out his hand toward the things coming at him.

Click to reveal..

(17:45:02) (Mikhail): Perception (82) -10 = 72

(17:45:06) ChatBot: (Mikhail) rolls 1d100 and gets 87.

(17:45:09) (Mikhail): DOH!

(17:49:41) (Mikhail): Channeling (79)

(17:49:44) ChatBot: (Mikhail) rolls 1d100 and gets 77.

(17:50:03) (Mikhail): Casting Magic Dart (TN 6) with 1 die at +4

(17:50:06) ChatBot: (Mikhail) rolls 1d10 and gets 7.

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The three Plague Monks pounced upon the party, slavering at the mouth for blood. The obviously frenzied foe charged down the line, attacking Wolfgang, Krom, and one of the unnamed squires. Wolfgang met his attack with his hammer, crushing its left arm with his blow. Neither Krom nor the squire were mauled yet, but Mikhails well aimed bolt of mystic energy stole the kill. One enemy had fallen dead.

Leoni moved to help Krom, smashing his opponent with a blow to the back. Edalio spun around, bypassed and stabbed the dying creature in the back of it's head.

Like a pack of wolves, everyone seemed to fall upon the last Plague Monk. Swords hacked and hammers fell, and a last mystic bolt failed to materialize. With a primal yell, the killing blow was dealt by Wolfgang, filling him with righteous zeal.

In the moment after the fight, everyone paused to collect themsleves. Edalio picks up his lantern.

"We had best get going. These Skaven -patoo- didn't expect to find us here. Something, or someone, was chasing them. Let us not be here when whatever that was comes this way."

With that, he led them down a different tunnel from the one the 'Skaven' had come from. A half hour later the Estalian has you all hunker down in an alcove. He tells you to open the packs he handed out to you all at the start.

"Put the clothes on you find in there."

Each contains a workman's smock covered in dark stains.

"You are all dyeworkers now. Congratulations on your new professions. This is were we part ways my friends. Follow this tunnel down to the rear of Dorner's Dyes, where you will blend in with the evening shift who should just be getting off work. Dorner's is in the Ratholds. Welcome back to Talabheim. If you make it to me before the next full moon, I will return your horses to you."

He makes his way to go, taking one lantern with him, when he looks over his shoulder and says,

"I will pray to Myrmidia for all of you."

"And I will pray to Ulric that he sees your bravery," Wolfgang replies, not to be outdone.

Out and down they went. The smell of the Dyers was horrific, but they bore on. The wooden back of the business almost meant salvation, because now the smell had a source and they could move away from it. They heard voices and men moving and without much effort they merged with the crowd going out. They moved through the late night air (which lightened soon as they left the caverns of the Ratholds) and made their way into the tallows. They didn't know their way, but a few shows of arms managed to make the gutter trash leave them be ... despite their coughing.

At the edge of the Tallows, Mikhail, Wolfgang, and company dumped their disguises and made their way into the city proper. They were soon stopped by the watch, but Wolfgang's status, and Mikhail's papers, moved them along soon enough. When they parted, it was as exhausted friends. Mikhail moves off to the Jade tower and a hopefully sleepy encounter with his staff. Wolfgang goest to the Church with a knowledge he could have done more and that fighting (and winning) was not enough. The people still suffer and they are going to suffer some more.

At the temple, Wolfgang rouses his people gets Lady Leoni and his two selectmen to quarters. Then he met with Mannfred and started his planning for the next day.

Mikhail's pack was full of the papers and vials from the apothecary Widenhoft. Bertie met him at the door with a worried face which brightened upon seeing who it was.

"Master," she squeeked, "Umma has fallen ill and everyone is afraid. What shall we do?"

{continued in The Coming Storm for Wolfgang}

{continued in Master and Commander for Mikhail}

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