31st Ulriczeit 2511 (from early afternoon): Wedding Interrupted; Rat Tale; Eastbound

At the close of the ceremony guests approached the newly married couple, their hands still bound around the wooden warhammer. Each guest brought gifts of glassware and crockery, traditional symbols of both the strength and fragility of the bonds that tie people together. Tradition holds that while the gifts remain unbroken the marriage will stay unbroken. Each gift was placed on a hand cart, the same hand cart that had earlier been used to move Maglyn’s belongings to the Deft Dancer. Following this ritual, Franz and Maglyn stood and made their way out of the shrine, the children and Janna following closely. The rest of the congregation followed suit, Salundra, Ferdinand and Gunnar adopting protective positions around the group as they all made their way north towards the river. They kept a close eye on all dark corners, storm drains and dull eaves, half expecting to see hidden creatures, but none were visible. Franz pointed out Mannslieb, visible against the clear winter’s sky, in full moon, a good omen for the start of their lives together.

The wedding party walked to the Teubrücke where Eugen gave his mother and new step-father a coin, which they held together in their free hands, before casting it into the river. The Deft Dancer was visible from here, Gele making the boat ready for departure. From the bridge they all made their way to the Red Moon Inn where the sisters, who must have snuck away at some point, were busily preparing food. The inn never looked better, the street around it having been scrubbed and the inside decorated in a similar manner to the shrine. Salundra decided to stand watch outside, a previously glimpsed pair of eyes in a sewer setting her on edge. Soft music, of flute and hand drum came from inside. Ferdinand and Gunnar enjoyed some punch, though Ferdinand had the sense to rein himself in. A beautiful smoked fish, puff pie with herbs and cheese was served on simple wooden plates. The reverie and conversation grew as the married couple made their way through the crowd. Janna played simple games with the other children, something she’d never had a chance to do before.

Salundra spotted something strange, a shape moving across the tenement rooftop opposite the inn. Something small flew into the air and exploded, an alchemical inky blackness seeping from it, threatening to blot out the daylight. Another crack from down the laneway and then another from the direction of the river spread the darkness further. Then shapes and shadows began to move. Salundra called the others outside and instructed Franz to make sure the back door was secure and their one was bolted closed. His job was to protect himself and the guests, herself, Ferdinand and Gunnar was deal with whatever came into the lane. A ferocious roar accompanied by heavy steps came from the direction of the town. The shapes coalesced into human sized rats, each bearing a distinctive lightning motif scar and each bearing foul, jagged weapons. The roar came again and a huge rat thing came into view, chains trailing from it seemingly keeping it restrained. Some Skaven swarmed in front of it and the party found themselves surrounded. Shapes flitted above… a Batman jumped from the tenement at the Red Moon Inn, but its leap was poorly judged and it fell to the ground, landing in a broken mess. More attempted the leap, the smash of glass indicating at least partial success.

The Skaven in the alley charged into action. Salundra loosed a bolt as one clambered up the steps, Gunnar standing beside her, his axe making short work of any that came near. She drew her sword, dodged a blow and struck down the Skaven she’d wounded with the crossbow pistol. Ferdinand had the riverside Skaven to himself, but he fought like a man possessed. His fear of rats obliterated by the anger he felt. His scythe cut two down, Salundra stepping in to finish another. More shapes leapt into the upper floor of the inn… did that make three inside?

A vicious Skaven wove back and forward past the legs of the Rat Ogre. It hissed orders as the initial wave were being cut down and sprang into action. The Rat Ogre was released. The leader jumped at Gunnar, two blade flashing through the air at the Slayer’s neck. Gunnar’s blood was up and he didn’t pause in his destruction. The Skaven’s feet had barely landed before it was propelled back by a devastating blow from Gunnar’s axe. Its bisected body struck the Rat Ogre, causing confusion to become mixed with its rage. Gunnar followed up, the Dwarf moving systematically towards the target that towered above. Strike, strike, dodge, strike and it was done. The Rat Ogre collapsed, its head removed from its hulking shoulders.

The paused for but a moment, the remaining Skaven in the lane appearing to flee. Inside? What was happening inside. Salundra ordered the front door opened. A couple of seconds passed, but the frightened Eugen did as commanded and the door swung open. Tables were upturned, but that seemed to be to offer protection for the guests hiding behind. Janna hid with Marlyn and the kids, her dagger held protectively. Gunnar moved quickly, he sound of combat on the upper floors propelling him forward and upward. Ferdinand and Salundra, thankful  that Janna was okay, rebolted the door and followed. A stiletto blade armed woman stood outside what was probably Franz’s room. “It’s locked!”, she exclaimed as she pushed desperately at the door.”I’ve got the key here! Back!”, grunted Gunnar. Two swings and the door was separated from its hinges. The scene was chaos… two dead ratmen, a third clambering over the disarmed Franz. Gunnar charged in, shouldering the creature away from the wounded innkeeper. He fell and it hit the wall hard, but it didn’t have a chance to rise before Shadowsplitter finished it. Franz wanted to know if everyone was okay as Ferdinand checked for poison in the wounds and tried to patch him up. Salundra’s reassurance that everyone was didn’t seem enough. He made his way down the stairs and ran to embrace Maglyn and the children. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry… this has to do with my military past”, he half-whispered to her as the others returned to the barroom, Salundra carrying his sword and shield. Everyone began righting tables, festive glances showing how unsettled everyone was. A slight burning smell emanated from the kitchen and, with a start, the sisters hustled behind the bar to their food!

Franz moved to the hand cart, still the right way up with its gifts intact. He spoke to the guests while Ferdinand tried in vain to patch up his left arm, which had a bad gash. Blood was dripping from his finger tips as he spoke, “I’m sorry everybody. You probably don’t know about my past as a mercenary… Yes, yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but I had a life before I came to Ubersreik and the Red Moon Inn. In Tilea I specialised in clearing nests of ratmen”, this last word solicited sideways glances and looks of concern. “I’m afraid they are very much real and the ones that attacked today were seeking vengeance for what I have done to their kind”, he continued, a slow shake of his head accompanying his words. He looked to Maglyn, “it took them nearly twenty years to find me. As we leave here, I wager it’ll take them at least twenty more…”. He looked around the room, “We’ll leave now… a little earlier than planned, but it’ll ensure this place and the people in it are safe from those things. Thank you so much for all of the kindness you have shown Maglyn and me. We will never forget you all.”.

Maglyn walked up to Franz and said something quietly, but firmly. Whatever it was, he stopped fussing and let Ferdinand bandage his arm. The others gathered the gifts and Om thrust a large sack into Eugen’s arms. Franz grabbed a fancy looking bottle from behind the bar and grinned at Gunnar, Ferdinand and Salundra, “a little something for later!”. He asked a couple of friends to get the Watch and make sure no one went out the front until it had been cleaned up. “Okay, let’s go”, taking Maglyn by the arm and having one final look around his inn. He knew the sisters would take good care of it.

They left through the rear door and made their way through the streets towards the Deft Dancer. The blackness had cleared returning to a crisp, clear and cold day. They walked briskly, the party keeping station around them, Janna huddled in with the children.

In no time they reached the boat, the recuperating Felix, Yasmina and Gele offering a big welcome. She checked if they were all okay to depart and she didn’t need to ask twice. For the most part Ubersreik had been good to the party, but it was definitely time to go. She issued instructions to Ferdinand and Gunnar, and they helped to get things moving. Soon the Dancer was in the flow of the river, being pushed eastward, Altdorf her eventual destination.

“It’ll be a little tight on the boat”, Gele said nodding to the new family and Janna, “but I have plenty of fresh straw and clean sacks for making bedding. The barge is fully provisioned too. It’ll be cozy, but we’ll manage.” Salundra nodded and smiled. She thought of all of the adventures the last month had brought. She thought about the camaraderie of Gunnar and Ferdinand. She thought about Janna. She smiled.

… and we’ll leave Season 2 there!

Until next time,

Owen