Episode 1 : The Prickly Pair
 

The 'Pair' is a nice but seedy tavern in the southeastern part of the town of Haarendorf in the Kingdom of Hammerstein. The Prickly Pair is three stories high, with the ground floor being the bar, the basement the stores, first floor rooms for hire and the top belonging to the owners, Hans and Gertrude Stoffle. They are semi-retired and their two nieces, the cute but cunning Beatrice and Gweneth, do most of the work. They also live on the top floor. There are five rooms, four small and one large, that make up the Inn portion of the tavern. I share with my group of six friends the large room.

It was the day after New Years Day in the town of Haarendorf, much of the festivities and revelries have now subsided. The Hammerstein national song still echoes in our ears.

Hammerstein, Hammerstein above all,
Above all in the world,
Always brave and defiant
Like brothers united;
From Haarn to Nordlingsburg,
From Tervest to Bonbering:
Hammerstein, Hammerstein above all,
Above all in the world!

Hammerstein Women, Hammerstein Faithfulness,
Hammerstein Wine and Hammerstein Song
Are to be kept in the world
Their old and beautiful sound,
Inspire us to noble acts
Our whole life long:
Hammerstein Women, Hammerstein Faithfulness,
Hammerstein Wine and Hammerstein Song!

Agreement and Right and Liberty
For the Hammerstein homeland!
So let us all strive
Like brothers with heart and hand!
Agreement and Right and Liberty
Is our prosperity pledged:
Flourish in the splendour of this prosperity,
Flourish, Hammerstein homeland!


The snow lies deep on the ground, it is mid-Winter and we are broke and without a job. Our lodgings have been paid for the next month with a windfall we had the other day. We were not without shelter or two meals a day. This cold morning brought Hans Stoffle to us after breakfast, he said, "I need to have two barrels of wine delivered to the Guild Hall immediately. I want you guys to take it over there for me. There are four silvers in this for you. You will also have to collect payment of 25 silvers, can you handle this for me?". "Sure Hans, we will do it now.". "Great. Roll the barrels from the basement and be on your way.".

We brought the barrels of wine up from the store room. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Gunther Sturmritter took one each and placed them on their respective shoulders, their biceps rippling with strength. We exited the tavern into the snow outside. The Guild Hall was not that far from the Prickly Pair, some hundred meters north. We approached the Guild Hall and could hear the revelry going on inside. There were two guards on the door, rugged up against the cold. They stopped us as we tried to enter and inquired our business. "We have these two barrels of wine to deliver to the party inside.". The guard nods and knocked on the door. The Cook opened the door and looked down on us, the guard explained our presence.

The Cook said, "Bring them in now.". Hanz Josephson spoke up, "We will be needing the payment of the 30 silvers for them first off.", the Cook looked down, "30 silvers, but I thought that the agreed price was only 20.". "How about we cut a deal and say only 27 silvers.". "I think not, a better deal for me would be 23 silvers.". "All right lets split the difference and say 25 silvers.". "Agreed.". The Cook removed a purse from his belt and handed over the agreed sum. We all started to move in but the Cook said, "Only those carrying the barrels, thank you.". Hanz Josephson placed one hand on a barrel to help stabilize it and he entered with Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Gunther Sturmritter into the kitchen area of the Guild Hall.

Looking about Hanz Josephson and Gunther Sturmritter viewed through the open door the revelries in full progress in the main hall beyond. They also noticed the cloak worn by one of the revellers rise up of it's own accord then fall back into place. Gunther Sturmritter shook his head, his thoughts were that Weldon Greenears, his friendly Pysk, was hard at work misappropriating items. He turned and looked into the kitchen and saw a flat pastry upon which some tiny footprints were appearing in a pattern. Hanz Josephson also noticed these things and called the Cook over and pointed down the hall and spoke of what he had just seen down there. The Cook looked down but did not see anything. Hanz Josephson kept saying that this should be investigated immediately. The Cook was however disinterested. He gave Hanz Josephson four pastries and sent them on their way.

Outside Hanz Josephson spoke of what he had seen to us and suggested we take a quick look about before returning to the Prickly Pair with the money for Hans Stoffle. It was snowing lightly when we turned the corner and looked down the side of the Guild Hall. We saw fresh tracks in the snow, leading from a point just below a second storey window and heading off towards the tinker's market. The falling snow was starting to cover these tracks. We followed as quickly as we could. They went across the tinker's market and down the lane to the Tavern called 'The Pork Brawn'. Here the tracks merged with others and entered the building. We stayed outside and went about the corner. Above us came the sound of running water, perhaps this was the room of the thief. Werner Faßenberg, Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, stood under the window. Werner Faßenberg cast enchanted rope and sent Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, who was sitting on the top of the rope, spiralling up to window level. Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, jumped off and entered through the open window.

Fifteen minutes later Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, returned and told of what he saw, or more correctly did not. In the room he had found some fine rope and clothing that had only recently been out in the snow. He also found a silver box which he opened. A bright flash of light blinded him and brought the occupant of the other room quickly into this one. Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, went invisible and made himself as small as possible in a corner of the room. Fifteen minutes later when his vision returned he came down the rope and reported that he did not catch any sight of the possible thief. We heard the approach of the city guard and Werner Faßenberg deanimated the rope and we went on our way. There was nothing we could do for the moment.

Back at the Prickly Pair, Hanz Josephson talked to Hans Stoffle about the pastries that he had picked up from the Guild Hall. Hans Stoffle said, "It has been so long since I have had some of these, how about I give you two silvers for the four.". Hanz Josephson agree, we then watched with fascination as Hans Stoffle stuffed three pastries into his face in quick succession. With the fourth he called out to his wife, "Gertrude, my little strudel, I have a surprise for you. I have this wonderful pastry which we can share.". Hans Stoffle ran up the stairs.

In our search for work we knew of some rumours that we had heard from either the barmaids, fellow prospective hirelings or acquaintances that may lead to adventure and might even have a grain of truth in them The one directly related to work were,

  • Edgar Muulen, an Antique seller, wants some hirelings to do a deed
  • Oskar Oppenheimer, a Bookbinder, is seeking somebody who can read Arcane Tongue for a delicate job
  • Inspector Holgät's Inquiry into the theft of the 27 Silver's from Herr Mortrund's pocket. A reward of 10 silvers is offered and a commendation for the identification, leading to the arrest of the thief
  • There is a ghost haunting the sewer entrance near the west gate guard house. The local residences have been asking for years to have it, 'removed', and would even be willing to put together a reward of some sort

    Other rumours which we found of interest were these,

  • The King is being slowly poisoned by his son
  • The Duke is possessed by an evil Sage
  • Joseff Nesfbaum, a scribe for the City Watch, is also scribe for the Assassin's Guild
  • A priceless magical Egg is hidden in the Axraam Temple, it once belonged to the great and evil Sorcerer Leftgaart
  • A war is going on between the illegal Haaren Mercenary's Guild and the outlawed Thieves Guild. It started because of the lack of protection payment by the later to the former
  • A carpet and fabric seller has a troll for a guard
  • Enid Rumstoffel, the owner of Rumstoffel Linen Fabriek, is a high level Evil Mage
  • A Vampiress lives near the Granary
  • Thieves go missing in or around the Cloth District, either because of Enid Rumstoffel or because of the Vampiress, both mean that we are doomed of course

    We did not follow up any of these rumours for the moment but when lunchtime rolled around and we went to the weapon's market to boast of our fighting prowess and look for work there. A man approached us, "I am Yorg Rundstedt, and I am looking for some stout fellows to help me with a dispute that I am having with my employees. I have lost a valuable ring, which is now in my employees possession, I will give four silvers for your aid in retrieving this ring.". We agree and followed Yorg Rundstedt to the street of carpet sellers and were just about to enter a building. Gunter Hiedricksson walked across the street and knocked on the door opposite. The owner leaned out of the first floor window, "What is it?'., "Do you know this guy here, does he own this shop?". "Yorg Rundstedt, what is this, who are these people?". Yorg Rundstedt piped up, "No need to worry these are just some friends of mine.". With that he opened the door, ushered us through and closed and locked the door behind us. He led us to the backroom where there was a trapdoor that was locked, bolted, barred and had a couple of heavy barrels placed on top.

    "Now my employees are down there, I don't want them killed, if possible, only subdued. Now there was one thing I forgot to mention, that is that there are three of them. Err, there is also one other thing as well, and that is that they are also trolls.". The party in one gasp uttered the word, "Trolls!". Yorg Rundstedt continued, "They are only small trolls, baby trolls in fact.". "I think the price has just gone up.", "Sure, sure, I did not want this mentioned in public, would ten silver pieces be sufficient for the added risk.". We agreed but seeing we knew that trolls were illegal asked, "Why do you have these trolls for guards.", "Well in my fifteen years here I have been burgled unsuccessfully fourteen times, you don't have to pay trolls money and well they will eat anything, so there are no bodies to get rid off.". Yorg Rundstedt told us the exit knock signal and explained that he wouldn't be opening the trapdoor unless he was sure that we had the situation fully under control. He spent five minutes unbarring and unlocking the trapdoor. We entered the darkness below, our lanterns the only light. For the next five minutes we heard the sounds of the trapdoor being rebarred, we would not have a hasty exit.

    The room immediately before us was filled with cloth and fabrics, most of which were shredded or torn. There were two doors exiting this room. One in the north wall, the second in the east wall behind the stairs. Hienz Meier and Gunther Sturmritter moved to the north door, Werner Faßenberg to the center of the room, Brother Otto and Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt to the east door. Hienz Meier could hear the ripping of fabric from behind the north door. The east door burst open and a troll came charging out, Brother Otto parried the blow and returned one in kind. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt also landed a blow and felled the troll, it slumped unconscious to the floor. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt reached into the room to close the door again, when he saw a second troll bring down its fist on his arm. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt jumped and pulled back his arm just in time.

    The north door now opened to reveal the third troll. Werner Faßenberg cast sleep on this one but the spell failed. Gunther Sturmritter and Hienz Meier delivered a series of blows that pummelled the troll into unconsciousness. At the other door Brother Otto struck at the troll with his shortsword and punctured the trolls vitals, it slumped on the ground and expired. We bound the two unconscious trolls and began a search for the ring. The store room had been reduced to a shambles by these trolls and we found the remains of one party before us who had not been so fortunate. Gunther Sturmritter and Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt eventually found the ring in the faeces of the trolls along with a dozen silvers which they pocketed. Gunter Hiedricksson found amongst the silk a small roll barely touched by the troll rampage, he slipped this under his jacket.

    We knocked on the door and five minutes later a furtive Yorg Rundstedt asked, "Have you the ring?", "Yes, here it is.", he slipped the ring on his finger. "How are my trolls?", "Well two are unconscious and the third is no more. Would you be interested in more trolls if we were to find them?". "Yes, I would be, but first I must check on my wares.", he entered the cellar and we left him to it, as we were leaving we could hear his voice, "My babies, my babies.", in the background.

     

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    (c) 1998 Hammerstein Rolemaster Campaign Journal by Ross Stopford  
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