By this point, the players were feeling they had made some real progress, and were racing back up the River Reik to the observatory tower they had found earlier, this time with a magical key in hand.
The players and characters were;
Ed – Thorgrim – Dwarf Scholar
Amy – Llewellyn – Wood Elf Wardancer
Andy – Thorn – Wood Elf Wizard
James – Deem – Dwarf Warrior
Alan – Yvette – Human Ranger
It was to not be quite as easy as that, at least for James. The journey north would take the best part of two weeks, and the players were stopping at various riverside inns on the way, rather than anchoring their boat in the middle of the beastman-infested forest. Most stayed on the boat for the night (avoiding the charge for a room) but James insisted on visiting each one in the evening for a serious drinking session.
During one such stop, the barn staff gave gave James a note. Obviously from the ‘Inner Circle’, it demanded he (or, rather, Kastor, but that was rapidly becoming academic) pay 20,000 Gold Crowns immediately or else report back to Middenheim.
Interestingly, James did not bother to ask the bar staff who gave them the note, which must have somewhat mystified the three cultists sitting just across the bar room who were expecting a confrontation…
Andy also started a brief argument as their boat passed Castle Wittgenstein and its village, Wittgendorf, as he wanted to make a stop there. When asked why, his reasons flipped between ‘we can make lots of money trading there!’ and ‘it might be really interesting!’. However, last time they had come this way, they had met another boat which had just pulled a hideous mutant out of the water very close to the castle. Not wanting to complicate their lives (and not wanting to indulge Andy), they carried on.
When they finally got to the old observatory (now a fully functioning signal tower, vital to the security of the Empire), the players discovered the dwarf workers had left and had now been replaced by members of the Reiksguard. They figured (correctly, as it happened) that the soldiers would not simply let them waltz in and dig around for secret doors, and so a quick plan that relied on stealth was enacted upon.
Unfortunately, few members of the party were actually good at stealth, and those that were rolled terribly. The alert went up, and they were forced to retreat.
After a few probing approaches, the players managed to gain entrance through a method which involved Andy casting a sleep spell on one of the soldiers. Just to make sure the soldier’s life was completely ruined, he poured beer over the helpless man and left the empty bottle nearby, ready to be discovered by his sergeant…
Meanwhile, the other players had made their way to the secret area of the tower, and discovered a hidden library. The announcement that books had been found had Andy racing back to them as quickly as he could manage. Unfortunately form him, there were no necromantic tomes to be found.
However, Ed’s skills as a scholar came to the fore as he translated a few books that had been left open. They managed to piece together that an asteroid from Morrsleib had crashed in the Barren Hills (forming the crater they had seen) and had been found by one Dagmar von Wittgenstein. Furthermore, it appeared to be a very large rock of pure warpstone.
The reactions of the players varied. Most immediately decided that a piece of warpstone that large had to be found and dealt with. Andy started wondering how it would improve his magical skills if it were in his possession…
Anyway, all these clues pointed to the stone being hidden in a reinforced chamber beneath Castle Wittgenstein.
The players gathered their belongings, and prepared to head back south.
Note: It should be pointed out that these players have had some spectacularly bad luck in the past when it comes to castles. The most famous incident was the basic D&D Module, B12 Queen’s Harvest, a short, 16 page introductory adventure that most 12 year olds would complete in an evening. It took them six weeks to get into the castle. That is not six weeks of game time, mind – I mean six weeks of real time.
Thus, they were not looking forward to the possibility of assaulting another fortress, especially one in a game far more deadly then D&D…