The Tottenbach Fire

We completed our first Zweihänder adventure last session, and this session is the start of our second adventure. Since we had no real reason to stick together ourselves, it was good that there was an in-game reason for us to band together once more.

I have received a letter inviting me to one of the more expensive inns in the town of Swanzi, from an unnamed individual requesting my aid in some matter. As I found out later, the three others who I had worked with at Vorburg had also been invited.

When I got to the inn, the people there seemed immediately suspicious of me until I presented the invitation. At that point the attitude changed immensely, and I was ushered upstairs to a private room where three men were there with Floquert. There was one with a sword that was standing at the back, probably a bodyguard. A second was standing at the table wearing good quality clothes in the style of a merchant, whilst the third was sitting and dressed in very fine clothing. I recognised the third as Baron Schenfeld, the local lord. I didn’t know much about him, but had overheard rumours about his sister visiting him, and for some reason this was seen significant in some way.

We were offered food and drink whilst we waited for Djarin and Calthar to turn up. Once they had, the merchant introduced himself as Sir Narcis, in the employ of the Baron. The Baron had heard of our success at Vorburg, and wanted our aid for a very delicate matter.

Apparently, his sister, Annette, had been married to Baron Otterwild who was based to the north in the town of Sielzen. It had been a good arrangement until last month when Baron Otterwild had cast Annette out of his home without any explanation. She had recently become pregnant with their first child, and was now in a somewhat poor predicament.

Map of the area around Sielzen

There have been some disturbing rumours coming from the north, and we have been offered a very generous retainer to go and find out, keeping our reasons for the investigation secret. We are given the name of Isenbard Rullacher, Master of Greyhouse Carriages at the village of Tottenbach, who can provide us with the name of a contact in Sielzen itself. Above all, the Baron would like to see a return to the status quo, with his sister back with Baron Otterwild.

I was personally allowed to speak with the Lady Annette, a young woman in her early twenties and maybe a month or so pregnant, and managed to obtain some information about what had happened:

Over the last few months, her husband had made quite a few changes to the household staff and she had also heard rumours that he had taken a mistress. This was most unusual, because he had more interest in young men than ladies, and it had taken three years of marriage to get to the point where he had got her pregnant.

He had become colder towards her over the last month, then within a week of her telling him that she was pregnant, he kicked her out of his home.

She was not aware of any financial difficulties, though he did seem to have been investing a lot more into trade and was trying to raise funds, and had been dealing with a lot more foreign merchants. She had heard that there was a new mine in the local forest, and that there had been some trouble there, but knew little else.

Her husband had no other close family, and his main interest seemed to be falconry. She gave me the name of someone who could be trusted – the house mistress Veronica Skalton, as well as the name of someone who definitely couldn’t – a newly recruited unpleasant lieutenant of his named Dirken Graves. There may be some friction between her husband and the local Bishop Tremain.

Her main interest was to return to her home at Sielzen and to her husband, and for her child to inherit the barony.

Sir Narcis asked us to keep a record of all our expenses, so I have taken on the duty of recording what we spend, since I don’t trust any of the others to do so accurately. We were given 8 gold coins which should cover our expenses for a while. The village of Tottenbach is about 30 miles down river, and the next boat leaves in the morning.

The journey down to Tottenbach had been uneventful, though it had spent most of the day raining. It was a small village at a crossing of the road and river, and seems reasonably friendly though by the time we arrived it had suffered a calamity that strongly informed us of the state of affairs in the Barony.

Village of Tottenbach

The Carriage House was burning as we approached the village, though it may be more accurate to say that it had pretty much finished burning bu the time we arrived. There was a group of soldiers standing around outside the ruins, and they quickly charged us taxes for coming through the village – a ‘leg tax’ of 8 brass pennies. Their arms were that of an otter, which we presumed to be that of the Baron Otterwild. They were led by a sergeant who was somewhat podgy, and to whom Calthar seemed to take a liking – or at least she immediately offered to buy him a drink and spent the next couple of hours talking to him.

The soldiers were here collecting taxes, which is somewhat unusual since this is normally done after the harvest when everyone has things to be taxed. Though I stayed away from both Calthar and Sergeant Jelts, I did overhear him say that the Baron was being a lot harsher now on those that owed him money, and he was taking more and punishing those who didn’t pay with some severity.

The owner of the Carriage House had refused to pay, so Sergeant had had his men burn the place down. Given that the worth of the carriage house, and the carriages and horses within it, were considerably more than any taxes the Sergeant could have claimed, it seems like a somewhat stupid move. Calthar was given the name of the sergeant’s superior officer – a Captain Sarkas back at Sielzen.

Whilst Calthar spoke to the sergeant, Floquert found a young man that took his fancy and rented out a private room for the night. I was not privy to their goings on, and to be honest I don’t want to know.

After the sergeant had left, I tried to ask the innkeeper what had been happening here, but then Calthar came over to join the conversation, and not wanting to be associated with her at this point since she had been seen being friendly with the tax collectors, I have decided to retire for the night. With our contact at the Carriage House most probably killed in the fire, it was difficult to see where we could go from here.

By morning the carriage house was a smouldering ruin, but the soldiers had left so I decided to look if there were any bodies that could be recovered. I had hoped there may have been a cellar or something in which the inhabitants could have sheltered, and indeed there was a way down, though it was sealed. When I explained to the villagers that I wanted to try and recover any bodies, they lent me an axe and with some help from Floquert we managed to break are way in.

Beneath the building there was a cellar, and three bodies – younger members of the household which we managed to get outside. By this time Calthar and Djarin had joined us, and as I later found out they had come to the place last night but not found anything.

As I said rites over the dead, the others searched the upper floors, and recovered the body of Master Rullacher. They also found a way into a sealed part of the house, to which the villagers provided a key from the body of Master Rullacher.

Within were a stack of journals, various vials and potions and a small chest of silver. I donated the silver to the villagers, to help them rebuild and recover their losses from the tax collectors, whilst I took the journals back to the inn and went through them.

I don’t think Calthar was too happy with the silver being given to the villagers, but doing so means they will turn a blind eye to anything we do here, and won’t want to admit to anyone that we went through the belongings because then they’d have to admit to being given the silver.

Most of the journals were accounts, but some were written in code which after several hours I was able to begin to decipher. By the sounds of things he had dealings with the proprietor of the Green Dragon Inn at Sielzen, one Victor Hoffman. The relationship seemed to be more than just simple business, so it may well be that this is the contact that we are looking for.

We will need to spend another night here, and get ourselves cleaned up and ready for the walk to Sielzen tomorrow.

Our expenses so far:

Boat to Tottenbach8ss
Tottenbach “Leg Tax”8bp
Bribe to Sergeant1ss
Common Room and Food80ss

Samuel Penn