Brash Young Fools
Day Three, continued.
I fear that my new associates may have bitten off more than they can chew.
Perhaps I should start from the beginning so that, should the worst come to pass in the next few minutes, future brave souls may understand how the great Joachim von Winterstein came to be brought low by the follies of others and the foul depredations of Chaos.
Once we had carried sufficient boxes into the house to maintain our cover as itinerant labourers (a pretence which only my considerable skill at misdirection enables me to maintain, while others are more naturally suited to the role), old Rickard invited me into his private study for a chat. Conscious that my fellows might find the reminiscences of two noble scions reacquainted once more hard to follow, I decided to forgo the usual pleasantries and, for the sake of form, maintain the illusion that Rickard and I were not old friends.
Rickard, it must be said, has a somewhat overbearing manner which apparently leads to problems with his staff (doubtless why his staff showed so little understanding over the matter of the lost invitation to his recent engagement party), so I took him at his word when he explained that he feared some conspiracy among his household. He charged me to investigate under the aforementioned guise as servants and report back anything suspicious, before joining him for a dinner of goose or venison.
Victor, with all the superstitious paranoia common to the labouring class, suggested that the staff might be in league with the beastmen we had recently encountered but saner minds prevailed on that point.
Our investigation took us first to the kitchen where Boris demonstrated the brusque manners that explain his need to pay for female company. I am sorry to say that he quite undermined my efforts to win the cook over to our side and, tainted by association, I found myself evicted along with the rest. I am quite sure that Karl appreciated my pains on this issue and am resolved to enlist his help in taking Boris to task should the poor chap survive the next few minutes (Karl that is, not Boris, but I am getting ahead of myself).
We proceeded to explore a small study where I my keen intellect and education allowed me to spot among the accounts a detail which others had overlooked – that the previous owner of the lodge, Andreas von Bruner, had spent more money than his receipts covered. This in turn suggested some manner of illicit activity.
Our search left the study a little less than tidy, but the appearance of some cleaning urchin gave Victor a chance to make up for his earlier foolishness. As we left he spotted amongst the general detritus a note which the cleaning boy appeared to have dropped himself bearing the simple message ‘goose is good’. My fellows had the sense to agree to my suggestion that we avoid the venison at dinner.
I will not speak of the room with the painting save to say that it gave solid foundation to our suspicions and even I would not think less of Boris for his reaction – we were all, I feel, a little unnerved.
The library was once more a chance for both my natural charm and hard won erudition to shine. Having put the portly librarian at ease, I discovered concealed among the shelves a pamphlet of truly disturbing nature, ‘A Disquieting Proposal’, which made a case (utterly flawed, of course) for the worship of Chaos gods. Boris made a brash move in openly hinting at our suspicions concerning the venison into conversation with the librarian, but on this occasion it paid off – the librarian seemed to react.
Feeling we had enough evidence to return to Rickard, we went to him with our suspicions. Andreas, we felt, was a likely cultist (ref the picture) and some of his staff (Rickard confirmed that the cook, the librarian and the steward came with the house) continued in this way. The venison was not safe to eat. Sadly, Rickard displayed that disturbing lack of mental agility which no doubt led to his being ensnared by that harpy of a future wife, and resolved to eat the venison come what may.
When the time came for dinner, my suspicions were confirmed, but it is best to lay out events as they occurred.
We were joined by the librarian, Rickard’s physician, the master of hounds, the captain of the guards and the gardener. Crucially, we met Rickard’s steward, the same man who game me such a strange look from the window on our arrival! His head covered half in bandages, I took the opportunity to quiz him on his injuries. He claimed to have been hurt in a recent beastman attack and subsequently tended by the doctor, but something in his nature struck me as false, which in turn cast suspicion on the doctor.
Sadly, Boris showed no more wit than I have come to expect from him and, on complaining of his own recent head injury, found himself presented with a concoction from that doctor which he was obliged to take.
As I mentioned, our suspicions were confirmed when the librarian and the doctor alone were served goose by the steward and all others were given venison (save for whichever staff ate goose in the kitchen, of course). I made an effort to conceal the fact that I did not eat the meat, but some of my fellows showed less tact (I need not mention which). As the meal progressed it became apparent that those who had eaten the tainted meat were rapidly becoming fatigued, although the dog man – a veritable brute well over six feet tall – seemed alive enough when he left to attend to the barking hounds. On which point, it seems reasonable to me to suspect that these cultists may be in league with the beastmen beyond the walls, having them create a distraction for some nefarious purpose!
After dinner I left for a private word with Rickard, accompanied by Boris and Victor. We had barely reached Rickard’s room when the poor fellow collapsed in a stupor. Boris seemed intent on looting the room on the spot, and purely by chance his initial search revealed a hidden ladder behind a bookcase. Being bold enough to investigate but not so foolish as to head down first, I instructed Boris, as the most expendable, to take the lead. The ladder led to a passage beneath the house, which we naturally followed.
As I scribble down these notes we have come to the end of the passage. Before us lies a chamber that even Boris would recognise as the home of a Chaos cult. Four cultists chant while the fifth – the odious steward I was right to suspect – holds Karl unconscious with a knife at his throat. Can we brave three rescue our friend only time will… [text illegible]. Boris keeps disturb… [text illegible] It seems we are about to leap to the rescue!