Tibbiddo fell into his old habits automatically as well. He found lodgings near his old ones and again lived a life with no visible means of support. Rurik, as before, lodged with him.
Michael took up lodgings with Herger's mother in Bundesmarkt as before and began to hone his skills as a hunter in the woods outside the city and village. Marri, for her part, lodged with her brother Pepper and Jakk while considering her next step.
After only a week in the city, Rurik and Tibbo mysteriously departed, leaving only vague hints of their destination.
As the weeks rolled by, Lothar was provisionally granted membership in the Grey College; those members in attendance had approved his admittance, but for the next year, members not present had the right to challenge the decision. It was considered by most to be a formality since five Grey Wizards, including Grey Wolf had approved.
Marri found lodgings in the Sindelfingen, not the worst slum area in the city, but not a large step up. She began a clinic out of her rooms, helping the poor for free or whatever they could afford. Soon, the Shallyan missions and soup kitchens in the Sindelfingen and the neighbouring horrible slum of the Drecksack contacted her and she began to split her time between her clinic and the Shallyan missions.
A month or so later, Rurik and Tibbo returned from their trip and contacted their friends and fellow adventurers, arranging for a dinner and party at their logdings near the University.
Over dinner, they explained that they had gone to Nuln to do a little research into the name on the cask found at the Falcon's Rest, the name of Reiner Schon. They learned quickly that he was a well known jeweler. With some difficulty, they learned that he was one of the top fences in Nuln as well. Before proceeding, they decided to return and share their news with the company. And so they were.
Through somewhat fuzzy logic Tibbiddo proclaimed the cask's contents to be their own, and settled the explanation with a gleam in his eye.
Herger was happy to see his friends gathered once again around a dinner table without the threat of sudden and horrible death hanging over their heads. He mused quietly about the cask and its possible contents, rubbing his chin.
"In a situation such as this, my faith guides me to agree with Tibbiddo, and from more than a simple 'finders-keepers' point of view. Sigmarites believe that the strength of the Empire comes from each members ability to better themselves and improve their station in life. As a fence, the previous owner of this cask was helping to strengthen the sordid underbelly of the Empire, the shadowfolk. We, however, work in the light and such resources, if the contents are indeed what we believe, would be better used in our hands to make the Empire strong in different ways. A good portion of my share would, of course, go to the Church."
Marri frowned slightly before speaking, as if she was thinking hard about what everyone had said - which in fact she was.
"Should we perhaps open the cask, and see if its contents are indeed worth anything... before we spend the money?" she asked.
Rurik smiled knowingly. "Trust me. It is." Trying to assume a more serious posture, he appended, "That, and we may be able to discover the Fence's contact in this ugly affair."
"Well, let's pry the rock up that this fence is posted under." Michael offered from his corner.
Marri blinked - a bit confused about what Michael's words meant - but she smiled at him, nodded and said "If you mean we should see if this leads us to those who have lately caused so much damage, pain and death... I agree."
Tibbiddo pondered Marri's words, for he did not like damage, pain, or death; yet the indulgent thought of there being even more gems lying somewhere unappreciated seemed to soothe his fears. Patting his belly the halfling leaned back as if he had just had the most satisfying of meals, "Aye, for the safety of others we ought to investigate further."
Upon consideration, the company decided that using the cask from the Black Coach as bait would be there best option. With some regret on the part of the more mercenary members, they resealed the cask and prepared for their trip; horses were stabled with Herger's mother, leave-taking was arranged by Marri who left the Shallyans to watch over her clinic, papers and documents were written by Herger's superiors transferring him to the Nuln temple of Sigmar for a time, and the others made such arrangements as they felt necessary.
Marri was able to arrange travel upriver using the last of the party funds and distributed various foodstuffs among the friend's packs for the journey, explaining that they would be able to buy more at various stops along the way.
A week later, on the 10th of Sigmarzeit, they took ship for Nuln. Against the current the whole way, the trip would proceed at a fairly liesurely pace taking two, giving them plenty of time to make their plans.
The trip was an easy one, pleasant even. The deep forest, with the occasional castle rising from the depths or placed on a high rock was actually quite beautiful when viewed from the safety of a boat in the middle of the river.
They arrived on the 24th, a Festag, in the Grossemarkt district of Nuln. With their weapons and armour safely packed away so as not to arouse the attentions of the guards, the company disembarked and joined the throng on the docks. Herger and Marri set off for the Grossebrucke to the Uberstadt, Herger bound for the temple of Sigmar in the Kircheteil and Marri for Gold and Sons in the Hockmarkt. The others took the ferry to the Rechtenufer, where at Tibbo's recommendation they would seek lodgings in Studentenheim, the student's quarter, at an Inn called The Saucy Sixpence.
Once in the Uberstadt, Marri and Herger followed the Westway to the Hochmarkt where Marri turned off and entered Gold and Sons. Herger continued walking as sounds of joyful reunion erupted at the bakery.
He continued almost to the West gate, then turned left, down the hill past the Temple of Verena to the Temple of Sigmar. There he produced his papers and offered them to the lay clerk who served as secretary, an officious little man. The clerk looked at the seals and realized that several of them were for the local ranking priest alone to open. He quickly ready the others then laid them down on his table. "Father Helmut will not be able to see you until after morning services tomorrow, I'm afraid. This," he tapped one letter, "requests us to provide lodging and support for you. We have a dormitory nearby, Johann," he called another lay brother over, "will show you. There may still be some food in the kitchen. Is there anything else?"
Herger replied negatively and thanked the clerk. He gathered his things once again said, "Lead on, Johann."
Having ferried across the Aver, the others made their way through the narrow streets of the district, stopping once or twice while Tibbo asked directions, before stoping at the sign of a large six-penny where the bust on the coin was busty indeed.
The street was bustling with students and those who made their living off students going about their business, and although they were on a small side road, the traffic was substantial. They entered the Inn, already starting to fill up with the early drinkers and made their way to the bar. The owner, Charles Balderpate, and Tibbo negotiated for rooms, arguing about price, view and amenities but finally coming to an agreement and sealing the deal with a round of beer.
Lothar and Michael took one room and Rurik and Tibbo another. Food was sent up and the companions ate and retired.
The next morning, Herger was admitted to see Father Helmut. Helmut had the look of an ex-warrior: muscular once but gone to fat, a few broken teeth on the left side and long scar on his left forearm. He examined Herger carefully from behind his desk, then indicated Herger should sit. He tapped the documents and spoke, quickly and with authority. "Herger Blichtrest. Initiate. Enigma." He raised an eyebrow. "Sent from Altdorf to. Study. But. Not now. 'Allow him time to persue some investigations and aid him if you may,'" he read. He stood abruptly. "So, Herger Blichtrest. I am a busy man, we shall not meet often. Tell me what aid you would like and I shall consider it."
"Thank you, sir," said Herger. "I shall not trouble you."
"Then good day," said Father Helmut."
That evening the company gathered to discuss their plans. They talked long into the evening then went their separate ways to get some rest.
The next morning, with such preparations as they could make in place, the company descended on the goldsmith, Reiner Schon. Marri handed her basket, with the weapons in it, to Herger who was loitering around with Lothar. Then she and Tibbo entered the shop and began to look at the goods on display. The two toughs watching the shop gave them the once over but then let them be.
A few moments later, Michael and Rurik entered, carrying the cask with them. The toughs sized them up and one stepped up. "Hello friend, what's your business here?" He nodded at the cask.
"Well, that remains to be seen, gentlemen. I'm sure the smith will be interested in our business, though. We're not carrying lead here, that's for sure!" Michael replied.
Rurik pops the lid slightly for a quick peek as if to punctuate Michael's statement. With the roguish grin, the Marienberger speaks low but clearly, "We are all businessmen here. Send word to the proprietor of this fine establishment of our arrival; if you would my good man."
The thug took a quick glance, then nodded. "Wait here." He dissappeared through a door into the back. A few moments later, he reappeared and gestured for Rurik to follow him. "Your friend waits here."
He led Rurik into a back room where a well dressed, lean and handsome man was seated at a long table. A grin split his face as Rurik came in. "Good morning! Karl tells me you have some interesting goods to show me?"
The halfings continued to shop while Michael and the guard had staring contests and sized each other up. After about half an hour, Rurik came back out still carrying the cask. He and Michael left, and shortly thereafter Tibbo and Marri did as well.
The company quickly gathered together in a nearby tavern to learn what had happened. Rurik summarized the situation as he saw it. The fence clearly had been fronting the goods, but Rurik did not think he knew the ultimate source. He seemed mildly suprised that they were being delivered by hand, leading Rurik to guess that usually they were just shipped as cargo in the sealed cask. The question of where the money from the sale of the goods goes is an interesting one, though. Someone must get the money somehow. Rurik guesses that the fence is not directly involved in the proceedings at the now defunct Inn, but can't be sure.
As soon as they were seated at Inn, Marri had ordered a mug of mulled wine and t wo pots of stew, one of which she gave Traveller. She listened carefully to Ruri k, as she ate her meal. "Meat's a bit tough in this stew," she began glancing ar ound to make sure no one seemed to be paying undue attention to them. She lowere d her voice a bit and went on, "I was rather hoping we'd learn a bit more from t he fellow. Perhaps, talking isn't the way to learn what we need to know. Perhaps ... looking might be more like it. Quietly. After closing." She then proceeded t o ask Rurik and Michael if they thought it possible to break into the jeweler's office and have a look around? "Unless" she finished, "someone else has another idea?"
Tibbiddo looked deep into the stew bowl that Marri was enjoying and snapped out of his trance at the mention of something underhanded. "That sounds like a wonderful idea! Of course, it will take a halfling of considerable talent to enter after closing." He tugged on his lapels and smiled.
After the initial push to break in, further discussion led them to the idea that it might be wiser to send Rurik back to discuss further with Reiner Schon.
The next Rurik went back to meet with the fence again, while the others loitered nearby in the hope that should something happen it would be noisy enough to attract their attention and slow enough that they would be able to provide some aid. The morning went by slowly and the companions tension mounted as it did. Finally, though, an hour or so before noon, Rurik stepped out of the shop, without the cask. The company retired again to the tavern where Rurik told them what he learned. Rurik pressed Reiner Schon for information, but the fence, understandably was reluctant to give up any information - after all his livliehood depended on the trust of his clientele and his reputation. Eventually, after much verbal fencing, Rurik took Reiner into his confidence to some extent, suggesting that the source of the money was tainted, coming from Chaos and the funds were probably going to the same. Schon had felt a little disturbed for some time by some of the procedures and some of the goods that had come through, and by the end of their meeting, the two men had put, if not all their cards on the table, at least a fair percentage. Rurik thought, although he can't be sure, that Schon is not in the clutches of Chaos and that fear and loathing of Chaos is why Schon is inclined to help them. Rurik rather liked Schon, actually, he seemed to be his kind of rogue.
Schon knows, or at least has told Rurik, he knows very little. A couple of years ago, shortly after the Black Coach began to appear, a man came to Schon's shop in the evening, heavily swathed in cloak and scarf. He came to an agreement with Schon whereby casks of goods would arrive to be fenced, and the proceeds were to be held until called for. The casks would be marked with a sign, a sort of upside down Y above a five pointed star. The man showed a disk with the symbols etched on it, and said that whoever arrived to take the money would identify themselves the same way.
From that point, every month or so, a cask would arrive and a week or so later, someone would arrive to collect the proceeds. Most of the time it was the same man, or one very much like him. Thrice it was someone else, twice a much shorter man, once someone that Schon thinks was a woman. A few times, there were some disagreement about the amount, once with one of the shorter men, but things were worked out - although the shorter man did not do the negotiation, the first man came a few days later to deal with it.
After further debate, the company decided to keep watch on the shop and wait for the collector to come. Rurik himself would attempt to hire on as muscle for Reiner to keep an eye on it. The pickup was always made in the evening, so the comrades began to gather at the tavern shortly before dark every night and over dinner keep watch and chat about what they had done with their day.
About a week later, Tibbo glanced up from his stew and saw Rurik standing in the door way gazing down at the tavern. When Rurik saw that he had caught Tibbo's eye, he nodded, then slipped back into the shop.
Hurriedly draining the last drop of stew, Tibbiddo slurped and stood up. It was time and he went about preparing to follow the collector. The days had grown long and the team had debated, rehearsed, and prepared for this exact time. Tossing a few coins down for the stew Tibbiddo notified the others that Rurik had identified their target.
Marri who, during most of the days they had watched, had positioned herself with her scribal supplies and Traveller at her feet, about half a block away, also saw Rurik come out of the shop and nod to Tibbi. "About time." she thought a little crossly. "What sort of agents of chaos are you anyway? Dawdling about." Although she'd made a few coins plying her old trade, and had become friends with children who stopped by to pet Traveller, she had begun to wonder if anyone was really going to show up. Now she tensed up a bit, flicking her eyes up and down the street looking for the "agent" and looking for Tibbi who had been assigned the first part of the tail. But she managed to continue smoothly - reading the letter from his daughter to the older man in front of her.
Michael, Herger and Lothar too made their preparations and when a man with a floppy hat and his face well-obscured by a scarf stepped out of the fence's shop, they were all ready to try and shadow him.
The man, at least it appeared to be man, moved quickly and erratically through the streets of Nuln. Although he didn't seem to know he was being followed, he did seem to be taking some precautions automatically. Within fifteen minutes or so, Marri, Herger, Michael and Lothar had all been forced to give up the pursuit or warn the target that he was being followed. They did manage to keep Tibbo or Rurik in view, and those two had managed to keep the target in sight without alerting him.
After some doubling back and forth, the man suddenly moved briskly down the hill toward the Alt Brucke, with Tibbo and Rurik doing their best to keep up and out of sight. At the Brucke, he stopped short and spun around. Cursing his luck, Rurik was forced to keep walking past the man as his target dodged down a side road. Tibbo had ducked out of sight and now there was but a single tail on the target. Rurik joined the others in following Tibbo rather than the target himself.
That last spin seemed to have satisfied the man, because he moved with quite a bit more directness now and Tibbo was able to follow him with greater ease. Perhaps it was that which led to overconfidence and that is why, rounding one corner Tibbo pulled up short, his quarry vanished.
The party rejoined Tibbo and looked around them. They were in the Ostkirche district, and something about it looked familiar. Herger was the first to remember, they were very close to the house of Heinrich Pisselwein, the guard Sergeant. It was at the place where his house had collapsed that they had entered the sewers and found the journal of the mage Likar.
R"Drat!" said Tibbiddo scratching his head. "My apologies," he offered sniffing the air, "our friend seems to have disappeared. I heard neither door nor window welcome him and I did not think him to be that far ahead of my little legs."
"I'm sure you did your best," Marri comforted. "I think we should split up," she continued "half to watch the area right around here, and half to go to that house Herger remember is nearby and see if he's there."
The companions waited in the shadows near the intersection while Tibbo and Rurik slipped off to check on the site of Pisselwein's house. They returned a few minutes later with the news that a new building had been constructed on the site. It looked like a clinic at first glance, a moderately prosperous one no less.
"Smell of the coin," began Tibbiddo, "could be a clue as to our man." The halfling looked around and squinted a bit, "Gone underground is my guess, the tunnels you know."
"A clinic?" Marri asked. "Hmmm.... I'm a doctor. Perhaps I might drop in. Professional curiosity and all that. As for the tunnels... where is the nearest entrance? Oh bother", she said as a new thought struck her, "its probably under the building. How ever are we going to get to it?" she asked, looking around at everyone. "Do you think I might be able to find a way to it... while I'm "visiting" the clinic?"
Tibbiddo reached to his forehead and swayed gently, "I am feeling a bit faint, and I suspect you will have great difficulty diagnosing my illness. A consultant is what you need," he said with a wink.
Rurik rubs his forehead a moment as Tibbs and Marri attempt to come up with a clever bit of subterfuge. With a sigh, the Wastelander offers his opinion. "We've been made. The time for trickery is passed."
He then shifts his weight and rests his hand on the reassuringly warm pommel of his elven blade. "If the clinic is what it appears to be, then Marri can politely explain why we're going to the basement. Otherwise, I'm anticipating a fight. Let's get them before they have any more time to prepare for our arrival."
Marri sighs and checks to make sure she has her sling and some rocks. "I do so hate to just charge in," she states, looking up at her studier companions. "Still... whoever it is we have been chasing probably isn't standing around waiting while we debate."
The clinic was a two story structure of wood, built on the lot where Pisselwein's house had been. An initial reconnaissance showed that it was built against it's neighbors on the three sides that don't front the street. There were no windows on the ground floor, and three across the front of the second. There was a single door leading into the clinic itself on the right hand side of the building, and what looked like a smaller entrance on the left hand side a few steps down from the street.
After a hurried consultation, Herger moved a few feet away and took up a watchful position. Rurik and Michael followed Tibbo and Marri to the small door and screened the halflings with their bodies. Tibbo produced a small tool from somewhere and with surprising rapidity the door slipped open. The company passed through quickly.