Grimoire of the Ancients
Your party is composed of a group of soldiers returning from Teutonic Order’s crusade against the pagan Lithuanian king. Your friendship has been strengthened over the course of a long campaign. After early successes capturing peripheral castles and towns, the order suffered a crushing defeat on the fields of Koronowo. Having mustered in Danzig, they return to the town and are immediately, and ignomiously disbanded, regarded as failures in their mission.
Left with no options, and no honor, the party looks for opportunities to strike out on another venture. Reports from criers report that the Eberstark Fair is packing up and preparing to leave early for the Wast. As whole companies of disbanded soldiers turn to banditry and violence as a means of sustenance, the leader of the fair has decide the time is right to move on. The party requested to join the fair, swearing to protect the merchants as they travel from Warsaw, to Magdeburg, to Antwerp and then on to Paris.
The midday sun is bright, and the air is bitingly frigid as they continue on their path, the fair is only days away from Cologne. The early winter has grown abnormally cold, and the travellers look forward to finding a stopping point where they can escape the cutting wind. The leader of the fair, Peter Eberstark, is a powerfully built man, several stones heavier than any of the hired mercenaries. His wild beard, weathered eyes, and the deep scar from the corner of his mouth to his ear give him a fierce countenance that matches his imposing frame.
“The Eberstark”, as he is known among those traveling in the fair, left behind service as a knight after returning from a campaign in the Iberian peninsula to find his estate burned and family murdered. He began traveling as a merchant, and has since organized one of the most well recognized fairs, traveling the breadth of Europe. He currently rides at the front of the entire group, which includes just over 300 men. 450 when you include the women and children. Including carts, and horses, the parade stretches on for just over a mile.
The cold is making the travel difficult, and the Eberstark has ordered the beating of a walking drum to keep the pace up. Your party has taken up a position along the right flank of the convoy.
A group of riders approaches from the head of the train at speed.
“The Eberstark demands your presence. We will remain in place on the flank.”
The Eberstark has a grave look on his face as the riders approach.
“I know what kind of night we’re in for, an old campaigner like myself can feel the cold coming. If we’re not ready, we’ll lose some of the less stout among the fair tonight.
We can make the town of Hessenburg well before nightfall if we press hard for the next couple of hours. We’ll use the walls as a windbreak, and set up camp nearby. Ride swiftly ahead! Secure a place for us to set camp! Remind the Burgermeister of the blessings a fair can bestow on a town if he gives you any grief.
If possible, secure a few head of cattle, patatoes and vegetables from a local farmer, I’ll pay when I arrive. We’ll feed everyone a warm stew and drink ale to brace against whatever the night brings."
Your party presses forward at a gallop. . . The Eberstark has grown to trust you, this could spell greater opportunity.
After traveling just over an hour, you see the walls of Hessenburg peeking through the dense forest. The whole town appears to be feeding wood and coal to furnaces as each building produces a steady stream of black smoke into the still air, creating a thick cloud that seems to sit in place overhead. The smoke takes on the appearance of a great, writhing, tentacled beast, hovering over the town, reaching down into the houses to terrorize the people.
Before long the road bends and dumps into a low clearing with a slow rise to the town walls. The stench of civilization greets you.
Around the clearing you see small huts occupied by poor farmers that feed the town and surrounding area. Several are out, deep into thier daily work, hot from toil, their breath creating little puffs of steam that catch the sunlight.
As you approach you see the source of the stench is a tannery, sitting just outside the wall of the town. The tanning brine combined with the fresh animal skins creates a pungent odor that seems to hang close to the ground.
A large stone building sits opposite the town gates, just within the treeline, tucked away from the stench of the tannery, and a good walk from the town itself. You make out several figures, draped in heavy black cloaks sitting just outside the building, motionless.
You approach the closed gates. . .