This short piece is a recap of a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay session from March of 2011.
“I’m as big as him,” said Gederick Hendrickson, who at 5’10” was not the tallest man in the city. Or even tallest among the dozen or so wet out-of-work mercenaries who had gathered, as they always did, outside the Merchant’s Guild waiting for a job. “I am,” continued Gederick, “and quicker, too, on account of I’m younger.”
Gederick was talking to his best friend and comrade-in-arms Pawil Rohrback. And he was talking about Herman Kunkle, the lumbering brute following his new employer, a snooty merchant of some note. Herman was at least a hand taller than Gederick, and was a champion pit fighter when he wasn’t a sword-for-hire.
“You’re not,” said Pawil, his gruff voice just quiet enough that no one else could hear over the rain. “And you never will be. Taller or faster.”
“Posh,” replied Gederick. “You’re lucky if you can see your hand in front of your face with those poxy eyes.” Pawil was suffering from a mild case of Red Pox, and his eyes were puffy and swollen.
“There’s not a man here that can best me in fair fight,” Gederick said.
Pawil smiled and shrugged at the other men, who turned to stare at them. “Keep your yap shut, boy,” he said to Gederick, who was just shy of his 18th birthday. “These fine men are all hardened veterans, skilled in the arts of war and killin’. Right, gentlemen?”
The other mercenaries grunted and mumbled, but turned back, looking out at the rain splattering on the empty bricks of the Marketplatz.
Pawil seized the opportunity, rising up on his toes and grabbing the front of Gederick’s coat and pulling the boy’s face into his own. Gederick grimaced and pushed back: The older man’s breath was as foul as the wind that blew out of his grandmother’s ass.
“Listen well, boy.” Pawil hissed through the blackened stumps of his teeth. “No one’s gonna hire a kid what runs his mouth too much. And don’t think I’ll step out if you rile these boys up. Not me. One more fat job and I’ll be able to retire and buy a cottage in the South.”
Pawil released Gederick, and relaxed. If he topped 5’6″ he was wearing boots with very thick soles. He was twice as old as Gederick, and it showed in the lines on his face. His nose was oddly flattened, thanks to the shield that has also smashed out his front teeth. Because of it, his nosed whistled quietly when he breathed through it. At night, he snorted like a pig, loud enough to bedevil anyone nearby.
Gederick, relieved at being released, nodded at his companion. “Alright, alright. Look sharp now, here comes some folks.”
There were two of them, walking across the marketplatz toward the Merchant Guild. One was small and dainty looking, with an expensive coat and a dandy’s hat. He had a big pistol jammed into his belt. The other was taller, a muscular fellow. By the cut of his denim breeches and from the look of his heavy, gray shirt, Pawil guessed correctly that the man worked on the docks.
“Good afternoon to you,” the small one said. “I am Hans Plavec, apothecary at your service. But then, you probably already know of me. I have need to two mercenaries, if that’s what you are.”
“What’s the job,” said Essing, a general unpleasant swordsman with a livid, festering scar on the right side of his face.
“Yes, well, that just it, isn’t it,” said Plavec. “It’s quite simple and very easy. A ride out to the village of Kelmark.”
“Komar,” said the dockhand.
“Komar, yes, well,” Plavec continued, with a frown. “Thank you Dieter, but if you don’t mind, don’t speak.”
Dieter kept his silence.
“See what I mean,” Pawil whispered to Gederick.
“So, Komar. Two days ride, gather up some nice herbs, and two days back,” Plavec continued. He held out his gloved hand, palm up, and revealed four shiny coins. “Four silver for four days. That should sound pretty good to men like you.”
A mixture of laughter and derision rose from the mercenaries. It was a tenth of what they could expect from a job escorting a real merchant. But Gederick didn’t know that.
“We’ll serve you well,” the boy said, dragging Pawil along as he stepped forward. “The two of us, I mean. Me and Pawil.” He smiled at Plavec. The other mercenaries turned and walked away.
“Gederick,” Pawil said as she shook the boy’s hand off his shoulder. “you don’t even have the brains of a cow.” He turned to Plavec. “Listen sir, it’s just that your offer, it’s a bit low, sir.”
“Oh,” said Plavec. “I didn’t realize. But, that’s fine. I’ve got to go make arrangements for a wagon and driver. You just tell my servant how much…” Dietrich made a guttural, coughing sound. “I mean,” Plavec continued,” tell my partner here how much to pay you and he’ll take care of it. I’ll meet you at the east gate at the first morning bell. Agreed?”
He didn’t wait for a reply. He stomped off toward the stables, making sure to give Dietrich a quick glare.
“He’s not so smart as he thinks,” Dietrich told them. He and Pawil came to an agreement.
The next morning, the rain had finally let up. The streets of the city were muddy, and in some places reeked of the sewers. Pawil arrived at the East Gate at sunrise, and found Gederick already waiting.
“Boy, what are you doing here already,” he asked, astonished to see the young man actually early for something. He’d cleaned up a bit, polished his boots and the badly scratched-up scabbard.
“Didn’t want to be late,” he replied, smiling. “So I had Rosie drag me out of bed when she got up herself. Do I look alright?”
Pawil shook his head. “You’ll never be mistaken for a dandy, that’s for sure.”
A short while after sunrise, the bell in the tower in the Marketplatz rang, marking the first bell. Minutes later, they saw their new employers in a wagon being pulled by a roan swayback nag. The Apothecary rode up front with a pug-nosed, sour-faced driver. Dieter stood behind them, holding onto the back of the driver’s bench to keep from falling over the sides.
“Hop in,” Dieter said to them, slapping the side of the wagon with a meaty hand.
“It might be better,” Hans said quickly, “If you follow on foot. To be able to react if anything should happen, you know.”
Gederick was downfallen, but Pawil just shrugged, and the two mercenaries fell in beside the wagon.
They walked all day and into the early evening before they reached a Coaching Inn, the Forest Tiger. A stew of cabbage and vague, chewy meat was followed by a few ales, and then they retired to the hayloft for the night.
“Adventure,” Gederick said as he took off his boots. “That’s the life for a man. The life for me.”
“And what of yer Rosie, boy?” Pawil asked.
“She’ll keep the house and mind the babies, just like my ma did,” Gederick replied, and then he flopped backward into the hay. He was snoring loudly within five minutes. It took Pawil a bit longer, as he could help but be nervous about what lay ahead.
The next morning they awoke to a breakfast of gruel and the promise of rain in the sky. The talk around the stables was about the rumors of a Chaos Army on the march in the north and whether they’d head this way, toward the riches of the Empire. Gederick was all ears for this kind of talk, but Pawil had seen Chaos before and was loath to repeat the experience.
Their driver, whose name turned out to be Reuben, was in a foul mood when they found him. He’d been drinking heavily last night, and had slept it off in the back of the wagon. His little pug nose was bright red, and the morning light made him squint. He hitched the old horse, whose name was Sadie, to the wagon, and the three of them waited almost another hour before their employers showed up.
They left the North Talabec road and followed a small path northward towards Komar. It was slow going, as the road was a sloppy mess from all of the rain. The forest seemed to crowd in on them, limbs reaching out to cover the narrow road. The forest made Pawil nervous, but Gederick didn’t seem to mind.
They walked all morning, and the sun, when it could be seen through the clouds, was overhead when they heard the distinct sound of fighting, that clamorous mixture of screaming and steel on steel.