For varying personal reasons, nearly all of them the result of desperate measures or dire need, a disparate rabble of common folk come into the employ of an Altdorf fabric merchant – Albrecht Hechter. The merchant, either through a shrewd eye for future profit or else at the bequest of his trusted right hand elf – Dolwen, has sought to employ a young herdsman, a woodcutter, a retired dwarven pitfighter, an elf pedlar, a Tilean wizard’s apprentice and a pair of sibling beggars. Each has a distinct role to play in a future trip to a large backwater town laying between the imperial capital and Nuln; a foothold of humanity on the edge of the Reikswald forest, sitting on the banks of the mighty river Reik, called Reiksdorf. Dolwen is tasked with delivering a shipment of linens to a contact in the town and to then spend five days taking orders and forming new contacts with local merchants and shops.
With an advance of their 20GP payment for the trip the group boards Matthias Cobb’s barge – Der Silber Kessel with the elf pedlar’s horse drawn cart loaded with Hechter’s shipment of linens. Over the next day and a half’s journey through the brown silt laden waters of the lower Reik they observe the occasional passing vessel and other regular river traffic. As they sail further they see the great forests and endless woods on either bank of the mighty waterway; the seemingly lifeless wilderness is only punctuated by the occasional inhuman cry, the howling of wolves and the infrequent forlorn melody of birdsong. At noon on the second day they finally spot towers and smoke up river, to the right and within an hour they sail into the busy docks of Reiksdorf. Cobb takes care of mooring the boat and paying the harbour master the required fees while Dolwen oversees the group’s unloading of the cargo. Jeffric the woodcutter makes the sensible purchase of a city map and then the group, led by Dolwen sets off for the market square; as they trundle along the cobbled streets they observe the sights, sounds and smells of a large town of The Empire – the familiar style of the architecture, citizens engaging in commerce or going about their business, buskers and beggars seeking to earn a coin. Shortly they arrive in the grand market square – a generous rectangle lined with quaint shops and containing a host of bustling market stalls. Dolwen manages to quickly locate his master’s contact, Tariq Qaleem, in “Tariq’s Fine Linens”. The gregarious Arabian merchant makes the agreed payment for the delivery and the group unloads the shipment of linens into the shop.
The primary purpose of the trip has been successfully executed so Dolwen now takes the group to their lodgings for the next few days, a large inn a few streets away called “Der Grun Drachen”. The elf pays the tavern keeper for the groups lodging and they are shown up to their shared room – only Dolwen has his own chamber while Cobb sleeps aboard his barge. Dolwen informs the group that their main meals have been paid for and that he is going back to the market square to start on his task of making new contacts; he tells the group that he will not need their services until eight o’clock the next morning and that they are free to do as they wish – but he advises them to stay in the vicinity of the tavern and to not get into any trouble.
Left to their own devises, Durgar orders his meal, as does Heinrich. Cadrigar the pedlar decides to ignore Dolwen’s advise and takes his cart down the street to hawk his wares. Ulric and his sister, Fickenja, approach the barkeep and engage him in casual conversation, hoping to learn about the lay of the land. The urbane tavern keeper, Karl Anders, freely informs the former beggars that there is little special about the town – the main cause of worry for most decent folk being the thieves guild which operates from out of Cutthroat Allee in Der Schwanz district. Karl in turn asks about the group and when they tell him that they are interested in finding some extra work he is happy to tell them that it so happens that a friend is in need of some hired hands to help deliver a shipment of wine barrels to Der Golden Adler brewery in Der Drachen. They are told that the job is straightforward and will pay 20GP a man. Ulric and the group eagerly seize the opportunity and Karl dispatches a runner to make contact with his friend.
Meanwhile Cadrigar has little success in making a sale – the small-minded and prosaic local populace stare at the strange sight of an elf trying to sell mundane items from a pedlar’s cart. A couple of curious street urchins approach and dare to engage the rogue seller in innocent conversation; one of the boys makes the mistake of asking whether Cadrigar is a dark elf, which angers the pedlar enough for him to give the boy a clip across the ear, sending him sprawling – the boys run off crying. The scene draws the attention of a passing city guard patrol who quickly seize on the fact that the elf is a stranger to the town. They ask him for his license to trade, which he does not possess, and promptly extort a “fine” of 20 shillings from him. Dejected and poorer for the effort, Cadrigar returns to the tavern.
A couple of hours later, still milling around in the pleasant enough Green Dragon inn, Karl’s contact, a man called Tarquinius, makes an appearance. He answers all the groups suspicious questions in a straightforward manner. The job consists of meeting and unloading a boat at the docks at eight o’clock that evening; Tarquinius will have four men with him and they will all load up the twenty wine barrels onto two carts and then drive them across town to the brewery. Satisfied that it’s a genuine job and not a ploy the group agrees to the offer. Dolwen arrives back an hour later and the group informs him of their intention of carrying out the delivery job; the elf trader sees no apparent harm and gives his consent so long as they are all ready to commence work for him the next morning as planned.
At half seven just as the sun sinks and the street lamps are lit, the group departs from the inn and make their way to the dock where Tarquinius and his crew are waiting, just as planned. The ship has already arrived and the next forty minutes are spent loading the wine barrels onto the two waiting carts. The party then splits itself up evenly ensuring that they are equally mixed with Tarquinius and his men to ensure no deception occurs. Cargo loaded, they head off into the night, driving through the now empty streets. They cross a bridge across the canal and weave through streets that are clearly in a rougher neighbourhood than they were previously in. They turn into another street and spot a hay-cart drawing across the far end and as they progress further in they then spot another hay-cart being pulled across the spot where they just entered; both ends of the street have been blocked. Two figures bearing crossbows appear on balconies on either side of the street and promptly shoot the driver of the first cart, who utters a shrill scream. Before he can take any defensive evasion, Cadrigar is hit by the second attacker’s crossbow bolt, straight in the head – AMBUSH!!!