Actual Play, Fantasy, OSR, RPG, Shadows of the Ruinous Powers, The Empire in Flames, The Enemy Within, Warhammer Fantasy, WHFRP, WHFRP1e
(Being a series of quick game notes trying to account for the events of many sessions of playing through The Enemy Within using the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e rules.)
The Empire in Flames
- Larry [Templar] – I 68
- Nate [Cleric 3] – I 64
- Gottlieb [Templar] – I 63
- Wilfried [Templar] – I 63
- Scargetter [Assassin] – I 60
An evening out on the town is the perfect opportunity to dig up some rumours and information about what’s been going on in their absence from the Empire.
And the rumours are pouring forth!
The Emperor was struck down by an assassin. Before the guards could stop him, the assassin killed himself. As he died, the killer said that the mutant-lover was dead.
The Emperor was mad! He thought he had been cured by a doctor from Morrslieb!
Even if the Emperor hadn’t been assassinated, he would have perished within the year, poor man. He wasn’t at all well.
“I’m not sorry to see him dead. Life goes on, and we’ll have a new Emperor soon enough!”
Grand Duke Gustav von Krieglitz was the only one who didn’t look surprised when the Emperor was killed! He hasn’t lost out, after all. Without an Emperor, he can take Ostland for himself now!
Just before he died, the killer yelled “Long Live the Wolf!” If this doesn’t prove it was those Wolf-Fuckers who killed the Emperor, what does?
There’s more in this than meets the eye. I heard the assassin had the look of a Stirlander!
There’ve been signs that matters are amiss! The sewers ‘neath the University were filled with malformed rats. I saw them myself when the ratcatchers chased them out. Some of the rats had signs – I’ve never seen the like – painted on their fur!
The killer’s last breath was a black cloud, which formed into a wolf’s head that drifted away!
Don’t eat Frau Erwinia van der Loo’s chicken pies. That’s what killed the Emperor!
The Electors have sent for the Crown Prince. He’ll find the real killers, you’ll see!
Bah! By all accounts, the man’s an idiot!
Baron Stefan Todbringer is dead of a fever. Baron Heinrich has been proclaimed heir to Graf Boris. At least Middenheim now has a capable heir. Too bad the Empire doesn’t.
Tomorrow? I don’t know why they’re even bothering to vote. The Crown Prince is bound to be elected as the new Emperor after being proclaimed the heir.
Rivermen have been found floating in the docks, and they’ve been drained of all their blood. It’s all just another sign that evil times have come to Altdorf!
With the rumours of vampires everywhere, Nathander makes haste to the shrine of Morr to inquire about their vampire hunting expertise and what they know about undead roaming the docks. There, Marguerite Schatten, High Priestess of Morr, informs them that she hasn’t seen any evidence of vampiric murders or bizarre exsanguinations since she took over as high priestess 18 months ago.
So they head down to the docks to see if they can get any further information – but the docks remain nearly abandoned. But the dockside taverns are a different story. An evening of shaking down dockworkers and it appears that the whole vampire rumour started almost two years ago when the Maria Borger came through Altdorf.
Returning homewards, they find a group of thugs beating up a scribe in an alleyway. Chasing off the thugs (and knocking one unconscious) and they find that the young man taking the beating is Pieter Grunnenthal, scribe for Emmanuelle von Liebewitz of Nuln, who was at the Elector’s meeting where the Emperor was assassinated.
“The meeting of the Electors began quietly enough, although there was an air of anticipation about the proceedings. Nearly everyone present – from the 14 Electors and their retinues to the guards and scribes in the hall – thought they knew what was going to happen: the Emperor was going to abdicate in favour of his nephew and named heir, Crown Prince Wolfgang.
The morning session was one of unremitting tedium, as the fourteen Electors were announced. After several hours of listening to formal proclamations of the Electors’ titles and estates, most of the assembly secretly agreed that the afternoon session – when the Emperor would speak – could only be an improvement.
When the Emperor did appear, escorted by the Imperial Guard, he looked far older than his 35 years. In fact, he looked barely able to stand, let alone address a meeting of the most powerful nobles in The Empire. His left hand shook with an uncontrollable palsy, and he had to be helped up the few steps to his throne. Finally, he was installed and seated comfortably. One or two of the Electors exchanged glances: they had come to hear the words of this … invalid?
There was an awkward silence, then the Emperor rose unsteadily to his feet. A few sheets of paper slipped from his grasp and fluttered down the steps. They were hurriedly collected by a guard and placed onto a huge brass lectern. Then, clutching the lectern as if it were his only real friend, the Emperor began to speak.
“My friends,” his voice was weak, “my dear, dear friends. I am indeed grateful to see so many of you here today. And I am also grateful for all the expressions of support that you have given during my recent illness. Your good wishes will not go unremembered.
“I am most pleased to be able to tell you that your prayers for my health have been answered. As you can see, I am once more hale and hearty in body and soul…“
In the hall there were many open mouths at this foolishness. The Emperor looked dreadful. He twitched under the weight of so many doubting eyes, but pressed on. ” … The expert attention of Doctor Ludwig von Ente himself, has effected my remarkable, nay, miraculous recovery! It may astonish you to learn – as it astonished me, I can tell you – that Sigmar himself sent the good Doctor from Morrslieb to treat me with the medicines of the moon … “
An embarrassed shuffling and coughing broke out in several places. No one spoke, but there was one thought in every mind: the Emperor was mad. The inbreeding in the Imperial Family – the subject of much past gossip – had finally told. Even his guards were looking at each other, wondering if they should try to keep their master quiet, or let him ramble on.
The Emperor, however, seemed oblivious his audience. He was listing the virtues and preparations of his moonquack. ” … Teas made from the petals of moon-roses, balms and sweet compresses of star light … and the good Doctor’s own secret tonic! Ah, yes, he has worked wonders…“
“Your Imperial Majesty,” Graf Boris Todbringer climbed to his feet, “I am sure” – the Graf never finished. One of the Emperor’s guards took a step forward, and plunged his sword hilt-deep into the Emperor’s back. The Emperor stiffened and half-turned then, with painful slowness, he dropped to his knees and toppled sideways.
“The mutant-lover is dead! Hail the Wolf!” There was a second of utter, incredulous silence, then the other guards pounced on the assassin who had hidden in their midst. But they were too late. The killer raised a glass tube to his mouth and bit down. Blood trickled down his chin. Seconds later, he was doubled up by convulsions, slain by his own poison. Before the assassin had stopped twitching, angry voices were raised in many parts of the hall as the various factions present exchanged accusations.
The Nordlanders, Talabeclanders and Middenlanders came together in an impromptu alliance against the Ostlanders and the retinues of the Grand Theogonist and the Arch Lectors. Old insults were traded, and new ones added. Insults and accusations gave way to scuffles – at first just pushing and shoving in the aisles between seats. Then, in the confusion, two swords were drawn and a blow was struck. A young Talabecland knight staggered backwards, seriously wounded by a member of the Stirland militia.
At the sight of this new blood, the crowd seemed suddenly to realise what it was they were doing. This was almost civil war! An uneasy quiet settled across the hall, and Grand Marshal Werner Bock, the commanding officer of the Imperial Guard, had no trouble in separating the factions. Then, standing before the Imperial Throne, he ordered the Emperor’s body removed.
At the same time, urged on by the Yorri, the Grand Theogonist, and Ar-Ulric, the high priest of Ulric, the Electors gathered together in front of the Imperial throne.
Yorri was brief and to the point. “Sigmar save us! This is a pretty matter indeed. But let us agree to this: no-one – I say again no-one – is to raise his hand again today. The Emperor is dead, and we hold the fate of The Empire in our hands at this moment. Therefore, let us behave with some dignity, and no little thought. Sigmar will guide us. Marshal Bock?“
Once done drinking with the young scribe (and making sure he wasn’t going to die of his injuries), they finally return to the Crossed Lancets. Where of course they once again prove that they should NEVER stay at an inn. In the middle of the night a mutant slips in the window into Nathander & Gottlieb’s room where a round or two of comical fumbling ends with the quick dispatch of the multi-headed beast. As it dies it squeaks out one last statement that it repeats over and over in death until it dissolves into the floor… “The mutant-lover is dead! Hail the Wolf! The mutant-lover is dead! Hail the Wolf!”…
In the last hours of the night, Wilfried dreams of being in a dark pit where he is grappled by many hands that are suffocating him, but then a brilliant light shines upon him and in his hands is something hard and heavy that makes his palms tingle and moist. When he awakens he has a strange blister on the palm of each hand which fades away with alacrity.
Breakfast is laid out at the Lancets in the morning and then they head back to the Imperial to meet Graf Boris and the Ar-Ulric. The Graf is in far better shape than when they last dealt with him in Middenheim – almost a bit jovial – but still a man aged beyond his years. The Ar-Ulric is grim and quiet. The heroes (second class) are requested to join the Graf’s entourage to the Volkshalle and then he and the Ar-Ulric will have other matters to discuss with them afterwards.
At the Volkshalle they mostly sit in the row directly behind the Graf, but some are worried of assassins hiding in the shrine of Sigmar with the Grand Theogonist. Several senior Knights Panther are more than a little annoyed at their ceremonial seats being taken by the heroes.
The hall has an air of expectation about it. Scribes are passing notes between the Electors, and there are many hushed conversations going on. Pieter Grunnenthal is in the seats behind Countess Emmanuelle von Liebewitz and waves to his rescuers. The chamber falls silent as the Grand Theogonist emerges from the Sigmarite shrine attached to the side of the Volkshalle. He walks slowly to the lectern by the throne.
“Imperial Electors … We are gathered here to consider two matters. Firstly, the urgent election of a new Emperor. Secondly, we are here to discover the true killers of our late, lamented Emperor, Karl-Franz.”
Yorri looks round the hall, allowing his gaze to rest for an instant on the Ulrican Electors. It is obvious where he places the blame. There is a roar of trumpets from outside, and a herald steps forward and announces “His Imperial Highness, Crown Prince Wolfgang of Holswig-Schliestein, nominated heir of our late, lamented Emperor, Karl-Franz I, may he rest in peace.” Before the herald has had chance to finish, Crown Prince Wolfgang strides into the hall. At his back are ten Imperial Guardsmen, resplendent in their finest uniforms. Yorri bows deeply, and then moves aside to allow the Prince to climb the two steps to the throne. The Prince seats himself, then gradually slumps down in the chair, resting his chin on one fist. He looks utterly bored, and this is before the ceremony is even underway. He waves a hand at Yorri to continue.
“By the authority entrusted to me, I hereby request that each Elector declare his vote in the matter of the Imperial succession.” Yorri’s voice booms out across the hall. “Let all present witness that the election of the Emperor is fair and free, a choice of his people.” Yorri pauses, and holds up a scroll. “I hold the last will of Karl-Franz I, Emperor. One vote for Wolfgang Holswig-Schliestein, Crown Prince, cast in his favour by the late Emperor Karl-Franz and here set down in this document.“
He passes the scroll to a clerk. “No other nominations having been declared, how say the Electors? Do you consent to Wolfgang Holswig-Schliestein as your Emperor?“
Again Yorri pauses, and then he says “For Yorri, Grand Theogonist of Sigmar, an ‘Aye.’ Long Live Emperor Wolfgang, the second of that name!“
“How say you, Aglim, Arch Lector of Sigmar?” Aglim stands and bows to Wolfgang. “Aye!“
“How say you, Kaslain, Arch Lector of Sigmar?” “Aye!” Kaslain’s vote is predictable.
Ar-Ulric rises to cast his vote, but Yorri does not call him. “How say you, Hals von Tasseninck, Grand Prince of Ostland?” Ar-Ulric sits down heavily, and looks at Graf Boris, his face shocked. He seems worried that the Ulrican Electors will not be allowed to vote as he has been obviously skipped over to call upon another of the Sigmarite faction.
“Aye!” There are murmurs as Grand Prince Hals casts the fifth vote for Wolfgang. Yorri takes one step forwards, and the noise subsides. He looks towards Alberich Haupt-Anderssen and then turns away. His next choice of Elector also comes as a surprise.
“How say you, Boris Todbringer, Graf of Middenheim?“
Graf Boris slowly rises to his feet and looks round at his fellow Electors. He leans on the table, his hands flat on its ancient surface. His voice is quiet. “No.”
“I ask again, how say you?” Yorri doesn’t like the answer. “No.” Graf Boris straightens up.
Whispered comments fill the hall. The shock of Nathander is quite audible over the whispers.
“No. I will not cast my vote in his favour.”
Yorri seems appalled at the breach with accepted protocol. This Imperial Election was supposed to be a formality, a necessary formality, but no more. Yorri starts to flounder, unsure of what to do next, and the Crown Prince rises to his feet. Graf Boris is unrepentant, and repeats his vote. “No.”
“NO?!?!?!” The Crown Prince’s scream cuts through the whispers and murmurs. He steps down from the throne and walks towards Graf Boris. There are tears on his face and his voice cracks and whines “But you all promised!” His voice is almost whining.
Graf Boris looks at the Crown Prince with pity and contempt and shakes his head again. “No.”
“Please … ” Wolfgang falls to his knees in front of Graf Boris and grabs his hand. The hall is absolutely silent.
“I want to be Emperor! You’re all supposed to say that I can be Emperor! Yorri promised me that everyone would say yes…”
It is obvious that Graf Boris Todbringer has heard enough. He pulls his hand out of Wolfgang’s grasp and, obviously and absolutely by accident, slaps the Crown Prince in the face. It is hardly a blow in anger, but before Graf Boris can apologize, Wolfgang’s face contorts in rage. The entire audience gasps and shrieks, partly in horror at the blow, but mostly in horror at what is happening to the Crown Prince.
Wolfgang pounds the floor with his fists, locked into a temper tantrum. As he does so, his entire body erupts in a terrible transformation. His eyes sprout stalks and leap a foot from his head. His fingers become twisted and clawed, and wings sprout from his back. As Wolfgang shrieks in anger, a long tongue darts from his mouth, testing the air like that of a huge snake. The Crown Prince is transformed, in the wink of an eye, into a hideous mutant!
In the same instant, Wolfgang strikes at Graf Boris. His horrific claws rip into the old man’s torso. His tongue lashes out, and the Graf falls backwards, his face and neck a bloody ruin. Graf Boris’ body gives a final, spastic twitch as Wolfgang lashes at him again. Then, standing over the corpse of their liege, Wolfgang looks for fresh victims.
With Larry and company in the front row, this doesn’t last long. A few rounds at most as the prince kept his distance using his wings as he lashed out at Larry & Wilfried before being beaten down and slain with a few fierce blows.
Panic ensues and fighting is widespread across the Volkshalle as squads of retainers surround their Electors and work their way out of the hall. But the first out is Scargetter for he stayed by the doors for the whole event. And he runs into the streets with a stampede of troops behind him shouting “The Sigmarites have slain the Crown Prince!”
What a rabble rouser that dwarf is
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