The evening went as well as could be expected. Board in the best room in the house was neatly covered by the funds liberated from the bandit camp, although Boris and Victor wisely stayed in the common room. I whole heartedly approve of Boris spending as much time as possible among his own kind, and hence a little in my own company as a situation permits. As for Victor, for as long as he continues to cough away I have no wish to speak to him. Instead I shared a pleasant meal of roast pork and wine with Karl, who can carry a conversation as well as I, and certainly better than anyone else I’ve met in this town.
The morning promised to be a day of wonders, for Boris followed his breakfast by bathing! Granted he bathed in the horse trough behind the inn and returned smelling suspiciously of damp horse, but I consider this a sign that my manners, and in fairness those of Karl, are beginning to rub off on the lout. At his current rate of progress he may be fit for livery in a few short years.
As we left the Bucket of Blood a gaggle of grubby children (is gaggle the appropriate noun? Reminder to self to investigate if I ever encounter a good library) rushed past full of the enthusiasm of the little people for some new performing circus which had arrived over night. Given the paucity of entertainment hereabout I was almost inclined to investigate myself, but it appeared that no performance would begin until the afternoon at the earliest, so we set about our remaining business in town.
We began by shopping. After watching Boris fail to find so much as a well made knife among the human blacksmiths I felt the need to intervene. It has always been my belief that if one requires quality metal work, one should seek a dwarven smith, and so it was. One particularly affable fellow agreed to sell Karl a new chain shirt at a significant discount once I had explained that Karl was swordsman of some repute and a simple endorsement from him would have customers flocking to Hugeldal in search of similar work. In fact, the discount was so appealing that I picked up a shirt myself (hardly cutting edge fashion, but my life has gown rather more dangerous of late so it seemed a reasonable investment). I left reassured in my belief that one should always seek dwarven metalwork, and that a dwarf will believe literally anything you tell him.
By this stage, Victor’s cough had become unbearable. A few directions from some local type saw us outside the current rooms of the local doctor. I can only assume by the crowd of people standing outside his rooms that he is some manner of local celebrity. Had I more time I would be interested in finding out just how Herr Verfullen manages to get them to stand in such an orderly fashion (imagine how much tidier would the empire be if all peasants stood in simple, straight lines!) but there were more pressing matters at hand, so I entered the building and expressed a desire to have the doctor look at Victor immediately.
It transpired that the doctor was in surgery, but his assistant felt he would be available soon and asked if I wouldn’t mind waiting before disappearing off (to assist him, one assumes). There being no suitable reading material with which to pass the time, I elected to investigate the doctor’s private office in search of something more gripping. Aside from a medical textbook (prudence suggests I should take the time to familiarise myself with the basics) I was intrigued to find a case of some medicine and a not suggesting that the doctor had wilfully witheld his cure for the recent plague from Lord Jungfreud in the interest of leaving his widow grieving and open to suggestion. Aside from any curative properties, his medicine leaves the patient open to suggestion (naturally I took a few vials). Moreover, his contact in this conspiracy was travelling with the carnival and requested a meeting at noon.
Once the doctor had attended to Victor (I would rather risk dealing with a quack than endure Victor hacking away all day) I laid out the plan to my fellows. We would waylay the doctor on his way to the rendezvous and I would take his place to investigate the conspiracy further before we established whether it was best to turn the doctor over to Agnetha, or whether I should report the whole affair to Rickard Aschaffenburg directly.
N.B.: the doctor charged Victor a full two silver for his medicine. Two silver for a few minutes’ work! I had no idea that work as a physician could be so lucrative, but must investigate further. While I have no intention of practising medicine myself, I wonder what scope exists for some some enterprising sort to act as agent for a collective in exchange for a cut of the profits?
Since Boris likes to hit things, and Karl is somewhat of an expert in baffling foes with any coat or cloak that comes to hand, I let them handle the actual abduction. It seems that Boris’ previous success with the same technique in the Stromdorf temple was a mere fluke, and I had to step in to finish the job for him. Shortly thereafter I was clad from head to foot in the doctor’s attire, from his shiny boots to his rather remarkable hat. By sheer good fortune the entire ensemble was a rather good fit (but set against the remarkable timing of the arrival of the doctor’s contact this is hardly remarkable). Boris secured the doctor beneath the temple of Shallya (delicious irony, but wasted on Boris I am sure) while I set off with Karl keeping watch at a discreet distance.
I was invited into one of the carnival caravans. The interior was indescribably filthy, so I won’t waste words trying other than to note that even the chair I sat in appeared to be rotting (the first and only time I have soiled another man’s trousers!). My contact remained in shadows as I reported “my” success in seeing the Shallyans expelled from the town and rejoiced in my control over Lady Jungfreud. My contact instructed me to head to the temple and await a delivery with further instructions, and so I left. I am quite certain that my performance was perfect and must confess that the entire deception was rather thrilling.
Back in the temple, the doctor was quick to confess all. Boris seemed rather disappointed that he wouldn’t really get to insert a hot poker into an assortment of orifices, but while his enthusiasm is, to say the least, disturbing, he gets top marks for results (I wonder if Boris has ever scored so highly at anything before? Certainly he won’t have done for his coach driving skills – it may be that an exciting new career as a questioner for the witch hunters awaits him. Which thought is truly disturbing!). The doctor claims to have been led gradually deeper and deeper into this conspiracy to the point of poisoning the town well in order to spread the plague! His initial intention to promote the medical sciences has been perverted by these strange conspirators and he literally begged for help.
After careful thought I agreed that we would help him for a price, namely his ill gotten gains (two silver per person in a population of how many? It would be criminal indeed to leave such an amount in the hands of so clearly corruptible a man). Our negotiations were interrupted, however, by the arrival of my delivery from the carnival.
Instructing Boris to cover me from the top of the cellar stairs, I returned to the ground floor to greet my guests. Altogether there were six, comprising the strong man, some sort of freak and a handful of labourers. My suspicions were aroused at the lack of any obvious equipment which would require so many men to transport. My suspicions were proved correct when the strongman thought to swing his maul directly at me. Had I been a mere doctor I don’t doubt that my life would have ended right there, but I am Joachim von Winterstein, master of deception, and no such easy prey. I stepped neatly aside, leaving the oaf with a look of confusion that would shame even Boris, drew my sword and prepared to face down my attackers. I can only hope that Boris did as told for once in his life and is ready with that pistol of his!