I find myself still enmeshed in the happenings of these humans, and though I am patient, it feels like I’ve been in this place for months, when it has actually been a much shorter time. Even the dwarves I’ve met in this place have left me with an ill-feeling in my stomach – children of Grungni who seemed to have lost their way, perpetuating the stereotypes which so much of humanity has foisted upon us. Either way, I will be glad to be gone from this place eventually, though I must admit, my tolerance for it has grown.
That is not to say that there aren’t good people here, because there are. I am still searching for one such person, Jurgen Kulinski, who has gone missing for about a week now. His wife, Olga, continues on, remaining as strong as she can considering that her husband has disappeared. She does not think I can see the pain in her eyes with each passing day, but I can. This man saved my life, when no other human nearby would come to my aid, so I owe a debt (which dwarves never forget) to him. So it seemed a small thing to search for him until his disposition is determined – one way or another. I still hold out hope that we shall find him alive, but if not, I can only hope that whatever human god he worships will take him under their wing, for he is a good man.
Each day that passes without making any headway into our investigation has been dreadful. Each day that passes likely lowers the chances of finding my friend alive. These humans who live here seem content with taking their time finding out what happened, as more individuals go missing! Ute, the street performer, has gone missing a few days hence, and just last night Fritz has disappeared without word, as well. When you add in the bodies that have been found recently, something is obviously amiss, and few in the city seem willing to lift a finger to discover what that is. I wager it is because most of these people come from the lowest ‘class’ of human society – if these missing and dead were nobles, I’d bet my beard there would be greatswords and rangers scouring the city from sewer to rooftop! I had even considered for a moment writing to my father and taking the initiative to seek his aid. If I only had a unit of ten Ironbreakers at hand, we would get to the bottom of this deviousness in short order! But alas, writing home would simply undo my plans, the very reason for my being here – so for now, I must stay my quill and parchment.
So, our band of wayward miscreants travels on. Today – this morning, in fact – we find ourselves hired as ‘security’ for an event hosted by Friedrick Von Kaufman. He seems to be an ‘explorer’ of sorts, having recently returned from the lands of Araby with trinkets and oddities galore. I know very little of such things, but my curiosity was readily piqued to see what this man might have returned with. We were told that there would be artifacts as well as a menagerie of beasts on display. I agreed to be a part of this endeavor, if for no other reason than to sate my curiosity. True, the pay offered by our employer – Curd Weiss, was… adequate, and added just a bit more incentive to our efforts. When we were told that many important individuals would be present, Lise nearly leapt out of her boots with excitement over the prospect of being able to mingle with such folk. Otto seemed eager once we learned that the Gravin Alptraum would be present. It seemed we were destined to attend.
In regards to the Gravin, it seems Otto has taken quite the shine to her. I am not sure what the ‘mating rituals’ are of these humans (and I am not sure I –want- to know), but Otto has taken to scribing missives to her, in hopes of winning her heart with words. Such nonsense! If he were wise, he’d set out on a quest to retrieve the head of some suitable beast (perhaps a troll or similar), and return to her with the trophy as a show of his prowess! That would surely get her heart racing and knees quivering, and she would have no choice but to realize that Otto was a man to be taken quite seriously! But instead, he toils over parchment, like some would-be scribe. I won’t rub it in when she rebuffs him, though. That would be too cruel. Besides, there has been –some- good to come of it so far. Otto seems more… calm, relaxed, as he does his best to put on a more mature and focused demeanor. He’s even taken to prayers with Brother Octavius, and has been far more generous with his coin-purse as of late. Otto even recently offered me a gift in the form of a pistol (though its quality is far less than those I am accustomed to back home). But I have to say, for a shifty, unpredictable thief, Otto might very well be on his way to turning his life around. But, I digress.
We arrived at the Averburg Garden this morning just before the ten morning bells, prepared to perform the acts of ‘security’ that we were hired to conduct. Otto had attempted to gain access to the place the night before so that he might survey it ahead of time – but was denied. Just as well, I suppose, there’s no telling what manner of trouble he would have gotten up to.
We were given a tour of the place and noted the various landmarks to be seen. There were tents set-up for the occasion, and of course the somewhat impressive (for human craftsmanship) wall of the Averburg formed the backdrop of the locale, and a large hedge-maze could be seen off to one side. A line of cages – the menagerie – drew the eyes of several of us as we were shown the various creatures present. Some I did know based on descriptions from various stories and tales (I had never seen a cockatrice before!), and others I did not know. A demigryph and a giant spider were also fascinating to look upon – in fact, if I had to admit it, I would have to say I was impressed.
As attendees began to arrive, Curd asked us to don outfits bearing the symbol of our employ. Some of our number balked at this – I took one and donned it over my armor, not caring. I had no fancy clothes to cover up.
The attendees were not as high in number as I had anticipated, but they were made up of the wealthy and influential.
Gravin Alptraum was present, of course, and I am not certain if Otto has yet to take his eyes from her. I confess, she is a comely woman (for a human), but Otto is obviously hopelessly smitten. She was accompanied, of course, by her shadow of a man-servant, Geislbert – the type of man that mothers would tell stories about to scare their children with, for he has a surly look about him, and his personality is not much gentler.
A nobleman by the name of Thodosius Tuchtenhagen and his entourage arrived soon after, the epitome of wealth and arrogance. He came with several other individuals, one of which was a fool named ‘Hogweed’. These humans and their names! Hogweed? Seriously? Thodosius himself was insufferable, and I made it a point to keep my distance from him as much as possible, lest I not be able to control my urge to introduce him to the taste of Gromril metal! Try as I might, I could think of no reasonable explanation why my gauntleted fist might ‘accidentally’ collide with his mouth.
The Luminary Konrad Maur arrived, and I could not tell if Master Peander was glad for his arrival or not. Wizards, I am told, are a jealous lot, yet I can not be so sure. We dwarves do not have ‘wizards’ by the common definition of the word. We have runesmiths and such, but we do not traffic in the affairs of the winds of magic like some of the other races dare to do. ‘Tis a chaotic undertaking, and we dwarves tend to avoid such things. Still, if it is Peander’s wish to truck in such dangers, so be it. Something told me that Peander did not like the man, though I could be mistaken, for even when Peander has a liking for something, his look still gives one the impression that he is, for the lack of a better term, ‘grumpily satisfied’.
My eyes were surprised to see the good Lord Aschaffenberg arrive as well. He did not have his beautiful wife in tow – but instead, he had Roling Mumphy following behind him. How the dimwitted Rolling could have survived this long, avoiding beastmen and kitchen accidents is beyond me! I pondered for a moment why the Lord Rickard would bring Roling all this way with him, enduring the man’s prattle, and then it dawned on me – the Lady Aschaffenberg likely –insisted- that he take Roling with him. That simply had to be the answer.
I was also curious to see the arrival of the –shortest- party-goer, Waldemarius Laomdelve – a halfling. I have not had much interaction with their kind before, but in general I have heard they are a kindly people. Waldemarius, from what I had seen, is a high-strung individual, though. Perhaps it was this city that caused so many people like Waldemarius to become so grumpy!
My mood soured deeply when I laid eyes upon that lout, Captain Baerfaust when he strode onto the grounds as if he owned the place. It is said that he was a hero of Blackfire Pass… though I have yet to see any evidence that would indicate such a thing, so for now I am forced to take it on the word of others. I learned that the ‘good Captain’ actually struck our companion Lise not long ago – a delicate, unarmed woman! – and that alone was enough reason for me to put his name in my book of grudges! Lise has proven herself an able companion and a reputable lady, and the thought of the ‘hero captain’ raising a hand to her really yanks my beard! Why, if he was amongst my kin when he did such a thing, he would have been beaten profusely, shaved from head to toe, and tossed out of the Karak on his head! There is no honor in striking a lady, and if he was this great hero that others claimed him to be, he would know that.
Other persons of interest arrived, dressed in their finest clothes – at least, persons of interest to someone other than myself. I began at that time to focus less on the individuals, and more on our surroundings. We were hired to perform security, and that’s what I planned to do. That didn’t mean I had ample time to sit around pestering visitors to the event, nor did I even have much time to speak further with Eisa or Octavius.
The official event began with a display of falconry. It was quite an impressive example of skill and training, though I couldn’t avoid the mental images of the bird plucked and cooked to a golden brown upon my plate. I said nothing about that, though, knowing such thoughts would not be welcome, and might in fact be insulting to the man conducting the performance. The event ended with a soft, reserved applause from those gathered, and then the group dispersed towards the artifact tent.
Inside were elegant displays of artifacts brought from Araby and beyond, according to Graf Kauffman himself. While they were somewhat amusing, one of them drew the attention – and ire – of some of the guests. The Luminary seemed beside himself upon laying eyes upon it, and a great and heated discussion ensued. Should it be taken away? Destroyed? Or ignored? I truly cared not for the trinkets, and instead, I half-listened as my eyes surveyed our surroundings, keenly watching the grounds for any signs of mischief. Tensions were high in the tent, but no punches were thrown (sadly), no weapons drawn, nothing but the heated words of angry people were exchanged. Even Waldemarius found himself feeling the urge to depart during the proceedings, and I pursued him and convinced him to remain.
Thankfully, Roling did not make his usual nuisance of himself that my companions and I were accustomed to. He was by no means stationary or silent, but his annoyance factor was subdued. It was strange watching him interact with others – including with the fool, Hogsweed. Personally I think the two of them would make an excellent couple!
In an effort to try to lighten the suddenly damper mood, one of the human girls, Amalie, proposed a game of hide-and-seek. She would enter the hedge maze, and others would wait for a time and then seek her out, the one finding her receiving some small boon, perhaps. This seemed to have a generally positive effect on those gathered. I was prepared to wager a few coin on Eisa being the person to find Amalie first, as I was confident no one would out-track our Eisa. But, it seemed to me that it might be ‘unprofessional’ for any in our band to participate since we were officially supposed to be ‘working’
Speaking of Eisa, she has not spoken to me much as of late, ever since we had that longer conversation at the Journeyman Inn some nights ago. Personally I think she is attracted to me, and is internally warring with herself about it. I am used to such things – at least from the dwarven lasses. But why would Eisa be any different? She has a keen eye and obviously recognizes good breeding potential when she sees it!
Amalie disappeared into the hedge maze for several minutes, but then suddenly there was a great cry from the direction of the menagerie cages. It seemed that one of the creatures, not content to remain imprisoned within its cage, had escaped. The demigryph was out and about, and it was quite the dangerous creature. From my understanding, it is a gryphon without wings – which meant that it was a formidable predator.
It seemed that we were going to have to earn our pay after all.