Chapter 1b: Peter's Favor

After the interview with Stentorius, and deep in thought over what was said, Renatus finds that he has inadvertently stepped into the main courtyard of the castle. At the far end, considerable traffic comes and goes through the gates. Those who enter the castle must slog their way through the crowded square to get where they want to go. Carts and horses abound, as do yelling children, upset chickens, dogs, arguing scullery maids, and men carrying heavy crates and sacks. The strong smells of dung, hay, and humans are unpleasant to one who is used to isolated and undefiled nature. You are about to turn and leave this unpleasant environment when you notice two men about 30 meters away, pushing their way through the throng toward you. One of them waves and calls out, but you can't hear him over the din. Both men are armed.

Renatus refrains his urge to leave the place and considers the two men heading towards him, while they are armed they don't seem aggressive. After his exchanges with Dorana He believes they might have found a shield grog that speaks Latin so he takes a passive stance laying his right hand in the palm of other hand against her belly.
He waits for the two men to be close enough to hear them and greet them in Latin looking for signs of understanding on their attitude " Good day, you seem to be searching for me ? How may I be of assistance ?"

"Good day Magus Renatus," answers the slimmer of the two, the one with the bow. "I am Stefan, and this is Andreas," he says, gesturing to the man next to him. Andreas nods once in greeting when he hears his name, but without looking directly at you. "We have been sent by Magus Peter to find you," Stefan continues, "and to invite you to his Sanctum. He has a favor to ask of you. Would you please follow us?"

Renatus smiles at Stefan and answers "Nice to meet you both" turning his gaze to Andreas for an instant "I'll follow your way." Renatus dislikes being inactive so He's much better helping a fellow magus than spending the two days before the oath twiddling his thumbs. He might even gain some favor from It and who know he might be a suitable praefectum who knows.

They lead you to your left, along the wall and to a door that is much smaller than the one you stepped out of earlier (that spat you out into the busy courtyard). Stefan retrieves a key from a pocket and unlocks the door. It opens on a set of winding stairs, which Andreas begins climbing. Stefan waits until you have entered, enters himself, closes the door and then locks it again. Going up, arrow slits treat you to brief glimpses of what lies beyond the wall - mountains, forest in the distance; vineyards, farms, and buildings closer by. When you exit the door at the top of the stairs, you find yourself on the rampart. Stefan and Andreas lead you along it, through two towers, to the door of a third, at which Stefan announces, "This is Magus Peter's tower. We call it Der Weinkellerturm because of all the wine stored under it," and he points down to a wagon stacked with barrels that is just exiting the wide gate at the base of the tower, and then at several others spread out along a road leading away from the castle. Andreas knocks on the tower door and yells something in German, which causes the door to open. A guardsman steps back from the doorway, allowing the three of you to enter into a narrow hallway. Andreas heads for one of four archways, which leads to another winding staircase. As you are descending, you note that there are more turns to this staircase than the first one had. When you reach the bottom, you enter a large, high-ceilinged room full of barrels. The air is cool and smells of wood and of fermentation. Several workers are busy about their tasks: moving and stacking empty barrels, transferring wine from large fermentation barrels to smaller aging barrels, carting the full barrels off into adjacent rooms. You see a man dressed in green standing by a rack of smaller barrels. His is facing away from you and seems to be sampling the wine within the barrels. Stefan and Andreas lead you to him. "Magus Peter, we have brought Magus Renatus with us," says Stefan. Magus Peter turns around and grins at you. "Ah, Magus Renatus, welcome, welcome. Would you like to try some wine? It's a bit young, but still tastes wonderful. I know Stefan and Andreas would like some." He hands two wooden tumblers already filled with wine to the two soldiers, who thank him. Then he turns to you, raising an eyebrow and a third tumbler of wine, expectantly.

Renatus returns the smile and grabs the tumbler "Thank you Master Peter. I'm glad we can meet. I'll gladly taste your wine, but I'm only an amateur. i've heard you're quite an expert in the tribunal." He takes a sip and comments (assuming it's not VERY bad) "It's wondeful indeed, are you using mostly traditional methods or a lot of magic is involved in the process ?"

If Renatus likes to drink wine, then he greatly enjoys what Peter has poured for him. It is a delicate white wine.

Peter acknowledges the compliment with a nod. "We do both for most of our wine. There are of course the small batches that I use as a medium for magical effects. There are also the large volumes that we sell to wine merchants, who distribute our wines both locally and further afield. These large volumes are made without magic, to prevent the perception that we use it to influence mundanes. However, we do use spells to help the grapes grow, by controlling the local environment. The water content of the soil is an important parameter, and must decrease abruptly at a certain stage of grape growth to trigger the production of sugars in the fruit. I help this transition along, if nature isn't cooperating. But once the grapes are harvested, everything else proceeds without magical assistance. If the grapes are right, and the barrels are good, then the rest falls into place, usually."

Meanwhile, Andreas has downed his wine in several big gulps. Laughing, Stefan punches him in the arm and speaks to him in German. Ignoring whatever was said, Andreas holds out his tumbler to Peter who rolls his eyes and fills it back up with more wine from a glass decanter.

"It may look like Andreas has a problem with wine," says Peter, "but really, he has a problem with his wife. Wine is just his remedy of choice." Stefan translates the comment, and Andreas hides the sheepish look on his face behind the tumbler, as he drinks some more. "... Speaking of problems with wine," continues Peter, "I have one of my own, and it has prompted me to ask you here. I was hoping you could help me look into an issue with one of our distributors. As you might imagine, our wine is a major source of income for Fengheld, and this particular merchant, who was a major re-seller for us, has started refusing to pay for new shipments, saying his warehouses are full. Since you are new to the covenant, and are therefore an unknown to him, I thought you might have success in finding out why. Will you do me this favor?"

Renatus tries to keep a neutral face as Stefan comments Andreas's problems with women.

He takes another sip and considers the task given by Peter "Sure I can investigate this matter for you that's always a pleasure to help a fellow magus. my only fear is that it takes too long as I'm suppose to swear the oath of the charter of the covenant in two days so I hope the merchant isn't too far from here ? I can fly if someone carries my clothes or even ride but i'm not the best rider..."

He makes a pause and turns his head towards the grogs for a second "I don't speak any German and I'm not familiar with the surroundings so I'll need to have at least one person to accompany me who's unknown from the merchant who can show me the way. Ideally he could translate into Spanish, Arabic or Latin for me".

He thinks for a second and adds "Is there anything you can tell me about the merchant, his trade, the location or anything I need to know ?"

"I understand your concern over the timing," answers Peter. The town in which the distributor receives our wines is just a half-day's wagon ride from here, in Quedlinburg. He has a warehouse there, and you could ride in one of the carts that will leave later today. I would send Stefan and Andreas with you, if you'd like. They can serve as translator and guide, respectively. So you should have a night and a day to look into things. Just find out what you can in the time that you have."

He pauses and considers. "As to the distributor himself, his name is Wolfgang Weintraub. I know nothing of his origins or past, and it is perhaps foolish that we haven't looked into him yet, considering how much we depend on his business. He approached us about two years ago with a sizable amount of money to buy a large first shipment of wine. He quickly sold off all the wine to the nobility of this area, after which they were clamoring for more, or so he claimed. And his orders appeared to support that claim, for they kept getting bigger. He also had a solid hold on selling wine to the clergy, for church ceremonies. My sense was that he had many connections to sell wine to, and that somehow, compared to other merchants, he could win better prices for us. And for himself too. He became quite rich. A few days ago, as I said, he began refusing shipments and wouldn't meet with me or with any of my associates when we went to find out why. So your help in figuring out what's happened would be greatly appreciated. If you find a way to fix things, then I would truly be in your debt."

"I'm sure Andreas and Stefan will do just fine" Renatus smiles at them. "That's settled then. Is there any reason to believe his change in mind might be the result of supernatural intervention ? "

"I suppose it could be. It would be smart not to rule such influences out. It could also be mundane competition, however, or the influence of the local imperial abbey."

Renatus turns to the grogs "you know where my quarters are located ? I'll go there and get ready for the trip, but before I have to find clothes more suitable for a merchant if I have to impersonate one... I'll visit the seamstress. Can you accompany me to make the translation Stefan ? After that, I'll leave the other preparation for the trip to you both. After that please knock at my door when the wagon is ready to go." To Peter he adds " See you later then, I'll come to find you when we return. I hope i'll bring good news."

(OOC : do you want me to find an opportunity to bring your character along ?)

(No thanks Bitter. I think the story will work well enough with one magus and two grogs.)

"Thank you, Renatus," says Peter. "And good luck."

Stefan and Andreas exit the barrel room with you, this time through a wide double-door that leads toward the interior of the castle. Andreas heads off to gather food and the rest of his and Stefan's gear. Stefan takes you to the seamstress, who can't prepare anything that fits you perfectly in the time you have before the wagon will leave. But there are some items that can be made to fit you reasonably well with minimal alterations. You are given a dark green hose, a red shirt, and a green hat; the ensemble gives the approximate impression of a moderately successful merchant.

With that task done, Stefan suggests you return to the barrel room, from which the wagon will be leaving. Peter is no longer there, but Andreas is waiting. The three of you set out on the back of a wagon loaded 2/3 full with barrels, driven by a man named Fritz, Stefan tells you. It is early afternoon, so after a quick meal, you settle in for the ride. You should arrive in Quedlinburg just before it gets dark.

During the trip I'm doing small talks with the grogs to try and build some confidence giving a few information about my life before coming to the covenant. When the city is on sight I begin to discuss the plan: " When we arrive I'll try to check the warehouse to see if it's full as the merchant pretends, if we're lucky and arrive before it's closed we might overhear some of his trade this might give us some leads. Are you trained to follow someone discreetly ? We could use that if a client or the owner seems suspicious. "

"We're more used to tracking animals in the forest than people in the streets, but we will do our best, Magus," replies Stefan.

As the wagon approaches Quedlinburg, night is falling. Stefan points ahead to the left, to a hill on top of which you see the silhouette of what looks like a castle. "That there is the abbey, and it's run by abbess Sophia. We're actually headed across the river and over there," he points to the right, "to Neustadt. That's where the wine merchant's warehouse is."

You continue northward, cross a bridge over a smoothly-flowing river, and then turn eastward. The road leads you past outlying farms and houses, the latter of which are lit from within. As you circle the outskirts of Neustadt, Stefan and Andreas make ready to disembark the wagon. Finally, on the eastern edge of the town and with the river not far away to your right, the wagon stops. Stefan and Andreas hop out quickly and motion for you to do the same. The wagon proceeds onward as soon as your feet touch the ground, its cargo headed for some other destination in the town.

"That warehouse is where the merchant has his stores," Stephan says quietly. He points to a wide wooden building, in a row of similar structures about 100 meters away. No light is visible behind the shuttered windows and no sound reaches you. All is still. There doesn't seem to be anyone around.

Renatus takes a look at the abbey "Has there been any interference of the abbess to our trade in the past, to your knowledge ?"

Renatus heads to the warehouse, he whispers "be sure not to call me magus in front of anyone in the town, I prefer not to reveal myself if not needed. Just call me Sir or Renato, the Spanish for my latin name. Let's make a walk around the warehouse to see if we find anything suspicious."

"No Magus, as far as I know, neither the abbess nor the noblewomen she governs have ever done anything to block our wine sales. I would imagine they buy and drink our wine too, not having sworn any vows against it like nuns have to."

"Yes ... sir."
You make your way toward the warehouse, and walk between it and the building to its left. The alleyway is narrow, and the tall buildings on either side block most of the stars above you. It is also surprisingly clean. There are no windows or doorways on the side of the structure, but when you reach the back, there are several shuttered windows (as there were in the front) and a single door (whereas the front had a double door). There is also significant clutter in the open area between the warehouse and the buildings behind it - empty barrels, broken barrels, benches, tables, wooden scraps, metal hoops, etc. You thread your way carefully through the debris (Dex + Stealth + stress die (SD) vs. EF 6; R:0+2+6=8, S:2+1+4=7, A:1+2+3=6). Near the door, Andreas, who was ahead of you and Stefan, stops suddenly and raises his hand. He pauses and then turns and whispers to Stefan, who relays, "Andreas thinks he heard drunken laughter from behind the door." (Per + Awareness + SD vs. 12; R:0+2+0(no botch)=2, S:0+0+3=3, A:1+3+9=13).

"Let's see if we can hear only a single voice or multiple voices, make sure you're not visible from the entrance while listening. I can't understand german so I'll try to find a small crack in the wood to observe the inside. If he or they get out from behind, we'll try to follow them discreetly. If you have the chance try to observe the door lock-mechanism if we have to sneak in later. If this is impossible to follow them discreetly by foot, I'll change into a dark bird called an Ibis and follow them from the air and we'll rendez-vous near the entrance of the town be sure to pick my clothes !" He grins and adds "You'll easily recognize me I'm the only talking bird"

Renatus also looks around if there's any windows in the buildings around that would allow to observe them while they're staying in the courtyard.

There are windows in neighboring buildings that have a view of the cluttered area in which you stand, but most of them are shuttered and all of them are dark. There is no handle or lock on the door; it looks like it opens inward.

As you stand silently, listening intently, you see a few narrow slits between boards that might afford a view of the inside. But the inside is dark. You hear no voices; the building is absolutely quiet. You wait. ... A guffaw sounds from behind the door.

Renatus approaches his grogs and whispers " I find it very strange that there's a laughter and no light, no other noises, no other voices. What are the odds that a poor lad would come "alone" in a warehouse to drink "in the dark" that's suspicious. This might simply be the merchant but still. I'd like to wait for a few hours if he's coming out, if he's not we could sneak in to find out what's happening but that's a risk I'm not sure this is worth it, what do you think ? One of you should monitor the front door and make a sign if he's leaving. I'll be right back wait for me, I'm gonna transform into bird and get out of town to cast a few spells, I can't improve my senses like this, don't be afraid right !"

Renatus changes into an Ibis and fly out of town, he then casts voice of the Bjornaer magus (that he master) and tries to spontaneously cast 2 spells MuAn spell to improve his night vision (like eye of the cat but animalem based (base 2 : make a superficial change to a beast) range self; target: individual ; duration : best he can achieve) and a spell to enhance his earing (base 2 target ind; range self; duration : best he can acheive.)

He comes back right after flying up-high and going down fast. "Alright I'll try to look inside now that I can see better in darkness but I fear this is too dark, maybe now I can hear something else".

(OOC: Let's see if this is brilliant or if I just screwed everything, I would normally proceed way more carefully, but we only have 1 night and 1 day...)