Sold Down the River

Session 4: Ice and Initiation on the Manaanspoort Sea (Prologue); The Eternal Guard Part I

Ice and Initiation on the Manaanspoort Sea (Prologue)

Begins ~Kalderzeit 21st. Ends Kalderzeit 23rd.

The late arrival of winter brought an unusual amount of coin to your purses, but now winter is truly here. On the 18th of Kalderziet, the official first day of winter, ice flowed from the Sea of Claws into the Manaanspoort Sea. Normally this happens at the beginning of Mittherbst, the Autumn Equinox, often before the end of Brauzeit. The ice always stays until the end of Mondstille, the Winter Solstice. Break-up sometimes comes early in Vorhexen, but often, not until the middle of that month. Winter clings to Marienburg for as long as she can and in the northern reaches of the Wasteland, often her chill lasts until mid-Nachexen.

When the ice is in the Manaanspoort, it is said that only the insane sail, the insane or mad elves and the Norse. Most consider insanity and being Norse one and the same, but few would say as much to a Norsemen. The Sea Elfs? Well, they do as they wish.

It has been two weeks since your rescuing of poor Hadwin from the clutches of a diabolical scheme, the specifics of which never did come clear for you. He still has not spoken, but will now take food when offered and seems to enjoy short walks. This cold Kalderzeit morning brings a rare spectacle to behold. Dieter takes it upon himself to take the boy to see an initiation rite of the Cult of Manaan. It is an important occasion, so all of you attend. For entertainers, there is the chance to turn a few coins as merchants try to hawk their meager wares. For other, less honest folk, there is always the chance to lift a purse.

The Cult of Manaan has few acolytes that make it to the final stage of their initiation. In this stage, the young initiate wears a crown of copper and is tied to the mast of a ship for one night and two days. Preferably, it is done during a storm. On this young initiates “Mast Day” it seems he will have a storm blown from Manaan himself. As you walk to the docks, the early morning skies are gray with a red hue, bringing to mind a well known Wastelander saying: “red skies at morning, sailors take warning”. The air is frosty, and your breath hangs before a fog of crystals.

Hadwin silently lets you led him to the south docks. Many folk, common and fat merchant alike have turned out for the ritual. Traditionally, the initiate is walked to the sea and is blessed by all who wish to do so. A new initiate accepted by Manann is an omen of plenty for the city. The blessing consists of throwing either a handful of sea water at him, or a palm full of sand. Both are given with a prayer to the Sea Lord. The initiate of this day wears traditional robes of green. His copper crown, in imitation of Manaan’s own, is too large for his head. The lad is maybe 14.

You watch as the initiate be led to the mast of a ship. In this case, he is to be tied to the mast of a ship belonging to the Knights Mariner, the templar order of the Cult of Manaan. It is a good omen for the initiate. It means the order has hopes of squiring him. Belonging to the Knights Mariner is a great honor. They are highly skilled marines and sailors that report directly to Arch-Priest Wouter Berkhout, Patriarch of the Cult and board member of the Directorate.

As you would know, the Directorate is the Executive Council of the Stadsraad political machine. The first branch is the Burgerhof, which is comprised of the leaders of the city’s major guilds and aldermen appointed by the householders of the city’s wards and the major Wasteland towns. Your guild Boss, Lea-Jan Cobbius is of course a member as is Adalbert “Cassanova” Henschmann of the Marienburg Gentlemen’s Club. Both are in attendance today, and Lea-Jan is seen speaking and grinning with the Speaker of the Burgerhof, Nieut Gyngrijk. It is said that Gyngrijk can be bought for half a can of bacon grease. No doubt, he is a GOOD friend of both Lea-Jan and Cassanova.

While Arch-Priest Berkhout is here, no doubt as the leader of the Manaan Cult, he is not just the only cult leader, nor Directorate member represented today. Walking slowly in stride with Berkhout and mimicking his waving to the people is High Priest Simon Goudenkruin, leader of the second most powerful cult in Marienburg: the Cult of Haendryk, God of Merchants, Prosperity and Trade. Goudenkruin is a member of the Directorate as well and he has the honor of sitting on the Governing Board of the Import-Export Exchange, commonly called the ’Change and thought by most to be the true governing power of the city.

All four of the major cults of the city have a seat on the Directorate, Manaan, Haendryk, Verena and Shallya. Representing Verena, Goddess of Wisdom and Justice, today is High Priestess Director Leontine Tolenaar. Here for Shallya, Goddess of Mercy and Healing is Sister Anneloes van de Maarel. Sister Maarel walks separate from the other High Priests.

While the Cult of Shallya is by far the most popular cult with the common folk, mostly for their efforts to establish a few soup kitchens in the city’s poorer districts, the Shallyan Cult has fallen on hard times. Two years ago, the cult was embroiled in controversy when one of its members, a heretical priestess named Sister Astrid advocated treating mutants with mercy. She had the audacity to suggest that corrupted as they were, not all were at fault for their ailments. Astrid was defended, unsuccessfully by a lawyer named Ernst Goffman. At the end of her trial, Astrid was excommunicated from her cult and exiled from the city. She was sent into the Grootscher Marsh and left to the mercies of the Fen Loonies, a pack of mutants and madmen who are rumored to dwell in the swamp. Urban legend or not, if the Fen Loonies didn’t kill her, then perhaps the Bog Men did, one-eyed creatures rumored to be half-man, half-demon that kidnap women for reasons best left unthought-of and while the Bog Men may be urban myth as well, the plague of bandits who dwell in the Grootscher Marsh are certainly for real. It was a bad time for the Shallyans. Goffman was not exiled, but certainly, his career as a lawyer is over.

While Sister Maarel walks amongst only those immediately of her faith, High Priestess Tolenaar walks only a few steps behind Arch-Priest Berkhout and High Priest Goudenkruin. Beside her is the Rector of Baron Henryk’s College, Dr. Thaadeus Strought, head of the prestigious university that produces navigators and magicians adept at manipulating weather. The Dr. is of course a Directorate member as well. Officially, the ten remaining Directorate seats are filled by the common man, in reality, they are filled by the heads of the ten wealthiest families in Marienburg.

Four houses of the ten are represented today. Each of the four are carried in their own private carriages, pulled by house servants. There is the old crone Clotilde de Roelef of House de Roelef; the even older Karl den Euwe and his Nipponese wife, of House den Euwe. Even though old Karl is an Old Worlder, he, like his bride is decked out in Nipponese and Cathayan high fashion. A third, much larger carriage, houses the Staadholder himself. The Staadholder is the appointed head of the Directorate. The current Staadholder is Luitpold van Raemerswijk of House van Raemerswijk. Luitpold is known as “the old bull seal”, but more for his corpulence and impressive moustache than for any business acumen or aggressiveness. He sits in the center seat of three seats upon his carriage. Those to his left and right are empty, no doubt reserved for the cult heads of Manaan and Haendryk respectively. The Old Bull Seal has held his post for 12 years because he does what House van de Kuypers tells him to. Jaan van de Kuypers himself is here. He has no carriage, but several bodyguards. He is the true power of the Directorate. He quietly walks in the center of the crowd of big-shots, observing everything and missing nothing.

Beggars, members of the Unfortunate Brotherhood – the guild for street beggars, are here in force as well. Where there’s guilders, there shall be beggars. They are almost universally ignored by the Great Families’ and clergy. Sister Maarel and a few minor priestess of Shallya hand out crusts of bread to them, as does “Gentle Father” Bram Ravensburg of the Cult of Morr and his almost ever present friend “Jolly” Pim van Pelt, who publicly claims membership to the cult of Morr, but most know him to truly be a worshipper of Ranald in his the aspect of the Protector. Both men consider themselves scholars and followers of Sint Klaas, the Patron Saint of Needy Children and Prostitutes; although you have no evidence that either follows Klaas in the capacity of Father of the Bawds. Together, they co-founded the Fraternity of Zwarte Piet to benefit children as Sint Klaas, a worshipper of Ranald himself, once helped a young chimney sweep named Piet. Consequently, this time of year, members of the Honorable Chimney Sweep Guild of Zwarte Piet are some of the fortunate amongst the common man still making a decent living.

Morr and Ranald are not the only minor cults here today. Sister Hilaria om Klimt, while officially a priestess of Manaan, runs the Church of St. Olovald, based in Suiddock. Olovald, Spirit of the Delta, Lord of the Water’s Bounty, was once considered a god, but in the year 1010, the Cult of Manaan voted and determined that Olovald was really a saint of the cult. His churches were absorbed into the greater cult. Sister Hilaria’s possible heresy is only overlooked because of her popularity with the Suiddockers. Her congregation is formed of local tramps and infirm sailors who live at St. Olovald’s as if it were a hostel.

Ulric has little presence in Marienburg, only amongst the Norse. Sigmar however, has a small but split presence. There are two groups of cultists of the Empire’s patron. The first is the Cult of Sigmar-Reformed. This group was formed after the succession of the Wasteland from the Empire and are not recognized by the Grand Theogonist in Altdorf. They have no church of their own. Instead, they depend upon the welfare of the various guilds and merchant houses. The second group call themselves the Uniates and are based not in Marienburg itself, but in the village of Kalkaat and consider themselves Imperialists with a thirst for unification. They maintain that the Wasteland never should have absconded from the Empire, and preach zealously of the sins of the Wastelanders for claiming independence. The two cult factions do not get along. While the city of Marienburg has not made the Uniates illegal, it is known that they are often harassed when the odd call for the return to the empire is heard.

Your attention turns back to the Manann priests as they begin to tie the initiate to the mast. After he is lashed, religious rites are read. He is given the traditional palm full of water and crust of bread. The young man has fasted for three days prior. Afterwards, songs are sung, some religious in nature, some bawdy sailor songs. There is an equal mix of both. What surprises you though is Hadwin. Without prompting, he sings along with all the songs. Tears stream down the boy’s face as he does so. When the last song is sung, which is a good bit of time, Hadwin, and he alone recites a rhyme that every Wastelander knows:

One-Eyed Peter, Long-tailed Jack, Caught us all up and put us in a sack, Tied us by our ankles, bit of our toes, Drowned us in the marsh where nobody goes.

The boy repeats the rhyme three times, then goes silent.

The Arch-Priest Wouter Berkhout gives the final blessing upon the initiate. He then is escorted off the ship by a swarm of Knights Mariner. Not surprisingly, he is helped into the carriage of the Stadhoolder. There, he is joined by High Priest Simon Goudenkruin, and Burgerhof Speaker Nieut Gyngrijk. Two more figures join him. You did not take notice of them before. One is a man dressed like an imperial merchant. He has the look of a northerner. Perhaps he is from Middenheim or Talaheim. The man is young, probably a few years shy of 30. Despite his rich dress, he has a long red beard like a northerner, but it is braided and his mustache is long and well oiled. His hair is long and swept back in a braid. Standing beside him is a dwarf wearing chain and sporting a battle-ax strapped to his back. The dwarf is of indeterminate age, and keeps his red beard in much the same fashion as his human compatriot, minus the oiled mustache, which he has shaved. Your eyebrows raise a bit as you notice both men are wearing rich looking medallions in the shape of Sigmar’s Twin-Tailed Comet. That is odd, for Sigmar’s Cult is perhaps even welcomed less in Middenheim which is dedicated to the Empire’s original patron god, Ulric, Lord of Battle, The White Wolf. A schism has existed between the two cults for years, as some in the Cult of Ulric believe that Sigmar is not a true god, and is at best a Saint of Ulric. This belief has been branded the Sigmarian Heresy and is punishable by death in the Empire.

Old Wouter raises his hands for silence. Eventually, the crowd gives it to him. He speaks some pleasantries and talks at length about the importance of Mast Day, and what it means to the cult, the city and the Wasteland itself to have Manaan judge another disciple ready. The old man is known for giving long sermons. This one is no exception. If you didn’t need a haircut before you came here today, you need one now.

At long last, he turns to the odd northerner and his dwarf companion. “I would like to thank the honored statesmen, Burgerhof members, Directorates, Great Families, Guild masters and gentlemen for coming today, and take this opportunity to introduce Kaspar Schreiber of Middenheim. Kaspar is a representative of Hofbauer-Bodelstien Trading Companies interests in Middenheim, he is also a devout member of the Cult of Sigmar. As you may, or may not have heard, the Middenheim road has been plagued for too long by bandits and foul green skins. The cult of Manaan, in conjunction with the Cult of Haendryk and various business partners has come to a landmark agreement with Hofbauer-Bodelstien in which the trading company will take full responsibility for the safety of those brave souls that travel the Middenheim road, both to and from Marienburg. In exchange, they receive exclusive contracts upon the road. This we hope will increase trade with our land locked sister city. In addition to this, the cult of Manaan, with Burgerhof and Stadhoolder agreement, has decided to right a wrong that has persisted for far too long.

Ever since our glorious city and the Wasteland itself succeeded from the Empire, the cult of Sigmar has been wronged. We tried to right this initially by forming the Cult of Sigmar-Reformed, and I stand by my predecessors decision to do so. I believe the wound to the pride of Sigmarites can and should be healed. As a further step in this direction, I present to you the official leader of the Cult of Sigmar-Reformed, and I hereby declare that the former Church of St. Olovald, hereby be relinquished to the Cult of Sigmar-Reformed as their property. The Cult of Manaan, with you as my witnesses, hereby relinquishes all claims on said property”

With that, he ends his speech, very short for Old Wouter. He sits down in his seat proffered to him by the Old Bull Seal, and the carriage is quickly led away. Templars of the Knights Mariner go before it and surround it. Shouts of anger, no doubt from those that have long supported Sister Hilaria om Klimt, rage with fits of anger. Mixed in is the odd shout of heresy! Perhaps from Uniate Sigmarite supporters, or the odd Ulric worshipper. Old Wouter wisely makes a quick exit. The Black Caps move in and start dispersing the crowd, giving hard hits with cudgels when need be and brandishing more wicked weapons in threat.

Later that Day:

The early warning of the morning sky takes effect that same afternoon. The winds blow at 20 knots, and the cold rain drives almost sideways. It stings the face and freezes to a slick of ice where ever it lands. The seas roil and swell. The ice on the Manaanspoort moves like a heavily breathing beast.

The next day, the initiate is not on the mast. Nor, for that matter, is the mast upon the ship. Of the would be priest, there is no sign. Manaan has claimed him. Some say in displeasure over Old Wouter’s abandonment of Saint Olovald.

Two days later, the storm stops. Three dead albatrosses are found on the docks. The guilds gang together to totally cleanse it. A priest of Manaan is begged to come and give a blessing.

The next day a Norse crabbing boat sets sail for the northern end of the Manaanspoort. The morning next, wreckage from the same boat drifts into Suiddock. Manaan may have claimed them as well, but murmurs are heard that the Norsemen were claimed not by Manaan, but by Stromfels The Shark God and Lord of Dangers upon the sea. Some say, nay they were claimed by wreckers, which could be one and the same as wreckers and pirates often worship the forbidden Shark God.

That evening, there is an ashen faced fishermen in the Pelican’s Perch. He is carrying the haft of an oar, and telling his story, for drinks of course, of how that same day he narrowly escaped being the meal of a Grey Barbed Shark, the beast that is often referred to as Stromfels’ Kitty, named for the grey, barbed whiskers off the side of its head.

The fisherman states, “I were fishin’ fer winter silvers in Haagen’s Wharf. She were jes about frozen over, so I were sewing me boat around de ice. Dats when I saw da shadow under me boat. It were longer then two men put together, no three men, maybe…well more then three. I saw da whiskers on its head, and then it started tryin to turn me boat. That’s when I started hittin it wit me oar. It rears its ugly head up out of da water and bites me oar in half. Lucky to be alive I am”.

A riot begins in Suiddock near St. Olovald’s. The Black Caps quickly put it down, backed up by the Knight’s Mariner.

The Eternal Guard Part I

Begins Kalderzeit 25th, ends Kalderziet 26th

The PC’s are awakend in the middle of the night and told to go to Jacob’s Imports, a “known” smugling house. They are now employees of Jacob’s Imports. They are briefed by the warehouse foreman, Schutzman, with (who is recognized by Malicut) Daan “Two-Fingers” Ooms hanging out mysteriously in the background.

They are put to work immediately unloading the Far Swan, a ship belonging to Cloos and Drexol Explorations. A fellow named Johaan hires them for a goodly sum to transport a heavy, long box to Herr Cloos’s house. Malicut is asked by the skipper of The Far Swan, Captain Abraham Abraham Balthazar, to throw a grand party for he and his crew. He wants real halfing gourment food, fine wine and sixty whores. Malicut accepts.

The party delivers the large box and enters the Cloos home which is in a state of chaos. Herr Cloos’ health is poor. They are asked to return in the morning to receive the rest of their payment. Begrudgingly, they agree.

When they return in the morning, they find the watch at Cloos’ home. Herr Cloos was murdered during the night. They are hired by his estranged widow, Ofra, a lovely woman from far off Araby, to be her body guards. She fears that her life is in danger from Drexol. If she were to die before the reading of Cloos’ will then everything goes to Drexol.

Malicut makes the initial arraingments for the Far Swan Party.

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