by Michael Weaver
“So Lieutenant, you and your… men …can be very useful to me. Your ogre in particular looks formidable.” The fat merchant looked exceedingly confident.
“Albrecht”, András replied.
“I beg your pardon?”
“The ogre – he calls himself ‘Albrecht’.” András explained.
The fat merchant shrugged off the information impatiently. “Why would an ogre call himself ‘Albrecht’?”
To András, who was seriously considering killing the fat merchant, the question seemed rhetorical, but he answered it anyway. “He thinks it makes him seem smarter.”
“No matter Lieu – no, Captain Vadász – I need your services and I will pay exceedingly well.” The promotion, the fat merchant seemed to think, would seal the bargain.
András contemplated his options. It seemed improbable the fat merchant would be much of a threat in a fight, but he had brought two bodyguards with him to the tavern – a seedy middle-aged sailor who looked like he’d weathered one too many storms, and a competent-looking young woman. András had seen them both around, but had never had any dealings with them. They stood slightly behind and to the right of their employer. They were paying more attention to András’s crew than to András and the fat merchant – the old guy, like the fat merchant, seemed fascinated by Albrecht, where he sat at a table by himself, diligently polishing some rust off the old anchor he liked to use as a club. The young woman, however, focused more on the table where Skaggi Clanlorn and Buckle set; whether she considered them a greater threat, or was bemused by the absurdity of a dwarf and a goblin playing Dead Man’s Eyes, András couldn’t tell. The important thing was that none of them were paying attention to Jam Pot – the little halfling sat by himself at a table behind and to the left of the fat merchant, noisily slurping soup and munching on a steak of unknown provenance. His pistol, András knew, was underneath the napkin that seemed carelessly bunched on the table.
The fat merchant abhorred silence. “Come, Captain – I know you are without a ship or employment at the moment, and I can see you are not a man to let an opportunity for wealth and adventure pass you by!” He waved his mug and smiled encouragingly – and a bit smugly – at András.
“Yes”, mused András aloud, “The Luminous Leiterdorf Lass did sail without us. Rather suddenly, in fact. Word is, a wealthy fat man from Marienburg paid them to rush some cargo for him – a bonus if they left before the dawn.”
The fat merchant actually looked pleased at András’s comment. “Yes, that was me. Quite so. I did have a cargo I needed shipped immediately, and I knew you and your men would be much happier working for me. Captain Leitner is a drunk and a fool, I understand – you would have had a miserable voyage as his first mate.”
Captain Leitner, András reflected, was indeed a drunk and a fool, and András had estimated it would have taken only a few days to convince Leitner’s long-suffering crew to accept him as their new captain – for one thing, he had planned on promising that his first act as captain would be changing the ship’s name. Alas, fate, in the form of the fat merchant, had intervened. András had a healthy respect for fate. Less so, for fat merchants. Especially fat, meddlesome merchants.
The fat merchant smiled and elaborated on his plans for András and his boys. “You’ve heard about Mordheim, I’m sure. Struck down in its glory – and its sin – by the hand of Sigmar himself. Everyone slain. Yet, there is life in the city again. Unclean – unholy – things, they say. Those marked by Chaos, and corruption. Some say the dead walk the streets. But living men, uncorrupted men, dare enter the ruins. Desperate men. Outlaws. Adventurers. They seek the wealth of the city, lying there for brave men to pick up where it lies scattered” (in his enthusiasm, the fat merchant seemed to have forgotten that András‘s men were a dwarf, an ogre, a goblin, and a halfling). “I can finance such men. Indeed, for the men I employ, wealth is even more readily at hand. My Uncle lived in Mordheim. A very, very wealthy man – even by my standards”, the fat merchant gave a smug little chuckle. “I have a map of the city – it will lead you to his house. I can tell you where his strongboxes are hidden – too well concealed for casual looters to find, but you and your men could find them with ease. A day’s work, my friend! And then you’ll have enough money to purchase, outfit, and crew your own ship, if you wish. I might even be willing to invest in your venture, to hire you to ship some of my goods for your maiden voyage!” The fat merchant smiled again, confidently, and waited for András’s acceptance.
“Naming a city Mordheim was asking for it” Andras replied, “about as intelligent as naming a ship the Slow Leaky Deathtrap”. He sighed. Options. András made his choice. He ran his right hand through his hair, which was the signal Jam Pot had been watching for. Up came the halfling’s pistol, and off went a decent chunk of the fat merchant’s head. András, not surprisingly, reacted faster than the body guards and had both covered with his pistols before they could draw their weapons. Skaggi, Buckle and Albrecht leapt to their feet, ready to deal with the guards if necessary. Albrecht, in particular, was quite effective at looming. The guards froze, being considerably smarter than their former employer.
“Jam, see if he has a map”.
The halfling found the hidden map in the second place he looked only because he pried off the wrong boot heel first. “How original. Yup, Captain. Map of a city. Big red circle around a building. That what you want?”
Mordheim. Death’s home. Perhaps, opportunity. András eyed the fat merchant’s guards over the barrels of his pistols. “Are you two looking for work?” he asked.