After convalescing for the better part of two weeks after the battle with the beast men, the adventurers gain passage to Stromdorf on a commercial barge to begin their search for Florian Wechsler. After speaking with the crew of the barge and the captain, Nicodemus learns that Florian took the same barge to Stromdorf several weeks earlier. The captain confirmed that Wechsler did indeed travel with a shipment of coal and was indeed looking forward to turning a considerable profit in Stromdorf. Nicodemus also learned that Wechsler traveled with two bodyguards: Krantz & Olaf. The name Krantz was familiar to Nicodemus as someone he may have met briefly during the course of his duties for Baron Von Burgenstein. Each day that the barge floated closer to Stromdorf the more unpleasant the weather became. Sunny skies became gray, gray skies became drizzly, and by the time they were within a day of Stromdorf there was persistent rain. Shortly before actually being able to dock in Stromdorf they passed by a sizeable bridge that had been washed out by the storm. The churning river then caused the boat to lurch and the captain fell overboard and was whisked down-stream before anyone could react. Pete, thinking quickly, grabbed the tiller and successfully brought the barge to the bank of the river where the crew lashed it to some trees to avoid further peril to the vessel. The entire assembly then climbed up the muddy embankment and made their way to Stromdorf on foot. As they approached the main gate, a crew of half a dozen men was walking away from Stromdorf to survey the damage to the bridge. Gobrik took it upon himself to tag along, his tradecraft instincts compelling him. After taking his time and offering some longwinded advice on how, had Dwarven principles of construction been employed this kind of thing could have been avoided, Gobrik concluded that there was no evidence of sabotage on the bridge.
Back at the gate, the guards peace-bonded Nicodemus’ blade and the adventurers entered Stromdorf. Between Nicodemus’ recollections and conversing with the sailors, the prime destination towards which the adventurers were heading was the Thunderwater Inn. Run by the Brenner family, the Thunderwater Inn is home of the eponymous Thunderwater Ale, a strong beer with a distinct peaty after-taste. Thunderwater is Stromdorf’s main export and is so revered that even Dwarfs look upon it favourably. On their way to the Thunderwater Inn, the adventurers passed through Stromdorf’s Market Square. Set in the middle of the square is a statue of Olaus Stichelm, the hero of Stromdorf who saved the town from the ravages of greenskins and the army of a Vampire Count hundreds of years ago. After doing some cursory investigation of the Market Square, a serendipitous lightning flash revealed several pieces of coal on the ground near one of the trade buildings. Gobrik’s innate Dwarf senses told him that the marshy soil upon which Stromdorf was build would tend to indicate that any source of coal would be many miles hence and not likely something procured with ease. Kaerlan also spotted a disheveled-looking man collecting dung in a sack who, upon seeing Kaerlan, became spooked and shambled away down an alley.
The adventurers made their way to the Thunderwater Inn. It was a lively place full of revelers, all enjoying some Thunderwater Ale after a long day of toiling in the rain. After enjoying some Thunderwater themselves, Pete and Gobrik succumbed to a bit of playful trickery on behalf of the locals and were goaded into drinking a mug of a special brew known as “Marshwater.” Although touted as a special beer made by incorporating live Reik Eels in the brewing process, what was served to them was actually dregs from the brewing process supplemented with a live tadpole. While Gobrik managed to hold his liquour, Pete vomited all over the floor much to the delight of the patrons who got to see another “greenhorn” from out of town fooled by the Marshwater. Meanwhile, Nicodemus carefully surveyed the bar and saw no evidence of Florian, Krantz, or Olaf in the bar. Rooms were procured, and the only other material finding that evening was that there was a wingback chair by the hearth (much more comfortable-looking than the wooden furniture bolted to the floor) that stayed empty the whole evening despite the bar being at capacity at some points. In speaking with Sebastien Brenner, the patriarch of the Brenner family who was also tending bar that evening, Nicodemus learned that the chair is reserved for Franz Bieber, Stromdorf’s most respected hunter. Franz travels for weeks at a time into the swampy areas on the outskirts of Stromdorf (know as The Oberslecht) and always returns with a bounty of game meat. Going out into The Oberslecht alone is unthinkable to most as it is a perilous place; Franz Bieber is highly respected for the bravery he displays in making such frequent trips alone.
The next day the adventurers scoped out the Market Square. Nicodemus attempted to gain entrance to Town Hall but was told that nobody other than Captain Kessler was permitted entrance. Nicodemus and Kaerlan learned that Kessler’s office was out of his house a short distance away and went to see if they could speak with him. Kaerlan stayed out on the street to watch from a distance while Nicodemus had the displeasure of meeting Kaspar Myer, the weasely clerk who guards entrance into Kessler’s office. Scolded like a school child despite his best protestations, Nicodemus was shooed out of Kessler’s home and told to come back when he had an appointment. Meanwhile, Kaerlan took to the rooftops of the town and observed, over the course of the afternoon, an official-looking man who he concluded was Kessler enter Town Hall and then return to Kessler’s house. Kaerlan also saw the disheveled-looking man from the night before. Street urchins would throw clumps of mud at him and run away and merchants would not tolerate him poking around their stalls for very long before telling him, “Move along, Waltrout.” While nobody was openly hostile to Waltrout it was obvious that he was viewed as a nuisance. Kaerlan, suspicious of the contents of Waltrout’s sack, approached him and offered to purchase it for several silver coins. This being more money than Waltrout had likely held at one time at any point in his life, he eagerly accepted the offer and, in his own way, swore fealty to his “new best friend.” Kaerlan tried to slip away but Waltrout did not let Kaerlan out of his sight making continual offers to carry Kaerlan’s things, shine his shoes, and do anything else he required. Kaerlan quickly grew weary of this attention and scaled a building to get away. Though confused at the sudden exit of his new patron, Waltrout enthusiastically waved goodbye, promising to always be nearby should Kaerlan require any assistance. Apart from another piece of coal, Waltrout’s sack did not appear to contain anything significant.
While Nicodemus was making the unpleasant acquaintance of Kaspar Myer, Pete and Gobrik surveyed the wares in the Market Square. Pete procured some items that he was certain he could turn a profit on and Gobrik, after politely disparaging the quality of the local blacksmith’s work, noticed a Halfling woman making her way through the market buying vegetables and spices. As this was the closes thing to another Dwarf he’d seen since entering Stromdorf, Gobrik walked up and introduced himself. The friendly Halfling introduced herself as Keila Cobblepot, proprietress of the Stewpot Inn. While she was quick to acknowledge that the Thunderwater Inn did have the best beer in Stromdorf she did claim to have better food and convinced Gobrik and Pete to come by and try some of the sticky buns that she had made earlier that morning. She mentioned that her clientele consists mainly of watchmen and did her best to convince Pete and Gobrik to consider the Stewpot over the Thunderwater Inn while they stayed in Stromdorf. The Stewpot was, indeed, modest in size and scope compared to the Thunderwater but Keila did not understate her cooking ability and the rooms, while small, had a much homier feel to them than the Thunderwater. While they were eating a dirty, vulgar man entered the Stewpot and took a seat at a table. Everything about this man was unpleasant from his noticeable body odour to the way he would disrespectfully clear his sinuses and spit on the floor. The only word they heard him say was “Breakfast!” directed at Keila. While visibily not pleased that the man was here, Keila acquiesced to his request but did so without any of the cheeriness and hospitality that she had extended to Pete and Gobrik. Keila told him that his name was Reiner and that, while she didn’t appreciate his demeanor, Kelia couldn’t afford to turn customers away regardless of how unpleasant they may be.
A final point worth mentioning is that Gobrik and Pete learned that Florian Wechsler did indeed stay at the Stewpot while he was in Stromdorf. When asked, Keila told Gobrik and Pete that Wechsler spent the night at the Stewpot with his two body-guards and checked out early the next morning while she was still baking bread.