So it all started in Ubersreik. My father had been hanged some years back for the crime of body-snatching, and so I’d been on my own for a good while. I made ends meet by pursuing the family trade; it was a good way to make a few shillings for an enterprising young fellow like me. Anyway, I’d had a bit of recent misfortune and was down to my last few pennies, and things were getting pretty hungry, and the damned priests of Morr were spending whole nights out in the graveyards.
So I’m thinking it’s maybe time to try my hand at burglary or some such, when my old friend Heinz shows up with this wild-eyed Elf in tow. See, Heinz grew up in Ubersreik, but always had a bit of an outdoorsy bent, so he ended up making a living by offering his services as a guide for those bands of speculators who want to go up into the mountains and prospect for silver or plunder old Drachenfels’ castle or something like that. A pretty good living, too, to judge from his gear.
Well, it turns out that Heinz was looking for a change of scenery too, so we reckoned we’d throw our lot in together and see what we could come up with. I was thinking we might go rob a couple of coaches or something, but it turns out Shallya was smiling on us that day, ‘cause we found a sign someone had tacked up advertising for a job. I convinced a young lad to read it for us, as I found the handwriting a bit on the obscure side. It proved to be a handbill advertising for house-movers… at six shillings per day! Once we explained to the Elf (Airllanan, his name is) that “house moving” didn’t involve actually moving the house itself, we were off to the Red Moon Inn, down near the Ostermann docks — you know the place — to meet with our new employer.
I didn’t have to work nearly as hard as I’d expected to in order to land the job. The person we were meeting with was called Hendrick or something like that. He said he hadn’t gotten a single person coming down and asking about the job before we showed up, which I thought was a bit suspicious, until I realized that his use of a written notice to try and attract unskilled labor wasn’t so much suspicious as soft-headed.
Since he was offering good money, we took the job straight away, especially considering it might prove a good opportunity to inspect the doors, windows, and any guard-dogs of a wealthy house without the traditional level of personal risk. Turns out, though, that the job wasn’t really about moving a household. Instead, Hendrick says we’re supposed to pretend that we’re just house-movers, but really we’re there to spy on the help on behalf of Lord Aschaffenburg. Aschaffenburg owns the manor — apparently the place was an engagement gift from his inlaws-to-be, the von Bruner family — and he’s gotten the idea that someone’s plotting against him.
We were told to meet up with Hendrick in the morning to get underway… and he paid us each a day’s wages. In advance. I was once again suspicious.
Still, I was never one to look askance at good fortune, so I spent some of this windfall on filling my belly, and some on Gertrud. That’s the name of my girl, and she’s a good one… don’t listen to the lies all those wharfies will try and tell you. They’re just jealous ‘cause Gertie won’t take up with any of the miserable poxy bastards.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. So the next morning, I tell Gertie good-bye, and we get underway. The cart’s already loaded, and we’ve got a long ride to Grunewald Lodge, which is well out past the village of Geissbach, along the Bogenhafen road. I’m perched up on the seat next to Hendrick, who pisses and moans the whole way about how much he hates his job, hates the manor house, hates the other help, etc. Made for a long trip, I can tell you.
Things got exciting all of a sudden when we made the turn off the Bogenhafen road and headed deeper into the woods. We were shadowed by a bunch of dark shapes off in the woods, and as soon as we got within sight of what I had to assume was Grunewald Lodge (a run-down ruin of a place), they attacked. The manor guards, instead of doing something useful, closed the gate in our faces rather than let us in, so we had to stand and fight.
Must have been a dozen of them or more — Beastmen, they were — but after I gelded their leader with a well-timed strike, they weren’t quite so enthusiastic about fighting us. Heinz and the Elf took a couple of wounds, but I got through all right. The Elf was a surprise; he did all this quick spinning and leaping stuff, without ever stumbling or missing a strike. I think I better understand why Heinz decided to take up with the creature.
After we cut down the last of the hideous things (Beastmen, I mean, not the Elf), we were allowed to enter the manor grounds. We unloaded the cart and got to meet Lord Aschaffenburg, who was bigger than I’d imagined. He didn’t have much to say that was worth saying, but at six shillings a day, I wasn’t about to complain too loudly, you know?
- Excerpted from “The Grave Robber’s Narrative” from Professor Adolphus Gleichner’s An Illuminated Treasury of Instructive Conversations with the Destitute and Wretched.