After two days of travelling and camping in uncomfortable places, Miranda, Hagen and Rufus get to a toll house. Trusting that a few coins can buy them a shelter for the night and maybe even a warm meal, the three dismount their horses and proceed inside the courtyard. The lights inside the building are lit, but there is no sign of the guards. Miranda knocks on the door, just to find it open. No response comes from the inside, so Rufus follows her into the toll house, while Hagen is leading the horses inside the small stable outside.
As soon as the main room is entered, out of the shadows cast by the dim light of the fireplace, two dark figures attack the travellers. They are tall, wrapped in black cloaks that hide all of their features and wield swords. Caught by surprise, Miranda and Rufus try to divert the attack, and they are quickly cut out from the exit. Dancing around the big, wooden table, the two manage to defend themselves, but one of the dark figures, while swinging his sword, reveals his hands: to the horror of the travellers, there is no flash to be seen, just old, white bones. Miranda, in a fit of courage, throws one of the lanterns hanging on the walls at the undead creature, setting his cloak on fire, and then tries to reach the the stairs that lead to the tower. Meanwhile, Hagen faces the same threat: hidden in the stables, a third attacker was waiting for him and as soon as the man enters, the cloaked figure strikes him.
The fight rages on; Miranda and Rufus keep fending off the attacks and are pushed to the last floor of the tower, out on the roof. The lower floor of the toll house is completely on fire and the flames are reaching out for the second floor.
Just when they have no place to run to, and the undead are closing in on them, an arrow coming from the courtyard pierces one of the creatures’ skull. A group of five archers is shooting arrows to cover the travellers’ escape.
Without asking questions, Miranda and Rufus climb down the tower and jump on their horses, brought there by Hagen, and together with their new allies, ride away to their safety.
After a night of rest, the archers’ leader introduces himself. His name is Klaus Jaeger, son of Hans Jaeger, Elder of Kroppenleben. Hagen knows him well, because Hagen is really Hagen von Kalb, as Miranda seemed to remember. Klaus was one of Hagen’s closest childhood friends, because he spent his youth escaping from the noble court of Castle von Kalb and spending time with the lowborn kids of the city.
Klaus tells Hagen a grim story: Johann von kalb is dead and the city is now ruled by the full Council of Elders. And what’s even more terrible, at least one of the Elders can not be really alive, because Klaus witnessed his father Hans being cruelly murdered the same night Johann died. As a result of all this violence, Hagen’s little sister Frieda is now lying in a cthatonic state.
Hagen is shocked and needs a whole day to make up his mind. Rufus is even more shocked and spends the day crying.
At the end of the day, Klaus explains that Hagen is more than probably the next target on the list, being the rightful heir to the Barony of Kroppenleben. So he has set up a plan: he unearthed a dead body, disguised it as Hagen and had it sent to Kroppenleben. If the plan worked out, the city is mourning the young man’s death, so they have the advantage of surprise.
In order to retrieve informations regarding the situation in Kroppenleben, Miranda and Rufus travel to Hornfurt, pretending to be husband and wife.
They visit the Eastern Gold and the Blue Merchant emporiums, where Miranda buys him a staff, out of gratitude for having given up the goblin staff some days before. Then they get into the Lead Dwarf (“The rudest bed on the road from Steingart to Karak Hirn”) and have a friendly chat with Morga, the dwarven mistress of the place.
Morga tells the two that Kroppenleben isn’t having commercial interactions with other cities since the 20th of August, two days after Hagen started his journey to Pahl. Morga adds that both Johann von kalb and his firstborn son Hagen died just a couple days one from the other. The dead body of Hagen von Kalb is said to have been found outside the city.
Rufus asks for a private chat with Morga and the two disappear for a brief time. As soon as the man gets back to Miranda, the two set out to reach Klaus’ encampent back again.