Friday, August 19, 2022

Session Thirty-Two: The Pardoner's Tale

The Battle in Gilles’ Tower

Anastasia, her pistol placed against Jules’ temple, congratulates the company on their discovery of Gilles’ Tower. She says that if the company her what they know and agrees to give up their search for the treasure, she will return Jules to them unharmed.

Negotiations are abruptly cut short when Sabina raises her pistol and fires at Anastasia. She misses, but her shot distracts Anastasia enough for Jules to wrestle free of her grip. Anastasia fires, purely by instinct, but strikes only empty air. Jules—still bound and gagged—hops out the tower door and into the courtyard beyond.

The sounds of gunfire alert the rest of the company that something is amiss. They hurry downstairs to aid Magnus, Sabina, and Maurice as best as they can, though they are somewhat slowed by their own eagerness to enter the battle and by the narrowness of the curved stairwell.

Anastasia’s men surge forward to try and slaughter the trio before reinforcements arrive, while Anastasia retreats to a side room and shuts the door behind her. She does not get away before Maurice wounds her with an arrow, however.

The resulting battle is as brief as it is brutal. One of Anastasia’s men is killed outright, while the other is mortally wounded and trapped in Renee’s heavy net.

Maurice, in an uncharacteristic moment, draws his dagger, covers it with oil of Black Lotus, and runs after Anastasia. He kicks open the side door, stabs at her, and misses. He also realizes that Anastasia has just finished reloading her pistol, and that he has literally no place to go to avoid being shot.

Fortunately, Andre slips into the room behind Maurice and badly wounds Anastasia with a skillful thrust of his sword. Anastasia falls back, carefully considering which of the two men to shoot, when Garnier calls out from the tower stairs.

“Surrender now, or we’ll kill you and your other man.”

Anastasia, somewhat ruefully, holds out her pistol, which Maurice grabs. She allows the two men to escort her back into the main body of the tower, where she officially surrenders.

The company searches the trio of treasure hunters and divides up the spoils, with Sabina getting Anastasia’s very fine pistol and her shoulder pouch of wadding and shot. The company also finds an identical copy of Andre’s map on Anastasia’s person, which they also take.

A Marker Stone (See Below)

The Foreshadowing of a Mutiny and a Bounty

Sir Henri at last sees his squire, Jules, standing outside and trying to free himself of his restraints. Sir Henri cuts away the ropes while Jules apologizes profusely for putting the knight and his friends in this predicament. He says that he went to spy on Anastasia, as ordered, but that she and her men discovered and captured him, and that they planned to use him as ransom for their own ends.

Sir Henri, with much high dudgeon, tells Anastasia and her surviving man that it is a very great crime to assault a squire. Anastasia says nothing in her own defense, while her man sullenly bleeds beneath Renee’s net.

Jules, still upset by his ordeal, thanks the company for saving him, but also notes his dismay at being shot at by Sabina. Garnier yells at Jules, telling him to shut up and stop being such a whiny child. Jules retreats behind the sheltering bulk of Sir Henri, and seethes.

Sir Henri and Renee then frog march their two captives and the corpse to the nearest watch garrison, where Sir Henri makes a statement and Renee is paid a bounty for Anastasia’s arrest and capture.

Once this bit of legal wrangling has been taken care of, the company continues on with their original plan. A few hours later, Jim, Jules, the three men of Magnus’ new company, Frieda, and the rest of the company all meet in the forest just to the north of Colmar.

Marker Stones

The company travels to the three hills indicated on the map, where they find a large stone with a hole carved in the top. Several of the company look through it and see nothing of note. This includes Sir Henri who, for some reason, looks through the hole in the marker stone toward the direction of Colmar, and is dismayed to see nothing other than the town’s walls.

Pierre, however, sights on a nearby valley situated between two hills. He says that, perhaps, the company will find something of note over there. The company heeds his advice and sets out. They eventually come to the valley, which is low enough that a stagnant pond has formed in the bottom. They also spot another marker stone—and a figure standing in front of it.

The figure hails the company in a quavering voice.

Andre, whose eyes are especially keen, notes that the figure is a very old, and nearly skeletal-looking man in a shapeless brown cloak. Andre, skeptical of the man’s intentions, replies to his greeting, and is dismayed to see that the old man starts shuffling over to the company. He becomes more dismayed when he realizes that the old man only has empty sockets where his eyes should be.

The Old Man

Morbidly fascinated, Andre offers his waterskin to the old man, who takes it gratefully and drinks from it without any difficulty. He then seems to look at the members of the company in turn, despite lacking the eyes to do so, and greets them most politely as a fellow traveler.

When asked what he is doing there, the old man says that he is here to warn the company against continuing further on their quest. He says that, if they proceed on the path that they are going, they will find only death and doom. He then “looks” directly at Renee and says that, of all of the company, this doom will be the most formidable for her.

Various members of the company talk to the old man, and are unnerved that he seems to know quite a bit about them and about the circumstances of their birth. Perhaps guided by superstitious fear, the company give the old man both food and coin for his kindness and guidance. He takes these all with grace and nearly apologetic thanks, before saying that he hopes that they have considered his warning. Then he wanders off into the growing darkness.

Sounds in the Dark

In the growing dusk, the company, unnerved by the words of the old, blind man, find it difficult to continue on their hunt for the treasure. They decide to camp in the valley rather than return to town or journey onward. Considering the entanglements that they have found themselves in, the company opts to set several watches, so that they are not surprised by other treasure hunters.

While camp is set up, Andre tries to see if he can fish in the shallow pond—despite it not being of a size to really have fish. Once again, the magic fishhook does nothing until Andre anoints it with his blood. Then it somehow catches a very large carp that, by rights, should not be able to survive in the pond. Andre returns triumphant, only to find that many of the other members of the company refuse to eat an obviously magical fish.

During dinner, Maurice and Renee hear what sounds like the sounds of battle echoing over the hills. They point this out to their companions and soon the entire company is sitting rigid around their fire, listening to the ringing of steel on steel and the grunts and cries of warriors.

After much whispered discussion, it is decided that Renee and Maurice will follow the sounds and see if they can discover their source. They set out into the hills and, after a few minutes, find a lonely clearing deep in the forest. Upon their arrival, they spy a large marker stone, similar to the ones they have previously discovered. They also see a very large, very dead oak tree. In the dark shadows, Renee spots what appears to be a person lying face down amidst the tree roots.

The Tree

The tree has a large, natural crack in its trunk. As Renee and Maurice arrive, three people—one of whom is holding his side and is limping—walk single file through this crack into the tree, using torches to light their way. Renee and Maurice wait until the tree people are out of sight before creeping in for a closer look. They find the corpse of a very tall, white-haired man lying face down in front of the tree. The man has manacles on his wrists and ankles. A two-handed sword—presumably the man’s weapon—lies close to one of his grey and lifeless hands.

Renee and Maurice, spooked by what they have seen, quickly retreat back to their encampment. Once there, they tell the others about the tree, the three men disappearing into the trunk, and the dead man with the great sword. They are quite rattled, however, and it takes quite a bit of time for the rest of the company to piece together their story into something that makes even the slightest bit of sense.

The company decides to investigate the tree again once it is morning.

The night passes quietly, with no one seeing anything on their watches. The only incident of note is Frieda confessing her true feelings for Sabina in the nerdiest way possible, only to run away when Garnier and Andre (who were secretly awake the whole time) make fun of her for it. Sabina catches up with Frieda by the company’s horses and haltingly reciprocates Frieda’s feelings, though, so it all turns out okay.

The Guardian

The next morning, the company awakes to find Magnus sewing sergeant stripes onto Jim and Jules’ jackets. He tells the two squires that, as part of their training, Sir Henri has allowed them to also become the squad leaders of his new mercenary company. He then orders them to thank Sir Henri for giving them the privilege. When they do this, Garnier needles Jules some more. Jules becomes very pinch-faced, but does not otherwise respond to the goading.

The company then sets out for the tree that Renee and Maurice discovered the night before. The clearing is eerily quiet, and several of the company note that no birdsongs or animal noises can be heard in the vicinity. A quick survey of the clearing reveals an area of blood-spotted, churned up earth that seems to have been the site of at least one battle. They also notice, to their concern, that the corpse and the sword are no longer present.

Sir Henri says that he would very much like to have a look inside the tree. He approaches, only for a loud, booming voice, to draw him up short.

“HALT!”

Moments later, a giant of a man steps out of the crack in the tree. He has manacles on his wrist and ankles, as well as a metal mask seemingly fused into the skin of his face. He carries a massive, two-handed sword in his hands.

The man, in a rasping, halting voice, says that the company cannot enter the tree without first defeating him in single combat. He asks that the company choose a champion to fight him. He tells them that, once the fight begins, they cannot interfere with it in any way.

Almost immediately, Magnus volunteers himself as champion. He strides purposefully to one end of the clearing, while the giant moves to the other.

“BEGIN!” roars the giant.

The Guardian of the Tree


Friday, August 12, 2022

Session Thirty-One: The Pardoner’s Tale

Like Candy from a Baby?

The company visits the shrine of Saint Betva and acquires pilgrims’ badges—this time in the image of a wall with a tower on each side. Sir Henri attempts to make conversation with the stern, older woman and finds he is somewhat more successful than his companions. The woman is unpleasantly narrowminded and religiously strict. She not only hates the riffraff and troublemakers this “treasure hunt” has brought to Colmar, but is also not at all pleased at what is happening to the children. She finds their new toys—which have been made by a local inventory—to be to exciting for the children, and that the creativity and inspiration they inspire will soon turn the children to impiety and the Ruinous Powers.

Sir Henri attempts to distract the woman by asking about Saint Betva. He learns that the dwarven saint is best known for her miraculous construction of the town walls, but is also known for designing various blasphemous devices—similar to what the “heathens” have in the Empire. She, and others who work at the shrine, have tried to suppress this side of Colmar’s saint, but the meddlesome toymaker is causing a resurgence in ideas better left suppressed.

Meanwhile, Andre attempts to buy the toy boat on wheels off of the little girl. The girl refuses, but says that Andre could get his own toy boat, if he really wants one, by visiting the toymaker who made it. She gives Andre directions to what the older woman describes as, “the unrighteous part of town.”

Magnus’ Merry Men

Along the way, the company stops by the town square and finds that Magnus and Jim have successfully recruited three sturdy—albeit dim—locals to serve as Magnus’ men at arms. Magnus sends Jim with the new recruits to the market so that they can be outfitted appropriately. Then Magnus continues along with the group.

Magnus' Peasant Regualrs

The Toymaker

The company travels to a somewhat more dilapidated quarter of Colmar. There, they find a large barn and a small stone house that have been rented out to one Antonella Sclephani, the somewhat infamous toymaker of Colmar. The company finds Antonella to be bright, inquisitive, and quite vivacious. She invites the company into her house as best as she can, and offers up a humble luncheon of wine, cheese, and bread.

Antonella says that she has become a toymaker by accident. She is, in truth, an inventor and architect from Tilea who wishes to follow in the footsteps of Leonardo of Tilea. To that end, she has traveled far and wide to study the work of other inventors like herself, attempt to make the works of previous masters, and thereby improve her craft. She had heard of the great Saint Betva, and of her artificing diagrams, and came to Colmar to study them. Antonella found that the people at the shrine none too keen to let her study the “somewhat blasphemous” works of the saint. Fortunately, a sizeable enough donation allowed her to gain access to the saint’s book of sketches and diagrams.

Antonella Sclephani

Antonella requires very little urging to bring out the book. She shows off several of the schematics within, many of which are clearly technical drawings of the toys the company has seen. Antonella says that she had been making scale models, to better understand the principles behind the schematics, when a small child happened by. She sold the model to the child and the rest was history. Antonella has been using this avenue of income to pay her rent, keep her in food, and work on “the big project” that is in the barn.

The big project is a full-sized version of “Saint Betva’s Eleventh Device.” Antonella is quite happy with how it is progressing, but she also confesses that she likely made a mistake in choosing to build it. It is very large, of course, requires a great deal of specialized parts, is something that she has no experience using and, because Colmar is largely landlocked, has very little use in the area.

Andre, who is a sailor and who remembers the ship on wheels toy, asks her if she can see it. The others ask Antonella if she, perhaps, made a wish with a monk recently. She says that she has, that the monk was lovely, and that everything has been going swimmingly since she met him. The company becomes even more concerned once they hear this.

Antonella invites them into her barn where they behold the nearly-complete full-scale prototype of Saint Betva’s Eleventh Device—a massive, steam-powered ship on wheels. The company goggles at it, while Andre licks his lips and rubs his hands together. Antonella is excited that the company is excited, and becomes even more so when they tell her that they would like to take it with them on their pilgrimage and also invite her along as chief engineer. Andre insists on being the captain.

Meanwhile, Sabina finds Antonella’s wish amidst other papers on a nearby worktable. Sabina strongly encourages Antonella to burn the wish to ashes, and the inventor asks for a lot more details.

"Antonella Sclephani wishes to find one who appreciates her work."

After they discuss the wish, Maurice asks Antonella if she might be able to make him some special arrows to help him in battle. She says that she thinks this is an interesting problem, and will get to work on it right away.

The company leaves her to her inventing, and goes to investigate one of Colmar’s many towers.

Street “Toughs”

The company departs from Antonella’s house only to discover that they are being watched by several people dressed in common peasant’s garb. The company follows them, but the individuals see that they are being followed and hurry to get away. The company splits up and follows after the individuals, eventually trapping them in a street outside of a seedy inn called the Black Dog.

The three individuals, who are unarmed, unarmored, and badly outnumbered, profusely beg the company’s pardon. They explain that they are in the employ of another treasure hunter who has had made little headway in finding the treasure. They say that their boss had asked them to spy on any new arrivals looking for the treasure, and see if they could get any leads. Garnier tells the individuals to clear off. The individuals gladly accept.

One of Several "Dangerous" Locals

The Tower of the Dog

This tower, in the southeastern part of Colmar, was suggested to the company by the stern woman at the shrine. She does not know its name, but she did think there was a marker plaque in it that named both it and the other towers.

The company arrive to find a small market is set up around the base of the tower, and that the tower door is wide open. Numerous people, including those of questionable appearance, go in and out of the tower semi-regularly. The company learns, through talking with several peddlers, that the tower is not Gilles’ Tower, but the Tower of the Dog.

Maurice spots a one-eyed, armored woman and approaches her, asking her if she knows where he can buy certain herbs, “that would be useful in hunting.” She directs him to a small apothecary near Colmar’s main marketplace, where he can easily buy all the dreadful poison he needs.

The company enter the tower and search it, keeping out of the way of other townsfolk and treasure hunters. They discover that the marker plaque has been removed—potentially by other people looking for the treasure. They also surprise two young men involved in carnal relations, which proves to be embarrassing for everyone.

They at last ascend the tower. In the topmost room, they see several arrow slits spread out equidistantly along the outer wall. Each of these has a symbol carved into its windowsill. The more learned members of the company think that these symbols are dwarven letters, though none of them match the symbol on Andre’s map.

In a fit of inspiration, Sir Henri suggests that they go back to talk to Antonella, who is, if not conversant in dwarven runes, at least in possession of a book written by a dwarf who built Colmar’s towers. The company decides to split up, with some remaining in the tower and the rest returning to Antonella.

Tower of the Dog, Ground Floor

Gilles’ Tower

Antonella is pleased and surprised to see the company so soon. She is glad to help them and takes out Saint Betva’s book to let them look through it. Pierre quickly finds a page that features an architectural drawing of Colmar’s defensive wall, and which also provides the names—in Bretonnia and dwarven—of all the perimeter towers.

The company reconvenes and travels to Gilles’ Tower, keeping extra vigilant to make sure they are not being followed. Upon reaching the tower, they find that it is constructed identically to the Tower of the Dog. They quickly ascend to the topmost room, find the sill with the matching rune from Andre’s map, and look through the accompanying arrow slit. In the afternoon sun, they clearly see three distant hills standing alone in the forest north of the town.

Realizing that they have discovered the next marker that will lead them to the treasure, the company discusses what to do next. They decide to excise the dwarven letters from the sills in the tower—the better to deter pursuit. They will then leave the tower in three groups, travel in different directions, collect Jim, Jules, the three new recruits and their horses, and leave Colmar by three different gates. They will then meet up in the forest outside of town and travel to the hills in search of the treasure.

Magnus, Sabina, and Maurice are chosen to leave first. As they descend the tower, they become aware that it is unusually quiet, as if the people in and around it were called away for some strange reason. Suspicious, the trio ready weapons as they descend.

They reach the bottom floor to find Anastasia standing just inside the tower entrance, behind the two men the company had seen before at the King’s Arms. Anastasia has her arm around Jules, who has been bound and gagged, and who has the barrel of Anastasia’s pistol shoved squarely into his temple.

Jules glances away from the trio, obviously ashamed, and says,

“Sowwy.”

One of Anastasia's Cube-Headed Flunkies


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Session Thirty: The Pardoner's Tale

The Assailant Escapes

Andre informs the figure that there are two ways out of this particular engagement—they can talk, or they can die. The figure chooses to take a third option, vaulting off of the privy to the roof of a nearby building. Andre gets in a lucky blow as the figure retreats, grievously wounding them in the arm.

The company converges on the building. As Maurice wings the figure with another arrow and several of the others lob rocks, Andre makes a second desperate leap after the figure. He lands safely on the other building, but the figure nimbly dodges out of the way of his repeated sword blows. Andre watches in horror and surprise as the figure retreats to the opposite edge of the roof and swan dives off the building.

Andre calls out, alerting the others, and the company converges on the alley on the other side of the building. Garnier just catches sight of the figure descending a staircase to below the level of the street. Sabina bravely—and somewhat recklessly—follows, only to find that the area at the bottom of the steps is both pitch black and an intersection of several tunnels. She sees no sign of the figure and breaks off the chase, but not before picking up a curious, blood-spattered piece of parchment from the floor of the tunnel.

The company convenes, and Pierre reads the note. It appears to be written by someone representing “Chaos Undivided,” who has asked someone to deal with the “Cult of the Stranger”. The writer asks the recipient to specifically target Renee, Sir Henri, and Maurice. The company are quite baffled by the letter. They don’t understand why they are referred to as a cult, or why the three named in the letter are of particular importance to the forces of  Chaos. Magnus and Garnier, who remember Maurice’s mutation in the forest near Berjols, quietly keep their own counsel.

The Mysterious Letter

The Party Resumes

The company returns to the King’s Arms, where the mood has dampened a bit. Magnus soon gets the party going again with a few rousing drinking games. Several of the company notice that two men—presumably other guests of the inn—are now sitting in the common room. Though they seem to enjoy witnessing the pilgrimage’s revelry, they do not themselves participate.

A well-dressed woman comes down the stairs and, after a moment, approaches Pierre. She introduces herself as Anastasia, originally from Kislev but most recently from Altdorf. She tells Pierre that she overheard the altercation in the street and, after making sure everyone in the company is all right, asks if she can speak to whomever in the company owns the pistol.

Pierre says that he can make introductions, but suggests that Anastasia fetch her pistol, so that she can show it off. Anastasia agrees and goes upstairs, pausing to speak to the two men on the sidelines. This gives Pierre a few moments to give Sabina the heads up that a stranger wants to talk to her about her firearm.

Anastasia returns with a wooden box that is lined with velvet and holds a very fine Imperial pistol. Moments after introductions are made by Pierre, Frieda approaches Sabina,  but sees that she is otherwise engaged and quickly departs. This is noticed by Sir Henri, who suspects that Frieda knows Anastasia or her men. Fearing that this is yet another group from Altdorf who are after Frieda, Sir Henri takes her aside to talk to her.

Anastasia of Kislev

Over beers, Frieda insists that she has no idea who Anastasia or her companions are. Her obvious embarrassment and flushed cheeks convince Sir Henri that something must be amiss, at the very least. He questions Frieda a bit more intently, but she continues to answer in the negative. Concerned and discomfited, he decides to give up his investigations, for now.

Meanwhile, Anastasia and Sabina have a very deep and technical discussion about the use and quirks of modern firearms. Anastasia mocks the knights of Bretonnia—who can easily be dispatched by firearms of sufficient power—as well as the country’s backward technological and scientific practices. Anastasia soon takes her leave, leaving Sabina to realize that, despite the long conversation, she knows almost nothing about Anastasia or what she’s doing in Carcassonne.

At this point, Pierre, who also noticed Frieda’s previous discomfort, asks her if she’s all right. Frieda says yes and that she apologizes, as she saw that Pierre and Sabina were in a conversation with Anastasia and did not want to interrupt. Sabina then reminds Frieda that she wanted to say something prior to the altercation with the mysterious figure. Frieda nervously buys them both beers, takes a large gulp of hers, and then, very haltingly, asks if she and Sabina are, “the friends? You know, the good friends? The girl friends? Yes?”

Sabina, who has been secretly harboring feelings for Frieda for quite a while now, replies in the affirmative. Which causes Frieda to turn bright red, giggle in terror, and run off to resume drinking with Sir Henri.

A Night and a Morning

Sir Henri, convinced that the company is in danger, creates a watch rotation consisting of himself, Jim, and Jules. The three men take turns staying awake in the common area of the King’s Arms. Fortunately, there is no mischief throughout the night. The company and the pilgrimage awaken at dawn the next day, slightly hungover, but refreshed.

Andre, who has a treasure map burning a hole in his pocket, arrives in the common room first. He notices that Anastasia’s men are seated at a table by the hearth, talking quietly.

Andre passes the innkeeper a few crown and asks him to prepare a lavish breakfast for the others. He then goes upstairs and invites the others down for a morning meal. In the midst of this meal, he slams his map down in the center of the table and announces that the company are going to find this treasure today!

The company studies the map. Frieda and Pierre are asked to read the words penned around the map’s edge, only to be informed that it is some kind of cypher. Pierre takes a few minutes and is eventually able to decode the words.

Andre's Map

IN COLMAR ASCEND GILES TOWER AND MAKE HEADWAY FOLLOW THE WINDING PATH OVER HILL AND THROUGH FOREST UNTIL YOU FIND THE PLACE WHERE DEATH GUARDS THE TREASURE

This prompts Andre to go back over to the innkeeper and ask him for the location of Giles’ Tower. The innkeeper professes that he has been asked that question quite a lot, recently, and that he doesn’t know the answer. He says that there are many towers that are a part of Colmar’s walls, and if they did once have names, no one living knows them anymore. He suggests that Andre visit the Temple of Verena, as they have numerous historical documents about the town and may have the answer.

Andre and several others of the company notice that the two men at the hearth have stopped their conversation and are intently listening to Andre and the innkeeper. The company only becomes more suspicious when the two men pay for their meals and quickly head upstairs. Jules volunteers to follow them and see what they’re up to. He soon returns, and tells the company that the two men talked to Anastasia. He couldn’t make out all of the words, but he heard enough to suspect that they, too, were in town looking for the treasure.

Setting Out

A short time later, Henri the innkeeper and the pilgrims make their way to the common room. Henri informs the assemblage that Colmar is famed as the final resting place of Saint Bevta, a very rare dwarven saint in the service of the Lady. He then relates Saint Bevta’s miracle, in which she is reputed to have built the defensive wall around Colmar in but a single night, thereby saving it from an advancing army intent on despoiling it. The pilgrims and the company all agree that they would like to visit the shrine, and Henri gets directions from the innkeeper. As fortune would have it, it is on the opposite side of the square from the Temple of Verena.

Magnus says that he will not be traveling to the temple or the shrine. Instead, he wishes to go to Colmar’s central park and see if he can hire some men-at-arms. Jim is volunteered to help Magnus with this, while Jules opts to stay behind and keep tabs on Anastasia and her men.

Painting of Saint Betva Kletch

A Public Fistfight

Magnus sets himself up near a fountain in Colmar’s park, and announces that he is looking for sturdy men to serve him. He promises an easy tour of duty as pilgrimage guards before retiring to live in luxury in Maisy. The rest of the company, who have stopped to enjoy the park, listen to Magnus’ sales pitch from a respectful distance.

Magnus attracts the attention of several interested locals, as well as two men who ask him questions in thick, Reikspieler accents. Magnus gets a good feeling from the two men, and feels confident that he is about to get his first two recruits.

But then.

A large, Reikspieler man, who is described by various members of the company as, “being all neck,” “looking like a thumb on a torso,” and similar somewhat unflattering terms, comes up and begins shouting at the two men. They converse in the Imperial tongue before the man rounds on Magnus. He claims that the two men are laborers in his employ, and that they are not for hire. The man, whose name is Otto, is rude and insulting, and Magnus happily baits him. Through their escalating argument, Magnus learns that Otto pays his men very poorly and does not treat them very well. Otto, for his part, continues to insult Magnus in Reikspieler.

Otto "The Thumb"

“They are not for hire, Schweinhund! Now take yourself away from here before I get angry!”

“I don’t know what a Schweinhund is, but if you call me that one more time, I’ll…”

“You’ll what, Schweinhund? Strike at me with your tiny baby hands?

Magnus suckerpunches Otto.

This leads to rather savage brawl by the park’s main fountain, with the company looking on from a distance. Andre places bets. Garnier takes those bets. Sir Henri tries very hard not to allow himself to get involved. Sabina, realizing that the situation is both dangerous and an opportunity, takes Frieda by the hand and leads her to safety. Frieda obligingly goes.

Moments later, the town guard shows up, blowing whistles and ordering the men to stand down. Otto’s men flee the scene. Otto tries to follow after them, only to be body tackled by Magnus. Magnus then quickly ingratiates himself with the guards, who proceed to arrest Otto. Otto protests that “it takes two people to fight, and we were both fighting, so arrest him to, ja?”

The guards, however, aren’t having it, and Otto is carted off to jail.

After the fistfight, Magnus finds that he has a lot more people interested in serving underneath him. He and Jim conduct interviews as the rest of the company departs.

The Shrine of Betva

The rest of the company reaches the square upon which stands the Temple of Verena and the Shrine of Betva. They notice that numerous children are playing in the square, many of whom possess toys of an unusual and highly technological nature.

Andre notices a stern, older woman dressed in vestments of the lady, who stands at the entrance to the shrine and shoots dagger eyes at the children. Andre introduces himself to her and asks if she can give him directions to Giles’ Tower. He is taken aback when the woman’s demeanor only worsens.

The woman tells Andre in no uncertain terms that she is disgusted with him and people like him and that she will not be doing anything at all to assist him in his quest to find whatever it is he will be looking for.

Garnier, having overheard the conversation, steps in and tells the woman that she ought to consider that a) they will leave Colmar once they find what they’re looking for and b) once they find what they’re looking for, all these other ruffians will stop coming to Colmar. The woman concedes both points and directs them to one of the towers in the southeast part of the town wall. She says that there should be a dedication plaque there which names some of the towers.

Andre thanks the woman. As he turns to depart, he sees a small girl playing with a toy that looks like a tiny ship on wheels.

An Unpleasant Shrine Guardian


Friday, July 29, 2022

Session Twenty-Nine: The Pardoner’s Tale

Hammering Things Out

After a few moments standing around the closed doors to the shrine of Saint Eloy, several members of the company recall that they found a well-used hammer located among Gascon’s ill-gotten loot. Sir Henri knocks upon the door and asks the answering monk whether or not Saint Eloy’s goldsmith’s hammer has gone missing. The monk answers in the affirmative, and the company swiftly produces and returns the hammer.

The company are let into the shrine with much rejoicing from the attendants. Henri the innkeeper points out the beautiful murals on the inner walls of the shrine, which tell the story of Saint Eloy driving the moneylenders and priests of Ranald out of Vierzon. This leads some in the company to believe that Gascon—in reality a worshipper of Ranald—stole the hammer to get back at the saint for this slight. The rest believe that Gascon was simply stealing holy relics to sell them later.

The monks at the shrine say that they cannot afford to reward the company directly. However, they do say that they will tell the goldsmiths and jewelers located around the shrine of the company’s deed. As a result, each member of the company gets a free piece of jewelry, as well as free pilgrim’s badges, from the shrine.

The company also spends time in the marketplace restocking supplies and purchasing new equipment. Magnus buys a live chicken, for experimentation purposes.

The Hammer of Saint Eloy

Goodbyes

The company returns to The Hungry Mice to find the pilgrims getting ready to depart. They also have brief conversations with Bram, Constance, and Sir Matthias, all of whom are preparing to go their separate ways. Bram, satisfied that Gascon will finally face justice, plans to go back home and rebuild his life. Constance finds the company’s adventures far too exciting for her tastes, and hopes to find someplace quiet where she can settle down. Sir Matthias decides to travel south in search of new adventures. Before he does so, the goodly knight offers up Ambrose to the company one last time. The company refuses this request, and Sir Matthias graciously rides off on his new steed.

Just before setting out with the pilgrims, the company commandeers both Gascon’s wagon and his horses. Pierre turns out to be a much better carter than he is a horseman, and is given the task of manning the wagon for the rest of the journey.

An Accounting

Andre presents Gascon’s ill-gotten loot to Dunray the manciple, who checks it against the records in his small accounts book. After an hour of careful calculations, he returns to the pilgrims the monies that Gascon took from them unfairly. The remainder is then given to the company as their fee for guarding the pilgrimage. Everyone is very happy with this.

Lunch by the Road

After half a day of leisurely travel, the pilgrimage stops in a convenient field and has a break for lunch. Henri the innkeeper takes the company aside and apologizes, saying that the money they gave him for food at Castle Carcassonne must be made to stretch much further to accommodate the pilgrims. As a result, he will not be able to provide the company with the rich foods they were expecting. He does, however, say that he was able to set aside a basket of delectable, including wine, for them to dine on. He tells them that they are not to share it with the pilgrims.

Arnaulf the cook attempts to help Henri the innkeeper with lunch, insisting that he is a very good cook, even if he is already drunk. He is distracted and sent away by the company, before falling asleep in the grass.

During lunch, Henri tells stories about the various shrines that both company and pilgrims have previously visited, as well as those they have not yet seen. The pilgrims are appalled, as none of Henri’s information coincides in any way with what Gascon had told them. The pilgrims also note that Gascon rarely let them stay at the various holy sites for very long, hurrying them from one place to another as quickly as possible. The company somehow has even less respect than Gascon.

Andre visits a nearby stream to catch fish with his magical fishhook. He gets no bites until he accidentally pricks his finger on the fishhook and wets it with his own blood. This causes the hook to shimmer for a moment, after which Andre catches a large fish in no time at all. He is disturbed by this, but offers up the fish to enlarge the repast anyway.

Meanwhile, Magnus uses his magical knife to cut the wing off of the chicken he bought. He first touches the knife to the wing, but this has no effect. He then proceeds to try to touch the knife to the chicken, only to have the bird hop away from him, squawking its head off. When the chicken is corralled, Magnus touches the knife to the wound. It is healed, but the chicken does not regrow her wing. Magnus thanks the chicken for its service to scientific understanding before breaking its neck.

Arnaulf Briefly Befriends Magnus' Chicken

Colmar

In the evening, the company arrives at the western gate of Colmar. They ask the guards at the gate about the town and potential places to stay. The guards say that they can recommend three places, based on price range. This causes several of the pilgrims to grouse that they would very much like to stay in a nice place, for once. The company agrees, and has the guards direct them to the finest establishment in the city—the King’s Arms.

The inn is conveniently located a stone’s throw from the western gate. The company and the pilgrims pay the somewhat pricy rates for rooms, baths, food, and similar. Magnus haggles with the innkeeper to get barrels of wine and food for the pilgrims’ use. When the innkeeper tells him that he cannot let Magnus have what he wants, because he will need to keep a stock aside from the evening’s guests, Magnus lays a pile of crown on the bar and says that he is hiring out the inn for a private party. The innkeeper, looking goggle-eyed at the coin, accepts, though he does warn Magnus that the inn already has other guests, who will likely be present.

While almost everyone else relaxes, Maurice and Sir Henri visit the nearby marketplace to sell trinkets and acquire other items. Magnus goes out to hire street musicians for the party and to put up notices around town stating that he is looking to hire men-at-arms.

The Town of Colmar

The Party

As night falls, a raucous party begins in the common room of the King’s Arms. Wine and other spirits flow, the food is piled high, and the hired minstrels regale the assemblage with lively tunes. Magnus asks the normally staid Dame Britolette to dance. To the surprise of all, she says yes. Frieda, who has been telling anyone who will listen that the King’s Arms has “the good beer!” is as shocked as anyone else when Sabina invites her to dance. They join Magnus and Britolette on the dance floor, to the cheers and joy of all.

In the meantime, Renee has discovered that she has had just a touch too much to drink. She quietly excuses herself, gets directions to the privy, and steps outside. She finds the privy well-made, clean, and not terrible smelling, though a scratching noise from within makes her reticent to use it.

As she is about to close the privy door and look for other options, a dagger sinks deep into the doorframe just above her head. Renee turns and looks up, just in time to see a mysterious figure on a nearby rooftop take aim and throw another dagger. This dagger whips by Renee’s cheek, imbeds itself in the still open privy door, and forces it closed.

Renee screams.

A Rooftop Pursuit

Inside the King’s Arms, the song comes to an end. Dame Britolette bows politely to the attendants, while Frieda, red-faced, moves close to Sabina and says that she would like to ask her something.

At that moment, Renee screams. The company, along with Frieda, fetch up what arms as are readily available and pour out into the street. Renee quickly joins the group and points upward. The company watches as the mysterious figure retreats along the rooftop. Numerous ranged weapons are employed, including Sabina’s pistol. This results in a broken flowerpot, a startled cat, and the oaths of an angry resident. However, in the dark and foggy night, it is difficult to tell if any of the missiles has dealt a blow to the figure.

The company flood out into the streets. Andre, using his sailor’s training, scales the side of the building and attempts to corral the figure on the roof. The figure flees from Andre, leaping across the street to land atop the privy.

While Sir Henri demands that the figure stand down, the other company members move to either shoot down the figure or surround the privy. Andre makes a desperate leap and lands on the roof beside the figure. Below, Magnus runs at full speed and shoulder-checks the side of the privy, caving in one wall and sending a large rat scurrying into the street.

Sir Henri once again shouts his demands, stating that if the figure does not surrender, that he and his companions will give them no quarter.

“Does he always talk this much?” asks the figure.

Under his breath, Andre says, “unfortunately? Yes.”

The Mysterious Figure


 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Session Twenty-Eight: The Squire's Tale

The Affair of the Knife

Everyone is relieved at Sir Henri’s recovery, and all congratulate Pierre on his great skill.

Meanwhile, Sabina tells Charlotte that she can be free of her “wish,” if she burns it. Charlotte approaches the still smoldering campfire. She stops at the last moment, telling the others that she still needs the magical knife in order to heal the wound that she dealt to Gascon Gascoigne. Charlotte explains that she doesn’t know how she knows this, but she says that the touch of the knife is the only thing that can heal the wounds it makes. She asks the group to take her back to Vierzon as soon as they can.

The company spends a few more moments recuperating and letting Pierre bind their wounds. Magnus, who now desperately covets the magical knife, has Garnier steal it off of Charlotte and deliver it to his hand. This is effort is aided, though unwittingly, by Sir Henri, who presents Charlotte with the sword that he found in the camp earlier that evening. The fine blade proves to be Charlotte’s own sword, which she gratefully belts about her waist.

On the return trip to Vierzon, Sir Henri tells the others about his time being “dead,” and about his visitation with the strange man in yellow robes. Sir Henri says that he is convinced that they are being aided by a Ruinous Power, though he is not sure which one or why it is helping them. Sabina is deeply disturbed by this, and wonders if this is what the cultists they encountered meant by, “the Cult of the Stranger.”

Charlotte, for her part, is completely baffled by the conversation. This, plus her own exhaustion, renders her quiet and unfocused for the rest of the journey back to the town.

The Magic Knife

Reunions and Rejuvenations

The company returns to The Hungry Mice, where Charlotte is tearfully and gratefully reunited with her mother, Dame Britolette. The knight, though still reserved, expresses her deep thanks to the company, saying that if they were hired on to be the pilgrimage’s guardians, they were well-chosen.

Sabina, completely exhausted by the work of the day, goes upstairs to her room and gets ready for bed. The rest either relax in the common room or go with Magnus and Pierre to visit Gascon.

The members of the company going upstairs crowd into Gascon’s room, where they join Rauchamp and Guilbald, who are still tending to Gascon. While the others keep the pardoner and the summoner busy with idle chit-chat, Magnus surreptitiously taps the flat of the magic knife to Gascon’s chest wound.

The effect is immediate and startling. Gascon opens his eyes, sits up, and looks around the room. He cheerfully greets those people standing packed around his bed and begins talking to them most amiably.

This brief moment of lucidity is cut off by Bram the Yeoman, who slipped into the room with everyone else, and who deals Gascon a vicious blow to the face.

"Rapscallion! Swindler! Eat my fist!"

Shenanigans Ensue

The members of the company in Gascon’s room watch in amused horror as Bram punches Gascon a few more times before grabbing him by his chest bandages and roughly slamming him against the bed. Bram’s oaths—as well as Gascon’s terrified cries—are more than loud enough to reach every corner of the inn.

Those that are downstairs in the common room decide that what they’re hearing is an upstairs problem and choose not to investigate.

Sabina, who has just changed for bed, groans and sticks her head out the door to see what’s going on. She sees that almost all of the pilgrims who were in their rooms have stuck their own heads out of their own doors, and are doing much the same thing.

Sabina sees that the only door that doesn’t open in the upstairs hallway belongs to the oft mentioned but never seen prioress. As this door is also partially blocked by piles of dirty dishes and cups, Sabina begins to worry that some foul deed has befallen the prioress.

Sabina attempts to open the door, only to find that it has been barricaded on the other side with a large trunk. She shoulders the door open only to find an elderly woman, naked but for her own filth, crouched on the floor and staring into a silver hand mirror.  The woman mutters invective at the mirror, which sounds like, “filth, unrighteous, unclean, sinner,” and so on.

The woman, who is presumably the prioress, ignores Sabina until she catches her reflection in the mirror. She then demands Sabina’s name. When Sabina tells her, the woman whispers to the mirror, “show me…Sabina.” She then launches into a diatribe about Sabina’s various sins and shortcomings.

Sabina, disturbed and angry, leaves the room and closes the door behind her.

The Prioress, in Less Distressing Times

Resolving the Shenanigans

Out in the hallway, Sabina encounters Brother Martin, the prioress’ secretary, as well as the three nuns who attend on the prioress. Sabina realizes, based on the fact that all four of them are in various stages of undress, and that they are all sharing a room, that their relationship goes beyond what is typical among the faithful.

Sabina quickly relates to Brother Martin and the nuns about what she has seen. All four are horrified, and agree that something needs to be done.

Sabina borrows Renee’s net, returns to the prioress’ room, and entangles her. The prioress barely notices, only becoming aware and violent when Sabina tries to take the mirror away from her. When Sabina succeeds, the prioress collapses catatonic on the floor, beneath the net. Sabina gives the mirror to the nuns for safekeeping, and warns them not to look at it. Then, at Brother Martin’s instruction, the nuns bathe the insensate prioress and place her gently in her bed.

Sabina quickly searches the room and is unsurprised to find a slip of yellow paper serving as a bookmark in one of the prioress’ holy scriptures. It reads:

“Oh Lady, your servant Justine would do your work better if she could penetrate the falsehoods of men.”

Down the hallway, the situation in Gascon’s room eventually resolves when Magnus pulls Bram off of Gascon—though Magnus does let the man get his licks in first. Bram goes to take a walk to cool off while Gascon gets up, gets dressed, and goes downstairs for a bite to eat. Several of the pilgrims, astonished at his recovery, go with him.

In the common room, Gascon recognizes the company as the guards he hired. He also recognizes Andre, who had been left behind in Paix. Gascon welcomes the company to his employ at last, but hints that he will be paying them less because they have reached the pilgrimage more than halfway through its journey. Garnier replies with a veiled threat of his own, suggesting that “all accounts” will be settled, and quite soon.

With that, Gascon orders food for any who wants it, and tells the inn’s staff to put the company’s orders on the pilgrimage’s tab. He starts to explain that, though The Hungry Mice is quite expensive, he has managed to get a good deal for the pilgrims, but is interrupted by the master of the house. Gascon turns quite pale when the master says that the company has already paid for their own meals, and for those of the pilgrims, for the evening, and knowns the prices. After receiving several dagger-like stares from members of the company, Gascon quickly retires to his room for the evening.

Garnier, too, goes upstairs to find out what all the commotion was about. He checks in on the prioress and searches her room. After this, he notices the rather close relationship between Brother Martin and the three nuns and decides to invite himself along. We shall draw a veil over the rest of his exhausting, but exhilarating, evening.

The Prioress' Mirror

Apprehending Gascon

The company, suspecting that Gascon will attempt to flee in the night, post guards to keep watch on him. Renee sleeps in the hall outside Gascon’s door, while Maurice keeps vigil beneath Gascon’s window. Both of them soon fall asleep, but are awakened a short time later by a flurry of activity from within Gascon’s room.

Renee charges in to grab Gascon, only to find that he has barricaded the door to slow her down. She watches in impotent fury as Gascon clambers out the window and drops to the street below. Renee is able to reach the window before Gascon can flee into the darkness and manages to cast her (now clean) net over the top of him. The net does not entangle Gascon’s leg, and he still manages to run away.

Maurice, now awake, decides to end the whole business by shooting Gascon. Though he had only planned to deal the retreating scoundrel a minor wound (at least, that’s what he tells everyone), Maurice’s aim proves to be too good, and he hits Gascon square in the back of the head. The arrow also, fortuitously, hits one of the knots in Renee’s net, preventing it from penetrating as deeply into Gascon’s skull as it could have.

Gascon stops running, begins weeping, and begs Maurice to spare his life. He promises to pay Maurice a hefty sum if Maurice will just let him leave Vierzon. Maurice makes no promises, but agrees to accompany Gascon to his wagon. Meanwhile, Renee, who is still in the window, rushes to awaken Pierre.

Gascon, still netted, still with an arrow in his head, searches  through his various hiding places on the wagon for coin with which to bribe Maurice. Since Andre and the others took most of Gascon’s hidden wealth earlier in the evening, this search does not go well for Gascon. He is on the verge of overwhelming panic when he finds that Sabina left behind most of the gold coins he had sewn into his horses’ tack. Relieved, he pries out the coins and pours them into Maurice’s hands.

Gascon bows politely to Maurice, says that he hopes the matter has been concluded to his satisfaction, and compliments Maurice for his gentlemanly and pragmatic demeanor. As just that moment, Renee comes around the corner, with Pierre in tow, and slaps irons on Gascon.

A defeated Gascon argues for his innocence and release while Pierre removes the net and treats his head wound. The trio then escort Pierre back to The Hungry Mice. Magnus, who is still awake, this opportunity to test his magical knife on Gascon. Magnus wounds Gascon several times, albeit superficially, and heals him afterwards. While Magnus ruminates on what would happen if he cut off Gascon’s finger and applied the knife to the stump, Gascon pleads to the others to stay with him until morning. They do.

Gascon Desperately Tries to Make a Deal

A Bounty and a Theft

The next morning, both the company and the pilgrimage take no pains in hiding their delight at seeing Gascon’s miserable state. They discuss what is to be done with him—as well as what is to become of their pilgrimage—over breakfast. Late arrivals to the breakfast are Garnier, Brother Martin, and the nuns—one of whom wears Garnier’s hat—along with the Prioress Justine, who seems to have completely recovered from her episode.

The pilgrims all agree that Gascon should be turned into the local guardhouse. They also state that they would like to continue their pilgrimage, and would like the company to go along with them as guards. Garnier suggests that Henri the innkeeper, who is both a man of good character and one who is well-versed on the path of pilgrimage, be elevated to leader. Henri the innkeeper is delighted to find that Garnier’s suggestion is agreed upon unanimously.

Renee, Bram, and several others escort Gascon to the guardhouse, though Bram takes pains to knock around the former pilgrimage leader one last time.

“All right, I’m done.”

He is then turned over to legal custody without further ceremony. Renee is paid a 7 crown bounty for his arrest, which she dutifully shares with the rest of the company. 

Back at The Hungry Mice, Henri the innkeeper asks the rest of the company if they can pay a visit to the shrine of Saint Eloy, the patron saint of goldsmiths and horses. They agree, waiting only long enough for Renee and the others to appear.

Upon their arrival at the shrine, however, they find the gates locked up tight and a notice tacked to the frame. Pierre and Frieda relate its contents to the rest of the company.

“The shrine is currently closed due to theft. We apologize for the inconvenience.”