Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Session Forty-Three: The Prioress' Tale

The company, now with Jules in tow, leaves the landship and returns to the Rose and Cup to rest. On the way, they are once again accosted by beggars who shamelessly ask Sir Henri the Generous for coin. Things quickly turn sour when several of the company realize that one of the beggars—a woman carrying a leaking bucket—is trying to pickpocket Sir Henri.

Magnus tries to strike off the woman’s hand with his axe, while Maurice looses one of his blunted “stunner” arrows he received from Antonella. Magnus misses and, though Maurice strikes the woman, she remains conscious and alert.

The beggar woman says that, since Sir Henri was already giving money away, she thought she’d cut out the middleman and help herself to his purse. Garnier chuckles at this bit of chutzpah and, after some discussion, the woman is permitted to go on her way. The rest of the beggars, cowed by the sudden violence from the company, also disperse.

During this encounter, both Maurice and Magnus notice the one-eyed beggar lurking in the shadow of a nearby alley. The one-eyed beggar does not approach the company, instead turning and fleeing down the alley.

Shortly thereafter, Sir Henri thinks to check his purse. He discovers that he has the appropriate amount of coin, but has gained a tattered scrap of blue paper. He hands it off to Pierre, who cannot seem to make head or tail of the words written on it. Renee and Garnier suspect that they are written in some kind of Thieves’ Cant, but don’t know what it means.

The Beggar/Washer Woman, Agatha

Returning to the Shrine

It turns out that the company has much to discuss. Over dinner, they share their stories of the day and decide that something either is, or is about to be, very wrong at the Shrine of the Grail Virgin. After their meal, they head over there as a group. They find that the shrine is about to close for the night, but they are still greeted warmly by Hugo and shown into the presence of Prioress Simone.

The company confirms that the Prioress has arranged for the pilgrims they met earlier to bring the head of the Grail Virgin to Turin to receive the bishop’s blessing. Sir Henri points out, repeatedly, that taking the town’s relic to Turin during the height of pilgrimage season seems like an odd choice, but is repeatedly rebuffed and soothed by Hugo and the prioress.

The company attempts to get the prioress to reconsider her actions in light of what they have discovered, only to be met with worried, well-meaning, and stubborn refusal.

At about this time, Sabina and several others spot someone approaching the outer gate of the shrine after hours. This person, after seemingly seeing that the shrine’s interior is still occupied, turns and quickly departs into the night. Sabina, Magnus, Pierre, and Maurice break off from the rest of the company and head out in pursuit of the figure.

Sabina quickly finds the old washerwoman, Agatha, hiding in a nearby alley. She summons the other searchers and soon the quartet surround Agatha and question her quite closely. Agatha professes that she has the purest of intentions, and claims that her only desire was to warn Sir Henri and his companions about one of her fellow beggars—the man with one eye.

Agatha confirms that the note was from her, and that it roughly translates to, “Victim, be careful! The man with one eye wants to kill you. When you go to bed after dark, he will take the demon coin to the shrine. Stop him if you are tired of the song.”

The Plan

The quartet returns to the shrine and recount what Agatha has told them. Sir Henri, who had entirely forgotten the note in all the excitement, withdraws it from his purse and hands it around. Jules, who is with the group and who is now paying attention, mentions that he is somewhat conversant in “street slang,” and asks if someone can read the note aloud.

Magnus does, with great pride and gusto. Jules confirms that the note is almost identical to Agatha’s verbal warning.

At last, the prioress and Hugo agree that the head of the Grail Virgin is in danger and ask what they can do to protect it. The company suggests that the head be locked away somewhere safe, and that they will lie in wait for the one-eyed man, hoping to catch him in the act.

At the company’s suggestion, Hugo takes the head from its podium and brings it downstairs to lock it up in the undercroft. Garnier, suspicious of Hugo’s intentions, follows him and watches as Hugo locks the head away. Once Hugo returns upstairs, Garnier picks the lock on the undercroft door, sneaks in, and steals the head.

While the rest of the company keeps Hugo and the prioress distracted, Garnier legs it across Saint-Ouen to the landship. Upon arrival, he hands the head to Antonella and tells her to hide it somewhere where only she will be able to find it. Antonella is, understandably, baffled by all of this, but agrees.

Garnier returns to the shrine, and is pleased to learn that neither Hugo nor the prioress have missed his brief absence.

A Battle Map of the Shrine of the Grail Virgin...For No Reason!

The Ambush

The prioress and Hugo both retire to their chambers to sleep. The company arrays itself within the shrine, while Sabina hides in the bushes outside, pistol drawn.

Sir Henri, having encountered secret passageways previously, sends Jules upstairs to check on both of the company’s hosts.  He returns to say that both of the bedroom doors are locked and both sound unusually quiet.

Time passes.

At around midnight, those stationed on the western side of the shrine hear the low, but frantic, tones of an argument from outside. It sounds as if there are at least two people, perhaps more, walking along the perimeter of the shrine. Word is passed to Sabina through an open window. Sir Jean-Marc makes use of another open window to slip outside and sneak up on the argument, while clad in full plate.

In the darkness, Sir Jean-Marc sees two men—one robed, one not—arguing with one another as they creep toward the main door of the shrine. From his position, Sir Jean-Marc can hear that the robed man is trying to get the other man to leave and “stick to the plan.” The other man keeps insisting that he has “made a mistake, and has to fix it, now! Otherwise, they’re done for!”

Sabina readies her pistol as the two men round the corner and come into view. As she squeezes the trigger, the robed man makes a mystical gesture. Sabina collapses on the grass, paralyzed.

Unaware of this, Sir Jean-Marc rounds the corner and almost collides with the two men—none other than the one-eyed beggar and Hugo! Sir Jean-Marc raises both his sword and the alarm, but Hugo makes another mystical gesture with his hand and paralyzes the knight.

Immobilized, but conscious, Sabina and Sir Jean-Marc watch as Hugo passes his keys to the one-eyed man. “Take the secret way. I locked it in the undercroft. Go, now, and pray you haven’t doomed us all!”

As the one-eyed beggar races past Sabina and around the side of the building, Hugo screws his face up into an expression of panic and pushes through the doors of the shrine.

Sabina, incandescent with rage, struggles against her magical bonds and manages to fight her way free. She chases after the one-eyed beggar and fires her pistol, hitting the man in his shoulder. The wound is not lethal, but it does cause the one-eyed beggar to drop Hugo’s keys. He drops to all fours and begins searching the grass, screaming and swearing.

“Sir Henri!” He shouts, seeing the knight standing a short distance away. “We’re under attack! You have to…”

At this point, Maurice, Pierre, and Garnier, having heard bits of the argument and Sabina’s pistol shot, staple Hugo to the door with arrows. Sir Henri and Renee race to the door to take Hugo into custody, but are interrupted by Magnus, who leaps from a transept, charges Hugo, and hews him with his axe.

Hugo lets out a final gurgle, gestures his hand weakly, and aims a bolt of Chaotic energy at Sir Henri. The shot goes wide, striking the chandelier hanging above the shrine.

Goodbye, Hugo.


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