7th Sea - The Fallen Accords

Canto 14 - Les Miettes sur la Table
Watching their making is best left to those of a strong stomach...

18th of Quartus, 1668 – Estate of Marquis Jacques duMonde (Charouse, Montaigne)

Having left Aur behind, the heroes traveled swiftly to Charouse, the capital of Montaigne, in an effort to track down Madame Louisa DuBois and the missing children. The group feared the worst: that the children were to be the main course in one of Madame DuBois’s dinner parties. Upon arriving at the city in the early afternoon, the group was greeted by throngs of people entering and exiting the city through l’Arc Marchand (“Merchant Gates”). The splendor of the architecture contrasted with the hustle and bustle of peasants, workers, and merchants all hawking wares along the central street. Hoping to make the most of their time, the heroes split up to investigate what they could about Madame DuBois. 

Bonny set off to discover what was going on within her society, and found herself talking to Gina, a Vodacce courtesan within the Maison des Délices (“House of Evening Delights”). While Gina knew nothing about Madame DuBois, she did know that several young street urchins have gone missing. Rosette, a friend of hers, as well as a courier for the Jenny’s guild, had gone missing about a week ago. Gina remembered seeing a dark clothed man with stark white hair loitering around the outside of the building on the last night she had seen Rosetta. Bonny verified that none of the letters Rosette carried were likely to have been a motive.

Dr. Blackwell set out to discover if there were any small groups of Vaticine worshippers in the city, since the Vaticine Faith had been outlawed by L’Emperor. After talking with several of the peasants and offering some healing, he was directed to La Croix Cachée (“Hidden Cross”) and directed to speak with Father Jean-Paul. While the outside of the building was nondescript and run-down, the small etching of a cross near the door told Dr. Blackwell he was at the right place. Standing in stark contrast, the inside was warm and inviting, with a fire burning in the hearth. The good father knew some rumors about Madame DuBois and shared these with the doctor. It turns out that Madame DuBois’s husband, Henri, was the noble, and when he died, there was a legal dispute and Louisa DuBois lost her title of Countess. Word is that Madame DuBois has been trying to get her favor in court and her title reinstated to no avail for several years. Father Jean-Paul also shared that several of the neighborhood children have seen a man in dark clothes with white hair lingering around the area, and the children have come to call him La Sombre (“The Darkness”). After leaving the makeshift church, Dr. Blackwell discovered a group following him. When he confronted them, it turned out to be Rene Bonnaire from Buche. The young girl had brought a dozen of her friends with her to the city in search of Madame DuBois and their missing friends. Intent on getting to the bottom of their disappearance, Rene agreed to meet with Dr. Blackwell and the rest of the heroes at the La Poêle Rouillée (“The Rusted Pan”), a food kitchen in the poorer part of the city. They hoped they could work together to find the children.

Together, Zhennya and Silvia decide to throw some coin and food around the lower class sections of the city in hopes of finding leads the old fashioned way. After much searching, they come across Gentleman Peter, a young adolescent wearing second hand clothes in the form of a slightly tattered suit, crushed top hat and wearing beat up men’s dress shoes. He is clearly Avalonian and speaks in a thick accent, perhaps for effect more than need. He was able to tell the women about Madame DuBois’s arrival by carriage, which was in turn followed by a covered wagon from which pitiful moans and pleadings could be heard. Peter also was able to relay the fact that Madame DuBois’s majordomo, Gerald, had been seen in the market buying a lot of groceries, enough for a rather large feast it would seem. While no meat was purchased, he did pay several of the young urchins to help him deliver the goods to Madame DuBois’s house. However, the groceries were put into a carriage there, so the kids had no way to knowing where they were taken. Peter did give the two the name of one of the grocery couriers, Ralf, and said to ask him what he knew. As they made their way to the market area, Silvia noticed a group following them. The two decided to remain out of sight, and watches as the half dozen men passed by, obviously looking for easy pickings in the poor part of town. Finding Ralf, Zhennya and Silvia confirmed Peter’s story and also found out that the children who delivered the groceries had all been seen again after that.

Fabien visited Le Répit du Bonhomme (“The Respite of the Good Man”), a gentleman’s club in the nicer part of Charouse. While not frequented by nobility, many landed gentry, merchants, and scholars frequented the establishment. Purely coincidentally, Fabien ran into an old colleague from the University, Gabriel Durand, whose father was in textiles and who had been an avid history and archaeology student. The two reminisced for a while before Fabien started inquiries around Madame DuBois, claiming he thought to visit her upon her request. Gabriel warned Fabien that to be seen associating with such a woman, many years his senior and in such low favor at court, could not help his reputation in Montaigne. The Lady Jamais Sices du Sices had delivered such a decisive insult to the Madame regarding her choice in fashion that the Madame was shunned from future court functions. Gabriel did provide the madame’s address, however, and warned Fabien to be careful.

After gathering to compare notes, the group of heroes decided they had some additional investigation to do. While it was nearing late afternoon into early evening, they felt visiting Madame DuBois’s house would be useful. Rene Bonnaire was able to confirm the location, as her group of street children had scouted it out when they arrived 3 days ago. They also said there had been no activity for several days. 

Not to be deterred, Silvia and Zhennya snuck into the house, finding it mostly in good order with no signs of secret rooms or other nefarious evidence. A stack of letters were discovered on a writing desk, representing a series of communications that became more and more love letters between Madame DuBois and Marquis Jacque DuMonde, a prominent socialite in Charouse and friend of L'Emperor. It turns out that Jacque had been a rival of Madame DuBois’s husband when he was alive. There was also mention of their joint dinner party being hosted that very night! Zhennya knew someone who could get them directions to Jacque’s estate and after speaking with Gentleman Peter, the heroes set off for the dinner party, knowing they were likely going to arrive after it had started. As a precaution, Rene sent a small group of the street children off ahead to sabotage the hosts’ carriage.

Upon arriving at the Marquis’s estate, Zhennya asked several of the children to watch her while she took a nap. Zhennya coaxed the aid of a small mouse to scout the house proper. Zhennya learned that the dinner party was progressing to the main course as the group arrived. She also took note of the young children in tuxedos who appeared to be serving the guests. The guests were arranged at two tables, one large one with Madame DuBois sat with the Marquis, obvious by the smooth black mask she wore on her face. The other table sat men and women who appeared to be guards or musketeers, though no one could be identified as everyone wore masks of various styles. 

Zhennya’s mouse also scouted the kitchen, discovering a short, rotund man wearing a chef’s outfit directing the cooking, while more of the small children brought raw food from the basement and helped prepare the side items. Scurring into the basement, Zhennya discovered the true horror as three large cages of children were down here, guarded by La Sombre and a half dozen of the children. The worst part was the butchery being done by the tuxedo wearing children, as they prepared the prisoners to become the main courses!

Upon seeing this, the heroes split up to disrupt this horrible event! Silvia, Zhennya, and Rene stuck over the low wall towards the basement, while Fabien, Dr. Blackwell, and Bonny tried to make their way into the main house. Picking the door on the basement was easy for Silvia and the three slipped inside unseen, only to be discovered by the assassin, La Sombre. Zhennya moved up towards the white-haired man with hawkish features, who had just cut the throat of a small boy using a garrote. Turning to face Zhennya, he drew forth twin stilettos and began to twirl them in his fingers with practiced ease. Armed with only her strength and hatred at the scene, Zhennya began a dance of death with the man. Silvia took to attacking the small tuxedo wearing children, only to discover they were in reality small creature that only appeared as children. However, their mouths were full of sharp teeth and the fingers ended in claws when they set upon her with pack-like mentality. Meanwhile, Rene took to unlocking the children still alive in the cages. The fight continued for several minutes, until Rene had unlocked the second cage. At this point, Zhennya was bleeding from multiple knife wounds from La Sombre, and he wore the bruises of heavy fists that Zhennya delivered to his face and chest. Silvia, having taken down the children creatures several times, for they began to rise after their first wounds, saw one of the children escape upstairs into the kitchen. 

Moments later, while Zhennya helped Silvia deal with the child-like creatures who kept standing back up, the sounds of heavy footfalls could be heard coming down the steps. Appearing in the basement was the chef, who revealed himself to be a creature from nightmares. Silvia took aim with her flintlock and shot the man, hoping to end him quickly. Though the shot echoed through the house, the chef merely opened his mouth wider than any human should be able to. His sharp teeth were glistening as he caught the bullet and swallowed it easily. A surprised Silvia and Zhennya both realized they would need help in this fight soon, as both were heavily bleeding from multiple wounds and still faced La Sombre and this new threat. Silva desperately reloaded her gun as quickly as possible and fired again, this time finding her mark in the chef’s stomach. Much to her horror though, the creature grabbed the nearest piece of raw meat, swallowed it by opening its mouth impossibly wide. Immediately, the wounds Silvia had just dealt disappeared and the chef moved towards her with death in its eyes, waving his twin cleavers menacingly.

Back upstairs, Fabien used his connections at court to gain entry to the dinner party. It turns out that Colette de Lioncourt, the influential Duchesse d' Arcy was in attendance and knew Fabien from his days in Montaigne. The two had shared some times away from the University together and she remembered him fondly. She even allowed Bonny to attend, as visiting nobility from the Highlands, as well as her interpreted Dr. Blackwell. While most of the masked faces turned towards the trio upon entry, the most disapproving looks were given to the Avalonians. Initially, both were relegated to the common table with the musketeers, Fabien ensured the Montaignes that Bonny’s station warranted a place at the main table. Begrudgingly, a man at the very end of the table made some room and Bonny was seated. Fabien took his place beside Colette, located just four seats away from Madame DuBois.

Though Dr. Blackwell tried to make his way to the kitchen to prepare for the special needs of Bonny, he was quickly rebuffed and told to take his seat at the table with the musketeers. When the Heroes took their seats, the main course was brought to them. Fabien pretended to eat, moving food around on his plate while Dr. Blackwell also pretended to eat but used some conspiratorial conversation to mask the fact he wan’t. Bonny on the other hand decided to insult the food and host using Cymru; must to her surprise and to the consternation of Fabien, several nobles at the table understood her and were offended. To prevent a fight, or worse, Fabien successfully translated Bonny’s words into something more palatable for the others and explained in her nation, the insult was actually a compliment to the host. What else could one expect from a nation where haggis was considered a delicacy.

Whilst eating, Dr. Blackwell began to sow seeds of doubt in the ears of the Musketeers that something was amiss with Madame DuBois. Meanwhile, Fabien discovered through his conversation with Colette that the presence of the musketeers was mainly to protect Anne Du Montaigne, one of the daughters of L’Emperor,  as well as her husband and Captain of the Musketeers,  Jean-Marie Rois et Reines. Conversation continued as the dessert course was provided to all attending. The dinner was going well, with the only oddity being the large form of the chef entering the room to whisper to Madame DuBois. Though the question wasn’t loud enough to hear, her irritated response of “Deal with it Gourmandise!” left the chef to return to the kitchen with what could be described as a gleeful smile upon his face. Several of the young serving children also left for the kitchen at the same time. 

Before the chef had been gone more than a few moments, several gunshots rang out from what could only be the basement. Madame DuBois stood and pointed at the Heroes, “These intruders have come to disrupt our gathering! Seize them!” Though her words were harsh and somewhat unfounded based upon the events upstairs, her voice seemed to carry with it an extra weight of purpose. The musketeers seated with Dr. Blackwell immediately rose and drew their fencing swords, while the nobles seated at the main table looked somewhat confused before reaching out to grab at Bonny and Fabien.

Bonny immediately rose, grabbed several knives from the table and moved towards Madame DuBois. She was quick to shake off the nobles who grabbed for her and as she approached Louisa DuBois, Bonny locked her makeshift weapons with the knife that Madame DuBois pulled from her bodice. They struggled as chaos erupted around them. Dr. Blackwell tried to reason with the musketeers as they moved in around him. He powered his words with his inner resolve and resistance to magical effects, helping the musketeers to break free from what must be mind control powers in Madame DuBois’s words. It took several minutes and in the meantime, the doctor took several wounds from the small children servers, who when they opened their razor sharp teeth filled mouths revealed themselves to be monsters and not children. At the other table, Fabien took a similar approach, trying to calm the Captain of the Musketeers with Colette’s help. His words came easy and soon Colette was escorting Anne du Montaigne to safety outside the main part of the house. Jean-Marie was slowly shaking off Madame DuBois’s influence and began to help get the others out of the room while shooting several of the voracious creatures attacking them with bites and claws. Also at the head of the table the Marquis did what he could to protect Madame DuBois from the attacks from Bonny but was unsuccessful. 

When Bonny and Madame DuBois released each other, the hostess caused a bleeding tear in the fabric of space, reached through and pulled forth a loaded flintlock. She leveled it at Bonny and fired, causing a horrible wound in the highland woman and giving Dr. Blackwell the last bit of help he needed in breaking the hold on the musketeers. Bonny attacked the Montaigne noblewoman savagely with the kitchenware, but without her claymore, he attacks were parried with the help of her co-host. Dr. Blackwell waded through the throng of small biting creatures to aid Bonny, while musketeers fought off the creatures as well. Seeing things in hand, Fabien took to the kitchen and downstairs to aid his friends, who he feared may have been overwhelmed.

After the chef had appeared, Zhennya had called upon her inner strength. She grabbed La Sombre and bodily threw him into the approach rotund creature. La Sombre tumbled to the ground, but the mass of the chef remained steadfast as it approached Silvia. Zhennya then called upon the blessings of Matushka and changed into a large bear as the desperate fight continued in the basement. She swung a meaty paw at the last of the cages where Rene struggled with the lock. Her strength was easily able to break the metal and Rene took the children to safety. She returned a few minutes later with daggers in hand to help Zhennya deal with the monstrous child-like creatures.

Across the room, Gourmandise the chef was exuding a powerful aura, one which seemed to cause hunger pangs in everyone around him. Silvia quickly grabbed a small biscuit from her pouch, but Zhennya resisted the urge to eat as she fought her attackers. As the fight drew on, Zhennya found herself growing weaker from lack of food, but pressed on. Gourmandise reached out a hand and touched Silvia, and though she felt all the food she’d eaten that day begin to spoil and turn acidic, her iron stomach protected her from the worst of the pains and damage, though she wasn’t sure how many times she could withstand such an attack. At that moment, Fabien entered the fray from the stairs, immediately moving to engage the chef with a series of thrusts and parries. Arriving just in time, Fabien gave Silvia time to dispatch the final ravenous hunters. 

Gourmandise moved through the fighting to confront the large bear, reaching out to touch it as he had Silvia. Once again, Zhennya felt her recently eaten food turn to bile in her stomach but her fortitude prevented any longer term damage as well. Gourmandise raged in frustration, took his cleavers to the bear instead, dealing several grievous wounds. Silvia and Rene fought back to back, waiting for the inevitable rise of the downed hunters and keeping an eye on La Sombre as the assassin took several swings at Fabien. Seeing one target he did not yet affect with his Dispepsic Touch, the chef Gourmandise touched Fabien. Fabien, while not having the personal fortitude of Silvia or Zhennya, did still have protection from his recent adventure and managed to push aside the pain of his food rotting in his belly. He stabbed several more times at the creature and discovered with horror the last of the thing’s abilities, a Devouring Riposte. As Fabien riposted a cleaver, Gourmandise opened his impossibly wide mouth and clamped down on the sword, swallowing it with a gulp as he might a piece of cake. The weapon disappeared into the thing’s gullet, leaving Fabien one weapon down. Luckily, he was able to release the weapon without suffering a loss of his hand. However, the battle had taken a turn towards the heroes as La Sombre continued to stab at Zhennya in her bear form.

Zhennya could give as well as she could take and large paws swiped at La Sombre. He took stock of the situation, seeing most of the ravenous hungers lying broken and unmoving on the floor and the chef being harried by the Vodacce duelist. Not in this to die, La Sombre took forth a small vial smashed it on the floor. A quick flash of light was created and when everyone’s eyes refocused, the dark clothed figure was gone. The chef, having eaten another shank of meat, had quickly healed most of the wounds done by Fabien and the three heroes looked at each other desperately for answers on how to hurt him. It was then that an ear piercing scream emanated from upstairs.

Bonny’s hands still held the black mask from where she physically ripped it from Madame DuBois’s face. With Dr. Blackwell still pinning her arms, Louisa DuBois finished her scream, a line of ripped flesh and blood forming a frame around her countenance. At that moment, the air seemed to get sucked from the house, as any of the ravenous hungers who were still able to stand rushed towards the basement. Together, they and chef Gourmandise withdrew from the fight, fleeing into the night with a few musketeers on their trail. The Captain of the Musketeers looked to Fabien as he, Zhenny and Silvia returned to the main floor. They questioned Madame DuBois and Marquis Jacques DuMonde about the carnage in the basement and the plots they had arranged. It was clear that the Marquis was a duped pawn in the schemes of Lady DuBois, using his desire for power and her desire to rise in the ranks of the nobility again to formulate her plan. She would not speak, having passed out from the blood loss, but she was taken into custody quietly by the Musketeers. Captain Jean-Marie entreated the heroes to keep what had happened here quiet, fearing that news of nobles eating the children would be the match to the power keg that Charouse had recently become with the peasants beginning to express their frustration. In the end, Colette conveyed Anne Du Montaigne’s thanks to the Heroes, letting them know they had the favor of the L’Emperor for their actions, though how long this favor would last was anyone’s guess. With as many children as possible saved, Rene thanked the heroes as well. She assured them that their groups would cross paths again and bid them adieu. All that was left was to figure out what the creatures were they fought, how Madame DuBois had come into these events, and what to do with the smooth black mask they now held…

Rewards: 2 XP (Bankable), 1 Wealth (from Anne du Montaigne)

Fabien: Connection (Colette de Lioncourt, Duchesse d' Arcy)

Silvia/Zhennya: Connection (Gentleman Peter, Information Broker of Charouse)

Bonny: Connection (Gina, Vodacce Courtesan at Madison des Delices)

Dr. Blackwell: Connection (Father Jean-Paul, Pastor of Croix Cachee)

Favor (L'Emperor): One time, while in Montaigne or Montaigne controlled areas, a PC may evoke the "Favor of L'Emperor" to their advantage, assuming that an agent of the Sun King could reasonably intervene.

Connection (Courtiers de Nuit): By helping Rene Bonnaire rescue her friends, the Heroes are now treated favorably by the Courtiers de Nuit, the organization of information brokers in Buche.

Black Mask of Hunger: This smooth black mask has eye holes and a rather large hole where a person's mouth would go. There is an orange-gold symbol upon the forehead of the mask and it feels cool to the touch.

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Canto 13 - Le Chien et le Moineau
Rich or poor, the swelling will eventually burst...

15th of Quartus, 1668 – Chateau of Simon LaBeau (Outskirts of Aur, Montaigne)

While deliberating about the best course of a action to take once they reached the Marquis Simon LaBeau’s chateau, the group’s carriage caravan encountered an angry mob of peasants along the road. The rag-tag bunch of commoners consisted of old and young, men and women, and as the carriage approached, the group turned threatening towards what they saw as more Montaigne nobles heading to visit the Marquis. An older, disheveled man stepped forward, a musket at the ready, and demanded the group surrender their valuables and leave the area. Dr. Blackwell, driving the carriage, refused and Fabien emerged from the carriage to help calm the common folk. Speaking Montaigne, as the only apparent language the commoners knew, Fabien with the aid of Dr. Blackwell assured the peasantry that they were in fact going to speak with the Marquis, but not to join him but to get him to make reparations to his people for the abuse they had suffered. After some discussion, Francois, the spokesman for the peasants insisted he go with the heroes to make their case while the others would continue there, to arrive after conversations with the Marquis would bear fruit. 

It only took another few hours to reach the chateau, and the group had formulated the semblance of a plan prior to that. Silvia would leave the group before they were in sight of the estate and do her best to scout out the grounds and what she could of the inside. The rest of the group traveled on to the gate, guarded by four mercenaries. The estate itself was a sprawling affair, easily an acre or more. The manor house sat in towards the middle, with an orchard of trees in the front, a long gravel path to the house, and a garden on the east side of the chateau. A separate servant’s quarters was built to the west side of the house. The crops beyond the low, four foot-high stone wall had been harvested and it was clear there was no fruit on the trees. Something was definitely going on!

The mercenaries lead the group to the manor after Fabien assured them that he was a powerful Vodacce merchant, here to make trade deals with the Marquis to bring in more food. As they waited to be escorted in, it was decided Zhennya would remain in the carriage with Francois to keep an eye on things, while Fabien, Dr. Blackwell, and Bonny, as visiting nobility, would speak with Monsieur LaBeau. In the meantime, Silvia had managed to sneak over the wall towards the back of the estate only to discover the ease of her entrance was due to no mercenaries patrolled the back corner where an offal pit had been hastily dug. In it were the bones, hooves, and other inedible parts of animals or the pits and inedible parts of the vegetables. It created an odor that the mercenaries could not stomach and thus avoided. This gave her ample opportunity to scout towards the gardens, where she spied a group of well-dressed nobles sitting in a patio room, eating from small plates of fruit, cheeses, and other finger foods. Several attendants were on hand to ensure their needs were met. As she listened in on the conversation, it was mainly small talk about the hospitality of the Marquis and that he kept them in the lifestyle they certainly deserved!

When the trio of heroes were admitted to the chateau, it was time for late afternoon lunch and as such, all the visiting nobles and their entourages were invited into the banquet hall. Dr. Blackwell, Fabien, and Bonny each declined the offered appetizers, though they were all getting very hungry, their willpower prevailed. As they entered the grand banquet hall, Fabien noticed Silvia sneaking in through the now abandoned patio room and he was assured she would soon be scouring the estate for any information they could use. Silvia spent an hour searching through rooms, until she finally came to the study upstairs. Rummaging through paperwork and other notes, she found a dated invitation to a formal event in Aur only 6 weeks prior. The invitation was addressed to the Marquis and was from the Countess Louisa DuBois! With this knowledge, Silvia made her way out of the estate as the guests continued to feast and met up with Zhennya. Outside, Zhennya had also began to smell the stench of rot and went to investigate, leaving Francois in the carriage with a mimed gesture to stay put. She too discovered the offal pit in the back, cursing at the way the nobility would carelessly leave such to rot. When she returned to the carriage, she discovered Francois was no longer there and perhaps coincidentally, she noticed the throng of peasants were nearing the edge of the estate. She was also offered a small plate of food befitting that of the guards, which she ate a small portion of, to no obvious ill effect. 

Inside, Fabien, Dr. Blackwell, and Bonny were invited as honored guests to dine next to the Marquis, a rotund man of middle-age. He wore a powdered wig, and his clothes were beginning to get too tight, making him look a bit like he would explode from them if he coughed or sneezed too hard. His attitude was jovial, as if he had no care in the world outside his feasts. Dr. Blackwell clearly introduced Fabien to the guards and to the Marquis, using his full formal name to gain entry. Fabien and Dr. Blackwell chose not to eat, but made attempts to disguise this, Fabien by always getting interrupted in his eating by speaking and Dr. Blackwell by constantly cutting his food in smaller pieces. Bonny, however, made no attempt to hide the fact that she wouldn’t eat, which seemed to raise the ire of their host. Fabien tried to reason with her in the Cymric language of Avalon, which he hoped no one else spoke. Dr. Blackwell tried to smooth over the situation, insisting she had a special diet consisting mainly of greens. The Marquis had a salad brought for her, which after the doctor’s attempt to examine it, was knocked on the floor by Bonny. Their host became more agitated that she was wasting food and speaking in a peasant tongue and when the attendants came to clean it up, they were seen eating from the fallen food without care. Another salad was brought, which Bonny flatly refused to eat. At this point, the Marquis insisted she be removed from the chateau and several guards lead her back outside, where Zhennya was watching the growing peasant presence at the front gate. Silvia conferred with Bonny and Zhennya about what she’d learned about the Marquis’ visit with Madame DuBois in Aur.

Back inside, the Marquis engaged with Fabien about his trade interests, which Fabien answered with impeccable certainty. The Vodacce even went so far as to describe in detail the various foods from each region. Testing a theory, he even described the preparation of the Highland haggis, made from the organs of sheep and stuffed into their own stomach. Thinking no rationale human would find the description appetizing, Fabien thought to confirm his suspicions of outside influence. The Marquis and several nobles in attendance initially grimaced at the description but further thought seemed to bring them around to “that sounds like it would be worth trying!” Satisfied with his interrogation, Fabien and Dr. Blackwell went the rest of the meal without eating and afterwards Fabien met with Jacques, the Marquis’ majordomo. The two spent an hour discussing trade agreements that would be approved by Monsieur LaBeau the following day. Dr. Blackwell went to check on Bonny, to find the peasants had grown more agitated at the gate.

The heroes approached the gate, hoping to diffuse the situation; however, when Francois began calling out to Dr. Blackwell, several of the mercenaries looked at him strangely. The mercenaries tension was heightened and they continued to demand the peasants back up, but the mob was insistent that they were here for reparations. Bonny tried to reason with them and show her coin, which only seemed to enrage the mob further. The crowd’s anger reached the breaking point, even as Dr. Blackwell tried to explain that they were meeting with the nobility. The peasants rushed the gate…the mercenaries fired several shots into the crowd…seeing their friends and family fall took he wind out of the mob’s sails and they began to retreat, dragging their wounded with them. It was clear they would need medical attention or they would die, so the doctor jumped into action, pushing past the gate as it was locked behind him. Calling upon all of his training and bit of his faith, he managed to miraculously keep one woman from dying and stabilized the others. He warned the peasants to leave so they could continue their work with the Marquis to gain their justice. They were skeptical now, and while they did leave the estate area, they did not disperse entirely as they were still hungry and angry. Back within the walls of the estate, dinner was about to be served, so Zhennya and Bonny returned to the carriage, while the doctor entered the manor house to meet with Fabien.

In the meantime, Silvia, Zhennya and Bonny concocted a plan to get the Marquis and his nobles sick enough they could not eat. Silvia, using her knowledge of poisons and hexen, brought some of the offal into the kitchen. She convinced the kitchen staff she was Fabien’s personal chef and was making a Vodacce delicacy. In her pot, she mixed the offal with spices and some bits of meat she could steal to mask the scent and taste. When it was ready, she was allowed to serve it to the guests at the meal.

As the nobility and their entourages converged upon the banquet hall for dinner, more food was served. This time, the doctor and Fabien were unable to stave off their hunger any longer and each partook of small amounts of the food. Their host made a show of gratitude that Fabien would share his personal chef’s recipe. Fabien and Dr. Blackwell, knowing what was afoot, only pretended to eat the disgusting soup. The others, however, all drank heavily from the bowl at Fabien’s insistence that this was the proper Vodacce way! The expressions varied across the attendees, the Marquis in particular had a strange look upon his face. It took but a moment but his concerned look turned into a loud, foul smelling belch to which he replied, “Delicious!” he proclaimed. His other guests did not all share his opinion, though all finished their bowls. Some merely nodded, belching loudly, some enjoyed it, and a few turned green and excused themselves to vomit. There were comments from the other nobles that it was the newer guests unaccustomed to such fine dining. Silvia realized that whatever was affecting their host and the nobles may also make them resistant to putrid or rotten food, much as she had developed the tolerance.

After dinner, Fabien retired to a study with the Marquis to engage in conversation. During the conversation, he mentioned that his father was a collector and asked if Simon LaBeau had ever encountered unique arts. Fabien lead the conversation towards describing one of the black masks they had encountered in Eisen. The Marquis grew talkative and explained he had encountered a similar mask, black and smooth, with a large open mouth and a strange mark on the forehead. It was worn by Madame DuBois, who had invited him to gathering in Aur. Fabien discovered that the Marquis had been in Aur about 6 weeks and had attended a banquet hosted by the Countess DuBois. He described the chef as a large, rotund man with a rather large mouth and strangely sharp teeth as well. He also revealed that the Countess’s guests had been served by what appeared to be feral children of the streets, though his description made them sound less human. Though he’d found it strange, the Countess convinced her guests of their given rights to take what they wanted, indulge in the fruits of their labors and those under them. When he returned to his estate, the Marquis had taken her words to heart and began inviting his friends and other nobles to indulge in the bounty of his lands, and now he had to gather his food from further. This made the trade agreement with Fabien more attractive. 

Outside, Zhennya and Bonny watched as a new cart arrived bearing early harvested grain, vegetables and some livestock. This was unloaded into the manor’s pantry and the mercenaries took up guarding the grounds, on high alert due to the recent peasant incursion. As their conversation continued, the guests were once again invited to the banquet hall for evening dessert, small cakes and pies, before returning for the evening. With the majority of the house in slumber, the heroes met in secret to discuss their plans. Plans ranged from kidnapping the Marquis, to setting the food on fire, to setting the house on fire. In the end, they decided to subdue all the guards, mercenaries and visitors and use the peasants to guard them.

With a plan in motion, Fabien, Silvia, Zhennya and Dr. Blackwell took to dispatching the guards asleep in the house, tying them up to keep them from sounding an alarm. Outside, Bonny flirted with the mercenaries in the servant’s house-turned barracks, allowing Dr. Blackwell and Fabien the chance to waylay them. Meanwhile, Silvia and Zhennya began one by one knocking out the other mercenaries as Dr. Blackwell and Fabien would distract them with words or other needs. Finally, Bonny and Silvia took on the two guards outside of the manor house, creating a bit of a ruckus but by then none were awake to respond. Tying up the nobles and attendants was easy as they were fast asleep from their feasting. Once all had been gathered, Bonny and Fabien pulled their resources, bribing the mercenaries to leave the estate and not return, including in the bribe the mercenaries returning with the broken cart. This left just the house guards and guests, and for them, they employed the peasants. Zhennya called upon their sense of justice and bade the commoners to watch over the Marquis and his guests, to give them just enough bread and water to survive but not to feed them more. The Heroes also cautioned not to eat too much themselves. The peasants were skeptical but readily agreed when the heroes mentioned they were headed to Aur. The next day, the Heroes rode out fro the estate, leaving the fate of the Marquis and his guests in the hands of the commoners who had recently suffered at their hands. Only time would tell how this would turn out…

Rewards: 1 XP (Bankable)

Local Reputation (Aur Montaigne): Extravagant

Silvia: 1 time use of "Handy" advantage

Zhennya: 1 time use of "Poison Immunity" advantage

Fabien and Dr. Blackwell: 1 time use of "Cast Iron Stomach" advantage

Bonny: 1 time use of "Come Hither" advantage

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Canto 12 - Le Loup et le Renard
Even the faithful farmer may not reap his own harvest...

9th of Quartus, 1668 – Chateau of Simon LaBeau (Outskirts of Aur, Montaigne)

After saving Burke University and countless innocents, the group helped with the cleanup. Luckily, most of the priceless relics and historical artifacts had been kept safe from the storms of the dark sidhe. No one was mortally wounded, and only a few were seriously hurt. Within days, the place was back to normal and the band of disparate heroes made a decision to travel back to mainland Montaigne, both to meet up with their companion Kasimir and to follow the trail of Madame Dubois. Though they knew she was headed for Charouse, it had been over a month so there was no telling where she might be or what trouble she was causing.

The group booked passage on a merchant vessel named “The Whispering Tide”, a sleek Avalonian caravel captained by a dark-haired woman named Sienna. The travel was quick as the ship cut through the waters easily, docking in Muguet on the morning of the third day. As the group disembarked and began removing their belongings, a loud bestial sound was heard, followed by a loud crash of timber against the docks. Turning, the group saw sailors and dockworkers running away as an immense creature rolled to its feet on the docks and looked around. The creature was unlike anything the group – or most of the sailors – had ever seen. It stood on four powerful but stubby legs. Its body was padded but covered in a thick, pale white hide. Its head was elongated with large eyes. The most frightful feature was a huge horn that rose from its nose and swept back gently towards its head. As one sailor tried to grab at the remnants of a rope tied to its front leg, the creature turned and stepped on him, crushing his leg with an audible series of bone snapping crunches. Though it looked like it had just woken up, it quickly assessed its situation and began moving quickly down the pier towards the streets of the city, weaving slightly back and forth.

Declaring almost immediately, “I’ve read a book on this!” Fabien quickly named the beast a rhinoceros, this one being a rare breed of white rhinoceros. He also called out that while the creature was known to be an herbivore, it could be quite dangerous with its horn and great speed. As chaos erupted around the pier, bright colors filled the sky as a cage containing a dozen exotic birds opened on the pier, sending the avians into the sky, pecking at passersby and stealing small items from nearby merchant stalls, much to the anger of the proprietors. Quick to see almost any opportunity as a combat challenge, Bonny drew her large sword and began to make her way towards the beast, moving to help protect several dockworkers fleeing before it. Zhennya, torn between allowing the creature to gain its freedom and not wanting to allow it to bring harm to the people on the docks, raced towards it hoping to ride the beast to the ground…certainly a harrowing prospect given that the creature weighed easily over 5,000 pounds. Dr. Blackwell, having noticed the cries of pain from the dockworker with the crushed leg, rushed to his aid and quickly staunched the bleeding with a makeshift tourniquet. Once he had the man’s bleeding stopped, he spent time creating a splint and attaching it to the man’s leg so that he could be pulled to safety without causing further harm. Silvia distracted the rhinoceros just as it was headed for an area of merchant stalls. Getting its attention, she got it to turn towards her, distracting it for a moment as it shook its great head. 

Fabien’s keen eyes noted a weak spot in the elevated pier and called out to Silva, who lured the charging beast in that direction. Just as it would have gored the Eisen, the creature’s front leg found the weak spot and with a splinter of wood sank into the pier, halting its progress and causing it to bellow in surprise and pain. Quick to capitalize on the moment of respite, Bonny raced forward and slammed her sword not into the creature, but into the planks of the pier near the rhino’s back leg, causing another crack to appear and for the beast’s back leg to get stuck. Silvia grabbed one of the long lengths of rope still tied to the rhino’s back leg and secured it to a nearby merchant stall, hoping to slow the beast further. Seizing on the opportunity, Zhennya vaulted easily onto the great beast’s back, but as her adrenaline-fueled exclamation of victory echoed, it was joined by the loud splintering of wood, creaking planks, and then the whoosh of air as the entire pier beneath the creature gave way, dropping it and Zhennya ten feet to the rough dirt-clad underpier below. The area where smaller fishing vessels would dock was less populated and both Zhennya and the rhino were knocked to the ground by the unexpected fall.The poor merchant’s stall was also dragged across the pier to fall through the hole and crash to the ground, leaving a dusky skinned merchant shouting obscenities in an unknown language. 

An almost audible sigh of relief came from many of the dockworkers, but was cut short by the loud bellow of another creature that had gotten loose from the ship. Pounding down the gangplank was another mysterious beast, looking like a deer, but more solidly built and having a huge pair of antlers upon its head. These were used with great effect to knock shocked animal handlers from the gangplank and edge of the pier as it raced past for freedom. Luckily, Fabien’s agile reflexes allowed him to get out of the way of the creature. His keen mind always thinking, Fabien realized something must be amiss to cause this level of havoc and chaos, so he planned to board the ship to investigate.

Below the pier, Zhennya created a makeshift lasso and roped the neck of the great rhino while Silvia through down large items to distract the beast. After getting the rope around the rhino, Zhennya was almost pulled off her feet as the great beast began charging towards the busy city streets ahead. Using all of her inner reserves of strength, Zhennya spun around, looped the rope around one of the strong support posts of the pier and held fast. Not expecting resistance, the rhino was brought off its feet to land on its side as a cadre of armed city guards came down, tranquilizing the creature and ending its rampage.

Meanwhile, upon the top pier, the new beast, called a moose and native to Vesten Dr. Blackwell called out to those within earshot, rushed towards the other crowds. Bonny quickly took to shouting and threatening the dockworkers, moving a dozen of them from the path of the rampaging animal and keeping them from harm. Quickly thinking Dr. Blackwell sought to divert the animal’s attention to himself as a small patrol of armed city guards emerged onto the pier weapons out and aimed towards this new threat. He held the creature’s rapt attention for a short moment, using calming words in Vesten. However, then the doctor decided to imitate the look and sounds of the creature, raising his arms above his head to emulate the antlers of the beast. This seemed to have an immediate effect as the beast lowered his antlers, bellowed, and charged at Dr. Blackwell, knocking him aside and down the pier as it slammed into him. As it appeared the creature would cause harm to others nearby, Silvia quickly reloaded her firearm and shot at a create suspended by another crane. Timing it perfectly, Silvia shot the rope, causing the crate to come crashing down on the antlered beast, bringing it immediately to the ground amidst the shattering of dozens of clay pots and tablets. The guard quickly tranquilized the animal, much to the relief of the nearby sailors and dockworkers. 

Across the pier, Fabien worked his way on board the vessel, called “Le Ondata Scura” (The Black Wave in Vodacce). He saw a few pockets of fighting between sailors and what appeared to be hastily (and poorly) disguised peasants. There were signs of sabotage to the large crate that once housed the moose and Fabien heard other animals below decks. Hoping to prevent further escapes and damage, he quickly headed below decks to the hold, where he encountered two of these peasants working to open another crate. Surprising them, he began a conversation, uncovering what was going on. The men were part of a resistance movement aimed at showing the growing displeasure with l’Emperor’s wanton spending on things like his Menagerie in Charouse while the peasants went hungry. They hoped that the damage caused would open the eyes of others to the waste and dangers presented by the import of these creatures. Fabien understood, but warned that their actions were causing more harm than good. His calm demeanor and persuasive words convinced the two to stop their work and leave the ship. Fabien looked around at a half dozen other caged and crated animals before making his way above decks, where the fighting had all but stopped. Though dozens of bodies lay dead or dying on the decks, the crew of the ship had turned the tide of battle and the captain, Enrico Vestaccio was surveying the unexpected costs of his most recent endeavor in both damages and lives.

Several hours later, the group had purchased a new, and rather handsome, carriage for their journey to Charouse. Deciding to take the path through Aur, they headed out immediately upon one of the trade routes. The travel was quick and easy for the few few days but after turning south towards Aur, they began to notice things were not as right as they should be. First, a group of hungry peasants accosted the hero’s carriage, begging for food. They claimed that the marquis of these lands, Simon LaBeau, had been taking all of their crops, recently planted, and livestock as payment. They were left with nothing and so were headed north in hopes of finding aid. The heroes gave over all of their spare food to the group, eager to help how they could considering the young and elderly in the group. While Fabien was practical in his assessment that the land’s ruler could levee whatever taxes he wanted on the people, Zhennya was incensed at the treatment of the common folk. Further on, after making camp, Zhennya and Bonny both noticed that the presence of wild animal sounds was minimal if non-existent in the area. Scouting at night, Zhennya found many animal dens abandoned or empty, and in the morning confirmed her suspicions by discovering the recent tracks of booted men in the area. It seems the marquis’s troops were hunting the area of all available creatures.

Further down the road, the group encountered a roadside farm, where a dozen armed men were harvesting crops that were only recently planted. A farmhouse stood in the distance and when Fabien approached the men, several came over to warn them away. “Be about your business and continue down the road,” the leader warned. Fabien, not intimidated so easily, pressed the men for their business here. Zhennya road up on her horse while Bonny emerged from the carriage to join the conversation, though neither could easily understand the man who spoke only Montaigne. As the conversation continued, the group learned that the men were sent here on orders from the marquis and that the family who lived here were fine and likely in the house in the distance. The mercenaries would not allow the group to approach while they were there, even moving to show a strength of force as Bonny brought out her weapon. Fabien was able to reach an accord, that when the soldiers were done in about an hour, the group could speak to the family. In the meantime, Zhennya, unable to sense the presence of any small rodents, decided to drink a vile unguent Silvia had created. The taste of human heart was strong in her throat as she felt a strange sense of ‘wrongness’ to the act. However, it worked and her spirit left her body and she was able to invisibly enter the farmhouse. She confirmed that the family was unharmed, though they looked malnourished and poor. The four children and parents seemed to be going about their business, though there were constant glances out the windows to the strange group on the road.

She returned to her body and thirty minutes later, the mercenaries had loaded up their cart, mounted their horses and took off down the road. Immediately, the group, lead by Fabien, approached the house. They were greeted cooly and the man, Marcel, informed them that about a month ago the marquis had started demanding more taxes in the form of food and livestock, leaving them unable to maintain their farm. They had hoped it would return to normal, but it has not. They had managed to hide some extra food but it was running out quickly. The group was upset at the news, and Dr. Blackwell even suspected that perhaps another mask or entity was responsible for this gluttony the marquis appeared to be showing. Bonny gave the family the remaining food from the group, leaving them without any way to fill their bellies until they reached Aur.

After leaving the farmhouse, the group debated on what to do. They quickly overtook the mercenaries and their half-filled cart, fearing that the armed men would do the same to another farm. By harvesting this early, it was impossible for the crops to grow for the season and too late to plant more. Ideas ranged from killing the mercenaries to rushing forward to the marquis and demanding answers. In between, the group debated on a way to slow the mercenaries enough for Silvia to sabotage their cart, making it impossible for them to continue their work but not implicating the group. In the end, Zhennya called upon Matushka as she had in Avalon and the overcast skies began to downpour, causing the road to become muddy and visibility to be reduced. She also used her gifts to transform into a bear, drawing the attention of the mercenaries, who immediately gave chase to this potential feast for the marquis. Zhennya took several gunshots as the group pursued her through the trees, but she eventually lost them. This gave Silvia enough time to sabotage the cart’s axel at Dr. Blackwell’s instructions. Their hope was that the cart would break down soon and the mercenaries would have no recourse but to walk back to the estate of the marquis. Zhennya returned to the group in her human form, bleeding profusely. Dr. Blackwell patched up what he could and as the group continued on towards the estate of the marquis, they discussed how they would approach the man and discover what was behind this behavior…

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Canto 11 - Dílis Eóghan
Remembering wrong will still condemn you...

6th of Quartus, 1668 – Burke University (Donega, Inismore)

Having discovered that Dauby the Buchan was content living at Burke University, the group decided they would not force the little book worm to leave. That did beg the issue of what to do for the O’Brady’s, as their farm was in need of assistance. While discussing their course of action in a local tavern, the group was approached by a young courier. She delivered a message to Dr. Blackwell and Fabien, with the seal of Burke University upon it. Opening the envelope, they learned they were invited to an unveiling of Folklore significance at the University the following evening. Apparently, their new found respect and admission to the university had earned them an invitation, one that Associated Dean Finnán Riordan had not mentioned heretofore. Guests were permitted, and Zhennya, Silvia and Bonny decided to attend the event as well. Now there were preparations to make and Bonny took the opportunity to get fitted for a nice gown that would make a good impression on the crowd at the upcoming event.

Zhennya, Silvia, Fabien and Dr. Blackwell decided to visit Seamus O’Brady back at his farm in order to explain the circumstances. Dr. Blackwell, ever wanting to be polite, decided to purchase a pig to take as a gift. When Zhennya scoffed at this, pointing out problems, he attempted to return it to Silvio’s Livestock. However, the wily Vodacce did not want a returned pig, for he wasn’t sure what the doctor may have done to it. With pig in tow, the group took Bonny’s carriage back to the farm.

When they arrived, Seamus and Mave were sitting down to dinner. The group joined them for a small amount of stew after presenting the pig. While Seamus was pleased to hear that his father’s debt was not incurred from drinking but from buying books for a sidhe that was responsible for the farm’s prosperity, he was equally disheartened to hear that the creature was happy at the University. It was pointed out that likely, he could not afford to keep the small bookworm in books anyways. Several suggestions were passed to the family about working in town, hiring themselves out to other farms, or taking up additional crafts. All the items were considered and the group was welcomed to stay at the O’Brady homestead for the evening. 

When the group arrived back in Donega the next day, the group got back together to make their preparations for the evening’s events. Always suspicious, Bonny and Silvia both hid daggers upon their person, with Bonny’s dress having been tailored to accommodate the weaponry. Zhennya and Dr. Blackwell went unarmed as was the custom, and Fabien wore his rapier peace knotted, befitting a member of the Duelist Academy. 

Dr. Blackwell drove their carriage to the event, dropping the group off in front. As he was pulling the carriage around to the waiting area, Fabien noticed several figures rushing passed the group, darting in and out of the carriages. The lead figure bumped into Dr. Blackwell as he emerged from the carriage. The doctor felt something pressed into his stomach and a female voice whispered, “Keep these safe! You’ll need them.” As the figure turned to leave, her hood fell back, revealing the face of Oswin Oswald, an Avalonian spy known to the doctor. With a finger to her lips, she signaled for his silence as she left over a fence, with a group of 6 black-robed figures in hot pursuit. Shaken, the doctor made his way back to the group and showed them what had been given to him. In a black pouch were three smooth tumbled stones with strange symbols. Two of the stones were red in color while one was black. The inside of the pouch had the words “Property of the Inquisition” stitched in gold lettering. Fabien reported that the outfits were reminiscent of the Inquisition but did not match exactly to what he was familiar with.

As the group headed in to the University’s Reception area, Fabien mentioned to the group he was planning to find out what he could from the visiting scholars. Dr. Blackwell affirmed the same for himself, while Bonny intended to suss out some of the movers and shakers after giving her pep talk about how parties never seem to end well for them. Zhennya would rely on her keen senses and keep an eye out for anything that might occur and Silvia said she’d be around, which everyone knew meant she would be investigating other thing besides the reception.

During the socialization period, the group split up and began learning what they could. Fabien and Dr. Blackwell spoke with Dean Riordan about the upcoming unveiling. The three items were all covered by sheets, with one appearing to be a large block shape, one being on a pedestal, and one leaning against a tall marble pillar. Fabien mentioned that there seemed to be a coincidence between the number of items and the number of brothers in a story they uncovered recently. Finnán confirmed that the number three was a powerful number in legends and folklore, often representing a trinity of ideas or three faces of a particular problem. He also mentioned witchcraft of certain types use the number three, as both a benefit and punishment. Dr. Blackwell asked about the Numa goddesses Potnia and Theonoa and their vying for the attention of Perifanos the warrior. In the end, he was elevated to a spot in the pantheon by Potnia, but in the end he chose neither sister. Dean Riordan confirmed the accuracy of the two sisters, but mentioned that while Perifanos has been mentioned in some of the legends and scripts, there is not a great deal known about the deity, and it seems that his presence has not been felt in quite some time.

Zhennya moved about the reception, uncomfortable in the dress that Bonny purchased for her, but keeping her eyes alert for anything out of the ordinary. Her diligence was rewarded as she began to feel the air crackling with energy. It was subtle, and was hard to put her finger on, but she was sure there was energy in the room. She also kept seeing small fluttering of movements but when she would look, nothing would be there. This was perplexing but she continued to be alert.

Bonny found a group of women from different nations. Guilianna from Vodacce, Eliza from Castille, and Beatrice from Avalon. The women were well dressed and did not appear to be ‘academics’ but were discussing the first edition manuscript from Montgomery Peerson’s play “A Midwinter’s Journey through Dreams.” As the conversation deepened, it became clear these women may have ulterior motives for their friendship and they saw Bonny as a kindred spirit.

Meanwhile, Silvia let herself out of the reception area and down one of the hallways to look around. She quickly noticed another figure coming out of an office and heading down the hallway in the other direction. Keeping to the shadows, Silvia maintained a stealthy stance as he followed the other woman down several corridors. The mystery woman spent some time unlocking a side door before returning to the reception area. Silvia backtracked and picked her way into the office the woman had originally come from. Inside, she found a research lab, complete with tools, strange apparatuses, and research notes. In the research journal on the desk, several pages were ripped out about a “Forest Crown.” Silvia returned to the reception and identified the woman, mentioning her to Fabien and Zhennya as well. 

At that point, Dean Riordan got everyone’s attention and began the unveiling. He started with the smaller pedestal, quickly removing the sheet to reveal a crown seemingly made of vines and leaves, but which held finely cut white and green gems admidst the vines. He explained that the crown had been found within the hollow of a huge tree in northern Inismore. The tree had been struck by lightning and split open, revealing the crown to some local woodcutters, who sold it to the university. He explained that it had amazing properties when exposed to moonlight. As if on cue, the gas lights were dimmed and the oculus overhead was opened so that moonlight could stream down. As it struck the crown, the gems seemed to reflect the light out across the room in a myriad of colors. The colors were quite enchanting and calming, though to Dr. Blackwell, who had taken time to meditate and steal his mind against undue influence, they looked just like colorful lights. Several minutes later, the oculus was closed and the lights were lit again, with murmurs of astonishment and wonder from the gathered crowd.

Next, Dean Riordan unveiled the object leaning against the marble pillar, which revealed itself to be a huge, stone sword. The sword was easily seven or eight foot long, six inches wide and about 2 inches thick. The hilt itself would easily allow 5 men to grip it double handed, and the entire thing must weigh about five hundred pounds. Vested runes were carved along the entire outer edge of the blade. Finnán remarked that fisherman off the northern coast of Avalon had recently discovered it when their fishing nets caught on the item, possibly loosened from its watery depths with the recent storms. 

Finally, the large stone block was revealed and it turned out to be a monolith, or standing stone. Easily seven foot tall with a width from four foot at the base to three foot at the top, the stone was etched with carvings. The stone itself was black in color, as if from obsidian. Along the bottom were carvings of roots, with a moon shining down from above, in relief as it protruded some from the stone. Along the left side was the depiction of a river and along the right side was the carving of a tall tree. A series of inscriptions in the Cymric language covered the front, and the University had provided several copies of a translation on stands next to the stone. Dean Riordan explained that the stone had been unearthed by Dr. Emmet Simpson, an archaeologist from Avalon, who found the stone in the Camlaan county of northern Avalon, in the lands once occupied by King Brand Muldaigh of Camlaan.

After the presentation, the guests were welcome to observe and study the artifacts and compare any thoughts or knowledge about them. At this point, the group separated again with each person taking to a particular aspect of the artifacts. Bonny was fascinated by the stone sword and began a detailed and exhaustive transcription of the runes along its edge. Though she couldn’t read them, her skills were such that she accurately copied them all.

Silvia kept an eye on the Eisen woman she’d seen earlier, who was now working her way around the leafy crown. Though she appeared to be studying the crown itself, it was clear to Silvia that the woman was casing it’s display pedestal, which consisted of four metal bars bent over the crown in a protective manner. Bonny had noticed that the crown appeared to grow more vibrant in color as the moonlight hit it earlier and had let Silvia know this. Zhennya, meanwhile, was again keeping an eye on things and noticed a strange man looking rather nervous and carrying a satchel over his shoulder. He clutched the satchel tightly and seemed to be watching the people carefully. Recognizing him as Vodacce, she set about warning Fabien about it.

Dr. Blackwell was taken with the monolith and as he began to study the Cymric runes, encountered an old colleague, River Song, a noted historian and archaeologist who happened upon an invitation to the reception by luck. She was already busily scribbling down some notes on the translation and the two of them soon conferred. While the University had postulated the stone had been a protective device created by a Sidhe named Oiteag, it became clear to River and Dr. Blackwell that the translation had missed some clever word play, which gave it a darker history.

The translation had several errors, which instead of speaking about being watchful, it indicated that the stone was guarding something or someone. The other lines in the poem properly translated hinted that whatever was ‘sleeping’ had caused terror and harm and this was a prison. Four names were embedded in the prom. It mentioned Dedach, a poet from King Elilodd’s time, who became a wandering knight, creating poems and ballads against the Sidhe. Finncha was also mentioned, a young knight in the service of King Elilodd with alabaster skin, known for his great beauty, and often pursued by Sidhe men and women alike. Mine, the daughter of a king, who became the first female knight under King Elilodd. She is said to have died saving a town from attack by the unseelie Sidhe. Finally, Degha, a warrior knight of King Elilodd, who rescued a king’s daughter from the prison of an unseelie knight. The theme was obvious in what was written…these four knights were instrumental in cementing a prison for something with the name of Bàs Gaoithe. 

Just as Zhennya was trying to point out the strange Vodacce to Fabien, he was nowhere to be found. However, shortly after, strange words were heard from the upper balconies. The man was there, reading from an old book. Dean Riordan recognized the man, calling him Alfonso Rinaldi, who had apparently been kicked out of Burke University some time again. Laughing, the Vodacce man kept reading, and then the carved moon relief on the monolith cracked and the dried husk remains of a heart fell to the ground, turning to dust as it hit. As everyone looked to one another, the Vodacce waited and read….until cracks began to appear in the sides of the standing stone. As realization dawned that something was emerging, the scholars and guests alike began to panic. Zhennya rushed towards the monolith, while Dr. Blackwell pulled River Song out of the way. Silvia made her way quickly towards the crown, believing the woman would use the distraction to steal it. Bonny looked from where the stone sword translation she was making while Fabien called over to Riordan that someone was going to steal the crown!

As the monolith cracked open, the front of it fell with a resounding thud, shattering into stone pieces. The lightning that had crackled over the edges was now extending outwards towards the walls of the reception hall. A terrifying vision emerged, a male figure just over six foot in height with long gray hair floating as if by static electricity. His skin was a smokey gray and storm clouds seemed to play over the surface of it. Angular features framed a vicious smile, while cold blue eyes pierced the mist. Twisted horns rose from the sides of his head into several sharp points. In Cymric, the creature whispered loudly, “I am free! Come my storm kin, let us awaken!” As if on cue, veils between the Glamorlands and the University parted and a dozen or so small flying sprites emerged. Lightning crackled across their bodies and their faces were frozen in hideous scowls. They began to dart around the room, indiscriminately attacking people and objects. Finally, a larger rip formed and out strode a tall man with similar looking skin, but with dark hair. He wore what appeared to be armor fashioned from solid cloud and wielded a claymore sword that crackled with lightning. “Riagan!” shouted the Sidhe prince as he floated upwards. The storm knight looked directly at Dr. Blackwell and spoke in Cymric, “A knight of our warden! I shall deal with him!” As if in answer, a strange ghostly mantle appeared over Dr. Blackwell’s form, that of an aged knight in gleaming metal armor. Though Dr. Blackwell wanted to rush towards the man with the book on the balcony, he felt compelled to meet this foe in combat, though he remembered that he had left the sword Oidhche Tonn back at their room. As he thought upon the irony, Bonny withdrew the sword from beneath her gown tossing it to the doctor, “I thought you might need this later!” she called out as she too took up a stance to meet the oncoming storm knight.

Bàs Gaoithe, the unseelie Side prince, began unleashing bolts of lightning at nearby guests and objects, wantonly destroying them. As he rose further into the air, the winds in the room became stronger, making it difficult to move. Bonny strode towards the advancing storm knight and drew twin daggers from her waist. Though not as big as her own weapon, she landed several good hits, lunging in and plunging the steel into the knight’s armor. Though the knight was wounded, he ignored Bonny, smashing a mailed fist into her face and knocking her aside as he advanced upon Dr. Blackwell. Dr. Blackwell, now armed, also began a series of attacks against the knight, causing a previous wound. However, as the knight advanced upon Dr. Blackwell and the ghostly form of Ealdraed, some of those wounds began to heal. As he struck at Dr. Blackwell, the lightning from his blade threw the doctor backwards, dazing him for a moment as well. Across the room, Fabien was shouting above the storm’s fury to the guests of the reception. Together with River Song, the pair were able to convince the masses to make an orderly exit, with over a dozen academics and visitors making it to safety amidst the storm. Her instincts correct, Silvia made it to the crown at the same time as the other Eisen woman. Both grabbed for the artifact at the same time and a short struggle back and forth found Silvia holding the crown but the woman ready to snatch it back. During the struggle, Julia, as the woman hurriedly introduced herself, pleaded to allow her to take the crown. “It is not meant for the University. It is too dangerous,” he said, but Silvia remained suspicious. Zhennya, standing alone against the Sidhe prince, knew it was time to act. After watching the lightning that emanated from the prince’s body strike several guests and destroy some valuable objects, she raised her head and began a prayer to Matushka. Calling up Grandmother Winter to calm the storm, she reached out towards the unseelie Sidhe and began to feel the winds and lightning. Suddenly, in answer, Matushka’s call came and the winds quieted and the lightning subsided, and the storm prince looked down at the mortal with venom in his eyes, behind which small streaks of lightning could still be seen, “What is this!?” he bellowed in Cymric, filling the heads of those nearby with comprehension at his words. Looking up, the small debris that had been falling from the oculus stopped, and Zhennya breathed a sigh of relief when it did not appear the roof would come crashing down.

With the storm abated for the moment, the mass of guests and objects were mostly safe, though several crashes alerted those in the room to the presence of the storm sprites, who were tearing at flesh and stone alike in their attempts to cause as much damage as possible. A small group broke off and hurried down the corridor towards the back rooms. Julia used the distraction to snatch the crown from Silvia and head towards the other back hallway, the one at the end of which she had unlocked an escape route. Silvia took off after her, but in the crowd found herself slowed several moments, the words of the woman echoing triumphantly in her ears, “The Society thanks you!”. Fabien called out to Bonny for a dagger, and after an amazing catch, began to wade through the storm sprites. Stabbing and slashing, he whirled through their wings, shrugged off the electrical burns, and felled eight of them before catching his breath. Dr. Blackwell struck several more blows against the storm knight, in an exchange of slash and parry, dizzying bashes, and a gambled lunge, the two fought in a circle of steel and lightning. Bonny, too, aided the doctor, her blows not seeming to land as true, and one attempt to lunge at the knight resulted in him side-stepping her offense, leaving her vulnerable to a counter-attack that staggered her. Zhennya held her own as the storm prince’s anger focused solely upon her. He roared angrily and the storms began to slowly rise in power again, and a strong lash of wind seemed to wrap itself around the Ussuran, holding her fast and crushing the life from her. Defiant and unbowed, Zhennya grabbed a storm sprite from the air and hurled it at the prince. The small claws tore into his skin only briefly but the look of hatred and astonishment was her main reward. Calling once again upon Matushka, Zhennya found renewed vigor to continue the fight, struggling against the unseelie sidhe’s hold. A lightning bolt also struck the balcony, causing a long crack in it, and the shouts of the trapped scholars could be heard downstairs.

Fabien, having dispatched the remaining storm sprites with River Song’s help shouted to those on the balcony to get moving, allowing them to get to safety before the entire thing fell crashing to the floor below. Fabien then moved to aid Zhennya, providing another target to the prince, causing him to split his attention between the Ussuran and the Vodacce wielding weapons behind his back. Silvia continued to give chase to Julia, who quickly made it outside onto the streets, but with Silvia hot on her trail. A well aimed throw of a dagger knocked the crown from Julia’s hand, giving Silvia enough time to close and trip the woman. She once again pleaded with Silvia to allow her to take the dangerous item, but it was clear they were at a stalemate. Back inside, Bonny was recovering from her wounds, while Dr. Blackwell made one last desperate attempt, calling upon his incredible luck and the power of Oidhche Tonn. He lunged towards the knight, driving the blade deep within his flesh. With a look of shock, but also of peace, the knight muttered “And so it ends old Knight!” As the storm knight’s life left his eyes, the clouds that formed his armor dissolved, and the sword he wielding erupted into so much aether, leaving the doctor and Bonny standing over a corpse. Bonny, realizing the fight was not over looked up to where Fabien pointed, “The man with the book is up there!”. Unable to reach him in time, she took off down the other corridor to make short work of the storm sprites causing havoc in the research areas. Fabien, using an opening, stabbed forward into the back of the sidhe prince, causing him to bellow in rage and pain. His grip on the winds around Zhennya tightened, but she would not be cowed. As the very breath of life was being sucked from her, she called upon her inner reserves of strength, breaking free of the hold of the wind and staring down the lord of storms. Calling once again to Matushka, the storms abated for a second time. The storm prince bellowed with renewed raged, but upon seeing the death of his knight and the sprites, looked towards the ceiling. Quickly, he ascended upon the wind towards the oculus, looking down and locking eyes with the Ussuran sorcerer, “We are not through!” he warned in Cymric, but Zhennya caught the meaning of his words easily.

As the prince left the building, Fabien and Dr. Blackwell followed Silvia’s path. They emerged from the building to find the two Eisen woman locked in stand off. However, seeing she was outnumbered, Julia issued a warning, “This is on you now!” and took off, leaving the crown for Silvia to deal with. Upon arriving, Fabien asked about the woman, and Silvia explained she’d mentioned some type of Society and described a pin with a compass and spyglass upon it. Silvia also remembered noticing the woman seemed to use some unguents that Silvia was familiar with but that had different effects. She wondered what that meant now that she had met this woman from her homeland. Fabien took the crown, “I’ll return this to Finnán,” he said. He reentered the building and when he returned some minutes later, the delivery completed, he helped the others clean up. Other than three unfortunate deaths early in the fight and the loss of a dozen valuable objects, no other casualties were the result. Dr. Blackwell and River Song completed their translation, determining that the sidhe trapped in the monolith was Bàs Gaoithe, a half-sidhe bastard son of King Brand Muldaigh of Camlaan and a Seelie queen. The son had been tempted by the powers of the unseelie court, and became a prince of storms amongst them. King Brand, after Elilodd had brought the Avalon lands together in peace with the sidhe, sacrificed himself and used his heart as a way to trap his son and keep him from causing more death and harm to the lands…

 

Rewards: 1 XP (Bankable), Storm’s Resolve (Once per session, you may spend a Raise or Hero Point to immediately negate your Resolve in Wounds done by lightning or winds)

Fabien: Local Reputation  [Scholars/Academics]: Confident

Dr. Blackwell - Local Reputation [Scholars/Academics]: Fearless

Bonny – Local Reputation [Scholars/Academics]: Loyal

Silvia: Local Reputation [Explorer’s Society]: Determined

Zhennya: Local Reputation [Scholars/Academics]: Indomitable.

Zhennya: You have a Nemesis in Bàs Gaoithe and have taken the first step on a 4-point Story for “Foul Weather Jack" if you confront and defeat him.

Silvia: You have completed the first step of a 3-point Story to learning from an Apostate. 

 

 

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Canto 10 - An T-uisce na Beatha
The symphony of whistlers...

24th of Tertius, 1668 – Clan MacKensie (Northwest, Highland Marches)

As the day of the MacKensie moot drew near, Bonny began making preparations for what she would say and how she would try to convince the bannermen clans to remain part of the MacKensie Clan. She spoke with each of her companions and received reports from the various clans, hoping to find small pieces of information that would help her make a decision. 

Colum MacKensie opened the moot and thanked everyone for attending. He then turned it over to Bonny, as was her right for calling the Moot. Though he stayed present and would occasionally nod, his expression stayed mostly stoic during the proceedings. It was clear he was gauging whether Bonny’s ability to host the bannermen clan leads matched her desire to do so.

Discussion quickly turned towards the recent MacKensie games, as a precursor to the larger Highland Marches games in late summer. James Frazer was quick to point out the alleged cheating by Clan Ainslie and Clan Caldwell, particularly how it appeared that Aidan Caldwell was working with the tall, dark haired stranger they called the “Slenderman.” Angus Ainsley vehemently rebuked any attempt to besmirch his clan’s name, and continued to vow that their clan won because they were indeed the best at the games. Hamish of Clan Caldwell also decidedly defended his son, saying that his sudden absence was akin to Bonny’s own “worldly travel” and he would return soon. Hamish made it clear that when his son returned, he should have a place on the Bannermen Council. 

Returning to the games, Clan Frazer and Clan Ainsley went back and forth, with claims of cheating and denials of those claims. Jamie of Clan Frazer demanded a set of ‘make up’ games that would take place quickly, within a month’s time. While others thought it would make sense to wait until later in the year, there was consensus that would push it into the summer of the Highland Games themselves. Angus Ainslie insisted that the next games, whenever they were, should be held on Ainslie lands instead of the traditional location of MacKensie lands. After much discussion, Bonny made the decision to allow a new competition in one month’s time on Ainslie lands, but that a MacKensie would be Master of the Games to ensure fairness. It seemed that both Clan Ainslie and Frazer got a little of what they sought. 

After this, Angus Ainsley returned to the issue of council seats and demanded that his wife, Seogan, should receive a seat on the Council as well, mainly because she managed his lands very well during the time of the curse. Tristan of Clan Monteith also chimed in that he would welcome, and felt his clan deserved, an additional seat on the council. Though they were the newest of the bannermen clans, Tristan felt that the constant attacks from the sea as well as the storms that ravaged their lands would warrant this.

Rhona of Clan Swinton did not seek a second seat, but seemed only to ask that she be allowed to keep Clan Swinton’s seat after the death of her husband, Malcolm. The discussion raged for some time on whether adding an additional seat to every clan would change anything. Some even suggested a separate council be formed, based upon population with each of the bannermen clans having representation based upon how many were in their clan. This was quickly squashed as too complicated. However, in the end, Bonny relented, agreeing that all clans would receive a second Council seat, which seemed to be something Angus Ainslie, Hamish Caldwell, and Tristan Monteith were pleased to get. In addition, Rhona Swinton was allowed to keep her husband’s place and appoint someone else. Clan Frazer was not thrilled with expanding the Council but did not stand in the way of the decision.

Discussion turned to individual Clan desires. James of Clan Frazer brought up the line of succession when something happens to Colum. James expressed his expectation that Clan Frazer should be in line for leading, perhaps with an arrangement that could tie Clan Mackenzie and Clan Frazer together. Tristan Monteith brought up the recent winter storms that left his lands ravaged and asked for double the normal supply allotment to the bannerman clans and recognition as the sole trading point of contact for all sea trade the clan pursues. James Frazer was quick to mention that he sought sole rights for trading with other clans outside of MacKensie as his people were more educated and well traveled. Calling upon his clan’s prowess in combat and his own personal experience, Hamish Caldwell demanded he be named Clan Protector and Warchief, to lead all the clan’s forces in battle should it be necessary. To this, Rhona of Clan Swinton made a bid for inclusion of her clan’s healers and herbalists in the households of the other clans in order to properly train them for the troubled times to come. She also insisted that her clan would need more land in order to expand their farming to feed the bannerman clans as populations increased. It became somewhat chaotic in the moot hall at this, with clan leaders speaking over one another in an effort to get Bonny’s ear. Throughout, Bonny was collected and spoke to each bannerman, asking questions and getting clarifications. It soon became clear she would be unable to appease all the needs of each clan, so she started a process of finding out what was critical to each.

There was little objection to Hamish being named as the Clan Protector, but many other clans, particularly Clan Ainslie, balked at hiving his clansmen inserted into the other clan’s defenders to train them. Most feared he would try to control their own fighters. However, this did give Clan Caldwell their second demand. In a round of concessions and agreement between Monteith and Frazer, Tristan was able to get his clan named as the sole Sea Trade clan, able to levy some small fees on incoming and outgoing goods to help with their needed repairs. In turn, Clan Frazer was given sole rights to trade with other clans in the Highland Marches. These concessions gave both clans a second goal met. Finally, Rhona of Clan Swinton made her case for additional land, begrudgingly getting lands from Frazer, Monteith, MacKensie and Caldwelll in the process. She assured all that it would be used to expand their crops and herbs that invariably help all the clans. 

With all clans getting equal concessions, Bonny concluded the moot and turned things over to her father. While many were still unsure of the eventual outcomes, at least all of the bannermen clans were appeased for now and none were immediately going to withdraw from their pledges. As a sign, all the leaders reaffirmed their loyalty to Laird Colum, and with that, the group decided to follow the trail of Aidan Caldwell up to Kirkwall.

The group arrived Kirkwall several days later and immediately set about asking after Aidan Caldwell and the mysterious “Slenderman.” Word on the docks was that the two of them were in the company of a trio of men who wore scarves over their faces. Word on the docks was that the group had been looking for passage to Dunkeen, Inismore. Though no one knew what ship they had sailed out on, all seemed to agree that it had been 3 weeks or so since they had been seen. The group followed suit, buying passage on the ship “Sea Mist” to Dunkeen. 

2nd of Quartus, 1668 – Farmlands outside of Dunkeen (Dunkeen, Inismore)

Upon arrival in Dunkeen, the group once again asked around for Aidan Caldwell and the “Slenderman” known as Bród. This time, Zhennya and others took the tactic of telling tall tales about the types of people they’d met in hopes that others would join in with sightings of a ‘tall man’. This paid off as there had been several sightings of this mysterious man and the others traveling with him. The Highland Marcher had signed up for various events at the Fleadh, a large festival of arts, music, and all things cultural. This festival is held each year in the first week of Quintus and is said to draw crowds of thousands from across Avalon and Theah. Based upon all they knew, the group felt this was ripe for Aidan and the Slenderman to work their brand of sorcery. In addition, Dr. Blackwell discovered that Aidan had visited city hall to obtain a list of events. Dr. Blackwell received information about a troupe of jugglers who might take them into their ranks for the festival parade. Finnegan’s Flying Fists is sure to get a visit from the athletic doctor.   

Fabien wanted to visit Burke University at Donega and the group decided they had five weeks before they would need to be back in Dunkeen for the festival. On the road to Donega, the group stopped at a few roadside inns, listening to Inish farmers worry about the encroaching Sidhe. It seems that while they were previously content with where they were, some of them have been taking over ancestral lands where Inish and others now lived. At an inn a day out of Donega, they heard rumors of the O’Brady farm a few miles away that seemed to be cursed by the Sidhe. The fields were dried and would not grow, the fruit trees bore rotten fruit and a cow had died mysteriously of a disease. There was talk that this started when Old Man Seamus died and left the farm to his son, Young Man Seamus, Thinking this seemed like something to check out, the band of do-gooders headed to the O’Brady farm the next day. They were greeted by Mave, Seamus’s wife, and then quickly met her husband as he milked their last cow; keen eyed Zhennya and Bonny noted that the milk was already starting to curdle. Seamus was confused at first about why the group was there, but after convincing him they were friends, he related the tale of what had been happening. 

They discover that the farm homestead had been doing quite well for years, until a month ago when Seamus senior died of old age. Within a week, collectors from Turnbull Collections came to collect on debts the father owed. Young Seamus, who at 40 years old wanted to be called just Seamus, assumed it was his father’s drinking debts from when he visited Donega to sell their goods. Unable to pay for the debt, the collectors were let into his father’s private room to collect shelves of old books. They gathered them in a trunk, along with a few paintings and a large comfortable chair. The debt was paid off, but then the farm started suffering. The group, while searching the father’s room, discovered a small hidden nook where there was miniature furniture and a pair of small eyeglasses. Someone, or something, had been living there but was no longer here. They agreed to inquire after Turnbull Collections in Donega and set off for the city.

When they arrived, they questioned locals about Aidan Caldwell and the “Slenderman” but no one had recalled seeing either of them. Fabien, eager to make an introduction at Burke University, left for there with Dr. Blackwell. Zhennya, Silvia, and Bonny visited Turnbull Collections, with an attempt to discover where the items from the O’Brady farm had been taken. At Turnbull’s they discovered that the trunk and its contents had been sold to Burke University…

Meanwhile at Burke University, Fabien and Dr. Blackwell presented their credentials for admission into the library at the university. They were assigned a junior scholar named Shelagh, who showed them around the folklore and mystical section, both topics that Fabien had expressed interest in. While there, Fabien had noticed some discussions between the staff about Section “J”, obviously a code for something as there were no letters on the shelves. During the tour, Shelagh mentioned they would be meeting with the Associate Dean of Folklore, Finnán Riordan. The Doctor’s knowledge of languages and Fabien’s worldly studies had proven themselves to the university as legitimate scholars, despite their outward appearance. Also they noticed that she did not take them through a door with a red velvet scarf tied around the handle. When confronted, Shelagh confided that the library had recently found itself in possession of a bauchan, a small Sidhe that delighted in reading and would often perform small services to its benefactor. While the two were left to their own devices, they discussed the coincidence of this happenstance.

Later that evening, when the group got together, all of them shared what they’d found. It became likely that the bauchan at the University was the same one taken from the O’Brady farm by Turnbull Collections. The next day, Fabien and Dr. Blackwell would try to speak with the bauchan. First, they had a long afternoon with Finnán Riordan, who presented them with more access to the folklore and sorcery areas. They presented the Dean with numerous questions about emotional influence and the symbols they’d seen on the masks. While the symbols did not immediately draw recognition, the Dean was able to point them to several sorceries and practices that influenced emotions, including those of Sorte in Vodacce, the Knights of Elilodd in Avalon, Sanderis in the Sarmatian Commonwealth and even some sorceries of the new world, such as Kap Sèvi. He even mentioned that Numa still reveres their pantheon, of which some of the deities are associated with various emotions. This information provided more detail but the pair still had much research to do. 

Once they were left on their own, Fabien and Dr. Blackwell did some research into the Slenderman and the masks that they had been seeing the effects of. While nothing explicit was found in the initial search, several stories and legends were found that may shed some light on the matter or give them a place to continue investigating.

Also, the pair snuck into the off limits room to discover a nicely appointed study with shelves of books. In the middle was a small creature with long limbs, a sharp pointed noise, and hoof-like feet on spindly legs. The creature wore a pair of small spectacles and was reading at the time. The Bauchan introduced himself as Dauby and admitted he had lived at the O’Brady farm. When Seamus died, he was scared and then a few days later, men came and he hid in a trunk. The trunk was filled with books and then he was deposited here, discovered by one of the book filers. Dean Riordan quickly arranged for this room for him and he’s been content ever since. Fabien explained that the family had not gotten rid of him, but that they were unaware of his presence. When asked, Dauby admitted he was happy here, but would return if the new owners could continue to provide him with the books he sought! Now the group was in a dilemma…leave Dauby here, where he was happy, or try and return him to the O’Brady’s, where he could restore their farm’s prosperity but may have trouble keeping him in the books he wanted…

Rewards: 1 XP (Bankable), Debater (1 time use of the Lyceum Advantage before rolling), Contact (Finnán Riordan) for Fabien and Dr. Blackwell

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Canto 9 - Righ Smeòrachfheusaig
Not all friends will walk with you in the dark...

16th of Tertius, 1668 – Clan MacKensie (Northwest, Highland Marches)

The companions all returned to Clan MacKensie castle, where Gillian took the gathered ingredients and began the process of brewing the cure for the aging curse. Zhennya reported that the members of Clan Ainslie seemed untrusting and boastful at their growing ability to be self-sufficient. She also warned that they seemed to be taking steps to effect a split from the other clans. Dr. Blackwell related the harrowing experience of being drugged, seduced, and fleeing with the ingredients he could. Silvia explained that she was able to get the ashes without interaction with the clan, eventually telling the tale of how she replaced the ashes in the night. Fabien also related how he did not meet with any clan representatives of Frazier, but explained there were rumblings and rumors of breaking away from Clan MacKensie.

Gillian informed the group that the cure would remain potent until sunrise the day after its creation, which would give them about 24 hours to distribute it. Knowing that she could not deliver the cure to everyone personally, Bonny met with the others to determine the best way to distribute it. They decided that Bonny would send Clan MacKensie representatives to each of the bannermen clans informing them that MacKensie had a cure and it would be delivered to each of them within a day. Bonny decided she would visit Clan Caldwell personally, since she was not aware of their feelings on declaring independence. 

In the meantime, Zhennya spoke with one of the midwives, Malvina, who warmed to the Ussuran’s common approach to speaking. Malvina confided that she did not feel the same as many in the clan who thought that MacKensie would be able to release the bannerman clans to their own and keep the MacKensie name and blood pure. The Mackenzie’s were one of the oldest clans after all, is what she’s heard others muttering about. She also noticed that those who attended the MacKensie Games several months ago were the ones most loudly calling for MacKensie to stand alone and seemed distrustful of the bannermen clans and their contributions to the clan.

Bonny also spoke with Murtagh MacKensie about the games, as most of the concerns seemed to start there. She learned that Aidan Caldwell was the Master of Games, by virtue of Clan Caldwell winning the prior year’s contests. He had brought with him a tall, fair skinned man with long dark hair which he wore in a braided knot down his back. Aidan had introduced the man as a traveler, who had three renowned bards with him. These bards, who all wore colorful scarves across their faces had voices both loud and clear, and during the games they would announce the prowess of anyone who won a contest. The traveler had declared whichever Clan won the games would have their name immortalized by the bards, a ballad song in their name across Theah! This seemed to inspire each of the clans as it hadn’t before. Murtagh also noted that Aidan wore a new black mask to the games, one he claimed would proclaim his status as the true Master of Games. The mask was described as being smooth, pure black, with eyes that seemed to be lifted towards the heavens and a small, tight lipped mouth. A violet symbol vaguely like a trident was upon the forehead of the mask as the only adornment. While it did seem strange, none dared oppose Aidan’s wearing of it.

The next morning, while the cure was being produced, the group traveled to Clan Caldwell. Along the way they discussed how they had broken the supposed curse upon others in the past. Heinrich in Eisen had been brought out of his melancholy by spending several hours showing him memories of his past, explaining how each had enriched his life. This had eventually brought a smile to his face. The family in Castille had been separated physically from one another, with the group leaving nuns in charge of maintaining the separation. While they were not sure how this worked out, they were hopeful that it would work. Neither of these solutions seemed as if they would work on the Clan MacKensie bannermen, as they were neither sad nor having wanton sex.

Arriving at Clan Caldwell, they discovered that Hamish’s brother, Fergus, had passed the night before. The aging curse had taken its toll before the cure would be ready. Bonny spoke briefly with the two clansmen standing watch, Cormag and Sean. They explained that Kirsteen, Hamish’s daughter, was for the moment running things as both of the male candidates were still in no condition to do so. They also confirmed what she had heard about Aidan and the companions he’d brought. They mentioned how good they’d felt each time one of the traveler’s bard companions would immortalize their name in verse.

Bonny had a chance to speak with Kirsteen, who had not been at the games, and did not share her father’s desire to leave the Clan. However, hers was not the voice that the others would listen to. Bonny vowed MacKensie support and even spoke briefly with Hamish, who himself was nearing the end if the cure was not brought soon. He confided in her that he overheard his son talking to the traveler and called him Bród, which seemed an Inish name, though the man was clearly not of Inish background.

Upon returning to Clan MacKensie, Bonny obtained the cure made by Gillian and distributed it between the group, each returning to the bannerman clans with a MacKensie representative and the cure for distribution.

Zhennya returned to Clan Aisnlie to fulfill her promise as well as deliver the cure. She arrived to find that some were saddened by the loss of a few of their men, the aging curse having taken them before the cure could be delivered. During the week of training, she discovered that not everyone shared the clan’s desire to break away, mostly those who had not attended the games. However, even their arguments began to change slightly over time as the voices proclaiming Ainsley as ready to stand along began to resonate more with them. She also learned that in the past there had been times when the clans came together as one to fend off attacks from other clans, invaders, and sea raiders.

Dr. Blackwell decided not to return to Clan Swinton and instead delivered the cure to Clan Caldwell. During the several days he was there, he began training with his new sword, having heard the warriors of Caldwell were some of the best among the bannerman clans. He also tried to instill doubt about Aidan’s use of a mask during the games and that it must have been a trick by the man he came with. While he found some who listened, the Doctor himself began to doubt his own resolve the longer he trained with the warriors. Realizing something was going on, he began to strengthen his own resolve while at the same time attempting to find common ground with many in the clan who had not been at the games.

Silvia took the cure to Clan Swinton, hoping that she would not be a target of whatever had befallen the doctor on his previous visit. He found the leader Rhona accepting and was offered lunch and hospitality while the cure was distributed by the headers of the clan. Later that afternoon, bells began to toll for the leader, Malcolm, had succumbed to the curse even though the cure had been delivered. Silvia became suspicious and she was able to visit the body while it lied in state the next day. While she was able to avoid detection when another clan member came to pay his respects, she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone had seen her. Silvia did manage to notice that Malcolm had a bluish color to his tongue, indicative of poisoning by arsenic. While most clan leaders lie in state for a customary three days, the next day Rhona announced that Malcom would undergo ritual cremation the next day due to the progressed aging caused by the curse and that his body was decomposing, resulting in loss of honor. Silvia spoke to Rhona and while the woman did not admit any wrongdoing, she made it clear that she felt the clan was in better hands under her leadership, particularly when Silvia mentioned Colum’s eventual writ that would allow the females of the clans more voice. 

Fabien went to Monteith with the cure and discovered many of the same things as the others. Those who had not attended the games seemed less vocal about splitting from the clans, as were those who did not compete in many competitions. The general feeling of those believing Monteith could stand alone was that they provided much to the clans in terms of trade routes, food, and fertile lands, while they did not need nor receive much in the way of protection.

Bonny herself went to Clan Frazier, the oldest and closest of the bannermen clans. She spoke with Jamie Frazier, who had been a long time ally to MacKensie. He was forthright with Jamie and explained that since the games, he has felt that the clan could stand on its own. It had grown in size, prosperity and he was thankful to MacKensie for that, but he also felt being a vassal of another clan was holding him back personally. In the conversation, it was clear that he felt the clan and himself would be on track to be High King someday. At Bonny’s urging, he vowed not to make any decisions until the Clan moot the following week.

As each member of the group returned to Clan MacKensie, they shared their findings. Bonny was hopeful that the Clan Moot she’d called for the following week would afford her the opportunity to convince the clans to stay loyal to MacKensie. While there was not much confidence this alone would work, no other ideas were immediately forthcoming. Only time would tell as the moot drew closer…

Rewards: 1 Experience (bankable), 1 time use of a "Free Social Assist" in the Highland Marches (Gain +3 Dice to a Social Skill Roll)

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Canto 8 - Ceithir Sgileil Bhràithrean
The hangman comes for each separately...

14th of Tertius, 1668 – Clan MacKensie (Northwest, Highland Marches)

After freeing Gillian from the thrall of Bodicea the witch, the group of heroes gathered around Colurn, the leader of Clan MacKensie while Gillian mixed together a small cure for him. They began to regale him with stories of their travels in order to keep him alert long enough for the cure to be made and administered. They decided to regale the clan leader with a tale of adventure they had most recently embarked upon…recovering the sword Oidhche Tonn from the sea monster, Iku-Turso in the Maw…

One week ago…

8th of Tertius, 1668 – The Maw, Off the coast of Gottkirchen (Gottkirchen, Eisen)

Captain Reynolds laughed as the heroes asked him if their trip could be diverted into the Maw, as they were searching for the legendary creature known as Iku-Turso. While he refused to endanger his trading vessel and crew to such folly, the exchange of many guilders persuaded him to sail to Gottkirchen, where he assured them they would find a captain brave – or foolish – enough to take their coin. The 2 day trip to Gottkirchen, Eisen was uneventful and while storm clouds could be seen to the north and east, they never interfered with the Dawn Trader’s voyage. Captain Reynolds gave the heroes 4 days to return, at which time he would assume them dead and continue his trade route to Kirkwall in the Highland Marches.

As time as of the essence, the group made their way to the docks, asking dozens of sailors about any ships that were headed into the Maw or that could be purchased for sure a voyage. One lead looked promising towards the end of the afternoon as Stefan, the first mate of a ship he claimed could weather the trip, was about to arrange for down payment. 

“I wouldn’t trust that one not to leave you marooned on an island north of here,” came the good natured warning from behind the group. Turning at once, they saw a devilishly handsome man dressed in black leather pants, a maroon shirt, and black vest. Upon his head sat a black wide-brimmed hat with a purple feather sticking up from it. His rakish grin heralded his introduction by Dr. Blackwell, “This is Captain Jack Harkness…a most capable captain.” After brief and flirtatious introductions were made, Dr. Blackwell explained their need for a ship and crew. Of course, Captain Harkness was amenable to his old friend and arranged for the heroes to leave with the evening tide. After a brief tour of the ship, the captain presented Dr. Blackwell with a list of necessary items, including netting, hooks, pikes, and strong rope. Fabian and Bonny used some of their riches to purchase the items, while Dr. Blackwell sweet talked a local merchant’s daughter into providing the rest. Outfitted for adventure, the heroes set sail upon Donner-Riss, “Thunder Crack” in the Eisen language, heading north into the Maw.

The heroes made their preparations below decks during the first night, doing their best to keep their meals down as the ship rocked back and forth. Fabian had a particularly hard time of things, needing to visit the railing of the ship several times. The unguents created for softening the creature’s skin were distributed to Zhennya, Bonny, and Dr. Blackwell, while the lanterns designed to creating a flashing light were given to Fabien, Silvia, and Dr. Blackwell. The next morning, the call was given that Iku-Turso had been spotted several miles away towards the north. Unfortunately, there was also a bad storm brewing in that direction and the creature seemed to be basking in it if accounts were to be believed. Knowing the time was close, the crew and heroes set sail for the storm under the direction of Captain Harkness. 

Rain pelted the deck of the ship as it neared the beast, which took notice of the approaching vessel by sinking to just above the surface which gave the creature clear line of sight to observe. As the ship drew nearer the creature, Iku-Turso sank beneath the water and erupted next to the ship, letting out a loud bellows which would have shook the resolve of lesser men and women, but not those of Captain Harkness’s crew, nor the heroes gathered upon the deck. As lightning flashed among the clouds overhead, Zhennya and Bonny both noticed that lightning seemed to crackle along the masthead of Captain Harkness’s ship, a masthead that resembled an androgynous figure holding a lightning bolt in each hand. Though startled by the sudden appearance of such a beast, everyone leapt into action. Dr. Blackwell had set himself up on the starboard side of the ship, secured his lantern to the railing and began to flash the light into one of the sea monster’s eyes. Bonny was on lookout and noticed the hilt of a sword stuck into the creature’s left side just below the neck. She called this information out to Dr. Blackwell and threw her unguent at the creature’s side, having transferred it from the waterproof pouch to a glass jar provided by one of the crew. Zhennya, never one to be let men do the hard work, leapt off the bow of the ship into the water near the creature upon getting the news. Fabien, not being trained at sea travel, had wisely secured himself to the railing of the ship with a rope. As he tried to get his lantern flashing, he was knocked to his feet. Silvia readied her lantern and after seeing Fabien take a fall, directed her lantern’s light into the creature’s other eye. The two oscillating lights seemed to freeze the creature’s motions and it sank quickly beneath the water. This created a whirlpool near its body, which Zhennya rode down to find herself pressed against the side of the gargantuan monster.

When the beast sank, it recovered its senses and the tentacles extending from its neck began to flail at Zhennya, smacking into her several times and dealing terrible wounds. Zhennya managed to keep hold of her breath as she grabbed hold of the hilt in the side of the creature. Her grip tightened as she began to get violently shook, Iku-Turso spinning around several times to dislodge her as it swam under the ship. On deck, the crew was busy trying to keep the ship sailing in such turbulent conditions, rushing to tend to a fire that had started on the aft castle when a bolt of lightning struck the ship. Fabian regained his footing and prepared his lantern, while Silvia moved towards the starboard side, anticipating the emergence of the creature there. Dr. Blackwell, too, aimed his lantern to that side of the ship. The heroes did not have long to wait as Iku-Turso quickly emerged on the starboard side of the ship, reared up with Zhennya hanging on its side by the hilt of the sword still embedded in its thick hide. Zhennya realized that the single application of the unguent was washing off, so added hers to the mix, rubbing it into the creature’s side. The sea monster was not to be trifled with as it turned its body so that Zhennya was facing the ship, and it slammed into the side, causing a shudder to rock the entire vessel. At the same time, the huge tail of the beast rose on the port side of the ship and swept across the deck, splashing water upon the deck. Crew were knocked around, though the heroes maintained their footing and retaliated. Fabian and Silvia worked together to shine their lanterns into each eye of the creature, which again caused it to seize up and sink beneath the water. Dr. Blackwell through a rope out to Zhennya, which she caught before sinking beneath the waves. Remembering to secure the rope to the mast of the ship, Dr. Blackwell turned upwards at a terrible sound. There was also a loud crack as part of the main sail tore loose from its bindings with the onslaught of the beast against the hull, sending several topspin onto the deck. The ship became somewhat unstable and several crew were swept overboard. 

Underwater with the creature, Zhennya struggled to hold her breath, keep a grip on the sword and tie off the rope around her waist. As the creature’s tentacles continued to buffet her, she strained at the hilt, using her stored strength and slowly began to wrest the blade from the side of the beast. On deck, Dr. Blackwell and Bonny began climbing the rigging to help reign in the sails and get them attached again to the yardarm. While climbing, they were able to see the crew who’d been swept overboard and direct the rescue efforts. Realizing he could not direct his lantern properly, Fabien recalled some sea shanties he had once read about and started rousing the crew to action with a song. Silvia, for her part heard cries of a hull breach from below decks and rushed down to lend her aid. She managed to gather up some wood and pitch and with the help of several sailors got the hull repaired, but not before being knocked around by several heavy crates. Iku-Turso, not looking for a fight, began to swim away from the ship. Having repaired the sails, Dr. Blackwell and Bonny returned to the decks, with Dr. Blackwell tossing a rope with a grappling hook at the back of the creature, tangling it in the seaweed extensions rising from its back. Bonny, sensing Zhennya may need help, dove into the water and swam towards the Ussuran. Back on deck, Fabien stood ready to cut the rope attached to Zhennya as he watched it tighten with the creature’s movements. He also directed the Captain to come about to this starboard to best keep pace with the beast’s movements. Underwater, Zhennya continued to call upon hidden reserves of strength, sliding the sword slowly but surely from the beast’s side.

As the storm raged overheard, several things occurred at once…Zhennya with a final act, drew forth the sword from Iku-Turso’s hide…Bonny grabbed hold of her and began to swim towards the ship…Fabien gave a call for sailors to help pull the rope back on board…and Dr. Blackwell remembered to let go of the end of the rope he was holding as it was ripped into the waters…Iku-Turso continued to swim away as Zhennya and Bonny were brought on board. Silvia and Dr. Blackwell tended to the wounded by Fabien helped organize repairs and tending to the sailors who’d been knocked about. “I hope you got what you came for Doctor. We won’t be repeating that!” called Captain Harkness, giving the orders to set sail for Gottkirchen and out of the remaining storm…

Current time…

Back at Colurn’s keep, the group watched as Gillian’s cure began to reverse the effects of the curse. Though it would be several days’ time for the effect to be completely reversed, there was hope that the cure would work. Getting enough of the ingredients would prove a challenge, as estimates would put some of the older men dying from this curse within a week. Bonny made the decision to send each member of the group to a different bannerman’s lands to obtain the ingredients needed. To each, she provided a signed writ, explaining what was needed and that they acted with the clan leader’s authority.

Zhennya was sent to Clan Ainslie, lead by Angus Ainsley and his wife Seogan, and one of the more rugged and self-sufficient of the bannermen clans. Zhennya was to retrieve several bushels of angel wings, and while available anywhere, there were fields in the Ainslie lands known for growing it in the quantities needed. Upon arrival, Zhennya was spotted by several scouts, all woman, and only a few who appeared to know how to use their bows. Zhennya found Seogan in control, as Angus had taken ill with his rapid aging, though he was a younger man in reality. Zhennya presented the writ and explained she could also aid Seogan with training of the clan’s women in the use of the bow and arrow. While Seogan professed her concern that Clan MacKensie seemed to have neglected the well-being of Clan Ainslie and they felt they could be self-sufficient. Zhennya was invited to stay the night and enjoy hospitality and in the morning she would be escorted to where the angel wings grows and could harvest what she needed. The next morning, Zhennya was taken to the field, only to discover that it had recently been set aflame, scorching the remaining plants. She returned angrily to Seogan and told the young wife a story of Matushka and the ungracious hosts. Once, Matushka visited a man and his wife as a beggar and asked for hospitality. The couple, not wanting to share their goods, nonetheless agreed. They baked bread with their finest flour and ate it themselves, offering the beggar the poorer quality afterwards, declaring it “the best we have to offer.” The couple then drank their best wine and instead offered the beggar poor quality swill, declaring it  “the best we have in our home.” When Matushka revealed herself to the couple they apologized, but the damage had been done and they were both turned into swine to roam the countryside living off the scraps of others. Zhennya used this to teach a lesson to Seogan, who seeing she had been wrong, relented. She gave Zhennya the angel wings and Zhennya still agreed to return and train her warriors for a week.

Silvia was sent to Clan Caldwell to retrieve some corpse dust. While she had been given a writ as well, she undertook a clandestine mission. She first gathered some sheep and cow carcasses, set them ablaze and recovered the dust and ashes into several sacks. When she arrived at night into Caldwell lands, she stealthily made her way to the clean leaders keep, where jars of fallen clansmen’s ashes were stored as part of remembering their deeds. Instead of using the writ, Silvia snuck in, waited for Hamish Caldwell to finish his evening prayers and fall asleep upon his throne of bone and wood. Quietly, she replaced the ashes from three of the urns with the cow and sheep ashes and slipped out without anyone the wiser. 

Dr. Blackwell was sent to Clan Swinton, known for their agricultural knowledge and healing. Upon arrival by carriage, he took found the clan in the hands of the woman, who took him in willingly. He presented his writ and explained that he needed several containers filled with aloe to be extracted. Though Malcom Swinton was being treated by the woman, his wife, Rhona assured him they would comply. She did however, press him several times upon the formula for the cure, of which Dr. Blackwell only hinted or gave vague answers. Rhona insisted the doctor join them for supper while things were prepared, and when he awoke in the middle of the night – not remembering having fallen asleep, he was joined by a young woman of the clan. He felt his senses dulled and realized he must have been drugged. As the young woman asked him about the formula, he felt himself giving up the secrets of its creation. Before he had given up all the information, he reached into his soul and strengthened his resolve, clearing his mind of the haze from the drugs. He gave false information to the woman, who left him to his own devices, believing him still under the effects. Angrily, he confronted Rhona and demanded the aloe which was promised. Though they tried to delay while making the cure, the doctor was finally able to secure his ingredients on the carriage and left with all haste that very night.

Fabien took Clan Frazier as his choice, knowng the clan to be more closely aligned with Clan MacKensie by blood and knowing it to be one of the more worldly of the bannermen clans. Instead of presenting his writ to the official channels, Fabien spent some time listening, questioning, and locating someone in the underbelly of the clan who might deal in elicit goods. He soon discovered Callum and his daughter Malina. Fabian explained he sought a quantity of aniseed oil for some experiments he was doing. As evidence, he produced a book on the occult to Callum and fast talked the man into believing his words. Callum, eager to seem knowledgable, agreed. As Malina was preparing the oil, Callum spoke with Fabien about the clans and how they were now suspicious of one another. He mentioned it had been since the clan’s Highland Games several months ago. He did not attend personally, but when Jamie Frazier returned, there was much discussion about whether the Fraziers even needed the MacKensie’s. Callum had not heard talk of separating form the family before and it worried him. Operating as he did would be harder with only a single clan to service with elicit goods. He explains that Jamie and others in the clan suspected Clan Ainslie and Caldwell of cheating at the games, since Frazier usually came in the top two at the games. After getting this knowledge, Fabien left with the aniseed oil, paying a handsome bit of coin for it but getting it accomplished without bringing in the clan leaders.

Bonny herself visited Clan Monteith, the clan at the coast where the red sea clay was in abundance. Tristan Monteith remained in power and was quite resistant to giving his aid. While he conceded the clay was plentiful, he felt that Clan MacKensie had not paid much attention to his clan on the outskirts until something was needed. Bonny would not reveal the formula for the cure, though Tristan pressed for several times. In the end, he relented, not ready to announce his plans to leave the clan and take their trading and fishing expertise with him. Bonny was able to gather the clay, though Tristan offered no aid from his men or women. As she made ready to leave, she noticed she was being followed by two women from the clan. Confronting them, Bonny threatened them with punishment should they follow her back to Clan MacKensie or attempt to learn the formula for themselves. Despite the threats, they followed her back, their fate unknown.

With the ingredients gathered, Gillian became preparations to make enough of the cure to remedy all the men in the clan. It was Bonny’s hope that they were not too late to save every last man, and discover why the bannermen had become so fractured in their support and alliance with Clan MacKensie…

Rewards: 2 Experience (bankable), Connection (Captain Jack Harkness), Connection (Callum) [Fabien], Local Reputation: Highland Marches (Wise) [Zhennya], Local Reputation: Highland Marches (Unyielding) [Bonny], 1 Free use of "Handy" [Silvia], 1 Free use of "Cast Iron Stomach" [Dr. Blackwell]

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Canto 7 - An Tseanbhean sa Choill
As have the angels fallen, so men may rise...

2nd of Tertius, 1668 – Rancho Garcia (Altramirra, Castille)

The group made quick travel from Barcino to Buche, where Kasimir made his leave. Explaining that he needed to follow the trail of his old comrade, Manfred, and the only lead was the merchant headed for Sices. Everyone agreed to meet back in Buche in about 2 months to report in and see if Kasimir was returning. After the farewells, the rest of the group continued their trek towards Altamira to investigate Louisa's family, headed by Don Paolo Garcia de Soldano del Castille and his wife, Rosalita Vasquez Lopez de Garcia del Castille.

Upon arriving in Altamira, the group began questioning the locals about the Garcia family and its holdings. Zhennya, using her ability to get on with the common folk, found out that Dona Rosalita was very well liked by the people, especially the children and orphans for whom she would bring spare clothes, sweets, and food whenever she visited town. Unfortunately, the lady has not been seen in town for several weeks and many of the children have been asking about her whereabouts. Fabien, pulling upon his business contacts, discovered that the rancho's wine fields had been not properly prepared for the coming spring and many of the merchants worried that the family's wine production would be affected by this. One of the merchants went to investigate about a week ago and has not returned to town. Dr. Blackwell visited La Universitad de Arciniega and confirmed the legends about Iku-Turso. He found corroborating stories about the witch hazel unguent and its reputed property to be able to soften the hide of the beast. He did discover some additions to the rumors of bright lights distracting the creature, noting that it was more of rapidly changing light intensity that had this effect and not nearly the presence of bright light. Meanwhile, Silvia took the opportunity to nurse some local alcohol at a neighborhood bar before meeting up with the others. In another part of Altamira, Bonny was visiting a safe house she was familiar with. Her friends made a request that she escort a woman named Gina to Kirkwall, since Bonny and her companions were charting a ship anyways.

Regrouping, the heroes set out for Rancho Garcia about 10 miles from Altamira, along the Eisen border in fertile foothills of wine country. Along the way, Fabien and Zhennya noticed that the fields were indeed not prepared for spring planting and that weeds had overgrown many of the vines. There were also no people working in the fields. The only sign of activity was a carriage coming from the main villa. Bonny stopped the other carriage and spoke with the driver, who encouraged them to enjoy the entertainment being provided at the main house. His smile left the group wondering what could be going on. Upon arrival at the main gates, the heroes found them open and inviting and proceeded to the front doors. Several other carriages and horses were outside, some appearing not to have been tended to in some time. 

Upon knocking at the door, a scantily clad Castillian woman named Sera greeted the group and took an immediate interest in Bonny. When Bonny attempts to scout outside, Sera insists upon going with her. Getting closer to her, Bonny uses the distraction of getting kissed to knock Sera out and put her into a carriage for safekeeping while she becomes a peeing Tom. Bonny gets quite an eyefull as she looks into each window, seeing all manner of sexual appetites being sated.

Inside, the group quickly ask for the location of Don Paolo and Dona Rosalita and are directed to the upstairs master suite. There's a line outside of the door, but Dr. Blackwell thinks on his feet and offers up Fabien as a distraction to the pair of women waiting in line. It turns out that Marta and Julia are mother and daughter and are eager to experience some enjoyment with Fabien. Moving to one of the side rooms, Fabien leaves the pair and promises to return, but instead slips out into the hall and finds another man named Angelo to take his place with the women. After bursting into the main bedroom, the group encounters Dona Rosalita spanking a large Eisen man tied down with leather while Don Paolo watches naked in a nearby chair, sipping a glass of sangria and smoking a cigar. 

Upon questioning, Fabien learns that the family reunion had over a hundred attendees, mostly family but also family friends as well. At the party, there was a Castillian woman wearing a black mask that Don Paolo remembers kissing and perhaps more, as his memory is a bit hazy of the night. The mask was described as a smooth black mask with narrow eyes, a seductive grin for the mouth, and a blue symbol resembling a crown on the forehead. He also discusses how much wine flowed that night, and that many of the attendees got drunk and woke up with hangovers the next day.  Attempts to garner the Don's guilt about his daughter getting sick are met with a desire for her to return to her family.

After a brief physical examination of Dona Rosalita, Dr. Blackwell heads outside to examine the wine cellar. There he meets up with Bonny, who ended her peeping Tom rounds in the cellar. The two of them chased out the would be revelers and locked the wine cellar with the key Dr. Blackwell acquired by sweet talking Don Paolo. Finally, as one more step, Bonny put up a "Quarantine" sign on the front gates to dissuade others from entering. On a hunch, Silvia utilized one of her foul unguents to open up her eyes to the mystical realms. She was able to make out a faint bluish haze around the Don, Dona and many of the Castillians at the house. While the haze lingered on anyone who wasn't Castillian, it seemed to quickly fade as they were separated from the Castillians, even if the effects of passion did not.

Reflecting back on how the heroes managed to overcome the effects of sadness on the Eisen lord a few weeks prior, they separated all the occupants of the house into their own rooms or space, tied up. While Zhennya, Silvia, and Bonny keep the bound people fed and watered, Fabien and Dr. Blackwell visited the university to research the symbol. Though the university is one of the best in Castille, they were able to find only one reference to a similar symbol. In an obscure religious text from the ancient nation of Numa, there is a passage that speaks about someone named Aselgeia along with a hand drawn symbol in a circle that looks somewhat like the symbol described by Don Paolo. Fabien and Dr. Blackwell were able to translate from the Numanari…

"Enchanted by the sight as he received the sweet maddening spark in a heart which knew it not. 

The overking was worsted by a child, Aselgeia's touch set afire this Bearer of the Crown. 

Not the deluge of the flood, not the fiery lightning could help its possessor

There was none to quell the heavy-booming din from this lovebreeding kiss."

After the duo returned to the villa, the group decided to hire some people to care for the Castillian's in the villa for the next several weeks, keeping them apart but also fed and watered. Zhennya was able to recruit some nursemaids and midwives who were used to this type of work, while Bonny was able to bring in some of her friends, who would perform the task in exchange for her escorting of Gina. The group left these woman with some coin for food and payment and left Altamira for the coast, arriving in Crieux several days later, after a brief but harrowing chase by a group of Vodacce men demanding that Maddalena be turned over to them. Gina, the new arrival in the carriage, was not forthcoming with much information, except that she was from Vodacce and had been on the run from some bad men who had assaulted her in the past.

5th of Tertius, 1668 – Clan MacKensie (Northwest, Highland Marches)

Dr. Blackwell made contact with Gerard DuPaix in Crieux and after some coins exchanged hands, the group was able to board the "Dawn Trader" the next morning, captained by an Avalonian named Captain Reynolds. The crew left the passengers mostly to their own devices, but it was obvious that this crew was quite a diverse bunch, including many crewmen and women from the Crescent Empire as well as the far south of Ifri. The Captain was quite reluctant to travel to the Maw in search of a sea monster, but after more coins changed hands, the ship set off to the east…but that is a story for another day…

Upon recovery of the legendary sword, the crew made repairs and made for Kirkwall in the northern Marches. Once upon dry land again, Fabien fell to his knees and wept, having spent most of the trip green in the face and releasing the contents of his stomach over the railing multiple times a day. Bonny quickly made arrangements for a carriage to take the group to the south west into the MacKensie lands of her father and his bannermen. 

15th of Tertius, 1668 – Clan MacKensie (Northwest, Highland Marches)

Upon reaching Clan Ainsley lands, one Colurn MacKensie's bannermen, it was clear something was wrong. The fields showed no signs of tending for the spring and there was very little activity occurring. When questioned, the women of the clan explained that the men of Clan Ainsley, and in fact all of the men in Clan MacKensie's lands had been stricken with a wasting disease and seemed to age them beyond their years. This was confirmed when young Angus, a seventeen year old boy, emerged to see what was going on and appeared to be easily in his thirties but more infirm than he should have been. When asked how the clans were dealing with it, the women assured Bonny that they did not need anyone else's help and their wisewoman was working on a cure and they were positive she was only days away. Finding the cure would certainly elevate Clan Ainsley in Colurn's eyes. They mentioned trying to get a jump on Clan Frazer and Clan Caldwell who had both beaten the Ainsley clan in the Winter Highland Games earlier that year. 

Fearing the worst, Bonny and the rest bypassed other clan lands and headed directly to Clan MacKensie, only to find the same state of things. Bonny immediately checked on her father, finding him weak and aged beyond his years. Bedridden, he was still defiant about women not having their fair say in the running of the clan. Colurn did mention that Gillian had left the Clan, claiming she would be working on a cure for this wasting disease. It seemed odd though, given that Colurn had forced the man she loved, Duncan MacKensie, to marry another woman for the benefit of the clan. Gillian had been devastated as it had occurred during the Highland Games. Gillian then left the Marches for parts unknown and was gone for several weeks. When she returned, she seemed to have a renewed purpose and everyone felt she had worked out her grief.

Knowing what her friend had procured, Bonny encouraged the group to track down Gillian and the witch Bodicea, fearing the two of them had worked together on the wasting curse. After several hours of tracking, the group located the witch Bodicea's cottage in the deep part of the woods that border the MacKensie lands. There were a ring of small animal skulls on sticks, stuck into the ground in a large circle around the structure. Crossing the threshold, the heroes found themselves amidst a wind storm, and Silvia suffered intense cold when she touched one of the skulls. Drawing upon her knowledge of wisewomen and soothsayers in Ussura, Zhennya took it upon herself to approach the cottage with a small rabbit as tribute. She was allowed into the cottage and spoke with Bodicea. The old woman appeared to be of Inish ancestry and was very polite, if not unnerving. Zhennya elicited a deal from Bodicea, that she would reveal the terms of Gillian's contract if Zhennya brought her the book Gillian had recovered from the mainland. It turns out that Bodicea had lost some control over her student after Gillian had brought the Buch von Untoten.  

Leaving Bodicea's cottage, the group continued on into the wilds, tracking down Gillian's cottage. It was smaller and had a wolf skull hanging over the front door instead of a ring of small animal skulls. This made the group nervous at the sign of a predator skull. Zhennya took a small nap while a nearby forest mouse made its way into the cottage. Gillian was inside brewing something in a pot and had a set of predator bones on a table in the rough shape of a quadruped. After Zhennya reported what she'd seen, Bonny decided to approach. Hoping she would admit an old friend, Bonny, Zhenny and Silvia approached the cottage while the men hid. Gillian seemed surprised but pleased to see her old friend, inviting all three women in after eliciting a vow that they would not touch nor disturb anything within the cottage. 

The meeting was fruitful, with Gillian seeming pleased that what she had done to the men of the clan would enable what Bonny had always wanted: that women would have more power and say in the clan. Though her methods were extreme, she appeared to have good intentions along with a desire to get vengeance on Colurn MacKensie for betrothing her love to another. Gillian's greatest desire is to be free of Bodicea's contract so that she may grow her power independent of the other witch. Bonny does learn that Gillian's contract involves servicing Bodicea in a ceremony once a month and in exchange Bodicea taught Gillian what she knew to release her heart's desire. It turns out her heart's desire was to see women in control of their destinies. She also informs the women that killing Bodicea while the contract is in effect would effectively kill Gillian, but that Gillian's death would end the contract. Silvia asked what the skeleton bones were for, to which Gillian explained it was a protector in case she were attacked by any men who might be lurking about. With this information, the three left, met up with Fabien and Dr. Blackwell and headed back to Bonny's father.

Colurn continued to argue against giving the clan women more power, until Bonny explained he would be dead and the clan would be disbanded. Reluctantly he agreed to sign a proclamation, giving women equal rights to voting and a say in the clan's direction and making Bonny the clan's leader upon his death. After he affixed his seal, Colurn passed out, having only days to live by all of Dr. Blackwell's diagnosis. On the trip back to Gillian's Dr. Blackwell and Fabien discuss a plan they hatched during the trip. In order to free Gillian from the contract, she had to die. Dr. Blackwell knew of a combination of herbs and medicine that would stop Gillian's heart. He would after a few moments be able to restart her heart and bring her back to life. Though the women were skeptical of this, they agreed it seemed the right way to about this.

Upon arrival back at Gillian's, all the heroes again made their vow and entered the cottage. They explained their plan to stop Gillian's heart, to which she was reluctant. After a heavy discussion and Bonny showing Gillian what her father had signed, Gillian relented. She agreed to turn over the Buch von Untoten after they freed her from Bodicea's control. She did warn that should anything happen to her, the guardian would attack those who had harmed her. Putting her trust in her old friend and Dr. Blackwell, Gillian was given medicine that essentially killed her. While the heroes watched, a dark form left her body and dissipated. During the process, Dr. Blackwell performed exceedingly well, prevent the guardian from accidentally animating. When Gillian awoke, she not only felt free of Bodicea's control but also had a renewed guilt over what she'd done. She gladly turned over the book to Silvia, glad to be rid of it. Vowing to give up the witchcraft, she did aid Silvia in deciphering a cure for the wasting disease. It needed to be delivered to each affected man personally. 

Brewing the cure proved difficult, as the ingredients of angels wings, corpse dust, amerith leaves, sea clay, aniseed oil, and extract of aloe grew in different parts of MacKensie lands, each owned by a bannerman's clan. The clans themselves would still not work together, each vowing they would be the ones to cure the men. The heroes gathered the ingredients and brewed the cure, delivering it first to Colurn MacKensie, giving Gillian and Bonny credit for delivering it. Gillian was welcome back into the clan as the men began to slowly recover. Though there was much grumbling about the women having more power, it was indeed a new dawn for Clan MacKensie and perhaps the example would spread through the Highlands.

As the heroes celebrated their victory, there were still unanswered questions…what happened at the Highland Games that winter to cause the clans' bannermen to become so insular and reluctant to work with one another. Bonny vowed she would get to the bottom of this anomaly while she was back home and the rest of the group agreed to stay and help her…

Rewards: 1 Experience (bankable), 1 Wealth, Item Story (4-pt Companion): Skeletal Guardian

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Canto 6 - Il Pescatore e Sua Moglie
In absence it cannot grow...

Having gathered the evidence they could against Andrea Foscari, the band of heroes decided to continue their travels back towards Montaigne. Though the atrocities they feared Madame DuBois might inflict upon the children she had taken weighed heavily in their minds, the needs of their own companions were of paramount importance. A decision was made to travel by trade roads to Barcino and the Buche before turning northwards to the coast. There they would find a ship that would take them to the shores of Avalon and the Highland Marches then east to The Maw. Kasimir expressed his concerns with heading so far north and vowed that he would travel with them until Buche and there he would make his way west to Sices, following the trail of his once companion Manfred who is now said to be in the employ of Henri DuPont.

Having made their preparations, the group set off north for Barcino, stopping at Techo Rojo, the green-roofed inn at the crossroads east of Barcino. While there, Bonny convinced the proprietor, Señor Enrique Vasquez to allow Silvia to use his kitchen after hours to make a special “family recipe” stew. Juan, the stable boy, promised to take extra care of the group’s horses after the last incident, and Enrique even provided free room and board to the group, partly to make up for the unfortunate theft last time and to thank them for what they had done for the farmers and villagers to the east. He even had a small gift for Dr. Blackwell, left for him by the refugees the doctor had healed several weeks ago. A small, wooden treasure box, hand carved with motifs of the hills and trees of Eisen. There are small hinges and a pewter latch on the box and the observant eye may notice figures camouflaged within the forest on each side. Silvia made several batches of her Hexenwerk, using leftover ‘safe ingredients’ for a stew, that while tasty, did not cause the culinary taste buds of the inn-goers to soar as promised. The next morning, the group continued on their way to Barcino, making good time to arrive mid-afternoon.

After arriving, the group split up to check in on things. Fabian asked around about Doctor Francisco Esperanza, only to find that the doctor was recovering from wounds given in a duel, arranged by Lucas Bourassa as satisfaction for the advances made with his wife, Louisa. Silvia and Zhennya decided to relax and have some drinks and play some cards until the group decided what to do. During their game, they heard rumors of one of the priests at the church being accused of adultery with some of the wives he was supposed to console and offer conciliation to after the Doctor had been challenged. Meanwhile, Dr. Blackwell and Bonny wanted to check in with Father Pedro Escalante, the good minister who Dr. Blackwell had told about the potential goings on with the Bourassas. Upon arriving, there was a mob scene, with angry men, women and some other onlookers gathered at the doors to the church, threatening to storm the place if Manuelo was not turned over to them. Father Escalante did his best to turn them aside, but it was clear a riot was about to break out. Luckily, Dr. Blackwell was able to use calm and reason, admonishing some of the men to leave and allow Theus to judge. On their way back from the bar, Silvia and Zhennya happened upon the scene, to which Zhennya quickly muscled her way in and threatened some of the men with how their mothers would react to their actions. Fabian, ever the helpful one, spurred on the crowd, drawing in another half dozen men seeking justice. Bonny, like Zhennya, tried to disperse the men, giving them the idea they should hire a duelist to champion their cause. As the crowd thinned, the rest left, muttering they would return.

With the steps cleared, the group was quickly shown in to where Father Escalante had locked Manuelo Gustavo, a recently ordained young man, in the church’s rectory. After the father had inquired about the infidelities of several of the women, including Louisa, he had begun offering penance to the women and listening to their tales. The number of women was too much for him, and he enlisted the aid of Manuelo, hoping he could give the young priest his first assignment. Soon, more accusations were flying but this time at Manuelo, accused of infidelities with the same women he was sent to receive penance from. Testing their theories the group watched as Manuelo made advances upon Zhennya, Bonny, and even Fabien as he attempted to console them. His mannerisms suggested that while he was aware of his actions, he was not acting upon his own impulses and even justified his actions as righteous. Surely, there must be something else going on. Interrupting this interrogation, a duelist knocked upon the church doors and demand to issue his challenge to Manuelo. The duelist, Franco, had been hired by Ricardo Montalben, one of the husbands whose wife Manuelo had ministered to. Knowing he had no sword skills, Manuelo quickly accepted the offer to hire Fabien as his champion, offering a church favor in payment.

Franco, not prepared to face a trained duelist still ignited the crowd into a frenzy, giving him a much needed boost to morale. However, it was not enough to win him the day as Fabien feinted nimbly and lunged quickly, drawing first blood in the duel and by extension, determining Manuelo’s innocence. The crowd that had gathered dispersed, though many vowed to return again for satisfaction.

 

Fearing something supernatural or involving witchcraft, the group made their way to Lucas’s manor to speak with his wife. In preparation, Zhennya used her gifts of Matushka to see through the eyes of a small mouse that wandered into Louisa’s room. While she seemed disheveled and in need of a bath, she appeared otherwise unharmed but bored, locked as she was in her room. After some convincing, Lucas admitted Fabien to the room Dr. Blackwell, while Silva, Zhennya, and Bonny waiting in another room, though another mouse had made its way into the bedroom to listen. The conversation did not yield much concrete information, but the Doctor was able to draw forth from Louisa some recollection of the family reunion she had been at in Altamira before her return to Barcino. Louisa appeared cured of whatever had caused her to engage and such lascivious acts outside of the marriage bonds. She seemed to have a somewhat hazy recollection of the family reunion, must as Manuelo had some hazy recollections of how far things progressed with the women he met with. Through the conversation, Louisa did recall a young woman who attended the reunion wearing a black mask with narrow eyes and a suggestive mouth. While others at the party wore masks, this one stood out to Louisa. Finally, she did admit for the first time, that she passed out at the party and awoke the next day amidst family and friends alike at the rancho, where she developed her fever and returned home. 

When the discussion ended, Lucas was amazed that such sorcery could exist and forgave his wife. The party, for their part, were determined now to visit Altamira on their way north and speak to Louisa’s father, Don Paolo Garcia Vasquez de Soldano. Perhaps there was more to be discovered about these strange black masks and the people who wore them…

Rewards: 1 XP (bankable), Fabien: Local Reputation (Castille): Decisive, Dr. Blackwell: Local Reputation (Castille): Pious

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Canto 5 - La Pentola Magica Polenta
The blind do not think clearly...

After defeating Gregor Schroder's twisted resurrection of his sons, the group conferred on what to do with both Gregor and the Dracheneisen armor that the creature had been wearing. There was a lively and often times serious debate, with some of the group wanting to see the Lord of Stahlfort put to death or turned over to the Eisen military for punishment, and others wanting to see him offered a chance at redemption. The lord himself was so overcome with grief at what damage he had done, he was accepting of whatever sentence the group would determine.

In the end, redemption was seen as the better solution, giving Gregor a chance to repay in some measure his damage and also offer hope for the future. In addition to repaying for the damage caused to the Vaticine shrines in Castille, he would make reparations to the families of those killed by the creature as well as those killed to further his nefarious studies into the twisted version of Hexenwerk he attempted. Trudah and Herbert, the members of Die Kruezritter in the fort agreed to keep an eye on the Lord, and perhaps learn what he knew of this strange sorcery he was attempting to practice. As he could no longer be Lord of the Fort, his Captain, Franz Miller, took over the post in the interim. In addition, the three pieces of crusader armor (helmet, breastplate, and greaves) were given to Kasimir for safekeeping, with the hope that one day he might assemble the remaining pieces.

Their jobs done at the fort, the party traveled by barge down to Tarago, loading up the carriage and several horses to expedite the trip. After arriving in the port city two days later, the group set up to gather information that would lead them to Andrea Foscari and the missing Giovinco fortune. Dr. Blackwell took it upon himself to question the church, but the clergy there recommended he speak with their brethren in Soldano as the Foscari family has holdings there. Fabien spoke with some merchants, known to both he and Andrea, and discovered that indeed Andrea had been in Tarago recently but had not been seen back here since leaving for Eisen. Kasimir visited one of Tarago's libraries and after some time discovered that he was correct: the armor was indeed part of a crusder's armor, and while the Chalice motif was common, the Drachen insignia meant that it was likely the armor of a special forces officer. Silvia took to the shadows, sneaking aboard La Nebbia del Mattino "Morning Mist" under cover of darkness. She discovered the manifest, showing the ship was departing the next day. She also recovered a crumpled, discarded paper with details about how Foscari took over the DiNunzio family's wine trade in Tarago by plating evidence of slavery and turning the family's ships over to the authorities. Finally, Bonny played the role of temptress well, flirting with sailors to find out that Foscari had paid for several dockhands and sailors with Giovinco gold when he arrived in town over a week ago.

Having all the information they could, the group set off for Soldano, using the trade road and making good time. The trip took five days and upon arriving, they immediately began making plans for retrieving the Giovinco fortune and finding out all they could about Andrea’s recent takeovers of local businesses. Dr. Blackwell, speaking to the Vaticine church in town, discovered that while the Foscari family had always been a friend of the church, lately their availability to help with church shipments had waned and it seemed the family had not been as involved in shipping as it had. He also discovered that Andrea has two children, Donatello and Claudia, and Donatello has had some say in the day to day operations in Soldano. Fabien continues to question merchants to discover that Foscari is in town and he and about twenty men have been spending time between the warehouse and manor house. Zhennya, while questioning some locals, learns that the Andrea tried to buy the Nunez farm and when the owner, Don Miguel Rafael Nunez de Soldano did not sell, his farmlands caught fire two days later and burned to the ground. Bonny continued to use her wiles to gather information from the sailors and learned that the men Andrea came with had not been seen in several days before a ship left the private Foscari pier a few days ago.

Eager to find more wrongdoings by Andrea Foscari, the group set out to scout the Foscari warehouses. Zhennya used her Matushka charms to encourage a small mouse to scout around inside the warehouse. The mouse manages to get into most of the areas, but at one locked door, the mouse’s instincts take over and it darts away, ending Zhennya’s second sight. Meanwhile, Silvia uses her Hexenwerk to scout the inside of the manor house as an astral form. She locates Andrea’s room but finds it empty. The son, Donatello, is here but nothing else seems amiss.

Silvia and Fabien, armed with the knowledge Zhennya provided, sneak in at night, easily breaking through the locks on the outer doors. Upon entering the main loading docks, they discover the source of the putrid scent as a dozen recently dead men rise up and lumbar towards the duo. They quickly drop four of the creatures, and Fabien – noticing that they follow the source of light he carries – lures them out of the building into the waiting group of Zhennya, Kasimiar, Bonny and Dr. Blackwell, who not seeing Silvia, rushes around to the pier side and looks for another entrance. Outside, the heroes make short work of the walking dead, but soon discover that the creatures are quick to rise back to their feet after the first blow. With this knowledge, they set about stabbing, cutting, and bludgeoning the bodies until they cannot stand again.

Inside, Silvia discovers a near empty cauldron of what appears to be Funeral Porridge, along with blood stains on the floor and walls. Dr. Blackwell quickly throws open the loading dock doors as the four dead men rise again inside to attack Silvia. Together, the Doctor and Silvia dispatch the same creatures a second time and put together that Andrea Foscari must have tested his porridge on his own men before leaving for the coast with the rest of the Hexenwork unguents. Quickly, everyone pulls the bodies inside to avoid suspicion and onlookers. Inside, they discover the Giovinco gold and Fabien is able to recover a portion of what was stolen from his family.

Later that night, Silvia and Fabien again pair up to break in to the manorhouse this time. They find in Andrea’s room a list of prominent Vodacce families and their businesses, many of which are circled. The DiNunez family name is crossed out. Ominously, the Giovinco family name is also listed and circled. Also, a dark wooden box is discovered with a soft velvet lining. The indentation in the velvet shows that it once contained a mask of some type. Having the evidence he needs, Fabien anonymously reports the murders to the alcade, who quickly seize control of the warehouse, Donatello Foscari and the Foscari manor as they investigate.

As the group ready themselves to leave, having recovered some amount of wealth, Fabien writes two letters. The first goes to Claudia, daughter of Andrea who was last seen in Pioro, to warn her of what her father has been doing in Soldano. The second is a detailed letter about Fabien used his skills to track down Andrea, discover what he’d done, and recover the stolen coins. He also includes the evidence he’s found about Andrea’s dealings in the hopes that his father will restore his status within the family…

Rewards: 1 Wealth, 1 XP (bankable)

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