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