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