27 June 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Eleven

Still no siege, as this session ended up being very light on screen-time for Scharf and his expedition southward. Instead focus was on events in Himmelfeuer and (to end with) Drachenmalstein.

We began with the private audiences that the baron had offered. Only Pou and Lady FitzCarstein took up the offer [of the PCs], as Scharf left to see to organising his men – 30 or so – who would rendezvous with local Kupfers once they reached the southlands.

Pou was first to see the Baron, and they talked about the common man, faith and the plans for Die Kupfers. Pou mentioned official militia status, and how the men were all volunteers, the Baron countered with talk of chains of command, formalised structure and the need to stand down for their future if a given fight was un-winnable. Pou had concerns about how his men would react to being placed under the direct command of Scharf and his small cadre of career soldiery, and as a result – stressing the need for order, men of faith, and standards/reliability, Pou quickly found himself officially named Lieutenant, officer in charge of the Militia. He was a little taken aback by this – formalised rank being the last thing Pou craved – but was at least happy that the Baron agreed with his plans to man the castle from the ranks of the newly official militia. He was to choose his men, prepare them, and present them to the Baron in a week, when they would take occupancy of the castle.

Lady FitzCarstein’s meeting followed Pou’s directly; she caught wind of his title from Gottfrid as she was presented to the Baron, retorting with telling and touching questions about the nature of the box(es) the steward held for Werner. Once alone with the Baron, Lady F counselled the unthinkable – that the Baron disowned his only offspring and sever his family line, thus permitting him to name a worthy heir (and the Lady presented herself as willing to take this role). She spoke of how she knew it was not possible for him to do this, as a father, but how it was the only way that she could see the Barony he had built surviving the oncoming troubles. The Baron, naturally refused. Helena also spoke of the lands to the North and how she was requesting aid – from her father and the Order of the Raven, but also from other lords in the south of the Empire. Alas, she also wanted to be able to send refugees there to harbour, but the Lords would require assurances beyond the tax breaks on travel and trade that she could offer. She tied this in to needing the Baron to offer the prize, and intimated this could only be realised if he did sever ties with Josephine, naming Helena heir in her place, then offered the Lady’s hand to a Lord or his heir. Again the Baron had none of it – it would be too big a betrayal, at least before the Templars had arrived. He did, however, bid Lady FitzCarstein to take his addled brother, Gerhardt, to Drachenmalstein for safe keeping. The Baron argued that if the plan was for them all to shelter there if the attack did come then Gerhardt in his fragile mental state would need more time to prepare and travel than would the rest. The Lady agreed and said she would do this. However she left the meeting angry [for more reasons that outlined here, I suspect] and instead left Himmelfeuer that night, alone, and rode through the night to reach Drachenmalstein.

Next morning Scharf was up, prepared and leading his men off early – but only after stopping by Pou’s foundry for some bits and pieces. Pou wasn’t there, though they had arranged terms the previous evening, and Scharf let himself in to seize the goods. As he led his men out from the castle courtyard, the word was already going round that Lady F was missing.

Pou had got up late(ish) and was in the inn, talking over his “promotion” and wedding plans with Herbert, whose daughter Cornelia was also present and, as a trained book-keeper, quickly assumed responsibility for number-crunching the nuptials. A little later, as he was overseeing a drilling practice, Pou felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to find Jonn, his hitherto missing foreman, looking him in the face, and seeming worse for wear. Jonn bade Pou follow him to the shop – where they found evidence of a break-in and hoped it was down to Scharf taking the arranged goods, though the thought of the theft irked Pou all the same – and more so after Jonn told his tale as the foreman didn’t trust Scharf at all. But the majority of his tale had been how he’d disappeared to track the retreating Tileans in the aftermath of the attack on Gunter, only to get jumped by bandits, who had tortured him and from whom he had only just managed to escape. Jonn spoke of hearing that Scharf was asking about him from a barkeep who had overheard the Captain’s conversation with Pou some nights before and felt that Scharf was trying to divide and conquer a bit.

Pou still had time to arrange for a few trusted Kupfers to head west looking for Josephine, with strict instructions to make her aware that people were looking for her, and to try to keep her safe.

Meanwhile Lady FitzCarstein reached a silent Drachenmalstein as it approached midday. There was no answer to her approach, knock or call – a truly unusual and disturbing find. It was only after a while when the wind died and she heard faint sounds of life from inside the castle proper carrying out. Annoyed before she arrived, and angry now, she tried the gate and found it unlocked. As she moved in it was clear the noise was coming from the great hall. She proceeded through, and upon throwing open the hall doors found almost her entire staff present. Jurgen was on the dais along with a figure tied to a stake. Helena’s brother hit him once, causing him to pass out.

Helena strode to the dais angry, shouting a challenge to her employees that they had work to do. As she got closer she recognised the limp figure: Helmut von Schicksal, the self-styled “lord” of another Border province. Jurgen claimed he was the poisoner who murdered the four monks of Morr – he was found uninvited and unwelcome in the Underworks, some time after their deaths.

Helena brought the man round and interrogated him. He confessed to the trespass (which could not be denied) but asserted it was accidental whilst pursuing academic interests from caves outside the castle, and categorically denied murder. Lady F laid out her position – including that she had hoped von Schicksal might be an ally in the coming trouble with vampiric forces, the mention of which caught him by surprise. She inquired much of him, his past and how he claimed to be where he was, then consigned him to the cells to await further decisions. Jurgen was livid but Helena would not summarily execute him without talking to him further and learning of how he came to be inside the walls.

Ended promisingly, and with the knowledge that the next session will start (and likely focus) with Scharf’s march southwards and what he finds there, and giving enough information to Lady F to convince her to keep von Schicksal alive was a big bonus for me.

Need to figure out how to write these sooner and quicker though – much missed, much forgotten and still too long and too late!

19 June 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Ten

Bit overdue, this; where to begin?

There was a flurry of email traffic after the shocking revelations that brought session 9 to a close with a bang. Reactions to, and continuations of, the conversation Scharf instigated were flying through cyberspace as fast as they could be typed – it was clear that IC trust dropped through the floor, but out of character enjoyment was riding high. A lot of the substance of the emails was replaying in person at the table at the start of this session – partly because one player had been away and missed the avalanche of messages, and partly because the conversation had more to run that was covered in either the previous session or mails.

Recall of specifics is weak, however:

1) Trust issues were thoroughly laid out – with Scharf essentially being sidelined by the others as far as making wartime plans went, for (paranoid, but vaguely justified) fear that said plans would get back to the enemy somehow.

2) Basic arrangements – largely those in line with what Scharf had already laid out – agreed upon; chiefly this meant arranging for the Baron to move to take residence in Drachenmalstein for the time being.

3) Whether Pou and Lady F would support Scharf if he made his accusation of Werner. Pou was hesitant, citing a lack of solid evidence as a particular worry, and Lady FitzCarstein was supportive, yet careful to make sure everyone knew the potential risks. In the end both seemed (outwardly, at least) ready to support the motion.

The discussion was petering along and out when they heard and saw the clamour of a coach arriving at the castle. Somehow Brunnenhing had found a way to get himself back to Himmelfeuer and, with all the councillors back in town, should the Baron live up to his word, he was due to make an appearance. The arrival of the coach broke up the picnic altogether, Pou rushing off to confirm who it was and Scharf insisting he had another meeting to make. Before he could go, however, Lady FitzCarstein was overcome by impulse and – with Pou retreating into the distance – suddenly grasped the Captain and kissed him full on the lips, before turning away and storming off, angry with herself for her loss of control.

The three PCs then split and went their own ways – Scharf to his meeting with an unspecified individual, Pou to find some of the Coppers and arrange for riders to be sent to gather more in number, as well as to try to find the Baron’s wife to table a proposal regarding the future (not that he found her). Meanwhile Lady FitzCarstein paid a visit to the brothel – seeking to congratulate the future Mrs de Burns, and to pry a little about Pou, without much luck – before retreating to her room to pen urgent letters – to Pou (concerning mercantile matters), to her father (begging troops), and to the steward she had sent to manage Brunnenhing’s lands to warn and advise him of the dark horizons.

All three were interrupted part way through their doings by the bell summoning them to council.

The meeting began with all bar Pou and Lady F present – along with Georg Bodendreck, who was standing at Werner’s right shoulder. The Baron was not yet anywhere to be seen but the general milling of servants and Gottfrid began to strongly suggest he would be making an appearance. The atmosphere was testy, and got slightly darker as Lady FitzCarstein arrived bearing a note of bad tidings. She did not share with the room at large but did let Scharf know: Jurgen had just sent word that the four monks of Morr were dead, poisoned by assassins unknown whilst resident in Drachenmalstein!

Not long thereafter Pou appeared, also looking concerned, for he too had received a message as he made his way to the council chamber. Purportedly from Gunter down in the southern reaches of the barony, it said simply: “Help. Under siege!”

The first business at the table was what Georg was doing there; Werner claimed a motion would be tabled to add Georg to the council at the Baron’s decree, but beyond its mention it was pushed down the pecking order by Pou’s revelation of his note, and the talk of war it demanded. The urgency this imbued stayed Scharf’s hand and the accusation he was to level at the chancellor stayed under wraps. Instead Werner was pressed on how the coffers fared and what, if any, provision might be available for spending as a war chest – hiring mercenaries, paying soldiers and so forth. This pressing was harsh, but not unfair and Werner (grudgingly) revealed a fair amount. Motions were then taken to prompt securing said outside help through contacts maintained by individual councillors.

The further discussions were postponed by the Baron’s appearance. Hubst von Feuerwaffen may have been frail but he was abreast of goings on and rumour and coherent. He was keen to dispel thoughts of his ill health, and then moved swiftly on to the most pressing matter that concerned him directly – the succession, should he come to harm. He asked each councillor in turn for their candid and honest opinion on who should inherit the title and land in his passing. Captain Shcarf spoke first and mentioned Lady FitzCarstein as an astute politician, land manager and suitable noble, also mentioning Pou’s standing with the people and solid financial head. Lady F herself somewhat played down her case, but indicated she thought many of those at the table would do aptly in the role. Herbert spoke up and surprised Pou by mentioning him very strongly, whilst Brunnenhing unsurprisingly mentioned himself as his standing as heir by default suggested he might. Pou was unsure, but re-stated his support for the Baron and the continuation of a noble line; Werner, too, was unsure, answering last and committing a common thought to word: he would rather the Baron survived the coming conflict and give more time to find Josephine a suitable suitor.

The Baron thanked everyone for their input, before unsurprisingly revealing his own position; he would rather the control stayed within his family if possible. However he revealed deep seated worries about Josephine’s suitability and possible “taint”; he had, he said, been confined praying to Sigmar for guidance over what to do about her – something he had neglected for “too long” and claimed his God had given him answer and guidance at last: he had sent for Templars. Witch Hunters. He claimed that he needed to know whether Josephine was “tainted” as he feared, and that if not then matters of succession would be solved by his daughter being given proper training and tuition for the role of heiress. If she should be found to have such a stained morality… well, it was a gambit, but one he had already committed to. This cast a further dark mood over the gathered councillors and it was almost enough to prevent the vote on Georg’s councillorship taking place, but for Lady FitzCarstein’s remembering of the issue. The Baron did indeed sanction the move, and so Georg was voted in, no doubt his case strengthened by the fact his lands ran the southern border of the Barony and were even now possibly under assault.

The Baron left, then, pausing only to leave open invites to each of his councillors to a private session that evening should they wish it. There was still time, if not the right mood for it, for Pou to announce the details of his forthcoming wedding before the meeting broke up and the councillors went their separate ways to make preparations for meeting the threat to the south, and whatever else they had planned…

Interesting session that in the end turned out very differently from the expected; I had pitched the notes given to Lady F and Pou for a situation where they would be revealed after the accusation of Werner – designed to perhaps lessen their support for incarcerating him now and possibly leaving Scharf – gambit played – in a difficult position.

Instead they probably just funnelled the silence. The Baron’s revelation added urgency – especially given no-one knows where exactly Josephine is right now; she did not arrive with Brunnenhing – but not necessarily the depth of concern it would have had the news of a southerly “siege” not been broken.

The council scene was tense, and it was interesting to see how people answered when put on the spot by their liege. I enjoyed setting Pou up for being recommended – it is the last thing the character actually would want – and changing the dynamic on the council, which had become somewhat predictable.

Not yet decided who or what the siege is (it should play out tomorrow) or just how I’m going to advance from here. Hoping that some of the players will take up the offer of one-on-ones with the Baron as it will give me a source of ideas if nothing else. Feeling that it is certainly all drawing in now, but I’ve been under the weather since this session was played and so the game has been something of a tertiary thought – to its detriment and my dissatisfaction. I just hope that will not cloud the potential strength of the next session or few…

17 June 2007

Things what need doing

I am pondering, on the litany of endless small chores.

There are always more, and how few ever get done... Is it any wonder I feel perpetually ineffectual? Weekends aren't long enough, sleep deserts me too long and my mind is atrophying yet any sense of knowing what I want to do, or of the drive required to realise it are sadly ever absent.

And so I remain - endlessly fed up.

The Joy, and Frustration, of Achievement Points

One of the things I both love and hate about gaming on the Xbox 360, achievement points are surely a point of interest about the platform.

Yes, they are very pointless and measure nothing; gamerscore is utterly pointless and representative of nothing (except perhaps the amount of time and money one has to put into gaming). Where they shine is pointing out potentially fun stuff that one might otherwise miss, or not bother to investigate. Where they incense, enrage and frustrate is where they apply to things that can almost be reached but then are whisked away by some failure of skill, concentration or other such failing, only to then require starting over (on the path to that achievement, at least).

In the former case come things like putting novelty masks on zombies in Dead Rising, or climbing to the top of - and jumping off - the top of the Agency Tower in Crackdown. These kind of incentives are great; the processes of getting them are amusing, fun, and (generally) voluntarily accepted challenges. On the other hand, the single achievement that frustrates me the most is that to get 5 consecutive shutouts in NHL2k7. This, by contrast, falls into the category of achievements that frustrate purely because they exist. If it did not, then conceding for the first time after 4 games and 2 1/2 periods would be a minor annoyance, not a "oh god, now I have to do all that again!" moment. (Yes, that did happen to me; and yes I realise this makes me a sad man, but I've known this for a while - hell the very fact I write anything here at all lends credence to that idea).

This observation of minor standing comes after I finally caved and ordered my 7th title for the console. The sheer number of people I vaguely know who are playing Shadowrun, plus the tactical depth they have reported it as supporting, combined with rewarding support play, have worn me down, and I expect it to drop through my door during the week. I might well come to regret the decision, but I'm sure it will be good for a few solid hours of laughter and fun all the same.

So long as I don't fall into the trap of trying to get the achievements, at least!

03 June 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Nine

Between the end of the last session and the beginning of this one I had asked for insight on how the characters were seeing things – expressed thoughts from their point of view; in addition Scharf’s player emailed me a scheme and plan to be carried out in between sessions such that it had been completed “off-screen” by the time we got to the table. These two things have combined to massively increase out-of-game email and communications traffic, increasing the flow of ideas and, I think, the impact of the game.

This session really sparked the beginning of the climax, the power moves and has really set a (suitably vague) timetable for the end of the run. Not much seemed to happen for the most part, but it was all just build up for a cracking final scene which, I think, left everyone gaping a little.

It was the morning after Georg had arrived at Drachenmalstein, and already Lady FitzCarstein was planning to leave: the potential appearance of the Baron at a full council meeting had to be answered, after all. Georg would have protested, but instead saw fit to accompany Helena, not divulging his reasons for doing so. The Lady was content to have him along, though not with the huge wagon train he had brought to Drachenmalstein, which Georg had to abandon to his servants.

They arrived in town that evening, and whereas the Lady would normally take residence in the castle, this time she bought herself and her brother in law rooms in Herbert’s inn, to the consternation of the Mayor and fellow councillor. Helena admitted to Georg that the reasons for this were just to unsettle Herbert, whose positions on the council and activities outside of it were putting him very much at odds with the Lady of Drachenmalstein. As they were sitting down to dinner, the four Monks of Morr that Pou de Burns and Captain Scharf had met down south the previous day arrived looking for warm food and beds for the night. Recognising them for what they were, Helena joined them for a meal and introduced herself. She was keen to ask about their time down south, their origins, and what they would do now; they told her, as they had Scharf the day before, about fleeing a violent peasant reaction to their presence whilst within Duke Mörder’s borders, about their 5 years or more of spreading Morr’s tenets and word across the less than civilised lands of the Border Princes and their plans now to head back to the civilized lands of the Empire.

Lady F bade them stop at Drachenmalstein on the way, to acquaint themselves with Jurgen (a knight in the service of Morr, whom the monks knew by reputation) and further inform him of their findings. Helena had suspicions that she may need to call on the Order for assistance if Duke Mörder did prove to be more than human and the tensions exploded into full blooded war, and wished to forge as close a friendship with them as was possible. Georg wandered off part way through, and it was clear staying at the inn was not what he had in mind in Himmelfeuer, so the next day Lady F headed to the castle and arranged for him to stay there. She also tried to find the Baron, failing in that, but managing to sneak a look inside the private family chapel – the door was ajar, and inside it was a shrine to Sigmar, a thankful finding that their ruler was not confining himself in worship to less worthy deities. Lady FitzCarstein also made to deliver the Stirland Ravens to Ravenmeister Fedem, prompting glee in the old man of the birds. The encounter left the Lady chilled – for all that she needed his eyes on the coming and going mail, she found him disturbingly reminiscent of the birds he handled.

Pou, now strong enough to make the journey back to Himmelfeuer from down south, was also returning to the capital, having been unable to locate the missing Jonn, and leaving Gunter to his “stewardship” role. He arrived back in Himmelfeuer that evening and, after a visit to the Madamme of the brothel, whom he often spent time with, he made his way to the inn, spying Lady F in the corner when he got there. However first on the agenda was a chat with his old friend Herbert. The two disappeared off into a back room where Pou divulged details of the deal he had made with the Madamme, Helga, and how he had come to be shot in the shoulder. They also talked about Die Kupfers, and what to do about the forthcoming council meeting; talk of potentially declaring power in the name of the people until a suitable heir could be found was mentioned, but largely dismissed as a last resort. They did agree, however, that they wanted to have a squad of Coppers available at a moments notice in case things at the meeting turned sour. Lady FitzCarstein had manoeuvred herself to overhear bits and pieces of this conversation under the auspices of buying a drink, and was keen not to be thought to have eavesdropped when they reappeared.

After his conversation with Herbert, Pou looked to take the time to have a good, friendly, chat with Lady FitzCarstein but, as it tended to do, the discussion turned to the Coppers, their role and whether it was “right” to place peasants in harms way should it come to war. Not the most eloquent in these situations, Pou tried to use a metaphor involving Hedgehogs and Cartwheels [“the spikes may not save it, but at least the hedgehog would feel it had done what it could” – stated to much general mirth] which fell flat on the disbelieving noblewoman’s ears.

They met up in the inn again a couple of days later, only now Captain Scharf – who had been missing around Himmelfeuer – had returned and joined them. More witterings about the morals of putting the peasants in harms way were surprisingly interrupted by the Captain inviting both for a walk and a picnic (it was a rare dry day) somewhere more private. He had something to tell them that he could not risk letting others overhear…

[Summary of the conversation written by Scharf’s player]

Over impromptu breakfast in the fuller's field outside of town, Scharf revealed that he had spent the last three days meeting with Mörder to offer himself as a convenient mercenary and inside man. He'd done this mainly to scout out the land and the man. He learned that Mörder seemed human and competent enough, and was accompanied by two self-effacing advisors who may well not be human. Which, as Lady F pointed out, meant that they may have read his mind. Glossing over this, S added that his main advice to Mörder had been to attack Drachenmalstein for all sorts of entirely sound tactical reasons. This meant, he added, that the Kupfers would have to assist in the defence of Drachenmalstein, something to which the Lady was rather opposed. To the question, "so what will you be doing?” S replied that he intended to put his men to best use harassing the besiegers from outside. Pou cleaned his guns ostentatiously and wondered aloud whether they should just shoot him now.

Lady F asked archly if S had any other secrets he wanted to bring up; a question he'd wanted to answer for ages but now avoided by expanding his next plan, to arrest Werner at the next council and essentially declare martial law in doing so. This would involve arresting Werner's mercenaries (and possibly any other soldiers that S doesn't command) as well. S explained he intended the following things with this:

1) Get Werner somewhere where he could be questioned
2) Allow P and Lady F to search Werner's rooms and look over his ledgers
3) Put someone else in charge of running the Barony's affairs
4) Send a message to other important folk, especially Herbert, that if they didn't win S's trust they were next
5) Put S and his men in popular control

P said S was talking like a noble and that he shouldn't try and be in charge; S retorted that P, as an honest and capable man, should be in charge. S ate his breakfast while the others paced a lot.

We cut there, with the meeting still having a lot to run (potentially); it was a charged revelation, which prompted surprise in- and out- of character. Essentially Scharf unilaterally went and bargained with the enemy – who may or may not be (in thrall to) a vampire.

His gambit was great for the game, because it has set the stone rolling down the hill, as it were. Inviting attack will mean dealing with defence and following through with actions that permit this to be achieved effectively. It has also both solidified and split the characters; Lady F, for instance is greatly pleased that someone has shown the initiative and stones to actually do something about the situation, but feels completely incapable of sharing or trusting Scharf at all for fear that the contents of his mind belong – knowingly or otherwise – to vampires. Pou was shocked that the captain would even try to deal with something as objectively “evil” and wondering whether to remove the potential traitor right there and then.

In essence, everyone is agreed IC that something needed to be done; the way it was done is not at all how the others would have approached it, which is where the tension comes in. The next session will, barring unforeseen other stuff coming up, include the pivotal council meeting with Werner’s accusation which has the potential to go one of many different ways. Scharf’s sledgehammer is very different to the political stilettos Lady F would have used to achieve a similar goal, but what tricks might Werner have up his sleeve, and what will the Baron make of all their squabbling (assuming he appears)?

02 June 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Eight

I’m a session behind now, and with things kicking into gear it is a real challenge to keep up (not least because writing these reports – useful as it is in myriad ways – takes a whole damn evening away from me!). And with the events of this session now 10 days old, my memory is flighty about some of the content; never mind…

Lady FitzCarstein awoke, reconsidering her decision to send Father Cantati to trial (and probably summary execution); instead she had in mind setting him to work redressing the sins of his past by helping build a future for those like his long-past victim. Informing him of this, she also had a first task for the condemned priest: he was to go through the records her brother Jurgen had brought from Stirland, and in so doing compile a précised report on the rumours of vampire sightings in the southlands, specifically any mention of the von Carsteins. The Lady also decided that now she would not be escorting a fugitive, there was no pressing need to return to Himmelfeuer; Brunnenhing would not be back in the town for days, and the Baron’s missive expressly stated he would only address the entire council. Thus Captain Scharf was left to head back alone. He planned to head further south, too – ostensibly investigating the ties between Georg Bodendreck, Werner and the Tileans, but planning to privately visit an old outlaw chief named Gretel the Rabbit, whose band lived in that region of the forest.

Pou was convalescing; no doctor available, but a decent self-administration of alcohol to clean the wound and a bit of a makeshift bandage to hold the blood in were enough to keep him alive and awake. Georg and Gunter had meanwhile stripped and examined the body of the Tilean that Pou had shot and gone through his things. They had not found anything of interest or significance, but when the unstable, yet now mobile, Pou noticed a distinctive mark on some of the man’s effects, confirming they were of the same bunch who had been running Brunnenhing’s lands until recently, and when he examined the man’s jacket he found something sewn into the lining: a small booklet of hand-drawn portraits. One of them resembled Gunter to a tee. This discovery made Pou confront his errant lad, wondering what he could have done to make himself known to, and a target of, these overdressed foreigners. It turned out that Gunter had dealt an underhand deal with them, taking weapons that had not made the grade from the De Burns foundry and selling them to some Tileans at full price. Pou was under the impression that there was a serious risk of backfiring amongst the weapons that did not meet his standards, and suddenly a reason for the men to be seeking Gunter’s downfall – quite literally! – became clear. Gunter, despite his shock, was adamant that it was better if Georg (who had since returned to his packing) were to believe he had been the target, the younger De Burns sensing the chance of profit in the stewardship role. Pou acquiesced to this, not saying anything, and before long Georg was mounted up and, with a wagon train far too large for a mere social call, was heading for Lady FitzCarstein’s seat in Drachenmalstein.

Pou, feeling faint, had a brief sit-down to gather his strength, and then made his way to the inn and accommodation. Somewhere along the way his trusted second, Jonn, disappeared; he has not been seen since. Meanwhile Scharf had travelled at some pace; the Captain made it to the same inn Pou had taken residence in the evening after his fellow councillor had been shot [Pou’s events of the previous session were a day or two ahead of the others]. They met, and talked, Scharf asking after Jonn and whether Pou had any relatives named Pieter, having been given those names by Father Cantati when he had been first quizzed in the drawing room at Drachenmalstein. Pou claimed ignorance, and the Captain let it drop, believing the names had been made up, possibly with the intent of causing him to investigate Pou (who everyone sees as a bit of a straight arrow).

Their conversation was cut short by a bit of a commotion; four black-clad figures had been spotted on the road, making haste towards the small settlement. A tense few moments passed – Scharf and Pou readying themselves for conflict if it were required – but as the four walkers closed, banging large staffs on the road with every step, it became clear that they were four monks from the Order of the Raven; monks of Morr.

Scharf took command, publicly inviting and welcoming them into the inn; they had, they claimed, fled persecution in the south – beyond the border in Duke Mörder’s territories. The claim was that the peasants had taken exception to their teachings and – after several years wandering the Badlands spreading Morr’s word and minding the dead, they had been forced to flee northwards to escape a pitchfork-wielding mob. Scharf listened, pulling in details that might pertain to the state of play south of the border; it was clear that someone was stirring the peasants into this action, though the monks had said the authorities had welcomed them wherever they had been. Scharf also asked them about Jurgen FitzCarstein (they knew him by reputation) and then proceeded to tell the monks of Lady FitzCarstein’s residence in the Barony and where she and her brother might be found. The rest of the evening passed without note.

Next morning, Pou was continuing his convalescence whilst Scharf rode out to meet Gretel the Rabbit, an old bandit chieftain whom he knew (and he consequently turned something of a blind eye to the activities of her band). Meeting at a glade in the woods (clearly a common meeting spot, and a place of thanksgiving), they discussed movements south of the border (where Gretel’s bandits were active, and had good intelligence on troop movements and so forth), as well of mutual acquaintances. Gretel was interested to know more about Lady FitzCarstein, having been asked to pass her information by a mutual friend, and Scharf asked about Aachen, the fellow he had seen in the forest outside Brunnenhing’s manor, both giving guarded responses but learning a little. However it was the information about Mörder’s troop movements that was most readily useful; the Rabbit was able to confirm the rumours amongst the populace about troops now doing exercises on the southern border, with Mörder’s general, Großewaffe, in attendance. Various other small-talk, veiled threats and implorations later, Scharf departed amicably for the inn and rest.

Meanwhile in the damp halls of Drachenmalstein Lady FitzCarstein and her brother Jurgen had a chance to talk about life, the situation at hand, and family – with Jurgen touching a nerve by mentioning his sister’s frosty relationship with their father, after Helena had asked how many men she might be able to procure from the North if it was required. Lady FitzCarstein bears some bitterness against the patriarch who sold her to a drunk and violent man from an unfancied backwater. Her response prompted Jurgen to ask her about the death of her Husband, Hans, but Helena replied as she always did that “he went adventuring”, and from there the conversation quickly died, and the Lady sent her Brother out to begin the gathering of information about the Coppers in the area (with strict instructions that none were to be harmed).

It was a few days later when Georg arrived, carriage and wagons carrying enough junk to give the impression he had horribly misread the Lady’s invitation, and thought he was to be moving in! In the event he received a rather frosty welcome as once initial pleasantries were out of the way, Lady FitzCarstein was quick to fire a barrage of questions and accusations at her hapless visitor concerning the communications he and Werner had been having. Georg revealed that he was, in a sense, working for Werner – providing him with information and service in return for having an ally on the council, something the Lady’s brother in law would sorely need if he was to ever realise what he felt was his right: a seat of his own.

Skippage and misremembering are likely in this case (alas) so I’ve tried to keep it short. There was, additionally, talk in Drachenmalstein of a theory of “talented” young women, all around the same age as Josephine, Jarla and Lady FitzCarstein, who may or may not have some unconscious talent, or attunement to the winds of magic (aka “herbalists”).

The scenes with Lady F and her brothers (one by birth, one in-law) were very charged by my recall, giving good insight to the character, her motivations and one of the possible decisions she will face in the near future: will she prevail of her father’s aid if the Barony is attacked as seems likely? Her slap-down of Georg was amusing and I was squirming for him even as I portrayed his responses. There is more yet to run in that…

Pou has been sidelined a bit by his injury, but this is very much the calm before the storm; how he deals with the Coppers and their place in the wrangling for power could make or break him.

Scharf meanwhile gave hints to his past and set up what would then become the boldest move of the game (played out by email between the end of this session and the start of session nine – completed and awaiting write-up – thus setting up a slew of forthcoming events), one that has the potential to split the council, bring war to the forefront of everyone’s minds and thus bring forward the shaping of the future.

Session nine has been played and will hopefully follow soon.