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.

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