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)?

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