29 July 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Fourteen (part ii)

And so to the stag night, the wedding itself, and the immediate aftermath.

Pou, Herbert, and most of Himmelfeuer were getting into the celebratory swing by the time Captain Scharf made his appearance. Everyone was deep in their cups, with the Tileans forming a separate group in the corner, making many jokes at Pou’s expense, while the man himself was in deep conversation with Herbert, with Mannfred in attendance.

Scharf – who had shaved in the morning before leaving Drachenmalstein, ridding himself of a beard he’d had for the entirety of his service in the aftermath of a powder-burn from rifle practice – made his way over to join them, and drinks were shared. Scharf made sure to drink less than it appeared, and noticed Mannfred was doing the same. Pou, meanwhile, was busily getting more and more drunk. After some jovial japes and conversation, Pou felt the need to go outside and mingle with the wider attendance – many of the off-duty local Kupfers, and the other townspeople (figuring if you can’t beat them, join them, given the noise and the late hour) had gathered in the streets around the inn. Scharf merely shrugged and used it as an excuse to bid goodnight. The shrug gave Pou a strange sense of recognition, but in his addled state he couldn’t put a name to it.

The festivities continued throughout the night, at least for Pou who stumbled in through his door sometime around sunrise. Not long thereafter, Scharf knocked on his door with the intention of getting his friend and colleague ready for the ceremony. Deflecting Pou’s clumsy, still-drunken, attempts to bring up the similarities he saw the previous evening, Scharf prepared Pou hot drinks and food to straighten him up – the nuptials were to take place in a matter of hours, and it would not do to have the groom miss the event!

As part of his final preparations before dressing, a bleary-eyed Pou took himself off to a water pump, and with the fancy-dressed Tilean mercenary leader watching, joking and mocking him, Pou doused himself thoroughly before returning to his residence. There, Scharf presented him with a wedding gift (the original Scharf’s own well-cared for rifle), and agreed to try to have Gunter released under supervision for long enough to attend the celebration.

Lady FitzCarstein made her way into town to present her gifts to the bride-to-be, arriving later than most to the ceremony – overseen by the Baron himself (who had not been told that the bride-to-be’s business was prostitution) as an honour to his Councillor and military Lieutenant, Pou. The ceremony itself went without a hitch – save the central one planned! – and Pou and the newly named Helga de Burns, resplendently dressed, were beaming with delight and barely noticing Gunter was there in chains, looking miserable, with Tileans at his shoulders.

With the ceremony complete the couple circulated, spending a short while with the invited guests whilst the general population were tucking in to the bountiful food provided. It was then, seeing Scharf with Herbert, that Pou realised whom the Captain reminded him of – Scharf was every inch a younger picture of the Mayor. Pou was not able to take this any further in the throng, however, and soon found himself talking to Lady FitzCarstein. The Lady congratulated Pou on the wedding and the event, commenting on the opulence and grandiose provision. Pou innocently responded that “you should only marry once” and that you need to make the most of it – which left Helena seething inside, seeing a condemnation or damnation where none was meant.

As Pou and his new bride moved off around the assembled, Captain Scharf spied Cornelia, Herbert’s daughter and the one responsible for a lot of the organisation, towards the back of the gathering, about to slip off. He caught her just before she did, and then made pains to introduce her to Lady FitzCarstein, before he was, himself, called away (possibly to speak with Pou?). Cornelia and the Lady got on, but each was wary of why Scharf (or Rudi, as Cornelia slipped and called him) was so keen to introduce them to the other. Cornelia was also itching to go somewhere, and while she had the tact to not ditch of her own accord, when Scharf rejoined them, Lady FitzCarstein made excuses to end the conversation, aiding Cornelia in slipping away.

Later that evening, Scharf and Lady FitzCarstein had cause to talk as they walked back to their rooms in the castle. Scharf revealed why he had wanted to introduce Cornelia, his sister; he thought they would get on and hoped she would be a member of his family that Helena could like – a pointed reference to the lack of amicable relationship between the Lady and Herbert. They spoke then about family, relationships and expectations. Lady FitzCarstein revealed how Pou’s well-meant words had stung her – particularly in relation to how her marriage had worked out – and left the unspoken implication of their relationship hanging as they arrived at her door.

Where Scharf said goodnight, and set off for his own rooms.

So the wedding ended up not being nearly as central as I’d thought, but I find large-scale events with lots of people are always hard to run well. Nevertheless, the format of the session worked – the celebrations sandwiched by the contrasting forbidden, unrequited and largely unspoken desire between the other two PCs. Pou’s comments to Lady F after the wedding ceremony and the alternate way she interpreted them is perhaps the best example of how the two situations contrasted, fed off each other, and created a session that was greater than the sum of its parts. This is what I meant by every line being perfect – you couldn’t script the innocent intent and the perceived malice, how one line summed up the contrasts and conflicts of the three protagonists during the session.

The dawning of who Scharf really is on both Pou and Lady F was a fine twist, though well foreshadowed, and it has (since, I am a session behind) had consequences, too – particularly the “poacher turned gamekeeper” angle of bandit becoming military and lawman.

In many ways I wanted to end the game after this session. Each character has gone through a full story arc by the end of it, character drama was both played out and set up nicely for a next stage, and all in all the session just clicked so perfectly – for me, at least – that no planned “plot-based” ending will come close. The game has, thus, climaxed – and in a session that was supposed to be almost a throw-away preparation for a frenzied ending (it won’t work out like that, but hey…).

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