22 July 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Thirteen

Scharf led his small troop and the Tilean mercenary company back to Himmelfeuer, the addition of the latter causing consternation in Pou after Jonn had spotted the column returning through the shop window as they were chatting. Pou, having been shot by the Tileans on his previous trip down south, was understandably paranoid about their appearance in town despite the fact they were outnumbered by Scharf’s men, and that they were marching with the Captain’s men.

He was less than pleased to hear they had been recruited, and even less so to find out Gunter was a prisoner, but Scharf explained the necessities of the situation, and pointed out that only his captive status had spared Gunter his life. There would be a trial – for knowingly selling dangerously faulty goods – at some point, but no-one had it as a high enough priority to push the workings through, and Pou could use the time to try and find some sort of representative for his wayward son (not that there were any Lawyers out here – nor real code of laws). Aside from issues surrounding Gunter, Scharf had to sort out pay (with Werner, who was shocked on hearing which mercenaries had been recruited, but agreed to release the funds) and accommodation for the mercenaries. With the castle newly given over to a sizeable number of the Kupfers who made up the militia, the only place for them to stay was Herbert’s inn.

This caused some consternation, as the rowdy Tileans used their residence at the inn to tease Pou at every possible opportunity. Chastised by the clientele, Pou also managed to anger both Herbert and, surprisingly, Captain Scharf by making light of a suggestion that Herbert’s daughter Cornelia – recently back in town after completing accountancy studies in the Empire – might be a good match for his foreman, Jonn. Scharf, it turned out, was indeed still looking for Jonn, whilst Herbert was probably just being overprotective of his only daughter…

Meanwhile, up in Drachenmalstein, Jarla had set out in search of young women with an aptitude for herbalism or “magics” and to offer them the sanctity of the castle under the guise of a Verenan convent – thus hopefully protecting them from the incoming Witch Hunters. The Lady FitzCarstein however set about implementing plans for the castle’s defence, but not before she found time for a long chat with her brother, Jurgen, about the situation; she spoke of how, despite his anger at being shown up, she needed him and his aid, and whether he thought their father would respond to her plea for troops. Top priority however was what to do with von Schicksal. Jurgen was unhappy that Helena believed the captive’s sharp turnabout in attitude, but counselled her that if she did go ahead and turn him loose as a double agent against Mörder then his “escape” would need to seem plausible. He was to disappear the way he had come in – through the Underworks and caverns – but not to bee harmed past the point of functionality despite his crime of trespass.

Once the noble’s fate had been decreed, conversation turned to setting up a “tribunal of Truth” which played upon the staff’s superstitions of their Lady in order to see if the assassin responsible for the poisoning of the monks could be revealed. Jurgen grudgingly agreed to be present as his sister’s guardian should the killer be tempted by the presence of a naked blade and the Lady’s unarmed, un-armoured, presence. In the end the tribunal turned up nothing beyond some minor information that would at best be useful for disciplining unruly staff; the assassin was either too cool to take the bait, or more likely had fled the castle after the deed was done – there was certainly a way out, after all.

Helena also found time to visit Father Cantati in his cell, whereupon she was given the full final treatise he had prepared from the stacks of rumours contained in the tomes brought down from Stirland when Jurgen arrived. The histories showed that sporadically over the centuries nondescript and varied groups had gone from nowhere to significant power, each in a similar manner (acquiring and maintaining great influence over others) before somehow imploding. This pattern fit the emergence of Duke Mörder and his “mini-Empire,” and the Father asserted that the architect of each of these unlikely rises was almost certainly a von Carstein vampire. It had long been thought that one of the clan had fled to the Badlands to avoid destruction, and the machinations of Mörder, and the histories, combined with what seemed to be an unhealthy interest in Lady FitzCarstein (his emissary had been poking around a lot before he was recalled) to lead to a strong conclusion that this von Carstein was active again.

Helena thusly saw to accelerate her defences, and in addition to the deal she had made with Pou (the goods, men, and the Baron’s brother Gerhardt – whom was to be a guest at Drachenmalstein – had all arrived in caravan that day), she sent off a purchase request to the imperial foundry at Nuln, pleading for a cannon. (Pou had also placed an order, independently of Lady FitzCarstein, with the intent of possibly studying and copying the design).

A few incident-free days passed with preparations ongoing in Drachenmalstein and, indeed, in Himmelfeuer where Cornelia and Herbert were busily putting together the finer points for Pou’s wedding, whilst the mercenaries were earning their keep during the days by training the militia, and spending it at night by getting drunk and mocking Pou. A council meeting was called – in Lady F’s absence – when Georg Bodendreck arrived back in town with word that there had been more attacks down south. It appeared that bandits had been selectively targeting the Kupfers still based in the southlands.

This situation was discussed and it was decided it would be wise to call the militiamen in – no force before Himmelfeuer could even hope to stand up should Mörder attack and the men would be more useful up here out of harm’s way. Scharf would, however, send a couple of men, including his Sergeant, Rolf, down to keep an ear to the ground, and to train in raven-handling so as to be able to send advance warning if they spotted the enemy. They, being outlaws who joined since Scharf’s appointment, would also have (secret) instruction to seek out Gretel the Rabbit and find out her side. Pou had also made secret arrangements, sending instruction for one or two of the Kupfers to ignore the call-back and stay, being his eyes and ears.

The only other business of note was when Werner informed the assembled councillors that the Templars would be due in 7 days time.

It was now also just two days before Pou’s wedding, and Captain Scharf, having dispatched Rolf southwards, readied himself for a trip. He would head north to Drachenmalstein, where to inform Lady FitzCarstein of developments and, more importantly, remind her of – and convince her to attend – the imminent wedding.

This was the first session that really suffered from drag from my point of view. Set-up was such that I was able to prep even less than usual and the action would need to come from the PCs. It came about because the constant stream of new and immediate things to investigate finally dried up - I’m (early) in the process of drawing the strings now, to provide a wrap.

Left with space and to their own devices for the first time, the characters fell back on the plethora of “everyday tasks” that they had been ignoring. These were important - training the militia, preparing for a siege defence etc - but of minimal interest in Actual Play, much better that they be assumed and happen in the background. As a result, game-time accelerated and just under a week passed in the session - bringing forward the big events lined up (and the last of the big introductions). The next session is given over largely to Pou’s wedding, thus giving quantified space and a low-pressure session to allow people to relax in- and out- of character, and provide a laid back and joyous counterpoint to the hell that will break loose thereafter when the Templars ride into the Barony.

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