11 September 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session Eighteen – The Finale.

An additional reason for a short, points-based summary this time; as well as being behind, the meat of this final session was all to do with a single scene at the emergency council meeting called by Lady F, and short of transcribing it in its entirety (which I didn't do, nor could have done, at the time) there is nothing - prose or points - that will recount it accurately. Indeed, prose may lose the points of salience.

The first thing to say is that in the lead up to this session I was informed individually by Pou's player and Lady F's player about their plans for the meeting, one in broad strokes, the other in more detail. Whilst they had very similar end positions, their means to fulfil their agenda were very different. In these exchanges Lady F, after hearing about Pou having visited the Baron, wished to change her plans slightly to find Pou before the meeting began. I ruled against this on the grounds that it was tight fitting everything into the short (game) time between where we left off the previous week and where we picked up for this.

Lady FitzCarstein’s agenda was to call for unity – proffering apologies and/or terms where required in order to gain it – and set up a new power structure in the Barony, one that had more chance of lasting the forthcoming war and beyond, and tentative plans to help ensure the beyond mattered. She had Rudi/Scharf onside and planned, too, to propose formally to him after her plans had been laid out and (hopefully) accepted.

Pou gazumped her, however, bringing to the meeting armed Kupfers in place of the usual array of serving staff, and calling upon them to pressurise those attending. He felt pressured into his precipitous action by the amount of politicking, backbiting and in-fighting now regular amongst the councillors, and had been stoked up by Herbert’s backing. Unfortunately Pou was hurried into his move, and was not the most willing or forward thinking of leaders, making for the slightly ridiculous position of a man who had just seized power by force making arguments about how they should prove they could trust each other in order to guarantee their freedoms, their roles and the future of the Barony. Pou had seen the Baron earlier and either had tacit support for his plan, or the Baron had mistakenly thought it was longer in the planning and viewed the Kupfers whom had been placed legitimately around the castle for genuine defensive purposes as agents in a coup that already had him at a disadvantage, but his clear lack of planning and secretive execution of his move soon grated on the assembled. As Pou floundered, Herbert and Georg used the situation to push for some home truths under Pou’s stated aim of openness and honesty and they managed to force out into the open many of Helena and Rudi’s past discretions – banditry and murder (even if in self defence) amongst them. The fractious atmosphere – Pou had declared them prisoners until their allegiances and intentions could be proven or avowed – was made worse by Rudi refusing to take Pou seriously, which just flustered de Burns more. Eventually however, with the meeting progressing not at all, Helena was asked direct questions she saw fit to answer, and in doing so took back the floor, having clear plans where Pou had nothing in place.

Her re-structuring would, ironically, put Pou in the position he had found himself forced to take: as Palatine or Paladin, essentially running things in name of the Baron, with Herbert’s daughter Cornelia as his assistant or Seneschal. Herbert would retain his mayor-ship and would also be a trusted advisor to Pou, whose role would be non-hereditary and could be relinquished once a proper heir to the Baron was found. For her part, Helena said she would forego Drachenmalstein and return it to (in his eyes) its rightful owner: Georg. Instead she would, fate willing, take the Duchy which Mörder now held as her own; if not, she would be dead – for she fully intended to firstly defend against the inevitable assault from the south, her last act as Lady of Drachenmalstein, then beat it back, with the aid of her father and the Knights of the Raven – skilled warriors in the service of Morr who counted her father and brother Jurgen alike as members. Despite his irrelevance to proceedings – he was dead drunk and beyond caring – Helena even offered concessions to Brunnenhing, promising him aid in the setting up and maintenance of profitable trade roads through his lands. There was a murmur around the table, and even those who begrudged the source of the ideas and plans had to concede that it beat all other options open to them hands down. There just remained the need to swear oaths to that effect. Each in turn swore on something they held dear, until Pou was satisfied that the best possible outcome had been achieved. The meeting concluded shortly thereafter, with Rudi tendering his resignation now his future (with Helena) and his past (his not being Captain Reinhardt Scharf) were clear.

(At this point the real substance of the campaign concluded; all that remained was to tidy up some loose “plot” threads to bring the curtain down on the bigger picture)

As they broke up the meeting, Pou having long since motioned the Kupfers to stand down, news filtered through that the Templars had found Josephine, and were bringing her back to Himmelfeuer for the Trial the Baron had desired. As everyone gathered to meet them, a location was picked for the dispensing of Sigmar’s justice – a patch of open ground overlooked by the Baron’s private chambers where he was said to be very unwell. With the council in attendance Ritter, Jaeger and Brunner set about their process, questioning the girl in turn with heavily weighted questions. However as the trial progressed the three Witch Hunters turned their attention away from the girl; her mother, Magda, was compelled to speak in her place, at first in defence of her daughter. However as Magda was questioned, the tone and questions the Templars used became almost ritualistic, until Josephine was pronounced clean of taint, and in her place Magda – clearly struggling without success – was compelled to sit in the trial chair. The Templars were invoking some divine incantation, their words binding Magda to her seat; then suddenly her face fell, revealing some otherworldly bestial fury. Magda, the silent, sweet and shy concubine of the Baron, turned out to be a supernatural evil being, a vampire, and the Templars pronounced their terrible judgment on the creature they had bound to the chair: each shot her twice with their sanctified weapons, then cast chair and still thrashing beast into the waiting pyre.

As the flames took her, and smoke began to fill the sky, two shouts from the castle made all cast their eyes elsewhere. The first was a cry of alarm and for a doctor, as the Baron had suffered a heart attack as Magda’s nature was revealed. The second, every bit as urgent, called all to gaze southward; the smoke from the pyre was as nothing compared with the billowing blackness that rose on the southern horizon: the forests were on fire which meant only one thing – Mörder’s invasion had begun.

(Final thoughts, interpretations and explanations to follow at some point).

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