Mists Over the Musarde

Mists Over the Musarde Chapter 1 Part 5

[at the little cafe near the river]

The two gendarmes don’t seem to be paying attention to anything but their plates, once Odall brings them their meal. They don’t even talk with each other much, but concentrate on eating and drinking.

N: Norzak looks pointedly at Cirdan but says nothing. He concentrates on his plate and tries to be as inconspicuous as possible.

G: The two gendarmes finsh their meal and rise to their feat. They toss a few coins on the counter , thank odall, and turn to leave. The cleanshaven one of the pair- his friend called him Jean- casts a glance over in your direction. His gaze passes briefly over Evangeline, then shifts to Charlotte and settles there a moment. He smiles, she turns her head to the wall and ignores him. He shrugs and hurriedly walks on, lengthening his stride to catch his compatriot,-who’s already exiting the cafe.

Once the two have left. Evangeline looks over to Norzak and says,

‘’I hope you are enjoying your meal, Norzak. You are so quiet!’’

N: Norzak looks up from his plate and says to Evangeline with a staright face “T’aint no reason ta be alarmed missy. I love food” he pats his stomach area “and take eating very seriously. That ‘n’ drinkin’ is mostly me main loves. So when I’s eatin’ I rarely speak but rather concentrate on me plate and keep quiet. Also me Pa liked a quiet table, so when we did eat it was in silence.”

B: Bennedict blinks in surprise at the last passage of the book. “Well, he certainly sounds charming.” He turns and jots some notes in a blank page of his notebook, specifically circling the words “North Country” and drawing a line connecting the circle and the word “Portal” written at the top of the page. He taps the feather pen thoughtfully against his lips for a moment, before adding a large question mark next to the connecting line. He then turns back to the book and continues scanning the pages. No mention of rat men, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to find one. Rats and pestilence are connected, after all. What better worshipers could Incabulos hope for?

G: [back at the Marbble Faun, Benn continues to read the book…]

Johannes then spends a few pages telling of the natural features , animals, plants, etc of the North Country. He mentions a few fantastical beasts of legend , such as manticores and unicorns, although he admits he never actually saw such creatures himself, but is only relaying the accounts of the locals.

Benn finds a couple of references to rats :

‘’ These north-folk hold rats to be agents of Incabulos. Anyone who kills a rat must make penance to the god by a petty sacrifice. Of course, it is often necessary to kill rats, so the petty sacrifices have added up over time , combined with other offerings, to greatly enrich the clergy dedicated to the demon-god. ’’

‘’ It is told that Incabulos has blessed certain rats with cunning and powers beyond the natural estate. These rats are subject to the influence of the moon, so that a full moon is a time of power for them. These rat-things render homage to Incabulos with baleful rites performed in lonely places beneath the full moon. ’’


‘’Oh,yes. I see.’’

Daintily, Evangeline finishes her meal. She remarks to Charlotte-

‘’I think you are getting a bit sunburnt. Here, wear my sunhat for a while.’’

‘’Oh, how kind, thank you Miss Evie.’’

After you are all finshed eating and have paid out, the girls suggest you go down to make one last sweep of the marketplace before heading homewards.

……

A short walk takes you down to the boardwalk along the river. The shops and stalls here sell all sorts of things, from glass lamps to fresh fish.

Evangline stops at a flower-seller’s tiny stall on the and picks out some blooms, while Charlotte walks a short distance away to look at silver jewelry being sold by some gypsies.

’’Aren’t these violets simply wonderful?’’

From your left, down the street, you hear Charlotte’s voice-

‘’Help me…mnppph!!’’
[Anyone who looks in time will see this:]
Charlotte is being dragged off the boardwalk and into a small boat by two burly men! She is kicking and struggling, but cannot break free. One of the men has covered her face with a scarf, so that her shouts are muffled. Both men have bandanas tied over their lower faces and slouch hats pulled down snugly on their heads. This is all happening about forty feet away.

N: Norzak bolts into action. Looking back over his shoulder he yells at Evangeline “Call tha gendarmes missy, yer pal’s bin taken by two men in a boat up ahead!” Reaching to his sweaty forehead, he dabs his palm as he runs. Now his fingers wiggle and he utters a few arcane phrases. Black energy begins to churn around his finger and as soon as he is in line of sight to the first thug he can see, the black energy flies from his finger. It hits the man squarely in the chest.

G: Evangeline begins shouting and waving her arms over her head, calling loudly for the gendarmes.

The thug hit by Norzak’s ray slumps a bit, and Charlotte is able to get an arm free. She pulls the scarf from her face and screams. The man still has a grip on her other arm, and his companion has her legs off the ground, now.

C: Cirdan draws his sword and dagger.

“Evangeline, find a safe place and lock you in. I am sure these thugs are after you as well.”

With that, the half-elf draws his sword and goes after the dwarf. (Which shouldn’t be that difficult.

Whatever comes in his way, he will kill.

G: The first thug looks at Charlotte’s face and says-

‘’This isn’t the right one! Oh no, them!’’

He points at the two of you [Cirdan and Norzak], waving his extended arm urgently.

The second thug shoots a panicked glance in your direction and lets go of the girl, dashing for the boat.

His friend is right behind him- but not fast enough to get away from Sir Cirdan, whose fleet feet have carried him within sword’s reach.

N: Norzak reaches to his belt and removes a wand. Uttering a word, a fiery missile flies from it, hitting the thug sqaure in the chest!

G: The would-be kidnapper stumbles as the balefire bolt from Norzak’s wand strikes him. He regains his balance and prepares to leap for the boat- when Sir Cirdan catches him and delivers a vicious sword blow. The man screams in pain, but doesn’t stop moving. He leaps into the water, which quickly turns red around him. He’s trying to swim away, but isn’t making good progress- possibly slowed by his injuries, or perhaps he’s just a poor swimmer.

His erstwhile companion has made it into the rowboat , cut the rope mooring the little vessel, and pushed off into the current. He’s still not far away, perhaps ten feet of water between his craft and the riverbank.

Charlotte is kneeling on the boardwalk, out of breath from fighting and screaming, her face red and her hair in disarry. She doesn’t appear to be injured, but is quite obviously shaken by her experience.

A small crowd of bystanders has gathered, keeping a fair distance from the scene of the fight. Over the din of excited conversation, one can clearly hear the shout:

‘’The gendarmes are coming!’’

[back at the Marble Faun, Benn continues to read the book…]

In the next chapter, Benn comes across this little tale:

‘’ The local people have told me a colorful story connected with the cult of Incabulos. The account has been handed down from the time of their great-grandfathers. For my part, I doubt it’s veracity. Many peasants of many nations tell such fireside tales to frighten children and amuse their elders.
In a duchy of long ago days, there lived a lady named Wolutha, daughter of the duke. When she was still young, a wasting plague swept the duchy and killed many. The young girl is said to have been especially horrified by the frightening aspect of the corpses left behind by this pestilence.
Wolutha grew to be a fine lady, fair of face and pleasing of figure. Knights contended for her favor, at court and at tourney. She spurned them all, though, seeking out and eventually marrying an older man, Hollfram the Bent. He is said to have been a scholar of black magic who had earned the enmity of the priesthood of Incabulos, on account of having stolen from them certain secrets or treasures.
Not long after the marriage, the old duke fell sick with a wasting disease, and Hollfram and Wolutha took up a co-rulership over the duchy.
She ruled as co-regent alongside Hollfram for a short time, before her father succumbed to old age and illness, despite the best efforts of the healers. Wolutha is said to have spent much time trying unsucessfully to cure her father, and was filled with grief when she failed to save him.
Claiming that Incabulite cultists were to blame for her father’s illness and death, Wolutha launched a witch hunt that killed dozens of prominent citziens. Their holdings were confiscated by the duchess, of course. Hollfram himself fell victim to his wife’s inquisition. He was seized by the duchess’ men and beheaded withoiut trial, protesting his innocence right up to the headman’s block.
The story grows murkier here, but the Kargites told me harrowing tales of Wolutha’s reign: children disappearing near the castle, only to be found later in the forest-horribly aged and covered in running sores, vermin swarming through the fields and eating livestock left unprotected, and midnight demon-summonings in the courtyard of the keep. The people were oppressed, but afraid to flee in numbers or to rise in rebellion. By day, Wolutha’s brutal gaurdsmen watched all the roads leading into and out of the duchy. The woods and hills around the settlements had become dangerous to travel, stalked by montrous beasts loyal to the witch-tyrant. Most especially, the folk feared the black winged shapes that swirled from her keep after sundown and carried off people foolish enough to walk the fields and raods at night.

A travelling knight and his retinue heard of Wolutha’s wicked rule and came into the country, boasting they would overthrow the evil duchess and restore the people to freedom. The people prayed to all the gods of light that the knight would prove victorious. He and his companions entered the keep, but only the knight ever emerged. He had been enscorcelled by Wolutha, and gone from being her direst foe to her most faithful vassal. He took over leadership of her army and began to tighten his mistress’ deathgrip on the country.
Their hopes for liberation destroyed with the knight’s conversion, a number of people sought to flee the country. A mass flight began, with peasants and townsmen braving the dangers of the borderlands in their scramble for freedom. Many perished, but many others did manage to escape.
The fate of those who remained is a mystery. The few brave souls who returned to attempt a rescue of those they’d left beind found nothing but empty fields and misty bogs where once the barony had been. No trace remained of the castle , the villages, or even the farmers’ fences.
The priests of Incabulos in Karg, which was not far away from the vanished lands, claimed that Incabulos had sent his wrath upon duchy in punishment for Wolutha’s blasphemy and impiety. It is my opinion that this myth has been used by the modern day Incabulites to impress upon the people of Karg the necessity of honoring their patron god. ’’

[at the Marble Faun, cont.]

You hear footsteps coming up the stairway.

The door creaks open. Mattheo stands there, holding in his hands a bakset. He walks over to the desk at which you’re seated and sets the basket down. Inside, you see a bottle of wine, some cheese, a couple of apples, and two sandwiches.

’’’I thought you might be hungry, Benn. It’s past noon, you know. Put out the ‘closed’ sign and came up to see if you wanted a little company and some food. How’s the research coming along?’’

C: While Cirdan wounds the man and he jumps in, Norzak sees Charlotte and heads for her. Out of breath “Are.. pant…pant…. ye…. okay….missy?Pant….. gasp….. The gendarmes are coming…” He helps her up and then looks her over to see if she has any injuries. Curse that bugger, ’e got away! Hope them gendrmes get ’im good

B: Bennedict writes the name “Wolutha” in his notebook, with a few notes beneath about her tale, prominently underlining “Blue Eyes”. He then pauses for another thoughtful moment, before drawing a connecting line between Incabulos’ name and the name of the witch-tyrant from the legend. Above the line he scribes the words “Friend or foe?”

At the sound of Mattheo’s footsteps on the stairs, Bennedict nearly leaps out of his skin. Seeing that it is only his old friend, however, he collects himself and smiles appreciatively at the food. “Thank you, I had lost track of time.” He pulls out one of the sandwiches, taking a ravenous bite and nodding again in appreciation. “Things are going well, in a manner of speaking. I confess, however, that the more I learn of the subject of my research, the more concerned I am for Herr Sancerre and his daughter.” He carefully turns the book towards Mattheo, indicating the passage he had been reading to the bookseller. “Have you ever heard this woman mentioned outside of this tome?”

G:

‘’Wolutha? No, I am afraid I have not.’’

Mattheo takes a long draught from the wine bottle and settles into a chair. His speech and manner becomes more animated, which is typical of him when discussing such matters-

‘’ Based off my research, I’ve estimated that Johannes was writing about six centuries ago. Your own country of Lamordia was but a young and half-barbaric nation, then, and the wizard kings of Il Aluk had not yet launched the Wars of Unification. What records of the northern countries which survive from that time are often confusing and incomplete- making it hard to judge the reliablity of Johannes’ account. Imagine it, Benn, this book may be a window into the legendary past! Or it could be nothing but lies and fairy tales. I’d love to know the truth of it, wouldn’t you?’’


Charlotte, with Norzak’s help, gets to her feet. She isn’t really hurt , just frightened and bruised.

‘’Thank you, Norzak!’’

By this time the man in the boat has made it to the swifter flowing waters of the center of the stream, and is being carried away down river.

The crowd parts to admit three gendrames, armed with swords and bucklers. The three quickly look over the scene , and one of their number begins bawling out orders-

‘’Pierre, get a boat and a gaff- catch that swimmer. ’’ He indicates the bloody waters trailing the injured man, who is struggling to reach the opposite bank of the river- a long swim, indeed. His subordinate runs off find a boat, as ordered, leaving only two gendrames on the scene.

The gendrame sergeant turns his attention towards Norzak and Cirdan-
‘’You two gentlemen lay down your arms.’’

Charlotte steps forward and cries out-

‘’These men aren’t criminals, they saved me!’’

B: “It may be a window to the legendary past, but I am also afraid it may contain dire portents of the future. This Woluthra woman…” his voice trails off, again travelling in his mind’s eye through the mirror to the woman with the saphire eyes, “…I may have had recent contact with her, by way of a magical device. My client discovered it along with an incantation to Incabulos and a key of some kind. But he did not discover them in the north country, Mattheo. He discovered them here, in this city, in the walls of one of the buildings.”

His voice trails off again. “I wonder how it could have made its way this far south,” He taps a finger thoughtfully on the desktop, before looking up at his friend. “Have you ever heard rumors of a gateway of some kind beneath the city? One guarded by rat men which is capable of transporting someone to a far-away land?”

N: “Hey mack” Norzak addresses the gendarmes “We’re with Miss Sancerre over there” he points to Evangeline. “I doubt very much her Da would appreciate her saviors being badly treated, now would ye? NOt counting her servant’s savior as well? ‘N’ I ain’t dropping me weapon fer ya cuz I did nothing wrong in tha first place!” Norzak holds his sword with one hand, the tip on the ground, leaning on it casually.

G:
Surprise at Benn’s words is plainly written on Mattheo’s face.

‘’Well, I must say- this is astounding!’’

When Benn asks about the portal, Mattheo answers:

‘’ Well, I’ve certainly heard stories about enmormous rats in the sewers, and man-rats, too. Of course, I couldn’t tell you if they are true stories.
As for a magical portal….hmmmm, it seems I have actually heard something like that someplace…’’
Barozi leans back in his chair and rubs his forehead, deep in thought for a moment.

‘’Ah,yes! It’s an old legend of the town. The hero finds an enchanted doorway, deep in the sewers, and guarded by demons. He defeats or tricks the demonic guardians, and passes through the portal. Whether it leads to the land of heart’s desire, or to a country out of nightmares, depends on who is telling the story.’’

Mattheo pauses to take a nibble of his sandwich, then adds-

’’If you want to know more about this, you could always check with the Confraternity of Sewermen and Streetcleaners, or the Worshipful Guild of Rat-catchers. Those people always know these sorts of stories, naturally.


The two gendrames begin to look distinctly unfriendly. The one who’s been doing all the talking draws his broadsword a handspan out from its sheath. His companion in arms is nervously fingering the hilt of his own weapon.

Evangline runs forward through the crowd to embrace Cirdan.

’’Don’t harm them, Sir Cirdan, they are only trying to do their duty.’’

She looks at the two gendarmes, and tells them quite matter-of-factly:

‘’These are not the men you’re looking for’’

With Evangeline’s declaration, the whole situation changes. The aura of hostile intent vanishes quickly.

‘’Mademoiselle Sancerre.’’

He doffs his cap and bows to Evangeline.

‘’Since you vouch for them, I will not press the matter. I would ask that you all give a statement, of course. We’ll need information to catch the criminals responsible for this outrageous assault. ’’

He looks at Norzak and Cirdan again, intently, as if he’s trying to place their features….

‘’Hmmm, you gentlemen seem awfully familiar. Have we met before?’’

N: “I tole ye I was trying ta protect tha missy , ya jackaninny! ‘N’ why ya need me ta state tha obvious? We was protectin’ tha missies, bub. ‘N’ I ain’t seen ya bafore taday. Him either” Norzak points over his shoulder at Cirdan. “If’n thar’s nuthin’ else ye be needin’ from us, I think tha l;adies might wanna return home after all that excitement. You wanna be tha one ta tell her Da she was detained by you?” Norzak eyes the gendarme with a raised eyebrow.

G: The policeman blows air through his lips in a low whistle. He sighs, shrugs, and shoots Norzak an exasperated look.

‘’Now see here, Monsieur Nain, there’s no need for you to carry on like this. Just give us your names, and a brief statement about what happened. If we have other questions later, we will come and find you. I’m sure Monsieur Sancerre will understand if his daughter is help up just a few minutes- for such an important matter. You DO want to help us catch the villians who attacked the girl, yes? ’’

The second gendrame is walking about the boardwalk nearby, questioning people from the small crowd of onlookers.

N: Norzak’s eyes narrow at the gendarme. “I don’ know what no nain is or some mon seeuur is either. I’m Norzak bub. An if I din’t want her persuers ta be found, I’d never a helped her in tha first place.” Norzak still leans on his sword not sheathing it.

B: “I’m inclined to believe the story ends badly, but maybe that’s my glowing and optimistic nature talking.” Bennedict pours himself a glass of wine, sipping at it absent-mindedly. “Confraternity of rat catchers? What a charming and charismatic group of people they must be. I’m almost afraid to ask, but how would one go about making contact with one of them?”

G: The gendarme visibly relaxes and begins to question Norzak and Cirdan:

‘’A nain is a, euh, dwarf. Now, please tell me what happened here,exactly.’


Mattheo nods and answers,
‘’ Just go to their guildhall. It’s on the Plaza of Statues, on the south side if I recall correctly. Near the gate there is a bronze statue of a rat. ’’

N: “I’ll sleep better knowin’ a nain is a dwarf. Now I seen ‘n’ heard this here missy” he nods to Charlotte “scream. Then I saw them two men tryin’ ta git her in a boat. I started running and yelled back at tha other missy” he then nods to Evangeline before continuing. “I casted me spell at one of that varmints who was tryin’ ta kidnap the first missy, Charlotte. He got tired from me spell ‘n’ fell into the boat. Elf here” he points at Cirdan " he did his part in tryin’ ta protect missy Charlotte. I used me wand ta slow them down but one of em got away on tha waterway there." Norzak realises that this is the second time in a few days that young women are being kidnapped or at least the attempt is there. He choses not to mention to the authorities that this is their second save this week.

G: The officer questioning Norzak confers with his subordinate, who has been questioning other witnesses. After a brief huddle, he turns his attention back to Norzak and Cirdan.

‘’Oh, I see. A kidnapping foiled, very good. Well, thank you for that. I think we are done here. We will send a man to the Sancerre house if we have further questions. You may leave. ’’

Just then, the third gendarme returns, a little wet, and says -

‘’We caught him! He’s in custody, on his way to the healers. Nasty cut on him, sir.’’

All three gendarmes quickly turn and walk away, pausing only to tip their caps to Evangeline and Charlotte as they pass.

B: Bennedict’s face flushes red. Perhaps the wine is a bit stronger than he is used to, or perhaps his nerves are finally catching up with him. “Ah, ahem,” he begins, pushing the glass around in circles, watching the red liquid swirl around in the glass. “Mattheo, you and I are old friends, yes? We have known each other for a long time.” He harrumphs, not quite knowning how best to put forth the next bit. “The sewers of this city, it is said they are filled with many rats, nien? And perhaps things which are worse than rats?” He arches an eyebrow suggestively. “Perhaps things which combine elements of the two? In any case, when one visits Pont-a-Museau one expects to hear the sounds of rats crawling in the sewer lines and in the walls of most buildings. It is a matter of course, something a local comes to accept.” He winces, looking up at his friend apologetically. “Is it possible these rat-catching men are not entirely dedicated to performing their jobs? I have difficulty trusting men who are so evidently failing in the completion of their tasks, as these rat catchers clearly are. And if worse things than rats dwell in these sewers, how am I to know that they do not work in congress with them?”

He heaves a heavy sigh, sliding the glass of wine away decisively. “I am sorry old friend. I do not mean to insult you or your council. You know this city better than I. I simply find myself surrounded by mysteries, and I am not certain who or what I can trust.” He picks up another sandwich, taking a bite out of it and chewing thoughtfully. “You must admit, though,” he says, his mouth still full, “It is terribly coincidental, this story of rat-men and a pestilence god popping up on the same day. Enough to make any man suspicious.”

C: Cirdan briefly nods to the officers, but without his usual friendliness and servility.

“Wow, that was a close call, Norzak” is all he says.

He will then walk over and attend the ladies if they need his help in some way.

You might notice that the elf is unusually quiet compared to the afterplay to the other fights.

G:
Mattheo has finshed his sandwhich. He refills his wine cup, and takes another draught from it before answering-

‘’Well, it is a fact that establishments which spurn the services of the ratcatchers often suffer particularly bad infestations. That might be explained very simply, of course, with nothing sinister involved.
As for failing in their duties, well, the city is old, and there are countless places for pests to hide. The rats have been here longer than the current race of men, though certainly their numbers have grown explosively since the colonization began.
In the early days of reclamation, there was little organized effort to control the vermin. Rats the size of large dogs would emerge from the sewers and catacombs to carry off children. The awful famines in the surrounding countryside, the sickness that would befall any who entered certain unclean houses…it must have been a harrowing time, if the old accounts are to be believed.
The cities of this country were inhabited by lesser numbers of men in those days, and Man’s mastery here was in question. Rats and men were at war, Benn, and the rats were winning. Maybe now we have a stalemate, or a truce….’’

G: Evangeline is fussing over Charlotte, standing on the baordwalk near the little cafe.

‘’Oh you poor girl! I hope you aren’t hurt badly.’’

‘’No, I am fine Miss Evie. Just shaken, I suppose. I need to lie down, I think.’’

‘’Of course, we can go home immediately.’’

Evangeline, seeing Sir Cirdan approach, walks quickly to his side.

‘’Sir Cirdan, let us return to my father’s house. Poor Charlotte needs to recover from this awful experience.’’

Evangeline is blushing and her whole form quivers slightly. Her breath is coming just a little faster than would be usual for a person standing at rest. She takes a half-step towards Cirdan. She opens her mouth to speak, pauses a moment in silence, then says,

’’Oh, how will I ever thank you properly for saving first me, then Charlotte? You are a true hero Sir Cirdan. Norzak, as well. It is our good fortune that you came into this city when you

B: “Hmm, quite right,” Bennedict chews thoughtfully on a corner of sandwich. “This has been extremely informative, Mattheo. As always your hospitality and personal collection exceed their reputation. My client will be most interested to hear about my discoveries.” He closes up the notebook, stuffing it back into his satchel before carefully closing the cover of the old tome and handing it back to Mattheo. “If I have any other questions, I will return and discuss them with you. Thank you again.”

He stands, tossing back the last of his glass of wine and brushing the crumbs from his lap before shouldering his satchel and turning towards the door.

G: Stepping out the door of the Marble Faun, Benn sees that it is mid-afternoon. The weather remains bright and sunny, but the heat of the day has begun to subside. The neighborhood is quiet but not empty. A young couple stroll down the avenue opposite of the spot where Benn is standing, and further down the street in a vacant lot some little children are playing amid the fallen cloumns of what must have been an impressive building, long ago. Now, only the long white marble pillars remain, and these are broken and scattered across the grassy field.

N: Norzak mumbles under his breath as the Gendarmes depart “Good riddance. A buncha mangy dogs if yer ask me….” When Cirdan addresses him Norzak nods at him “Aye, ‘twas a close shave there, elf. Them pOlice are quite incompetent. We gone done their job twice ’n’ nuthin ta show fer it too! Bah! Nothin a pint won’t cure…. I wunner what Benn’s bin up to this afternoon? No matter I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.”

When Cirdan goes to look in on the ladies, Norzak sheaths his short sword and looks around warily. Then he approaches the three others and nodding in agreement with Cirdan’s assessment of getting the ladies home, he leads the way.

G: The walk back to the Sancerre home is a pleasant one, and passes without incident.


When you arrive at Evageline’s home, you see that M. Sancerre has returned from his errands. He is pacing in the garden, pausing every now and then to take a swig of wine directly from the bottle in his right hand. As you arrive, he turns to you, red-faced, and blurts out:

’’I’ve had disturbing news, friends! A man I knew well has been murdered! He was a rascally sort, and I shan’t miss him, may Ezra forgive my unkindness is saying so. That he was murdered, I can readily believe, for he lately kept bad company. No, it is this item that disturbs me: Pierre’s grave is empty! I just heard that, only a moment after I learned of his being dead. Someone has stolen his corpse. What a dreadful crime!’’

C: “No thanks are required, mylady. It’s not what I am, but what my order”, Cirdan briefly touches the skull medal hanging from his neck, “has teached me to do.”

As the group arrives at the Sancerre house, Cirdan quickly rushes Evangeline’s father. “Mylord, no time for explanations. Get some clothes, food and money, and be ready to leave the house in half an hour. Don’t talk to the servants, don’t inform any of your business partners. By my honor as a knight, take haste.”

And to Norzak: “We must bring them to a safer place, and quickly, my friend! It is obvious that the murderers won’t stop that easily. And maybe we should investigate yesterday’s suicider again.”

B: “Gone from his grave?” Bennedict stops dead in his tracks, confusion and fear evident on his features. “How can that be possible? He’s only just been put in it! And he didn’t die of anything one would expect to cause him to rise back from the dead…” His eyes narrow in confusion before suddenly widening. “The old man! He must have had something to do with it!”

N: “Awright. I ain’t from this here city so where can we hide ‘em fer now? Elf? Benn? Ye got any ideas? Oh Benn we had a nice afternoon with the lassies. We’ll tell ye about it later. ‘N’ what of yeself, lad? Was it a productive afternoon?”

B: “I’m sorry, what?” Bennedict comes back from his suspicious train of thought regarding the fellow who encountered their “murder victim” several nights previous. “Yes, yes, productive. I’ll fill you in later. Unfortunately the best safe house I knew of is compromised, due to our missing, recently deceased friend.”

G: For just a minute, Denys Sancerre stands there in the garden, open-mouthed, dazed by the impact of Sir Cirdan’s words. He blinks rapidly, and stammers out,

‘’Y-yess. I’ll do it. Oh Evangeline, come with me, we must hurry!’’

Evangeline hastens to follow her father into the house to collect the things for their flight.

C: “Norzak, please go in and inform Ben of what happened. I’ll stay outside and guard the entrance. – If we both stay outside, we might look too much like those strangers on the wanted poster!”

Cirdan will put on the hood of his cloak and sit on a chair on the Sancerre Veranda, his dagger drawn, but hidden from any bypasser’s sight.

B: “Wanted poster?” Bennedict confusingly begins, before stubbornly shaking his head. " Nevermind. Tell me later. Come, herr dwarf, I have my own preparations to make."

Bennedict hustles through Sancerre house to his temporary quarters. Stepping inside, he reaches underneath the bed, drawing out a small wooden trunk. The archivist pulls forth a rattling bundle of keys, flipping to one in particular which he uses to undo the latch. He impatiently flips the chest open, uncovering a worn, iron breastplate. With a sign, Benn snatches the armor out of the box, throwing his arms through the shoulder straps.

“I can’t say that I saw myself needing this when I woke up this morning. You two must have had an eventful trip to town.”

G: Within the hour, the Sancerres have packed their things. While the last of the preparations for flight are being undertaken to the rear of the house, two visitors arrive in the front…..

Two men enter the gate and walk up the path towards the spot where Sir Cirdan is sitting. The taller of the two is a tall, slim, mustachioed fellow wearing a drab outfit and armed with a long, narrow blade. His companion is a rather rotund fellow who wears a short cape despite the warmth of the day.

The tall man with the sword steps speaks as the pair draws near to the veranda where Cirdan sits on watch.

The tall fellow smiles obsequiously and tips his cap to the knight.
‘’Ho there, friend, we have business with Master Sancerre. Would you kindly direct us to him? We’d be most obliged.‘’
The fat man doesn’t say anything , but fixes Cirdan with a cold stare. He reaches towards his left flank, near a spot under his cape. Cirdan notices a bulge there, under his arm.


Just then, Charlotte walks into the room. With her right hand she carries a wooden tray with two steaming mugs resting on it. A smell of cloves and other spices creeps across the room.

‘’Surprise! I brought you both some mulled wine…oh, is everything alright?’’

She stares at Ben’s breastplate as if she never before seen a man in armor. Her lips are parted slightly and she is breathing rapidly and shallowly. He face grows a bit pale as she reaches with her free hand for the rabbit’s foot pendant hanging about her neck.

C: Cirdan spits on the ground, in front of the men’s boots.

“Master Sancerre is unable to attend any visitors at the moment. Tell your comrade to keep his hands where I can see them, and then leave this private property.”

The half-elf will slowly stand up, giving a mute prayer to the Eternal King that he had kept his armor on.

Even if the other man tries to only to argue, he will attack.

G: Both men react quickly. The tall man tugs at his sword to free it from its scabbard, taking two quick steps back as he does so. The fat man, who is standing a couple of yards back, flips aside his cloak and grabs for the butt of the big wheellock pistol that hangs under his left arm!

B:“Are you feeling alright, Fraulein? I understand you had a taxing day at the marketplace.” He flashes the lady a quizzical look. “Here, let me take those off of your hands so you can sit down for a moment.” Bennedict reaches forward to take the tray of drinks from Charlotte.

G: The fat man has his pistol in hand and instantly fires a snapshot at Cirdan. The gun leaps in his pudgy hand, letting loose a crashing roar and a puff of acrid smoke. Cirdan feels the wind of the ball’s passage as it narrowly misses his head!

The thin man is also very quick and manages to get his sword free with near blinding speed! He slashes at Cirdan’s face, leaving the elf-knight with a nasty wound.

G: Charlotte hands the tray to Benn and speaks,

‘’Oh, I shall be fine, I think. I just saw you in that armor…well, I imagined something might be wrong. I know I’m being silly, it’s just that things have been so crazy lately. I don’t feel safe anymore. I…’’

BOOM!
You all hear a loud noise from the front of the house.

C: Cirdan will have just one goal: Kill the man with the gun!

In a first move, he will try to stab the enemy, then, if possible, pull his shield from his back so he can block the sword.

B: Ben is setting the tray of drinks on top of the bed as the shot rings out. He looks around in alarm before dropping to a knee, reaching into his trunk and pulling out a small crossbow. “Herr Norzak, I believe Sir Cirdan needs our assistance.” He hurries to the door, loading a bolt and turning the crank. As he steps out into the hall he turns back to Charlotte. “Not to alarm you, Fraulein, but it may be a good idea for you to barricade the door behind us.”

G: The Thin Man leaps to the side as Cirdan pushes past him, advancing on the cubby pistoleer. Thin Man swings wildly at Cirdan head or neck, but the elf -knight has managed to bring his shiled into play and easily blocks the blow as he rushes past, bearing down on his intended prey. One more step will carry the knight within reach of the Fat Guy.

Fat Guy is ramming a ball into his pistol when Cirdan’s last lunging step carries the point of his dirk into his chest! He stands transfixed by Cirdan’s blade. Pink ,frothy fluid pours bubbles up from his mouth and nose, and the pistol falls uselessly from his hand to the wooden floor of the porch.

C: Cirdan will open his grip on his dagger, and try to draw his sword, while covering himself with his shield.

G: Charlotte immediately sets to work dragging furniture across the room to erect a barricade.

N: Norzak will go and help Cirdan. Removing a dagger from his belt, he takes careful aim and throws it a the fat man.

G: The Thin Man advances against Sir Cirdan, who has just drawn his sword/ His is able to block the Thin Man’s attack with his shield.

The dwarf bursts out the front door and hurls a dagger at the Fat Guy, who is stumbling about with Cirdan’s dagger buried in his chest. The knife leaves Norzak’s hand and spins through the air, end over end, to impale the fat man in the gut. He tries to scream, but can only manage a horrible gargling sound as he coughs up more blood. He stoops to pick up the pistol he dropped, and fumbles to charge it with powder….

At this point, Benn arrives at the front of the house. He has a clear shot at the Fat Guy, while the Thin Man is awfully close to Cirdan, making him a risker target.

C: Cirdan will try to hit the thin man with his shield, then stab him with his sword,
all the while shouting: “Don’t shoot me, Ben!”

B: Bennedict sizes up the situation, seeing the larger pistol-toting man bleeding profusely from multiple wounds and the injured Cirdan battling an otherwise unscathed opponent, and shifts his crossbow to one hand. “Do not worry, some attacks do not rely on my aim.”

Recalling the ancient language of the Harakir, Bennedict closes his eyes and begins an incantation. “Weapon of Ra, bring forth your searing light to devour the darkness.”

G: Cirdan rams the Thin Man with his shield, sending him staggering backwards a two or three paces. Cirdan executes a follow up thrust, but the Thin Man jumps aside at the last possible second, saving himself.

As Benn chants, a patch of shimmering golden light springs into being near the Thin Man. Very quickly, it takes on the shape of a heavy, curved sword composed entirely composed of golden light. The luminous falchion moves through the air of its own accord, striking at the Thin Man!

’’’Aaargh!!’’ Thin Man screams as the conjured blade rips into the flesh of his back

Fat Guy has slumped down against the front wall of the house. He’s winding the firing mechanism of his pistol with a spanner [ a wrench-like tool].

Thin Man darts to the left and strikes again at Sir Cirdans’ face. The rapier impacts the knight’s gorget, instead, and the steel plate turns aside the blow.

B: Bennedict smiles in satisfaction at the prayer’s successful completion, relieved that the new incantation actually worked. I would have liked to have tried that one out first, but good to see all the same. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the heavier fellow winding his flintlock pistol and snaps his crossbow back up, firing a bolt at the fellow.

C: Cirdan, relying on his superior ability in defending with a shield, raises his defense and tries to cut the thin man with a hit coming from downside.

N: Norzak again this day wipes his brow, getting some sweat on it. Uttering a few arcane phrases a ray flees his hand and strikes the fat fellow right in the gut!

G: The Fat Guy sighs heavily and slides down to rest on the floor of the veranda. He lies prone, moving very slowly, as if the effort to make even small motions were almost too much for him to manage. Feebly, he attempts to raise the pistol to take aim at Norzak.

Cirdan’s forceful blow cuts across the Thin Man’s torso, leaving a long , shallow laceration. Dark blood oozes out quickly, spreading a crimson stain across his tunic and breeches.

Benn’s aim is true and the bolt strikes the Fat Guy in the left shoulder and lodges itself there, only the very back of the feather shaft showing out from the wound.

G: The glowing falchion still dances in the air behind the Thin Man. Now it swoops in again to stike him in his back. The blow cuts deep, and the Thin Man topples forward to lie at Cirdan’s feet, motionless.

Fat Guy takes aim at Norzak and squeezes the trigger. The weapon leaps in the man’s grip and belches fire and smoke.

BOOM!

Norzak feels something hard strike him in the arm. It hurts.

The smoke clears, revealing the Fat Guy lying flat on his face, just barely twitching, the discharged pistol still clutched tightly in his right hand.

N: Norzak stops a moment as his arm is splintered. “Ouch! Ye mangy dog! Comin inta someone else’s home ‘n’ doing nasty deeds ain’t right! ‘N’ ye shoot at me! That’s it!” Norzak removes his dagger and runs up to the fat man, furious. "All i’s doin’ is tryin ta help these people ye dag! and proceeds to jab the dagger in between the man’s both eyes. Then not bothering to wait he darts off to where he heard the scream coming from. He loads his crossbow on the way.

G: The Fat Guy makes a pathetic mewling noise as Norzak stabs him in the head between his eyes. He burbles a bit, and quits moving entirely.

As Norzak hoofs it for the back yard, running around the very big house, he hears- as do the others- the unmistakable sound of a woman screaming. Evangeline? Charlotte?

In the rear of the house, Charlotte lies crumpled on the ground in a pool of her own blood.

A few yards away from the servant girl, M. Sancerre lies sprawled motionless on the ground. Near him lies a heavy pack, supplies spilling out of it onto the lawn.

Evangeline is nowhere to be seen.

The rear gate stands open, creaking on its hinges as the wind blows against it. You can hear the rapidly receding sound of hoofbeats echoing down the cobbled streets, but the riders are obscured from your view by a row of houses.

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