Monday, June 30, 2008

...The end of the campaign.

Several days after the rebellion against the Grand Arch Duke had been thwarted, Adriana Arabella Wormpole, apparently acting on her own volition, but with some help from within the City Militia, asked Misteline to go with Captain Silas to find the Black Rock, and if possible, render it harmless. It was understood that the Black Stone came from the isolated village of Slapershaven, high up the River Verdu on the southern bank of Lake Slapersmeer, in a desolate frontier region where winters were hard and the land harder yet. It was also hinted that the city might not be all that safe for Misteline and his friends in the light of recent events, but in any case, Misteline took on the task and set off with Drake, Rufus and Silas. The journey to Slapershaven took three weeks, and the last leg was aboard the river trade ship Stella of Albinius Moonshank and his son Lukas.

Slapershaven it transpired was the last navigable settlement on the river and a local trade centre for the frontier farmers. The headsman of Slapershaven was called Herluf Brethouwer and he was the richest man in the region. Herluf was hospitable and helpful and gave the group lodging in his home.

Misteline and his companions quickly learned that Slapershaven was cursed by a local bogeyman named Clod who apparently stalked the village at night. Already their first night in the village, the characters came into contact with this creature when they heard it splashing about in the lake. Although it was the middle of the night they rushed out to investigate and managed to scare the creature away, but after they had returned to the headman’s house, Clod returned, and under mysterious circumstances, apparently made off with the trader Albinius Moonshank. This prompted a fruitless search for the body on the morrow.
The villagers seemed strangely despondent with regards to Clod and after a half day or so; the village appeared to return to some semblance of normality. Misteline began investigating the locals and quickly identified a local lunatic Samuel Leadfern as suspicious. This man, who had once been the inn keeper of ‘Ye Merry Badger’, was locked in his room above the tap room where his hoarse screaming could clearly be heard. Despite this awful noise, the villagers seemed some what oblivious to the wretch. His daughter Juliana and her friend Molly Frith were left to run the inn and take care of him. Misteline had Drake make a healing concoction to ease the troubled mans mind and then with the daughter’s permission, interrogated Leadfern with regards to his madness. Piecing together the various rumours from the villagers with the scant information gained from this interview, Misteline was able to conclude that at some point in the past, Leadfern and his wife had been up in the mountains hunting fossils. Fossils are a source of extra income for the locals as good examples can fetch a high price amongst collectors in the outside world. During this trip, Leadfern and his wife brought back a Black Rock, roughly the size of three cabbages, whose physical description matched the Black Rock fragments. The couple owned this rock for some time before illness overtook Samuel Leadfern, and Clod then apparently abducted his wife. Leadfern it seemed then agreed to sell the Black Rock via the village shopkeeper, Bartlemy Linschoten.

Misteline knew some one in the village had sold the Black Rock to Bartholumus Pyle and wondering whether or not Linschoten was another agent of Renas Costa he decided to try and fool the shop keeper by forging a letter from Pyle asking for another such black rock and to pass this letter to Linschoten as if he were merely a messenger. Linschoten read the letter but apologised and explained that there had only ever been the one shard and that was all sold now. He appeared to be altogether ignorant of Bartholumus Pyle. He did however explain that the Black Rock had only been one shard of a much larger stone, and the rest of this curious rock was most likely still where Samuel Leadfern and his wife had found it. Misteline then arranged to travel up into the mountains and a local man named Jarolf Lowhouse agreed to guide them some of the way.

The next day under a glorious sky with a shining sun, the adventurers travelled up the road from Slapershaven, on their way to the mountains. With them went Lukas Moonshank who was intent on discovering what was going on and if possible, to avenge the assumed death of his father. By mid day the group reached the first camp site, where Silas was forced to have his feet dressed by Drake as his soft city foot wear had failed to protect his feet against the rocky land. As the group sat about a well stoked camp site, they had a splendid view of the Slapersmeer and could clearly see a twin masted caravel approaching Slapershaven. Since they knew that no traders except Albinius Moonshank ever came this far up the river, they concluded that the enemy was approaching. Leaving Drake to keep watch they pressed quickly onwards. Drake waited at the last vantage point and observed the village below with Misteline’s telescope. He saw very little, but enough to recognise several men in red bearing metal. Not long after these men left Slapershaven in the company of a man in blue and began to follow the road... Drake hurried to catch up with his friends.

The party, now minus Jarolf who had taken a different road to his brothers property, regrouped at a tenant farm belonging to Herluf Brethouwer where three farm hands were pleased to give them shelter. Misteline was worried that the people following them might be able to catch them up during the night however so he advocated sleeping in the forest. This was a prudent, but unfortunate decision for the rain began and the next morning saw a distant pillar of smoke indicating that the other party had camped at the first camp site rather than press on.

Some what gloomily Misteline and his companions made their way through the woods to the last farm before the mountains. This small homestead was owned by Verity Hacker and in the pouring rain; this good woman took the bedraggled friends in and gave them a hot meal. Misteline told Verity of their pursuers and urged caution, but Verity seemed unafraid. She sent the friends on their way and gave them wet weather clothing. She knew of the black stone, even to the point of referring to it as the ‘famous black stone’ and guessing it was a ‘stone from the sky. She was happy to give directions to the Dark Pools, where the rock rested. Misteline and his friends set off up into the mist soaked valley, but once again Drake remained to keep watch.

Finding the Dark Pools was not too difficult, though getting their in the wet, cold and miserable landscape was. The rain turned the ground into a slippery quagmire filled with boulders and as they travelled by the swollen river, the group had to negotiate numerous fallen trees, landslides and a lot of savage undergrowth. Finally they reached the tributary river along whose length they came to the Dark Pools. Here tall cliffs meant they could go no further, but this made no difference for in the dim twilight they finally found the Black Rock!

The Black Rock was lying by itself to one side of the upper pool. It was large and obviously too heavy to move. Misteline reckoned it probably weighed over a ton at least. On one side it had a flat facet where it had split at some point in the past. There was only the one rock which was pitted and pock marked, black and slightly metallic in appearance. Misteline’s knowledge was unable to guess at what kind of a rock it was, but he agreed with Verity Hacker in guessing it was a ‘stone from the sky’.

In the meantime, Drake waited in the rain for as long as he could but when the darkness gathered he decided he’d waited long enough. Just as he was beginning to leave however, he heard voices and saw several armoured soldiers bearing pikes and red cloaks escorting a man in a blue cloak to the farm of Verity Hacker. He counted six soldiers in all, then quickly made his way up the river. The going was tough, but Drake was cautious and experienced and he managed to avoid falling into the river. After an hour or so he suddenly came across two men coming in the opposite direction, and after hiding to observe them, he introduced himself to the notorious Groot Brothers.

Adolphus and Bertholdt Groot were two local outlaws who had been living off the land for years after fleeing from a murder. Drake had heard of them from the villagers and from Verity Hacker, and understood that the Brothers were heading for Verity Hackers farm where they were accustomed to a welcome it seemed. The Brothers were suspicious of Drake, but they were cold, wet and miserable and they didn’t fancy picking a fight with a stranger in the dark, especially not after they learned of the pike men who were at Verity Hackers farm. They hurried on their way and Drake pressed on.

Misteline, Silas, Lukas and Rufus had made a shelter of sorts below some pine trees, and were trying to get some sleep when Drake finally caught up with them. Learning of the six pike men the group decided to set a guard and get as much rest as possible. Misteline was all for setting a dawn ambush, but Drake and the others were too tired to care much. After two days in the rain and filth, the others were exhausted, wet and despondent. Not long after the group had fallen asleep, the Groot brothers, sent by Verity Hacker, turned up to warn that the Pikemen were after them. The brothers agreed to stay and help Misteline and his companions, if they would take the brothers away from the area. Both brothers were emaciated, had bad teeth and were sick of living by themselves.

After a tiresome night with precious little sleep Misteline was awoken to the news that the Pikemen had anticipated an ambush and had them selves set out before dawn to catch the group unawares. There were only a few minutes to take up defensive positions, but every one rallied and when the pike men arrived they found the way blocked. The man in blue stepped forth and began to talk.

His name it transpired was Archibald Pillorseed and it seemed he was indeed an agent of Renas Costa, though he never actually said this himself. He gave Misteline to understand that he was under orders not to kill Misteline, but that unless Misteline gave up the Black Rock, he would order his men to kill Misteline’s companions. Pillorseed did not seem aware of the size of the Black Rock. Misteline rejected Pillorseed’s ultimatum and so the two sides drew apart. Misteline hid amongst the pine tree’s and rocks to the north of the dark pools, but Pillorseed sent three of his men around the southern bank whilst he and the other three guarded the stream, effectively trapping the companions and preventing them from escaping to make ambushes later on. As the three pike men advanced, supported by Silas with his crossbow, Drake opened fire with his long bow and killed two of them outright. The third retreated to where Pillorseed and the remaining pike men held the stream. A stand off was in the offing, but now Rufus and Lukas attempted to taunt the enemy into a brazen attack. Approaching the pike men Rufus miscalculated their reach and was quickly stabbed multiple times and unable to resist. Misteline rushed forwards to help but it was to no avail. Rufus was helpless and a hostage.

Once more Pillorseed spoke. He offered to allow Misteline to go in peace, provided Misteline swore not to try any ambushes on the way back to the village. Knowing that the weight of the Black Rock gave him an advantage, Misteline accepted. Pillorseed silenced his grumbling men and released the sheepish Rufus. Soaked to the bone, miserable and with Rufus in the first stages of a fever, the group made their way back to Slapershaven where they found Archibald Pillorseed’s chartered ship, a Skavian vessel, moored along side Lukas’s trader. Misteline proposed a joint attack on the ship but Herluf Brethouwer refused to get involved.

Things looked dire until Silas bought off the Skavian crew who then quickly captured the two marines Pillorseed had left as a guard. Lukas set sail and Silas bought all the fishing boats in the village. Knowing that the winter would effectively block the river until February, and together with the removal of the fishing boats, Misteline proposed to trap Pillorseed in Slapershaven until such time as the authorities in Takshendal could send soldiers to arrest him.

The job done, Misteline and his companions (including the Groot brothers) returned to Takshendal where they each went their separate ways again.

The next year a small militia detachment rowed up the river to arrest Archibald Pillorseed, but they found no sign of him in Slapershaven. The villagers had not seen him return nor had Verity Hacker. The Black Rock was still lying beside the Dark Pools but it had been worked upon and parts had been broken off and carried away. The official conclusion was that either Archibald Pillorseed and his men had gotten lost or that they must have travelled back to Takshendal by the over land route. The militia guards then buried the remaining rock in an undisclosed location.

Some few weeks after he returned Silas found the promotion he had hoped for was given to another man. He hung about in Takshendal, waiting for orders and to pass the time he sometimes visited Misteline in his studio. On one such occasion he was able to tell Misteline that the man charged with keeping the Black Rocks had gone mad and the various shards had been locked away in a secret vault.

Months later Silas was finally promoted to the office of the Lord High Sheriff of the Marne Territories...

Misteline never did manage to solve the curse of Slapershaven, though he concluded from the available evidence that Clod was in fact Samuel Leadfern’s wife, driven mad by the Black Rock. When he mentioned this theory to Herluf Brethouwer, the headsman seemed strangely indifferent and Misteline concluded that every one in the village already knew who Clod really was.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chapter 3.3 'The Curse of Slapershaven'

From the Journal of Misteline

17th Septemus - In the Backwoods:

We arose at dawn, with Heike Brethouwer doing most of the work whilst her young daughter in law slept on, which I can well understand.
Jarolf Lowhouse
had agreed guide us for some of the way, and we set off. For once the weather was clear and sunny. I was keen to try my new boots (which were made by the same cobbler as the very satisfactory previous pair). Much to everyone's surprise they were fine, and Silas was the one to get blisters, and had to ride the old mare that we had borrowed from Herluf.

The track lead along a ridge away from Slapershaven, and so we could see the village and the lake for much of the day. We could also see the double masted, lateen sailed ship that was approaching. This was unusual (Albinius / Lukas operated the only regular riverboat, according to Jarolf). It must have been fairly difficult to get such a large vessel so far upstream, and fairly expensive.
We watched with my telescope, then I lent it to Drake and the rest of us pressed on.
Drake saw several figures clothed in red, and one with a blue cloak. They looked like southern mercenaries of some sort, most probably from Casilicus, at least according to Rufus. In the afternoon, they left the village, on the same trail we had taken.

We had paused at a campsite; a regular shelter with firewood, left by the locals for there own use. Then, at the first junction, Jarolf turned right to his relations' farm. We continued.
Towards dusk we arrived at another farm, where 3 of Herluf's labourers were gathered around a fire. They bid us welcome, and invited us to stay for the night, but I was concerned that the mercenaries might be following us, and would arrive in the morning (the trail is sufficiently uneven, and the light sufficiently bad, that even soldiers would have been considerably slowed by a night march). Drake had caught up with us before dusk.

We decided that walking through the woods to the third farm would be too hard for us at night (as it happened, the way was short and quite easy going), but we couldn't risk the mercenaries coming upon us by night, or at dawn. We sneaked a few bowshots away from the farm (leaving the horse, as it was stabled inside), and made a fireless but dry bivouac.

18th Septemus:

Dawn was clear enough to see woodsmoke arising from the campsite; the mercenaries had stopped there at dusk. They were now fresh, whilst (with the exception of Drake, who thrives in a wild setting), we were cold and tired.
We continued to the third farm, which I approached. Drake fetched the horse. The others hung back out of sight.
This was a prosperous farm, run by Verity Hacker, and she made us welcome. She was fairly loquacious and mentioned that other natural philosophers and fossil collecters had come this way every so often, and told us how to find the 'Famous Black Stone'. I called to the others and we all ate a meal with the Hacker household. A downpour started however, and so we borrowed oilskins and continued in the rain.

We were looking for a good campsite, in a defensible position. We also wanted to locate the black stone itself, but not to approach it too closely.
I suspected that animals could be sickened by the stone, but that they would generally avoid it. Plants might be warped.
We approached a rocky valley with a waterfall at the head, a pool, a smaller waterfall, another pool and a stream flowing out (we were walking upstream on the left bank).
The left (still looking upstream) of the upper pool was readily defensible, but was a mediocre campsite. The black stone lay near the opposite bank. The best campsite lay on the left, by the lower pool, as the trees provided some shelter.
Drake wasn't with us, so we tried both sites.

Drake had gone back to observe Verity's farm, and sure enough 6 mercenaries and some sort of officer arrived at dusk.

He made his way up to us in the darkness, but met the Groot Brothers on the trail. As we had surmised, the Groots were reasonably friendly with Verity and her family, and Drake told them about the mercenaries.
Like all the other farmers, they assumed that these had been hired by Herluf, to capture the Groots. This was ridiculous as 7 professionals (and a ship) would cost vastly more than any reasonable reward for the ruffians.
Drake returned to our camp and then a few hours later the Groots came to us with word from Verity that the mercenaries were after the Black Stone and us.
I negotiated; they would help us (as guides, rather than fighters) against the soldiers, if we could arrange for their safe passage downstream.

I didn't sleep particularly well; thinking of the stone, how I could split it's reflection by sunlight, moonlight, maybe even starlight in my prisms (people wondered if it had fallen from the stars, and I would not be surprised, as there was no trace of it being vomited from the earth).
The Groots mentioned that Clod was female, and didn't seem surprised when I suggested that she was Samuel's Wife, driven mad by the stone.
We expected that the mercenaries would come soon after dawn. I wanted to talk first, to find out what they wanted, and to assess their weapons, but we all expected a fight.

19th Septemus:

A bit before dawn, whilst we were still talking about our preparations, Lukas (who had been watching the approach up the valley) heard voices. The mercenaries had braved the rough terrain and rain, and had got into position for a dawn attack.
With Rufus, I remained at the lower campsite, whilst the others climbed up to the ridge between the upper pools. As we could not get the horse up to the upper pool (at least not on this side of the stream), the Groot Brothers concealed her amongst some boulders just below the path up.
6 of the mercenaries were marines, with helmets, partial armour, pikes and slung shields. The leader (employer?) was from Takshendal, though, by his accent, not from the city (I must identify his accent). We spoke.

They had presumably asked all the locals about us, but it seemed that they had some excellent intelligence and standing orders. He addressed me by name, and demanded that I abandon my claim to the stone, in exchange for the lives of my companions. I was not to be killed. He knew about Adriana Wormpole. He didn't know that the black stone was too heavy to be moved. He claimed that he had techniques to mitigate its unpleasant side effects. His group numbered 7, all well armed. We were 5, less well prepared, but unlike them we had missile weapons and the Groots as dubious allies.
I demured, and backed towards my friends, claiming that I wanted to consult them.

The leader (he had finally given his name as Achibald Pillorseed) sent 3 men across the river, and upwards towards the second pool.
I had suggested that we have someone capable of shooting on both sides of the stream, with a wide angle between them. They didn't do this, largely because we only had Drake's excellent longbow and Silas' crossbow. As it happened, this was enough, as Drake killed 2 of them.

The other group then crossed the stream and they all withdrew behind some rocks.
Then things started to go wrong for us.
Our first problem was that Drake shot about 1/3 of his arrows, although Silas actually recovered 2 of them.
Drake had also twisted his ankle jumping across the stream between the pools. He could not harry the enemy through the forests, though they didn't know this.
I saw the disaster approaching; with the 5 mercenaries in good cover, Rufus stood before them and taunted, Lukas beside him. Silas hung back on their flank, closer to myself and the Groots. I was walking up openly, the Groots sneaking. We were still on our side of the stream; my main purpose was to force the mercenaries to detail more men towards us (not really helped by the little detail that the Groots were not signed up to fight). Rufus was standing too close.
Archibald shouted back, but before I was far enough forward, the marines rushed out; 4 in a line towards Rufus and Lukas, only 1 to Silas (Drake and Silas shot at him, and he retreated).
Rufus was overconfident and stood his ground, but was overpowered. Lukas fled.

Archibald then negotiated from strength. I never wanted to claim the stone, and it was too heavy to move, so I suggested that he send a man to confirm its weight.
Then, the best settlement that I could think of, was that he allowed Rufus to crawl over to us, we left the area, and we would not attempt to ambush them on the way back to Slapershaven.

We travelled back the way that we'd come.
Drake sneaked up to Slapershaven and saw that there was no way that we could take the ship (I'd never promised anything about Slapershaven and beyond). The locals were independent, and could not afford to be anything other than neutral. The ship's crew, on the other hand, accepted a hefty bribe to overpower the 2 additional marines on board, and accept our employment.
We bought the local fishing boats for a good price (and concealed them a little way away, telling the villagers all about it). Lukas sailed his boat, and we sailed on the ship.
I told Herluf and Brother Jeppo what we were doing, and why.
The mercenaries could, no doubt, cut other fragments from the stone. They could trek downstream, or build another boat. However, at the end of Septemus, the weather generally turns nasty, the currents become difficult, and eventually ice blocks the lake and crashes down the river.
We got to Takshendal in good time, and Adriana Wormpole sent an adequate number of well equipped troops to the area.

I wrote a full account to Lady Adriana, and I gather that Silas was rather more circumspect with the city authorities (which, I gather, rather endeared him to Lady Adriana).

In all, not a wholly satisfactory conclusion.
I feel that the opposition knew too much about us, so information is leaking from the Wormpole organisation, and more likely from the city beaurocracy. Aurore is still free (but what did she know?). The opposition also seems to know more about the stone. I'd like to study it in the spring, but suspect that it will be buried.
The larger part of the first fragment is still unaccounted for; I'm fairly sure that it left Slapershaven.
Archibald may have escaped with additional fragments, but nothing large.
The villagers may have known who the latest iteration of Clod is all along, and not tried too hard to trap her.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chapter 3.2 'The Curse of Slapershaven'

From the Journal of Misteline

Screams in the Night:

Some time in the small hours of the morning of the 16th Septemus, Lukas Moonshank, who was sleeping aboard the boat, awoke to the sound of a splash. In the Brethouwer house, Drake and Rufus awoke as well, and as they began to move about, other people began to stir. The night was very dark and wet; the moon hidden behind thick clouds. Lukas lit (or unveiled) a lantern, which Drake and Rufus saw, and having armed themselves they walked towards the jetty. On the way, Drake heard a pig moving about behind a house, but felt that there was something else. He searched about as best he could, and Rufus and Lukas eventually brought up the lantern.
Drake caught a momentary glimpse of a pale, slender, Human (or Human-like) figure, and also some naked Human footprints in the mud, and of a size suggesting a woman or boy before his full growth.

I had taken the time to check the palisade gate (shut, as it should be) and guard tower (no sign of a guard, but this is usual), and then I lit another lantern and took up a torch as well. Albinus Moonshank and I went out to the others, just in time to hear something fleeing to the lake behind the smithy. Drake could, perhaps, have discharged his bow into the dark, but he did not. I hurled the torch out over the lake, but it's guttering light revealed nothing, save what might have been ripples.
A moment later, we all heard a keening scream across the water; a lonely, beastial sound, full of madness and dispair, it could have come from a Human throat.
Later, Drake found a gnawed fish where the thing had climbed onto the land.

Albinus remained with Lukas, for a while, to check his boat. The rest of us went indoors again, out of the rain.
Apparently that was Clod, and it was not unusual for him to prowl around at night, stealing things, killing fowl and other livestock. Once he menaced a child (and of course it is assumed that Matron Leadfern was taken by him as well).
The villagers had set traps for him, but he avoided them all.
We returned to bed.

16th Septemus:

We awoke as the household prepared a morning meal, but no sooner than I had rubbed sleep from my eyes than I noticed that Albinus had not returned. Looking outside, I noticed the broken lantern lying on the path through the village.
It was Albinus', who had left Lukas a little after the rest of us. Lukas had heard nothing.
The lantern had been dropped and the glass broken (I looked for signs of other foul play, perhaps the mark of a thrown stone, but there was nothing I could be sure about). There were the naked footprints again, and Albinus' boot prints running afterwards. Both passed to the reeds behind the smithy, which were trampled. Albinus' cloak lay amongst them, and a thorough search revealed his golden cloak broach, it's pin bent.
If I may speculate, it looks like Albinus saw Clod again, on the way back to the Brethouwer house. For some reason he dropped his lantern, did not raise the alarm, and ran in pursuit. Possibly he ripped his cloak off, or perhaps there was a struggle. Albinus was a large man, if old, and with a serviceable dagger, but he was perhaps blinded by his own lantern, or surprised, or drowned. I do not assume that he was overpowered, killed, and dragged off, but it appears likely. It seems that Clod had claimed another victim, and fled back to his lair.

After we had eaten, Silas went in a small boat, with some village children. Apparently there are places where drifting things accumulate, though many find their way into the river at once. The children knew all of them, but there was no sign of Albinus. Silas returned in the evening, wet, and in bad humor.

My own telescope revealed nothing, due, in part to the rain and drifting mists.

I made my way to the inn, and talked with the young women; Juliana Leadfern and Molly Frith. I begged Juliana if I might talk with her father, if Drake could brew something to calm him. She agreed. Drake consulted with Grishilda, the old woman who's herbal cures had been ineffective, and in due course his philtre was added to Samuel's food. We were warned that Samuel is not a pretty sight, and the girls usually push his food into his room.

Samuel was peaceful; a man in his mid forties, somewhat wasted and in a bed, and I could get nothing out of him, neither through conversation nor suggestion. His mind appeared broken, although he didn't soil himself. His face, and what I could see of the rest of him, was a mass of scars; like the blisters that we had seen in Takshendal, but far worse, and healed as much as they would.
There were no papers, maps or diaries.
As Molly washed him, I talked with Juliana; 2 years ago he and his wife had brought a black stone (like the shards that I had seen, but the size of a couple of cabbage heads, yet needing several men to lift it). He had sold it to Bartlemy Linschoten, who had sent it downriver with Albinus, to be collected by Bartholomus Pyle.
I told Juliana a lot of what I knew of the stone, though not of the cult, nor politics of Takshendal.
Drake told Juliana how to make the mixture that calmed her father.

Not knowing if Bartlemy was part of a conspiracy, I forged a letter as if from Bartolomus (Drake had some of the apothecary's notes with him):

For the attention of Bartlemy Linschoten of Slapershaven.

2 years ago, I obtained an unusual black stone from you. I am interested in obtaining more, or news of more. If you have any, please send it down with Albinus Moonshank, as before. Otherwise, please inform me as to the availability of the stone, in a letter on the boat.

Yours sincerely
Bartholomus Pyle of Takshendal.

I then gave the letter to Lukas, whom I had taken, to an extent, into my confidence.
Drake and I arranged to be in the smithy buying camping provisions (for Drake had organised a journey out to the outlying farms), and fossils.
The deception was all a waste of effort, as the only thing that I learned was that Bartlemy did not remember the name of Bartholomus.
He knew all about the black stones, where they came from (he pointed it out), and that they cause blistering. We will go there.

My purpose is to trace the source of the stone, and any other cultists or revolutionaries (Renas Costa) using it. I would also understand it (is its influence a miasma like malaria, or a radiance like the moonlight that causes lunacy, or is its touch required?). If the stones are unmoveable, we could bury them, or ask Brother Jeppo to warn all against them. Perhaps we could lie in wait for other cultists arriving, seeking new stones.
The shards are but a fraction of Samuel's stone, which seems to have been sent downriver 2 years ago. I have to check this, and find the major part.
There are no mad, blistered wild beasts.


I am fairly confident that it was the stone, rather than the loss of his wife, that turned Samuel mad.
I think it likely that Clod (or a succession of Clods) is another victim of the stone; perhaps Samuel's wife.
Maybe Clod is a feral child.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Secrets revealed....

A conclusion of the events surrounding the murder of Marius Coppercup, based on the information available to the Player Characters, and their own perceptions.

On 10th Augusta 1622 Captain Dogmoss Ret. of the City Militia received a letter from P. Addlegate. Twenty five years previously, Captain Dogmoss had betrayed the Grand Arch Duke and collaborated with the revolutionary movement known as ’the Strugglers’. When Addlegate, under the nom de guerre ’Captain Murder’ had attacked the city with a fleet of pirates from the Salten Reach and Skavva, Dogmoss had slipped a group of assassins into the ducal palace. The plan had been thwarted and most of the Strugglers were captured and executed. Addlegate vanished and Dogmoss lived in perpetual fear of being discovered. As the years passed he murdered numerous people, most connected to the Strugglers but also some innocent people who came too close to the truth, all in order to preserve himself.

The letter from Addlegate/Captain Murder was a threat of blackmail. Addlegate had returned to Takshendal after years spent in hiding, and with nothing to show for his efforts. A veritable vagrant he sought out Dogmoss and threatened to expose him unless he was paid. Dogmoss, old and bent, seemed a simple touch, but when the two men met in the waste ground behind the ’Eel & Spindle’ inn on the night of the 11th , Dogmoss murdered Addlegate in a fit of rage. He stabbed him repeatedly and wildly and when the old pirate had died he dragged the corpse into a nearby bush. The night was dark and there was a down pour. When Dogmoss sought to return via Merrybegot Alley to his abode in the Captains tower, he failed to notice the dark form of Marius Coppercup who was passing water in the shadow of the inn until he had literally bumped into him. Having collected his wits some what he realised that Coppercup was a witness and so he quickly stabbed the unfortunate man in the heart, killing him near instantly. Dogmoss had no idea who Coppercup was. The wealthy young man was dressed in common clothing, drunk and sodden wet. To Dogmoss he appeared to be a mere commoner and not the sort of person who's death would attract too much attention.

As Dogmoss stood over the body, he could see the doorway of the Captains tower. The door was open and light shone from within. The sentry was sitting inside the doorway to shelter from the rain and Dogmoss decided that two murders was too conspicuous. He also discovered in the dim light that he was covered in blood. Rather than make his way home he entered the courtyard of the inn and then the backdoor of Griselda Honeycomb’s house where he knew Sandy was home alone. As he predicted, Sandy was in her room alone and he soon persuaded her to share her bed for the night as she had done many times before. Sandy was very sleepy and soon fell asleep again. Dogmoss took off the bloody garments and pushed them under the bed. He then went to sleep and slept badly, plagued with guilt ridden nightmares.

Early the next morning Sandy, annoyed by Dogmoss’s outbursts and restless sleeping, got up to use the chamber pot. As she did, Dogmoss woke up. The first thing he saw was Sandy sitting on the pot and staring at the bloody garments lying on her floor. Still half asleep, he acted in a panic and lept from the bed to strangle the unfortunate girl. By the time he realised what he was doing he had murdered a third person. Dogmoss spent the rest of the morning in Sandy’s room, wracked with guilt and fear.

The body of Marius Coppercup had been discovered in the mean time by the Militia night watchman. Later on the 12th Dogmoss, wearing clothes taken from Sandy’s cupboard, Dogmoss returned home to the Captains tower and locked himself into his room. For the next two days he stayed in his room, sending Thomas Fennel for food and large quantities of alcohol.

Misteline and his companions arrived on the 14th and began their investigations. Dogmoss was aware of them from the start and sought to avoid them at all costs. He feigned illness and stayed in his room.

Misteline and his companions soon realised that there was something odd going on. They’d been called in to investigate the murder of Marius Coppercup, but no one had told them about the death of tramp nearby. Misteline the Great asked to see the body and when he did, he recognised it as Captain Murder since as a young man; Misteline had seen Captain Murder at the Great Pirate Battle. Realising the importance of this discovery, Misteline immediately contacted his employer Adriana Arabella Wormpole who made the necessary arrangements to have the body removed and the 10,000 Cr bounty on Captain Murders head paid out. The arrangement was for Misteline to receive one third of this money.

The body of Marius Coppercup had already been removed by his family and was thus not available for examination. It transpired however that Doctor Cinder, physician to the Grand Arch Duke had already examined the body at the behest of Captain Leander Quartermoon, Commander of the Western Wall, and his superior, the City Marshal. Cinder concluded that Coppercup had been killed by a single upward stab to the heart with a long slender blade which had severed the main arteries to the lower body. The body had quickly drained of blood and death had been swift. Drunk and surprised, Coppercup had been too helpless to resist.

Coppercup’s body showed signs of flagellation with fresh wounds over old scars as well as several other unusual wounds. Both hands were blistered, particularly the palms. These wounds appeared to be eruptions of the skin and showed signs of extreme irritation with some pus and bruising. Cinder could not guess what caused these unusual wounds. Coppercup also had an old brand scar on his thigh, though it was hard to make out what the brand depicted. It appeared to be a highly stylised pictogram of a house containing the symbol of what Cinder took to be eye.

Subsequent investigations revealed that Coppercup had left a letter in the inn to a local merchant banker named Augustus Marrow. Misteline and his companions opened this letter which appeared to incriminate Augustus Marrow, possibly linking him to the kidnapping of young women and children. The discovery of this letter shifted the focus of the investigation away from the body of Captain Murder and Misteline and his companions began to investigate Augustus Marrow. Not long after this, a certain acquaintance of Augustus Marrow called Lord Beauforque appeared on the scene and things began to get dangerous. Captain Silas of the Militia, who was acting incognito as a private detective, discovered a suspicious character lurking in the vicinity of the lodgings of Misteline and his friend Drake. Silas challenged the man who attempted to fight and ended up killing him. Later it would transpire that this failed assassin had been sent by Lord Beauforque, but at the time it was assumed Augustus Marrow had sent him.

Though there was always an undercurrent of doubt, Misteline and his companions continued to investigate Augustus Marrow as their prime suspect. They eventually discovered that Augustus Marrow, Lord Beauforque and Bartholumus Pyle the local apothecary, were all involved in some kind of conspiracy. It was assumed that Aurore Marrow was also involved in some capacity but this was not established at the time. Silas uncovered some curious information pertaining to a nearby building. A former wainwright’s workshop, this large building stood silent and empty across a patch of open ground from the house of Augustus Marrow who it seemed had bought the building and left it as he found it. Silas conceived a suspicion and decided to investigate. He took Drake with him and broke into the building, discovering that the building was being used as some kind of secret barracks for mercenary soldiers from Mursula. Quickly the investigators assembled and attacked the building, killing all within, even after several had surrendered. They also discovered a passage way from the buildings cellar in to an old storm drain that ran parallel to Shepherd’s Way and which gave access to both the apothecary and to Augustus Marrows house. From this latter door the sound of a woman being whipped could be heard

After a short pause to gather more weapons Misteline and his companions broke into the cellar of Augustus Marrow’s house. In doing so they took the banker, the apothecary and Lord Beauforque by complete surprise. Marrow and Pyle were taken prisoner and Lord Beauforque was dispatched in a duel by Rufus. A battle then ensued as Marrows guards and Beauforque’s retaliated in vain. Once the Marrow house had been subdued, and the militia guards reassured, Misteline went through Marrows papers whilst Drake took care of the whipped woman and Rufus went to the apothecary where he slew all the remaining mercenaries except their captain whom he defeated and then took prisoner.

Misteline and his companions established that Augustus Marrow was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Grand Arch Duke and they gave this information to Captain Quartermoon who acted accordingly. By the time the Grand Arch Duke’s birthday was underway, arrests were being made all across the city. Misteline and his companions continued to investigate the matter, interrogating those prisoners they had access to. They discovered that Marrow and his wife, Lord Beauforque and Bartholomew Pyle were all guilty of high treason. Augustus Marrow and Lord Beauforque were both ring leaders of a city wide plot to assassinate a number of prominent citizens using Mursulan mercenaries and they had been directly plotting to attack the local militia guards and take control of the western gate, and killing Captain Quartermoon in the process.

In the meanwhile however, the matter of who murdered Marius Coppercup remained unsolved, but things were coming to a head. Thomas Fennel had noticed Dogmoss’s agitated manner and grew puzzled as to what might cause it. He was himself already personally affected by the death of Sandy however, his only recourse to sexual release, and was himself too despondent to think further on the matter. As the city celebrated the Grand Arch Duke’s birthday, Dogmoss skulked in the tower, watching the goings on in street below where numerous militia were gathered outside the house of Marrow. Finally he called for Fennel who came to see what was wrong. Fennel found Dogmoss standing by the window looking jubilant. As Dogmoss ordered Fennel to bring him wine, Fennel happened to notice the tunic shirt Dogmoss was wearing and which he had taken from Sandy’s cupboard and forgotten. Fennel recognised it because it had a certain embroidered rose patter on its collar. His eyes widened with understanding and as he stared, Dogmoss understood his mistake in forgetting to change out of the tunic shirt. He had been so occupied with his thoughts, and not a tidy man at the best of times, it had totally slipped his mind. Fennel turned and fled and Dogmoss chased him. He grabbed a crossbow from a wall rack on his way and tried to kill Fennel under the pretence that he had stolen something. Dogmoss knew from long experience that his rank would protect him if only he could silence Fennel first. He failed. Misteline and his companions observed the chase and intervened, saving Fennel and taking Dogmoss into custody.

Dogmoss knew that Fennel would talk so he tried and failed to hang himself. Under the misapprehension of death he was tricked by Misteline and a local actor of unscrupulous morality, into a full confession. The murder was solved.

Interrogations and arrests continued over the course of the next few days and most all the conspirators were caught. The leader of the conspiracy was not caught, although a name was discovered. Several of the ring leaders named him under interrogation as Renas Costa, but they were not able to identify who this person was. Only that he was very powerful, very rich and always acted via intermediaries. Aurore Marrow was never caught. Living so close to the western gate, it was assumed she had managed to flee the city before the alarm had been given.

Several questions remained unanswered; Amongst Augustus Marrow’s belongings was a note book full of what appeared to be architectural designs by one Albrecht d’Spear, a shipwright artisan working for the City Militia, of some kind of domed structure. It later transpired that this was a note book pertaining to d’Spear’s interest in an old mystery of the city known as the ‘Royal Enigma’. In short, the Royal Enigma is the mystery of what became of the last King of Takshendal. D’Spear had been investigating this mystery in his spare time, making use of the Militia archive (a comprehensive library which is not open to the general public) to search avenues of inquiry that were hidden by obscurity. He told Misteline that he had lost the note book, presumably ‘at the library’. D’Spear was never questioned by any one else.

Other unanswered questions revolved around several pieces of black rock found at the houses of six of the ring leaders of the conspiracy, and at the house of Bartholumus Pyle. These rocks were all kept in locked rooms, atop what appeared to be alters and the conclusion was the conspirators were using these rocks a means of influencing people. Interrogations revealed that the rocks, supplied by Pyle came from an unknown contact in the village of Slapershaven. When applied to the skin for any length of time, these rocks caused a blistering which in turn provoked an intense euphoria and a willingness to follow suggestion. Prolonged use, gave rise to certain mental instabilities and a loss of sexual ability. It also led to massive blistering of the contact area and in some cases habitual use.

Questions in the comments will be answered....

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Chapter 3.1 'The Curse of Slapershaven'

The images in this post come from Deutschland 1929

From the Journal of Misteline

Following the Murder in the Alley, I had received another commission from my patroness Adriana Wormpole (250 crowns including expenses); to locate the source of the shards of the Black Stone, and perhaps the origin of the conspiracy and the mysterious Rena(s) Koster.

We had a faint trail indeed; Bartholomus Pyle had supplied shards of a mysterious Black Stone to members of a dark and sexually perverse cult, which was also a conspiracy to overthrow the Grand Archduke of Takshendal. He had obtained it from an unknown trader at Slapershaven. The shards were reputed to twist the minds of their worshippers, opening them to suggestion and madness. They also caused blisters on their hands and bodies.
The only boat that travels to this rather remote area is run by Albinus Moonshank, and he took Myself, the worthy Drake, Rufus, and Silas (as he is already aware of the conspiracy, and enjoys official standing) to the village.
The journey was tedious, yet uncomfortable.

15th Septemus - Arrival:

We arrived at the village of Slapershaven in the afternoon. My first impressions were of isolation, chill mists about a gloomy lake, with mean peasants grubbing a squalid living from the stony shores and dank forests. Then the screaming of the local lunatic destroyed my idyll. The wretch is Samuel Leadfern, driven mad by the death of his wife at the hands, or claws of the local horror. He lives above the taproom of the local inn, a rustic establishment relishing in the jolly name of Ye Merry Badger. They serve Scrape; a local moonshine named after a disease of sheep, and 3 types of eel (green which is foul, brown that I dared not sample, and silver which isn't too bad). I won't even mention the wine. Did I mention that guests sleep in the taproom?

Fortunately the local headman; Herluf Brethouwer, invited us to stay in his house (it being heated by the foetid exhalations of cattle on the ground floor). We accepted.
Enough of my bitter feelings; his abode is moderately comfortable, his table generous and his wine of high quality. His wife is young and attractive (as one of her sex) as well.

Another person whom I was pleased, and very surprised to meet, is Brother Jeppo, an aquaintance from Takshendal. He is here to build a church (to the Divine Grace) and to expand the village.
Our actual arrival had been somewhat chaotic, as the locals jostled to get the best bargains. Nevertheless I had noticed the unsettlingly sturdy pallisade across the neck of the isthmus, the watchtower, and the guard at the gate. It seems that the area is beset by 4 problems; the monstrous being known as Clod, a couple of local bandits who were farmhands who killed their master, wolves and bears. I'm not sure what to think of Clod, and it is far too early to speculate, but there is a little suggestion of infectious madness and physical defilement, which is what we are looking for. The Brothers Groot must know the local land like few others, and I'll wager some of the villagers know where to find them.
Another little detail is that the local Blacksmith runs a general store, and I suspect that he supplies fossils to Albinus. In my mind, someone who knows where to find fossils may know about Black Stones. Unfortunately Bartlemy Linschoten seems to have formed a low opinion of me, when he heard that I am an artist and natural philosopher.

Albinus Moonshank had also been invited into the Headman's house and here the tale is told about the curse:

Up in the mountains there is a secret place; a place of rocks and moss where water falls from above into a silent pool. This was once the home of a lonely creature, called Clod to some, Sumpter to others. The creature was as a man but it was not a man. It had a face and stood upright on wracked and bent legs and would howl at the moon of a night, chasing wild animals for to gnaw on their flesh.

When men first came to the Slapersmeer, they fought Clod several times for it ate their sheep and slaughtered their fowl. Finally, on a dark night, Clod entered a farmstead and killed all within. When the farmer came to his house and found his family dead, he swore revenge and sought out Clod in the mountains and slew it with his axe. He cut off the creatures head, but its blood spilled on his hand and in the days that followed his hand withered and fell off. The farmer was called Jorik and he died twelve days later. His kinsmen buried him in a cairn that has ever since been called the Clodsbantor.

Then, men left these lands in the great winter years of 1398 and 1411. When they returned they expected to find the cairn again, but the strange thing is, no one can find the Clodsbantor any more. The old ones say, Clod’s kin folk came down from the mountains to find him. They dug up Jorik’s bones and took his soul up into the dark lands for ever more..., something roams our lands and slays our sheep once again. The old women say Clod has returned and the farmers out in the wilds lock their homesteads tight and live in fear for their daughters. Brother Jeppo here is come from Takshendal to purge the land of this menace and in return we will build a temple to the creator though it taxes our meagre wealth to do so.

...this creature, seldom seen, is a pale figure, Slender and wasted. It screams of a night and can be heard often in these days. It seems to haunt Slapershaven, but so far we’ve not been able to track it down for it slips into the Slapersmeer and escapes. Truly, we are poor hunters though for our strength is sapped by fear. The ghost of Clod walks amongst us.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chapter 3 'The Curse of Slapershaven'

15th Septemus. 1622

After having travelled up river for many dats on the trade ship of Albinus Moonshank, Misteline and his companions arrive in the evening of the 15th. As the sky darkens, the distant village is barely visible, first it appears as mere pillars of wood smoke rising above the mist, then as a dark shadow coalescing into a clutter of buildings perched on a rocky prominence.

It takes roughly thirty minutes to pull up to the anchorage and bring the trader into its accustomed mooring and during that time the watching children pass the word to the rest of the villagers that several well dressed strangers have arrived. Half a dozen adults gather to watch including one in armour, holding a spear and shield and another, broad of body and bearded, wearing a long flowing cloak of vermillion clasped with gold. A third figure, dour and unsmiling stands alone in the long crude robes of a monk.

Albinus identifies the first two as Reynold Klompenhouwer the watchman and Herluf Brethouwer, the village headman. He is not sure about the monk, but can tell that he brought him up river some seven weeks hence.

Herluf Brethouwer invites Misteline and his companions to stay at his house. The monk, recognizes Misteline almost at once and introduces himself as Brother Jeppo from Takshendal, an old distant aquaintance of Misteline.

The rest of the village clutters about the trading ship and the group is invited into the inn for a drink of Scrape, the local drink. Samuel Vallance can clearly be heard screaming hoarsely from his room above the inn taproom.

Darkness falls over the lake early and the chill air comes up from the water. Albinus Moonshank ha also been invited into the Headman’s house and here the tale is told about the curse.

Up in the mountains there is a secret place; a place of rocks and moss where water falls from above into a silent pool. This was once the home of a lonely creature, called Clod to some, Sumpter to others. The creature was as a man but it was not a man. It had a face and stood upright on wracked and bent legs and would howl at the moon of a night, chasing wild animals for to gnaw on their flesh.

When men first came to the Slapersmeer, they fought Clod several times for it ate their sheep and slaughtered their fowl. Finally, on a dark night, Clod entered a farmstead and killed all within. When the farmer came to his house and found his family dead, he swore revenge and sought out Clod in the mountains and slew it with his axe. He cut off the creatures head, but its blood spilled on his hand and in the days that followed his hand withered and fell off. The farmer was called Jorik and he died twelve days later. His kinsmen buried him in a cairn that has ever since been called the Clodsbantor.

Then, men left these lands in the great winter years of 1398 and 1411. When they returned they expected to find the cairn again, but the strange thing is, no one can find the Clodsbantor any more. The old ones say, Clod’s kin folk came down from the mountains to find him. They dug up Jorik’s bones and took his soul up into the dark lands for ever more..., something roams our lands and slays our sheep once again. The old women say Clod has returned and the farmers out in the wilds lock their homesteads tight and live in fear for their daughters. Brother Jeppo here is come from Takshendal to purge the land of this menace and in return we will build a temple to the creator though it taxes our meagre wealth to do so.

...this creature, seldom seen, is a pale figure, Slender and wasted. It screams of a night and can be heard often in these days. It seems to haunt Slapershaven, but so far we’ve not been able to track it down for it slips into the Slapersmeer and escapes. Truly, we are poor hunters though for our strength is sapped by fear. The ghost of Clod walks amongst us.

Chapter 2.6 'Murder in the Alley'

From the Journal of Misteline

Interrogations and Conclusions:

Drake was working in the Apothecary for much of the day, trying to identify the poison and find an antidote for Augustus Marrow.
Rufus was scowling around outside, fondling the grip of his blade.

We found ourselves with 4 suspects in custody, awaiting interrogation. Actually 5, as Rufus observed an old man lurking near the Apothecary, whom he captured (unlike the tramp, he was someone worth questioning).
The suspects were kept, as far as possible, so they could not communicate.

§The Southern Mercenary Captain, who had already agreed to help Captain Leander Quartermoon in exchange for his life and possibly freedom.
§ Augustus Marrow, who may well by dying.
§ Captain Dogmoss.
§ Tomas Fennel.
§ The old man, who (eventually) proved to be Bartholomus Pyle's assistant.

Silas and I agreed that he would assume the rĂ´le of a ruthless investigator, and that I would offer a more lenient option to one who would talk.
We also agreed that we would question Tomas Fennel first, as he, a slight man, was not the murderer, and yet he knew things. Furthermore we could hone our technique on someone who doesn't really matter.
We dragged him across to the torture chamber in the basement of the Banker's house. The idea was to scare him, and it was far too successful as the wretch broke down and babbled incoherently; he had seen Captain Dogmoss wearing a shirt that had come from Sandy, and had drawn the obvious conclusions.
These were not definite, however. The Captain had one of Sandy's spare men's shirts, which suggested that he had borrowed or stolen it, and that he had seen her soon before her death. This put him under suspicion as her murderer, and since her murderer was probably trying to silence her, it put her under suspicion of being Captain Murder and Marius Coppercup's murderer as well.

I was trying to calm Tomas down, and extract more concise answers from him, when we were interrupted with the urgent news that Captain Dogmoss had hung himself in his cell, but was alive, though possibly dying.
We rushed over to see him.
As it was, although he had hurt himself and thought that he was dying, he had not broken his neck. He would not talk however (although he indicated that he would talk to a priest of the Church of the Holy Law). I asked Drake to mix a draught that would deaden his pain and loosen his tongue, and went in search of a talented actor with empty pockets and few principles.

Meanwhile Drake had established that Bartholomus' poison was a mixture of many things, that Augustus would inevitably die, and that there was no possible antidote... but that it would be possible to prepare something that would make him feel better for a short while.
Drake did so, and he and Silas questioned him.
The antidote worked, but the interrogation was only partly successful.
When Augustus Marrow felt his condition (apparently) improving, he cursed the Apothecary and his ineffective poison. He refused to talk, however, and cursed (and tried to spit upon) his questioners.
Silas produced equipment from the Banker's own dungeon, but would not use it as Drake is a fine man of high morals and great heart.
He did, as delirium overcame him, rave about the Black Rock; Beware the Black Rock, Could have done it but for the Black Rock, and what sounded like Why did she leave me? His ravings descended to inane babblings about Demons, then he died.

I had found some actors, including Julian Prodworthy, who agreed (for a fairly generous fee, I might add), to take on the character of Father Goatstussock, a (completely fictitious) priest of the Holy Law, to hear Captain Dogmoss' deathbed confession, to use his trained actor's mind to recall it to us, and to keep such matters to himself (at least for a while).
I dribbled Drake's drug into his mouth and assured the Captain that it would ease his passing, and that a priest was on his way.
Captain Dogmoss confessed, in detail and at length:
Decades ago, in the Pirate War, he had been a Struggler, in league with Captain Murder.
He had let pirates into his part of a citadel, betraying his own men.
Later, over the years, he had, in the course of his work, knowingly sent innocent people to punishment.
Then, he met Captain Murder again, and the pirate had tried to blackmail him.
He killed the pirate in a fit of rage, but noticed that he was observed (by Marius Coppercup), whom he also killed.
Seeing that he would have to pass a guard in the doorway to his tower, he fled to the arms of Sandy the prostitute (we had misread the time of his entry to the brothel).
Next morning Sandy saw that his shirt was covered with blood, and he was forced to strangle her in order to preserve himself, he then took a spare shirt (embroidered with roses) from her cubbard, returned to his room and disposed of his own shirt.

Tomas Fennel later realised Dogmoss had killed Sandy when he saw the embroided shirt and locked eyes with the Captain. At that moment he knew, and saw that Dogmoss realised that he knew.

Captain Dogmoss was quietly hung by the guards soon afterwards.
Julian Prodworthy and his troop accepted a commission (from Adriana Wormpole, at my suggestion) to tour away from the city. So far as I know they never returned.

This left us with the Apothecary's Assistant.
Bartholomus Pyle had been a pederast, whom the Assistant had supplied with boys from the street. Of late, his apetites had waned and he had sent boys away again untouched.
He had been seeking an antidote to the blistering, without success (this was probably caused by the Black Rock).
Food had been cultivated in the Apothecary's garden to feed mercenaries for a few days.

Captain Quartermoon questioned the Mercenary Captain, and compiled information from other conspirators:
There were to have been 18 assasinations, but all the targets were protected.
The conspirators were mostly a coalition of merchants, rivals to the Wormpoles, although the Coppercup family itself was not implicated.
Most were captured (eventually) or killed, but 2 escaped; the leader, known as Rena Koster or Renas Koster, and Aurore Marrow.
These were tied into a cult, which worshipped shards of a Black Rock; and became suggestible, sometimes insane or impotent, and usually blistered (I am not wholly convinced that these are effects of the shards themselves, as, in my experience, the supernatural is so often mere hearsay). The material is dense, but pocked like a cinder.
Bartholomus had supplied the shards, which he had obtained from Slapershaven.

A few days later we interviewed Albrecht di Spear. He recognised his notebook, which he claimed to have lost in a library, over a year and a half ago.
They were not architectural plans, but notes relating to The Old Royal Enigma, and a structure that had been thought to lie beneath the city, but that Albrecht was certain lay outside (though underground). It was the resting place of the old kings, and was linked to a secret society, perhaps of knights. There appeared to be complex coding of symbols within these illustrations (a fascinating subject in itself), and depictions of a mysterious plant, flower or tree (not the ones cultivated by Aurore).

So, as we had suspected, there had been 2 crimes:
Captain Dogmoss had killed Marius Coppercup, but merely because he had been there. He had also killed the pirate and the prostitute. This case was closed, and justice, of a sort had been done.
The conspiracy was another, greater matter, and although it had been thwarted, there were loose ends; Renas Koster (and Aurore) remain at large, and the Black Stone has not been located.

A few days later, I received another commision from Adriana Wormpole (250 crowns including expenses); to locate the source of the shards, and perhaps the origin of the conspiracy.
With no reluctance I gave the shards into the custody of Takshendal's shadier authorities.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chapter 2.5 'Murder in the Alley'

"He whom edits history controls the game"

From the Journal of Misteline

Existing Questions:

§ So which one of Captain Murder and Marius Coppercup was murdered for a reason, and which (if any) to remove a witness?
§ How did the murderer know that Sandy had seen him, or was he just extremely careful? Did she see anything, as the alley would have been extremely dark?
§ It looks extremely likely Marius Coppercup was supplying Augustus Marrow with victims for some sort of distasteful cult / sexual practice, but this is not necessarily a motive for murder.
I suspect Bartholomus Pyle as well (this last bit has been confirmed)?
§ What is the blistering? I suspect a toxin; either they spank each other with nettles (Drake says that it has to be religious or sexual), or they are exposing themselves to an unknown drug, or possibly dabbling in alchemy. Alchemy doesn't work, and Augustus appears astute enough to know this.
§ From Silas: I speculate that Marrow the banker is behind this and had Lord Beauforque do the killing but, I need to know or have to find out about the connection between the vagabond and Lord B (this last bit is a bit out of date now)?
§ Why was Marrow fobbing us off with a transparent fake? Obviously to buy time, but for what? And have we thwarted him or is some plot already underway?
§ Where else do the drains lead, and who else has used them?

The 16th Augustus and Early Morning of the 17th Augustus:

Events continued over the next few hours:

Rufus went to the Apothecary and discovered (and defeated) several more Southerners. There was also a field kitchen set up to supply a fairly substantial group.

I went through paperwork in various rooms, so long as the city guards did not interrupt me. Silas, who enjoys some fairly substantial official status, did the same.
Marius Coppercup had been supplying 'birds' to Augustus Marrow for a bit over half a year. These may have been victims, but I cannot see why these appeared on the official books.
There was also a design for a huge circular arena or church, with sunken pit in the center. Fine work which Silas recognised as the work of Albrecht di Spear. He will be sought and questioned in due course.
Silas also discovered that Augustus had prepared himself in his bedroom.

Drake took care of the woman at first, and fetched Magda, who eventually took her to the inn.

And so to bed.

"Is that even phyiscally possible"?

The 17th Augustus:

We were faced with a number of highly important developments, which changed our perspective:

Augustus Marrow and Bartholomus Pyle had sent out for medicine, and a guard had supplied it. It was poison of course, and Pyle was dead, though Marrow (probably as he was more corpulant) was still alive when we found him.
We forced him to vomit, and Drake started seeking the poison, and an antidote.

The Southern Captain accepted Captain Leander Quartermoon's word that he would be well treated, if he divulged what he knew.
There was a plot to sieze power in Takshendal, with various key people being attacked this evening. The schedule may have been abandoned or brought forward (Aurore at least had escaped and may have brought word to the other conspirators).
Captain Quartermoon immediately took the rest of the paperwork and started to disentangle the plot; identifying targets, identifying conspirators and arresting them (or at least preventing them from leaving the city).

There was then a bout of confusing mayhem.
Rufus siezed a tramp for no readily discernable reason.
Captain Dogmoss was seen communicating with Tomas Fennel, who then forced his way into the kitchen of the 'Eel and Spindle' inn. There was an altercation with (I believe) Magda. Tomas was captured by Captain Quartermoon.
Captain Dogmoss ran away (from Rufus or Silas) but was brought down by an arrow from Drake (this may have been an enormous mistake).
Surviving prisoners were separated for interrogation.

"You kneel behind him and I'll push..."

I composed a letter to Adriana, to be taken by the first messenger that I can find.

For the eyes of Adriana Arabella Wormpole only, this being an urgent message from Misteline, on the morning of 17th Augustus 1622.

We have uncovered a revolutionary conspiracy, which Captain Leander Quartermoon is investigating at this very moment.
Tonight, many leading persons of Takshendal were to be assassinated by various agents including Southern mercenaries and cultists, one of whom is connected with the Association of Boltsworth.
We have, we believe, cut off the head of the conspiracy, but many agents remain at large.
Some may continue with their plans, others may have been warned and seek to flee, or to strike while they can.

You are in danger, my Lady.

I strongly advise that your family guards take appropriate action immediately.

This matter may be closely linked to the deaths of Marius Coppercup and Captain Murder, but we do not, as I write, understand the details.

Affixed with my seal [which is bloody complicated, artistic, cunning, and with built-in puzzles that few (actually, by no one except myself) appreciate] Misteline.

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All photo's courtesy of Oleg Zacharov

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chapter 2.4 "Murder in the Alley"

Both images in this post are purely inspirational and come from the works of Maurice Leloir

From the Journal of Misteline

16th Augustus, Evening:

We got back to the bar of the Eel and Spindle, then decided to examine the Officers' Tower (mostly to see where the various windows overlooked).
As we awaited permission to enter (our pretext was to visit Captain Dogmoss, but he was officially not at home), we noticed 4 of Beauforque's men watching us. We were let in anyway. Perhaps I should not dwell on our examination of the tower, but in summary:

§ The ground floor is a stable, with Tomas Fennel smoking a pipe in the corner (and dozing when we decended).
§ The first floor is a common room and refectory.
§ The second floor (there is no access to the walkway on the wall, but there are arrowslits) is the main kitchen and pantry; the domain of Bess, the cook.
§ The third floor is the main hall, Captain Leander Quartermoon's official command post (but he doesn't use it), a meeting room, and sometimes doubles as another refectory. Tomas Fennel probably filched his beer bottle from here (I suspect that bottled beer is intended for officers).
§ The forth floor is divided into 4 rooms; the stairway with the window from which we had been watched, Captain Dogmoss' appartment (from which the grumpy old man appeared, twice, on the second time as I picked the lock to the other appartment, that of Captain Woodrow, though I concealed this. This appartment included an office with apparently untouched papers from when he ran the tower.
§ The fifth floor is an attic, with a moldering archive of official accounts.
§ The sixth floor is also an attic and general store of old (ancient) junk.
§ The seventh floor is a lookout post from which we observed the Marrow house through a telescope. It was well lit, with candles and lamps blazing (through house plants) from every window, but no sign of movement inside.

We returned to the inn.
I wanted to find out more about what was going on in the back of the Marrow house, so Silas and Drake went around, taking a long route, via the warehouse and wheelwright.

Meanwhile I returned to our suite and examined the document that Augustus Marrow had given me. I felt that something was wrong and employed all manner of subtle chemical tests, to no avail.
The document appeared to be for a loan of 20 000 crowns, secured, but not specified against what, and with some unknown witnesses. I doubt if it is in any way legal.
Then it struck me; the date is old, but the ink is new. The whole thing is a fake, and a desperate one. Marrow was merely buying time, but for what?

Silas and Drake got as far as the warehouse, pushed the chain at the back door aside and sneaked in. They discovered recent footprints on the muddy floor, an office with interesting papers on the first floor (which Silas started removing), a smell of spicey food, a concealed cellar, and... movement in the attic.

They returned and we examined the papers; dossiers on many important people, including ourselves. Marrow (he owns the warehouse) may have been looking for business opportunities, but I suspect politics, or possibly blackmail.

We decided to use Silas' authority (I had sought to hide my investigation behind his, but it seems that he is hiding his official status behind mine) and search the warehouse.
Suffice to say that there were 6 Southerners hiding in the attic. Silas challenged them. They fought. Rufus proved particularly effective and we prevailed, killing some and taking some prisoners with minimal alarums.
I suspect that the prisoners died at Silas' hand as we left the building.

The cellar had a door leading to a storm drain. Across the drain was another door to the cellar of Bartholomus Pyle. There was also a way to another door to a cellar beneath the Banker's house, from which we heard whipping, feminine screams, and other unsavourary sounds. Whilst I fetched and loaded crossbows (from the Southerners), the noises stopped.
I picked the locks, but no one remained in the room.
There was a bloodstained bed with manacles, etc.
We stormed into the next room, seeing Augustus in some sort of leather pants, his torso a mass of festering blisters, with Beauforque and Bartholomus, also with blistered palms. They resisted at once, although only Beauforque put up any sort of a fight (and unfortunately roused everyone else in the house). Rufus prevailed again (which was, I am sure, an ambition of his).
We subdued the others and locked them in a cell. We freed the unconscious woman from the other cell.
There were also a torture chamber and, beneath Consuela's house, a shrine with a strange piece of dark stone (which I took for further analysis; it is not magnetic, but I suspect it is a stone that fell from the sky, or something).

Aurore set the remaining guards on Rufus, but he (and Drake) killed or captured most of the household, whilst I started searching the house.
I found a great many plants, an alchemist's workshop (apparently never used), a library... and that Aurore, at least one guard (and from the warehouse, a Southerner) had escaped.
We summoned the guard, who were already roused, and Silas produced some sort of credentials to prevent them entering the house, and to seal it.
It is clear that the people in the house are guilty of something (if only forgery), but it is not proven that they had anything to do with any of the murders.
I suggest that someone goes back, via the drains, to the apothecary.

This image is from' The Three Musketeers' by Maurice Leloir