Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Session forty-one - The journey begins...

Seems like a short session but there was a lot of explanation as to the ship, crew and set up. Lots of groundwork laid  down for the coming sessions...

The crew prepare to leave Ravenna space. De Havilland stocks up on a number of items of gear and Mal wanders the Agora. While in the Market place a mysterious stranger presses a note into Sir Mal's hand...

Fully loaded with crew and supplies the San Paulus sets sail. As a member of the crew, Mal is given duties by the Bo'sun, an Ur-Obun named Lod By Ron.  It appears he is to be a swabbie and general dogs-body a role he seems to enjoy as it allows him to watch and wander around the ship. The duty rota is established and it appears that all the crew members of the cadre are scheduled to work the same shift (with Keats as Watch officer). As well as De Havilland there is a second passenger, a young, short, free-woman named Eloise. De Havilland recognises her as Lady Althea Justinian and at a quiet time they manage to catch up. Following her rebellion against the wishes of Father Konrad she has been trying to evade the church and is heading into space in her search for truth and a personal spiritual quest. She soon establishes herself as the de facto cook aboard as Mal (the previous choice) is shown to have little skill and even less inclination, while Eloise/Althea relishes taking care of the crew.

The ship is halted by a Hawkwood customs inspection and De Havilland notes that Cortez is not forthcoming with their ultimate destination to the knight who boards them. He makes a mental note but says nothing more.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Session forty - the epilogue

The travel back to Ravenna was slow (as Hemlock didn't want to push the ship or his piloting skills) and in many respects awkward. The cadre are a little uncomfortable in each others company now and meals aboard the ship are stinted affairs.
Hasimir states that he will not be hiding and will return to his liege and find a new appointment.  De Havilland advises him against it as there is nothing to say that the Decados will not attempt to kill him again but he will not hide away. However he does take Sir Hemlock to one side and tries to explain some of what happened with Arcadia's possession. Hasimir told Hemlock that regardless of what Sir Anduin believed, it was his psychic intervention that led to Arcadia passing on, which Hemlock felt some gratitude for.  Hasimir also gave Hemlock Arcadia's old shield unit.

The ship arrives on Ravenna near the city of Celdor and the party pay a visit to Earl Kiruda. The earl appears to have heard news of the demise of Arcadia already and is somewhat surprised that Hasimir still lives.

They learn that Stephanie has left the Midden Barony with the Hawkwood guard (leaving the massacre De Havilland feared in their wake) and has established herself in The Barony of Abalone, which she has renamed "Windsor's Recourse" in memory of her late husband. Many of the Hawkwood guard have deserted her service and are returning to the capital as they do not recognise her authority. Sir Tarquin has taken control of his family lands and has his people's support but seems to lack any close advisors or inner circle.  Baron Tumeric's Muster returned to the Folly but Earl Kiruda has dispatched some of the knights of the Justinian Silent Guard to arrest him.  The Earl plans to use the Baron (long a thorn in his side) as a scapegoat to appease the Hawkwoods.

He also confirms to Hemlock that he has passed the notebook he gave him to the local Bishop to deal with, along with a pledge of the full support of House Justinian in the matter. He wants it dealt with appropriately and officially and is trying to balance his desire to take down the Baron with his urge to protect his House from further loss of face and reputation.

The group walk through the cobbled streets of the idyllic coastal city, heading back to the Endless Turn when a voice from a nearby noble palanquin causes them to halt; it is Hemlock's mother, Baroness Esmeralda Al Malik Justinian.  Hemlock is a little taken aback but she insists that they at least come to their town house for refreshments. They agree but Sir Anduin Takes his leave of the group and wishes them well.

As the procession moves through the city they note a disturbance ahead.  It seems to be approaching and shots are fired. It turns out that it is the cadre's old acquaintance (and De Havilland's cousin) Sir Mal Hawkwood.  He stops running and seems pleased to see them (although like earl Kiruda he seems to have heard that Hasimir had died). They agree to help him evade his pursuers and he manages to hide as two pistol armed Hawkwood retainers come running down the street.

The marquis insists that they will hear more of this later but they continue to the Baroness' residence.

Hemlock's mother is insistent that Hemlock should discard his dirty and drab attire and let her people dress him in something more suitable.  He needs to stop all this travelling, settle down and continue in his preparations to inherit their lands. Hemlock refuses, he tells her about what he learnt from his father and the events with the Al Malik and his mother advises that she knows about the visit and the Baron has told her that Lady Chastity murdered Al Salih. She is also incredulous that Hemlock might be suggesting that she or her House should have had a hand in the attack on the fief during his childhood. De Havilland is convinced that she is up to something and that she is a very dangerous woman. They excuse themselves and leave as soon as they are able, Hemlock saying that his mind is set, he has made a promise to Corteaz, regardless of what his mother may say.

Mal asks if there might be a place on the San Paulus crew for him, to which Hemlock says he will speak to Corteaz on his behalf.  Before heading to the station though they fly to Austrum West (over artillery barrages on the front line) to the Marquis' fief of Havilland.  There they are greeted warmly but witness first hand the effects of the war on the people and town.

In the local tavern they rest and dine (Hasimir getting rather drunk) and Mal tells of how he the psychic twins, Sir Victor & Sir Hugo Windsor Hawkwood accused him of killing Baron Christopher and that he believes it was they who sold his previous psychic associates out to the church.  It was their men (he believes) who were after him in Celdor. 

It appears that someone in the town has been looking for De Havilland and he approaches the Marquis in the tavern.  He is an Imperial Consort with news from the Order in response to De Havilland's original questions after the revelation of Tonbei's betrayal. A full investigation into the assessment of Tonbei will be launched but the council suggest that De Havilland has possibly lost direction somewhat.  He might benefit by returning to the tenets of the Company and charge him to quest. To push out and go forth in the name of the Emperor.  

Hasimir receives word from his Coven ("The Club") that Sir Mal is a member of the Invisible Path and must be killed. He contacts the magus of coven to address this and says that there must be a mistake.  He tells them his suspicions about the twins and the magus reluctantly agrees to investigate. 

The crew eventually leave Havilland and dock with the station to rendezvous with Corteaz. De Havilland goes to speak with him to negotiate passage on his vessel. Corteaz discloses that the jump key that recently came into his possession, and motivated his acquisition of a ship, leads to a lost world. Having an Imperial Knight aboard would validate his journey beyond known space and provide the quest De Havilland seeks... 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Interlude - To Byzantium Secundus

Herein rests a declaration to the authorising office of his Imperial Majesty concerning the events surrounding the life and final death of Dame Arcadia Justinian; as detailed by Phoenix Knight, the Marquis Anton De Havilland Hawkwood.

This account has been submitted in accordance with the due diligence of the Imperial Office and as a witness to the events surrounding the last year of my service to His Imperial Majesty. One copy of this epistle will be sent via the usual securities to The Administration on Byzantium Secundus and one other will be placed into the store of Sir Vim Militas-Djinn Al Malik for release only in the event of my sudden and unexplainable death. The reasoning for that may be more apparent by the end of my report and so I make no apologies for the candour of my words as I need to ensure that the truth is kept somewhere even if it never reaches the intended recipient.

Just before my previous submission to The Order I had decided that it was the right time to make my way from Deepcore 104. Just as I was making that decision Count Innocence's daughter the Lady Chastity Decados made an appearance at Sector 42, the residential barony of Baron Tochiro Matsumoto Justinian. Her reasoning to arrive at that particular barony did not sit well with me and I tried to reason with Baron Tochiro's son (Sir Hemlock) vigorously at the time. As a personality filled with a somewhat awkward sense of duty Hemlock was insistent on maintaining the hospitality of his father's house, something that I feel he may now regret until the end of his days. Having kept Chastity Decados as a guest, it was ironically from her that we first heard more about the reputed “hit list” that we had found on the body of the Ur-Oban, Tonbei. As recalled in an earlier account this list contained many names including Sir Selwyn Justinian, Baron Christopher Hawkwood and Sir Hassimir Fenrig Torenson. Chastity claimed that it had come from her father and that he had ordered the assassinations. My trip to Suryada soon after allowed me to investigate this matter further plus a number of other important events which included The Count's previous movements (and those of his daughter as they seemingly appeared in court sporadically and only comparatively recently too), news concerning the stolen ship of Sir Hassimir Fenrig Torenson (curiously stolen by his employed Muster whilst he was under armed escort by Sir Bedevere Hawkwood, Baron Christopher's brother) plus I was also interested further in the potential motivations of the Baron himself and those of his allies.

As my last report made clear, although the Baron was managing his new estate extremely firmly, his handling and treatment of his people at that moment in time was certainly not the worst I had witnessed to date. What did become increasingly apparent thereafter though was that this treatment was on a downward spiral and that the numbers of well armed and well equipped soldiers from the Planetary Duke's estate was growing in alarming numbers. My experience of the Baron to date had assured me that he was extremely keen to continue to grow in power and authority as quickly as he could. I felt early on that his position within Deepcore 104 would lead to unrest in the city and so had made what little attempts I could to monitor events as closely as a public Imperial Phoenix Knight can. Early on in his reign he had determined to keep Dame Arcadia's younger brother and sister under close household scrutiny and their movements were limited. Lady Stephanie appeared relatively content with this arrangement whilst Sir Tarquin Justinian (it appears) soon started to resent it. By the end, the armed retinue under the Barons control had grown up to three times as large as they were on his arrival to the city.

As a protector of the Midden Barony the Baron's role was to ensure a stable environment and to manage the estate until such time as Tarquin Justinan was of age to inherit his rightful title. Before the end of the whole sorry affair, Tarquin had been branded a traitor and placed under arrest and the Baron had decided to marry Lady Stephanie and thereby secure the estate for himself on a more permanent basis. That permission for marriage had been granted to the Baron by Lady Stephanie's father is of little interest. The message to the Justinian nobility of Deepcore 104 was evidently clear, that power could be seized and justified by force of arms. I make no judgement upon the Baron at this point for the outcome of this sad affair was evident from the incept, that placing such an individual into an estate where a traitor originated and allowing him to build up force of arms and marry the youngest daughter of that estate would always end in bloodshed. When that bloodshed finally came the attack came suddenly and had been well planned.

Baron Christopher was already dead by the time the first shots had been fired. The murder investigation confirms that he was poisoned by a tea laced with a lethal toxin, a tea that had been handed to a local priest by Count Innocence Decados and passed on to the Baron as a gift. Whether this had been the intention of the Count at the time is not clear, but given what we learned later then this remains entirely possible. Tarquin himself then arrived with a sizeable army of Muster having received backing by the neighbouring Justinian barony. The inevitable clash between the Justinian and Hawkwood forces took place with the loss of many lives. That I had been unable to prevent this clash is highly regrettable. I had made as much of a nuisance of myself as I could, making it evident that I was monitoring both sides and that the Imperial authorities had not missed the conflict. It lead to a brief period of incarceration by the Baron's forces but again I hold absolutely no ill feeling with the Baron on this matter. We were both doing as we felt compelled.

Once the fighting reached its peak I made my way from Deepcore 104 to the capital in haste in order to gain an audience with Earl Kiruda in order to determine what his actions might be next and to inform him of the role of Sir Tarquin Justinian in this coup, to highlight the risk or repercussions for the attack on Hawkwood troops. I had of course visited the troops encampment before leaving the Midden barony and was satisfied that they had been able to make outside contact and secured support. By this point their titular leader was the now Lady Stephanie Midden Justinian Hawkwood, as her marriage had been confirmed at the point of Baron Christophers death. Concerns at this point were whether force of arms on both sides was about to escalate outside of Deepcore to any other areas of Ravenna.

For some time up until this point news had reached me that a pirate claiming to be Dame Arcadia Justinian had been attacking Hawkwood and Guild vessels off-world. After discussing with Earl Kiruda the situation in his estates, post coup, I made my way into space to investigate these reports and to see if the information I had heard concerning the involvement of Count Innocence in the matter was true. The fact that the Count's name had come up in a number of associated plots in Ravenna and now here was not to be ignored and so with a retinue including some of Arcadia's previous attendants I made the attempt to determine whether there had been a plot to create harm to the peoples of our Imperial Majesty. The group included Hassimir Fenrig Torenson and his attendant Virrsu, Hemlock Justinian, and a new fellow traveller; a legitimized Justinian bastard and Eskatonic scholar, Sir Anduin, who appears to be an old student of Hassimir's but with whom I am only beginning to become aquatinted with.

It was Sir Hassimir's stolen ship that was reportedly undertaking a series of these pirate attacks, part of a reason before why he had been interred by Hawkwood forces and tried within Deepcore 104 before the coup. I had learned previously that a Decados knight by the name of Lady Yelizaveta had been responsible for the Muster's contract at the time the ship had been stolen and that she was a servant of Count Innocence. The expectations were of a Decados plot to continue the myth of Arcadia Justinian's traitorous attacks on Hawkwood vessels, to continue to bloody their name even after her death.

The pirate vessel, The Questionable Intent, was attacking Hawkwood ships when I finally overheard an SOS message from the crew of an assieged vessel. Making our way to what may be certain death at the hands of an Al-Malik warship, we were able to parley with the captain of the ship who was indeed Lady Yelizaveta. However once the crew were on-board the true story could finally be revealed.

Lady Yelizaveta did not claim to be herself at all, but the spirit of the genuine Dame Arcadia Midden Justinian who had possessed the psychic Yelizaveta. This seemed very much a ploy up until it became evident that Lady Yelizaveta (or Arcadia) was aware of a host of very personal information that she had only ever been shared been herself and Sir Hemlock. It was then revealed that Chastity Decados was in league with this Arcadia Justinian and that she had always been in dialogue with her and her father. The unbelievable truth appeared to be that the Count had given protection to Dame Arcadia after her failed attempt on the life of the Planetary Duke (with the mercenary Façade) and when she was forced to go on the run to escape immediate suspicion. The account of Lady Chastity and Dame Arcadia was that the Count had fallen in love with the “Young Turk” and dedicated his resources to protecting her in the following years. As absurd as this will sound to those of us who appreciate the Count's fearsome reputation as an cold intellect and political player, Arcadia and Lady Chastity were thoroughly convincing.

The Count had drawn up the hit list as a means of exacting a revenge on those who had offended his love. Each had been dealt with in turn and yet there was one name left standing. At this point Lady Chastity suddenly drew a blade and against the pleading of Sir Hemlock, commenced an attack on Sir Hassimir. The attack was prolonged and fearsome and only ended once Hassimir had been cast down and Chastity assured of his death. At the end of the fraças Anduin had somehow managed to cast out the spirit of Arcadia from the body of Yelizaveta, so that she was finally gone and that Lady Yelizaveta had managed to regain control of her faculties. As far as she was concerned, the matter had been settled in full. Hassimir had been felled by Chastity's blade, the Count was on route to meet them all and Hawkwood vessels had been seized and would be held to ransom.

The retinue were allowed to collect the body of Sir Hassimir and to leave without any further action. Sir Bedevere Windsor Hawkwood (Baron Christopher's brother who had been with Hassimir when the Questionable Intent had been stolen) was a prisoner on board and would be ransomed. I mention him here in the hope that this has now happened and that he is safely returned to his duties. The whole episode is both very sad, and wholly desperate. So much power play has been taking place, lives lost, forces pitted against one another and down to the relationship between a strong willed Justinian and a powerful Decados leader. What a thoroughly dangerous mixture of peoples.

I have no ideas if this note will ever see the light of day, but am compelled to tell the story anyway. By allowing us to leave alive Lady Yelizaveta allows the story of Count Innocence involvement in death and political intrigue in the legacy of Dame Arcadia Justinian to leave with us. Even if we find ourselves unable to prosecute any of this story further, the thought of the Count as just a mere man with normal thoughts and feelings reminds us that the fiercest amongst us are still just men. I have always had a strong respect for the capability of the Count, just as one can admire the power of a force of nature, but I feel this situation may be the end of him. If the Decados know of this situation it is probable that at some point an upstart from within his ranks will perceive weakness and attempt to overthrow him. To be in love with a Justinian and risk the wrath of the Hawkwood's for just that cannot be ignored if known. Such matters are beyond my understanding and so I will wait to hear news of his fate over the coming years.

As for Lady Yelizaveta and Lady Chastity, well their fate depends on the mood of The Count. I dare not consider the possibilities there.

Sir Hemlock Justinian will return to Ravenna for a period but I feel his association with Dame Arcadia and the legacy of her menace, alongside a family rift, will lead him to look for opportunities elsewhere. He is a darkly haunted character and is assuredly likely to want to put the whole sorry episode behind him. There will be Sir Hassimir's funeral to attend to as well and Sir Hemlock will want to have a hand in those plans. In the time I knew him Hassimir fell from one disgrace to another, and yet just as one finds themselves in the company of many kinds of people in a war, I found Hassimir very stimulating company. I am sure the rumour mill of Ravenna will miss him until they can find another poor soul to entertain their dinner conversation.

I will attend to matters concerning my estate and make a decision as to whether to continue to serve in Ravenna or to look to the stars instead. I have done my best to look for the threat of instability and unrest in Ravenna over the last year and was able to see the threads of that distress forming. But it is clear a Phoenix Knight is not the right person to be able to listen to all ears and to know all minds as a man standing alone. That expertise rests elsewhere and with their specific roles and talents. But by being in Deepcore 104 I feel I did remind all parties of the risks of such games on the lives of the peoples and that ultimately when nobles take decisions concerning power then it is the people who will ultimately suffer. Now that Deepcore 104 has had its moment it is up to The Planetary Duke to make a decision as to how to manage this next. I must make visit to the Planetary Duke and see if I may be able to have an audience with him. He will be well advised by his people already of course, but I can only pray for clemency for those took up arms against Justinian and Hawkwood alike. They did not know what they were doing. Fear is a terrible thing to nurture in the hearts of common people.

Anton De Havilland Hawkwood
Phoenix Knight

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Session thirty-nine - Loyalty unto death

Well, that was a pretty good finale... as is often the case the adage "you had to be there" applies. There was so much going on and some wonderful in character moments that I will fail to capture it all, so rather than doing any player a disservice, and yet wanting to ensure that events were captured for our own reference, I'll do my best to summarize things...

(We rewound the scene a little as I wasn't happy with how I'd explained things.  Therefore we joined events before Chastity had drawn her Viper blade)

Arcadia tells Hemlock he should be with her against the enemies of their house and keeps referring to "Him" as Tigerlilly (Hemlock's twin sister)

It is revealed/confirmed that the hit list was Count Innocence's creation; He and Arcadia were lovers after he gave her refuge after her attempt on the life of Duke Cassius Hawkwood and she was a foster mother to Chastity. The story that she had spent the previous three years working as a mercenary throughout the Known Worlds was all fabrication. The Count's reemergeance onto the social scene, and introduction of Chastity, coincided with Arcadia's return in order to keep watch on her and protect her as necessary. The list was added to over time and each name was someone that the Count felt had harmed Arcadia:
  • Sir Selwyn Justinian - Betrayed her with Façade
  • Beorn of the Muster - Killed her (or so it was believed)
  • Baronet (at that time) Christopher Windsor Hawkwood - Betrayed Arcadia and had her mother interred
  • Lawrence of the Scravers & Sir Hasimir Fenrig Torenson - had Arcadia killed (as reported by Lady Yelizaveta Decados when she infiltrated the crew)

Yelizaveta is an agent of the Count's who's order was to ensure that no harm came to Arcadia, but to ensure that the connection to her and the Count remained secret.  This she arranged a loyal crew and set up the "pre-existing contract" with the Muster. Likewise Hemlock challenges Chastity about whether she ever cared or was it all lies and he is stunned to discover that she was there to protect him (from Hasimir and possibly others). The Count recognised that Hemlock was one of the few who always tried to help Arcadia and wanted to protect her in thanks, and also as he did not trust the Torenson not to turn on Hemlock as he did with Arcadia.

Arcadia suggests that it is time for them to fulfil the Count's wishes and complete the list.  Chastity draws her Viper blade and engages starts striking at Hasimir. Chaos ensues.  Hemlock tries to reason with them while trying to interposing himself between Hasimir and Chastity, Anduin unsuccessfully tries to use his Theurgy to slow the attackers, Hasimir attempts to protect himself while attempting to reason with Arcadia, Virrsu constantly peppers Chastity's Shield with bullets, Arcadia signals marines to engage the cadre and a pair of them come at them with clubs.  Meanwhile the Marquis De Havilland is listening to events via sqwarker from the Endless Turn he has Drumpf disengage the grapple line and pull away.  The Questionable Intent, being at full stop, starts to be pulled along by the smaller vessel.

Anduin is praying to expel the spirit of Arcadia while Hasimir is on the floor.  Although he is almost dying he reaches out with his mind to Emote to Yelizaveta.  He manages to make contact and it is enough to allow her to throw off the possession, which Anduin believes is his doing. As Arcadia screams and Yelizaveta returns to herself Chastity is outraged; her "mother" is gone again, this time seemingly permanently. She raises her Viper blade and strikes Hasimir down.  Hemlock grapples her while Virrsu continues to shoot.  Anduin rushes to the fallen knight and checks on him, he declares him dead but knows that there is a chance to still save him.

Yelizaveta, thankful for her freedom but still beholden to her liege, stops the guards, brings the ship to a halt once again, calls Chastity off and permits the cadre to return to the Endless Turn. Once there, and with the aid of De Havilland and Hemlock, Anduin stabilizes Hasimir and with a dose of Elixir that Virrsu has stashed away he manages to bring the Torenson knight around. Hemlock sets a course back to Ravenna...

Next time the denouement/epilogue before the next epic arc begins...

Friday, 8 April 2016

Session thirty-eight - The Fate of Arcadia

The Endless Turn lifts off and breaks through the atmosphere, Hemlock at the helm with Anduin navigating.  The Justinian Eskatonic uses Celestial Alignment to help guide the ship but as they emerge into space the vessel shifts course and follows the curve of the planet rather than heading out into the black.  Hemlock tells them he is taking them to one of the orbital stations above Ravenna in order to try to get more information about the pirates.

Above: The crew set off into the black...
.Aboard the bustling station they head to a bar where Corteaz, Hemlock's old travelling companion, business partner and friend is using a booth as a office. Corteaz greets Hemlock warmly and they speak at length, Hemlock telling him all that has pasted and Corteaz explaining how he has risen in rank within the Charioteers and now commands his own ship the "San Paulus". They discuss the pirate attacks and Corteaz mentions how "Arcadia" is targeting Hawkwood cargo coming in from the Jumpgate. Meanwhile Hasimir exerts his power to read the mind of this trader, constantly listening to his surface thoughts throughout the conversation. He discerns that Corteaz is concerned about something and that there's is someway he thinks Keats (as he calls Hemlock) can help him. Eventually, frustrated that his friend is determined to hunt down a dangerous pirate, he offers Hemlock the station of first officer on his ship and pleads with him to accept. Hemlock had been saying how he needed to find the pirate as he owed it to Arcadia and that she was family.  Corteaz argues that aren't they as good as family? Hemlock replies "Better: you never tried to kill me." Hemlock seems torn, he really wants to accept but feels he must complete his mission to clear Arcadia's name. He asks that Corteaz waits for his return and the Charioteer agrees, he still has to finish recruiting a full crew and preparing for their maiden voyage.

Returning to the ship they find the Marquis De Havilland and the hireling engineer, Drumpf, have been monitoring communications and have picked up a distant mayday. They launch the ship to investigate. Sir Anduin prays for guidance from the Pancreator and is shown that they are on the right path.  He tells the crew and they proceed swiftly but still with caution. Over the twelve hour journey Hasimir drinks, Anduin prays and meditates, Hemlock exercises, checks on the course setting and chats with Chastity. He asks her again about the time when she called out Arcadia's name but she says she must have just been delirious and it meant nothing. Hemlock can tell she is hiding something (which is remarkable for him).

As they close on their target location Drumpf uses the ships sensors to scan ahead and reports a group of five ships but without engaging more active systems (and alerting them to their approach) he can tell nothing more.  Hemlock slows the ship for their approach and Drumpf performs an active scan, identifying two League Freighters, a Hawkwood explorer and frigate and the Questionable Intent, Hasimir's stolen galliot. As they get closer the engineer also advises that the three warships are all damaged.  It looks like they have been involved in a tough skirmish but that the pirates won.

Above: The Endless Turn approaches the source of the mayday.
They are then hailed by the Questionable Intent and Hasimir responds. Hemlock has suggested that they parlay and the pirates agree to permit the crew to come on board as their captain wants to see them. The ships grapple each other and Hemlock, Hasimir, Virrsu, Anduin and Chastity put on spacesuits and head across to the galliot (leaving Drumpf and De Havilland on the Endless Turn). Greeted by armed guards (who were originally hired and equipped by Lawrence and Hasimir) they are taken to the bridge and greeted by the captain, a young woman claiming to be Arcadia, but who Chastity recognises as Lady Yelisaveta Decados.

Above: Arcadia revealed...

Hasimir attempts to read her mind and discovers something he has never experienced before; it is as if there are two minds at once. "Arcadia" tells them that her spirit obviously had unfinished business as she had remained on board the ship after her murder, which she holds Hasimir responsible for as she says Koehlang was following his commands and thus had haunted him.  When Yelisaveta took command of the ship she, as a psychic, felt the presence of Arcadia and attempted to contact her.  Arcadia used this "bridge" to take control and possess her. The hit list is mentioned and Arcadia seems unaware of it's existence but is flattered that Innocence, the "sweet dear" would do such a thing for her. Anduin asks if they have some sort of relationship and Arcadia tells Chastity "I think it's time, dear." and looks to Hemlock saying "And Tigerlilly, don't think about interfering."  The Decados ejects her Viper blade and holds it towards Sir Hasimir...

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Session thirty-seven - An Earl-y meeting

We rejoin our cadre after they have successfully managed to negotiate there way across Deepcore 104, through the Midden Barony, Barony of Abalone, across the surface and then stealthily through Sector 42 to recover their scout ship; "The Endless Turn". Bidding farewell to Elric, who will continue to gather information for the Marquis, they set course for the northern coast and the capital city of Celdor.

They locate a suitable landing spot outside the city and head in my foot.  Sir Hemlock makes enquiries as to where they might be able to find Earl Kiruda Quentin Justinian, the planetary leader of the House. He learns that he rents a house to the other side of the city and the group head off to visit him.

On their way they are accosted in the market place by a noble looking fellow wearing a mix of travelling attire topped with a church tabard. He appears to know Hasimir and demands to know if he is guilty of the crimes he has heard he stands accused of. Hemlock finds the man familiar and it transpires that this is Sir Anduin Justinian, a young bastard of the House who was legitimised by his father before then being sent as an adult to study with Eskatonic monks. Hasimir worked for his parents many years before and was the boy's tutor. Sir Hasimir explains events and how the court has found him not guilty but that he is seeking to reclaim his ship and prove his innocence. Anduin declares that he is honour bound to help his old teacher (got to love the Loyalty Blessing...) and attaches himself to the group.

The party arrives at the Earl's home and are told by the gatekeeper that his master will entertain the Marquis but not a Decados, a wanted criminal or the son of Baron Tochiro.  De Havilland agrees to go forward and state their case and try to convince the Earl to receive them all and follows the Gatekeeper onto the grounds. The rest of the group are left to wait outside in the balmy coastal Ravenna air.

Hours pass and Hemlock starts to get a little impatient, calling De Havilland on his squwarker. The Marquis tries to placate him and shortly after a servant comes to call them in, with the exception of Chastity.  The Earl will not permit a Decados within his home. They agree to the terms.

There then follows a length discussion with Earl Kiruda in which Hemlock attempts to prove that he is against his father and supports the Earl and Hasimir justifies his actions and explains his innocence.  They both succeed in at least keeping the ear of their host and Hemlock cements this by presenting him with the notebook he was given by the old woman in Sector 42.  Kiruda realises it's significance almost immediately; this is proof that Tochiro was complicit in unauthorised exploration and exploitation of Deepcore 104 and profited from recovered 2nd Republic artefacts. He summons a servant to notify the local bishop, and thanks Hemlock for bringing it to him. He also councils him against his friendship with Chastity, reiterating how House Decados are their ancient foes and that they are always treacherous.

The Earl asks what their plans are from this point and the cadre confirm that they plan to head into space to discover the truth of the pirate calling herself Arcadia Justinian and to attempt to recover Hasimir's other ship. Kiruda acknowledges how damaging the piracy is on the reputation of his House and offers what aid he can.  His servants will resupply them and provide for their immediate needs.  Sir Hemlock also asks if they could provide an engineer to help about the Endless Turn and the Earl agrees to do what he can.

Before they leave Hemlock asks to speak with Earl Kiruda privately; he is being attended by Sir Jutland Justinian, a knight that Hemlock previously met in Sector 42 when he was delivering news of the Austrum War to his father, Baron Tochiro. Jutland serves Baron Samuel of Quentin's Retreat but he has apparently come to attend on the Earl, citing that he feels a closer affinity to a man of a martial background and bearing rather than the studious academic Samuel. Sir Hemlock tells the Earl how Jutland appeared to be close to his father, bringing him reports from the front when there was no direct line of fealty or responsibility, could he be an agent for Tochiro? Kiruda thanks him once again and decides not to act yet, but to keep watch.

Some time passes and while the ship is resupplied the cadre rest up and take advantage of the pleasant and restful, almost sleepy, atmosphere in Celdor. Finally they are introduced to the Muster Engineer that the Earl's Household have employed to help crew the ship. He is a middle aged, rough looking fellow named Drumpf. While somewhat uncouth he seems to know his work and is familiar with Al Malik vessels. With their engineer aboard they set off for the stars, Anduin immediately demonstrating his theurgic gifts by divining a probable starting location for their search.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Session thirty-six - The Midden Barony vs Sir Hasimir Fenrig Torrenson

Above: Court is in session.
We joined the scene in the court the day after the murder of Baron Christopher Windsor Hawkwood. The bench consists of Lady Stephanie Midden Justinian Hawkwood, widow of the deceased and lady of the manor, Sir Terrance Hawkwood the sheriff of the fief and Baron Leicester, a Synecullum priest who has been drafted in to represent the church and act as chairman as the notable local priesthood are otherwise engaged.  Father Konrad, the Baron's confessor acts as prosecutor and commences with a detailed "illustration of Hasimir's character".  He presents what is evidently the popularist view of the Torenson knight, having been featured frequently in the salacious columns of the Town Cryers' sheets for some months now. The Father narrates how he'd left the planet without the permission of his master (The Lord of the Midden barony) and whilst under a cloud: of his associates, Lady Arcadia Justinian, is a known traitor to the crown,
...another, Brother Josay, was a priest executed for heresy
...he frequented with aliens, one of whom attempted to assassinate the baron previously, and heretics (Mal)
...he owns a military ship, for no explainable reason
...which he acquired in mysterious circumstances from a village which was subject of a Husk attack
...a ship he named the "Questionable Intent"
...he'd taken that ship into space to deliver cargo; A military ship on a cargo run?
...and it turns out that he was delivering that cargo to a nest of heretics led by an intelligent GOLEM!
...and now he states the ship has been stolen but it appears, flying under his colours and commanded by no less than Lady Arcadia, committing piracy against Hawkwood and Merchant League interests
...and he has worked with Sir Tarquin Justinian to undermine the rightful rule of Baron Christopher while purporting to be acting to ensnare the Justinian boy but was he really? The testimony of the by's co-conspirators paints Hasimir as a loyal member of their revolutionary cell
...and he has corrupted agents of the church (Father Helsing and Lady Althea)
...and he is still wanted by the Hawkwood Navy and the office of the Planetary Duke for his acts of piracy and aiding a traitor!
All of which the priest uses to try to paint Hasimir as the sort of deceitful reprobate who would kill his master.  After all, he freely admits that he served the tea and it was the tea that killed the Baron.
We then flashed back to the previous day where Hemlock is attempting to track down the source of the tea. He discovers by talking with the servants that the priest who delivered it was none other than Protos Cobblestone. Hemlock speaks with him about the matter and the Amalthean seems genuinely shocked and ashamed that he might have, unwittingly, had a part to play in the death of the Baron. He advises that Count Innocence gave him the tea when he gave him the donation for his hospice.  He doesn't drink the stuff but recognised it was valuable so thought it would make a suitable gift to a noble when seeking further alms and aid, hence he had left it for the Baron. At Hemlock's request he tests a sample of the tea and proves that it is toxic.
We also followed the Marquis De Havilland as he spoke with Baroness Abalone's Reeve about the legal issues surrounding the case.  The Reeve advised that he would not represent Hasimir for three reasons; a) he was not a criminal expert b) Hasimir was Reeve trained so he would not wish to impose professionally and c) as Abalone was now Stephanie's it would reflect a conflict of interests.  He also confirms that while brief in a traditional and very religious world such as Ravenna the wedding ceremony between the Baron and Stephanie was binding and legal (there were plenty of witnesses and it was conducted by an invested Orthodox priest). 
Moving back to the "present" in the court Sir Hasimir is permitted to defend himself (having been made aware of his colleagues findings before the court).  He delivers a stirring oratory (some really impressive roleplay and a long and continuous stream of dialogue, there was a round of applause about the table when he'd finished) wherein he professes his devotion to the Baron and the Pancreator and answers and explains each of the issues raised by Father Konrad. He too insults and scorns Arcadia, a fact that upsets and angers Hemlock. Hasimir appears to have the assembled crowd in the palm of his hand at which point Konrad reveals that he knows Hasimir to be a psychic witch! And declares that he is using occult tricks to cloud minds and coerce others! The peasantry assembled there recoil in horror and fear.
Hasimir humbly admits that this is the case, but says it is a burden he bears from the Pancreator and one he uses to serve...and that his abilities don't allow him to influence others.
Konrad objects but Hasimir's words have allowed him the benefit of the doubt.  The court asks if anyone else will speak in his defence and Hemlock puts aside his anger for the moment to stand and state his case.  He shows his Guild experience by trying to argue the logic of the crime but Konrad shouts him down - could not the Protos' story be more of Hasimir's lies and plans?
The court requests that Konrad calm down and adjourns to debate matters.
The cadre discuss the case so far and what they might do next.
After sometime the judges return from their deliberations to declre that they find Hasimir....not guilty! Konrad is outraged and has to be escorted from the court by guards. Lady Stephanie then announces that while Hasimir may go free, in light of the revelation of his occult powers she can no longer sanction his employment in the Midden Barony and he is to be dismissed.  Hasimir swears that he will leave and find who truly killed the Baron so that he might one day return, fully vindicated. Hasimir is unchained and free to go.
The cadre decided to collect their belongings from the mansion and then head to the "Endless Turn" to plan their next move.
As the serfs files out of the court an alarm bell can be heard in the distance. Elric and De Havilland climb the church bell tower (where the court session had been held) and see that the Barony appears to be under attack.  With Hemlock's aid they identify that there are two factions of assailants; Muster mercenaries in the employ of Baron Tumeric Justinian of The Folly and local peasants from the barony revolting against the Hawkwood militia.  Hawkwood troops are fighting running battles in the streets against both factions.
Above: Ambush in the alleyways...
Led by De Havilland and Elric they slip from the church via a side door and head through back alleys to the mansion.  En route they encounter a group of revolting peasants (quite literally...) and engage them.  De Havilland and Hemlock intimidate them into fleeing, but not until the Marquis has reluctantly cut one down. Once the mob flees De Havilland treats the unconscious man's wounds and they return to the mansion house.

There, as they collect their belongings, Hasimir bids a formal and finale farewell to Stephanie and Father Konrad, who is now serving her. Elric overhears confirmation that the attackers have come from the Folly but that Sir Tarquin Justinian has also returned and is rousing the rabble against the Hawkwood authorities. Upon hearing this news the cadre debate that there may be much bloodshed to come and the whole of House Justinian on Ravenna may feel the repercussions.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Session thirty-five - "More tea Baron..?"

This is, you might assume upon reading, a hugely abridged version of events.  The key events are all here but there was a lot of discussion and fantastic in character role-play which unfortunately I simply couldn't capture in it's entirety. For that I apologise but, as ever, you really ought to have been there....
Also this game sees another change of Player Character as Mal wanders off (as we previously established he was sometimes want to do) and we introduce the Muster ex-soldier and occasional bounty hunter, Elric.
It is the morning after Hemlock's assassination of Sir Al Salih Al Malik and at their camp Sir Mal breaks the news that he is leaving.  He figures that De Havilland asked him to look out for Hemlock but frankly, from what he saw last night, Hemlock doesn't need his looking after. He leaves on good terms, saying he has other business to attend to but leaves a copy of an invoice for his services to be passed on to De Havilland.

Speaking of whom, the Marquis De Havilland Hawkwood is having breakfast with baron Tochiro Justinian and Al Salih's Ur-Obun companion when Alfredo comes and delivers a message to the Baron.  They speak in hushed tones and the householder leaves.  He returns a short time later and asks the Ur-Obun to accompany him.  De Havilland excuses himself from the table and follows, unobserved. The pair head upstairs to the Al Malik's room, enter and close the door then the Marquis hears what appears to be a silenced slug gun fire. He waits outside to see who emerges.

Following on from the events of the end of the pervious session Baron Christopher is getting ready to host Baroness Abalone Justinian and her entourage.  He pulls Sir Hasimir to one side and tells him he needs his help to impress.  He has been given a rare and special Li Halan tea, he want's Sir Hasimir to really impress with an authentic tea ceremony. Before the assembled throng Hasimir really shows his skills and performs an amazing and accurate ceremony (spoilt only by the Baron showing he barely knows which end of the cup to drink from. As host and lord, the cup is presented to him, he drinks and almost immediately starts to froth at the mouth and convulse; he has been poisoned.

Master Alfredo emerges from the Al Malik's room alone to find De Havilland waiting for him. He avoids the Marquis' questions as much as possible but they are interrupted by Hemlock calling on the De Havilland's squwarker. The two nobles arrange to meet in person and the Marquis makes a hasty, and final, exit from the mansion.

En route to meeting Hemlock, De Havilland calls into an inn where he had previously arranged to meet an employee of his (and new PC for the cadre), a Muster soldier and bounty hunter named Elric.  Elric has been intelligence gathering for De Havilland and has news for him; he has intercepted a message apparently intended for Lady Chastity, concerning the fate of Lawrence.  It appears that he is dead.

Meanwhile there is chaos in The Midden Mansion, a physick is called for as Baroness Abalone passes out with shock and Lady Stephanie Justinian rushes to the Baron's side. Hasimir demands that the mansion be locked down and trades words with Father Konrad, stating that this should be independently investigated, a role the priest agrees to take on. Meanwhile Stephanie demands that she and her intended are wed, as she cannot bare to let him pass into death without being her husband. Father Konrad conducts a hasty and abridged ceremony, encouraged by Sir Hasimir, and they are married. Protos Cobblestone arrives, having been summoned by the household staff (as he was collecting alms in the area to help fund the church building work) and he attends to the Baron.  Hasimir attends to the Baroness and has her moved to somewhere more comfortable. Stephanie starts to accuse Hasimir of betraying and attempting to kill the Baron but their conversation is cut short by Hemlock calling on the sqwarker. Hasimir says that Hemlock and De Havilland ought to come to The Midden barony.

De Havilland arrives with Elric at Hemlock's camp and they trade news. It appears that Elric knows "Keats" from back on Guild star ships when they were kids. He is rather incredulous that his friend from those days should be "pretending" to be a noble. They share the news about Lawrence and when Elric realises Chastity is there he draws a rifle.  Hemlock and De Havilland calm matters but the Marquis does question Chastity and seems increasingly suspicious of her.

In the Midden Mansion Hasimir has been conducting investigations of his own; interviewing the staff who prepared the tea tray and trying to identify where the tea itself came from.  He learns that the tea was given as a gift to the Baron and that the cups, pot etc. were the ones that had been used for breakfast and had been washed prior to the ceremony.  It would appear likely that the tea itself was the poison.

The rest of the cadre arrive in the Midden Barony and after negotiating with border guards and door wardens they manage to be reunited with Hasimir and Virssu. They speak at length about recent events (although Hasimir insists that Elric wait outside) and discuss possible culprits and what to do next. It seems possible that the "hit list" is active once more and if Lawrence is dead and the Baron doesn't pull through then that means Hasimir is the only name left. De Havilland wants to know if the list was written by Count Innocence (which Chastity suggested and the evidence presented by Elric seems to support) what have they done to offend him so?

Their conversation is interrupted by the hasty return of Virssu (who had taken Elric to find some food). He has heard that the Baron has just passed away and they are about to ring the chapel bells to toll for his passing, and also that Father Konrad is on his way with a mob of zealous peasants to seize Hasimir. The cadre suggest he flees but he will have none of it, stating that it will make him look guilty. He passes the pass and launch codes for The Endless Turn to De Havilland and writes a letter of recommendation for Virssu so that it things go badly he is not held accountable.

Father Konrad arrives and has Hasimir shackled, there will be a (church led) trial the following day.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Interlude - The Sessions

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_002-1993-100402-a
Report transcribed by:_002
Session duration:_3:00:00
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
Subject was acquired by House security after a four month observation period. Subject's activities had been considered dangerous but ruled insufficient of interruption until this point.  While subject has done little damage his physical proximity permitted an ease of capture that merited action.
As per standard protocols initial questioning has remained focused on the subject's local enquiries, trespassing and surveillance. This has served to probe his defences while not alerting him to the details we are already aware of.
Subject has proved to be strong willed and independent and while untrained and unfocused (as is typical of those in the employ of the League) he is not without willpower.  He should be a source of enjoyment for My Lord should he be inspired to engage with him.
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_002-1993-120402-a
Report transcribed by:_002
Session duration:_8:37:05
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
Subject continues to show surprising mental fortitude, especially compared to his physical endurance.  Subject had to be resuscitated multiple times during the session but still seems loathe to release even the most meagre of details. He also seems to remain unaware of how much we already know. The naivety or over confidence is almost appealing.
Recommendation is that the subject supported by daily administrations of Elixir in order to ensure that he remains viable until the conclusion of standard protocol. 
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_003-1993-130402-b
Report transcribed by:_003
Session duration:_5:23:17
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
Subject persists in the fabrication that he is a member of the prospectors' Guild surveying for possible dig sites for Justinian/Scraver/Muster joint mining operations.  He may be commended as a capable liar and works well to hide lies in connected truths (previous known associations for House Justinian and the Muster, being "mistaken" for a Scraver etc.). Once he is broken he may serve the House well. Suggestion is that vice may not be the best means to break the subject as profiling indicates reasonable loyalty to his co-conspirators. Extreme physical conditioning remains the focus of the sessions for now.
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_002-1993-130402-c
Report transcribed by:_002
Session duration:_6:40:25
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
After almost seven hours in the third session of the day we appear to have made progress.  After his fourth resuscitation he advised that he would tell us what was required of him.
He appears to think that we have believed his obvious ruse (wounds were treated and sustenance provided) and upon regaining some composure he wove a new tale of how he was a landless Torenson noble seeking evidence of his hereditary territorial claim.
I concur with 003 that he may make a suitable operative once broken.
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_002-1993-140402-b
Report transcribed by:_002
Session duration:_2:05:37
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
The current tale is that he is the Imperial Cohort of the Phoenix Knight, the Marquis Anton De Havilland Hawkwood. He was severely chastised but is choosing to hold to this stance for now. 
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_003-1993-140402-c
Report transcribed by:_003
Session duration:_4:17:02
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
We have now reached the confession that he is a Scraver and have information regarding his business dealings, but not his association with Dame Arcadia Justinian. We have finally presented him with the evidence gathered in Suryada (files #1993-00470 to #1993-00599) and so he is aware that he has been under surveillance for some time. His mettle is to be respected but is ultimately fool hardy.
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_002-1993-150402-b
Report transcribed by:_003
Session duration:_13:06:52
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
The subject has been broken.  Working in unison 002 and myself have allowed the subject to see the futility of his resistance. He has confirmed all we know to date and that he has passed details of his findings to Subject 1994/Target05. While we are confident that he is aware of the involvement of Lady Yelizaveta we do not believe he, or Subject 1994, know the full outcome of events at this time.
It is our considered joint recommendation that the subject be used to infiltrate the cadre and act on our behalf, unawares of those agents already in place. His independence may reassert itself so some form of compliance surgery should be undertaken.
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_003-1993-160402-a
Report transcribed by:_003
Session duration:_2:09:23
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
Surgery appears successful and the cybernetic linkages are responsive and functioning as anticipated.  Feed from eyes and ears is recording well and the shaped explosive charges around the chest seem non-volatile.  We anticipate that while the intended design is obedience through possible punishment the blast radius could allow for use as a potential assassination device if desired (i.e. proximity to Target05).
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Interrogation summary report begins:_\
Session reference:_001-1993-180402-a
Report transcribed by:_002
Session duration:_18:00:36
Subject designation:_1993
Subject name:_Lawrence-Scraver
My Lord returned and when made aware of the presence on site of the subject he chose to attend to him.
His interrogations were accurate, succinct and personal.
As the subject is also designate Target04, My Lord decreed that his value as a potential agent did not supersede the necessity of his punishment.
My Lord explained the full crimes he was responsible for to the subject before handing out sentence. 
Subject was terminated personally by My Lord.
Cybernetic implants have been harvested for reuse and other remains fed to the Master's daughters' hounds.
Interrogation summary report ends:_/

Friday, 12 February 2016

Session thirty-four - In which Hasimir reunites with some old faces, Hemlock has his revenge and De Havilland has lunch.

We start the session with Chastity and Hemlock at breakfast.  Mal has yet to appear after returning late to the Inn.  He eventually emerges, takes food and returns to their room. Hemlock follows but Mal ignores him, entering a meditative trance.  Hemlock tries to intervene with no success and so returns to Chastity.  After Mal has come out of his trance he and Hemlock discuss plans and Mal tells him of the refuge he has found. Hemlock explains that he intends to kill Al-Salih Al Malik that night and to Hemlock's surprise both Mal and Chastity do not hesitate to offer their help.

Meanwhile Hasimir and Virssu have travelled on foot through the quiet and sleepy little barony of Abalone in arrive in The Midden Barony. They are met at the border by Hawkwood guards who have been instructed to escort them to the Baron (for Hasimir's protection as he is still a wanted man). They arrive safely and are taken to see Baron Christopher and the Marquis De Havilland.  The Baron seems glad to see Hasimir and explains how they may need to still prove his innocence.  Hasimir hands over to him the documents that Lawrence sent him and alludes to the possibility that this could be related to some Decados plot.  The Baron and De Havilland tie this in with the Marquis' investigations in Suryada but the suggestion is that Hasimir may need to do more to prove his innocence as Lawrence might have fabricated all this data on Hasimir's instruction. The Baron asks that Hasimir deal with the wedding correspondence that has arrived during his absence from the fief.  He also instructs him to liaise with his major domo, Ralph, so that if Hasimir leaves to prove his innocence or is arrested again, then things can proceed in his absence.
Above: Hasimir and Virssu are brought before the Baron.

De Havilland makes his excuses and heads back to Sector 42. He is greeted warmly as an honoured guest by Baron Tochiro, who apologises for his son's (Hemlock's) wayward conduct. He fears that while he had gone off the  rails before, the Marquis' steadying positive influence had been to no lasting avail and he was once more being led astray. There follows a rather awkward lunch where De Havilland picks up on how the Baron tolerates the ill treatment of his Al Malik guest and his servants. Hearing that the Marquis plans to leave the following day Sir Al-Salih suggests that they may leave together as his business here has been concluded.

Above: An awkward lunch
After spending most of the day working through things with Ralph, Hasimir heads to dinner to find that since he has been away another member has joined the household; Father Konrad, the Orthodox priest who investigated Hasimir in Suryada. He is now serving as Christopher's confessor and professes great interest in hearing what has happened to Hasimir since they last met.

Meanwhile Hemlock and company have spent the day in Mal's refuge planning their attack.  When the residents of the Sector 42 mansion house are having dinner, Hemlock and Chstity scale the walls and gain access to the Al Malik's bedroom via the window.  All whilst Mal watches from a vantage point using night vision goggles and co-ordinating their movements by squwarker. Things go well and Hemlock and Chastity take up position, hiding under the bed in the room.
\Above: Hasimir encounters a familiar face
During dinner at The Midden Barony Hasimir is formally introduced to Father Konrad by the Baron and is then entreated to regale them with the tales of his adventures in space.  This he does, in particular keeping Lady Stephanie completely enraptured by his (somewhat edited) tales of daring. The evening is disrupted by a sound in the hall and a footman comes to seek the Baron and Father Konrad.  Hasimir tries to overhear what is said but fails. The baron eventually returns without his confessor but in a state of some elation, calling for one of the finest wines from the cellar.  It appears that Father Helsing has been arrested by the Synecullum for treason and inciting rebellion (a fact that Hasimir confirms to himself by surreptitiously reading the Baron's mind) and this seems to in part because of "Hasimir's tireless work".  The Baron does ask why some of the correspondence that was intercepted was going to him rather than Sir Tarquin but Hasimir excels himself (as ever) with the explanation of how it was all part of the plan to implicate the possible revolutionaries. The Baron seems to accept this easily, possibly due to the wine and his current sense of victory.

Upon the Al Malik's return to his quarters Chastity and Hemlock remain hidden, waiting until the noble and his bodyguard fall asleep.  This they eventually do and then the prospective assailants manage to sneak stealthily from their hiding place. Chastity indicates that she will take care of the guard while Hemlock enacts his revenge. Using one of Keat's knives he quietly slits the knight's throat as he sleeps while Chastity darts to the guard, executing him with a single stroke of her cybernetic blade. They leave the way they came, assisted by Mal, and return to their refuge, job done.  Chastity is concerned for Hemlock but he speaks of how this is just the beginning and how he plans to tear down the entire organisation that this Al Malik represented.
Above: The assassins strike
The following day in The Midden Barony Hasimir and Christopher's breakfast repose (and hangovers) are interrupted by the arrival in the fief of a large state procession. Runners notify the Baron so he and Hasimir are waiting on the mansion steps and Baroness Abalone Justinian arrives with a full entourage of servants (but no significant arms or troops).  The Baron seems completely taken aback by this turn of events and asks the frail old noblewoman what he may do to assist her.  She summons a Reeve from her throng of hangers on who presents documents to Christopher , who in turn reads them and passes them to Hasimir for his review.  The lady states that she is handing over full entitlement to her lands to the Baron. She is seceding from her fief and wishes him to rule in her stead. Hasimir takes the opportunity to read her mind and it seems genuine; her only remaining heir is old and infirm where as this young Hawkwood has shown great qualities of leadership while only a regent in the Midden Barony.  This grant gives him lands of his own and her people get a noble ruler to oversee them justly.  The Baron seems genuinely shocked and invites her in... 

Friday, 5 February 2016

Interlude - Keat's First Kill

Hemlock and Tigerlily run through smoky corridors.  Their uncle is dead, the manor-house is burning and men with long knives and covered faces stalk the corridors.  The assassin seems to step out of nowhere, an extrusion of shadow.  Tigerlily screams.
‘Keats, wake up.  Keats!’
Cortez punches Keats on the arm, not hard since he has to reach from his infirmary bed.
‘You were making weird noises.’
Keats looks around the room in a moment of panic.  He’s curled up in a metal chair in the ship’s infirmary.  He is thirteen, barefoot, and wearing a handed-down overall that hangs loose on him.  There was one that fitted better, but he insisted on black.
Cortez resettles himself, wincing, ‘What were you dreaming?’
Keats shrugs.
‘You are full of secrets.  One day, I will find out where you come from.  You are clever, I think: you know how to fascinate the ladies.  Maria and Lenore, they think you are mysterious, a hurt puzzle for them to unlock and heal.’
Keats scowls and looks up at his friend.  Cortez’s leg is in a brace, his ribs bound, his head bandaged and his skin mottled with bruises.  Keats feels he should say something, but seeing Cortez so hurt fills him with a fury he doesn’t understand, so fierce that he dare not speak for fear of tears.  Keats just shakes his head.
‘You know, you are very poor sick-bed company,’ but Cortez is grinning.
‘That’s real sweet,’ Louis looms in the doorway.  He’s two years older than Keats, broad-shouldered and already shaves, ‘Smiler and Skulk.  Skulk’s still hanging around you, eh, Smiler?  Is he your boyfriend?’ he pauses, cupping a hand to his ear, ‘What, no smart comeback?’
Cortez says nothing.  Keats, glancing back, sees he is afraid.  Cortez is never afraid!  Keats feels sick; his mouth tastes bitter.
‘Question my business practices again,’ Louis snarls, ‘and it’ll go a lot worse.’
Louis’ footsteps echo in the corridor, receding.  Cortez starts saying something, but Keats doesn’t hear it.  After count of twenty, Keats uncoils from the chair and pads out of the infirmary.
Keats dislikes changing ships: a loss of home, people he doesn’t know.  Cortez and Keats joined the Quinotaur six months ago: a bulk freighter, whose captain left his apprentices to manage cargo handling, loosely overseen and taught by the mates.  He let them self-organise, a microcosm of brutal market forces, a crucible to forge leaders and sort wheat from chaff.  Gang warfare.
Louis beat one gang into line; Cortez led the other.  Keats sometimes spied, hiding in the dark.  When seen he fled through cargo webbing and ducts, too fast to catch.  Keats spotted Louis stealing from the cargo.  Cortez bargained with Louis, using the crime as leverage.  Louis and his gang put Cortez in the infirmary; Keats wasn’t hurt so badly.
Keats creeps back into the infirmary.  Cortez is sleeping.  Keats washes his hands in the sink: they shake.  He has a black eye, and holds one arm awkwardly.  He dries his hands, unwraps the scarf from around his face, and curls up in the chair.  Eventually, he falls asleep at Cortez’s side.
‘Yes, captain?’ propped up on pillows, Cortez tries to sit upright.  He sets down his book.  Keats doesn’t stir, still breathing gently, his black eye turned away from the door.
‘You seen Louis today?’ Captain Clovis leans in the doorway.
‘He stood where you stand now, sir, but he was much worse company.’
Clovis regards Cortez levelly, ‘We found him knifed-up and leaking.’
Cortez glances at the infirmary’s other bed, ‘You inspire me to heal faster, sir.  If we must be room-mates, it will be for as little time as possible.’
‘They cut his throat.’
‘Oh,’ shocked, Cortez is silent a moment, then, ‘Well, it was not me, sir.  I am not very mobile.’
‘What about your boy?’ Clovis nods to Keats.
‘He has been here, sir.  His conversation is poor, but he is good company.  A dispute with the crew, perhaps?’ Cortez shrugs, ‘There was a rumour that Louis stole from the cargo.  But it is just a rumour, and I should not speak ill of the dead.’

Captain Clovis stares at Cortez awhile, drumming fingers on one arm.  He grunts, nods, then walks away.  Once his footsteps have receded, Cortez stares down at Keats, but Keats is deep asleep.
Hemlock and Tigerlily run through smoky corridors.  Their uncle is dead, the manor-house is burning and men with long knives and covered faces stalk the corridors.  Keats watches his child-self approaching, loosely aware this must be a dream.  He steps out of the dark, an extrusion of shadow.  Tigerlily screams when he cuts Hemlock’s throat, but when Keats turns to her, she holds his gaze calmly.  Keats kills her.
When Keats wakes, the dream leaves him not so much disturbed as terribly sad.  But the feeling of loss fades, and Keats does not dream of the attack on the manor-house again, not for a very long time.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Session thirty-three, supplemental - Mal's Magnificent Misadventure

So another week has passed without a regular game session (more illness unfortunately) but to fill the void I ran a short session for my son (who regularly plays Sir Mal Hawkwood).  This directly follows the events of the last session, is based on an idea he came up with for Mal might plan to do and helped gain a little more insight into the motivations and methods of this most mysterious of Hawkwoods...
Mal, Hemlock and Chastity are in an inn in Sector 42 having left Hemlock's family home. Hemlock seems quite preoccupied but Mal approaches him with a plan.  He figures that as Hemlock has spoken about getting revenge they ought to be seen to leave the fief but then double back and re-enter quietly, without being observed, and set up in a safe house of some sort. Mal suggests that he will head out tonight to establish a suitable location in advance. Hemlock agrees and Chastity suggests quietly that it might be wise for Mal to go alone for now while she stays with the obviously upset and disquietened Hemlock.  before leaving mal picks Hemlocks brains for where they might obviously exit the Sector and then locations where they might surreptitiously return. Hemlock draws out a rough map, narrowing Mal's search for a suitable refuge and the Hawkwood steps out into the evening.

He finds that the streets are mostly deserted but makes no attempt at stealth (he is a noble, he can walk freely where he likes...).  His search draws him to an undeveloped area of the sector near the eastern border and in a narrow section where the building is partially set into the rock face but also borders the city's central chasm.
Above: Sir Mal enters the derelict structure... 
He entered though a broken door way and begins to explore the structure.  After a short while he hears music and upon slowly approaching he discovers a small campsite, enough for a single individual, with the music coming from some sort of mechanical lute. It appears that the assorted belongings include occult and religious paraphernalia.

Mal calls out a few times to no response and so hides in a corner of the chamber to await it's resident's return.

After a while an Eskatonic priests returns from the depths of the building and is surprised but welcoming when he sees Sir Mal.

The priest introduces himself as Provost Grant, Son of Morris, a Geomancer who has come to the city to investigate it's "unique energy" and it's closeness to Doramos' terraforming engines at the planet's core. He seems to be somewhat lonely and rambles at length, telling much about his work without Mal giving much away himself. Mal discovers that the priest was drawn to this place and later discovered that is seems to have some form of "Wyrd collation" effect, a fact that Provost Grant thinks is based on the planet's ley lines.  He intends to study it further and also to guard it from nefarious powers, such as antimonists, who might seek to harness teh energy for ill.  During this time Mal sneaks closer and closer to the priest, sharing food with him and questioning him about his work until finally he strikes, attacking the man with a hidden blade.
Above: Provost Grant tells all to Sir Mal.
They brawl, the priest flailing wildly while trying to protect himself, Mal getting occasional slashes in with his blade. Then the provost drops to his knees in prayer, entreating understanding from the Pancreator.  His eyes snap back open as he realises, in horror, who Mal is...he speaks his name with quivering lips, rises and bolts for the door.

Mal charges after him, leaps and skewers the priest with his blade.  Without a pause he drags the body to the edge of the city chasm and fligs him over.
Above: Mal says a final farewell to the priest...
The murder of a member of the clergy does seem to cause him some regret though (no gain of Urge...) so he busies himself with checking teh building for other occuipants (there are none) and clearing out anything he deems not worth keepin (by throwing it after the provost).
In his exploration of the structure Mal discovers a stair that leads all the way up to a comparative, and also deserted, structure on the surface.  He figures he has found their hideout...

Friday, 29 January 2016

Interlude - Mother knows best

No game session this week due to seasonal illness rampaging our household, so instead I penned a little interlude for events that may have an impact in coming sessions....

Tack. Tack. Tack. The noise of the walking cane striking the hard, carpet-less floor of the mansion chambers reverberated around the practically empty space. He was moving with as much urgency as his elderly frame allowed.

"Mother!" he croaked.  His reedy voice growing hoarse with his attempts to shout.
"Mother!" He looked this way and that trying to discern where she had gone.
Fletcher, the surly, middle aged footman he had always suspected of stealing the silver approached.
"You alrioght there, m'lud?" The footman said with had extended to offer aid.
"Geddoff you fool.  It's my mother I need, not some theiving good-for-nothing, nark of a serf!" He waved him away with his cane for emphasis.

The servant allowed himself a wry smile, which he did nothing to hide from his lord "Tha Baroness is in 'er chambers m'ud, being attired by her hand maidens."
The noble muttered a barely audible series of curses and turned to slowly climb the well worn stairs.  
"Mother! What is the meaning of this!" phelgm spat from his mouth as he burst unceremoniously into the matriarch's chambers. The occupants had heard him wheezing outside the door for about five minutes before his strength had returned enough to allow him to enter and so his attempts at dramatic effect fell completely flat.

The scene before him was of faded glory.  The chambers were once gloriously ornate and splendid but they, like the rest of the barony had slid slowly into a state of tarnished antiquity. The damp and musty smell that perpetuated the entire mansion seemed to exaggerate the sense of faded glory in these rooms.

"Mother, answer me!" She hadn't even deigned to turn toward him. Her hand maidens, most of whom were approximately his contemporaries in age, were busying themselves in fastening her corset, preparing layer upon layer of garments and tying bows and ornaments in the enormous chignon of pale grey-white hair upon his mother's head.

The Baroness gestured slowly and two of the maids slowly turned the rotating platform upon which his mother stood until she was facing him.

"Yes....Basil?" The slow cadence of her speech and the high intonation at the end of his name ground into Sir Basil Abalone Justinian as it always did.  Why wouldn't the old hag just die and let him come into his inheritance? His frustration helped him find his voice.

"Mother! What is this nonsense I hear from Manuel that you are conceding title on our estates?" His cheeks were flushing (if his phsyickian were here he would remind him of his blood's pressure).
"Well...child..." (she knew that annoyed him) "...You are my last....remaining....offspring." She stopped and gestured to a maid, in this case a young slip of a girl, who immediately brought her a goblet.  She took it slowly but gracefully and sipped. Sipped again. And again.  Returned the cup to the attendant, sighed heavily and resumed speaking. Sir Basil was almost purple and set to explode.
" your age , and without wife or.......issue, you longer.... a viable...heir."

Her son paused, waiting to see if this was just another temporary halt in the dialogue but after a few moments impatience and rage got the better of him.

"But Mother! You are giving away my inheritance, and if the servant's tittle tattle is to be believed you are disposing of our fiefdom to another Noble House! It's preposterous! I shall bring in the Reeves to contest the legality of this, you are not in your right mind! You can't be! I will have you..."
It was a surprise to many when the Baroness still exerted her "voice of authority" considering her age and fragility but she was, when the mood or circumstances took her, more than able to gain the attention of those around her.

"BE SILENT! Do not consider me to be a winnowy waif that you can dismiss or disregard.  I am your Mother, boy, and this is still my home and lands! For now at least." The exertion of the outburst had visibly drained her, but she continued.
"This is not something...I have taken lightly, You you...seem hide...from your own....Mother...If you have all in...gambling should be...set...for what few...remaining years the...Pancreator ...sees fit with."

"But Mother...what of the lands?  But what...but....Mummy??" The face of determination was shrinking away to that of a spoilt and inconsolable child

He took slow paces towards her.  He knew she was made of a core of steel and that if it was decided he had lost.

She reached out her wrinkled hands to him and he sidled up to her and lay his head on her chest. She gingerly embraced him and patted his head.
"There...there....dear boy....Mother knows what's best."