"Along the River"
Episode Four – 7th Sea
With the events that transpired in Starke, Reikion of the Eventide feels the need to try to track the monstrosity which Walden Reichart has begun calling the Laugh Berry Tree. Knowing he alone can fly, Reikion instructs Jan Volta and Walden to continue walking south, following the River with the intention of reaching Buche. He tells them that along the way, they should come across a tavern along the river owned by a cousin of his, a woman by the name of Gudrun Hass, who once had her own fare of adventures.
As Jan and Walden hike downriver, they soon note smoke rising from the woods and decide that with nightfall coming close, it might be better to find safety from wherever the smoke came from. Jan even muses it might be the tavern, Charcoal, which Reikion spoke of. They walk through the woods and soon come across a bare-chested young man chopping wood in front of a grand manor. The smoke is coming from the manor's chimney and the young man warily welcomes them to his master's home. He names himself Wulf and tells them he is a young Ussuran working for the master of the house to do chores for him in exchange for money. He works to bring home food for his family back in Ussura. Jan and Walden ask to meet his master and he asks them to come inside. Both, however, exchange hesitant glances, uncertain if this was a good idea.
Further upriver, Reikion discovers his error when he sees the familiar tavern, Charcoal, further ahead! But as he flies toward it, a group of men who have convened outside of the tavern fire a musket at him! Dodging the shot, Reikion lands on the ground and stays hidden as he studies his attackers. He learns quickly they are drunken revelers who had stepped out to try shooting at some birds. He sees Gudrun and upon identifying himself, she comes up to him with a welcoming hug and a warm invitation to step inside for something to eat. Inside, the place is bustling with people, and Reikion is introduced to Giles, her dwarfish husband. Giles welcomes him coldly, and it turns out he feels threatened by Reikion due to all of Gudrun's stories of their adventures in the past. When asked about the large number of people here, it turns out it was in response to the call for heroes to look for the Voddace Witch, Gasparo Angelo, whom is rumored to be in the area, and worse – is said to possibly now be a woman or a man.
The manor is magnificent with a vast collection of monster busts and heads. Wulf's master turns out to be an old ungetumjaeger himself and even sports a pair of silver daggers which Walden thinks are Dracheneisen! While Wulf carries the wood to the furnace at the back, Jan accompanies the young man and helps him load the wood, noticing a week's worth of extra wood laid around the room. Walden stares in fascination at the busts and the daggers and soon finds a curtained frame which he peeks under to see an oil painting of a young man with a hunting dog – a voice yells at him to let go of the painting. Walden sees an old man, the master of the house, scolding him for touching his things. Jan joins the scene and both try to apologies to the old man and explain their reasons for coming. These merely inflame the old man's anger and he vows to punish the boy Wulf for letting them in. Jan asks his dievas to grant a favor and the old man's memory of the exchange is forgotten. Pleasantries are exchanged again but while more favorable, they lead again to the old man vowing to throw Wulf out for his actions. Jan has the memory lost a third time and this time they successfully commend Wulf's actions, which the old man promises to properly reward. He identifies himself as Maxwell Oliver Reinhard Voldun Gamaran and soon admits he knows why they are present. He tells them he was expecting his guests a little later, but he understands the urgency of their visit. The two realize Maxwell as misunderstood their presence, but choose to remain silent as the man begins to reveal in his rantings knowledge of the actions of a group called Novus Ordo Mundi, how they seek to use the creations of Nisab Guissola to change the world, and how they have come to test him and see if he is ready to take the place as one of the seven – as there can only be seven of the order at a time.
Jan is sent to find Wulf. The old man focuses on Walden, believing him to be Reinhard Vogel, an Eisen villain who murders people to take over their lives when he is bored. He claims to be aware of him being Vogel and that they are here to stay him and take his place. Maxwell stresses this is one hunt he will not be outfoxed. The old man even hints Walden is seated in a precise chair for a reason, suggesting there is some trap he is upon. He instead stresses the chair is born from an ancient oak he had cut down for that very purpose. And tells them he is more than ready to become part of the order. He had the painting commissioned, sensing he would have his way. He has no qualms of using whatever method needed to gain a seat among them. Walden tries to think of what to respond. He simply tells him he will have a seat in the order. "Surely you jest," the old man hisses. He knows to gain a seat, one must dispose of another who already has a seat.
Reikion gives his thanks to Gudrun and promises to help her hunt down Gasparo Angelo in time, but at that moment, the doors swivel open, a man dressed in coattails and a back suit hurls a playing card towards the ceiling, and while everyone is distracted, he draws two flintlocks and opens fire at Gudrun! Reikion however slides forward, parrying one of the bullets with his sword and tackles the man out the door. Gudrun screams as she realizes Giles had been hit, and the other people in the tavern are only now registering what had happened. As Reikion fights against the magician, the magician somehow vanishes in a puff of smoke and moves to a new advantageous position as he attempts to open fire at Reikion once more. Reikion however charges fearlessly, trusting in Matushka's healing to help him recover from his wounds as he tries to take the man down. His last hit, however, dislodges his mask, revealing a more feminine face underneath the man's face. The magician calls himself Gasparo Angelo and vanishes once more in a puff of smoke! Reikion calls for ravens to hunt him down, while the men in the tavern burst out to search the woods for him. Reikion apologizes to Gudrun, and thankfully Giles only took a minor hit. She offers him a boat to use and he decides to carry it and make his way back.
Jan is shown by Wulf a chamber in the manor of glass, his Librarium. The place is filled with papers and notes. Jan wishes he could go inside but realizes it would probably be unlikely to do without alarming Wulf or the master of the house. But oh, the knowledge this room may hold. He is also told of the old man's obssession towards the old "senators," seven of them who used to rule, and how they value a symbol. Wulf shares Jan the symbol, a triangle with an eye. Wulf stresses having a sick mother, and Jan offers to find their family to help. Wulf claims his mother is ill with some kind of plant that grows within her skin. Jan does not know if he should state what he knows of it.
Maxwell asks Walden what the order plans, and he tries to make up plans for the Order to terrorize a village north of Starke, referring to the Laugh Berry Tree they encountered. He claims they might work their way towards the north and eventually reach Vesten lands. Maxwell asks which of the luminaries he should expect to be among, such as Gasparo Angelo, Venerio Barleto, the infamous Stavros Sarrin, or of Deargh Kilgore of the Avalon Highland Marches, the celebrated Elena Grigorii the Sarmatian who is the Doctress of Life and Death and has found the way to raise the dead through science and not sorcery. Walden asks him what news he has of Nisab. He speaks of how the Inquisition, to the Invisible College, secret societies have twisted her inventions for their own purposes, but nothing is as dangerous as her creation, the Quantencannon, a musket like device that launches living flame that unerringly finds it's target. A single test device once yielded successful results when its wielder fired it and hit another target ten leagues away. Such plans, supposedly, are rumors and speculation as attempts to reconstruct it have failed. They fail though because they miss specific parts. He talks about how Nisab's devices work in concert, each being a key to another's lock. The search is on for her Master Key. When asked about where the Key might be, he claims it is gone, a secret lost to her grave, but he suspects it was given to friends she trusted.
But he knows the truth. He shares how a Porte Sorcier was commissioned to handle tasks, including a three-step transportation. He was to appear in front of a buoy at a specific date to receive a package from a passing ship. This package was then to be carried to another location. Tassine Bullet meets with the sorcerer, Valeron Weiss, and delivers the package to this very room. Walden watches as Maxwell reveals that he has in his hands the vellum parchment, the same parchment which they had been hoping to retrieve from Tassine Bullet. Maxwell smashes a bottle of wine.
Jan finds the door to the Libririum, but hears the smashing sound. He decides to abandon sneaking inside the library to check on his friend. Maxwell holds the vellum letter up and proclaims the Guisollalia is before them. The lights are shut. A purple glow emits and on the paper, things become visible. "Novus Ordo Mundi will need a Mastermind such as myself. I am now proclaiming Maxwell Oliver Reinhard Voldun Gamaran is ready to be part of it!" When Walden asks if it is safe to stand now, Maxwell says it depends on whose seat he will take.
Jan trips as he tries to sneak close. Maxwell and Walden hear the sound. As Walden stands, the ceiling opens to reveal a blade set to be launched! He drops to hide under the table as Jan calls out, "Above you!" Things have gone south. Walden sees the blade penetrate through the table. Maxwell points his cane at Jan, and Jan sees the hole at its end! Jan leaps to the side to hide under the same table Walden is at. The shot hits the wood and thankfully does not penetrate it. Jan draws his pistol and the two realize they need better cover. They shove the table down to its side for cover and feel the desire to hurry and leave the house. Jan shoots a window to bring some light into the room. As they consider their options, they hear another gun shot and emerge to find Maxwell on the ground, dead. The old man had been shot at point blank range, and the vellum is missing from his hands! The two also realize they can smell smoke, and discover the house is starting to burn! They begin to understand what had just happened. Jan searches the house and he finds Wulf's dead body too.
Reikion hears the gunshot, stashes the boat somewhere, and transforms into a raven to fly back south and find his friends. Reikion spots a young man running with a bloody face away in the woods, and as he swoops close, the man tells him of violence happening at the nearby manor. Reikion rushes to the manor, suspecting his friends are in the place, unaware that the running man turns out to be the boy Wulf. Reikion runs into the burning manor, helps the two others leave, and he finds the pair of daggers on the wall which he rips out to bring to Walden. They also see the bloody face on the ground, Wulf's, and realize it was not Wulf they were speaking to at all.
Jan chases after the bloody trail on the ground, hoping to catch up with Reinhard, but as he turns around the bushes, he overhears Reinhard boasting about his success with his bloody face. Gasparo draws a pistol and trains it at Jan, but Reinhard tells Gasparo to calm down. Reinhard sees Jan as a friend since he was nice to him when they met. He offers him "one wish." Jan asks for the parchment, but Reinhard says he cannot give that. "Right?" he mutters to the air beside him. "You owe me then," Jan mutters. Gasparo, however, suddenly trains the pistol at Reinhard's head and fires. "Sorry, I don't play with friends." To Jan's shock, the dievas serving Reinhard appears, screaming and beginning for help as he screams, then is burned away into ashes. Jan just witnessed the death of a man and his dievas. Gasparo takes the vellum and once more vanishes with a puff of smoke.
The three reunited watch as the home burns. They realize the now have a better name for the threat they face, Novus Ordo Mundi, and they realize it was Reinhard Vogel to had been pretending to be Wulf the whole time. Gasparo Angelo is alive, maybe male or female, and is still active. They weigh their options, knowing now that the enemy is not aware of the two other vellum parchments, which Walden and Reikion had received. They consider their next move, thinking if a trip to the Sarmatian Commonwealth or to the woods of Ussura should be their next move. They hope to get to the Sarmatian Commonwealth and retrieve it before the enemy does so. The content of the vellum has consistently been addressed to each of them, sharing the item to be retrieved is hidden somewhere only they would know. Jan asks the dievas if Nisab's creation is where they think it is, based on the knowledge they have uncovered in the vellum letters they were given. The dievas confirms it is.
Jan, however, is confronted by his dievas, which tells him that he will never be "unprepared" again. The dievas seems rattled by the fact it just witnessed another of its kind die. Today will be the last day he will be helpless. "Choose how you want me to kill when the time comes."
Gasparo Angel arrives. He speaks to the mastermind about having retrieved the vellum and admits he had to dispose of Reinhard Vogel to break the trail. He is told the same was done to Tassine Bullet to make sure none can be aware of their actions. The mastermind tells Gasparo that all is moving according to plan. Gasparo asks about the other group, the ones in Avalon, and is told they are beyond the mastermind's plans for now.
A woman tells the mastermind she doesn't like what is happening. This game isn't fun. The Mastermind, however, tells the woman to do as she says, and continue the game given they are so close to learning her name, despite him being from Montaigne. "Now give me the wish since I fulfilled your Favor. The other demon is dead. Where is my favor."