The Guissola

The Nisab Diary ep06 : 7th Sea
"Schattenmann"

10/24/2016
The Nisab Diary

 

"Schattenmann"

Episode Six – 7th Sea


More days and nights have been spent in the dark woods of the Schwarzen Walder. Save for Reikion, who seems to be in his element, the two other try to make the most of the journey as they navigate the rougher woods and uneven terrain.  They have reached the deepest parts of the forest. Moonlight barely shines through.  If anything, they know they are at least halfway through the darkest part of the woods.

Reikion finds himself enjoying the isolation and cold and absence of man. He has gotten so inspired, he's been catching game to eat. Jan Volta, however, is getting concerned since oil levels are going low and the distance from civilized lands bothers him. When Walden Reichartfinds a second dead body, one underneath a fallen tree, he notes how it is again a religious figure – a woman dressed in a nun's habit, clearly of the Vaticine Church.  She is missing the upper half of her head, however, with a clean cut across the head –  leaving only the lower jaw and the rest of the neck.

Ahead of them, Reikion can see a barn not that distant from the rest.  Embracing Matushka's blessing, he transforms into a raven and flies off to check it out.  Walden shows Jan the dead body and they note the clean cut, realizing it seems to have been done by two opposing blades –  a massive pair of shears.  Reikion flies to the bard and sees the farmland has a wooden fence surrounding it.  The place looks to be in a general state of disarray. A smaller barn house stands not too far away.  The house shows smoke rising from the chimney, with make-shift shutters on the windows.  Reikion notes all the crops, corn from the looks of it, are in a terrible state.  Perhaps due to drought or the ground lacks fertility. Reikion lands on the roof of the house, and peering through the cracks and breaks on the shingles, he can see an older woman deeply focused on her prayer by the fireplace.  Two younger children, around five to six years of age, silently kneel in prayer, though occasionally nagging each other quietly.  Reikion does not find any sign of the father in the household, however.  He notices the faint glow in the small barn, and so he flies there to check.  Landing on the side window, he sees the older man holding a lamp in one hand while he keeps the cow calm.  The eldest daughter is attempting to milk the cow and complains that nothing is happening even if they have been trying for the last few days.  Reikion looks up and realizes as thick as the woods have gotten, this farmland must have been chosen to take advantage of the clearing above, allowing moonlight and likely at day – sunlight – through.  He decides to fly back to the others.

Jan studies the dead body, hoping to understand how she came to be under the fallen tree. Walden is watching the surroundings, searching for any foot prints and the like.  Reikion sees a shiny thing in the woods in the distance as he flies back.  Descending to check, he notices the slightest of moonlight reflecting against a metallic surface in the shadow of a tree.  Jan realizes the body died from the partial decapitation, so it wasn't a post-mortem cut.  Her feet are adorned with shoes that are not practical to wear in the woods. She does not look like someone who would have been traveling through the forest.  Walden notices something shimmering in the branches above and he whispers to Jan he doesn't think they are alone right now.  Reikion lands by the tree's shadow and tries to get a closer look of the shiny thing.  He uncovers it is a belt buckle, with foreign craftsmanship, laid on a clump of dead leaves and mud.  He notes the buckle is adorned with the depiction of the rising of the Prophet.   Reikion looks up the tree, wondering if it came from someone up the tree. Maybe it fell from the branches.  He sees the shimmering thing on the branches – the same thing which Walden had seen – and Reikion realizes from his vantage point it is an ornate throwing dagger. Jan studies the corpse's clothes and realizes she probably came from Montaigne.  Walden sees a raven looking up the dagger, and realizes it is Reikion.  Just before it could fly up to check the dagger, however, instincts kick in and Reikion dodges to the side.  Another dagger hits the nearest tree trunk!  The buckle, it turns out, was not just on leaves and mud.  A hidden figure owns the belt, and had covered itself in mud and leaves.  Reikion squaks a warning to the others.  Jan and Walden drop the body and hurry to where the raven is.  

There, they discover a woman caked in mud and leaves.  The woman, clearly from Montaigne as well, is lacking her right arm and her legs.  She is barely conscious.  "So much for killing you, but I guess I shouldn't have tried."  She laments about dying in what she calls Eisen to be a god-forsaken country.  She mutters that prayer does work when Reikion resumes a human form in front of her.  Jan and Walden arrive, and as they examine her wounds, she tells them about the terrible events her group had befallen.  When Jan informs her he is a doctor and can help, all the more she muses about prayer working.  But as Jan tells her he can treat her, his dievas appears beside her smiling.  Jan realizes the woman is Montaigne, and he still has a standing promise to insult the first Montaigne he sees.  The woman explains she had her companions must have made a "bad walk" somewhere and fell out of the Walk.  And that "it" came out of nowhere.  Jan tries to suppress her bleeding but when he tries to insult her but muttering this is the stupidest thing he has ever heard or seen anyone do, the woman accepts the statement as truth rather than an insult.  The dievas warns Jan that if he fails to insult her before they meet another Montaigne, he fails to fulfill the promise.  They wash clean her wounds, clean her up a bit to help her feel better.  She mumbles, hallucinating that a dog is licking her face. "Good dog…"

Walden wonders if this even connects to the Montaigne crates they had seen in the greenhouse in Starke.  The possible picture of all of these being connected bothers him. The group begins to wonder if she's related to the other religious dead people they had seen in the earlier days.  The Walk, however, makes them wonder if it has anything related to the Porte Sorcier they met and the supposed blessures in the area. 


But lo, to their horror, the Schattenmann appears!  The nightmarish figure turns out to be real and with his massively long limbs, it begins to close in on the group with its gleaming shears.  The group realizes they have to act quickly!  While Reikion uses his dueling skills to give him an edge, Jan Volta tries to fulfill his promise to the dievas while trying to help her as well. Walden learns that the farm house somehow has never been visited by the Schattenmann and after asking them for help, wonders if the group can run there to find sanctuary from the horror.  

Jan resorts to doing something unthinkable.  Using a favor he has with the dievas, he strips the Montaigne woman of any memories of the horror she has gone through, then tells her of how she has brought failure to the people she was tasked to protect.  The woman undergoes the terrible anguish of once more feeling her inadequacy in watching over her charges, and worse, re-experiences the painful trauma of losing her limbs once more.  The act touches Jan with a hint of Corruption and the dievas smiles.

Their combined efforts thankfully begin to weaken the Schattenmann, and with the use of vines, ice weapons and well timed shots, the three successfully defeat the horror!  Jan glimpses a long forgotten lore about the thing, through the dievas' help,  and discovers the Schattenmann is a cursed state gained when someone touches the silver shears.  For this, he agrees to say yes to the first "offer" he is given  within the next 24-hours.  He quickly buries them under some earth and leaves and tells the rest that they should head back.  When they get to the Montaigne woman, whom they had left on the grass while they fought the horror, they discover she had passed on.  The guilt gnaws on Jan Volta, who promises to not consort or use the powers the dievas has given to him as a penance for his actions.

The group arrives at the farm house and learn the family has reservations of allowing one of the Waizen into their homes. Reikion opts to rest in the forest, not feeling welcome given the family's strong focus on their faith in the Prophets.  Walden opts to camp somewhere else as where, nearly hitting the shears in his walk.  And Jan finds himself quickly falling asleep,  He does not see the eldest daughter, Tomasin, sneaking into the room and staring at him. 

One can only wonder what she has to ask from him by the time he awakens. 

*

The next morning, Jan awakens to find himself alone at the breakfast table, where he is given bread and butter and water to enjoy.  Reikion soon arrives, and thankfully is still welcomed to join for breakfast.  Walden, however, still feels unwelcome given the view most Eisen have for one of the Waizen. But when the older son goes missing, the family begin to worry what may have happened.  The heroes are tasked to see if they can help with the farm animals, as well as if they can find the missing boy. 

In the barn, Reikion inspects the animals and finds a black goat locked up in a cage.  The family sees the goat as an ill omen and does to allow it to roam free.  When he inspects the cow, he discovers it is unable to create milk given the terrible nutrition is has.  He recommends they allow the cow to graze outside the fenced area. Reikion searches the woods as well for the missing boy and finds another farm house further in the woods.  The group commences trying to find more signs of the boy.

In the woods, a bear is found sleeping.  There are signs of it having attacked a boy. Worse, they find the boy's shoe there.  When the eldest daughter learns of this she asks them to find the boy.  Also in the woods, they find Olaf, the brother of the siblings from tower.  He confesses to them that he had come upon the boy, found him near death, and unfortunately he had transformed him though it was not an intentional act.

They find the boy in the other farm house, and he has sadly transformed into a vampire.  With Jan and Walden killing him, as his hunger has gone out of control, they soon find the mayor with other men outside the farm house demanding for answers.  The family learns of what has happened to their son and the group seeks the monster than cursed the boy to punish them.

The group confronts the crowd, and thankfully, convinces them to leave them to deal with Olaf for the transgressions.  They exile Olaf for his actions, hoping to at least spare him for having unintentionally caused the problem.  They inform his sister of the events and convince her to abandon the tower for her own safety.  She agrees to leave only after her people choose to leave with her, and burn the tower and the homes to settle the matter with the mayor. 

In the end, the group feels they have won a hollow victory.  Olaf is forced to leave.  And his sister finds herself consumed with the anger and hatred of having lost the only one who mattered to her in her family.  The heroes do not realize that she has been set upon a path leading towards becoming a Villain.  Walden destroys the flayed man, thinking it would be best they were not influenced by the terrible thing anymore, but fails to realize with his death, the sister's appetite for blood might now grow unchecked.

The mayor then asks the heroes to accompany him, and they make their way to Heilgrund to be guests of the Eisenfursten Stefan Heilgrund for having helped the people. 

 

*


Thomasin laments the loss of her brother.  And one day while grazing her cow outside, she bears witness to an event that scars her psychologically for the years to come.  The cow comes upon the shears and is affected by its curse, transforming once more into a new Schattenmann that walks away and vanishes into the woods.  She will never speak again.

 

*


And Olaf, as he leaves, finds a portal opening.  A figure arrives and pulls him away, as he now has a new part to play in the schemes of an unknown mastermind.

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The Nisab Diary ep05 : 7th Sea
"Not Alone. Not Alive."

"Not Alone. Not Alive."

Episode Five – 7th Sea

The group travels, hoping to reach the Sarmatian Commonwealth before the Villains get to there.  Not wanting to risk Porte magic once more, the group decides to take the risk of heading straight through the Walder, camping when necessary, to cut on time.  Jan Volta is confident his Survivalist training can handle things there.  Reikion on the other hand admits being at home in the woods compared to the cities.  Walden Reichart is overruled and decides to trust in the two.  The first few nights of journeying through the woods is without any complications with Reikion amused in watching what the "scientific world" knows of the wild. They journey quickly, reaching one of the rivers that leads to Stutzung without any incident.   They see a group of other travelers moving in the woods, a family with children, and they watch with worry as the dark bird – Reikion in his animal form – seems to watch them as they pass.  Reikion overhears them talking about the woods being the stalking grounds of a horrible creature called the Schattenmann, or "Shade Man" that stalks those who stray from the path, and dismember his victims with an enormous pair of shears.

By the next night, however, as the group camps close to the next river breaks, things begin to take a less favorable twist in direction.  They soon find a dead body, perhaps a man who got lost in the woods, with most of the flesh picked clean by predators.  Walden studies the body and begins digging through the corpse for parts he could gather.  Reikion asks why he has no respect for the dead.  Walden simply explains there is use for the dead.  Reikion realizes the Circle of Life still exists even among those who practice Walden's strange Sorcery. 

Further, they find bushes ripe with berries and gather them for more to eat.  All three of them silently are thankful it does not resemble the odd berries they encountered in Starke.  The canopy of trees above have growth thicker that the sunlight barely reaches them.  Even navigating requires them to be wary of their footing.  They soon reach the next river mouth and the darkness surrounds them.  They set camp, with Reikion heading off to forage for some food.  Walden heads out to try to gather a few herbs as well, hoping to be able to prepare more unguents when necessary.  Jan prepares the fire and creates a sleeping area for each of them.  Reikion sees a rabbit, but allows it to go on its way rather than hunt it for the food.  Walden finds more rare herbs and carefully stores them, knowing things like nightshade can be poisonous if not kept properly.  On the way back, however, Walden strays from the path and finds the body of a priest brutally shoved inside a crevice of a tree. The man is dead, and Walden has no idea here he came from.  The man still has the symbol of the Prophet around his throat and a travelling pack left on the ground.  The body is barely a day old.  Walden scouts around and finds no predators about, save for an owl staring at him from the branches.  Drawing the dracheneisen dagger he found from the previous cottage, he exhales with relief when he does not see it glowing.  He gathers the eyes and tongue from the dead body, thankful for more ingredients to use.

 

Reikion returns and gives Jan the fruit.  Jan admits he expected meat, with the fire now burning brightly for roasting.  They eat the fruit instead, trading stories about what birds eat for survival, while Jan reminds him they are not all birds.  He does raise the question if the amount of food he eats as an animal adjusts in how fulfilling it is when he transforms back to a human form.


Walden realizes the cause of death is choking.  He either shoved himself inside too much to the point he could not breathe, or was shoved in by something. As he checks the bag, he can hear the heavy metal objects still inside, which makes him think if this was done by thieves or bandits, they would have stolen the bag.    He tries heading back to the others. 

When he returns the others share with him the fruits.  They notice the blood on him and Walden reassures them the blood isn't his.  He shows them the bag he found and they all see inside two large bottles, perhaps wine, as well as a small metal box with polished panels. Walden tells them of the corpse he found and Jan identifies the wine to be Vaticine Church wine.  The box is filled with wafers.  Jan opens the wine and smells it to still be fresh and potent.  Reikion is concerned since it is the second body they have found so far.  Walden explains slightly the basics of how he has been using human remains for the Hexe creations he makes which prove useful in his battle against monsters.  The two nod, choosing to leave Walden to handle such things on his own.

 

Later in the evening, in the quiet of the woods with nothing but their occasional breathing as the sound filling the night and the crackling of the fire, Walden catches sight of a number of pale figures watching him from the distance.  He sees standing figures, at least four of them, with pale white skin.  They look humanoid, but remain unmoving, merely standing and facing his direction like statues that were not there before.  When Walden takes a step towards the fire, the figures all take a step forward as well.  Walden quickly begins to see that the figures move each time he moves.  The figures are naked.  Male, female, but it seems hard to discern any age.  Walden draws his pistol and takes a step to the fire.  The figures move again, stepping one step towards him.  The faces are blackened around the eyes.  Their lips are closed.  A mask-like design adorns the face.  Walden stares and realizes what he thought was a mask was actually the flesh of the face having gone missing, with the bone visible where the "mask" should be.

 

Looking down, Walden realizes his dracheneisen daggers are glowing.  The things have not moved, however.  He takes a few tentative steps towards it, and once more, the things take an equal number of steps that he has made.  He calls out to them, saying hello, but none of them respond.  He begins trying to wake the others with his voice.  Reikion does not awaken, sleeping too soundly against the grass.  Jan wakes up, and seeing Walden with the pistol, he draws his own pistol.  The moment he starts to stand up, however, all the figures turn now to face him.   Walden draws the dracheneisen daggers, and their glow fills the camp.  As Jan begins to move, the figures keep moving now towards him.  Walden waits, allowing Jan to keep moving to draw the closest one to them.  With Walden now flanking the figure, he lunges at it with his blade, with Jan having maneuvered the thing to a vulnerable position.  Jan fires his pistol to the air, waking Reikion now.  The white figure crumples to the ground, with Walden's strike having disabled it with a single blow.  The thing shatters into dust, as if it were nothing but a hollow statue of a man.  Reikion, seeing the others, instinctively jumps backwards and looks around.  Walden explains its some kind of undead.  The other figures are still watching them, waiting for the to move to close in again.  They realize as they draw their weapons, the things don't approach. But at each time anyone takes the step, the things step closer.  Walden warns them their campfire is getting very low.

 

As they map out their plan to deal with it, they notice one towering taller than the most.  The figure, with a more elaborate face mask, suddenly speaks and tells the three of them to stop moving for the moment.  Surprised to hear her speak, the woman explains the things are relentless, and will follow them through the forest day or night until they are eaten.  The group begins to realize the woman is painted pale white, or at least has skin as white as chalk, and is wearing a mask to somehow look like the monsters.  When Reikion asks what they should do, she hesitates for a while, then admits she isn't sure if she can trust them.  But she can welcome them to her tower if they promise to surrender their weapons to her.  She explains finally that the monsters cannot see they are living if they conceal their eyes.  The beasts see through their own eyes, and thus move whenever a living pair of eyes moves as well.  Reikion tells the others to cover their eyes.  Walden ignites the severed arm of the monster he had killed earlier and tries igniting it as a torch.  Walden closes his eyes and Jan starts giving him instructions on how to approach each monster with the burning torch and at times, he even takes steps back to draw the monsters closer to the fire.  It is a slow method, but it works and eventually each of the monsters are burned down.  The white woman explains the things are constantly searching for the living, seeing through the eyes of the living, and hunting for them relentlessly until a new pair of eyes steals their attention.  The things travel in large groups.  

 

They share the woman their gratitude and she offers to bring them to her tower to find rest and safety.  She warns them, however, that they can only stay for the night.  Reluctantly, the group agrees.    The woman reveals her mount, a headless horse which has skin almost porcelain like herself. Walden wonders if she is a Hexe just like him, and asks if she was the one who was gathering the other… organs from the dead in the woods.  She nods.   Jan moves to the side, calling upon his dievas and he asks if the woman is trust-worthy.  The dievas honestly answers, "No." He warns the others secretly of his concerns of not trusting the woman.  They follow, for now. 

 

She leads them to a white tower surrounded by darkened homes.  A white circle of salt surrounds the perimeter.  As they follow her to the tower, some of them glimpse misshappen and disabled figures peering from the dark homes. None of the homes show torches or lanterns.  They are asked to leave their weapons in a chamber by the entrance of the tower. When Walden draws his dracheneisen blades to surrender them, they all see the blades glowing.  He chooses to surrender them for now.

Going inside, they reach the first landing and soon meet her brother, Olaf, whose clothes are just as pale and white as his own skin.  They climb up the steps, with Olaf constantly berating the woman for allowing strangers into their homes.  She, however, reminds him that they have a duty to help those they can, especially given what they have gone through.  She explains her brother Olaf cares and protects her and they should not take his words too personally.  They no longer have other family, save for the peasants outside.  "Eisen is not safe.  They know better than to be outside at night."  She explains the tower was originally built as a sanctuary for travelers lost in the woods.  But now, she and Olaf devote themselves to protect their peasants from the horrors that they made a mistake to let in before.   Their parents used the peasants in the past as slaves and tools to mine the nearby mountains.  She calmly narrates how she decapitated her parents and used their own eyes to see their souls and imprison them away.  Walden nods, explaining to the others that she uses Hexe.  Their ways are common. He asks if the peasants are alive, and she admits they would not be useful otherwise.  When he asks if she is alive, however, she admits she no longer is.  And neither is her brother. She even allows Jan to use his scalpel to cut into her chest, and she does not react in any manner to the blade, despite her wound starting to bleed.  Walden reminds them not to accept any bread or porridge.

 

The first room they are shown is a room completely blue.  She explains their father used to live here.  Olaf's attitude is explained soon enough as a reflection of his anger for having trusted their parents only to be hurt in so many ways.  Their parents used to use them to lure other travelers to the tower, to bring them ingredients needed for their magic.  They did this for ten years.   Now he chooses not to trust others. "He does not realize the worst things always happen for the best reasons."  She allows Jan to stay in the room, and reminds him it has the best bed.

 

Reikion is then lead to the next room, a vibrant green room which the mother used to use.  She explains that she and her brother sleep at the attic.  They would only be released from their rooms to fulfill their roles to draw wanderers to the tower.  With the door closed, Walden accompanies the white woman back downstairs, as the offers to show him something else.   He asks her about the peasants, if they are always used to harvest the ingredients she needs.  She admits they give it freely, as payment for her protection.  But some nights she uses what she can find in the woods.  He shares his findings of the dead priest in the woods and asks if she was behind his death.  She confirms she only collected what she needed from him. 

Jan inspects the room and finds vestments and clothes inside.  He tries to get some sleep, but has this constant feeling of someone watching him as he slumbers.    Reikion opts to sleep on the floor instead, unwilling to sleep in the bed.    Jan eventually repositions himself to sleep at the wall facing the door, feeling uneasy of the massive mirror against one wall.  Reikion finds a hatch at the bottom of the bed, and pulls at it to find a container under the bed with what looks like personal effects such as jewelry and other trinkets.  A small pillow with a mirror can be found in another, along with ink pots and a journal.  He undoes the ribbon seal and looks inside.  

 

Walden is lead out of the tower and she leads him to a building, which she unlocks to reveal inside a flayed man.  The figure, with skin cleanly cut away, and the organs spread out and pinned, suddenly moves and reveals its consciousness despite being disassembled.  She calls it her parents' former master, and they had defeated it but realized could not kill it.  It is through this monster that she feeds and sustains herself on its blood.  Walden's daggers glow so brightly, they are almost blinding.  She explains the thing is one of the most fascinating undead she has ever seen, as it still holds some semblance of personality.    They learn she and her brother feed on the monster, sustaining themselves with the terrible thing that created them, in order to protect the people from the other monsters beyond the tower.

Eventually the three regroup, with the two having had enough of the strange hauntings coming from the rooms and Walden realizing the conflicting feelings he is struggling against inside his heart.   The two are clearly cursed, twisted into monsters and yet they have somehow turned their dark pasts into opportunities to help the peasants that live around their tower.   They debate on the matter and in the end feel it might be  best to leave the two to continue their accursed existence.  To let them live on and be a dark yet shining beacon in the woods of the Walder. 

They wait for morning.  With the sun rising, they see the misshapen people emerging from their dark homes, and watch as the people then take their roles as protectors, to watch over the two monsters who now sleep during the day and trust on them to protect their immortality.

With that, the heroes leave, wondering and hoping they chose for the best. Who would have thought they would find in the dark woods of Eisen that the darkness and the light can blend into one.

 

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Alas, Such Fates ep04 : 7th Sea
"The Red Door and the White Eyes"

10/15/2016
Alas, Such Fates
 

 

"The Red Door and the White Eyes"

Episode Four – 7th Sea


Astrid Ivardatter and Hans Glick sneak out one early morning to investigate the southern tower with the red door, the very tower the Duchess Sybil implored on them all not to ever visit.  Especially at night.   There are faint sounds of rumbling and clicking within.  Hans presses his hand against the door and sees the lock.  Astrid draws her hair pin out and begins to work on the lock, asking Hans if they should be doing this.  Hans admits he wants to get to the bottom of this mystery.  With the last few days that have passed spent recuperating from their injuries, Hans cannot help but feel compelled to uncover why the Duchess insists this place not be opened.  Hans remembers there were nights he awoke to hear children giggling nearby, but when he opened the door, there was no sign of anyone there save for a pair of children's shoes left at his doorstep.  The servants claimed it was theirs, but Hans feels it is a likely story.  Astrid on the other hand has had moments where she was certain she saw the painting of a farm house at the top of a hill in her room had no open windows, but just last night the painting showed an open window.  She awoke that morning to see Hans standing before her, which nearly made her gasp.  The servants followed a strict schedule, which allowed them to be more predictable to sneak past them and get to the tower.


With the lock picked, Hans quickly slips into the room and investigates.  The inside is dark, however, forcing Hans to move slowly inside.  Astrid heads back to the Manor, hoping to find a candlestick or lantern to use, but while there, she encounters a servant maid who asks her why she is there.  Astrid distracts the maid, and thankfully, Hans closes the door to the tower to look less noticeable.

 

*


On the road, Lady Cassandra encounters a bandit on the road, threatening her and the other travelers on the road.  She tells the people to get behind them, but the bandit turns out to not be alone.  When she confronts them and declares who she is, a bandit trains his blade against her throat, warning her not to try anything.   When she tries to ask the bandits to reconsider, they laugh at her and demand for their coin.  While distracted by her fumbling for the coins, she moves, yanking the dagger from the bandit's hand.  Unfortunately, the bandit is not alone, and he threatens to injure another traveler and forces Cassandra to drop her weapons.  Seeing the others are unarmed, Cassandra drops her weapon, not wanting the other travelers to get hurt.  One bandit punches Cassandra, bruising her face, and takes her sword from her side.  "Alright, you have what you want!  Let them go."  The bandits, however, have other ideas.    They ask her what she would do so they wouldn't harm the people.  She tells them she would do anything.  They demand her to walk with them to the bridge to tell the guard to let them pass.  Cassandra agrees, hoping to find a way to save the other travelers being held hostage.

 

Closer to the bridge, the bandits tell Cassandra to head to the man sitting by the bridge to check if he is the guard.  She is reminded the lives of the others are in her hands.  Cassandra walks up to the man dressed in black, who seems busy eating from a can filled with mushrooms. To her surprise, the man – without looking at her – mutters he can see they are in need of help and offers to do so because he has a can of mushrooms which reminds him of an old bardic story regarding magical mushrooms that compel a man to admit unwanted truth.  She notices he wears a domino mask.  He tells them to go across, and that he will move once they have flanked the bandits.  Cassandra heads back and tells the bandits it is all clear.  They begin to cross.  


The plan goes awry, however, when Cassandra makes the mistake of letting the bandits go ahead of her.  The man in black with the domino mask gasps in exasperation given she allowed the bandits to run ahead, instead of staying in front of them to flank them.  She leaps for the bandit with her sword and tackles him to the ground.  Another bandit fires his pistol at her, however, hoping to Injure her and by them time.  She rolls for cover, off the bridge and grabs the edge to dodge the bullet.  The bandits run off.

 

Pulling herself back up, the bandits are gone.  Thankfully, her sword was left there.  The man in black helps her to her feet, admits she seems to be new to this, and at least the others only lost wealth and not their lives.  "Flynn," he tells her and she introduces herself.  "Is there more to just Flynn? Or is it just Flynn." He admits there used to be more, but he realized in the end being a knight was not for him.  He claims he is now a highway man.  She asks him if he can teach her how to fight.  She admits she's not that well versed at that yet.  Flynn agrees to accompany her for now since they're walking in the same direction, "On one condition. If anyone asks, we are traveling together."  When she agrees, he unclasps a few pins and his black clothes flip down to reverse into a white robe.  Now, he looks like a priest.  They talk about the canned food, a new attempt to sell food by the Vesten it seems, and they walk while trading stories.

 

*

 

Maurice leBlanc and the Duchess Sybil are at the dining table. Maurice finds himself remembering the wedding, which was the most unwedding event he ever was part of.  A man sat infront of them, pointing at places to sign, which turned out to be the ceremony itself.  He learned the marriage was supposedly already one that had been performed so long ago, and they are merely formally reinstating his return from a long journey and asserting a hold on the property.  Asking how he could have been married without being here, Sybil reminds her all that matters is his signature. Inspecting the document, there have been four previous names that have been crossed out.  His is the fifth. He is bothered by the details of this and signs it just to get it done.  Sybil wishes he could speak to her with less aggression.  Maurice admits he is merely being frank.  Sybil claims to not know anyone named Frank and reminds him they have been married for the last fifteen years.  Maurice is confused why he had only been called to Avalon today.    The judge confirms all is in order, and proclaims the home to be back in his possession.  Part of the rules stipulate neither of them are to do anything to the Southern Tower.  The judge excuses himself to deliver the papers to the Queen and wishes them congratulations. 

Sybil and Maurice discuss the history behind the marriage. How she was married to a Montaigne husband fifteen years ago, and that it was that marriage they were to maintain through the years.  As they eat fruit, with the servants passing to each one a plate.  The marriage was established for the Montaigne to have the land, and to ensure it remains in Montaigne hands.  "A Proxy.  I am a proxy to some aspect of politics I don't quite grasp.  In Montaigne, we actually get married even if it is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of marrying for money."  Sybil explains the original husband got lost at sea, and as tradition dictates, none were to speak of him as having vanished as it would be ill fortune if he returns.  So they have continued the tradition since then, but each one who replaced the first one would later then vanish at sea.  Maurice's uncle is the fourth.  When Maurice explains he saw his uncle, however, Sybil is confused how he could have when she knows the uncle had died.  Sybil stands up and excuses herself, "

 

*


Inside the tower, Hans sees a strange collection of things.  A large shelf houses glass containers, but the darkness is too much to allow reading.  He sees a massive oak desk and on the foor a great sigil of some sort.  He cannot find any windows.  Sliding the door open once more for more light.  He finds the lantern to have wick, but no oil. He draws some of the jars in the shelf and tries to find oil, ignoring for now the boots, heavy thick gloves and robes hanging from the shelf's side.  The other jars have powders inside of them, or rattling things inside of them.   Soon, he does find oil and lights the lantern, just as the tower suddenly goes dark.  The door has been closed.  He sees the leather robes, and sees glass with straps to cover the face.  The other jars are filled with powders and other chemicals and minerals.   The pattern on the ground is clearer now.  It is the mark of the Invisible College. 

He looks up at the winding stairs and decides to check the desk for now.  There, he finds a small tray atop the surface with a small metal strip with holes and lines cut all the way through the metal.   Hans ducks under the staircase when he hears the sounds at the door. 

 

Astrid however learns from the maid that the Duchess lost two of her first born, which is why she does not like to have children, nor will there be children in the manor nor the grounds.  She walks the maid out to the tower, and seeing the door once more wide open, she pretends to slip on the ice and drags the maid down with her to distract her.  The maid leaves to find a physician since Astrid acted like she injured herself. This buys Astrid time to head back to the manor, grab a candelabra, and hurry back.  But as she reaches for the door, the maid has returned calling for her.  Astrid claims to be seeing hallucinations of children and drops to her knees, fumbling with the lock as she tries to sneak it back on the door before the maid sees her.  She fails to snap the lock shut at the door as the maid helps her back to her feet.  With the maid, a doctor comes emerges from the manor however and the two worry upon seeing the open lock.  They talk about her possibly being possessed, "like before", and carry her back into the manor (after the maid dutifully locks the door) and talk about not telling the Duchess until they are certain. "We just have to relieve it from being inside of you when we can."  The Physician vows that he will not fail her, not like before. Astrid's attempts to misdirect the two may have landed her in hotter water.  

 

With the sounds gone, Hans returns to the desk and finds two slots for tomes. Only one tome remains, however.   He opens it and finds it to be a journal of sorts, with lots of hand-written text and illustrations.  There are diagrams and drawings that attempt to illustrate or dissect shapes.  Some of the art, however, seem wrongly done with lines in the wrong places.  Perspectives twisting.   The writing seems to be coded.  A small note in Old Thean however inserted at one point reads, "They know.  I must find another way.  The old system did not work."

 

Astrid is secreted to the servant's quarters and locked in a room.  The Physician asks her many things, mostly in relation to the tower, but she insists she only heard the children and fell on her head.  The maid returns soon enough with a bag and the Physician draws out an old metal device meant to drill a hole into one's head to relieve it of internal pressure!  Astrid demands they stop, insisting she had nothing to do with the tower.  She tells them to explain what they think has happened, but the servants seem very worried.  One offers Astrid a cup of tea, but she refuses to drink it.  "This should work this time… she should survive." Astrid tells them she is a Close Friend Of Maurice and tells them to stop!  The physician however tells her that if "it" is within her, then they have to get it out.  They have to stop it from devouring her from within.  They insist they cannot risk her bringing it to the Duchess.   The hallucinations are a symptom that something has been feeding on them. 

When Astrid demands to know what they are talking about, the man simply explains, "The maus." Astrid is told to sit on a chair and they scatter flour all around her, telling her that they will explain if she is willing to stay seated for as long as possible.  They explain their encounters with a black mouse that has been sighted in the place.  A monster that appears like a mouse hiding in the cabinet that feeds on prey from within. When she asks why the tower then, the man explains that was where they had trapped the colony of them.  The Duchess however has refused to allow any monster hunter to help them given the third husband was from Eisen.

 

Hans leaves the book for now, tucking the metal bar instead under his belt to take with him.  He heads for the stairs and sees a small pan at the base of the steps, with a spongy material on the pan.  The material, however, crumbles when prodded with his knife.  He fails to see the words on the cabinet, marking a warning: Do Not Ascend Without Protection.  Hans heads upstairs.  He fails to realize the dark tiny things following him up the steps.

 

*


Cassandra watches as Flynn, seen as a priest by the people they encounter, pretends to give out blessings and receives donations from the people.  Cassandra questions how he can pretend to be a priest, but he counters how Cassandra is certain she is a knight.  He talks about how truth is relative, as robbers can be desperate souls, and murderers might be protecting their young.  Cassandra offers to pay for the bread which is being donated to the priest, rather than let him give it away to the false priest for free.   Flynn talks about how deception and lies can be seen in many ways.  Maybe he's an assassin sent to kill the Queen, or just a wandering philosopher, or worse, a knight who has lost his way.  "Maybe that's why we met.  Something sensed the turmoil within you and sent me to show you not everything is over after denying lending someone a hand."    Cassandra stares at him, wondering if he dabbles in Sorcery.  When some guardsmen confront them, demanding Flynn stop pretending to be a priest, he claims he is one and even points to Cassandra as proof he is truly one.  After all, why would a Knight of Elaine walk with a charlatan?  As the guardsman leaves, Cassandra wonders why he is lying to everyone, Flynn however questions who defines who we are.  When Cassandra says people are who others define you to be, he raises how a larger majority of people would not know she is a knight.  "Does that mean you are not a knight?" 

Their discussion reaches talk about importance of labels and naming.  How land and homelands are greatly different.  How houses are just places, compared to homes.   Cassandra teases Flynn can remain Flynn, but realizes his name does mean something else to her now.  They reach another bridge soon enough, and seeing a group counting coins in the shadow, Cassandra wonders if those are the thieves and heads down to investigate.   She discovers however the men had lost their horse after all three of them tried to ride it at the same time. The three start arguing once more, and the coins turn out to be from a dropped money box.  Cassandra suggests that they walk with him instead, but when their arguments preoccupy them, she heads back up instead.  She finds Flynn with a horse and asks her if they are stealing the horse, or liberating it.  Cassandra thinks about how the men don't seem to be capable of caring for the horse properly, but not wanting to steal the horse, she hands them a shilling to pay for the horse.  Flynn teases her however that she paid with a shilling they collected from their donations to the "priest" and does this mean they are serial thieves then?

 

Cassandra asks if Flynn is trying to twist her words against her, but Flynn claims he is merely showing her she needs to see that events can have many perspectives and ways to be seen.  Flynn switches his clothes to a tan outfit, and steps down from the horse as they arrive at a junction on the road.  He tells Cassandra he has done enough for the journey and that is it time for him to continue on.  She reminds him that he promised to teach her to wield the word better, but he confesses that most likely is a lesson she will learn from someone else.  He tells him Dueling Schools might be a better way to grasp new lessons.  Flynn however claims he does not believe in war or violence and thus has no dueling schools to recommend.  He wishes her well, admitting she has learned enough from her time with him and tosses her a can of mushrooms when she asks for one.  She hopes they will meet again, someday in better circumstances, and she admits he confused her a lot.  He tells her she was always confused and just didn't realize until now how much.    Flynn departs, walking straight into the woods, ignoring either path. 

Cassandra watches Flynn vanish into the woods, takes the path to the Castle but upon arriving finds the gates shut.  She is then ushered inside, and told to stay in a room with the other Elaine Knights.  The disparity of the kinds of people there bother her, with some clearly acting more like mercenaries and drunkards than knights, so she keeps to herself.   They are told to wait as there was an attempt to attack the Queen and the Queen wishes to address them all.  Cassandra feels something is happening, and the fact everyone else in the room does not seem to be discussing the supposed attack.  Most just arrived and don't really know why they're being kept in the room.  All of them seemingly have been summoned, magically or otherwise, to visit the Queen.

A door opens as guards declare the Queen shall see them all now.  They are lead to a larger courtyard.

 

*

 

Maurice learns that neither Hans nor Astrid are at the room.  Maurice asks if any servant was authorized to clean the area by the Southern tower, asks for the servant to be summoned as he suspects that is where the two are.  "It was the only place they were not authorized to go."  They talk about the dangers that can come in the night, such as wolves, ghosts, and wisps, which is why it should be easy enough to find his friends while the sun is out.  Maurice insists he will eat his breakfast as slowly as possible, and if the two are not found by the time he finishes his last grape…
 

*

 

The servants now explain the monstrosity they call the Schrankenmaus. The monster supposedly that can slip through human flesh and feast on its victims from the inside.  Their nibbling causes the body to accumulate toxins, which then lead to horrific hallucinations.  The physician believes the monster hides in the hollow behind the brain but admits to Astrid that they have yet to prove the theory.  The third husband of the wife, the Eisen, had hurt the Duchess' heart so much that she locked herself in her own chambers for a month.  Since then, no Eisen have been welcomed to ever step upon the lands again.  Worse, he had hurt the Duchess physically, though she insists this never happened.    They argue on the possibilities that the mouse might be still in her.  Or it might be hiding in the house now.  These things breed quickly and feed very discreetly.  Astrid asks if they ever killed any of them.  The physician admits they were only able to herd them into the tower to lock them inside.  She asks why they never told the Duchess about the beasts, and they admit they have never told her about it to spare her of worrying over it. 


 

*


Maurice admits he stays as a duty to his King. He suspects there is more to this duchy than meets the eye, however.  The Seneschal explains that the four previous husbands chose to leave – including his uncle whom the Duchess thinks is dead.  Despite being told he can leave like the other men did, Maurice insists he won't be leaving because unlike the others, he is a Hero. 

 

*


Upstairs, Hans begins to find more of the cages hanging in the center of the tower.  Each one, however, is inlaid with mirrors.  He begins to discern the mirrors are a network to project the light through the tower.  Skittering sounds can be heard around him, however.  Hans dismisses the sounds, thinking they're probably just mice.

Around this time, Astrid begins asking them why the Southern Tower.  Why they felt herding the beasts into the tower was the best thing to do.  They painted the door red since that incident years ago to lock the beasts inside.  In the past, the tower was used by one of the guests of the Duchess, an inventor by the name of Nisab Guissola.  Astrid finds herself wondering where she had heard the name before.  Astrid asks them to inform the Seneschal that she is down here, but they insist they focus on the floor.  The two begin to discuss things in a lighter mood, as Astrid tells the physician that the women in the world are stronger than most realize.  Astrid protests that she probably just hit her head and did not really have any halluciantions from some monster.  The Physician wonders why it doesn't seem to make sense.  Wonders if there's a way to lure it out.  Astrid teases about using cheese, and the physician thinks of a possible lure and hurries off.

A servant arrives at the dining hall and informs the Seneschal that something is happening down below.  The Seneschal suggests that Maurice retire to his office to review the documents regarding the estate.  The seneschal has maids escort Maurice to the office, where shelves upon shelves stand.  A massive chandelier and heavy oak desk are dwarfed by the height of the book shelves.  He finds numerous envelopes, still sealed, on the table.  All are addressed to the Duke and the Duchess of the land.  All the letters seem to be sent by His Highness, the King of Montaigne. Maurice begins reading through them and learns of the land being repurposed as a peace offering between Montaigne and Avalon.  The Southern Tower, on the other hand, was intended for a different purposes, in association with one of the Societies, but its placement in the estate was vital to ensure the tower was kept safe.  The earliest letters are within the months of the marriage.  The secrecy of the tower must be maintained no matter what.  Servants are even to be taken from three different families, and are to live on the land and never be allowed to leave – to ensure secrecy.  The doctor Guissola is permitted to use the Southern Tower at all times.  That letter was written almost seven years ago.  Maurice realizes the letters span ten years, yet Sybil does not look that old.  A logbook marks down deliveries and the last one was almost three years ago.  The husband then was the third, the Eisen one, and it lists a crate of twenty mice.  The signatory of the deliveries is the Seneschal.   Maurice asks for a servant to bring him to his wife immediately.

Hans reaches the higher landings and finds more of the mirror systems on the hanging cages.  There is a few cage like containers, but they are empty of anything, not even dust.  He looks around but cannot find a device that matches the size of the hole, however, which makes him wonder what used to be here.   Sliding open the door at the landing, and it opens to an upper balcony.  The sunlight, pouring in, bounces upon the mirrors and illuminates the whole tower.    He sees the black mice, who rush to hide behind the shadows as the light stretches through the chambers.  Looking down, to the ground level, Hans sees the sigil on the floor, the marking of the Invisible College.  He finds a map on the wall of Theah.  There are holes on the map, suggesting pegs were used to keep track of things on it.  He studies the holes to see if there are any patterns he can discern. He hears more skittering sounds and realizes the mice don't seem to be afraid of him.  They are displaying pack tactics to lull him into a state of relaxation.  He doesn't like this feeling.  Hans tries to swat the closest one, starting at him at eye level from a piece of furniture, but the thing runs off the moment he draws his dagger.   He studies the map more, noticing the bigger holes and sees one of the holes is where they are now at Avalon.  He looks at the pegs that fit and it seems to be the green ones.  There are other colored pegs however that are in jars nearby.  A shattering sound breaks above.  Hans hurries to check what they are.  Upstairs, he finds the room to be somewhat like an alchemist's chamber.  Glass tubes, vials and the like are everywhere on the tables.  A sketch diagram on the wall shows a dissected mouse.  A skeleton hangs on one side.  A second shattering sound is heard and Hans directs the light towards it, to see the broken debris on the floor.  He stares at the shadows to see if something is moving and he finds a few.  The mice again?  He sees the black shapes and realizes they are the mice.  He notices at the corners of his vision, a few more are closing in.  Hans moves, trying to draw more of them out to the middle of the room. 

The Seneschal arrives, visiting Astrid, warning her that they cannot risk the beasts to leave from the tower.  He asks what the doctor has said and Astrid freely gives answers.  The Seneschal is infuriated, however, that Astrid has broken the rules despite being told not to visit the Southern Tower.  "If that Eisen monster begins to breed outside…"  Astrid however remains calm, asking why she had seen hallucinations of children despite arriving on the first day before even visiting the Tower.  Astrid insists however that she is certain there are children here, at night.  She asks why they won't just tell the Duchess the truth.  The Seneschal explains if the infestation ever reaches others, and if the Duchess were to ever know about it, the first thing she'd do is try to visit the best physicians she knows, which would then just further "deliver" the beast out to other Nations.  Exasperated, the Seneschal makes a decision to have Astrid locked up at the basement, for at least a month, and he will claim to the others that she had left the land for her own purposes.  Astrid, however, knows they will fail.  She warns them the others will not believe their lies.  Astrid hears the door being locked and she waits for them to leave.  She looks for a way out, while overhearing the servants arguing about the things they had to do to control the situation.  "Why do you think I keep having to do the thing at the mill," the Seneschal barks.   Picking the lock, Astrid then tries to sneak her way back to the dining hall where she believes Maurice would be by now.  Not finding him, she moves to the office but as she gets there, she hears movement approaching.   She slides behind a curtain to hide when she finds the room empty of Maurice, but notices the window lock turning open!  A figure slides into the room from outside, secretly looking around.  The figure has a scar that goes down one eye. 

Maurice finds Sybil sitting at the library, with a book in her hands.  He notices it is one of the dreadfuls by Tassine Bullet.  She asks if he's finally decided to play his part in all this, given its a mundane role to play in exchange for wealth and happiness.   Maurice raises how Sybil has been married to five different men for the last few years.  Sybil admits she used to be a Jenny and was paid well by the inventor, Nisab, to play her role as the Duchess.  Sybil doesn't matter about the things being done.  As far as she  is concerned, she was getting well paid to just play the role and maintain the estate and ignore the tower.   Maurice, however, feels there's more to this than just fulfilling their roles.   Sybil finds them all stratifying, finding them all similar to the characters in Tassine's last dreadful, of the man who is the son of the King and the loves who are stuck having to work together despite their passionate history. 
 

*


Lady Cassandra tries to not judge the other knights around her, but seeing them now she feels it looks hard to believe they are all fellow knights. The Queen arrives, and as they are addressed, she learns that there has been an attempt on her life and that the assailant is "no more."  The Assailant, however, was a Knight of Elaine just like the rest of them.  Effective immediately, all the knights are to remain in Avalon for an indefinite period.  Cassandra opts to speak up, and when she tries to ask for the reason behind the "imprisonment," the Queen asks if her questioning the decision seems to be proof of her fears – that the Knights of Elaine are no longer living up to the examples and virtues that the Knights were originally based upon.  Cassandra herself, a Knight of Wilfrith, seems to have lost any show of resolve and will.  The Queen cannot accept the fact that her assassin was one of her own knights.  She has required all the Knights to remain at Avalon to prove their roles and loyalty, and that those who try to leave will be seen as Traitors to the Graal.   They are them dismissed.   Cassandra however decides to try and sneak after the Queen to talk to her. She finds her standing at the front of a window, lost in her thoughts.  Cassandra reveals herself and drops to her knees to show she has not come to threaten her.   Cassandra explains she wants to give her reports in order to arm the Queen with knowledge of what she has encountered in her journeys.   She even shares her encounters with Gasparo Angelo and of how she may have faked her own death, as well as the encounter with Tassine Bullet, but not having any proof that these people would have the means to twist her own knights against her means all she has to offer are speculation.  "But I've seen so much. Of children being turned into monsters and teeth.  I feel she may be behind all these." 

The Queen realizes Cassandra's loyalty is undeniable.  She gives her a task unlike any other, knowing her loyalty is such that it would survive even falling.  The Queen is to strip Cassandra of her knighthood and disavow her, but only to stage her as a likely candidate for recruitment by whoever has attempted to have her murdered by one of her own Knights.  Cassandra reluctantly agrees to this, fearing if she is truly ready to be stripped for the honor of being a Knight of Elaine.    "This is no small thing I ask you.  This is the risk of rejection and hatred of all others whom have been your friends in the past.  Will you take this duty?"  She reminds Cassandra it is not vengeance but justice that they seek to accomplish.  Cassandra admits being a Knight is all she ever wanted to be, but refuses to accept that her desires are more important than her duty.   She agrees to the Queen's plan and knows very soon she will be denounced and stripped of her knighthood.  The Queen however tells her she cannot be denounced until Cassandra comes up with an unforgivable act, one which isn't too subtle that the true antagonists do not hear about it.    They think of what kind of personal matter it can be that would "push" Cassandra to hating the Queen.  The topic becomes Gallifrey, Cassandra's home town.   The Queen tells Cassandra she will claim the lands of Gallifrey to become farm lands to be used by the Queendom.  Cassandra realizes her own family will be thrown out of their own lands to perpetrate this ruse.  The people cannot be cared for, so this act will become one Cassandra will avenge. 

With that, Cassandra leaves and she heads back to Gallifrey to try to at least visit it one last time.  She finds the place still celebrating her accomplishment.  The young girls in the town are dressed in paper armor costumes, wanting to be like her someday.  The people celebrate their arrival, seeing her as a hero who as arisen from their ranks.   At the tavern, Cassandra is introduced to a man of the cloth who was looking for her.  He turns out to be Flynn, dressed now as a deacon of the Objectionist Church.   During their discussions, however, Cassandra starts telling him about the events that happened to the Queen.  Being too trusting, she nearly spills the plans to Flynn and stops herself from telling him everything.    She ends up starting the rumor that the Queen was attacked, and that Gallifrey will be stripped of land as punishment because she had forced her way into the Queen's quarters.  Flynn hands the bartender a bag of coins, "For the damages" he claims, and then he draws a blade and formally challenges Cassandra on behalf of the Graal and the Queen Elaine.   She claims she might have someone in mind to help her.   They are to meet at dawn, and duel to first blood.  If he succeeds, Cassandra is to be arrested and presented to the Queen as a traitor to the Graal and the crown.  If she succeeds, however, he must admit to her the truth about himself and teach her how to fight.

"I am Flynn, Knight of Elaine, embodying Edgar the Wealthy.  In the Queen's name and upon the Graal, I challenge you."

Cassandra accepts.  As Flynn leaves, she sees everyone look at her with shock on their faces.  Cassandra realizes she seems to have overstayed her welcome and bids the place farewell.

 

*


Astrid tried to commit to her memory the face of the scarred man, noting he is armed with throwing knives.  But as the man seems to be searching for something, he too seems to overhear someone coming, and like her, he quickly slides to hide in the room.  The door opens and the Seneschal arrives, and like the man earlier, he begins to search around the room for something, checking the drawers, the shelves, and before he checks the bed, the other guy slides away and ducks behind the table.  The Seneschal checks under the bed, and finding nothing, finally leaves.  The man then emerges, and follows the Seneschal.  Astrid considers following them too but by the time she gets to the corridor, she has lost sight of where the two had gone. She decides to return back to the tower for now.

 

Maurice talks to Sybil about the many marriages she has had.  He suggests something has been driving the husbands away.  She admits most were tempted to investigate the second tower and were forced to leave due to mysterious circumstances.  Maurice admits he suspects his own companions are probably inside the tower this very moment.  He asks if Nisab left any instructions of what should be done in case of any incidents.  Sybil admits Nisab kept to herself alone, never interacted with any of them.  The only person she intereacted with ever in the past was the Seneschal.  The fact he always stays at the Mill intrigues Maurice given its location is just as far as the Tower would be.  "It's always the butler," he smirks, relating it to the dreadfuls Sybil likes to read.  The Seneschal might be loyal to someone else.  "Never trust a man who never eats a full grape," he remarks, but he then realizes he has never seen Sybil eat anything since he had arrived.  This mystery begins to excite Sybil. 

At the tower, Hans sees the black mice close in.   He brings his lantern lower, hoping to terrify the things or at least force them back.  But they things leap instead at him and lands THROUGH him!  Hans sees a bulge beneath the skin, moving towards his body.  Quickly, he stabs himself with his own blade, timing it to block the forward movement of the horror.  The thing hits the blade, then leaps back out of his flesh to skitter away.  Hans hightails it out of the room, running down the chamber and nearly screaming upon seeing what looked like a person in an alcove.  He realizes it is a full-body suit that looks almost like skin.. chopped off at the throat, the wrists and the ankles.  The whole thing is made of different kinds of animal hide, all stitched together to look more like human flesh. Another mouse hits Hans' boot, but it scurries away when it realizes it cannot slide through.  Hans leaves the suit and hurriedly makes his way down.

Astrid continues to the rear of the castle, but stops upon seeing the figure she saw earlier with the scar.  The figure has one of the maids held in his hands and he drags her under a table to hide her unconscious body.   She shadows his movements, carefully and quietly follows him as he makes his way to the rear of the manor.  He even uses a smoke bomb at one point to knock another maid unconscious.  The man notices the candelabra by the door, touches it, then seems to realizes something about it.  Astrid observes him and notes that he checked the metal's temperature, noting it was cold and realizing someone tried to head to the tower.  He brings the candelabra with him, leans against the wall of the tower, and as he does this, he ties a rope to the metal candelabra, spins it, and hurls it up towards the first balcony.   Astrid, watching from the door, hesitates approaching for now.

Maurice returns quickly to his quarters, with plans to arm himself, and is oblivious to the fact just seconds ago there were three people in here searching for something.  Now armed, he walks back to Sybil but before he arrives, he overhears her talking to someone about not trusting her husband.  Maurice knocks, then steps in to check who Sybil is talking to.  At the door, Maurice releases the Mark he left on the ship and pricks his finger to create a new one on Sybil.    He promises to always be but a step from her at all times.  He decides to ride out, to head to the Mill where the Seneschal always stays.    Enroute, Maurice stares at the plants in the vicinity, which includes plants that should not be growing in this climate.  He wonders what sorcery this is.

 

*


Hans hears the clatter at the balcony outside and he stops to check what made the sound. He sees a candelabra on the ground, that drags against the ground as someone tugs on the rope tied to it.  Following it, he sees more of the dark things skittering all around him!  One of the mice hurls itself to try to hit his head!  He lifts the lantern to block its leap, and then stomps on it once it hits the ground.  A gooey splatter erupts in all directions from beneath Hans' booth.  The terrible shriek of the monster reminds Hans of a young child's scream of pain.

Outside, Astrid and the scarred man hear the shriek!  The man climbs.  Astrid hurries to the tower's door and tries to pick the lock once more.  Astrid slides the door open, and calls out for Hans to come to her.  He yells back to be wary of the mice, but realizes the second level door is closer than Astrid's location.   When he decides to step out of the balcony, another pair of the mice leap at him to dive into his skin!  Hans rolls out of the door as he leaps out, then tries to slam the door closed at the two mice.  Astrid hears the slam above and she shuts the door again to lock it closed.  She turns to see the Seneschal at the manor's exit with a rifle.  He warns her to back away from the door and trains the musket at her, accusing her of hoping to steal the monsters away to use them as weapons.  At gunpoint, he directs her to head back towards the manor.  Astrid smiles, using her disarming smile to temporarily win him over and bring the gun down.  She motions at the rope leading up, and the Seneschal panics as he realizes someone has indeed gone up.

At the balcony, Hans looks up to see the man in white asking him for the "key."  He promises to let Hans live if he surrenders the key.  Hans promises the man he will let him live if he explains why he has shown up.  In response, the man has a flat blade extend from his hand.  With a swift move, Hans attempts to disarm the man of his deadly weapon. 

Down below, Astrid cannot see the ongoing battle above.  But she tells the Seneschal they should be helping each other.  The Seneschal however admits there is a reason Nisab assigned him to handle these things, and that is because he is an inventor just like she was. He understands how the technology works.  He demands Astrid head back into the house.   She asks if they "invented" the mice.  The Seneschal admits Nisab has been creating a lot of her inventions that have the potential to reshape the seven seas.  "The world needs its heroes."  He claims people like her will always try to stop them from changing the world for the better, and hisses he would not expect a Jenny like her to understand. She feigns a trip, then when he moves in, shifts to train a knife at his throat. The musket discharges at the ground as she presses him against the wall with the blade against his throat.  "I'm no ordinary Jenny."

"Do what you will, but I promise you the Invisible College will never be destroyed," he spits in her direction. Realizing the man most likely has been so obsessed with his studies to have a social life, Astrid kisses him to catch him off-guard, then pushes him back as she slips the musket from the seneschal's hands and backs away to try to get a better vantage point of what is going on upstairs.

Hans hears the musket sound below, and uses the momentary distraction to catch the knife of the attacker with his own blade, forcing him to drop it to the floor.  Standing close, Hans hears the man demand for the key and promise to leave without further acts of violence.  Hans twists the man's arm, forcing him to talk and admit who he is. He claims to have been sent by the Invisible College, which Hans claims to also be a member of the group.  The two exchange the passwords and confirm their membership to the college.   He quickly ceases his violent actions, explaining he had been sent by the College to retrieve the key in order to secure the Nisab inventions that are being taken by agents of unknown groups.  The Intruder, however, does not know anything about the mice that penetrate skin.  He only knows that a key needs to be retrieved since it can unlock a box that has been retrieved from her wake.  Hans asks where the box is and he assures him it is far and safe from here.

The intruder explains only a handful is aware of the secrets regarding Nisab's inventions.  Hans explains that is why he will keep the key safe for now.   Astrid sees the two talking, and trains the musket at the Seneschal to keep him from doing anything undesirable, and demands answers.  The Seneschal admits they are trying to study where the mice came from, and that they are not natural. Astrid feels however they are endangering the duchy by keeping them here.  The place is a small price to pay to protect the rest of the world from further threats like this, as the world will only be safe through knowledge.  "You're coming with me," Astrid motions with the musket for the man to head inside. 

"We're going to Maurice," Astrid tells the man.  Hans, however, tells his collegiate to leave and inform the college he will keep the key safe until they send further instructions.  The man tells Hans he will have to ask the college for permission to know more about Nisab's work.
 


Arriving at the Mill, Maurice leaps off the horse and knocks at the door but no one answers.  He hears sounds inside.  He draws his foil then tries a window but finds it barred from the inside.  Slipping his foil between the window panes, he undoes the lock and he sees the unexpected sight within.  The strange device seems to have been cobbled together from various objects and machinery.  It has created a shimmering glow at the center of the room which reminds Maurice of Porte Sorcery.  Sliding into the room, Maurice looks around and sees the false wall that concealed this machine from people in the room where the door stood.  Maurice tears down the hidden chamber's false wall and after destroying the classic foolish attempt at deception, almost like an old magician's trick, he walks around the machine to study it.  He triggers the Mill to function, in hopes of understanding what this is all about.

Maurice studies how the thing functions, and seeing where a lot of parts seemingly connect to one thing, he pries it free from the machine to break it down.  The thing is built to the very floor.  And a nearby journal marks down different locations and dates.  The thing seems to be a record of objects that were sent through to test the device.  Maurice grabs the oil lantern and drops it to shatter on the floor. "Alas."

 

*


Cassandra revisits the Queen, sneaking past her guards once more to tell her no one seems to know about the attack upon her.  The Queen, however, is aghast.  Cassandra has made the mistake of telling the people about the attack, despite the Queen hoping to contain the news about the attack.  The Queen explains that her actions have pushed the time table for the events to move forward since now the people know of the event.  Cassandra apologizes for having failed her again.  The Queen however simply tells Cassandra her eagerness to act has pushed the events forward sooner than expected.   Cassandra mumbles about her uncertainties and about her confusion in accomplishing the plans.  She feels bothered that there is a need to harm others in this plan.  The Queen however questions that she can fulfill this plan.  She questions the capacity of Cassandra to accomplish the task, despite Cassandra insisting she has convinced a Knight that she is against the Queen and has been challenged to a duel.  She however admits she went to see the Queen again because she has some doubts and she just wants Justice for everyone.

Queen Elaine however admits Justice does not work that way.  There will always be someone who will suffer for the needs of others.  Cassandra just so desperately wishes the innocents need not suffer. "I just want to know that what I will do is all worth it.  But you're telling me the people of Gallifrey… and now the whole of Avalon… they will all be affected by this plan.  I am just one person…" 

The Queen however has no kind words to share with Cassandra.  Lady Cassandra urges they push through with the plan regardless, since her actions may have in some ways planted the seeds for it to work in the end.  When the Queen reminds her all their actions are for the Graal, Cassandra, however, admits that she doesn't even know if the Graal exists.  This statement, unfortunately, is one the Queen cannot accept.  Queen Elaine screams and yells for Lady Cassandra to leave.   Cassandra tearfully admits she doesn't know if the Queen is lying at times.  To that Elaine admits Lady Cassandra is now perfect for the duty.  The Queen calls for the guards, claiming the assassin is in her chambers.  Lady Cassandra hears the footfalls of the coming guards and the Queen tells her she has no loyalty towards the Graal at all.  Cassandra rushes to the window, flings the curtains open, and looks down to find a way out.  The Queen stares at Cassandra with rage and fury, so much that she ignores her own guards knocking upon the door to be allowed in.  "Of all the things that hold our land safe and united.  Of all that empower you to do your duties.  Of all the things that we hold sacred, you question the very existence of the Graal."

"Then show it to me," Cassandra demands.

"You are no LONGER one of my Knights," the Queen growls, "Begone for we will hunt you to the ends of Theah." 

Cassandra secures the curtain around her waist, and arm, then she rappels down to avoid the moat as she descends down the wall.  The doors burst open as the guards finally break through.  Queen Elaine points towards the open window and screams for Lady Cassandra's head.  Cassandra's mind races back to the Gesa she embraced when she accepted her duty as an Elaine Knight.

 

Never shall you raise your sword against a countryman.

Never shall you abandon a fight before it is through.

Never break your word or help another break theirs.

Never be idle when there is work to be done.


 

Never let your passions rule you.

Never take something for yourself that belongs to another.



And as she lands on the ground, releasing the curtain to land safely.

 

Always serve the Graal.

Lady Cassandra runs, dodging the flying arrows and vanishes into the woods.  One knight with wings on his helm takes careful aim, staring at Cassandra then closes his eyes before launching the blow.  "Let the Glamour bless the arrow. Let this strike be true."  Light shimmers around the arrow and like a lightning bolt it streaks the distance, closing in on Cassandra.  The arrow hits perfectly, striking her at the knee.   To Cassandra's surprise, her Glamour of Resolve protects her still – reducing the deadly strike to just a momentary inconvenience.

 

She runs, deeper and into the woods, hoping to break the trail the guards are sure to follow.  She crosses a thin river, and weaves through fallen trees, hoping to find escape.  But then the sound of drawn steel catches her attention and she turns to see the Knight of Elaine, Flynn, holding his sword trained at her.  He jokes that he senses he will not be having his duel today, and motions to Cassandra's knee.  When he tells her to draw, and salutes with his blade to show the dueling salute, she jokes if she should draw the arrow to fight him.  She draws her blade, cuts off the end of the arrow, and holds the blade up.  She asks if it is dawn yet, since the agreement was at dawn at the front of the tavern.  Flynn however tells her they will fight here and now because he suspects she plans to flee instead.  Cassandra admits today has been a very interesting day.   "Let's get it on.  I am ready.  Sort of."  With her blade, she draws a circle on the ground around her as she attempts to invoke the Endless Vigil around her.  Flynn sees this and smiles.  "Your smile is scaring me… but I can do this…" Cassandra sighs.


"For someone who believes she is not a knight, you sure still have the Glamour."

 

Cassandra stops. She looks down and asks if they are getting on with this or not.  Flynn tells her it depends on who she is.  Cassandra admits she is just Cassandra now.  Flynn asks if she's the Fool?  The Magician?  The Lover?  Cassandra weakly claims she is Cassandra the Knight.   He asks her what her quest is and she tells him it shall always be for Justice.   "I shall track down…" she stops, realizing she almost did it again.  She almost blurted it all out again.  Is this the moment she should just fulfill the mission she has been given.  "…you.  I am tracking you for a Duel. With an arrow in my knee. Before dawn.  In the woods."

 

Flynn nods and sheaths his blade.  Cassandra sighs and sheaths her blade too.  Flynn admits he is not sure whose camp she is on, but for now he believes there is no need for the duel.  He will, however, be watching her.   Cassandra admits he will be watching out for him too.   Flynn leaves her unharmed.  "I thought you were going to teach me how to fight, Flynn."

 

"I only duel with enemies of the Graal," Flynn tells her knowingly. "Because minutes have passed and you have not stated a single reason to hate her.  You are acting."  Cassandra admits she is just Cassandra know, since the Queen has stripped her of her family, of her knighthood, and of her role.  She has only herself to rely on.  Cassandra insists she does not believe in the Graal.  Flynn questions however why she still relies on the Glamours it has bequeathed her if she truly does not believe in its existence.  She hesitantly claims maybe it is to test if they are still there.  "Who knows if it is really the Graal that makes this work. Maybe it is the Sidhe who give us the powers?"

 

"If these are all true statements, then why is it when I look at you all I see is a heart yearning to be rid of a touch of Corruption that it has gained?" Flynn calmly asks back.  Cassandra mutters that maybe the justice she seeks are for herself and her people.  "That's all that matters to me. I don't care about the Queen anymore."  Flynn tells her of the story of Eadburg the Wealthy and how he gave up all his worldly goods to fulfill his duties.  He admits to her he understand what it feels to give up on everything in order to accomplish the necessary task.    Cassandra admits she does not know if she can loyal to the Queen.  Flynn however tells her, "It was always the Graal I was loyal to.  The Queen simply wields it."  He heads into the woods and tells her to follow unless she plans to stay there until the dogs find her.  He reminds her there were Kings before the Queen and yet the Knights have always been there.  "We are the Knights of Avalon.  We are only called Elaine Knights because she is ruling."

 

Cassandra admits she does not believe she is ever going back to Elaine either.  Flynn however believes she is wrong.  He bumped into a messenger named Felix who was instructed to find Maurice le Blanc, Hans Glick and Astrid Ivardatter and if they found them to inform them she could be found at Gallifrey. She decides it would be best to talk to them when she can.  He invites her inside a cave to rest in for the night.  Moonlight shines down on Cassandra through a hole in the ceiling.   

 

*

 

In the days that follow, there are no news of Gallifray being attacked.  Knights do visit the town often, asking for any sightings of Lady Cassandra.  By the third day, Flynn wakes Cassandra up to let her know that he's found the location of where her friends have gone.  He tells her of the Duchy that is now in Maurice le Blanc's name and confirms that Gallifrey remains standing. He escorts her to the duchy and admits they will most likely see each other again in the future.  Although probably not in the way she would hope they will.

 

*

 

Seeing smoke, Lady Cassandra hurries up the path and sees the burning mill.  She finds Maurice standing there, and yet neither offer clear information on the recent events.   Maurice insists there's no reason to obsess over the burning mill and welcomes her to follow him back to the manor.   Astrid and the Seneschal head back to the manor, with Astrid keeping the man at gunpoint. He leads the man to the main hall and tells the others servants that he is the one behind the monsters at the tower.  Hans tells the man in white to tell him about Nisab and her death.  He informs him she was last on the Isle of Rambaldi and her death came quite suddenly, a small wake was held with specific guests, yet more than the guests showed up.  He mentions that in the evening, however, the home of the woman who hosted the wake was burned down by assailants and the guests were forced to flee.  Her death was said to be suicide, having leapt from the cliffs. Hans however feels that members of the Invisible College are not prone to suicide, being rational people.  The Seneschal tries to warn Maurice that a beast resides inside Astrid, but she informs them that it is he who has been lying to them all.  Maurice calmly reports that the mill is now on fire.  "Alas…"  The Seneschal is frantic, wondering if they are all mad.   Maurice asks the Seneschal what flammable thing he keeps in his mill given the sudden fire, an attempt to make him admit things.  

 

Hans asks if the Seneschal had anything to do with her death.  He denies having done anything of the sort.  He believes she was forced to kill herself by the Inquisition or some other forces.  The Seneschal admits he is a member of the Invisible College and that he was here to try to contain her creations.   They were hoping to find her grandest works, which are part of her Grand Strategema to change the world to a new era.  Hans questions how he can trust those who sent him here without being certain they are not part of the very conspiracy against her work.  The seneschal however refuses to believe the ones who sent him are the traitors seeking to destroy her work.  Hans remembers telling the other he will send word to the College in secret.  The Duchess arrives.  


She tells Astrid to bring the musket down, and asks for an explanation to what is happening.  The group explains the tower and the discovery of something strange in the mill.  The Seneschal growls that science will never be hindered by any Prophet or man.  Maurice insists he has no interest in theological debates.  Astrid warns the Seneschal admitted to being willing to sacrifice the duchy for their experiments.  Maurice however tells Astrid she has every right to be wary given she is the friend of the Duke.  The Seneschal hisses at them, calling them servants of the Inquisition and followers of the Vaticine Church.  Maurice wonders if the disappearance of Nisab is the handiwork of the Invisible College, especially since neither land is held by either the Montaigne or Avalon now.  Neither Astrid nor Cassandra know what this Invisible College is.  Maurice lists out the different portal locations that were in the notes and tells the Seneschal it would be best to just admit what he knows.  The man confesses that the Invisible College has been tracking the existence of numerous blessures in different parts of Theah, accompanied with creatures bearing strange deformities and other monsters.  When Maurice questions why Montaigne is not warned of this, the man accuses the Nation of being in the dipping pot of the Vaticine Church.  He claims l'Empereur has now feared for his soul and sold his loyalties to the Church.   Cassandra speaks up though, admitting she has no idea what is going on.

 

The physician is called and her plans to drill into Astrid's brain are brought up.  The man is agitated, fearful that the monstrosity might find a way to escape.  Unlike the Seneschal, however, the physician does not know anything of the Invisible College. The physician relates once more the story of the monsters' first emergence and the number of things that died during those events.   The physician only inspected Nisab once when she injured herself in the past.  The symptoms are stated once more, but Astrid finally admits she lied about certain details but never claimed to have entered the tower nor encountered these rats.  The physician however is frantic, terrified at the possibility of a plague being unleashed.  The Duchess however admits not knowing a lot of things happening in her land.  The Seneschal however lays the blame on all of them for doing things they were told not to do.  He tries to pinpoint Astrid as the cause of all the trouble.  Astrid however insists the hallucinations, if they are hallucinations, started even before the tower.    In the end, they all realize they are all guessing.  While they are all talking, Hans, slips off to one side.

 

Maurice calmly tells his wife that if she truly wants to have trouble, then that would be by having a conspiracy theorist handling the household.   When the physician continues to aggressively explain his attempts to treat the possibly infected, Maurice tells him to simply calm down and explain the tremors he is having on his own hands.  The physician tries to calm down and sits down. Maurice checks the physician for any of the symptoms he alone has described. 

 

The Duchess wonders if this Hans should be questioned as well.  Astrid reiterates he was the one who woke her up that morning to go to the tower.  The physician finally admits he cannot diagnose himself.  They soon learn two of the casualties from the mice in the past were the physician's doctors, explaining his intense fervor to stop the plague.

 

*


Hans slips back into the tower, hoping to salvage it of what he can without getting infested by the mice.  Astrid arrives, seeing him pondering on what to do.  She tells him the Duchess wants to speak to him, but he insists he has things to do for now. Astrid wonders aloud why he is always dragging her into more trouble.  Hans thinks of the book at the ground level, and decides that is the thing he best try to retrieve.  "Two flights of stairs at most.."

As he shoves the door open, the light shines inside, reflecting on the mirrors.  With a lantern in hand, Hans hurries down the steps, hoping to avoid all the mice.
 

*

 

Astrid returns, telling the others that Hans is still busy and that he will be back shortly.  Astrid stresses she is very hungry.  Servants move to prepare food.  Maurice reminds them as disruptive as the morning has been, they can all be happy to remember Hans is a beast hunter.   The Duchess asks what makes the Seneschal the villain being part of the Invisible College.  Maurice admits he's not necessarily a Villain, but definitely is duplicitous given his activities which he has kept from all of them.  He shares the tower was supposed to be control of both Avalon and Montaigne through Nisab, but with her absence, the Seneschal is now nothing more than a glorified grave robber. Astrid reminds them the duchy was something he was willing to sacrifice for the success of the experiments he was undertaking.  Not just the rats, but including the device at the mill, some abomination resembling Montaigne Porte magic.  "They are trying to find a scientific way of duplicating what we do with Sorcery.  Only a true Sorcier should be handling matters such as these, especially when it concerns the Blessures."    In addition, he was keeping people from going to the tower, not just to avoid the mice, but to possible conceal what has already been taken from there as well since Nisab's disappearance.  The uncle it seems had everything cataloged before leaving with half of the wealth of the land. The Duchess leaves to find the list.

 

When asked of her visit to the queen, Cassandra claims it was a very brief visit in the past few days.  She claims to have just gone home to Gallifrey to stay a while.  When asked about the arrow to the knee, she claims it was a hunting accident.  Maurice shakes his head and reminds her that she is such a darling but lying is so not her.  Cassandra insists she shot herself in the knee.

The Duchess returns with the list and it contains even supposedly the contents of the tower. It seems he had taken something listed as Nisab Invention Cage #4.  The uncle knew about this place before going here.  And the tower was already compromised before then. Maurice suspects his uncle made a deal with someone, or worse, owed someone and this was payment.  Maurice even questions the abomination of fruits outside the window, of apples and bananas and other fruit all growing despite the season.  Distracted with their discussions, the others fail to notice the Seneschal as he makes a bid to escape. He kicks off the ground to try and run off.  Astrid reacts quickly, side stepping to avoid the Seneschal's attempt to headbutt Astrid as he runs.  She kicks his knee, forcing him to the ground, then leaping atop him to pin him to the ground, using her legs to shove him against the floor.  Maurice flips the list to look for anything on the contents of the Mill.  The Duchess reaches for the musket and trains it at the Seneschal.  Cassandra rushes to Astrid, but she gives her a sign she's in control.

 

The page at the mill shows things are scratched off.  Maurice notices his uncle has scribbled, "All yours."  When questioned about Maurice's uncle, the Seneschal was not aware he had snuck into the tower, nor made an accurate list.  The tower was locked, however, so how did he get in? 

Montaigne.

They remember he is Montaigne.  And he remembers his uncle's obsession with parlor magic and playing cards.  That's how he may have slipped in, and escaped from the mice.  "This is two separate plots," Maurice now realizes, "The Seneschal was hoping to use Nisab's Experiments in his quest while my Uncle wanted that particular cage for some reason.  And he was quite eager to leave.  So much so that the Duchess thought he was head."
 

*


The black mice chase after Hans as he reaches the ground level, and he quickly heads to the table to grab the book.  The chittering sound of the mice close in from behind.  The whites of their eyes reflect the lantern light.  With the book now in hand, Hans kicks the shelf with the oils to the ground, and casts the lantern down to it.  Fire erupts!  He quickly hightails up the steps to leap over the fire and evade the mice.  


The fire clips Hans' leg, but he kicks away the closest mice before they get near.  But as he nears the top of the steps, he sees an unexpected sight.  A shadow stands at the doorway, with a pistol in hand.  The gun is fired and the bullet clips Hans in the shoulder, forcing him down to one knee.  With the book still in his hand, Hans sees the man train the pistol at him as he warns, "The book. Or I fire." 

Hans grits his teeth and snarls, "If you want the book so bad," and tosses it back down towards the fire.  The man in the suit yells out a "No!" and leaps after it, diving down towards the flames.  Hans sees the man vanish into the flames and he hurries out the door.  The man was dressed like a magician, with coattails and the top hat and white gloves.  Hans waits, trying to see if the man grabbed it or not.  The book hits the fire.  The man unleashes a snapping sound, and one of the cages is suddenly falling.  The man grabs the nearest chain to pull himself back up as the weight of the cage drops.  Hans hurls a knife to snag the pulley system.  The man growls at Hans as the monster hunter grabs the pistol. "Who are you?"

 

The man claims this was supposed to be a simple pick up job but his hired man didn't show up. Hans demands for a name and the man admits he is Gasparo Angelo.  "How many Gasparo Angelos are there?" Hans snarls.

And the man admits that is the true riddle here.  He has no quarrel with the Glick family and insists he only wants to get the book.  "That tome contained countless secrets that neither side will ever have their hands on it."  Hans admits that is probably for the best.  The tome burns.  Hans backs out, shuts the doors and locks it. 

Hans slides down the rope and watches as the tower burns down.

 

*

 

The others see Hans arrive, and note the smell of smoke.  Hans sits down with a coffee in one hand and a sandwich at the other.  He calmly tells them of the fire and chooses to keep from them the bigger "rat", Gasparo Angelo, who he trapped in the fire.  With the tower burning, everything in it are quite possibly gone.  Including the mice.

 

"To be fair," Maurice adds, "We did not own the tower."

 

The Duchess asks what to do with the man from the Invisible College, and Hans for a moment worries they mean him.  He realizes they mean the Seneschal, and there is talk of surrendering him to Avalon for imprisonment.  Maurice reminds the Duchess it might be best she handle the estate from now on.  He turns to Lady Cassandra, asking her if she is no longer a knight.  She claims the other people in the room might not best hear the answer.  Maurice directly asks her the question again but thankfully, a visitor arriving distracts him from getting the answer.

 

The guest is made to wait at the receiving room.  Maurice smells the perfumed envelope.  He changes his mind and has the guest come in immediately.  The letter, indeed, is from Ll'Empereur who thanks him for being reliable.  The bearer of the message is to collect some items from the tower.  The man reveals the list and Maurice looks at it.  The handwriting does not match those he has seen in the notes however of the Invisible College.  Maurice reports that the Invisible College has infiltrated the household before he could arrive, and their plot has been brought to fruition before he could stop them.  He motions at the burning tower.    The Montaigne nods and tells Maurice he will inform the King of the change in plans. "You are not as reliable as I was lead to believe.  He will know, however, of your loyalty."

 

Maurice however adds that his uncle may have secured one of the items for the King, so he may want to use all the resources he has at hand to recover it for the King.  The man stares at Astrid for a moment, recognizing her.   He asks if she is the Guild Mistress of the Scarlet Stockings and he pulls out a notebook to ask for her signature.  It seems Astrid has gained some level of reputation as the women rose up against a Bishop and fought back by stripping their tops to intimidate the Cardinal's men to leave the property.  The Cardinal fled.  "It was a Vesten Victory unlike any other. A true Bloodless Revolution. Many are beginning to stay when one does not wear the appropriate attire above, once is Scarlet Stocking."  She welcomes him to visit in the future.

 

The messenger kisses her hand, accepts her autograph, then bids the Duke and Duchess farewell.  The Seneschal is taken away on grounds of Conspiracy against the Queen.  The Duchess asks Lady Cassandra if she will back this up as a Knight.  
 

*

 

Night closes in.  Dinner is served.  The physician finally apologizes for his actions.  Amends are made and food is served.  The Duchess admits there will be a need for a new seneschal.  He asks if Maurice is staying, and he admits he will for time to time. But that he suspects they have overstayed their welcome for now.  All the servants serve food and wine a bit harsher than they should.

 

The two admit agree to spend one night however, before they leave.  The contract at least has to be fulfilled.  Maurice declares he is quite full.  The Duchess smiles and says she is too.  The two stand up and leave.

 

*

 

The Seneschal is at the prison. His records are marked and yet the man claims to be loyal to the Invisible College.  The knights shake their heads and leave.  One knight stays behind.  When the Seneschal tries to ask him if he believes in his innocence, the knight draws forth a gloved hand and trains it at the Seneschal.  The Seneschal grabs through the bars, grabbing the knight's face… and it begins to peel off.  The shot fires and the man hits the ground dead.

"Gasparo Angelo, it is such a good name," the false knight with the fake face mutters.  He fixes his face, then draws a playing card from his clothes and tosses it to the floor beside the dead body.

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The Nisab Diary ep04 : 7th Sea
Along the River

10/6/2016
The Nisab Diary

 

"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 AngeloVenerio 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."

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Letter to Die Kreuzritter 01
The Nisab Diary

To Die Kreuzritter,

Reporting a couple of new monsters that I've recently encountered.
Here is what I could muster during my group's encounters with them:
The Fur-Fangs
 - 5-limbed
 - Fast
 - Deadly
 - Active at night
 - Each limb moves like some sort of tentacle
 - One side has fur on all the limbs
 - The other side has razor sharp fangs, a lot of them
 - Stealthy enough to creep up on you at night
 - They're drawn to loud sounds
 - They come in groups
 - There seems to be a leader of the group
 - I hurt one with a gunshot, I think
 - Kill them by decapitating the limbs
 
The Laugh Berry Tree
 - A tree monster that can move its branches like tentacles
 - The strength of a single branch can hurl a man at least 20 feet
 - Is able to think and sense danger
 - The tree is active at night, activities during the day are unknown
 - The tree cannot be hunted alone
 - Drakkeneisen is able to cut the branches
 - Younger/Smaller trees can cling to other trees as a means to hide
 - Its branches cannot be burned!
 - The tree bears the Laugh Berry
    – Oddly shaped berries
    - Has this small seed that seems to dissipate
    - The stench of it is heavenly
    - Do not open
    - Probably the most delicious berry to be mixed in bread
    - DO NOT EAT
    - If eaten, you will feel ecstacy and will make you laugh (hence the name)
    - If eaten, it will bore through your insides and drink your blood
    - It will grow inside of you and will flower and bear fruit once you're drained
    - If eaten, regurgitate at once and regurgitate all of it
    - Stomping the smaller branches seem to kill them
    
I will report more information if I come across them. Fellow Kreuzritter Kurt aided me with the compilation of the details stated here.

May the night bring horrors to the horrors we see
Walden Reichart

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Alas, Such Fates ep03 : 7th Sea
The Mawth and the Madman

9/24/2016
Alas, Such Fates

"The Mawth and the Madman"
Episode Three – 7th Sea

On the Muerte, Catalina Morta's ship, the heroes travel north towards Avalon.  The journey has been silent so far, with no signs of the monstrosity that has been hunting in the Trade Sea. However, as the group finds themselves reaching a part of the sea where the waters have gone calm, and a ship can be seen in the distance in a state of distress.  Catalina calls for the anchor to be dropped and for the heroes to help out.

 

She suspects the monstrosity is in the waters ahead.  She tells them of something called the Mawth, a massive horror which legends say hunted the seas since the time of the Syrneth.  A gaping mouth the size of an island with teeth the height of hills.  She doesn't know if the stories of the monster are to be believed, but she does not want to take any unnecessary risks.  Lady Cassandra remembers the markings on the ship and labors to find a way to awaken the Sidhe magic upon the vessel.  Hans uses his keen sight to try to scan ahead for any clue on the distressed ship.  Worse, the others another ship in the distance closing in.  With a bright red banner on display, Catalina worries if it could be none other than the terror of the high seas, the Crimson Roger.  The villainous Captain Reis.

 

Hans spots the ailing ship and tells the others that he can't be certain if it is a recent victim.  Astrid seeks to investigate and opts to ride with the men assigned to inspect the vessel on a rowboat.  Hans spies the red bannered ship and confirms that on the deck, no one else is there save for a man who sports a hideous grin.  The crew worry that it is the Crimson Roger.  Tales of how the mad man leaves no survivors, save for that one time when a Castillian vessel was chased for two months at sea, then finally when the men on the Castillian ship began to kill themselves to avoid the horrors of falling into the Crimson Roger's grasp, the Captain Reis spared one survivor to tell the tale of the hunt.  Lady Cassandra directs men to gather barnacles from the side of the vessel, and hurries to bring them down below to the cook to fashion a soup that should be savored by the Captain of the ship.  Afterwards, if the proper incantations were uttered, the vessel's locked Glamour should be released.  

 

Maurice headed back down to his room, marking it for good measure, and locked himself inside as he pondered on what he can do to help.  The soup Cassandra worked on did not glow blue as she expected however, when she used vinegar instead of the requisite wine she hoped to use.  She hurries to Maurice's room to take his wine, and the two end up arguing over the wastage of fine wine.  Astrid continues further into the calm waters, realizing how the waters were also jet black in this area.  She notes the sharks and other fish in the area swimming away and begins to fear that they would only do so to escape a greater predator. She considers dipping into the water to check, but then realizes it might be better to just paddle back to the ship.  She notices the sinking ship has not descended in the last few minutes and realizes this may mean the ship is just some kind of lure!

 

With the possible Crimson Roger closing in, Hans and Maurice are told to prepare for a possible fight.  Maurice recommends that the ship begin moving but Cassandra insists the soup is their way out.  But when the soup is tasted, nothing happens!  Maurice and Cassandra head down to a rowboat to try meet with Astrid and the crewmen.  They remind them that they can find their way back on their own.  Maurice tells Catalina to sail straight forward and not stop for Astrid or the others.

 

With the man on the red-bannered ship laughing insanely, Hans decides to risk it and take a shot, firing at the man's right hand as he holds the wheel.  He fires his musket and believes he made the shot, but to his surprise, he sees the man still laughing as his left hand holds the steering wheel.  To his horror, the man spits out the bullet which he seems to have caught with his teeth!

 

Full sails.  The Muerte begins to sail into the dark still waters.  The Crimson Banner follows without hesitation.  Lady Cassandra and Maurice watch as the other ship sails past them, with its sole passenger not even bothering to threaten them.  They recall the stories of how Captain Reis would target the "fitter" ones first, then come back for the easy pickings later on.   Astrid and the men too see the two ships sail past them, and she forces the men to calm down and keep rowing.   As the two rowboats gets close enough, Maurice instructs them all to stay calm, hold him and no matter what, keep their eyes closed.  He uses the Mark he made in his room to Walk everyone through the Places Between the Worlds to bring them back to the Muerte.  In the other place, the voices call out and tempt them all in different ways trying to trick them into opening their eyes.  However, Maurice realizes the voices are now whispering differently to him, telling him they know him now and will be waiting for him to make that one mistake to allow them through.

 

Hans and Catalina discuss options, and given the Crimson Roger chasing them, Hans decides he will try to bring the fight to the other ship himself.   They map out a plan, with Catalina steering the ship into a tighter and tighter circle until the Crimson Roger is close enough for Hans to swing over to the other ship.  Hans heads up the mast and swings over.  As he lands on the other side, he sees Captain Reis oblivious to his arrival.  The two square off for a moment, but when Hans seems to be at a disadvantage, he runs below deck in hopes of turning things in his favor, or perhaps finding a way to sabotage the vessel.   It is however while down below that Hans witnesses a terrible truth:  the ship should be Castillian but the cargo within are all marked as having come from Montaigne.  Worse, as the madman stalks and hunts for him in the dark, Hans discovers the man has one more trick up his sleeve:  Porte sorcery.

 

With the others back on the deck, Astrid opts to try to swing to the other ship as well and help Hans out.  Maurice steers the boat, while Catalina heads down to prep the men and the cannons.  Astrid lands on the other vessel but Captain Reis suddenly emerges from behind the wheel ready for her!  Reis quickly disarms her, and at one point grabs her by the face with his bloody hand.  But Hans returns and the two work together to try to weaken him and bring him down.  

 

But mountains of ivory begin to emerge from the waters.  Maurice realizes the Mawth must be about to close its mouth!  Time is now running out.  He tells Cassandra to hold the ship and hurries below the deck to check on the Captain.  While Cassandra worries over not knowing how to sail better, she tries telling the men to head down below to call for the Captain or Maurice.  Or even the First Mate.  When she realizes she never met the First Mate or know what he looks like, worry spirals in her thoughts even more.  

Down below, Maurice find the Captain Catalina in an unexpected fight with a bear in his very own room!  The attacked crashes her through the door and as he catches her, he decides to Porte himself with the bear back into the Places Between the Worlds.  Hoping to scare him and intimidate him into surrendering, he instead finds the shadowy things in the other place grabbing hold of the bear and thanking him for the meat!  They wrest him from his hands and Maurice is forced to Walk back out before they grab him too.

 

Astrid and Hans fight the madman, whom Hans is starting to suspect might not actually be the true Reis.  When Reis grabs a harpoon, and slices his own palm open with it, Hans realizes he might be hoping to hook onto the vessel and climb aboard.  Astrid distracts him long enough for Hans to clobber him down one more time.  They launch the harpoon at the Muerte and leap after it to hold on to it and get dragged away by the ship.  

Cassandra discovers the soup has started glowing blue, and trusting in the old tales of her people, she swallows the soup, casts the incantation, and the ship flickers into light.  Just as the massive walls of the jaws of the Mawth begin to rise up and cast shadows upon the vessels, Cassandra invokes the supernatural speed of the Avalon ship which Catalina had commandeered and successfully steers them through the monster's teeth.

Any remnants of the Crimson Roger, if it was the Crimson Roger, and of Captain Reis, are now gone. Catalina tells them all that she owes them for what they have done.  She thanks them for their help but admits she will head away as soon as she can given Avalon still has grudges against her.  Her papers though show she is currently a Privateer serving l’Empereur.

*


Avalon.  


Their arrival thankfully is without incident.   They meet Felix, the official greeter who welcomes them to the port, and are escorted through without needing to handle the usual paperwork.  They also note the presence of smokeless illumination that Felix admits was a gift from an unusual woman.  Cassandra apologizes from the others and tells them she needs to meet with her Queen, given the events she had experienced.  She tells them they can find her at the town of Gallifrey, if they seek to find her.  She sees the marble pillars with the bust of the Queen and learns most simply bow their heads and whisper to the statues to speak with the Queen.  Cassandra, however, chooses to still meet with the Queen directly as an Elaine Knight rightfully should.  Astrid, Hans and Maurice find themselves going to the Silver Lion, which was the place Maurice was directed to head to based on the letter he received from the King.  They find everyone intensely welcoming and cheerful, greeting each other despite being total strangers.  It seems the fear of possibly insulting one of the disguised Sidhe is enough to make all act more congenial to each other.  Some people wear iron bracelets.  Perhaps in hopes of defending against them.   They also notice the place celebrates four faiths, with two being the Vaticine Church and the Objectionists, one being the cross of the Prophet with the Grail, and one showing beasts and the wild. 


There, he finds an old familiar face. Maurice realizes it is his uncle, greets him and thanks him for showing up.  It turns out, the letter was written by him, not the l’Empereur, to handle a matter which l’Empereur did require them both to handle.  There is land that must be claimed for Montaigne and Maurice is to handle that while he leaves with his share of the wealth.   The uncle is seen as Loyal, while Maurice is Dependable. They also learn from him that Tassine Bullet is dead, and that she had committed suicide after writing one final novel focusing on four new characters, including a Porte Sorcery who is actually blood of the King.

They arrive at the land to be claimed and discover it is a large scope of property.  Maurice is addressed as a Duke and the property they discover has a massive manor already standing.  In fact, the manor is already stocked with staff and servants.  The seneschal, an old woman, admits she lives in the distant mill and only works at the manor til the hour of six.  She always returns to the mill before nightfall.

There, they discover the Duchess already living in the home, who welcomes them coldly and directly tells Maurice of her terms for the political marriage including the rule of not having any children, as she does not want to have children, and that any consummation of the marriage is only once per month at most.  Maurice teases even that is too much.  She introduces herself as Sybil and she is honored to be his wife.  She however reminds them to feel free to explore the grounds but to never visit the southern tower with the red door.  Never.  Especially at night.  Never at night.    They explore the grounds and even see three story murals of the Duchess Sybil and perhaps her former Duke.  Her fur coat becomes a wolf's head.  The Duke's black coat becomes some animal, but it is hard to tell.  The Duke's face however has been scratched away from the canvass.

 

Duchess Sybil

Both Hans and Astrid already anticipate exploring the tower.  They speak with some of the servants and are told never to go to the southern tower as they ask for directions on where to find it. But they are pressed never to go to the southern tower.  Especially at night.  Astrid jokes that maybe they can go in the morning.  The joke might have sparked an idea in Hans' mind, however.   But as they prepare to turn in for the night, however, they both witness a pair of twins running in the hallway, laughing, then vanish around the corner. They choose to lock their doors before they sleep in their separate rooms.


 

*

 

A portal suddenly tears into the air just close to the Muerte's hull, where a bloody harpoon still hangs embedded against the wood.  A hand suddenly clutches it.  And freed from the belly of the beast, let's go.

 

 

 

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Episode 02: The Nisab Diary
Port and Porte

9/22/2016

The Nisab Diary
 


 

"Port and Porte"

Episode Two – 7th Sea

 

Reikion of the Eventide had arrived at Five Sails long before the others had.  He scouts the city and finds it to be generous with further options to head deeper into Eisen territory.  He identifies a possible Porte Sorcier who can give them a means to get into Eisen sooner, as well as a river barge option if the others choose to avoid any Sorcery related routes.  He spends time at the Billowing Bob, where he befriends a barmaid named Ella who takes a fancy to him.  He spends hours using the Sight of Matushka to spy on Tassine Anastasia Jade dela Croix Bullet as she travels down south.  He sees her best two ships single-handedly, swinging from mast to mast to disable both vessels before – unless some chicanery was involved – riding a cannonball back to her own ship.

 

Enroute by ship, Jan Volta and Walden Reichart are told by Diomedes Dorn to hurry below the deck and remain silent.  The two watch as the crew of Dorn's vessel quickly change into white robes and a different banner is hung upon their mast.  In the lower deck, they peer through a window and learn that all the fuss is regarding a ship with a red banner that is about to cross their wake.  Volta recalls stories of a man named Captain Reis who supposedly helms the Crimson Roger.  The pirate is known to be quite bloodthirsty and cruel.  Volta presumes the ship is pretending to be a vessel for the sick, so the pirate ignores them. Reichart, however, realizes the man at the helm of the other ship saw him peering from the window and hopes that didn't lead to complications down the line for the Vesten ship.

 

The three reunite at Five Sails, where they quickly decide on taking the Porte route as it could shave them the most time.  The old Montaigne, a gentleman by the name of Valeron Weiss, agrees to do them the service if they do one in exchange instead of payment.  He asks to meet them at a cabin outside of town by the eight hour of vespers.  The others spend time gathering resources such as food, traveling gear, and information.  Volta meets another of his people whom also has a dievas.  He learns the man has defeated two dievas previously and is infamous among those who have the Sanderis.  It gives him hope, however, to someday best his own.  Reikion visits the meeting place prematurely and discovers that Ella actually lives in the cabin with an old woman.  And Reichart catches sight of some female Ungetumjaeger who are hunting in the woods close to Five Sails for some monstrosity that has been abducting children.  

 

Night comes and the three reunite with Valeron Weiss whom they discover to be a close friend of Ella and her very rude mother.  He asks for their assistance to help him fulfill another task of his own – a job he has yet to manage – and in return, he will Walk them to Starke, a city close to the the Dracheneisen mountains, and not too far from Buche, their goal.  Reikion excuses himself to visit the woods, bothered by events and seeking guidance from Matushka.  He catches sight of a beautiful doe being brutally killed by a stalking mountain lion and nearly walks into a spider feasting on a butterfly that had gotten caught on its web.  He realizes there is evil and there is nature, and nature sometimes is not about morals but mortality.  They agree to help him in his task, which involves luring and capturing alive a monster that has been sighted in the woods.  Reichart reminds them they have to hurry, however, having seen the hunters searching most likely for the same prey.

They see the monsters in the woods, furry things of teeth and fangs, and while Reichart attempts to act as a lure to draw them close. He hopes the hexenwork he prepared earlier that evening would prove to be useful.  Valeron begs for time as he crafts a massive Porte to shunt the monster through, and gives Reikion an Eisen coin marked with his own blood to use in case he needed to find the Ussuran in the future.  Volta and Reichart realize there are more monsters than expected!  And Reikion risks his life to lure the thing towards the portal while Volta uses his favors with the dievas to trip the beast with its own shadows.  As the thing attempts to rake at Reikion, however, it tears into his clothes and rips the bloody coin from his possession.  Both the monster and coin land in the Place Between the Worlds, fulfilling Valeron's requirements.  He sends the three to Starke without delay.
 

*


Back in Rambaldi, however, Galena finds herself receiving a visitor who asks her to attend a function.  She refuses but he tells her if she would rather attend only when the function has become a wake for her cousin, Reikion.  She relents. 
 

*


And at some distance, the Mastermind of the affairs peers through a spyglass, and marks notes on the wall that everything is moving at clockwork precision according to plan.   The scene pulls back to show a map of Theah, portrait sketches of different personalities, threads interconnecting certain faces, and a grand machine of some sort at the center of the room.

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Episode 02: Alas, Such Fates
Teeth and Fur, Actors and Wounds

8/28/2016

Alas, Such Fates

 

"Teeth and Fur, Actors and Wounds"

Episode Two – 7th Sea
 

A month has passed since the events in Penitence.

At a gathering with long tables and lots of food, and people dressed in fine clothing, Maurice leBlanc is with a crowd of people listening in rapt attention at a woman sharing a story she claims really happened.  The story is of her facing against some villain, dueling upon a running carriage, as she uses dueling techniques she claims to have invented herself.  The woman is Tassine Anastasia Jade de la Croix Bullet, who seems to have the people's attention easily at her beck and call.  The two trade barbed words when Maurice questions if her stories are even believable.  Tassine however cites Maurice as the FORMER friend of the king, given she is now the new friend of the king.  When Lady Cassandra arrives, the Elaine Knight is clearly uncomfortable in the opulent surroundings.  Maurice approaches her, and when she says she did hear about him being the former friend of the king, he muses that it is good he is not one who knows how to duel or he's raise he's taken offense.  She plainly states if they had a duel, he would probably lose and die.  Cassandra asks Maurice if he would mind introducing her to the hostess of the night, and Maurice simply says he would.   Tassine approaches Lady Cassandra and invites her to join the others.  Cassandra realizes she's the owner of the household and whispers to Maurice to help her.  Maurice stresses he has many friends, including Lady Cassandra and that they had adventured together facing armed bandit with many arms… weapons.  When Maurice mentions that the bandits were working for Gasparo Angelo, the crowd is enthralled.  Tassine however claims to have defeated Gasparo before – which brings to question Tassine's accuracy if Angelo is still indeed alive.  Tassine starts diverting the crowd to enjoy the meal instead.  "So Gasparo still leaves.. and the curse still hangs upon…" one of the people in the crowd gasps as she walks away.  Cassandra tries to follow that woman to ask about it, but is unable to learn more about it.  

 

Elsewhere, Hans Leopold Glick is studying the tracks left by the beast in the forest.  He realizes the thing is nocturnal, is a predator with talons on both its paws and feet, and it is definitely the same one he fought almost a month ago – following the strange wedding, his investigation in the wood with Lady Cassandra lead to a brief engagement with a monster that then escaped his clutches.  Cassandra had to leave for other matters, leaving Hans to focus on the other nearby hamlets and learned the number of disappearing children has increased in the past few weeks.   Tonight, thankfully, Astrid is assisting him in his investigations.  As they wander in the woods close to Buche, they see markings that suggest there are more than one. Perhaps two at most.  Astrid left Lorenzo Cavello to watch over the Guildhouse in her absence.  His two officers were more than willing to "watch over the women" in her absence.   As the two scan the place for where the tracks lead, they soon catch sight of a pair of golden eyes staring at them.  They shine the light on it and discover it is a wolf staring at them – yet not a natural wolf given it does not react to the light upon its face.  Astrid stays close to Hans, who seems more curious than concerned of the wolf.   The wolf turns out to be an Ussuran, who shares he has been hunting the beasts in the forest as his youngest had been abducted as well two nights ago.  When Astrid promises him they can find her, she notices he is grievously injured and bleeding from a wound on his back.  The Ussuran asks Astrid if she can sew the wound closed for him.  Hans offers some wine to use to disinfect her hands, before he leaves to scout ahead.

 

A beast of fur and teeth.  Hans does not hesitate and he charges at the thing despite the danger it poses.  He swings his axe at it, and an explosion of blood erupts from where he had struck it. "It's here! It's here! I've found it!" he yells as he bears down his weight on the axe.  To his horror, the thing unfurls like a massive starfish that's covered in fur.  The "mouth" at the head isn't really just a mouth, but the whole interior of its body is teeth!  Hans is thrown backwards, slamming into a nearby tree.  The immense fear in emanates weakens those who are facing it.  Astrid arrives with the Ussuran and seeing the monster, she hurls knives at it, drawing them from a hidden slit in her skirt.  The thing cartwheels away after the blades bite into its fur.  They find a boy on the ground, but the Ussuran admits it is not his son.  Hans leaps to chase after it, not hesitating to fulfill his Ungetumjaeger role.  Unfortunately, Hans discovers there are more than just one.  Hans' flashesback to when he was younger, being warned by his mentor to never dive into a monster's lair unprepared.  "It would be like hunting for a shark by diving into the sea without learning how to swim."

 

Cassandra struggles not to make any huge remarks as she stares at the gigantic mole on a man's adam's apple that squirms and dances as he laughs.  Maurice, however, is used to the ways of the court, and does pay the man no heed. Tassine asks them to share the tale of their confrontation with Gasparo Angelo.  When questioned about defeating her, Tassine insists she had defeated the Vodacce witch already, but Cassandra insists they were certain they encountered the villain, and they even confronted the Sidhe.  The gathered ask if the Sidhe are all women, being named "she" and if Elaine Knights are all men dressed as women.  Cassandra instead asks to speak to Tassine and Maurice in private.  Cassandra, admittedly, is just happy to be away from the mole.  They move to a chamber where things are absolutely silent, clearly with padded walls to maintain privacy.   There, Tassine finally admits she has "not been lying" and insists she knows she is dead.  Cassandra swears upon the Grail itself that they did encounter her.  Tassine realizes the Fate Witch must have made the impossible to survive fall possible.  Cassandra asks her about the curse and supposedly the local belief that Gasparo Angelo had cursed Penitence to be haunted by monsters that abduct children to make more monsters.  Cassandra realizes she left Hans there and throws Maurice a glance.  Maurice insists Tassine clearly has been lying about too many things, including being friends with the King.  She asks the two to go back to where Gasparo Angelo was seen, and if they can stop her, she offers to finance the trip back as well as the men they need – but they must sign a document which is to have them remain silent of the events of the adventure which she plans to release as a new  penny dreadful chapter for the Amazing and Excellent Misadventures of Tassine Bullet and the Golden Girls. "Sign these Non-disclosure agreements, and I will finance them and you are to never speak of them again."  Cassandra accuses her of having not done any of these things in her stories.  Tassine insists she is a noble woman and an author, not some highway woman.  She threatens to call the guards claiming they are intruders if they disagree. Even the invitation that allowed them to arrive is blank. But Cassandra suggests its a chance for Tassine to try being part of a true adventure.  Maurice implies it would be the publicity event of the year, as she goes on an adventure "to capture Gasparo Angelo in the safety of a closed armored carriage."  Tassine considers the potential of it… despite all the elements in it that trigger her fears.  She agrees to go.

 

In the armored carriage, the three are traveling with an escort of over eighty men outside.  Tassine struggles to breath, claiming to feel a tightness in her chest, worried she's choking from utter fear.   Cassandra and Maurice are rolling their eyes.  "This is a fantastic idea," Maurice tells Cassandra, "Good thing we thought of it.  This is truly an adventure!"   Tassine however begs him to stop saying that word, "It's such a trigger word."  The two are given boxes and they find inside red and gold costumes.  They are to dress as her Golden Girls.  Maurice tries feigning spilling the wine on the clothes, but sadly, they discover its made to resist water and staining!   When Maurice mentions he can be the friend of the King instead in the story, Tassine admits she already "killed off" the friend of the king in an earlier book.  Maurice now wonders if that's where the misconception of his death comes from!   The days pass as they travel towards Penitence, and with passing days some of the men are sent away as Tassine's courage and confidence seems to grow.  When they reach what looks like the first obstacle, a fallen tree and a group of bandits, Tassine insists from the others to get dressed and she stays away from the doorway, freaking out at the danger outside.  

 

Cassandra and Maurice quickly learn that the"bandits" are actually… actors.  When they ask the guards how often this happens, they realize even the guards are… actors as well.  Everyone around them, they quickly realize, is someone hired to play a role in the new story she is writing.  It is all a farce!  Tassine however seems lost in her fantasy world, acting out as if she really was the version of her in her novels.  As they decide to continue on the journey, they soon catch sight of the familiar woods leading to Penitence and find a disturbing sight awaiting them: a Blessure.  The bloodied wound upon the very world hovers, large enough for a carriage to pass through.  Maurice recommends Cassandra head on deeper into the woods with Tassine to find the Vodacce witch while he considers his course of action in dealing with the Blessure.  He realizes this simply means a Porte Sorcier must be nearby.  He marks her with a bit of his blood, however, making sure he has a means to return if he gets lost trying to close the Blessure.  And with that, he walks backwards into the Blessure. Cassandra sees Tassine rush into the woods, anxious to find the threat, and Cassandra tries to run after her.

Hans stalks the monsters, soon realizing very quickly that the darkened woods and light fog make things far more advantageous for the monstrosities.  Astrid and the Ussuran soon find more nests, trees where the many children that have been abducted hang from silken cocoons!   They carefully tear open one and find the children already slightly changed.  Thin reed like tubes have inserted themselves into the child's skin, and have begun to cause slight coloration changes on his skin.  Astrid realizes in horror the monsters… they are growing in number because the other abducted children were being transformed into them!  Astrid begins yelling, calling for the Ussuran in hopes that he can check if his child is among them. 

Cassandra spots where Tassine has gone and keeps close.  Cassandra tosses Tassine her flintlock pistol as she gets near enough, but then the fur and teeth thing strikes!  It strikes Tassine very quickly, dropping her to one knee as it rips into her hand.   Cassandra stays behind her shield, which blocks the teeth of the monstrosity as it attempts to gnaw at her.  Cassandra tosses her sword up, then fires two shots with her flintlocks.  The monster dissolves into dust as it dies.  When a hand reaches for her, Cassandra turns to block with her shield once more, Tassine's hand smacks into it and she falls back in pain.  Cassandra's sword finally lands between them. She tries to bandage Tassine with her belt upon realizing there is venom already in her hand.  Before Tassine can say anything, however, Cassandra just lops off the hand – tired of her prattle.  Tassine screams in pain. Cassandra feels the hint of corruption in her heart as she realizes she caused unnecessary suffering.  She takes a sample of the poison for future study.

Agile and used to fighting in the woods, Hans faces off against the multiple monstrosities.  He weaves between the trees, forcing the things to get caught against the branches and brambles as he sneaks in strikes to wound them at each opportunity.  But two of the whirlwinds of fangs rush close at him at one point and pin him against each other!  Hans rolls away before either of the two can inject him with poison.  From the distance, Hans realizes he sees two more of the vicious beasts closing in.  But then, Astrid's voice begins calling out, and the yelling draws the monsters towards her instead.  The distraction proves to be an opportunity for Hans, now that all four expose their rear to him.

Elsewhere, Maurice slowly travels through the Places Between the World.  Keeping his eyes open, he watches as the world changes into one seemingly made of paint strokes that shift in real time.  Red splotches dance around the darkened shades that make up the world.  There is a red mark upon a coin that lies on the floor, an anchor that seems to allow the Blessure to remain open.  He sees the shadowy things closing in from the distance, constantly whispering amongst themselves, noting his presence.  "I have no quarrel with you. I have merely come to retrieve this object that does not belong here," he snarls as he reaches down to pick up the wayward coin.  Whoever had left it inside this place must have intentionally wanted to create the Blessure.   The shadow things move each time Maurice looks away from them, but each time he stares at them he remain held back in the distance.  Maurice chooses to move quickly, keeping his eyes trained on the shadows as he walks backwards now back towards the Blessure.  Maurice uses his gloved hand to start wiping the coin's blood mark clean, as he holds it behind his back.  The Blessure begins to close and the blight to the world seals itself.  Maruice realizes he will need to Walk out some other way, and grins as he remembers the mark he placed upon Lady Cassandra.  As he closes his eyes, the shadowy things rush to him!  Maurice sheaths his blade and dashes for the way home, ignoring the hands and voices that surround him.  "Everyone wants Maurice…" he laughs and leaps away.

We will find you

Maurice lands on the ground beside Lady Cassandra.  With a grin, he combs back his hair as he stands and mutters, "You can try."  Lady Cassandra looks surprised to see him appear out of nowhere.  Maurice wipes the coin clean and holds it closer to look at it better.  The currency is Eisen.  "The beast men," Maurice muses. Both hear the sounds of combat in the vicinity and both rush to see what they can do to help.  Lady Cassandra hikes the unconscious Tassine up on her shoulder to carry her with them. 

Astrid sees Hans running towards them from afar.  It takes her a beat to realize she can see dark things closing in as well!  Hoping to distract them further, Astrid grabs her knives and begins flinging them at the beasts, giving Hans the perfect opening to strike them from behind.  He moves carefully, striking each monster that lags behind the most to incapacitate them without alerting the rest.   She jumps on the nearest pod, cutting it with her knife to have it bring her down to the ground.  The group finally reunites, gathering before the dead monsters and the pods and watch as the sleeping child within the pod remains wholly still human.  As they share updates quickly on what they've been up to, Maurice shows of the Eisen coin to them.  Hans identifies it as an old coin from his country.  Astrid mentions there was an Ussuran who was here recently as well, searching for his child.  Cassandra places the unconscious Tassine down to the ground to let her rest.  Hans and Astrid ask about what happened to her, as well as what a "Blessure" is.  Maurice talks about how it is a corruption of one of the noblest sorceries, Porte.  Astrid and Cassandra decide to focus instead of helping release the children from the pods.  Hans warns them to keep watch of other possible beasts.  Maurice opts to do that for them.

Hans finds the Ussuran behind another tree were more pods hang.  The Ussuran holds the dead child in his arms.  It already had begun the transformation, with fanged teeth emerging where the flesh had ruptured, with the extremities having fused into a mutated form.  Hans tries to take the child from the Ussuran, hoping to help him accept the child is no longer his child.  But the Ussuran growls in response.  He grimaces in pain as he attempts to shift his form despite the stitches Astrid had applied to his deep wound, and he shifts into a bear instead of a wolf.  He carries his child away with him.

Astrid asks if Cassandra brought men with them, or a horse, and she breaks out her friendly smile as she asks the coachman to do a favor for her.  She tells the coachman to go to the hamlet at Penitence, to look for the Captain, and to have the secretary of the Scarlet Stocking's come over to help them out.

*

House later. 
The group rests at the tavern.  Lorenzo Cavello listens to their stories and marks it in his record book.  "So you all just happened to meet again?" he looks at them confused.  They agree.  He admits that there might be some kind of curse upon them four.  Lady Cassandra admits when the Blessure appeared, she thought she saw a reflection, perhaps someone is watching them.  She senses their meetings are not coincidental.  Lorenzo asks if they have any idea why anyone would target them, asking if they were ever involved in anything in the past as a group.  At most, they think there's the wedding they were part of the previous month.

Lady Cassandra brings up that the one who orchestrated the robbery, Gasparo Angelo, may have a brother.  And may be behind their seemingly connected misfortunes.  Maurice reminds them all that he is a friend of the king, which sounds as reason enough for some villain to target him.  This makes everyone roll their eyes. 

Glass shatters nearby.  A group nearby picks on one of the customers of the tavern.  Lady Cassandra involves herself, telling the group to pick on someone their own size.  Cassandra realizes the boy being bullied is one of those kind of children who are not born too right. Cassandra takes the empty tankard of the bully, but none of them seem intent in backing away.  Cassandra challenges the men to a fight outside as a challenge of honor.  As one of the bullies grabs the servant boy by his hair, Cassandra beats the bullies down without ever drawing her blade from its scabbard.  As the bullies run off, Cassandra turns to tell the boy he is now safe – but the boy is nowhere in sight.

Cavello admits to the others there is that odd sensation of someone having been observing them. Or watching them.    Cavello admits that a month ago, on the bank robbery, he received a letter informing him of the bank being a possible target.  Maurice admits he received one too.   They talk about curses and discuss how the Vaticine Church is sending an emissary to the hamlet in response to Astrid's guild for former Jenny's.

A courier arrives at the door of the tavern, calling for Maurice leBland.  The man brings a message from the King himself.  The others stare at each other, realizing he is the friend of the King.  Hans wonders if Maurice sent to to himself.  The letter smells of Montaigne, and is indeed sent by the King.    Astrid comes up to Cassandra to ask what was going on and she tries to explain how there was a boy being bullied.  Hans even insists that Cassandra just walked up to the group and began fighting them.  When the woman of the house comes to them to ask why they seemed agitated, Cassandra attempts to explain there was a servant, a slow boy, whom was being harassed.  The woman assures Cassandra there are no servants in the tavern.  She owns the place alone.  The woman sees a rag on the floor and asks if Lady Cassandra dropped it by mistake.  Taking it, Cassandra realizes the cloth is of the flag of her Queen Elaine.  She wonders if it was some kind of sign. 

Hans asks for another mug of ale and the woman of the tavern thanks them for having saved the children.  Hans mutters there were merely incidental in his search for monsters.  Astrid interrupts them, thanking the woman for her gratitude and giving Hans a glare.  The woman continues, telling them how they seem to have broken the bad luck that has been upon Penitence since the Vodacce Witch was finally killed by the Bullet herself.  Some believe the Witch cursed Penitence as a final stroke of anger.   And that this was a story from almost thirteen years ago. The group wonders if the folk have been confusing the penny dreadfuls Bullet has been releasing as historical record.

Maurice reads the letter in private and learns he is to proceed to Avalon and await further instructions.  It is a Mission of utmost importance.  He shares with the group that he will need to visit Avalon in service of the King, and tasks Lady Cassandra to escort them to the foreign country.  Astrid realizes she needs to deal with the coming Emissary of the Church who has seized her land and claimed it to be of the Vaticine Church.  She had offered them all rooms to stay at the Guild, however, with the seizure of the lands, she now needs to find a way to stake her claim upon it.  Lady Cassandra tells them when they arrive at Avalon, they can all stay at her manor in Gallifrey. 

The letter tells Maurice that all will be explained upon his arrival at Avalon.  It even ends with a statement that he is truly the friend of the King.  "Take that, Bullet," Maurice sneers and folds the letter to place it close to his heart.  Astrid hopes to gain the Queen's support, if not her involvement, at least her verbal show of support for women.  Maurice wonders if that's truly achievable given politics.  Cassandra shares with Hans that she is having her people inspect the poison and he might be interested in the results.  Hans chooses to join them.

The group rides to the port, and Cavello promises to watch over the women in their absence.  Cassandra reminds him that if they wish to write to them, they can address it to the House of Gallifrey.  Astrid reminds Cavello be wary of the Vaticine's Emissary. 

 

*


Tassine writes more about the new misadventures of her namesake ruffian.  She writes about how the Golden Girls lamented the death of her namesake, and how this will just show her legacy will live on.  The gathered are overwhelmed at her story's unexpected twist.  Tassine tells them she has a hand in the plot, and the four nameless heroes outlined in the book, a man from Eisen, a Jenny from Vesten, a Knight from Avalon, and "the long lost and to be rediscovered some of Tassine Bullet" will be stories they will have to wait for in the next book.  Tassine tells them she needs to rest given she has been writing with a single hand.  She moves to another room, but there a hidden visitor pays her a visit.  The visitor commends her for doing well and she admits she didn't quite get why the patron didn't simply let her ask the heroes to close the Blessure.  The Patron admits it would raise too many questions, and schemes work best when no one is certain if they are part of it.

"And me, is my role in it done?  Do I-"

Tassine never finishes her words.  She has been shot dead on the forehead, with a revolver in her hands.  The crowd stares in horror at her dead body.  A man separates from the crowd, walks away, and steps back into a carriage.  He rides a ship to head north.

*

The ship travels the sea. 

A woman approaches the group, greeting them for the pleasant evening.  She is happy to see such a diverse group on the vessel.  Cassandra admits women are usually not admitted as crew on a vessel, but as a wave hits, they all stumble to brace themselves.  She seems to have sea legs, however.  Astrid asks if she is the captain, while Hans thinks she's part of the crew.  She admits she had her own share of questionable activities when she was young.  She introduces herself as Catalina Morta and invites them to her quarters for some wine.  She is curious why anyone would seek to be an Elaine Knight and Cassandra shares her reasons, including the higher calling she holds.  Cataline however has her think if her loyalty is to the grail, to the title, or to the Queen Elaine herself.  "What happens when the Queen is no longer in charge? What do you do when it chooses someone else?"  The vessel is Avalonian, which is odd since Catalina is Castillian.  It is possible she had stolen an enchanted ship, and it was originally a pirate hunter.

She shares with them that she was contacted by the King of Montaigne to assist them in their journey.  However, she raises a concern: One of the older monstrosities was last slighted along the path of their journey.  There have been five reports of ships sighting the thing, and reports of them being followed.  The thing might follow them.   If they go straight, they can arrive sooner. But if they avoid it, they take a longer journey.   A normal ship would take far much longer than either journey options they may opt for.

Cassandra however remembers that Avalon ships tend to have enchantments.  She wonders if she can activate whatever inherent ability or blessing this ship may have.  The ship can possibly give out an intense glow of light, a flash of light that can allow it to move extremely fast. 
 

*


Hans remembers the invitations he had to be part of the Invisible College.  He considers the membership.

 

*


The Emissary of the Vaticine Church is at Penitence and he takes over the Guildhouse location to make plans for the Vaticine Church's role in the region.  However, a greater scheme is afoot.  The Emissary is murdered, and the murder weapon happens to be a throwing knife.  Lorenzo however takes it and hides it before others see it.

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The Nisab Diary ep03 : 7th Sea
Starke

Episode Three – 7th Sea

The three arrive at Starke and their welcome at the gate is one that forebodes the danger to come.  The city's captain, a man named Kurt, welcomes them after identifying Walden Reichart as a member of Die Kreuzritter.  Each of them is questioned on their purpose of being at the gates, and then are given Mother's Mercy, a thin soup created using Hexenwerk to purify themselves before entering the city.  Jan Volta and Reikion of the Eventide both are apprehensive at first, but Walden reassures them the soup is safe.
They enter the dark and dismal town to find most of the folk already locked away inside their homes.  Kurt tells them they had come a terrible time as a horrific event has befallen the city.  The three offer to help out and Kurt admits it would be of great help if they do.  They are lead to the government house where the Mayor stays and find lots of worried folk in the area, mingling about.  The cold and quiet city, however, seems heavily contrasted by the muted laughter and revelry coming from the nearby taverns and inns where music still plays and drinking continues unabated.   The militia present are mostly volunteers, individuals whom have chosen to watch over the city while the Mayor is unavailable.  Worse, the Mayor's wife has also gone missing.  She supposedly vanished three days after whatever befell the mayor had happened.  Reikion is bothered that no one has bothered to look for the wife.   Walden admits that might be somewhat normal by Eisen standards.  Reikion is bothered given how cold it is out there, and if she has been gone for more than a night…  The corridor leading to the office has a line of salt perhaps to ward any evil.  Candles glow all about. Prayer books of the Vaticine Church are visible all around.  Kurt pushes the door open and hands everyone scarves to use to cover their noses before stepping inside the door, which only creaks open a third of the way.

Led inside, the three are brought to see the nightmarish sight.  The mayor lies unmoving upon the table, his body the garden for a strange growing vine.  The tendrils of green creep out from inside his mouth, nostrils and ears, and their leafy growth spreads out vibrantly.  Reikion admits he has never seen such a plant in the woods before.  Walden confesses he is unfamiliar with such a monstrosity himself.   "Matushka's care… what is it?" Reikion shakes his head.    Kurt admits he was found unconscious and unthinking somewhere else, but they brought him here to recover.  Mother's Mercy was fed to him but it does not seem to be enough.  The mayor has laid like this for a week, and he was then doing his rounds around the city when it happened. 

"Out of the way!  Let me pass!"

A woman shoves her way into the office, and scolds Kurt for bringing these strangers into the room.  She is dressed with the robes of a Vaticine Nun and Kurt identifies her as his wife.  She admits she does not trust them, but does thank them for their willingness to help.  She understands her husband only trusts them because he knows Walden is one of them, a member of Die Kreuzritter.  Kurt was part of the thirty year war, fighting in it for twenty years.   Reikion believes the mother will protect him as he studies the vine and he tries to understand what sort of plant can do this.  As Jan and Walden investigate the body, they discover he seems to be still breathing.  As Jan leans close to investigate, he discovers something worse, he might still be alive.  The sap seems to be capable of numbing a victim to a weakened state.  Jan pricks his finger and drips some blood at the vines.  But Kurt's wife reaches out to catch the droplet before it reaches the plant.  She warns it that feeding something blood might allow it to hunt a person in the future.  When Walden tries pricking the Mayor's finger, however, they discover he does not bleed.  His skin tears open like dry paper. They learn that there was a recent new structure in the city, a plantation of orchids owned by a Montaigne.  They wonder if it is connected. Reikion thinks about how every plant has a seed, humans plant them, but on their own, seeds either travel through air or are spread by their fruits.  He does not see any signs of a recent meal, such as a plate or what, but does discover there might be something in his pockets.  They learn the wife was the last one to touch him, given she was the one who brought him to the office.  Slashing the pocket open, they find a half-eaten fruit, matching the one in his mouth.  Kurt's wife wants to inform the Vaticine Church, but Walden insists it would be best not to.  They consider meeting the Montaigne owning the plantation, but Kurt's wife insists it would be best to try in the morning as he is still asleep.  Reikion pockets one of the fruits, and as he slices it midair, he feels his mouth salivate immediately upon smelling its sweet fragrant aroma.  The seed looks like a peeled grape, tiny and round.   Kurt sends out people to find more of the plant in the city.  Jan wonders if someone would have intentionally brought this plant here.  The horrors of the night are far from over, however, as the mayor's mouth begins to open to reveal a plump pentagon-shaped fruit. 

The group retires to a nearby tavern to eat and get some rest.  But while there, they discover an oddity that almost infects them as well.  People are caught in moments of laughter and almost uncontrollable intoxication, cheering for the simplest joys.  The place, the Silver Tongue, seems alive with customers. They also feel the desperate urge to eat more and more of the bread being served in the tavern.  Jan Volta and Walden Reichart had taken some of the bread and are plunged into fits of laughter and hunger.  Reikion finds the daughter of the mayor in the tavern, hugging her knees and worrying over her father.  She offers them a place to stay in her father's manor if they desire to.  Walden reaches the kitchen as he struggles to investigate the bread's addictive qualities and discovers the same odd fruit has been used to spice the bread! 

When they even find the same strange plant growing in a pot in the mayor's home, the daughter does confirm it was a gift from the Montaigne named Henri duPont and the group splits up to investigate.  They head out, realizing that the insidious infestation may have been happening far earlier than they realized and that people might be eating the strange fruit without realizing it.  Soon, they discover that the plant thing is indeed growing in the greenhouse plantation owned by a Montaigne and worse, a monstrosity is growing within much like a giant tentacled horror!   Jan and Walden nearly fall prey to the thing had it not been for Reikion's timely intervention.  Kurt begs them to use the silver weapon he had lost within the greenhouse, which Walden realizes is a rare weapon that the Die Kreuzritter have access to: Drachenseisen.  Terrifyingly, the thing seems resistant to fire.  But they arrive too late.  The monstrosity is gone, having broken the ground open to reveal the sewers and has fled the scene.  The three can only wonder if the beast had fled north towards Sudsee Lake or towards the south for Barcino.  They even cough out some of the tentacles, realizing the thing had infected some of them from what they've eaten.  But thankfully, they rid themselves of it and worry only on how many others in the city are currently infected and cannot be cured in time. 

They find two bodies inside left behind, dried up and emptied of blood.  A woman.  And a man. The man's clothes have pockets,  The silver weapon is a broken sword blade.  Jan picks it up and discovers it feels weightless.  There is a faint glow about it that fades away.  Walden mumbles how Dracheneisen glows when there are monstrous threats nearby.  The monster must have finally moved beyond its range.  The crates in the place mark they came from Montaigne.  The name of the recipient was Henri duPont.  They find a letter addressed to Henri, and it is signed by Gasparo Angelo.  The letter speaks of the monster being a gift from her to him, and how they were able to create it thanks to the works of Nisab Guissola, the Die Genetische Gesatze der Natur.  The letter speaks of their plans to take control of the world. "It is best you are gone before winter.  Enjoy my present. It is for our future."

The letter ends signed.
 

"Knowledge is power. We shall bring a new order.  

Novus Ordo Mundi."

 

The heroes spend time at the city, helping people shut down the taverns and inns, purge themselves of the fruit and to get rid of the seeds, they realize they cannot burn it.  They draw their steel and attack it until they can tear it to shreds. 

Reikion flies about, checking if there's any sight of the plant monstrosity.  He sends out the ravens to scout around and search for any sign of the thing.  He worries if anyone makes the mistake of taking the plants in. 
 

*


Somewhere, a potted plant is being pruned.  The hands gingerly trim the leaves and then close the glass case around the plant.  A sign reads, "Starke Experiment" above it.  The figure walks to a nearby wall where the whole of Theah can be seen.  Red marks are on different places in the continent.   The figure places a red pin on Starke and smiles. 

"Nisab.  Thank you," the figure closes the lights.

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Episode 01: The Nisab Diary
"Paying Respects"

The three adventurers are:


Jan Volta (Played by Josh)
Hailing from the Sarmatian Commonwealth, the Zynys Jan Volta was once a doctor until he encountered the dievas he is now bound to. He is Loyal to a fault but can be Commanding when necessary.

Reikion of the Eventide (Played by James)
Hailing from the lands of Ussura, Reikion found himself Touched by Matushka after finding an injured raven that he nursed back to health. Wolves surrounded him, forcing him to flee at first out of fear, until he found the courage to come back. Despite his injuries, he recovered with Matushka’s blessings. He then became part of a travelling circus, where he learned the Dueling Style of the Mireli’s Revision.

Walden Reichart  (Played by Flip)
A Hexe from Eisen who sought to be a Ungetumjaeger but opted to learn dueling instead to better fight the monsters. His practice of Hexe ruined his life.

Three adventurers are invited to attend the wake of Nisab Guissola, an eccentric inventor and visionary who had committed suicide by leaping off a cliffside at the isle of Rambaldi.  The three adventurers have all met in the past in various ways and knew of Nisab as an old friend.  None, however, were aware of how strange her ideas and hopes for the future actually were.


The letter came from the Bishop Victor Heckt, an Eisen who served the Vacitine Church.  The three were brought to the home of Lea Villano, a kind old woman who had allowed Nisab to stay in her home ever since she learned the poor woman was ill.  The three, however, are surprised to find others present in the wake.    Modesto Inderes, a representative of the Villanova family of Vodacce was present, as was Esteban Aldana a Castillian who claimed to have once been Nisab's Patron.  Diomedes Dorn was also present as a presentative of the Guildmaster Eladio Ballesteros, head of the Miner's Guild in Castille.  Diomedes shared that Nisab had been a frequent customer, tasking them to ship her rare minerals and metals often.   But most intriguing for the group was the presence of a barefoot woman in a tattered dress whom appeared without anyone knowing when she arrived and mostly mumbled to herself in the garden.

Reikion and Volta soon discover that Lea Villano has a guest of her own present at the manor, the Lady Tassine Anastasia Jade dela Croix Bullet who claims to be here only to visit her friend but soon seems very interested in the presence of Nisab Guissola's personal effects.    Walden confronts the barefoot woman in the garden and learns the barefoot woman cared for Nisab for some reason.  She does offer Walden answers if he ever chose to visit her at La Bucca.  And with that remark, the barefoot woman vanishes, fading away by stepping through a soft hole in the very air that swallowed itself.

Lea leads the three men to a strange puzzle box that Nisab had instructed her to show the three upon her death.   Volta figures out how to open the box by sliding their fingers against three depressions on the wood.  Fine needles poke into each of them, and the blood somehow seemingly becomes the key to the box.  Inside, each of them find a rolled up scroll of treated vellum, one that seems to resist the wine and blood that they accidentally dab on it.  When Walden applies heat on one scroll, they learn that a hidden message is upon each scroll.

Reikon is told that the Aperture and the Aerographica have both been hidden in the place of his birth.  While Walden learns that the journals she wrote entitled, Zur Quantentheorie der Strahlung and Die Genetische Gestaze der Natur are both hidden in the  place where he first met her.  He is told as well that the Secundusari is also hidden nearby.  Volta takes his letter but before he has time to read it, the group is invited to participate in the wake proceedings. 

During the proceedings, Volta slips away and finds Tassine in the private chamber, where she seduces him and stuns him with a poison to take from him his vellum. He sadly fails to realize it has been flinched until it is too late.  Lea Villalon asks the three to stay over instead as the other guests leave.  She shares with them how Nisab always sought to make the world better, and that she may have been targeted by the Inquisition for her work.

By nightfall, the three discover intruders in the compound when the manor is set aflame and assassins emerge to strike at them!  They quickly begin to realize the groups of assassins present were not expecting each other's presence, which raises the question on why two groups of assassins would be present.  Quick heroics and teamwork disable most of the assassins, and while Volta and Walden leave the burning structure with one of the assassins as their captive, Reikion dives into the flames to search for any other survivors.  He finds the Lady Villalon grievously injured.  But when he offers to escape with her in his arms, she insists he takes a hidden cache that was boarded up in the wall before leaving.  Reikion confesses on having a family member nearby, and the group moves to find shelter there for the time being.

The cousin, Galena, offers the group a place to hide from prying eyes and recover.  The two interrogate the assassin, whom they discover turns out to be a privateer by the name of Bates who claims to have been hired by Esteban Aldana to do the deed.  However, Volta notices the telltale smell of Tassine Bullet's perfume as well, implying she may have a hand in the things.      The group ops to escape in secret and try to track Tassine Bullet, but are not certain how to find her.  Volta excuses himself and through another deal with his Dievas, he learns of the destination Tassine Bullet has in mind.  He tells the group this and they decide to take the first ship they can to Five Sails, and from there to travel by road after the woman.  Reikion opts to fly ahead, using the gifts of Matushka to do so.

None of them are aware, however, of the vast tower in the distance where a figure observes them and marks a wall.  The wall shows a flowchart of goals, contacts and activities, and the figure marks those that have been accomplished to fulfill its schemes.   The Mastermind laughs, knowing all is falling into place.

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