||Game Session Date|
|Saturday 1-1-1586 to Friday 7-1-1586||January of the new year brings little respite from the chill of winter, and so our heroes spend time indoors, discussing plans for the Company's next play. They seem set on inventing the genre of history plays, with plenty of poetical speechifying to play to their own skills, but find themselves having to give some thought to the question of which specific historical incidents to dramatise. The reign of Henry V, perhaps? The Crusades? (No, that might end up seeming rather papist.) They should avoid anything too recent, for fear of dangerous political sensitivities and associations... Agincourt begins to seem the safest bet.||26-11-2008|
However, on the morning of the second Saturday of the year, Richard is sitting in the solar of the Gardiner home between two warming charcoal braziers, when he receives a visit from Edric, who has until now been managing the details of the theatrical project passing well. The New Company, it seems, now has a problem.
The Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, the officer of the court responsible for the licensing and supervision of the London theatre, has withdrawn their license to perform. His stated reason is that the play which they have been performing this week to fill the time, Edric's own Clytemnestra, is concerned with the subject of a royal assassination, which is declared to be simply and flatly unacceptable. However, Clytemnestra is really old news, having been performed in the past, and Edric's attempts to placate the Master of the Revels by pointing out that its forthcoming planned sequel, Orestes at Delphi, will be full of condemnations of such murders and reflections on their disastrous consequences, seems to be falling on ears not so much deaf as willfully unhearing. Nor does the complete withdrawal of any permission to perform seem proportionate to the supposed offence.
It is, of course, quite obvious to Edric and anyone else with sense that all these supposed reasons are nothing more than excuses, and that some manner of political pressure has been applied to this end. Edric is a little put out, in that he understood that the Company had tacit support at court, but their lack of explicit noble patronage makes it harder to make their case in Master Tilney's office.
Richard takes the point, sends Edric off with some suggestions as to courses to pursue until the morrow, and then sets about his own attempts to resolve the matter. First, he visits his father, as the Warden of the Tower might perhaps have some appropriate influence -- but the elder Gardiner mumbles that he is not really taken by this theatrical stuff, and can't Richard practice his own courtly skills? After all, the boy is supposed to be learning such things well... Richard takes the hint.
His next stop is Charles's city home, where Charles greets him affably, and shows him his astounding new gun. Richard, though, breaks the news that not all problems can be solved by such means.
Richard explains more, and the pair move on to the Taverner house for further council. There, the group decides that their first priority is to determine who is placing pressure upon the Master of the Revels -- it is a fair guess that the problem originates with Raleigh and the Hermetic faction, but specific details may be important. They have various possible ways to resolve that mystery; they decide to take a day apart, each seeking answers in their own way, and then reunite to compare discoveries.
Charles and Nicholas strike out for the Theatre, to determine what Lord Strange's Men are about. They find that company performing a Roman play -- a Plautus comedy -- in English. It is not a play with which the university-educated Charles is familiar, although Nicholas has perhaps read it once in the past. However, Charles, wielding his knowledge of Occult principles and his awareness of arcane forces alike with especial deftness, decides that this is but a small part of the Hermetics' long, complex working -- a preparation of the ground for future formal, latinate, talismanic theatrical rituals, aimed at the minds of London.
The pair also observe that Master Dellmurray and others of the Invisible College are present, and when they note Charles and Nicholas, they look smug; that pair, though, deliberately and effectively adopt a cheerful manner in reply. Further, Charles's well-tuned sensitivities [aided by a pending Scourge boon] enable him to insulate not only himself and Nicholas, but anyone else to whom he can talk from the direct effects of this play-working. That is, unfortunately, not very many folk -- but better than none, and enough to annoy Dellmurray when he realises what is happening. Charles waves to Dellmurray.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the same neighbourhood, Richard is visiting that shady entrepreneur, Philip Henslowe, and exerting his skill in diplomacy. Master Henslowe confirms the group's initial guesses about the problem, and suggests some clerks in Master Tilney's office who might be helpful. Sir James, on the other hand, is visiting taverns which he knows to be favoured by those with knowledge of court politics, and carousing with, as it proves; exactly the right people; it seems that there are rumours in some circles the Master Tilney has been suffering pressure from "the Old Wolf" -- a term which he takes to indicate Lord Burghley, of all people. This is odd; Burghley, the formidable Lord High Treasurer, has previously not been involved in this conflict, and has no obvious reason to involve himself. There are mutters that "the old wolf doesn't scratch at flea bites, but the young cub has thinner fur", suggesting that the real source of trouble mat be Burghley's son, the rising young minister-in-training, Robert Cecil -- but that does not resolve the puzzle.
Meanwhile, Richard has taken himself down the river to Greenwich Palace, where the Master of the Revels has his office. Sliding smoothly down the corridors of power, he finds that office, and two clerks who have been named to him -- Masters Smith and Jones. Finding them about to end their work for the day, he smoothly induces them to join him in a tavern. They are able to tell him that Tilney is suffering pressure from on high in this matter; any solution must surely involve countervailing forces from the same higher strata of society.
The next day, the four meet for a midday meal and their planned conference on the problem in hand. As they discuss their options, Edric, too, appears at the meeting, holding a wine bottle which he has evidently already opened. He tells them a little more about the state of the theatre at this time, and, when their discoveries are detailed to him, looks exasperated, and with a sigh, explains that his own situation may be part of the matter here. In addition to his theatrical work, he admits, he has in his time provided some intelligence of all kinds to those willing to pay for such. In the process, he has found himself identified with Walsingham's organisation, and with those groups and factions reporting when necessary to Sir Francis. Unfortunately, Burghley, and more especially his son, are constructing an intelligence service of their own, and some rivalry has developed between the two groups -- or at least, there is friction. Cecil and his servants might well enjoy inconveniencing Edric, it seems, and it is quite possible that Raleigh and his friends have learned of this, and forged an alliance with Cecil to this end.
The group ponders how they might foil or deflect this dangerous alliance. One possibility is to seek the aid of Sir Francis Walsingham, who is supposed to be providing them with at least tacit support, and who has the court position to match Cecil's own. Alternatively, they might be able to exploit the noble rank of their acquaintance, the Earl of Essex, who does like the theatre, doubtless more than the puritan Walsingham -- but he is rather young to be taken seriously in such matters. For now, Richard plans to make an appointment with Walsingham; Tuesday or Wednesday may be possible, he guesses.
Unfortunately, Edric remarks, there is another problem -- or more likely another aspect to the same problem. That bottle is not a mere matter of self-indulgence. His own mind and will are, he thinks, under assault; attempts are being made to lay a curse of despair, and he suspects that the rest of the New Company are also being assailed, and are succumbing. They may need the aid of their Enlightened patrons...
And so, Richard prepares a very carefully worded note to send to Sir Francis Walsingham, requesting a meeting at the Secretary's first convenience. As it proves, Sir Francis is agreeable; his reply declares that Richard might meet him on the coming Wednesday afternoon.
Charles, meanwhile, examines Edric further, in preparation for a visit to the members of the New Company. There have not, as it appears, been any overt attacks on the performances at the Curtain; likewise, so far as Charles's arcane skills can determine, the magical workings against the Company do not originate at the Theatre. Apparently, this is an independent piece of Hermetic mischief.
Edric also observes that the New Company have little in common as a group -- they are, after all, theatrical folk! Hence, one valid deduction might be that any Hermetic name-magic would have to have been directed at "The New Company" in those terms; Kate believes that this name might be secretly changed to baffle the assault, through administrative manipulations. Charles suggests "the Quill Players" as an alternative name, and Sir James thinks about making that somehow more poetic. The group talks further about how the company might acquire a charter; this might require support from the level of the aristocracy. Perhaps the Earl of Essex can assist, with legal advice from his new friend Francis Bacon? Charles, much exercised by the need to keep the new name secret, is somewhat concerned by the need to reveal it even to Bacon, but this may be unavoidable.
During the afternoon, Charles and Nicholas go, with Richard and Sir James respectively to watch their backs, to speak with some actors regarding their states of mind. Both formulate a clear image of a subtle web of negative influences. Richard makes encouraging noises towards these folk, to whom he is after all a patron, before returning to his family home to practise his wrestling and grappling methods -- an aspect of his combat skills which he feels could benefit from polish
The next day, Richard finds Master Bacon at the Inns of Court, and asks him to visit the Taverner home in the afternoon. Otherwise, everyone pursues their regular employment that morning, then converges for a meeting after lunch.
Bacon makes his invited appearance, and proves happy enough to assist with the plan, while making it clear that he will indeed need to know the new name of the theatrical company to prepare any legal documents to best effect. He sets to work, collaborating closely with Kate on the careful construction of a formal text. Kate puts something of herself [that is, a point of quintessence] into the effect to ensure that it will have lasting qualities.
While this is being done, Charles and Richard rummage through some available books, researching the subject of the Battle of Agincourt as the topic of their next theatrical creation, while Sir James suggests poetic forms of words. Richard creates some fine speeches -- good enough, perhaps, that one day, in a few years, his friend Bill will borrow parts of this eventually-lost work to include in one of his own dramas.
Hence, by the end of Monday, much ink and parchment has been employed, but to very good effect.
|Tuesday 11-1-1586||On the next morning, it emerges that Edric is having little fortune setting mystical-mental defences around the New Company, so the two groups of two set out again, to provide solutions using the subtle, worldly arts of the Daedalean orders. Charles chooses to purchase fine wines to raise the morale of those whom he discovers, weaving Life effects to enhance the sheer physical contentment of one band of actors to very good effect. Meanwhile, Nicholas uses Mind and Connection to create a day's worth of reinforced shields-of-the-soul for the Company. All think and hope that these wards and counters will hold for long enough for the Company to survive in spirit as a body of men until more formal measures take effect...|
|(At this point, the game went on hiatus for a few weeks due to serious health problems for one of the players.)|