||Game Session Date|
Charles, who has been remaining somewhat withdrawn in his home, as his humours had continued to display distressing imbalances, emerges to visit Master Aristotle for his weekly lessons. He is feeling somewhat morose and bilious on this occasion, as Kate, meeting him once again on the riverbank, notes. "Still," he remarks, "I might as well speak with Master Aristotle now that I'm here."
However, as they stroll to the house, he does speak a little of the problems in hand, suggesting setting Edric to watch the Zodiac, as that inn has been mentioned more than once in accounts of recent matters. They also discuss the recent absence of Cassandra Pelton from his company -- and it occurs to them to wonder if she perhaps thinks Richard dead.
With the Master, Charles raises the question of sensitivity to uncanny forces, and is told, in essence, that Awareness such as he seems to possess can probably best be understood simply as a gift from God. This in turn leads him to questions regarding the realm of spirits, including those daemons which may guide the Enlightened, and then creatures of the earth. He is sent away with instructions to read Paracelsus.
Kate then mentions her own most recent strange encounter, which tale leads to speculations as to the current nature and inhabitants of the land of Lyonesse, which seems most pertinent here. The question seems to involve the distinction, if any, between "fairies" and "airy spirits"...
Charles wonders if Kate's meeting was in fact an attempt at deception by their opposition, but Kate is dubious of this. Both speculate that the Hermetics may be biting off more than they can chew -- but Master Aristotle doubts that a Hermetic would recognise that concept.
The next day, Kate receives a letter from her brother within a packet sent from the west. It contains an enclosure, to be passed to Charles, which she sends to the good doctor with a servant. Charles finds that this in turn includes further enclosures, for Cassandra and Nicholas, which he puts aside. Otherwise, the day goes quietly; far to the west, Richard and Adrian, their final work complete, are making their way back to the mainland and along the south coast.
Kate visits the Sunday service at St. Paul's, though her parents do not accompany her; she is permitted a sufficient escort of a pair of servants. There, she meets Charles, who hands off the note for Nicholas. Kate also notices some of Raleigh's faction casting annoyed glances her way, and realises that they may have news of Penrith's fate. She asks Charles to escort her at least some of the way home, in case Raleigh's crew have some vengeance in mind (though they do not), and then sends him back to try to find Edric -- without success at this time.
Fortuitously, Richard's note to Nicholas also mentions Edric -- both the idea of assigning him to watch the Zodiac, and also suggesting that he be asked to find out more about Strange's theatrical troupe's recent works, in an attempt to calculate what effects these opponents may be unwittingly employed to create. However, there are limits to how much can be done on a Sunday -- just as Richard and Adrian, in Cornwall, must also take a day of rest.
|Monday 5-7-1585 and Tuesday 6-7-1585
The next day, Nicholas sallies forth to visit Charles, and the pair discuss the assignments to give Edric. Then their conversation moves on to Richard's letters. After some remarks on the great risk and proportionate effectiveness of Raleigh's schemes, Kate comments that she, too, has a long-term plan -- to gain an entry to court circles. But she does not wish to say too much just yet.
Then, Nicholas makes her visit to Edric, finding him at home and awake at last -- and even in a reasonable mood, and thus willing to take on the task of watching the Zodiac.
Matters then proceed, quietly enough for all concerned in all geographic parts, for a day or so.
Arriving in Exeter, Richard is well received, and visits the local magistrate (who is also the mayor) in company with Adrian to tell his tale over a glass. (A glass, he notes without comment, of young sherry.) The local worthy is helpful enough; he explains that Penrith is from the, well, distaff side of a good family, and is thought to become somewhat excitable in pursuit of a fortune of his own. Richard nods sympathetically -- but not, perhaps, with an excess of sympathy.
Penrith is then brought in with a pair of his (legitimate) relatives, who, it appears, know a little of legal matters. A bargaining session, disguised as a legal discussion, follows, and leads to an agreement involving a quite generous settlement.
Richard and Adrian return to their crew with the news, and warn them to take a little care while they are in this town. Still, an evening of carousing seems only in order, after which, Richard retires to polish a new work of poetry.
Richard and Adrian depart Exeter, and once they are clear of the mouth of the river and out to sea, Adrian whistles up a wind and sets the sails just so -- catching the prevailing light breeze perfectly.
Then, as they pass Sidmouth, they pause to examine the odd wave patterns around a certain spot on the sea. While they do so, Richard notes not only the local breeze which seems to have attached itself to Adrian lately, but waves which seem to be following the fellow around the boat. Those waves then take forms that might be taken for a face by the imaginative, and begin talking...
Richard replies, while trying to ensure that the rest of the crew do not notice too much. They say that Richard's friend's friend would like the letter he dropped back, and while Richard fetches the leaf from the cabin, he perhaps unwisely leaves the first mate at the tiller -- and returns to find the poor fellow, studiously ignoring the talking waves.
Richard sends the man away, and those waves ask Richard to call "I Am Not Certain" over -- they seem very unsure about calling him "Adrian", even when firmly informed that this is his name -- and his "friend", the breeze, asks the speaking waves to pass on its thanks for an interesting time in the world; now, it seems, it must return to Lyonesse, and so it bids farewell. Richard and Adrian deduce that the letter was never meant for them -- but at least they have learned something from the accident.
The crew pay as little attention as they can to any of this, and Adrian sits somewhat nonplussed [thus missing a chance to tap the location for Quintessence]. The boat sails on to Lyme, Adrian wondering a little as they go why the winds are responding to his sailor's whistle-charms less well now.
Meanwhile, in London, Cassandra Pelton visits Charles, who hands her the letters which he has been keeping for her. However, they both then hear another arrival in the shop which forms the front of Charles's house, and the door to the inner room bursts open as Inigo Pelton announces his presence. He is terse, to say the least, with both Cassandra and Charles -- and Charles, his colour rising, finds himself unthinkingly stepping towards the sword which he has left in the corner of the room. He tries insisting to the suspicious and angry Inigo that something is controlling him, and indeed, he struggles to defend himself against that something, erecting an iron barrier of will around his mind. However, he nevertheless finds himself drawing his sword. (He also subsequently hears laughter within his mind -- perhaps a strong barrier is less than useful when one's foe is already within it?)
Inigo, his own sword drawn in his right hand, his left hand resting on something over his chest, announces that he believes Charles -- "What possesses you, man? Truly, know you not?" Then, he evidently judges Charles to be in a dangerously uncertain state, and decides to reduce the danger to himself.
"This is a ncessity -- Croatoan!" He steps forward with his sword -- and deftly disarms Charles, then covers him with his point while telling Cassandra to leave swiftly. Then, he himself makes a careful departure.
Charles finishes the wine which he had been trying to offer Inigo, and wonders if this was his persistent Scourge problem. He rests and gives thanks that no blood was drawn.
At her own home, Kate is working on her plan -- thinking where to source her materials, and embroidering up some sample sleeves.
Cassandra sends Charles a note, thanking him and saying that her brother is now watching her closely. She apologises for being the cause of trouble, and says that, by what Inigo says, Charles should probably seek exorcism.
Late that afternoon, Charles goes to see Master Aristotle, and after evading both Gardiner parents on the way into the house, tells first Kate and then the Master about the events of Thursday. Master Aristotle explains a little about those spirits who sometimes bear the power of the Scourge, and says that there may be an Airy Spirit involved in this case -- in which case, it may well be a case of waiting out the being's boredom, or completion of its strange mission... Though there may be Cosians who can help in such matters, as balances of the humours are evidently involved.
Richard and Adrian continue a quiet voyage along the south coast of western England. They hope to make Portsmouth by Sunday.
Nicholas goes to town and finds Edric at home on the Saturday, and thus receives a report which suggests that the Zodiac is frequented by many a ruffian and low-born brawler -- and also by certain of the Durham House set. It would appear that this is a convenient place for Raleigh's faction, where they may hire a certain kind of fellow, and perhaps see to other sorts of business which they would not wish to take place in their respectable houses. Nicholas suggests to Edric that he should continue to keep an eye on the place when possible.
Edric also comments, when asked about recent word from the theatrical world, that Lord Strange's Men have been playing a lot of routine comedies of late -- possibly prior to taking a tour of the shires in a week or so. Nicholas contemplates going to see for himself in the afternoon, and meanwhile asks another question; Edric answers that, yes, there may have been a faint smell of the uncanny about the Strange and Raleigh parties at those performances. They might simply have their share of protective amulets, or it might be something else...
Nicholas does go to The Theatre, where he finds the company presenting "The Comedy of Piero and Lucia." Which, Nicholas decides, is not bad, if rather stock. (Frankly, though, the original Commedia companies do this sort of thing rather better.) There are some Durham House folk present -- and one is accompanied by a "serving boy" who seems greatly amused by the play, and who has about him a sense of the uncanny. Nicholas is tempted to essay a manoeuvre of some kind, but decides to observe quietly for now.
Charles, going to visit Doctor Uriel, his superior in the Cosian Circle, and finding him at home, is told that ways to deal with problems of spiritual possession are somewhat rare in this group, but he might do well to locate one "Father Friedrich", an alchemist based near Ludgate (just west of St. Paul's).
Charles takes this advice, and finds that the "Father" is at home in his shop of exceptional dustiness. The fellow is an elderly German, who grumbles that the title is an annoying jest played by other Cosians -- "I haff renounced der vows, long since". For his part, Charles vomits violently on arrival, causing the old alchemist to nod sagely. "Jah, you haff unt problem -- I zink I know der kind of thing..." He agrees that he may be able to assist Charles; his price for this is, very simply, that Charles should help him by recovering his cat, which has been hiding in the rafters of his house for an exceptionally long time.
It soon becomes clear that the cat may have been lapping up some of its owners experimental creations, in quiet moments. Charles, crawling across the low, cramped roof space in pursuit of it, is struck and stung by violent sparking forces which the cat emits. (To be fair, it should be noted that Friedrich was unaware of this effect until now himself.) Charles withdraws downstairs again, and sets to work improvising a solution to the problem. His masterstroke is to alchemically enhance the odour of a kipper which Friedrich chances to have lying around, making it irresistible to the cat -- which is thus grasped (with well-protected hands) and brought back to its master.
Paid to his satisfaction, Friedrich procedes to strap Charles firmly to a chair, and exorcises him -- ultimately successfully, although the procedure takes a little time. He refers to the entity which was causing the trouble as "Implico", and remarks that Charles must have been overreaching himself a little lately, as Implico is prone to punishing vanity. Trapping the spirit's smoky, vaporous form in a flask for now, he chats for a while to the weakened but, for the most part, much more comfortable Charles. It emerges in the course of all this that he is indeed a former Catholic priest and exorcist who gained Enlightenment in the course of his work. With this awakening came the realisation that there was more to the spirit world than just angels and devils -- a heretical thought; hence, he was glad to accept a kind of sanctuary from the Cosian Circle.
|Monday to Thursday 12-7-1585 to 15-7-1585.
Over these days, Richard and Adrian continue to sail homewards; Charles takes care of the business which he has perforce largely neglected of late; and Kate works on recruiting embroiderers for her project in hand. On the Thursday, Richard inspects the fortifications at Harwich, with Adrian's aid, finding them somewhat below par.
Richard and Adrian set out early this morning, and make good time up the Thames. Adrian leaves their vessel at the Void Seeker haven on that route; he explains to Richard that contemplation of what they have seen on their journey suggests to him that the Seekers should be alerted, as they are the group who have taken it upon themselves to defend the integrity and coherence of the world as it is discovered, in the name of Reason. He hopes to see Richard again some time, perhaps soon, but for now, duty must take him away.
Come the evening, Charles visits Master Aristotle for his weekly instruction, and tells the tale of his recent experiences. Both Master Aristotle and Kate fail to restrain themselves when they hear of events such as his pursuit of the cat, and burst into laughter. However, Kate takes a serious interest in the matter, too, thinking that a visit to this "Father" Friedrich, in pursuit of conversation, might be of interest at some point. They spend the rest of the evening discussing the hierarchies and natures of spirits.
Richard arrives at the Tower of London, deals with such matters as are essential at this point, and then takes a boat up river beyond the great bridge. He passes and notes Charles going the other way, and hails him for a very brief conversation, before reaching his family home an hour short of midnight. There, he embraces his mother, father, and sister, before retiring for well-earned sleep.
Note: This campaign here went on hold for a few months. The GM needed a break and a chance to draw breath.
|A Memory of the Past...||
Let us consider Sir James Taverner, riding out of Dover some summer morning. His thoughts trace idly back to a day some weeks or months since, when, practising swordplay on the green before the Tower of London, he accepted the offer of a friendly bout with a young man who introduced himself as Richard Gardiner, Captain of the Queen's Guns (and, although that went unspoken at the time, a fellow Daedalean). Gardiner proved ... dazzlingly good with that Italian blade which he wields. (Although whether he would be as effective in the full armour appropriate to a battlefield might be a question for some other time.)
Charles receives a visitor -- a messenger bearing a package and a note. It appears that Adrian is being sent forth by the Seekers of the Void, to examine the consequences and implications of recent events at a far remove. The note is vague as to details, but carries the strong implication that Adrian will be sent down to the south-west coast once again, and then perhaps beyond, to that New World whose very nature may be at stake.
He leaves Charles a few items of no great value which he does not wish to carry with him, and also the map of London which has been his recent study. Charles unrolls it with casual interest, smiling as he observes the repair where Nicholas's dagger-point penetrated it with such force... And then he frowns. For Adrian's note implied that the map was in good condition, and even implicitly charged Charles to keep it so. And yet the inked lines seem to have run and become strangely blurred. The damage is worst at points around the edge of the parchment, to the south-east, south, and north-west of the city, but as Charles looks, it becomes clear that much of the map is somewhat affected. However, the epicentre of the damage is both clear and clearly identifiable; Durham House.
|Two or three days since...||
But now, once again, we must look to the recent past, and Sir James Taverner, riding up from Dover. He has recently been earning an honest crust -- and fulfilling his acknowledged duty to Reason -- by escorting a certain merchant who required an innocuous guard with the fighting power of a full band of ordinary soldiers. In truth, Sir James's skills were not actually called upon, but his presence with that party was apparently a reassurance to them. And now, he is returning once more to his home city of London.
It's a pleasant enough season to be travelling, and Sir James makes good time, coming to a halt for the night in an inn on the road near Sittingbourne. In the taproom there, however, he hears of something which seems to be concerning the folk of this area mightily, although they are unclear as to exactly what is afoot. All is not well on the Isle of Sheppey, it would seem; it is even said that the people of the village of Leysdown are possessed by demons.
Sir James, a warrior for the light of truth and sanity, resolves to diverge from his path and investigate this (possible) evil...
|Saturday 17-7-1585 (again)||
Richard and Kate rise in the morning and take a little time together to compare notes on recent events. (However, Kate does not mention everything that Charles quoted Cassandra as saying to Inigo. She has no wish to inflate her brother's head too much.)
At around 10 o'clock in the morning, Richard takes a boat down the river to see Charles, who has by now received and studied the map of London. They too compare notes.
"How often were you attacked, Charles?"
"Only the once, friend Richard."
"Ah. The same as myself."
In fact, Charles has many matters on his mind. For example, he has been reviewing his accounts, and it seems to him that, to judge by the income it provides, his practice is growing beyond the standing and capacity of his present house. He is now thinking seriously of taking a new residence. Still, his first concern is to show Richard the map, and Richard notes the strange nature of its distortion. He also notes a small blot or mark on the very garden of his own family's home; this puts him in mind of Kate's tale of a faerie visitation, which does seem to have begun in precisely that spot, if he judges correctly.
Then the pair take a stroll about the city, acquiring a pocket pistol each from a gunsmith who Richard can recommend (for their usual belt pistols are a little too cumbersome at times, and their lives, they feel, are now all too full of events which call for convenient weapons). After that, they spend a little time in consideration of houses to which Charles might think of moving, asking in appropriate taverns after such matters, and then go on to see Master Holbright, to tell him Richard's tale of recent events. Master Holbright is of course concerned, but expresses confidence that Richard and his friends will be able to deal with whatever disruptions and darkness sorcery might be bringing upon the land...
Kate, the meanwhile, receives a note from her Aunt Julia, telling her that the carefully designed embroidery work is indeed becoming popular at court. Her plan to acquire connections there seems to be working. In fact, she has been bringing her enlightened will to bear on this, promoting the appeal of the work.
Richard ends the day by strolling about the city a while, to renew his acquaintanceship with it after his absence, and then returns home to moon over the letters from Cassandra which Charles had passed to him. One thing he realises, looking at these, is that the girl has a particular terror of the open ocean...
Both Charles and the Gardiners decide to attend the service at St. Paul's this Sunday. There, they note Inigo Pelton present with a scowl (they may deduce that he won an argument with his sister over her attendance, but only with an effort); Richard tips his hat to the fellow.
Kate notices some persons of interest to her; ladies of the court. She does not quite manage to approach them in such a way as to be included in their conversations, but at least one of them seems to favour her. She details a maid to arrange a visit to that one's residence, later in the week. She also speaks briefly to Charles after the service, as he is interested in her opinions on houses that might suit him and so forth.
|Richard, at some point, passes some recent news on to Kate, who resolves to go and visit Charles at some time, and to inspect that map...||1-10-2003|
|Looking back once again to Saturday 17-7-1585||But let us once more look backwards a short time, and consider the escapades of Sir James.
He takes the track which runs alongside a creek to its mouth opposite the Isle of Sheppey, where, as he hoped, he finds a ferry for those seeking to cross. The ferryman, too, seems to have heard rumours of something dark (but strangely unspecified) on the island, and hints that visiting might be unwise, but accepts Sir James's coin for the crossing.
As he rides across the sheep-filled fields, Sir James reflects on the basic directions to Leysdown which he has received. It would be only a small detour to the slightly larger village of Eastchurch ... But no, he leaves that for later.
As he approaches his destination, he notes a chill and unwelcoming feeling in the air, and then, as he rides closer, he sees more. To begin with, the spire of the place's small wooden church has been damaged, as if struck by lightning, and there is no trace of repair efforts. Then, closer still, he notes the group of villagers walking towards him. They do not seem aggressively hostile, but each has a club or staff in hand. As he approaches them more closely, he realises that they are speaking to each other, discussing such matters as the quality of fishing of late, or the health of their sheep, in a flat, affectless tone.
He seeks to ride through the line, but the locals move to bar his way. As they do not appear to be offering him violence, he merely rests his right hand on his sword and holds his buckler loosely in his left. This latter is fortunate, as just as he rides up to one man, the fellow swings at him with a cudgel.
Sir James just barely interpolates his buckler in time, deflecting the blow, before spurring his horse into a gallop. Certain now that this matter requires more than his attention alone, he rides in a broad semicircle to depart the area. As he goes, he senses an unvoiced howl of rage, which also unnerves his horse slightly.
He takes the track back to Eastchurch, where he finds the houses shuttered and a sense of fear in the air which requires no Enlightened awareness to detect. Still, he locates an inn, where his coin acquires a midday meal and basic courtesy. He mentions that he has visited Leysdown, and the innkeeper remarks that all is not at all well there ... but seems frustratingly vague as to the origins or nature of the problem.
Sir James regains the mainland and reaches another good inn by nightfall. His plan is now clear; there are others who can assist with such strange evils not far away now.
|Sunday 18-7-1585 (again)||Indeed, he reaches the city of London on the afternoon of the next day. However, not having spent much time there of late, or indeed since his Enlightenment, he knows few members of the Order of Reason. Richard Gardiner is one, though...
He visits the Tower, not truly expecting Richard to be there, but in search of directions, and an amiable member of the garrison does indeed advise him to try the house of Doctor Charles Avery, not very far from that place -- for Richard is often said to spend time there. Sir James guesses that this fellow may perhaps be of the Order.
Charles is at home, and is pleased enough to receive a visitor, who declares that he wishes to locate Richard Gardiner "concerning a philosophical matter". Charles smiles, and after a brief exchange of subtle signs and codewords, the two men understand each other. Sir James tells his story.
"I was attacked without provocation..."
"Yes, that happens to me all the time."
"But do they talk about diseases of the sheep while doing so?"
Charles is interested to learn of this mystery, and associates it in his mind with one of the blurred patches on that map of London. He shows Sir James this odd item, and suggests visiting the Gardiner house for dinner, as Richard is likely to be there. On the boat up the river, he warns Sir James of a few of the unusual features of this household -- most especially telling him not to underestimate Richard's sister.
The pair find Richard at home, and after exchanging greetings with his parents, retire to his study (with Kate present). There, Sir James repeats his tale, and Richard agrees that it merits investigation. He adds that there may be some delays, as he has yet to deal with some essential administrative matters at the Tower (not least, collecting his pay for the month). Perhaps they should borrow the Tower's cutter, which could surely reach Sheppey faster than any horse, on, say, Tuesday? (Of course, it may still be undergoing repairs after its recent adventures, but its condition seemed not too bad when last Richard saw it.) Richard also adds that his cousin Nicholas might also become involved in this mission.
All agree that this is a sensible plan, and Richard and Kate invite Sir James (and Charles) to stay for dinner. He accepts, and, over the meal, talks chivalrously with their mother, even improvising some verse. Kate, guessing where such displays of charm from an unattached male visitor of rank may lead, nonetheless bites her tongue somewhat, merely becoming a little snappish. Richard, recognising the nature of the situation, covers some of the spaces in the conversation with his own poetic improvisations.
Charles and Sir James take a boat back to the city, leaving Richard and his father sipping wine on the terrace and the distant sound of rising female voices from within the house. Charles explains something of the family situation to Sir James, who begins to ponder how he might escape embarassment in his future dealings with the Gardiners.
|Monday 19-7-1585||Richard visits the Tower and his office, and attends to much business, resolving a few outstanding administrative matters and so forth. He also determines that the cutter will be available to borrow on the next day, as the repairs it requires are minor (Adrian and the crew having done some good work on their way), and picks up the stipend due his office. Feeling well funded once more, he visits his favourite swordsmith, and orders a very fine main gauche. During the day, he also receives a note suggesting that he might wish to visit a certain building in Westminster at his convenience -- specifically, the office of Sir Francis Walsingham.
Deciding to have this matter over with, he makes that visit immediately after leaving the Tower. The interview goes pleasingly smoothly -- as well as Richard ever hoped; Walsingham seems content with his work, and tells him that the attempts to have him consigned to the Borders seem to have been forgotten for now. He does renew the hinted warning that Richard should not think of forming a faction of his own on the streets of London, but Richard remains confident that he will not be seen to do any such thing.
Then, before returning home, Richard makes another visit -- to the rented house of the Pelton family in London, with two of his latest poems in hand. He is careful enough to spy the place out -- before he picks the lock on the garden gate at the back of the house, locates Cassandra's room, and climbs up to her balcony. She glances out of the room at this time, notices someone in hiding, and guesses enough to send her maid away before greeting him with suggestions that he may be seeking his own doom. She accepts the poems willingly enough, however.
In truth, Richard makes his departure from the garden just as Inigo Pelton thinks to notice something. Richard manages to find a hiding place as Inigo opens the gate and glances around; indeed, Inigo is suspicious enough to employ some other means of search... But without success. [He tries a Mind working, but I failed the roll. Inigo's dice luck remains appalling when it counts.]
|Charles visits Edric with his payment for recents weeks, and discovers him mixing up an unsuccessful hair of the dog. They chat a little about recent news, but aside from Charles's house removal, and Edric noting that, from what he hears, Richard isn't worrying even Sir Francis Walsingham overmuch at present, they do not have much to say.
Charles then goes and finds a mason who can lay flagstones in his new cellar over the next few days. Then, he returns home and packs his bag of alchemical preparations
Sir James looks a little ahead, considering his career options. He contemplates setting up as a consulting craftsman, which would of course require a house or shop. Indeed, he looks at the suitability of Charles's former residence, and decides that yes, he will rent this place, at least for the moment.
Kate visits her Aunt Julia, and asks her to provide the necessary excuses for her to be out of town for a day or two. Then, Nicholas goes to visit Father Friedrich, mentions Charles's name by way of introductory reference, and arranges to take lessons in the theory of Aerie Spirits on Monday afternoons. Then, he returns to Aunt Julia's house, where Kate reviews her new embroidery business for a while.
And thus this day draws to a quiet close.
|Tuesday 20-7-1585||Richard tells his parents that he is taking the Tower's cutter out for sea trials, tells Giles that he does not have to come along, and meets Sir James and Charles at the Tower. They set sail, and pick up Nicholas from a quay a few yards down the river. (Kate's disguise, it may be noted, is very solid this day.) Somewhere along the way, Richard mentions to the crew that he and his friends have a special task in hand, whose nature need not concern anyone else overmuch.
They proceed normally enough for a while, albeit that the wind is too often against them, but as they pass the town of Sheerness, Richard notices that his crew begin to grow unhappy, displaying an unfocussed unease; indeed, the desire to be somewhere - anywhere - else begins to press on everyone. Charles and (especially) Nicholas are both able to confirm that this feeling surely has a supernatural aspect, as a veritable invisible fogbank of dread lies before the ship. Everyone who can begins rehearsing their mental defences.
The cutter passes the village of Leysdown, and everyone is able to observe the damaged church spire. Charles rigs a lens and mirror arrangement for a better view, and observes the lack of lights even though the evening is by now drawing in, as well as people wandering slowly between the houses. He also remarks on two old and battered fishing boats drawn up on the shore a very little upstream of the community, one of which looks as though someone has taken a sledgehammer to it recently, smashing clear through it from one side to the other.
The cutter anchors a little way further downstream. Nicholas uses meditative focus to augment his own night vision, while Charles prepares a salve to the same purpose for himself and the other two, whose effects, he assesses, will last plenty long enough. After dark, the four Daedaleans take the cutter's small boat and row away, mooring it to the bank just a little way downstream of Leysdown. Richard takes a moment to camouflage it, and then everyone but Sir James uses whatever prayers, meditation, or exercises of will may shield their minds and wills against assault.
|Approaching the village, Our heroes -- with Richard taking charge, or at least suggesting plans, by default -- decide to investigate the church, as they think it likely to be the centre of things. (Richard also suggests not killing too many civilians; all acquiesce, albeit with the customary token sarcasm from Nicholas.)
They creep up to the nearest house with stealthy care (Charles especially surprising the others with his recently learned skill in light-footedness). Nonetheless, one of the three or four villagers still up and wandering around at this time evidently senses something, but fails to see any more when he wanders closer in a rather vague way to look. At around this time, while assessing their best approach, Nicholas and Charles think to perceive a rather sickly glow through the windows of the church. It seems that the place might indeed merit investigation.
The group scurries forward again, evading all attention, and enter the building by its main door, Richard in the lead, Charles and Nicholas behind him, James at the rear. Immediately on entry, they observe a hulking figure seated hunched on the altar.
Moving closer in the dim light, they see it to have the general shape of a man -- but they also see that it cannot be human. Standing upright, it would exceed seven feet in height, and it is broad and massive beyond even that scale. Even in this light, the Daedaleans can see that its skin is a sickly grey in colour (which makes Charles at least somewhat thoughtful). It is clad in rags and tatters.
"Who comes?" it demands. Its voice, while deep and grating and strange, is comprehensible.
"The Order" Richard replies. (At around this time, our heroes realise that the dark mass which they had observed in front of the altar and slightly to the right is a fallen human figure. Those who pay attention to it realise that it is wearing the garb appropriate to a parish priest.)
"Are many Orders..."
"Of which are you?"
"The Good Rose..."
Nicholas frowns, mentally translating some half-remembered phrases. Richard, too, makes an intelligent guess.
"Hmm... Did you fall from the ship?"
"The ... ship?"
"Gardiner! Gardiner! Heretic!"
"A free man!" Richard once again replies -- but the creature is already lurching forward to attack. It is much faster than anything of this size and shambling aspect has any right to be, and the combatants soon find that their skill in parrying is serving them well, and quite possibly keeping them alive. Richard lands thrusts and cuts on the creature in reply, but quickly realises that these are simply failing to penetrate its more than leathery grey skin. Thus, he calls upon the enlightened awareness of weaknesses and fortune which he has recently cultivated to identify a weak spot on its skin and to strike there most precisely. Nicholas moves to his side and helps keep the creature occupied, but decides that other, subtler tricks may be required, as blades and sledgehammer fists swirl and dance.
Charles, too, briefly joins the fray, but decides that science may have other applications here. He steps back and examines the body of the priest, determining that the man is a few days dead -- of starvation and thirst, so far as he can tell. He decides that the body is irrelevant to the fight in hand, and rummages in his bag for something more appropriate.
Sir James, the meanwhile, has remained at the door of the church, dragging a convenient pew across it and applying his enlightened engineering skills to ensuring that it is firmly wedged; he guesses that the people of the village might be summonsed to the monster's aid, and determines that they should not too easily gain entry. Then he hurries forward, broadsword in hand, to join the fray.
He and Richard together strike repeatedly at the weak spot in its hide where Richard first wounded it, wearing it down -- but very slowly. (At one stage, too, in a fit of uncharacteristic clumsiness, James drops his sword. Fortunately, the creature is unable to exploit this opportunity.) Still, they continue to evade its blows, and the bull rush it makes at Richard, and eventually it seeks to escape -- making a prodigious upward leap towards the hole in the spire above its head. Richard, however, draws his pistol and, with another display of exceptionally trained judgement, shatters the narrow beam which it grasped at the height of its leap, bringing the creature tumbling back to the ground before it can haul itself through and away.
Charles, guessing something as to the creature's nature, has extracted powders and compounds from his stock, and blows them deftly in the creature's eyes, blinding it and causing it great pain in the process. However, it then displays supernatural regenerative abilities, repairing the hurt by an effort of sheer will, and although he repeats the trick once, he looks for other possibilities.
Exerting his knowledge of the mind, he seeks to comprehend its mental processes -- and finds himself, as it seems, linked with its very thoughts. [He had a substantial boon outstanding from a minor working in the previous session. This seemed like a good moment for this to kick in.] Searching these, he finds a strange duality -- there is something part terrestrial and part very alien here. Then, he sets to trying to calm or divert the thing's raging fury ... But this is a most alien entity, and though he distracts it for a moment, he is out of his depth in such waters. A weakness in his mental discipline brings the inhuman frenzy of its mental processes storming into his brain, and he slumps to the floor, unconscious. [Two critical failures in a row. These things happen, if perhaps more often than one might expect from mere probability.]
As Richard and James continue to thrust and parry, the creature seeks another avenue of escape, lurching towards the door which James previously barred, from beyond which human voices can now be heard. Nicholas exerts his rhetorical skill, seeking to bring the monster back, perhaps even to parlay -- but only succeeds for a moment. Still, this ensures that the other two can keep up with it, and at length they bring it to bay. Its resilience is truly uncanny, but worn down by Richard's precise thrusts and James's deft broadsword work, it eventually slumps to the floor and dies.
Then -- it melts, as it seems to the observers, bizarre and reeking ichor flowing across the church floor, leaving almost nothing solid...
Richard and Nicholas both realise that Charles will be most unhappy if he awakens to discover that he lacks a sample of the deliquescent remnants of the creature. Richard acts on this first, rummaging in Charles's bag for a sample bottle and scraping up what he can of the substance. Nicholas, meanwhile, inspects Charles himself, and, finding nothing obviously wrong with him, exerts his enlightened awareness of the nature of Life -- but overreaches himself, and still finds nothing obvious. [He actually gets a minor Scourge Bane, which will cause him subtle problems in a little while.]
Sir James, the meanwhile, checks the corpse, comes to the same conclusion as did Charles earlier, then moves to Nicholas's side and suggests that they lift up Charles and that the whole group might perhaps look to leave the building forthwith. The other two agree, and Richard gathers up Charles's bag of supplies.
They decide that the church will likely have a quiet back entrance through the vestry, and investigate that way, discovering that there is indeed a small outside door. Richard goes first, checking cautiously, and sees a few confused-seeming villagers. He slips out, hoping to find cover from which he can cover the departure of the others in some way, but one of the locals looks in his direction. Richard fires a shot over the fellow's head, causing him to leap back, then leaps for cover himself. Nicholas and Sir James then rush out the door, carrying Charles between them.
Unfortunately, the villagers see them clearly, and show every sign of hostility. [Nicholas's Scourge Bane cuts in, twisting and inverting charisma and deceptiveness alike.] They run, but find themselves instantly pursued. Richard, meanwhile, has found one of Charles's special candles in that bag, and has managed to light it using a spark from a pistol wheellock. He lobs the flaring light over the pursuers to distract them, then sets off in pursuit of the pursuers. One of the villagers is briefly distract by this, but another three are not.
Richard sprints up and trips one of the locals. Another two close with Nicholas and Sir James, who turn to face them. Nicholas draws his blade with blinding speed and, with a little regret given that these people are innocent, runs his opponent through the leg, causing him to fall. Sir James, too, draws his blade -- and then, under the strain of the moment, suffers one of the overwhelming rushes of recollection which have cursed him every since he achieved Enlightenment in particularly dangerous circumstances on the battlefield.
Richard and Nicholas are puzzled to hear their new ally declaiming that "the Spaniards are coming through the walls!"; Charles, left slumped to the ground nearby and now slowly regaining consciousness, is even more puzzled. The remaining villagers, seeing swift blades opposing their cudgels and clubs, draw back for a moment, and Richard is able to bring Charles his bag. Charles locates and extracts some of his black, revivifying brew, and drains that flask, restoring his own awareness and energy (almost to the point of excess). All four of them beat a swift retreat from Leysdown, although the others find themselves continually having to reassure Sir James that the overwhelming Spanish attacks which he swears he sees at every moment are illusions, and the way is in fact clear for them. Richard speaks persuasively to him at first, and then eventually Nicholas uses Enlightened Rhetoric to help at least render his fancies more consistent with reality.
They regain their boat, and then the Gardiners row it back to the cutter while the other two sit in bow and stern and recover from the confusions of the night. Unfortunately, the crew look oddly askance at Nicholas (the sense that he is an enemy to all strangers lingers around him for the rest of the night), but Richard takes command and steadies them, declaring the intent to sail home safely the next morning.
During the night, Charles seeks to place the experiences of the battle in orderly form in his disciplined and Enlightened memory, but fails; his training has its limits. Still, when the morning comes, all seems well enough. The cutter sails past the village, whose inhabitants look a little dazed but normal, so far as can be seen from offshore. That problem, at least, seems resolved -- but Richard wonders if the distortions on Adrian's map portend others, and speaks of commissioning Sir James to investigate in the relevant directions -- although the indications may not be precise enough.
They regain London and the Tower's docks late in the afternoon, dropping Nicholas off on a one of the down-river jetties first to avoid complications, and Nicholas sets out for Aunt Julia's house. Charles scurries quickly towards home, muttering that his laboratory is still only half packed, while Richard goes to his office and Sir James returns to his own plans.
Charles goes to his new house to see how the the new cellar floor is coming along, and finds that the builders have started as promised, and are indeed laying good sandstone slabs. He then goes on to arrange a carter to start moving his furniture, as there is nothing to prevent him from starting to fill the upper levels of the house. Then, he goes home and begins packing for the move (forgetting the samples from the slain monster).
Nicholas reaches Aunt Julia's house, and very soon, Kate is once more about her business, storing her recent experiences in her memory palace. She stays at her Aunt's for that night in order to make arrangements for her important meeting on the morrow. Meanwhile, Richard visits his room at the Tower, straightens a few matters, and then returns up the river. He too stops at his Aunt's house, albeit only briefly, using his charm to reassure her that he has not been leading his sister into undue danger. His Aunt sends him on home to dine with his parents.
Charles, having woken suddenly in the small hours recalling the matter of the sample, nonetheless spends the latter part of the morning and the early afternoon overseeing a somewhat chaotic process of furniture movement. It is only his domestic goods which he is moving as yet, the cellar not being yet ready to become his laboratory. The workmen tolerate his detailed descriptions of operations and intermingled stubborn demands as to the placing of things with surprisingly good grace, presumably expecting good pay. He asks them to return on the morrow; they reply that they have another small job first thing, but that aside, they see no reason to turn down his business.
Richard, the meanwhile, comes to the city and sets about finding independent paying employment and browsing the bookshops around St. Paul's -- processes which will take him all day. Likewise, Sir James is off somewhere scouting out the competition in the business of crafting small mechanisms.
As for Kate -- she, with the aid of her aunt, spends a little time ensuring that her best, courtly dress is just right. Then, she mounts the carriage she had hired in advance and travels to the house of her potential customer, Lady Margaret Westonbirt, near Eltham.
Lady Margaret's servants are polite enough to this visitor, and Kate reins in her ... natural exuberance ... sufficiently when dealing with them. Lady Margaret appears after a modest delay during which Kate is served a good wine, and Kate's (subtly augmented) embroideries impress well enough. Lady Margaret chats with her pleasantly, asking after her family connections in passing.
Then Lady Margaret's friend, Lady Anne Mortgrave, appears as a visitor, and joins the conversation and the inspection of the embroideries. Lady Anne's maidservant, named Juliet, responds to these pieces with strikingly intelligent interest -- and Kate senses something about her, especially when she takes the samples "into the light" for a better view, and seems to be talking to herself. She calls the embroidery "interesting" -- which Lady Margaret fortunately, casually, takes as simple praise.
Kate thinks on what she has heard of Lady Anne -- a Lady in Waiting, generally regarded as politically neutral, but evidently favoured of the Queen. It seems that her household has been infiltrated. Kate decides that she will, this very evening, pen a brief letter to Master Holbright, in case there are more complications here than she yet perceives.
Charles, the meanwhile, spends the latter part of the day conducting alchemical tests on that sample. Unfortunately, he has evidently been left tired and distracted by the labours of the day, and he discovers nothing of import, and dissolves the sample in his preparations in the process.
The next morning, Richard goes to work at the Tower, and briskly deals with some paperwork which has accumulated. Then he goes on to Master Holbright's house, there to deliver Kate's letter and to request an appointment for a conversation. After that, he Charles's old house and acquires directions to the new from Sir James. Following them, he finds Charles at home, and they spend a little time discussing the joys of moving house, adn also the practicalities of hiring a housekeeper -- a class of servant for which Charles now perceives a need, given the relative grandeur of his new home.
Charles does also admit in passing that he has expended all of the sample of the monster's ichor which the others had collected to no great effect.) Richard subsequently spends a little time drawing up a report regarding the fight with the abomination, for the future reference of Master Holbright and the Order of Reason.
|Saturday 24-7-1585 to Saturday 31-7-1585.||
Indeed, the next few days pass in a flurry of practical arrangements and quiet business for most of the group. For example, Kate is hard at work producing various pieces (mostly quite fine, although the design of the embroidered sleeves which alludes to the Westonbirt coat of arms is not her best work). Charles and Sir James do find a little excitement at one point, when Charles returns to his old house to pick up some materials from his laboratory, and finds Sir James looking nervous, as the chemicals there are bubbling of their own accord. Charles senses something of the uncanny about this, and begins conducting alchemical tests. He finds that there are minimal magical energies here at best, but his new insights into the spirit world enable him to identify a very minor, mindless incursion. He declares that removing the chemicals should remove the problem -- as indeed appears to be the case...
Richard spends some time composing a poetical letter to Cassandra Pelton, which he passes to Kate as the most likely to be able to deliver it. On the matter of the Peltons, his mother passes on something of what she has determined about that family -- that the Peltons are a Bedfordshire family, not quite fallen from the upper social orders, and that Inigo is currently the head of the family, collecting its customary income from various holdings which are not what once they were. Inigo has thus moved the house to London while studying at the Inns of Court (or becoming one of the too-many high-born young gentlemen to be found cluttering the Inns); he seems to be doing rather well for himself, gaining a name among the ranks of the Durham House set despite not in fact being very visible among its number in high society in general.
Kate does indeed visit the Pelton house, having the good fortune to find Cassandra in and Inigo out, and thus being able to deliver Richard's work and to receive an elegantly calligraphed thank-you note in return. The two women converse politely for a while regarding Sir Philip Sidney's latest sonnet.
Richard manages a brief meeting with Master Holbright, and is congratulated on the group's successful actions. The maid Juliet is not a known factor in the concerns of Reason, but investigations suggest that she may have been introduced to her current employ by some friend of Sir Walter Raleigh. She hardly seems to be a Hermetic wizard, though; she is more a West Country girl of humble stock and limited education.
Charles spends a little time at some point in informed discussion with Master Aristotle; the discussion encompasses the concept of Platonic forms (which may indicate something of the deep nature of the mystery known amongst the Enlightened as Prime) and the subtleties of mathematics (which the Master thinks may assist him in the understandings of space and distance sometimes referred to as the Sphere of Connection). The Gardiners look on with amusement at this lesson.
As Kate finds on a series of visits, Lady Margaret has taken a liking to the items which she has to offer. On her way out after one visit, she meets Sir Francis Walsingham in the entrance hall. She and he hold brief, polite converse; during this, Kate cannot help but notice that Walsingham's very handsome young companion -- a lad of maybe eighteen years and proud confident bearing, who Sir Francis addressed as "Robert" -- is staring at her rather, in a way that might almost risk being thought impolite. As they part, Walsingham remarks that "young Master Devereux" may perhaps meet Kate again at some time...
In that same week, Charles hires his man Cecil's late cousin's widow as his housekeeper. She proves to be a mature but still quite comely woman approaching middle years, who he thinks to be suited to the work to the best of his judgement. (If nothing else, he can detect no serious signs of ill-health in her.) After a few days of service from her, he is unsure but not entirely unhappy with her; she is at least no utter disaster, although she does seem to lack social polish. He decides to give her another month, at least. In any case, he has other concerns on his mind, such as ensuring that word of his new address is passed around the Guild of Barber-Surgeons, whereof he is a member in good standing. He also continues to keep watch on the Cosian study of the homunculus, which has seemingly fallen into a kind of slumber. There is no great new news there, however; this, it seems, will be a lengthy study.
Sir James spends some time in that same period arranging his new house. Indeed, he settles in quite comfortable-like. He also sets to establishing his name as an expert in craftsmanship.
Nicholas, the meanwhile, makes and keeps some appointments for converse with "Father" Friedrich. The old man continues to seem crankish, but informative enough; Nicholas learns something of the complex lore of the spirit realm and of alchemical tests for associated phenomena, with a view to eventually mastering such things well enough for practical use.
Reviewing their circumstances as the month draws to its close, our heroes all decide that matters are going well enough; the three men all have more than enough spare cash in hand, and Kate has had no more than two or three furniture-hurling arguments withe her mother of late...