||Game Session Date|
|Late 1584/Early 1585||As a certain English ship makes an exploratory voyage up the coast of northern America, its navigator, Adrian Southgate, notices a strangeness about the local topography; it seems almost as if the geometry in which he is expert cannot serve to map this land. He takes a boat with a couple of men to examine the inlet which seems to be the centre of this phenomenon, and they approach the shore, they see a group of the land's half-clad natives standing forth. The first and oldest of them calls out a single word -- Roanoke. Adrian takes the boat on, into a mist which has suddenly sprung up, and emerges to find a sunlight land which he would not expect in that place. Indeed, the very sunlight seems to fall at a wrongful angle. Arrows emerge from the woods around, and although they fall short of the boat, Adrian turns back with some reluctance. As he returns to his ship, he sees the old native, still watching. He decides what has just seen merits reporting to his secret brotherhood.||25-7-2001 (run as flashback)|
|Thursday 6-5-1585||Returning home to the Gardiner house on the Thames above Westminster from a day's work at the Tower, Richard mentions to his sister that, on the morrow, Lord Strange's men will be performing "Orlando Furioso" at The Theatre (in Shoreditch). Kate comments quietly that this would doubtless be interesting to see (but of course respectable women do not attend the public theatre). Richard agrees with the sentiment, and sends a note to Charles suggesting that he too might be interested. (The note is delivered by Richard's manservant Giles Parker, who, exposed to the sights of Charles's surgery, shows the first signs of an aversion to medical matters which will only grow with time -- unnoticed by Charles, of course.)||29-11-2000|
|Friday 7-5-1585||On the evening in question, while Kate
makes a quiet visit to Aunt Julia's house, the two men are
joined at the play by Nicholas, who Richard introduces to Charles
as a Gardiner family cousin. Indeed, Nicholas bears a quite striking
resemblance to Richard; the pair could easily be taken for twins.
There are other interesting faces at The Theatre; a few, including but
not limited to Edric, are half-familiar to Richard and Charles from
their Cambridge days (who is that half-amused and thoughtful-seeming
fellow? Christopher something-or-other...), but the most impressive
sight is the company brought by the patron of the company. Lord
Strange is an important enough figure, of course, but his companions
include one even more handsome, lordly, and better dressed. Nicholas
whispers to Richard that the Queen surely has good taste -- for
this is her favourite, the soldier, courtier, and poet, Sir Walter
Raleigh. Charles looks more cautiously at this group, for he has
a certain sixth sense -- an Awareness which he himself, the practical
philosopher, cannot explain -- and something about
them hints at the uncanny.
The play does indeed prove entertaining. However, midway through the performance, Charles's sixth sense alerts him once again; something is forming or being formed in the shadows of a private area above the stage. He barely has time to speak of this to the other two when the intangible force is hurled - towards Lord Strange's party, as it seems. One of that number falls, as if suddenly the victim of some fit or palsy.
While Charles offers his assistance to the stricken fellow, Richard and Nicholas move quickly to deal with the secretive assailant, slipping into the shadows of the theatre and then scrambling quickly up through the structure. They are quite soon followed by Edric, who was attending the play himself, and who had also perceived the supernatural activity.
|They find that their prey has left
the building, and follow him down and into an alley, where he
has a confederate waiting with a pair of horses. As they move
rapidly to prevent his escape, Edric grasps a convenient stage-prop
trumpet, which he sounds in a manner cunningly calculated to disturb
and distress those horses; then he leaps from the window, using
all his stage knowledge (and something more) to ensure that his fall
is safe. (Richard and Nicholas had relied on more conventional acrobatic
The confederate moves forward to oppose the pursuers, and Richard engages him blade to blade, finding him a formidably - even uncannily - powerful opponent, but no match for the refinements of Italian fencing. Following on close behind, Nicholas thus engages the other villain, bringing him down and cutting his hand quite badly when he produces an amulet of some kind with apparent malicious intent. Edric, bringing up the rear, assists with the conclusion of the fight.
This leaves our heroes with two prisoners and a slight problem; what to do with them? Somehow, turning them over to the Watch seems unlikely to work -- there would be too many complicated questions... So Richard suggests turning the pair over to his current contact and patron in a certain secret Order. The trio agree, and set out.
Meanwhile, Charles has been tending to the unfortunate victim of the uncanny assault. Exerting all his knowledge and art, he is able to stabilise the fellow's health, but it is clear that he will need more time and the chance to nurse this Godfrey Marcotte back to health. Strange and Raleigh are most attentive and concerned for their friend's health, and promise Charles that his fees will be met for as long as the treatment takes. Charles is naturally most pleased at this promise of patronage from folk so high-placed, and takes Master Marcotte back to his own home for further attention.
|Richard and Nicholas lead the villains'
horses through the back streets of north London, towards the
nearest gate -- for The Theatre is without the walls, and Richard's
patron, a wealthy merchant in the Baltic trade named Master Peter
Holbright, lives within. Fortunately, two capable-looking fellows
with swords and their sides (and two earlier victims to their names,
it seems) are a great deterrence to those who might harass them.
One rogue (with a few friends at his back, perhaps) does stand forth
from the shadows to address them, but stands aside when Richard replies
with casual calm.
Once they are close to Master Holbright's home, they decide that it is best that Nicholas and Edric should wait a few streets away with the prisoners, while Richard presents his request for aid to the sleeping household. As the pair stand guard in a quiet alley, exchanging the most guarded of remarks, Nicholas becomes aware of an attempted assault on his mind. Exerting his will, he swiftly deflects it, and cuffs the now-conscious figure who attempted this. Richard manages to gain the agreement of Master Holbright and his household, and returns to fetch the prisoners, who are soon consigned to Master Holbright's cellar. The trio then go their separate ways, after agreeing to meet to investigate this mystery further on the morrow.
|(Session dates from now down to June were regrettably not recorded.)|
|Saturday 8-5-1585||As the investigation commences, Charles continues
to tend to Godfrey Marcotte. He is visited both by emissaries of
Lord Strange and another, a plainly-dressed fellow who names
himself Travis Cordingley , a friend who
has heard that Godfrey is unwell (and perhaps bewitched?). Cordingley
asks for a few moments alone with Marcotte, and the sharp-eared
(and eavesdropping) Charles hears an exchange between them which perhaps
has something of prayer and confession about it. Marcotte himself
seems a little concerned as to the nature and lawfulness of the
treatment which he is receiving, though not ungracious about his
Meanwhile, seeking to investigate further, the other three think to pay attention to their opponents' horses, with Nicholas especially using subtle (Enlightened) techniques to persuade one of the beasts to return to its stable of its own accord. This brings them to a respectable enough inn in the city, named the Saracen's Head, where they are able to convince the landlord of their legitimate intentions with regard to the recent guest who has not returned to his room, one Gervaise Dellmurray. Gaining access to that room, they search, and find a few books of Hermetic philosophy. Edric makes off with the best of these -- books are worth money, and money is something which he lacks.
Returning home, Richard discovers his mother all a-tizzy. It seems that the entire family have suddenly been invited to a masque, that very evening -- at Durham House, on the Strand, residence of the much-admired Sir Walter Raleigh! The entire family are mustered and dressed for the thing in acceptable time, and set out together. On arrival, they meet Charles, who too has been invited.
They also observe other guests, such as the great sailor and servant of the crown, Sir Francis Drake. He, bluff fellow that he is, falls in happily enough with Richard and Kate's father, they at another point in the evening, even he proves hard pressed to tolerate Charles's dedication to discussion of medical matters. Richard hears him pass some doubtful remarks about Raleigh's New World schemes...
But Richard has his own concerns, such as making the acquaintance of one Cassandra Pelton, sister of one of Sir Walter's following (and, it seems, something of an intellectual, as the age judges her sex). She mentions that her brother has a name, Inigo, but he is oddly absent from this celebration. Less happily, Kate is approached by others of Raleigh's band, named Michael Callaghan and Thomas Wilton, who are quickly subject to her sarcasm, to her mother's despair. And in the shadows, that Christopher ... Ah yes, Kit Marlowe, watches all with a sardonic smile.
The masque, it seems, is a new production -- "The Search of Helios for Hercules". The tale it tells is not a pagan legend that any of the party recall, but it's pretty enough, if ill-plotted. Charles, however, yet again senses a strangeness about it, a gathering of something which then speeds forth. After its completion, he colludes with Kate to seek out further clues as to the nature of this business, slipping backstage a while, but for all their exercise of subtle judgements, neither of the pair learns much more -- save for passing conversation with some among the actors, who note that the whole thing was put together in a most startling hurry. Still, it's all work for those in their profession.
The meanwhile, the evening's host takes a stroll amongst his guests. Raleigh speaks with Richard, and mentions his great New World project, putting it to Richard that he might be interested in joining this great venture -- but Richard, at most, prevaricates, noting that he is content with his work at the Tower. Then Sir Walter turns his not inconsiderable charm upon, first Mistress Gardiner, then Kate -- who feels a somewhat unaccustomed stirring in her heart at this, for Sir Walter is a most pleasing fellow to the eye and ear. She knows of his reputation, of course -- few do not -- but she cannot help but understand how so many have taken to the fellow...
After which, to be approached by another of Sir Walter's following, one Martin Owenby, pleases her little, although her tongue is perhaps a little less sharp now. And Richard learns of an address -- or at least, an approximate location -- from Cassandra; it seems that she and her brother reside up on Holborn or thereabouts.
Not that there is much sign of this brother, or for that matter of Lord Strange, the evening's other host. Still, the family all seem to feel that the evening has not been without interest.
|Sunday 9-5-1585||Next morning, a note reaches Richard,
requiring his attendance upon Master
Holbright, at his warehouse down by Limehouse. That, however,
proves to be something of a pointed reference, as the warehouse
caught fire the night before, and largely burnt down. Furthermore,
while Master Holbright and many of his household were attending
on that matter, his own house was assailed and invaded, two servants
were struck senseless, and the two prisoners of the earlier incident
were removed. Master Holbright is, to say the least, as unhappy as
one would expect. "When you catch up with those bastards,
do let me know..."
Richard promises to do so, though for now, he has other concerns. But elsewhere that morning, other events are afoot. Charles is summoned to the door of his house and surgery by a caller -- who proves, unfortunately, to be Halpen Edwards, one of three Edwards brothers whose mother, sadly, proved to be beyond Charles's saving when she was run down by a cart some time since. (The Edwards brothers are prone to valuing vengeance for their loss over proportion, law, or sense.) Charles is driven back into his house by the half-drunken, onrushing, sword-wielding Halpen, but hastily locates and draws a blade of his own. Wishing to end this fight as swiftly and painlessly as possible, he calls upon his practical philosopher's eye for strengths and weaknesses, sizes up Halpen's blade, and makes to shatter it with his own. Unfortunately, he swings his rapier with such a flourish that he drives it square into the beam above his own head. [A perfectly good Matter/Entropy working to determine how to break his opponent's blade is followed by a critical failure on the actual attack roll... Many people have since told me that this augmented blow ought really to have collapsed the beam or something, and perhaps it should -- but in truth, well, the working was specifically aimed at locating and exploiting a weakness in Halpen's sword. And anyway, demolishing a PC's entire house with one fumbled attack roll seemed a bit unfair somehow.]
While Charles seeks to free his sword (and his servants run around seeking some way to end this affray safely for themselves), Halpen's next stroke cuts a gash in Charles's leg, and Charles falls to the floor. Desperately rolling under a table for cover, he uses his own blade -- on which he has fortunately retained a hold -- to stab at his opponent -- who also falls.
This unprepossessing and uncertain melee is brought to an end when another visitor enters from the street. Kit Marlowe persuades Halpen Edwards to end his assault and sends him forth, then converses amiably with Charles as the latter bandages his own leg (with uncanny and indeed enlightened effectiveness), all the while saying nothing as to why he should have been so fortuitously passing the place. He then departs, although as it proves, he and Charles will come together again soon enough.
A little later, at St. Paul's, Richard is oblivious to all save Cassandra. (It must be love...) Meanwhile, Charles and Kit Marlowe are in fact both present, and both lurking behind pillars. Each spots the other, though only Marlowe realises immediately that the other has seen him. Richard speaks with Cassandra briefly at the churchyard gate, and is introduced to her chaperone, an old servant named Gwyneth. He then greets both Charles and Kit; Marlowe departs the scene with a grin and a line from Ovid.
|Monday 10-5-1585||All the while, Edric has been going
about his spying business, using special mental disciplines
and strange draughts to stay awake. In time, he will learn
enough to be useful...
On the Monday afternoon, Charles, Richard, and Nicholas attend the theatre once again, and watch a play entitled "The Merry Jests of Queen Bella." Despite its invocation of patriotic fervour, this proves mediocre, lacking plot or sophistication. Neither Strange nor Raleigh are present on this occasion, although Richard notices one of their faction watching Nicholas as he strolls among the groundlings, dismissing offers of services from low persons of both sexes. Charles subsequently seeks to engage the fellow, one David Gorman, in conversation in a tavern, but Charles's fondness for medical discussion unnerves the unfortunate Gorman, who is driven from the scene.
On returning to his home, Charles has an odd sense of being watched. However, he cannot locate the source, and whatever is the source of this sense, it departs by the next morning.
|Tuesday 11-5-1585||Around the time of these events, Edric
is still failing to make contact with those members of the Walsingham
family retinue who might be able to assist him. Nonetheless,
he receives some money from Richard for necessary expenses. Our
heroes form a simple plan; they will follow some of these apparent
Catholic interlopers around until something befalls...
It is in fact Edric who acquires the next clue. Using all the skills of a competent spy, he overhears a conversation among the probably-Jesuits. "The Wise Fox arrives on the morrow, if the wind remains fair -- best deal with that matter afore the morn..." He reports these words to Charles, then disappears for a few hours to rest.
Richard can interpret them well enough, after a little investigation; the Wise Fox is a ship, captained by Wilbur Martindale (one of Drake's associates), which was commissioned for some manner of voyage by Raleigh some months since. It may indeed be expected back in port shortly. Our heroes decide that it may merit some attention.
For now, however, they continue their less focussed perambulations. Richard acquires a most excellent book on incendiaries, then takes to the taverns around St. Paul's, and carouses there with a half-dozen young lawyers of Raleigh's faction. He learns one thing of use (aside from the quality of the ale in that tavern), when one of them proposes a toast to the "Invisible College" and is swiftly hushed by his friends. Nicholas, who tries a similar strategy, falling in with one Hamnet Callaghan (brother, if Nicholas but knew it, of Michael Callaghan, who Nicholas has cause to know), learns even less.
|Wednesday 12-5-1585||It seems that the returning ship will
represent the next chance to learn more of import. Our heroes decide
that this will be their next opportunity to involve themselves usefully
in events, and form a strategy which involves some of them watching
the ship while others watch the Catholics who appear to be plotting
against it. For now, though, Charles spends a little time following
some of the Jesuits, tracking one of them to a house owned by the
FitzPercy family. Not only are this family known for recusant tendencies,
but Charles blunders into Kit Marlowe already watching the place.
It seems fair to guess that he has been set to that purpose by someone
with cause to suspect the family of something .
The Wise Fox indeed arrives late in the evening, mooring at a small dock a little east of the Tower. It is safe to assume that some of the crew swiftly make their way to the taverns and other establishments of the area, but many remain aboard. Furthermore, a figure with plain dress but the sword and manner of a gentleman (who the watching Richard finds slightly familiar) arrives on the dock in the course of the evening, and goes aboard.
As for our heroes -- well, Richard, and later Nicholas, take up places watching the ship, the former behind a stack of barrels rather closer to the vessel than the latter finds. Charles and Edric, meanwhile, watch the boarding-house which they believe to be significant. Charles's irrational and aggrieving sense for strangeness suggests that something is happening in the area, and he further exerts his alchemically-trained senses to gain a strengthening sense of awakening.
Our heroes are clearly correct in assuming that the place has some import, as a number of robust-looking fellows emerge at a late hour and begin making their way eastwards through the riverside streets. Amongst them, the pair note a number of odd, cloaked figures, the size perhaps of children.
|Thursday 13-5-1585||Around 1 o'clock in the morning, the
anticipated attack occurs as the ruffians (and their peculiar
companions) reach the docks. Although the watching Gardiners don't
yet know it, something strikes at the crew,
seeking to prevent their awakening, although that gentleman who
arrived earlier shakes off the effect with an effort. Then, a
dozen or so ruffians, who'd mustered in a convenient alley, trot down
the jetty, looking to board the ship. They are confronted on the gangplank
by that one conscious defender. Richard, now recognising the man, stands
"Greetings to you, Master Pelton. Can I be of assistance to you?" he asks with casual aplomb.
After which, some violence inevitably ensues.
Richard and Inigo engage a number of the ruffians with some success, but Richard suddenly finds his mind under attack, and although he exerts his will to good effect, he is worn down as Nicholas charges along the dock, sword in hand. His plan was to catch some of the attackers by surprise, from the back, but now, seeing Richard driven down by unseen forces, he has a more urgent matter of rescue in mind. Richard bluffs his immediate foes for some moments, but takes cudgel to his ribs just as Nicholas arrives.
The third of our heroes to hand, Charles, lurks in the shadows, spanning a pistol (which he should perhaps have made more ready earlier, but such is the problem with pistols). As he does this, he senses two concerns. One, which he is hard put to explain the sensing of, involves lurking creatures all around the area, exerting some manner of malign influence in the vicinity of the ship. The second, much more obvious, is a young fellow -- evidently a sailor, wandering along the alley with bottle in hand, doubtless having completed an evening's entertainment at some docklands inn. The man is understandably concerned to see swordplay and guns afoot, especially as, it emerges, he is of the Wise Fox's crew, and spends some moments interrogating Charles as to what is befalling. Charles resists the temptation to shoot the fellow to avoid complications (an idea he later swears only crossed his mind in jest), persuades him not to cause trouble, and fires at one of the lurking entities on a nearby warehouse roof, wounding it and causing it to withdraw.
Some of the mob of attackers are attempting to bypass the problem of Inigo Pelton guarding the gangplank. Unfortunately, too many of them, while attempting to leap aboard the ship from the dock, misjudge the distance in the dark and fall into the river. [I rolled for them, and their dice luck was pathetic. Oh well, it made for a bit of comedy.] Some, however, do achieve their goal, and Inigo is forced to rush back to the ship's deck with a battle cry of "Janacote!" in an attempt to deal with them. He drops some, but others succeed in evading his eyes and ears, and a small barrel brought down on his head takes him out of the fight.
Nicholas, arriving on the scene, holds off any assaults on his own mind, strikes down some assailants in a flurry of bladework, and quickly sets to work tending to Richard's bruised ribs and odd urge to sleep. Charles and the sailor also seek to lend hands at closer quarters, but it takes them a few moments to reach the ship. Then, as Richard regains his feet, he and Nicholas hear a splash; the ruffians aboard the vessel have hurled something over the side.
Nicholas sheds his jacket and dives in to investigate, finding a large trunk or chest floating in the water. As Richard and the sailor board the ship, Charles goes to deter some of the ruffians, who are clinging to the outside of the ship's sterncastle, from making trouble. Unfortunately, as he cocks his second pistol, a mechanical problem [actually a Scourge effect] causes the powder in its pan to catch and flare, blinding him temporarily. Stumbling over coils of rope on the dock, he concludes that matters will have to progress without his aid for now, and simply sits down.
Richard drives off the last of the ruffians more or less single handed -- a sword and pistol, a confident manner, and proven deadliness, can accomplish much, and he only has to actually wound one more -- then tries to deal with problems such as the varied unconscious states of Inigo Pelton and the crew. Achieving little, he turns to matters which he does comprehend, rigging a line and pulley to get the trunk which Nicholas had recovered out of the water. They note that it is heavily padlocked, and decorated extensively with carvings of entwined roses.
[Strictly speaking, the PCs never did quite work out all of what the opposition were up to. But basically, the trunk was supposed to be floated out and picked up by a rowing boat. However, the PCs' actions had played havoc with the opposition's timing and co-ordination.]
Master Pelton is eventually restored to consciousness, and Richard salutes him once again -- and invites him to a weekend lunch party, to his bemusement and that of the helpful sailor. Our heroes then decide that it is best to depart the scene; it must be said that Inigo encourages this as strongly as can be considered polite.
Nicholas takes transport back to Kate's aunt's house once they reach the hire-boat jetties; Kate will have Nicholas's clothes (and her own hair) thoroughly cleaned and dried by the servants while she takes a bath in the morning. Richard conducts the still-uncomfortable Charles home; on the way, Edric emerges from the shadows. He went slightly astray while following the ruffians and their strange associates, and hence missed the fight, but now he warns Richard that they are being followed. The group shakes off this last remnant of the ruffian band, and Richard and Charles take their rest at Charles's house.
|Unbeknownst to our heroes at this point,
once they departed the scene, Inigo Pelton spent a moment
erecting some elementary warding spells (worrying the solitary
sailor), and then awoke the rest of the crew, using whatever
invocations proved necessary. Rumours are thus soon flying around
the docks of dark sorcery, and various factions despatch their agents
to the scene to make new contacts.
(In fact, it is as part of this process that Kit Marlowe makes a friend of a certain young sailor with a tale or two to tell. Our heroes are not to know quite what consequences this will have for the history of English literature.)
|In the morning, Richard reports on recent events
to Master Holbright's house, then leaves a note for Edric,
asking him to visit some public houses around the docks and seek
further information. Meanwhile, Charles is contemplating his
requirements for further philosophical research in this area,
and purchasing appropriate supplies (some of an exotic, mayhap even
Such concerns dealt with, Richard sends a note to the Peltons, inviting them to lunch at the Gardiner home on the coming Saturday. The response returned with Giles is pleasingly positive.
At much the same time, Kate goes for a stroll in her memory palace, seeking to rearrange the symbols stored there to find some more pattern in recent events. Her best guess is that some sub- faction of the Jesuits may be up to something ungodly.
|Friday 14-5-1585||In the afternoon, Charles returns to
the area of Thursday night's events, seeking further evidence
as to the nature of the problem. Gaining admittance to the warehouse
from the roof of which he found his mind assailed requires a
certain amount of bluff and persuasion (not his strongest talents),
and by the time he has finished, the foreman in charge of the place
is perhaps looking at him with puzzled suspicion. However, gain
access to that roof he does , and what he finds there
is traces of an odd green ichor. He gathers up a sample and takes
it away with him; analysis will help him in the creation of formulae
and devices to counter this threat.
Meanwhile, Richard and Kate are preparing for their Saturday guests, while Edric haunts low taverns, learning what he can of what is being said about recent events.
|Saturday 15-5-1585||Lunch at the Gardiner residence goes well enough, albeit with a certain amount of verbal fencing. Not the physical kind, however; the most strenuous contest of the afternoon is tennis, in which Master Pelton proves intensely competitive, with many a furious shot (sometimes accompanied by his battle-cry of "Janacote!"), although the Gardiners have the edge. Kate decides that Cassandra Pelton is not entirely without redeeming features, as she proves at least moderately well educated.|
|Meanwhile, certain forces are plotting
to discover more about our heroes -- by any means necessary.
Two burly fellows come to Charles's house, declaring themselves to be servants of the skipper of the Thomas out of Portsmouth (which, it will later be determined, does not exist), who has been taken ill, and offering Charles employment in the matter. He naturally agrees, and follows them down towards the docks, where, as they pass through a quiet alley, a confederate emerges and aims a blow at Charles's head. However, Charles's keen ears and quick reflexes give him the advantage, and his swordplay, while not as elegant as, say, Richard's, is more than adequate to deal with rabble such as this. (To be sure, he does adopt the wise tactic of flight.)
The ruffians depart the scene once Charles gains a busier street, and he sets out to trail them. Probably not much to his surprise, they repair to Southwark, and specifically to a rough-looking inn named "The Zodiac" -- where he leaves them.
A little later, Richard regains communication with Edric, and puts him to work seeking details on the activities of the Catholics involved in recent events. Edric comments to him in passing that there may be an official attempt to prevent overmuch discussion of anything to do with the Wise Fox.
|Sunday 16-5-1585||Charles spends a little time contacting Dr Uriel, his most convenient acquaintance in the Hippocratic Circle (the particular secretive society to which he belongs). He also receives a visit from Kit Marlowe, who evidently knows a little of recent events, and seems pleased with some new acquaintance who he mentions in passing. The others mostly have a quiet day of it, seeking a little more word on recent matters. However, at some point, Kate receives a request from her Aunt Julia. It seems that one of her trusted clerk-translators, a Frenchman named Pierre, has seemed most badly distracted of late. Something is gnawing at him, it seems to her, and she wonders if some member of the family might be able to help determine what it is. Kate undertakes to see what may be achieved.||18-7-2001|
|Monday 17-5-1585||On the morning, Adrian visits Richard
and introduces himself, and receives a summary of events
to date. Having no ship or mission for the moment, he declares
himself fully willing to assist in these affairs, in the hope that
they might help illuminate his own concerns. Richard subsequently
pays visits to both Charles and Master Holbright, to compare notes.
Kate, meanwhile, visits her aunt's warehouse, and there speaks with Pierre. Exerting her arts of Enlightened Rhetoric, she gains a strong impression of divided loyalties, with her family on one side and some other faction on the other. She eventually persuades him to speak.
It seems that he has been coming under pressure lately from visitors who have reminded him pointedly of his birth and first loyalties, and even more pointedly mentioned that he still has family in France. These visitors -- about whom he knows little otherwise, save that their relations to the church of his faith must be quite strong -- wish to know more about the Gardiner family, and seek to extract that knowledge through him. Kate sympathises, and promises to seek some solution to these difficulties for him.
Kate passes this tale on to Richard when they meet later, and they resolve to watch Pierre and thus see if his importunate visitors can be tracked and identified. Indeed, he will do so shortly -- and he asks Adrian to assist with the task.
|That night, Richard and Adrian watch Pierre's lodgings. The visitors do indeed appear (and within the room, although Richard and Adrian do not know it, Pierre's poor acting and nervousness makes them a little concerned that he is keeping something from them); the watchers pick up only fragments of the conversation (Adrian's deft mechanical arts notwithstanding), but follow the dark-clad figures back to a small house on King Street, near to Old Jewry and the Guildhall. They have at least a little more information.||8-8-2001|
|Tuesday 18-5-1585||The next day, Richard introduces Adrian
to Charles, and the pair fall into discussion of practical
alchemy and of ways to solve the problems of illumination when
pursuing elusive opponents through dark streets. Together, they begin
creating special candles whose wax includes substances which will burn
brightly (if swiftly). Richard then returns to Kate, and they discuss
rumours to pass to their foes through Pierre. Kate will shortly be
visiting Aunt Julia's warehouse once again, to further this project...
Thus the day passes, quietly. The night proves a little more exciting, at least for Charles. As he sleeps, his house is assaulted, and he awakes to hear heavy feet on his stairs. Very heavy feet. He takes up his blade and hides behind the door, but the two figures which burst in prove inhuman in more than its appearance. Bulky, slouching creatures, their skin (if that is what it is) can turn even his fine blade, and when they grapple him, their strength too seems superhuman. Their amiable manner and West Country accents ("Ah, there you be, m'darlin...") add insult to injury.
As his servants cower, gibbering, the intruders drag Charles downstairs and out of the house. In the street, they are met by a more normal individual, who bids them depart (in somewhat ritualistic fashion) as Charles is put on a waiting wagon and taken away. But he does succeed in dropping his rapier there, somehow unnoticed...
Charles's chief servant, Cecil, eventually recovers his wits -- at least, enough to send a message to Richard (and when the messenger awakens the Gardiner household, both Kate and their father overhear). Richard sends the messenger and his own servant Giles to alert Adrian, while he himself makes directly for Charles's house.
|Wednesday 19-5-1585||It is by now the small hours of the morning. Kate makes a quiet and unorthodox departure from the Gardiner house, and Richard and Nicholas reach Charles's house together. They find Cecil totally unnerved, but Richard manages to calm him, at least enough to extract the story of events. Together, the pair piece together most of the important details, and locate that dropped rapier. Nicholas works an old-fashioned, impromptu [and most Vain!] act of scrying, and thus gains some idea of Charles's location. When Adrian appears, the group follow the trail, and decide that their friend is being held on a ship out on the Thames.||22-8-2001|
|Meanwhile, on a cabin on that ship,
Charles is being interrogated -- by Gervaise Dellmurray, and
most strangely. Charles, seated at the centre of a circle scribed
with strange symbols of power, while Dellmurray mutters arcane
invocations, resists the powers clawing at his mind for a long
period, but eventually, his own ad hoc mental disciplines
crumple. Some frankly deeply confused and largely accidental
exchange of information follows.
Dellmurray wishes to know more of the intentions and concerns of Charles and his friends, and not least to know about Richard Gardiner and his strange and enigmatic twin. As Charles finds Nicholas something of an enigma himself, there is only so much he can tell, however wide open his thoughts have been prised. Charles finds it even more strange when Dellmurray asks, for example, what he knows about The Order of Santa Elizaveta de la Buena Rosa, as his honest answer must be "nothing".
Meanwhile, Richard, Nicholas, and Adrian storm the ship with quite impressive stealth, capturing the crew more or less one by one and almost entirely unharmed. Dellmurray hears something approaching, and approaches the cabin door -- just as Nicholas, invoking intensive disciplines and meditative effects, bursts that locked door wide open. A combination of conventional fighting skill and careful use of such training takes the fight out of Dellmurray almost immediately.
Richard then follows Nicholas, and there ensues another rather puzzled exchange of cryptic words. Richard insists on caution, as he has decided that it would be unwise to alienate Raleigh's faction at this point. Then, our four heroes retire the scene, regain the shore of the Thames, and take Charles home to catch up on his lost sleep.
|Thursday 20-5-1585||Over the subsequent day or so, Richard
bluffs through any questions from his father well enough,
and makes a brief visit to Master Holbright. Charles, the meanwhile,
while not at his best (thanks to a misjudged exercise in self-medication
while seeking to regain his strength after his unpleasant experience),
receives a visit from Kit Marlowe.
Marlowe gathers that something odd has befallen of late, and later, while Charles sleeps, has a conversation with Cecil in which he acquires rather more information.
(One day, a garbled and improved version of some of Cecil's tale will end up on stage. Will Charles receive free admission to the first performance of the older Marlowe's greatest work? We shall see.)
That evening, the Gardiner home receives an unexpected visitor. Kate is strolling by the river when a boat arrives bearing a plainly-dressed but clearly wealthy man of mature years with the manner of a Puritan, his slim and quiet assistant, and a pair of swordsmen whose manner marks them as guards. Capable guards, it's clear. Something tells Kate that when the older man asks to speak with the master of the household, in courteous but slightly patronising tones, she would be wisest simply to obey.
Her father and mother are naturally concerned when Mister Secretary Sir Francis Walsingham asks to speak with their son, but Richard retains his calm, and the conversation passes politely. The Secretary is, it seems, concerned that whatever is going on in London -- and he has received, at most, only partial and doubtless garbled reports -- the peace and security of Her Majesty's rule should not be imperilled,.
Richard entirely and honestly agrees.
Sir Francis is also a little concerned that there are quite enough factions and gangs on the loose in the city, and he does not wish there to be more. Richard promises him that he will do nothing to cause such new problems.
Sir Francis thanks him, and compliments him on his good sense and good work at the Tower.
Meanwhile, Kate is spending a little time in polite conversation with Mister Secretary's secretary. This Thomas Phelippes is quiet and unassuming, but there is clearly something of stone beneath that exterior. She is, perhaps, unsure that she likes him, and when her father makes his habitual and vague remark about her perhaps liking the fellow (who is, after all, clearly well placed at court), she is doubly scathing. And once the visitors are departed, Richard and Kate have more to think upon.
|Friday 21-5-1585||The next day begins with some confusion
for Adrian, as a boy scurries up to him in the street, expresses
pleasure at finally locating him, delivers a bundle of papers,
and scurries away. The papers prove, on examination, somewhat
cryptic, although they do seem to contain quite a few jokes.
Meanwhile, Richard is reporting to Master Holbright (where he lets slip a few words about "an ally" -- that is, Kate). Holbright leaves him with enough rope to tie himself in knots, metaphorically speaking (for now).
Kate visits her aunt's warehouse, where she meets Pierre. She puts him at his ease, and tells him to tell the Jesuits that Richard is somehow acquainted with another young man who shares his face, and that this is sometimes used to play frivolous pranks.
Adrian has visited Richard to discuss the mysterious papers he has received, and Richard comes to the conclusion that they may be an actor's play script. The pair go together to the theatrical district -- where, when they enter The Theatre, James Burbage addresses Adrian as Will Kemp. Master Kemp, it seems, has gone missing (the consensus of those who know him as to why involves an ale pot), and yes, Adrian bears an uncanny resemblance. Richard goes off to find the real Kemp, leaving Adrian to amuse himself at the theatre. But Richard, for once, loses his shrewd touch in the exploration of ale houses. [He fumbles his Streetwise roll...] He spends the afternoon becoming a little too well acquainted with their wares, while Adrian helpfully attempts to deadpan his way through Kemp's scripted part.
Richard finally returns late in the afternoon, recovering Adrian with many apologies to Kemp's colleagues. Outside the theatre, on a busy street, the pair chance upon Dellmurray and the Peltons -- and these young swordsman-wizards are in a touchy, tricky, hot-blooded mood. For a moment, hands are on swords, despite the surrounding crowds and Richard's slightly alcoholic attempts at diplomacy. But the situation is defused by the arrival of Sir Walter Raleigh, who tells 'em to put up their bright swords with a typical diplomatic flourish. Our heroes are a little curious to note another, unfamiliar figure at Raleigh's shoulder -- a dark-clad, plain-seeming woman of middle years, surely not typical of his household. And yet, Raleigh seems to listen when she says that there is a dark figure watching, and this is indeed no time for swordplay.
As Richard and Adrian depart the scene, yet another familiar fellow falls into step with them, as Kit Marlowe hails Richard as a casual friend. Indeed, there is another with him, who Richard recognises after a moment as the sailor who arrived from on shore during the Wise Fox incident. The young man, whose accent suggests that he is of the West Country yeomanry, is introduced as Bill. He seems disenchanted with the sea (despite that this last was his first voyage), and much taken with the theatre; at the moment, he merely has incidental work holding horses, but like so many visitors to London, it seems that he is developing grandiose dreams.
[At least one of the players cracked up during this bit. Richard caught a muttered surname -- Shek-something... Though I'm not sure if anyone recalled that Charles had briefly contemplated shooting young Bill during their first meeting -- a meeting when no one asked even his first name.]
Richard tells an only lightly edited version of events over the family dinner, and in passing contrives to have Adrian invited for lunch the next day.
|Saturday 22-5-1585||The Saturday proves most significant in the Gardiner household, where lunch passes tolerably well, although Adrian is perhaps note the most charismatic of guests. Still, he takes tennis lessons from Richard (and resorts to only a little geometrical trickery to make his return effective). [Forces, actually -- though he keeps it safely casual.]|
|Sunday 23-5-1585||As for the Lord's day -- it proves, for once, quite peaceful, as all the actors in this drama go about their regular business. However, matters this may be the calm before yet another storm.|
|Monday 24-5-1585||Contacting Edric, Richard
compares notes with him on the matter of the Jesuits, and gives
him the address of the house to which he and Adrian followed
one of them. A plan is starting to form in his mind.
Meanwhile, Kate interrogates her mother (with only moderate subtlety) for information about the family -- earning a mention of "Cousin Guillermo" and his brood, who made themselves unpopular by joining the household of the Duke of Salerno (who had a taxation policy). She, too, has a plan; these facts may soon become pertinent to Nicholas's autobiographical statements.
Actually, Richard has two plans in mind. He begins planning a barge journey for the next Saturday, discussing the matter with his mother. He intends to arrange an amusing entertainment, and to invite both the Peltons and various persons of quality. (In subsequent days, he will extend an invitation to Adrian, while doing his best to tell Charles tactfully that he, well, might insist on discussing surgical procedures with persons of quality, and that this might constitute a problem.)
|Tuesday 25-5-1585||Inigo and Cassandra accept Richard's
invitation. Richard is pleased when Cassandra sends a private
note first, expressing her appreciation of Richard's poetically-phrased
Meanwhile, Adrian is wandering the streets of London with his compact surveying instruments, occasionally returning to Charles's home. In fact, he is creating a map of the city of surpassing quality, which might be useful on some future occasion. And Kate is mentally creating a map of her own -- of Nicholas's past, as the illegitimate offspring of Guillermo (and thus unsure of his possible greeting from Mother, and unwilling to test the matter on his recent arrival in London).
|Wednesday 26-5-1585||Our protagonists meet at Charles's
house late in the evening; they have resolved to take action,
and to strike at the Jesuitical conspiracy. Nicholas has volunteered
to attempt a rather Vain working to locate the homunculi, employing
such samples as Charles can spare. He requests privacy, and sets
to work with a bowl of water, some incantations, and intense concentration.
He perhaps overreaches himself, as the task proves a challenge. After some minutes waiting in an adjacent room, his friends begin to enquire of each other what these efforts might accomplish. They are answered when the door between the two rooms bursts open, straining its hinges, and Nicholas stalks forth into the night, a hunter focussed only on the task in hand. Richard hastily follows, while the other two gather blades and load pistols. [Nicholas received a fairly spectacular Scourge Boon after having to make multiple attempts to locate the target. This was my interpretation, on the basis that such Boons often have something of a problem about them.]
The Gardiners strike south and west across the city, arriving at the riverside somewhere in the vicinity of the Fishmonger's hall or thereabouts. There, Nicholas pauses and seems to cast about; eventually he finds what he seeks. Richard realises that they are looking at the mouth of the Walbrook -- the old stream, running from just north of the city walls, which is now completely enclosed over. With a sigh, he looks for the way down to this underground channel.
Charles and Adrian, meanwhile, have lost the scent. Their best guess is that they should be seeking out the known Jesuit hideout -- an address which Adrian, of course, knows. Not finding the Gardiners there, and hearing nothing of the sound of battle which they expect to accompany the other two, they settle down to watch and hope thus to regain contact with their allies.
More or less due south of them, and some feet below, the Gardiners are following the Walbrook upstream, where they find a suspiciously convenient tunnel joining its course to the cellar of some house. Finessing the bolts on the intervening door, they enter that cellar, discovering three large chests of familiar form, and noting a large painting on the wall -- an image in religious style, of a woman being discovered with a basket of roses. Then a servant arrives from the house above, and a rather chaotic brawl ensues. The Gardiners are predictably victorious, but enough disturbance is caused to bring more attention from above -- and worse, to rouse the occupants of the chests. Nicholas is the first to feel his mind under assault; acting quickly, they open one chest and slay the grey homunculus within, gaining a temporary respite.
And a very little later, Charles and Adrian see a half-dozen rugged fellows emerging and setting out with a determined air, heading down the near-deserted Walbrook Street at the trot.
|Nicholas and Richard find themselves
in a double fight, their minds strangely assailed as another servant
arrives from the house above. Richard accidentally slays one servant
who attempts to flee rather than surrender, but further homunculi
join the fray, and despite a determined exercise of willpower and
blade skills, the pair are overcome. Richard regains full alertness
to find that they have been disarmed and cast into a room high in the
house above, largely bare but occupied by one other person, who introduces
himself as Paul Liott and then prays over Nicholas. How far this helps
matters may be unclear, but Nicholas regains alertness shortly afterwards.
Charles and Adrian, following the nigh-ruffianly types, see them arrive at another house on Walbrook Street, where four enter and two are sent back whence they came. Charles slips closer and hears, well, just enough. ("... cellar ... river ... attack ..."). He subsequently tries bluffing his way into the house as a summoned doctor (with Adrian as his assistant), but the house servants prove just too wise for that (but too slow-witted to raise the alarm at the attempt -- blame the hour). So the pair resolve to stand watch awhile once again. Adrian produces his unusually fine telescope and improvises a hearing-trumpet, enabling him even to eavesdrop events in the house. They catch enough to further harden their suspicions, complete with hints that someone (who has "drawn blood") may be due for a dark fate come the morning.
The Gardiners (and Master Liott) naturally resolve to attempt escape. Liott fakes an attempt to strangle the "still unconscious" Nicholas (actually an improvised dummy); Richard lurks behind the door; Nicholas, impersonating Richard, raises the alarm, calling out for a guard. That guard, proving his inexperience in such matters, falls for the act, and does enter the room -- but cautiously, just half a pace, with sword and lantern in hand. He is unsure what Master Liott is about...
(It might also be noted that the alarums carry some way, alerting some of the Jesuits. Charles and even Adrian, however, catch not a thing.)
|Despite the disadvantageous position,
Richard and Nicholas succeed in overpowering the guard with only
a little difficulty, and then erupt from the cell, defeating
further guards as they come. (The luck of the Gardiners holds;
these fellows are obliging enough to appear one at a time.) Richard
flaunts his well-trained skill at disarming foes, and they are soon
both armed, albeit with broadswords inferior to their own preferred
Now at least, Charles and Adrian hear enough to inspire them to action. They find the house's side door only poorly bolted, and thus vulnerable to Adrian's mechanical ingenuity, and thereby enter the kitchen, where their sudden arrival and armed state helps them intimidate the drowsy kitchen staff (who had been sleeping on the floor) into leaving the building. Admittedly, one or two of the more sensible kitchen scutts then go around to the front door and raise the alarm, but for now, the place is clear.
Richard, Nicholas, and Master Liott descend one floor, fighting or intimidating servants as necessary as they go, and locate the sitting room, where three Jesuits are awake and forewarned enough to be waiting with pistols in hand. Speed and surprise mostly win through, leaving their foes disabled and out of the fight, although a bullet grazes Nicholas's ribs. Hearing gunfire, Charles and Adrian dash upstairs, and the four allies (and Liott) join forces. They also find Richard and Nicholas's weapons and leather jerkins in the room, which comforts them a little.
The group discuss striking back at the homunculi in the cellar; they hope that Charles's medicinal preparations will tip the balance in any fight. Meanwhile, others of the household are awakening and trying to decide what they should be doing. (And with the kitchen staff pound on the front door, not to mention gunshots, it must occur to everyone that some diligent neighbour may be off summoning the Watch.)
|The group descend the stairs to the
ground floor, Richard and Nicholas going first and using all their
trained agility to reduce the danger from waiting foes. At first
they meet only one servant, who withdraws in the face of their
warnings. However, they are soon in combat with two more such fellows
and a pistol-wielding Jesuit who erupt from another room, driving back
the former and puncturing the latter. Unfortunately, Nicholas takes
another wound in the process; he is still effective, but by no means
comfortable. (In the chaos, the sharp-eared might note that the Jesuit
calls Richard a heretic, Richard replies "No, a free man" to the jibe,
and Master Liott mutters a biblical allusion about motes and beams.)
The group find the door leading to the cellar stairs, and set to work on it, Richard locating one of the bolts that is holding it closed on the other side and shooting it out with a pistol ball. The grey homunculi beyond also set to work on the group's minds, but Liott and Nicholas hold them off by various mental disciplines, and Charles retains his composure for long enough to locate the black remedy in his bag, which in turn serves to reawaken the others. This is just in time, as three house servants suddenly charge down the hallway. Nicholas and Adrian hold them off.
Then a figure in the doorway at the other end of the hall calls on the servants to stand clear, as he levels a pistol. Nicholas rolls out of the line of fire, and Richard steps forth and makes the first shot. Wounded, this last Jesuit reels back, and Richard drops his pistol, whips out his sword, springs down the hallway, and runs the man through in a single deadly, graceful motion. With him dead, the wounded or disarmed trio of fighting servants lose all remaining interest in the combat.
Meanwhile, Charles has been working on the remaining bolt on the far side of the door, using a magnet from his bag to move it by simple application of mechanical principles. This works a little too well, perhaps; some might wonder at the unlikely effectiveness of the trick. Charles certainly does; the door flies open, leaving him ranting persistently, angrily, and irrationally that all can be explained by natural philosophy. [A minor Scourge Bane makes him obsessive and overly loud about his rational beliefs for the while.]
Richard then sets out down the stairs, moving as fast as possible in the dim light...
|The cellar proves empty, and the five
adventurers quickly open the door that leads back out to the Walbrook.
Richard takes the lead again, and as quickly defeats the opponent
he meets -- evidently a single guard left to watch the door
and slow any pursuit just a little. The group look around, expecting
their opponents to have evacuated downstream towards the mouth
of the underground Walbrook, but instead find only a trail leading
in the other direction.
Giving chase again, they splash for three hundred yards or so through what is, when all is said and done, a sewer, before finding another door leading off into another cellar. It seems that the enemy conspiracy has been using the Walbrook as a highway, opening these portals for convenience from their safe houses. There are signs both of passage through this door and of a party moving further upstream. Meanwhile, they also notice signs of others evacuating the downstream house, and the odd and inexplicable sense which sometimes serves Charles tells him that he is somehow being watched.
They decide to venture into this second cellar; Richard picks the lock and Charles magnetically finesses the single bolt on the other side. The cellar itself is smaller, and holds only two, empty chests, of the kind sometimes occupied by the homunculi. They head upstairs, catching the two complacent servants left to watch this route unawares and inflicting such trivial wounds to the gun hand as are necessary to dissuade the fellows from causing trouble. Both these two convincingly deny any knowledge of homunculi, small grey men, or whatever, which Richard and Nicholas agree to believe, and leave the way they came.
Yet further upstream, Richard loses the trail but Charles proves alert, and suggests that they follow a cramped and doubly noisome side-sewer. Eventually, the group finds a grating -- and emerges in what some of them recognise as the great courtyard of the Royal Exchange. Charles rummages in his bag for tools, and performs a swift alchemical test which enables him to discern the path followed by the homunculi, across the courtyard.
The group mostly escape the attention of the place's night watchmen, until Adrian, in a moment of pure clumsiness, blunders into the fellow. While the others hide, he hastily adopts the manner of a drunken gentleman whose friends dropped him in the sewers. It's an indifferent act at best, actually, but the watchman chooses to believe the tale rather than face the complication and danger of challenging him, and guides him to the main gate.
The others follow the alchemical trail through a storeroom (where they note that some soiled cloaks have been abandoned, and then discover a set of shelves, which by what might be convenient chance, form a convenient ladder up to a window, which in turn gives out onto an adjacent roof. Heading along that a short way, they find a good place to scramble down -- and encounter Adrian, who happens to have wandered round that way.
At this point, further attempts at tracking by mundane or alchemical means prove inconclusive, although some of the group suspect that the humans they are chasing may have taken to the streets, while the homunculi -- known to be capable climbers -- may be somewhere up on the roofs of London. Thus, at this point, the party decide to split up to find aid or nurse wounds, Master Liott going with Adrian.
|To begin with, however, all of them
except Charles head down towards the Thames, as boats from London
Bridge seem, as usual, their best choice of transport. The Gardiners
(sorry, Richard Gardiner and his cousin Nicholas) set off upstream,
and tell the boatman to drop them at a jetty just short of Aunt Julia's
house (to make themselves harder to track). Fortunately, they
are able to gain entry without waking Julia herself, and once within,
Richard is able to tend to Nicholas's wounds while Nicholas exercises
mental and physical discipline to stem the flow of blood. Thus, Kate
descends to breakfast in the morning with no sign of harm. However,
Aunt Julia sees the torn and bloodstained shirt which is left to be
washed, and warns Richard firmly that she holds him responsible
for Kate's well-being. Deceiving her brother a little is one thing, but
the consequences if anything serious befell Kate could be unpleasant.
Richard and Kate then return home, Richard telling his parents that he stayed with his aunt the previous night for convenience. He receives a brief display of his mother's acid sarcasm, and then settles down to writing a poem for Cassandra Pelton. He then attaches a note for Inigo, warning him then "the people in whom you were interested" may well have been stirred up by certain events of the night just gone, and sends both to be delivered by Giles.
Meanwhile, on departing from the others, Charles goes and rouses Edric, discovering him sleeping deeply and alone for once. In fact, Edric is clearly a little the worst for drink, and attempts self-treatment based on the venerable principle of the hair of the dog. Charles prescribes his black herbal tonic. Edric mixes the two, and proclaims the results disgusting. Charles asks him to watch the Jesuit houses, and Edric, with many an expression of suffering, undertakes to do his best.
At around the same time, Adrian is heading for home with Master Liott, who attempts to engage him in conversation about the others, but finds Adrian somewhat taciturn. (That said, Master Liott gives slightly less away about himself.)
|Thursday 27-5-1585||Indeed, they spend much of the next
morning studying each other thoughtfully but saying little
of consequence. Master Liott is perhaps not at his best, and
eventually makes the mistake of provoking Adrian to speak of
his work. Adrian happily discourses on mathematics and navigation
for some hours...
Then Richard appears, and a careful conversation takes place between him and Liott, albeit with some mutual respect established. It seems that Master Liott has few associates in this city, but had come here on a mission to investigate the activities of the Order of Santa Elizaveta de la Buena Rosa in this city. The Order, which is heterodox in the extreme, apparently originated among the missions in some far part of the New World, and is now feared to be subverting the Society of Jesus -- so much so that even establishing the extent of influence is itself a tricky and dangerous task. However, it seems that the Order has some kind of enemies in London, although the nature of its activities, and how those enemies might threaten them, are themselves obscure. Master Liott also denies possessing special powers of his own, although of course his avowal that anything he does comes from God may cloud the issue somewhat.
|Charles awakes at midday, offloads
his pistols with some care (deciding not simply to fire them
into the mud, as they are loaded with his alchemically special
rounds), and then sets to harassing his servants regarding the
management of his household.
Richard reports to Kate and then goes off to read; Kate goes into a meditative state over her embroidery, exploring her memory palace. It comes to her that the New World has much still unexplored; the Order of Santa Elizaveta may be seeking the way for more of their kind to enter the world more easily -- and Sir Walter's College may have other ideas as to the best shape for things (and maps). Adrian's tale certainly suggests that such things are possible...
Then mother interrupts Kate to tell her that dinner is served. A remark about men not liking thin women somehow leads both parties to become excited -- and matters proceed downhill from there.
[Actually, Will rolls to preserve self-control were catastrophically failed on both sides. Sometimes, the dice know.]
Kate misses dinner, and the men of the house seek cover. Eventually, Richard slips Kate a bite of food, and the pair end up walking in the garden as they discuss the Metaphysic of Magic. By the time they are finished, both have a stark insight into the mutable nature of the world, and a greater understanding of what purpose the Order of Reason truly serves. [Both make their fright checks...] It occurs to Richard that Kate's induction into the Order may now be something of a necessity; they should discuss such matters with Master Aristotle -- after the weekend, perhaps.
|Friday 28-5-1585||Edric awakens Charles at three in the morning to
report (an act which even Charles recognises as a small touch
of revenge). He has determined that the incident at the first
house which the group invaded has become more or less public
knowledge (with but a little garbling), and there are rumours
of something amiss in the second, although that has been kept more
of a secret. The popular understanding is that there is a gang
of murderous ruffians on the loose, preventing honest men from
even sleeping safely in their beds.
Come daylight, Richard returns to Adrian's lodgings, greets Master Liott affably enough, and then takes Adrian for a brief stroll. He explains his new understanding of the mutable nature of the unexplored world, and Adrian is given a moment's pause; but when he recovers his composure, he observes that such concepts perhaps accord with what is known of some of the secret cartographic proceedings conducted by senior Void Seekers.
Adrian also mentions that he had been playing chess with Master Liott, and when they return to his lodgings, Richard too offers the fellow a game, and is politely accepted. Both of our heroes conclude that he is an amateur, though by no means stupid, and note that the one piece which he seems ever unwilling to sacrifice is a bishop.
|The rest of the day passes quietly enough, with late preparations for the party occupying most of everyone's time at the Gardiner household.||20-02-2002|
|Saturday 29-5-1585||The morning of the day of celebration dawns tolerably
fair, and Adrian sets out from his home. He leaves Master Liott
in his room, with a modest handful of cash given him by Richard,
and takes a boat up river. Changing boats at London Bridge, he
chances to encounter Kit Marlowe and his new friend Bill, also
en route for the Gardiner festivities. (The invitation
had not mentioned that Marlowe might bring others, but Kit was sure
that the Gardiners would not object.) Kit suggests that they share
a boat, and they converse as they travel upstream. As ever, Adrian
They reach the Gardiner house in good time and a little before the Peltons (and Marlowe somehow manages to ensure that Adrian pays the boatman); other guests present are mostly neighbours of the Gardiners. Much verbal jousting follows throughout the afternoon. Kit seeks to turn his charm on Kate, who holds her own; eventually, he realises that she is not to be underestimated. Richard spends a little time before the barge sets out asking the likes of Bill and Kit not to mention Nicholas in front of Mother and Father, and Kit doubtless makes a note of that. Cassandra Pelton spends quite a little time with Kate, as they continue to develop an affable acquaintanceship and share opinions on the matter of older brothers. Richard, between times spent in a little verbal jousting with Kit Marlowe, casts a thoughtful eye about the boat, and notes Bill Shakspear observing everyone, even more thoughtfully. They exchange opinions on life and poetry, and Richard extracts some remarks on Bill's recent maritime employment, and the small Spanish prize which his ship took in the Caribbean. It seems, however, that Bill suffers somewhat from seasickness, so this career is not one he intends to pursue further. He admits that he should perhaps be looking to return to his wife and the family glove-making business, although he seems unenthusiastic about the idea.
The barge moors, as was planned, by an open meadow a little ways upstream from Westminster, and the musicians go ashore that all may dance, if they so wish. Indeed, many do, and well enough -- save for Inigo Pelton, who finds the meadow's one rabbit hole. [I managed to roll a critical failure, just for him. Poor Inigo really does seem to be victimised by fate.]
As the barge returns to the Gardiner house, Adrian continues to become somewhat inebriated in the course of some dull conversations with Father. (Well, he was rather invited to provide such company.) Inigo takes Richard aside for a moment to tell him that his warning of a few days before was received and understood, and that no trouble has yet ensued. Richard flirts with Cassandra when the opportunity arises.
The guests depart from the Gardiner house, leaving Richard feeling passably pleased with his success as a host. Adrian once again pays the boat fare for three, and returns home to note that Master Liott has evidently been out for some of the day, if only to purchase a change of clothes or two. Master Liott also seeks to engage Adrian in conversation on various abstract matters of personal philosophy, with moderate success.
Charles, meanwhile, has spent a working day, and marked its end by a visit to the theatre. On the way there, he suffers a momentary sense of being watched, as he has experienced before -- but the moment passes, and does not recur. The performance he sees is, it proves, a rather old-fashioned and unimpressive matter, more of a pageant than a play. Performed by Lord Strange's Men, it is full of depictions of brave Englishmen and diabolically scheming Jesuits. The actors, for want of a better way to carry the piece, are playing the ripest of hams. Which said, Strange, Raleigh, and Dellmurray, who are present and watching from a gallery, seem satisfied enough with the thing, and Charles notes that, as it proceeds, he has a strange sense of energies being gathered around the theatre, albeit for no discernible immediate purpose. Nonetheless, Charles chooses to leave early, bored by what he has seen.
|Sunday 30-5-1585||On the morrow morning, Adrian goes to church, and
then heads down river; he has decided to visit the Void Seeker
"Place of Strange Works" on an obscure creek at the mouth of the
Thames, there perhaps to discuss somewhat of the ideas recently
put to him by Richard.
And Richard himself, the meanwhile, goes to Sunday service at the chapel at the Tower, then takes Charles out to lunch to apologise for recent events. They exchange tales of the previous day's events, and Richard asks politely of Charles if there is any gift he might enjoy.
Then, as they stroll through the streets of London, Richard tells Charles the current theory as to the nature of New Worlds and what some might be seeking to do with them, and Charles seems a little unsteady on his feet for the rest of the journey home as they discuss the details. (Incidentally, Richard seems unable to resist spinning theories off from this core of ideas -- such as, for example, his growing suspicion that the Aztecs may have appeared in the image of their Spanish conquerors.)
Richard goes on to visit Master Holbright, but his patron is out about some personal concerns. Richard extracts a promise of sorts from a servant to mention to the master of the house that he will return on the evening of the morrow -- the fellow seems, frankly, disinterested.
Adrian discusses theories of malleable reality with fellow Void Seekers, and receives in return not only agreement that this is indeed consistent with Void Seeker philosophies, but something of a lecture on how it is consistent with ideas about the nature of the Scourge -- which in turn suggests something more of what makes the Scourge more or less avoidable. To illustrate the point, his interlocutor shows him a boat which has been placed some way from the river, shows him the balloon which can be made to inflate by alchemical means, to float in the air, and to lift this craft -- and then explains how the Scourge makes such wonders too dangerous to employ much within the sight of the Unenlightened.
By contrast, Charles spends the afternoon quietly reading philosophy. He now intends to read more of Plato.
Adrian returns home and greets Master Liott, who spends the evening chatting to him about ideas of the properly lived life.
And all the while, Kate contemplates philosophy while not listening to her mother, coming thereby to some initial thoughts of her own on the subject of the Scourge. When Richard returns, bearing a gift for her -- a fine stiletto -- she and he compare notes. Thereafter, Richard spends some time on a not-very-successful poem. Together, they worry hard at some metaphysics, and contemplate their forthcoming conversation with Master Aristotle.
|Monday 31-5-1585||Early in the morning (albeit after sunrise, or
at least not long before), Charles is awoken by customers. Three
men, dressed well but in dark clothes and a practical style, are
at his door. One proves to be the patient of the moment, being wounded
by a blade to the shoulder. His name is Thomas Wilton; Charles
recognises him as one of Raleigh and Strange's faction. Indeed, Michael
Callaghan, Wilton's associate from the party of a few days before,
is one of the other pair. The wound seems straightforward enough
to treat, and the three, soon aggrieved by Charles's usual fondness
for discussing his art, depart promptly, implying that he'll be paid
when they return to have the bandage changed.
Charles decides that this was interesting, and takes a boat upstream to see what he can see around Durham House.
(Meanwhile, Adrian goes out to continue his survey of London, leaving his guest to his own devices. And Richard is going about a morning's work at the Tower.)
Charles notes some further signs of special activities around Raleigh's residence, not least the arrival of others who may be swordsmen at its jetty. The hairs on the back of his neck stir just a little. He decides to walk homewards past some of the houses he and his friends know to be haunts of the Jesuit faction, and there too his ready eye sees signs that trouble has been afoot. He even attempts to strike up conversations while taking his lunch at inns in the area, albeit without much success.
Yet more evidence comes to hand when he arrives home, in the form of a note from Edric. "The noble cat is amongst the black pigeons" , it says, "I will seek further intelligence." Charles decides to pass words to the Gardiners, and takes another boat upstream from the bridge.
Elsewhere and meanwhile, Adrian is being very focussed about his subtle surveying work (and if he but knew it, Master Liott is having great difficulty locating him). And Richard and Kate approach Master Aristotle after lunch, give him a brief account of events so far, and then say that they think it may be time for Kate to join the Order of Reason.
After admitting that, once this question is asked, the result is probably inevitable, Master Aristotle describes a little of the internal orderings of the Order, and concludes that the High Guild is the obvious choice for Kate. He gives Kate a piece of parchment -- with just his florid signature -- to present to Master Holbright, of whom he knows -- soon .
They take a boat down to the city (and thus come to miss Charles as he passes them on a parallel street while going in the opposite direction). The note from Master Aristotle somehow causes Master Holbright's servants, normally not the easiest of folk to persuade, to grant them immediate entry. They present their case to the master of the house, who engages Kate in an interesting, if challenging, conversation. Having established that she claims some knowledge of the arts of the mind, he tests her with a rhetorical device which might cause one to speak instantly all that is in one's mind -- but she resists. He then serves her wine, which she discerns is reinforced with very strong spirits; she sips it cautiously and notes the fact, while he (showing off a little) drains his own, matching goblet.
He agrees that she would indeed seem to be a possible member for his Guild, and tells her that, as it is one of merchants, admission is simply gained -- by payment of an appropriate fee. It is, however, for her to determine what is appropriate. He gives her three months to decide, and to raise the fee.
And in the meantime, she can prove her skills another way. It seems that there has been subtle excitement in the night, and the Order of Santa Elizaveta is, most likely, driven forth from London entirely. Which is all well and good, but the Order of Reason still knows too little of the Grey Homunculi. Thus, our heroes are required to recover an instance of this species, if at all possible, and Kate may help.
The Gardiners instantly turn westwards once again, and Kate is left at Aunt Julia's residence. Richard reaches the family home, finds a note from Charles, and quickly turns around, picking Nicholas up along the way.
Master Liott eventually finds Adrian upon a London street, and tells him about the events of the preceding night. It seems that his own acquaintances (whoever they may be) know one more thing; that the Jesuit renegades had alliance with the captain or crew of a vessel which was in the port, a merchantman named the Belle Josephine , which weighed anchor and left on a very early tide last night.
Adrian completes his survey of the street, and then makes to visit the Gardiners -- but meets Giles, with a note from Richard, on the docks. Reading this missive, he returns home, gathers up Master Liott, and takes himself and his guest to Charles's residence, as requested. This bemuses Charles a little, as no message had reached him from Richard, but they compare knowledge and draw some tentative conclusions. When the Gardiners arrive, Adrian and Charles are a little way into a bottle of Rhenish. Only mildly annoyed to learn that they must pursue that ship, they send an unopened bottle back to the cellar.
Our heroes then persuade Master Liott to join them on their quest, somewhat against his own better judgement as it seems, gather up blades and pistols, and turn their faces towards the river...
|However, as they go, Richard has another
thought. He turns to Master Liott and says that, on second thoughts,
it might be better if he doesn't accompany them on this
journey -- "there is an issue of confidentiality". Master Liott
agrees (without, it must be said, much persuasion). "If we are not
returned within three days," Richard continues, "my advice to you is
to flee the country."
They part once Richard has confirmed that Master Liott has adequate funds for possible emergencies. "Fare thee well, and good hunting" is Master Liott's parting salute.
The group soon come to the river, and there follows a brief negotiation for hire of a sailboat -- something simplified by Richard's wealth and rank, of course, but nonetheless eventually requiring that he leaves his seal mark on a scrap of parchment, by way of a deposit. On the way downriver, Richard and Adrian take the helm; Nicholas sits quietly, looking only a little queasy, while Charles is forced to think on the medical nature of seasickness.
The four have decided to seek better transport from Adrian's allies in the Order, and as they go, they discuss what they might be able to borrow; Adrian drops some broad and curious hints. Then, after some ninety minutes or thereabouts, following directions given by Adrian, the craft enters the Void Seeker haven.
Things go smoothly enough there; the visitors state their problem to the Seekers, and most especially to their grizzled lodge master, and are offered a choice of forms of transport. At this point, Adrian, filled with an intense confidence [and suffering the benefits of a 6-point Scourge boon which had been latent since his last visit to this haven] declares that he will take the option which gives them the best chance of overhauling their prey. And Charles looks worried.
The Void Seekers, impressed by and admiring of this determination, swiftly bring into action the alchemical operations which fill the balloon with buoyant gas. Those three characters who were not entirely sure what to expect of the ensuing scene preserve their aplomb quite admirably, and are soon in flight.
In fact, the party takes to this new means of transport quite successfully, although Charles does take a central seat and spend much of his time studying the alchemical apparatus with peculiarly fierce interest. Nicholas takes the role of lookout, despite the fact that he is still feeling a little sick in the stomach, and Richard and Adrian rapidly master the complex and subtle system of sails (which are necessary to compensate for the ineffectiveness of any kind of keel while in the air). Adrian, a master navigator and seaman, soon has them in the correct general area for their quest, where the south bank of the Thames opens out and turns to the English Channel. He also improvises enhancements to his telescope, added lenses of a fine and subtle sort enabling it to work by moonlight, and whenever Nicholas's naturally sharp eyes sight a vessel, he examines it closely. Thus it is that the four adventurers come in sight of the Belle Jospephine -- by which time, Richard has come up with a plan.
First, they descend with silent caution and use a grapnel rope to snag their prey's aft ratlines. (They can see four crewmen still on the ship's deck -- a helmsman and three ordinary sailors, one at the prow and two amidships -- but of course, these folk do not look up as they go bleary-eyed about their business.) Then, Richard and Nicholas scramble down these ropes, and Richard swiftly confronts the helmsman with drawn sword and enjoins him convincingly to silence. At the same time, the sailor on the main deck does glance up, and begins to raise the alarm. Nicholas switfly draws a and throws a knife, which finds its mark -- but that merely makes the fellow cry out more. Nicholas leaps down to confront him, while the second man on the same deck, alerted by the noise, looks up, sees the unearthly craft now attached to his vessel -- and faints dead away, to Nicholas's relief.
His colleague is persuaded to be quiet by the sight of the point of Nicholas's sword, and Richard leaves the thoroughly cowed helmsman to come forward and assist with the work. At around this time, some feet above them, Adrian finds that his intuitive skill with the flying boat has its limits; of a sudden, it is rising and bucking. Charles, in the prow by the restraining rope, just barely hangs on, but takes this event as a sign that the time has come to descen himself. His descent of the ratlines goes well enough.
While Richard gathers the last man up with the other prisoners and collects them all in the stern (and Charles clambers down), Nicholas examines the sterncastle door -- then, finding no cause to think that any great danger lies beyond, simply opens it and steps briskly through. He finds three ordinary-looking fellows in their nightshirts, just one of them being somewhat awake. Her blade dissuades them from immediate action (despite the failure of her attempt to cut one end of one hammock down in the traditional fashion), and then Richard enters, while Charles watches matters (and prisoners) topside.
|"Good evening, gentlemen," Richard says, "I'm afraid
that you have failed the final test. We have come for the homunculi."
His attempt to confuse his prisoners into cooperation does not, in truth, truly work, although two of them are in fact mostly startled and terrified into placidity by the shock of the moment. The third is clearly made of sterner stuff, and refuses to cooperate in any way, save to offer theological advice on the error of Protestant ways. For this, he is taken out on deck and threatened with casting over the side. However, he proves confident in his own ability to swim, and jumps of his own accord. Richard subsequently realises that he is holding on to the side of the ship.
After the audible splash, Nicholas finds it quite easy to intimidate the other two in the cabin, who let slip that there is something in the cargo hold. He ushers them out onto the deck; Richard then calls to Adrian to bring the flying boat down a little, and to climb down and take charge of the ship.
Richard extracts from the prisoners the further information that the other six crew are in another stern cabin one deck down, and while Adrian takes charge of the vessel (with some problems - it's a while since he had to play helmsman, perhaps), and Nicholas watches three crew and two Jesuits, Richard and Charles search the upper cabin for weapons, finding a couple of pistols. Richard also offers the Jesuit in the water the chance to climb out - but the fellow first proves defiant, battering on the side of the ship with his fist, then loses his grip and, in the cold, his talent for swimming. Perhaps unfortunately, the man is soon lost to sight (and hope).
Richard and Charles then take the Jesuits' cabin lantern and go down the companionway near the fo'castle. They realise that they are now in the upper hold - there may be more space in the lowest level of the ship, amongst the bilges. They work their way backwards through this space, finding little of interest, before coming to the cabin door. There, they adopt basic precautions, which proves wise, as the half-dozen crew evidently heard them coming, and seek to put up a fight. This does not last long, however, as the pair stab one sailor in the hand, shoot another (not quite fatally), and thus intimidate the lot of them into compliance, ordering them up on deck. ("This would be piracy" remarks Richard, equably.)
As he follows everyone else up onto the main deck, Charles feels his mind coming under assault, but fends the attack off, alerting the others with a cry of "They're awake!" Richard at first returns to the hold, then decides that others may be better qualified to deal with such matters, and goes back up on deck and sends Nicholas down.
Unfortunately, on arrival, Nicholas succumbs to a mental assault which slips past all his defences, and collapses. [A critical failure on the Will roll. It happens.] Thus, Adrian has to come down to assist, while Charles provides Nicholas with basic medical attention, finding something strange about the fellow, but putting the question aside for the moment. Aside from anything else, the hold is feeling increasingly strange; a rational philosopher, he would find it hard to describe the problem, but he is forever glimpsing untoward shadows from the corner of his eye, and there is a sense and a scent of wrongness all around.
Still, Charles's black brew of wakefulness proves effective as a protection for his mind and Nicholas's, and the pair light one of Charles's simpler creations -- a candle which burns with great rapidity and accordingly greater light -- and venture on down.
Charles, going first, totally fails to see the last Jesuit on the ship, lurking in the shadows of the lower hold, and takes a bullet to the ribs. Adrian rushes in after him, and sees three of the homunculi, shimmering and distorted as they call on increasingly chaotic powers in their own defence. He charges them, invoking his practical study of forces top enhance the force of the bare-handed punch which he throws. It's a vain invocation in many ways, but it works; his fist connects with perfectly judged precision, sending a homunculus spinning against the ship's wooden hull, where it falls insensible. [In fact, Adrian has been accumulating Scourge points for a while, reaching embarassing levels. Now he rolls a boon. As methodical efficiency is one of his virtues, I decide that this is a good excuse to make his attack achieve precisely everything he wanted. That homunculus is out for as long as necessary, but essentially unharmed.] He then engages the other two in what can only be called a brawl (albeit with less dramatic effect), while their forms shimmer and distort, and their powers claw desperately at his brain.
Meanwhile, Charles's adversary charges across the hold and slams into him, sending him sprawling to the floor. However, with his ribs only grazed, he has preserved his grip on his pistol, and now he brings it to bear and fires, dropping the man. Then he turns to aid Adrian.
But at this point, the unnaturalness of the homunculi, and most especially of the forces which they have been invoking, finally comes bearing down on them. [I haven't even bothered tracking their Scourge levels; I've just assumed that they've got plenty. Now, they get a boon . But the situation is desperate, and their idea of what is in their interests isn't human.] Amidst shrill screaming, one distorts so as to become almost liquid, and flows towards Adrian. Then both slow and congeal, and the wrongness in the air begins to fade. The distorting creature crumbles to dry dust, and the third simply stands -- literally petrified.
Charles staggers back to the upper hold, where he discovers a newly conscious Nicholas, who tends to his wounds with admirable amateur competence. (A sense of puzzlement about the fellow once more slips to the back of Charles's mind. [Amazingly enough, this is purely down to the dice. No, Nicholas isn't using Mind arts to preserve any secrets.] ) Adrian, meanwhile, after ensuring that the captives are bound and secure, goes back on deck, where he discovers Richard happily in charge. He has even assigned two of the most junior of the crew to working the sails, although their shipmates are still secured in the upper cabin. (Albeit perhaps not secured enough...)
|The group shift the unconscious Jesuit from the
bilges to the fo'castle, and move the unconscious homunculus to
the deck, where they can better keep eyes upon it (albeit still
in that chest, lest it be seen by the crews of other ships on
the river). Then Nicholas and Adrian return to the sky-boat and
The problem at this point is that both vessels are going to have to sail mostly against the prevailing wind. Adrian sets the sky-boat's complex rig in an especially subtle configuration, and then whistles up a wind (combining science and superstition in an especially dubious manner, but necessity drives). However, he proves to have set the sails a little imperfectly, and the craft takes off rather bumpily.
In fact, it skates all over the sky for a while (with Nicholas a slightly concerned onboard observer, growing increasingly green of complexion in the darkness), eventually ending up upwind of the Void Seeker haven. Still, it reaches the place in quite good time, and the pair reclaim their more conventional boat.
Meanwhile, Charles is searching the ship (using another fast-burning candle at times), but not finding anything of note. Richard and Adrian apply their navigational skills to their respective craft with good effect, and ship and borrowed boat meet in midstream in the estuary. They transfer the homunculus (and the "statue" of another, and as much of the dust left by the third as they were able to gather up) to the boat, dump the ship's gunpowder over the side, and tell the crew to advise all the others that it would be wisest of them to return to their course well away from London and England.