||Game Session Date|
|Monday 1-11-1585 to Friday 19-11-1585||
The first half of November passes for our protagonists in a whirl of disparate activities, both mundane and arcane. Oswald disappears from view somewhat, establishing a discreet career as a professional astrologer to the more knowledgeable (and usually rational) citizens of the city, while Charles perhaps quite enjoys the lull, taking the opportunity to continue his peculiar alchemical experimentation (quite successfully, as it will prove), and Sir James is engaged in a search for a house suitable to a married couple of some dignity -- and, he knows, they will also require servants. Richard spends time in his employment at the Tower, of course, but he also finds opportunities to locate Christopher Marlowe, and to offer him significant quantities of money in exchange for his writing skills -- an offer which Marlowe is inclined to accept. Others of the Gardiner family are engaged in sending to the family estates in Borsetshire, for guests from those parts must be invited and expected. And to speak of the family, Kate's Aunt Julia requires a meeting with Sir James.
"And what," she enquires, "first attracted you to my niece?"
Sir James reflects. "Her grace" he replies.
Those involved reflect on the list of invitations to be extended for the wedding. It is a disparate array; Sir Francis Drake, Lord Strange, both of the Peltons, Kit Marlowe, Edric, Master Hollbright, Oswald Clarke, and Sir Francis Bacon, along with families and close friends. (Master Shakespeare is not included on the list, not out of any hostility, but because our protagonists have no wish to be thought to be violating the truce which lies across him.) A note is passed to the Seekers of the Void on the of-chance that it might reach Adrian; persons of rank such as Devereux and Raleigh may be let know that it is planned, but to invite them might be considered presumptuous. Meanwhile, Richard, who is cultivating the London theatrical world, arranges musicians and singers, who are by way of encouragement promised future employment with what is now announced as being planned; The New Company. In fact, it crosses Richard's mind in a fit of enthusiasm that a masque might be arranged; he sets to work on "The Wedding of Odysseus and Penelope", which emerges from his pen as passably well-structured, but certainly most poetical. [Artes Liberales! made by 2, Writing by 3, Poetry by 9. "You can write this stuff, Master Gardiner, but it's a bugger to declaim it..."]
Kate, being kept from close oversight of her mother's arrangements for the ceremony, is not unhappy, as she is able to slip away oftentimes and keep an eye upon her developing business; this progresses very pleasingly, and she is able to direct it towards her particular goals. [Merchant skill critical success, Current Affairs (Politics) success.] She does also sew up her wedding garb. (In this age, there is no custom of a special wedding dress, even for a family of such distinction as the Gardiners. However, Kate is expected to embellish one of her best dresses with ribbons and other decorations.) Her husband-to-be, the meanwhile, finds and arranges that new house and competent servants, working with Richard and Kate to make the business go smoothly.
And, one night in this period, Charles awakens in the night to a sharp sensation in a most personal location. "You have good enough locks on your doors, Master Avery," murmurs a somewhat familiar female voice, "but your windows could be better fitted."
Mary rolls off the bed and to her feet in a single movement, and explains that she has come to ask a small favour -- purchase of the ingredients of a gift she intends to give. Charles raises no objection, and Mary names a number of pharmacological items which Charles recognises as the ingredients for some kind of herbal or alchemical protection against unintended consequences. Such things can be very reliable, if supported by enlightened science.
"Kate can do this for herself, you know" he comments.
"Of course she can," Mary replies, "but I thought to save her time."
Charles provides most of what it asked, and plausible substitutes for the rest, and a day or two later, Kate receives a visit from a "respectable servant" who hands over this gift. "I am sorry if I cannot attend the ceremony" Mary says, in response to Kate's invitation, "though I will try."
Other gifts come, and are more conventional. Richard presents the couple with a matched pair of lockets, with multiple secret compartments in each, Meanwhile, Charles's fine new sword arrives, while he ponders what to give the couple; he complains of a lack of inspiration to Richard, and then, at the latter's prompting, he chooses a fine dining table, chairs, and sideboard. While he is using his enlightened perception of Matter on the workmanship, he senses a twist in the world as it turns a little against him... [And a 6-point Scourge Bane is now hanging over his head.]
Little more remains to be dealt with, aside from legal matters... Well, Charles has a thought, and arranges that the gifted dining table should include hidden compartments suitable for at least two stilettos. Sir James formally negotiates a marriage-contract with Kate's father, which is quite generous in its terms considering that Sir James came with something of a fait accompli, giving him a weak bargaining position. Sir James very much likes the idea of holding land -- it suits his social ambitions -- and so Kate is happy to know that a small farm in Borsetshire is entailed.
Sir James also has both Kate's parents as guests for dinner in his new house, and extracts a fair job of cooking from his new servants. (The mice who still infest the place are persuaded to remain quiet for the duration of the visit -- there may be hints of an expedition somewhere.) The Gardiners leave acceptably impressed. Meanwhile, Sir James is also arranging his Groom's Men -- his older brother Matthew, an old comrade from the Low Countries campaigns, and Charles to fetch the bride from her home when the moment comes.
The day of the wedding dawns, as fine as can generally be expected of late November in Elizabethan England, and the first incident of note is a knock on Charles's door. His servants announce a pair of gentlemen, who prove to be Master Holbright, appearing thoughtful, and Oswald, looking slightly apologetic. Master Holbright explains that he has come to ask Charles to transmit his apologies to the happy couple, as he finds himself unable to attend the wedding -- although he will endeavour to attend the later celebrations. The same applies to Oswald, who is charged with guiding Master Holbright's steps this day -- an important matter.
Holbright explains that his reasons arise from his status as an important representative of the Order of Reason in London -- a status which far exceeds his apparent standing in society, as a respected, wealthy, but little remarked-on merchant. This situation is convenient, but maintaining it requires that Holbright not draw the attention of certain presences -- and it appears, from Oswald's calculations, that one such presence will be directing its attention towards this ceremony. Holbright and Oswald do not believe that anyone who will be there will be directly placed in danger as a result, but Holbright cannot afford to position himself incorrectly. It is also important that no one else who will be at the wedding should be notified of all this, in case this induces paradoxical complications for Oswald's careful calculations -- not even, perhaps not especially, Kate or Sir James.
However, Master Holbright certainly wishes that the wedding should go well -- and he hands his wedding gift to Charles to pass on. It is a small, light package, with a slight, not unpleasant aroma to it.
Charles accepts these charges, and sets out for Sir James's house -- but only after packing a couple of additional blades and his medical bag, as well as dressing stylishly. Sir James notices the bag, but accepts Charles's vague excuses for bringing such a thing. (He is clearly too distracted to penetrate Charles's act of unconcern.) He and all the grooms' men set out up the Thames.
Meanwhile, Richard is performing a very adept exercise in adminstration, locating everything just where it belongs. The actors are in place for the masque, Giles is between them and the beer, and he himself reaches the church in time to attend to the early guests (and stray passers-by who've come to see what befalls -- this is an open service, after all), while leaving a fast horse outside. Francis Bacon, who has arrived in good time, offers his congratulations to the family, and explains that young Devereux (who he is evidently cultivating) certainly heard of the event, but is doubtless having his customary difficulty in rising from his bed before noon. Richard, meanwhile, thinks to worry concerning the sobriety of the priest, but entirely without cause as it proves. However, when Richard shows the fellow the list of invited guests, he does step carefully off consecrated ground, and then issue a personal comment on the subject.
The groom's party arrive first at the bride's house to offer his greetings, as is the custom, and there Kate also notices that Charles is carrying that medical bag; when he also transmits Master Holbright's apologies, she does make reasonable deductions. However, Charles at this point hands over Holbright's gift, which she and Sir James decide to open immediately. On doing so, they naturally realise immediately that the contents are spices -- but it is Charles, looking over their shoulders, who identifies some of the contents more specifically, thanks to his pharmeceutical knowledge, and raises a well-informed eyebrow. These are some of the rarest products of far Asia -- the gift is valuable indeed, and might have medical as well as culinary use. Kate makes sure to put the package away somewhere safe and hidden, where the house's cook will not stumble over it; these are not spices to use casually or carelessly. Then, Sir James departs to take up his place at the church.
There, further more-or-less invited guests have arrived -- not least, the Peltons, in the distinguished company of Lord Ferdinando Strange. They slip into a pew modestly towards the back of the church, with Cassandra carefully and determinedly placed between her brother and Lord Strange, where none can hope to speak with her unnoticed. Nonetheless, that group is briefly disturbed by another pair of arrivals; Christopher Marlowe arrives a little before the groom, and perhaps takes a certain pleasure in obliging his social betters to move their feet to let him past. He is in the company of his quiet friend from out of town... Well, Richard reflects, Master Shakespeare was not invited to this event, so the truce around him should remain undisturbed. Master Aristotle, too, is present, if carefully not attracting attention; the family's fencing tutor, Master Antonio, is somewhere about, tacitly seeing to the peace of the event. Then Sir James and his companions arrive and settle in, and Charles is despatched to fetch the bride, which task he performs correctly.
Kate arrives and proceeds up the aisle, her father to hand to present her to the groom and priest. The latter clears his throat, and most folk in the church have their attention on him, and so do not attend to the slight sounds of a late arrival without. The church door opens, however, and the priest looks down the aisle -- and falls respectfully to his knees. Everyone else follows his gaze, and then follows his example, mostly as gracefully as might be expected in the circumstances, except for the bride's father, who stumbles as he turns, and lands embarrassingly on face -- not a dignified posture for the Warden of the Tower.
[It's not every day that one gets to call for a DX-based Savoir Faire roll. Most people passed; Father got a critical failure.]
Her Majesty, Elizabeth, by the Grace of God Queen of England, progresses up the aisle with (as the hero-worshipping Richard might think) typical grace, followed by ladies in waiting who slip neatly to unobtrusive supporting positions, while robust guards stand by the doors. Everyone in the church is suitably impressed, but two people are also puzzled. Kate and Charles, the most sensitive to arcane power, find that they have some difficulty focussing precisely on the new arrival; her human form is, it seems to them, encased in a second body, a ghostly veil of glittering, pearl-like shimmering. The effect, to their perceptions, is bizarre enough that they might almost suffer headaches from the effect, although both shake off these brief moments of physical confusion.
The Queen, in any event, takes an appropriate position which instantly opens up in the foremost pew, and nods with casual regality to the priest, who collects himself -- but who also recalls the stories of her preference for brisk ceremonies and short sermons. Thus, the wedding is performed completely correctly, but not at undue length. Then, the Queen progresses out of the church, mounts the carriage which awaits her outside, and departs. For a moment, some wonder if that is the end of the matter -- but it quickly becomes apparent which way She had departed. For there is a free dinner and a celebration awaiting at the Gardiner house, and when all is said and done, Queen Elizabeth is a Tudor.
Hence, Richard has only a brief moment in which to savour the unaccustomed sight which awaits him without the church -- specifically, that of Sir Francis Walsingham, wearing an expression of sincere embarrassment. Sir Francis apologises for the situation; he would much prefer to give prior warning in such cases, but the Queen has a mind of her own, and will not be gainsaid when she is determined. Richard accepts the apology, then hastily mounts his waiting horse, and by dint of hard riding along a side track, reaches the family home before the royal coach.
As he is doing so, Sir James and his new bride are mounting their own waiting coach, accompanied by Charles as Sir James's aide. He and Kate hold brief conversation regarding the curious phenomenon of the Queen's appearance to their eyes, confirming that it is a matter of their own specialised perceptions -- but that is a matter for later discussion, really. Likewise, at the house, Richard has only moments in which to alert Giles as to what has befallen; Giles for a moment takes Richard's plain statement of fact as a jest, but soon realises the truth, swallows hard, and moves to muster the appropriate servants to deal with arrangements accordingly.
And so the Queen arrives at the Gardiner home, to be greeted by Richard Gardiner in the correct style. He offers her what hospitality the family can muster, which she accepts most graciously...
Richard places Her Majesty in the house's solar, and then sets out to ensure that matters are arranged for best effect. In short, he looks for signs of impending disaster. His Enlightened perceptions fail him at this time, but at least he is, as ever, highly organised.
"Hello Charles, Hello James, Hello Kate..."
As the coach arrives at the house, Charles looks out, his current heightened sense of caution reinforced by his idea of the duties of a groom's man. But no ambush is in sight, so he escorts the couple to the house, where cloaks and swords are left in the hall, and Kate and Sir James are presented to the Queen, who is most gracious.
"I hope that I have not inconvenienced you" she says, and Kate and Sir James make no suggestion that she has, "but I felt that the marriage of the daughter of my Lord Warden of the Tower merited my attention -- especially as reports from Sir Francis Walsingham mentioned this family with favour. But please do not feel that you are detained here. I would not know for myself, of course, but I understand that one has so much more on one's mind on a day such as today."
Meanwhile, Richard has despatched Charles to attend on his father as he emerges from his carriage, and to ensure that his fall back at the church was not too injurious. Fortunately, all is quite well there -- the old fellow is at worst bruised -- and the Gardiner parents briskly enter the house to pay their respects to their royal guest. As they do so, Richard begins organising a polite schedule (nothing as crass as a queue) of guests to do the same, generally in order of social rank. (Sir Francis Drake perhaps receives special priority -- and greets his long-time patroness with a little less formality than some.) This moves quite well, the Queen making some small allowances for the confusion of those of lower standing who were not expecting this honour; Charles notes that he is greeted politely, but not especially recognised. Richard also ensures that a tray of sweet pastries are sent through to the solar; he knows of the Queen's famed sweet tooth.
The meal in celebration of the wedding goes straightforwardly, although the Queen shows no signs of wishing to depart in any great hurry; indeed, she evidently wishes to be entertained by the masque. As Richard and the servants muster the audience for this event, the Queen is holding forth to an array of courtiers and would-be courtiers, politely out of earshot of Kate or Sir James.
"I wish these two well, my lords," Richard hears her say, "but you all know my opinions. There is a wastefulness here to be regreted, as well as a joy. The girl might for all we know have served me at court,and the soldier is now no longer like to return to aid my lord of Leicester in the Low Countries."
One among the listeners seems inspired by this to forget himself most dangerously indeed, although his sudden speech begins safely enough. "Indeed, your majesty," he says "he that has wife and children gives hostages to fortune. And the greatest works have come from unmarried or childless men."
The Queen nods. "Well said, Master - Francis Bacon, is it?" She knows the son of the Lord Keeper of the Seal.
"Majesty. And yet... Unmarried men are, I think, best friends, best masters, best servants -- but not always best subjects. For they are likely to run away. Almost all fugitives are single men."
"Indeed, are they, Master Bacon? That is a lawyer's opinion. Have a care with your lawyer's wit."
Bacon bows his head in acknowledgement of the rebuke, but it is not at all clear that he is chastened.
"And would you marry, Master Bacon?"
"Ah... A wise man, asked when a man should marry, said, a young man not yet, an old man not at all..."
This, it appears, more or less abates the Queen's building storm of temper -- and then, the masque is announced. Richard finds himself standing by Bacon, who suddenly now seems confused and uncertain of his circumstances. Indeed, he seems unsure as to what he has just been saying. Richard repeats some of his words back to him, and he shudders and sheds sweat at the situation in which he has somehow firmly placed himself. And yet, he also seems pleased with some of those same words, evidently taking mental note of them as he hears them from Richard.
"Oh -- that's very good. If those are my own words, I must make full use of them at some time -- if I am permitted the chance!"
[He will. He's just anticipated some of the phrasing of his own Essays, the publication of which is some years away as yet.]
Fortunately perhaps for his equilibrium, he is now distracted by Richard's description of the theme of the masque. ""The Wedding of Odysseus and Penelope? Ah yes, an interesting choice of subject-matter, Master Gardiner. For example, as was said, Odysseus later rejected immortality to be with his mortal love. A powerful symbol."
Bacon and others settle to watching the masque, which goes more than well enough -- until a scene in which a prophetess foretells long life and happiness for the couple. At that point, Bacon, still close to Richard, murmurs -- a little too loudly -- "But... There is war and blood along the way, and endless voyaging too!"
He clutches at his brows, and the windows of the hall are blown open by a sudden winter wind, and it seems to some of those there present that most things stop dead and fall silent.
"This is true prophecy," says Bacon, "an instant which may last forever."
A few individuals can act and move; Bacon, and Richard, and Sir James and Kate and Charles -- and also Inigo Pelton. Master Aristotle, who was observing from the far side of the room, admits to his awareness, but remains largely silent. Each such individual seems to be accompanied by an aura or flickering shadow in some odd shape; Richard is followed by sparking flames (with a hint of saintly feminine form), for example, and Sir James is seemingly wearing the sword which he left aside for this celebration, and there might seem to be a unicorn at Inigo's back. Also, from the centre of the audience, a pearlescent figure which Charles and Kate have perceived before now detaches itself from the Queen and advances to join the group now mustering around Bacon. Shortly afterwards, another such figure, dark where that of the Queen glitters with silver light, but somehow slightly similar, also appears, advancing from the back of the crowd. The two feminine forms acknowledge each other, but a little distantly.
Bacon is naturally stunned and confused by this experience, with no idea what is happening. Richard, recognising the signs of a new Awakening, endeavours to reassure him, welcoming him to a new level of understanding of reality. Richard's explanations are not ineffective, but Bacon is naturally stunned by all this, and Inigo Pelton also joins the conversation, obliging Richard to acknowledge that there are factions among those who have attained such understanding -- although he definitely endeavours to recruit Bacon to the side of Reason.
Meanwhile, the enigmatic female figures join the conversation. That associated with the Queen says little, but seems favourably disposed to our protagonists; she seems to define herself as in some way the Queen's Second Person (Inigo, with a lawyer's training, perhaps comprehends this odd constitutional theory or legal fiction best), declaring that, while she perhaps has the body of weak and feeble woman, that is not the limit of her nature. The other is harder to identify; for a moment, Charles wonders if Mary is present but in hiding, and some even theorise that this may in some way be, or be associated with, the Queen of Faerie. But on the contrary, the figure, who does not so much speak as leave the memory of her having spoken in the minds of all present, thanks the Daedaleans for saving her, and they come to recall details of their time in Faerie; the Queen of that realm perhaps sought to supplant or encompass this being. She, meanwhile, seems amused at their confusion and difficulty in recognising her. She leaves them with much memory of soft laughter, but also of her gratitude.
In the end, Kate is the first to point out that Master Shakespeare is indeed present at the celebration; this Dark Lady is perhaps his unawakened but powerful daemon. This requires further explanation to Francis Bacon.
He, of course, is still in the throws of Awakening, and requires some moral support and guidance. As the Daedaleans attempt to decide what needs to be done, they notice Inigo handling an amulet which he normally wears beneath his shirt, and suspect that he may be attempting his own form of intervention. Inigo faces down their challenge without denying the truth of their suspicion, but points out that Master Bacon's unfocussed will might benefit from some reinforcement. Kate, as the most accomplished student of the arts of the mind here present, accepts the implicit challenge, and focusses her consciousness on Bacon's, in parallel with Inigo.
Given the nature of the situation, it is a fair guess that Bacon's strengths as an Enlightened will-worker will lie in the realm of sphere of Time. As he works to comprehend the overwhelming novelty of this experience, he steps towards the windows of the hall -- and Kate momentarily sees through his eyes and through the windows, but not onto the grounds of the Gardiner house. For a moment, Bacon and those assisting him enjoy a startling vision of flying ships and mile-high crystal towers -- and then Bacon murmurs "yes" -- and time begins again.
The winter wind rattles the windows of the hall, and servants make haste to close them. Apparently, no one notices that a few of the audience are abruptly displaced by a few feet. The masque continues to a successful conclusion. Richard hastily speaks with Bacon, suggesting that the fellow should attend him at the Tower on Monday, to have his situation and choices further explained.
Dancing follows, and Sir James perforce remembers that he has never formally studied this art. His natural deftness and agility count for enough for him to survive, but when the Queen requires that he partner her for one dance, he treads on her toes in the midst of the procedure. Ah well, this may save him from any unwelcome demands that he take any sort of position at court. Meanwhile, Charles demonstrates that he has been studying dance -- but for some reason, during his first pass, he performs the female steps, to the vast confusion of one of Sir James's country relatives. Also, aided by the others, who distract Inigo, Richard manages just one brief dance with Cassandra. Still, the bride's parents are able to thoroughly enjoy themselves for once.
In the course of the afternoon, the Earl of Essex makes an appearance, and is briefly noted by the Queen, while Francis Bacon, recovering his equilibrium, takes further opportunity to establish himself in the young noble's good graces. It is only a passing visit, though politely enough done. Eventually, the Queen departs the event with due formality, her transport summoned by Sir Francis Walsingham, who shows relief that yet another display of royal whim has passed without disaster.
Shortly after this, Master Hollbright and Oswald make an appearance, the latter having determined that this is now safe. Richard greets them and explains the nature of the dangerous presence which they so deftly evaded; he also announces the Awakening of Francis Bacon, and acknowledges the need to recruit him for the Order of Reason. Master Holbright nods thoughtfully; this is promising, but the presence of an agent of the Order of Hermes at the crucial moment may complicate matters considerably.
And so, the party comes towards its conclusion, and even the most tireless of guests begin to depart for their own beds. Incidentally, Aunt Julia (whose wedding gifts consisted of a large bundle of fine woollens, and a two-part wardrobe, fitted to take male garb in one half and female in the other; "I thought that you would need this for your new home now...") is hosting many of the Gardiner family come from Borsetshire.
Kate and Sir James remain at the Gardiner house for the Satturday night. (It might be more usual to move on the husband's home, but in this case, that would mean progressing through London on a Saturday night.) Kate's parent carefully provide a set of apartments away from the rest.
After they have retired, Richard directs a deal of post-party clearing up. Oswald remains, in search of a free meal, perhaps; he also, as it seems, has a new task from Master Holbright -- to plot a way to protect Master Bacon. For now, he is chatting to Master Aristotle, who seems to be refining his ability to remain unnoticed in the midst of all manner of excitements; having found a bottle of somewhat pleasant wine, Master Aritsotle is attempting to instruct Oswald in the subtleties and virtues of such substances. Oswald diverts his attention from this, however, to agree with Richard that all is well for now -- Master Holbright's secrecy survives, and Master Bacon is most definitely to be recruited. As Oswald has previously cast his horoscope, he already has some idea as to what assignments the fellow may be given -- something to do with government and influence in the mundane world, most probably. Also, Master Shakespeare's significance has been confirmed; fortunately, the pact with the Order of Hermes holds in that regard; less fortunately, though, no such pact applies to Master Bacon.
Richard comments that Master Bacon has been given time to think on his own desires; Oswald does not deny that this is well and good, but suggests that he might need some guarding for now. The three consider this, and agree that Mary might be suited to this task -- but how to contact her?
That question remains unanswered for now, as Richard, exhausted by a good day's work, retires to his bed.
Everyone rises relatively late the next morning; the newly enlarged family break their fast, with Sir James seeming aggravatingly cheerful and fresh to the still-tired Richard, and then attend church at noon. The pews are strikingly full of interested-seeming neighbours, but to look upon her (as all do), butter would not melt in Kate's mouth.
An afternoon meal follows, with supplies of Giles's winter ale. The men discuss a subject of shared interest -- military strategy -- which gives Sir James an opportunity to express his deep feelings about the Earl of Leicester (the chiefest reason for his return to England from the wars). Meanwhile, Kate's mother gives her unwanted advice on managing servants. At least, though, she does not mention grandchildren until they are about to rejoin the men.
"Not just yet, mother!"
Some four hours after noon, Sir James and the new Lady Taverner depart for their new home, with the last of their luggage carried by a couple of spare servants. ("At least one of us is still sober" Kate mutters.) Richard, meanwhile, retires to compose an excellent poem to Cassandra.
At the new house, as they make themselves truly at home, one of the servants reports a visitor at the door -- a female visitor is announced. No sooner has she entered than Kate notices her husband seeming somewhat distracted.
"That is not very good manners" she snaps.
"I apologise." Mary snaps her fingers at Sir James, who gathers his wits a little more. In truth, he was only slightly affected, as Mary acknowledges. "But I thought that you would have him shielded entire by now. But remember, that trick serves well to distract them for just an essential moment." She slips a stiletto from her sleeve, and then back again -- not as smoothly as she might, but the argument is made.
Then, she extracts a report on the previous day from the couple, and grumbles a little about the nature of fully qualified royalty. "The Queen's Two Bodies, indeed -- that second body is nought but a shield. Neither the Enlightened nor the witch-folk can lay a finger upon such a person through any of our arts. It is quite inconvenient at times." Regarding William Shakespeare, conversely, she acknowledges and accepts the standing of the pact. ("But should we have to verify that the other crowd still respect it -- well, the best thing about those theatrical folk is that they can never keep out of Southwark.") Which leaves the most worrisome matter -- that of Francis Bacon. He, Mary feels, will need watching for the now, especially as he is a lawyer by employment at present. "Ah well, at least that places him in the Inns of Court" -- which, it seems, she regards as easy to infiltrate, as its rules are most definitely made to be broken.
And so she departs, delaying further only to borrow the accoutrements of some basic hedge-magic wardings from Kate's supply. The Taverners then turn once more to arranging their furniture, with particular consideration given to how anything might serve in the event of a melee being brought into the house. Some ropes and hangings may drop usefully, some are carefully set to be swung on as necessary, and some are arranged as traps.
Later that evening, Richard hears a tapping at his window, and finds Mary outside. She reports a little on her observations, and suggests that she may need to call on him for aid at some later point. Bacon's fellow lawyers, as it seems, have been plying him with drink; to detach him from unwanted influences at this time of confusion for him, she may need to sow some chaos and confusion.
The two talk of social interactions, and Richard mentions University, which Mary notes is something which she has of course not experienced. "It does not show," Richard comments, and then, at Mary's raised eyebrow, he denies that flirtation was intended -- merely an honest compliment. Mary smiles ironically in reply, and offers to deliver any necessary poems to Cassandra Pelton.
"Thank you. Give me but a few minutes to complete this fair copy." Richard turns to that task; when he turns back, Mary is absently juggling a stiletto.
"You are a student of the Italian School, Master Gardiner? I must be going now, but at some time, we must essay a pass. But for now, I should go and visit Miss Pelton. I confess that my curiosity is piqued."
Later that night -- or more precisely, in the small hours of the next morning -- Sir James in turn is awakened by the sound of tapping at the window. He awakens his new wife, and they don robes and swords. They too find Mary outside.
"You were asleep? I am disappointed."
But Mary then admits that she requires aid. Pelton and his friends were most determinedly plying Francis Bacon with drink and complex arguments, doubtless seeking to turn his mind around and about and eventually in their own favour. Master Pelton was distracted by a message -- which may have been somewhat incorrect, in that his house is not truly burning down, but there is reason enough why some might think so -- and departed the scene, but now these other lawyerly and perhaps Hermetic individuals need to be detached from Master Bacon, while Mary keeps Pelton distracted.
Kate and Sir James dress (Kate as Nicholas) and gather some gear -- blades, but no lanterns, on the grounds that they do not really need the latter, and the lack should make them look more fearsome to any footpads who may still be around -- and prepare to set out across London.
Kate extracts one of her usual medical preparations and easily increases the sensitivity of her eyes, while her husband first prepares a special lantern and a set of tinted lenses to go over his eyes. However, he has some considerable difficulty with these devices [the dice turning insanely unfriendly], and after suffering lungs full of fumes from his special lantern-oil, he abandons that approach and instead meditates on the nature of space and distance, attuning his skilled fighter's sensitivities to his surroundings. However, he now finds the Scourge biting at him; his sensitivities are all too well attuned. He must hope to avoid harm in any combat which may follow; it is all too likely to be all too painful.
The pair know the way to the Cock and Bull, the tavern which Mary names as significant, and find it easily even in the dark. They adopt the manner of drunken revellers, and batter on the bolted door, demanding drink, with the excuse that they can see a light still in the place. The landlord is a little uncertain, but the offer of generous payment overcomes that; he might think of changing his mind when one of the group already in residence arrives at the door to proclaim this a private party, but Sir James then turns menacing, browbeating both of the pair into granting him and Nihcolas admission.
They settle at a table away from the other group -- a band of six Inns of Court lawyers clustered round Francis Bacon as he contemplates drinks and thoughts. Nicholas, sharply observant of postures and manners, notes that the six are suffering from the hour and the ale, whereas Bacon's mind is racing fiercely. Unfortunately, though, it will prove that at least one of the lawyers is alert enough, despite everything.
Nicholas strolls to the other table and addresses Bacon by name. "You are up late..."
"I am? Yes, time races... Do I know you, good sir?"
"Perhaps -- although I am not as well known as yourself."
"Ah -- you are interested in matters of the politics?"
"Somewhat. Although..." and here Nicholas casts an appraising glance at the other lawyers "...I see no great cause to alter the state of things."
The one who is most alert here looks at Nicholas. "I know you, don't I?" he asks. "You look like that Gardiner fellow."
"He is my cousin."
"Ah, yes, that would explain..."
Another of the lawyers blinks. "Gardiner -- hasn't he just managed to marry his shrew of a sister off to some poor fool?"
Astoundingly, some would say, tempers are kept at this point. Somehow.
Francis Bacon, though, is currently more interested in philosophy, and specifically the theory of qualities. (A subtle but crucial point on which the Order of Hermes takes issue with the Order of Reason.) He enters into a brief discussion with Nicholas on this topic, and Nicholas handily surpasses the Hermetic lawyers in the debate. During this procedure, Bacon gradually comes to recognise Sir James, while Sir James, initially engaged in quite affable converse with whoever will speak to him, finds the conversation growing less friendly.
Nicholas slips Enlightened rhetorical devices into her speech with Bacon, encouraging him to go home and sleep. Tinkering thus with the minds of the newly Awakened is not always wise, but Nicholas is given to overconfidence. As it proves, Bacon's mind is currently most extremely open, and he slips sleepily under the inn table. The lawyers notice this, and react with suspicion. "Leave that Member of Parliament alone!"
As the situation degenerates, Sir James and the lawyers face off, while Nicholas seeks quietly to extract Bacon. As one of the group places a hand on a sword hilt, Sir James drops a bag of coins on the table, telling the landlord that this is to cover the cost of any damage. His opponents surround him, but unfortunately for them, he has that Enlightened warrior's attuned sense of his surroundings, and the fight soon goes his way. In fact, the second time one of his opponents throws a punch at him from behind, he not only blocks the punch, but gains a grip on the attacker's arm and rolls the fellow over his own back, slamming him onto the floor in front of himself. He never draws blade, using mostly his skill with grips and throws to counter attackers who thought that this would be an easy brawl; soon, three lawyers are downed and stunned, one of them in some need of a physician. Sir James is untouched - which is just as well, as with his overly-attuned senses, any injury might well have caused him to cry out in pain most uncharacteristically. The other opponents are backing away; one has a sword half-drawn, but they decide on balance against making of this a killing matter, despite their annoyance at the outcome.
By now, Nicholas is moving towards the door, drawing a dozing Francis Bacon along with him. "Put down that Member of Parliament!" one of the Hermetic sympathisers essays, but the words emerge as a squeak, and Nicholas sneers and departs, covered by the wolfishly smiling Sir James. Quickly departing the neighbourhood, they take Bacon back to their own home.
The next morning, at the Gardiner home, Richard receives a note, delivered in some haste by the hand of a Pelton family servant. Cassandra expresses her appreciation of his latest poem, but requests that in future, his methods of secret delivery not involve arson. Richard yelps in surprise, sends a quickly-penned apology in reply, and then heads off to the Taverner home.
There, he is greeted by Sir James, who seems to be walking carefully, almost limping. Richard does not of course inquire as to the cause of this gait (although in fact it is a latent hypersensitivity of touch). Kate and Francis Bacon are just awakening; Richard briefly greets him, promises to return later, and goes off to business at the Tower and to pay a generous bonus to the company of actors who recently served his family so well.
Richard's intent this day is to make report to Master Holbright, admitting a failure to anticipate Inigo Pelton's actions -- a failure he would say was occasioned by overmuch belief in Inigo's good manners -- and to note and offer thanks for Mary's competence in resolving the matter satisfactorily. Master Pelton simply notes that, given the stakes in play, one must expect the opposition to play hard -- and assigns Richard to full-time duties for the next few days, mostly providing companionship and advice to Master Bacon while tactfully guarding him against further Hermetic interference. This also, perhaps conveniently, means further dealings with the Earl of Essex. Master Bacon looks set to become the Order of Reason's prime line of communication in that direction, which may free Richard for other duties.
Meanwhile, Sir James and Lady Taverner are still founding their new household, and Charles has the duties of a doctor demanding his attention. Winter is drawing in; all actors in this drama will be spending more time indoors, and travel plans are not a first concern for anyone.
|Tuesday 23-11-1586 to Sunday 28-11-1585||
In the next few days, Charles makes a highly successful new experiment in use of his sex-change potion, which he has been refining. Amelia, though, shows something of a mind of her own, and immediately decides that playing her role requires a more considerable wardrobe than Charles has though to acquire. [A long-suspended minor Scourge Bane finally cuts in here...] She remains in female guise, and spends a fair amount of time -- and of Charles's money -- acquiring a fine collection of female garb and makeup.
At one point, while she is receiving a fine dressmaker and assessing samples of fabric, Richard pays a visit, provides her with a summary of recent events, and delivers a request that Charles should pay a visit to the Taverner house and make a medical examination of Master Bacon. Amelia, however, is little inclined to revert to Charles [the bane not having fully worked itself out yet] -- so Amelia goes to make that visit, accompanied by a servant-chaperone carrying a medical bag.
A house-servant announces the visitor, and Kate goes to meet "Mistress Amelia Kent" with just a little puzzlement.
"Your brother sent me..." says Amelia, "...Oh, you don't recognise me."
"I think that I do" says Kate. "But you have become better at this."
"I have been practising." Amelia goes on to explain that she is still extending her wardrobe, anbd thus must remain female. She does admit, though, that this may lead to problems in treating Master Bacon.
"You will have to be careful where you go" Kate observes.
"I think that the dressmakers already believe that I am Charles's mistress. It may be easiest simply to permit this."
"It may be hard to prevent them..."
"Well, in any event -- what happened with regard to Master Bacon?"
Kate provides more detail of the recent incident, and Amelia decides that a personal examination is in order -- but that she should not reveal her secret more widely for now, even to a new recruit to the Order. Kate, however, does tell her husband who Amelia is; Sir James maintains admirable sang-froid. Amelia is introduced to Master Bacon as a Daedalean with expertise in medicine, and diagnoses him as spiritually troubled in a deep and literal sense; the release of so much power and so many confusing influences in the vicinity of an awakening daemon can be traumatic. Some form of exorcism is indicated -- but fortunately, Kate has advanced far enough in her study of the sphere of spirit, and can assist with a little hedge-magic purification. Master Bacon is most impressed by this display of erudition and insight by the two ladies, which may explain why he will, one day, become a keen proponent of female education.
Amelia also commissions some embroidery work from Kate, who restrains any impulse to humour and suggests some stylish sleeves.
And so, matters fall quiet for but a few days.
|Monday 29-11-1585||In the morning of the Monday of the next week, Kate is delivering some of her lace-work to the house of Lady Anne Mortgrave, when Juliet the maid approaches her quietly, with an invitation. Persons of her acquaintance are willing to accept an old invitation to parlay, and suggest neutral ground -- the gardens of Lady Anne's house, while Lady Anne is at court, at sunrise on the morning of the next day. Three from each side may attend, under terms of truce. Kate accepts, and spends the rest of the day mustering companions for the purpose; with Richard still much preoccupied, Sir James and Charles are the obvious candidates, and both agree.|
And so, Charles, Sir James, and Nicholas meet up before dawn at the Taverner house (all in male guise and form). They make their way across London to the garden named, where they find a gate unlatched, and enter. Charles and Nicholas quickly notice something about one large old oak tree, and Nicholas, whose arcane senses seem especially well-attuned this day, has a sense of two workings, although nothing vastly energetic; at a best guess, someone is ensuring the privacy of this meeting.
The other party consists of Juliet, Mistress Elmery, and a rather rough-looking fellow, with a simple shortsword at his side, who is introduced only as Seth. A rather guarded conversation follows; Kate and Charles explain their concerns about the thinning of the Veil and ensuing dangers to the world of men, but Mistress Elmery in turn makes it clear that she and those for whom she speaks do not see this as entirely a bad thing. The world, they feel, has been made too harshly stolid a place, and a little more wildness seems to the good. Any dangers arising from this can be dealt with as they arise by those who understand them well enough. Sir James interjects that, while he (for example) is equipped to manage such defences, other folk should not be required to do so; however, the other party do not seem overly concerned by this danger. They do acknowledge that bravery is sometimes called for in such cases, and Mistress Elmery remarks with a small smile that Sir James's bravery is currently famous throughout much of London. They will certainly not obstruct anyone dealing with the likes of the Grey Homunculi, but they regard these as the sort of problem that the Church all too often throws up -- indeed, Seth for one seems to see them as a typical product of the Church's activities. Still, problems arising from monstrous incursions and the need to deal with them may be considered to fall under terms of truce.
These three also seem a little amused when Kate makes reference to the interests of the Order of Hermes, denying that they are members of that organisation. The Daedaleans recall mentions of a faction known as the Verbena -- witches allied to Hermetics (and others), but with their own concerns and arts.
The meeting thus ends, with civility but only partial agreement, as the sun rises in the sky. By the time that final courtesies are exchanged, it has also become clear that Mistress Elmery understands the relationship between Kate and Nicholas -- she will have acquired large clues to the matter in Faerie -- and she seems to agree to a politely hinted request to keep this fact politely unspoken in wider company.