||Game Session Date|
In the course of his peregrinations, Richard has arranged a meeting with Master Holbright for the morning of the Friday of this week; all attend and discuss the great business in hand. Holbright, too, has heard of the possible significance of the name "Janicot" -- though he believes that it may simply be a corruption of "Janus", the ancient Roman god of doorways. In any event, it seems clear to him that research is needed, and he remarks that our heroes may yet have to visit one of the focal points of this scheme in order to destroy it most thoroughly -- though his visitors' schemes look sound to him so far. One of these, which he cautiously approves, is to sponsor some play-performing on their own account, which might cause a little preliminary disruption, or at least confusion, to the foe. Mayhap a comedy about incompetent monks wandering an empty Atlantic?
Oh -- and Kate has composed a simple poem to Sir James, while Richard, having enjoyed a windfall from work, has ordered some blades of the most exceptional quality from his favourite armorer. Blades and words both may be required in the near future which he (admittedly no astrologer) foresees...
After that meeting, most of the group find an inn for a midday meal, and then Oswald departs for the theatre to make his observations, with Charles accompanying to advise and assist and Sir James to watch their backs. The play they see concerns pre-Roman Britain, with passing references to kings of Trojan descent, which seems somewhat significant. The quality of the writing is tolerable, if unremarkable -- Charles likes it for some reason, though Sir James has more taste.
Oswald spends much of the performance adjusting the odd glasses which he is wearing, and has to exert much of his will and inspiration [and burn all of his reserves of Quintessence], but eventually is struck by inspiration [and a Scourge Boon]; he slips over to the side of the theatre and makes a swift sketch, for he has perceived something of astrological significance. Meanwhile, the others note one of the Raleigh faction's agents watching them, and counsel caution; all else aside, it would be all too easy to be accused of attempting to note and steal some of the words of the play...
Meanwhile, Kate returns home, and immediately visits the servants' quarters, calling for Mary as her escort on another venture out of the house. They stroll down the river a little way, and Mary extracts a hidden bundle from behind a bush and hands it to Kate. It is lower-class male garb; Mary evidently feels that Kate should practice the full range of her possible impersonations, and Kate does not choose to argue, but changes as suggested. Mary suggests a visit to the city; they find a boat to take them downstream, and Kate reports on recent events, such as the visit to Mortlake. Mary is coolly complimentary.
Then, Kate opens a new topic. She has heard it suggested, she says, that the group may have to visit America, or perhaps some other remote places, as the locus of the great problem in hand. This is hardly convenient for her as a respectable daughter unmarried living at home -- so perhaps the solution might be a convenient marriage. Indeed, she has a life-partner of convenience in mind. The problem is that the fellow seems to require prompting.
Mary smiles and says that they should visit a few London taverns. They soon reach the city and set out through some of the shadier parts of the northern bank, while Mary tells some colorful tales of her past; if they are all true, she has performed missions and sought fortune across much of Europe.
Oswald, Charles, and Sir James depart the theatre at the end of the play. As they do so, Oswald, his senses still transcending the mundane, notes a quirk or strangeness in Sir James's personal aura. He asks if Sir James is well, but receives a simple answer in the affirmative. He shrugs, and they stroll down the street towards Charles's house, intending to combine Oswald's perceptions with the perfect map of London there.
After visiting more than one tavern, Mary is expounding to Kate regarding ways to attract male attention. "Observe," she says, "the first man that I meet around this next corner will see only me." Curiously, however, the first man in question proves to be Sir James Taverner (one step ahead of his two comrades), who, with an iron Enlightened will, proves completely resistant to Mary's equally Enlightened subtle arts of attention-seeking, and indeed, with a soldier's instinct, assumes that when some female endeavours thus to distract him, some ambush must be planned. After a moment, not seeing any such thing, he notes what Charles and Oswald have already seen -- that the low-class youth there with that female has the look of a Gardiner. And Oswald notes that the twist in Sir James's aura straightens itself with a near-audible snap.
[Sir James thus loses the Weirdness Magnet disadvantage which his player had chosen to discard.]
Oswald and Charles both note that this woman is exerting some manner of working, though they are unsure what she is about. Kate moves up to Mary, and says something about not "trying things upon the Quality"; Charles, at this moment, vaguely sees hints of impersonation of another sex here, and frowns. Kate drags Mary onwards; Mary is muttering something about the Greek Vice. Once clear of the other three, Kate names Sir James, and explains a little more; Mary mutters "I wish you well of him..."
At Charles's house, he and Oswald overlay Oswald's vision on Adrien's map. Oswald agrees with Charles's terrestrial plottings, but adds more, astrological aspects to the web of power sketched out. The web has strands reaching to parts of the zodiac, and indeed to what Oswald can identify as specific decans. He names the third decan of Cancer, Saphathorael; the first and third of Aries, Ruax and Arotosael; the second of Leo, Kumeatel; the second of Taurus, Iudal; and, most worryingly for the knowledgeable, the enigmatic second decan of Capricorn, Anoster. It is hard (and perhaps meaningless) to say whether the web is drawing power from these decans, or direting power to them. The three men ponder the implications of all this.
Later, all travel to the Gardiner home for the evening. There, Richard is mildly puzzled by odd cryptic remarks passing back and forth between the others. For example, Charles asks after the person with whom Kate was out and about -- "If she requires company..."
"You may receive ... more than you bargained to receive."
(Some of the company actually wonder if Mary is male at this. There has been overmuch such mis-dressing in their lives, it seems.)
"She is a Facilitator of the Rose Guild."
"Ah. Yes, well. Even so..."
Master Aristotle extracts some of the books which he possesses containing information on astrology and decanic lore, and discusses the matter somewhat with Oswald especially. The group notes that, to invoke Anoster, the mage must employ impossibilities -- things that never existed and never could. Charles is concerned that his enigmatic book may be useful to the opposition for such purposes, but is firmly told that burning it is not to be considered. (Master Aristotle has to sit down and breathe deeply for a moment when the idea of burning a book is so much as mentioned as a hypothetical possibility.) Much discussion also ensues on the mapping of new worlds, reasons why the Grey Homunculi may have been in London and how Raleigh's faction may have acquired one (presumably by a little well-directed piracy performed by the Wise Fox), the nature of secret guidance received by Columbus, and diverse other concerns. The group decide that another visit to the Void Seekers in their haven down the river is definitely indicated, and decide that Richard should borrow a cutter from the Tower again tomorrow (Although unfortunately, Sir James will not be able to join them.)
(Also, Oswald contemplates writing a history of Ancient Britain, as a form of employment and a former of counter-propaganda. It would be an interesting project, if lengthy...)
Richard has no difficulty in borrowing that small craft, and takes charge of the voyage down the Thames, with Oswald -- who has some experience of boating -- providing assistance, and Nicholas and Charles holding ropes and assisting as best they can (which for these intelligent individuals, is more than adequately). They find the location they seek, and turn towards the bank; Oswald is briefly bemused as the cutter appears to be steered directly at an overhanging tree, but it slips through the well-hidden gap and into the hidden haven. They moor, and admire the half-inflated balloon nearby as they are greeted by the Void Seekers.
An impromptu conference is organised. The Seekers, it is clear, are less than pleased by attempts to undo much of their hard work of the last two centuries, and are happy to assist in foiling the schemes of such whoreson dogs as would essay such a thing. For now, though, they can also discuss the Basque people. They note that these are a nation living on the edge of the world, as they see it, with their own language -- and, they note, the Enlightened will understand that this is prone to giving one a different way of perceiving and understanding the world, which has its own strange power. For the most part, they are a good folk, but private and close. The Seekers recall how Basques were fishing off Newfoundland a bare few years after Columbus found the Americas. This was a remarkably swift response -- or could it be that they knew more, earlier, than they chose to tell outsiders?
And "Janicot"... may be simply their word for God, but names do have significance. Is this in fact the Roman's Janus? Or something else?
It might perhaps be best if someone spoke to a Basque or two in person. Unfortunately, none can be found in the haven, and those who are also Seekers are especially prone to moving around. In any event, sailing near to the coast of Spain is a proposition with its own risks for Englishmen at this moment. So it might be best to seek a meeting at sea.
Fortunately, the Void Seekers have arts of navigation and cartography beyond the mundane. They can say where several of their ships are travelling in and around the Bay of Biscay, and can suggest courses that will accomplish a meeting. In the circumstances, they are also willing to lend a small ship and a couple of spare crew. (The visitors turn down the kind offer of fresh loan of the balloon-craft, even if it would be swifter. The others explain the offer and their response to Oswald with carefully restrained shudders.) Considering their options, they decide that they will set sail on the coming Friday, giving them time to prepare and make excuses.
The only other great decision reached that day is made by Charles, who is determined to continue seeking Mary's acquaintance. He has learned that the next play to be shown at The Theatre concerns the fabled King Arthur, and decides that he will send her a note of invitation.
|Sunday 3-10-1585||Richard spends much of the day of rest preparing indifferent poems to his love. Kate decides that she should attempt another verse to Sir James -- and actually produces something more than competent. Oswald plots out a horoscope for the near future, which will take a day or so to interpret, then spends some time with the map of London, unsuccessfully seeking to divine where quintessence might be drawn to restore his soul. He also seeks to contact his patron in the Order for aid in such matters, but fails. And Kate delivers Charles's courteously-phrased note to Mary, murmuring as she does that he is a good fellow really...|
|Monday 4-10-1585||The next day, Richard finds cause to make a visit to Charles's house, and there speaks with Oswald. Together, they give more attention to the map, and Richard suggests a site a little outside the city walls, where Oswald goes to watch the sky, and think awhile, and more than regain something of the spiritual power which he needs in this new life of adventure.|
Kate reviews her memory palace, looking again at some older contents in the light of her recent studies of decanic lore. She also looks at her recollections of Adrian's account of his experiences on the coast of the New World, wondering if this could be linked with one of the maps from Dee's library -- the one showing America with, seemingly, a channel passing across it.
Such subjects merit more thought, it would seem. For now, Kate refuses to worry unduly about the implications of holding detailed decanic imagery within her own mind...
Oh, and she receives a brief visit from Richard. Remembering that she had spoken to Cassandra Pelton on occasion concerning embroidery design, he wonders if more poems might be delivered.
The next day, Charles is at home, with Oswald also present, when his servant announces that he has a visitor. This is Mary, who has evidently decided that she might accept Charles's invitation (and so has carefully arranged that everyone in the Gardiner servants' hall should believe her to be performing some essential task for someone else at this time). She is businesslike at first, saying that she assumes that Charles knows her own standing, and asking outright if there is some manner of political calculation involved. When Charles say not, she changes to a more flirtatious manner, apparently testing Charles's response to such behaviour. She agrees that she will indeed accompany Charles to the theatre on the next day, and asks how he might prefer she appears for this.
Then, however, the servant announces another newcomer, a lady -- and Cassandra Pelton enters, leaving her maidservant outside on watch. Mary changes her manner to that of a quiet and respectful servant, peering at bottles and other stuff on Charles's shelves for a moment, and soon stepping politely out of the door when Cassandra makes her wish for privacy clear. ("I'll not distract you from this fine lady, doctor", she says, with but the faintest hint of insolence.) Cassandra asks who "that girl" serves; Charles mentions the Gardiners. Cassandra also asks that Oswald should leave the room for a moment, though when he selects an astrological text from the shelf as reading matter, she becomes curious, speaking of her own interest in such philosophies.
Left with Charles, she asks after Richard, making clear her concern that he should not think that she has forgotten him. Charles undertakes to pass messages on, but refrains from mentioning the planned sea voyage at this point, knowing that Cassandra finds this topic distressing.
Meanwhile, Richard himself is approaching Charles's establishment, looking to make a courtesy visit, when he sees two somewhat familiar figures outside the door -- Cassandra's servant, speaking with one of the maids from his home. (In fact, Mary is quietly extracting all the gossip she can from the other woman.) As he approaches, Cassandra herself emerges, and he quickens his pace, catches up with her, and hands off the poem he happens to be carrying. They converse briefly as they walk, discussing Oswald in passing; Cassandra asks if he has yet cast Richard's horoscope -- "not yet" is his reply. At Richard's prompting, she says that there might be some complications in him casting hers (Richard knows that horoscopes are deeply personal matters, after all), although she would like to speak more with him on some occasion.
Richard steps away before they come too close to the Inns of Court, where they might too easily meet some of Inigo's friends. He turns back towards Charles's residence, where the meanwhile, Mary has returned briefly, commented on Cassandra's identity (with an ironic comment that "the world requires all sorts" in passing), agreed a manner of dress for the play the next day, and departed entirely. When Richard arrives, he speaks with Charles and Oswald, and it is agreed (at Charles's prompting) that he will take the latter out and about London in search of accommodation of his own.
With their shared knowledge of the town, they finally succeed, identify a tolerable (but, as Oswald insists most firmly, not over-priced) set of rooms which even have enough space for his books and telescopes. (This good fortune was, in truth, assisted by a little deft manipulation of Entropy -- Oswald was most selective, after all.) And so they spend some time arranging and signing documents.
Sir James, the meanwhile, has decided to present Kate with a most fine gift -- a set of blades of the highest of all qualities, as only the Enlightened arts of Matter can usually permit. He spends much of the day visiting those merchants who deal in iron and steel from the mines of Bohemia, and effectively intimidates them into promising metal of the best nature, as he can recognise it, by the end of the week. But, as he extends his perceptions to this purpose, he is struck by a strange feeling of concern... [Actually, he gets a 9-point Scourge Bane. Specific manifestations still to appear...]
The next morning, Richard is again working at the Tower, and working well, when he receives a visitor of import; Sir Francis Walsingham, with an air about him of greater affability than on some occasions. Also, he is accompanied by the young fellow sometimes seen in his company of late; the well-dressed, well-mannered, self-confident Robert Devereux. Walsingham explains that he is showing this promising young fellow the town, but adds that he feels somewhat old for some parts of this task, and Devereux's other relatives in London are busy at present. Perhaps Richard could act as a guide? It would be seen as a great favour.
He then finds an excuse to take Richard outside. "The lad shows much promise in the matter of charm," he explains with a slightly more serious expression, "and he has sufficient standing for swift entry to court. Well, charm at court may distract... certain attentions from others, who are also given to using their own charm. The lad has some rough edges, though." Richard replies with an undertaking to seek to smooth these off.
Richard takes Devereux (who is, incidentally, the Earl of Essex, and has been since he inherited the title ten years since, at the age of eight) and goes about the town. Things begin less than well, as the young Earl overindulges in the good ale of one of Richard's favourite taverns [critical failure on a Carousing roll -- ask the dice a silly question...], but he settles down enough by the time Richard has him to the Theatre for the afternoon. Richard has spent some time explaining about the social subtleties of theatre-going, and saying that a fine new thing is being invented here, and that a man of culture and discernment should become acquainted with it.
The rest of our heroes at that place, and most salute Richard, though Nicholas avoids meeting Devereux, in order to reduce later complications. Charles is accompanied by Mary, who is garbed in respectable style and being described as his cousin, up from the country. When the young Earl meets Sir James and learns that has been in the wars in the Low Countries, he becomes interested, asking after his stepfather -- the Earl of Leicester -- and expressing an interest in joining that cause himself. Sir James, whose regard for Leicester as a commander is not of the highest, bites back his honest opinion. Then the play is announced, and Richard and his companion find the good seats for which they have paid. Richard thinks he perhaps recognises the fellow sitting on the other side of Devereux -- another Trinity man, perhaps, around Richard's age but went up to Cambridge somewhat earlier, perhaps now sitting in Parliament. Whoever it is makes converse with Devereux in the brief moment before the performance begins.
The play is entitled "The Natural Philosophers", and is a comedy, very loosely based on some Greek original. The plot concerns a band of squabbling Epicurean philosophers who seem intent on denying the validity of Plato's thinking despite all the logic and evidence placed before them. It occurs to the Daedaleans present that this might be a satire or insult aimed at themselves, but this is of course obscure to most of the audience. It is not the best piece given at the Theatre in recent times, but it has its share of low comedy. Oswald, whose sense of humour has never been located despite much philosophical enquiry into the matter, misses all of this, of course, especially as his thinking on philosophy is not of the sharpest today, for all his scholarship. Devereux, by contrast, finds the play hilarious.
However, what becomes evident to our heroes as the first act progresses is that not all attention is on the stage. For some reason, Sir James has become the cynosure of all female eyes in the place (and a few male eyes, but this would just confirm moralists' views of some theatre-goers). Nicholas frowns at this, perhaps, but guesses correctly at the cause ("Oh, what has he been about?"); certainly, Charles is a little displeased, as Mary is not immune, and Charles sees Sir James distracting another woman's attention from himself. Noting the excessive strength of Sir James's apparent appeal, he too thinks a little, and suggests to Mary that this may be a matter of the infamous Scourge at work. But she mutters that supernatural influence is hardly necessary with a handsome fellow like that. Dellmurray, too, is in the audience, doubtless as representative of his faction, and has noted Sir James's disruptive effect on the audience, with no pleasure. Sir James, on the other hand, seems oblivious.
In a brief pause between scenes, the fellow to whom Devereux has been chatting introduces himself to Richard; this is one Francis Bacon, of Gray's Inn, son of a past Keeper of the Great Seal, former member of the Embassy to France, and Member of Parliament for Melcombe Regis. He seems less than taken with the play himself -- he is evidently a man who takes philosophy seriously, and tries to explain his reasons to Devereux, fortunately in light enough tones that the young Earl takes no offence at having his taste challenged.
Come the interval between acts, Charles tries to tell Sir James of his situation, but Sir James is slow to believe. Richard introduces Bacon to Oswald, as fellow scholars, and they talk, while Richard diverts Devereux to observations on the more flamboyant and less respectable women present. Dellmurray locates Nicholas, and mutters to him about Sir James being of his faction -- "I know not what he is about, but..."
The remainder of the play passes, no worse than the first act for any present. At the end, Nicholas reminds Sir James that he owes a rematch on the fencing field. Quite a number of the audience (including many women, but also including Richard and Devereux) follow along to watch. Meanwhile, Charles and Mary return to Charles's home to take wine, conversing as they go. Once there, Charles becomes aware that Mary is casually directing Enlightened arts at him -- a matter of seduction, as they talk of Ovid and Sappho.
At the fencing field, a blindingly swift first pass leads to Nicholas disarming Sir James. As the audience immediately calls for the challenge to be the best of three passes, Sir James dives for his blade, and Nicholas makes no move to stop him. Their second bout lasts a little longer, thanks to fine defensive bladework on both sides, but a deft counterattack from Nicholas throws Sir James wildly out of line, and as the two opponents pass, Nicholas taps the back of Sir James's leg.
They rest for breath, and Sir James comments on the size of their audience. Nicholas begins to convince him that he may have a problem.
Elsewhere in London, the other meeting between Enlightened challengers comes to a predictable denouement. Charles has no objection to being seduced, and Mary -- whatever the distractions earlier in the day -- has clearly decided on this course, for one reason or another. During the act, Charles becomes aware that she is weaving some manner of Life and Mind working, but has no idea of its precise purpose.
And Richard continues to converse with young Devereux as they stroll away from the practise fields without the city wall and spend an evening at large in the taverns, covering matters appropriate to a gentleman's education, such as the advantages of regular bathing (which, it is said, pleases the Queen). He suggests that the young Earl should come to dine tomorrow evening, and meet his family. (He considers that a dinner with his mother should be useful courtier-training.) Then he asks what Devereux might wish to do with his time earlier on the morrow. "Well, today has been very enjoyable," Devereux replies, "perhaps you could make a better introduction to that Sir James?"
"That should be possible, I think. Come to the Tower about noon."
"Certainly. I should be out of bed by then..."
Richard takes Essex on to various "respectably rough" taverns, and the evening passes without disaster. From their converse, it becomes clear to Richard that the young Earl is determined to go to the Low Countries within a year. Richard then leaves him at his home and goes on to visit Sir James, to discuss matters further. They agree that it might be best to keep Devereux away from Sir James, at least while his current supernatural difficulty remains.
Richard then returns home and mentions the matter of that dinner invitation to his parents. His mother is happy at the idea of entertaining an Earl, while his father agrees that a young aristocrat looking to command a regiment in war probably needs as much informal instruction as possible.
Meanwhile, Kate has told those parents that she plans a journey to Le Havre, in quest of seed pearls. (Fortunately, the announcement caught her mother in a good mood.) Richard, of course, is firmly instructed to take good care of his sister -- who is spending that evening studying the lore of spirits and suchlike mysteries. Similarly, Charles is reordering his laboratory, and Oswald is investigating a text regarding the Sphere of Entropy.
The next morning, Charles turns his attention to seeing a last few patients, and issuing them with appropriate instructions (which he fears they will disregard), and packing his alchemical supplies and his guns. Kate, likewise, makes arrangements for the voyage that seem appropriate to the story she has told her parents. Oswald simply continues reading on the matter of arts, and thinks about professional astrology as a source of income, while Richard hires a vessel suitable for that claimed journey to Le Havre.
Oswald, in fact, has a customer for his nascent business -- one of Charles's patients, in need of a prognosis for his gout. He handles this well enough, sounding suitably portentous (as is his wont). Afterwards, he too packs for the voyage.
Mary visits Kate in her rooms, asking her about her opinions of Charles. Kate opines that Dr Avery is a fine Daedalean -- but, well, he is a Cosian. Mary replies that they are not all thus. "He is improving," Kate claims, "and aside from his unfortunate mannerisms, he is a capable companion. Why do you ask?"
"I am making his acquaintance -- and one should always know one's acquaintances. I too find him capable, but he might do best to obey the instruction that was given to all who came to Delphi."
"Ah, yes." Kate slips into Greek, recalling the line famously inscribed above that temple door. "Know thyself."
"Quite so. Still, he may have his uses."
Kate smiles. "I wish you joy of him."
Which remark earns an ironically raised eyebrow from Mary.
Richard, having arranged that transport, goes into work at the Tower, where he sets to arranging papers (neatly) while awaiting Robert Devereux -- who, predictably, arrives fashionably late. "Today is a day for speech on tactics and strategy" declares Richard. "Sir James, unfortunately, is otherwise occupied, and unable to join us." Devereux pouts distinctly at that news, but Richard continues the lecture. "Tactics is when one is in personal danger. Strategy, however, offers chances for greater glory..."
The lad does, at some point, ask after Richard's personal experience of war, which Ricard has to confess is negligible -- but Richard promises him speech with others more experienced. Then Richard takes him to the practise range, to impress him with the great sounds of artillery. Although he shows such matters off well, Richard performs only competently as an instructor (which may explain something of Devereux's career in later life, some would say). Still, by the end of the afternoon, Devereux has had some chance to practise in full armour -- after which he suggests a social call upon Sir Francis Bacon.
Sir James, meanwhile, goes shopping once again, in search of the best steel. Somehow, he loses track of his high scientific knowledge, and loses focus enough to find himself talking to the ingots. He resolves to take them, his new friends, on his forthcoming journey.
Sir Francis Bacon, meanwhile, is out and about himself, appearing at Oswald's house, evidently interested to speak on matters of astrology, philosophy, and so forth. He commissions a chart of his own prospects -- which Oswald realises are extremely promising. The fellow will go far, if he is careful and clever, although the chart says most strongly that he should resist temptations. ("Avoid dead chickens, if you value your life" seems too foolish a conclusion to mention, though.) In the shorter term, dealing well with well-chosen friends may lead to great things -- though also, perhaps, to tragedy.
Oswald explains most of this, and Bacon departs, looking thoughtful -- returning home just in time to encounter Richard and Essex at his door. He spends the next few hours chatting very helpfully to the young Earl. Meanwhile, Oswald, pondering further on that chart, decides that it has the look of great significance, and makes a report for his superiors in the Order. This is one to be watched!
Dinner with the Earl at the Gardiner house passes well enough, and better than it might; Kate is ladylike, her father is diplomatic, and Devereux is not a complete oaf. Members of the Order must become used to the sight of wonders.
|Friday 8-10-1585||The next morning, Richard collects his hired vessel, and meets the others at the docks below the Tower. When Kate arrives, it is with Giles carrying her luggage -- and they soon see Sir James (wearing a two-handed sword and clutching a set of ingots as if they were his children), Richard (standing proudly on the prow of the vessel), Charles (as ever), and Oswald (in worn robes, holding cases of assorted navigational instruments). Standing amidst a small group of Sir James's female admirers, Giles shakes his head sadly as the craft slips downstream...|
In fact, our protagonists make good time down to the Void Seeker haven, arriving to find the fitting out work on their true vessel for this journey, the Bonaventure, just coming to fruition. They leave their rented craft in dock, pausing to beg that the Seekers not improve it in their absence, as it must be returned to its owners without comment -- though taking it out briefly, to ensure that it has the look of use, might be helpful. They also acquire details of the navigation required to locate the ship they wish to meet, El Camino Sidereal, and find that the Bonaventure has a pair of additional crewmen aboard, as promised -- named Herbert Jones and Jackie O'Malley, these are brethren of Seekers, and hence not Enlightened, but not likely to cause problems for Enlightened workings in their vicinity either.
By dusk, the Bonaventure is passing the Isle of Sheppey, and through the night it heads out along the Kent coast, before turning south.
Their course takes them between Deal and the Goodwin Sands, but this crew has more than enough navigational skill for such hazards as the latter to be no great concern. The morning sees the vessel heading south and west, towards Beachy Head; our heroes are sleeping below decks by this time, leaving Jones and O'Malley on watch. By now, too, all have gained their sea legs. The Gardiners especially seem almost insufferably comfortable; Nicholas is on deck at first light, acting as the commander of the moment were one truly needed. Sir James rises not long after, seeking converse with Nicholas. However, as he climbs toward the deck, Nicholas notes a wave approaching the ship, at an odd angle and strangely faster than all others around. Muttering a charm drawn from his recent reading, he perceives it as somehow oddly female in form.
As Sir James arrives on deck, the ship rocks from the impact of the wave. Nicholas explains his suspicion that this is a spirit at work, and Sir James puts his hand to his sword, looking for a place to strike against such a foe.
"I think that it is pursuing you," says Nicholas to the frowning Sir James. "Oh, whatever were you doing?"
"It is... a surprise" Sir James answers.
"It will be made clear a fortnight or so after we return from this voyage."
The pair then fall to brief technical discussion of the theory of the Scourge. Sir James has long been seeking to apply rational, logical principles to this topic; Nicholas suggests that this is unwise, as it is by nature irrational. (In fact, this further confirms Nicholas's deep-held feeling that Sir James needs further education.) But now, the wave slops up the side of the Bonaventure towards Sir James.
"I think that you have charmed yourself a Naiad."
"I do not believe that I can even spell that."
Sir James resolves to move to the stern of the ship; this wave can at least make itself useful by pushing the ship along, as he hopes. However, by now he finds himself becoming increasingly dampened. Nicholas steps lightly over, and taps the spirit on the shoulder.
"Excuse me," he says, "but I have an interest in this man."
The entity seeks to loom large and threatening, but this causes it to extend itself over-far, making it thin, and Nicholas stares it out with a steady nerve. Losing the match of wills, it collapses, leaving both Nicholas and Sir James soaked, and departs. Nicholas thinks that Sir James has at least thereby been washed clean of the fog of mystical distortion which was about his person of late.
Charles arrives on deck, chewing with remarkable pleasure on a ship's biscuit. "I wonder why these are not for general purchase in London... Oh," he notes the other two, "you are wet."
Nicholas explains somewhat, and he and Sir James leave Charles on watch while they each go to their own cabins to change into drier garments.
Richard emerges soon afterwards, and plots further travel along the south coast, planning to strike south towards Britanny later. He spends some time explaining basic nautical jargon to the others, to ensure that they can make themselves useful, and verifies the ship's compass and charts against landmarks on the Isle of Wight. Then the Bonaventure turns due southwards.
|Sunday 10-10-1585||The next dawn sees it off the northern coast of Britanny; the weather has been favourable, and they are making good time. They intend a brief visit to Le Havre, if only to acquire some evidence that Kate's mission was performed as stated, and they may well be able to visit that city before seeking out El Camino Sidereal.|
Note: The unfortunate lacuna in play at this point was the result of holidays, distracting events for players, and the GM requiring laser surgery on both retinas. The tale resumes after such small matters were resolved, at least in part (but just in time for other people to take holidays).
The vessel has to beat back somewhat eastwards, along the rough coast of Britanny, to reach their initial destination -- the town in fact best known at this date as Havre-de-Grace. Having a fair knowledge of the lands of Europe, our heroes are aware that this is in fact a relatively new establishment, having been founded less than seventy years since by the then king of France, Francois I, to replace the nearby port of Harfleur, which was silting up. The Void Seeker crewmen prove quite happy to be visiting this place; it's evidently somewhere they find quite sympathetic.
First passing the lesser port of Honfleur, on the southern side of the mouth of the Seine, the Bonaventure enters the docks, the Bassin du Roi, making a rather cursory salute to the French warship already there as they pass. It is obvious to the attuned senses of Charles and Nicholas that this whole town has something special about it; the regular grid plan has somewhat of the mark of sacred architecture, and of a sort that appeals to them, directing the power of the world to desirable ends. They will discover that the form of these streets was in fact designed, perhaps forty years since, by an Italian architect named Belarmate -- and Belarmate was a Craftmason.
The ship quickly receives a visit from the harbourmaster, who is courteous enough and willing to recommend a hostelry or two -- but the Seeker crewmen have other ideas, taking everyone to a hall in a side street a very little way from the docks. It becomes clear that Havre-de-Grace is a town largely in the hands of the Order of Reason; Void Seekers greet the newcomers most amicably, while Craftmasons salute them more cautiously from the other side of the room. With royal authority in the region exercised primarily by the Governor of Honfleur, the Order has quite a free hand with Havre-de-Grace. However, the High Guild is as yet little represented, as Nicholas determines. He is politely questioned as to the visitors' reasons for being here, and replies that he is simply looking for seed pearls -- at which he is told to seek out Monsieur Marcel Juve, in the old, declining town of Harfleur upstream. (Juve is no member of the Order, though.)
Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sir James are making friends over a goblet or three of wine apiece; the others are less adept at such things. Oswald sips a small sherry and remains quiet, but Charles sees someone with an interesting skin condition currently in remission, and approaches this individual to discuss it. As Charles speaks no French and the other fellow speaks neither English nor Latin, there is little understanding here, and indeed, offence is quickly taken; Richard has perforce to step over and calm matters down. At Richard's suggestion, Charles decides that it would be best if he returns to the ship.
Once there, he borrows a textbook of navigation, written in the French language, from Richard's cabin, and settles down on deck to analysing the language, applying his knowledge of Latin and grasp of Mind arts. [He'll probably shed his Quirk-level distaste for modern languages and gain some skill in French soon.] From time to time, he looks up, and notices various town officials and guards eyeing the ship. At that, though, he merely shrugs.
In the course of the others' carousing, the party receive an invitation to dine with some of their fellow Daedaleans that evening. All attend, though Charles's problems with modern languages restrict his contribution to the conversation (perhaps fortuitously). The others speak fluently of the science of exploration, and the politics of Europe.
The next morning, Nicholas sets out up the small River Lezarde in a rented boat to visit Monsieur Juve, taking Sir James along to assist with the boat and as additional protection, while the others prepare the ship for departure later in the day. Harfleur proves a more shadowy, less orderly-seeming town than Havre-de-Grace, despite the grandeur of its great (papist) church, the Eglise St.-Martin. Juve proves a competent enough merchant, though, with a decent stock -- and the shrewdness to drive a hard bargain for an initial consignment of seed pearls, which is sealed with a drink of indifferent wine. As they depart Harfleur to return to their ship, the two travellers notice another boat just arriving, its passenger a black-clad priest who gives them a hard stare as they pass.
The Bonaventure departs the Bassin du Roi at about mid-day, and strikes north and west. The party hope to be well out into the Channel by dawn the next day; their plan is thus to avoid the notorious rocks and islands of this region in the night, and then to turn south and west in the next day's light, using Oswald's Enlightened skills and the good Void Seeker charts to find their way to their goal despite any shortage of landmarks.
However, once they are in open sea, it soon becomes apparent to the skilled crew that something is slowing this ship down in a quite unnatural fashion...
Charles unpacks his instruments and phials, and performs analyses to determine if the vessel is subject to supernatural influences from afar -- but he discovers no such incident forces, although there is something active nearby. Sir James in turn applies his special understandings while looking at the ship's wake -- and concludes that there is something attached to the hull, below the waterline!
Those who know of such tales mutter about the legendary remora, but such creatures are not thought to be found in these waters; there is surely something conscious and malicious at work here. The crew search the hold, but find nothing out of the ordinary there; evidently, the problem is entirely external. Charles decides that he is the one best equipped to determine more, strips down to his undershirt, and prepares and imbibes potions that grant him the gills and vision of a fish. Then, he slips into the sea, and dives. He very soon sees the evident cause of the problem; a hulking figure is clinging to the ship's keel, its sickly grey colour very reminiscent of other inhuman monsters encountered in the past. Almost as quickly, it sees Charles, and he is unsure how it is likely to respond and what its abilities may be, so he hastens back to the surface to report.
A tactical discussion ensues, and the band decide not to attempt to fight such an uncertain foe underwater; rather, they will use other methods against it from their own environment. First, they set to shielding their minds and physiques against the kind of subtle assault which the grey homunculi were previously prone to use. Richard and James meditate, and consume a potion created by Charles; Nicholas and Oswald rely entirely on their own meditative capabilities, and Charles on his chemical preparations. Then, James and Charles fall to discussion of alchemy, and James, using Charles's supplies, prepares a substance which, applied to wood in a correct and scientific fashion, should cause all its surfaces to become slick and impossible to hold. Then, he descends to the bilges and starts work with this substance on the ship's keel.
Unfortunately, he has some trouble at first, with the strange fumes perhaps making his mind hazy. [Scourge Bane -- effects cut in a very little later.] However, on a second attempt, his alchemical subtleties take effect. Once he is sure enough of the results, he returns to the deck -- in time to join a fight.
The others, somewhat anticipating that the creature might respond violently to their own measures, are thus somewhat prepared when it clambered over the side in front of Nicholas, who draws his blade in an instant. Charles turns in the same moment, pistol in hand, and fires, hitting the creature in the head with an alchemically-treated ball (of the kind he created to deal with the homunculi), but not felling it; it is evidently robust. Nicholas fights defensively, falling back and parrying its club-like fists with his rapier, as Richard strikes at it from the side with his sword. He is soon joined by Sir James on the other flank, albeit with slightly less successful sword-strokes. Charles misses with his second pistol, and then draws his blade, focussing strange arts upon it.
Richard has slahed through the thing's arms, and it is evidently failing, but now it turns on James, and lurches at him; in fact, it falls on top of him. It is, perhaps, surprise, and the shock of something unexpected and unpleasant to anyone, but Sir James cries out in an unmannish fashion. [And that Scourge Bane takes a chunk out of his dignity.] At this, Nicholas cries James! in a downright feminine tone -- and strikes hard at the creature; Charles then steps forward, and with a blade that is momentarily the truly quintessential sword, finishes it off in elegant and impressive style [receiving the benefits of a Scourge Boon]. The crew applaud Charles and quietly sneer at Sir James, who is left wiping ichor from his face.
As the ship gets underway once more at full speed, with time to make up if it is to intercept that other Void Seeker vessel, Charles conducts an ad hoc autopsy. He concludes that this creature is somewhat "more natural" than the grey homunculi first encountered, but with a smaller brain. And all are left wondering what it was doing in a French harbour.
The ship gets underway once more, in a fashion only slightly cumbersome. Richard decides that he will need Oswald to confirm their position and course at around four hours after midnight; Oswald declares that he will be happy to sit up watching the stars. As the journey continues through the rest of that day, Sir James spends every spare moment practising with the sword, while the Gardiners argue over nautical terminology. (Nicholas is having difficulties adopting these new words, and finds them a little tiresome.)
Despite a sky which is nine parts covered in cloud much of the time, Oswald manages some very competent navigation (he is, after all, knowledgeable in the arts of Connection), and Richard handles the ship well. The wind is down a little, though, so Charles attempts some improvised adjustments to the rigging, making use of his subtle awareness of Forces. Unfortunately, this distracts him, and he somehow spends hours discussing mathematics with all and sundry before finally arranging things to good effect in the middle of the afternoon. After sighting the Isle of Batz after some hours, the ship heads on, and in fact ends the day at anchor off Cape Finisterre.
The next day, a light breeze springs up, and in approximately the right direction for our heroes' intentions. While Charles makes fine adjustments to the rigging, Oswald deals with navigation and helps keep the vessel on course. He and Richard sight the Seeker ship for which they are looking at about the same moment, their crew hoist a signal flag that indicates their shared allegiance, and they approach for parlay.
Our Daedalean heroes address the Void Seeker captain in educated Latin; he calls for his navigator. It is evident that his own learning is of a more practical nature. He can converse well enough in Italian, or for that matter in English, though. He is Amerigo De La Paz, an old sea-dog in the Seeker style and a "mongrel" by his own terms, with a quirky humour about him. After a brief explanation, he calls for two of his crew; Sabino Aguirre and Txabi de Monzon. Both are Brethren of the Seekers, not Enlightened but happy to help as best they can. Unfortunately, they have only a few words of English or Italian, but their Spanish is fine, and Sir James acts as an interpreter for the ensuing conversation. The other slight problem is their response when the word "Janicot" is mentioned; they most distinctly flinch.
They suggest that all should withdraw to a cabin below decks to talk further, and that some manner of protection might be appropriate. Nicholas admits to appropriate knowledge, and scribes a circle around the group, reinforced by a few simple prayers and names of significance -- nothing especially potent, but sufficient to make a casual conversation rather safer. The Seekers relax a little, although their responses to our heroes' tales are not always happy -- "He invokes that name when playing tennis?"
These Basques are somewhat anxious to emphasise that their people no longer dwell in the ignorance of their past; "We are good Christian men", they say more than once, firmly if perhaps in the manner of a formula. But yes, they know tales of Janicot. "He was worshipped before Christ was brought to us" they say. "He was a god -- well, a guardian. He ruled the trees, it was said -- the wild places. Those who worship him -- they would not be good Christians. He might lend power to those who bring him offerings. He might open ways for them, perhaps. But that would not be good -- he was a god of the old, wild times."
"Yes. He dwelt in the space outside. Our forefathers brought burnt offerings to him -- but we are good Christian men. He tends the gate, but it is best that he remain locked outside the world -- so our forefathers ceased making offerings to him."
They don't know what exactly was offered -- "some sacred herb" -- but they can say more about this odd doctrine. "He was called the creator of the three kinds of light -- the truth, the light of the body, and the light of day -- but he did not truly create these. They merely came through the gate which he guarded, from outside the world, to feed the earth. The high pastures, the red earth, and the black rocks -- these, Janicot rules on Earth."
They can also confirm that the Romans knew this god as Janus, their god of trees and gates. "But his power was weak as Janus. He must be known by his right name, and the right burnt offerings must be made -- then, he can reach into the world."
The scholars of the occult among those who hear this know, of course, that names indeed have power, and something nags at the backs of one or two minds, but does not surface yet. They can also link such tales to the lore of one or two Hermetic decans, especially Iudal; but much more, it sounds as though this Janicot rules the energies which even the decans merely transform. This is primal and dangerous magic -- but the Basques, although they know much that is useful, cannot offer more details.
After a while, with all the useful information that might be available seemingly given (and stored in memory palaces), an invitation comes to join the captain for a midday meal -- a simple but pleasant repast of fish and the wine which Richard brought as a gift. All the while, the ship continues its northbound way, albeit a little slower as it is keeping the Bonaventure in tow. Visitors and hosts chat of Seeker activities; they discover that some of them share a common respected acquaintance in Adrian Southgate. But, food once taken, the time comes for the vessels to part.
Our heroes return to their own ship, where Nicholas sets to work applying Mind arts to the significance of Janicot's important name. He emerges from a meditative trance with a prize, just in time to see Richard, Sir James, and Oswald, sampling their parting gift from the Seekers -- pipes of that new wonder, tobacco. He flinches.
"I really do not think that you should want to do that. It may be very bad for... your health."
"There is a name I now recall..."
Tobacco is still largely unknown in England, but it has spread from Iberia to the French court. The agent of this transfer, as Nicholas points out, was a French diplomat on a mission to Portugal, who sent the herb to Catherine de' Medici, Queen-Mother of France, as a cure for her migraines. (Snuff cleared her blocked sinuses.) "His name, you may recall, was Jean Nicot..."
(Nicot's mission took place some twenty-five years ago. It may be that this Hermetic plot has been in motion for a little while.)
[The GM can't resist reflecting... Knowledgeable readers will long since have realised that I'm swiping a lot of ideas in this campaign from Ken Hite's wonderful Suppressed Transmission. Though it was only recently, as I worked out what should happen next, that I read a little more elsewhere on Janicot and Jean Nicot, and found the answer to the question that Ken left open -- quite what the connection between them was. Fortuitously, by the way, John Dee is off the historical radar in 1560. Oh, and I didn't consciously bring Lovecraftian references in here, my admiration for Ken's work notwithstanding; Janicot isn't the Key and Guardian of the Gate, honest. It's just the way things worked.]
As the Bonaventure makes its way eastwards, there is some discussion of how to deal with the Invisible College in general and Inigo Pelton in particular. There seems little chance of placing a spy in that group -- and there is also little chance of having Raleigh's faction place Pelton as a spy among them, is there?
The ship flurries up the Channel, assisted in speed by Enlightened arts -- but then, something uncanny seems to come upon it, and the power of Entropy bears down upon the vessel and its workings, stressing the masts and spars. Charles wards it a little as Richard begins slacking the rigging; Oswald attempts a greater shielding effect, but his efforts miscarry badly, and he has to be taken below decks and wrapped in blankets to recover.
And now, the sea itself begins to freeze around the ship. Charles prepares heated oils to remove the ice, and Richard rallies the crew to assist. Meanwhile, Oswald and Nicholas cooperate on a scrying, and Oswald looks for the source of this assault. A moment later, he staggers up to the deck, supported by Nicholas.
"The ice is clearing" announces Charles, looking directly over the side of the ship with an air of satisfaction.
"Ah... I... I believe that you should perhaps see this" is all Oswald replies, not immediately attracting Charles's interest.
"I really think that you should look" agrees Nicholas.
And all do look a little further out, as a great, shimmering silver disc rises smoothly from the waves, with barely a disturbance to the water, and flies with sinister soundlessness toward them...
Richard, Nicholas, Charles, and Sir James all briefly meditate, in their various ways (poetically, by contemplation of a sword, or whatever), so as to reinforce their minds against the uncanny assaults they now expect. As the disc comes overhead, both Nicholas and Charles perceive an ever-deeper strangeness about it; it is not just a strange thing, they feel, but strangeness given form. Using, respectively, a folk charm and special alchemical lenses, they quickly assess it in more detail, discerning thereby that it is a spiritual phenomenon, drawing on the very quintessence of the universe -- perhaps as much a moving portal as an object.
Sir James and the two Seeker crew set to work loading the ship's two deck guns, and at that point a wave of uncanny mental power strikes all present. Most survive well enough, though Charles and one of the Seekers stagger somewhat, being slowed in their actions, and Oswald, still weakened from his earlier Enlightened workings, is clearly not fit for battle; Richard commands him to go below deck, and he moves to obey. As the disc comes overhead, Nicholas and Sir James prepare basic defences for their Life-forces; then, all see something change in the silvery form.
It is as though a small part of the disc is in fact a platform, and that platform begins to descend. It halts at the level of the upper part of the ship's mast, and all present can see three of the Grey Homunculi standing upon it, gazing down with their black, expressionless eyes. They are out of range of blades, and guns take time to load, though Charles is preparing a pistol with his special alchemical shot, and so Richard dashes to the mast and begins to climb, blade in hand. A moment later, and Nicholas is following.
(Unfortunately, domestic problems for the GM cut the session short at this point, leaving the characters almost all too literally hanging. Peculiar scheduling in the subsequent period can be blamed on that, holidays, etc.)
Charles fires his pistol, and hits one of the homunculi, which staggers, apparently badly hurt. The others seek to exert some manner of uncanny force; one manages to lift Charles clear of the deck thereby, albeit slowly, while the other has less success with a crewman, who manages to hold onto the vessel. Charles fires a second pistol, and even hits, but with less marked success, and one of the homunculi manages to use its power to draw the second crewman swiftly up and into the silver disc. Richard hauls himself up to the main spar, albeit somewhat cumbersomely, while Sir James heads to a now-unmanned but fairly well-prepared swivel gun, and sets to work priming it.
Charles swirls his cloak deftly, using his comprehension of Forces to slow his ascent, but the homunculus controlling him exerts more uncanny energies in opposition, hurling him into the disc. Another tries to use the same power on Sir James, but he barely resists it, wedging himself firmly in place by the gun. Richard finally reaches the position he was seeking, and leaps onto the platform on which the homunculi are standing, blade in hand. Charles, the meanwhile, seeing that he is being carried to the disc, finds a magnet is his pocket and uses a most Vain effect to draw his bag of implements to himself, just as Nicholas reaches the spar.
Two of the homunculi seek to force Richard off the platform by direct exertion of strange powers, but he, comprehending the sphere of Forces, can oppose even the more successful of the two with his Enlightened will. The third loses control of the power which it is seeking to direct at Sir James, and begins to shimmer strangely, as the world objects to the presence of such things as these. But it is not yet as unfortunate as one of its companions; Richard feints deftly, brings his sword around with strength and speed, and beheads his opponent of the moment. With a leap, Nicholas joins him on the platform a moment later, his sword springing into his hand as he arrives.
Charles, the meanwhile, has arrived inside the disc, where his Enlightened comprehension of space and geometry enables him to deal with a situation that would damage the sanity of lesser men; a realm wherein distance and direction have little meaning, and motion and proximity are what one chooses to make of them. The kidnapped crewman is here, but unable to achieve much. A fourth homunculus gazes at Charles incomprehensibly, but it is one other occupant of this insane realm who communicates with him; a slim man, clad in the black of a Jesuit priest, who speaks calmly.
"Welcome, my child..."
Before he can reply, Charles finds himself obliged to use raw will to counter an attempt by the homunculus to bind space itself around him. Meanwhile, outside, another surviving homunculus uses its strange power to hurl Nicholas off the platform, but he catches the edge in passing and somersaults back on quite deftly. Richard strikes a second homunculus dead, while Sir James, seeking to make an experimental shot at the disc, finds his swivel gun jamming, and steps away from it, looking for some other weapon to use. Nicholas attacks the remaining homunculus, wounding it severely.
Charles decides that he might as well talk with the Jesuit, who introduces himself as Father Bartolomeo. "I do not normally call upon my patients in their houses" comments Charles.
"Ah -- this is the English idea of humour."
"It might be."
"I have little time for such things. I am doing the work of the Lord and His angels."
By now, even without use of Enlightened arts, it is clear to Charles's refined rhetorical, medical, and philosophical perceptions that Father Bartolomeo is a little too well adjusted to the place in which he dwells.
Outside, Nicholas wounds the remaining homunculus, and then Richard, who seems to have the very Scourge itself shimmering along his blade after the last blow he struck, makes a thrust which evidently directs the force into the creature, which vanishes entirely. Unfortunately, in consequence, so does the platform.
Reacting quickly, Richard uses an acrobatic thrust of his feet to hurl Nicholas into the sail, and by opposed reaction, himself into a neat dive into the sea. Nicholas grabs for his dagger with a view to using it to slow his fall against the sail, but fails to bring it out in time -- but Sir James catches him deftly before he can hit the deck.
Within the disc, the strange conversation continues, as Charles simultaneously fends off the homunculus's efforts to twist space around him or probe his mind. It seems that Father Bartolomeo regards the homunculi as angels -- "To expect human beauty is to think as a child" -- and regards the disc, which Charles recognises as a spiritual sub-realm, a cyst on the flanks of reality, as an antechamber to Heaven itself. There is much talk of heresy, and the Jesuit states that he has come here to discover knowledge of what "the heretics" are about in England -- a place from which the true servants of the Lord have been driven. Discovering that some such individuals are away from that land was an opportunity.
Below, on the ship, Richard takes a shot at the disc with the other gun, to no apparent effect (although Charles sees the Father briefly distracted), then forms another rescue plan. He and Sir James bring down the mizzen sail and rig it as a kite of sorts, and use it to lift Nicholas up to the level of the disc. Nicholas then uses his Enlightened sensitivity to matters of connection and spirit to find a way within.
"Ah," says Charles, "I'm improving. Last time I was rescued, I was strapped to a table."
Nicholas has his sword in hand and an immediate comprehension of the unnatural dimensions and nature of this place; he can be beside the homunculus immediately, and so he is, and the entity falls dead. Charles draws his own sword. "It's so pleasant to be rescued by professionals" he remarks.
Father Bartolomeo looks a portion worried at this point, murmuring that he is unfit to stand in the palace of the Lord without the guidance of His servants. Then Nicholas takes hold of the crewman and Charles, tells Charles to take hold of the priest, and moves them all out of the disc as it vanishes. Charles uses his cloak deftly (and with Enlightened refinement) to steer and break his fall, landing safely on the ship's deck as all the others go in the sea.
Nicholas does what's necessary to bring the unresisting Father alongside the vessel. Fortunately, the crewman is able to swim, and so Richard and the crewman who wasn't captured are able to bring all three out of the water and onto the deck safely, as Sir James and Charles recover the sail-kite. And so the Bonaventure can soon be underway again, as our heroes examine their new prisoner -- a man whose mind, it seems, has experienced too much for him to answer many questions...
At this point, Oswald comes upon deck, and is seasick. The others tidy the deck, and ensure that the Jesuit is safely locked away. As the ship comes once more underway, there is some discussion of the fact that the group have perhaps lost track somewhat of events in Europe -- is more investigation required? Perhaps another journey?
But for now, they set course for London. Richard and Oswald take bearings, and decide to head east under short sail overnight. And thus, a busy day ends
|Wednesday 13-10-1585||At dawn, Richard turns the prow a little northwards, and Charles sets the sails using his growing mastery of Forces arts, most successfully, in fact. [He even gets a Scourge boon, which will be left hanging for a while.] The ship reaches Beachy Head by dusk, and the Daedaleans turn due east once again, at a more cautious pace now that they are so close to land (and so likely to be observed by those not Enlightened). Richard's luck holds in his captaining; a sixth sense seems to guide his instructions, and they reach Dover by dawn the next day in fine style.|
After that, the ship makes its way up to Margate, catches a good wind off the North Sea, and begins reaching up the Thames. All are now somewhat relaxed; Nicholas and Sir James spend most of their time practising swordplay up and down the cluttered deck.
The Bonaventure regains its home port, the Seeker haven, by nightfall. The voyagers decide to spend the night in this place, and also to deposit their prisoner there for now, rather than trying to smuggle an insanely heretical Jesuit priest into London themselves, unprepared. (That may come later.) Nicholas does spend a little time at one point seeking to extract some more knowledge from this prisoner, using Mind arts; he does clear the fellow's mind somewhat, for a while, and thus acquires some lore concering the Order of Santa Elizaveta. It is, Father Bartolomeo declares, headquartered in tne new world, in "The City of Gold", and it came to Europe through Spain. But now, it seems, it is more of a network, lacking a centre, any single brain or heart at which to strike. (Bartolomeo himself came from Toledo.) It is clearly spreading, infiltrating, subverting -- and facing some opposition from various quarters, though uncanny powers combined with a weight of gold brought across the ocean are evidently achieving much. Bartolomeo persists in speaking of the homunculi as "Angels of the Lord", but Nicholas become certain that they are setting some uncanny agenda of their own. [He also acquires a Scourge bane from all this Mind working, also left hanging.]
The returned voyagers accept Void Seeker hospitality and fall into converse with their hosts, which maybe fills in some holes in their comprehension of problems in hand. The Seekers are not very knowledeable in matters spiritual -- this is a haven concerned with worldly exploration -- but they can make some comments and offer suggestions. Amongst other things, the conversation covers the matter of Janicot, and what the Hermetics may be about. Is Inigo Pelton typical? Perhaps an important question.
The next day, all return to London in the more mundane hired craft which the Seekers have kept safe (without improving it), a week after their departure, and all strike out in various ways. After a brief visit to Aunt Julia's house, Richard escorts Kate towards home. Charles takes Oswald to his new home, then goes to seek Doctor Uriel, finds him at home, and reports; Uriel says that the report is interesting, and he may well speak with Master Holbright. And Sir James returns to his workshop and begins a week's work at his forge.
When the Gardiners reach their family home, they are greeted joyously enough, although Mother is less than entirely happy in her speech to Richard. "You have been pandering to these insane ideas of your sister's, instead of finding her a respectable husband."
"I have been considering this, but I find that they have to be eased into the idea, dear Mother."
And so, all settle back into the great city.
The next morning, Richard visits the Tower to ensure that its administration has survived his absence (it has, more than well enough), and then visits Master Holbright, finding him at home, and deposits a written report of recent discoveries, along with a verbal summary. Holbright has in fact already heard from Doctor Uriel, and suggests that a council of war may be needed. Such is to be arranged; it should include Oswald, of course, and also Edric, among others.
Kate, the meanwhile, has been ordering her memory palace. It will be very well set when she comes to make a presentation to this council.
Sir James, now safely home, contemplates the fine ingots which he has been carrying around on his adventures, and takes stock of what he intends for them. He has in mind to make two swords; working to the quality he intends, this will take in excess of a hundred hours of labour. Meanwhile, Charles is back in his home, dealing with all those patients who have been awaiting his return, and Oswald, having seen enough of what his new life in and around London may require, is taking a little time to practise arts of stealth and swordplay, and also some staff-fighting which he began to learn from Sir James on the ship home.
Richard finds Edric at home on the first attempt, and thus manages to establish arrangements; the council of war is set for Monday evening.
The next day, being a day of worship and rest, goes quietly. Both Gardiners attend their parish church with their parents; Around the same time, Oswald visits St. Paul's and lends his fine voice to the hymns, while Sir James finds a tray left at his door, and realises that he has been working all night.
Later that day, Richard will create a fine poem to send to Cassandra Pelton -- but she has already approached Oswald in the cathedral, asking after Richard. She is reassured to hear that he is not drowned... But then her brother Inigo appears, and so Cassandra murmurs something about horoscopes. Oswald realises that Inigo must be this person of whom he has heard who invokes Janicot while playing games of tennis -- and it is clear from the look he receives that Inigo has deduced to which faction Oswald is attached.
And Kate finds time to ascertain the state of the business which she left growing. It seems well, though some work needs re-sewing.
Indeed, the next day, everyone finds time for business of one sort or another during the day, which passes briskly. Richard visits Edric's lodgings to take him to the meeting, and then passes by Charles's home to leave a poem there for transfer to Cassandra when opportunity arises, as well as to keep Charles company on the walk to Master Holbright's house. The rest of the group make their own ways to that place. Various other folk are also present, including of course representatives of the Void Seekers and the Cosian Circle.
Kate begins the meeting by giving an account of recent events and discoveries, and a Void Seeker metaphysician is able to confirm that the activities of Raleigh's Hermetic group must be causing damage to the walls of the world, enabling the Grey Homunculi to make their sinister incursion through the ill-mapped boundaries of the New World. Several voices confirm that the Homunculi are a known and growing problem, reported in many places in Europe, especially perhaps where Jesuit influence may have served to give the Order of Santa Elizaveta a foothold. Kate wonders how far Raleigh's allies are aware of the consequences of the faction's deeds; perhaps contact should be made with Mistress Elmery, to make the point to her? Word might be sent through the witch-ally who is known to be present at court; at worst, what is said may be carried back to Raleigh, which might not even be a bad thing.
Richard reminds the council of the idea of organising a rival theatre to disrupt the workings of the School of Night's arcane dramaturgy. His idea is less direct countermagic, but more straightforward entertainment which will draw away the essential audiences. Edric can help with the construction of this scheme -- but it will require funds, of course. The High Guild may be able to assist here.
Oswald takes some interest in this, pondering what might best distract these groundlings. As putting scantily clad women on stage would be unthinkable, perhaps a series of lectures on historical themes would serve? All others present suggest politely that this might not interest enough of the London masses. More generally, there will be questions of licensing; this is all governed by law. Richard says that he might speak to Sir Francis Walsingham... A prospect that would make many folk nervous, especially on such a peculiar errand -- but it will involve offering him a prospect of reducing the influence of Raleigh in London, and it will only require telling Sir Francis the truth (if not the whole truth).
Meanwhile, on wider topics -- the Seekers are concerned at what they have learned about matters at or around Havre-de-Grace, a town in which they always take some interest. For such a stronghold to suffer any manner of subversion is distressing. Kate and Sir James recall the black-clad priest who contemplated them in passing at Harfleur. As this raises questions of communication, Master Holbright recalls that the Order of Reason can if necessary match any Grey Homunculi for speed of communication. They possess a device known as the Viasilicos, one of the foundations of Daedalean power, something of an archaism now, but still useful for this. However, these things are rare and kept by those who hopefully understand them best. The nearest, in fact, is in the hands of one Lord Umber, of the Craftmasons, who is said to keep it in his library at St. Albans. If word is to be sent to Havre-de-Grace, a visit to St. Albans is indicated, and soon. Richard and Oswald undertake to make the short trip in the near future; Edric takes an interest and declares a desire to join them, claiming acquaintance with Umber. Also, it is suggested to Oswald that he might cast a few more horoscopes, seeking better understanding of the problems in hand...
In fact, after some further discussion of travel times and such that night and the next day, the decision is to travel to St. Albans on Wednesday, departing at dawn or not long after; also, Charles declares a wish to join the party, if only because his curiosity is a little piqued. Hence, the next day is dedicated to matters of personal business.
Nicholas first pays a brief visit to Sir James's house, to ensure that Sir James's dedicated attention to his project (whatever it may be) is not leading him to neglect food or a minimum of rest. Then, Nicholas moves on; Kate should be trying to contact Juliet the servant.
Meanwhile, Charles has been delving deeper into his comprehension of the science of Forces. His grasp of the topic has expanded of late, and could help considerably in combat -- but this may need some better understanding of the mundane practicalities of gunnery. Hence, he pays a visit to Richard at the Tower, and they spend a while discussing how one might construct, say, explosive pistol bullets. (There is much converse of mercury, Greek Fire, the use of aqua regia to make of lead a porous sponge, and so forth.) At length, Richard takes Charles a little way out of the city, to the proving-grounds for the Tower's cannon, and gives him the chance to fire a mortar, a light field gun, and so on. Charles demonstrates the quick grasp of a new craft that is expected of a true Daedalean, and acquires a working familiarity with this topic, and much on which to think.
He then returns home, contemplating such matters -- and observes two familiar female figures waiting nearby his own door. He enters his home, and Cassandra Pelton follows a moment later, leaving her servant once more outside on watch. (Charles subsequently comments that it might be better in future to bring the servant inside; left outside, she merely marks the shop to anyone who knows her identity.) Charles takes the opportunity to hand over Richard's latest poem, to Cassandra's gratitude, and they talk for a while. Cassandra proves helpfully outgoing today [actually a minor Scourge Boon in action -- Charles's outgoing helpfulness is rewarded appropriately], mentioning, for example, that her brother has been much preoccupied of late with the matter of the recent, second American colonising expedition organised by Raleigh and led by his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville. Charles comments that Raleigh had tried to persuade Richard and himself to join these ventures, and Cassandra's reaction once again demonstrates her dislike and fear of the open sea. Charles confuses her in passing by asking if she has ever tried ship's biscuit, as he persists in recommending it, befuddling her somewhat by explaining his supporting medical theories, though it seems that she knows a little of medicine herself.
More importantly, though, Cassandra mentions that Grenville is at this moment arriving in Plymouth with some of the vessels of the expedition, although this is not public knowledge in London; it seems possible to Charles that Inigo's preoccupation, which also engages Gervaise Dellmurray, is actually with the necessity of magically watching both the ships and the colony. This is of especial interest because Raleigh and much of his following can be expected to travel to Plymouth to greet the returning party.
Before Cassandra departs, the discussion turns once again to applied philosophy; Charles even lends her a Latin text which describes a conventional Catholic view of the theology of alchemy. She, in reply, recommends texts by John Dee and Giordano Bruno; it seems that she is truly engaged by Hermetic philosophy...
Kate, the meanwhile, is resting at her aunt's house, and has been reflecting that contact with Juliet must involve dealings with Lady Anne Mortgrave. She walks through her memory palace, looking for political and dynastic lore, and creates some design ideas for embroidery that might facilitate matters. And so, she sets to work.
Charles, reflecting on what Cassandra mentioned, decides to visit Master Holbright -- and finds him fortuitously at home. His idea is that Grenville's return is valuable news, whose value derives from the time; there may be profits to be made in the time before word reaches London by mundane means. Holbright had some idea that this return might be imminent -- the Order of Reason has its own methods -- but is interested nonetheless. There follows some discussion of what Raleigh may be about with this Virginia business. Could he be plotting some use of occult geometries and sacred architecture spanning the entire Atlantic? That would surely be a matter of insane ambition...
Which is an interesting thought itself. But for now, Master Holbright and the High Guild might indeed have profits to make from this.
Charles then goes on to visit the Gardiner house to pass on his news (and to eat dinner when it is courteously offered). The Daedaleans discuss these various matters, and options that might be pursued while Raleigh and most of his people are away from the city.
And Oswald has been researching his own arcane options. It would, he thinks, be useful to be able to detect these pestilential homunculus creatures -- but that might require him to make more study of the sphere of Spirit, which he has so far avoided, mostly because of his own habitual theological conventionality. The Order of Reason knows that there are more phenomena, more subtleties to creation, than most theological texts encompass, and while advanced Daedalean philosophies may answer the questions this raises, it's sometimes a worrying sort of field to hoe.
The next morning, Richard is out bright and early, first awakening Edric as planned. He hires horses fit for the journey to St. Albans, and then proceeds to Charles's house, where Oswald too is waiting. Oswald has been discussing his recent researches with Charles; this is a discussion which looks well set to carry the pair of them to St. Albans. Meanwhile, Edric and Richard discuss theatrical matters -- although there is some interplay between the two conversations, revealing mostly that Oswald has no grasp at all of the function of poetry. Issues of theatre are somewhat practical now, of course; Edric comments to Richard that he can provide play-writing skill, and also recruit players, but strange to say, it will all cost money...
In London, Nicholas leaves some more food with Sir James, taking the opportunity to see what can be discerned of what those mice are about, and also to make sure that the servants are in hand (and Nicholas notes that, yes, one may have a non-existent cat). Sir James is indeed working hard, shirtless at the hot forge; Nicholas feels oddly inclined to stay and observe, for a little while. After all, Sir James may benefit from company. But Sir James doesn't say what he's making.
And Kate does accomplish some fine embroidery that day, while thinking of how to approach Lady Anne's household -- and also contemplating an approach to Cassandra Pelton, with maybe a dinner invitation to include.
The conversation on the road continues, as some of the participants mention their currents needs and desires; for example, Richard is seeking some source of quintessential inspiration, as he is planning various projects, not least a detailed assessment of weaknesses in their opponents' plans. This converse carries the travellers through to the vicinity of St. Albans, where Edric explains that Lord Umber doesn't dwell within the town walls, but has a house close nearby. He guides the travellers to their destination.
Umber's home is a moderately fortified manor, lying hard by a low, forested hill that will prove to be named Prae Wood. Charles's scholarly eye classifies it as a variant sort of Gothic, and exerting his enlightened insights, he decides that the design incorporates elements of sacred geometry -- perhaps not surprising in the dwelling of a leading Craftmason. The stonework is ornately carved and somehow ominous, although that quality is lightened a little by the roses which climb around the door and tangle themselves around the heavy stone cross above the lintel. Even as the travellers draw rein, servants emerge to take charge of the horses, followed shortly by one who is clearly their master.
Lord Umber is tall, thin to the point of cadaverousness, of advanced but indeterminate years, and dressed in faded and slightly stained black garb. He fixes Edric with a gimlet gaze.
"My lord Umber. Ah... May I present Master Richard Gardiner, of the Artificers Guild, Doctor Charles Avery..."
"Yes, yes." Umber swirls back inside his house, and the visitors perforce follow.
Inside, the house is, beyond all else, dusty -- save for a number of bookshelves and some complex instruments of various kinds, which are clearly kept with care. The servants lead the visitors upstairs, and Richard enters a room which proves to have a bed large enough for two. Charles follows, and then Oswald follows them; Richard then steps out again and joins Edric in a second room, leaving Charles and Oswald at talk to each other.
After doffing cloaks and brushing mud from boots, all four Daedaleans return down the stairs for lunch with their host (dry chicken and wine that is not only watered as is only normal, but also vinegary). Umber is willing enough to talk, mostly in sarcastic terms; it rapidly becomes clear that he has a good grasp of events in the secret world of the enlightened, including knowledge of the Grey Homunculus problem. His stated assumption is that this visit means that people either want to bother him for their own amusement, or they wish for access to the Viasilicos. His visitors confirm that the latter is correct. Umber produces a grimace that might be a smile. "Ah, Holbright is thinking that holding a meeting solves a problem, as usual."
He can, he acknowledges, contact Havre-de-Grace through the device, "although they do not often pay attention". Charles comments with his customary tact that some people seem to believe that this method of which they speak is somehow old-fashioned, though he personally cannot quite see why; Umber merely replies that the device is, in truth, perhaps two centuries old, at which Charles remarks that he owns medical texts older than that.
Someone enquires why there is no Viasilicos in London, to which Umber makes a scant and dismissive reply. "History. Accidents." There is also some discussion over the meal of the situation for the Order of Reason in other cities, including Prague. Umber comments that they do not have sufficient agents in place near to the disliked Doctor John Dee, and makes reference to Edric having spent time in that city.
At that, Edric squirms a little. "I was obliged to return" he allows. "There were complications."
Meanwhile, in London, Sir James receives a visitor as he works on a pair of swords in his forge. The Earl of Essex is evidently at a loose end, complaining that he is unable to find his friend Dick Gardiner; Sir James thinks it best, for many reasons, to be vague on that subject. Thwarted, young Essex turns the conversation to styles of combat and suchlike, both personal and with regard to whole armies; Sir James bites his tongue a little and remains tactful on the subject of warfare in the Low Countries. (It would not be politic for him to express his opinion on the quality of command in that war.) For his pains, he receives an invitation to dinner with the Earl, which he defers until the next week, explaining truthfully enough that he is busy with this sword. It is, after all the first he has made (at least of this quality or from plain metal, though he doesn't explain such details to Essex), and as he says, he does not wish to make any mistakes.
Outside St. Albans, Umber commands his servants to bring a large, rugged wooden box from his house, and to bear it through Prae Wood up the hill. Followed by all four visitors, he has it taken to the top, where stands a small, open structure, barely a shelter let alone a building. The box is placed carefully and precisely upon a stone pillar, and the sides are neatly folded down to reveal a large octohedron of polished crystal, mounted upright upon its point. Umber enters a meditative state as his visitors stand around, observing, and sunlight strikes the crystal and sends odd shimmers through its depths and then across its facets.
And then Umber speaks a word or two of recognition and limited salute, and all hear quiet but unmistakeable replies in the French tongue. The Viasilicos, it seems, enables such conversation, if two stones are properly attuned and resonating in sunlight, and this one is powerful enough to make connections to many others. However, the system depends on individuals on both sides of the association being present and making the effort.
But some such are present, and now the Daedaleans can talk with others of the Order, first in Paris, then in other cities across all of Europe. (The sun is still just high enough in eastern lands, even in such towns as Bratislava, in Bohemia.) This enables them to make survey of understanding of the Grey Homunculus problem, which varies considerably; some Daedaleans are all but ignorant of it, some are all too painfully aware, and some regard it as a minor though real concern. It seems that the Order of Santa Elizaveta has often taken advantage of local strength in the Jesuit Order, though in some cases the more orthodox Jesuits have driven them back; Rome too is surely aware of the issue, and taking some action in secret. But then, our heroes knew that already.
Eventually, the Viasilicos makes a connection with a colleague at Havre-de-Grace, and the London party are able to deliver their warning about infiltration in those parts. The inhabitants of the French port are convinced and concerned that their stronghold of Reason might be subject to such subversion, and pay attention to the account; after some discussion, the conclusion seems to be that the infiltration may be taking place through the household of the Royal Governor, at Honfleur. All resolve to think on this matter further...
But now the sun is sinking, removing the usefulness of the Viasilicos, and Lord Umber offers dinner with a basic courtesy. More discussion may take place on the morrow. As all dine, Umber mentions that a room at the top of the house's tallest tower may be of interest to his guests, and then retires. The visitors find the room, which is bare save for a plain wooden chair, firmly fixed to the floor. After some scratching of heads, Charles eventually realises that this place is surely a node, one of those valued places of power, and he, Richard, and Oswald take it in turns to to seek that power and insight which enables the Enlightened to excel themselves.
The next morning, somehow, few of the visitors are surprised to discover that Lord Umber is an early riser. Richard for one manages to appear tolerably cheerful over breakfast, while Edric consumes as much small beer as possible, and Charles discusses the theory of sacred architecture with their host, and quite credibly. Richard also turns to Edric and suggests that he might profitably take some time to research the true story of the recently-returned Grenville expedition. Edric agrees that he might be able to find something, but seems a little unsure about the likely value of this plan. "How accurate would any such openly available information be?"
Meanwhile, Oswald scans Umber's bookshelves again, determining that their contents are somewhat esoteric and perhaps even eccentric. (Or is the collection of volumes on display simply for show?) There is, he finds, a well-thumbed copy of the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus, which falls open at the account of the Boudiccan revolt and the burning of Verulamium; some of the visitors will later claim almost to be surprised that this passage is not annotated from the annoyed perspective of a witness to the scene...
In any case, Umber and his visitors deploy and activate the Viasilicos once more; doing so in the morning gives them the chance to commune with Daedaleans at the eastern end of Europe, and beyond. Charles, the best scholar of languages, does much of the talking, and quite competently (although he learns that his Hebrew accent may be a little academic); Oswald can at least follow the conversations other than those in Hebrew.
As it proves, there is seemingly little activity on the part of Grey Homunculi in the Empire of the Ottoman Turks -- after all, there are few Jesuits to subvert in those parts. However, our heroes are able to pass warnings to those they speak with -- mostly High Guild agents -- there, and also in Kiev. As the sun sweeps westwards, the party are able to make further survey of the situation in Europe, concluding that Catholic countries have the worst trouble. Still, warnings can be and are passed from Alexandria to the west coast of Ireland -- and still, Lord Umber will, he admits, feel obliged to spend significant time over the next few days passing word on elsewhere.
For now, though, the visitors feel that they have done all that they can. After a bite of food at midday, they set off for home -- but detour first to the town of St. Albans, and most especially its abbey. They make a brief visit to the small tomb of the traveller-writer-knight, Sir John Mandeville (more of a hero to the Void Seekers, in truth, but a figure for all Daedaleans to respect), and also inspect the great clock, with its unusual and interesting escapement mechanism -- a matter of some interest to Richard, the Artificer. Then, they turn their horses' heads back towards London. Oswald makes some attempts to shorten the journey by secret arts, but cannot make the power of his Enlightenment effective on this occasion. So the group simply rides briskly, making good time by the most mundane method.
Also that day, in the city, Kate visits Cassandra Pelton, taking advantage of her brother's absence, and invites her to dine at the Gardiner home; Cassandra accepts, and Friday -- the next evening -- emerges as a convenient day for this. As the conversation moves onto the complexities of the situation, Cassandra admits that she is unsure which of her servants is entirely trustworthy, and which might be in Inigo's pocket. Kate brings her Enlightenment to bear with a murmured charm, surveying the minds of all within the house, and concludes that one of the grooms is not as great a fool as he appears. Cassandra, quite impressed by this display of enhanced insight, promises to take Kate's advice on the matter to heart.
However, Kate has been employing such secret skills enough lately that the power washes back through her when, departing the household, she encounters the groom in question, and she unleashes the full force of her rhetoric upon him without concern for consequence, in ironical but withering mode. He will not, perhaps, forget this visit, or remember it with sympathy for the visitor...
|Friday 22-10-1585||The next morning, Richard, rested from the journey, rises early, and prepares a brief written account of the visit to Lord Umber and what passed. Sir James completes the forging processes on which he was working, and gazes happily at the blades which now merely require quenching. And Kate finishes some embroidery which will represent her excuse to visit Lady Anne -- but not as well as she hoped, so she perforce must spend the day repeating this work.|
(Oh -- and Oswald is distracted and unavailable. Astronomical calculations tell him that, around this very day, the moon will pass across the face of the sun, a most portentous matter. Unfortunately, the eclipse will not be visible in Britain, but he will be spending the next full day closeted with his instruments.)
But Richard, contemplating all that befallen, has plans to make. He sends word to Charles and Sir James that this night's lesson with Master Aristotle is postponed, makes a brief visit to Master Holbright's house to deliver his report, and then attempts a day's work at the Tower while thinking about a gift for Cassandra. Something small, moderately valuable, and concealable seems indicated. He decides that he should look at miniature pictures, but nothing suitable can be painted in time, so jewellery will have to do for now. A portrait -- and perhaps a handkerchief or collar, commissioned from his seamstress sister -- will have to wait upon a grander occasion. He visits some shops, and returns with some appropriate but not superlative piece.
Meanwhile, not so far away across the city, Cassandra pays another visit to Charles. While her servant is sent to the kitchen for a moment, she explains that she has a problem; the groom, identified by Kate and now given little reason to favour the Gardiners, might well report her evening dinner excursion to her brother. She begs help of Charles, with some idea that the servant might, say, be drugged. Charles agrees that this may be possible, and offers to contrive both a sleeping draught and an antidote thereto; Cassandra can offer to share wine with the fellow, having taken the antidote herself, and thereby avoid immediate suspicion when he falls into a deep sleep. Cassandra agrees, and Charles sets to work, even expending some of the inspirational force which he acquired by meditation at Lord Umber's house -- this is a task which, he thinks, must be made sure of success.
After some extended effort, he produces a compound which he is satisfied will serve. Cassandra, in gratitude, offers him a returned favour, a payment, she thinks, more appropriate to such as he -- loan of a book which she has brought from her brother's library. This is no less than a manuscript collection of notes on lectures given by Giordano Bruno.
"I see that you know me well!"
"I know you for a gentleman and a scholar."
Once she has departed, Charles falls upon this volume with a will, and discovers an additional point of interest; it is full of marginal notes in Inigo Pelton's hand. The main text is mostly concerned with Bruno's contention that there may be a plurality of worlds; Pelton, it seems, agrees that such might exist, but disagrees strongly that they must be in any sense distant. Rather, he holds that they are at least as close to each other "as waves upon the surface of the sea" -- "but how can anyone decide which wave will strike the shore?"
It's an enigmatic text, which Charles decides he must copy in full -- but it must be returned soon to Cassandra, certainly before Inigo returns to London. Charles decides to work long hours, then find Oswald in the morning and acquire his aid in this matter of penmanship; together, they should be able to accomplish the task.
Cassandra, it will later be determined, succeeds completely in inducing the groom to drink the wine. He is a little suspicious, but no matter; Charle's compound takes full effect on him, while the antidote (based on Charles's familiar black, sweet, acidic wakefulness-brew) works well for her -- she is entirely awake and alert. (Whether he will wonder a little on the morrow is another issue.) Hence, Cassandra's hired carriage arrives at the Gardiner house in good time; Richard greets her stylishly,slips a poem into a pocket of her cloak, and guides her into the house.
Meanwhile, Sir James is finishing the last quenching of the paired swords on which he has been working, which he accomplishes without difficulty. Then, from behind him, he hears an unknown but oddly familiar voice.
He spins on his heal, a new blade in its rough temporary forging-hilt in his hand, in time to meet the attack of his own sword. Moving aside, he parries it deftly, once and then twice. A duel then follows, in which Sir James holds up well against a very equal opponent; the only problem is that no one is holding the blade which is attacking him. Eventually, he manages to grasp its hilt and slam it into the quenching trough. However, as he reaches for the other of the new blades, with intent to wedge this one in place, it overcomes him enough to fling itself up and out and, with its hilt still in his hand, to spin in a widdershins circle, leaving a trail of glittering sparks and more steam than seems right...
And, in the deepening night, as Charles works his pen hard and looks about him for more ink, there comes a loud knocking at his front door -- a hammering from one who will not depart when ignored.
Meanwhile, dinner at the Gardiner house is going very well. As Cassandra enters the dining room, Father drops a deep bow and then offers her a bowl of his favourite fruit -- figs -- slightly to her bemusement. He seems very taken with her -- more, perhaps, than she is with him -- and he may be somewhat overplaying the gallant old dog. When he essays a joke, she analyses it in considerable detail, and the conversation dies for a moment.
"Oh yes," Father remarks, "You're acquainted with Richard's pet surgeon, aren't you?"
That in turn leads Cassandra to enthuse most considerably about Charles, bemusing many of her hearers, including Mother, Father, and Giles. "It must be a great comfort to all of you," Cassandra comments, "to have the reliable friendship of so capable a physician and apothecary."
Mother, it becomes clear, had not previously thought of Charles as an apothecary. "But I suppose, yes, that such is amongst his knowledge. I do hope that Doctor Avery does not ... misuse his skills."
Richard raises an eyebrow. "I have every confidence that Charles uses his skills appropriately..."
Kate chokes on her food. "Doctor... Charles... Avery..." Giles appears promptly at her side with large flasks of wine and water. Her mother murmurs something about opinions of apothecaries in service to the gentry; sadly, where she comes from, such people are all too often noted for supplying substances which are far from beneficial to imbibe.
Elsewhere, the subject of this discussion has noted that those who are not only hammering on his door but calling out his name have distinct French accents. He sends a servant to send them away, announcing himself far too busy to deal with them, but the servant returns with a message; they are greatly concerned with the problem of a grey disease, an infection of which they evidently believe Charles may have a special comprehension. With a sigh, Charles orders them admitted.
They prove, indeed, to be a pair of French Daedaleans, newly arrived from Havre-de-Grace; Armand Trouviers, a Void Seeker sailor, and Gerard Hervé, a Craftmason philosopher-alchemist of Chalice Guild. They apologise somewhat for disturbing Charles, but emphasise their concern with the grey homunculus problem. It seems that they learnt of what passed through the Viasilicos, determined from that account that Charles likely has the greatest experience of the practical philosophy of the matter, and set out to consult him forthwith. They do not specifically explain how they made the journey from France to London in the little time since the warning was sent, but as Hervé is the one making most of the enquiries, Trouviers can be assumed to be a true Enlightened expert in sailing the small craft which carried them. In any case, Charles treats them with correct courtesy, offers them the bed in his spare room in which to sleep off the fatigue of that swift journey, and then returns to his copying work.
At the Gardiner house, Cassandra digresses onto matters of Hermetic theology, which evidently interests her. When Richard and his father step outside for a while, leaving the womenfolk together, the older man shakes his head with a rueful and admiring smile.
"Bright girl, that" he comments.
Richard can only agree, and acknowledge that he has hopes in this direction -- hopes which he has to admit are complicated by Cassandra's brother's allegiance to Sir Walter Raleigh's faction, given that Raleigh has formed an enmity towards Richard. His father permits himself an impolitic and intemperate murmur to the effect that Walter Raleigh is a jumped-up West Country gigolo...
Indoors, Mother mentions Sir James, and Cassandra, being briefly acquainted with that knight, makes enquiry as to what he is doing at present. Kate admits that she is unsure.
In fact, at that particular moment, or thereabouts, Sir James is finding himself on a field in the Low Countries, a site which he remembers -- but from some years before. It is night, and if this perception somehow be true, the next day will bring a deeply unnerving and essentially Enlightening experience of battle for himself. A voice from behind him says lightly, "Talking to y'sword again, Jack?"
He is joined by the speaker, a familiar comrade, named John, who makes the style of conversation typical of soldiers throughout history, ranging mostly over matters of womankind back in London. James falls into the pattern of old conversations; whatever is happening here, it seems to him the thing best done.
Then, the pair perceive something more immediately exciting; a force of Spaniards are attempting a night-time assault, coming on at the run (an event which Sir James doesn't remember). John smiles wolfishly; this possibility was somewhat expected, it seems, and he has hopes for the result when a small field-gun nearby is fired. But his hopes are dashed when the shot lands somewhere not quite where it's wanted on the dyke along which the Spaniards are running.
He and James make an instinctive decision, and the two of them rush forward to, as it seems, engage the entire Spanish attack. They toss a coin, and it is James who sets and lights a fuse to the charge planted in the dyke while John stands off the enemy, blade in hand; then James turns to aid his friend, bringing down more than one opponent with deft sword-work. And yet, the fuse which he had set somehow fails, and James turns from the Spaniards and the wounded John to detonate the charge which will unleash a watery torrent against the foe in the only way remaining -- with a point-blank pistol shot...
And he finds himself, thrown back by the ensuing blast, back in his London workshop. He ducks the fragments of a strangely disintegrating quenching bath, gets to his feet, and finds a mirror good enough to show him his new lack of eyebrows.
Elsewhere, Cassandra returns to her home safely from dinner.
The next morning, Charles takes his French guests and leaves them with those Cosians who are attending to the captive homunculus, where they may learn something of the Enlightened arts and tactics which might best dispose of this menace. Then, he goes on to visit Oswald and explains about the temporarily loaned book, and the need to copy it in short order. Oswald, confronted with the concept of a book of secret lore which will only be available for a brief period, all but snatches it out of Charles's hands, rummages around for quills and ink, and performs a vain Time working that enables him to copy this text precisely and in double time or better. Charles settles down to supplying him with more quills and ink and the occasional mouthful of food.
Sir James takes a little time to attach hilts to the two swords which he has made, summons what courage he can find, and sets out to pay a visit.
The Gardiners rise in goodly time, and Richard, thinking on further matters of poetry, takes a small boat out onto the Thames. There, he perceives his friend Sir James, lacking any eyebrows but carrying two swords and looking oddly nervous. They exchange salutes, and Richard directs Sir James to the house's landing-stage. Sir James goes ashore, and walks towards the house as Richard sees that both boats are safely tied up. He rounds a corner of the building at exactly the same moment as Kate, and they all but collide. Kate notes his lack of eyebrows.
"Good morning" says Sir James.
"Good morning" Kate replies. "Ah -- now I see what it was that you were making."
"Indeed. And I believe that one of these should suit your style."
After ensuring that she will not be too much observed, Kate unwraps and inspects the rapier which Sir James profers. "It's beautiful," she says, "thank you." She re-wraps the gift.
"That was one objective," Sir James says. "A fitting gift could not only be beautiful..."
Richard, having followed Sir James towards the house, is lurking just within earshot. He is currently restraining maniacal laughter, and Kate observes this. She looks at him, and he eventually backs away.
Kate suggests a turn around the garden, so that she can find somewhere to examine the blade properly. Eventually, the pair achieve a quiet moment, and Kate establishes that the weapon has perfect balance to match its shimmering edge. She glances at Sir James's appearance.
"I see that these gave you a little trouble in the forging."
"I suppose 'twas to be expected."
"I believe that the term is, a Seeking."
"Ah. And was it successful?"
"Both the Seeking and the forging."
At this point, Sir James attempts a poetic improvisation, as this seems to him the best way to make the proposal which he wishes to present -- although the result is indifferent, at best. Kate improvises a reply, which is only a little better, although it is certainly positive. "But you will have to speak to my father."
"I am sure that we can come to some understanding."
Richard, who is sitting writing in the solar, hears the house door open and shut unusually quietly. He remains seated and engaged only with matters of poetry.
Kate goes to find her father, and intimates something of what he is about to be asked, and that she is favourably disposed towards the request.
"'Zounds" her father remarks.
"Yes, I know. But things change."
"Well, I suppose that I'd better have a word with him."
Father steps out of that room with a jaunty step, catches Sir James's elbow, and steers him into the gun room, where he opens the gun cupboard, extracts a bottle of Italian wine from the back, and pours two generous goblets. He passes one to Sir James -- but first, he sniffs the younger man's breath. Sir James is evidently suffering from nerves this morning, and fails to put his proposal in as delicate a form as he had hoped -- but Father looks somewhat sympathetic, so Sir James tries again in Italian. Father replies in the same tongue, "That's fine, but do polish it a bit before you see Maria". Then he changes the subject in a fit of what may be embarassment, chatting for a moment about mercenary service in Italy.
Kate, meanwhile, encounters her mother, just back from household shopping. "Mother -- I have some news..."
Meanwhile, as he hurtles through his copying task, Oswald is acquiring some ideas about Inigo Pelton's view of Bruno's doctrine of the plurality of worlds. This might, he thinks, be linked to some oddities observed in John Dee's house... It's all interesting (if highly heterodox) stuff.
Lunch at the Gardiner house somehow extends through the afternoon. Eventually, Richard escorts Sir James home, by way of a couple of taverns, and then returns to sleep in his own bed.
Oswald and Charles, by contrast, continue their efforts through the night, with some brief moments of sleep snatched along the way -- and the copying is complete! Charles returns home briefly in the morning, then both attend divine service at St. Paul's at noon. Charles in particular has cause to be there; now is the time to return the original book. They notice each other, and they both also notice Cassandra -- who has more than one servant in close attendance. Charles notes her expression and manner of concern; this task will be a little more complicated than he expected.
Charles talks to Oswald about this, and hands the book off to him. Oswald then openly approaches Cassandra (indeed, he positively swirls up to her), and while Charles distracts the watchers, Oswald chooses a perfect moment and hands off the book to Cassandra in his turn; she pockets it deftly. They are so effective that Charles does not even realise that the transaction has taken place, but he eventually wanders back to his pew. The Pelton party subsequently departs, and Oswald convinces Charles that he did return the book. As they then talk of casual matters, Charles complains that Richard is being slow to move forward in his association with Cassandra -- and, he says, Sir James is likewise being slow with Kate, for that matter.
At which point, they reach Charles's front door (Oswald had doubtless been hoping to have lunch there), and find Richard waiting. All exchange news and recent stories, and Charles shakes his head, abandoning the last of an old, vague hope. Richard leaves a poem with him, to be passed to Cassandra when opportunity next arises, and escorts Oswald home.
|As Charles and Oswald catch up on their sleep, and Kate and Sir James spend some time billing and possibly cooing, Richard returns home and does a little reading.||13-12-2006|
The next morning, though, Charles regains enough vitality to visit Oswald once more -- and finds him buried in a book once more. As he has been, of late, pondering how best to apply his growing insight into the Art of Forces, he decides to leave the older scholar to these studies, and departs to visit a gunsmith of previous acquaintance. He presents a requirement that makes the fellow shake his head in bemusement at the eccentricities of the wealthy; who would need a weapon with many of the characteristics of a pistol, but a bore a full inch in diameter, made to the highest standards of reliability? It might be good for hunting boar or suchlike, perhaps, if one insists on being entirely too close to the beasts. Well, each to their own -- it will need a shoulder-stock, of course...
Charles, unfortunately, haggles less well than the weapon-smith, and ends by agreeing a high price and a delivery eight weeks away. This will be his Christmas present to himself.
Charles then returns to Oswald, who has been pondering references to the mystical decans of Kurtaêl and most especially Iudal. "A great sacrifice will be required", those hand-written notes suggest. Oswald thinks that this sacrifice could be almost anything, but in such matters, a need for greatness cannot be circumvented. Furthermore, however large the sacrifice offered to these pagan powers, a Hermetic working intended to change the world would almost certainly have to take place at the place of the change -- which in this case, must surely mean the far side of the ocean.
Richard, meanwhile, spends the morning catching up with matters of governance at the Tower; to his usual good fortune, these seem to fall out well enough. Then he sends a note to Sir Francis Walsingham, requesting audience -- and later receives a brief note, saying that Sir Francis will be at home next Saturday, to which he in turn replies with a promise to attend upon Sir Francis at eleven of the morning. Then, he turns to ensuring that the Tower has plenty of supplies of the kinds of shot, powder, and suchlike that are most needed by privateers; contemplation of the present state of affairs between England and Spain suggests to him that there may be calls for such.
Then he goes to visit Oswald -- and finds Charles already there. Richard reads Charles's summary of the astronomy of the recently borrowed book, and then reviews the Hermetic materials. Most intelligent and scholarly discussion follows, in which the possibilities of this concept of sacrifice looms large. Richard remembers that Raleigh even now has a colony in place in the New World; could this somehow be sacrificed, to transform the colony into Dee's dreamed-of "Atlantic Empire of Great Britain"? And is that perhaps why Raleigh endeavoured at one point to induce our heroes to join that expedition?
How this may be enlinked to, for example, embassies to the fair folk, is unclear -- but Raleigh's schemes surely appear ever more grandiose.
The three men also agree that a new copy of the book is required, for reference by the Gardiners -- but that can be made at leisure, without enlightened workings. Oswald is asked to perform the task, and Charles is asked to copy his summary notes, to pass them to Master Aristotle for comment.
Also, later that day, Charles contemplates his alchemical studies, and concludes that certain possibilities exist. This is wild and dangerous stuff, of course (for it combines Cosian knowledge and ancient wisdom), and some would say it was dubious, but his grasp of the Arts of Life now seems to suffice to manipulate certain Platonic forms at a quite advanced level. Preparing a potion with blood borrowed from a nearby butcher and also with blood drawn from his own arm, he imbibes it, and after a few moments, assumes a different morphic guise -- temporarily exchanging his shap for that of a pig.
That same day, Sir James takes horse to pay a visit to his family in Sussex, where his father owns an inn; he sees them but rarely, but now, for certain, he has news that must be imparted. The meanwhile, Richard makes a visit to his family's parish chuch to arrange for bans to be read. The priest there seems somewhat startled by what he hears.
"Has the poor fellow been warned?"
Richard explains that Sir James has a most distinguished war record. The priest nods uncertainly.
"Nonetheless... He is aware that self-destruction is a sin?"
Richard returns home and reports to his mother, who mutters about priests who do not know their place.
Charles, deciding that he should take some responsibility for the Frenchmen, makes a visit to the Cosian guild-house to enquire after them. He is directed to a nearby tavern, where he finds Armand teaching a French drinking song ("Sous le Pont d'Avignon") to some new English friends, while Gerard is perusing some notes over a bottle of wine in the corner. Charles sits down with Gerard, and they discuss the subject which he has been considering; the homunculi. Gerard has to be reminded that the Order of Reason has adversaries in this city ("Ah yes, this is not a well-run city, is it?" "That would depend on who you ask."); thus, when they talk of the mystical problem, they speak in Latin, for some minimum security, and Charles refuses to say too much. So Gerard acquires another bottle, while Charles practises his newly learned French, and occasionally joins in the singing.
Kate, meanwhile, visits the home of Lady Anne Mortgrave, and finds the lady at home and receiving visitors -- and indeed, she proves reasonably interested in the work which Kate has to offer. When she has the opportunity, Kate asks some of the other servants about Juliet, and is told that she is out at the city shops, so Kate slips into a corner of the house and awaits the other woman's return.
When Juliet does appear, Kate intercepts her, and says that she needs to speak to Mistress Elmery.
"I may be acquainted with a lady of that name. What should I say to her, if I do see her?"
"Something has arisen regarding the Veil, which I think we should discuss."
"I will mention this, should the chance arise..."
And Oswald spends the day busily making a summary of the Hermetic book (and doing a very fine job of it), for his own reference.
The next morning, Richard goes to work at the Tower. In the afternoon, he visits Charles, and takes him to the swordsmith; one of the blades which Richard previously commissioned from this fellow will now be assigned to Charles, and Richard wants to be sure that the balance will be all that is required. The artisan declares that these changes will add a week to the time required; the weapon will now be ready early in November.
Charles has by now made a decent copy of his summary of the crucial book; Richard takes this away to his own home, and leaves it on the desk of the absent Master Aristotle, with a note of explanation. Oswald is at this time still busy with his own copying work, but is making good progress. When it is done, he plans to compose a work of drama -- a serious commentary on the world's need for stability. It does not cross his mind to worry that this may prove a little dull.
Sir James reaches his family's home village, and makes his announcement. His father and brother are stolid in their responses, as in so many other things; his oldest sister is surly, and his other sisters are mortified ("You cannot marry -- you are our brother!") But all receive invitations to the wedding.
|Wednesday 27-10-1585||The next day, Charles goes to the Theatre to continue observation of the Invisible College's dramaturgical operations, He finds Lord Strange's Men performing The Masque of Noveltie, which scholars of a later generation might consider a precursor to (or imitation of) The Faerie Queen, but not as good. It does not, perhaps, help matters that someone has tinkered with the rhyme scheme of several crucial speeches.||24-1-2007|
Richard too visits the Theatre, the day after Charles, forms much the same impressions of the Masque, and even sees and speaks with the writer of the piece. While sympathising with the fellow over the changes to the work, he drops hints that there may soon be another company in operation, which might have greater respect for the labours of honest writing men.
Meanwhile, Kate is working on her gift for Sir James -- a new heavy cloak, finely embroidered, and even more importantly, perfectly balanced for use in combat, and exceptionally robust, with metallic strands worked into the lining that may snag opponents' blades. Her enlightened perceptions allow her to assess the balance and materials with precision. Her planned design for the work also includes a border of martial mice... But for now, what she is making is simply a very robust cloak. [A critical success rolled in this process doesn't hurt.]
And as Sir James rides homeward once again, Oswald is stowing the contents of the Hermetic book firmly in his own brain, albeit with some effort.
On the evening at the end of the week, all of our protagonists are invited to dine at the Gardiner house. Amongst other things, this is a chance to introduce Sir James to Master Aristotle, who breaks out an unlabelled bottle, which all sample. Sweetness and the taste of resin surely should not combine so well... And those of the group who know their wine have difficulty deciding how old it is. Only Kate cannot quite understand what is so special about it; all the others evidently have well-tuned palettes this night. [Three critical successes, one critical failure.] Richard enquires as to its origins.
"Sadly, that vinyard no longer exists."
Sir James mutters something in Greek about sea-dark wine.
However, conversation must pass onto that Hermetic book once again. Master Aristotle has reviewed the summary, and is concerned; he skims a copy of the book itself when it is shown to him, comments profusely in vernacular Greek, and slaps it shut. "Well," is his first remark, "that will have to be dealt with."
"Yes," Kate agrees, "and unfortunately, the task falls to us."
A general discussion follows. The idea of sacrifice does seem crucial to the Hermetic schemes; the deed may have to be disrupted, somehow. It probably involves Raleigh's colony; our heroes may have to protect that, or even return the colonists home. Richard mentions the theatre company idea, which Master Aristotle thinks may indeed help, at least causing local disruption and exposing crucial points in the flow of influences. Someone also raises the possibility of infiltrating Raleigh's faction, but that would surely be difficult. Our heroes have limited contacts there, though Mistress Elmery might yet prove useful.
One decision is reached; word should be passed up the line of Daedalean authority, including a summary of all matters to Master Holbright. Lines of communication with the Void Seekers should also be preserved; there may be a great necessity of travel in the near future. Also, Oswald will cast horoscopes, of various individuals, and of the entire colony if such can be correctly formulated; they might offer crucial dates. And Kate considers analysing which decans are likely to be used in the Hermetic working, to facilitate arcane counter-measures.
The next morning, Richard rises, bathes (without perfumes), dons plain black garb, and sets out for his appointment of the morning -- with Sir Francis Walsingham. He is received courteously, and he explains that he believes that Sir Walter Raleigh is warping the minds of Londoners through the plays which his faction is sponsoring; hence, Richard's plan is to sponsor other plays which counter this malevolent influence. Amongst other things, he wishes to employ one Christopher Marlowe to work on this task -- but he understands that Marlowe is currently in Walsingham's employ, at least at times.
Sir Francis frown. He does not, it is clear, really approve of any theatrical activities (his Puritan beliefs are no secret), but he admits to some interest in Richard's odd idea. He will not, he declares, make any obstruction -- so long as Marlowe is not overly distracted from his duty to his queen, and the proprieties are not too greatly harmed.
Richard accepts these terms with gratitude. As he withdraws, Walsingham gives him congratulations and respect, to be conveyed to his sister.
|(At which point, things went on hold for a while, as the GM sought to refresh his imagination and decide where this thing was going next. In fact, by the time it re-started, the campaign had even been updated to GURPS 4th edition.)|
The next few days are to see a great deal of preparation, weapons practise, philosophical experimentation, and consideration of possibilities. On this Sunday, however, Richard and Kate attend their local church, to observe the reaction of the congregation to the first reading of the bans. Unfortunately (to some opinions, perhaps), much of the congregation has observed the presence of the Gardiners, and hence they do not show as much startlement and humour as might have been expected. Richard might almost be forgiven for finding things dull.
And so October draws to a close, and marriage and winter loom.