Sunday, November 29, 2009

Afternoon, Lindau

Saturday, May 17, 1650

As the party leaves the hostel, Horst will insist that Jan lay in the back and Jan is ameniable to the suggestion. Andrej may learn his spell and use it if he wishes to bring Jan further up; at any rate, Jan will rest in the wagon and sit up, feeling better, if Andrej decides to heal him.

It is not raining the next day, but the sun does not come out so the forest remains damp the day through. There’s fog in the morning throughout the land below you, looking quite spectacular.

The road is virtually all down hill the next day. Over a period of five miles, the road drops a little more than a thousand feet, so that an 18 degree slope downwards is the norm. There are many points where the wagon would be dangerously close to slipping, into the muddy banks on either side of the road, but using both mules and with both Andrej and Emmanuel mastering the animals, you have little trouble. By early afternoon, you have left the deep forest and begun to move through tailored hill pastures, where dairy cows roam everywhere.

And all at once, you are greeted by perhaps the most beautiful sight you have seen in your lives; I have tried to find a picture that would do justice to it, but the best I have to offer is the Medieval German drawing of the lake and of the town of Lindau; you can see that the town is separated from the land by a bridge, and occupies an island in the lake.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Early Evening, Following Omari, Corfu

Tuesday, May 20, 1650

The boat docks, and soon after the passengers disembark.  Omari moves quickly from the boat; followed by Vespasiano, he makes his way with great urgency along the north along the harbor, paying no attention to the many vendors of foods and trinkets spaced along the beach.  He annoys people as he hurries.  He has a long way to go - it takes him a half hour to make his way to his destination.  Where the beach ends, he climbs up onto a path that leads over a rocky spur on the edge of the island, then down the other side to a smaller harbor. Coming to a warehouse upon the water, near the base of the mountain upon which sits the Castle of the Angels, Omari pounds on the door.  It is opened at once, by a young boy.  Omari does not speak to him, but instead pushes past and into the warehouse.

Vespasiano need not watch for very long.  Within minutes, Omari steps out, obviously much calmer.  He has a bundle in his arms, which he puts down at his feet.  He looks out at the sea, takes a deep breath, spreads his arms wide and appears to be enjoying the sun.  The door opens again.  A young man steps out, greets Omari.  Omari says a few solemn words to him, then points in the direction he has just come.  The man runs off.

(Obviously, at this point, if Vespasiano wishes to waylay the man, I may need to update the other post).

Omari opens his bundle, showing that it is a prayer carpet.  He lays it upon the ground, directs himself so that he faces generally southeast, and begins to pray.

If Vespasiano wishes to continue waiting, he will see Omari finish, then re-enter the warehouse.

Early Evening, Following Hafsah and Lateef, Corfu

Tuesday, May 20, 1650

The boat docks, and soon after the passengers disembark.  Telo directly moves towards the bakery in question; he has little difficulty in finding it, as it is right near the dock.  He discovers that it is a little bistro, also, and that there is room to sit outside.  A glass of wine is a mere 6 s.p.  He waits an hour, and sure enough, a man appears, seems to recognize Telo, and proceeds to pay him 20 g.p. in a small pouch.

During this hour, Pyxaanthal discreetly follows the two merchants, Hafsah and Lateef.  They leave the boat as though they have a purpose, moving at once away from the harbor and between two storefronts facing the water.  The lane is only six feet wide, and virtually perpendicular ... well, a good forty-five degree climb, at any rate.  At many points, the lane ascends by means of steps.  There is plenty of evidence to show that the lane would become a channel for water should it rain, and that the doorsteps are all placed a good six inches above the pavement.

The lane climbs three hundred feet, which tires out Pyxaanthal somewhat, and the merchants a great deal.  From time to time they must rest, making it difficult for Py to 'disappear' ... but the merchants make no sign that they recognize him (though they've lived on shipboard together for six days).  Pyxaanthal has taken steps to conceal his appearance, spoken of ahead of time, and I am presuming he is making use of those steps now.

In all, Corfu has proven upon close examination to be a large city, easily more than 10,000 persons, perhaps double that; the balance of the population is distributed over the backside of the mountain overlooking the city - once Pyxaanthal reaches the top of the lane, where he can look down onto the other side of the small island, he sees hundreds of fishing boats, most distributed out upon the sea, where the populace is hard at work.

The merchants descend for not very long, and come to a house; they knock on the door, and wait.  And wait.  They knock again.  At last the door is opened, and the resident within greets the merchants which hearty hellos and a great deal of pleasure.  Apparently, the resident's name is Gyasi, and he seems to be likewise Egyptian.  The house is quite valuable; it is built in three layers into the side of the hill, having two balconies which give excellent views of the sea.

At this point, I ask Pyxaanthal to tell me how he will inform Telo of his location.

Mid-Day, the Narrow Way to Lindau

Friday, May 16, 1650

Two miles further down the road, you come to a sign, with two arrows pointing. To the right, the wide road paved with blocks that you’ve been travelling, the sign reads ‘Ravensburg, Buchhorn.’

To the left is a narrower road made of cobblestones rather than blocks, where the trees come right up to the edge and haven’t been cut back. The sign that way reads, ‘Lindau.’

Jan indicates that this is the road. ‘We shall more easily gain passage there than in Buchhorn – in a day and a half we shall finally rest our weary feet, and make our way down the Rhine.’

Before continuing on, Jan stops to cast a spell. He announces that it will rain soon, and rain heavily ... “We will have to walk ten miles before we can find shelter.”

At that, he begins up the road. It is very little time before you learn that the road is quite steep in places, and that it rises and descends in stages – you will have climbed more than a thousand feet before the day is out.

Sure enough, the rain starts; by now you've guessed that Jan has a predict weather spell.  It's pretty miserable; the rain makes trickles, then runs of water along the sides of the road, often sweeping across the road from one side to the other where the slope allows.  Emmanuel is suffering a fair bit, as he has low soft boots, but he remains stoic and betrays it only in his expression, not in his voice.

The steady climb becomes less and less pleasant, but from time to time you're blessed with a fine view of the landscape, marked by hills covered with trees.  Now and then you see a wild apple tree in bloom, and there are petals scattered on the soaked road in many places.

Jan points out a low stone post with a Roman numeral IV on it, claiming that it is four miles to a hostel at the high point of the road.  Not long after, you come across the first other travellers you've seen on the road: a family whose cart has slipped off the road and is now stuck in the mud.

There's a father, about forty, and a boy about fourteen pushing at the back of the cart, while a boy of twelve is managing the reins on a sad-looking donkey, well along in years. A young girl, no more than six, sits in the back of the cart, covering herself from the rain with a dripping shawl.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Morning, Crossing the Riss

Friday, May 16, 1650

Jumping ahead, the party encounters nothing along the road.  They find the Inn that Emmanuel remembered, a rather sad hovel consisting of four rooms, located upon the Riss River - but the cost is quite reasonable, only 7 c.p. for the night, each.  If this proves too much for Andrej, I'm sure it will be worked out somehow.

The town of Biberach consists largely of the schloss pictured, the population consisting of courtiers or those working directly for the Count.  All in all, the population is just over a thousand.  The town is a Free City, which means it and members thereof are exempt from many of the taxes of the Empire.

The Riss is a good wide river, a good fifty yards, and requires a ferry to cross, particularly for the donkey.  The ferry will be another five c.p., each.  This, too, I presume the party is able to manage.

Which brings me to the important element of this post.  As the party is crossing the Riss, and three quarters of the way, Delfig notices something odd moving in the water, about seventy yards upstream.  It is moving perpendicular to the river ... but it is not for another few minutes that you can be sure it is something swimming, and its head appears to be held above the surface.  It is moving faster than the raft, striking straight for the shore.

As it moves ahead, it becomes indistinct again ... until it climbs out of the water, at about the point when the ferry is about to reach the opposite dock.

It is a white stag.

Early Afternoon, North of Biberach

Thursday, May 15, 1650

Moving along the road, wary of who might be watching, the party travels three or four miles from the hanged man.

Emmanuel begins to speak, saying, "Father Jan, Father Andrej, Master Delfig ... p'raps it's not my place to say, but I've had thoughts preying upon me and I've got to make them known.  Them criminals, they couldn't be serving the grimlocks as the one said.  Grimlocks ain't much more than animals, they ain't got the sense.  They wouldn't be waitin' on the road for us, they'd be waitin' on the road for them other fellows ... and they wouldn't do nothing if they ain't be seeing them.  That's just what I be thinking."

He stops for a minute, then says, "Them two that ran ... won't they find other victims?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Late Afternoon, Corfu

Tuesday, May 20, 1650

For six days, the Almaeon makes its way along the islands and cliffs of Dalmatia, then south along the Alban, or White Coast, before making its way through the narrow strait of Kassiopi and into Corfu Bay. 
The strait is beautiful, as are the shorelines, as lush and green as anything you've seen.  The trees are in bloom, the sea is sapphire blue, and the hills rise elegantly above the shore.

Little has changed; there have been no incidents to speak of, nothing extraordinarily special to report.  Vespasiano is almost certain now that the cat and the old woman, Hannah by name, are unrelated to each other ... he's not seen them together since the first day.  Yet the cat seems to be around, always, and all three characters, Telo, Vespasiano and Py all tell of the cat watching them.

As the ship pulls into the harbor, the passengers have been allowed up on deck.  The feeling is mostly of relief; it has been six days of smooth sailing, but most of the passengers are happy as they will be allowed to venture on shore for one day.  The boat will be leaving Corfu at dusk, tomorrow ... until then, there is time to walk on land, conduct business or see the sights.

Telo is enjoying the fresh air, the view of the city as you enter ... and becomes aware that Omari is standing next to him.  Omari will make a few benign comments about the town, before asking Telo in a low voice, one only both of he can hear, "You are of the assassins, are you not?"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Midnight, Sebenico

Wednesday, May 14, 1650

The Alcmaeon drops anchor in the harbor of Sebenico on the coast of Dalmatia (modern Croatia), and none of the passengers disembarks.  This would be the time for the players to do so, if they wish.

The ship takes on one passenger ... an elf, by the name of Pyxaanthal Rauvelore.  Salvador introduces him to Vespasiano and Telo; and explains that an agent had meant to send Rauvelore on with another ship, but since the Alcmaeon appeared in the harbor, it seemed sensible to buy him passage immediately.

Rumors fly around the ship about the body: that he was an assassin, that he was in the employ of Omari the merchant as a bodyguard, and that Hafsah and Lateef, in jealousy over Omari's business, killed him.  No one seems to know the body's name - he is variously described as Hamash, Karas and Hassan.

The captain of the Alcmaeon holds the ship in harbor for three hours, during which time ten large barrels are loaded into the front hold of the ship, before it departs.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mid-Day, the Road South to Lindau

Thursday, May 15, 1650

A little background information.  Ulm is a free city within the Holy Roman Empire, surrounded by its private environs.  There are many such independent cities and small states, nominally independent, but part of the whole.

The road is less travelled, and somewhat overshadowed by heavy forest, which presses in upon the road on both sides.  It is also much more up and down, not the steady climb and fall you experienced from Augsburg to Ulm.  Here,

As you travel south, you come to a toll gate only four miles south of Ulm - this is a cost to pass through the land of the Knight Imperial of Welden.  The cost is 4 copper pieces each, and 8 c.p. for the donkey (Jan will obviously pay).  You travel only another 8 miles before you come to the other side of Welden, whereupon you find yourself entering the Duchy of Wurttemberg, which will cost you 5 c.p. to enter, and 10 c.p. for the donkey.

Just beyond the second toll gate, you see a group of three men laying about a cold fire.  They see you, and speak among themselves for ten or fifteen seconds - and then one begins to walk towards you.  He takes off his hat, to look more humble, but he seems insincere.  He smells fairly rank, and has a rough, untrimmed beard that's about an inch long, and blackened teeth. 

"Fathers, friends," he says.  "Me and my companions have found ourselves in a bad way, as it were, having fallen on poor luck.  We were soldiers during the war, but we're naught but villeins now, seeking a bit of work and just a bit of food, to carry us on as it were.  I can't help noticing you're heading south to Biberach and beyond, and knowing that it's not a safe road, not safe at all, you might spare us some goodwill and let us guide your way."

Now, just for your knowledge, Biberach an der Riss is on the road, about ten miles south of here, and Jan expected to reach it before the end of the day.

(OOC:  I don't want to have Jan run this party, so I'm going to have him remain more or less indecisive regarding this, and let Andrej and Delfig make up their minds).

Update: Map

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Morning, Ulm's East Gate

Thursday, May 15, 1650

You wake the next day, a bit dehydrated from the beer, and find that Jan has already been awake, and has obtained the donkey and packed it without any help from Emmanuel.  The cotter, wishing to feel useful, begins to gather up your things and pack them in your bags, following your instructions and actually being very helpful about it.  But clearly Jan wants to get going.

When pressed, he'll explain that he's spent most of the night fighting off Dietlinde's advances, "Even after we had gone to our rooms, she sought me out," he explains.  This is why he dares spend only one night here; she becomes intolerable any longer.

"She sleeps late," he says.  "Praise the Lord."

If you're all willing to go, you reach Ulm's Gate within the quarter hour.  The city is at the headwaters of the Danube River, the highest point of the river's navigation, 1500 miles from the sea.  From here you turn south towards the Alps ... Jan wants to know if you wish to stop and supply.  If not, you will skirt the walls to find the south road.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Evening, the Black Bullhead Inn

Wednesday, May 14, 1650

When Jan brings you the inn he promised, it's dusk; but the Inn is bright and full of people, with a roaring fire going, and the unmistakable odor of roasted beef pouring out of the doorway. Before going in, you look up and see from the sign hanging outside the Inn that a Black Bullhead is a fish.

Emmanuel has taken the donkey around to the stable, letting you take your packs and equipment from the animal before it is taken away. Emmanuel will busy himself moving your goods to your room once you've obtained one ... in the meantime he brush the donkey and see that it's fed.

The night was growing a bit cool and a bit damp towards the end of the day's travel, probably because you've sweated through a hot day and the change is affecting you. The warm fire in the center of the room feels very good. The fire is under a chimney built on pillars, a rather marvelous construction, and you see forty people, at least, sitting in a circle on benches and drinking. Some are eating from plates in their laps. A story teller seems to be finishing a story; you hear maybe four sentences and the room explodes in laughter - you couldn't tell what the joke was.

At this point Jan is accosted by a huge woman, 6'3" at least and weighing as much as Delfig and Andrej put together. She hugs Jan, lifts him clear off the ground and kisses both his cheeks. This is Dietlinde, the owner of the Inn.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Late Morning, On Deck

Tuesday, May 13, 1650

A dozen sailors of the ship come down into the hold and drive all the passengers, including the party, out onto the deck, ruining any chance of examining the body now.  As all wait, the captain goes below, much discussion is had, and the body is removed.

Salvador can be seen near the prow, looking quite perplexed, but entirely approachable.  Breakfast waits, a good hour and a half, before it is served, and the passengers are all given that time on deck.  There is a stiff breeze blowing, the ship making a good five knots per hour, literally flying along the coastline.  An image of Dugi Otok island can be seen right.

There is a great deal of grumbling among many of the passengers that there is a murderer on board, and several are wondering if they will have to sleep with in the same hold as whoever it is that night.  The second mate, who oversees the passengers while the captain manages matters below, and the first mate manages the ship, declines to give an answer.

At eleven bells the captain assembles the compliment of the ship, as well as the passengers.  "With this good wind," he says, "We shall be able to reach Sebenico in 18 hours.  For those passengers who wish to engage other passage, I will willingly put in there and return to you five of the six gold you have paid - no one need sleep until then.  I shall investigate this matter and make effort to see that the guilty is punished, but I shall not trap any passenger on this ship."

Late Afternoon, Descending to Ulm

Wednesday, May 14, 1650

You find most of the day is spent moving down out of the hills into the Danube valley, through country which is extraordinarily civilized and quite beautiful, the bottom land spreading out before you like a great green sheet.  You see hills, the same hills you are descending from, strung out towards the west and circling around to the north, far in the distance.  The day is remarkably clear and sunny, and by mid-morning you have to shuck some of your gear in order to be comfortable walking in the rising heat.

Jan explains that he is anxious to see Ulm.  He has not since early 1658, only months after the city was virtually destroyed by French armies.  He supposes that the reconstruction he witnessed prior will have been largely accomplished, and Ulm will be a new city.  He suggests entering the city and 'supplying ourselves' tomorrow.  There is an Inn he knows of outside the city gates which will give him free lodging for a night, "In exchange for a deed I did for the owner years back."  Jan does not allow himself to be pressed on the circumstances of the deed.

You meet many people along the road today.  A carter, hauling peat, travels along with you for a mile before you leave him behind.  Not long after that, you travel in the company of an old Jewish man and his daughter; Jan exchanges a ten pounds of food and a remove curse for an good tinderbox ... the Jewish man moves from a bent position to upright, grateful that his lower spine has been "released from the demon that has gripped it this last two years."  The daughter, Zephora, looks very approvingly at Delfig.  They take their leave ten miles from Ulm, turning to travel north.

You also meet, coming your way, a veteran of the war between France and Spain, who is walking alone back to his family in Munich.  His name is Witan, and he and Delfig exchange information as you all rest at the same watering place, giving the donkey a chance to drink, but their families do not know one another.  He tells tales that the war does not go well for either side, that thousands have died to no good purpose and that he no longer knows nor cares whether he is Catholic or Protestant.

That is where we reach the present.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Morning, Near Dugi Otok

Tuesday, May 13, 1650

With little going on in the hold,  the party whiles away the afternoon and the evening.  Most of the residents in the hold either settle down to sleep as the sun sets, not long after evening vespers (18 bells), while many have a great deal of trouble sleeping due to their stomachs and the rolling ship.  Vespasiano finds his belly is quite comfortable; Telo and Alonzo, less so.  Groans emit from throughout the hold ... clearly one of the merchants is suffering a great deal.

Having lived in a Medieval culture, the players are able to find sleep despite the steady noises; public living is a common experience, and no one in the party is of such high standing as to have never spent weeks or months at a time living in a common room of some kind - a mage apprentices, as boarders in a common house or as young children.

As the sun rises, the ship has covered 96 knots; you can hear the crewmembers above crying out "Dugi Otok!  Ho!"  The word quickly passes around the hold that it is an island head that the crew is making note of, to identify their location.

The passengers wake up slowly, and the upper hatch is opened to allow the passengers to come out on deck for an hour and eat their breakfast.  Only as the passengers begin to rise and come up the stairs is it discovered that the Persian is dead.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All Day, the Road To Ulm

Tuesday, May 13, 1650

You pass by Augsburg, fairly impressed by the sight of its towers and spires.  Both Andrej and Delfig are familiar with large cities - Delfig, after all, grew up in Munich.  Jan has seen it before.  Emmanuel, on the other hand, is very impressed ... you learn that this is the farthest he's ever been from home.

Ulm is two days away, but Jan is fairly certain that halfway along the journey there's a farmer he used to know who, like Neil, will put you up for the night.  The terrain west of town is first very flat, but you can see a line of hills that you will begin to climb into in a few hours.  "That is the east edge of Swabia," says Jan.

Patiently you make your way, and you find the road is not too steep where you begin to climb into the hills.  The forests are thick, but the road cuts a wide path through them.  By early afternoon the sun no longer shows, however, and Jan stops to make a prediction about the weather.  He says it will cloud over, and the wind will come up. but there will be no rain.

Soon after the clouds do come in.  It grows quite dark, so that even by late afternoon the forest is shrouded.  The wind rises to a strong breeze, plucking up your hair and your collars, but it does not resist your walking against it.

By late afternoon Jan picks out a path through the woods, and begins to make his way along it.  He does not send Emmanuel ahead.  "I have not been here in seven years.  I do not know if they fared well in the war."

The path does not seem well tended.  A mile along, you come to the burned out shell of a house, overgrown with brackens and weeds.  Jan searches, and finds four graves.  "We can stay here for the night," he says.  "They've been buried and the rites have been read.  There should be no undead here.  We will take watches - Emmanuel with me and you two alone.  I will take the one in the morning - which of you will take the first three hours?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Late Afternoon, Alcmaeon's Hold

Monday, May 12, 1650

As Vespasiano speaks casually with the old woman, an argument erupts between the unpleasant looking Persian and two of the merchants - not including the one that he had seemed to be friendly with before.  It is difficult to tell what the argument is over.  They refer repeatedly, apparently, to a woman named Sapphra; that she was not given all she was entitled to.  The Persian seems especially threatening; the merchants answer in short, quiet voices, though their faces are black with anger.  The Persian shouts: "NOT AGAIN," he says.  "I will not let this happen AGAIN!"

The third merchant intervenes.  He speaks softly to his friend, leading him away from the others.  They sit and talk for a long time.  The remaining merchants do not talk.  One climbs the ladder from the hold, speaks to a sailor on deck and is permitted to leave - when the party knows that passengers would not be allowed to do so until morning tomorrow.

Evening, Near Augsburg

Monday, May 12, 1650

A mile or so before reaching Augsburg, at the beginning of dusk, Jan will direct the party off the main road onto a narrow path through the woods.  He will send Emmanuel and the donkey on ahead, explaining that he has a friend here who will put you up for the night, thereby avoiding the town fees in Augsburg.

Night comes on quickly.  The path continues for about a mile before you're met by a man and two servants, all with lanterns.  Jan calls out to the man, who answers back; his name is Neil.  They embrace, Jan introduces Delfig and Andrej, and you're all led back to a substantially sized farmhouse.  There you find Emmanuel has been relieved of the donkey and waits inside.  A large pot of soup simmers on the fire, and you are each given a hot bowl with bread.  Jan tells Neil of your journey, and Neil wishes you all the best.