Thursday, February 25, 2010

Near Midnight, Valerio's Tale

Friday, May 30, 1650

“There was a great King, the last King of his kingdom, the great kingdom of the Po called Lombardy. This King was a powerful man, a ruthless man ... when there was a duke who claimed the right to this King’s kingdom, this King had the duke’s eyes put out, and his hands cut off, and his feet cut off. And then he did the same to fifty men who were the duke’s men, and a thousand other men besides were put to the sword, though they were not cut apart, for they were only common men. Such was this King’s heartlessness.

Now, the King had a beautiful daughter, whose voice was that of songbirds, and who’s skin was like that of the finest marble; she was a very uncommon girl, this daughter, and she had many suitors, both princes and other kings, who would marry this daughter and align their lands with the King of our story. They promised to give the King armies and navies that he might attack his neighbors ... and they promised to give the King riches, that he might build palaces and churches to the glory of God ... and they promised the King wisdom, that the King might grow wise and might live centuries longer – but the King spurned every offer, and denied every gift. And so the princes and kings of other lands went away and said to themselves, “This King must love his daughter, and that is why he will not part with her.”

Ah, but this is not so my friends, for the King truly felt nothing for his daughter. Though she might have the truest heart, though she might be the most beautiful woman in the world – and there were those who said she was – it meant naught to this King, except as the bargain he desired, a bargain that his children might own the world. For this King did desire to marry his daughter off – to none other that the greatest lord of Europe, the Emperor Charlemagne.

Charlemagne had never seen this daughter, but he had heard of her. He had not asked for her, and when the King of our story sent messengers to Charlemagne telling of the daughter’s perfect hands, and her perfect feet, and her perfect eyes, and her perfect lips, Charlemagne was not moved, and did not call for the daughter.

The King of our story would not relent. He built a great army, not with which to attack Charlemagne, or to attack his neighbors, but to wage war on his own kingdom, to gather together a great dowry, a dowry that would compel Charlemagne to marry the King’s daughter. Every soul in the kingdom was stripped of wealth, every coin, every jewel, every trinket and every ornament was seized. Hundreds upon hundreds were put to the sword by the king’s army, until at last the people relented and brought everything they owned of value to the King. And all this that was brought was gathered together and loaded onto a line of wagons that reached from the eye to the horizon. In this my friends, I tell the truth.

Now the King did not put his daughter at the front of this line, but instead he put her in the largest wagon, at the very end, that Charlemagne might see all the treasure the King was sending and his heart would be softened. And so the mighty horde began its way north, over the Alps, and into the empire of Charlemagne.

Now, while the King had waged war on his own kingdom, he had not thought about the Church, or what was due to God. When the good fathers saw the devastation that had been wrought upon Lombardy, they devised a plan. Charlemagne was a very holy man, and if it became known to him through what sins this daughter was presented, no amount of gold would soften Charlemagne’s good heart. So they sent a party of three men, who reached Germany before the King’s wagons. Very quietly and very cleverly they gave Charlemagne a dream, in which Charlemagne saw all that had passed, and all that was passing.

When Charlemagne woke, he gathered together his closest men and rode south – and in the mountains, he turned back the monstrous horde, and the daughter also, refusing even to look upon her. He refused her my friends, however beautiful she might have been, for what value does a woman have if a man must sell his soul to have her?

And Charlemagne leveled a great curse upon the gold, that it should be lost forever, and that whosoever came into possession of the gold would fall, and their kingdom with them.

Now, it is said that the gold never returned to Lombardy, that a great storm drove the wagons into the highest mountains and that every soul that had tried to bring the gold to Germany had perished, and the daughter with them. But there are those who say the gold must have returned to Lombardy, for the King was the last King of Lombardy, was he not? But where is the gold, my friends, where is it? For you may ask of every family in that ancient Kingdom, and they will recall none of it ever having returned ... and you can ask of every other kingdom, but they never saw any gold. And in the end, as we well know, when the King did fall, it was by the hands of Charlemagne’s army, and it was Charlemagne who was give the title Rex Langobardorum, the King of Lombardy. There are those who say Charlemagne took the gold, and the kingdom both – but we know, don’t we my friends. We know where the gold is!”

And at this Valerio points his finger to the highest mountain. “There, it is there! And woe to him that finds it!”

Late Evening, Altdorf

Friday, May 30, 1650

The road winds down and down through steep mountains, finding its way along another river than the one you left behind, fording the river again and again in the narrow valley. As the sun drops below the tops of the mountains, the peaks glisten, turn golden, then bronze, then a dark coppery red as the valley darkens with dusk. While the sun has not yet ‘set’, it is an hour below the tops of the mountains before you arrive at Altdorf. The picture is legitimate, and close to what you’d see (except the street lights) as you came into town.

The recommended Inn, the Chamois, is a sprawling, massive chalet of three stories, with two balconies, with hearths, on the top floor, each with spectacular views of the valley. It will cost a g.p. per person per night to stay there – and rooms are scarce. Only one is available. There are many lights, and the odor of a brewery nearby, and apparently a gathering upon one of the two balconies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Afternoon, A Fork In The Road

Friday, May 30, 1650.

The party awakes, gathers itself together and begins to move down the road into ever thickening forest.  By noon, you come to a place where a guard post and gate has been built, to take a toll upon the road.  The toll is a silver piece per person and 3 c.p. per wheel (which is 1 s.p. for a wagon, 6 c.p. for a cart).  Animals are let by for free.

Soon after the toll gate, the party will come to a fork in the road.  The left fork reads, "To Zug."  The right fork reads, "To Chur."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pre-Dawn, Down the Furka Pass

Friday, May 30, 1650

It is a race, but the party does get over the top of Furka pass an hour before sunset. As it happens, the route down proves as difficult with the carriage as the route up, as the horses must be used to check the uncontrolled progress of the vehicle, so it doesn’t get away and roll off the road. Still, the slope is less steep on the far side, and the party makes good progress. It is an hour after sunset when you find a good place to rest, at the edge of the treeline (you could not stop before that point, for reason of the following sentence). You must make a fire (the weather is nasty cold at night up here, and a fire will be necessary for survival), and you will probably eat even though it is late. Sunset is at quarter after nine p.m., so it is not quite midnight when the party settles down to sleep.

I presume watches are set. It happens that when Andrej takes his watch, he hears a distinct sound, close by, that it takes several seconds to identify.

It is Serafina, quietly sobbing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Morning, Up the Furka Pass

Thursday, May 29, 1650

As it will take a full day to reach the base of the Furka Pass, and since nothing special happens on that day, we will skip ahead to the day after, to the start of the climb.  Please take note and distribute food as necessary. 

The party can take charge of a sack of turnips (22 lbs.), and a sack holding 4 lbs. of salt pork, 3 lbs. of gorgonzola cheese and twenty hard, as yet unripe pears, all from Serafina.  She's happy to eat whatever the party eats.  There are the two kegs - not barrels, I originally said kegs - of ale also, with 12 gallons each.  Lastly, Serafina has a 10 lb. sack of a strange fruit, which Delfig is not likely to have ever tasted; Andrej might have had one or two opportunities in his journeys, and Avel would remember them from his boyhood in the Crimea.  We call them 'apricots.'

With full bellies, the party may begin their climb.  It is arduous, of course, but not immensely so - Andrej and Delfig are familiar with mountains, and Avel too ... though perhaps none quite so high.  The journey is, nevertheless, uncomfortably long.  The day is cloudy, fairly cool, which the party realizes by the afternoon is a blessing.  The road switches back and forth, back and forth, ever higher, until all and sundry are certain that the road will climb right off the top of the mountain and directly into the clouds.  Andrej is reminded of stories of Purgatory, which is a mountain that is not climbed until every sin is paid for.

He is wondering what sins he is paying for now, as the sun edges towards three in the afternoon, hoping the top of the pass will come soon so that spending the night at the top will not be necessary.  As it happens, at this moment, Andrej is in front of the party.  The carriage has slid, and been adroitly braked by Avel, whereupon he's back pedalled some twenty yards.  Delfig fell back with the carriage (to avoid being run over), while Serafina was able to press against the mountain and let the carriage slide by.

Now Avel is resting the horses for five minutes, and Andrej sees it is done well and there's no need for him to rush to calm the animals.  And besides, it is a steep twenty yards, and Andrej has already climbed it ... going down will mean climbing it again.  He is tired, and not immediately anxious to do so.

(Which is not to say the character couldn't go down ... only that he's experiencing the exhaustion that naturally comes from wearing out the body).

In any event, there is a very pleasant looking rock to Andrej's right.  He is likely eying it, to sit down, when a sound comes that is not rock scraping upon rock.  It is, however, scraping.

Mid Afternoon, Sion

Tuesday, May 27, 1650

All is bound up, packed, made ready and set to go.  The town clock has not yet struck 3 p.m., the sun promises three hours of daylight and Serafina is anxious to make way without waiting another day.

She is uncertain of which direction to proceed, however; down the valley, in the direction by which the party arrived, or up the valley, up river to the Furka Pass, the route directly to Zurich.  The pass is 7,992 ft., and may still be deep in snow even this late in the year, though that is not likely, as it has been a warm spring.  It would almost certainly be a shorter journey.

Serafina will leave it up to the party.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Very Interesting

This change in template has been implemented upon discovering that I can, in my place of money earning, post comments on my other blog.  As such, this blog has been reformatted to suit.

I am not strictly certain that this will work.

Don't let the similarity confuse you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Afternoon, Sion

Tuesday, May 27, 1650

Serafina will lead the party down into Sion, to a rather rundown and ancient little Inn called “the Italian” … judging from the timbers it might have been built when the Lombards ruled northern Italy. The doorway is skewed and very narrow, enough that any large human would have to remove their backpack in order to edge inside. Serafina satisfies herself with calling inside: “Renaldo!” There is a pause and she calls again.

A short, mustached Italian, typically light-skinned like a Piedmontese, comes to the door rubbing his hands together with a towel. “Signorina? Is that you? I did not expect to see you … ever again.”

“Yes, I know Renaldo. I’ve come for my things.”

“But why? And what are you doing with these men?” Renaldo looks at the rest of the party distrustfully, as though he might do something.

“These men are my friends, Renaldo. I have come for my things. Now you will get them for me.” Serafina’s voice has a strong hint of nobility in it, although the party is well aware that she has no noble blood in her – that is the reason Hornung spurned her. The effect is definite upon Renaldo, who throws aside the towel and steps out of the door.

He seems unhappy, but he says, “This way then.” He walks down the narrow lane upon which the Inn faces, six or seven feet wide, down a short flight of stairs and then into a wider street. Here, on the same wall as the inn, are four sets of double doors, very sturdy, barred and bolted shut. Renaldo slips a ring of keys from beneath his doublet, undoes the first door, then elicits Avel’s aid in lifting the bar.

Inside, you see a carriage, very dusty (three or four years worth), harnesses for horses on the wall, 50’ of rope, a grapple, a suit of chain armor which would seem of size for an elf, three keg-sized sacks tied with twine, and two kegs. At the back of the carriage are three large boxes, the lids nailed shut. The carriage has plenty of room, would easily sit six persons and carry four hundred pounds of additional goods to boot.

“You will give me two horses, as agreed?” asks Serafina.

“Yes,” answers Renaldo. “It will not make my brother happy. He has grown fond of the two ponies you gave me. They are beautiful animals now.”

“Your brother will forgive me. It can’t be helped. Send for them … I wish to leave immediately today.”

“I will go for them myself. And send water for you to wash down the carriage.”

Serafina looks at it. “Yes, most helpful.”

It will take a few hours, in which case I assume everyone will pitch in; the carriage will save considerable time in returning to Dachau.

(OOC: Delfig, in answer to your question regarding hirelings and henchmen. Hirelings are those who work for pay, while henchmen are persons who have been so moved by your eminence that they must be with you and suffer your trials. At fifth level, I allow characters to ‘roll’ a second character, who becomes your fanatic henchman … ie, you run him/her.

Hirelings are different; usually, you can’t simply hire them at a strange place, for as I always point out, you have no credit. In Dachau, where Hornung - or Jan, had he lived - can vouch for you, hirelings would be available. Here in Sion, if Serafina were convinced, she could vouch for you to gain hirelings. But as a stranger in a town, who would trust you?

Sometimes you can convince a single guide or individual to agree to work for pay, but generally you will wind up with criminals or near-criminals, as the kind of person who would work for a complete stranger - and a foreigner - would probably be on the game.

Typically, a hireling is paid three months wages, in advance, so that two months of that can be given directly to his family, and a months worth for provisions. I don’t expect the party to provide any goods for a hireling except weapons and armor, if needed. Otherwise, the hireling will come along with whatever they have, typically leather and a club).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Midday, Sion

Tuesday, May 27, 1650

Serafina, having appeared in travel clothes, addresses the party,

"Good gentlemen; I give you my faith, for Sister Margareta tells me you are good men of good intent, and that you have no malicious purpose; and therefore I will accept your word that Eberhardt does call me and that this journey will not be wasted.  I would ask you however, do you know what sort of man you bring me to?  And what nature of deeds he did before he and I met?  It has been eight years since he and I parted ways ... I do not know what sort of life he has lived in that time.  He did not give me cause to believe, when he turned his back on me, that he would choose a righteous path - there has been war in Germany in that time, and I have been told by Father Jan that Eberhardt did not avoid that war.  You should know therefore that you may be taking me to a man most unvirtuous, though he never was towards me.

"I have myself changed these eight years.  Then I was young and unknowing ... but the sisters have taught me and trained me, and I know more of the world than Eberhardt, or even Father Jan may have known.  I go knowing what man I may be meeting.  But do you good gentlemen know?  This is no song of love."