Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Vive La Différence!

I like this picture. A lot. Obviously it isn't actually from the period, but I like the style, the pose, and the character. The woman is attractive and attractively posed, yet with an air of assertion that seems right for a player character or for certain NPCs. I also really like the fact that the woman has curves without looking abnormally thin in other places. And something about her is appealing, like it might be interesting to hear her story. Who is she and what was she writing?

So Viva la difference!

Disclosure: I do not know the artist and I don't get kickbacks, but I might be willing to accept some.

Thumbnail and Wallpaper sizes are available and there is a collection of other art.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Lute at the Court of France

I enjoy learning about the period in which we game. It's an added benefit for me as the GM. I use a lot of period artwork in my setting. Which means I spend a significant amount of time picking up new pictures on the web. One added benefit to the surfing for pictures is that I also come across additional snippets of history and culture. Recently I found a French site, ClassicNews.Com that had an article about the use of the lute in the courts of Louis XIII and XIV.

In 1615 Louis XIII married the Spanish Anne of Austria: the two teenagers aged 14 years during their wedding night missed what was an expected union. The King quickly abandoned his wife, clearly preferring the hunt, the chase, and manly company. During his trips to Fontainebleau, the Louvre. or Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Anne of Austria extended the habits of the Iberian court, which were rife with guitarists, into France.

After the death of Louis XIII, the future dauphin, Louis XIV, received his first lute lessons at age eight. His music teacher, Germain Pinel, continued to teach the ruler until the age of 18. To enhance the education and qualities of Queen Anne of Austria (who only played the guitar), Ennemond Gaultier was appointed to teach her the lute. Then the battle, Gabriel father and son, were masters of music for Queen Anne of Austria when the young lutenist Peter de Nyert, noticed by Louis XIII, became his valet of the wardrobe, and in the end, the one who sang on the lute the motets of devotion on his deathbed.

The lute, aristocratic instrument. Mirroring royal custom, aristocratic circles adopt the lute whose mastery is the insignia of high education and a prestigious refinement. Scholars, intellectuals, wealthy citizens share this affection that flatters their status and enhances their dignity: Richelieu, as does Louis XIII, relaxes by listening to his favorite musician, Michel Lambert, singing melodies of his own composition, accompanying himself on the lute. In Parisian salons, Madame de Rambouillet, Mademoiselle de Scudéry, Madame de la Sablière, or the beautiful Madame Scarron – future Madame de Maintenon, Louis XIV's second wife, also cultivate a taste for the lute. Les Précieuses – nailed in their shortcomings by Molière among others, promote games and poetry contests, musical entertainment where poetry and lute are closely associated. Ninon de L’enclos and Mademoiselle Paulet gaining an enviable reputation. Charles Mouton, composer to fashion, ensures the brilliance of the evenings at the Scarron.

The lute is used as a solo instrument, revealing its secret and fascinating eloquence in a series of dance suites which are specifically reserved to it. This is Germain Pinel who writes the most successful suites, having a dreamy austerity. At the time, the most prized model comes from Bologna and is signed by the maker Laux Maler.

In a game context for Honor+Intrigue, what this means is that characters with the Don Juan/Temptress and Aristocrat/Courtier careers could reasonably know how to play the lute for amateur entertainment, while characters with the Artist/Performer career could choose musician to know how to play the lute (and other instruments) at a professional level.

Source: http://www.classiquenews.com/tag/louis-xiv/

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lost Chateaus of the Ile-de-France

This is the Hôtel de Gaillonnel-Longueville circa 1630. The picture is modern and the building was demolished in 1806. I happened across this painting on a website by Christian Benilan. He has created a site with hundreds of watercolours that he has painted of lost castles, abbeys and mansions of ancien province of the Ile-de-France. These will make an excellent addition for my campaign.

And he doesn't just paint buildings...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Don Miguel

Here's a picture I like.

This is Don Miguel de Castro and his picture was painted by Albert Eckhout, a Dutch artist. Eckout was among the first European artists to paint scenes from the New World. In 1636 Eckout traveled to Dutch Brazil, by invitation of count John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen. He stayed there until 1644. In 1643 or so, Don Miguel, who was an emissary from the Kongo, traveled to Brazil on his way to the Netherlands. I'm guessing that he was on a Dutch ship that was running a triangle route of Netherlands - Africa - Hew World/Brazil - than back to Netherlands. Triangle routes were big for countries involved in trade in the slave trade.

So anyway, while Don Miguel was in Brazil, Eckout painted his picture and that of his two servants. I'd seen a picture of Don Miguel before, but I didn't know his backstory. Who knew the Kongo was sending emissaries to Brazil in the early 17th century? And why doesn't Don Miguel* have his own wikipedia page?

The painting is now in the National Gallery of Denmark

* Of course there is a wikipedia page for Don Miguel. But it is not this Don Miguel, it is that Don Miguel. Well actually it is this Don Miguel...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Adventure Idea: The Sorrowful Bride-to-Be

Genevive Benoit


This is a side adventure that I added to one of the campaignarcs in my Honor+Intrigue game. The melodramatic tone fits well with a lot of cape & sword and swashbuckling adventure as well as standard romantic tropes. Thus it can be played straight up, as farce, or with a twist.

The setting can be almost anywhere - town, city, castle, tower, or manor all that is really necessary is some way of keeping the Sorrowful Bride-to-Be trapped. I used a new location so that the PCs did know anything about the principal NPCs. If the PCs/players are familiar with the location they may not have any uncertainty about the NPCs' motivations.

The adventure starts when one of the PCs happens by the place where the Sorrowful Bride-to-Be is being held and she tosses her note to the PC.

NOTE: If this is run as a subplot it may be more interesting if the PC doesn't have the opportunity to read the note until later in the day.

A Mysterious Note

Most kind Monsieur whose name I do not know,

I beseech you to take pity on a poor orphaned girl. I am being held here against my will and shall not be released until this coming Sunday when I shall be forced to marry an old, fat, and ugly man. Please, most kind, but unknown Monsieur, I humbly beg that you immediately contact my dearest friend, Etienne Deveraux. He is a student at the University in Paris. I have never been to Paris so I cannot better tell you how to find him, but as I am certain that he is as brilliant as he is kind I am sure everyone at the University must know his name.

Etienne is my last hope, save the ultimate recourse, for I fear my uncle and guardian has been won over by the guile of my cruel step-mother and also being old himself and often being in his cups he may not see how horrible a match with such an ugly old, fat man is to me. I have prayed to God for deliverance, but the time is now quite short and in truth I do not know where else to turn to reach my dear friend.

My earlier messages to him must have gone awry so now you see that you are my last chance to contact my dear Etienne so that he can come and save me. I pray God that you can reach him in time since otherwise I do not know what I can in Christian conscience do, but I vow that if it comes to the last that God will give me the strength to do what I must do.

I remain your most humble and pitiful supplicant,

Genevive Benoit

Background Information

If the adventure is being played straight up then all of the following is true.
Maurice Benoit
Genevive Benoit is being held a virtual prisoner at the Town Hall (or whatever location the GM uses). Her uncle, Maurice Benoit is the Town Governor. Although he is not enthusiastic about the wedding, he doesn’t want his family’s reputation or his dead brother’s memory tarnished or Genevive thrown into poverty with her dowry obliterated by his dead brother’s overwhelming tax debt. 
Grimoart Villelmeti

Grimoart Villelmeti, a wealthy merchant, has agreed to pay the debt and wipe out any record of the default once he and Genevive are married and besides, Maurice knows of no other marriage prospects for his niece. In addition, his sister-in-law and Genevive’s step-mother, Biatrisona Villelmeti Benoit, is pushing for the wedding and claims that “such nerves” are normal for a young girl before her wedding." Biastrisona is Grimoart's sister and she wants to please her brother, Genevive's suitor.
Biatrisona Villelmeti Benoit


Genevive Benoit

The Sorrowful Bride-to-Be           (SR 5)

Location: Burgundy (Auxerre)
Genevive Benoit (b. 1605) is the niece and ward of Maurice Benoit, the town governor of Auxerre. Genevive’s mother died at birth and her father, Herbert Benoit, married a woman from the south, Biatrisona Villelmeti. Biatrisona was a typical evil step-mother. Genevive’s father died in 1616 and she became the ward of her uncle, Maurice. But since Maurice is unmarried, she remained in the care of her step-mother –she and Genevive do not get along.

When Genevive was a child, she was engaged at her step-mother’s urging to an older man, Grimoart Villelmeti, a cousin of the step-mother, to whom Genevive’s father was in debt – both financial and political. This debt would have ruined Genevive’s father and it remained even after her father’s death. Now that she has come of age, the marriage is to occur and Genevive’s step-mother is pushing for the marriage to occur as soon as possible

Genevive is in love with Etienne Deveraux, a scholar. 

Might -1                  Flair 2                      Melee -1                  Defense 1
Housekeeper 1        Merchant 1              Temptress 1             Retainer 1
Lifeblood 7             Composure 3           Advantage 1
Boon: Attractive     Flaw: Noncombatant

Maurice Benoit

Location: Burgundy (Auxerre)
Maurice Benoit is a wealthy merchant from a family of wealthy merchants (SR 5). Though intelligent and knowledgeable in matters of trade, he seems common in his speech and plebian in his tastes. The one exception to this is his love for the new game of tennis. He drinks a lot and when he drinks too much he often blacks out.

Maurice thinks like a merchant so he prefers to treat most interactions as an exchange of value. However, he does like to show off how smart he is and will often answer questions just to demonstrate that he knows more about a subject than does his questioner. 

Maurice purchased and owns the position of Town Governor as venality. He is considering retiring and would be willing to sell the position to someone else who is willing to pay a premium price.
He has a ward and niece, Genevive Benoit, the sister of his brother Herbert. Genevive’s father and mother are dead, but she has a step-mother (her father’s second wife).

Although Maruice is generally well disposed to his niece he tends to be more benignly neglectful than actively engaged. Maurice is a drunkard and a bachelor and doesn't know much about young ladies, which increases his disengagement and his reliance on the guidance of his sister-in-law and Genevieve's step-mother, Biatrisona. 

Might 1                   Savvy 1                   Brawl 1                   Melee 1
Merchant 2              Official 0
Lifeblood 8              Advantage 1            Retainer 2
Boons: Carouser, Jack of All Trades;
Flaws: All Thumbs (Penalty Die picking locks, firing a gun or bow, or fine work; frequently spills ink and any papers always have blots and smudges), Drunkard (1 on d6 = drunk or past black out).
   Bash with Mug 1d6
   Hanger Sword 1d6+1 Dmg, +1 dmg to Quick Cut

Biatrisona Villelmeti Benoit

Cruel Step-Mother          (SR 5)

Location: Burgundy (Auxerre)
Personality: Biatrisona is the classic cruel step-mother. She frequently eavesdrops on her step-daughter Genevive and is cruel to her for the sake of being cruel. She wants to marry Genevive to her brother Grimoart both to be rid of her and to secure for her brother and the Villelmeti family the concealed fortune that Genevive will inherit after her marriage.

Biatrisona has several weaknesses.

  • Drinking especially if the vintage is expensive or from far away. 
  • Fancy clothing, though her taste is unrefined. She prefers flash or cost over good taste. 
  • Entertainment of any sort, especially anything that would be of interest to the nobility or the court in the capital.
  • Seduction and flirtation. Though not an attractive woman, she has a exaggerated opinion of her own charms.

Savvy 1                   Melee 1                   Merchant 1              Retainer 1
Lifeblood 8              Composure 3           Advantage 1
Boon: Keen Hearing                                Flaw: Vice (Cruelty)
        Strike w/ belt or spoon+1: Damage 1d2

Grimoart Villelmeti - Villain

Tax Collector and Merchant        (SR 7)
Location: Burgundy (Auxerre)
Background: Grimoart Villelmeti is a wealthy merchant and entrepreneur and a villain. Not from the  province of Burgundy, he is originally from Languedoc but now lives in a mansion outside of Auxerre. He owns and operates a shipping company that moves goods both by river barge and wagon. He also has a position as a tax collector in the Auxerre and Autun regions.

His business interests include the following.

  • Tax collection for the regions around Auxerre and Autun.
  • Barges for shipping wine down the Yonne, the Loire, and the Saone.
  • Wagons for moving wine from outlying vineyards into Auxerre.
  • Wagons for hauling wine from Auxerre to towns on the Loire (which leads west to Nantes in Brittany and the Atlantic) or the Saone (which leads south to Marseille and the Mediterranean).
SECRET: Grimoart Villelmeti falsified the tax rolls to put Herbert Benoit into his debt. He has documents in his office that will prove this and will absolve Herbert's heir, Genevieve of all debts.

Might 4                   Daring 0                  Savvy 2                   Flair 0
Brawl 2                   Melee 2                   Ranged 0                 Defense 1
Merchant 3              Pugilist 2                 Official 2
Lifeblood 16            Composure 3           Advantage 3            Fortune 3
Boons: Great Wealth, Hard-to-Kill, Herculean Strength, Strength Feat (BD), Thick Skinned
Flaws: Lumbering (penalty die for balance), Unsettling (Brutish Appearance)
Languages: French (N), +3 slots
    Protection: 1 (Thick Skinned)
    Walking Stick: 1d6+3 Dmg;
    Dagger: 1d3+5 Dmg; 5’ range when thrown, +1 with Called Shots;
    Snaphaunce Mazagatto Pistol: 1d6+1 Dmg; Range 5’; reload 2; misfire 2-3
    Broadsword: 1d6+5 Dmg; +1 Beat (on horse for travel, not usually carried)
Maneuvers: Bladework+2, Brawling+2, Choke/Crush+6, Dirty Fighting+2, Disarm+6, Hilt Punch+6; Beat+6, Bind+6, Grapple+6, Shove/Trip+6, Dodge, Parry+4, Riposte+4; Ranged Attack+2.

Etienne Deveraux

A Gentleman and a Scholar         (SR 7)

Location: Between Paris and Auxerre
Etienne Deveraux (born 1597, age 25) is member of the gentleman/bourgeoisie class and a scholar at the University of Paris.

After receving a letter from his true love, Genevive, informing him of the impending nuptials, Etienne is hastening to Auxerre to stop the wedding. 

OPTION: In a swashbuckling style game where dramatic coincidence is to be expected, the party may meet Etienne on the road on the way to Auxerre. If so, he will tell the party that he must urgently reach Auxerre and begs the loan of a horse. I they loan him a horse to the next inn Etienne will insist on proceeding, though he will be reluctant to explain why he is in such a hurry.

SECRETS: (1) Etienne is riding to Auxerre to stop his true love from marrying another (an old man whom she does not love). (2) Etienne is a member of the Academia dei Lincei, a secret organization of scholars based in Italy.

Daring 1                   Savvy 2
Melee 2                    Defense 1
Gentleman 1            Scholar 2
Lifeblood 8              Composure 3           Advantage 1             Retainer 3
Languages: French (Native), Latin (F), Greek, Italian
Boons: Learned (Bonus die to recall academic knowledge), Membership: Academia dei Lincei
Flaws: Helpless Loved One (Genevive Benoit), Obsession (Academic)
    Rapier: 1d6 Dmg; +1 Parry
Maneuvers: Bladework+3; Footwork+4, Dodge, Parry+4, Riposte+4

The possibly happy couple

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The duc de Bellegarde's Ball: Chaper II

Chapter II: End of the Ball

As Guy and Signoret stood in the courtyard, Guy noticed the Contessa and her dwarf ascending the main stair. Hmmm. Going to join the Duc? Finding them en flagrante delecto could be embarrassing but that may provide just the leverage we need. “Let’s follow them,” Guy said.

They followed the pair up the main stair and saw them go down a corridor where the Contessa entered a private bedroom. L’Omino remained outside, presumably on guard. But as they watched, they saw him alternately peak through the keyhole and listen at the door. Soon, Guy noticed the Duchess ascending the main stair. He told Signoret to warn the dwarf, but the Jesuit righteously replied, “Let the sinners harvest the fruits of their own evil.”

“Then keep watch and if I can’t distract the Duchess, then do something.” Guy adjusted his hat, then slowly descended the main stair towards the Duchess. Meanwhile, Signoret darted down a narrow passage and used a servants’ stair to reach a new location to keep the dwarf under observation.
As he reached the Duchess, Guy sketched a deep bow. Exerting all his charm, courtly flattery, and etiquette, he told the Duchess that he must have become lost; he complimented the Duchess on her dress and hair; and he asked her if she could show him the way to the ballroom. “And then Your Grace, perhaps you will make this evening complete by allowing me the honor of a dance with a graceful Duchess.”
Anne de Bueil-Fontaine, duchess de Bellegarde

The Duchess agreed to show Guy the ballroom and the two danced. Afterwards Guy offered to fetch the Duchess some refreshments and they stepped through the French Doors onto the terrace and out into the garden.

“It is a shame that the fireworks are over so soon. Did you have a chance to see them, Monseiur?”

“I was looking for a higher vantage point when I saw you,” Guy said. “And I do not regret the fireworks.”

The Duchess fanned herself as she said, “Are you a friend of my husband?”

“I have not had that honor,” said Guy.

“Then I am fortunate to have met you first,” she said as she smiled at Guy.

Their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the Chevalier de Branville. “De Bourges is not what he seems, your grace. He has certain nefarious connections." Guy made an inarticulate objection.

“Has not your name been linked to that of the Duke, or should I say, der Landgrave DeMainz?”

“Nefarious? Sir, you insult me.” Guy nearly lost his temper at the untimely interruption and nearly lost his composure to Branville’s cutting wit.

“Then you deny knowing DeMainz?”

“I know you Branville. Does that add to my ‘nefarious connections?’ Why the very notion. I have a cousin who is a Jesuit priest and another who is a King’s Musketeer.”

“You see, Your Grace. De Bourges has a number of interesting ties.”

“Speaking of interesting ties, perhaps Her Grace would be interested in your ties Branville. That woman you were screaming at by Saint Catherine’s Fountain, was she perhaps your fiancée?”

“Say what you will Branville, I am discrete. Saint Catherine’s Fountain and right outside a church too.” Guy shook his head slowly as he made a tsking sound.

The Duchess, unamused by Branville, dismissed him. Guy said, “I am sorry you had to see such a scene Your Grace. I can leave if I have distressed you.”

“Branville has distressed me, not you Monsieur. But let us go somewhere for a more private, or shall we say more discrete discussion.” To which, Guy raised one eyebrow.

Father Signoret walked towards the dwarf, “I’ve been watching you little man. What mischief is in your devilish heart?”
L'Omino the Dwarf

“I know your kind, Black Crow,” said L’Omino.

“And I know your kind,” Signoret said.

“All your kind are alike,” L’Omino said. “You sneak priests and your damned Inquisition are out to get me. Just like you did my cousin Jacomo.”

“Your cousin got what he deserved,” Signoret said as he started to leave. But out of the corner of his eye he saw the dwarf stealthily creeping forwards with a dagger hidden behind his back. The fighting priest whipped out his rapier.

The dwarf loudly cried out, “Please don’t kill me. Mercy! Mercy! Ow! Oh! That hurts! Mercy! Please don’t beat me! Mercy!”

The door opened and the Contessa emerged, in some disarray. “Mistress save me from this cruel priest!”

“How dare you beat my dwarf! And what’s this?” She pointed to a cut on the dwarf’s cheek from which blood was flowing.

“That’s where he hit me with his sharp sword Mistress.”

Signoret, stood silent thinking, But I didn’t hit him.

The Contessa scolded the Jesuit priest at length for harming her “poor, dear, little L’Omino,” while behind her back, the dwarf made faces at the Jesuit.

Signoret continued explaining, but it was only when he was finally able to draw the Contessa’s attention to the dwarf as he again made a face, that he seemed to be believed by the Contessa.

“Naughty, naughty L’Omino,” she scolded. “I shall have to punish you.”

Beyond the Contessa, Signoret saw his cousin, Guy with the Duchess as they ascended the stair.
“I leave your dwarf to you. I must be going,” Signoret said as he quickly walked towards his cousin.
Seeing his approach, Guy gracefully asked the Duchess if he could have a brief word with his cousin. “I wouldn’t want him to worry and start looking for me.” She agreed and Guy stepped away. Father Signoret quickly informed him of recent events with the dwarf and the Contessa. Then the Jesuit warned Guy to be chaste and careful.

“I’m always careful cousin,” Guy said as he took the Duchesses arm and the two continued up the stair.

The two swordsmen paused while the fireworks exploded overhead. But after a few minutes, Baron Villemorin leveled his blade and advanced on his opponent. Repeatedly he drove Michaud back to the edge of the riverwalk then allowed him to move back to the center of the path, toying with him as a cat toys with a mouse. Villemorin refused several opportunities to wound his opponent so that he could time his hits to an explosion of fireworks. Twice he succeeded and Michaud bled from his shoulder and leg as Gaston watched.

After the second blow, Paulin cried, “Finish him! Finish him off!” But Gaston intervened saying that he must see whether his principal was able to continue the duel.

Quietly he said to Michaud, “Fall down you idiot! Next time fall down at his first pass.”

“Surely that would be dishonorable?” Michaud protested.

“There is no honor in this,” said Gaston.

As he impatiently waited for his cousin, Father Signoret was approached by one of the Spaniards he had seen earlier. The Spaniard introduced himself as Don Martin Santiago de Rodriguez y Alta-Marino. Don Martin tried to get Signoret to tell him about Lieutenant Thibeault, but the wily Jesuit revealed nothing.

Signoret excused himself and searched for Guy’s friend, Madame de Combalet. When he found her, he returned immediately to the conversation they had left on the theological and philosophical view of violence. He justified his beliefs with the jus bellum iustum, the Tomasine Just War doctrine articulated by Thomas Aquinas. Impressed by the Jesuit’s scholarly erudition, she mentioned that, “Aside from certain discussions with my uncle, I have seldom heard such conversations outside of Madam Rambouillet’s salon. Its blue draped walls are the scene of more intelligent discussions than are found in most of the universities of Paris.” Having impressed Madame de Combalet, Father Signoret bid her adieu to look for Gaston or for some sign of Guy.

Gaston roughly bandaged Michaud’s wounds. In the end the little fat man had finally fallen, though whether from strategy or exhaustion, even Gaston could not have said. Gaston confirmed that Villemorin considered his honor to have been satisfied. “A most honorable affair, my lord. I’ve seldom seen so much honor…except when butchering a lamb.” But the Baron refused to rise to the bait and despite his brother’s objections, he led Paulin away. The duel over, Gaston arranged for some servants to take Michaud to a sofa to rest while a physician was sent for. 

As he returned from ordering the servants, Gaston’s gaze crossed that of an elegantly dressed courtier who he recognized: Isidore Lafontaine Sieur Le Roulle. Gaston knew Lafontaine was a notable duelist and a member of the Fratellanza di Giganti, the largest Italian Fencing school in Paris and one of the busiest schools. On this occasion, Lafontaine was dressed as a courtier and had eschewed the black tabard that the members of the school wore like a uniform. The Fratellanza di Giganti maintained a long and intense feud with the Fraternité Sainct-Didier, and Gaston gently rubbed his thumb over the crest of the Fraternité that he wore pinned to his hat as he smiled coldly at Lafontaine.
Lafontaine turned and walked away. Gaston continued across the antechamber, where he paused to allow a soft-handed gentleman with a plate of food to pass by, only to see the same gentleman bump into a thin and sinister looking young man who wore a long rapier with a cross guard hilt beneath the cloak of a Knight of Malta. In the collision, the gentleman spilled his food on himself provoking a string of curses which he directed at the Knight.

“God’s Bones! Damme sir if you cannot watch where you are going. This room is far too crowded. S’Blood! This suit is new today and now it is ruined.”
Phillipe de Saint-Cassien, Chevalier de Didonne aka Brother Phillipe

The knight responded calmly, “You blaspheme sir! Moreover, the fault was entirely yours. If you find this room too crowded for your tastes, you may find that the garden is less crowded and there is still a bit of a moon to see by so that I may instruct you on how a Christian gentleman should properly conduct himself.”

Gaston followed to observe the affair. This duel was the antithesis of the previous one. The Knight was skilled in the aggressive Italian style and he wasted no time in running his opponent through the breast. The Knight then knelt with his sword upright in front of him as he prayed over his fallen foe, who mumbled a few words and then died.

Father Signoret found Gaston, arriving just in time to see the Knight wipe his sword off on the body of his opponent, don his black cloak with the Maltese cross in white, and walk away without a backwards glance. “What happened?” asked Signoret.

“A sinner has gone to his judgment. The Knight objected to his oaths,” Gaston said sarcastically. “He tried to say something there at the end, perhaps to confess, but he wasn’t able.”

The Jesuit said, “So he’ll burn in hell with the other blasphemers.”

Gaston glanced back at Father Signoret, but said nothing as he walked away. The Jesuit went up to the victor and introduced himself. He learned that the other man was indeed a Knight of Malta, named Phillipe de Saint-Cassien, Chevalier de Didonne. Brother Phillipe, as he suggested the Jesuit call him, told Signoret that he had recently returned to Paris after finishing a tour of duty, during which he had served under the command of the Spanish Capitan-General, Pietro di Leyva. “With God’s grace, we were able to smite the infidel destroying a Turkish fleet near Alexandria. And now I have returned to France to aid the Grand Prior. One day, God willing, I hope to return with a host of Christian knights to smite the infidel an even greater blow.”

The Jesuit praised the Knights of Malta and complemented Brother Phillipe on his crusading zeal and invited him to dinner the next evening, which Brother Phillipe conditionally accepted, “If the God Lord allows.” 

As Gaston stepped out of the garden, he nearly ran into a nobleman who stepped in his path. The man’s features looked familiar, but his name was unknown to Gaston.

Don Martin Santiago de Rodriguez y Alta-Marino

The man said, in heavily accented French, “I am Don Martin Santiago de Rodriguez y Alta-Marino. And you should know that the vizcaina you bear has a long and honorable history. It has been to the new world and back…And it should not be in the hands of some common soldier. It was my father’s blade. And you killed him.  

Gaston stared coldly at Don Martin as he considered his next words. Then said, “He was in my way…and I was in a hurry. I’ve been a soldier for more than sixteen years, Monsieur. I’ve killed many fathers. Spaniards among them.” Don Martin stood without replying, so Gaston turned and walked away.

Guy had used his courtly flattery and flirtation to distract the Duchess. The distraction succeeded, though, as Guy gathered up his clothes and prepared to tip-toe out of her bedroom, he thought, perhaps that succeeded too well. As he headed towards the door, the Duchess said that he should use the window. Guy bowed in assent, then took one perfect rose from a nearby vase and placed it behind her ear as he asked her to stand there in the moonlight so he could take one perfect image with him. Then he nimbly descended the Trellis.

Below, Gaston and Chancie waited. Chancie drawled, “Oooh Guy, wherever have you been? Why, you’ve missed a button!” Chancie added with amusement. “We-ell, I think we had best be leaving. May I offer you a ride home?”

“Most kind,” said Guy.

“And on the way, you must tell me all about what you have been up to!”
Vicomte "Chancie" de Chambre

The three friends, along with the Vicomete de Chambre, rode away from the Hôtel de Bellegarde. As they went, Signoret told Gaston that a Spanish nobleman, Don Martin, was interested in him. “Asked many questions about you, but I managed not to tell him anything of importance.”

Gaston said, “He claimed to recognize my main gauche.” Gaston asked Guy if he knew anything about the Spaniard, but Guy did not, nor did Chancie.

As the clock on the Bastille struck five in the morning, the coach halted along the rue Saint Antoine not far from the Fountain of Saint Catherine. The coach was next to the construction site for the new Jesuit chapel. The site was a maze of wooden scaffolding, festooned with ropes, block, and tackle and stacks of building supplies: bricks, stone, and lumber. In the street was a pyramid of stone blocks that formed the base for a massive crane. 

As soon as the coach stopped, a troop of dark cloaked men ran forward. Several men stuck staves between the spokes of the wheels or placed stones to block them to prevent the coach’s departure. “Oh Guy,” Chancie said, “This looks exciting.” 

To Guy’s surprise the band said, “Turn over the message you won’t be killed!”

“You must have mistaken us for the King’s messengers,” Chancie drawled.

Guy said, “As you can see, we just came from a court ball. We don’t have it with us.” 

While Guy had been talking, Gaston and Signoret had quietly stepped out on the other side of the coach. They were confronted by eight swordsmen whose identities were hidden by the darkness and the shadow of their black cloaks. Giving their opponents no time to coordinate their actions, the soldier and the priest drew their swords and sprang into motion thrusting and slashing their way through their adversaries. As he fought, Signoret yelled loudly for the watch. Gaston commanded, “Keep your backs to the coach! Don’t let them get behind you.” 

“Stay in the coach, Chancie” Guy ordered. “You don’t have a sword.”

“What and miss the fun?” Chancie asked?

Gaston was facing four swordsmen, none too skilled but the four together could be dangerous. They hesitantly attacked, but Gaston brushed their thrusts aside and launched a devastating attack of his own. His aggressive assault quickly overpowered his adversaries. Three fell to his blade. Then he disarmed their leader and called on him to surrender. But though unarmed, he refused. So Gaston punched him in the face with the hilt of his sword, knocking him unconscious.

On the other side of the carriage, Chancie and Guy faced four of the black clad duelists. Guy was armed with his rapier but Chancie only with his cane. Behind them they heard the clash of blades from Gaston and Signoret. No help from them for now, Guy thought. And at any moment these four will be reinforced by those others. I must act quickly. Guy cut his way, one, two, three through the weaker swordsmen. Chancie was faced by a more skilled opponent and though the Vicomte surprised his adversary with the blade inside his cane to score first blood, soon Chancie was bleeding and being driven back by his foe. Having finished all three of his opponents, Guy moved to aid his friend the Vicomte. As he did so, Guy noticed a man watching the combat from the shadow of a pillar. The man’s features were completely disguised by the grotesque, long-nosed mask that he wore. The masked man noticed Guy’s regard and slowly retreated into the shadows.

Like Gaston, Signoret also faced four opponents, but schooled as he was in the Spanish style, the Jesuit was more concerned with protecting his flanks than attacking directly so he circled and parried waiting patiently until a an opponent made a mistake, then striking rapidly and precisely. One by one, his foes slowly fell until only the leader was left.

Gaston said, “Hurry up and finish your man, Priest. We need to go.”

As the Jesuit ran his blade through his final foe, Gaston charged around the coach towards the remaining attackers, who quickly fled. All their adversaries were fallen or dispersed.

Guy said, “Chancie, you’re bleeding.”

“My house is too nice Guy. No blood on my carpet Guy, promise me,” Chancie said. Then the Vicomte fainted. In the distance the friends heard the running footsteps of what must be the nightwatch.

“Time to go,” Guy said. As the driver freed the coach wheels, Guy and his cousin carefully lifted Chancie onto the bench seat on one side of the coach, while Gaston tossed his unconscious foe onto the floor.

In the kitchen of the Vicomte de Chambre, Gaston and Signoret stood looking down on the body of Gaston’s recent foe. Signoret pointed, “A black tabard, just like the others.”

Gaston said, “Fratellenza di Giganti. They like black.” Gaston picked up a bucket of water and tossed in on the unconscious swordsman who spluttered awake. “Who sent you and what do they want?” Gaston asked, quietly as he drew the short leaf-shaped blade that he kept in one boot. 

“You can kill me, but I won’t talk.”

“Admirable,” said Gaston, as he remembered that this swordsman had refused to surrender even when disarmed. He turned to the priest. 

“Allow me,” said Father Signoret. “As my friend says, your bravery is admirable. But what about your eternal soul. If you die without the last rites your soul will go to hell where you will suffer a thousand torments for all eternity. The plaything of each and every one of Satan’s devils.”

The swordsman paled at the thought, and he nervously told the Jesuit that he and his fellow students were from the Fratellanza di Giganti school and that they had been hired to waylay Guy de Bourges to recover a stolen message. He didn’t know the man who hired them for he kept his face hidden by a strange mask like those you sometimes see on stage. Gaston asked him to describe the mask, which he did. 

Signoret asked, “And what were paid for your ambush?” The swordsman said they had been offered money and a chance at revenge against Guy and Gaston who were members of a rival school, the Fraternité Sainct-Didier. Having learned what they could, they blindfolded the swordsman while they went out to the other room to tell Guy what they had learned. 

Guy was sitting on a small sofa sipping a fine wine. As the other two appeared, he said “Fabré is with Chancie. He is weak from loss of blood and was in some pain, but Fabré says the wounds should heal in time. He gave the Vicomte an herbal draft for the pain and to help him to sleep.”

Signoret told his cousin what they had learned from the swordsman. Gaston added “From the description, the mask worn by the ringleader was from the commedia dell'arte. I’d say it was the mask of Il Capitano. This mystery man has a sense of humor.”

Then Signoret and Guy discussed what to do with the captured swordsman. Guy did not want to risk dragging Chancie into a quarrel with the di Giganti and was concerned about what the captured swordsman might tell others. Gaston said, “He’s a brave man and I won’t kill him.”

“Of course not,” Guy said. “It never crossed my mind. But we can’t just let him go here. We need to take him somewhere, preferably while blindfolded, before we free him.”

“I know just the place,” Gaston said.

The swordsman agreed to give his parole and to wear a blindfold, so long as the priest gave his word that they wouldn’t murder him or allow him to die unshriven. Signoret agreed and told him to say ten Hail Marys, for his soul. 

A coach, stopped outside the door of the Fratellenza di Giganti. The coat-of-arms on its side was obscured by a cloak hanging from the inside. It was early morning and the school was not yet opened for students. A man wearing a blindfold and with a bruised and swollen jaw was pushed out of the coach which then raced away. The man stood there for perhaps as long as it might take to say ten Hail Marys, then he removed his blindfold and blinked in the bright morning sun.

The next day, a small package arrived at Guy’s apartment. Fabré brought the package to his master. “A package for you Monsieur Guy.”

Guy briefly examined the package, weighing it and looking at the wrapping, before opening it. Inside was an emerald ring inscribed with the words: Semper Fidelis. Guy pondered the words than said softly, “Always faithful. Interesting. I wonder how I should interpret this gift.”