Thursday, November 5, 2015

Adventure 08: Auxerre and the Black Riders: Chapter IV

Chapter IV: Rescue

Over breakfast, Guy and Lucien talked about their encounters with their Duchesses and for the first time Lucien told Guy a little about the storming of Negripellise. Before he left with Gaston to look for Captain Maubrant, Lucien sent his young lackey Bertin to keep watch on the Dog’s Head Tavern.

After breakfast Guy took a walk around town to familiarize himself with Auxerre. He decided that he had best ensure that Bertin was keeping a good watch on the Dog’s Head Tavern. As he paused in a side alley before entering Auxerre’s main square, a dainty white hand dropped a note out one of the windows on the top floor of a large building. Guy picked up the note and quickly put it in his pocket as he automatically checked to ensure that no one had noticed his action. Then he walked into the town square and casually looked behind to note that the building concerned was Auxerre’s town hall. Guy patted his pocket where he had placed the note as he thought; too many people about; this is neither the time nor the place to examine this note. He acquired a dull brown cloak and hat from a couple of vendor’s stalls. He used the crowd in the square to throw off any possible pursuers, then carefully watched to see if he was being followed. Safe for now, he donned the hat and cloak and continued on to the Marina district.

Trying out his improvised disguise, Guy surprised Bertin who he found tossing pebbles against the wall of an alley while he kept watch on the Dog’s Head Tavern. For several hours the two watched the busy traffic along the docks of the Yonne River. After watching one barge after another load or unload, Guy prayed for something, anything to happen. I’ll light 10 candles in the cathedral if something interesting happens in the next quarter hour. As if to answer his prayers two large men left the Dog’s Head carrying an enormous sack between the two of them. “What do you think they have there?” Guy asked.

 “It looks like a big sack of potatoes, Monsieur,” Bertin answered.

The two men tossed the sack onto a small, dilapidated barge then grabbed the oars as they rowed into the center of the river and headed downstream. “I think not,” Guy said as he walked towards the dock. Those aren’t potatoes, that’s a body. Reaching the dock, he saw a man in a fishing boat. Guy hopped into the boat saying, “Follow that barge!” He jingled his purse to emphasize his seriousness.

“Yes, Monsieur, the boatman said as he grabbed the oars and pulled away from the dock.

“Don’t forget me, Monsieur!” Bertin said as he leapt into the boat.

The oarsman, whose name was Pierre, rowed after the first barge. “Don’t get too close,” Guy ordered. They followed the other barge for miles and the sun was heading for the horizon as they reached a series of bends in the river. Guy took an oar to help Pierre keep up with the other barge which they eventually saw pull up to an old dock next to the ruins of an abbey. Guy ordered Pierre to continue downstream past the abbey. They moored by a wood while Guy bargained with the fisherman to remain there after dark while the other two went ashore to investigate.

Guy and Bertin carefully made their way through the wood until they could see the ruined abbey red with the setting sun. Within the abbey they could see a picket line of horses, a campfire, and several men wearing face-covering helms of blackened steel. “The Black Riders,” Bertin whispered.

“Yes. We must be very careful,” Guy said. “Wait here. I’m going to take a closer look.” Suiting action to words he moved closer. Using the growing darkness and the limited cover of the field, he reached the ruined wall of the abbey. From there, he could hear the riders speaking with the two bargemen.

“Why didn’t you bring this one with the other,” asked one of the riders.

“We didn’t have him then. He was caught asking questions and sneaking around the Dog’s Head,” a bargeman replied.

“But the wagon has already left. We’ll have to watch him until it returns.

“That’s not our lookout. He’s your problem now. We get paid to bring the sleepers to you. He’s asleep. We brought him. And we want our pay.”

“Pay them,” said a third voice.

Guy concluded that this prisoner was probably the agent of Bishop Lomenie since he had been asking questions and sneaking about the Dog’s Head. He decided to rescue the agent. He returned to the woods and told Bertin the plan. “We can’t carry him, so we’ll have to wait until he wakes up. I’ll return to the abbey. Wait for my signal.”

“What signal, Monsieur?” Bertin asked.

“Don’t worry. You’ll know it when you hear it,” Guy said.

Guy decided the time was right. He rose from behind the wall and carefully tossed his purse, which he had filled with all his spare gunpowder, into the Black Riders’ fire. Then he covered his face with his arms. There was a brief delay, then an explosion and a tremendous flash of flame which blinded the riders. Guy hopped over the wall and freed the prisoner. One of the riders leveled a horse pistol at Guy and fired his shot ricocheting off the stone wall. Guy’s return shot did not miss and the rider fell.

At the explosion, Bertin cut the horses’ picket line then yelled and slapped at the horses to make them run. Already frightened by the explosion, the horses galloped away. But as he made his escape, Bertin was grabbed by one of the riders. Bertin wriggled like an eel and managed to free himself. He ran towards the ruined wall of the abbey with the rider in pursuit. Bertin quickly ducked and crawled through a hole in the wall. The rider, his eyes dazzled by the explosion, failed to see the wall and ran into it head first allowing Bertin to make his escape across the field, with the sound of gunfire at his back. Bertin ran into the woods to escape the gunfire, but without the familiar church towers and shop signs of the city, he quickly became lost in the woods.

Guy and the prisoner made their way through the woods to Pierre’s barge. There the prisoner introduced himself as François Depardieu, an artist. Guy introduced himself and said, “But not just an artist Monsieur.”

“Well I like to travel,” Depardieu said. “It helps inspire me.”

“I thought we had something in common, Monsieur. I too…like to travel. Depardieu explained that the last thing he remembered was drinking at the Dog’s Head tavern.

“I must have passed out,” he said. “Which is strange, as I have a good head for wine. That has never happened to me before.”

“The wine there must be unusually strong,” Guy said.

By this time, Guy was worried about the missing Bertin. “Where is that boy? I must go back and make sure he didn’t get himself captured. Please wait here,” he said as he again jingled his purse at Pierre. “I’ll be back shortly.”

While Guy was searching for Bertin, the boy finally found the barge. On learning that Guy was out looking for him, Bertin wanted to go back and look for Guy, but Depardieu restrained him. “Best you wait here for your friend boy. He seems like a man who can look after himself.”

Guy soon returned and, seeing that Bertin was back, he ordered Pierre to head back upstream to Auxerre. He and Depardieu took turns helping with the oars, but it was after 10 o’clock in the evening by the time they returned. He paid Pierre and then insisted that Depardieu, who was missing both money and belongings, should come to the Blue Bottle where Guy would see to his lodging. Once he was in his inn room, Guy took out the mysterious letter that had been tossed to him that morning, carefully opened, and read it.

Dog's Head Tavern NPC Stats

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