Sunday, January 31, 2016

Adventure 10: Lyon - Side Missions and Intrigues - Chapter III

The Player Characters

  • Guy de Bourges - a very intelligent and most polite courtier with a desire to travel.
  • Lucien de Bourges - Guy's cousin, Lucien is a King's Musketeer and duelist.
  • Father Gaétan Signoret - another of Guy's cousins, Father Signoret is a Jesuit priest and swordsman and an exceptional horseman.
  • Gaston Thibeualt - a friend of Lucien's from the army, although a commoner, Gaston is a soldier, duelist, and poet.

The NPCs

  • Fabré - Guy's valet and trusted companion, his impeccable service includes being a master apothecary.
  • Bertin - a street urchin from Paris, mostly reformed he acts as Lucien's page.
  • Claude - an old family retainer entrusted to Gaétan Signoret by his father on his death bed.
  • Genevive Benoit - the orphaned niece of Auxerre's town governor, now married to Etienne.
  • Etienne Deveraux - a scholar from Paris now on his way to Rome with a new wife.
  • Antonio Lucalla - an Italian sword for hire, Guy spared his life on their last encounter.

Chapter III: A Quiet Walk Home

After escaping from La Place du Sang, Gaston and Antonio Lucalla escorted Anne Corday back to her parent's home on the Peninsula in the Quarter of the Canuts.[i] The Peninsula was the part of Lyon between the Saône and the Rhône rivers. Much of the land was occupied by the religious orders, the convent buildings and hospital of Les Cordeliers covered almost one third of the Peninsula. To reach the Quarter they had to climb the steep streets of the Croix-Rousse or the Hill of San Sebastien. As they walked, Anne Corday told Gaston that the locals called this “the hill that works” in contrast to the Fourvière, the better-known hill to the southwest, that locals called “the hill that prays” because of all the religious buildings housed on the hill. Near the russet colored stone cross that gave the area its name the three encountered a robbery in progress. 

Jacques Lizot was a gambler by inclination and, some might say, profession. But tonight he had been a particularly unlucky gambler. And it seemed his luck had not yet turned. A gang of cutpurses had followed him from the last gambling den he had visited where Lizot had been the victim of a string of bad luck at the tables. However, he still had a brass "watch" that the cutpurse stole along with his nearly empty purse. He immediately noticed the theft and called out, “Stop thief!” as he began chasing the gang. 

Twenty paces ahead, Gaston, Lucalla, and Anne Corday heard Lizot’s call. As they turned they noticed the well-dressed gambler in pursuit of six men. One thief tried and failed to trip Lizot, who leapt over the outstretched leg, ignored the thief, and continued his pursuit. A second accomplice kicked an awning pole in an attempt to trap Lizot beneath the falling awning, but quick footwork enabled the gambler to avoid the trap. But Lizot feared the thief was about to escape with his remaining valuables. The gambler drew, cocked, and fired his Mazzagatto, a small flintlock pistol that he carried for protection. The shot missed the thief, instead putting a hole in Gaston’s hat. 

At the sound of the gunshot, the two thieves who had tried to intercept Lizot fled from the fray while their four comrades ran with the loot towards freedom. Unfortunately for the gang, Gaston and the others were directly in their path. Gaston placed his hand on his sword hilt and fixed the thieves with a cold glare as he said, “Stay Back!” The thieves parted around him two to the left and two to the right. Gaston shoved one of the thieves on his right into an awning pole which knocked over both pole and thief. The soldier swung at the second man on his right, but his punch didn’t connect. The thief slashed at Gaston with a knife, but the soldier slapped the blade aside with his gloved left hand. One of the thieves on the left ran past the group while the fourth one ran into Anne Corday. Both lost their footing in the collision and though the thief kept Lizot’s purse he dropped the gambler’s brass watch. The thief regained his feet and ran towards a side alley. Lucalla quickly drew his rapier. He tried to punch the hilt into the face of the other thief, but failed to connect.

Gaston hammered his fist into the jaw of the thief who had tried to knife him, dropping him like a pole axed steer. Turning to the thief who struggled to free himself from the heavy awning, Gaston kicked his feet out from under him. Lizot arrived, rapier in hand. He stabbed the thief Gaston had kicked, who cried out and then stopped moving. Meanwhile, Lucalla chased the other two thieves down the side alley and out into a crowded plaza. 

Faced by Lizot, who was armed with both sword and pistol, Gaston drew his rapier and vizcaina and coldl told Lizot to “Drop your weapons.” Lizot refused. He tried to explain that the thieves had stolen his property and that the watch that Anne now held was his. Gaston, annoyed at having his favorite hat damaged for a second time that night by Lizot’s stray shot and doubly angry at Lizot for cowardly running through the thief that Gaston had knocked down, flatly refused. Reinforcements arrived for Lizot in the person of his two tardy bodyguards. With the odds now 3-1 in favor of the gambler, Lizot rudely demanded the return of his property while his guards leered at Anne. One guard volunteered to recover the boss’ property from the girl. 

Wasting no time, Gaston thrust at Lizot, but the gambler through some good fortune, parried the blow. Wanting to end the combat quickly Gaston pressed Lizot hard. A slash with his vizcaina wounded the gambler. One bodyguard tried to catch Gaston’s blade in a bind, but the move was a familiar one which the soldier easily avoided. Meanwhile the other guard swung at Gaston who countered with a deadly stop-thrust. With one opponent bleeding his life out in the street, Gaston used his Spanish main gauche to catch Lizot’s sword. Blades engaged, the two pushed back and forth as the gambler tried, but failed to free his trapped blade. The remaining guard was hesitant to strike for fear of hitting his employer and his desultory thrust failed to hit. 

Gaston’s twist again failed to disarm Lizot whose blade glided free, with a slash to the back of Gaston’s hand which bled into his glove. The guard decided to stake all on a single toss and lunged at Gaston. The soldier parried with his rapier, then with a twist of his strong wrist, he disarmed the guard and finished by plunging his vizcaia into the unarmed guard’s right shoulder.

The soldier again caught the gambler’s blade with his main gauche. This time, Fortune was with Gaston despite the wound to his hand, as with a twist he disarmed Lizot. The remaining bodyguard was disarmed and badly wounded. He could see Lucalla returning, sword in hand, so he decided that he had done enough for his employer. He tried to flee, but his wound slowed him and he was outmaneuvered by Gaston. It took only a single look at the soldier’s two blades both dripping with the blood of his foes for the guard to surrender on the spot. 

The sudden reversal of the odds and Gaston's cold stare convinced Lizot to surrender. Since the thieves already took what little money he had left, he could ill afford to pay anything “for damages,” but in partial recompense Gaston told him he would keep the brass watch and he confiscated the gambler’s rapier, mazzagatto pistol, powder, and balls. During the fight, the first body guard had bled to death. Gaston warned the two survivors, “Don't let me see you again. And if you trouble any of us, and most especially this young lady, ever again, I will find you and, as God is my witness, I will kill you.” 

Despite being upset at the loss of his 'watch' Lizot concluded that Gaston was likely to be a man of his word, at least in regard to deadly threats. He vowed to himself that in future he would avoid Gaston like the plague.

Once they reached the Corday home in the Quarter of the Canuts, Anne said she would sneak into the ground floor window and Lucalla said that he and Gaston would wait to see that she got in safely. While they made their arrangements for Anne’s entrance, they were spotted by a patrol of City Guards. Gaston appealed to his fellow soldiers to persuade them to go drink to the King’s health in some faraway tavern. As an incentive to their departure, he gave them 20 livres to subsidize their toasting. But no sooner did the guards leave than Anne's father appeared. He hustled her inside, and all the while he angrily chided her. He said nothing to the two men. Clearly he was terrified of Gaston and Lucalla which only made his diatribe at his daughter more frenzied. Lucalla did nothing to counter the angry words of Anne’s father.

Late that night, as Anne lay in bed, she decided that Lucalla’s failure to rescue her from her father was unacceptable and made him unsuitable as a lover. The romance was over. And as for that friend of his, the soldier? No. He was much too scary and he dressed without a bit of the bright and shiny. Not at all what I am looking for.

Gaston and Lucalla turned around and began the walk back to Le Phoenix Hôtel. As they walked through one of Lyon's many steep and narrow alleys they saw a lone man who clasped the hilt of his long rapier with one hand, while he drew his cloak around himself with the other. As he paused to consider whether or not to enter the torchlit door of a tavern, Gaston noticed a face peering around the corner to stare at the swordsman.

As the swordsman passed, Gaston quietly said “You are being followed, Monsieur. Continue on your way, but take the third turn.” Then Gaston invited Lucalla into the nearby tavern “for a drink.” Gaston told Lucalla to order the drinks then concealed himself in the doorway to wait for the spy. As the slippery looking man passed, Gaston grabbed him by the throat. The spy wriggled like a snake to get free while hoarsely trying to attract attention from the patrons inside the tavern. When that failed he ineffectually kicked at Gaston who tried and failed to knee the spy in the groin. 

Fearing that a brawl in the doorway would be noticed, Gaston tossed the spy down the alley away from the door then kneeled on his chest and threatened him with the vizcaina as he asked what the little man was about. The spy gave the name of the man he was following (which Gaston later learned was false), but despite the imminent threat he either wouldn’t or couldn’t say who had hired him. Then the little man began to convulse as if with a heart attack. Gaston was worried and when the little man hoarsely asked him to get some water and a doctor, the concerned soldier turned towards the tavern to ask for help. As soon as Gaston had turned away, the snake-like spy ran down the alley. Gaston set out in pursuit. 

A cart blocked the narrow alleyway so the spy slithered under the cart, while Gaston took the high road, he leapt onto the top of the cart then dove and tackled the fleeing spy. Pinned once again, the spy tried to wriggle free. Gaston tried to hit him, but he was too slippery for the blow to land squarely. Next Gaston used his hold to choke the spy who managed to free one arm. He drew a knife from beneath his cloak and tried to stab the soldier in the arm to free himself. Gaston released his chokehold with one hand to slap the blade aside, but firmly clutched the spy with the other hand. Tired of wrestling with a serpent, Gaston decided to intimidate the little spy. He told the little man that if he didn’t cease his efforts to escape he would give the spy to his friend in the Inquisition—which thoroughly scared the spy who quickly said, “Oh Monsieur! I am a good Catholic.” He dropped his knife so he could pull out the crucifix that he wore around his neck on a leather cord.

The alley they were in led to a residential area which was too public a place to question the spy, so Gaston picked up the spy’s knife which he then kept firmly planted against the little man’s kidneys as they walked back to the tavern for “a drink and a quiet chat”. On the way the spy suggested, “instead why don’t we get something to eat at this tavern here, don't you think Monsieur…?" Clearly the spy was attempting to prompt Gaston to provide his name. But Gaston’s only answer was a small jab to the kidneys. 

Once they were back at the torch-lit tavern with Lucalla and some wine, Gaston again questioned the little man who he learned went by the name “Le Serpent.” The spy warned his questioners that “My employer is most dangerous. If I were you, I would just forget the whole thing and go my own way rather than mixing in business that could get you both killed.” Gaston was insistent and after several bottles of wine the spy finally mentioned that the man who hired him was noble. “I don’t know what he looked like, Monsieur. He wore a mask. But he spoke French with a foreign accent.” Although Le Serpent didn’t know what sort of accent – “I'm no linguist, Messieurs” – this sounded to Gaston like the masked nobleman of La Place du Sang. Le Serpent said he was hired to watch a woman named “Bette” who was the wife of some chevalier and to follow the swordsman, who was the woman’s lover, to his home. On learning that Le Serpent was supposed to report his progress to the Masked Noble tomorrow night at the Argent Hedgehog Tavern, Gaston decided to take Le Serpent back to the Phoenix Hôtel for a conversation with Guy de Bourges. Gaston ignored Le Serpent's counter suggestion that they “all meet up later tomorrow for dinner.”

On the way back to their inn, Gaston and Lucalla led Le Serpent past the spot where Gaston had told the cloaked swordsman to turn on the chance that he decided to wait and was still around. Surprisingly he had waited and Gaston introduced him to Le Serpent and learned that Le Serpent had lied about the swordsman's name, which was Crispin du Villette. They invited du Villette to return with them to their inn.

When they reached the Hôtel Phoenix Gaston took the private dining room, ordered a late supper, and left Lucalla and du Villette to watch the spy while he fetched Guy. While Guy questioned Le Serpent, Gaston, Lucalla, and du Villette stood between the slippery spy and the windows and door out of the dining room. Guy learned that the cuckolded Chevalier was Ernst de Savelborn – the same man who Guy, Lucien, Parfait de Grellier, and the Comte d'Ehlerange found dying in the garden of the governor’s palace less than an hour ago. 

The spy, while watching the Chevalier's wife, had seen and overheard the Chevalier de Savelborn who he said “speaks execrable French” but, as he had said, not being a linguist he couldn’t suggest what the Chevalier's native tongue might be. Crispin du Villette, on the other hand, told them that the Chevalier was from Lorraine – therefore Guy hypothesized that his native tongue was German.

Du Villette was unsympathetic about the Chevalier's passing saying that he was a notorious womanizer who, “For years, has ignored his lovely wife in favor of a string of mistresses. Bette is well rid of him.” Guy speculated that perhaps the Masked Noble wished to frame du Villette for the Chevaliers death and “perhaps German is also the native language of the Masked Noble?” Du Villette told them that he knew that the Chevalier was part of the coterie of the Governor's son, Nicolas, the Marquis d'Alincourt, but du Villette did not know who the Chevalier's other friends were. Guy knew that d'Alincourt's coterie also included the Comte d'Ehlerange – who, interestingly enough, although fluent also spoike French with a German accent.

Guy decided that the spy would not be going to the meeting tomorrow night. He had Fabre provide a sleeping draught and they drugged the spy's wine. Although the spy himself would be sleeping soundly, Le Serpent would still make the meeting tomorrow night since Guy planned to go in the spy's clothes as Le Serpent. Since du Villette may already be under suspicion in the death of his mistresses' husband, Guy suggested that du Villette stay in Guy's room. This way, Du Villette could provide a guard, in addition to Fabre, for the wily Le Serpent.

Gaston gave the gambler Lizot's mazzagatto pistol to Guy and said, “This may come in handy if your disguise is penetrated.” He gave the gambler’s rapier to Etienne Deveraux to replace the one he had gambled away on the road—which Gaston said was “poetic justice in action.”

[i]   In real time, A Long Walk home was played after The Fortune Teller. In game time, this occurs after Escape from La Place du Sang.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Fop by any other name

The fop or dandy is a common trope in literature as well history. Two of the most famous examples are the Baroness Orczy's Sir Percy Blakney, otherwise known as, the Scarlet Pimpernel (1903/1905), and Johnston McCulley's Don Diego de la Vega, otherwise known as Zorro. Note what the two have in common - a secret identity as a hero. The Fop is a starting template in Honor+Intrigue.


Motivation: Reputation

Might -1     Daring 1       Savvy 1     Flair 3
Brawl -1     Melee 3        Ranged 0   Defense 2
Courtier 2   Don Juan 2   Duelist 0   Scholar 0
Lifeblood 9 Advantage 3 Fortune 6
Languages: French +1 Slot
Boons: Good Etiquette, Great Wealth
Flaws: City Dweller
Equipment: Fine Clothing, Good Horse
   Rapier 1d6-1 Dmg; +1 Parry
   Cloak +1 Feint, Bind,
Favored Actions: Bladework+4, Glide+6, Quick-cut+6, Tag+6/+2; Bind+2[3], Feint+6[7]; Cloak Parry+6, Riposte+4; Ranged Attack+1

What is a fop? What is a dandy? 

fop (noun): a man who is concerned with his clothes and appearance in an affected and excessive way; a dandy;
synonyms: dandy, man about town, poseur;
informalsnappy dresser, trendoid, hipster;
archaiccoxcomb, popinjay.

Let's take a look at the main synonyms and see what all have in common.

dandy (noun): a man unduly devoted to style, neatness, and fashion in dress and appearance; synonyms: fop, man about town, glamour boy, rake.

man about town (noun): a worldly and socially active man; a man who goes to many popular parties, clubs, etc. 

poseur (noun): a person who acts in an affected manner in order to impress others.

Man about town has a 1920s-1940s vibe to me. It is a term I read a lot as a descriptor of the pulp antecedents of Batman's alter-ego Bruce Wayne, men such as Lamont Cranstone and Richard Wentworth. It's a term that seems too modern for the 17th century. I'll keep it in mind for the next time I play a diletantte in Call of Cthulhu.

So the consensus seems to be that a fop is a man who acts in an affected manner and who is unduly devoted to or concerned about his clothes and appearance. To an extent that describes nearly everyone in the royal court of France.  

I'm fond of popinjay as term of derision. It sounds funny and insulting yet it rolls nicely off the tongue. And since my campaign is set in the 17th century archaism is a good thing. So I'll add that definition.

popinjay (noun): a vain or conceited person, especially one who dresses or behaves extravagantly.

And as long as we are examining archaisms we might as well take a look at coxcomb.

coxcomb (noun): a vain and conceited man; a dandy.

Vanity and conceit seem the hallmark of these two additional terms. I think they make a good addition to our description of a fop or dandy. 

A fop or dandy: is a vain or conceited man who acts in an affected manner and who is unduly devoted to or concerned about his clothes and appearance.

A few other terms you might see that have the same or similar meanings are town clown, petit-maître, and mignon. Town clown is fairly self explanatory, but the last two, being French, deserve some additional explanation.

petit-maître (noun): literally small master; first known use 1711. Larouse provides the following definition: Littéraire. Jeune élégant ou élégante aux manières ridiculement prétentieuses. (English: Literary. Elegant youth or elegant in ridiculously pretentious ways.)

les mignons were the effeminate favorites of King Henri III including the Dukes d'Épernon and Joyeuse, Counts Quelus and Saint-Megrinand Ph. de Gramont, Count de  Guiche; from Larouse.