Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Adventure 08: Auxerre and the Black Riders: Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII: Assault

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. Claude was recently kidnapped by the Black Riders.
  • Seigneur Edmonde de Trebouchard - lord of Trebouchard Manor.
  • Madame Katherine le Blondet - the Seigneur's wife.
  • Edmonde de Trebouchard - the younger - eldest son and heir of the Seigneur.
  • Constance de Trebouchard - Edmonde's sister.
  • Genevive Benoit - the orphaned niece of Auxerre's town governor.
  • Etienne Deveraux - a scholar from Paris.
  • François Depardieu - an agent of the Bishop of Marseille

Siegneur de Trebouchard and his wife led the party into the manor’s main hall. Everyone seemed to talk at once, the Seigneur called for drinks, Madame Katherine remarked that Gaston was wounded, and most of the others speculated about the Winged Rider. In an awed voice Guy said, “My shot went right through him.”

This prompted many to cross themselves and to speak fearfully of ghosts and demons. In response, Gaston tossed his rapier onto the center of the table. “He’s mortal enough,” He said as he pointed at the blade, the bottom third of which was wet with blood. “Though his armor is first rate.”

In the sudden silence, Guy said, “Fabre. See to Monsieur Gaston’s wound.” The valet quickly set down his case and began mixing a poultice from some greenish, foul-smelling paste.

Father Signoret took advantage of this distraction to take Seigneur and Madame Trebouchard aside. “You know if you keep the girl here that will make a fine joke on the town governor.” The Seigneur smiled, but Madame interrupted.

“What’s in the girl’s best interest?

“Getting her away from a suitor she detests is,” Signoret said “So far she is still alive and has not made good on her threat.”

Madame Trebouchard looked sharply at the Jesuit, “Do you think she would really take her own life? Young girls can be so dramatic.”

Father Signoret said, “Her resolve seems strong.”

Madame said, “But the marriage is arranged. What else can she do? Her father is dead and her guardians want her to marry.”

“What else can she do?” the Jesuit repeated. “I will talk to the two young people together and see what I can learn.”

“And I shall speak to her as well. And then we shall talk of this matter again, Father.”

Meanwhile, Lucien and Edmonde the younger stepped into the courtyard to ensure that someone from the household kept watch. As they paced about the courtyard, Lucien talked to Edmonde about Raymonde, Edmonde’s youngest brother and one of Lucien’s fellow Musketeers. He spoke of Raymonde’s bravery and of his love of poetry, an interest that he shared with Gaston and used this shared interest to explain Raymonde’s friendship with Gaston and to introduce the fact that Gaston was carrying letters for the family from Raymonde. In turn, Edmonde told Lucien that he suspected that the Black Riders were after Lucien and his friends. A suspicion that Lucien confirmed as he warned Edmonde that the Black Riders “Are dangerous people and there are lots of them.”

“Then it is by God’s grace that we have experienced defenders among us,” Edmonde said.


The family and the party gathered in the main hall. With Lucien’s strong recommendation and support, Gaston, was placed in command since he was the most experienced soldier and an officer. Reluctantly, Seigneur de Trebouchard agreed, though his assent was clearly conditional. Gaston inventoried the available weapons and divided them amongst the men. As the best shot, Guy was stationed on the upper floor of the manor house to watch the rear. He was armed with his own two pistols, Father Signoret’s hunting rifle, and several old matchlock muskets from the manor armory. Fabré stood nearby to act as his loader. Lucien’s lad, Bertin, was on lookout in the attic with a hunting horn to blow in warning. With only a scimitar of a moon in the sky, the night was dark and Gaston hoped that the lad’s young eyes would be the first to detect the approach of the Black Riders. The women were inside the manor filling every pot and pan with water. The door to the wine room gate was solid so Gaston had the servants block the wrought iron front gate by tipping a wagon on its side and had them place a cart full of dry hay to block the side gate.

It wasn’t long before Bertin sounded his horn. The Black Riders assaulted three sides of the manor at once. Under the cover of carbine fire, dismounted riders with torches ran across the rough ground towards the rear of the house to set it alight. A fusillade of shots peppered the bricks and windows, but Guy fired through the loopholes in the shutters. With torches to illuminate their position and the shutters for protection, his fire was deadly. Five riders dropped in half as many minutes and another fell trying to recover the bodies. The survivors ran for cover and continued a desultory exchange of fire.

The barn side of the manor was entirely windowless which allowed a party of Black Riders to safely close. The riders tossed torches atop the barn roof. Lucien used the height of his horse to fire his pistols over the barn gate dropping a pair of riders. The torches on the barn roof slowly flickered and died out so the riders started to break in the barn doors. Father Signoret and young Edmonde rode into the barn to defend the doors with pistol and sword.

On the opposite side of the manor, the Black Rider’s efforts were more successful. Their torches lit the granary shed roof and the tenants’ house which soon started to blaze. Men and women ran to put out the fires. In the confusion, a pair of Black Riders galloped up to the wine room gate, and dropped a keg of gunpowder with a lit match beside the door. As they galloped away a tremendous explosion blew the gate to splinters. The explosion killed Gaston’s horse and pinned him beneath. Lucien, Etienne, and Edmonde who were further away were unhorsed but unharmed and only Father Signoret was able to maintain his seat. Through the powder smoke and flames the Winged Rider galloped into the courtyard at the head his men.

Lucien and Edmonde quickly picked themselves up and ran towards the hay cart. Shots from several riders whined overhead. Debris from the explosion had set the hay alight but despite the heat Lucien pushed the blazing cart forward driving half a dozen riders back and blocking the wine room gateway. The Winged Rider saw Gaston on the ground and kicked his horse forward to trample the trapped soldier. Gaston shoved and pushed at his mount’s corpse and managed to roll free an instant before the iron shod hooves stamped him into the mud. The soldier painfully stood, favoring one leg as he drew his rapier to face the Winged Rider. Behind him a lieutenant aimed a pistol at his back, but Lucien ran forward and knocked the pistol aside so the shot went wild. The lieutenant drew his broadsword and used his greater height to rain blows down on the Musketeer.

The Winged Rider charged towards Gaston who had to scramble aside to avoid both mount and blade and his injured leg twisted beneath him so that his lunge missed his foe and impaled the burning cart. “Sang dieu!” he swore as he struggled to pull his trapped blade free.

As the only defender still mounted, Father Signoret rapidly moved his horse to engage the Winged Rider. The two master horsemen nimbly wheeled their mounts as their blades met in a flurry of steel. The two broke apart then wheeled to return to the fray. The Rider ducked to avoid Signoret’s thrust, and then wheeled his larger horse to overturn the priest’s smaller steed, but the Jesuit quickly turned his mount’s head avoiding the full force of the larger warhorse. The riders reengaged and their blades flew faster than the untrained eye could follow. Again their horses whirled apart and the Winged Rider circled to avoid the defenders who hurried forward. Waving to his lieutenant to follow, he galloped towards the burning cart then leapt his horse over the blaze. The other rider followed. With the departure of their captain, the rest of the Black Riders retreated from the manor house.

With another curse, Gaston recovered his sword. As Signoret dismounted, he said, “Though I can’t place his style, that Winged Rider is a master swordsman and one of the finest riders I’ve ever seen. I don’t think he is French though. As we fought he spoke in some strange tongue. Curses I think.”

Gaston and Lucien recovered the bodies of two of the Black Riders who had been shot behind the house by Guy. They recovered two pistols, one locked and loaded, and a pair of broadswords which Gaston issued to the more aggressive looking servants. Unfortunately neither body had any spare powder or shot. Young Edmonde found one suit of armor that would fit him and began donning the Black Riders gear.

Gaston ordered the peasants and servants to push the remains of the burned cart outside so they could build a barricade of boxes, lumber, and hay bales to block the wine room gateway. Five feet behind the barricade Gaston had the peasants hammer three rows of stakes into the hard packed ground of the courtyard, the ends of which were then sharpened. His green eyes were cold as ice in winter as he said, “Now let’s see those bastards jump our barricade.” Then he asked for a bedsheet.

Father Signoret found Etienne standing next to Genevive. He asked them, “Are the two of you planning on getting married in the near future?” An awkward silence followed.

Finally Etienne replied. “What you ask would be my fondest wish but how could that be? I don’t think her step-mother or her uncle would allow it.”

“Setting that aside for the moment,” Signoret continued. “How would you support yourselves?”

Genevive said, “I know how to run a household and to manage money.”

“I could go to Rome,” said Etienne. “I have friends among the academicians with some influence who could help me to find a position at the university.” He turned to Genevive as he said, “Without that I’d have difficult providing a life that was anything like what you are used to.”

“Etienne you mean…” Genevive asked.

“Yes!” The couple embraced.

“I don’t care where we live as long as we are together,” Genevive said as she gazed adoringly at Etienne.

Next, Signoret spoke to Seigneur and Madame Trebouchard outlining what he had learned. Madame Katherine was concerned about the danger in strange foreign lands, but Father Signoret persuaded her that the University of Rome would provide an appropriate environment for the young scholar and his bride. With that concern dealt with, Madame approved of the plan and her husband the Seigneur agreed to allow a wedding to take place at his home. Father Signoret suggested a sunrise wedding. “The two should be married. And a wedding will be good for everyone’s morale.” Madame Katherine quickly marshaled her daughter Constance and the house servants to prepare for an early wedding.

While the Father arranged for a wedding, Lucien, Gaston, and Edmonde the younger saw that the fires were put out and guards were placed. Then Gaston showed them what the bed sheet was for. On it he made a large mark for each of the Black Riders who had been killed and counted. Against the stark white of the sheet nine black marks stood out plainly. Gaston then loudly announced, “This is how many of those black bastards we’ve killed so far. None of us have been hurt and eight of them are dead. And by good King Henri’s bones, we’re just getting started!”

“This is our banner. Now take it up to the top floor of the manor and hang it proudly from the attic window so we can all see it. And so that they can see it and know what will happen to them if they dare to come again!”

“Do you think that will scare the Black Riders off?” Lucien asked.

“No damn chance of that,” Gaston said quietly. “But maybe, just maybe, it may make this rabble stand a little prouder and fight a little longer.”


The three Black Riders walked their horses towards the front gate. The rider at the front held a white flag in token of a truce while the rider to his left held a torch. Twenty-five paces from the gate, they stopped and waited.

“It looks like they want to parlay”, said Lucien.

“Can we trust them?” Father Signoret asked.

“Guy can keep a rifle trained on them,” Gaston replied. “Etienne, go upstairs and tell Guy to keep watch and if there is any sign of trouble, he’s to shoot the rider on the left first.”

In response to Lucien’s questioning look Gaston added, “He’s the one trying hardest not to be a target. So he’s either an officer or the cleverest one of the three. In either case, it may still be a trap, so we shouldn’t all go forward.”

Seigneur de Trebouchard said, “I’m an old man, my family must be protected. I will speak with them.”

Lucien said, “And I shall stand by your side in your son Raymonde’s stead.” The older man nodded his acceptance.

“I think I will come as well. That will make three on our side and I’d like to get a closer look at these Black Riders,” Father Signoret said.

“Not just yet,” Gaston cautioned. “Give Guy a minute to get in place.” He waited until he saw a hand wave from an upper story window. “Now you may go.”

The three defenders walked to the main gate and stood in plain sight. The Black Riders rode closer and announced their terms. They would leave the Trebouchards and their people alone, but in return the defenders “must surrender the two de Bourges, the Jesuit Priest, and the Soldier. And they must come out on foot.” Siegneur Trebouchard angrily refused to turn over his guests. In response the rider loudly announced “Surrender the two de Bourges, the Jesuit Priest, and the Soldier and you can all live. Refuse and no quarter will be given. I promise you that we will kill every man, woman, and child – every horse, ox, cow, pig, or chicken and then we will burn down the remains over your dead bodies.”

Father Signoret asked “And who is in charge of this brave band of slayers?”

“We are the Black Riders. Perhaps you have heard of us.”

Lucien was tempted to say no, but instead he asked, “And who is your leader?”

“Our captain is called the Black Angel.”

“Does he fly?” Father Signoret mocked.

The Black Riders laughed harshly and said, “The Angel is with us! If your answer is yes. Send those four out. If not, we attack and no quarter will be given.”

Lucien was enraged, “You would murder innocent women and children?”

Stiffly Edmond senior replied “These men are guests in my house. I will turn over nothing to your kind, not a guest, a cow, a chicken. You will get naught but the steel in our hands.”

As the riders departed, the common people inside the manor began to talk and argue among themselves. Clearly they were frightened. From the midst of the crowd, someone said, “Let’s turn the strangers out and save ourselves!” Several voices were heard in agreement.

Lucien jumped up onto the wagon. “I am Lucien de Bourges, a King’s Musketeer. We did not intend to bring trouble here. But if you wish to turn us out, the Black Riders have said they will spare all of you. I have been in this situation before. They wish no witnesses to their crimes and you are all witnesses. They have said they will let you live if you give us up. But there will be no quarter. And without experienced fighters like myself and my friends this manor will fall and you will all die. We need to stand together as one. It is you who have already wounded them.” He pointed to Gaston’s banner hanging from the attic windows of the manor house. “There hangs your proof!”

Seigneur Trebouchard angrily added, “These are my guests. Friends of my son Raymonde. While I live, no one will be turned out to these ruffians and I’ll hang the first person who tries to disobey my command.”

Gaston shouted, “Alright, you women give the men something to drink then refill the pots and pans with water! They tried fire once and they may again. You men, I want that barricade one more level higher. Don’t just stand there. Move!”

“Depardieu, you’ll have charge of the infantry at the barricade. Take the porter, those two valets, and the four peasants. Give the servants the broadswords we took from those two dead riders. Arm as many as you can with spears or pitchforks and stand well back from the barricade. The riders may try to jump it. Let them! Between those stakes and your spears you’ll give them a breakfast they’ll find damn unpleasant to swallow.”

“Boy! Yes you with the pot and spoon. You keep a sharp lookout and bang that pot for all you are worth if you see the riders coming.”

Lucien walked over to the manor house door. The old Seigneur stood there in a suit of old fashioned plate. He leaned on his broadsword and had his helmet in the crook of his arm. Next to him stood the old steward with a halberd and the cook armed with a large cleaver and a knife. “Monsieur, your job is an important one. You guard the manor house which is our keep. You must see that no matter what no Black Rider enters where the women and children are.”

Behind Lucien Gaston said, “Young master Edmonde, you’ll be with Lucien, the Father, Deveraux, and me. Where’s the helmet for that armor?”

“I won’t wear it. I can’t see in the damn thing. Besides, our people need to see a Trebouchard fighting with them.”

Gaston nodded, “Brave lad.”

“Now all of you make sure any pistols you have are loaded and primed. Keep them in the holster it will help keep your powder dry. As soon as you hear an alarm, mount up. As soon as you see a Black Rider, you put the hammer down.”

Inside the manor house Madame Katherine, Constance, and the maids prepared for the wedding while half a dozen peasant women tried to keep their children quiet and out from underfoot. If not for the many knives laid out near the women, it would have seemed a peaceful domestic scene. Guy, had muttered something about being allergic to weddings, and had returned upstairs away from the commotion. Periodically Fabré went downstairs for refreshments for his master. Lucien’s page Bertin was the lookout. He moved from window to window searching for the first sign of the Black Riders return.

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