Monday, January 25, 2016

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

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 encounte.
  • Father Sean O'Kelly SJ - a Jesuit priest, ex-soldier, and master of the Spanish style of fencing.

Chapter I: La Place du Sang

In the afternoon, the party arrived in Lyon. As they headed towards the spire of the cathedral in the city center, Guy explained to his friends that Lyon was famous for silk and was the city where good King Henri IV had married Marie de Medici. Guy paid a street urchin, Anton the Quick, to lead them to the Golden Cross, the inn recommended by the soldiers. Anton said he could, but suggested a bigger hotel, the Phoenix, was a better place for the ‘lord’ to stay. Guy sent Fabre ahead to investigate the Golden Cross while the others viewed the town square. Fabré soon returned. He told his master that the Golden Cross was small and “not really suitable.” He recommended the larger and closer Hôtel Phoenix. When they arrived they saw a large, well build inn. The common room of the Phoenix was open and well lit with a private dining room large enough to accommodate the entire party and the inn had several tubs for bathing and the host promised ample hot water. Everyone agreed to stay there and Guy took a private room with a nice view of the Roman Ruins on the south side of Fourvière hill.

The group used the private dining room for a joint meal. Guy ordered a large dinner highlighting the local fare: Lyonnais potatoes, sliced new potatoes fried in bacon grease and carmelized onions mixed at the last minute tableside, for meats they had chicken, duck, and goose. While waiting for the potatoes and the fowl they had ham, cheese, bread, and wine as an appetizer. Fabré, Bertin, and Claude served the meal. When he thought no one was looking, Claude took a bite out of Guy’s chicken leg then put it back on the platter. In response, Guy picked up the chicken leg and threw it at Claude as he said, “Idiot!” Claude yelped in surprise and scuttled away. 

Father Signoret defended his servant, “But that’s how Claude eats.” Later as the masters were enjoying the Lyonnais potatoes and duck, Claude tried to steal the remains of the ham, but Gaston caught him and glared at him fiercely; Claude nervously apologized and put the ham back. 

Gaston proposed a toast, “To war with England!”

Guy said, “An island of heretics with bad language, bad food, and worse wine.”

Lucien said, “Cousin, tell us what you really think.” All laughed then drank to the toast.

Signoret than said, “To winning that war!” And again they drank. 

Next Gaston said, “To war with the Spanish!”

Guy was feeling the wine. He said that tomorrow he and Lucien should go to the Roman Ruins on the Fourvière Hill for fencing practice. Then he turned and said, “Gaston my friend, what this fine meal needs is your special talents. Poetize!”

Gaston responded, “I think this will serve. Montaigne said, ‘Live well and live in the now.” He held up his wine cup as a toast and again the company drank. Then he recited an original composition, “Ode to an Old Hat.” “Now Guy it is your turn. Your keen brain must hold some poetry inside. Regale us!”

Guy said tipsily, “I could probably teach you something tomorrow and I have until tomorrow to think of something.” Which ended the toasts.

The next day was Monday. Guy and Signoret went to morning mass, then Guy and Lucien climbed the south side of Fourvière Hill to practice fencing in what Guy said would be “a most scenic spot.” Lucien invited Gaston, but he had said that he would remain at the hotel and read one of his books on fencing. Signoret said that had Church business to attend.

He went to the Jesuit College of Tournon and reported his arrival in the city to the Society. The Jesuit presence in Lyon was strong. The College’s reputation was high and it boasted over 2,000 students. In addition, Lyon was an organization hub for the Order and the seat of a Jesuit Provincial Father. He was told that the Provincial Father of Lyon would want to see him, but was currently occupied. While he was there he asked his fellows for the name of a master of the Spanish style who might be willing to take on a new student. Then he found a quiet spot where he could write letters to send back to Paris. He wrote one letter updating the Provincial Father in Paris. As he was writing the letter he was interrupted by a tall, middle-aged priest who said, “You must be the new priest. The one with the sword. Sure and it’s a most unusual way you have of administering the sacraments.”

Signoret said, “Yes I’ve been to many last rites. I am Father Gaétan Signoret.”

“So the blade’s not just for show then? Why in a former life I knew a fair bit about the use of the sword. I’m after being Father O’Kelly. Sean O’Kelly. And if curiosity is a sin, then I shall surely have to confess later for I’m powerfully curious to see how good you are with that blade there.” 

Signoret said, “For us to have a practice match, you would need a blade of your own.”

“Ah I’ve just the thing in me room,” O’Kelly said. He led Signoret to a small room with the usual crucifix on the wall, but in addition the walls of this room displayed several swords. O’Kelly pulled down a rapier with a clamshell guard that was of a similar length to the blade Signoret wore. “Now as this is a College and I am a teacher, at least so the Provincial Father says, God bless him, then I propose we find some nice, quiet spot for a wee bit of ‘teaching.’ What do you say, Father?”

“I am always willing to learn in the service of God,” Signoret replied. He followed the taller priest who led him down a back stair and out into a small courtyard. The two saluted and carefully engaged. Both fought with one arm behind their back in the circling Spanish style. Signoret soon realized that O’Kelly was a master. His flashing blade and rapid thrusts drove Signoret back across the courtyard. Signoret tried to feint, but the Irishman had an uncanny ability to tell a feint from a true attack. So Signoret turned the next feint into a powerful thrust which drove O’Kelly backwards. They continued back and forth until both men were breathing hard and dripping with sweat. Eventually O’Kelly drove the younger priest back to the courtyard wall. 

“Enough!” he said. “In a former life I had too much experience with the blade. I studied the True Art in Spain from the finest swordsmen and even achieved some mastery or so men said. Now I’ve set all that aside for a life serving God without the need to go shedding my fellow man’s blood. Now tell me, why do you, a priest, carry a blade?” Signoret told him of his desire to use his blade to fight for good, to defeat evil in this world, and to protect the innocent. O’Kelly asked several more questions and listened to the younger Jesuit’s answers. Afterward, O’Kelly seemed to decide that Father Signoret was worthy and he agreed to take him on as a pupil. “I’ll teach you what I’ve learned son. And if you continue to prove worthy I’ll teach you what Don Ricardo taught me—the secret of the True Art or what the Spaniards call La Verdadera Destreza. But that will take more than one day for you to learn.” Just then a bell tolled the hour. “I must go now. Come back again tomorrow.”

Guy and Lucien walked through the vast ruins of Roman Baths and the partially intact ruins of a Roman Theatre as Guy pointed out various features and talked about the techniques of the ancient Roman builders. As they paused to admire the remains of the theatre, Lucien said, “I thought you wanted to practice your fencing.”

“Of course, but I always find the works of the ancient Romans fascinating. Don’t you?”

“Not as fascinating as you do, cousin,” Lucien said as he drew his rapier, pointed it towards the ruins in question, and sighted along the length of the blade.

Guy drew his blade as well and launched into a flurry of thrusts and cuts. His thrusts maneuvered Lucien up and down the steps as Guy attempted to tire his cousin to gain an advantage. Guy’s footwork was unpredictable forcing Lucien to jump and duck to avoid Guy’s flashing blade. Then Guy closed and tried to beat Lucien’s sword aside to score a hit, but Lucien ducked under one thrust and parried a second. Lucien tried to force Guy to a lower step of the amphitheatre but he just could not outmaneuver his cousin who seemed to intuit where Lucien would move before he had decided to move there. Guy tried to taunt Lucien about his slowness of foot, but Lucien’s experience dueling in practice with his fellow Musketeers had prepared him for such tricks and he maintained his temper and focus. Guy then tried a feint, but Lucien contemptuously beat his blade aside. It seemed neither could get the advantage over the other, which surprised and delighted Guy. Lucien always used to win. It seems I’ve learned something after all from the various scrapes we’ve been in lately. “Lucien! I have come to the realization that like my fencing cousins I too have a fencing style. It’s not the French style; It’s not the Spanish style. It is the Guy style!”

The two cousins returned to the Phoenix Hôtel where they found Gaston in a sunny corner of the common room with his feet up and his nose in a book. By him was a cup and a half empty bottle of wine. Confident from his bout with Lucien, Guy wanted to fence with Gaston who preferred to continue his reading. Guy ignored Gaston’s cold look. He continued to talk to the soldier and moved so as to block his light. Quietly Gaston got up, and suddenly shoved his shoulder into Guy’s chest. This left Guy gasping for breath on the common room floor. Gaston said, “Of course there are counters to such a rough maneuver.” He turned to a page in his book. “Here, look at this illustration in this treatise by Cappo Ferra.”

Just then Father Signoret returned and announced “We need to stay in Lyon for a few days while I master the Spanish style.” 

Lucien shook his head. Guy said, “Fine that will give me time to look for any rumors of the Black Riders and to see if they stopped here or if they left Lyon by the South Gate.”

Signoret said he would see what the Jesuits knew and if there were any rumors of the Black Riders or their wagons at the Jesuit College of Tournon. At the College he asked about any knowledge or rumors about the Black Riders. It seemed the scholars knew little or that the Black Riders were of little interest to the scholars. Aside from their studies, their main concern seemed to be some sort of local hostilities between Town and Gown. Those sorts of conflicts were something that Father Signoret was already familiar with from his time in Paris’ Latin Quarter.

While Signoret went to the College, Guy, Lucien, and Gaston looked for a less academic part of town to ask their questions. On the way they saw a wanted poster with a familiar name—Mathew Ashe. The broadsheet was posted in several places in the main square and in the market that announced a bounty laced on the Heretic and Highwyman Matt Ashe. The reward for Ashe was Dead: 500 livres; Alive: 1,000 livres; a further 50 livres was offered for each of his men.

“It seems that Mathew Ashe is a very valuable man,” Guy commented dryly. 

Over the next few days, the three visited a number of taverns and bars as they listened to rumors, bought a few drinks, and asked a few questions. The two cousins noticed that Gaston seemed quite comfortable in the rough surroundings. Fortunately, both Guy and Lucien decided to dress down before venturing into the seedy part of town. Lucien had left his Musketeer’s Tabard back in his hotel room and had removed the plume from his hat. Guy decided to improvise his attire on the way. He told his friends to wait for him while he trotted down a narrow alley and jumped a rough board fence. On the other side was a clothes line from which he took a selection of clothes. Before he could make his escape, the laundress spotted him, grabbed a broom, and set off in pursuit. Guy quickly lost her. He stopped in a vacant, crooked alley to change into his disguise. He found that the clothes fit, though they weren’t very clean. “Ah well,” he said. “It should all help with the disguise.” He ruffled his hair then smeared some mud on one cheek. “That should do it,” he said in a satisfied tone as he rejoined his two comrades.

As they walked to the next tavern, they saw a street seller on a corner with a tray of trinkets accosting passersby to view his wares. Somehow he lost his grip on the tray and trinkets scattered across the cobblestones as he bobbled the tray to try to keep the rest of the trinkets from falling. Lucien spotted a cutpurse who had used the distraction to lift a merchant’s purse. Lucien yelled, “Stop thief!” as he ran in pursuit. Guy grabbed the trinket seller who he concluded must be an accomplice while Gaston put one hand on his sword hilt. The soldier glared fiercely as he scanned the crowed which caused several bystanders to cautiously edge away from him. 

Lucien chased the thief down an alley. To delay his pursuit, the thief knocked over baskets and bits of refuse, but to no avail. Lucien grabbed the thief who slashed at him with the knife in his free hand. Lucien had to release his grasp to avoid being cut, but the momentary slip did the thief no good as Lucien drew his rapier and used the hilt to punch the thief unconscious.

Back at the corner, the trinket seller struggled to escape from Guy’s grasp. Other people, possibly members of a gang, pelted Guy with fruit which caused Guy to release the trinket seller. Gaston glared at the gang, but they were out of reach and thus not intimidated. Guy swept up the tray and hurled the remaining trinkets back at the gang then used the tray as a shield to ward off their fruity missiles. As Gaston charged the gang they fled. 

Lucien searched the unconscious thief, but failed to find the stolen purse. A large local asked what the Musketeer was doing. Lucien tried to explain to the man, whose name was Hugo, what had happened but without the missing purse and with no way to prove he was a King’s Musketeer, Hugo was skeptical of Lucien’s story. He insisted on taking charge of the unconscious cutpurse. Frustrated, Lucien returned to his friends and the three decided they were in need of a drink.

As they walked towards a tavern, they heard a woman cry for help. As they turned, a pretty young woman in a plain dress ran up to Lucien and grabbed him by the arm as she said, "Help! Oh help! Please Messieurs they will kill him; you must help!"

She led Lucien to a nearby alley from which they heard the sound of swordplay. All three ran down the alley after the girl and soon came out into a small courtyard where they could see one man, brightly dressed in red and yellow, backing towards a narrow stair while desperately defending himself against four opponents. Nearby three other men stood by watching. The courtyard was ringed by an upper story balcony. Inside the courtyard there was an empty cart, a stack of barrels, and a vine covered trellis on the wall below a second floor balcony which could be reached by a narrow winding stair in the far corner. Closed doors could be seen along the side walls of the courtyard, but the only other obvious exit was a tunnel passage sporadically lit by a couple of flickering torches. The pretty young woman ran forward then stopped and wrung her hands as the brightly dressed man fell back, wounded. Again she pleaded with Lucien and the others to help him.
The three companions sprang into action. Gaston ran towards where one wounded man bravely tried to hold off four attackers and Lucien ran after him. Guy, who had recognized the wounded man as Antonio Lucalla, a professional swordsman for hire, headed for the masked man thinking, He’s the key to this…well to whatever this is.

Gaston turned his run into a flèche; his thrust drew blood despite the opponent’s leather armor. As Gaston passed his foe at the end of the move, the wounded swordsman bragged that he was the best fencer in Lyon and that he would soon turn the tables on Gaston. Gaston spun about slashing high with his rapier. The other swordsman parried Gaston’s slash, but didn’t see Gaston thrust in the low line with his other blade. The swordsman died as the vizcaina opened up his belly. 

Beside Gaston, Lucien cut down one attacker and then another. Then he reached down with his left hand and pulled the fallen defender to his feet; his right hand held the rapier with which he fended off the last attacker. He heard the pounding of footsteps above him. As he half pulled, half carried the wounded defender towards the alley entrance Gaston thrust at the last of the four attackers who fell back. But on the stair above, a rank of musketeers leveled their matchlocks at Gaston and fired.

Guy said to the masked man, “Monsieur, for shame. This is not a fair fight. What do you want with Lucalla?”

The masked man leaned on his silver-heaed cane as he replied in a cultured voice, “You Monsieur have no business being here. You should leave. And I neither know nor do I care about that man’s name.” Guy ran for the stack of barrels. He thought, If I can send those barrels rolling I can knock down or block off this masked nobleman and his two nearest accomplices. He cut the ropes that held the barrels which started to roll, slowly at first, then faster and faster. The masked man leapt backwards to avoid the barrels. One of his men was not as fortunate; he was flattened by several barrels. The second man dove over the rolling barrels, drew his sword, and then headed for Guy. The masked man paused at the entrance to the tunnel passage and said, “Kill anyone who follows me!”

Guy quickly drew his pistol and pointed it at the swordsman who ducked and fled for the alley. As he reached the alley, the swordsman grabbed the young woman to use as a shield. Guy turned to get a shot at the masked man, but he was too late. The mysterious man had escaped down the passage.

Just before the matchlocks fired, Gaston ducked behind a pillar; lead spattered against stone; one ball whistled past knocking his hat from his head. As the hat fell, he could clearly see a hole through the crown.  “Damn your eyes, I loved that old hat!” 

After the volley, Gaston darted out from behind the pillar. He leveled his rapier and glared at the swordsman holding the young woman as a shield as he said, “If you would go, go now. If you harm the girl it will take you three days to die.” The swordsman turned pale as he gazed into the soldier’s icy green eyes. He shoved the girl at Gaston who caught her. Another swordsman lunged over the cart at Gaston, who let go of the girl, ducked, then jumped with both feet onto one end of the cart. As the opposite end flew it cracked the swordsman under the chin and he fell. 

From the balcony above three musketeers leveled guns at Gaston and the young woman. Before they could fire, Guy shot one musketeer who fell off the balcony. Then he took cover behind a barrel while he drew and wound a second pistol. Alerted by Guy’s shot, Gaston grabbed the girl and rolled under the cart as woodchips sprayed from the other shots. Then he rose, yelled “Lucien!” and shoved the girl towards Lucien and safety then rushed the musketeers before they could reload. As he raced up the stairs two at a time Guy fired again dropping another musketeer from the balcony. Before the musketeers on the stairs could reload or draw their swords, Gaston was among them. He lost his rapier in one corpse then killed two more with his other blade. Gaston ran up to the balcony where he stalked towards the last musketeer, bloody vizcaina in hand. The musketeer dropped his gun and nimbly leapt off the balcony onto the last of the stacked barrels. He drew his blade and leapt down at Guy who was reloading his pistols.

“Ah ha!” he yelled before a lead ball blew out his brains. Gaston waved the borrowed musket at Guy, who tipped his hat in acknowledgement of the soldier’s timely shot.

The swordsman who’d fled into the alley paused then turned his blade towards Lucien, who was encumbered both the gaily clad wounded defender and the girl. “Give the man to me and you and the girl may go free.”

“Take him,” Lucien said to the girl as he motioned towards the wounded man. She barely supported his weight. Lucien came to the En garde position and said, “Now let’s see about you.” The two crossed blades and fought up and down the alley as they heard the sound of more gunshots from behind them in the courtyard. Finally Lucien feinted the other out of position and the Musketeer’s rapier pierced his heart. Lucien heard one final gunshot from the courtyard. He saw his cousin Guy approaching at a run, “Gaston?” asked and an instant later he saw the soldier. 

“Sang dieu! I’d say they were atrocious shots, but look here. They’ve killed my poor old hat!” Lucien laughed with relief. 

Lucalla!” Guy said to the wounded man. “I thought that was you.”
“Signore de Bourges!” said the man in red and yellow in a thick Italian accent. “Once again it seems I owe you my life.”

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