Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Adventure 10: Side Missions and Intrigues - Chapter VI

The Fortune Teller byValentin_de_Boulogne, c 1620, oil on canvas

Chapter VI: The Fortune Teller

The fortune teller picked up the coin. “Very well,” she said. Slowly and deliberately she shuffled her cards then laid them out one-by-one in a complex pattern. She paused briefly as she laid down each card. After she had placed ten cards on the table in front of her, she closed her eyes then opened them and touched the first card.


“This card represents the present. The Knight of Swords is a symbol of wrath or war; he is riding in full course, scattering his enemies. When reversed he can also mean a clever liar, or a sly trickster. Reversed the Knight of Swords may be a warning that reconsidering your actions would be a wise decision. 

Lucien thought, The Knight sounds like the Masked Noble.

“This next card is the immediate challenge before you. It is the Two of Swords. She is blindfolded. Her blindfold and the sea show a necessity not to rely on what you first see but on deeper thoughts and feelings. The Two of Swords can represent balanced decisions. Her seated position paired with the balanced swords and the blindfold, recalls the Justice card. Yet here the concept of justice is not one of retribution, but of making decisions that are balanced and moral. The crossed swords are powerful weapons that point to different possible directions for action. This card may represent a judgment you must make. You should be careful to be balanced in any immediate decisions.

Lucien thought Our immediate challenge is to find this Masked Noble. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to judgment.

“The third card is the distant past. The Lovers is one of the trump cards. The Lovers indicate some decision about an existing relationship; one potential partner may be chosen while another is turned down or sacrificed. This card can mean an existing relationship, or it may stand for a choice…for doubt…or a dilemma. The Lovers is associated with the star sign Gemini, and is also known as The Twins.

Lucien wondered if this was something in his past or that of the Masked Noble he sought. Perhaps the noble wanted revenge against a former friend or lover.

“The Five of Swords is for the recent past. The five swords on this card symbolize victory and confidence. It also suggests unwilling contributions from losing parties.”

Lucien remembered that recently they had defeated the minions of the Masked Noble at La Place du Sang. That is where we met him. But there were only four of us there: Lucalla, the man we rescued, Gaston, my cousin Guy, and me. Wait, the girl Anne Corday was there. She called on us to help Lucalla. The girl makes five!

“The fifth card shows the best possible outcome. This card is another trump, the Fool. The Fool is usually depicted as a beggar or a vagabond wearing ragged clothes and stockings without shoes, and carrying a bundle or bindle on a stick on his back. He often represents a youth or vagabond. This card can also mean innocence or the journey to maturity.”

This card is your immediate future The Queen of Cups symbolizes loving virtue, the pure of heart, a mother or a loyal friend. It could mean a literal queen, if she is benevolent. In Lyon there is one Queen, the Queen of the Beggars. She commands the beggars of Lyon who go throughout the city and who see everyone.

The seventh card represents factors affecting the situation. This is the Ten of Swords. Its image is a dead man pinned to the ground. This is a card of ill omen more destructive and reminiscent of death than the Death card itself. The dark clouds depicted above the person signify despair, hopelessness, death, pain, defeat, and a terribly bleak situation. The Ten of Swords is the most grim and perilous card in the deck. This card is a grave warning.

The eighth card is the Six of Coins. It represents external influences. The moneylender weighs money on his scales and distributes it to the needy and distressed. Normally the Six of Coins means gratification and vigilance so that one gratifies the most deserving of the distressed. Here it is reversed. That means desire, envy, greed, and jealousy. Instead of distributing to the needy, the moneylender makes usurious loans to the desperate. You must be cautious for there are malign influences affecting your search.

The ninth card represents your hopes and fear. This card is Justice, another one of the trump cards. Normally Justice means impartial reasoning, the law applied without mercy, and cold, severe justice. Reversed it means a sentence or verdict is overturned or a prisoner is pardoned. This may indicate that Justice applied without mercy should or will be overturned.

This is the last card, both the last in the reading and the last in the deck. It represents the final outcome. This card is the World which can mean success, completion, or fulfillment of desires.

Lucien thought, The final outcome is for us to reveal what the Masked Noble has done and why he has done it.

Lucien thought about the reading. “You said the Queen of Cups was the immediate future and that the Beggar Queen was the only queen in Lyon. How can I contact this Beggar Queen?”

“The Beggar Queen, like any beggar, wants charity from others but a fair exchange for her help. To reach her give a silver coin to the first beggar you see and repeat what I tell you exactly as I tell it to you. If you do that, and if fortune is with you, you will be taken to the Beggar Queen's Court. You must say,

Heed me Mad Tom and here's a bit of tin since for interrupting your angling for coppers. I'm no pigeon and I must speak without palaver to the arch-rogue of your mob of rufflers.
I'm looking for her royal dive and I choose you for my pieceman. You moss I'll drag. And there'll be another few bits of tin for you when the job's done.”[1]

Lucien tried hard to commit the phrases to memory. Then he noticed his cousin Guy standing next to Gaston and Signoret. He thanked the fortune teller and gave her another coin, which she swept up as she quickly gathered her cards and left. Guy told the other three that they should go upstairs and get in position to act as his backup should Le Serpent’s meeting go sour. Then he waited while they went upstairs.

When the three reached the balcony, they found no open seats near the meeting site. At one nearby table, three people sat. The larger two played a game of Hazard while a short man with prematurely white hair and a distinctive scar over his right eye looked on. One of the larger men wore a broadsword, while the other who was so large and muscular that he seemed to have no neck. No-Neck didn’t carry a blade, but on his hands he wore leather gloves studded with metal. Gaston walked up to their table and silently stared at the three. While the two larger men turned surly gazes on Gaston, the little white haired man backed away and said, “We were here first.”

Gaston flatly said, “We’ll be here last.” Then one at a time, he stared directly at the two larger men. In turn each broke eye contact, stood up, and followed the white haired man with the scar over to another table where a dark haired man in plain but well made clothes and a feathered hat sat. Gaston gestured for his two friends to take seats.

After a few minutes, the short, scarred man walked back to their table and said, “The Boss wants to know who you are.”

Signoret replied, “I’m Claude. We’re just passing through.”

Gaston said, “Who wants to know?”

The small man said self-importantly, “Monsieur Gabrielle.”

Gaston asked, “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

The scarred man said, “Monsieur Gabriel is Monsieur Gabriel.” Gaston glanced over at the other table. Well, I’m guessing Monsieur Gabrielle is the man in the feathered hat.

“Humph! His name means nothing to me,” said Gaston.

The shorter man asked, “Your name?”

“Gaston Thibeault. And who are you short stuff?”

“I’m Cutter.” The short man had at least a half dozen daggers and knives strapped about his person.

Next Cutter looked at Lucien, who said, “De Bourges.”

“Guy de Bourges?” asked Cutter. Lucien shrugged but didn’t correct him. He was still annoyed at his cousin Guy’s use of his name at the inn outside of Lyon so he let the matter stand thinking, Turnabout is fair play, he thought.

“Monsieur Gabrielle will be very interested.” The scarred little man said and then rejoined his friends.

Just then a guard opened the side door. In walked four men. Two sword armed bravos, one in an orange shirt and the other in a brown soft leather shirt or doublet came in first. After them came someone that Lucien and Gaston recognized—the Masked Noble from La Place du Sang. The fourth man was another sword armed bravo who wore a cape draped over one shoulder. Orange Shirt and Brown Shirt walked over to the second booth from the end and took up places on either side. The Masked Noble entered the booth and the man in the feathered hat, Monsieur Gabrielle, joined him. All six guards waited outside watchfully eyeing each other.

Gaston said to his friends, “I’m curious who this Gabrielle is.”

Then Guy came up the stairs and furtively slunk along the booth fronts towards the second to the last booth. As he reached it, Cutter stepped in front of him and said, “I don’t know you. You’re not one of Monsieur Gabrielle’s men.”

Imitating Le Serpent, Guy said in a whiny voice, “No. No, I’m not. But they told me to come here for a meeting.”

Cutter said, “Then you must wait.”

“Where shall I wait?” Guy asked.

Cutter gestured towards the tall counter overlooking the dining room along the nearest side balcony. Guy walked past both sets of guards to get there. On the way, he noticed a patron stand up and talk to the guard by the door. As Guy moved closer, he noticed the patron handed a small wooden token to the guard who unbarred the door, allowed the patron to exit, and then closed and rebarred the door. Then the guard tossed the token into a clay jar half full of other tokens. Interesting, thought Guy.

He turned back towards the balcony counter rail. As he nimbly wound his way through the crowd, he noticed a man in a brown coat with a tall, wide brimmed hat sitting in a chair tipped back on two legs. Let’s see how these guards react to the unexpected, Guy thought. As he passed Brown Coat, he swiftly kicked his chair leg, upsetting the man whose drink spilled as he crashed into the nearest table. Guy’s motion was expertly timed so that neither Brown Coat nor his neighbors were aware of his actions.

At the sound of the crash, Orange Shirt and Brown Shirt immediately clapped their hands to their swords. No-Neck and Cutter moved directly towards them, while their broadsword armed companion swore in German as he glared at the Caped Swordsman. Then all of them looked in the direction of the crash. Lucien was surprised by the commotion and he also stood up and looked around. Gaston, who had witnessed the entire episode, remained in his seat as he laughed in amusement.

On the floor of Guy’s part of the balcony, Brown Coat glared up at his two neighbors and said, “You spilled my beer.”

One of his neighbors said, “I’d be happy to buy you another.”

But his hard-faced friend was not so inclined. He pulled out a long horse pistol, pointed it at the fallen Brown Coat, and said, “I will gladly send you to a land where you do not need beer.”

Lucien leaned towards his two friends and said, “I think Guy may be trying to return to that booth.”

Signoret, concerned that his cousin Guy might be drawn into the deadly confrontation between Brown Coat and his neighbors, stood and pointed towards the man with the horse pistol and yelled, “There is man with a cannon at his table! He needs to put it away!” This attracted the attention of Monsieur Gabriel’s guards. As Signoret stepped towards them No-Neck stepped in front of the scruffily dressed Jesuit. The brute was massive, a foot taller and nearly three times as broad as the slim priest.

Gaston said, “Mordieu, I warned him not to attract any more attention.” He stood up and walked towards the Jesuit. Confused as to what was going on, Lucien remained by the table.

Over in Guy’s part of the balcony, the hard-faced man set his horse pistol down on the table. The fallen Brown Coat resumed his seat and waved over a barmaid to get him another beer. Meanwhile, Guy sidled towards the booths as he loudly said, “A thousand pardons, I must leave.” He stared meaningfully at his three friends as he said, “I have an appointment.” As Guy neared the second booth, Cutter moved to cut off his approach and the German swordsman stepped forward and blocked Gaston’s path.

Gaston said, “I need to repay a debt” as he pushed past the German. Signoret used the quick footwork and circling motion of the Spanish style to dodge around No-Neck. During the confusion, Guy slipped past Cutter and ducked into the second booth.

Inside the booth, Guy said, “Excuse me, Messieurs, there is trouble outside.” Then he looked towards Masked Noble as he said, “We must get safely out of here.”

The Masked Noble said, “Monsieur Gabriel, we can finish our conversation later.” Then he stood to leave with Guy.

Outside the booth, Cutter complained to the other two guards, “He got past me.”

The Masked Noble pushed past Cutter as he said, “Out of my way fool!”

He nearly collided with a passing bystander who suddenly stopped, stared at Gaston and raised his hands in a placating gesture as he said, “Monsieur, I didn’t know you were here. Please let me go!” Gaston recognized Lizot, the gambler from the Quarter of the Canuts.

Signoret asked, “Who is this?”

Gaston replied, “This? This is nothing.” The gambler cringed as the bodyguards all laughed cruelly.

Behind them the Masked Noble tuned towards Monsieur Gabriel and asked, “Gabriel, do you have another way out?”

“This way!” Monseiur Gabriel said as he led the Masked Noble into a different booth in the middle of the back wall. Guy quickly followed the Masked Noble inside. Monsieur Gabriel’s guards blocked any others from entering. “Your guards can meet you at the Place du Sang,” Monsieur Gabrielle added.

“Do as he says,” the Masked Noble ordered. His guards turned and walked towards the side exit.

Meanwhile Gaston explained to the German, “I promised the next time I saw this man, I’d kill him. Will that bother you?”

The German said, “Nein. No killing.”

Gaston said, “Very well, no killing.” He grabbed Lizot by the shoulders then viciously kneed him in the groin. The gambler fell to the floor retching. Gaston turned to Signoret and said, “He’s a man that I met. I told him I did not wish to meet him ever again, yet here he is.” He waved casually at the moaning Lizot.

Lucien noticed Monsieur Gabrielle step out of the middle booth alone. Worried about his cousin, Lucien staggered as if drunk and swept the curtain aside to see within. No-Neck grabbed for Lucien, who twisted away. Inside the booth was nearly empty, no table, no benches, only a chest and a door with a heavy lock. Both Guy and the Masked Noble were gone.

The German swordsman stepped in front of Gaston and Signoret as Monsieur Gabrielle, ordered, “Guard me!” The German drew his sword. No-Neck grabbed Lucien. His huge arms were corded with muscle and his hands on the Musketeer’s arms felt like vices. Signoret dove across the table to tackle No-Neck but the big man shrugged the blow aside. Calmly Gaston pulled a pair of heavy leather gloves from his belt and pulled them on. Then he punched No-Neck in the face. The big man rocked backward but maintained his grip on Lucien.

Gaston punched No-Neck again. Too late the big man put up one hand to try to block the blow while he kept his hold on Lucien with the other. The Musketeer struggled and kicked his captor but could not get loose. Signoret tried to grab No-Neck from behind, but a toss of the big man’s shoulders threw the Jesuit aside. Signoret grabbed a clay mug off the nearest table and hit No-Neck over the head. The mug shattered without apparent harm to the big man. Gaston punched No-Neck in the stomach. The big man grunted and shook Lucien like a dog shakes a rat. The Musketeer grabbed the leather curtain and tried to wrap it around No-Neck, but to no avail.

Cutter yelled at the German, “Don’t just stand there Karl, do something. The German tried to hilt punch Gaston. Though the blow didn’t land, it caused Gaston’s next punch to miss. Gaston used his shoulder to slam No-Neck into the wall cracking the plaster and breaking the big man’s grip on Lucien. Signoret drew his sword and tried, but failed to hilt punch the German, who twisted aside from the blow.

Gaston hammered No-Neck with blows to his midsection and then another punch to the face that knocked out the big man who fell heavily. Lucien yelled, “Come on! Let’s get out of here.”

Signoret suggested to the German, Karl, that they should mutually disengage. Karl said, “Your friend is pretty strong.”

“Yes,” Signoret agreed. “And I’d better go with him.”

The tall German said, “Another time little man.”

As the three friends quickly walked to the front door several bystanders congratulated Gaston on punching out No-Neck. It appeared that No-Neck, or Rollo as several people called him, was not well liked.

Outside the Silver Hedgehog, the three friends were met by Antonio Lucalla who said, “Pretty good fight. Ok now we go to the Place du Sang. This way!”

Lucien hoped his cousin Guy would be alright.

[1] Translation:
Heed me beggar and a silver coin for interrupting your begging. I'm not fool and I must speak without lying to the leader of the beggars.
I'm looking for her hideout and I choose you to tell me where it is. You lead, I'll follow. And there'll be more silver for you when the job is done.

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