Friday, September 23, 2016

Fiction Friday: Vol 6: City Tales, Book III: Paris Entertainment Ch 1

This adventure is set within the city of Paris. The first chapter (really a stand alone mini-adventure) is based on the Flashing Blades adventure of the same name from the Parisian Adventures supplement. The author, Mark Pettigrew described it as "A humorous quest through the streets of Seventeenth Century Paris, interspaced with typical encounters in a major city." And it certainly fits that description. We had a lot of fun playing a number of scenes for laughs. After the long, difficult adventure enduring the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom something lighter and more humorous was just the thing for the players and, I think, for their PCs. Scavenger Hunt begins after the end of the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom once the other player characters who were on the northern adventures have returned to Paris.

Father Gaétan Signoret (SR 8), Guy’s cousin, he is a master duelist, a historian, a physician in training, and a Jesuit Priest.

Claude is an old Family retainer. Gaétan’s father made him promise to take care of trusty Claude. "Oops!", "Sorry", and "Master, I'm hungry" are the phrases most  uttered by Claude.
Guy de Bourges, who is known for his wit is a clever courtier and a spy for the Duke DeMainz. Guy is a thrill seeker who relishes the danger and excitement of being a spy at court and of hanging out with friends who often get him into adventurous trouble. 

Babar Fabré is Guy's valet. A long time family retainer, Fabré is a skilled apothecary and he has been Guy's trusted companion since Guy was a child.

Gaston Thibeault is a soldier, duelist, and poet. The son of a merchant, he rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant in the Picardy Regiment, the first among the Vieux or Old Regiments.

Norbert "the Giant" Thibeault, is Gaston's cousin. Norbert is immensely strong. A lumbering giant with a kind heart, Norbert is fearsome if angered and, despite his lumbering size, he is a skillful juggler.

Trapped beneath the mast of his ship, Hippolyte de Bouchard, known as the Foul Cosair, swore by the Code of the Pirates to serve for three years whoever rescued him. Norbert lifted the mast and thereby won the Corsair’s service. His speech is colorfully laced with nautical terms and sailor's slang.

Madame Marie-Petronelle de Rolampont is a beautiful young widow. Her husband, the Sieur de Rolampont, gathered a group of his friends and neighbors to ambush and kill Gaston. Events did not quite go as the Sieur planned. In the end Gaston killed him by drowning him in a puddle of muddy water. Madame de Rolampont's faithful maid is called Kitty.

Chapter 1: Scavenger Hunt

On an unusually hot autumn Saturday morning (October 21st) the party gets together, to send off de Bouchard, the Foul Corsair, to his new ship. Gaston has promised to go see his beautiful mistress, Lady Marie-Petronelle de Rolampont the morning before the party. Believing it will be but a brief visit, he leaves his companions at a tavern near her house, while he goes to see her. After carefully combing his hair and purchasing a single red rose from a flower vendor, he mounts the steps to his mistress' house, and is let in by her maid, Kitty. When Kitty sees him she exclaims, “Oh, where are ze gifts?” and then, “What is zhat?!” eying the rose with loathing. 

Gaston is confused for a moment, but after questioning Kitty, everything becomes clear. He is told that it is his mistress' birthday (he never knew or else he forgot the date) and that she expects to be given her three favorite gifts: a bouquet of lilies, a bottle of plum wine, and a box of cherry bonbons.

“Monsieur, if she fails to get her gifts, she will be in a very bad humor. Oh, and she is allergic to ze roses, and would fly into a fury were you to be so foolish as to bring one into her presence. Really Monsieur, you ought to have known better.” Kitty pushes Gaston back out the door, saying 'Don't bother to come back without those gifts - and get rid of zhat rose!'

Gaston returns to the tavern, where he tells his friends about his problem. He asks for their help. It is 11 AM by that time, and the party must find and buy the three gifts by sundown (about 7 PM). Father Signoret, declines to participate. The others split up into three groups, each searching for one gift. The gifts and the groups are as follows: the bouquet of lilies – Gaston and Claude, the plum wine – Guy and Norbert, and finally, the cherry bon bons – the Corsair and Fabré. Gaston suggests a wager, each person will contribute 10L and the winning group will collect the money from the losers and they all agree. It is market day in Paris, so travel on horse or by coach is nearly impossible, so the three groups set out on foot, though even foot travel is difficult due to the crowds.

The Search for the Lilies

Gaston and Claude set out to search for a bouquet of lilies from the Les Halles market flower vendors. On their way to Les Halles  Gaston and Claude encounter an entertainer, a Sword Swallower, who has started to perform his act in the middle of the street, and has attracted a small crowd. To prove that his ability is genuine, he calls the characters over, offering to swallow their swords (as the people watching are mostly poor, Gaston is the only one around wearing a sword). Gaston refuses and the crowd begins to jeer, suggesting that they take his sword. He gives them The Look, and suggests that anyone who tries will “get a taste of my sword” and the crowd edges away from him, but the altercation delays Gaston and Claude.

After an hour’s search they find that all the lilies at the market have wilted beyond hope. Asking a helpful vendor where they can find some fresh lilies, they are told that Louise, a travelling flower vendor, left the market around 11:30AM to sell her flowers around the city. They decide to search for Louise.

After over an hour of searching they finally spot Louise and run to catch her. They nearly lose her in the crowd, but luckily they are able to catch her and Gaston purchases the finest bouquet she has. Claude offers to carry the followers for Gaston, but after eyeing Claude, Gaston decides to carry his own flowers.

While Gaston is standing, waiting to cross a street, a number of playful urchins sneak up behind him and, unbeknownst to him, tack a long donkey's tail to the back of his cloak. He turns around just in time to see the children running away, but he doesn’t notice the tail. This causes people in the crowd to point and laugh at Gaston, which he immediately notices. Angrily he spins about glaring at people, which only provokes further gaiety on their part as the donkey tail flares out with each spin. Claude quietly and kindly steps behind Gaston and removes the tail, tossing it aside. With the source of their humor removed the crowd continues about their business and Gaston and Claude hurry towards the rendezvous. As the spot the tavern’s sign, they hear the bells of a nearby church ring two o’clock.

The Search for the Plum Wine

Guy and Norbert first try the taverns and liquor establishments near their starting place. They decide to sample a few drinks along the way. But they quickly find that plum wine is rare. After searching for an hour without luck, they are referred to the Fox & Vine , the only wine shop in the city which regularly stocks plum wine. 

While bustling through a crowd on the way to the wine shop, Norbert accidently steps on the toe of a young Gascon Ensign from the Navarre Regiment. He is a hot tempered bravo, Bertrand de Venaille by name (SR 7), and he immediately challenge Norbert to a duel. Norbert apologizes and even suggests that de Venaille should jump on his foot in recompense, but the Gascon will not be placated. Finally Guy persuades the Gascon that though Norbert is a giant, he is simple minded and that fighting a swordless idiot should be below his dignity, and they are able to continue on their way. Including the altercation with the angry Gascon, it takes the pair over half an hour to spot the sign of the Fox & Vine.

Once inside, Guy and Norbert find the establishment deserted. After close inspection, they find the proprietor asleep in a dead drunk on the stairs to the cellar. After unsuccessfully trying to wake him, they decide they will need to search for the plum wine on their own. Finding no plum wine in the shop, they descend into the cellar. The cellar is full of over sixty different types of wines, all in cryptically marked bottles. This presents a further problem, to which there is only one solution: they must sample each of the wines, until they strike the plum wine. This is a long and tedious chore, but not entirely unpleasant.

Norbert and Guy alternate sips. And after sampling a total of ten bottles, Norbert has gained a warm glow and Guy has begun giggling uncontrollably. Yet it is Guy’s still refined palette that is first to detect the flavor of plum wine. Considering Guy’s senseless laughter, Norbert decides to carry the plum wine so as to avoid accidents. The pair quickly depart the tavern and hurry towards the rendezvous.

Guy, still giggling to himself, is walking just a little behind a cart filled with sacks of coal. Just as he notices this, a sack falls off the cart, in front of him. As it hits the ground, a cloud of coal dust flies up, and leaves a thick residue on the Guy’s face and clothes. At his startled exclamation, the driver of the cart stops, climbs down, and picks up the fallen bag, all the while thanking Guy profusely for alerting him to its loss. Guy is offended at the lack of apology and insists that the polite thing for the carter to do would to apologize. The carter does so and Guy satisfied, at last consents to continue on their way.

As they quickly walk past a tavern, Norbert bumps into a man smoking a clay pipe. Thick black pipe tobacco is spilled all over Norbert’s new green jacket and Norbert must juggle the plum wine to avoid dropping the bottle. The man with the pipe, who is a large and brawny fellow, angrily demands money for his lost tobacco. Norbert apologizes and gives him a sou. This paltry sum further angers the man. He says, “This tobacco comes all the way from China!” as he angrily tosses the sou to the ground. Guy quietly gigglies to himself. Tobacco comes from the New World, not China, but he seems far too angry to profit from a geography lesson. Meanwhile, Norbert continues to apologize and offers the man a livre, which he takes. As the pair hurry on their way, the angry man stoops to pick up and pocket the sou. They reach the street of the tavern where they are to meet the others just as a nearby church tolls two o’clock.

The Search for the Cherry Bonbons

While their friends are racing through the streets after flower vendors or drinking in the cellar of the Fox & Vine, de Bouchard, the Foul Corsair, and Fabré go in search of a box of cherry bonbons. As they search, a crowd of dozen or so beggars surround them asking for charity. Fabré is horrified at the urchin’s grubbiness and the corsair drives them off with kicks and threats, “Avast ye bilge rats. Get away from us or we’ll keel haul the lot o’you!” Eventually the beggars move on to seek less feisty prey.

After spending over an hour searching candy booths at the market and the major confectioners, they learn that the only place cherry bonbons are to be found is at Madame Julliarde's Maison des Chocolats , which is located on the Pont Notre-Dame. As they head to the shop, they find their way blocked. A group of troubadours have started a troubadour show in the middle of the street, and a crowd has gathered. Two play lutes, two flutes, and one the tambourine, while a beautiful gypsy girl dances. Fabré stops, entranced by the alluring gypsy’s dance, and it is only after the Corsair asks “Hey matey, how long are we going to stand here. Those 40 livres aren’t going to wait forever.” Although recalled to his duty to his master, Fabré pauses a moment longer to learn the name of the bewitching dancer – Morgiana.

It takes the pair over an hour to get to the Pont Notre-Dame through the crowd and just as they reach the start of the bridge a farmer's cart, on its way to Saturday market, topples its load as they walk by. Fabré leaps aside avoiding most of the load, but the Foul Corsair is buried waist deep in over-ripe cabbages. He and his brand new scarlet frock coat both smell like skunk. Fabré insists that they will have no success smelling of skunk. So he leads the now truly Foul Corsair to his Master’s apartments where they bath and perfume themselves to cover the odor of cabbages.

Refreshed though delayed they reach Madame Julliarde's only to be told by her that the cherry bonbons have been very popular this summer, and that the last box was just sold ten minutes before they got there. As it will take her at least a day to make a fresh box of cherry bonbons, it is too late to order a new batch. Learning that the last box was purchased by the Duchess de Fronsac, they hope to be able to persuade the Duchess to part with her one box of bonbons today for the promise of two boxes of bonbons tomorrow. Therefore they place an order for two boxes of cherry bonbons for the next day.

Fabré recognizes the Duchess’ name and leads the Corsair to what he believes is her townhouse. Unfortunately, his recollection is incorrect and they learn that this is the town house of the Duke d’Epernon and his Duchess is not at home. Frustrated in their quest, they realize that more valuable time has been wasted. Fabré concludes that Guy’s friend, the Vicomte de Chambré will certainly know where the Duchess de Fronsac resides so they head to his townhouse. Although Chancie is not at home, his servants recognize Fabré and willingly provide him with directions to the Paris townhouse of the Duchess de Fronsac.

Along their route, in a small square, a platform has been set up for a number of public brandings. The Royal Torturer is a popular attraction, and a large crowd has gathered to watch the entertainment. While the crowd delays the pair, the Corsair notices that one of the prisoners who is about to be branded is an acquaintance: a fellow galley slave who once shared an oar with the Corsair. He forces his way through the crowd as he says to Fabré, “Hey Matey! I knows one of these here coves. And by my soul he was as good a man at the oar as any and I reckon he’d make a loyal first mate, for the Yvette. We canst just stand by and see him branded. Come on!” By then the Corsair had reached the front of the crowd, he drew his cutlass as he raced forwards to cut the prisoner’s bonds shouting, “Follow me!” Fabré’s protests go unheard and as he turns and slips back into the crowd.

The Corsair and his old ship mate raced away from the square pursued by the shouts of the crowd as well as a squad of Paris Archers. Running down a dead end, the two are forced to turn and fight. They overcome their pursuers and climb a garden wall making their escape. Unfortunately the Corsair is seen by the crowd and both he and his friend are wanted in Paris. They do not return to the tavern, instead they head to the docks to find a hideout. Meanwhile, as church bells sound four o’clock, Fabré makes his way back towards the rendezvous without the cherry bonbons and without the Corsair.

The First Rendezvous

As the bells of the nearby church sound two o’clock, Gaston and Guy notice each other at opposite ends of the street and equidistant from the tavern where they are to meet to decide the winner of the contest. Guy immediately grabs the bottle of plum wine from Norbert and starts running towards the tavern. At the other end of the street, Gaston also starts running. They race through the crowd dodging and leaping obstacles. They reach the door about the same time, but Gaston shoves Guy aside to narrowly beat him into the tavern’s common room. Gaston and Claude have won! Claude and Norbert trail in and Gaston sarcastically asks about Guy’s and Norbert’s “interesting attire”: Guy’s face is covered in charcoal and Norbert’s green coat is smudged with black tobacco. Gaston calls for a round of drinks and the four wait for Fabré and the Corsair. But it is over two hours before Fabré finally shows up and reports the results of their search.

Gaston suggests that Guy should be the one to acquire the bonbons from the Duchess because of Guy’s greater familiarity with Duchesses. A talent that seems to run in the de Bourges family. Guy is annoyed at Gaston’s jab and only the idea, suggested by Gaston, that Guy’s servant’s failure to finish the mission reflects on the master combined with the happy prospect of winning the contest, despite Gaston’s earlier arrival, if Guy can obtain the cherry bonbons in addition to the Plum Wine. Realizing that they cannot visit a Duchess in their current state of dirtiness, Guy and Norbert, accompanied by Fabré, return to Guy’s apartments for a bath and change of clothes or in Norbert’s case, a quick cleaning of his coat. Then they set out for the Maison de Fronsac. Guy knows that the Duchess de Fronsac is a large middle-aged noblewoman, with a liking for chocolate delicacies and her husband, the Duke, is a General in the Royal Army, and a very powerful man. The Duke is also known to have squandered much of his fortune. The couple often stay at their maison in Paris during the fall.

Conversation with a Duchess

Guy’s faultless court etiquette easily obtains him an interview with the Duchess de Fronsac. He first regales here with some court gossip and stories from his recent travels then tells her that he is here on an matter of romance. This piques the Duchess’ interest so she tells Guy to continue. He tells the tale of how his friend, who is in love, needs a box of cherry bonbons as a token of true love, and Guy as his friend is here to beseech the Duchess to aid his quest. In turn, Guy promises to bring her two boxes of bonbons on the morrow. Guy’s tale of romance intrigues the Duchess and she agrees, instructing her butler to take the keys and bring down the bonbons. “They are so delicious, but I must keep them under lock and key to prevent my maids from gobbling them up, the gluttonous girls.” As the bonbons are brought and given to Norbert to take back to Gaston, the Duchess simpers at Guy and eagerly suggests that he continue his stories “in private.” Guy accompanies the Duchess upstairs as Norbert departs to take the bonbons to Gaston.

Upstairs, the Duchess leads Guy into her boudoir where she then opens the door to her bedroom. What is it with me and older duchesses, he wonders. Recalling Lucien’s Italian Duchess, he concludes perhaps all the de Bourges hold some fatal attraction for women with a ducal crown. In the Duchess's bedroom, any potentially romantic interlude to the day's adventures is interrupted after, when the Duke de Fronsac arrives home unexpectedly. The terrified Duchess tells Guy that “Quick you must  hide while I stall the Duke in my boudoir.”

Guy has three choices of hiding places: under the bed, in the walk-in-closet in the corner, or behind the drapes. The Duke and Duchess enter the bedroom a moment after Guy has hidden himself behind the drapes. There he overhears a lengthy argument between the Duke and the Duchess. The Duke is angry because one of the servants told him his wife had male visitors and she is angry that he has lost 1000 crowns gambling. Eventually the Duke and Duchess leave and Guy improvises a rope from bedsheets. Just before he descends the Duchess returns and tells him he “must return with the sweets he promised and so that you can finish your interrupted story.” Blowing her a kiss in farewell, Guy climbs down the sheets and silently slips away.

End of the Hunt

Norbert briefly considers waiting for Guy, but hearing the clock strike the half hour, he realizes it is already half past five o’clock and it will take him the better part of an hour to return to the rendezvous, which will be none too soon if his cousin is to have the bonbons in time. On the way, Norbert sees an entertainer, a juggler, who has started to perform his act: juggling flaming torches, in the middle of the street and has attracted a small crowd. Norbert finds the notion of juggling flaming torches fascinating and he watches with rapt attention. It is only once he hears the sound of bells tolling six o’clock that he remembers that time is of the essence. He hurries on his way, but the crowds returning from market day slow his passage and his desire to avoid accidently crushing anyone slows him even more.

In order to avoid the crowd on one side of the street and a cart, on the other, Norbert is forced to walk close to the façade of a building under repairs. Too late, he hears a sound from above. A man, balanced on a small painter's scaffold, is touching up the facade with gold leaf. As Norbert walks below, the bucket of paint falls, and Norbert and the box of bonbons are instantly gilded. But despite the embarrassment, Norbert continues to the tavern arriving just after half past six o’clock. Inside Gaston, Guy, Fabré, Father Signoret, and Claude are waiting, but there is still no sign of the Foul Corsair.

After Fabré tidies up the gilded box, Gaston collects all three of the gifts, and returns to Madame Rolampont’s town house just before seven o’clock. Marie is pleased with the bouquet of lilies, the plum wine, and the cherry bonbons. She is delighted to see Gaston and happy that he remembered her birthday. Now, with the help of his friends, Gaston is back in his mistress’ favor.


Later that night, as Gaston passes Kitty the maid on his way out of the house. He stops and hands her 10 livres. She smiles and winks at him. “Monsieur is most generous with ze gifts.” Gaston nods then returns to the tavern where he treats his friends to a good meal and lots of wine.

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