Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Fiction: Vol 6: City Tales, Book III: Paris Entertainment Ch 2 + Ch 3

The next chapter begins before dawn some hours after the end of Chapter 1: "Scavenger Hunt."

Chapter 2: Assassin’s Ambush

It is late, before the celebration is over and the nearby church bells announce that it is three o’clock in the morning. It is nearly the dark of the moon and the streets of Paris are black as pitch. On their way home Gaston and Norbert take their usual route, but they are surprised to see, by the faint light of candle in a window above, a pair of armed men blocking the alley ahead. Norbert quickly searches for a weapon and grabs a shovel from a nearby dung pile while Gaston draws his rapier and main gauche. Striding forward, Gaston gives the two men a hard look as he tells them they can “leave or die.” Something in Gaston’s eyes seems to communicate to the men his utter seriousness and their immediate peril. They choose the safer course by dropping their hanger swords to flee in panic. As Gaston and Norbert are about to congratulate themselves on the result, they hear the twanging release of two crossbows behind them.

The first bolt strikes Gaston above his right shoulder blade and a second bolt hits Norbert in the back of his right leg . With a yell of pain, Norbert pulls the bolt out of his leg then ducks into a nearby doorway as Gaston takes cover on the opposite side of the alley. Gaston spots a shadow moving on the roof above and tosses his knife, but the hasty throw only breaks a nearby window. Gaston stumbles after his throw and the bolt in his shoulder grates against the alley wall. The ensuing wave of pain  nearly causing him to black out. 

Meanwhile, the two assassins reload and both fire at Gaston, narrowly missing him. Nearly unconscious from pain and loss of blood and groggy from the poison, Gaston tells his cousin “We need to get out of here.” As Gaston runs a zig-zag pattern down the alley, Norbert tosses a flowerpot as a distraction and runs in the opposite direction passing Gaston as he yells “This way cousin!” Norbert then circles the block to look for Gaston. But when he gets to the other side, Gaston is nowhere to be found.


Norbert goes to the Jesuit Professed House to ask Father Signoret for help. Signoret arms himself and returns with Norbert to the ambush site to look for tracks. Signoret finds a blood trail which he follows in a direction leading towards the Professed House. At first he and Norbert are perplexed at this, but then Signoret recalls that his cousin Guy’s apartments are in the same general direction. They go to Guy’s where they discover a badly wounded Gaston under the care of Fabré. Unfortunately Guy is passed out unconscious from the night’s celebration. Without his help, they return to the ambush site where they discover that the assassins were on the roof which they ascended to from a trellis in an adjacent courtyard. Noticing several lit windows in the courtyard, they yell for assistance and after a loud discussion with two awakened residents, they decide that the assassins are unlikely to be loitering in the courtyard. 

Signoret and Norbert return to Guy’s apartments and Signoret asks Gaston who in Paris would want to kill him, compiling a list of suspects from Gaston’s answers.

Baron Villemorin. Full name: Rémy le Dommarien Baron de Villemorin (SR 10). He is a Trooper in the Gendarmes of France of the Company du Condé. Villemorin is a client of the Prince of Condé. Gaston killed the Baron’s younger brother Paulin.

Baron Caumont. Full name: Armand-Nompar Baron de Caumont (SR 10). He is the eldest son of the Marquis de la Force. His father is an important man and a Marshal of France (SR 15). In February 1622 Gaston spitted Caumont on a pike in battle nearly killing him. It is said the Baron holds a grudge.

Don Martín. Full name: Don Martín Santiago y Altamerino Baron de Rodriguez (SR 10); (Martin is pronounced marteen in Spanish). At the Battle of White Mountain, Gaston killed Don Martín’s father and took his vizcayana main guache as a trophy.

Termopillae. Full name: Léonide de Termopillae is a courtier and King’s Musketeer (SR 8). He holds a grudge against Gaston, several times he arranged for others to fight Gaston in his place.

Signore Sapiristi. Full Name: Maestro Alessandro Sapristi (SR 7) is the former Master Superior of the Fratellanza di Giganti fencing school. He is wanted in France for kidnapping and other crimes. He is thought to have fled to Italy. Gaston was one of those who uncovered Sapristi’s crimes and was responsibile for bringing his school in Paris into disrepute.

Chapter 3: Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Sunday October 22nd through Friday October 27th.

Father Signoret is hearing confessions at the Little Church of the Poor in substitution for Father Heureux and hears the following: 

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I’ve killed three people since my last confession, and only one of them deserved it.
Signoret asks a few questions but eventually decides not to risk a look at the hitman. So they explore other sources for answers.

What Lucien de Bourges knows

Termopillae is in Paris but the rumor is that he is not wealthy and that his valet’s wages are constantly in arrears.

What Collette du Pré knows

Collette du Pré is a beautiful courtier and a trusted agent of Guy de Bourges. She tells Guy that Branville and Villmorin have been seen together about town or at court functions. Theirs is a new relationship. She also reveals that Villemorin is said to be having financial troubles and he has sold some family silver or heirloom jewelry to raise cash.

What the Madame of Whispers tells them

The Madame of Whispers is recommended by a beggar that Signoret knows. “But she has her price. You must give a secret to get one.” Guy and Signoret go to the house of the Madame of Whispers. Norbert stays outside to keep watch. 

Inside the house, Guy and Signoret enter an antechamber where they are surprised to see two huge, warriors clad in exotic dress and full mail armor. One warrior silently gestures them to an old horse hair couch while the second warrior rings a brief but complex melody on a set of hanging bells. After perhaps ten minutes or so, they notice the lanterns on the wall dim and then brighten. One of the warriors lifts a drape and gestures for them to enter.

Inside is a woman dressed in long robes with a shawl decorated with embroidery and baubles. It is possible that once, many years ago, the woman may have been attractive, but now she is a desiccated and ancient crone. This is the Madame of Whispers. 

“Come in. Come and sit. I have many ears, which hear many things. But before you ask your questions, you must first share a secret with me.”

Guy tells her the secrets he learned in Adventure 18: The Poison Ring including the probable involvement of Pere Joseph. Signoret reveals to her that he and Guy know the fate of the Da Vinci Codex. Guy also reveals what he knows of the fate of the Left Hand of God and inadvertently reveals that he himself knows what the Left Hand looks like. In return, the Madame of Whispers tells the pair much about the best assassins in Paris.

Paris Assassins

The Left Hand of God: thought to be deceased or to have left Paris. Master of disguise. Said to use various poisons.

Heinricus Wandelbaere: a German, new to Paris. Said to use poison.

Cipriano Abalardi: an Italian from Florence. Uses poison weapons. He is said to frequent the residence of a woman, a seamstresses’ assistant.

Jean-Paul D’Anvers: oldest son of Mama D’Anvers underworld figure. Said to be a poisoner. 

Arnaud Venture: member of the Paris underworld, said to be from the gutters of Paris but details are unknown. Favors knives.

Scippio:  appearance unknown. With the possible exception of the missing Left Hand of God, Scipio is said to be the best assassin in Paris. Favors the garrote.  

What Le Serpent learns

Le Serpent stakes out the house of Abalardi’s ‘friend’ and follows him from there to his own apartment. Le Serpent continues to keep Abalardi under surveillance.

The Trap

The party lays a trap for Abalardi. They put out the word that Gaston is celebrating his survival at an inn, then set up a dummy with Gaston’s hat and clothes that can be seen from the opposite roof. Norbert sits by the dummy and pretends to interact with it to try to make it look real. He barely avoids knocking the dummies head clean off when he companionably slaps ‘Gaston’ on the back.

Meanwhile Gaston (mostly recovered from his wounds) and Signoret hide on the nearby roofs to lie in wait for the assassin. Guy, in disguise as a chimney sweep, keeps watch as well. The three fail to spot Abalardi’s arrival only being alerted to his presence by the sound of the inn window breaking . The assassin shoots the pumpkin head off the dummy. Realizing from the falling head that this was a trap, Abalardi instantly flees, but in his hurry he slips on the roof and falls to his death before he can be caught or questioned. Guy, in disguise below, tells the people who rush out of the inn, “This is the assassin! I saw him shooting from the roof. He fell…Looks like he’s dead.” 

The gathering crowd spots a second figure on the roof and points as that figure begins climbing down the side of the building. “Who is that?” “Is it another assassin?” the crowd asks.

Guy scratches at his scraggly beard, “It’s a priest. Come to give the Last Rites.” The climber is Father Signoret, who indeed begins administering the Last Rites.

Norbert looks for his cousin Gaston as the watch is summoned. Guy and Gaston slip away in the confusion. Meanwhile, Signoret and Norbert are taken into custody by the Paris Archers. Signoret uses his social rank to be released, but Norbert must stay in the jail overnight. Fortunately the Giant has money to pay for a meal and later his cousin Gaston has a second meal sent in to the always hungry Norbert.

Guy and Gaston hurry to Abalardi’s apartment and search it. They find letters in Italian from Abalardi’s father in Florence. They find money. They find pots, herbs, and other apothecary’s apparatus including a book about herbs in Latin. But they find nothing indicating who employed Abalardi.

Le Serpent’s final report

Fortunately the would-be assassin’s employer is something that Le Serpent can shed some light on, for earlier that evening the spy overheard an argument between the would be assassin, Cipriano Abalardi, and a French noble about .Abalardi’s failure to kill Thibeaut. Abalardi is incredulous that Thibeaut could have survived. “No one survives Abalardi’s famous Death Shot. It is infallible!” 

The noble tells the assassin that “Infallible or not, Thibeault is at this very moment celebrating his survival.” 

Despite his incredulity, Abalardi says he will take care of Thibeault. “And this time, he will not survive. I Cipriano Abalardi say so.” 

From Le Serpent’s description of the noble, “a tall man with a gravelly, resonant voice and a spiked armored gauntlet over his left hand” Gaston recognizes the noble as none other than the Baron Villemorin.

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