Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Fiction: Vol 6: City Tales, Book V: Broken Legs or Jaw, Your Choice - Ch 1 & 2

V: Broken Legs or Jaw, Your Choice

Chapter 1: The Apology

L’Omino the dwarf’s hate for Father Signoret burned him like a hot iron. To try to quench the fire, he decided to use the scene at the theatre to strike at his Jesuit foe. Slyly he pointed out to his mistress, the Comtessa di Montefusco, that the Jesuit’s rash action at the theatre had eclipsed any notice of the Comtessa by the audience.[i] Stung at the slight, even if inadvertent, the Comtessa described the incident in a most unfavorable light to her fellow maids of honor and to her patron, Marie de Medici, the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother was not amused by the Jesuit’s rash behavior, but she decided that now was not the time to make her feelings known. The planned discussions with her son took precedence over the Jesuit’s faux pas.

The night before Father Signoret’s apology the actors of Binet’s Grand Troupe of Players invited Norbert to a going away party celebration and at the Duck and Frog,[ii] a tiny tavern with four tables for sitting and standing room at the bar and side counters suitable for a dozen additional patrons. The troupe filled all the tables and they kept the staff busy ordering round after round of drinks and Madame Vieillissement, the gray-haired owner, was so pleased she almost smiled.

The troupe had good news. Somehow the Impresario had found a new benefactor who wanted the troupe to immediately put on another show. Gerta suggested that Norbert must be lucky for the troupe since they had never gotten a new show lined up so quickly. Their benefactor, a wealthy young man dressed in expensive, flamboyant clothing, had agreed to pay for the dinner and he liberally tossed tips to all the staff at the restaurant. The young man wanted them to perform the comedy, Les Escolliers (The Stairs) by Pierre de Larivey, a play that had been published in French in 1579 so there would be no need to write a new play or even to translate and revise an old one which pleased everyone except the troupes playwright.

For some reason that night the wine went straight to Norbert’s head and soon he felt dizzy and was swaying in his seat. Time seemed to pass in odd jumps and skips with gaps of blackness between the bits of noise and color. After the next gap the swaying was accompanied by a rumbling sound and a bumping like a rough wooden wheel on cobblestones. The next time Norbert  noticed his surroundings the rumbling had stopped and he felt cold, his wrists and ankles felt like ice. Norbert felt a sting as someone repeatedly slapped his face. He heard a voice echoingly say.

“Wake up. Wake up you hulking peasant!”

Norbert tried to reply but all that came out was a slurred, “Whaaa?”

“You will listen and remember.” The voice continued in a gloating tone. “You will remain alone and imprisoned here in the dark except for when you are brought out like a trained mastiff to fight for your life. You can fight or you can give up and die. And eventually you will die…and when you do, I will be sure to have your mangled corpse sent to your cousin, Gaston.”

The voice sounded familiar and Norbert tried to see the speaker. But his eyes just wouldn’t focus. He tried to move closer, but his legs and feet wouldn’t obey him. It was as if he was frozen in place. He tried harder to move, but the room began to sway again and he fell into a cold dark pit.

Despite the snow and cold winds outside, inside the Church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois was warm and crowded[iii] on Sunday January the 7th. The crowd was there because his Majesty had decided to attend mass this morning in person. As was usually the case, a select group of courtiers accompanied Louis XIII and seated with the King was Cardinal Armand de Richelieu. The blessing was given by the King’s half-brother the Bishop de Metz. Father Signoret found a seat in the rear of the church. With him were Father Vargas, a fellow Jesuit who was there as the eyes of the Provincial Father and Signoret’s cousin Guy de Bourges. Guy had recently been approved for admission to the noble Order of the Holy Ghost, though his actual investiture would not occur until later in the month. Gaston was also at mass dressed in his uniform as the Captain of the Cardinal’s Guards. With the uniform, he had also worn the elegant sword he had been given by the Prince de Cröy along with his Spanish vizcaina. Gaston did not sit with his friends, as he was there in attendance on Cardinal Richelieu. The only one missing was Norbert, who was unaccountably missing. No doubt he went carousing with his actor friends and lost track of time…or even the day, Gaston thought.

As the mass ended, Father Signoret quickly went outside. He was accompanied by both Guy and Father Vargas. As Gaston came out of the church, he saw Signoret in the middle of the main arch kneeling on the top of the step with his arms held outstretched as he faced Baron Villemorin. The Baron leaned rather stiffly against one of the main pillars of the portico. As Signoret began to speak, the Baron folded his arms across his chest.

“Oh dear Lord,” Father Signoret began, “forgive me for my sin of anger and for having struck my neighbor, the Baron Villemorin, at the theatre while in the midst of my anger. Oh, gentle Jesus, meek and mild, please help your servant to control his temper and to avoid the sin of anger in the future.” After making his public confession of his errors and asking Gods help in controlling his temper in the future, the Jesuit then apologized directly to Baron Villmorin.

Villemorin replied, “Your conduct was inexcusable.”

“Yes,” Signoret said. “I have no excuse therefore I apologize fully.”

Angrily, Villemorin paused, then said. “Very well then. I must accept your apology.” As the Baron turned to leave, Gaston stepped forward blocking his path. As he saw Gaston, arrayed in the brand new uniform of the Captain-Lieutenant of the Cardinal’s newly created Red Guards, Villemorin realized that there was one thing he had not considered about his demand for a very public apology by the Jesuit. By arranging for an apology in public at a set time, he had given that peasant Gaston the chance to challenge him in public. Not only in public, but possibly even in front of the King. The Baron had to get out of here as soon as possible.

While standing firmly in Villemorin’s path, Gaston said, “Ah Baron V…your pardon, My Lord. I meant to say, Baron Villemorin. I was sorry to have missed you at the theatre the other night milord. I had hoped to discuss the ending of the play with you in some detail. I was led to understand that you were even involved in its composition.”

Villemorin angrily replied. “I had nothing to do with that trash.”

“Ah, you did not write the ending,” Gaston said. “No doubt you had some other end in mind. Well your lack of involvement does explain the play’s popularity with the audience. Their response was most gratifying to the playwright. You may not be aware, My Lord, but I myself contributed a few lines to the script,” Gaston cocked his head to the side and said, “‘The Soldier placed his hat upon his head, drew his bright sword and laid his foeman dead.’ The audience particularly loved that line, My Lord.”

“I have no time nor interest in bandying words with you,” Villemorin interrupted.

Gaston replied, “No doubt My Lord has some pressing engagement. Something that requires him to run away…from me?”

“What do you mean by that?” Villmorin asked.

“Only that My Lord Baron is quite adept at avoiding my challenge,” said Gaston.

“I am a baron of France. My family have been knights and nobles for centuries. I’m not going to duel some jumped up peasant with a sword,” Villemorin said angrily.

“I am not a peasant. I am a soldier of France and the Captain-Lieutenant of the Red Guards, a company in the Maison du Roi. As my ancestry was good enough for King and Cardinal, it should be good enough for a baron of France…My Lord,” Gaston said.

“Then I accept,” said Villemorin.

Gaston said matter of factly, “My second is the Chevalier de la Sainte-Marie du Bois.”

“I do not believe I know that gentleman,” Villemorin said.

“Once again My Lord you have mistaken the gentleman’s identity. The Chevalier is known to you. He is none other than Monsieur Guy de Bourges,” Gaston said.

“My Lord Baron,” Guy said, as he stepped forward and bowed.

“My second is Monsieur du Frugereix,” Villemorin said. “You may find him at the Hotel de Condé. And now, adieu.”[iv]

“Adieu My Lord,” Gaston said as he swept off his hat and bowed in a ragged imitation of Guy’s signature bow.

Guy raised his eyebrow and wondered, is he imitating me or mocking me?

When Norbert regained consciousness he realized two things: first, his head felt like it was being hammered by a pair of enthusiastic blacksmiths and second, he was manacled to some kind of wall. I wonder if this is a nightmare. He inhaled thorough his nose and caught the scent of damp stone, moldering straw, and ordure. Then he tried pulling to free his arms and legs. He heard the clanking of heavy chains, but the fastenings didn’t budge. The exertion made the pain in his head even worse and he realized that his mouth was dry and he had a bitter taste on his tongue.

No. Not a dream. I am in a real prison. Dear God, I hope it is not a prison of the Inqusition. Ah, but good Father Signoret told me that the Inquisition can’t operate in France. Our King won’t let them. Good then, it’s not the Inquisition. Unless I’m not in France?

That was a worrying thought. Norbert tugged harder against his bonds, but the exertion triggered terrible pains in his head. I shall have to try again later when my head is not so sore. I’m so thirsty I wish someone would bring me some water and a loaf of bread. He looked around the cell. It was unlit, but enough light came from the crack beneath the door and from the viewing slit in the door itself that he could clearly make out the dimensions of the room. It seemed to be roughly square and approximately eight feet on a side. The ceiling was low enough that he could feel the stones above him brushing the hair on the top of his head. The cell seemed to be fashioned of rough stone and there seemed to be a hole in the floor in one corner.

“Oh ho!” Norbert said to himself. “So that is where that stench is coming from. A latrine, I hope it connects to a sewer. I’d hate to have the contents for a companion. And I hope someone will come along and free me so that I can use that latrine.“

“Hello!” Norbert called. “Is anyone else here?

“Shut up!” said a harsh voice.

“Hey, where am I?” Norbert asked.

“You are in Hell,” a second voice said.

“In Hell? I’m sure you must be mistaken,” Norbert said. “This seems to be a prison of some sort, but certainly it is not Hell. “

“This is the pit of despair and you are now one of the damned who are trapped here with us,” the voice shrilly lamented.

“Shut up you damned coward!” said the harsh voice.

“But we are all damned. Don’t you see…”

“What I see,” interrupted the harsh voiced man, “is that when we are in the pit together, I will make you pay for every croaking word you say now. Each word will cost you a broken bone. And as I break your bones, I will laugh and remind you of this day.”

The light brightened slightly and the voices ceased. At first it was quiet, then Norbert heard the sound of a single set of footsteps. Then the footsteps stopped.

“Psst. Psst. Hey Giant. Is that you?” Although it was a bit gravelly, the voice was that of a woman. Norbert heard a scratching sound and a soft knock at the cell door. “Giant? Answer me, damn you. Are you in there?”

Norbert realized that the gravelly voice was that of Jeannie Artois. “I am here.” He said. “Jeannie, is that you?”

“Of course it’s me. Who else would be riskin’ her skin to come talk at you, you big lump.”

Jeannie told Norbert that he was in an underground, no rules, fighting pit run by La Buse and the Buzzards. Norbert tried to talk Jeannie into setting him free. But she said that she didn’t have the key and that there were quite a few guards in between Norbert and freedom. What’s more Jeannie knew most of the guards and was friends with some. She was reluctant to kill them herself or even to help Norbert to kill her fellows.

Seeing as he was making no progress with this approach, Norbert asked Jeannie to get word to his friends Guy and Father Signoret and to his cousin Gaston. Fearing that she might be placed under arrest, Jeannie was reluctant to seek out Gaston at the Louvre. But she agreed to get in contact with at least one of the three. “And then maybe he can contact the others?” she suggested. Norbert heard a crashing sound of metal on metal and Jeannie said, “Quiet! Someone’s coming. I’ve got to hide, but I’ll be back later when it’s safe.”

A little afterwards, Norbert heard several sets of footsteps. The light brightened a little, then he heard a clank as the door to his cell was unlocked. The light was blinding after the darkness of his cell. In the glare he could vaguely make out several figures.

A harsh, croaking voice said, “So, Norbert the Giant. You are as big as they say. I regret that I did not have a chance to greet you when you visited my Nest, but now you can have a taste of the hospitality I grant to those that attack me.”

“Who are you?” Norbert asked.

“Who am I? Who am I? the voice asked, rising in pitch and volume. “All Paris trembles at my name. I am Jean Orande!”

“La Buse?”

“I do not care for that name and I will thank you not to use it.” La Buse said and scowled.

Squinting against the glare, Norbert could see that the speaker had a heavy brow, a beak-like nose, and beady, light-colored eyes. He looks like he wants to stab someone, Norbert thought. And that someone is probably me. As his eyes became used to the light, Norbert could see that La Buse was accompanied by four large bodyguards. One of whom, for some reason, was carrying a large sledgehammer. How odd.

“Graceful host that I am,” La Buse continued, “I have come to give you a choice. Choice number one, you can compete in my fighting pit or spend some time with Jean-Paul here.” The thug with the sledgehammer hefted his tool.

Apparently the one with the hammer is Jean-Paul, Norbert thought.

“In which case I will give you a second choice...Broken legs or jaw, your choice?” La Buse finished with self-satisfaction and apparent bonhomie.

“What happens if I go into the pit but I don’t fight?” Norbert asked.

“Why then,” La Buse shrieked, “my guards will have no choice but to spatter your stupid brains all over the sides of the pit.”

“Well then I guess I will fight,” Norbert answered. “But I would fight much better with a large plate of sausages inside me. I am very hungry.”

La Buse turned back as he was leaving, “Very well,” he sneered. “Win the match and you will have your sausages.”

Jeannie felt very nervous. And when she was nervous she talked to herself. “I wish this giant had friends somewhere more friendly. A cousin in the Louvre what is surrounded by guards who would be happy to lock up a poor farm girl from Artois. And if that were not bad enough, this cousin is supposed to be some kinda’ officer. No I won’t be starting with no guard officer, no mam. All my mama’s really stupid babies they all died, young. Yes mam they did.”

“A friend who lives in the Palais Royal what no doubt sips wine with all manner of counts and dukes and what not. I’d stick out like a sore thumb at shearing time. No mam. Jenny is not going to go makin’ a fool o’ herself in front of no dukes and counts and such.”

“I guess that just leaves the one who is a priest. I hope he don’t ask me how long it’s been since my last confession, cause I gotta confess I don’t remember,” she laughed softly. “No mam I don’t.”

Jeannie rang the bell at the Jesuit Professed House and asked to see Father Signoret. She was shown into a waiting room. The room was quiet except for an odd ticking sound that came from some strange object on the mantle. Jeannie looked at it more closely and noticed something on the front of it was moving. Each movement occurred with the sound of one tick. Jeannie looked at the object again with alarm and crossed herself quickly.

She had barely finished when a tall, black clad figure stepped into the room and introduced himself as Father Signoret. Jeannie told him about Norbert being in a cell in the pit. Signoret asked her to go with him while he went to get his friends, but Jeannie suggested that they all meet at a tavern somewhere instead and Father Signoret agreed.

Father Signoret gathered Guy and Gaston. He explained that they were to meet someone who could explain Norbert’s absence. Once they reached the rendezvous, Signoret introduced them to Jeannie and she explained that Norbert was imprisoned in the Pit and the four began to plan how to rescue him. But first they would need to learn more about La Buse, his gang, and the Pit itself.

Chapter 2: The Big Fight

Norbert walked beneath the portcullis and out of the pit. He grabbed a rough towel from one of the attendants to wipe the blood and sweat from his face and chest. Some of the blood was his, but not much, thank God. He tossed the soiled towel to the floor noting the other blood stains speckling the stones and the smell of sweat and old blood. Even though the bouts were not that challenging several each night did leave him with a few scratches and bruises. It also made him tired and hungry. The sausages they gave him weren’t very satisfying and they tasted like they were filled with grease-flavored sawdust.

Escorted by a pair of guards, he walked over the grate in the floor, noticing again the residue of blood caked on the grate despite the buckets of water the attendants slopped on the floor. He passed beneath an arch into the guard room and nodded at the guards on duty. One smiled at him and jingled a purse.

“You were lucky for me again, Giant,” the guard said.

Norbert’s reply was truculent, “Then why don’t you do me a favor and buy me some decent sausages?”

The guards laughed in reply and Norbert’s escort led him back to his cell. As he passed the cell before his, he noticed that the ranting man who had called this the ‘Hell pit of despair” had been removed. Another man was now in the cell, but this fighter was much quieter than the other. As the door clashed behind him, Norbert said to himself, “At last, some peace and quiet. Now perhaps Hercule can get some exercise by running up and down my shoulders.” The pattering of Hercules little feet took Norbert’s mind off his hunger. After a time, that pleasant activity was interrupted by the sound of a sly voice.

“Pssst. You there, the Giant. How you doing?”

“Hungry. They don’t give me near enough to eat and what sausages they do bring taste like they are half filled with sawdust.”

“Probably are. La Buse spares no expense, hey? I see they’ve moved Ferme the Cruel next to you. He’s a bad one alright. Broke Long Thom’s back he did. Say I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Henri.”

“Mine’s Norbert,” Norbert said.

“I know. You’re the Giant from Picardy. I hear you’re strong and tough. So any tips on your next match? Knowing how long it will take you to knock your opponent out is valuable information. Someone who could pick the exact round could earn more than a few sous, if you know what I mean.”

“I’ll consider that, especially if I can good sausages instead of sous.” Norbert said. “Say, do you know what happened to that crazy guy who was always saying we were in hell?”

“Oh, he was in a match with Ferme the Cruel. I heard Ferme broke nearly every bone in his body – one bone at a time. Laughed the whole time he was doing it too. He’s a cruel one alright. Gives me chills just thinking of it.”

After other fights and other nights, Norbert had another visitor – Armand Patrella. Patrella was accompanied by a shadowy looking figure dressed in a light gray hooded cloak that concealed his face. Perhaps his bodyguard, Norbert thought. He sure moves like a professional.

Patrella told Norbert that he had caused Patrella a lot of trouble but that now the time had come for Norbert to make up for that trouble by helping Patrella to earn a nice fat profit. Tonight he must make the fight look good but despite that he is going to lose. He is to throw the fight. “Defeating you will set up your opponent as a viable challenger for a championship match against Draco le Destructeur.”

“And what if I don’t lose?” asked Norbert.

“In that case, I will have you cut down right in the arena. I’ve already bribed the guards to kill you at my signal.”

“OK. So you win your bet. But what’s in it for me. I’d like some sausages. Good ones.”

“If you are dead you won’t care about any sausages.”

Norbert considered awhile and then told Patrella, “I see your point. Well it looks like I don’t have any choice but to do what you say.”

“See that you do,” Patrella said as he and his gray shadow left.

Gaston, Mel, Guy, and Father Signoret entered The Pit separately to avoid suspicion. Mel carried his dagger and club along with Norbert’s broadsword. The others were armed to the teeth with pistols, sword, and daggers. The Pit was located in the sub-basement of an abandoned building in the poor part of Paris between the Porte St. Denis and the Porte Mont-Marthe, It was known in certain circles as a place to wager on vicious brawls. The fighting pit was stone walled with the outer portion of the floor covered with a layer of sand. The inner section had a smooth wooden floor with a central square and circle painted on it. Iron chains hung from ringbolts fixed into the walls on three sides of the pit. These were used to secure wild animals for the sort of vicious matches hosted by the ancient Romans.

Above the pit, the audience watched the fights from a two-level balcony. The balcony provided standing room only. A wooden railing lined the edge of the pit to prevent drunken or over excited patrons from accidentally falling in. Also lined around the pit were a half dozen alert looking guards: four armed with crossbows and two with matchlock blunderbusses. The smell of the lit matches blended with the odor of fear, sweat, blood, and aggression.

The four spread out moving to cover the six guards. The signal to act was to be Father Signoret shoving the guard with the blunderbuss into the pit. But first they needed Norbert to enter the pit. After what seemed an interminable wait, the giant finally stepped under the portcullis and entered the arena. Facing him was a familiar figure. The one-eyed ox known as Le Gros Boeuf.

Norbert grabbed Le Gros Boeuf putting him in a choke hold. Gasping for air, Le Gros Boeuf ran backwards, smashed Norbert against the wall of the pit, and then elbowed him in the ribs which broke Norbert’s hold. Norbert hammered punches into his foe’s midsection then shoulder charged him knocking him to the ground. Le Gros Boeuf displayed surprising agility for such a fat man. He nimbly rolled back to his feet then charged Norbert. Taken by surprise, Norbert was knocked to the ground then frantically rolled away to avoid Le Gros Boeuf’s kicks.

Signoret saw Norbert in the pit below. He moved next to the guard with the blunderbuss than said, “Say isn’t that a Spanish gold doubloon down there in the pit?” But his ruse didn’t’ fool the guard who was used to ignoring noise from the crowd. So Signoret backed up, drew his sword, stabbed the guard, and shoved him towards the pit. But the body hung up on the rail, dripping blood down the side of the wall of the pit. Meanwhile, Guy had noticed that La Buse and four of his bodyguards were behind his cousin. He drew both his pistols, turned and told La Buse, “Stand right there and don’t move.”

While Guy was holding La Buse at gunpoint, Gaston put his hands on the backs of two crossbowmen and shoved them both into the pit. Mel, saw that the man Signoret had stabbed was on the edge of the pit, which wasn’t really in the pit so he decided to wait for a complete signal.

Signoret drew his first pistol and shot one of the crossbowmen above the portcullis while Gaston drew his pistol and shot the other crossbowman. Norbert ended his roll away from La Gros Boeuf by grabbing a crossbow from the body of a fallen guard and pointing it at his foe. Then hearing the shots above him, he narrowly rolled aside as shot from a blunderbuss turned the crossbow into kindling, peppered the wall next to him, and rang off the portcullis bars. Seeing the first two crossbowmen fall and hearing the gunshots, Mel thought, Now that was a complete signal. So he drew his dagger and knifed the guard who had shot at Norbert.

La Buse said to Guy, “Do you know who I am? You had best put both those pistols down before I have my men gut you like a trout.”

“Well your men may try, but as I abhor unnecessary bloodshed, I must warn you that I am a crack shot. I never miss. These pistols I hold were given to me by the Archduchess Isabella for winning the Brussels shooting competition. So Monsieur Orande, no matter what you tell your men. No matter what you do. I’m going to spatter your brains all over this room. Yours and the first man of yours who takes a step near me. So, who is ready to go see God?” La Buse and his men stood in stunned silence.

“No one? Good! Now gentlemen, I would consider it a most profound kindness if you would slowly step backwards throuugh that arch there.”

Signoret drew his other pistol, carefully aimed at Le Gros Boeuf, and shot him in the head. The huge man fell to his knees, balancing there for a moment and then falling face first to the sand. Blood from his wound formed a dark pool around his head. Above the pit, a figure dressed in a gray hood circled Gaston and tossed a garrote around his neck. The soldier immediately interposed the empty pistol in his hand between the garrote and his neck. Safe for the moment from suffocation, Gaston snapped his head back smashing it into the face of the man in gray who staggered backwards releasing the garrote. Seeing his cousin in trouble, Norbert stood and ran towards the chains hanging from the high wall below Gaston. He grabbed hold of the chains and began to climb.

Seeing that Mel had just stabbed a guard, two of the bystanders near him attacked him with their fists. Mel turned and efficiently stabbed the first attacker then ducked to avoid the second foe.

Signoret noticed three men charging towards him. As they leveled their pistols, he dodged amongst the bystanders. Several shots rang out clipping his hat and killing a bystander. Across the pit, the gray-clad man drew his sword and swung at Gaston who parried with his pistol then slammed the barrel against the blade. This allowed Gaston to grab the gray man’s sword and turn it against him. Hanger sword in one hand, pistol in the other Gaston shifted into Morgan’s style as he aggressively attacked the gray man driving him backwards with blows of sword and pistol butt. As Nobert pulled himself up onto the balcony, Mel stabbed his second opponent.

Guy backed La Buse and his men into the office past the archway and barred the door from the outside. Then he quickly returned to the outer room. Signoret engaged two of his opponents using the circling precision of the Spanish style he stabbed first one and then the other opponent. But the third man, drew a second pistol and fired at the priest at point-blank range. Although his reflex jerk of his head saved him from a pistol ball to the face, the flash of the powder struck him, blinding him.

The gray-clad man continued his retreat by turning and running away from Gaston who turned and greeted his cousin tossing him the gray man’s sword. Gaston switched to a loaded pistol then drew his rapier as Mel stabbed his second attacker. Sword in hand, Norbert scanned the room, across the pit he saw Signoret standing blindly waving his sword as some brigand carefully drew his blade and stepped towards the Jesuit to stab him. Quickly Norbert threw his sword transfixing the brigand who fell into the pit.

Seeing his cousin moving awkwardly, Guy ran forward and grabbed Signoret by the arm. The others quickly joined them. Norbert picked up the Jesuit and, with Mel flanking him, carried Signoret bodily from the room while Guy and Gaston brought up the rear and covered their retreat with loaded pistols.

Outside, Guy summoned Fabre from where he had been hiding. The apothecary rinsed the Jesuit’s eyes with a cleansing solution. Though his vision was still a little blurry, he could see again. He paused a moment for a brief prayer of thanksgiving then he said, “I think it is time we left this place.” And so they did.

[i] Does L’Ominio persuade the Comtessa to complain? [Chaos Rank=6 for all related actions]; Likely (17) Exceptional YES. Does she complain to the Queen Mother rather than take direct action? Very Likely (76) YES.
[ii] The Duck and Frog is tavern (T19).
[iii] King Louis XIII attends Mass with a few of his courtiers; the Queen, Queen Mother, and Prince Gaston are not present.
Cardinal Richelieu attends. His Guards include Rémy Janvier; also in attendance mis an elderly man, Jean-Noël Suchet.
Bishop de Metz does not say Mass but he gives the blessing.
Father Vargas is sent witness Father Signoret’s apology.
[iv] The duel will be after Candlemas (Feb 2). Gaston insists on  to the death; Villemorin insists on a cavalry duel since both their companies are cavalry. This is acceptable to all.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Fiction: Vol 6: City Tales, Book IV: The Case of the Curia Crimes Ch 8 & 9

Chapter 8: Year’s End

Angered and humiliated by Father Signoret’s attack on him at the theatre, Baron Villemorin[i] pressed his complaints against the Jesuit to all who would listen. He personally complained to the Provincial Father in Paris. In addition, Villemorin asked[ii] his patron, the Prince de Condé to support him and to help uphold his honor. Condé, concerned that this assault by a Catholic fanatic on one of his followers may be the first step down a path that would lead to the resurrection of the old Catholic League or even another Huguenot massacre, raised the matter at court and gave the following speech.

“This public and unprovoked attack against a noble of France, against a member of a family of long and honorable lineage is most concerning to those of us who value our honor and the honor of the nobility of France and this attack is a blow to the ancient honors and prerogatives of that nobility that were earned by the blood and sacrifices of the many generations of our fathers and their fathers before them. I fear that once again we see the beginnings of religious strife that is instigated, as it always has been instigated, by outside powers and influences who wish to strike at our French heritage and liberties. And I fear that failure to suppress such activities could have the most grave consequences to the peace and stability of the kingdom. Are we to allow mad Jesuit Priests to assault the flower of French chivalry in public and then hide behind the black skirts of Mother Church? I say that if we value our noble honor, if we value the honor of our ancestors who fought and died for France, then we cannot allow these actions to go unanswered for we have seen what happens when zealots are allowed to use force to overthrow the hereditary rule of their nobles and their betters.”

This time when Gaétan entered the office of the Provincial Father in response to a summons, he noticed two things were different than on any of his previous visits. First, Louis Cellot was alone without any advisors even including the mysterious masked advisor known as Pere Noir. Second, and more unsettling, the usual face of the intelligent, kindly looking man, the respected scholar of the humanities, theological writer of some note, and dramatist and poet was today effaced by the stern and unyielding visage of the Provincial Father of Paris, a man who was possibly the most powerful member of the Jesuit Order after Muzio Vitelleschi the Superior General of the Society of Jesus back in Rome itself.

Cellot told Father Signoret that he had ordered him here to explain the events surrounding the brawl in the theater. He informed Signoret that Villemorin had lodged a complaint alleging unprovoked, public assault by Signoret. Gaétan explained the circumstances, suggesting that the Baron struck the first blow. However the Provincial Father seemed skeptical of Signoret’s innocence since he had swung on a chandelier into the seats by the Baron to accost him. Signoret admitted that “perhaps the Baron may have overreacted to my attempt to get him to stop heckling and threatening the performers and disrupting the play.” The Provincial Father seemed unsatisfied with Signoret’s response. But he suggested that he would return to that matter after he discussed with him an even more grave concern.

Cellot told Signoret that extremely serious charges had been lodged against him by a Papal representative, Friar Fitellus of Dominican Order and an Inquisitor of the Roman Inquisition. Fitellus alleged that Father Signoret and another Jesuit Priest, Father Vargas, had interfered with the actions of the Papal delegation, had stolen a religious relic – the Bones of St. Anthony – that Fitellus had been sent by Rome to obtain, and that Fitellus suspected Signoret’s involvement in the horrible murder of Father Menard, the pastor of the church from which the relic was stolen.[iii] Signoret said he was not responsible for Father Menard’s death and suggested that the Provincial Father should speak to Father Vargas, if he had not already done so, and ask Father Vargas about what had occurred. The Provincial Father said he had done so, but that “now I am asking you, Father Signoret.”

Signoret suggested that the Inquisitor’s men might have tortured the Father Menard to obtain the whereabouts of the relic, but the Provincial Father was incredulous that Signoret would makes such a suggestion without any evidence or that a member of the church who carried a papal blessing could be guilty of such a barbaric and sacrilegious act. Then he showed Signoret the list of the charges alleged by Friar Fitellus. After having read the description of Father Menard’s death, specifically that his throat had been torn out and that he had been brutally eviscerated on his own alter, Signoret recalled the dead men found by a coach outside the village who had been killed in a similar fashion and suggested that perhaps Father Menard’s killer was the brigand Cat’s Claw Fornier. Fornier was the same brigand who had threated to tear out Father Vargas’ throat unless Father Signoret gave Fornier the Bones of St. Anthony. Reluctantly, Signoret had done so and Fornier had escaped with the relic.

The Provincial Father ordered Father Signoret to avoid any encounters with the papal delegation and the Inquisitor Friar Fitellus in particular. He mentioned that the Inquisitor was still waiting to see the King to have his credentials accepted.

“Until that occurs we may set that business aside for now. Perhaps for some time as his majesty has been very taken with the hunt of late. This unseasonably cold weather and heavy snow seems to have brought out the wolves in force and his majesty has been hunting them most avidly. So I do not know when he is likely to have time for Friar Fitellus.”

The Provincial Father then announced his decision to Father Signoret, “The Jesuit Order does not want strife with the nobility of France nor do we wish an open confrontation at this time with Villemorin’s patron the Prince de Condé. Therefore you will make a full apology to the Baron Villemorin.

“Apologize?...ah, Provincial Father?”

“Yes. Apologize.”

“I will obey, your excellency.”

The smile on Louis Cellot’s face was as thin as a razor as he said, “Good. That will be all then.”

Signoret sent Claude with a letter for Baron Villemorin. The letter said that Signoret wished to apologize in person for his conduct at the theatre the other night. He would like the Baron to meet him at a private room at the Pewter Plate[iv], located near the Porte Saint-Martin, so that he may apologize in person to the Baron. The letter ends, “Continued wishes on your good health – Father Gaétan Signoret IHS.

Signoret sent his servant Claude to the deliver the note by hand. Claude first went to two wrong addresses with the note. In between the first and the second address he dropped the note in the gutter thoroughly staining the outside with filth. When he finally found Villemorin, the Baron responded by telling Claude he would send a response by letter. Then he ordered his footman “To throw this worthless trash in the gutter where it belongs.”

On his servant’s return, Signoret asked Claude what had taken him so long. Claude explained “Master, traffic was busy and it took a long time before I could see the Baron. But I persevered Master to make sure he got your message as soon as possible. But they threw me out into the gutter. Look at my clothes!”

Eventually the Baron’s response was delivered to Signoret by an immaculately liveried servant. The letter was addressed to Father Gaétan Signoret. In it Villemorin said that “since the offense was public, the apology should be public. Therefore I suggest that the location should be on the top steps of the Church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois after Mass on this Sunday next.” Signoret knew that this is the church of the Kings of France and so the steps would be covered with courtiers and the great of the land even possibly royalty as well.

Having taken the first steps to delivering the apology as ordered, Father Signoret then went to confession. He confessed to striking Villemorin in anger and said he was sorry for striking the Baron. (Although he has confessed and agreed to apologize, his confession is not entirely sincere.)

The success of their performance of The Fountain of Poseidon has increased the fame of Binet’s Grand Troupe of Players. The two lead actors, Acton the Magnificent and Columbine, as well as Amelie the ingénue garnered increased fame and attention from the theater crowd. Despite the company’s dramatic success, the associated controversy caused the theater owner to force the Impresario to suspend all performances until Paris becomes calmer. Thus on a cold and drizzly December day Norbert found himself at the theater to pick up his belongings. As he left the theater he spotted three large men walking towards him from the end of the alley. Le Gros Boeuf’s enormous bulk was unmistakable despite the weather. Norbert concealed himself[v] behind a bin in the alley As Le Gros Boeuf stomped closer to the stage door, Norbert tripped him then jumped out, put one foot Boeuf’s back then bashed the other two thugs into the alley walls knocking them unconscious. He then smashed Le Gros Boeuf in the head. He dragged all three unconscious thugs back into the theatre and tied them to chairs with rope. Then to humiliate them, he put funny wigs on top of their heads. Then he went outside, found a street urchin, and paid him to deliver a message to Guy and Signoret asking them to come to the theater.

While he waited, Norbert decided to question the first thug. He carefully removed the wig, dumped a pitcher of water over his head, then replaced the wig atop the thugs dripping head. The thug, Phil, was none too bright. He told Norbert that the three worked for Armand Petrella a shady banker and that their job was to collect on a debt, of an unspecified amount, from the Impressario. Afterwards, Norbert released Phil and told him to give Patrella a message – “Leave the Impressario alone.”

Norbert then questioned the next thug, Mel. He got the same answers that Phil had provided and Norbert then decided to recruit Mel[vi] to work for his “organization” which Norbert indicated was large and powerful. He offered Mel a pay rise of twice what he was currently making. Having successfully hired Mel, he sent him to wait for Norbert at the Two Horses Tavern.

Last Norbert questioned the now awake Le Gros Boeuf who couldn’t tell Norbert anything he didn’t already know. Since the huge Boeuf also didn’t know the amount owed by the Impressario, Norbert gave him 2L to give to Patrella to take care of the debt.

Gaston was upset that his dramatic plan had failed. He had intended to use the brilliant satire of the play to so humiliate and enrage Villemorin that when Gaston challenged him publicly in the theater, Villemorin would be unable to think of a graceful or honorable refusal of the challenge. However, Signoret’s precipitate action and the Baron’s hasty departure in a huff from the theater prevented the last act from playing out as Gaston had scripted it.

Ventre-saint-gris,[vii] but my friends are less cooperative in following my scripts than the most hubristic of stage performers.  Now it seems I have no choice but to challenge the Baron in a less dramatic fashion and hope that my new status and promotion to the Captain of the Guard Company of his Eminence will prevent him from once again ignoring my challenge.

Resolved on a new course of action, Gaston went to Villemorin’s town house but once there he was informed by the Baron’s servants that “Baron Villemorin is not in.”

The Duke seems more impassive than usual, but I can sense he is upset about something, Guy observed as he waited while Pendu, the Duke’s silent servant, poured a dram of brandy into a fine Venetian crystal glass. Guy warmed the glass in his hand before sipping.

The Duke’s resonant voice said from behind his gold mask,

“How is the brandy? Excellent I trust? De Bourge, I must confess I am a bit put out by your cousin, the Jesuit. He has acted most precipitously and not in my interest. You know that the Prince de Condé has been a threat to the rule of the Bourbons since the time of Henry IV. And this attack by Father Signoret on one of the Prince’s clients may just give Condé the cause celebré his needs to increase his power amongst both the Grands and the Barons.

Guy explained that his cousin “had been trying to prevent Villemorin, who had been heckling the stage and threatening the actors, from ruining everyone’s fun at the theater by stopping the play.” Guy continued, “and what’s more, Villemorin went off and left without a word or glance to Madame Rolampont who he had escorted to the play. What a boor!”

DeMainz continued, “Boor or not, it is probably fortunate that the King is so mad for the hunt or I dare say someone might even have managed by now to persuaded Louis to re-ban the Jesuit Order. Which, all things being said, might not be the worst result if they can’t keep their priests under control. I thought they were supposed to be a damned military order! Gods Marines and all that. Hmmph!”

“This religious disputation is dangerous. France has had more than enough strife in the cause of various zealots. The balance needs to be restored. I want you to find a way to weaken Condé’s influence so as to rebalance it with the influence of the various other factions at court and I don’t much care how you do it. Hopefully you have someone[viii] close to the Prince to assist you. And remember, St. Giron is also a client of the Prince and Villemorin’s captain. If you are caught acting against St. Giron I won’t protect you.”

Once he was finally reunited with his friends, Norbert explained what he had learned from Le Gros Boeuf and his two thugs and Norbert introduced them to his new companion Mel the Thug, former employee of Armand Patrella,. Norbert led the group to the hotel where Binet’s Grand Troupe of Players usual stayed in Paris. They called on the Impresario so that they could question him about his debt to Armand Patrella.

The Impresario grandiloquently welcomed them one and all. He flattered each and every one present and introduced himself to those, such as Guy, whom he had not formally met. For each one he had a compliment and a good word to say – in fact he said many, many good words and compliments and said them loudly and with brillo.

During the very long conversation, they learned that the Impresario had borrowed something like 250L some time ago. That he did not know exactly how much he currently owed. Guy suggested looking at the Impresarios financial records. The Impresario willing agreed handing over a large ledger stuffed with loose, unrecorded receipts tucked willy-nilly throughout the huge ledger. Although he knew nothing of accounting, Guy handed the bundle to his cousin Father Signoret who quickly realized that the receipts and accounts were hopelessly confused and in arrears. But the Impresario happily agreed to let Father Signoret peruse the company’s books to his heart’s content. “Ah, I’m sure a brave and perspicacious scholar and Jesuit such as yourself will have these records whipped into shape in no time at all. Most kind of you Father. Most kind. The Impresario is in your debt. Indeed the all of Binet’s company is in your debt. Despite your poverty of wealth you are rich in generosity….”

Tired as if from sailing for a long time at sea against a mighty gale, the companions departed and Norbert left his new companion Mel on guard to keep the Impresario safe from harm.

Gaston and Norbert invited their friends to Christmas dinner at the home of Gaston’s father, Hubert Thibeault. Gaston’s sister Marie acted as the hostess. With Marie were her husband Claude and their two girls, Jeannette and Marguerite. Besides the Thibeault family, Guy and Signoret also attended. After dinner, Marie told the adults a story[ix] that she had heard around town.

“Apparently, there is a warlock who steals children who are out of their beds at night. He then offers to return them to their parents in exchange for the soul of one of the parents. When returned the child has a cloven-hoofed-shape black mark over the heart.”

Marie said, “I would give anything to save either of my girls, but what a horrible thing to be asked to give up your soul.”

Guy quickly interjected, “What about the orphans?” There was a stunned silence and then Norbert asked.

“What orphans?”

Guy said, “Any orphans.”

Signoret added, “The Good God takes care of all of his children even the orphans.”

Gaston said “Ventre-saint-gris! If some damned villain, warlock or no, made me that offer, I’d put my blade to his throat and tell him to release the child this instant or I’d gut him with my blade then strangle him with his own damned intestines!”

While Gaston was talking, the two nieces peaked in from behind where Norbert was sitting. While Norbert did not notice the girls behind him, the other friends did. At Gaston’s final comment, Jeannette squeaked in horror.

Gaston said, “There, there mon petites. It is just a story that adults tell to frighten children who don’t go to sleep when they are supposed to. Do you think your uncle Gaston or your uncle Norbert will let anyone hurt you?”

Marguerite said, “No Ton-Ton. You would split him in two ‘All of his head has down the middle shorn,   The carcass sliced, the…’”

Her mother said, “Marguerite, oh how bloodthirsty. Where did you ever hear such a thing?

Marguerite replied, “It is in the Chansons de Roland mama when Olivier strikes the Iron Valley’s lord.”

 “Good heavens!” Marie looked sharply at Gaston then continued, “That is enough stories for tonight. To bed girls! To bed!”

Norbert said, “Oh cousin, let them stay awake a while longer. I have hardly seen the girls tonight. “

Both nieces said, “Yes! Yes, we want to stay up and see uncle Norbert!”

Marie looked sharply at Norbert than sighed. “Very well, but no more of these stories or you will wake up with nightmares.”

“In that case Madam Fleury,” Guy said smoothly. “Allow me to describe the latest fashions at court. Now you girls may not know this but buckles on shoes are no longer in fashion at the king’s court. Now it is knee ribbons.”

Signoret said, “I thought it was the ribbons that were out and the buckles that are in.”

Norbert said, “Well I would wear a buckle on one shoe and a ribbon on the other and that way I would be half right no matter which was in fashion.”

Jeanette said, “Oh, uncle that would look very silly. People would laugh at you.”

Norbert said, “Oh I would not mind if some people laughed. At least then they would be happy.”

Father Signoret decided to attempt to close out the case of the Bishop Club’s missing funds. He went to the Hôtel-Dieu where Brian Chastel was recovering from the wound the Jesuit had given him. When questioned, Chastel confessed to the crimes of stealing both the Curia funds and the Bishop’s Club treasury. He told Signoret that he had needed the money to pay blackmail, but he would not say what he was being blackmailed for nor would he implicate anyone else in his crimes. Nor did he admit that he killed his wife and child. He requested his brother Father Basil Chastel as his confessor. Despite Signoret’s misgivings, Archbishop Gondi granted the request. Father Delage, the Vicar General of the Paris Curia, thanked Father Signoret and was sufficiently satisfied at the results to agree to sponsor him for membership at the Bishop’s Club.

The year 1623 ended with several promotions.[x] Guy was admitted to the Order of the Holy Ghost as the Chevalier de Sainte-Marie-du-Bois[xi] with the attendant increase in social status. The formal investiture ceremony was scheduled to be held in the New Year. In addition to his position as a secretary to Cardinal Richelieu, Father Signoret was made the Curate for the Jesuit Professed House of Paris[xii] in preference to his rival Father Vargas and, with the help of Vicar General Father Delage, he was accepted to membership in the Bishop’s Club, joining his cousin Guy. Much to Gaston’s delight, Norbert left the theatre to join the Cardinal Richelieu’s Red Guards[xiii] where he was accepted by the commander, his cousin Gaston. This position significantly increased Norbert’s social standing. Gaston was recently promoted to the Captain-Lieutenant[xiv] of Cardinal Richelieu’s newly created Red Guards making him ineligible for other military promotion and he did not try to join any clubs.

To support their position and their social status, the characters had each hired or had access through their lodgings to a number of servants.[xv] Guy had five servants at his apartments in the Palais Royal plus the ever present Fabre. Norbert had two servants including his new retainer Mel. Signoret, who attempted to live the humble lifestyle of a priest had only one servant at the Provincial House in addition to the faithful Claude. Gaston, with new quarters in the Red Guards’ barracks in the Louvre had seven servants including valets, grooms, and armorers. What to do with so many servants underfoot?

Chapter 9: Collette’s Report

In response to his patron DeMainz’s orders, Guy instructed his agent Collette to investigate[xvi] the Prince de Condé paying particular attention to the following matters.

·         Whether Condé has any mistresses or romantic liaisons?

·         Who are his closest friends?

·         Is he having any unusual meetings?

·         Is the Queen Mother, Marie de Medici, the subject of recent conversation or speculation?

·         What is the view of the Queen Mother in the Prince’s household and amongst his friends and clients?

·         Are there any scandals or rumors of scandals in the Condé household?

Report by Mademoiselle Collette du Pré

Rank and Position: Henri II de Bourbon, prince de Condé (b. 1588) is a Prince of the royal blood (Prince du Sang) and second in line to the throne of France after the King’s younger brother. His Social Rank is 17. He is the highest ranking and leading Grand and is jealous of the privileges that come with rank. He is one of the most powerful and influential men in France.

History: In 1614, Condé led a rebellion joined by a number of the Grands against the young king to force the removal of the marquis d’Ancre, a foreign favorite of the queen-mother and head of the king’s council. In 1616, the rebellious prince was arrested and imprisoned at Vincennes for the next three years; after Ancre’s assassination, the prince was freed and cleared of wrongdoing by the Parlement de Paris.

Condé’s father and grandfather were leaders of the Huguenot cause during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century, but Condé was raised a Catholic and turned his back on his Huguenot allies after his release from Vincennes. He led the royal armies against the Huguenots in 1621 and 1622. On 9 October 1622, Condé left France on a pilgrimage to Loretto in Italy, from which he has only recently returned. He has rejoined the king’s council and continues to agitate against the Huguenots.

Faction: The Prince de Condé is the leader of the Grands, a faction composed of the many of the greatest Sword Noble families (the noblesse d'épée). The Grands oppose and tend to be opposed by the Robe Nobles who comprise much of the state bureaucracy and judiciary (the noblesse de robe).

Current Status: Condé is proud and temperamental. No mistresses or romantic liaisons have been observed to date. He maintains a cool relationship with his wife, Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, but he is close friends with his brother-in-law, Henry the duc de Montmorency. Condé dotes on his son and heir, Louis (b. 1621) styled the duc d’Enghien. The couple also has a daughter Anne Geneviève (b. 1619).

Condé’s Wife: Charlotte-Marguerite Montmorency (b. 1594) is descended from one of the most illustrious families in France. She is the sister of the duc de Montmorency, styled the “first baron of France.” As the princess de Condé she could find herself Queen of France one day. Her manner is suitably imperious, but she is loyal and generous to her friends. Charlotte is close to the Marquise de Rambouillet and is a regular member of her salon.

As a teen, Charlotte was contracted to marry Henri II, prince de Condé. The king, Henri IV, planned to take the young woman as a mistress, and the newlyweds fled to Brussels in 1609, with the royal cavalry in hot pursuit, to escape the king’s lust. After the king’s assassination the next year, the prince and princess returned to France. Despite their adventurous beginnings, the couple was incompatible with one another and Condé petitioned for a divorce from the princess, but his petition was denied. Despite their differences, when her husband was arrested in 1616 and imprisoned in the royal fortress at Vincennes Charlotte joined him in his captivity, bearing their daughter Anne Geneviève during this time. The prince and princess were freed in 1619 and since then the two have maintained a steadfast if cool and distant relationship.

Condé’s Brother-in-Law: Henri II duc de Montmorency (b. 1595) is the governor of Languedoc, home to many of the France’s Huguenot towns, as well as Grand Admiral of the kingdom’s small fleet and lieutenant-general of the tiny colonies of New France. He is a grand, a leading member of the old sword nobility of France. Montmorency is a friend and ally of the prince de Condé, his brother-in-law. His sister is Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, princess de Condé. Henry was the son of duke Henry I. He was the godson of King Henri IV, and was constantly receiving marks of the royal affection. His name and his personality rendered him at an early age the darling of the court and the people. He was only seventeen when Louis XIII raised him to the office of grand admiral. He succeeded to his father's title in 1614. During the war of 1621-1622, he wrested several important places from the Protestants, and was present at the sieges of Montauban and Monpellier.

[i] Check whether other important people will help Villemorin.
·      Does Branville help the Baron? Very Likely (94) No. 
·      Is Bishop de Metz upset. Unlikely (34) No.
·      Does Richelieu censure Signoret? Unlikely (73) No.
·      Does Villemorin attack Salvatore Machiavelli or the Impresario? Very Likely (99) Exceptional No.
·      Does Villemorin attack the entire troupe. No.
[ii] Villemorin spends 1FP and owes a Service to persuade Condé to support him. Modifiers: +2 (Aristocrat & Flair) -7 (difference in Social Rank) +3 (Member of the Prince’s company). With the bonus die for the Fortune Point, he rolls 9+2-7+3=7. The Prince is interested but will only extend himself if he is interested in the issues.
Is the Prince interested in the issues? Likely (63) Yes.
[iii] As described in Adventure 28: Sacrilege.
[iv] The Pewter Plate (T21) is located by the Porte Saint-Martin. It is a quaint, old inn known for its old-fashioned ambience and for the quality of its meals and its cellar.
[v] Spent 1 FP for a Mighty Success.
[vi] Norbert spent 10 APs to make Mel a trusted companion.
[vii] A favorite oath of Henry IV.
[viii] Collette is a lady-in-waiting to Condé’s wife and Guy’s agent.
[ix] The source of the story is Norbert’s encounter with a mother who was searching for her son. The woman said, “Oh Dark One, I do not know why you or your Dark Master took my child, but whether you be demon or warlock I thank you for returning my little Pierre to his bed. Merci! Merci!” The woman returned home to find her child was back home in his bed.
[x] NPCs: Branville (None), Vignon (None), Ballou (Courtier 2), Frassianne (None), Villette (Parry), Graucher (None), Peyrafon (SR 9, Chevalier of the Holy Ghost; rolled 10+1 friend bonus)
St. Giron (NO PROMOTION; Courtier 2); Charnace (None)
Villemorin (NO PROMOTION, Barehand Parry)
César de Mala Cassanha somewhere discovered what he thinks is an unbeatable attack – The Cassanha Thrust.
L’Omino the dwarf (Retainer 3); Andre Pelletier (None)
[xi] Guy uses his Glory Die from the Diplomatic Mission to Holland and his favor from the Vicomte de Bouvard (+1) for a total of 11, which is a success.
[xii] Assume a position is available and roll off vs. Father Vargas. Signoret uses the Glory Die from the diplomatic mission to Holland giving him an (11) which beat’s Father Vargas’ (5).
[xiii] Norbert jumps 4 Social Ranks to the minimum of SR 6 for the guards (no annual promotion for 2-3 years).
[xiv] Increasing Gaston’s Social Rank to 9.
[xv] A character has servants in number equal to his Social Rank - 1D6; their cost is included in his monthly expenses. These servants are associated with the character's place of residence and are typically unavailable for adventuring.
[xvi] Flair roll using Spy career, Collette rolls (7+1+2).

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