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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