September 1, 2016 at 6:00 pm #189516
Synopsis: It has been 2 years since the arrival of the Heir. The once decaying Hamlet now thrives having restored connections to the outside world by Land and Sea. Foreigners, traders, laborers, and most importantly adventurers from points beyond now flock to this misbegotten corner of the Earth in search of fortune or glory. And yet in this time of renewal, the darkness of the Estate seems to creep ever closer.
There is a strange tension in the air, one that increases as the sun dips further down in the West. This is a moment when even the bravest of souls bar their doors against the dark, and whisper forgotten secrets of faith and terror.
This is the week of the Long Night….
Part 1 – The Gate
The Abbey Church – Year 2 – Vespers
“Deus, in adiutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina.”
Kneeling before an altar in an alcove, her mind was distracted by the chanting of the monks.
“Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
She couldn’t help but remark how all this felt rather strange. Her faith in the Light was quite simple, but these rituals seem to work for those unnerved by their experiences on the Estate.
“Henrika,” whispered a voice from behind, “Henrika, it is time.”
Standing up, she proceeded to dust herself off and replace her Cavalier hat upon her head.
“The Sun is setting and we must make haste to the Western bridge to support Constable Mathieu. The Caretaker had spoken to him earlier, conveying the fact that two more carts were behind him at the last stagecoach house before entering the Weald. Sir Barristan also remarked that one more group of adventurers were expected to be returning from the forest as well.”
Checking her Sidearm and placing her musket across her shoulders, Henrika nodded to the monks lighting candles in her section of the Transept and turned to her companion. “Barristan sent people out knowing that this was the week of the Long Night?”
“It couldn’t be helped love. Ever since the disaster against that damnable Cannon and the Raid on the Hamlet, he’s been intent on deterring the brigands from showing up on our doorstep again. Hopefully they will come back in time.”
Tournabet was a Bounty Hunter, Viktor’s youngest brother. Unlike his older siblings, many of the other adventurers found him quite congenial. Perhaps this was the reason why out of the three, he was always doing the negotiating on bounty prices.
As they both exited the Abbey and made their way down the winding steps toward the central plaza, Henrika couldn’t help but note how quickly the red disk in the sky was rapidly descending.
“I hate these weeks Henrika. I remember telling Older Brother that these evenings always made me feel like i was still scouranging around those damnable Ruins or in the dark of the forest. The night itself just becomes…unnerving. Especially without some light.”
Adjusting his helmet to get a better view through the sockets, Tournabet regarded his companion for a second. Clad in black from head to foot, her plain close-fitting garments belying her true strength. Her long and lovely red hair was tied back, obviously to prevent it from getting in the way of a clean shot. Her green eyes often gave a piercing glance, the type seen in the eyes of a predatory animal sizing up its kill. Viktor had told him she was a consummate hunter, always looking for the larger kill. Many of the hounds masters and bounty hunters that resided in the Hamlet often gave her respect for that outlook.
“When we first got here, much of the village would often bolt the windows and doors. They still do, often speaking how the shadows seem to move and twist oddly during this time. And the stars in the heavens seem to stare down at us…like floating eyes. Since then, the Heir would often make sure the supplies for kindling and firewood would be high – distributing it to all the residents of the Hamlet and the Farms on both sides of the river. And after the Raid, he started building the Walls and Gatehouses – the Western one being the first as it faces the Weald.”
With her gloved hand, she pointed off into the distance, past the Hamlet and the Farms to another walled off area at the bend of the River.
“The Leper Colony holds down that end of the Wall, and i’m told Sir Baldwin’s people are quite conscientious about their duty. The townsfolk weren’t too keen on accepting them in, but they have proven to be quite an asset. All we have up on the Northern side is a Gatehouse sitting near the bridge, so the extra support is most appreciated.”
“Now why is that?” Tournabet remarked as they were finally approaching the West gate.
“Money issues..what else? The Heir made it a priority to build the Eastern Wall facing the Cove. He’s got a wooden palisade facing the Sea as well, near the Customs House overlooking the dock he wants to construct eventually. I have not doubt that the more successful we are during the raids we commit, the faster he’ll have us safely ensconced.”
Passing the brightly lit Tavern and the Barracks, both adventurers found themselves standing before two watch towers and the Gatehouse.
A scruffy looking blonde man was directing the flow of goods into the gatehouse, his faithful hound circling him. The local constabulary had been split into four groups, each residing in one of the gatehouses or the customs house for the evening. Tankards of ale, loaves of bread, and haunches of meat along with plenty of firewood was provided to keep away the darkness.
Resting against the wall was Mathieu’s personal stalker…a Jester by the name of Baelyn – slowly strumming his lute while whistling.
Standing on the two guard towers were two well-armed dark-skinned arbalests from the far-away land of Al-Habash. Unlike the rest of the Dark Continent, Al-Habash was an eminently civilized land sharing the same faith in the Light. Sir Reynauld and the Heir had visited that fabled land during their time with the Crusade into the Land of the Burning Sands.
Henrika couldn’t help but smirk a little. As the only Musketeer in the whole Hamlet, she often found herself in friendly rivalry with these women of the arrow. Next month, the Caretaker had promised a shooting competition for the Caretaker’s Cup. Henrika was itching to test her skills against them.
While caught in her reverie, she noticed something…or rather the lack of something.
Pointing to a precipice that lay across the river, she spoke “Constable Mathieu…. the Woman.. the Survivalist.. her Camp is no longer there. Shouldn’t we…”
The Gendarmane shook his head while stroking the back of his canine friend, “She’s on her own till morning, we send someone to check it out. Don’t fret too much ma’m, remember she’s the one who taught many of us how to survive out here.”
Only a hint of the sun remained on the Horizon, when a whistling sound came from one of the arbalests…
“HEY! Hey! Something’s coming!”
Climbing up the wooden tower, Henrika peeked over the wall as the darkness descended…September 6, 2016 at 10:05 pm #191782
The Western Gatehouse – Year 2 – Sun Down
As the red orb in the sky began to disappear, Night spread forth with an amazing swiftness. A mournful wind suddenly picked up from the dark thicket, rushing forth and slamming itself against the walls of the Hamlet. In an instant, the burning fires that had been so carefully lit in preparation for the end of the day were snuffed out – plunging the watchers at the Gate in utter darkness.
“Torches!” shouted the houndsmaster as he took out some flint and steel. “Re-light the torches!”
In that black pit of darkness that had swallowed them all, there were sounds of fumbling for flint, steel, and torches.
The Jester’s lute had gone silent as he stood up and made his way toward Constable Mathieu. Tournabet had approached the gate house asking those inside for a Lantern.
A few more moments…a small spark…and then there was….some…light.
The Bounty Hunter couldn’t help but notice how the blazing torch that he held seem to give so little illumination.
“Feels like were in the underground all over again..” Tournabet whispered as he took his torch up toward one of the watchtowers.
One of the arbalests from Al-Habash, Elshaday, turned toward the tower that held both Henrika and Gelila and whistled – pointing to something in the distance.
It was a stagecoach, desperately barreling down the Old Road as fast as it could through the thickening darkness.
As it crossed the stone bridge arriving at the foot of the Gate, the women could make two figures.
The younger man dressed in a long coat and holding a whip was undoubtedly the coachman.
The other figure seemed much older, a man perhaps in his 50s, with bandages across his head and arms.
“For the Love of the Light, let us in! We barely made it out of the woods!” shouted the Coachman as he drew up to the Gate.
Mathieu made a quick tap to the window of the Gate House as the constabulary filed out and proceeded to push the gate open, allowing the stagecoach to enter.
Starring at the bandaged man, Mathieu called one of the constables over, “He may need a doctor, would you be so kind to inform the Sanit-”
It was at that moment the older man spoke, “Actually I am a physician sir, my name is William Bryden, a chirurgeon from the Capital. I am one of the attendees at the Sanitarium’s bi-annual medical Conference.”
“Isn’t that Conference occurring 3 weeks from now?” spoke one of the constables as his fellows nervously looked back at the open gate and into the dark forest.
“Yes, I wanted to come early. I always knew traveling here would be a little dangerous given the Estate’s reputation, but I thought myself well prepared. Nurse Florence had also requested some medical supplies be brought – unfortunately I was waylaid by bandits in the woods. My whole stock of medicines is scattered out there. If it wasn’t for this kind coachmen and the gentlemen who hired him, I would be certainly dead by now.”
“Wait, you are not his passenger?” spoke Mathieu as he approached the stagecoach’s door.
It opened, revealing five swarthy Olive skinned men, dressed in loose fitting robes and a turban. Each one carried satchels that brimmed with pieces of paper marked with strange and terrible script. Curved daggers were strapped to their sides, and each carried an oddly morbid fetish – a skull with a candle that rested on top of it.
“Heaven preserve us all,” whispered one of Mathieu’s men as the simple townsfolk all stepped back from the coach.
“…..Occultists..” croaked the Jester as he turned his gaze from them back toward the woods.
Muttering to each other in a language no one understood, one of them stepped forth from the coach and addressed the stunned crowd.
“I am Akbar…. We should not be out in the darkness at this hour.”
Mathieu grunted, “Well Mr. Akbar is it…? There is something a little strange about you and your companions’ appearance at this…”
“He is Akbar bin Haydar, fifth disciple of the Great Alhazred of the Empty Quarter,” spoke a shaky voice from behind him.
It was the Caretaker atop his own stagecoach. From its door, sat the Heir holding a single candle.
Adjusting his white whig, he stepped down onto the street with his cane. “as-salaam ‘alaykum” he said and bowed his head a little to the Occultist.
“Master Alhazred sends his greetings. We have come at his behest to help you in your cause oh Doomed One. But we should not be outside this evening…..the darkness…”
“Doomed One?” thought Mathieu as he looked back at his employer. He didn’t notice his ever faithful hound Liam starting to growl as it looked toward the forest.
“Yes. I’ve been traveling to each of the Gatehouses this evening to offer instruction in that regard. It is as Alhazred had advised… the Darkness seems to be eating the light from our torc-“
“MOVEMENT!” shouted Henrika as she aimed her musket at the distant bend in the Old Road. Elshaday and Gelila sprung into action, pointing their crossbows in the same direction.
The distant treeline seemed to….move…as something big was making its way over in the distance.
A feeling of tension and panic seemed to well-up in the local constabulary as some began to shake in fright.
“It’s the Darkness,” said the Heir in a commanding voice which momentarily reassured the crowd.
“Seal the Gate!” shouted Mathieu as he picked up his club and stood in front of it with The Jester and Tournabet.
“Wait…Look…” spoke the Heir as he pointed to 4 figures in the distance.
“It’s the team that went into the Woods earlier….” said Tournabet as he began to wave to them.
“Yes…but that’s not all….. they are being pursued.”
Snapping his fingers, he pointed at the Left side of the Gate. “Shut that part, and keep the Right door ajar to allow them some room to get inside. We need to shut and lock this immediately once they make it past the walls.”
The local constabulary seemed frozen in place.
“Move it now! You heard the man!” cried the Houndsmaster as he goaded his men to pull back part of the Gate door.
Pointing at the Caretaker, the Heir simply nodded. Immediately the wizened old man climbed onto the traveler’s coach. “This way toward the Tavern, we have Stables for your horses.”
“Alert Barristan and Reynault to what is transpiring here…” said the Heir to his departing guests.
“I shall stay with you Doomed One,” and with that Akbar smirked.
Suddenly, there was a large crack, like thunder from above, as they could all smell burning gunpowder.
“Henrika, what do you think you are shoo-“
It was at that moment that a man fell from a tree not but a few meters from the Bridge.
In an instant, a volley of musket shot struck the Gate and Tournabet.
“Brigands! They are here! Right across the Bridge!” yelled Mathieu as he dodged a bullet.
“We need to clear them out or else our men will be stuck on the other side with that….THING barreling down at us all.”
Drawing his Ancestor’s Pistol from the pockets of his overcoat, the Heir raised his voice,
“Gentlemen and ladies….. Prepare to Defend yourselves.”September 14, 2016 at 11:13 pm #194652
The Western Gatehouse, Year 2 – Evening
Carelessness will find no clemency in this place!
How quickly the tide turns!
Stop it now.
He focused his mind again back on the chaos before him.
Ten men held the right gate shut against an onslaught of musket fire from the opposite bank of the river.
Above, he could hear Elshaday calling out the targets she saw in the black darkness of the wood. Moments later, the sound of arrows flying and musket fire rang above him.
He saw Tournabet, the youngest of the three bounty hunters that answered his call a year ago, lurched forth from the gate and brought down his shining axe on the neck of a brigand Elshaday had spotted. The head of the hooded assailant fell clean off his body.
Next came the howling of a dog, as Liam dashed forth and jumped on one of the Fusilliers. His teeth sank into the carotid arteries around the man’s neck, as blood dripped down onto the accursed black earth beneath them.
Off in the distance further down the road, a mist had started to form, and the Heir could see shapes running just a little ahead of its path.
“We need to clear the area now!” the Heir shouted as he made his way to where Tournabet and Liam were standing on the bridge.
It was at that moment, a cutthroat in dressed in pale green and wielding two short swords made a dodge past the Constable and right toward the Heir…
Gelial gasped as she pointed down to the bridge below them.
Henrika had been busy loading her musket and took a peek to see what had happened.
A bloody white whig flowing down river…. a torn overcoat, and one of those brigands lying on top of……
She screamed….and screamed and pointed her musket at the man.
“Get him off me!” said a voice beneath the brigand’s dead corpse. His hand’s flailing, the Heir finally pushed the dead man off him as his body rolled down the bridge toward the forest.
Struggling to stand up, the Heir began to reload his Ancestor’s Pistol while shouting to Akbar.
“Tournabet has taken a good beating, you need to…”
It was at that precise moment he felt the lash of something metallic that bit into his skin. It pulled out, tugging at flesh and leaving a hole that continued to bleed. He heard Tournabet and Mathieu grunt from pain as their own vital essences leaked from them.
He turned his head to face the brigand. One of those portly larger types it seemed, like the one he encountered on the first day in the Hamlet. He was laughing swinging around his cat of nine tails while more brigands poured forth from the woods. What did Dismas nickname them again… Bloodletters?
Such a terrible assault cannot be left unanswered!
His Ancestor’s Voice roared in the back of his mind.
“Grandfather you were always such an uncouth peasant when it came to contests of strength” he muttered as he began to reload his pistol.
“HENRIKA!” the Heir shouted.
The bullet whizzed past him striking the temple of the Bloodletter’s forehead. He screamed in pain, clutching his head.
Reaching over Tournabet’s shoulder, the Heir fired his pistol at the large man’s exposed chest. A small bit of gun-smoke obscured both men’s vision of their towering tormentor. And then they saw the gaping hole that had been made by his perilous projective at the center of his chest. A second later, the brigand Bloodletter fell to his knees, and then his face hit the ground.
Their accursed Champion Falls.
The Heir couldn’t help but slap his head a few times. The Ancestor’s Voice rang louder than usual this evening, and his commentary felt much more frequent.
“Always such a plebian…..how father ever put up with-“
He could hear Tournabet wheezing. He wasn’t as fast as his other two brothers, and took one too many shots from the fusiliers. Another blow and the Reaper would claim him.
“MEDIC!” shouted Mathieu as he started to bandage himself up.
It would take some time for either Gelial or Elshaday to come off either tower. Mathieu was also hurt badly by the Bloodletter….might be able to take one or two blows more than Tournabet….
And he was completely out of his element, if another group rushed the bridge now…
At that moment, he could see Tournabet glow….as he was briefly lifted a few inches off the ground. The bounty hunter’s flesh mended itself before the Heir’s very eyes. And even his badly damaged armor started to sew itself back together.
The bounty hunter’s voice began to clear, as he laughed. “Hey! Boss I feel grea-“
The tree trunk slammed into Tournabet with such an alarming amount of force that he was hurled back against the gate. Whatever momentary recovery he had just experienced from Akbar’s tapping of the Wyld vanished as he began to cough up blood through his mask.
The Heir stared up at their new assailant. Oh sure, he had heard the tales from the villagers, the reports from his adventurers, but this was the first moment in his whole life that he saw one of the giants of the forest…….and he prayed it would not be his last.
He heard a shot from above, and glanced back briefly watching Henrika load her musket again while screaming to the arbalests to fire.
The lumbering titan shrugged of their assault as if it were rain, and raised the tree high in the air.
The Heir closed his eyes, trying to suppress his panic. Trying to remember what Dismas had taught him.
In a split second he opened his eyes and fired his Ancestor’s Pistol….
…..watching the bullet whiz past the giant’s ear…..
The damnable beast grinned and started to swing the Tree trunk at the Heir….
This was it then, he thought. This was how it all ended. He was too slow to get out of the beast’s way. And the last thing he would hear would be the overly bombastic commentary from an insane dead man’s spirit…..
He braced himself, hoping that he might escape the clutches of the Reaper…
And then he heard the sound of wood smashing against metal….
Opening his eyes, he saw a familiar face. His countenance was that of stoic resolve, true grit against even in the most dire of circumstances. His shield had absorbed all the impact of the tree trunk as the log splintered against its metallic surface. And yet he seemed very little worse for it, moving only an inch from the point of impact.
The old man smirked, “In my younger days, I would have been able to push him back before he swung.
Have no fear milord – I am your wall.”
“Barristan,” said the Heir as he sighed with relief.
The battle-scarred veteran shouted orders, and within moments those along the wall and behind the gate jumped into action.
The ogre was peppered with musket shot and arrows aimed at its eyes. The beast roared, swinging widely around it, knocking a few of the brigands on the far shore into the river.
It was at that moment that the Heir could make out two shapes trying to slip past the giant.
He could tell that one was a highwayman like Dismas, although his personality and demeanor were quite different. Ronaldo sought no repentance in this accursed state. He only wished for gold, a bit of glory, and tawdry wench to brag to at the end of the evening.
His companion, Annette, was a graverobber much like the beloved Lady Jane. Except unlike Jane, who came from fallen nobility in the same manner as the Heir, Annette crawled her way up from the grime of the gutter.
Perhaps due to complimentary outlooks on life, Annette and Ronaldo had often volunteered for the same missions. Along with Margot, the Antiquarian from the same region of the world as Constable Mathieu, the “Avaricious Trio” were well known amongst the other adventurers and mercenaries for their incredible ability to loot every single possible thing of value from the field.
Quiet whispers would often remark how the Trio seem to cheat death at every turn, at the expense of those who decided to accompany them.
Having heard the rumors, the Heir’s immediate response was to try and dismiss them from his service. But Viktor, Tournabet’s eldest brother and a bounty hunter of great renown, had pointed out their utility in reacquiring some of the Heir’s wealth….assuming of course that they kept the rest for themselves.
But now the Trio seemed to be a Duo, a very…loud Duo.
“GIVE ME BACK THE GEM YOU BITCH!”
“ITS MINE YOU GUTTERSNAKE!”
“ROT IN HELL YOU HAG, YOU LEFT MARGOT TO DIE!”
He had heard of heroes cracking under pressure. The constant struggle to survive combined with this unnatural darkness must have driven both to the brink.
Barristan turned his head slightly to stare at the Heir with his good eye.
He knew that look. “But…what about the last person? We can’t just leave them out there to die..”
“Regardless m’lord, YOU shouldn’t be on the battlefield at all. Your death would spell the end of this whole venture.”
Constable Mathieu whistled for Liam to return as he began to withdraw behind the doors while carrying Tournabet on his shoulder.
The Heir fired his pistol at another fusilier on the riverbank who was aiming for Barristan and the others while scanning the scene before him. The dark cloud was almost at their gates, and the brigands torches seem to snuff out as it passed. He could hear chilling screams coming from the woods.
Whatever monstrosity was heading their way, it was obviously devouring anything in its path.
The giant roared turning around, attracted by the bickering of the two thieves and with one swift motion, slammed Ronaldo against another tree. The
Heir could hear all the bones in the highwayman’s rib cage crack as the man began to cough up blood.
It was at that moment that he saw her on the main road – one of those woman-warriors from the Highlands swinging her glaive wildly around her. She was covered from head to toe in the blood of her enemies, and for a moment the Heir thought she had gone half mad. But there was focus and intention in her swings, and her eyes blazed with such great confidence.
Constable Mathieu, while whistling for Liam to return, spied the Hellion in the distance, as she carved their way through the brigand horde. “Of course SHE would be having fun in this situation.”
Annette had reached the riverbank and was about jump in when another brigand carrying daggers in both hands stabbed her in the back. She cried asking for help, as arrow rained down upon her assailants.
“Barristan we can’t just leave either women out there to di-“
Annette had drawn her daggers out and began to hurl them at those attacking from behind. However, she had momentarily forgotten the giant in front of her.
With a large swing, the graverobber went flying through the air and landed in the dark cloud that was almost upon them. Within a second, the cloud had become motionless as the Heir could swear that he heard the breaking of bones and the inhuman gnashing of teeth.
Another volley of musket shot and arrows came from the watch towers, fatally striking the giant. As he fell backwards, he dropped the tree trunk right in front of the bridge.
Constable Mathieu had already slung Tournabet over his shoulders, carrying his friend past the gate.
Barristan slowly edged backwards as the brigands made a mad dash for the bridge.
Staring at the Highland woman as she fought her way through the crowd, the Heir shouted to Akbar, “Use the arms! On her!”
Akbar smiled, he hadn’t thought of using the invocation in such a manner. Raising the skull above his head, he chanted as a swirling black portal opened up near him and a tentacle darted out through the throng of brigands, wrapping itself around the Hellion.
In a split second, she felt herself being pulled through the air and past the Gate.
Barristan pulled up the Heir by his belt buckle and ran with him bellowing, “Close the Gate! Close the Gate!”
As the two figures slipped past the metallic doors which slammed shut behind them, the Heir could hear screaming.
Coughing, Tournabet who was receiving first aid from some of the hamlet’s constables remarked, “It sounds like..l.ike.. that thing Oswald let loose by accident when he placed a torch on a strange altar.”
Barristan looked concerned and turning his attention to the red-headed Hellion he was about to ask a question when she shook her head. “We never saw anything like that at all.”
As the shouting and screams grew louder and the dark cloud move closer, their torches began to waver.
The Heir stood up and shouted, “Elshaday, Gelial, set the Tree Trunk on fire!”
A hail of burning arrows struck the trunk until it was ablaze. Soon the grass around it had also begun to burn.
Henrika aimed her musket at the shapes beyond the fire. But none seem to approach, instead they were running off in different directions as a much larger shape, darker than all the blackness of the night around it, began to chase all those poor souls beyond the burning barrier…September 20, 2016 at 9:38 pm #196867
Part 3 – Recovery
Carlisle Court – Year 2 – Twilight
He bolted up from his bed in a severe state of agitation. He was sweating and his heart was pounding through his chest.
Placing his face in his hands, the Heir tried to calm himself when suddenly he felt a hand on the back of his shoulders.
“Some hot Cider for the nerves..” she spoke, placing a cup in front of him.
He turned and saw the curly red mane and green eyes of a certain musketeer.
“How did I get back here?” the Heir spoke as he began to drink a little cider, its sweet and spicy taste reminding him of better times.
She took of her gloves and placed a hand over his forehead while speaking, “After the Thing at our gate turned to chase after the brigands, one of your guests, that Occultist had informed us of the dangers of staying outdoors for the next 7 days. It is as you had stated before, whatever fires we might maintain on this evening…the light it produces seems to be overwhelmed…or eaten by the darkness. The bounty hunter, Tournabet, also mentioned that he had seen similar creatures like the one at the gate, but they usually had to be summoned by lighting a torch and placing it upon a strange altar.
In any event, you ordered the local constabulary to stay within the Gatehouses. The adventurers providing support were to also remain in the Gatehouses also until obvious signs of trouble would be heard. No one was to leave on their own or in a group of less than four.
Sir Barristan and 3 others were given leave to use your stagecoach to quickly make his way to all of the other gatehouses to inform them of the issues. I’ve been told he and his men returned to the Barracks attached to the Tavern 2 hours ago. Constable Mathieu is still at the Gate facing the Weald with that Clown. Tournabet was taken to the infirmary. And you passed out afterwards. ”
He felt weak and incredibly tired. Resting his head against a pillow he looked to the curtains covering the window.
“I thought it best if I drew the curtains. I…..sometimes I see you obsessing over the House on the Hill.”
He bowed his head muttering, “Sometimes I wish the people of the Hamlet burnt the whole thing to the ground before Grandfather went astray.”
“Was it a happy life before you and your family were exiled?”
Taking another sip from his mug, he smiled. “The early years were wonderful. The Weald was a very different place in those days. I remember spending nights camping with some of my relatives. We used to try and scare each other with fables and old ghost stories… which appears to have turned out to be true…”
Pulling up the cover of his bed around him, he sighed and whispered, “But I do remember one moment when I truly felt afraid. It was the last time my father attempted to convince grandfather of the madness of his….hobby. Around the time when the digging started. I remember finding myself standing in the great portico in front of the Manor. It was daylight and I could still hear the buzzing of bees and the chirping of birds.
And yet within moments all sound ceased, and I felt such a strange and terrible dread. The House seemed to loom over me like some great bear or foul beast and leer at me through the front windows. I was alone and I wanted to leave…just leave… to run screaming from the top of the moors toward the Hamlet. And then Father appeared through the front door, and told me to ready our coach…”
He coughed a little and smiled at his companion, “I think if all these issues ever pass, I’ll have the rest of the ruin burnt to the ground, smashed and tossed into the sea. I am quite comfortable living amongst the people of the Hamlet as any good estate owner should.”
She couldn’t help but laugh, “Of course you are.. this place…. bears much more of your character than that of the Manor. Its very… Modern.”
“Well that is what I am trying to do Henrika, to bring everybody here into that new era….and leave this old dark one of superstition, black magic, and dark gods behind…”
He sighed for a moment and began to stand up from his bed.
She rose quickly and tried to get him to laydown again, “You really shouldn’t… remember the time in the Black Forest when you caught a Fev-”
Soft hands touched her cheek as another grasped her hand.
“I remember everything of our time in the Forest.” he whispered.
She could feel the blood rush to her cheeks.
“I told you I came from a place far more dangerous…. that’s why i wasn’t afraid of going on Crusade with Reynauld…”
She coughed and tried to regain her composure.
“And then I met Katya and thought I could leave it all behind. Just live out and about in the world… Now that I come to think about it, this place would have been the death of her. Soft, pretty, wily thing that she is….. It took me a long time to realize that she wasn’t the one for me.”
She placed her hands on his lips. In a place like this, a dangerous foul blighted land, such feelings could be the death of them both.
But she saw his eyes…and how much they adored her.
“Thank you…for coming here. To be here…. with m-”
A loud knock on the chamber door was heard, and Henrika instantly reached for her pistol.
“Milord… are you feeling better? Hilda has made some soup for you… and your guests are inquiring after your health,” spoke the Caretaker in his familiar nervous tones.
“Guests?” she said with a quizzical expression on her face.
“Guests. I figure that the next 7 nights would be a time of stress and bother for so many… why not spend it all together in pleasant company…”September 21, 2016 at 9:03 pm #197278
The Shambler attacking the village and a romance between the Musketeer and the Heir? I’m impressed.September 22, 2016 at 5:30 pm #197611
The Shambler attacking the village and a romance between the Musketeer and the Heir? I’m impressed.
Thank you for the kind words. It always nice to hear that someone is enjoying what’s being written.
I hope to live up to your expectations in future posts – this story isn’t quite done yet (and neither is the one introducing Mathieu).
But i’ll give you three tidbits to chew on:
1.) Subtlety is beautiful. – I tend to write in a manner that foreshadows a few things. You’ll notice for instance that the Musketeer seemed like a pretty calm person….until the Heir was put directly in the line of fire. Sometimes the cat is let out of the bag, as is the case with their relationship, other times i might slip in a comment and let the reader put things together on their own.
2.) References Abound, and Tidbits taken to their Logical Conclusion – Much of what you’ll see comes from a lot of rumination over the material found in the game as well as designers notes, official game artwork, etc. I generally hope to try and tie compelling ideas together, and follow through with some small contribution from either myself or from the greater community at large.
One of the Themes running through all the stories i am/will write is the idea of the Hamlet less as a dilapidated backwater, and more like a dangerous frontier town. The Hamlet becomes less and less cut off from the wider world as the Old Road begins to be cleared and Sea Travel increases. Fortunes can be made in this place from adventuring, and even from industries that support those who would go out in the dungeons……assuming you and they survive of course. 😉
3.) The Heir as Inverted Reflection of the Ancestor
Blood ties are strong, and character traits may run from generation to generation. I know for those seeking a darker interpretation of the Heir, some would compare him/her to his Ancestor – a heartless, logical man sending people to their deaths beneath the dungeon.
That’s all plausible, but I went with a differing idea. All those traits like Obsession, Curiosity, etc. find a very different expression in the Heir. He’s a man ahead of his time in a certain sense, unlike the Ancestor who was trying to unlock the secrets of the past.September 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm #197634
I like it. You have a very good grasp of writing. Personally, my favourite fanfic I’ve seen here was called Gods and Monsters, but this is quite good. You ever thought about writing a novel and trying to get it published? You clearly know what you’re doing.September 23, 2016 at 9:20 am #197889
I like it. You have a very good grasp of writing. Personally, my favourite fanfic I’ve seen here was called Gods and Monsters, but this is quite good. You ever thought about writing a novel and trying to get it published? You clearly know what you’re doing.
Who says I haven’t? ;-).
I consider whatever i write here to simply be a kind of thank you to Tyler Sigman and Co. for creating such a richly evocative game.
If it brings enjoyment to the DD community (and possibly tickles the fancy of a staff member at Red Hook), then my work here is done. 😉
Although I do have to admit i’m a bit embarrassed by the “hard-and-fast” way i have written things. Formatting errors, spelling mistakes, and the fact that I’ve usually pushed things due to time constraints from “Notes of Story-Arc” to Finished Product without sitting back and writing a full draft and re-drafting a few more times….
Ah well, as i said, all in good fun. Sit back, relax, enjoy, and toss a comment or two whenever you feel like 🙂September 25, 2016 at 12:01 am #198584
Part 4 – A jester’s thoughts.
I am an entertainer first and foremost, and even in this dreary place there is always need for a light-hearted tune. More often than not, my calling is usually fulfilled while I am busking on the streets of this little Hamlet or in the Tavern as I try to raise the spirits of the adventurers, townsfolk, and ladies of the night.
This evening is a little different, as I find myself amongst friends and strangers as we seek refuge at Carlisle Court, the House of the Heir.
By the standards of the Capital, it would be deemed a rather modest affair, the type of a residence a well to do merchant might own. But in the eyes of the villagers, it may as well have been a palace.
In many ways, I can’t help but feel they might be right somewhat. Although small in comparison to the houses of one of the Great Lords or even the House on the Hill, the Heir’s abode felt far more….intricate.
There was a much stronger sense of symmetry in this place – a kind of order that introduced elements of air, empty space, and light. The place seemed highly decorative, from the entrance way’s pediment that hung above the door, to the rather delicate wooden furniture he’s slowly imported via ship, and even the walls covered with a type of paper with designs on it.
Dusky blues, pale greens, rich burgundy colors mixed in with statues and paintings recovered from the estate….well.. the good looking ones at least.
This may have seemed a bit ostentatious to the townsfolk….if it wasn’t for the fact that Carlisle Court also served as a kind of “town hall.” Many of the empty rooms on the Ground floor have slowly been turned into Offices as the need has arisen. And by the looks of things, more and more of the villagers think the need has arisen.
I remember a time before setting out on an expedition toward the Ruins, that I passed by one of the lower laying cottages that stood near the eastern branch of the river that surrounds and protects the Hamlet. This was at a time before the Wall got built, when all that could be seen beyond the river was more trees and the disturbing noises that emanated from the Cove.
And what came out of this aged hovel at the edge of madness? A smiling man dressed in his best tunic, kissing his wife and child before heading to work. He was after all, our Lord’s Master of the Hounds and had an important job to do. To be honest, it wasn’t even the Heir’s hounds, rather they were the canines “owned” by the Houndsmasters that fell under his service. But still, I couldn’t help but notice the spry in the man’s step.
He had dignity… he had purpose.
That hovel lays empty now, as the Heir decided to absorb the Master of the Hounds’ family into his household. I believe his Missus is a scullery maid, and the boy serves as a page. For a free man such as myself, that life may seem a bit dull.
But for a family that went to bed every night wondering if something would creep across the river and kill them in their sleep….or if they would die of starvation….or the plague…. this place must be heaven.
Since then it seems, more and more townsfolk are straining their brains in coming up with a new role or service for our Lord. Heck, even those established institutions such as the Abbey Church, the Guild, the Farmer’s Collective, and the Sanitarium seem eager to set up an office. After all, behind these walls and in this lovely elegant place, the world seems a lot less bleak.
I wonder if the Heir purposefully planned it this way….
I have to say that my employer tends to do things in a rather unorthodox manner.
Take this “dinner party.” Those are usually stuffy affairs where people sit a rather large table by rank in the social hierarchy.
But here I am in one his drawing rooms, strumming along on my mandolin, with a bountiful table of foodstuffs – meats, cheeses, and even some fresh fruit. People seem to have gathered into small clusters of groups while chatting and eating.
The Lord calls this “buffet-style” eating, something he picked up from his travels on the Continent. Except for the delivery of the food to the table, it seems we all help ourselves. How novel is that notion!
After I finish my performance I give a short bow to the crowd of servants and fellow adventurers, I make my way toward one of the windows that overlook the garden.
Being of a pragmatic sort, the Heir’s garden had less to do with growing flowers and more orientated toward agricultural techniques. Although this evening, his garden seemed a lot more crowded than usual.
In a tent smack-dab in the middle of the place was the Survivalist, that mysterious woman who lived in an outcropping near the Hamlet. Some of the other Jesters in the Tavern told me that the Heir had gone to her the day before the Long Night fell upon us and offered up a room to stay in. She refused of course, which is why she was given leave to stay in the garden.
Next to her tent stood the familiar gypsy caravan which many of us would take our hard-earned coin to in the hopes of purchasing a baubble or trinket that could aid us in our tasks. In this respect, the Heir was a very different landlord than most. The rich had a habit of disliking gypsies and running them off the land – my employer instead decides to invite one to Dinner.
Many lights in lanterns were lit in the garden and a giant tarp was laid across the whole top of the place, perhaps as a means to keep out that unnatural darkness.
In a strange sense, it seemed rather picturesque and romantic…….if it wasn’t for the fact that the wind would occasionally pick up, lifting the tarp a little and allowing the screeching horrid mind shattering sounds a little entrance into the enclosed space.
I give them an hour or two before both women decide to knock on our doors….September 25, 2016 at 8:41 am #198707
Interesting take on the Jester. I somewhat expected the Jester to be a bit like the Joker from DC Comics since both of them (at least to me) are giggling homicidal psychopaths who’ll kill pretty much anything and who see the world as a big, cruel joke to which the only response is madness.September 25, 2016 at 11:42 am #198750
Interesting take on the Jester. I somewhat expected the Jester to be a bit like the Joker from DC Comics since both of them (at least to me) are giggling homicidal psychopaths who’ll kill pretty much anything and who see the world as a big, cruel joke to which the only response is madness.
Well, you are pretty spot on in terms of the Jingles the Jester, the official version of the character – at least when he’s gone insane. But this particular Jester, who has been paired with Mathieu tends to run more like a hyper-socially aware therapist – at least that’s what his internal thoughts are like. Externally, few can tell the difference.
But one of the advantages of having a game where you have multiple characters cycle in-and-out is that you can start creating different personalities and backstories than the official exemplar.
So while for instance, Dismas might be a truly penitent rogue, the other types of Highwayman that crowd the Hamlet will have different motivations, moral codes, and outlooks on life.
The only two characters who are of a singular type in these stories (there are no other replacements so to speak) is Henrika the Musketeer, and a Dr. Bigby Talbot the Abomination.
Henrika is done as a partial nod to the fact that Red Hook limited her availability as a character class.
Bigby is a different case. If you notice all the character’s “barks,” the situation that brought about his unfortunate condition seems rather….specific. I felt it would push the the boundaries of believability if we are to think that more than he had the same type of accident/experiment running along…September 26, 2016 at 3:29 pm #199251
I like how you’re making this work. I wouldn’t have thought that having duplicates of a character would work, but you’ve done it. Keep it up.September 27, 2016 at 11:23 pm #199956
Part 4 – The Third Brother
Mikhail stretched his arms wide as he plopped down on one of the sturdier looking wooden chairs in the drawing room. Removing his helm so he could drink his beer with ease, the bounty hunter proceeded to sigh a little amongst the din and laughter. His little brother didn’t embarrass the family today. In fact he may have even took a shot or two meant for their employer.
His older brother, Viktor, had decided to stay with Tournabet at the infirmary this evening, which meant that poor old Mikhail was the only member of the Tardif Brothers to grace the court of the Heir this evening.
“Tardif… ha” he thought as he whistled to one of the adventurers closer to the food table and pointed to the mountain of rolls at the end. He clapped his hands and held them up – moments later a brioche roll sailed across the air into his eager palms.
Vitkor had chosen the last name “Tardif” as a way for the brothers to seem less foreign – thinking that they would get more prospective clients. In retrospect, Mikhail couldn’t tell if his older brother’s line of thinking worked or not.
In these troubled and chaotic times, with several kingdoms at war with each other and the vast empire in the Land of the Burning Sands, there always seemed work for a bounty hunter. Theft, Rape, Murder, Desertion from the army, heck… carrying off a Daughter – someone always was doing something that broke the law. And inevitably they would make a run for it……. that is where the Tardifs role came in.
There wasn’t a single rogue or brigand in the whole Continent that had not heard of the Tardifs. Hell, the more gullible and superstitious of the lot thought there was only one Tardif – his calling card being the Sign of the Scorpion. Like Death itself, Tardif would hunt you down to the ends of the Earth. And like Death, Tardif seemed like he was everywhere.
Mikhail couldn’t help but smile. He always did get a kick out of the whole Mythos built up around his brothers. Viktor found it useful to play up that aspect, making sure at times to do three separate hunts so as to keep that sense of dread about the Tardif high. But as much as Mikhail loved the family myth, he liked it even more when all three of them would go out on a hunt. There wasn’t a single criminal who had eluded them when all three were participating.
That’s how they ended up in this good forsaken place. For some odd reason, rogues and brigands were coming to this misbegotten estate in droves. Tournabet had taken a contract on bringing in a pedophile – some child rapist, dead or alive……or well.. in the case of his brothers the option had to be changed to “dead or in pieces.”
His little brother was always the moral center of the group. Or at least he tried to be. After all, a bounty is a bounty. But it was his fine words that got them all an audience with the owner of the estate, and unlike most pampered spoiled nobility the Heir was quite active in taking charge of the situation. He even used his own mercenaries to flush their quarry out into the open for the brothers.
And so began a very long, fruitful, and profitable association between the Tardif Brothers and the Heir. Aside from the running down of outlaws, the owner of the Estate had numerous other tasks that required their expertise. Some might consider battling squealing pig demons in the ancient catacombs beneath the estate, forcing back a crowd of walking skeletons, and fighting off a horde of fishmen to be somewhat out-of-the-ordinary chores…. but Mikhail and his brothers took it in stride.
Many would consider this place to be the Foyer or antechamber to Hell itself, but Mikhail had gotten rather used to the place. Three square meals a day, a cut of the profit from recovered treasure, interesting co-workers, and performing a job that one actually liked…. What more could he ask for?
“Hey, this is really good,” he said as he munched on his bread. “What the hell is this?”
“Its called Brioche sir,” spoke one of the servants as he swept up the crumbs that fell on the floor.
“Brioche huh… Это вкусно!” he shouted slapping the man on the back and almost causing him to fall face first into the floor.
Letting out a loud belch, he finished his beer and proceeded to put his helm back on.
His older brother Viktor generally had a lot of problems with nobility. “Underserved arrogance,” was the phrase he’d often repeat. The woman thought too highly of themselves and looked like ugly cows in bad face paint, and the men were….effeminate.
Mikhail noticed though that Viktor’s stance had softened over time with the Heir. He was to quote his brother, “Half-Effeminate, like some hermaphroditic freak of nature.” And that was probably the best compliment Viktor could muster.
Younger brother thought more like Mikhail. Their employer wasn’t bad at all. Sure he was a little on the weak side, but he had a knack for innovation. Why, just last week the Heir had told Older Brother that with the clearing of the Old Road, he’d be able to petition the court of the King to send down a Magistrate or a Sheriff or something so we wouldn’t have to send back severed heads to the capital to collect our bounties. Between that and the treasure to be found on the Estate, within another year or so they could retire….. not that he would of course.
Best of all – the Chief, as he liked to call the Heir, apparently had a fling with one of their own country woman. “Countess Katya Belinskaya,” he muttered as he wrapped his chains around his left shoulder and walked out of the drawing room.
The more he ruminated about it, the more Mikhail began to think that it was probably not one of the Chief’s better moves. Sure, it was great that unlike other foreigners, the Chief had the sense to understand that his people’s women were quite lovely. But Belinskaya was….not a nice woman. She was a notorious beauty, but with a heart as cold as their homeland. “Probably strung the poor sod along till she got bored…or he went broke. Ah well, live and learn.”
Now that’s what he was missing right now. A good woman. The whores in the Tavern were good for amusement, but something always seemed off to Mikhail about them. No, what he wanted was a pretty blonde buxom thing with good birthing hips that he could put on his lap while she served him beer and meat in a great big house.
“Maybe if my brothers and I clear out that House on the Hill, the Chief will sell it to us. After all, he doesn’t want to be living on top of a Gate to-“ Mikhail thought as he abruptly crashed into another person.
He was a stern looking man, balding with a pair of rounded glasses upon his nose. Blue overalls, a simple white shirt with a golden button – perhaps his only bit of decoration on him, and a plain black coat. He was old, but Mikhail could tell there was a sense of fortitude about him, like a man who having labored all his life becoming inured to hardship.
“Pardon me son. Could you direct me to the room where the Lord of the Estate is?” spoke the man in a very simple laconic manor.
“да” was all Mikhail said, “I am on my way to pay respects him as well.”
The older man nodded and then called out, “Come along now Nan, this nice gentleman here will take us to see the Lord.”
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