Session the next
Housekeeping note: Rich and Garrow mentioned that I omitted a couple of tests in my session report from last session. Sorry about that. I clearly waited too long to post that one.
Garrow gave the recap of the last session and removed a point of exertion. Carol was absent, sick with a bad cough. We noted that Fabrice would care for Jean during the session, so while we missed her, her absence made a certain kind of sense.
After the ambush, the group collected Vauban and their thoughts. Anthony used the missed session rules to recover lost hit points. He told us that he fell into a torpor of exhaustion and was nursed back to health by some of the drovers.
I told them they fed him escudella, a Catalan soup, and a new dish, pa amb tomàquet, tomato bread. Anthony was delighted to check off his regional delicacy requirement for Nationality advancement.*
They then further interrogated their captive bandit about Junipero, his cohort and his fortifications.Rather than having him spill or even lie, I rolled the die of fate to see if the brigand could accurately divulge troop numbers and other defensive details. He could not. He babbled about how strong a leader Junipero was, but the young man cooperated and even offered to lead them to the fortress.
There was a short debate about their next move. They all agreed they needed to dislodge Junipero and his gang from the prince’s path. but they did not feel they could tackle him in his fortress in their present condition—Jean laid out, one miquelet dead and Picard short on hit points (and armor).
They needed allies. Pau asked Vauban, “Are you feeling diplomatic?” He reminded the group that the Comarca de Llivia sat nearby—not far beyond the pass. They might find common cause with their Spanish enemy against this pernicious bandit. The young brigand chimed in that he knew the way and could even lead them there, desperate to make himself useful, as Picard sat slowly coiling rope in his hands. The young bandalero informed them that there was a famous pharmacy in Llivia. “You could find help for your friend there!” he squeaked, nervously rubbing his hand along the collar of his shirt.
Vauban decided they would set out for the comarca. Isaac set to work building Jean a travois for the journey (Improvise test). Rather than hanging the bandit, Vauban decided to turn him over to the locals. I rolled a die of fate for him. On a 1 they would hang him themselves. He got lucky. Instead, an old àvia emerged from the crowd and took the boy by the ear, “I know your mother! She’s my sister’s niece! How dare you stain our family’s honor like this.” She clouted him on the head with a bunch of scallions and dragged him away, with little protest from him.
The group then marched out of the pass but, rather than heading north down the mountain, they turned east along the ridge road to Llivia.
They arrived at the gate of the small town after midnight and knocked on the gate to summon the nightwatchman. Rather than roll a Parley test to gain entry, I told them it was their Spanish that would gain them entry at night. If they spoke perfect Spanish, then there was no issue. If they could not, the watchman would grow suspicious.
Pau and Isaac stepped up to speak (I had Pau help Garrow with the roll, high skill to low skill.) He passed (but only with Pau’s contribution).
The gatekeeper ask them: Church, doctor or house? It was a subtle test. Asking for the church likely meant they were criminals. Asking for the doctor meant they had an emergency with Jean. Asking for the house would imply they were weary travelers.
Garrow went to consult with his friends, but I said that if he spoke French now, it would catch the nightwatchman’s attentions. Rich noted that they did not want to be taken as spies.
Isaac paused a moment and then said, “Casa.” to the old man (who reeked of wine and piss).
Fetching a lantern and mounting it to a pole, the gatekeeper took them into the village and knocked on the door of a stately old house. Despite it being well after midnight, they could hear the sounds of laughter and clatter of a group at a table within. A proprietress in her 30s appeared, greeted them warmly and paid the old man with a few coins. He shambled off but threw a backward glance at the group of travelers.
The hostess—Isabela—seemed pleased to have them. Inviting them in, she kicked some sleeping boys and instructed them to stable their horses. Inside, in the big front room of the house, a small group sat at a table and played at cards. They watched with feigned disinterest as Isabela situated these somnambulant strangers.
The hostess lead them to a fine old room with a bed, rug, table, wash basin, night jug and candles. A window looked down onto a canal, silently sliding past the foundation below. She told them breakfast would be an hour after sun up and bid them goodnight.
Isaac was tempted to go and play at cards with the party downstairs, but decided he had enough trouble for one day. Fabrice situated Jean in the bed and the rest rolled out their blankets on the wooden floor and fell fast asleep.
The next morning, Rich decided Picard needed more rest. Anthony and Garrow felt they needed to go out and explore. However, just after breakfast (a massive omelette prepared by Isabela’s husband), Llivia’s doctor came calling to see after Jean. Doctor Ventura was dressed in the grim courtly fashion of the Spanish, black with a starched white ruff color (though his suit had seen better days). He examined Jean in a professional manner and made small talk with the band. Finding some of their answers a bit odd, he arched an eyebrow and took note, but didn’t seem alarmed.
Before he departed, the doctor, deftly wrote out a bill and then invited them to visit him at his pharmacy should they require anything further. He also instructed them to take Jean regularly to the hot baths here in the village until his health was restored.
Going out to explore, Isaac and Vauban soon found themselves at an ancient hot springs bath. They decided to give it a go, as Ventura noted there would be restorative effects (heal 1 HP and grants +1 to save vs any ongoing P&P).
While at the baths, a middle-aged caballero with a fine salt-and-pepper mustache entered and hung his bandolier on the wall pegs. Sitting at the edge of the warm pool, he chuntered and sighed about his stiff limbs. Vauban and Isaac recognized him as one of the card players from the night previous.
It was up to Isaac to strike up a conversation with him as Vauban spoke no Spanish.
“Late night, eh?” said Issac (or something similar).
“Sometimes I wish my mother never taught me to drink,” he responded with a laugh.
The man introduced himself as Captain Strozzi, in service of the Condé de Llivia (with Rich correcting my Spanish, iirc).
After much friendly conversation—and passing around some wine in the hot bath—they hit up Strozzi for an introduction to the count. I called for a Parley check in this case. Isaac was on his own here, as they were speaking Spanish, and I believe he had to spend a year to pass.
Strozzi said he would put in a word with the young count.
The next day, a servant appeared at the hostel and informed the proprietress that Don Vauban and the recently arrived travelers were invited to dine with the count that evening.
While waiting, they paid Ventura a visit at his pharmacy and settled their bill. This was an ancient, magical place, full of minerals, dried herbs and medicines. They took the opportunity to fill another prescription for Jean’s medication and made some small talk with the doctor.
I was pleased that the players were sensitive enough about their upcoming meeting that they refrained from causing trouble in town.
At sunset, they were conducted by two small page-jesters (little girls disguised as little boys) through the streets and up the hill to the old chateau.
The count, his infirm mother and his younger brother greeted them all cordially at the small castle’s humble cour d’honneur. Dinner was an awkward affair. Vauban sat at one end of the table with their hosts, while Picard and Isaac sat largely alone at the far end of the table. No business was discussed at dinner.
The count was a young man of about Vauban’s age. He displayed little ostentatious wealth and wore the austere Spanish courtly black. A lattice of faint dueling scars traced a story across his cheeks. During dinner he displayed intelligence, curiosity and good manners. When Vauban spoke in French he lead the table in switching effortlessly from Spanish to French and made no remark or indicated any inconvenience.
His younger brother, two years his junior, seemed to have a high-born, haughty manner, but remained mostly silent during dinner.
Mother made stiff, cordial small talk throughout, inquiring especially after their sick, injured friend Jean. He was a gentleman after all. Such injustice this world visited on young gentlemen!
Strozzi did not join them at dinner. but instead observed thoughtfully in the shadow of the servant’s entrance, absent-mindedly plucking olives from the servants’ trays at they passed.
After dinner, the conversation moved to a drawing room. The prince served his best wine by a warm fire and, after a time, they got down to business. They wanted to beg the count’s aid in seeing off Junipero. The count demurred: Junipero’s fortress was in France. To attack him would be an act of war.
And thus we kicked off an excellent Duel of Wits. Initiative order was: the count, Vauban, Strozzi, Isaac and Picard. There was an interesting dynamic as Strozzi held his tongue in the first round, not wanting his patron to find that he sided with the petitioners. Vauban and the count traded flattery and apologies. IIRC, Isaac and Picard were also smart enough not to speak directly to the count.
During the second round, Rich had a flash of inspiration. He realized who Strozzi was—an old Italian Spaniard…—he must have served at Rocroi. Thus Rich had Picard begin flattering Strozzi. The strategy paid off brilliantly. Flattery was paid all around with graceful humility and in the end, the count and the captain were convinced of the righteousness of Vauban’s cause (largely due to a stellar Implore crit from Anthony).
Yearning to go on this adventure but dictated by rank and politics to remain aloof, the young count instead permitted Strozzi to undertake the expedition with these new, worthy friends.
Business settled, the new friends talked on into the night about past battles and future glories.
We ended there!
It’s worth noting that 1) I had Llivia and the young count planned as an encounter since the beginning. However, as they entered Llivia, I realized I had overlooked an obvious detail. The count would have some trusted agent who did his bidding in town. He would be proud enough that he would not conduct his own affairs directly. Thus I invented Strozzi on the spot. I generated will for him (4d3) for the DoW, but I didn’t burn him up until after the session (as an L7 soldier/officer).
*I bungled this dish in play, Conflating the soup and bread, I served him tomato soup. I’m correcting the historical record here!