7th Sea: A Great Star Falls - Interludes

From Caligo Mundi
Jump to: navigation, search


7th Sea: A Great Star Falls | System | Character Creation | Skills | Fighting Schools | Magic (GlamourLaerdomPyeryem) | Advantages | Arcana

Nations (AvalonCastilleEisenMontaigneUssuraVesten/VendelVodacce) | Religions | Organisations and Societies | Character List | Interludes


This page collects various Interludes - brief stories that take place between the various sessions of the game. These Interludes give a lens on events across Théah which characters may not yet be aware of, but will become relevant at various points in their adventures.

Session 01 Interlude 01: The Grand High Inquisitor

“Wake up.”

The voice coming from above was gruff and impatient. Perfecto almost expected a harsh slap to follow the words – one last indignity as capstone to the worst day of his life. When his cheek went unstruck, he slowly opened his eyes, wincing at the bright light of torches held aloft just outside of the cart.

Well, he still had his cart at least. Poor recompense for all that had happened, but something to work from.

“Who are you, and where are the scoundrels who stole my family’s treasures from me?” His head throbbed as he spoke, and he reached up to find a swollen bruise where he’d been struck. As his eyes cleared, he realised he was looking at a member of the Inquisition; and a high-ranking one from the way he dressed.

“Long gone by now.” The Inquisitor looked as annoyed by that thought as he himself was. “Now get up. You are required to answer questions.”

For a moment, ice-cold terror gripped his heart as it would the heart of any Castillan, but he calmed himself. What else did he have to lose?

“Of course.”

---

The room he was eventually ushered into was decidedly understated. A less observant man would have dismissed it as ascetic, but Perfecto Mendoza knew the signs of wealth; and the enormous coffers of the Church had furnished this room. He was directed to a seat (exquisite craftsmanship, yet just shy of comfortable) before the Inquisitors departed. He stared out the window, thinking of those accursed peasants who prevented him from escaping safely from the fires.

The nerve of them! Not merely content with impeding his progress because of some pathetic urchins that didn’t have the sense to escape the fires, they had humiliated him! They had stolen all the wealth he held dear, and left him abandoned in the street like… like some common fool!

He would have his revenge, somehow. He just had to find where they had gone.

“I too despise them, Señor Mendoza.” The voice came from near the door, and was smooth and calm, assured of its own power. He turned his head and immediately rose to his feet.

The man raised a hand. “My apologies for interrupting your reverie. Please, remain seated.” Perfecto took a moment, unsure whether to obey the request or observe proper etiquette before settling on the former.

The man crossed the room, and poured a glass of wine for himself from a pitcher that rested on the sideboard. “The people who robbed you – did you notice that they all had the same birthmark?” His tone was more curious than inquisitorial and yet Perfecto felt himself shrinking into his seat a little further.

“No,” he answered honestly, “It was not something I thought to pay attention to.”

“Of course. It is, however, something some of your men noticed when they were engaged in combat. How noble the path that Theus has picked out for you, to stand in opposition to such beasts.”

“Your worship?” Not quite the question he’d intended to ask: what did the actions of those ruffian peasants have to do with the will of Theus?

The man smoothed the front of his red robes, and on his hand was the unmistakable gleam of the kind of signet ring even nobles would envy. He sat in the chair opposite Perfecto and took a sip of his wine before proceeding.

“I am Cardinal Esteban Verdugo, and I want to talk to you about the minions of the Fourth Prophet.”

---

“Wake up.”

He barely had time to open his eyes before a hand struck his cheek sharply. He didn’t cry out – he’d been trained better than that. Eyes open, chin up, stare down your captors. Never let them see you falter. It made the guard take a half-step back; a minor victory but still satisfying.

“Trying to show strength? There is no need. You are here that we may help you, young man.”

He pulled on the chains that held his arms above him, and raised an eyebrow at his captor. At least, where he assumed the captor was – currently, they were shrouded in the darkness of the open cell door. When they stepped forward into the meagre torchlight, he had to bite his cheek to keep calm.

“Captain Frederico Juan Garcia de Soldano, am I correct? Don’t answer, I know I am. You held your garrison from the Inquisition rather valiantly, and that explosion…” Cardinal Verdugo paused a moment, giving a practiced sympathetic look. “It seems the Cursed Ones are not at all fond of you, to create such destruction after you helped them.”

Frederico spat on the ground, almost hitting the Cardinal’s shoe. His reward was a hard punch across the jaw from the guard, but he grinned and spat again. This time it was mostly blood, and fell nowhere near Verdugo. The Cardinal had already picked up something small and shiny in a pair of tongs, and was holding it over the torch.

“Please Captain, some decency. I know you have helped the Cursed Ones, and I simply wish to find out why. And who better to ask, than a member of the Jet Escallop?” Verdugo said, and smiled smugly. “Oh yes, I know the name of your order. What I want to know –” as he spoke, he pulled the object from the fire. It was Frederico’s own escallop pin, glowing faintly with heat. “-- is where the Cursed Ones have been taken, and who else among the Vaticine Guard belong to your order. Tell me these things, and we shall ensure the cleansing of your soul, that you may return to the grace of Theus.”

Frederico almost snarled out his response: “I’d rather you just burn me now and be done with it.”

“How deeply Legion has its claws in you,” Verdugo said solemnly, “It will be a trial to bring you back to the light, but you will tell us, and you will be purified.” He reached the tongs – and the pin – forward, bringing the seashell shape ever closer to Frederico’s cheek.

He only closed his eyes when he started screaming.

Session 01 Interlude 02: The Iron Guard

Smoke and the spicy smell of burning timber filled the air as the embers flew in to the night. Hilda watched, awestruck, the scene before her.

When the orders had come to march, she had scarcely believed it. Surely there was some mistake. But the Eisenfürsten's orders were to be obeyed. You didn't end up commander of the Iron Guards unless you accepted that. The letter had to be authentic, for only an utter fool would forge the seal of Faulk Fischler.

So Hilda had summoned as many of the Iron Guard as she could at short notice, bolstering her force with a further five hundred soldiers from the army regulars, and marched on the city of Tannen.

The mood over the city was somber. Those that braved the night scurried quickly about their business. The rest hid in their homes, fearful of venturing out in to their own streets.

This felt wrong, and Hilda could not shake the awful feeling from her bones. The guard were supposed to defend the Eisenfürsten and his people. As she watched the building in front of her burn, she felt more like of an invader.

This was not at all helped by the woman astride the horse next to her. Dressed all in crimson that matched the fire that was raging in to the night. She was cackling with glee behind the veil that hid her face. She had not removed it, not even once on the whole journey to the city. Who was this "observer", and by all that Theus held holy, why would the Fischler send her?

As if sensing the thought the veil turned and Hilda could swear she could feel the gaze behind burning in to her. Its threat was unmistakable. Despite the urge to cower and shy away, Hilda gritted her teeth and forced herself the stare back at other lady. The iron of her people demanding she show no fear to this... whatever she was.

"Is it not glorious Frau Hilda?" the veiled figure hissed, "You have vanquished your foes with great skill, and now their house lies in ruins. Yet you do not celebrate."

Hilda glared at the observer, her hands gripping tighter to the reins of her horse. "No, Frau Observer. I find nothing here for which I would celebrate. Today we have destroyed something precious. It is done, so let us make an end of this quickly."

A peal of delighted laughter escaped the veil, as the lady in red gestured, summoning cloaked figures from the shadows. "Then consider your work complete Frau. Take your people and leave. What remains is mine, by the order of your dear Eisenfürsten." And so saying, she produced a letter from the sleeve of her dress, a letter bearing the seal of the Fischler, just as the first had.

Hilda snatched the letter, and opened it, briefly scanning the contents.

"Do you understand your orders Frau?" Hilda gritted her teeth in order to avoid saying something she'd regret.

"Yes," she grated.

"Then you are dismissed, take your troops and go. Your assistance... is no longer required." The veiled lady and her minions were already gathering around the burning building as she spoke.

Hilda let out a gusty sigh, signalling for her troops to fall in to formation, and began the long march home. As she reached the edge of the square though, she looked back at what she'd done. Her gaze fell on the sign that had fallen from it's hinges. One of the most incredible institutions in all of Eisen... and she'd just burned it to the ground.

What would Tannen do without The Kippe Academy?

Session 01 Interlude 03: Cierra

Today had, on reflection, been the longest and weirdest day of her life.

Not even an hour into the blessedly quiet afternoon – just a few tired drunks too far in their cups to go be excited by the possibility of a whole new Third Prophet to hear the words of. For her part, Cierra really didn’t mind being stuck behind the bar. The crowds over the past weeks had been exhausting. Why would she go expose herself to even more of that noise and nonsense?

That was before there was a ground-shaking explosion in the building next door. Within minutes, the bar was burning down around her and she was sitting on top of a beer keg, pondering what it’d be like to meet Theus. She hoped she was the kind of person to tell Him off for letting her die in such an unpleasant way.

Then, deliverance came. In the form of a strapping Ussuran man, no less!

Sitting on the prow of the Svalbard hours later, she tried to think back on all that had happened, but it was really just all a blur. She was fairly sure the Inquisition were out for her blood, and that her handsome captor was both:
- a shapeshifter, and
- far more smitten with the captain of this ship than he was with her.
She decided that she didn’t mind the latter all that much. Looking at Sigrid made her feel a little like a giddy young girl so she could hardly fault Kolya for his own flirtations. The former was a little – surprising? It was also kind of delightful.

In the hours after docking at the Jet Escallop base, she caught more whispers and discussion about these birthmarks that her rescuers had. Perhaps Theus had heard her rehearsing her insults, and had decided instead of drop her right into the heart of destiny itself. Which, on the balance of things, might be the safest place to be.

Her optimism lasted a full five minutes after she was gently guided to a room and the door was locked behind her. The woman who had brought her there was very apologetic, but insistent that she would have to wait until the Captains were finished with the dinner. Cierra contended herself with a small plate of cold meat and bread and a generous tankard of ale brought in by the door guard.

As the hours passed by, she thought her way through the situation as calmly as she could. They’d definitely realised that she wasn’t one of the Chosen Ones, she could be sure of that. There were three likely outcomes of this waiting game.

First, that she would be bribed handsomely to keep quiet and moved to safety.
Second, that she would be kept in here forever to ensure nobody found out.
Third (and most likely in her estimation), that she would be swiftly killed and disposed of so that some Castillan bar-wench didn’t interfere with whatever they were doing.

When the door opened, Sigrid stood there looking gravely concerned – and a little drunk. She brushed her braids back over her shoulders before stepping in and taking a seat across from Cierra.

“I’m sorry about having kept you here. Ruprecht’s idea. He was right to do it, this is a very sensitive topic,” Sigrid said, and it seemed like she was being honest. For the first time Cierra noticed the faint Vesten accent almost entirely buried under urbane Vendel speech.

“You have, by accident of fate, discovered the existence of our order. That we have ever existed is a most closely-guarded secret. The enemies of the Chosen are many, and we cannot risk that any would find out. It is bad enough that we have been further exposed to the Inquisition as a result of our efforts today.”

So it was option three, then. Cierra took a deep breath, and steeled her nerves. Like Mother always said, it was best to face doom head on like a true Castillan.

“So. Cierra. I would like to tell you what it is that the Jet Escallop stand for, and why the Chosen are so vital to this world. Will you hear me out?”

She looked up, amazed, into Sigrid’s eyes. Even the distrust and self-preservation she’d learned working in the bars of the Vaticine seemed to relent at the honesty in Sigrid’s gaze.

“Alright,” she said. “What’s all this blather about the end of the world really about then?”

Sigrid’s laugh was low and gentle. “It really is about the end of the world. But also...”

Session 01 Interlude 04: Nothing To See Here

It was the dark of the moon, and stars dusted the cloudless sky above. They looked down on the black mountain pass below where nothing happened. Nothing at all.

Below, the nothing that was happening was accompanied by the muffled sound of something striking the ground repeatedly, as if the nothing had hooves swaddled in burlap. There was the soft jingle from the nothing's harness, the crunch of stone and dirt beneath the nothing's wheel, and a rhythmic squeak of the nothing's ill-maintained rear axle.

"Dammit, Santiago, I told you to have that fixed," a voice hissed.

"I know, Sebastian. You've only told me nineteen hundred times since we set off."

"Well... I told you!"

As the two voices in the darkness bickered like an old married couple, cloth rustled, and another, more authoritative voice said, "both of you, quiet! This is supposed to be *subtle*."

"Si, señor," both voices said, chastened.

For some time there was nothing but the sound of muffled hooves, harness and squeaking axle.

"Santiago?"

"Si, señor?"

"You should have had that axle fixed."

"Si, señor."

"Just as well we're nearly--"

Fire blossomed in the road in front of them, and then behind. Santiago yanked back on the reins, pulling the horse to a stop as he shielded his eyes from the sudden bloom of light. When their eyes adjusted, the fire revealed around them a company of men, armed and armoured, and ready for a fight. Two men on horseback in full armour stood on either side of the road.

"Chevalier!" Sebastian hissed, standing on the wagon box and drawing his sword. Two men, one large and heavily built, the other whipcord lean, jumped down from the back of the wagon, also armed. Sebastian picked up a bow and quiver of arrows from between his legs.

The fight was short, and ugly. By the time it drew to a close, all four men lay on the ground, and it was clear they would never move again. Santiago's eyes stared glassily as the soldiers tore the covering from the wagon, and tossed its contents onto the road.

"Monsieur!" one of them said, "there is no one here!"

One of the mounted men swore sulphurously, resheathing his sword, and ordered the men to search again.

---

On a cliffside road high above two dark clad figures belly-crawled back from the edge. They looked at each other for a moment before one of them said, "La Margarita must be informed this route has been compromised."

The other nodded before she gestured her companion to proceed her back to the wagon that stood in a roadside copse waiting for them. "Send a runner."

"Si, señora. At once."

Donna tapped a rhythm on the wooden side of the cart, then lifted a flap. A woman with a sword across her lap simply stared at her, and the cloaked and swaddled figures around her looked weary and frightened.

"Do not worry - they took the bait of our decoy. We will be at our destination shortly.

"You will all be safe soon."

Session 02 Interlude 01: The Flight of the High Inquisitor

The carriage door opened and Cardinal Verdugo stepped out in to the downpour. Armando his man servant was at his side a moment later, shielding him from the sheeting rain.

Don Marco de Costa Domingeuz watched the approaching churchman as the storm raged behind him. Theus' was expressing His rage with furious lightning strikes in the foothills, lighting the Cardinal's approach with staccato flashes of light.

"Your eminence" the portly Don Marco gushed as the churchman stalked up the steps. "Senor, you honour my humble rancho with your presence."

"See that me men have lodgings for the night while the storm passes." The Cardinal snapped back, "and have someone see to our horses."

Don Marco waived his servants to their tasks as Verdugo entered the foyer, heading straight for the library. The churchman took a goblet of wine from a waiting servant.

"Your Eminence... when we heard the news, we feared the worst." Don Marco said as he scuttled in behind the angry churchman.

Verdugo slammed his fist down on the table, causing the Don's heart to skip a beat. "How in the name of all things holy did this happen? HOW?!" Verdugo thundered.

"The uh..." Don Marco stuttered, "our 'friends' say that there were a number of people working against us."

"A number... A ... NUMBER. Who dares? Who dares do this to the one true god's holy servants Don Marco? TELL ME. Who is our enemy?" The Cardinal swallowed the rest of the wine in one long draught.

Don Marco muttered a prayer of deliverance to Theus before saying, "The garrisons at Saint Salvador and the Shrine of Saint Domingo were both taken and put to route... by troops from the army, lead by General Zepeda and Montoya respectively."

Verdugo stared at him disbelievingly.

Don Marco swallowed and plunged ahead. "The Royal Guard themselves went to your manor house."

Verdugo started as if struck. "... to my house? So I am being implicated in the coup attempt?"

"Ci Eminence. Specifically the attempt on the kings life at the Ussuran Embassy. The one that was foiled by El Vago."

There was a sound of crumpling metal as Marco realised the churchman had just crushed the goblet in his fist. He stared full in to the face of the fanatic stare of the churchman.

Today Marco, today you know how the mouse feels when it sees the hawk decending he thought to himself.

Verdugo stalked to the fire place, taking the iron poker out, it's tip glowing an angry red. Marco became very still, praying in his head as hard of he could for forgiveness.

Verdugo held up the poker, and Marco could feel the heat from it. "All lies... ALL LIES. And El Vago was just a criminal. He has crossed the line though. Now he is a heretic and he will ruin this kingdom. You do understand this... don't you Senor?"

"Ci Eminence, Ci!" Don Marco spoke, his eyes never leaving the glowing iron.

"What else do you have to tell me?" The Cardinal growled.

"Some of those who foiled the plot against the king. They matched the description of the heretics who participated in the burning of the Vaticine City."

There was a quenching noise as Verdugo plunged the poker in to the wine jug.

Don Marco let out a gusty sigh.

The churchman sat at the writing desk as another servant served him a fresh goblet. "Well then Don Marco, it appears we have a lot of work to do. I want riders ready to deliver my orders. Tonight."

Session 03 Interlude 01: Royal Honours

At the home of the Vazquez family, in southern Castille…

Gustavo Ochoa de Vazquez looked up from the latest reports. “Yes, Mariana?”

The maid bobbed her head. “There’s – well, sir. There’s a royal messenger here, only...” Her brow furrowed a moment. “She appears to be here with a message about your son, sir.”

Gustavo looked back down at the reports. One hand came up to pinch the bridge of his nose as he sighed. Mariana looked on in concern; surely the Vazquez family had suffered enough. The timing was just too cruel! The Inquisition had backed away from them at last, and only now came the news they had all been dreading.

With a slow and steady hand, Gustavo rose and grabbed for his cane. Mariana offered him her arm, but he waved her away. “I’d rather practice holding myself up for this, my dear,” he said sadly.

The royal messenger was waiting at the foot of the grand staircase at the entrance of his villa, her hat held to her heart. She bowed low as Gustavo approached and gave the appropriate greetings – Gustavo barely heard them as he steeled his heart. My poor Esteban, what has become of you?

“Tell me,” he said as he reached the bottom step. “How did my son die?”

The messenger just stared a him for a long silent moment, before collecting herself and replying. “Your son is not dead, my lord. I am here on behalf of His Majesty to convey the crown’s personal thanks and commendations for his efforts in safeguarding the king from an assassination attempt. He did not remain in the city long enough for His Majesty to personally convey his gratitude, and as such I have been sent to present the honours to his family.”

This time, it was Gustavo and Mariana’s turn to stare in confusion. Mariana’s jaw had dropped a little. “My son?” he asked huskily, “My son has done this? But – where is he now? Do you know where he has gone?”

The messenger could only shake her head. “We have some idea of who he was travelling with, but he departed to chase down the mastermind of the attack.”

“Ah. Well, on behalf of the family Vazquez, I thank His Majesty for his kindness and generosity, and convey my delight that my son has proven himself such a loyal son of Castille.” With a few more polite words, the exchange was made, and the gifts delivered.

It was only near dusk, when Gustavo at last allowed himself to look upon the medal of honour that had been granted, that his roar of confusion echoed through the halls. When Mariana ran into the room, he waved the medallion in her face. “Who in Legion’s name is Alejandro Alemeida de Vazquez, and where is my son!?”

Session 03 Interlude 02: The Fox in the Thaw

In the city of Pavtlow, in Ussura…

“If I may speak bluntly, your Worship?” Alyona’s hands were flat on the table, not yet moving to the tea that had been offered.

The old man sitting across the table nodded around a mouthful of tea, and gestured for her to go ahead.

“If you do not tell me that other groups have been sent out to investigate this possible Second Prophet, then my men and I cannot hope to be effective. You do not ask me to do the work I do because I can scent out everything happening in an area. I am a tracker, your Worship.” Expecting a rebuke, she swiftly spooned a portion of preserves into her mouth and began sipping tea.

The old man was smiling. “I hope you don’t try and apologise for your impertinence when you’re done, child. It’s refreshing.” He paused to look down at the report. “More to the point – we did not assign any of these people to the same task. Well, not quite: Radomir had been asked to keep an eye on the speech itself and report back. He was supposed to return some time ago, and we had assumed him lost.”

Alyona cocked her head a little, and then immediately righted it with a brief look of embarrassment. She’d spent too much time as a fox in the Vaticine and some habits had stuck. “In which case, on whose orders are a priest of the Church, Lady Matveev, and her two bears operating? The Gaius?”

“No, we already know who has been sent by the Gaius. You are sure it was them?” When she nodded, he hummed and sipped at his tea. “In which case, I have some hunches. But after the fire in Somojez, I think it best we move cautiously. I will ask you and your wolves to scent them out, if you are willing to go.”

Alyona nodded. “Thank you, your Worship, It will be nice to know more of what is going on.”

Session 03 Interlude 03: Love Among the Bilge-boards

On the deck of a pirate ship in La Bucca…

“Thomas! Thomas! Throw a rope down!”

Thomas grinned, and found the nearest rope to throw over the side. Within a minute, Martijn pulled himself up onto the gunwale, gripping a book tightly in one hand. “You’ll never guess!”

“Well, if I’m not gonna guess, then best to just tell me.”

“Spoilsport.” Martijn made his way over to a barrel and sat on top of it. “Anyway, remember the kraken?”

All Thomas could do in response was raise an eyebrow. “Do I remember fighting an enormous sea-beast that nearly killed us all? Big explosions, lots of ink and blood everywhere that took hours to clean up? Doesn’t ring a bell. Mind you I was pretty drunk yesterday.”

“Don’t I know it,” Martijn shot back with a smirk. Thomas had come close enough now, so he leaned in and gave him a quick kiss. “Anyway, I was talking to Franz, who heard from Sally, who said that the twins were talking to Werner and they overheard – anyway the point is, Thomas, that a few people are bringing supplies and a visitor down to the Shellies’ mansion tomorrow and I might go along. Which means...”

“Which means you’re going to ask them, aren’t you?” The corners of Thomas’ mouth were twitching in barely-suppressed delight. “The Nicky Fletcher and their crew shows up the first time we make it to La Bucca, and somehow you land yourself a chance to ask them to sign your copy of the stories.”

“I know! Isn’t it great?”

“I keep asking this, but are you sure you’re not related to Berek somehow? Maybe your ma found herself down by the docks one night and there was some dashing Avalonian –“

Martijn grimaced. “Please don’t. I love my mother but I don’t want to have the same love life as her. Anyway. I can’t sleep, and I figured you could use the company on watch.”

“Sounds good,” Thomas agreed as he joined Martijn on the barrels. “As long as you don’t fall asleep on the way to go get that book signed tomorrow. Do we have a deal?”

“Of course! Always.”

Session 04 Interlude 01: The Wounding


"Sacre bleu, Merrrrrde.... Mon dieu!!!"

The cries echoed through on the wind as Sept ran though the richly decorated halls, trailing the two guards who had summoned her. No sooner had she returned from retrieving the terrifying Eisen lady, than she was being summoned with all haste.

The cries had not dimmed as she rounded the corner to a scene of chaos. Her master, face beet red with rage and exertion, his fine white tunic stained with blood as he stalked the room, grasping his severed finger, while turning the air blue with his furious liturgy.

The foppish nobleman turned and struck a kneeling guardsman with his good hand. The young man reeled, spilling the red hot fire iron on to the floor that he had been using to try and cauterize the wound.

Sept, swept up a full goblet of wine from the table, "My lord, drink this. It will help with the pain."

She watched as Le Chiffre's gaze fell on her, and for a moment, she thought he might strike her as well. But instead, he snarled another curse, grasped the cup and drained it in a single swallow.

"Incompetence Sept. The gate was supposed to open on top of the princelings. Instead, it opened on to those freaks, and now... it has cost me a finger." He held up his hand in an accusatory fashion. "The agent failed to place the beacon properly!"

Sept let Le Chiffres anger wash over her, "My lord. Say the word, and I will find the agent. I will see to it that he comes to rue his failure..."

Le Chiffre waived her off, "He has been dealt with." And pointed to the body in the corner of the room. A man wearing the outfit of a Iron Guard lay there, disfigured beyond recognition. "I want you to visit all our remaining agents in the guard. I want you to remind them of what failure means."

Sept was in the middle of accepting the assignment when she was interrupted by a fanfare of trumpets out in the hall. She turned to see Him enter the room, and knelt immediately, bowing her head to the ground. A moment later, she felt Le Chiffre do the same next to her.

"Rise my friend. I had heard of your wounding, but could scarcely believe it. Did you get careless?"

Sept could almost feel Le Chiffre bristling at the implied barb, "I trusted the wrong people majesty. It has been dealt with."

"Well then." The other voice drawled, "If the guilty have already been punished..."

"The traitor only majesty. It seemed fitting to deal with him first. No... the guilty. Those cursed meddlers. I have yet to reckon with them. The one with the whip in particular... I will have his whole hand for this."

"Well when you find them, please do let me know. I would be only too happy to see that those who would harm my loyal subject, get the opportunity to feel the full wrath of the sun throne."

"Thank you majesty. I remain humbly yours." Le Chiffre said in a much more composed tone of voice.

Sept risked a glance at the pinnacle of Montaigne. The smile of L'Emperor did not reach all the way to his eyes. Legion help the people who had just made an enemy of him.

Session 04 Interlude 02: Daring to hope


Inside the Black Griffin Tavern, the mood was sombre as usual. Nothing broke up the silence but the crackle and pop of the blackwood fire burning an angry red in the pit in the middle of the room. Hans loved coming here to read though, because it was the quietest Tavern in Tannen. He'd just finished reading his book again. For the third time. To think, THE Nicky Fletcher had come through his city, and just happened to bump in to him while on patrol. He'd always suspected that the stories were more than just stories. He'd seen it all, the writer, Captain Valentine and her first mate, the noblewoman. And then! Assassins... portals in the sky... And the woman with the cold dead eyes. The Eisenfürsten were all right there too, and it seemed sure that they would all be killed. After the burning of the Kippe Academy, Hans didn't even want to think about what would have happened to Eisen had that been allowed.

But like heroes of legend, Nicky and their friends had fought them all. Asssassins and sorcerers? Pah! All in a days work.

"What are you smiling about young Hans?" Gunther grumbled from the chair on the other side of the fire pit.

"Oh, I was just thinking about the fight outside the ruins of the Kippe." Hans replied.

"... And that made you smile? What in the name of the forest is there to smile about? The Eisenfürsten nearly murdered. Dark portals in the sky. Some new monster that can turn people in to dust with a glance. Are you sure you didn't bump your head?" Gunther's incredulity was obvious.

"You're right old man. There are many things to be scared of these days. Perhaps now more so than ever before." Hans stood, taking in the room at a glance. "But we of the Iron kingdom have always had plenty to fear. Today is no different from yesterday there. Is this new monster any worse than the Schattenma..."

Gunther near leapt across the firepit in an effort to try and silence the younger man. "For Theus sake! Don't say it's name!!!" Gunther then pulled out some salt from a pouch on his hip, throwing a generous helping over his shoulder, then stamped his foot three times.

Hans took a long look at the hip pouch on Gunthers belt, then looked at Gunther with disbelief. To his credit, the old man managed to look a little embarrassed, "Look, you never know when you might need some salt. For your meal... or other things." He was almost mumbling at the end.

"Don't you understand Gunther? We're lived in fear too long. This isn't being alive, this is just dying slowly. It's what we've been doing ever since the war. Well not me." Hans gathered up his book. "We're not alone. Heroes do still exist, and were there in our darkest hour. I'm not going to spend my life sitting here waiting for the worst to happen. I'm going to find them, and I'm going to help them, and by Theus I will earn a place in one of these stories!" Hans held up the book and began to head for the exit.

"Don't be a fool Hans. You're young. You have everything to live for. No good will come of this. Don't throw you're life awa..." Was all Hans heard as the door to the tavern closed behind him. The cool night air was like a slap in the face after the warmth of the Tavern.

A moment later, the door opened again, and Hans spun on his heel ready to let fly at Gunther with an angry retort.

Only it wasn't Gunther who had stepped through the door. Instead a hooded young woman stood there. "Did you mean that?" She asked in a calm clear voice.

Hans took a deep breath, the nodded. "Every word. fraulein?"

She pulled back her hood, and parted her cloak, showing the mail shirt, and tabbard of some kind of black sea shell beneath. "Greta. You can call me Greta." She held out a card in her hand, and in the other, he held the same book as he did.

"What is this?" Hans asked, taking the card.

"A test. One which I hope you pass. If you wish to join Nicky and their friends, use this card. We will be waiting." She stood up on tip toes and kissed him on the cheek. "We need more people like you Hans. The world needs more people like you."

With that, she replaced her hood, and began to stride off in to the night.

"Wait! I don't understand what this means." Hans called after her.

Greta turned and held up the book in her hand. "Set your mind to it my friend. I'm sure you'll work it out."

Hans looked at the book in his hand, and when he looked up again, she was gone. The card though, it held a series of numbers. Pages, paragraphs, words. It was a code.

Hans set off to find writing materials, absently rubbing at where she had kissed his cheek. He would find them, no matter how long it took.