The Adventure of the Missing Writ
Rejoining my companions
Having availed myself of the hositality of Steppenwolf’s family to further study this enigmatic artifact they had discovered, I told my companions I would meet them at his Uncle’s in the north in time for the planned birthday celebration. Taking flight a couple days later, I landed in yet another dingy Eisen city, amid what seemed to be a folk celebration of some sort. My companions gave me what appeared to be the metallic petal of al golden flower, and before long I had it incorporated into the fascinating device that Duselldorf had been assembling. A map of the world was beginning to take shape, and once the leaf was in place, it started some limited movements of tiny gears and mechanisms, the workings of which were a joy to behold. I believe that this device, when fully assembled will function as a sort of navigation device, pointing, I can only assume from what I have gathered from Duseldorf’s notes, to the Philosopher’s Stone itself. Bouyed by my success, I danced with the locals, impressing them with my quick learning of their cultural choreography.
The evening was pleasant, and remarkable mostly for the fact that it was one of the few times that I had witnessed Eisen merry-making which wasn’t centered upon large, brutish men taking out mindless aggression on each other. Of course, it couldn’t be completely free of such “entertainment.” Late in the evening, I noticed a couple groups of men appearing to square off against each other in front of a partially ruined church. Steppenwolf also took notice, went over, grabbed one man from each group and began lecturing them. In short order, a couple of thugs from the local constabulary joined Steppenwolf, and soon things were settled in the time-honored Eisen tradition of beating the peasants.
Later that night, we were introduced to the Lord of the land, Steppenwolf’s Uncle, whose birthday the town was celebrating. After some speeches and multiple presentations of honors, Steppenwolf was summoned and gifted with a fine Dracheneisen blade, apparently a family heirloom and much respected. After all, when you decide your country shall be ruled by the stick, having the bigger stick than others means you get to rule more of them.
During these proceedings, I was told that Steppenwolf was to go to the ancient capitol of Eissen, to see about a potential marriage to the niece of the current lord. In my short acquaintence with this man, I think he has been the subject of more domestic machinations than any five men I know, not to mention his own unrequited feelings for Princess Anne. Given the short nature of the trip, it was decided that we would travel by horse-back, and so I left my balloon in the care of the Elder Wolf, and departed with my companions.
A court of Intrigue
We arrived in the city after an uneventful journey. The ancient seat of the Eissen Kings was no-doubt magnificent in its day, but the recent wars had left it a grim place. Toppled statues and decrepit ruins were interwoven with busy markets and bustling stores. Vivian, who until we entered through the gates, apparently didn’t realize our destination, was overtaken by the joy of the profligate purchases that lay ahead of her.
We entered the court of the Lord during a tense confrontation between him and a group of Eissen nobles. I was quickly whisked to the sidelines of the court, a place where I felt most at ease. Surveying the room, my eyes were caught by a Castilian noble, who pleaded with his eyes for me to come closer. He introduced himself as Rodriguez Aldono, the ambassador to the court of Eissen. He said that he was in grave danger and didn’t have anyone to turn to at court, and so he looked to me. I could not deny a countryman in need and asked what I could do to assist him. We moved to a quiet corner of the court and discussed his issues.
Apparently, he was on a mission to procure a company of Eissen soldiers for use in defending the Aldono estates from the rapacious Montaigne invaders. Unfortunately, a matter of a couple nights ago, a writ for 10,000 Guilders had been stolen from his quarters, and without it his mission would be a failure. In addition, he was growing concerned for his well-being due to the constant surveillance by Montaigne thugs. I told him that I could be of service in a number of ways. First, I asked to see a similar writ as the one that was stolen. I took some time and some materials he was able to supply, and produced a wonderful replica of the missing writ. Aldono was rightfully hesitant to use it for fear of being discovered as a fake, despite its near perfect rendering. I told him to hold on to it, and use it only in gravest need, and I would see if I could find another way. We went to his chambers, where I discovered that the chest that had held the writ had indeed by picked. Learning that the Montainge delegation was quartered in the same building on the next floor down, I took my leave and told him to wait for my return.
Slipping through the clumsy Eissen guards was child’s play, as was entering the room of the Montaigne noble, one Pierre DuTone. I observed him for a while, and discovered that he mastered the art of Porte, drank high quality wine from a private stash, and was engrossed in reading materials of questionable worth. I was nearly exposed when another Montaigne entered, a man Peirre called Marcus, but I was able to quickly hide behind one of the many curtains that festooned the opulent room. They discussed who should be watching “the Castillean” and eventually Marcus left though a massive Porte portal of his own making. Deciding I was not going to find out anything by watching, I took a more assertive position.
I announced my presence to Pierre by placing the barrel of my pistol to the back of his head, and told him to lie face down on the floor. He complied, and I bound his hands with belts in the room, and wrapped his head in a cloak to prevent him from catching sight of me. He continued in vain to goad me into conversation until such time as I gagged him with a rope. Then I proceeded to pilfer the room, taking the keys from Pierre to access the many chests. Despite the fortune in gems and jewelry, and the doubtless treasure trove of secrets that were scribed on the documents both personal and private that I found, I took nothing. In fact, I laid out all the items I came across most deliberately to show that should I have wished to, I could have robbed him blind. However, I am no longer a common thief, and not finding the writ for which I searched, I left Pierre still bound and covered on the floor.
Not quite ready to admit defeat, I thought I would ask Alexis to aid in my search, by having his vulpine friends use their noses to track where the writ may have gone. When I told him we were on the trail of some money stolen from the Castelian ambassador, he declined to help as I could not promise the funds would not be used in a manner that could threaten his countrymen. I did not press him, as I respect his honor – he was doing what he had to do as a son of Montaigne, just as I was a son of Castile.
I returned to Aldono with news of my failed search, which pushed the delicate gentleman over the edge. He insisted that now his life was forfeit unless he could be placed in the protection of my companions. I agreed to take him to Steppenwolf, and asked Alexis to find him and return when he was able to Steppenwolf’s quarters. After taking Aldono on a twisting trip through the city streets to lose the Montaigne guards who followed him, I took him to Steppenwolf’s quarters, and introduced him to Herr Stahl. I then persuaded him that Stahl would be a better physical defense than I should trouble come, and that I could better serve him as eyes on the street. He agreed and I headed out into the night.
I was looking for the Montaigne men we had dodged, hoping they would return to their masters when they realized they could not find us. I found a bigger fish, however, in Marcus himself. In addition, I noticed a sinister fellow shadowing Marcus from the rooftops, a man in a black hood with three red stripes, as if cuts from a savage beast. I followed both until Marcus met another man in a square and surreptitiously passed him a letter. When then separated, I quickly pursued the messenger, innocuously bumped into him, and lifted the letter from his keeping. Then I returned. I managed to find Marcus just as the man in the black hood slipped a dagger betwixt his ribs, while looking directly at me. As soon as the deed was done, the man vanished from sight and I was left with the decision to pursue the unseen assassin, or help the wounded Marcus.
There was no decision to be made; I rushed to the fallen Montaigne. I pressed my hands on the gurgling wound, and fended off the advances of an Eissen quack who would no doubt snuffed the flickering flame of life with his sausage like fingers and dull-witted gaze. There must have been some connection between Pierre and Marcus, for I had been tending his wounds for no more than a minute, when Pierre suddenly appeared, and accused me of murdering his friend. I attempted to set the record straight by explaining that I had seen Marcus killed by a man in a black and red hood, but Pierre dismissed my story with a scoff and advanced blade drawn.
I backed up from the cooling body of Marcus and drew Final Journey, while still trying to explain the truth to Pierre. In doing so, I gave Pierre the initiative, and he struck in rage and I deftly stepped aside, returning his strike. I inflicted a nasty wound to Pierre, and again stated that the real killer was escaping while he persisted in attacking me. Hoping that the wound would slow Pierre, and not too interested in continuing to press my luck against this skilled swordsman, I turned and ran. Pierre howled in rage, and gave chase. I ran into a group of Montaigne swordsman, and despite the blood on my hands, convinced them that their lord needed them further up the street, and returned to my flight.
Then ahead of me, I saw the blackhooded man rise from the roofline, and take aim with a crossbow. Jostled about by the crowd as I ran, the bolt flew wide, fortunately for me. This was not so fortunate for Alexis, who had apparently seen me run by and was pursuing me, as it struck him in the shoulder. Alexis is made of pretty stern stuff, and even though the bolt was poisoned, he pushed on, and began to climb the scaffolding that led to where the hooded man stood. Close behind him I saw Steppenwolf, who looked oddly relieved at the prospect of joining a life-and-death struggle with the assassin. While they clambered up the scaffold, I took careful aim with my pistol, and put a lead ball into the hooded assailant. When I saw that failed to finish him, I resigned myself to also climbing the scaffold.
While I was struggling to make my ascent, the entire structure was rocked by an explosion. I heard Alexis exclaim as he tumbled off the edge, only to be saved by an amazing catch by the mighty Steppenwolf. By then I had reached the top and confronted the assassin. He pushed me off the edge, and I surely would have died, but for the quick reaction of Alexis, who while still held by Steppenwolf, caught me and swung be back around to the top of the scaffold, allowing me to make a surprising but futile attack on the black hooded man.
At this time, none other than Pierre also appeared on the scaffold, still with blood in his eyes for me. I tried again to reasons with him and tell him that his real foe was the Man in the Hood, but he could not listen to reason. Obviously fearing my skill with Final Journey, Pierre executed a skillful attack and disarmed me. With no weapon in hand, and unwilling to let the assassin escape, I charged at him wildly hoping to knock him over the scaffolding.
Now, dear reader, as you know, this type of physical altercation is not something that I excel in, preferring to use my mind and my words to extricate myself from hazardous situations. As might be expected, my wild assault was unsuccessful, and I barely managed to stay on the scaffold myself. Fortunately, by this time Alexis was able to enter the fray, and taking my example, he rushed the Black hood. Both men tumbled over the edge, and they landed with a sickening crack. Alexis rose from the pavement, little the worse for wear; the black hood did not – his neck broken in the fall.
With Pierre now supplemented by a pack of Montaigne goons, it appeared that I was in a difficult spot. Fortunately, it was at this moment that Steppenwolf entered the picture and managed to insert himself between me and the mad Montaigne. Intimidated by Steppenwolf, Pierre started demanding that I turn myself over to the Eissen guards as the killer of his friend, Marcus. I denied the charge, and in speaking, Pierre then identified me as the man who had stolen from him earlier that day, sending him into even greater paroxysm of rage. I coolly denied that I had stolen anything from him, which was in fact true, but when accused of being the one that accosted him in the room, I could not deny it. Pierre began accusing me of being a coward and without honor, a line which Steppenwolf seized on as my defense. I gladly acknowledged that I was indeed, no “gentleman” and could not therefore be held to Pierre’s accusations. I agreed to be remanded to Steppenwolf’s custody, and Pierre was apparently satisfied when Steppenwolf agreed to a duel on the morrow. With the time and location set for this matter, we retired to Steppenwolf’s quarters.
Steppenwolf was not entirely pleased to be introduced to Senor Aldono upon our return. While they became acquainted, I took some time to read the letter I had liberated. It appeared to be a love letter sent from a “Eissen Flower”, and spoke of her uncle not approving of her love for the letter’s intended recipient. Ominously, it included the phase “You know what you have to do”. Significantly, the note reeked of oranges, a cloyingly sweet aroma that I had encountered in abundance in the personal letters of my friend, Pierre. Supposing that DuTone was the intended recipient, I believed I had just discovered a means to deliver Aldono from his troubles without the writ.
I called the Ambassador over, and proposed that we reveal this letter to the Lord, telling him we have uncovered a plot that threatens his honor, his nieces virtue, and possibly his life. We will share the letter. It is likely that he will be aware of his niece’s suitor, but not of their blatant plans to disregard his desires, and his plans for her future. At the very least, we would argue that the base and scurrilous DuTone should be sent from the court, and that as a reward for his service in uncovering this plot, Aldono should be afforded the company of soldiers.
Being an honest and honorable man (not necessarily good characteristics for a national ambassador), Aldono told the complete story to Steppenwolf, as a sign of good faith. However, Steppenwolf had to be then dissuaded from using the information to aid the Eissen Flower in her quest for true love. I am unsure what Steppenwolf will do with this information at the dance this evening, so it is imperative that we move quickly to secure a meeting with the Lord.