Monday, June 30, 2014

The Letter : Fiasco


The Letter

De Medici

It was another game night with Aina, Isami and other friends.  Given they had never played a role-playing game before, Rocky and I decided it would be a great time to introduce them to what a table top role-playing game would be like.  We quickly settled on trying out Fiasco and after some discussion decided to try Fiasco De Medici, a tragic affair of love, faith and lies set in the 1500s.

Dolores Borgia, The Wife Who Will Do Anything To Mark Her Husband's Place In History.
Francesco Borgia, The Man With Ambitions to be Rich.
Ibrahim Fatir, Penitent conman who has Returned From The Crusades.
Bishop Francesco Grimaldi, Confessor and Secret Lover of Dolores.
Items of interest: Ciphered letter.  Trunk of Money.

Act One Begins.

Scene opens at a confessional at a discreet church. Ibrahim is confessing to the Bishop of an incident that happened in Constantinople many years ago.  "Father, there is something that has been weighing heavily in my conscience for some time."  He reminds the bishop of the time they met in Constantinople.  Fatir confesses that there was a woman whom he had relations with, and that he now knows she was married back then.  The relations were intimate.  The bishop asks if he is penitent and he admits he is for "Sleeping with Dolores."  The name, of course, catches the Bishop's attention.  Fatir admits he saw her and felt a surge of the feelings return.  Fatir asks if he knows of her and the Bishop even identifies her as the wife of the Nobleman Borigas. He tells him this spells trouble, even if it was from so long ago.  Fatir admits he came here to look for her.  The Bishop warns him that he has to stay away for her.

A few days ago.  
The bishop is having dinner with the nobleman, Francesco Borgia, to discuss matters regarding of politics.  The bishop, however, has suspicions of the Borgia and their views on the Archbishop.  It is a massive 16-seater dining room in gilded gold.  One of the few households that had forks at the time.  Everything is service and the spread is clearly catered to their convenience.  "As you can see Senor, the situation is Florence is not that well.  The Archbishop is concerned that local politicians are all talk and not really doing anything to resolve the situation."  Francesco asks if the Bishop is close to the Archbishop and he simply admits they are men of the Church.  "The Archbishop is like a father to us all."

"But are you his favorite son?"

"I would like to think the Archbishop does not pick his favorites?"  The Bishop adds that it was Francesco himself who invited him to have dinner tonight and was quite curious of the Archbishop's routine, as well as of the parties and dinners he had held where he had neglected to invite the Borgias.    The Bishop however deftly adds that he wishes to extend his apologies for neglecting to do so.  "Which brings me to the matter at hand," the Bishop reveals a letter, "Personally written by his Excellency."  The Bishop explains the contents of the letter state that the Borgias are invited to the next dinner: Him and his wife.  The dinner was to be a very formal one a few nights hence.  "Please be sure to bring your wife."

The wine glasses clink together.

The night of the confession, leading to the night of the dinner.
In the bedroom.  Dolores is getting ready to retire for the night.   It is only then that Francesco realizes he has yet to tell her to be ready for it.  Dolores is naked on the bed, save for the clips still in her hair.  She is slowly taking them out as she asks, "My love?  I just realized it has been quite a quiet night.  It has been quite a quiet series of nights.  So quiet that I am starting to wonder if I should the Church for confessions."

"You know what, we have a party to go to tomorrow.  You need to wear your emerald green dress, with matching emerald green diamonds-"

"I'm sorry.. Francesco, for a moment," Dolores turns to him, aghast, "I thought you said we have a party tomorrow?"   She declares that she cannot be prepared for a party in a single night!  But he explains to her that the Archbishop himself is having them over.  He mentions that the invitation was delivered by the Bishop and this makes Dolores more curious.  He reminds her to stick to the emerald green outfit and casually tells her they were invited three nights ago.  When she complains about the lateness of the information and how much she hates the dress he insists she wear, he tells her he does not care. "That is what you will be wearing."

"You are such an impossible man.  Which explains why I don't-" her voice trails off.

"Just get dressed.  You disgust me."

The night of the dinner.
The Borgias are getting prepared to leave for the party when a servant tells them the Bishop is at the door.  Dolores is in her terrible, horrible, green dress.  "I can't believe you are making me wear this."  "Just come along, Dolores," he tells her.  They greet the Bishop who tells her she is lovely as always.

In the carriage, Dolores mentions how grateful they are for the invitation even if it was supposedly given a few nights earlier.  Francesco agrees.  Dolores stresses she is even wearing the ghastly outfit he insists she wears and Francesco just tells the Bishop to agree, "She looks lovely, does she not."  The Bishop pointedly replies that a woman should be allowed to choose their own course.  The canal is horrible that night, stinking up the streets.  As they attempt small talk, Francesco cuts through the chase and asks if the Bishop can introduce him directly to the Archbishop.  The Bishop admits the dinner is meant for just them.  There are no other guests.  This excited Dolores.  "Perhaps he has saved the best for last," Francesco smirks.  Dolores tries to subdue how excited they are by suggesting they don't really understand what tonight will be like.  But Francesco once again cuts her down by saying, "I understand perfectly well."  She frowns.

They arrive.

Five days ago.
Ibrahim is talking with Francesco Borgia at the Lungarno.  The two had arranged to meet because he had heard that the nobleman was interested in advancing himself but he had also learned that he is the husband of Dolores, the woman he was with in Constantinople.  "Senor, you mentioned that you wished to advance your business."  The nobleman spits out, "Who are you, moor?" But he shows his Christian cross around his neck.  He tells him that he wishes to help him.  "There is, how do I put this properly...  there is word of extortion money that will be moving through the city soon.  And I was appalled to hear that this was somehow involving the Archbishop."  Francesco asks how he came by such information and the stranger explains that word travels and that he had just returned from the Crusade and that many had whispered of the Archbishop's personal businesses on the side.  The nobleman asks why he should trust a man he had just met.  Fatir explains they have similar interests and these are regarding a large chest of money.  "A full trunk of silver, enough to purchase a District of the city."  Francesco's eyes light up at the word of wealth.  "This is a noble cause that we are doing.  This is Church funds that have been diverted by a corrupt Archbishop.  You are actually doing God's work.  Do you wish to know more?"

"Meet me here, at the middle of the night, in a week."

"No," Fatir insists, "We must meet tonight.  We must move quickly.  The Archbishop will only be here in five days."

"How will I know it is you?  Will you come by a disguise?"

"Do you see many other moors in the city?  You will know it is me."

He walks away.

During the dinner, while Francesco speaks with the Archbishop alone.
Dolores and the Bishop steal away to an adjoining chamber.  Dolores thinks the Bishop is hoping for a quick moment of passion.  The Bishop, in truth, plans to confront her regarding the moor and their past relations and if they have seen each other again.

"Bishop!  Here!?  Now?" Dolores gasps.  "Be quiet," the Bishop restrains her.  "Undo my buttons.."  The Bishop tells her no.  She drops to her knees but he pulls her up.  He forces her back even as she showers him with kisses.  "I will ask for contrition once again... but only after I have sinned!"  she blathers about how the Lord is all forgiving and how she and her husband can give more donations but he still holds her back and tells her, "The Lord is all forgiving... but man is not.  And I am but a man," the Bishop tells her.

"I know.  I know of Ibrahim."

"Who?" Dolores looks at him, genuinely confused.   He explains a moorish man came to visit him and admitted he was acquainted with her.  He tells her he had converted to Christianity and had come to Florence from Constantinople.  Dolores does not understand and he stresses it further.  "He knows you, Dolores.  He knows you in the manner which I know not."  Dolores asks why she would go to a moorish confessor, but the Bishop does not back down.

"I know you know him, Dolores.  You know but one moor from Constantinople."  She realizes who he means.

"That one evening.  That one evening that became five.  That five evenings that became a month.  Three.   But that was the past, Bishop! I have been forgiven!  I have done contrition!"

The Bishop tells her he cannot forgive her.  She insists she is loyal to her husband and only to him.  He tells her that he sincerely doubts her words.  "Green is not even your color.  It does not bring out the color of your eyes."

She insists what happened was in the past.  The Bishop Grimaldi turns to the side, closes his eyes.   She begs for forgiveness and he responds with words, "If you wish to prove this to me, there is something you must do."

"Anything.  By the love of God, anything!"

He produces a letter and presses it into her hand.  "There will be a trunk of silver.  It should arrive at your home brought to you by your husband.  That letter needs to be inserted discreetly."

"It will be done."

"Trust me, Dolores.  I love you."

Wee hours of the morning.  Post dinner.
Dolores slips away from a sleeping Francesco.   She steals away late at night to where the trunk has been placed.  She sneaks inside and kneels close to the trunk to slip the letter in, oblivious to Ibrahim Fatir standing in the shadows.  She did not know he was the man who brought the chest inside.  She marvels at its size, knowing how it is filled with silver.

"How do I do this..."

"The chest was crafted in Constantinople," a voice booms in the darkness.  Dolores spins, looking for its source but finding no one.   Her heart begins to race.  Ibrahim asks if he can help and steps into the light.  Dolores gasps upon seeing the dark-skinned man.  He introduces himself as part of the Archbishop's entourage and admits he was tasked to guard the trunk.  Dolores tries to give a lame sounding excuse that the note in her hand was something her husband asked her to do.  He tells her she can leave the note with him.

And that's when she asks if he knows him.  Somehow, he recognizes his voice.    He admits he just arrived from Constantinople and has not been to the city before.  Dolores hands him the letter and asks him if he can open the chest.  "Of course not.  The keys are not with me."

She once again asks if she knows him and insists her husband needs the note inside.  He asks if this act was cleared with the Archbishop as it was not something mentioned to him.  Dolores tries to push instead her stature and reminds the man she is the lady of the house.  "I expect better.  Do you have the key to the trunk?"  When he says no, she insist he fetch her a torch as a feint to have him leave her alone with the trunk.  As Ibrahim steps outside to fetch a torch, Dolores slides it into the trunk.

Ibrahim returns to an empty room.

Flashback.  Francesco remembers his talk with the Archbishop while he meets with the moor.Francesco stares at the Archbishop to discuss matters of business.  As the most influential person in the District, he has called him to discuss business. He is willing to pay for his support. Francesco is surprised that the moor is that influential.

The moor tells Francesco of the plans.  The business requires the utmost of secrecy given there are many enemies of the Church.  "One must be very careful to choose those who will be entrusted with the wealth of heaven."  The silver was illegally seized from the Holy Lands.  The Archbishop expects him to guard it for a night or so until he arranges passage for it out of Venice.  "You must agree."

"What choice do I have?  Of course I must agree."

The Archbishop tells Francesco that the chest will be delivered to the home.  The Bishop has given the address.  The chest is to be delivered later in the evening by the most trusted associate.  It must be moved through the city in secret.

"It shall be done."

The moor explains.  "With the chest in hand, you can contact the Doge, and with the chest in hand, he can expose him of the corruption he suffers from." The moor admits he is indebted to the man and once he is exposed, he can return to his home.  "Sadly he holds something dear to me.  An incriminating letter.  I cannot have it exposed."

"And I get to keep the silver?"

"Well, no one knows how much is inside.  You can choose to audit it before you report it."

Francesco receives a guest in the late evening and ignores Dolores' invitation to join her.  He sees the chest, receives the key, and smiles.  The moorish man leaves the chest in the room.  Francesco separates some of the silver and hides it in places in the house.   He returns to the room and Dolores watches him fall asleep.

Act One Ends.

The Tilt:
Innocence: Love Rears Its Ugly Head
Tragedy: Death Out Of The Blue

Act Two Begins.

It is morning. There is a big ruckus with the authorities downstairs.
Francesco had left to call the Doge.  Dolores is in the bedroom.  Fatir slips into the bedroom to confront her.  Dolores is leaning out the window to see what is going on and gasps upon seeing the man in her room! She grabs the nearest sharpest object: a letter opener.   "Stand back!  I will scream!"

"I have heard it before."

"That voice," Dolores realizes who he is.  The guard... but he is more than just the guard.

"Night after night..."

"You tried to make a pilgrimage..."

"The man the bishop spoke with!" Dolores gasps.

"You finally know my name."

"Only thanks to the bishop," Dolores admits.

"You never bothered to learn my name before."  Dolores admits they were not meant to be.  Fatir however tells him now she will never forget him.  She asks why he is in her home and he tells her he is here to teach her a lesson.  "You threatened me in my own home," he tells her.

"Even if you try anything, you will not be able to escape!"

"Try anything?  You must realize I wouldn't be up here if it had not already been done," Fatir boasts.  He explains how her husband had gone to the Doge to expose the corrupt Archbishop.  But in truth, he will expose his own crimes for stealing the funds of the Church.  She asks if that is the contents of the letter the Bishop had her slip inside.    The two slowly begin to realize the Bishop may have played them for fools.  He made her accuse her own husband.  Fatir realizes the letter may be the incriminating one he had hoped to never see the light of day.

"You must help me... if there is any love you still feel, you must help me!"  She begs him to help her take the letter back from the chest.  She thinks the letter is meant to incriminate her husband, but Fatir fears it is his letter, sealed with an eagle.  She offers herself to him if he helps him retrieve it.  But he tells her, "I've already had that.  You know what I want."

She sees a man overwhelmed with revenge.

At the confessional.  Days before.  After Fatir speaks with the Bishop.
The Bishop is speaking with Fatir.  He tells him to stay away from her.  He reminds him she is not just a woman.  "Listen to me.  Did you tell Senor Borgia about the chest?"  The moor agrees he did.  The Bishop smiles knowing he will be expected.

"There will be a letter.  I will find a way to have it slipped into the chest. It matters not if anyone else reads it.  It is in code.  Only the Doge would know how to read it.  It will implicate the Senor Borgia and his household."

"What about Dolores?"

The Bishop speaks of justice and reminds Fatir to make sure she will be safe.  He trusts the Archbishop but does not trust the others.  He reminds Fatir that the Senor has friends in high places, even if Fatir insists he only thinks he does.  The Bishop admits he does not expect to survive the aftermath.  He sends Fatir away.

"This is probably the last time you will speak with me."

Back at the Bedroom.
"We have to get that letter," Dolores panickedly tells the moor.  Fatir pulls her close to him and asks if he remembers Constantinople.  But she continues talking about having to get the letter for her husband and insists there is no time for this.

Fatir admits that her husband is about to be exposed in a scheme with the Archbishop.  That they must escape.  But even then, she still talks only about her husband.    He questions her about how he has been cold to her all this time.  She gasps.  She sees something outside the window.  From there, she has a perfect view of the Church.  Bishop Grimaldi's body is hanging outside the window of the Church.

"It is as I have feared.  Your husband is mad."

"He did this??!"

"It is the only explanation... because he knew of your secret," Fatir lies.

"He knew all along.."

Fatir claims to have confirmed this for himself during the dinner.  But Dolores all the more pulls away from him.  She sits on the bed.  Fatir warns her the Doge is on his way.  He tells her he will keep her safe.  She looks at him and simply mutters, "But he knew all along.  And you are not him."

Down below.
Francesco arrives and sees the Doge and his men.  He draws out the key and opens the chest.  And inside the chest is nothing but stones.  And a letter.  Francesco is surprised.  He had hidden the silver but had not expected seeing a letter.

A soldier gets the letter and hands it to the Doge.  The Doge calls for his scribe to read it.   The letter is penned by the Bishop himself.  The scribe states it is authentic.   The Doge asks Francesco what his involvement is with Vienna, the city.  He tells him of his wife, and that the letter claims that Francesco Borgia is conspiring against the Church.  "Lies!  All lies!"  Francesco exclaims.  The Doge demands he reveal the silver.  Francesco claims to now know of silver and demands to see the Bishop.  He sees Ibrahim in the distance and calls for the moor to come closer.

"He is the man who told me of the chest and all the corruption... he can explain! Tell them I am innocent!"

"You are the Bishop's man?"

Fatir explains he is part of the Archbishop's guards.  Dolores bounds from upstairs and yells out, "Husband! Our plans are foiled!   Everything has fallen apart!"  Francesco tells her to talk to the Doge, since she is close to the Bishop.  "But you don't understand! It is too late!"

The guards are commanded to arrest the Borgias.  Dolores starts yelling that it was her fault.  That he knows nothing of this.  Francesco calls out, "She is confessing!  I know nothing!"  Fatir stares at him in disgust.  "Yes!  I was behind it all! It was all me!"  Dolores insists.  The Doge calls for the guards to take them away and even warns them to use the sword if necessary.  Francesco grabs a sword.  Dolores in panic, she rushes forward to try to shield him from the guards.  Francesco, without hesitation, uses her as hostage and tells them all to stand back.

In tears, she apologizes to him, telling him she understands he is doing this because he knows of her infidelities with the bishop.  Francesco's eyes widen in surprise.  He knew NOTHING of the Bishop and her!  She admits it was not meant to last that long.  "And now he is gone..."

Francesco feels the anger take over.  He slices her throat and throws her corpse towards the guards.

Blood sprays all around.

Right before sunrise, before the Doge arrives.  At the Church.
Bishop Grimaldi meets with Fatir one last time.    He insists he cannot be away for long knowing the Senor Borgia is due to arrive with the Doge anytime soon.    The Bishop tells him this won't be long.

They climb up to the belltower.  Grimaldi tells Fatir there is time for this, even as Fatir worries about their plans unfolding in minutes.  Grimaldi explains that sometimes schemes need scapegoats.  "Is that not what the Senor Borgia will be?  We shall bring him down and free Dolores... Senora Borgia of his dark influence."

The Bishop tells Fatir that not everyone is good.  "Sometimes things must be done out of necessity."  He tells Fatir how the letter is there, the events will unfold, and things will come to pass.  "How I wish for forgiveness for what I have brought you and Dolores."  He asks Fatir to keep his promise.   Fatir affirms it.

"Then that is all I need to know. Look at this city.  There their house.  You better go.  I can see the Borgias.  Your time has come.  Now go."

Fatir runs down the tower.

Bishop Grimaldi sees Dolores at the window, naked as always.  The Bishop recalls this was the same place he saw her for the first time.

And Fatir runs off, unawares that the people who ring the bell in the morning see the moor fleeing the scene... the last man to have seen the hanged Bishop.

The Bishop feels life fading.
He has his scapegoat.  He has taken the actions needed to save the city.  He has found a hint of love.  But then came Ibrahim.  And he realized Ibrahim was the answer to his prayers.

He closes his eyes.
But he does not die.
Quickly.  Instead, he feels life hang on long enough to see Fatir arrive at the room.  Dolores and him talking.

Timeless.  Thoughts.
Dolores' throat tears open.  And she stares at the blood spraying out and remembers a time when wine sprayed out from the bottle of holy wine.  The bishop is staring at the woman in the window for the first time at his very own Church.  "Has anyone ever told you that blue looks very good on you?"

Dolores blushes.  She cannot find words to reply.   His compliment catches her off-guard.

"Forgive me, Bishop.  My husband always chides me for always asking about how I look."

"Honestly, the worst thing he can do would be to never pay attention to you and make you wear green."

"Funny how easily he accomplishes both," Dolores smiles.

"You came here for confession?"

She agrees.  And he tells her to unburden herself of her fears and sins and he promises her that she will feel better.  The two walk towards the confessional, unaware of the moor watching them from the shadows.  Inside the confessional, Dolores looks through the screen and realizes she can see the Bishop.

"Am I supposed to be able to see you, Bishop?"

For the first time, she finds a man who listens to her.

Francesco remembers the wine.  He stares at the woman dead at his feet.  He has killed the woman he loves.  The guards stab at him, but he pushes forward.  He realizes what he has done and runs for Dolores.

In Dolores' dying throes, she reaches for her husband as well.
And utters something..  but the words fade away.

Fatir drops the dagger.
He drops to his knees in disbelief.
For all that he has done.. for all his plans... all is lost.

End of Act Two.

Francesco Borgia survives the attack.  Because this is the 1500s, and his wife has publicly admittedly her guilt, his crime is deemed one of passion and he is absolved of punishment. He keeps the silver and is now rich and wealthy as he had hoped to be.

Dolores Borgia watches from the afterlife, waiting for the right moment when enough spite has grown within her to exact her revenge.  Interestingly, it is not rings nor love that binds her.  It is the silver.  For in her horror of her actions, she had found herself to have become a Judas and the silver he holds binds her to her sins.  And when the day comes he spends that last coin, she knows she will be allowed her revenge.

Or at least she thinks she will be.

Bishop Grimaldi impossibly survives the hanging.  The rope breaks.  The people help him and save his life... but not before he witnesses Dolores dying in Francesco's arms.  There is a homeless man who know frequents the grave of a noblewoman.  No one knows who he is.  Some people whisper that he used to be a man of the Church.  He never talks about it.  Sometimes he would stop by the home of Francesco Borgia.  He would stare.  But he would be run off by guards.  Others say he whispers to the shadows, saying sorry to someone who isn't there.    And sometimes, he would scratch the scar on his neck.  Until it bled.

Ibrahim Fatir knew he was going to be arrested and judged harshly for his role in things.  But the Archbishop intervenes on his behalf.  He assures him that taken into his custody, he would receive reparations.  Fatir confesses to the Archbishop his role in the whole plot, and his actions to take revenge upon Dolores for abandoning him all those years.  The Archbishop insists he pays penance, and for all his lies, he has Fatir's tongue cut off and in the coming years of service to him, he is denied the chance to ever speak of things again.  He forever remains by the Archbishop's side.

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