Saturday, September 24, 2016

Alas, Such Fates ep02 : 7th Sea

8/28/2016
Alas, Such Fates

"Teeth and Fur, Actors and Wounds"
Episode Two - 7th Sea

A month has passed since the events in Penitence.

At a gathering with long tables and lots of food, and people dressed in fine clothing, Maurice leBlanc is with a crowd of people listening in rapt attention at a woman sharing a story she claims really happened.  The story is of her facing against some villain, dueling upon a running carriage, as she uses dueling techniques she claims to have invented herself.  The woman is Tassine Anastasia Jade de la Croix Bullet, who seems to have the people's attention easily at her beck and call.  The two trade barbed words when Maurice questions if her stories are even believable.  Tassine however cites Maurice as the FORMER friend of the king, given she is now the new friend of the king.  When Lady Cassandra arrives, the Elaine Knight is clearly uncomfortable in the opulent surroundings.  Maurice approaches her, and when she says she did hear about him being the former friend of the king, he muses that it is good he is not one who knows how to duel or he's raise he's taken offense.  She plainly states if they had a duel, he would probably lose and die.  Cassandra asks Maurice if he would mind introducing her to the hostess of the night, and Maurice simply says he would.   Tassine approaches Lady Cassandra and invites her to join the others.  Cassandra realizes she's the owner of the household and whispers to Maurice to help her.  Maurice stresses he has many friends, including Lady Cassandra and that they had adventured together facing armed bandit with many arms... weapons.  When Maurice mentions that the bandits were working for Gasparo Angelo, the crowd is enthralled.  Tassine however claims to have defeated Gasparo before - which brings to question Tassine's accuracy if Angelo is still indeed alive.  Tassine starts diverting the crowd to enjoy the meal instead.  "So Gasparo still leaves.. and the curse still hangs upon..." one of the people in the crowd gasps as she walks away.  Cassandra tries to follow that woman to ask about it, but is unable to learn more about it.  

Elsewhere, Hans Leopold Glick is studying the tracks left by the beast in the forest.  He realizes the thing is nocturnal, is a predator with talons on both its paws and feet, and it is definitely the same one he fought almost a month ago - following the strange wedding, his investigation in the wood with Lady Cassandra lead to a brief engagement with a monster that then escaped his clutches.  Cassandra had to leave for other matters, leaving Hans to focus on the other nearby hamlets and learned the number of disappearing children has increased in the past few weeks.   Tonight, thankfully, Astrid is assisting him in his investigations.  As they wander in the woods close to Buche, they see markings that suggest there are more than one. Perhaps two at most.  Astrid left Lorenzo Cavello to watch over the Guildhouse in her absence.  His two officers were more than willing to "watch over the women" in her absence.   As the two scan the place for where the tracks lead, they soon catch sight of a pair of golden eyes staring at them.  They shine the light on it and discover it is a wolf staring at them - yet not a natural wolf given it does not react to the light upon its face.  Astrid stays close to Hans, who seems more curious than concerned of the wolf.   The wolf turns out to be an Ussuran, who shares he has been hunting the beasts in the forest as his youngest had been abducted as well two nights ago.  When Astrid promises him they can find her, she notices he is grievously injured and bleeding from a wound on his back.  The Ussuran asks Astrid if she can sew the wound closed for him.  Hans offers some wine to use to disinfect her hands, before he leaves to scout ahead.

A beast of fur and teeth.  Hans does not hesitate and he charges at the thing despite the danger it poses.  He swings his axe at it, and an explosion of blood erupts from where he had struck it. "It's here! It's here! I've found it!" he yells as he bears down his weight on the axe.  To his horror, the thing unfurls like a massive starfish that's covered in fur.  The "mouth" at the head isn't really just a mouth, but the whole interior of its body is teeth!  Hans is thrown backwards, slamming into a nearby tree.  The immense fear in emanates weakens those who are facing it.  Astrid arrives with the Ussuran and seeing the monster, she hurls knives at it, drawing them from a hidden slit in her skirt.  The thing cartwheels away after the blades bite into its fur.  They find a boy on the ground, but the Ussuran admits it is not his son.  Hans leaps to chase after it, not hesitating to fulfill his Ungetumjaeger role.  Unfortunately, Hans discovers there are more than just one.  Hans' flashesback to when he was younger, being warned by his mentor to never dive into a monster's lair unprepared.  "It would be like hunting for a shark by diving into the sea without learning how to swim."

Cassandra struggles not to make any huge remarks as she stares at the gigantic mole on a man's adam's apple that squirms and dances as he laughs.  Maurice, however, is used to the ways of the court, and does pay the man no heed. Tassine asks them to share the tale of their confrontation with Gasparo Angelo.  When questioned about defeating her, Tassine insists she had defeated the Vodacce witch already, but Cassandra insists they were certain they encountered the villain, and they even confronted the Sidhe.  The gathered ask if the Sidhe are all women, being named "she" and if Elaine Knights are all men dressed as women.  Cassandra instead asks to speak to Tassine and Maurice in private.  Cassandra, admittedly, is just happy to be away from the mole.  They move to a chamber where things are absolutely silent, clearly with padded walls to maintain privacy.   There, Tassine finally admits she has "not been lying" and insists she knows she is dead.  Cassandra swears upon the Grail itself that they did encounter her.  Tassine realizes the Fate Witch must have made the impossible to survive fall possible.  Cassandra asks her about the curse and supposedly the local belief that Gasparo Angelo had cursed Penitence to be haunted by monsters that abduct children to make more monsters.  Cassandra realizes she left Hans there and throws Maurice a glance.  Maurice insists Tassine clearly has been lying about too many things, including being friends with the King.  She asks the two to go back to where Gasparo Angelo was seen, and if they can stop her, she offers to finance the trip back as well as the men they need - but they must sign a document which is to have them remain silent of the events of the adventure which she plans to release as a new  penny dreadful chapter for the Amazing and Excellent Misadventures of Tassine Bullet and the Golden Girls. "Sign these Non-disclosure agreements, and I will finance them and you are to never speak of them again."  Cassandra accuses her of having not done any of these things in her stories.  Tassine insists she is a noble woman and an author, not some highway woman.  She threatens to call the guards claiming they are intruders if they disagree. Even the invitation that allowed them to arrive is blank. But Cassandra suggests its a chance for Tassine to try being part of a true adventure.  Maurice implies it would be the publicity event of the year, as she goes on an adventure "to capture Gasparo Angelo in the safety of a closed armored carriage."  Tassine considers the potential of it... despite all the elements in it that trigger her fears.  She agrees to go.

In the armored carriage, the three are traveling with an escort of over eighty men outside.  Tassine struggles to breath, claiming to feel a tightness in her chest, worried she's choking from utter fear.   Cassandra and Maurice are rolling their eyes.  "This is a fantastic idea," Maurice tells Cassandra, "Good thing we thought of it.  This is truly an adventure!"   Tassine however begs him to stop saying that word, "It's such a trigger word."  The two are given boxes and they find inside red and gold costumes.  They are to dress as her Golden Girls.  Maurice tries feigning spilling the wine on the clothes, but sadly, they discover its made to resist water and staining!   When Maurice mentions he can be the friend of the King instead in the story, Tassine admits she already "killed off" the friend of the king in an earlier book.  Maurice now wonders if that's where the misconception of his death comes from!   The days pass as they travel towards Penitence, and with passing days some of the men are sent away as Tassine's courage and confidence seems to grow.  When they reach what looks like the first obstacle, a fallen tree and a group of bandits, Tassine insists from the others to get dressed and she stays away from the doorway, freaking out at the danger outside.  

Cassandra and Maurice quickly learn that the"bandits" are actually... actors.  When they ask the guards how often this happens, they realize even the guards are... actors as well.  Everyone around them, they quickly realize, is someone hired to play a role in the new story she is writing.  It is all a farce!  Tassine however seems lost in her fantasy world, acting out as if she really was the version of her in her novels.  As they decide to continue on the journey, they soon catch sight of the familiar woods leading to Penitence and find a disturbing sight awaiting them: a Blessure.  The bloodied wound upon the very world hovers, large enough for a carriage to pass through.  Maurice recommends Cassandra head on deeper into the woods with Tassine to find the Vodacce witch while he considers his course of action in dealing with the Blessure.  He realizes this simply means a Porte Sorcier must be nearby.  He marks her with a bit of his blood, however, making sure he has a means to return if he gets lost trying to close the Blessure.  And with that, he walks backwards into the Blessure. Cassandra sees Tassine rush into the woods, anxious to find the threat, and Cassandra tries to run after her.

Hans stalks the monsters, soon realizing very quickly that the darkened woods and light fog make things far more advantageous for the monstrosities.  Astrid and the Ussuran soon find more nests, trees where the many children that have been abducted hang from silken cocoons!   They carefully tear open one and find the children already slightly changed.  Thin reed like tubes have inserted themselves into the child's skin, and have begun to cause slight coloration changes on his skin.  Astrid realizes in horror the monsters... they are growing in number because the other abducted children were being transformed into them!  Astrid begins yelling, calling for the Ussuran in hopes that he can check if his child is among them.

Cassandra spots where Tassine has gone and keeps close.  Cassandra tosses Tassine her flintlock pistol as she gets near enough, but then the fur and teeth thing strikes!  It strikes Tassine very quickly, dropping her to one knee as it rips into her hand.   Cassandra stays behind her shield, which blocks the teeth of the monstrosity as it attempts to gnaw at her.  Cassandra tosses her sword up, then fires two shots with her flintlocks.  The monster dissolves into dust as it dies.  When a hand reaches for her, Cassandra turns to block with her shield once more, Tassine's hand smacks into it and she falls back in pain.  Cassandra's sword finally lands between them. She tries to bandage Tassine with her belt upon realizing there is venom already in her hand.  Before Tassine can say anything, however, Cassandra just lops off the hand - tired of her prattle.  Tassine screams in pain. Cassandra feels the hint of corruption in her heart as she realizes she caused unnecessary suffering.  She takes a sample of the poison for future study.

Agile and used to fighting in the woods, Hans faces off against the multiple monstrosities.  He weaves between the trees, forcing the things to get caught against the branches and brambles as he sneaks in strikes to wound them at each opportunity.  But two of the whirlwinds of fangs rush close at him at one point and pin him against each other!  Hans rolls away before either of the two can inject him with poison.  From the distance, Hans realizes he sees two more of the vicious beasts closing in.  But then, Astrid's voice begins calling out, and the yelling draws the monsters towards her instead.  The distraction proves to be an opportunity for Hans, now that all four expose their rear to him.

Elsewhere, Maurice slowly travels through the Places Between the World.  Keeping his eyes open, he watches as the world changes into one seemingly made of paint strokes that shift in real time.  Red splotches dance around the darkened shades that make up the world.  There is a red mark upon a coin that lies on the floor, an anchor that seems to allow the Blessure to remain open.  He sees the shadowy things closing in from the distance, constantly whispering amongst themselves, noting his presence.  "I have no quarrel with you. I have merely come to retrieve this object that does not belong here," he snarls as he reaches down to pick up the wayward coin.  Whoever had left it inside this place must have intentionally wanted to create the Blessure.   The shadow things move each time Maurice looks away from them, but each time he stares at them he remain held back in the distance.  Maurice chooses to move quickly, keeping his eyes trained on the shadows as he walks backwards now back towards the Blessure.  Maurice uses his gloved hand to start wiping the coin's blood mark clean, as he holds it behind his back.  The Blessure begins to close and the blight to the world seals itself.  Maruice realizes he will need to Walk out some other way, and grins as he remembers the mark he placed upon Lady Cassandra.  As he closes his eyes, the shadowy things rush to him!  Maurice sheaths his blade and dashes for the way home, ignoring the hands and voices that surround him.  "Everyone wants Maurice..." he laughs and leaps away.

*We will find you*

Maurice lands on the ground beside Lady Cassandra.  With a grin, he combs back his hair as he stands and mutters, "You can try."  Lady Cassandra looks surprised to see him appear out of nowhere.  Maurice wipes the coin clean and holds it closer to look at it better.  The currency is Eisen.  "The beast men," Maurice muses. Both hear the sounds of combat in the vicinity and both rush to see what they can do to help.  Lady Cassandra hikes the unconscious Tassine up on her shoulder to carry her with them.

Astrid sees Hans running towards them from afar.  It takes her a beat to realize she can see dark things closing in as well!  Hoping to distract them further, Astrid grabs her knives and begins flinging them at the beasts, giving Hans the perfect opening to strike them from behind.  He moves carefully, striking each monster that lags behind the most to incapacitate them without alerting the rest.   She jumps on the nearest pod, cutting it with her knife to have it bring her down to the ground.  The group finally reunites, gathering before the dead monsters and the pods and watch as the sleeping child within the pod remains wholly still human.  As they share updates quickly on what they've been up to, Maurice shows of the Eisen coin to them.  Hans identifies it as an old coin from his country.  Astrid mentions there was an Ussuran who was here recently as well, searching for his child.  Cassandra places the unconscious Tassine down to the ground to let her rest.  Hans and Astrid ask about what happened to her, as well as what a "Blessure" is.  Maurice talks about how it is a corruption of one of the noblest sorceries, Porte.  Astrid and Cassandra decide to focus instead of helping release the children from the pods.  Hans warns them to keep watch of other possible beasts.  Maurice opts to do that for them.

Hans finds the Ussuran behind another tree were more pods hang.  The Ussuran holds the dead child in his arms.  It already had begun the transformation, with fanged teeth emerging where the flesh had ruptured, with the extremities having fused into a mutated form.  Hans tries to take the child from the Ussuran, hoping to help him accept the child is no longer his child.  But the Ussuran growls in response.  He grimaces in pain as he attempts to shift his form despite the stitches Astrid had applied to his deep wound, and he shifts into a bear instead of a wolf.  He carries his child away with him.

Astrid asks if Cassandra brought men with them, or a horse, and she breaks out her friendly smile as she asks the coachman to do a favor for her.  She tells the coachman to go to the hamlet at Penitence, to look for the Captain, and to have the secretary of the Scarlet Stocking's come over to help them out.

*

House later.
The group rests at the tavern.  Lorenzo Cavello listens to their stories and marks it in his record book.  "So you all just happened to meet again?" he looks at them confused.  They agree.  He admits that there might be some kind of curse upon them four.  Lady Cassandra admits when the Blessure appeared, she thought she saw a reflection, perhaps someone is watching them.  She senses their meetings are not coincidental.  Lorenzo asks if they have any idea why anyone would target them, asking if they were ever involved in anything in the past as a group.  At most, they think there's the wedding they were part of the previous month.

Lady Cassandra brings up that the one who orchestrated the robbery, Gasparo Angelo, may have a brother.  And may be behind their seemingly connected misfortunes.  Maurice reminds them all that he is a friend of the king, which sounds as reason enough for some villain to target him.  This makes everyone roll their eyes.

Glass shatters nearby.  A group nearby picks on one of the customers of the tavern.  Lady Cassandra involves herself, telling the group to pick on someone their own size.  Cassandra realizes the boy being bullied is one of those kind of children who are not born too right. Cassandra takes the empty tankard of the bully, but none of them seem intent in backing away.  Cassandra challenges the men to a fight outside as a challenge of honor.  As one of the bullies grabs the servant boy by his hair, Cassandra beats the bullies down without ever drawing her blade from its scabbard.  As the bullies run off, Cassandra turns to tell the boy he is now safe - but the boy is nowhere in sight.

Cavello admits to the others there is that odd sensation of someone having been observing them. Or watching them.    Cavello admits that a month ago, on the bank robbery, he received a letter informing him of the bank being a possible target.  Maurice admits he received one too.   They talk about curses and discuss how the Vaticine Church is sending an emissary to the hamlet in response to Astrid's guild for former Jenny's.

A courier arrives at the door of the tavern, calling for Maurice leBland.  The man brings a message from the King himself.  The others stare at each other, realizing he is the friend of the King.  Hans wonders if Maurice sent to to himself.  The letter smells of Montaigne, and is indeed sent by the King.    Astrid comes up to Cassandra to ask what was going on and she tries to explain how there was a boy being bullied.  Hans even insists that Cassandra just walked up to the group and began fighting them.  When the woman of the house comes to them to ask why they seemed agitated, Cassandra attempts to explain there was a servant, a slow boy, whom was being harassed.  The woman assures Cassandra there are no servants in the tavern.  She owns the place alone.  The woman sees a rag on the floor and asks if Lady Cassandra dropped it by mistake.  Taking it, Cassandra realizes the cloth is of the flag of her Queen Elaine.  She wonders if it was some kind of sign.

Hans asks for another mug of ale and the woman of the tavern thanks them for having saved the children.  Hans mutters there were merely incidental in his search for monsters.  Astrid interrupts them, thanking the woman for her gratitude and giving Hans a glare.  The woman continues, telling them how they seem to have broken the bad luck that has been upon Penitence since the Vodacce Witch was finally killed by the Bullet herself.  Some believe the Witch cursed Penitence as a final stroke of anger.   And that this was a story from almost thirteen years ago. The group wonders if the folk have been confusing the penny dreadfuls Bullet has been releasing as historical record.

Maurice reads the letter in private and learns he is to proceed to Avalon and await further instructions.  It is a Mission of utmost importance.  He shares with the group that he will need to visit Avalon in service of the King, and tasks Lady Cassandra to escort them to the foreign country.  Astrid realizes she needs to deal with the coming Emissary of the Church who has seized her land and claimed it to be of the Vaticine Church.  She had offered them all rooms to stay at the Guild, however, with the seizure of the lands, she now needs to find a way to stake her claim upon it.  Lady Cassandra tells them when they arrive at Avalon, they can all stay at her manor in Gallifrey.

The letter tells Maurice that all will be explained upon his arrival at Avalon.  It even ends with a statement that he is truly the friend of the King.  "Take that, Bullet," Maurice sneers and folds the letter to place it close to his heart.  Astrid hopes to gain the Queen's support, if not her involvement, at least her verbal show of support for women.  Maurice wonders if that's truly achievable given politics.  Cassandra shares with Hans that she is having her people inspect the poison and he might be interested in the results.  Hans chooses to join them.

The group rides to the port, and Cavello promises to watch over the women in their absence.  Cassandra reminds him that if they wish to write to them, they can address it to the House of Gallifrey.  Astrid reminds Cavello be wary of the Vaticine's Emissary.

*

Tassine writes more about the new misadventures of her namesake ruffian.  She writes about how the Golden Girls lamented the death of her namesake, and how this will just show her legacy will live on.  The gathered are overwhelmed at her story's unexpected twist.  Tassine tells them she has a hand in the plot, and the four nameless heroes outlined in the book, a man from Eisen, a Jenny from Vesten, a Knight from Avalon, and "the long lost and to be rediscovered some of Tassine Bullet" will be stories they will have to wait for in the next book.  Tassine tells them she needs to rest given she has been writing with a single hand.  She moves to another room, but there a hidden visitor pays her a visit.  The visitor commends her for doing well and she admits she didn't quite get why the patron didn't simply let her ask the heroes to close the Blessure.  The Patron admits it would raise too many questions, and schemes work best when no one is certain if they are part of it.

"And me, is my role in it done?  Do I-"

Tassine never finishes her words.  She has been shot dead on the forehead, with a revolver in her hands.  The crowd stares in horror at her dead body.  A man separates from the crowd, walks away, and steps back into a carriage.  He rides a ship to head north.

*

The ship travels the sea.

A woman approaches the group, greeting them for the pleasant evening.  She is happy to see such a diverse group on the vessel.  Cassandra admits women are usually not admitted as crew on a vessel, but as a wave hits, they all stumble to brace themselves.  She seems to have sea legs, however.  Astrid asks if she is the captain, while Hans thinks she's part of the crew.  She admits she had her own share of questionable activities when she was young.  She introduces herself as Catalina Morta and invites them to her quarters for some wine.  She is curious why anyone would seek to be an Elaine Knight and Cassandra shares her reasons, including the higher calling she holds.  Cataline however has her think if her loyalty is to the grail, to the title, or to the Queen Elaine herself.  "What happens when the Queen is no longer in charge? What do you do when it chooses someone else?"  The vessel is Avalonian, which is odd since Catalina is Castillian.  It is possible she had stolen an enchanted ship, and it was originally a pirate hunter.

She shares with them that she was contacted by the King of Montaigne to assist them in their journey.  However, she raises a concern: One of the older monstrosities was last slighted along the path of their journey.  There have been five reports of ships sighting the thing, and reports of them being followed.  The thing might follow them.   If they go straight, they can arrive sooner. But if they avoid it, they take a longer journey.   A normal ship would take far much longer than either journey options they may opt for.

Cassandra however remembers that Avalon ships tend to have enchantments.  She wonders if she can activate whatever inherent ability or blessing this ship may have.  The ship can possibly give out an intense glow of light, a flash of light that can allow it to move extremely fast.

*

Hans remembers the invitations he had to be part of the Invisible College.  He considers the membership.

*

The Emissary of the Vaticine Church is at Penitence and he takes over the Guildhouse location to make plans for the Vaticine Church's role in the region.  However, a greater scheme is afoot.  The Emissary is murdered, and the murder weapon happens to be a throwing knife.  Lorenzo however takes it and hides it before others see it.

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