Flashing Blades: Play Report (Oct. 14, 2011)
Spring, In the Year of Our Lord 1623
The 13th Year of the Reign of His Most Christian Majesty, Louis XIII
A few months have passed since the party went out carousing and learned, among other things, of a villa near Paris long-abandoned and rumored to be haunted.
In News of the World, a campaign for the summer was announced. The forces of His Most Christian Majesty will co-ordinate with the House of Savoy and the Most Serene Republic of Venice to dislodge the Spanish from the Valtelline Pass in Lombardy.
Our Intrepid Heroes have been busy doing their day-jobs while gathering information.
- A rapier of exceptional quality fell into the possession of our gambling theology student, Jacques Adamo, who is a member of The Black Cross club. It turned out to contain a coded message in the hollow grip. The coded message contained clues to the treasure of the last Viscount de Gabriel.
- Guy Brest, a gentleman bureaucrat, learned that the property was abandoned after the last Viscount was arrested and executed for treason. Taxes are unpaid, as no one, not even the Crown, lays claim to the land.
- Jules Aubert is relieved to learn that his company of the Gendarmerie will not be called up for this campaign action, relieving him of the expense of equipping himself for campaign.
- Gaston, an unctuous and unsavory fellow with a line in perfumes, mouchoirs (scented handkerchiefs), and snuff, after finding that several parties of treasure seekers from the Paris underworld had gone to the villa but never returned, was called away to the south on business.
- Francois, a grenadier and drinking companion of Jules, decided to join the group (for an equal share of any spoils). His unit has been called up and he is not “in funds”.
- As various pieces of information came together, Jacques pored over the Ecclesiastical records to discover that there in only one living descendant, a great-nephew, of the last Viscount. That descendant, Victor, escaped from a sanitarium where he was committed after preaching regicide and atheism several years ago.
Setting off at dawn from Paris early one crisp spring morning, Jacques, Guy, Jules, and Francois ride the couple of hours down the road NE of Paris, following, generally, the curve of the Seine.
They find the gates to the villa, and the chateau itself, easily enough. It is clearly overgrown and disused. Eschewing the main gate, they search around for an alternate means of entry while debating their “cover story” should they be challenged. They decide they are there to evict squatters and follow up on unpaid taxes due to His Most Christian Majesty.
They found a small gate off to the west side of the chateau and break their way in. Pushing their way through the overgrown vegetation they find themselves in the old driveway in front of the chateau. They explore the ruined carriage house, found the boathouse locked, and Francois narrowly avoided being dumped into the Seine through a trapdoor in the pier running out next to the boathouse.
The trapdoor, once opened, did reveal a blood-stained chute that clearly led to the river.
The party headed east, continuing to explore the grounds. They found a majestic verdigrised bronze fountain of Neptune surrounded by fishes and cherubs (whose mouths formed the spouts) that appeared to have some blood in the bottom of the basin. The fountain was not working.
Moving along, and following the clues from the coded message found in the hollow grip of Jacques’ new rapier, they found a wide boulevard with the statues of Greco-Roman gods an old oak trees. One of the statues had been toppled over, revealing a hollow under the statue in the pedestal base.
With some ingenuity and some wit, they devised a means of using the oak trees and some ropes to carefully lift the remaining statues off their bases. The first revealed a tunnel running underneath the grounds.
At this point, a casual glance over their shoulders revealed the fountain to be running and pouring forth blood. Going over to investigate, they discerned that the substance was not blood but dirty, rusty water that only looked like blood.
They returned their attention to the statuary. The next revealed a diamond ring. A third and fourth revealed nothing, but while setting up to hoist the last statue off its base, a shot from a wheelock firearm rang out from the hedge maze behind Our Intrepid Adventurers.
Guy Brest was grazed, but his buff coat prevented serious damage.
The party tried to give chase, but the shooter disappeared into the maze.
Turning their attention to the last statue, they found a curious gold signet ring with a small diamond protruding from one corner of the crest.
As they finished up with the statues, they heard someone crawling through the tunnel. Guy jumped down into it and promptly received a lead bullet in his chest. He fired back blindly. Although wounded and in need of a new buff coat, Guy elected to press on.
Taking the crumbled statue of Minerva, they filled in part of the tunnel and then lowered the statue of Jupiter down, creating a severe obstruction for anyone attempting to crawl through the tunnel in the dark. Francois also set a trap, an improvised mine, for whomever came crawling down the passage from the house side of things.
The party entered the maze and were able to track their unseen assailant up to a point. They then quickly followed the remaining routes. They found a massive priapic statue in the center of the maze, adorned with a brass key ring holding a half-dozen keys. The keys were in excellent shape, clearly not weathered by the elements as most everything else on the property had been.
After marveling at the statue, they proceeded down the last avenue and found the entrance to the tunnel they had discovered.
They returned to the boulevard, startling some rabbits in the process, and retraced their way to the boathouse.
Using the keys, they let themselves into the boathouse and found everything in good working order: winches, tar and pitch, rope, poles, and two river barges. Someone has been keeping all this up and well-stocked.
At this point there was a discussion about crossing the river or entering the main house, with the house being the clear choice.
Gargoyles and grotesques loomed ominously over the wide marble stairs that led to the main door. Guy and Jacques decided to aim their guns at the gargoyles and cover Jules’ approach to the main door. As Jules ascended the stairs a gargoyle began to shift and came crashing down. Jacques having shouted a warning, Jules was able to jump back as the stone gargoyle shattered on the marble underfoot.
No one could get a clear shot at whomever had pushed the statue.
They entered the doors with caution, a bit creeped out by the fact that the doors did not squeak or hesitate. They opened smoothly, a well-oiled cantilever mechanism making them quite easy to push.
The party found itself in an entryway with several doors, a set of stairs, a massive portrait of the last viscount on one wall (to the right of the stairs) and a wall of small bas relief carvings that commemorated the centuries of loyal military service that the Gabriel house had rendered to the kings of France.
It was now early afternoon and the western side of the building was alight. The party pressed up the stairs finding at the top of it a pair of angels that pointed towards the tower that surmounted the eastern facade of the chateau.
They explored the second floor a bit, finding a chess game in progress. Francois took the white queen and pocketed it. They found the balcony from where the gargoyle was pushed and noticed that a few of the gargoyles were made of papier-mache, not stone as they appeared from the ground.
Making their way over to the door that led up into the tower, they used a key from the ring to open it. Stepping in, Jules narrowly avoided decapitation by pole-axe, a trap attached to a suit of armor guarding the very dusty wooden stairs that led up into the top of the tower.
Ascending the stairs the party came up hard against a brick wall. There was considerable debate, at this point as to whether they should blow up the wall, leave it and search the rest of the chateau, leave it an hole up for the night (although they had no food), or just head back to Paris before nightfall.
In the end, the party turned to the grenadier, Francois, and, using the last of their powder, he constructed a charge that blew open the brick wall.
Beyond they found a dust and cobweb covered chamber, the top-most in the tower. In the center of the chamber was a small table. On the small table was an ornate box with a depression on its lid and a pair of metal-rimmed holes on each visible face of the box.
Taking the gold signet ring with the diamond in it, Jules pressed it into the depression in the top of the lid and heard a loud “click” from inside the box.
Thereafter, he lifted the lid and found within it a considerable quantity of treasure. They seized the loot and made a run for it, getting back to Paris just as the sun was setting.
Finding a quiet place in Guy’s lodgings, they sorted the loot: 500 gold Louis coins (valued at about 12 Livres a piece, that gives each of them about 1200 Livres), a box containing 13 bejeweled silver crucifixes (probably worth about 200 Livres a piece), and some 50K in Elizabethan-era bank notes, worthless and yet highly dangerous at the same time.
A rich haul, to be sure, but converting some of it to cash may pose a problem (and generate a few more). Certain that there’s more to be found (both mystery and treasure), they intend to head back sooner rather than later.
Everyone had a good time. There was no combat to speak of, the exchanged shots notwithstanding, but the consensus seemed to be that this was helpful as it allowed everyone to continue orienting themselves to the very different assumptions at play. Since most of us are long-time players of D&D, the lack of monsters and relative paucity of traps was disconcerting initially. Once everyone found a rhythm, the game picked up pace.
As the Irish would say, the craic was grand last night: it all clicked and a good time was had by all. There’s much more to explore, both in Paris and its environs, and in the game rules.