Sunday, 12 November 2017

LotFP solo - Part IV: Souvislost

30 April, A.D. 1601

Kateřina Smutná is sitting in the parlour of her family's modest home in New Town, idly reading a Latin treatise on astral magic which purports to have been written by Albumasar (which attribution, honestly, the young lady doesn't half believe) when she is disturbed by a loud rapping at the door. The door opens and the family servant pokes her head through. "Somebody called Miss Frawsswaz is here to see you, miss."

"Miss Françoise Toussaint, mayhap? My new French tutor?"

"Could be, miss. Only her Czech is worse than my French!"

"Show her in, please."

The servant disappears back into the vestibule, and Kateřina hurriedly hides her book beneath a cushion. She's not sure how much Latin Mlle Toussaint reads, but she cannot take the chance of being seen reading such a notorious volume. An interest in black magic is certainly not becoming for proper young ladies, nor indeed good Christians of any stripe. And Mlle Toussaint is a most notorious gossip.

Scene 11 - Track C

Chaos: Under control (d12)

Setup: Ambiguous Event - Inform / Illness

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová

Threads: -

[There's only one PC left, so Kateřina begins a new Track on her own. The ambiguous event I rolled for the scene starter fits perfectly with the illness/horror random event from scene 1.

I made a quick table to determine the source of the information (1d6): 1 a mutual friend, 2 a rival, 3 a gossip, 4 a servant, 5 overheard in a crowded room, 6 Eufemia herself.]

Mlle Toussaint rushes into the room in more than her usual state of agitation. "Oh, my dear Catherine, have you heard the news about poor Euphémie? Oh, it's dreadful! Absolutely dreadful! And so sudden!"

Kateřina can tell the news must be serious, for Mlle Toussaint hasn't even bothered to effect her usual Parisian accent, allowing instead her native Burgundian patois to shine through. "Slow down, my dear Françoise. Have a seat. Let me pour you a glass of wine and you can tell me everything. What's this about Eufemia? I confess I mostly only understood you say her name."

Mlle Toussaint does as she is bid, as Kateřina takes a decanter of wine and two glasses from the side board and plays hostess.

"It's awful. Truly frightening," says Mlle Toussaint, once she and Kateřina are seated comfortably. "It came on so suddenly. One minute she was the very picture of health, the next... oh! so gravely ill. She's had her physicians round, and even consulted that other one -- you know, the Spaniard, what's-his-name -- very dark, I hear he's a Mahometan. Well, he can't do anything either. They say she may die! Can you believe it?"

The interview continues in this vein for quite some time, until Mlle Toussaint excuses herself, as she absolutely must go inform Mlle Kubin of the terrible news. Kateřina resolves to pay Eufemia a call that very day.

Scene 12 - track C

Chaos: Under control (d12)

Setup: call on Eufemia

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová

Threads: Eufemia's illness

Kateřina sets out not long after Mlle Toussaint has left. She walks briskly through the labyrinth of twisting narrow streets that is the Old Town, and makes to cross the Vltava. She heads past the University with a small sigh of regret, then heads over the Charles Bridge.

[Q: Problem getting there? Unlikely (5+): O3 C3 - No, but...
+Event: Horror - PC
d30 Sandbox Companion phenomena table = sightings of dead]

Kateřina must fight her way past the dense crowd, though she's used to charging her way through. But then she sees something that stops her cold in her tracks. In the centre of the bridge there is a terrible figure of a knight in full armour, clutching a gory sword and bleeding profusely from a dozen terrible wounds, his armour rent and holed from the Turkish grapeshot that ended his life. Yet there he stands, in the midst of the crowd of people flowing unconsciously round him, even as they must alter their course to get past.

[She must make a saving throw vs. magic 1d20=13, failure.]

Kateřina is suffused with fear, and stands rooted to the spot as the dead knight walks toward her with a heavy, purposeful gait. He stops mere inches from the frightened girl, and removes his helm. Even before the awful face below is revealed, Kateřina knows whose shade stands before her. "I'm so sorry, Honza," she says. The knight screams a single word at her with its ruined mouth, and then vanishes.

Kateřina feels as if she might swoon, and runs across the bridge and into the first tavern she sees to get a drink. The beer is scarcely worth the krejcar [-1cp] she throws down to pay for it, but the sour taste shocks her back to her senses so that she might continue on her way.

[Q: Any other problems along the way? doubtful (6): O3 C8 - No.
reaction roll for the doorman: 2d6+1(CHA)=13.]

Kateřina is nearly herself again when she reaches Eufemia's house. The servant's face brightens as he opens the door to her. "So good to see you again, Miss Smutná," he says, genuinely happy to see a friend of the household -- and one with whom he may drop all pretence and speak their native tongue. "The Mistress will be pleased of your company!"

Kateřina is not even announced, merely led into the house and up the stairs to Eufemia's bedchamber. Eufemia lies abed, pale and listless, with barely the strength to sit upright. But she makes an effort to rise when she sees Kateřina, and motions for her to sit beside her on the corner of the bed. Kateřina helps her friend up, plumping the pillows behind her to make her more comfortable, and taking her trembling hand in her own.

"Dearest," says Kateřina, "whatever has happened? You look dreadful."

NPC Relationship: friendly
Conversation Mood: cautious
insane - turmoil - last action]

"Oh, Katřinka, I have erred in my calculations. I thought I could out-manoeuvre Felicitas and get the book from her, but she must have known, and struck me down even as I was engaging the service of a couple of rogues to procure it for me."

"Struck you down?"

"Before even I'd sent them on their way."

"Have you tried to make peace?"

"I didn't want to give her the satisfaction. But it's been four days, and I grow ever weaker... and my agents never returned."

"Never returned? What did they do?"

"One can only imagine! I sent Theophilus and Pater Hastatus. You know them?"

"Theophilus, of course, I've met. And I know Hastatus by reputation. But why--?"

"I'd imagined them a bit cleverer than... Oh, what's the use! They've failed or worse, and now..."

"Have you anything she wants? I will bring her a peace offering. I am sure I can appease her somehow -- but you'll need to abandon hopes of the book... at least for the present."

[Q: Does she agree? Likely (3+): O3 C6 - Yes.
offering: d30 Artefact/Relic=figurine/idol]

"That golden statuette on the mantelpiece," says Eufemia, gesturing weakly. "The little faun. She's always coveted it."

Scene 13 - track C

Chaos: Under control (d12)

Setup: call on Felicitas

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka

Threads: Eufemia's illness

[Q: Problem getting there? Unlikely (5+): O4 C8 - No.

reaction roll to be let in 10+1=11, no problem

NPC Relationship: hostile
Conversation Mood: withdrawn
knowing - speech - antagonist

Q: Has Felicitas recovered from the attack? (uncertain odds: 1d6=4) 50/50 (4+): O2 C8]

Kateřina is admitted almost immediately by Felicitas' servants, but is then left standing alone in the grim entrance hall, with nothing to do to while away the time but stare in bemused contemplation of the newly-hung orientalist tapestry. She isn't sure whether it was woven in Cathay and is supposed to depict Dutchmen, or if the figures upon it are supposed to represent the inhabitants of that far-off land, as imagined by someone in the Low Countries. In either case, she finds it rather in bad taste, and wholly out of place in the dark hall, ignorant as she is of the bloodstains it was hung to conceal [mostly Gephardt's, from scene 3].

She is finally admitted to Felicitas' parlour. The room is dim, lit only by a single wall sconce. The tall, green faïence stove has made the air uncommonly warm and close. An incense burner adds a sharp, spicy smell, which almost masks the odour of the sick-room. Felicitas sits in a high-backed upholstered armchair, nearly invisible in the dim light save for her eyes glittering intensely down on Kateřina.

"Well?" says Felicitas.

"I am here to ask you to make peace with Eufemia. To end your magical assault upon her person. I bring this statuette as an offering."

Felicitas leans forward into the light, and Kateřina gasps at the sight of her.

"Look at me! do you really think I am responsible for Eufemia's condition? You're as stupid as she is! It is all I can do to sit upright to receive you."

"I am sorry. She thought--"

"I very much doubt that she did think! But tell me: can you?"

"Think? Of course. Now that I see you, it is plain you are both suffering at the hand of someone else.... but who?"

"We've a mutual adversary. But I need to know your rôle in all this..."

"My...? Eufemia is a dear friend! What other rôle should I be playing?"

[Q: Does Felicitas believe her? (unknown odds: 1d6=5) Unlikely (5+): O6 C10 - Yes]

"You're quite serious, aren't you? Yes, I do believe you are. Your loyalty does you some credit... though I should not hesitate to tell you I think it misplaced in such a one as Eufemia. I suggest you call upon the Domus Horatia. You'll likely find the answers you seek there. You will likely find a great many things... horrible, horrible things..." [mysterious - uncertainty - antagonist]

"I see. Thank you for your candour."

"Think not upon it, child. I've no reason to dissemble, if you would truly undo this evil magic. And if you fail in the attempt, then none of this shall have mattered. Now leave me with my new statuette! And tell Eufemia I should like to see her. Perhaps there may finally be a détente, if we live through this."

[Q: Any problems getting back? Unlikely (5+): O2 C9 - No.]

Scene 14 - track A

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

Setup: back to Eufemia

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka, Fr. Mikuláš, ruffians

Threads: Eufemia's illness, get book

[I put on my DM hat and decided this was a good time to unite tracks A & C. The worse Chaos Factor takes precedence, so Kateřina is now part of Track A. I've combined the NPC & Threads lists.

Q: Is Fr. Mikuláš (the NPC cleric) still with Valentinus & Theophilus? Unlikely (5+): O5 C8 - Yes
Q: Does he have a problem with Magic-Users in party? Unlikely (5+): O3 C6 - No. (NB: It would have been Likely odds, but as he's still working with Theophilus it seemed that he was probably more tolerant]

Kateřina returns straightaway to Eufemia's. She is surprised to hear the servant who opens the door to her address her with absolute formality -- and in German. "Miss Smutná, please wait here with these others. The mistress will receive you all in the sitting room once it's prepared."

Kateřina is admitted to the crowded vestibule, where three haggard men are waiting. She sees a mis-matched pair of priests, and behind them meets a familiar face.

"Salve, O mi bone Theophile," says Kateřina.

"Oh, come now girl!" he says. "I'm not your schoolmaster."

"I'd heard from Eufemia that you might be coming," she replies tactfully.

"Oh! I... well, that is..."

"Do you know this child?" asks Valentinus.

"Child?!" cries Kateřina. "Child?!"

Now it is Theophilus' turn to be tactful. "She's much older than she appears, my good man," he says. "Pater Valentinus, allow me to introduce Catherina Moesta."

"Salve, Pater Hastate," says Kateřina with a curtsy.

"Pax tecum," responds the priest.

"First we're in school, now church," groans Theophilus.

"Well, you did introduce me as Catherina."

"That's only because I can't pronounce that barbaric name of yours, good miss." Kateřina smiles at Theophilus' pleasantry, though Fr. Mikuláš rolls his eyes. Kateřina looks pointedly over Theophilus' shoulder. "Oh, yes," he begins, "this is, um--"

"Bratr Mikuláš Kovář," says Mikuláš.

"Těší mě," says Kateřina happily.

The servant then reappears, and ushers them all into the sitting room. Eufemia is sitting stiffly in her chair, doing her best to look serene and regal. Valentinus and Theophilus are immediately cowed by her presence, and spend most of their time avoiding her gaze, for they are ashamed of at their own failure in the good lady's service. Kateřina, for her part, can see through Eufemia's façade, and is sorely worried for her friend's health.

Theophilus apologetically recounts their misfortunes, omitting nothing, and exhorts the other two to fill in the gaps in his tale. Fr. Mikuláš adds what little he knows, explaining that some of his flock took ill after an altercation with Felicitas, and he felt compelled to look into the rumour of black magic which reached his ears. [UNE: inquisitive - questions - knowledge; his intentions (Mythic): Care / Misfortune].

All that concluded, Kateřina relates the substance of her meeting with Felicitas, and suggests that the four of them pursue her suggestion. They agree to all go collect the things they will need, and meet upon Karlův Most (Charles Bridge) to go investigate.

[Q: Anyone have problems in transit? Likely (3+): O2 C5 - No.]

When daylight has faded, they have reconvened and set out for the residence of the Grollenbach siblings, which is known in some circles as the Domus Horatia -- so called because according to family tradition, begun by Horaz von Grollenbach, all children are named after great heroes and heroines of antique Rome. Several of the current line are widely known to share the Emperor's interest in alchemy and magic. But there are whispers that they have a more sinister design than the transmutation of base metals into gold.

Eufemia is certain that they do traffic with unclean spirits, so the little band has armed itself well. Kateřina has a crossbow, and Theophilus an arquebus, which they take pains to conceal beneath their cloaks as best they might whilst going about the streets. Valentinus has brought some holy water, and a dagger besides. Only Mikuláš is unarmed, trusting in his Faith to see him through [as an NPC I rolled 1d10 for his memorised spell and had already chosen the PCs'; M Bless, K Charm Person, T Sleep, V Command]. He also carries the torch.

Scene 15 - track A

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)*

Setup: d8=3, interrupt (was: get into house)
Interrupt: Horror - PC (d3=Valentinus) - observe / stranger

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka, Fr. Mikuláš, ruffians

Threads: Eufemia's illness, get book

They cross silently into the Old Town. Kateřina has a vague idea where to find the Grollenbach residence, though she's never been, and the others follow her meekly. More than one of them silently wishes she gets lost and they never arrive at that place of evil whisperings.

Valentinus lags a bit behind. Down a narrow alleyway, he sees the Stranger, a [d6=] man in a long, old-fashioned cloak and an impossibly tall hat. The Stranger's face is completely in shadow, but his eyes smoulder like ardent coals. His gaze locks upon Valentinus, his eyes burn into his... there is something unearthly about the Stranger.

[V must save vs. Magic to avoid (d30 sandbox Companion phenomenon=) transformation
d20=19, success]

Valentinus feels a wave of illness wash over him -- his ears ring, his vision blurs, his skin burns, and his guts are twisted -- but a prayer forms on his lips and it passes, leaving him weak and sweating.

The others notice he is no longer with them, and find him at the end of the block bent nearly double from distress. They rush to his aid. He mumbles something about a strange man, tries to point down the alley, but the Stranger has already melted away into the darkness -- if he was ever even there!

Scene 16 - track A

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)*

Setup: d8=1, Altered (was: get into house)
Alteration: cause / tears (something simple will go poorly)

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka, Fr. Mikuláš, ruffians

Threads: Eufemia's illness, get book

Valentinus soon recovers, and his accustomed contumely masks any lingering dread. Kateřina leads them onward and after winding through a handful of adjoining streets, they reach their destination.

The house appears dark.  They stand across the street watching for several minutes, but there is no movement, within or without.

"Well?" asks Theophilus impatiently.

"Oh, really!" says Kateřina. "I suppose one of us must..."

She walks directly up to door, tests it gingerly, and seeing that it is indeed firmly shut, knocks.

[Q: Is there an answer? 50/50: O6 C4 - yes, but...]

The door creaks open just a little. Inside, all is in darkness.

"Hello?" she asks timidly.

Suddenly a hand? claw? appendage? darts out from the blackness and pulls her into the house. [save vs. paralyze not to drop the xbow: 12, just failed]

Kateřina's crossbow catches on the door frame and she loses her grip on it. It falls to the cobbles as she disappears inside, and the door slams. [d%: 1-50 bolt stays in, 51-99 bolt fires into street, 00 bolt hits other PC: 89]

The others rush up to the door, but stop short. Theophilus readies his arquebus, lighting the match off of Mikuláš' torch, and sheltering in a neighbouring doorway in order to get the match into the lock. Valentinus picks up the fallen crossbow, and goes looking for the bolt. Mikuláš just stands looking mortified.

"We've got to try to save her," says Theophilus to the quaking priest. "I suggest you ask God for the strength to do this."

"Y-you seem so calm. Have you done this before?" [UNE: inquisitive - curiosity - last story]

Theophilus just blows on the match to fan the spark.

"I found the bolt," says Valentinus, "Father Kovar (sic), that means you must open the door for us."

[V's Search (Wis mod +2) =3; 1d6=1, found it.

It was now time to check the NPC's Morale. I gave him a +2 bonus for the reasonable request, and his well-armed compatriots: 2d6=3... there was no way that could fail, so I didn't determine his actual ML score yet.

Q: Can he open the door easily? Unknown (1d6=1, no contest, but roll for qualifiers/event): O6 C6 - Yes
+Event: Ambiguous event - conceal / vows : M's reticence is actually a ruse. He desperately wants to enter this house, because of a secret promise he has made to...? This can be his Dark Secret, as far as my Event table is concerned.]

Mikuláš opens the door. Despite his torch, they can't really make out any details in the absolute darkness within. Neither Kateřina nor her mysterious assailant are to be seen. Mikuláš holds the torch high, and they proceed within.

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