L'Honneur et les Intrigues

Adventure 17: Vera Miracula

May 1623

Chapter I: Brother Mellitus
Thursday, the day after the Vicomte’s Garden Party, finds Guy still sick, which leads Father Signoret to recall the story he heard over dinner at Vicomte Bouvard’s chateau about the “the Monk of Avignon” a Benedictine monk from a monastery near Avignon who has come to Paris. “The monk is said to be quite famous in Avignon for his miracles. Tis’ said he is able to heal the sick merely by the laying on of hands. The tales told sound truly miraculous.”

Father Signoret, Norbert, and Fabré seek out the Benedictine Monk both to see if he can provide healing to Guy and to see if they will able to witness a miracle. They go to the Hôpital de la Charité – a charity hospital for the poor founded by the Queen Mother, Marie de Medici in 1608 on land donated by the Abbaye de Saint Germain des Pres. The other monks at the hospital are suspicious, unhelpful, and even obstructionist, as is the monk’s superior, Prior Robert. While there, Father Signoret recognizes Hervé, a beggar with a badly infected leg, who the Father knows from his work at the soup kitchens.1 Hervé complains of his leg, which is inflamed with green pus, and asks the Father to help him see Brother Mellitus, the miracle monk. Unfortunately Brother Mellitus doesn’t seem to be around right now, but at least now they know the monk’s name.

Disappointed at not finding Brother Mellitus and frustrated with the attitude of the other monks, the PCs decide to go to see the Benedictine Abbot to ask for his help and intercession. The nearest abbey is the Abbaye de Saint Germain des Pres (Abbey of St. Germain of the Fields); it is the largest Benedictine abbey in the area. They speak to the Porter, Brother Michael, who is both suspicious and haughty. He condescends to inform them that the abbot is none other than Gaston Henri de Bourbon2, Marquis de Verneuil, Bishop of Metz, and the legitimized son of King Henry IV and the current King’s half-brother. Realizing that they don’t have the social clout to gain access to the King’s half-brother, they leave. Norbert mentions that he is hungry, so they pause for lunch at a nearby tavern before returning to the Charity Hospital.

Back at the Charity Hospital, Norbert lumbers into a rickety wooden cart laden with soup for the patients sending bowls flying and spilling soup everywhere, “Sorry. I’m so very sorry!” Norbert said. The noise of clattering bowls combined with the looming, apologizing giant terrifies Brother Peter, a clumsy, stuttering monk working at the Charity Hospital. Eventually Norbert calms Brother Peter enough so that he can wordlessly point out which ward room Brother Mellitus is in. Norbert generously hands Brother Peter a livre to pay for the spilled soup.

In the busy ward room, they find Brother Mellitus surrounded by a crowd of the lame, the maimed, the blind, the deaf, and the sick all crying out for the monk to heal them. Fabré, who prefers to not rub elbows with the oozing, hacking, multitude stays outside in the hall. Squeezing into the crowded room, Father Signoret spots Hervé. Norbert makes a path through the petitioners while Father Signoret moves Hervé to the front of the queue. Meanwhile Prior Robert is frightened by the giant Norbert and runs out of the room calling for help. A worried looking Brother Mellitus starts cleaning Hervé’s wound, but no sooner has he begun than Hervé starts crying out in pain and writhing in agony. Father Signoret holds Hervé down and tries to reassure him. Meanwhile another beggar with a gangrenous black nose accuses Brother Mellitus of intentionally hurting Hervé and of performing witchcraft to curse Hervé.

Ward Room

As the crowd fearfully begins to edge away from Brother Mellitus, Hervé, and Signoret, Prior Robert returns behind a wedge of burly Benedictine monks who force their way into the crowded room. Norbert moves to screen the others so that Brother Mellitus’ miracle has time to occur. Norbert decides that rather than trying to intimidate the Benedictines he will try to persuade them that the group means no harm. Unexpectedly, despite his unsettling appearance, Norbert convinces the Benedictines that they mean no harm. The Benedictines are now less suspicious of the Jesuit and these monks will no longer hold Norbert’s size and appearance against him3. Prior Robert orders the monks to grab Black Nose who continues to shout accusations while Hervé continues to struggle and scream in agony – even when he is not being touched.

As he is grabbed, Black Nose suddenly slams his staff on the foot of the monk holding him, so he can escape, but two other monks quickly reach for him. Dropping his staff, he draws a concealed dagger slashing at the monks to drive them back and runs out of the room. Father Signoret, lets Hervé go so that he can draw sword or give chase just as Norbert, who has decided that Black Nose is himself some sort of sorcerer, breaks the beggar’s staff in hopes that this will break the curse he must have put on Hervé to prevent the miraculous cure from taking effect. The crack as the staff shatters sounds like a gunshot. And like a shot, Hervé leaps to his feet; his wound appears to have instantly healed as he races out of the room. Father Signoret briefly gives chase but once Hervé is out of sight, he gives up and returns the ward room.

Inside the ward the crowd praises the monk for the dramatic and miraculous healing and Prior Robert declares that this is another miracle. Father Signoret goes to his knees entreating to be allowed to assist and observe Brother Mellitus in his good works. Mellitus looks more worried at this, but any reservations he may have are overwhelmed by Prior Robert’s approval of the Jesuit’s plans.

Chapter II: A Good Meal Delayed
The next day, Father Signoret and Norbert begin their duties at the Charity Hospital. The Father assists and observes Brother Mellitus, while Norbert guards the monk and helps manage the crowds pleading for healing. In the afternoon they take a break from their duties to go to La Tête Noire, a nearby tavern, for a meal. There they observe three gentlemen in the Black Tabards of the Fratellenza di Giganti, rivals to the school where Signoret is learning the French style. The Blacks are harassing another gentleman who is there alone. In fact, one of them spits in the stranger’s wine. In return the man throws his wine in his tormenter’s face. Signoret realizes the lone man looks familiar and he and Norbert approach to try to offer assistance. As they approach Signoret recognizes the man as Romain Lalande, a fellow student whom he defeated in the tournament to qualify for the Vicomte’s fencing exhibition. When the wine-drenched Black demands a duel, Signoret offers to step in as Romain’s second. However Norbert is offended that the goons started the altercation by spitting in the man’s wine. He grabs a tablecloth from a nearby table and starts to aggressively “mop up” the wine on the beards and clothes of two of the gentlemen. This angers them and they decide they will teach him a lesson, but only after they have dealt “honorably” with the duel. Norbert then throws the tablecloth over their heads. They are entangled, but their unentangled partner prepares to draw his sword.

Norbert keeps two of the di Giganti’s trapped inside the tablecloth while Romain Lalande and Father Signoret quickly draw their blades. Romain fails to intimidate the Black Tabarded student, a duelist named Valentin Dautin. Recalling that there is a field with some trees on the other side of the fence by the Charity Hospital, Father Signoret suggests they all go elsewhere to resolve their differences like gentlemen. Valentin agrees providing that he duels Romain first, with his friend and fellow student to follow. Signoret may either observe as second or duel the Giganti second.

The group adjourns to the field at the outskirts of the Fauburg St. Germain4 for their duels. In the first duel, Valentin seriously wounds Romain who is unable to continue for the second duel. Signoret, as his second, volunteers to fight the second Black, Tabard in Romain’s place. Signoret first nicks his opponent, then feints his blade out of position delivering the coup d’état which is rendered fatal by the Giganti’s failed attempt to counter with a stop-thrust. The dying man’s friends and Norbert are unsuccessful at stopping the bleeding; there is only time for Father Signoret to give his opponent the last rites before he expires.

Norbert, Signoret, and Romain then return to La Tête Noire where Romain uses the last of his month’s allowance from his family to treat his new friends to a celebration feast. After a few bottles of wine, Norbert treats the tavern to a round of that excellent beverage (3L) and chats with Adrian the Amazing, a wandering minstrel and fellow performer. Adrian tells them of his journey to the Holy Land, of the cruelty of the Turk, and of his own gift from God – the music that he shares with his fellow man. Norbert tips Adrian with a few sous. Amply fed and well-fortified with fine wine, the trio return to their respective abodes for a good night’s sleep.

Chapter III: Why are we thus divided?
During his sudden departure from the very pleasant company of Madame Marie-Petronelle de Rolampont, and in reply to her somewhat plaintive inquiry: “When will I see you again?” Gaston had cavalierly replied that he would write to her. So suiting action to words he has spent two days writing a sonnet for his new lady love. But for the sonnet to reach the object of his desire, he must know where Madame de Rolampont resides. To learn about nobles, ask a noble, thinks Gaston. So, sonnet in hand he sets out in search of information, by paying a visit to his noble friend, the convalescing Guy de Bourges.

However, before answering Gaston’s question about manor house locations, Guy insists on regaling Gaston with the latest edition of his Gazette. Along with the obligatory court news, there is a note about events from the provinces, specifically from Lyonnais. The case of the Masked Noble, Rolf d’Ehlerange, has been referred to the Parlement of Paris5 for a determination of the status of his claim to the title of Comte d’Ehlerange. Rolf is still imprisoned in Lyon, but his brother Richard is said to be traveling to Paris to testify in the case. In other news from Lyon, the cases of Grimoart Villelmeti and his accomplices will be handled directly by the courts in Lyonnais. Charles de Neufville, the governor of Lyonnais, has taken the unusual step of choosing to himself act as magistrate for the cases and in still other news, the nameless accomplice known only as “the Black Angel” is still thought to be at large. Finally, with his recitation of his Gazette complete, Guy at last consents to tell Gaston that Rolampont Manor is located outside of Paris and is in fact in close proximity to the Chateau de Bouvard.

Thus on Saturday, Gaston travels to the neighborhood then lurks about Rolampont Manor to watch for a servant who can act as his agent and deliver his message. Well concealed, but so far unable to spot a likely messenger, Gaston eventually notices maid with a basket of laundry to hang out to dry…women’s laundry. The maid spots Gaston and asks what he is doing there. Gaston says that he has a message for Madame de Rolampont and asks the maid, who happens to be the lady’s maid for Madame de Rolampont, to deliver the message. At first the maid refuses, but when Gaston offers her 10L, 3 now and 7 later, the maid consents to deliver the note, which consists of both the love sonnet and a request for a rendezvous – a suggestion that Madame should hang a scarf or kerchief outside a window to indicate where Gaston may enter later this evening. After a time, Gaston sees a ladies hand attach a white handkerchief to the latch of a second floor window.

Later that evening, Gaston daringly ascends to the window where he had earlier spotted the white kerchief. Marie tells Gaston that her husband is not at home. Gaston begins by reciting his poem to her.

“Why are we thus divided having kissed?”
Why are we yet two bodies and not one?
Why have our separate spirits leave to run
Two sundered paths of thought? what laws resist
The perfect bond whereof we dimly wist?
Love, incomplete, seems ever but begun,
And yearns to consummation never won,
His purpose always nearly gained,—and missed.
As mournful waves with desolate delight
That moaning kiss the same sands night by night
In changeless hunger, and are not appeased:
So I, who famish at possession’s goal,
Must kiss and kiss, yet kisses ne’er console
Love’s over-burdened heart that is not eased.6

Marie enjoys the poem, rewarding the poet with unmistakable signs of affection. Not content with one evening, Gaston seeks to plan ways and times for further meetings. But Marie is flirtatious and does not directly answer Gaston’s questions. Marie is entranced by the soldier with the heart of a poet but she still sees him as a most convenient means of exiting what has for her become an inconvenient marriage. In turn, Gaston finds her beauty even more intoxicating a second time, but although his time with Marie is sweet, he remains aware of the fact that as he is in another man’s house, with another man’s wife danger is also present. Eventually caution prevails and Gaston departs, claiming military necessity due to responsibilities with his Regiment. But the lovers agree to meet again later.

Mindful of potential danger, Gaston departs by way of the manor garden and neighboring woods, rather than by the front gate. Whether due to his timing, his stealth, or the kind hand of fate, his exit is uneventful.

Chapter IV: Double Ambush
Saturday and Sunday Father Signoret and Norbert continue to help Brother Mellitus. They witness additional attempts by the fake sick to discredit Brother Mellitus’ healing miracles. However, on Sunday they witness what may be the second miracle, a blind man whose sight is returned. Of course the first miracle was the healing of Hervé the lame beggar. The crowds are even larger today and the Benedictine monks ask Norbert to help them carry the very full and heavy alms box so that it can be emptied and reused. Afterwards, Norbert talks with Mellitus and learns of his doubts and concerns. The monk dislikes Paris and seeing and threating the number of people here in the city who desire his healing is both physically and emotionally exhausting. He longs to leave the city to return to the relative peace of his home abbey, the Abbaye de Saint-André-lès-Avignon (the Abbey of St. Andrew in Avignon). Norbert is concerned for the Monk. Meanwhile, Prior Robert speaks candidly to Father Signoret about his desire to send word of the miracles to Rome and he enlists the Jesuit’s help in documenting the miracles. Father Signoret agrees to help and reassures Prior Robert that his interest in Brother Mellitus is real and his purpose is genuine and not just some ploy of his order.

On Monday, Gaston accompanies Norbert to the Brothers de Vitoria Bank to see Monsieur Moulin, the bank manager who they met and helped at the Vicomte de Bouvard’s party. At the bank, they are looked at askance by Moulin’s secretary, but despite the fact that they do not have an appointment, he consents to take their request in to the manager. The secretary returns with a note. He asks them in a patronizing tone of voice, “Can you read?”

Norbert assures the secretary that yes, he does know his letters and Gaston drily and succinctly replies that he himself can read, “A bit.” The note asks them to meet Moulin in an hour at the Inn of the Bear and the Lion. Which Norbert recalls is on the same street as the bank itself.

Moulin is late by a quarter of an hour. He apologizes, saying that he “was unavoidably detained by a business matter.” He agrees that their service would be of interest to the bank and he offers a retainer plus the occasional bonus. The terms seem quite generous to Norbert and he is a bit perplexed as to why Gaston insists on spending so much time haggling with Moulin over the details, especially since the banker does not offer to buy them drinks or a meal during the protracted discussion. Eventually they agree on a retainer of 10L per person per month.

“For which you are to accompany the bank’s employees and assist them in the performance of their duties and to perform such other tasks as may be assigned to you. Certain collection assignments that are large in amount or that are deemed more difficult or otherwise special shall provide the opportunity for additional compensation. Such additional compensation is usually in the form of a bonus of from 1L to 10L or on occasion as a percentage of up to 10% of the amount recovered.”

Norbert observes that Moulin’s conversation seems oddly formal and he thinks that listening to him would be much less dull had the banker thought to fortify his audience ahead of time with a few rounds of drinks.

The cousins begin by assisting Benedict LeVan, one of Moulin’s senior clerks, in his collection duties. This initial task is assuring the repayment of a small loan made to a printer in the Latin Quarter to purchase fine paper for a special print job. The job goes quite easily – the printer quickly making a loan payment in cash. Since that was their only task for the Bank and since the Latin Quarter is not far from the Charity Hospital, Norbert takes Gaston there to meet with Father Signoret. Perhaps, he thinks, we can all stop at La Tête Noire Tavern for an early dinner.

Inside the hospital ward room there is the usual crowd of the sick and injured some reposing in the tall, curtained four-poster sick beds that line the sides of the ward room while still others stand or sit on the floor. But not all those waiting are truly sick or injured. Just as the cousins arrive a dozen or so of those in the ward room draw daggers from beneath their clothes and rush towards Brother Mellitus. Signoret draws his sword and he and Norbert move to protect the monk while Gaston tips one of the four poster beds with curtains onto a group of would-be murderers, pinning them beneath. But just as the friends drive off this group of beggarly assassins, they see another gang rushing into the ward room. Driving them off as well, they capture the leader of the first gang, who has been throttled unconscious by Norbert, and joined by Prior Robert the group proceeds to the exit to return to the safety of the Abbey of St. Germain of the Fields. But at the exit, they see a large gang of dagger armed beggars and an even larger mob of angry commoners with tools and farm implements. A beggar leader is exhorting the crowd to “kill the cursed monk!” They also spot a group of twelve or fifteen noblemen, gentlemen, and their lackeys led by the Sieur de Rolampont who are watching the exit. They decide a strategic withdrawal is in order, so they bar the entrance, run to the opposite side of the hospital, and quickly exit via a window.

But once outside they are confronted by a group of a dozen gentlemen and lackeys led by Stenay, who recognizes Father Signoret. Stenay, intent on obtaining vengeance for the Priest’s public insults at the Vicomte’s garden party, draws his sword and heads directly for the Jesuit. Norbert feels torn. He doesn’t want to abandon his friend, but he believes that Brother Mellitus is still in danger and that both the monk and Prior Robert need to be escorted to safety. Gaston tells Norbert, “I’ll stay with the Priest.” So the cousins separate.

Norbert, still carrying the captured beggar chief over one shoulder, escorts Brother Mellitus and Prior Robert towards the Abbey St. Germain des Pres, but at the end of the street another mob is waiting for them. Norbert drops his prisoner and breaks down a gate both to provide an exit from the walled street and to use a plank as an improvised club. He fends off the gang with the plank but his prisoner has been shamming and the beggar chief draws a concealed dagger and attacks slashing Prior Robert’s arm. Norbert quickly clubs him down, but in turn he is set upon by the small mob which is led by Black Nose the Beggar. Despite being wacked with hoes and rakes, Norbert drives off the mob, but Black Nose manages to escape.

Norbert and the two monks cross the yard and exit to an opposite street. With the Abbey now plainly in sight, they rush forward, but are chased by yet another gang of beggars – these mobs seem to be everywhere, thinks Norbert. He interposes himself between the mob and the monks. The mob hesitates, afraid to step inside the reach of the giant, but Prior Robert is hit in the neck by a knife thrown by a beggar. The Prior collapses and Norbert suddenly cries out “Brother Mellitus is dead! Oh no, they have killed Brother Mellitus!” tricking the gang into thinking that the fallen monk is actually Brother Mellitus and that he has been killed. Norbert then picks up Prior Robert and carries him to the Abbey. Brother Mellitus is distraught over the injury to his fellow Benedictine and, once they enter the Abbey forecourt, he immediately stops and prays to God to save Prior Robert. It seems that God has heard him as Prior Robert suddenly wakes up and asks “What happened?” Though the neck of the Prior’s robe is soaked with blood, the only wound they can find on his body is the slash on his arm. Is this healing a true miracle?

Outside the hospital, Gaston holds the five gentleman and their lackeys at bay, while Signoret and Stenay duel. The Priest deals out a pair of deadly thrusts that drop Stenay, but in the distance a larger group is racing to join Stenay’s men. Rolampont and his friends have circled the Hospital, jumped the fence, and are on their way. Signoret and Gaston decide to head for the Abbey, but before they can begin, Signoret is narrowly missed by musket fire. Gaston spots the shooter on the roof of the hospital and he and Signoret race for the cover of a walled street as the shooter continues to fire. The sniper must be some sort of marksmen as his shots strike with surprising speed and accuracy. But fortune or God seems to be on the Jesuit’s side as one shot after another barely misses him and eventually he and Gaston are able to duck down a side street with a stone wall that screens them from the sniper’s view.

By now Signoret and Gaston are truly separated from the others. They continue on towards the Chapel of Sainte-Pierre7 where they spot several gangs ahead of them and a large mob behind them coming up the Rue St. Peres from the Charity Hospital. The gangs give way before them, but the large mob gives chase. Just before the chapel Gaston stumbles in a pothole spraining his ankle8 . Gruffly he tells Signoret, “I can’t keep up. You go on without me,” but Signoret, brave as ever, refuses. Instead they duck into a nearby house barring the door behind them. Soon fists pound against the door and they hear the shouts of the angry mob outside.

Chapter V: Escape
Gaston and Signoret exit the rear of the house and cut across the backyard towards the wooden fence. With some difficulty, they scale the fence, but only after re-sheathing their swords. Once on the other side, they are surprised to see a score or so new opponents. Rolampont and Trevaux, accompanied by ten rural gentlemen from their neighborhood along with seven lackeys have followed Gaston and Signoret from the Charity Hospital. Deciding to avoid the mob in front of the house, they proceed through the garden gate into the yard behind La Tête Noire Tavern. There they catch Gaston and the Priest escaping out the back. As the presence of the rural gentlemen is a complete surprise to Gaston and Signoret, the gentlemen have ample time to draw their swords before combat starts.

Rolampont engages Gaston while Trevaux is happy to have the advantage over Signoret. But his advantage is short lived as the Priest deftly sidesteps Trevaux’s attack then delivers a riposte followed by a second strike. Trevaux falls, bleeding out his lifeblood. Signoret then turns on the gentlemen supporters, defeating one after another until six of them have fled or fallen.9

Gaston, meanwhile, has singularly bad luck10. Although Rolampont’s thrust misses, one of the rural gentlemen backing him catches Gaston’s sword, breaking it and when Gaston tries to attack him in turn, he slips in the mud and his bad ankle gives way. He falls face-first into the mud, dropping his vizcaina. Rolampont’s supporters take advantage of Gaston’s fall to stab at him and he is lucky to only sustain a glancing blow from one of their blades. But Fortune’s wheel turns as Gaston trips Rolampont, tipping him into the mud as well. Gaston quickly drops his broken blade to grapple with Rolampont so as to use the noble as a shield against the rural gentlemen. Limited by the grapple, Rolampont drops his sword and draws a knife to stab at Gaston who twists the knife away, then stands and moves to put his back to the fence dragging Rolampont with him to use as a shield.

Rolampont orders his remaining four neighbors to “Kill the damned Priest!” While the Priest makes quick work of the four unskilled rural gentlemen, Gaston then uses his forearm to throttle Rolampont.

Calling, “Catch!” Signoret tosses Gaston the rapier from one of the defeated gentlemen. Gaston catches the blade and uses it to hilt punch Rolampont, dropping him face first into the mud11. The lackeys decide that they can best render service not by entering the fray to face the deadly Jesuit, but by aiding their fallen masters.

The battle seemingly over, Gaston takes Rolampont’s sword and recovers his vizcaina. Signoret points out that that the back door of La Tête Noire is just across the muddy yard and the two friends head enter the tavern. Signoret wants to proceed directly to the Abbey, but Gaston stops, saying “I need wine to wash this mud from my throat.” Slapping the counter loudly with his palm, he calls “Wine! Now!” After one look at the soldier’s scowl, the innkeeper quickly brings a bottle and two glasses. Gaston grabs the bottle from the innkeeper’s hand, fills a glass for the Father, and then takes a long pull from the bottle. “Alright, let’s go.” Refreshed, they head for the Abbe – Gaston limping slowly with Rolampont’s sword in one hand and in the other, a rapidly emptying wine bottle which he periodically tips to his lips. As they walk, Gaston complements Signoret: “That was some nice sword work back there Priest.”

Once the friends have all reunited at the Abbey, they catch up on their separate adventures and Father Signoret learns of what may be another miracle – the healing of Prior Robert. Although the Prior has no recollection of a second wound or of his fall, Norbert and Brother Mellitus can both testify to it. The Father carefully records their testimony.

However, even while within the Abbey walls, the friends are still concerned for the safety of Brother Mellitus. So Father Signoret and Prior Robert go to petition help from the Abbey Prior or, if need be, from the Abbot himself. They bring with them, the evidence of the latest healing: Prior Robert’s bloody robe, the thrown knife resting on a satin pillow that Father Signoret has obtained from somewhere, and the signed testimonies of the witnesses. The Abbot is not present, being away at the Louvre, but Prior Thomas, the second in charge of the Abbey, consents to see them. The Prior is attended by two assistants: Brother Michael, the Porter, who is already known to them and a cowled monk, Brother Christian by name, who seems to be some sort of assistant or advisor to the Prior.

They inform Prior Thomas of the apparently miraculous healing of Prior Robert. Then, after ascertaining that he is already aware of the activities of the beggars and the mob, Father Signoret, with the support of Prior Robert, petition Prior Thomas to help ensure the safety of Brother Mellitus by limiting access to him for healing. Prior Thomas agrees to their request.

The next day, the three friends separate to perform their respective tasks or duties: Norbert to assist Monsieur LeVan, Father Signoret to try to find out why the beggars are trying to kill Brother Mellitus and Gaston on assignment with his regiment. Norbert accompanies LeVan to the townhouse of Baron Gustave de Biganon to demand payment on a long overdue loan. The pair is shown into Biganon’s hall by four burly footmen who remain to watch them. The hall is large, but somewhat bare; there is a long dining table down the middle, but the only decorations are a large, medieval tapestry and a number of dusty shields, polearms, and axes hanging from the bare stone walls. The Baron, when he appears, is wearing a broadsword at his side. LeVan makes his demand for repayment to which the Baron replies that he doesn’t have the funds now, that he’ll pay them some other time, and then he curtly instructs his footman to “throw them out!”

Although Norbert is unarmed, having left his spiked club in the shrubbery outside of the townhouse, he is not at all intimidated by the four footmen. As they approach he grabs the first two footmen, knocks their heads together, then drops their unconscious bodies. The other two footmen move to opposite walls to arm themselves with one displayed polearms. Then they close on Norbert. He grabs up a heavy dining chair using it as an improvised club to strike down the footmen. The Baron draws his broadsword and enters the fray. Norbert uses the chair to knock away the Baron’s sword, but the Baron quickly snatches a two handed axe from the wall. But again the chair strikes, knocking aside the axe. Norbert then grapples the Baron holding him for ransom. As a ransom for the Baron, he takes a large tapestry from the Baron’s Hall in lieu of a cash loan payment.

Father Signoret contacts another beggar that he knows12 and learns that the some of the ‘nobles’ in the Court of Miracles led by one of the higher ranking beggars known as Black Nose want to eliminate the Miracle Monk since his presence is causing a drop in revenues for the beggars in general and for the Court of Miracles in particular. At Black Nose’s instigation the Court has decided that any miraculous healings by Brother Mellitus infringe on the activities of the Court – specifically the miraculous ‘healings’ performed nightly at the Court of Miracles. Therefore the Court has issued a death sentence on the Benedictine Monk. The noble Priest and Jesuit struggles to understand the beggars’ logic, but when told of the situation, the more down to earth Norbert quickly understands the selfish motives of the beggars and their court.

Gaston’s duties for the day are of a routine nature allowing him time to consider that his duel with Termopillae the Musketeer still remains outstanding. Since it would be awkward for Guy to act as his second in a duel with a Musketeer when Guy’s close cousin Lucien is also a Musketeer and since it would be doubly awkward for Lucien himself to act as a second, it appears that once again, at the first opportunity, Gaston will have to request a favor of Father Signoret to act as his second. That shouldn’t be difficult, he thinks. The Jesuit is ever eager for a duel. He should have been a Musketeer instead of a Priest. No, the Priest won’t be a problem. But Termopillae may. But this time we’ll be ready for his tricks.

Afterward Gaston’s soldierly duties are done he accompanies Father Signoret to speak with Captain Blondel, an untitled noble and the commander of the Abbot-Bishop’s Guard of about two dozen men. The pair requests that the Captain tightens the security at the Abbey and that his men be particularly watchful of beggar assassins who may target Brother Mellitus or even Prior Thomas or the Abbot-Bishop of Saint-Germain-des-Prés himself. Signoret and Gaston are each persuasive in their respective ways and Captain Blondel is willing to listen to the warnings from Signoret and the advice from Gaston. Blondel quickly becomes very worried about the possibility of a threat to his master; he immediately dispatches half the guards to go to the Louvre to protect his master the Marquis de Verneuil, Bishop of Metz, and Abbot of St. Germain des Pres.

Chapter VI: A Long Awaited Duel
“Lament for the Loan of a Blade”13 by Gaston Thibeault

A King’s Musketeer named Lord Buzzing Fly,
Couldn’t come to a duel lest he might die.
No appointment was made
Since he’d lent out his blade
And none other’d suit his discerning eye.

Gaston asks Father Signoret to be his second and to arrange a time and place for his long awaited duel with Léonide de Termopillae, a King’s Musketeer. Termopillae, along with two other Musketeers, challenged Gaston back in February over the outcome of the attack on the Vallteline treaty envoys on the Ponte Neuf, but when Termopillae’s sword was broken after being loaned to one of his fellow duelists, his encounter with Gaston had to be postponed. Since then Termopillae has made no effort to reschedule so Gaston has decided to force the issue using the public pressure of sarcastic verse combined with sending his own second to Termopillae. At Signoret’s suggestion, Gaston writes a note to be delivered to Termopillae.

Dear Monsieur Termopillae,

I trust that this message finds you free and in good health. I couldn’t help but notice at the Vicomte de Bouvard’s Garden Party on Wednesday last, that you, at long last, had managed to find a blade that met your, no doubt exacting and meticulous standards. That being the case, I can only assume that the failure of your second to call on me during that occasion must have been due either to an excess of politeness towards our host – an excess of politeness that later events showed was not shared by all your fellow guests – or that you found yourself unexpectedly lacking in friends willing to support your cause. Now that we are both back in Paris, surely neither concern can pertain. Eager as I am to begin the debate that you requested some months ago, I have taken the liberty of asking my good friend, Father Signoret, to call on you to deliver this note and to inquire if you might, perchance, have a friend sufficiently acquainted with both your schedule and your desire such that a time may be arranged to begin our long awaited debate. I trust I am not too forward in saying that I long to have the opportunity to personally deliver to you the main thrust of my argument.

Yours most respectfully,

Gaston Thibeault
Lieutenant, Régiment de Picardie

The priest takes the note to the Hotel de Treville, mansion of the Captain-Lieutenant of the Musketeers. It seems the best place to look for the elusive Musketeer. The courtyard, halls, and stairs are filled with rowdy, brawling, jocular musketeers who find the presence of a priest a source of puzzlement. Raymonde de Trebouchard spots Signoret and leads him through the crowd to Termopillae, who is playing cards in a parlor.

The Father introduces himself as the second for Gaston Thibeault and hands the Musketeer the note. Termopillae comments disparagingly, “Ah the peasant!” He laughs and several of his companions snicker as well.

Signoret clarifies that “Monsieur Thibeault is a Lieutenant in his Majesty’s Regiment de Picardie.”

“Well it seems he feels the need of heavy prayer before his duel so he uses a priest for his second,” which provokes more laughter. Termopillae picks up the note and Signoret waits while he reads, then asks him for the name of his second. As Termopillae hesitates, Cadelhac14, one of the other card players, volunteers to act as his second, but Termopillae demurs and suggests he has in mind another to act as his second, but that he will need to confirm this man’s availability and asks where his second may contact the Jesuit. Signoret is skeptical, thinking this may be just another one of Termopillae’s delaying tactics, but he provides his address at the Professed House.

As he leads Signoret back out, Trebouchard mentions his brother Grymonde is also here in Paris and that he is studying in the Latin Quarter at the University.

“He’s at one of the colleges here…the name? Ah…yes, it starts with a ‘C’ I think. Surely you know the one I mean. Cholets?…Noooo, I don’t think it is Cholets…but though of course it might be. I think it is that other one, damn me if I can recall the name right now. Well in any event he is staying near here since he is studying with the Benedictines. They have him staying in the most ridiculously small, bare room almost like he was a monk. Well it is an abbey after all, so I suppose they do have monks there, don’t they? Which abbey? Well being as you’re a priest and all, I thought you might know. It’s the big one, not far from here.

“Do you mean St. Germain of the Fields?” Signoret asks.

“Ah, yes. That’s the very one. Been there have you?”

Signoret allows that he has been there and mentions they have a monk there who is a remarkable healer. Having reached the gate of the hotel, Signoret bids Trebouchard adieu and walks to the Abbey St. Germain where he learns of another possible miracle, a butcher with a gangrenous infection of the left hand that was immediately healed. The butcher cut himself badly while carving meat. Signoret records the details including the location of the butcher’s shop. The priest remains to help Brother Mellitus.

Norbert helps LeVan the clerk with another job. This one is an aggressive meeting with a brewer to demand repayment on his overdue loan…or else. With a looming giant in the forefront, the meaning of ‘or else’ seems as if it would be clear, but it still takes a while before the burly brewer’s assistants understand the message. Afterwards, Norbert tells one of the assistants that “there is a monk at the Abbey St. Germain who may be able to heal that broken arm of yours. But unless you stop cursing and start praying, I don’t know that God will favor you with a miraculous healing. I don’t think He likes bad language.”

On his return to the Professed House of the Jesuits, Father Signoret is told that someone called for him earlier and is waiting outside. He has his caller shown into the parlor. The two introduce themselves. The caller is Pietro Morosini, a sword master of the Fratellenza di Giganti and the chosen second of Monsieur de Termopillae. Morosini is dark skinned, with dark shoulder length hair and dark eyes. His cloths are rather plain, but his sword and dagger seem well cared for and he moves with a cat-like grace. He speaks French awkwardly and with a strong Italian accent. Morosini proposes that the duel occur at the closer of the two windmills between the Fauxbourg St. Marcel and the Fauxbourg St. Jacques. The two agree to a duel tomorrow at the windmill, just before sunset.

After mass the next morning, Romain Lalande waits for Father Signoret and asks him to help him set up a melée against the cursed upstart Black Tabarded students of the Fratellenza di Giganti. “We need to teach them a lesson.”

Signoret suggests that they should fight a same size group of the di Giganti. Romain hadn’t considered arranging a fair encounter, but he likes the idea since it reminds him of the chansons and other tales of knightly derring–do. Signoret volunteers both himself and Gaston and agrees to speak to his cousin Guy. Romain volunteers himself and the Polish nobleman, Jan Jelita Zamoyski, so they need only recruit five or six others and to challenge a like number of the di Giganti. Romain suggests a meeting later to plan out their campaign in detail, but Signoret says “I have an appointment around sunset, so it must be later in the evening.” The two conspirators agree to bring their recruits and to meet late the next night in the Latin Quarter at the Huttchette d’Or (the Golden Hunting Horn).

Norbert has a normal day helping the bank clerk. He also witnesses another miracle – a lame man who walks. This miracle occurs before Father Signoret arrives and while Prior Robert is praying, thus it is poorly documented. In turn, Norbert hears about the upcoming duel at the windmill from Father Signoret. These duels sometimes turn out to be ambushes. I think I had better be there to help my cousin in case this one is an ambush, thinks Norbert. He asks the Father which windmill, Signoret tells him, but admits that Morosini’s directions weren’t clear as to which windmill. Though the Jesuit reasons that, “No doubt, the windmills are close enough together that we will see the others if we are at the wrong one.”

Norbert leaves the Abbey early and secretly goes to the windmill ahead of time. Once there he enters the windmill and realizes that although the windmill is running, no one is in attendance. Given a free hand, Norbert hides upstairs and watches events from a window.

Gaston and Father Signoret walk past the University of Paris, exit the Porte St. Jacques, and travel through the Fauxbourg St. Jacques taking a farm road on the left to the first windmill they come to. They soon see a coach which turns out to contain both Termopillae and Morosini. Morosini and the driver help Termopillae down from the coach. He cannot walk without aid and his leg is in a cast.

“It’s most unfortunate; you see I went riding this morning to the promenade Le Pallmail to play a round of Pallmail. And although I won the game rather handily, on my return, my horse was stung by a gadfly and threw me. The surgeon says the leg is broken and it will take at least three months to heal. I am so sorry to trouble you and I fully understand I am perfectly willing to wait until I am able to ‘debate’ you personally. On the other hand, if you are in a hurry to put forth your arguments, I have spoken to Maestro Morosini and he is quite willing to debate with you…as my second of course,” and Termopillae smiles coyly at Gaston.

Gaston agrees to duel Morosini, but he tells Termopillae, “I’m certain we will meet some other time, Monsieur,” and Gaston in turn smiles at Termopillae, but his smile is the grin of a hungry wolf with nothing at all coy about it.

As the combatants remove cloak and tabard, Morosini says with a heavy accent, “Eh, so you are the one-a who killed Cassanha? While-a he claim-ed to be a maestro you will find soon the real maestro, he is a me.” The duel begins, The Italian with his back to the coach on the north, Gaston with the windmill behind him to the south. Morosini begins with a strong attack forcing Gaston back and beating his blade aside. But Gaston counters using his greater strength first to force Morosini’s blade to the side and then to twist the rapier from his grasp with Gaston’s vizcaina.

“Capo Ferro says that a strong grip is the key to the Italian style. It seems that you are not yet un vero maestro, Signore.” With two blades against Morosini’s one, Gaston presses his advantage using his rapier to knock away Morosini’s main gauche leaving him totally disarmed. Morosini scrambles backward and hastily recovers his rapier. Without a second blade, he is forced to switch to the Spanish style.

Gaston pursues; but rearmed, Morosini counters with a precise and deadly thrust which Gaston only partially deflects, taking a wound to his left thigh. Morosini, triumphantly says, “Ha! First blood is mine!”

Gaston only grins wolfishly in response, stalking forward and redoubling his attack to delivering a dominating series of blows, finally connecting with a painful thrust right out of Capo Ferro and only Morosini’s desperate twist of his torso causes the blade to transfix shoulder instead of heart. But his salvation is only temporary as Gaston immediately follows with a deadly vizcaina slash to the throat. Morosini falls. “Last blood is mine, Signore,” says Gaston quietly.

With the duel ended and his duty as a second complete, Father Signoret rushes forward to administer the last rights to the dying duelist. But he has no sooner begun than a shout of alarm is heard. “My friends beware! They are behind you!

Norbert watches from the windmill’s upper floor window and quietly talks to himself as his cousin duels the Giganti sword master. “He is quick that one. But my cousin will be quicker….Dear Lord, please let my cousin Gaston be quicker. Amen.” As the duel continues, all Norbert’s attention is focused on his cousin. The duel ends so suddenly that Norbert is surprised to see the Giganti master fall. “Oh, well done cousin.”

Seeing Father Signoret praying over the body of Morosini, Norbert at last feels free to look around him. He spots a group of eight swordsmen in black tabards hiding in a deep cutting of the farm road south of the windmill. As they draw their swords and rush towards the windmill, Norbert calls a warning to Gaston and Signoret.
Warned by Norbert, Father Signoret continues with the last rites for Morosini while smoothly switching to the shorter version of the rite, meanwhile Gaston calmly steps between the priest and the onrushing Black Tabards. Behind them, they hear the coach driver’s whip crack and Termopillae say gloatingly, “May your enjoyment of your victory be short lived, peasant!”

Realizing that his friends are outnumbered four to one, Norbert leaps through the window, shattering the frame then grabs an arm of the windmill with one hand, his spiked club in the other as he swoops down on the onrushing Black Tabards his club smashing through their midst like the hammer of heaven. Four of the eight are tossed aside like ten pins, their bodies hitting the ground with sodden thuds. Then the vast arm of the windmill draws Norbert up towards the sky.15

The remaining Black Tabards are led by Valentin Dautin, a skilled duelist whom Signoret and Norbert have met before. The four of them move to engage Gaston, but the experienced soldier acts first with a rapier thrust thru one swordsman’s heart. He ducks beneath Chesnier’s slash delivering a lighting riposte in return badly wounding Chesnier, then spins to parry a blow from Valentin. Gaston thrusts at Chesnier, wounding him a second time; the soldier presses his advantage against his badly wounded foe and Chesnier, defeated, yields dropping his sword. Meanwhile, Valentin strikes again, but Gaston parries then slashes his vizcaina in a disemboweling stroke. Valentin clutches his belly as he falls. Signoret, his ritual complete, calmly draws his sword and tells the fourth opponent to flee. But the swordsman’s hesitation allows Norbert, who has jumped free of the windmill, to raise his club in menace as he calls on the swordsman to yield or be smashed. Surrounded by the fallen bodies of his fellow students, outnumbered, and facing an angry giant, the swordsmen drops his sword and pleads for mercy.

While Signoret bandages Gaston’s wound, Norbert questions the defeated swordsman. He learns that Maestro Morosini was boasting at the school about his participation as a second in a duel with Gaston Thibeault and that he was planning on avenging the death of Cassanha. Hearing this, the Gigantis decided to come and watch and assist if necessary. Norbert commands the swordsman to go back to his master and tell him that his school and style is inferior. Chesnier, defeated by Gaston, has run away during the questioning. As all their foes are dead, dying, or fled, Gaston thanks Norbert for his unexpected, but timely assistance saying, “I’ve seen fewer men killed in one blow by a cannon shot than by your club. Cousin, you are a modern Hercules. I will have to write a paean in your honor.”

Norbert says “You are welcome cousin, but these rescues are thirsty work and I have a powerful thirst.”

The friends decide to repair to the Latin Quarter and the Hutchette d’Or for a well-earned series of drinks to cure their thirst and a good, hot meal. They are joined there by Romain Lalande, Jan Zamoyski, and Guy de Bourges. Fortunately the Thibeaults are paying for the drinks as Romain is still broke from his turn at playing host. The free drinks go some way to assuage his envy at the others having a melée ahead of schedule. They reassure him that they can still plan their campaign and Romain is cheered by the fact that the Black Tabards are down one master and half a dozen or more skilled swordsmen the experienced duelist, Valentin Dautin. “We may be able to wipe out all those Black Tabarded vermin,” gloats Romain Lalande. Romain tries to recruit Norbert to the Sainct-Didier school, but Norbert says that he already belongs to the Country School. Which Gaston finds hilariously amusing. After dinner Gaston composes a new poem to commemorate his long awaited duel with Termopillae and his victory over Morosini.

One Blade Replaced, Two Blades Depart by Gaston Thibeault
The King’s Musketeer with the broken blade
Changed old for a new that was better made
Not just sword but an arm
Maestro’s skill ‘list to harm
Fortune’s fall frees his arm n’ blades to aid.

Black Maestro strides forth, two keen blades he bares
Clash of sword cut n’ thrust ’til he despairs
Maestro has a head start
On foe’s blade does depart
Musketeer in his coach sans priestly prayers.

1 Father Signoret spends 1 Fortune Point for Friends in Low Places.

2 Effective Social Rank of a Prince-Bishop (SR 15) image for the abbot: PC20130726A-423

3 Norbert spends a Fortune Point to turn his roll into a Mighty Success. Along with persuading the monks that he and Signoret are friendly, this will also overcome Norbert’s Unsettling Appearance Flaw with the monks at the hospital.

4 Fauburg St. Germain is the suburb of Paris named for the Abbey of St. Germain des Pres.

5 The French Parlements are courts and registrants of the law, they are not representative or law making bodies. Lyonnais does not have a parlement of its own, so the case has been referred to the Paris Parlement for a decision.

6 Sonnet XI: “Why are we thus divided having kissed?” from Love Sonnets by John Barlas (pseud. Evelyn Douglas) 1889.

7 Église Saint-Pierre located on the Rue Saints-Pères at grid square H14.

8 Calamitous Failure: lose 1 Composure; movement slowed; gain +1 Fortune Point.

9 Signoret dodges Trevaux’s attack then draws his blade and mortally wounds Trevaux for -11 Lifeblood; he then goes on to defeat six Gentlemen Pawns. Trevaux continues to bleed as the battle continues.

10 A Calamitous Failure on Gaston’s attack or parry breaks his rapier. Another Calamitous failure causes him to face plant and lose his vizcaina (main gauche). He is lucky to only lose -1 Lifeblood from the attack of the 4 gentlemen pawns.

11 Gaston spends a Fortune Point to get a Mighty Success which nearly drops Rolampont on the spot (-7 Lifeblood) the Hilt Punch does an additional -4 Lifeblood leaving Rolampont unconscious and drowning in the mud -1 Lifeblood per turn. Once Gaston has left, Rolampont’s lackey tries to aid his master, but rolls a series of failures (4, 4, 7, 7, & 5). Rolampont dies choking to death in the mud – an ignominious end. Was his lackey’s failure the hand of fate or could the lackey have had reasons not to succeed? Perhaps he was given secret orders from Rolampont’s wife?

12 Father Signoret spends 1 Fortune Point for Friends in Low Places.

13 A Limerick by Gaston Thibeault satirizing the King’s Musketeer Léonide de Termopillae; the Limerick specifically points out the sword Termopillae lent out, his first reason for delaying their duel, as well as Termopillae’s inability to find time to fight a duel in which he was the challenger even after the passage of three months’ time.

14 Helias de Cedelhac, along with Raymonde de Trebouchard and Léonide de Termopillae each challenged Gaston to a duel over the outcome of the encounter on the Ponte Neuf. Gaston broke the swords of and defeated first Cedelhac, then Trebouchard. Termopillae had lent his sword to one of the two and it was also broken.

15 Norbert spends 1 Fortune Point to help him grab the windmill’s arm and hang on, then moulinet to strike 4 of them at once, and 1FP to turn the moulinet attack into a Mighty Success – which shatters all four of those struck. The Black Tabards consist of eight skilled swordsmen: Valentin Dautin (Retainer 4), Spiro Chesnier (Retainer 2), and six standard Swordsmen (Retainer 2).


Bren_at_Obsidian Bren_at_Obsidian

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