Friday, January 31, 2020

Monster Blood Tattoo RPG: The Peltryman's Behest I

Chapter I: Obsequies

Behest: a final request or obligation placed on a person or persons as part of a deceased person’s testamentary, usually for the completion of some act that the deceased had been unable to complete.  It is considered a great honor to be called upon to undertake a behest and the worst moral failing to refuse to accept one.  The composer Stumphelhose issued what may be the most famous behest, placing an obligation on his arch-rival Contari to finish the great sympothy that Stumphelhose was composing at the time of his death.  Contari spent three years completing the work.  When it was published, the public acclaim was enormous but Contari had refused to take any credit for his part of the work and subsequently died in relative poverty.

Seven Years Later
20 Narcis, 1601 HIR

Ussary Accural, one of the more renown patefracts in the whole of the Brandenlands as well as an accomplished falseman, was in his simple file in one of the more anonymous buildings in the well-to-do but not extravagant neighborhood of Four-in-Hand in great Brandenbrass when his clerk, Gregorian announced a potential client to see him.

This was Mr. Runciman, a man-of-business working for a philanthropic group of anonymous patrons who were motivated to see justice done to the deserving.  He wished to engage Accural's services in finding the killers of a simple squire from the Valley of the Use, one Valentine Portent by name, who had come to the city only to get himself killed. What had attracted Mr. Runicman's patrons were the facts that Portent was said to have been making some sort of inquiries of any unknown but dangerous nature and that Portent had been a survivor of the great military debacle of the Battle of the Vab River, seven years prior.  Accural was amazed at this latter point, having heard that the few survivors of that disastrous theroscade had all been driven mad by the horror they had seen that day. Runciman assured him that Portent, in addition to having a reputation of good character, had been reported to be quite sane.  He urged the great sleuth to hasten to Useless for the poor man's obsequies were to be observed in two days time.  There he might learn from the dead man's widow clues as to the reason for the murder.

Two days later, having taken the unenviable recourse of hiring a riding horse, Accural arrived in the small thorp just outside the town of Useless.  Stopping at Portent's estate, he was informed that the household was tending to the late Master's obsequies at the family tombyard.  Arriving at this sad location, Accural was struck by the large number of locals who had turned out, all demonstrating genuine grief.

The one figure unaffected was a travelling reddleman, the man's cart of dyes bringing a waft of pungent odor to the proceedings.

Then the sleuth noted three men emerging from a hired lentum.  They represented a strange mix of a scarred but wealthy soul who bore the appearance of both a laggard and a wit, a large fur bedecked rhubezal with snow white hair and an amply-supplied dispensurists, wearing the humble robes of one of the more benign orders.

In the tombyard itself, the grieving widow, a handsome women in her late thirties, was being supported by a young calendar as well as various friends and servants.

The three strangers approached the widow who seemed to be not at all surprised by their strange appearance, saying only, "There are only three of you, I sent word to five."  The leer/wit responded that they had not seen the other two in these seven years, but were sure they would have come if they could either they were delayed or dead.

The widow  responded that they would speak further after the obsequies were observed.

There were forthcoming and a great wail went up from the assemblage when the good squire's body was laid to rest in a crypt.

As the widow, still supported by the Calendar and now joined by the strange trio, were departing, Accural introduced himself and quickly explained the recent service to which he had been engaged.  Although puzzled by the benefaction from parties unknown, the Widow Portent welcomed the aid of the patefract and invited him to the manor house to hear the reading of her late husband's testimentary.

Upon arrival, Accural was introduced to the significant guests.  First was Sister Angella, the Calendar who had arrived upon hearing of the troubles that had descended upon the house.  Accural was surprised to see she bore the spoors of a fulgar on her young face.  

With even greater surprise, he learned that the leer/wit was no other than Lord Danube Figge, notorious younger son of the fabulously wealthy Figges of Fayelillian, who was rumored to be a most infamous presursor, more for sport and desire than from want.  The young lord introduced the two skolds simply as "Jarl" and "Lorent."  The white-haired Easterner seemed about to speak but then obviously decided not to contradict the prickly aristocrat.  Even more surprising was the fact that these three were, like Portent, survivors of the Battle of the Vab.

Assembling in the sitting room, Widow Portent asked her solicitor to read her husband's behest, indicating that the various bequests could wait until later.

But before the lawyer could start, the widow related with great dignity and obviously holding back her tears, "The Valley of the Use is said to be a sickly place.  Without fail, every seven years some form of sweeps through it. Some say the river Use hides some great threwdishness, the more superstitious say that the land was cursed by the Piltdowners when they were driven out.

"I should have been frightened when my parents arranged my marriage to the Squire of this place.  But the Valley is a pleasant, plentiful land and Squire Reeves turned out to be a kindly man. We grew to have affection for each other and were much delighted by our first born, my son Alecto.  But then, 14 years ago, the Green Death stalked the Valley and took both of them from me.  At the time I was with child, and this proved my salvation from irredeemable sorrow.  For my daughter Albany was my greatest delight and the consolation of my soul.  A more perfect child could not be imagined. 

But then seven years passed, and Death once more came among us.  Albany fell ill and was like to die.  I went near mad with the fear of losing her.  But a stranger who was passing through the valley heard of my plight and showed enormous compassion.  He brought a potive made, he said, from the blood of a some sort of rare wood owl. And it saved my dearest Albany.

The stranger of course was your friend, Valentine Portent.  I offered him any reward he wished but he asked only for employment.  For despite being a peltryman, he said he had made a vow never to go into the deep woods again.  I made him master-parmister of this estate.  He was of such strong character and such goodness that soon all people here about could not but love him.  And I too fell to loving him and asked him to be my husband.  Ordinarily, this would have caused a great scandal but, as I said, all the people thought it only proper that he should come to head this community. To Albany he was a second father and he loved her as his own. 

For seven years we were happier than any have right to be. But seven years is seven years and the Green Death came once more.  Once more, Albany fell ill but this time there was no owl’s blood.  Valentine broke his vow and went into the Woods again but found no aid. So our Albany died and with a broken heart we laid her in my family crypt.

The very night she was laid to rest, corsers came and took her body.  When we discovered it next morn, it was more than I could bear.  To think of her sweet frame mutilated by butchers and her organs sold to ashmongers.  Or worse to be made into a rever-man by some black-hearted habilist, to be the walking unnatural undead.  I was inconsolable. 

As was Valentine.  Without my knowledge or asking, he set off to bring her body home.  He went to Brandenbrass that great dark city.  As always, he prepared well, leaving a new testimenary in case he failed to return alive and instruction for what I was to do in that case.  The last I heard from him was that he knew who had taken our sweet child and hoped to find her remains soon.  The next I heard was that he had been slain, by footpads the authorities said."

Here the good lady paused to hold back her tears.  With a deep breath, she resumed,  

"Over the years, he tried to follow your travels as best he could through rumors and the odd scandal pamphlet.  It was his wish that, if he were killed that I summon you all to hear this, his last behest:

To my comrades of the Azure Aurang, I lay upon you this final obligation, trusting in the bond of our shared misadventures that you will see that justice is done to my memory.

My step-daughter, Albany Reeves, dear to me as one of my own blood, has preceded me in death, bringing ineffable sorrow to me and her beloved mother.  Snatched from her final rest by corsers, the lowest of mankind, I sought to restore her final remains by my dearest wife.  If you are hearing this, I have failed in this endeavor and been slain.  I therefore beseech you on your most sacred honor to rest not until my dear Albany is laid to rest as her mother intended.  May Providence guide you and give speed to your success.

"Whatever you wish, whatever you need, I shall provide it. Whatever reward, I shall give it to you. None of it matters.  My good man shall not have died in vain.  I charge you bring my daughter home!"

"But where do we start?" asked the tall Skyld.

"It takes a special type of corser to come to these lands to seek the dead, one who does not fear the illnesses of the Valley.  Where they have ventured once, they will venture again.  

"I have placed a notice of Valentine’s obsequies in a number of the less reputable daily pamphlets in Brandenbrass. If they showed the same industriousness as they did before, you will not have long to wait for them to return."

That night, Osa Frangelin, corser of many years standing and many more debts, approached the small tombyard near Useless.  Need had made him violate the sacred Hinge, the corsers' code of honour, and approach the same yard twice in less than two months.  He assuaged his conscience with the thought that the limitation was designed to avoid corser conflicts.  Since few other corsers were likely to visit these sickly spots, he determined the violation of a mere technicality was not a terrible thing, especially given the insistence by Moneylender Spleen on payment.

Tying his cart to a nearby fence, Frangelin soon got himself into the locked crypt yard, easily disarming the bell traps and opening the crypt locks one by one. He finally located crypt that showed signs of a recent interment. As he worked the locks, he spotted, ill-hidden within the tomb, a large white-haired figure bristling with rough furs, weapons, and potives.  Quickly using a lock-break to jam the lock closed upon the silent guard, Frangelin slipped quickly away, vowing never to violate the Hinge again.

So busy was the corser, however, that he did not notice the sthenicon bearing figure approach from the shadows outside the crypt.

Too late the corser noticed the dark figure approaching, one hand raised to his forehead.  Suddenly, Frangelin felt the great wit-frisson course through his body, pain touching early part of his being and he collapsed to the ground.

As the corser writhed in pain, he was barely aware of the several figures emerging from hiding places throughout the yard.  He was soon bound and tessed.  Despair overtook him as he realized his predicament and its likely fatal outcome.  This is what comes from violating the Hinge!

Led by a soft-spoken falseman, obviously some sort of sleuth, his captors seemed more inclined to inquisitioning rather than torture.  Frangelin quavered under the falseman's gaze and readily admitted that he had been bound on stealing the body of the dead man as he had done that of the girl taken just over a month prior.  The corser readily admitted that he done so to satisfy a requisition from Octavian Scollfyld, self-proclaimed “King of the Ashmongers,” who was seeking ever increasing numbers of corses for some demanding patrons. 

"And can you lead us to this 'King of the Ashmongers?'" asked the patefract.

"Scollfyld is like to kill me for doing so!"

"And what do you think will be our response should you refuse, corserman?" came the reply, all the more chilling for the gentleness of its delivery.

Realizing there was no way out, Frangelin offered to assist in any way he could, swearing upon his most sacred oath to show his captors the way of his trade and those above him, for which, at the end of these inquiries, he would be released.

"But first," the sleuth said with an edge in his voice, "we'll take you to apologize to the good lady whose daughter you have stolen."

Frangelin thought it might have been better had they slain him.

1 comment:

Bloodsbane said...

Top notch writing! It's really saying something that your chronicles are getting me interested in a book series I had never heard of before. Looking forward to enjoying your continued adventures.