Saturday 28 May 2022

3 Klarmont - I predict a riot

 His head ached after his trip to the wharf front where the taverns selling the wine had been. There was no way he could have sat in them without drinking and it had got a little out of hand in the fifth one. Fortunately, no one had taken exception to his presence or tried to mug him, so that was positive, if nothing else was.

One thing disturbed him. There had been ugly words said about Stephanos Torenescu. The commons seemed to be blaming Stephanos despite the Watch stating unequivocally that he was not even a suspect. Broneslav suspected that the Veiled Society might be stoking the fires here. This would bear investigating which meant more time down in the wharfside taverns. Broneslav headed for the kitchens to fortify himself with the greasiest fry-up he could persuade cook to prepare.

Filled with food guaranteed to prevent any ill effects from beer, Broneslav headed back to the wharfside taverns. He instantly noticed that the mood there was ugly. Tempers were frayed and arguments were frequent. Lucia Vorloi and Stephanos Torenescu were hot topics of discussion with many opining that he must have murdered her or had her murdered.

As the day wore on, people began gathering in the streets. Broneslav observed from the sidelines. It seemed to him that there must be people circulating and stirring things up, but he could not spot them. It got clearer when a man stood on a wagon back and started shouting to the crowd about the murder. The crowd turned and paid attention to him. A hush spread out over it as people focused on the speaker. There were occasional shouts of agreement. The man's speech laid the blame for Lucia's murder firmly at the feet of the Torenescu. Furthermore, he claimed that the Torenescu were behind the Veiled Society too.

Broneslav wandered the district and heard similar speeches in various places. Clearly, the Veiled Society was aiming to stir things up. It could be no coincidence that peopler were making the same speech in different places. By late afternoon, he had heard enough, but had not found the man he was seeking. He wondered if he might speak to one of the speechifiers in private a bit later. With that in mind, he decided to head home and return a bit later. No doubt there would be more of this sort of thing going on then.

His route home took him through a marketplace. The stalls were closed or closing down but there were still a lot of people here. They were listening to a man standing on a cart in the middle of the marketplace.

"And I tell you these Torenescu are dangerous," the man shouted to the crowd, " Do they care for you? No! Do they care for the safety of the common workers? No! They do not pay their share of taxes and they steal the food from your children's mouths to fatten themselves in luxury!"

There were shouts of agreement and the crowd was clearly ready for a fight. Broneslav edged towards the exit of the marketplace, trying not to draw attention to himself. As he did so, he heard a clatter of horses' hooves. The Duke's cavalry had arrived, ringing the marketplace.

Silence descended.

Despite the large crowd of people around him, Broneslav suddenly felt very alone when the cavalry turned up!

Three riders rode towards the centre of the marketplace.

The leader shouted, "In the name of the Duke disperse now!"

He got no further. A rock thrown from within the crowd struck the side of his helmet and knocked him out. As his body hit the floor, more rocks followed, another cavalryman fell, and then the remaining cavalry charged with naked swords. What followed was carnage. Cavalrymen and their horses were dragged to the ground by members of the crowd. Members of the crowd were trampled or cut down by the cavalry. The screams of the injured and dying quickly filled the place.

The orator jumped down from the cart and moved as quickly as he could through the crowd. Broneslav raced after him. A mounted member of the watch saw him and tried to ride him down. Broneslav ducked around the horse and was pushing his way through the brawl before the rider could turn and pursue him. The orator had a good lead now and it was hard to see him, but Broneslav still managed to keep an eye on the man.

Ahead, halberdiers from the Duke's garrison were closing off the streets leading into the marketplace. It looked like the area was going to become a killing ground.

The orator had reached the edge of the market place, and Broneslav saw him open the door to a small house and duck inside. The door closed and Broneslav was hard pressed to reach it, but he managed. It was locked by the time he got there though. Cursing, he stepped back and looked. The windows were shuttered on the inside. They would be easier to open than breaking down the door. He wedged his dagger in the gap between the two shutters and lifted it. The bar across the window held a moment, but then Broneslav's strength told and it shifted. The judicious application of one broad shoulder to the shutter, combined with moving the bar saw Broneslav tumbling through the newly opened window just as the shouts and screams of the combatants in the marketplace reached a new high.

The young warrior leapt lithely to his feet, ready to face the orator.

Saturday 21 May 2022

2 Klarmont - A mystery solved ... sort of

 When Broneslav announced himself at the Watch, the Tribune was relatively quick to see him. She took charge of the additional evidence that he had brought with him and listened to his story. It was clear that she was taking this seriously.

"So," began Broneslav, "I think we have a conspiracy to frame my relative for the death of Lucia Vorloi. I'm not sure why they were burying her in the basement though. That bit does not make sense to me. This group, The Veiled Society, wishes to stir up trouble for some reason and thinks that embroiling the Torenescu's in a feud with the Vorloi's will help achieve that end. All this digging tunnels just seems weird though. I don't get that."

"Yes," confirmed the Tribune, "That is what we have learnt from the man you caught, and the prisoners you rescued confirmed it too once we checked with them. We need to investigate this because it seems like a threat to the Grand Duchy and we cannot allow that. I can tell you that the man you captured is a dock worker, who was hired to kill Lucia Vorloi, but that he claims to have little idea of who hired him or why. It was just a job to earn some easy money as far as he was concerned. Thank you for your efforts. If you come across anything new, please report it. In the meantime, do try to stay out of trouble."

Connecting the dots, Broneslav now understood why there was pitch on the ladder and that also explained the connection to the wine he had found in Turano's guesthouse. His knowledge of trade in the city told him that it was sold only to a few waterfront taverns. With any luck, he might find the other man in one of those taverns, and that might be a lead to the bosses behind this murder. As someone without an official warrant, he reckoned he might pass for a civilian and mostly harmless, where the watch would just put others' backs up simply by being there. Time for a drink.

Saturday 14 May 2022

2 Klarmont - Under Turano's Guesthouse

 Broneslav pushed on through the tunnels and finally reached the end of them. They terminated suddenly with two incomplete passages that led from a last cellar. A large pile of dirt along the southern wall of this cellar showed that work had been ongoing until interrupted by the city's and Broneslav's investigations. Digging tools and wheelbarrows provided further evidence for the activity. They looked like they had been hastily abandoned. Perhaps the diggers had fled when they heard the guards coming, and had not returned. In the south-east corner of the room, there was a ladder leading up to a trapdoor.

With his investigation of the tunnel complete, Broneslav decided to try the trapdoor. This looked like the most likely place for a point of entry, compared to all the other cellars he had found, so there might be clues up above.

As silently as he could, Broneslav climbed the ladder and edged the trapdoor open a crack to spy out the area above. He heard nothing and could see no one. Flinging the trapdoor wide open, he leapt through the gap and rolled into the room, ready for a fight. There was no one there and he felt rather silly.

Looking around, Broneslav realised that he was in a one one-room cottage. The single room contained a bed, a chair and a desk. All had seen better days. Muddy tracks on the floor led from the door to the trapdoor.

He searched the room. A bottle of wine from the Trouscan Estates stood on the desk. It was half empty, or half full, depending upon your level of optimism. There was a black hood in the desk, of a type he recognised from his encounter with the two men from the Veiled Society. A few red hairs clung to its inside. The desk also contained a map of this area of the city. Several houses were marked on it: Fortunato's house, The Rattlebone Inn, Zweis Radu's house, and Baron Vorloi's guest house. Curiously, the house he stood in was not labeled. This suggested it was a base, and not a target, to Broneslav's suspicious mind.

Gathering the evidence together, Broneslav left the cottage. As he left, he found himself in town plot. The cottage lay behind a larger house in the plot. A man of substantial girth was butchering a pig in a workshop in one corner of the plot. Broneslav approached him.

"Excuse me. Is this your house?"

The man looked up suspiciously.

"Who are you, and what are you doing here? This is private property!"

"So, it's your house then. Who are you?"

"Whaddya mean, who am I? I'm Turano the Butcher. Everyone round here knows me. Who are you and what are you doing on my property?"

Turano waved the butchering knife threateningly at Broneslav, but not too threateningly, because he recognised the disadvantage that his lack of armour gave him.

Broneslav introduced himself, and his surname had an instant effect. Turano calmed down a lot. Broneslav then explained about the tunnels. Turano was clearly annoyed and shocked but he took it well when Broneslav told him that he needed to report this to the Watch and that they would almost certainly be round to check it out.

"Must have been that travelling blacksmith, Skevlos," Turano declared, "I rented the house to him, but he left yesterday. I don't know what's going on here, but I hope you manage to get to the bottom of it. I don't need that sort of trouble in my guest house."

Broneslav took his leave and headed for the Watch office. Perhaps they had further news from the man he had captured and this evidence would solve the mystery.

Saturday 7 May 2022

2 Klarmont - Underground again

 Considering his options, Broneslav decided that further investigation could wait while he visited Theosius the craftsman to find out what was needed. Then he would return and see if he could find out anything more.

Theosius, it turned out, did not need him immediately.

"Rum do, all this wit' murder o' Vorloi's niece," Theosius stated, "An' tryin' ta mix his lordship into it too. Not good. Now I've checked ye out, I'll send ye a message when I need ye. We've a bunch o' small jobs as might suit someone of your talents. Might just be lifting and carrying, Might be summat a bit more active. We'll see 'ow things fare."

Nodding his agreement to this, Broneslav left Theosius and returned to Goodwife Thanato's house, from where he entered the cellar and made his way back to Vorloi's basement. Thence, into Vorloi's house to search around again. He found nothing more in the house, but climbing back down the ladder into the cellar, he put his hand in something sticky. Checking it, it turned out to be pitch or something very similar. Clearly, one of the murderers had left traces of it on the ladder. But where had he got it on him? Broneslav's brain failed him (bloody dice!) and he could think of nowhere to start investigating that, so he decided to check the extent of the tunnels. There might be more clues there.

As he followed the tunnels, he realised that here was a group determined to literally undermine Specularum. His explorations found further cellars and more tunnels, but no more people. There were signs of people having been there, hastily abandoned shovels and wheelbarrows, but the people had clearly been disturbed by the guards' own investigations in the Vorloi cellar.

Broneslav quickly realised that these tunnels were limited to just this area. It made him wonder whether others existed around the city and why the Veiled Society was bothering. It was a lot of effort to go to for no clear purpose. Villains, eh? All grand schemes and no thought for efficiency!

His musings were interrupted by a chuckling sound as he entered a larger chamber covered in debris. It had once been the cellar of a house, but now it was filled with burnt out beams and was choked with rubble and dirt. A glowing, person-shaped light floated through the room. The sounds seemed to come from it. Broneslav paused warily, sword drawn, but the light ignored him and passed form the cellar. With it the sound disappeared too. He wondered who the ghost had been, but his ponderings were suddenly interrupted.

Something had grabbed his leg! Looking down, he saw it was a hand, and then several others thrust out of the ground, followed shortly by the rotting bodies they belonged to. The scent of the grave wafted to his nostrils as he felt himself being pulled down. He swung his sword hard. The zombie's head flew from its shoulders and the body slumped back to the floor. A second blow removed an arm from a second zombie. This zombie used the piece of floorboard in its other hand to smash Broneslav in the side. He grunted in pain as it hit with maximum force (4 DAM) but still dodged around the other zombie and avoided its attack. With a muttered curse, Broneslav swung high and his sword cleaved the injured zombie's head. It fell, twitching, to the floor. Then he stepped in close to the last zombie and removed its head too.

Spitting blood, he surveyed the room for more threats before bandaging his wound and preparing to continue his investigation.