Thursday, 5 October 2017

Brunnen 1795 - Play recap

It has become customary in our games to recap the action (or lack thereof) and post in our Facebook group, as we generally only get to play every other month at most and we are almost entirely shitfaced for the last couple of hours of every game, so recall is always poor.

I never got round to writing up the last episode, but will endeavour to do so at some point, but for now here is an example of just how unheroic and low grade my games tend to be these days, for whatever reason...

The Story so Far
1. Poetry night at the Moon and Pfennig
Manfred Krupp dodged his turn by standing on a chair and declaring poetry a third class art form, fit only for those who cannot create with light and colour. Surprisingly he won favour with his arrogance and posing, but then he does have a silver tongue. Hans the urchin stole some pennies and hid under the table. Nobody pressed him to perform. Glen Schmidt on the other hand rolled a load of old guff off his tongue, seemingly at will and gained the admiration of all for his sheer brass. Finally the ex-soldier Friedrich Grabler brought tears to the eyes of the room (although Manfred was probably faking) with his heartfelt war poem.

Unfortunately this was all too much for Udo Dirkschneider, a popular local up and coming player whom had a bright future in theatre before the Pogrom. He was somewhat in his cups all evening as it was but once he had had enough of the poetry he yelled and threw his stein at Friedrich and snorted, “AMATEURS… FOOLS… PETTY DABBLERS… YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF YOUR LACK OF WORTH… YOU ARE SNOT ON THE PAGES OF A LARGER PLAY AND YOU KNOW NOT WHAT LIES BENEATH AND BETWEEN…”

With this he pulled out a pistol and drunkenly swayed across the room. His eyes were bloodshot and weepy. After some more ranting he shot himself in the face but did not die quickly, or easily. Manfred, armed with one good handkerchief and at least an ounce of concern, checked the stricken playwright, only to have perhaps a quarter pint of blood coughed in his face as Udo pressed a small box wrapped in a crumpled handbill into the actor's hand. “Take this to my Father…” Udo croaked before shaking uncontrollably and fitting violently before one last choke, a rattle in his throat and he lay still, finally at peace. Or it would be so, had his face not contorted into a look of abject terror.

He had dirt ground under his fingernails, some were tattered and torn. The handbill was a tattered and water-stained invitation to view the debut of a ‘fresh and thrilling new play’ in Heideldorf the previous week. Inside the box was a key, ornate, the size of large thumb, and inscribed with cryptical arabesques. 

Father Otto Dirkschneider, Dirk’s father, is a priest in Uttenhoffe and tends to the spiritual needs of the locality outside Brunnen, between the western reaches and the edges of the Teutoburgerwald. After some discussion, a couple more cognacs and a brief diversion to see Hans the Fence at the Golden Kugel (where Manfred undersold the wooden box for a paltry sum) the company deigned to rest the remainder of the night before departing for Uttenhoffe to discharge their vague acquaintance's dying wish.

2. The Tower on the River
After a good night’s slumber, the artists determined that the easiest way to travel to Uttenhoffe was by skiff on the sluggish but as yet unfrozen river.  Mid-morning the gang passed by Mischer, a small village where a gypsy boat failed to sell them some lucky heather. An ill omen perhaps? Travelling onwards they spied a small jetty by a path leading into the dense fringes of the Teutoburgerwald.  A boat appeared to have been unloaded onto the jetty but the cargo not taken further, coated as it was with the ubiquitous frost. Being an aspirational group the gang determined to examine the cargo afore making off with it downriver. However some commotion in the treeline distracted Friedrich, and the three boar melee underway gave sufficient cause for salivation (wild boar making for a delicious roast). The ex-soldier handily dispatched two of the rucking beasts with shot and knife leaving the remaining combatant, a huge, scarred and one-eyed beast, to drag its prize into the trees. The detritus littering the scene, mostly tattered cloth and human organs, suggested that the three animals had been fighting over the ruin of a man.

Curiosity roused the artists to explore the path, lest the occupants of the abandoned boat (and perhaps the companions of the corpse) be in some distress and/or in a lootable state. Some yards up the steep and heavily wooded hillside trail they happened upon a guard-tower occupied only by the dead. Five men and women, deceased for some days, apparently killed at each other's hands. One was bitten around the neck and face, and another on the hands and forearms. The bodies wore well-tailored but worn leather jerkins and boots in the merchantman style. Weapons were amongst the dead, short swords and a dirk, as well as some small trinkets, tobacco and foodstuffs. Curiously there were also a couple of handbills similar to the one that Dirk had wrapped around his box. In better condition the hand-drawn imagery was clearer…

A hooded figure taking a mask away from its face to partially revel that behind it… Another mask…

And the text more fully legible...

‘Friends… Waldemar and Company invite you to witness the debut of a play in three acts, ACT 1: The Demoiselle d'Ys’

3. The Magistrate
As the light faded and the now shy sun dipped behind the canopy-draped hills deep in the Teutoburgerwald the companions heaved to at Uttenhoffe, little more than a walled village but at least an occupied and relatively safe settlement free from the banditry and worse that blights the main roads to the East and North of Brunnen.  Father Dirkschneider wasn’t at home, as his housekeeper Granny Grasser informed Manfred Krupp. He had left the previous day to conduct confessions and services at the woodlander villages of Gruuthuse and Mischer before attending the spiritual needs of the town of Dunnacht, half a day further downriver.  Granny Grasser, in between lengthy sucks of her sole remaining tooth, explained that Dunnacht’s previous pastor passed when the church roof fell in and crushed him in his pulpit some months ago.

Dunnacht was known by reputation to most occupants of these parts, being as it was the site of mass beatings and later burnings at the latter end of the pogrom.  The tales of how viciously the townsfolk turned upon the Calvinists and Lutherans that were formerly their neighbours have haunted many a fireplace since.

Retiring to the village inn, The Gelded Fox, to take in the fire and the hospitality of proprietors Karl and Wertha Tannenbaum, the gang hit the booze and evaluated their booty from the day’s adventuring.  Old compadre Didier Alencon and his travelling company regaled the patrons with his latest short play The Jester, a tale regarding an ancient god whose one power was to juggle balls to such unfeasible heights that one day they never fell back.  The punchline was that one did fall back, the star (Morrslieb) and that the other (Mannslieb) must also follow.  It wasn’t that funny.

Throughout the evening Didier’s capering was punctuated by the snoring of a tall and gaunt old man slumped at the bar, his long fingers still wrapped firmly around a stein.  Fellow patrons, in between rounds of banter and swearing, tipped off the companions that the elderly gentleman at the bar was in fact Manfred Haarwitt, seasoned magistrate and, latterly, burner of heretics and witches. Judging that her day had not yet seen enough excitement, young Hans decided to steal his purse.  Perhaps overcome by the heady contents of her several cups, or maybe simply too unrefined in her method, the young urchin’s attempt was interrupted by the realisation that the old man’s long fingers were no longer on his stein.  Instead they were detaining her wrist in a painful iron grip and a pair of rheumy grey eyes were regarding her with dawning awareness and curiosity.  Sensing that his young semi-ward had encountered difficulties Glen leapt to her defence with a holler, only to be knocked backwards by the impact of Hans on his chest as the magistrate, defying his apparent age and swinging the urchin like a weapon in a wide arc.  Friedrich, rising to his feet, was knocked down again by the bulk of the back-pedalling operator of heavy machinery, who was simultaneously roaring in protest at the failure of his great strength to offer any useful advantage.  Now fully alert and still holding a dazed Hans like a bruised ragdoll, Haarwitt interrupted the progress of a charging Krupp with the thunder of a discharged shot from a foot-long flintlock cavalry pistol and the actor took the impact high on his shoulder.  This may explain the dramatic pirouette that described a glorious arc across the salon, scattering cups, ale and patrons in its wake.  Glen, now simply furious, swung his blade with vigour (if not panache) and re-tailored the old man’s battered leather coat and drew some blood to boot.  Now fully awake and focussed upon his surroundings Haarwitt reared to an impressive height for 1795 and drew his side-sword… notched, well-used and thirsty looking it was.  Krupp, his palm stemming the weeping of claret from his wound, called forth across the inn and made a call for rationality and peace with great depth, timbre and impeccable enunciation.  Glen and the magistrate lowered their weapons and stood a moment, winded as they were by the sheer force of the actor’s projection, and the whole inn took a grateful breath.  Everyone was very… very… drunk.

4. The Dunnacht Horror
Following an alcohol and blood infused sleep the friends woke, famished, and broke their fast on black pudding and turnips.  Manfred Krupp was patched up by the ex-soldier Friedrich in field dressing style.  Manfred, looking for revenge upon his elderly namesake expressed sorrow and frustration upon learning that the patrician murderer of men, women and children had left at dawn.  The river, and Dunnacht, beckoned.

At noon the skiff was steered through the crumbling arch of the south wall of Dunnacht, a small town of modest means now sparsely populated thanks to the flames of the pogrom.  A heavy, granular rain battered the cobbles, forming insistent rivulets in the cracked and scorched paving in the square.  Blackened, almost glass-like in places, the site of the burnings was immediately before the ruined church, the Dunnacht Epiphanienkirche, roof collapsed and masonry walls collapsed inward on two sides.

Before the companions determined what action was to follow, a vigorous tremor shook the town causing dogs to bark and windows to shatter. Gathering themselves and regaining their feet they heard a clamour of panicked voices up the street from the square.  Down Böttcherstraße they found a group of locals, hysterically shouting, “The Aachen house… the Aachen house… oh the horror etc.”  Still being largely drunk from the previous evening the gang entered the house, finding little amiss in a spartan but lived in family home that looked to be the domain of a family of five.

Venturing behind the house however young Hans found the old oak doors to the cellar ajar and ventured down the stone steps into a dimly lit chamber.  The tang of iron, whale-oil and shit in his nostrils, he could make out a body strewn at the foot of the steps and, beyond two more, one atop the other. The latter two were children it appeared, barely discernible in the gloom from the two flickering oil lanterns hooked upon the walls.  A fourth body slumped, sitting, against a timber support, gasping fast but broken, excruciating breaths. A woman Hans saw as he pressed forth into the murk, the air close and clinging.  Before she expired she snatched words from the scant breaths she could muster against the clods of part-congealed blood that sucked and blew from her broken lips…

“Oh my life… My love… You’ve come!” 

By now Manfred, Friedrich and Glenn were surveying the scene and attempting to comprehend the meaning.

All felt a pressure in their ears, a squeezing against their temples and a chittering in their heads, like the chirruping of insects en masse.

Friedrich yelled out a warning and struck at Glenn.  Hans shook her head free of the distractions and leapt to her ward’s defence, to little avail.  The wiry soldier, with steely determination, cast the urchin aside and beat the shocked and confused Glenn to the stone floor of the cellar, amongst the blood and bodies of the Aachen family.  Manfred called across the cellar, his words of power and reason piercing the fug of the cellar, and Friedrich froze, midswing, legs astraddle above the prone nobleman beefcake, and regained his wits.

The three, their resolve temporarily broken by the scene, bolted for the steps, desperate for egress and the outside air.  As they panted and gathered their wits, spitting the bitter taste of bile and the dense miasma of that terrible chamber they considered events.  Shaken they were, and near broken by the experience.  Except Friedrich.  He wasn’t overly bothered to be fair.

Taking some control of the situation Manfred choked back the rising stomach acid and ventured back below to drag Glenn by his substantial ankles back to daylight.

The rain and some attention from the now rational Friedrich roused Glenn and the four gingerly made their way back to the square, only to find a small mob gathered by the churchyard howling and spitting.

“He’s there!” they cried, “There he his… murderer…!”

At a far corner of the churchyard, in the patch used for infants, a teenage boy barely older than 17 knelt by a plot of clawed up earth. Between the ragged, soil-encrusted fingernails of his hands he clasped a bundle of rags.  As the friends approached they could see it was the corpse of an infant he was rocking back and forth and speaking to in soothing tones.  Despite his rain-soaked clothes he was spattered with blood.  As he rocked the child, part of the shroud fell away to reveal legs like that of a small dog, only naked of hair and pallid skinned.

Hans saw the child reaching for him, mouthing words. Moving closer he heard the child speak…

“I am a dying god… coming into human flesh…”

All of this was rather unsettling, so they all went to the Golden Tap to regroup.  The boy was identified by the locals as Henry Aachen, the eldest of the Aachen children and a black sheep according to the rumours, as well as father to his sister’s child.  Now, parted from the corpse that was hastily reburied, he languished in a locked room in the cellar of the Tap whilst the companions sought victuals.

  • More pubs
  • More cellars
  • Glen has an encounter with a knitting needle
  • Even less heroics
  • Some other things I can't remember...

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