Monday, June 20, 2016

Friends and Enemies: Alyssa la Coste Ariette du Martise

Alyssa la Coste Ariette du Martise is the only daughter of the famed swordsman and fencing master, Seigneur François la Coste Ariette du Martise. His manor in Echine overlooking the city and the sea was famed, in his youth, as a place to learn the intricacies of the Valroux school. Hoping to pass on his mastery of the blade to his daughter, he spent many hours with young Alyssa to instill in her a love of the noble art.

In 1649 the Seigneur's steward, Tomis LaMarche, hired a new chef for the manor kitchen: a young woman named Martín, who brought with her her daughter Beatrix. Hoping that she would find a friend in young Beatrix, François brought the child into the main house and placed her in Alyssa's fencing lessons. Though young Alyssa enjoyed her fencing-master no better, she did grow to befriend young Beatrix.

Alyssa's friendship with the serving girl grew every day. Eventually, she demanded her father place Beatrix in her dancing classes and accompany her on her outing in the city. Indeed, when Martín died, the Seigneur all but adopted Beatrix into his family. She was as a sister to Alyssa, though the divide between them was impossible to bridge—Beatrix was the daughter of a disgraced farmer, and Alyssa of one of the luminaries of the school of Valroux.

Beatrix continued to study the blade long after Alyssa dropped her studies in fencing. She pushed herself to excel, impressing even the Seigneur. Eventually, François himself replaced the fencing master and teach the girl himself. Meanwhile, with Alyssa and Beatrix growing older, they started to visit salons and sneak from the manor at night to cut a red swathe across the city.

One evening, Alyssa decided to taunt a particularly hot-headed young knight at a salon in the city. He grew angrier and angrier as Alyssa and Beatrix made a mockery of his skills at the blade and pistol. Before the night was over, the Chevalier Launairre challenged Alyssa to a duel. "If you're father is such a swordsman, let's see what he taught his daughter!" He assumed Alyssa would decline and stain François' name. But she accepted the challenge, expecting to lose honorably.

Beatrix jumped in front of her and accepted the challenge in her stead. Her years of training with Maître François enabled her to dispatch the chevalier handily. From that day forth, Alyssa's mood with her faux-sister began to sour. She realized that her father saw in Beatrix more of an heir than in herself. As the years went on, Beatrix was given her own quarters near to François' own. He treated her more and more as his natural daughter, and clothed her in the finest of clothes.

When Lord Ariette du Martise died, he left his most valuable possession to Beatrix—the blade Aquiliarde, a puzzle sword produced by one of the last remaining Maîtres. When Alyssa realized what her father had done, she went to Beatrix and asked for the sword. Beatrix refused; Alyssa had never cared for fencing, or the art of Valroux.

When all the accounts were settled, it became clear that the Ariette du Martise estate was nearly depleted. The only item of value left was the Aquiliarde, which Alyssa desperately needed to sell to secure loans to recover her father's wealth. Beatrix, furious at what she saw a disgrace against the old lord's memory, once again refused her.

Since that day, Alyssa has turned all her venom and vengeance against Beatrix, even to the point of forcing her out of the country after having turned the very law of Montaigne against her. The one thing she wants back is the Aquiliarde. For her, it is the crystallization of all her father's disappointment and misplaced love.

Now, Alyssa has married the wealthy and indolent Marquis Aramert Cologne du Martise. Though her coffers are restored, she still seeks Beatrix... and her father's prized blade.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Kill Six Billion Demons

I saw it on a blog somewhere. I don't remember who's anymore. Roles, Rules, and Rolls? I think so. Anyway, the fact of the matter is that it's a combination of D&D's Planescape, Glen Cook's Black Company, the Vedas, and everything Indian and Hindu.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Backstories: Herr Barabus Bütschwil

High in the Ahlsberg hills there stands a lonesome manor house and the ruined hamlet that once supported it. This is Bütschwil, home of Herr Bütschwil, a knight-errant suffering under a horrific curse. Ahlsberg has been blighted by the War of the Cross—a Free City of the Empire, devoutly loyal to Imperator Reifenstahl and the Holy Republic, it suffered more than anywhere else throughout the war as one of the most critical points to move troops into the southern reaches of the Holy Eisen Republic. It was filled with loyal knights and pledged its taxes directly to the Imperator each year for support of the war effort. Today, it stands a ghostly shell of its former self.

Herr Bütschwil was said to be one of those knights. He fought on the walls of Ahlsberg against the 1663 siege of the city, repelling a Sieger siege tower with his bare hands. However, the infamous Objectionist champion Ritter Karla Hansbach struck him down from the wall with her pike, sending him nearly to his death; he tumbled into the moat of Ahlsberg, and the weight of his dracheneisen armor nearly pulled him to the bottom. When he emerged, it was a haunted man, driven to ever more desperate acts.

It was on the streets of occupied Ahlsberg that Herr Bütschwil encountered the curse that would dominate his life and spell the ruin of Bütschwil Manor. Among the waisen wandering forlornly in the streets, Bütschwil encountered a wizened old priest in Objectionist colors. He attacked this chaplain on sight, little realizing that the city was already under Objectionist rule. The old man died beneath his blade, but cursed the knight with his final words: "May Theus take from you all that you are, and hold it in his hand, until the day you realize the gravity of your sin!"

From that day forward, the orchards of Bütschwil produced only rot. Its people were cursed as lepers. The Ritter himself found that all of his glorious past was forgotten—literally. The priest's curse has left him senseless and without comprehension of anything that occurred before the Siege of Ahlsberg. He remembers only his ignominious defeat, the burning drive to prove himself better than his fall from the wall, and the slaying of the nameless chaplain... which has damned him so.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Friends and Enemies: Archimandrite Danil Palomnik

The venerable Danil the Pilgrim was made archimandrite of the Monastery of the Sacred Transfiguration in 1664. His appointment by the Metropolitan was the final blow in the career of schimonk Iakov Gagarin Alekseyevich, a notoriously difficult to deal with monk with an independent turn of mind.

Danil is an old man with a long history in the Orthodox Church. He was raised on a backwoods farm where he taught himself both Old Théan and Old Church Teodoran from the books his father occasionally purchased at market. Danil is known to be an exceptionally holy man, so devoted to the teachings of the Prophet that when his father was slaughtered by bandits, he did not raise a hand against them in anger. He was a captive of a band of Fhideli murderers for six years where he served as a sort of priest and confessor. When he finally escaped, he was taken in by the Church and began his long and storied career.

The latter half of his life was spent in the Monastery of the Sacred Transfiguration, and much of that was spent engaged in a particularly obscure war of theology with Iakov Alekseyevich. Both men of humble beginnings, Alekseyevich's insistence on the correct doctrinal readings of old holy texts drove Danil to fury. Danil felt that Alekseyevich, some thirty-five or so years his junior, should at least conduct himself with the basic tenets of respect. Alekseyevich, however, published his correspondences by reading them out loud at chapter meetings. Eventually, Danil cursed Alekseyevich in public and took an oath of silence until the man should be expelled from the monastery.

When the old abbot died, Iakov Alekseyevich put himself forward as a candidate. Supporting his candidacy was the abbey's cellarer, Dmitry Vasileyevich, a noble bastard from the city. By blasting his opponents as heretics, misguided, or downright unbelievers, the two men paved a way for Iakov to claim the abbacy. He won the election, and waited to be confirmed by the Metropolitan.

Danil Palomnik, unable to stomach the thought of serving the loud-mouthed Alekseyevich, had written several scathing letters to the Metropolitan before the election. When he arrived, rather than approving the results of the brothers' election, he named Danil Palomnik the abbey's archimandrate, stating reasons of "desperate measures to be taken against enemies of the Faith."

Archimandrite Palomnik responded by immediately punishing Iakov and Dmitry, removing them from positions of authority in the abbey and reducing their rank to that of mere novices. Iakov, unable to stomach this insult, began to preach against the archimandrite to the abbey's local clients—farmers, knights, anyone he could reach.

Late one evening, Dmitry was warned that the two monks were to be stripped of their station in the morning, made defrocked priests, and turned over to the Stelets for punishment as agitators against the state. They fled in the darkness, preferring the ignominy of escaping to the west than to the death-by-torture that awaited them at the hands of the Gaius' troops.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friends and Enemies: Dottore Luigi Vasso and the Carlo Estates

Doctor Luigi Vasso
The learnéd Luigi Vasso is a canon lawyer and a doctor of the church who has served Cardinal Ernesto Denzelli de Bernoulli at the various church Conclaves throughout his life. He was also appointed tutor to the young Fortunato Ernesto di Carlo. He grew up in Numa and was admitted to an order of monks in that city in his early life. He befriended the former cardinal Giovanni Orsini (who was in line to become the Vaticine Hierophant, with a plan to return the seat of the church to Numa all in place when he died), who sent him to be trained at the cathedral school of Numa. After the death of his patron, Luigi became the professional scribe and lawyer of the newly-appointed Enersto de Bernoulli and took up a position training the young Fortunato in the Vodacce countryside.

Luigi Vasso is a slight man, standing only 5'4". He was born in 1609 and is in his 59th year. He wears the black and white robes of a Vatacine priest and the pinched glasses of a man who has struggled overlong at the reading of small text. He usually has fingerless gloves to keep his hands warm but leave them free for writing. He is always seen carrying a leather satchel filled with inks, pens, and parchments.

Father Vasso has greying hair and goes clean-shaven. His one true love in life is a fine port and some time at the end of an evening to read a book before the sun sets. He is never more content than when in Vodacce, and never more harried than when forced to be on the road. He has a deep reverence for books, libraries, and learning, and has tried throughout his whole life to impart that love (unsuccessfully) on his ward, Fortunato.

The Carlo Estates
In the central regions of the Vodacce peninsula, some 45 miles from the great city of Numa, there lies the estate known as Carlaterre. Eisen barbarians once settled this region as Numan soldiers and its name comes from an Old Eisen word meaning man (cearl). The sleepy hamlets of the region eventually give way to the di Carlo manor and its estates where Fortunato grew up to manhood. It is not far from the land of the Orenza, just over the next rise.

Upon the old half-forested estate there stands a crumbling stone manor of ancient provenance. Still mired in the ancient structure of the middle ages, the di Carlo have made minor updates to it, but it never entered the great golden renaissance of the rest of Vodacce. A single tenant farmer named Alfonzo and his family till the soil beyond the park.

There are five servants in the house—the seneschal and major-domo, decrepit Augustino, the stablegirl Olivia, and a handful of domestics who keep the manor up. Rare has been the day that Fortunato has returned to this slumbering place, preferring instead to have Augustino forward the receipts to him wherever he is staying.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Friends and Enemies: Baldassar Orenza

In the marshy and malarial lowlands of Vodacce, where the ancient city of Numa still stands and waits for the Princes to meet in its hallowed ruin to speak of peace, and of Vodacce power, there are two rival families, both alike in dignity, who have hated each other since the time of Emperor Corantine. For the Orenza and the di Carlo families, the past is very much the present.

The origins of the feud are lost in the distant past, but it seems to have been a matter of horseflesh: the Orenza patriarch, a minor noble in service to the Caligari, sold to his neighbor the Barone Theodoro a sorrel roan. That horse threw the baron's son, killing him. The baron had the horse killed and demanded restitution from Patricius Orenza, who denied him. To this day, the families remember their dislike.

However, this feud is like many of those that brew on the Vodacce mainland. That is, every Vodacce nobleman can recount a reason to despise any other. However, in recent years it has come to the forefront again in the figures of Signore Fortunato and Signore Baldassar.

Baldassar Orenza
Once a dashing and handsome young man, Baldassar Orenza and Fortunato di Carlo where unusually close for members of dynasties that found each other distasteful. While Fortunato's father, Signore Domenigo, spent most of his time on the islands attempting to improve his fortune, his mother, the Signora Lucretia, stayed on the estate. There she formed a long-time friendship with Guiducci Orenza. During their childhood, Fortunato and Baldassar were boon companions, only banished to their own houses when Signore Domenigo returned.

However, a long-lasting rivalry developed between the two boys. Baldassar was taught hard work and study, and has spent his life adhering to that rule. He worked on Syrneth digging expeditions when he was a young man, spent years building up his shipping companies (by proxy of course, no self-respecting Vodacce would engage in work), and managing his father's fortune. He is a devoted child of the Numan philosopher Cicerus and a rather staid man. His popularity is moderate, but his influence is something slightly more.

At each turn, Fortunato seemed to be given opportunity. Where Baldassar struggled and strove to better himself, Fortunato never cared much—and yet, was betrothed to a Fate Witch, and, in his usual way, vanished to go "make himself a fortune" in the north. Baldassar's despite of his one-time friend has only grown over the years.

The Barone Orenza was once slender and handsome, but is now somewhat heavyset. He wears his dark hair clipped short, and his beard well-trimmed, and is fond of red and dark purple. It is said that he drinks too much, but only when he has no work to do. Like everything else in his life, Baldassar Orenza has studied very hard at swordwork, and is a passable fencer of the Bernoulli school. He has also come into possession of a number of strange Syrneth artifacts, and has a network of merchants and informers throughout southern Theah. His one drive is to show up his childhood friend-turned-rival, Fortunato Ernesto di Carlo.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Friends and Enemies: Solmünd Morgenkraii

So, I've gotten back into 7th Sea with an in-person group. While I eagerly await the coming of the second edition (with its New World, Sarmatian Commonwealth, etc.) I figured I'd give a little writeup of some of the folks who are going to be making appearances in this game.

Firstly, let us begin with the most interesting characters: enemies.

Solmünd Morgenkraii
Like many wealthy Vendel merchants, the Morgenkraii created a crest to wear and display prominently on their seat in the Leaguehall. Solmünd is known as the Morning Raven, and lauded as a fierce opponent of piracy and a strong arm of the Merchant's Guild in the League. His family were originally furriers from Oddiswulf, but he himself became a well-known scribe and eventually bought his way into the Merchant's Guild.

In 1660, Solmünd got himself appointed to an admiralty to rid the Vendel waters of the rampant piracy that plagued her ships. From Eisen raiders to Vesten jarls, Solmünd promised to sweep the waters of Vendel clean. A particular focus was the island of Soroya, long known for playing host to Vesten fleets of longships. After spending half a year gathering intelligence, Solmünd decided to act.

He borrowed a huge sum from the League treasury and spread word that the League had just completed a massive purchase from Queen Elaine of Avalon. Six ships were laden with gold and treasure. Solmünd publicized the notion that the fleet was a symbol of national pride, having broadsides printed throughout the islands. "With this, we purchase a navy of unstoppable power!" Then, he let slip through back channels that, due to a personal conflict with Lord Mayor Thørginn Auskrai of Kirk he was unable to fully man the ships and that half of the cannon on board were mockups of wood to deter pirates.

It's true that the ships were poorly manned, and undergunned. With this in mind, he sailed them through the Soroya waters. When the Vesten raiders, unable to pass up such a prize, captured the Fury of Oddiswulf, the Hope of the League, and Theus' Bounty, they discovered untold wealth aboard. They also discovered a huge supply of Eisen liquor. In the village of Finnsulf, there was much drinking that night.

In the early watches of the morning, the Vesten bloated with their victory, Solmünd Morgenkraii's true fleet encircled Finnsulf. His men shipped to shore, cutting off all the roads out of the town. The first the Vesten ever knew of his presence was the opening salvo of the ship's cannon from half the League fleet.

Morgenkraii saw every man, woman, and child in Finnsulf put to the torch, the cannon, or the sword that day. He recovered the Vendel treasury, and let his actions stand as a lesson to the Vesten; 15 jarls were slain.

Morgenkraii is said to be a deadly shot with a pistol and a genius when it comes to logistics and tactics. He has flaxen blond hair, but dark eyes tending toward a storm-wracked gray. He wears the traditional black and white of the devout Objectionist members of the League and always carries four flintlocks on his person—two at his left hip, and two more on a leather bandolier.