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Fear the Smiling Man, pt 3 (Cutlass play 10/19/2018)


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Marshal Duclos,

My friend, Iím afraid the rumors are true - it was, in fact, Marco da Vinci who escaped from the Bastille all those months ago, and the ancient rogue still runs free in a previously unknown continent south of Ceylon. The letters received from Jasc Bonadventure and Tomas de Marchand were enough to narrow down a search area, and Lionís Pounce was able to locate the galleass chartered by Mssr. DíAmbray. A member of their party, Jean LeBeouf, had sent a missive to the Court petitioning for Privateer status, so I drew up the paperwork while bringing De Marchand and the wounded Nemo McMoridin aboard the pounce. Merd-a-din delivered the writ while Alain Gignot joined him.

The Pounce hung far back - allowing the galleass with DíAmbrayís party to advance nearly below the horizon - then followed Díambray to the shores of a continent hitherto unknown to France. De Marchand and I went ashore with a body of men and followed Díambrayís group through the verdant forest to a high mesa, where a battle with the native ďWalrus PeopleĒ had ended. DíAmbrayís group had sustained casualties, and so I ordered my troops to take the wounded back to the Pounce. Alain Gignot, Jean leBeouf and Louis Brighteyes returned as well, and I left Brighteyes in command of the Lionís Pounce with orders to return to France if we failed to return in a set amount of time.

Díambrayís party consisted of some two-hundred and fifty men-at arms, as well as Mathys Violette, Jasc Bonadventure, Thomas de Marchand, and Mal de Merd-a-din - proud soldiers of the Vert Valliant, all! - and myself.

The land we covered was quite beautiful; lush forests, winding rivers, rolling mountains, and spectacular waterfalls surrounded us in all directions. Imposing stone ruins - pagan temples? - dotted the area, and one extensive cave system was found, if not charted.

The Walrus People were a fearsome tribe of savages, and their resistance to our exploration was relentless. Every area we explored brought a group of their warriors to harass us. While their dedication to their cause might have been admirable in a civilized people, the constant brawling and skirmishing served to slow and hinder our search for da Vinci. We were fortunate the primitives possessed weapons no more fearsome than clubs and spears. Faced against superior French steel, shot and soldiers the Walrus people found themselves beaten back time and time again - usually without even resorting to use of our muskets and swords!

I shanít bore you with the details of the many and varied clashes. Some were settled with a daggerís edge against the throat of a tribal war leader and a pointed question. Others were ended simply by scaring the savages away with volleys of pistol shot fired in the air. Yet other skirmishes finished with our superior numbers clubbing down the savages and taking prisoners. For the most part the only injuries sustained by D'ambray's party were the occasional headache from taking a glancing blow to the skull. In fact, the only true injuries of note happened when, during the heat of battle, some of Díambrayís soldiers attempted to keep Merd-a-din from rushing into the fray. The overheated Merd-a-din slashed several of the troops. None were slain, but a couple were badly injured.
Merd-a-din did more harm than the enemy.

I will note that it was a rather different experience fighting a battle, war canoe to war canoe, in the middle of a large calm lake. Thrown spears and half-hearted blows are a far cry from the spray and thunder of a high-seas ship engagement. Still, despite out unfamiliarity with the commandeered canoes, the mettle and metal of civilized white men easily overpowered the wood and stone of the bronzed savages.

I have already mentioned the warren of caves found inland. To the north of these caves we encountered a surprise - fine European horses have been brought to this far-off land (perhaps by da Vinci?), and the savages had formed a cavalry of sorts. Bows and spears against musket and steel left the primitive tribesmen out-classed and quickly defeated, but the battle is notable in that Mathys Violette was actually struck down and bound by the cannibals. DíAmbray pushed forward with a squad of soldiers, saved Violette, and scattered the horsemen. I have heard Díambray called seer and madman - for this entire venture started (I was told) from either a vision or dream of his - but his bravery and willingness to endanger himself for those under his command cannot be denied. If the manís bravery were to hold true against a formidable foe, he might prove a good candidate for the Vert Valliant!

After scattering the cavalry, we ventured northwest of the caverns to the rim of and extinct volcano, then westward to an expansive tree-house where we discovered the swashbuckling da Vinci. The old pyrate showed no fear of our numbers. Indeed, the man sneered insults at us all before drawing his blade and swaggering towards us. Fearsome his reputation might be, but he was faced by Rolfe DíAmbray and five members of the Vert Valliant. Our men-at-arms were ordered to form a perimeter while we six - DíAmbray, de Marchand, Bonadventure, Violette, Merd-a-din and myself - faced down the dastard.

Da Vinci brandished his cutlass and charged Violette. Violetteís oriental pumelling knocked the blade from his grasp. Da Vinci spun kicking at Bonadventure and found himself rolling to avoid the tenacious Bonadventureís pistol shots. As he rolled, Da Vinci snatched up his blade and came up swinging at Merd-a-din with his hand-guard. Merd-a-din blocked the blow with his version of an Oriental defense. Da Vinci pushed Merd-a-din back and drew a pistol with his off-hand. I raised my own brace and blasted both pistol and cutlass from da Vinciís grasp. Da Vinci tried a flamboyant ruse and attempted to retrieve his weapons only to find himself tangled in the cloak de Marchand had thrown around his trailing ankle. Da Vinci swept off his hat, presumably to throw into de Marchandís face as a distraction. He was stopped when Díambray grabbed his arm. Da Vinci pushed free from Díambray, yanked his boot clear of de Marchandís cloak and produced a fresh pistol from his belt, just as Violetteís jumping high-kick thudded into the back of da Vinciís shoulders. The hoary rogue managed to roll forward with the impact, rising to his feet near Bonadventure. Bonadventure tried a sweeping attack, but da Vinci was finally able to land a curious, open-handed blow which knocked Bonadventure sprawling!

Merd-a-din was da Vinciís next target. Da Vinci tried to grapple the taciturn soldier, but found himself bowled over by the force of Merd-a-dinís kick. I leveled a pistol on the fallen man, expecting him to surrender. I am embarrassed to admit I was caught by surprise when da Vinci grabbed my arm and used it as a lever to both rise to his feet and send me face down into the dirt!

De Marchand tried to call on the man to surrender. Da Vinci knocked de Marchandís sword from his grasp and taunted the him, turning to find himself face-to-face with DíAmbray. The two combatants spent moments locked in stalemate, each attempting to hit the otherís face with thrown rocks and dirt. Da Vinci managed to palm a dirk. Violette leapt in, striking da Vinciís wrist with stiff fingers. The dirk dropped. Bonadventure tried to back da Vinci up with a display of flamboyant swordsmanship, but the Cunning old pyrate threw himself down, snatched his sword from the ground and cut Bonadventureís forearm with a backwards chop!

Merd-a-din rushed in, fists spinning in a complex pattern. The aged da Vinci matched Merd-a-din blow for blow. The rest of us waited while the two foes struck, dodged and parried until, panting, the two parted. I entreated da Vinci to surrender to the inevitable and return to France for a just and fair trial for his crimes. He responded with a foul slander involving His Royal Highness, Maxime, and a goat, spread his arms wide and challenged us to shoot him down on the spot - he would never surrender to the lackies of the ďboy King with a babyís mind.Ē De Marchand grasped da Vinciís wrist and spun him boots-over-hat to fall, again to the dirt.

The indomitable da Vinci again took the opportunity to grasp at his sword hilt, stabbing upwards. His blow was deflected by Díambray, who swung the buckle end of his belt around da Vinciís blade. Violette raced in and tried to finish the antagonist off with a stomping kick. Da Vinciís palmed pistol barked, creasing Violetteís leg with an inconsequential flesh wound.

Da Vinci clambered to his feet, blades in both hands, and began ducking and weaving, spinning his swords in crossing defensive arcs. Bonadventure aimed a pistol, waited until the blades crossed each other in their pattern, and, with one well-placed ball, shattered the sweeping swords. Merd-a-din slipped in, bringing his fist over in a savage hammer-blow. Da Vinci must have been flustered, for the short hilt of his shattered blade twisted in a move designed to disarm. Merd-a-dinís fist slammed into Da Vinciís skull and the shaken man staggered.

I walked, unarmed towards the aged da Vinci and, again, called upon him to surrender into my custody. Da Vinciís confidence was waning, and he made desperate feints, attempting to distract us, while I gave him my word as Admiral of France he would be treated well as a prisoner and would survive in good health to stand trial. De Marchand spoke up, attesting to my veracity as a soldier of the Vert Valliant, a nobleman of honor and corroborated my identity as Admiral. Da Vinciís green eyes glittered as they darted sidelong, seeking avenues of escape. The old man was reaching the end of his endurance, for the spinning kick he attempted at De Marchand wasnít even close to its intended target.

Da Vinci planted himself again, face to face with DíAmbray. The two men grappled each other. Da Vinciís superior skills were unable to overcome DíAmbrayís youthful energy. Da Vinci pushed away from DíAmbray and tried to run. Mathys Violette threw a branch into da Vinciís legs, tangling them and dropping the man once more to the ground. This time the man lay still, defeated and broken.

Da Vinci would be languishing in a cell in the palace now if the horsemen of the Walrus Tribe hadnít attacked. The cavalry broke through the brush, scattering our encircling troops. Bonadventureís quick, disciplined instincts took over, and he called the troops to order. The troops were circled in a schilitron formation, ready to repulse the savages. Alas, if battle and carnage had been their goal, we could have obliged. Instead the attack proved a mere diversion. After a few chaotic moments of thundering hooves, piercing cries and wild melee the cannibals sped off into the concealing forest. Da Vinci was gone.

The other members of the Valliant remained with Díambray. I am told his initial vision inspired him to seek out Infidel pyrates raiding near the Safavid. I do not know if da Vinci was part of the vision, but I believe their party is returning to Ceylon to sell off their sub-human prisoners to the Infidel slavers, then continuing their search of the southern seas. Before I returned to France in the Lionís Pounce, I instructed our brethren of the Valliant to keep their ears open and to send any further rumors that might indicated the whereabouts of da Vinci to you. Da Vinci may remain at large and may yet be a danger to the Crown, and may still be a formidable foe, but I believe we have determined that the man can be beaten and that his advanced age is starting to dull his teeth. He cannot remain at large forever.



Yours,

   Leon Leonard L'eonce (Admiral)



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