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Year of the Curious Man, Part 1. (Cutlass Play 8/15/2018)


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My dear Caterina,
These past years of domesticity have been the most joyful of my life, and I find my heart heavy in my current absence from our estate. I pledged myself to this commission long ago from a sense of duty and a misplaced need for atonement. Duty called, especially when in the assistance of one's friends, and most especially when said friends are the Marshal and Admiral of all France.
And so, I found myself mustered in Nantes, prepared to take back the city from your countrymen. I recognized your ire, but hoped you could find it in your heart to understand and forgive. You have your loyalty to your country of birth as I have mine.

It was good to see my comrades in arms after all this time, yet I longed to return home to you and the children. Alas, although my military duty to France lay discharged and Nantes stood liberated, another obligation arose I could not dismiss out of hand.

I have some... associates in the banking industry, introduced to me by Merd-a-din, whom I introduced to Moridin. Our immediate contact was David Giselle, noted for the medallion dangling from his spurs, among other subtle signs. Moridin found himself immediately under contract to Giselle, and, as his sponsor, it fell to me to accompany him on the task.

In the Courts of Patrick "the Kind," King of England the brutish imp, Alexander Pope, a "gargoyle of a man, not human, a book in breeches [a] crippled swarf and the son of a mere draper [whose] life in one long disease," has lived - his presence only tolerated because of the love shown him by Queen Rachel. The Imp has become a playwright of renown. His works were largely mocking slanders of His Royal Highness, Maxime of France. Our associates feared Pope would find himself assassinated. Instead, we were to present ourselves before Patrick's court as Ambassadors from Ansbach, remove the Imp, and remove him to safety... Perhaps far-off, exotic Burma.

Gaspard "One Shoe," Chip Wildemoon, Thomas de Marchand and Jasc Bonadventure joined us as we set out, overland, from Marseilles to Vichy. We all felt that some strange Flair in our Fates would make this a longer, more eventful journey than what would normally occur. Even our first night at an Inn became fraught with importance - Bonadventure debated stealing the pocket watch of a local Constable. Trust the drunkard, Moridin, and the impatient Gaspard to encourage Bonadventure! Fortunately Moridin's purse convinced the lawman to forgive Bonadventure when his Feigns and prestidigitation proved inadequate to the challenge!

We crossed fro France into England without further incident, yet, in England we heard dire news. David Giselle was murdered. Our associates offered a thousand doubloons for the head of the man's killer. Man? Our late patron turned out to be a woman, Giselle David, and, besides her business dealings, she was an agent of the French Crown! The only fact known of her death's circumstances is that the murderer was aligned to the Grognards. Our new contact was Theo, Clown to Patrick's Court.

It was the night before we arrived in London when the next misadventure befell our band. We found ourselves assaulted over our evening's ale! Wildemoon was slashed, and from the way he staggered and dropped like a stone it was clear we faced poisoned blades. I was able to knock one of our assailants out while de Marchand slashed through the throat of a second. Moridin and Gaspard fared less well, but managed to avoid being cut. During the struggle lanterns were smashed and the wooden structure of the Inn erupted in flame. Diner and drinker alight pushed for the exit as a series of shots cut through the din. One of our attackers fell when a ball shattered his skull. It was Louis Brighteyes, calmly reloading his brace of pistols for another volley! I screamed "Musketeers!" to set eyes away from Brighteyes and made my exit. I realized I was alone and re-entered the inferno. I returned and saw Gaspard pulling the blade from an antagonist's chest, another foe sprawled on the ground with Bonadventure's belt hampering his ankles, and Moridin's mug having smashed the man's face. de Marchand was staring at the three. Bonaventure had a writ in hand and was attempting to talk down the final attacker. I smashed a chair over the distracted opponent's head. We grabbed Wildemoon and exited the inn. The unconscious attackers were left to burn alongside their fallen fiends.

Bonaventure brought news. Humphries, a notorious English Privateer was moving against us. The assassins we had recently dispatched were hired by Humphries. Their leader, the vile Henri Gee, was that same first man de Marchand slew.

We left Wildemoon in the care of an Apothecary. This was when Bonaventure discovered, to his chagrin, his purse had been lost in the brawl. Still, we pressed on and made our way to the court of King Patrick the Gentle.

Moridin and de Marchand spoke German, so they functioned as our leaders in our deception as representatives of Ansbach. We found ourselves invited to dine with Duke John, renowned as the best pilot on the seven seas. One attendee of the meal doubted our story - as Frenchmen, our natural mien was overly refined to truly pass as German. Moridin challenged the lout to a drinking contest. A few rounds in the man made the mistake of trying to take Moridin's glass. Moridin took the errant knave straight to the floor. There was much laughter and a declaration that only a German would enact such violence over an empty glass. Our benefactor, he who had invited us to the dinner, revealed himself as a true diplomat of Ansbach. Amazingly, he vouched for us as well, thus our cover story remained intact. For the rest of the meal I was fortunate enough to be seated near Duke John. His reputation is not exaggerated. I learned much of the sailing arts from his conversation .

Perhaps Humphries assumed we would be complacent after a large meal, several drinks, and late socialization. He, and a gang of thugs attempted to accost and arrest our band. de Marchand displayed a surprising skill at Oriental Pummeling which slowed the thugs while the rest of us went to open the gate. Gaspard was quick to encourage haste to avoid capture. Bonadventure had a grenade secreted about his person, and its use caused enough chaos to allow our escape. Wildemoon procured a purse stolen from one of the guards and gave it to Bonadventure to replace the coin he'd lost before.

Upon returning to our chambers Moridin found and encoded note. Simply, we were assured we had other allies at Patrick's court, and plans continued apace. In diplomatic guise Moridin and de Marchand agreed to vote with the Serbian Ambassador on a motion to reduce festivals in Ipswich. The Serbs felt too many of their own were drawn across the borders to attend such.. Moridin's voted ingratiated him to the Serb, and Ambassadors from Carpathia and Spain approached to inform Moridin they were aware of, and supported our mission to remove the Imp.

Despite seeming allies, we somehow knew that events wouldn't play out smoothly. Fate herself would demand violent consequences to our actions until the Wheel of Fortune turned again. Whilst Moridin and de Marchand played diplomat one courtier, Henri Guy, attempted to give me offense. There was a time when my temper, under the guise of honor, would have led me to kill the man. Fortunately for him your influence, and the wisdom of fatherhood, served well enough to avoid tragedy. I satisfied myself by merely savaging the sop with words. This was not the time to fight, but for myself, Gaspard, Brighteyes and Bonadventure to seek the Clown, Theo, for instructions while Moridin and de Marchand played diplomat.

We discovered from the Clown we were to bring the Imp to Vichy, by sea, before taking him to Burma. We had barely finished our secret conclave when Henri Guy reappeared. The man must have been one of Humphries' pawns, for rather than pretend offense or challenge, he simply drew weapons and attacked. Moridin slurred it "wasn't fair' to attack a man" in his cups." Guy tried to cut Moridin down, and I interposed my blade. We struggled inconclusively, while de Marchand fled and Gaspard gaped. Brighteyes must have thought Moridin's feign of helpless incoherence was true injury and been alarmed by de Marchand's flight - he admitted later to a moment of panic - and struck out blindly and brashly. Even wielded without thought, a dagger is deadly, and Brighteyes' brash swings took his dirk into the ribcage of our attacker. Brighteyes had killed the Guy.

The next morning we all were summoned into the presence of James, Court Chamberlain to King Patrick. Whatever rumors he'd heard, whatever his agents had seen had given him cause to doubt our status as men of Ansbach. Despite having diplomats of four nations, including Ansbach itself, having vouched our bona fides, James insisted on seeing our "Royal Charter." Bonadventure, a forger, had previously drawn document which he quickly produced. Perhaps the seal was wrong, perhaps Bonadventure's use of the backwards grammar of the guttural German tongue was incorrect. The Chamberlain tore the documents in half and threatened to expose us. To our surprise, Moridin accused the Chamberlain himself of being an agent of Lichtenstein. To our greater surprise, he provided proof! Stalemate. It was mutually agreed to let all continue their deceptions, at least for the time being.

James is at least the third agent of Lichtenstein members of the Vert Valliant have identified in varied courts. Upon our return to France, it may be time to act against the agent identified in Paris.

Yet, under threat of potential action from both "Chamberlain" James and the Privateer, Humphries, the time for subtlety had passed. We needed to grab the Imp and flee England.

The Imp gave us no trouble - in fact, he seemed eager to join us. I am unaware if he knew his life was under threat, if the intrigues of the English Court had wearied his soul, or he had been misled as to our intentions, but it was clear he trusted Moridin. Pope was utterly charming and charismatic, and his stature lent him the aspect of a precocious, genius boy. As one who has performed works of several playwrights, I particularly enjoyed the man's turns of phrase and poetic use of metaphor. I found myself saddened by the sad fate that he likely faced in far-off Burma.

Our flight from England was confused. There were multiple obstacles to freedom, from countering acts of the Court Nobility, to avoiding the Resources, Power and Murderous rage of English soldiers. We quickly found ourselves separated. I evaded capture by making my way out of London via the sewers (correctly guessing no one would guess a man of my rank would use so filthy an egress), then joining a caravan of gypsies headed towards the port to ply their wares. Merd-a-din's name carries much weight with the mysterious Romanii!

At the port Moridin and Pope were waiting. They had disguised themselves as laborers and made their way. Shortly thereafter the rest of the Valliant straggled in. de Marchand had secreted himself in the very sewers I had used in my escape. Brighteyes, Bonaventure and Gaspard had to fight their way out. Brighteyes had dispatched the leader of the guardsmen sent to arrest us, and secured their escape route, but not before Gaspard had been gravely wounded. We managed to take Gaspard to the same location where Wildemoon still lay ill. We wished Wildemoon and Gaspard luck, pledged to drink deep when next we met in France, then made our way back to the port to catch the vessel procured for us.

Mathys Violette, to our joint amazement, was the man who had wrangled the vessel we were to set sail in. “Clam Dog” was certainly not the equal of beautiful ships like the “Petrel,” “May Sun,” “Lion’s Pounce,” or even “Karlskrona.” Clam Dog was obviously a Damaged ship. Her crew may have been Seasoned sailors, clearly Battle Ready, but they were also obviously Impressed, Pyratical and Corrupt men. Clam Dog may have carried Abundant Stores but the sheer amount of vermin aboard hinted that such supplies couldn’t be counted on in the long term. Fortunately, this was to be a voyage along the coast, and not across deep, open waters. Indeed, after an uneventful journey along the shore, Violette sailed Clam Dog straight up the river with intent to sail all the way to Tours.

Alas, a series of accidents befell the Clam Dog and she was run aground, stunk fast, in the midst of a stinking bog. Moridin had experience as a sapper, and it was he that led the crew in digging us free.

This misadventure had a deleterious effect upon crew morale. Violette was acting as Captain. Whether to simply assuage the crew, or in service to his own, dark urges, the pyrates aboard Clam Dog chose to attack and board another vessel. Clam Dog maneuvered alongside, and Moridin gave the crew their boarding orders. As it was clear my companions of the Valliant were to join in this ill-advised, and distracting attack (When on a covert mission it is poor planning to unexpectedly attack another vessel mid-river as there are only two directions to take afterwards, and anyone watching from shore can clearly see which choice was made), I was honor-bound to aid as best I could. I inspired the crew with rousing words and poetic calls to plunder, and they leapt into action. De Marchand was at the vanguard of the boarding party, and the Clam Dog’s “hounds” bayed as they boiled across to the other ship’s deck. Violette split off from de Marchand and led soldiers below-decks. I stood fast on Clam Dog’s deck, prepared to repulse any attempt to counter-board. I did not see what events conspired to twist the battle in such fashion, but there came a muffled thump from the hold of the beleaguered ship, followed by clouds of thick, black smoke. The boarders quickly returned to Clam Dog. Violette brought up the rear, urging haste upon the retreating sailors. Yet Violette himself almost failed to make it back to Clam Dog. The flames jumped from below-decks to the rigging with the speed of a demon, and the sails lit up like like the fireplace in your father’s Great Hall. Violette was struck by falling, burning debris. His injuries were such that we needed to set ashore for treatment.

With Violette injured, Clam Dog’s normal Captain chose this time to re-assert his authority. Timeo Lylou was a singularly unpleasant fellow to be downwind of. He proudly called himself “The Slob,” and made it a point to live up to his chosen sobriquet. Lylou was persuaded to continue to honor the contract he had signed with Violette once it had been made clear that Violette - indeed, all of us! - were merely acting as agents for another, richer entity.

Pope was taken overland to Tours, where he became a minor topic of debate amongst the gathered Bishops. Yes, years ago, His Excellence, Ambassador Percy Wischard, had arranged safe passage for Bishops of the “Reformed” Church to meet in Council with the Bishops of the “True” Church. The discussions and debates have raged for years. It seems Pope, the Imp, is of interest to the Pope, the Patriarch! So I gathered from the entire diversion to Tours.

With business in Tours completed, it was time to turn our bow downriver, to seek the open sea and to aim our sails for Burma. Information obtained hinted that Humphries, that scalawag, intends to waylay us off the coast of Seville.

And so, we found ourselves trying to repair and prepare the Clam Dong for battle. The Slob managed to obtain fresh rum to ensure a Comradely crew (yet has he accounted for Moridin?). Brighteyes secured extra supplies of powder and shot for Clam Dog’s cannon. Bonadventure collected trade goods to act as a Prized Cargo, Moridin, medical supplies. De Marchand trained the crew further in the arts of the blade, while I told the men the Chronicles of the Vert Valliant. Educated in the legacy of those they sailed with, surely the crew will remain Obedient!

And so, we prepare to set sail for Burma, Lylou, the Slob in command of the Clam Dog, his mate, Jonson, as Pilot. AS heroes of Nantes, Moridin acts as a Swashbuckling Master of Guns, and myself as Ship’s General. De Marchand functions as Quartermaster and Brighteye as Master of Sails.The Imp, seemingly frustrated at being carted hither and yon, has become the Ship’s Grumbler, yet never before has the expressions of a man’s displeasure been so pleasurable to hear! Truly, Alexander Pope is a master of many languages!

It is my hope that this voyage may be completed in an expedient manner. While the journey is long, it mostly follows shoreline across waters that I, at least, have sailed before. Then, dearest Caterina, I shall return to the Estate, to our children, to you, my beloved wife, and to the home and hearth we have managed to build together.

Until that day, I remain your husband,


Yours,

   Lord Bailey Baylee Bayleigh (Chronicler)



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