Friday, January 22, 2010

Day's End, Sion

Monday, May 26, 1650

The party travels upstream along the Rhone River from Montreux, which flows into the east end of Lake Geneva.  The slope is gentle, the land itself is flat and heavily farmed; throughout the first day, Sunday, there are nor hills to climb, no forests to pass through ... only the magnificent mountains to the south and the north, through which the wide plain of the Rhone passes through.  There are a great many people moving along the road, as many as three or four dozen in sight at a time, making this the busiest road the party has been on.  Andrej speaks to a party of four Italians, who explain that the road forks at Martigny, east into Sion and southwest where it leads to St. Bernard Pass into Italy.  It is the traffic to Italy that makes the road busy.

The valley narrows progressively through the day, the party having climbed perhaps 300 ft. above Lake Geneva.  By evening, the party reaches Martigny.  The following morning, a thin drizzle falls (snow on the alpine slopes high above), and the party continues on its way through a narrow gap (not a pass, though the Rhone gives way to some moderate rapids), into the Prince-Bishopric of Sion.  At the border, where the road directs away from the river and into a cut through a mountain spur, you learn that you are leaving the Republic of Switzerland and re-entering the Holy Roman empire.  A heavy toll is levied - 8 s.p. per person, but no cost whatsoever for the mule.
There being little doubt this price will be paid, the party continues into the lush valley of Sion.  The thin rain ceases, the sky remaining overcast, and at last the twin hillocks of the town of Sion come into view.  The manor house is seen on the right, and the castle (shown here in ruins) and monastery on the left.

I love this image.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Midday, Road to Montreux

Saturday, May 24, 1650

There is little to say about the road; it winds its way along the north shore of Lake Geneva, the lake beautiful and blue, the mountains in the background. The high hills are covered in vineyards, which in this season have turned green with new leaves and sprouts - too early to grow lush and cover the thousands of poles supporting the vines. You see many boats on the lake, some quite large, up to forty feet long, much of it commercial traffic.

At one point along the road, you come across a single fellow, sitting on a stump before a linen tent, slicing cheese off a block he balances on his thigh. He is dressed in leather armor, a woolen coat, and typical clothes. A great helm and large shield, a sword resting on the shield, sit on the ground near his feet. A javelin leans against the front of the tent, and a horseman's mace hangs on his belt.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Late Afternoon, Lausanne

Friday, May 23, 1650

The journey from Bern to Lausanne passes uneventfully, but takes far longer to accomplish than anticipated.  Emmanuel, remembering that Carlo had told him that it took a day to travel from Berne to Lausanne, failed to remember that it was in reference to travelling by carriage.  As such, the actual journey takes two days.

This will mean that from Lausanne, it will still take two days to travel to Sion.

As Jan can no longer feed the party, I must now insist that the party keeps track of its own food.  Typically, on a day of rest, each person must each 1 lb. of food a day, and 2 lbs. on any day of travel or combat.  A sack of vegetables is 22 lbs.; a sack of flour, 21 lbs (slightly less, but the food can be stretched); a sack of potatoes, 26 lbs.  A box of salt will last 1 person 42 days.  1 lb. of flour requires 1 oz. of oil, and there are 8 oz. of oil per bottle.  Sugar is optional.  I am working up tables for poor vs. good diets, but I'm fairly lax about that now.  For reasons that are slightly beyond me, I've dispensed with the 'rations' approach to food ... I'm convinced there's more role playing to be found in players actually knowing what they're eating.  The only trouble at present is managing the effects of choices.

Do not forget to account for all three of you; the donkey will forage as it travels.

Lausanne is on Lake Geneva, where boats can be hired to journey from Montreux at the east end of the lake (shown on the map) to Geneva at the other.  I was able to find this spectacular picture to give a sense of the countryside on the south shore.  The journey to Sion requires going up the river valley on the left side of the picture, to a fairly low pass over the mountains into the Prince-Bishopric of Sion.  I searched all over for a similar picture (or any picture)of that valley, and found myself stymied; so in fact you move off this picture fairly quickly, as soon as you climb into that valley.  You'll end up exiting on the left side of the map, through the village of Monthey.  Gives a strong sense of what country you're climbing up into, no?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Morning, Bern's Town Hostel

Wednesday, May 21, 1650

It is the next day.  Last night, Tenzig made arrangements for Emmanuel, Andrej and Delfig to sleep in a hostel near the front gate, at the cost of a silver piece each.  Arrangements were made for Jan's things, discounting those clothes needed for his burial: a cloak, a 3" silver holy symbol, a set of oaken prayer beads, Hornung's pendant, a pair of low, cowhide boots, a comb, a small belt pouch and a pair of grey woolen gloves.  What coin he may have had was taken, though by who you can only guess.

You were given a chance to speak with Carlo, who cannot say how the fight inside the carriage started.  He was riding on top, heard the commotion beneath and soon afterwards found his face smothered under cloth.  He lost control of the wagon, did not see the tree before hitting and had a recollection of flying through the air.  When he woke, it was dark.  He staggered to the road, found Jan in the carriage covered in blood, still barely alive.  Carlo was able to flag down the milk deliverer, but though they moved Jan to the wagon, he died on his way to Bern.  Carlo does not remember any peasant, never saw a peasant and did not know he was leaving a body behind when the wagon took him and Jan to town.  Although the conversation happened the night before, I will still answer any questions.  On your word with Tenzig, Carlo will be released.  He intends to return to his carriage to salvage it.  He has a partner in Olten, who he will send a boy to fetch, and feels he will be able to return to his business in a week or two.

Delfig and Andrej are able to heal a point of damage each (if they need it), and may consider themselves at full spell ability.  The question arises: what now?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Morning, Bern Gate

Tuesday, May 20, 1650

It takes little more than an hour to walk the last four miles to Bern.  The morning sun quickly disappears as the sky is overcast, but there is no sign of rain.

While the guards go, Emmanuel has been given the donkey as a gift of the Town of Langenthal.  The donkey's name is Heinz.

Note the picture, showing old Bern; the party must cross the bridge to the town gate, which would be more substantial than anything shown ... two large round towers, the gate between.  To save time, I would presume the writ is given to the town guards; the guards will remember the wagon arriving the night before, about eight bells.  The wagon brought a living man, and a body ... and was driven by a milk deliverer who was travelling from Burgdorf to Bern at the end of his evening rounds.

The living man is sequestered in the right tower above the gate.  The body remains under investigation, in the cold cellar at the base of the tower.  The town's Chief Juror has been attempting to identify the body, without any success.

After Sunrise, Carriage Wreck

Tuesday, May 20, 1650

Emmanuel's arrival on the road, along with the two guards, begins a sharing of information.  Emmanuel's guards, Tahbert and Everard, have a writ from the Prefect that the guards in Bern should show cooperation with Delfig and Andrej regarding the pursuit of their friend.  As the four guardsmen begin to talk, Emmanuel asks a load of questions regarding the scene.  Far from falling apart, he begins to walk over the ground himself.

Almost at once he notices something, and calls attention to it.  There are two streaks in the blood on the floor of the carriage, and a spattering of blood that follows from the door of the carriage and along the side of the road for fifteen feet.  Then it stops, abruptly.  This was too subtle to be seen in the torchlight of last night.

It starts a new search of the area by all four guardsmen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Past Midnight, Rushing South to Bern

Tuesday, May 20, 1650


The carriage flies at a dangerous speed over the road south from Langenthal towards Bern, driven by the master guardsman Hengist. The carriage has four seats and is remarkably plush - the Prefect risks losing an investment if the carriage overturns and is broken, but Hengist drives without much concern for the Prefect's pocketbook. Beside him is Wenzel, holding on for dear life, and Andrej and Delfig in the back two seats. Both characters are exhausted. 'Forced march' rules are in effect, as they have been steadily moving and acting for more than 14 hours now.

Wenzel calls out the road markers as the carriage passes - it is too dark to see them, but Wenzel knows them by sight. It is ten miles to Burgdorf, and another fifteen after that to Bern; a few rough calculations suggests that if the carriage left Langenthal at about 3 p.m., and travelled at four miles per hour, it should have reached Bern at 9 p.m., just as the Prefect suggested. Possibly later, if there were delays. Delfig and Andrej have left Langenthal at 9:45 p.m., and are making between five and six miles an hour. At midnight, Burgdorf is a mile back of you.

It is the night of the new moon (the exact night, as it happens), and the land is pitch black to your eyes. Hengist calls out that he knows the road less well south of Burgdorf, and that in the darkness he must slow somewhat. The night turns colder with the wee hours, and chills the bones of the carriage riders; it is worse for Andrej and Delfig, who are so tired. Despite the rolling and bouncing of the carriage, neither party member can help lolling into sleep, only to be awakened abruptly by a sharp turn, or a stone in the road.

There has been no clock to tell the time since the one atop Burgdorf Hall, and the long night seems to go on and on. Only the markers, still called out by Wenzel, give any sense of the hour. It might be three or four in the morning as you pass the fourth mile marker from Bern - when suddenly Hengist pulls hard on the reins, and brings the carriage to a difficult and abrupt stop. The party are thrown from their seats to the floor; Wenzel, more awake, was able to brace himself.

"We've passed something," explains Hengist. "Something big, laying at the side of the road." He does not want to turn about the horses, and suggests that the three besides himself walk back to investigate.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Evening, the Prefect's Court

Monday, May 19, 1650

The characters are taken to the Town Court, an entrance to the large Town Hall, and brought inside.  In the portico, a clerk sits, papers upon his desk.  He looks up, observes the guards, observes Delfig and Andrej - whom he takes to be prisoners, and enquires as to why the prefect's attention is sought.

A clock in the portico chimes the bottom half of the hour - it is six-thirty p.m.  For a moment, the characters are forced to contemplate that that morning they woke next to a barge on the river Aar.  Much has happened in twelve hours.  The guards argue with the clerk, who shouts over them for silence.

"The Prefect is engaged in an important matter, and cannot be disturbed immediately.  I will set the matter to his attention at the first opportunity - you may take yourselves into the court and wait.  If at all possible, he will see you before the ninth hour.  If not by that time, then tomorrow morning."

At that point, you cannot help noticing that the clerk does absolutely nothing towards informing the Prefect of anything.  He merely remains at his desk, and goes on working.  The guards contend among themselves, and four agree to stay.  The others leave.  The four direct Andrej and Delfig into the court room, and proceed to make themselves comfortable - but respectful - upon the benches that encircle the walls.

It is much like any courtroom you've witnessed.  There is a door you might conjecture is the door to the Prefect's offices and a raised 'bench' where the Prefect might sit.  Beyond the aforementioned sitting benches around the walls, the center of the room is empty, except for a half-circle platform raised five inches above the floor, with a two foot bannister erected upon one side, facing the Prefect's bench.

You are thus given time to wait.