Sextus 10, 1667
Much has happened in an otherwise short span of time, but I’ll start with where I left off in my last entry for clarity of thought. While eating in the Drachengarten, the dining hall of the inn in which we were staying in Frieburg, a girl entered wearing a golden scarf. This was the same scarf which Roy (which Royston has told us to call him), had been told to find and that the girl wearing it must be whisked away to Vodacce or Ussura for her safety.
There was a man chasing after the scarfed girl. She entered and exited quickly, coming through the front door and leaving through the back. Roy and the Castillian gave chase, while the rest of us focused our attention on the large man who was pummeling his way through the inn’s guards. He bore a breastplate marking him as nobility, or at least of Dracheneisen make which usually indicates nobility, though after having seen the man fight, and after a brief conversation with him, I cannot remove the possibility that he is no more a noble than a horse is a carnivore.
The others leapt to action quickly, with Isabella and Gallia leaping to the defense of the girl by attacking her pursuer. I for my part attempted to interfere with his pursuit in a more harmless manner and attempted to console him with some of the count’s cologne as the count feigned a reaction to the pungency of the man while going to introduce himself to another noble. For my actions I received a blow, but it was not worrying. I told him that the cologne could be poisonous if inhaled, and as I had rather clumsily sprayed him in the face by mistake, we ought to sit rather than fight. He believed me, and so we sat together.
His name, he told me, was Vatter, and he was a noble of Eisen and a mercenary in pursuit of his sister – the golden scarfed girl, whom he was pursuing because she would not do as she was told. A woman who does what she is told is like a man who always tells the truth: the rarest of finds. I did not say as much, but rather kept him talking amicably as I gave him a goatstone and a vial of water to act as medicine for the poison he may have inhaled. After our brief conversation I let him leave. The last I saw of him, he was on his horse riding away in the direction he thought the girl might have went, though I bought her several tens of minutes.
It seemed the Castillian had bested another such man dressed in the same tabard as the first in the alley behind the inn. Unfortunately the man was quite beaten, and pierced multiple times by the Castillian’s spear. None of our party are proficient with the medicinal arts or sciences, so I sent Isabella to go and fetch a doctor. She returned some time later with a man who had some skill in the medicinal arts, but was not overly studious. Still, he closed the man’s wounds and was able to aid him in some small fashion. I paid him, and he left, and we rested until morning.
Oh, and Royston managed to speak with the woman, who wanted us to deliver the man, her brother, to a flower shop the following morning. Or some such. She did not realize we had him in our custody already, I think, but it was fortunate for us that the Castillian had not killed him as would have been my instinct.
We arrived at the flower shop, which to be honest was more of an alchemist’s shop, in the morning. The woman did not approach the shop, but Royston spotted her and went to speak with her. Gallia went to arrange a meeting with Montague, and I inquired of the shopkeep as to where I might find an artisan in the ways of working Dracheneisen, and went with Isabella and Alonso there. The girl fled when I attempted to approach, and Royston gave chase. The Castillian had the morning off, taking some time for personal business I believe (most likely spending more time with the Jennys).
Once at the smith I commissioned a work of Dracheneisen in the form of a rose. It seems Eisen is unused to the idea of using Dracheneisen for anything other than weaponry. It was not my intent to form a sword, shield, or piece of armor from the material, but I would not call the rose innocent in its entirety. After that business was taken care of, I returned to the inn to have a bath and prepare myself for my meeting with Motnague.
In the meantime it seemed that since we had all gone our separate ways, we had left Rysling, the man in our custody, alone in the shop. His horse had wandered off and found some hay. Fortunately my Gallia was able to track him down expediently, and bring him and his horse back to the Drachengarten. Once she had returned Royston and the rest of us had a conversation that couldn’t wait until after I had finished toweling off. While I dressed behind the curtain Royston and Gallia and I spoke of their plans. In the end it was decided that Gallia and Royston speak with Tahnick, or so Roy discovered was the girl’s name, while I remain not far off in the dining room in an unrecognizable guise. Thus the plan was that I should listen as they had lunch, and scratch near my ear if I thought the woman to be lying.
Of course I thought I would never cease scratching, but I went along with their plan and was able to help them, I think. I suppose I could have taken the guise of Elrik Grimm, the traveling mercenary knight from Eisen, but instead went with something less threatening. I became Gerhart Stolt, a retired fisherman who had grown and lived all his life in a small fishing village on the northern shores of Eisen before coming to live in Freiburg with his son and family. He sat and listened, eating his soup and drinking his beer by the fire while the others had their meeting.
The two were willing to travel to Ussura, though the woman did not wish to travel with any man but her brother. He, for his part, did not want to leave without being able to get word to his lover in Charouse. Gallia agreed to trade horses with him, so that she could deliver a message to his lover and they would know that it came from him. The woman, for her part, was attempting to escape a betrothal she had no interest in, and a brother who apparently beat her. Royston joined Gerhart at the fireplace while Gallia and Tahnick spoke of it. Ghallia is freer with her truths than I am likely to ever be, but I will do everything I can to protect her from the consequences of such foolishness.
We stowed the siblings in our suite, and I had my things moved so that Isabella and I could switch rooms. She, Noella, and Gallia slept on my bed, whilst I slept on hers. This whole ordeal has only served to further my irritation against the daughters, who have been nothing but a barrier to me and my purpose thus far.
I met with Montague at the gate of the city and spoke with him concerning his plans. He still would not hear of any alternative, but we spoke more in regards to whom he trusts, and what he would consider valid evidence against Le Emperor. Afterwards, I spoke with the group concerning a course of action I was contemplating. On the one hand: I could easily forge such evidence, but if the act was discovered I would make an enemy of Montague. Perhaps there is more of Edouard left in me than I thought, for he does not want to antagonize such a dear friend. I must admit I see no reason to do so either. The other way, the more honorable way, is less efficient and far more difficult and laid with just as much danger, but it does not cost me my friendship. After asking each of the group what they might advise, I chose the more honorable path – though it be damned.
While we spoke I was distraught enough to break the character of the Count. I could not continue the charade while weighing such consequential decisions. Roy of course wished to address the issue of such deception, and I explained to them the story they had not yet been told. How I was born Dante Inganno, and after having my parents stolen from me at a young age I vowed to bring justice to this world and have since discovered that their deaths were part of a much larger conspiracy. Roy did not believe me that my name was truly Dante, so Gallia told him of her habit of calling me Tatcho, that is Truth, in her people’s language.
While we were speaking there came a knock on the door. Noella told us that there was a man downstairs who wished to speak to us, from her description we took it to be Karl Steiner, and headed downstairs in our time to meet him. He was not alone, but bore a retinue of men with him, and a woman whom I did not expect to meet again: Fauner Posen. She is as beautiful and no doubt as deadly as the tales concerning her, but I had no idea more than she as to why her presence was required. They came to tell us that Montague had survived an attempt on his life, though he was shot. Three Ussurans had attempted to shoot him, but had paid for their actions with their lives.
We sent Montague a few messages, and then removed ourselves to a vote. We had a choice before us, Ussura, or Montaigne. Gallia had sworn to Tahnick that she would ride with her to Ussura and see her delivered to the Basura Tibesti safely with a note from Nikolai. She and I shall speak soon concerning her newfound habit of swearing oaths without thought to the one she has sworn to me though she no doubt senses no conflict of interest. We chose Ussura, though the vote was a close thing, and decided that we should leave the following morning.
We went to see Montague one last time, and I spoke to him privately in the medical tent in which he was being attended. He had been grazed in the side and shot in the thigh, but was not dead, and his injuries unlikely to be fatal now that they had received a surgeon’s skillful attentions. He had decided to begin the march to Ussura in the morning. I spoke to him of the coming delay in my own arrival in Charouse, and he offered me the services of a Porte sorcerer. I told him I would consider it, but I know that I should be hard pressed to convince some to travel through such otherworldly means.
We returned to the Drachengarten and the others have gone to sleep. I alone sit by the fire and watch the dance of the flames as I write. I hope Gallia is sleeping peacefully, and her mind is not troubled by the memories she had to revisit today.
Sextus 11, 1667
I awoke from dreaming of Gallia to seeing her as she roused me. She had another dream. This time it was not of birds or mothers, but of me and Royston. I, dressed in Montague’s uniform, sat playing chess against myself while Royston sat at the other side of the table drinking a bottle of wine. My uniform bore several bullet holes, including one that Montague had not received – in the chest near his heart. When Royston had finished drinking the bottle he laughed and fell from his chair proclaiming that the answer was at the bottom.
We went to speak to Royston. He had apparently received such a gift as a bottle of wine from his handmaiden, but had not yet uncorked it. He did so, and poured it into glasses we did not drink. There at the bottom, which Gallia had to become a cat to read, were the words that apparently were in answer: Rest in Peace Michael Radcliffe 1671 7th day Prophets Mass Beluved Frend, Former Knyht. This is apparently the man guilty for the crime of which Royston took the blame. In that, I can sympathize. I know it is like to be accused and punished for a crime one did not commit, though Royston takes his voluntarily at the behest of others. To him however, this was good news, as he took as a sign that by that time he may be restored.
We left shortly thereafter, once I had taken care of some things in the market place and we had restocked our supplies. There was one hitch however, in that our party was to ride separated, with Gallia, Isabella, and the siblings riding at a distance from the rest of us. I warned her the daughters would cause distance between us, and so far I have not been wrong in this, though I did not think it would come so literally so soon.
During the ride today I cut and altered Roy’s hair to help him better disguise himself, or at least not be immediately recognizable. We look to hit the mountain pass into Ussura while it is clear of snow. Then we will head back to Charouse, somehow. Hopefully, our delay will not cost Montague his life.