Quintus 18, 1667
We have been traveling for three days now after a brief stocking of supplies in Guarre de Puertofino. We left the villa after saying a brief farewell to Noella and the servants who are there, and began our way north toward the Eisen border. The traveling has been fairly easy so far. Isabella drives the carriage, and Fyodor drives his covered wagon. Galina rides her horse, Whitemane, or so she tells me is his name, and Alonso rides his dire-wolf, Angus. The rest of us: Royston, Roderick, the Castilian, and I ride in the carriage.
There is a distance between my Galina and I that I do not like. She was angry with me for my disappearing, I think, but I have since apologized. When I woke this morning it was Galina who woke me to tell me of a dream she had in the night. She dreamed that Matushka came and brought her as a sparrow to a place in the city of Charouse. She, the prince of cats (which is apparently a thing), and a cardinal bird whom she did not know, watched as General Montaigne spoke with one of his advisors. They were being sent to Ussura, and Montaigne’s advisor thought it the Emporer’s way of removing the general from service, amounting to his attempted murder.
It was a… complicated thing. In the following conversation, I apologized to her for disappearing, and promised next time to let her know. There was not much else to do but think on it, and consider it as we rode further north.
I spoke with Isabella as we traveled, and tried to learn more of her. She is apparently the sister of the famous explorer Marco. She has no husband, and she mentioned no other family, but she travels to become an explorer and wishes to find something to make herself more famous than her brother and his assistant, Antonio, whose name she pronounced with disdain. Speaking with her was a welcome relief and distraction from the repetitive landscape, as well as from the haunting purpose that plagues my own thoughts. The count seems taken with her, or at least taken enough to provide the compliments a man with no wife might give to a woman with no husband. He has grown into a fool in many ways, entertaining thoughts of love and women.
The night ended with us making camp, and we took to our tents. I write now by the fire in my pavilion tent in hopes that its warmth might see us through the mountains we are about to cross.
Quintus 22, 1667
Noella has become a complication. She apparently stowed away inside of Fyodor’s covered wagon, much to everyone’s surprise. They found her this morning when Fyodor was removing some coats for the others. Apparently I am the only one who thought to purchase one prior to leaving, knowing how unforgiving the Eisen Mountains can be from the last time I crossed them. The Ussurans, by which I mean Fyodor and Uccalletta, are resistant to the cold and seem unaffected by it, but I have long since ceased to marvel at the blessings Matushka has given them.
Once she was revealed, she claimed a desire for adventure. The Count could not deny her that without being hypocritical, but pointed out that she was to learn at the hands of others. She challenged Royston to prove that she knew how to use a sword. She seemed confident, no doubt because she had seen him lose his duel at the Villa. She disarmed him quickly and the fight was quickly over. I had little doubt that Royston was unprepared for the strike, and that he was being courteous, as to keep from wounding the Count’s daughter who seemed a far more fragile creature before the fight began. She had to be taught to show grace in victory, but otherwise she did well. Galina is pleased I think, and seems to fill the maternal role for Noella nicely. I feel guilt every time I see the two of them, that I should hold Galina back from such a life of wife and mother that she would so love and excel at if she were released from my fate.
It was agreed that Noella should join us in our ‘adventure’ as she put it. We were too far out to return to the villa and make it to Frieburg in time, and speaking with Montague was of the utmost import. So we will travel on, and with any luck Noella will come to as little harm as possible. She is important to my plans.
Quintus 30, 1667
We arrived in Drachenweis yesterday in time for dinner. It was glorious to be indoors again after so much travel. It was also nice to relax in a much needed bath. The count rather enjoyed playing games by saying things through the thin wall that separated the women and the men. Royston immediately become drunk upon the strong Eisen beer, and decided to go to the Jenny’s Guild. The Castillian went with him. There was not much else that happened that night, other than the preparations for the feast day that was to follow.
Unfortunately Royston has a knack for getting into trouble. While drunk and loud he offended some nearby Eisen men at their cups by calling the water ‘watered down beer’. I quickly diffused the situation so that it did not come to blows, as I do not think the three men who were drinking would have expected the response we could have provided them if they struck. The Jenny’s Guild that he spoke with did not in fact speak Avalonian, so very little was under stood between those who didn’t speak his language, and he who did not speak theirs. He somehow convinced Isabella to go and translate for him, as his contacts within the Daughters are made through the guild madams. Unfortunately the Madam was asleep, and their venture in the early morning bore no fruit.
When they returned the Castilian remembered the letter he had received at the swordsman’s guild the night before, and presented it to Royston. His face fell upon reading it, and Roderick’s smiled over his shoulder in the reading of it unknown to Royston. Royston immediately left for the swordsman’s guild without saying a word. Galina spoke to Roderick, but she would only tell me that it was going to be a mess. Yet another mess of Royston’s. I confronted Royston when he returned, but he would not make plain the contents of the letter, so I allowed Roderick to do it in his stead, which he was all too happy to perform.
A man by the name of Eric Banner, a knight of Avalon, is coming for Royston with a small army of men and a ship of thirty canons. It is good that we will not be at sea for a while yet, but it is bad news that one of us is like a fox with the hounds baying their hunting song. They are a long way off, but who knows what distance one might cover, and what shall come of it. Like Uccalletta said: is mess.
I went to my room, and when I returned Royston had apparently entered into a drinking game of cuffs with one of the Eisen men from the night before. He… did not seem as though he were all that friendly, but it is hard to tell when anyone is friendly if they are speaking Eisen. With Royston out of commission in his game, I went to the Jenny’s on his behalf to speak to the madam.
I dislike the guild for many reasons, but I went for Royston’s sake that he should be able to check in with those in his society should he need their aid against Banner. I took Isabella with me to translate, as the Count has no need to speak a language other than his own if there is a translator readily available. She was most gracious to accompany me, and Royston for that matter, for she obviously took no pleasure in entering such a place, or in what happened next.
Having no idea if the woman was the woman Royston was supposed to meet, other than that if she was: she would speak Avalonian. She knew a few words in Avalonian, but did not seem to me to be the kind that Roderick was looking for. Being there, and a wealthy noble, I immediately felt the attention of many eyes. If I left without purchase, it would have done them a great insult, and as I have no desire to make new enemies, for Theus knows that those I have are enough to occupy my attention, I purchased a large party for the others. They seemed happy to hear the news, with the exception of Galina who seemed to assume that I would also be attending the party. I had no intention of debauching myself or the count, and would never think to engage in those sacred distractions of the flesh until my purpose is achieved.
It is nice that Galina and I have put the business with the Daughters behind us and forgiven one another for our parts in it. I am glad to see it when she smiles, though she is often unaware of my gaze.
While we were at the inn a man in Montaigne uniform arrived with a woman, his wife. He was dressed in royal uniform of the Musketeers, and I recognized his face and costume as those belonging to the Captain of the Musketeers, Jean-Marie Rois et Reines du Rogne. I introduced myself to him and his wife and spoke with them briefly, it seemed they too were heading to Freiburg to meet with his wife’s sister, though he regretted his truths as soon as he spoke them by the look upon his face. We spoke pleasantly, until we were interrupted by Royston who was too drunk to notice his crassness and how it implicated the count.
Noella had apparently met the man before, and seemed quite in awe of him. He did not seem overly familiar with her at first, but was pleasant enough. We retired to our chambers, after a pleasant agreement to travel together to Freiburg beginning tomorrow morning.
Sextus 8, 1667
We reach Frieburg on the morrow. The travel from Drachenweis was peaceful after the first day. It seems that with the death of their leader the lands of Eisen have become quite treacherous and many soldiers have turned to banditry in order to put food on their tables and money in their purses. It was unfortunate for them that a band of such ruffians laid a trap on the road through which we traveled. They were not expecting I think that the Captain of the Musketeers, and the rest of us, should have been so passionately induced to violence.
Noella shot well with a musket from Jean-Marie. I am unsure of whether it was such passion, or of the count’s jealousy over Noella’s paternization of Jean, but rather than show his clumsiness for battle, he attempted bravado. In the end, it was proven to have effective results. The Castillian and the others fought as well, and by the end of it only two remained and dropped their swords. We showed them mercy, in a fashion, and allowed them to take the swords of their fallen comrades, but we took their gold and their muskets. We robbed the bandits, and chased them off the road.
That night, at the fire, Royston and Alonso went off at Royston’s request to ensure the area was secure. The rest of us dined and spoke at some length, and when they returned Alonso’s true nature was revealed to the party. He is one of those Castillian’s of the line of Numan sorcery: El Fuego Adentro. I had thought it driven to extinction by the Inquisition of the Vatacine church, but it seems that Alonso may in fact be its sole surviving recipient. I am torn as to whether or not I should kill him. The church teaches that such sorcery brings about the destruction of the world, but I have little faith in the truths of men. Theus is truth, and the world in which we live apart from him is shadow and lies. I have learned that at great cost, and it is not a lesson easily forgotten.
The rest of the travel has gone smoothly, though the land seems gray and grim to me. It is nothing like the bounty summer should show. I hope Freiburg is more bountiful.
Sextus 9, 1667
Montague is a fool. He reminds me of young Edouard sometimes too much. Too brave, too trusting, too talented, and too certain of truth, right, and justice to realize that there are no such things. He has his plans, and for all that I wish him luck, but I think he would have more if he simply turned his army around now, and marched to the Emperor’s doors himself. But I am getting too far ahead. Much happened today, I will attempt to start at the beginning.
We arrived in Freiburg, and spotted among the Montaigne soldiers stationed outside the city the sniper and assistant to Montague: Karl Steiner. Uccalletta approached him, and they agreed to meet in the town square in one hour for the count to rendezvous with the general.
Royston spotted someone of interest to him within the camp. A barefooted woman with bright red hair who was going around the soldiers as though she were their sister. Embracing them, comforting them, but never in a romantic fashion. She seemed, in all regards, a harmless and affectionate loon. Royston however reacted quite passionately to her presence, and immediately rushed to refine his appearance as best as he was able.
I do not know if it was the Count’s sense of fun, or his tiresome jealousy of every man Uccalletta regards, but he too began to refine his appearance and I adopted the face of Royston for my own. Calling myself Roderick Grayston so as to allude to the Count’s constant forgetfulness of names, I mirrored him and laughed at the jest. Noella would seem to be an admirer of his as well. He has admitted to the fact that he did not rob the avalonian lady of her virtue as he is accused of doing, but that does not mean that I am inclined to leave him alone with Noella.
The Castillian meanwhile went and secured rooms. I gave him money from my personal purse, rather than purse we have begun to collect for the party so that the count could secure a personal suite and we might have a private meeting place if we so desire it. Alonso took the muskets we had gathered to market, and returned with some money and a keg of gunpowder. If more of us are going to be utilizing such weapons I suppose it is necessary to keep our ammunition and powder well stocked.
Royston and Roderick Graystone, Galina, the Castillian, and Alonso traveled to the town square to meet the general on behalf of the count. He was meeting with the current leader of Eisen, whom I had no wish to meet. She is beautiful, but I have heard her reputation for being as hard and unforgiving as the Dracheneisen she wields. I instead waited until she and the general had finished speaking, and then moved to sit with him. He was confused as to the lack of presence of the count, but I told him that the count was on his way, and invited him to a game of chess while we waited.
He plays chess well though his time between moves takes a ponderously long time. We spoke in veiled rhetoric as we played and discussed the events that led to the summoning of the Count. The General plans to march on Ussura without spilling a drop of Ussuran blood. He thinks it the only way that Matushka will allow him to pass the border, and the only way he might find the winter there to be kinder than it ought to be. He thinks the entire march and invasion is the Emperor’s way of getting rid of him without getting his hands dirty, now that he has provided the Emperor with a grandson, or a soon to be born grandson. His wife is in Charouse at the general’s request, waiting to give birth. His plan is to wait until he has proof of such treachery, and then march back through the land until he comes to Eisen, where he plans to be arrested and ransomed.
He asked that I find proof of the Emperor’s desire to kill him, and that I ransom him when the time comes. I do not know that I can afford either, but he is a dear friend of Edouard’s. So much so that I offered to march in his place, while he slipped away with his select and prepare for his coup in more efficient ways than prison or Ussuran winter. If the goal is to keep from spilling a drop of Ussuran blood, I may accomplish this as well as he. He would not hear of it. He is too closed minded to the threads of fate to realize that they can be cut, or circumvented. Just because a path does not exist in the wood, does not mean that you cannot walk through it. It has always been the difference between us, even in our youth.
During the course of the suggestion, the count revealed himself to be in the disguise of Roderick Graystone. Montague took it well, and it was passed off as a jest, and a demonstration of my ability to change my person as easily as some men change their clothes. Still, he feared that the Emperor’s wife would know me by my aura, though I do not see her riding to Ussura to check. I shall talk with him of it again, and see if I cannot change his mind.
Royston in the course of the day was also tasked with a quest. It seemed the woman with whom he had met was his handmaiden, which is I suppose the Daughter’s way of saying his immediate superior. He was told to meet a woman wearing a golden scarf, and to get her to Vodacce – or better yet Ussura. While we spoke with Montague we arranged that he should take her to Ussura if necessary.
When we returned to the inn for our evening meal we sat at table to be interrupted by a man who seemed to recognize Royston, but meant him no harm, or at least did not draw the sword upon his back. He told Royston of the Eric Banner, who was sailing after him with men and a ship of thirty canons. He offered to tell Eric that we were in Inismore, and advised Royston to alter his armor and clothing; he could not very well hide while refusing to give up the markings of a knight of Elaine. The count was overjoyed at the thought of taking him shopping and providing him with a new identity. I cannot say that it is a bad idea, as we seem to be accosted regularly for the sake of those vendettas leveled against him.
After the man left, in walked a girl with a golden scarf. But I shall write more of that later. It is late. Galina and Noella have already gone to their beds, and I should retire to my own.