Do we trust him?
- Bernhard returns to the tower project. Before seeking out his erstwhile coterie-mates he speaks to Gortav and the other Pecheneg mercenaries, and also takes note of Sir Garnier de Cambrai drilling with the remaining mortal retainers of the Knights of the Blood.
- He gains a sense of how things have been progressing in his absence. Gortav informs him that Agmundir assaulted him for questioning orders, and Bernhard promises to have words with the other ‘night people’ concerning the matter.
- Bernhard is clearly injured, and wants access to his stores of bottled blood (which he receives). Maude then questions him concerning his whereabouts during the Gangrel hunt for Durga Syn and Vassily Taltos. He says that he knew of it, and took part ineffectually, having no interest in it. He also says that he was in no position to warn them.
- Maude, Veceslavand Iulia then make it clear that while they still intend to work with Bernhard, he no longer enjoys their trust. He is not welcome in the secret haven, in particular, and they have taken steps to bar his access.
- Maude tells him that she will keep his secret from the Knights of Blood for now, though she isn’t sure why.
- Iulia in particular takes Bernhard to task, saying that he has cast aside their trust and friendship with his threats and speculations. He asks whether true goodness can exist without contemplation of evil and making a choice to do the right thing. She is dismissive of his rhetoric, saying that there should be no need for such contemplation where friendship is concerned. Even the least human among them (she and Veceslav) would not think of doing so to their allies.
- The coterie agrees to put their differences aside for now, but it is now clear that Bernhard, who always considered himself a figurative outsider in the party, has now become a literal outsider.
- Manfred, having secured Durga Syn’s herbal sedatives from Maude, makes his move, spiriting Sophie away from Rothügel at dawn. The two ride hard to gain some distance from Radu and Arianne, and pass the tower project during the day. They stop only to water the horses and keep moving.
- The plan is basically to knock the girl out each night so Radu cannot Summon her with his Presence. They will strike out for Kievan Rus, and hope to be discovered by Durga Syn on the road there.
- Pursuit in the form of Sophia’s father and his men-at-arms passes the tower two days later. It is decided that Manfred is more than skilled enough to evade them, and the coterie doesn’t interfere.
- They do realise that Radu will probably work out what they have done, but all save Veceslav (who graciously bows to the will of the majority) decide that it is for the best. Worry about reprisals are discussed however.
The Master Architect
- Zelios arrives at the tower project. He is duly admitted and immediately gets down to business. He is uninterested in small talk or getting involved in the troubles of the coterie.
- He works for boons, not coin. Either he or his childe, Marusca, can call upon the coterie in future to redeem them.
- He has Joachim brought to him, and immediately begins instructed the journeyman on ways of improving production and efficiency. This includes building a new crane, and he supervises the carpenters in its construction.
- Zelios demonstrates ability with Dominate.
- A blacksmith also arrives and sets up shop. He explains that he has been retained by one Perlina of Bistritz to see to their needs. He immediately measures Bernhard and sets to making a suit of mail.
- It is decided that the recalcitrance of the Pecheneg village of Naizuy can no longer be tolerated. They are harming trade in the Pass, and something must be done. The coterie heads to the village to bring them to heel. Maude speaks, translated by Bernhard.
- Naizuy are stronger and better organised than Letzav. 20 archers man the palisade wall and the village chieftain, ‘Velni the Brave’, is is no mood to listen to threats. His wife Magh stands at his side.
- Bernhard approaches too close, and Velni gives the order to shoot. Bernhard is peppered with arrows, and he casually starts pulling them out, seemingly unharmed. Suddenly the arrows begin to squirm, trying to dig their way to his heart!
- Maintaining his composure but actually quite worried, Bernhard quickly plucks them out and throws them to the ground, where they start striking at his feet and legs like snakes!
- Meanwhile Veceslav calls upon the earth spirits to rise up and smash the arrows, destroying the magic that compels them. Maude summons a wall of ghostly screaming horrors and bones to cow the village.
- Magh then summons a ball of fire and hurls it at Maude’s wall, impressing the coterie. She is clearly a sorceress of some power. Bernhard claps as Maude dismisses the unharmed ghostly wall. He then explains that this is the least that they can do.
- Talks resume. The coterie convinces Velni and Magh that they cannot win, and that the coterie would be far kinder masters than other Cainites that come to the Pass.
- Velni, in consultation with Magh and the village elders, agree that they will send some men to see how the coterie’s people tax the merchant caravans, and they will cooperate ‘as long as it benefits them’.
- Upon returning to the tower, Maude playfully but patronisingly pats Iulia, and says ’that’s how it’s done’ (in reference to their earlier dispute over Letzav).
- Two mounted figures approach the tower bearing a white baton. Their horses are out of a nightmare; being very large and ill-tempered with blood-red hides, walking on human like clawed-hands, and sporting fangs.
- One of them is handsome, and garbed like a knight or lord. He introduces himself as “Bogdan Basarab Dzardescuvin sin Ruthven” and his brutish, gore-spattered friend as “Gorgu Bratovitch Amanarin sin Ruthven”. Bogdan asks for permission to enter the fort to parley, and it is granted.
- Bogdan is over-joyed to see Veceslav, calls him “brother”, and they embrace! It is explained that they are actual brothers, and that they lost contact long ago when Veceslav left their home to receive his education in Constantinople. He later heard that the younger Bogdan had taken service with a Tzimisce Voivode far to the north.
- After a brief round of introductions, Bogdan asks what they are doing on his sire’s (Voivode Mircea Dzardescu!) land. He then tells them that they must leave, or face a ‘Trial by War’ to take the tower for themselves.
- A Trial by War must be either a battle between their two armies, or single combat between the two would-be Knezi of Tihuta (Bogdan and Veceslav). Either way it would be ‘glorious’!
- Bogdan express that he will regret ‘destroying’ Veceslav if they decide to undertake the Trial, but such are the wages of power and glory to their masters. He also says that he is pleased that Veceslav has found such worthy friends and made a place for himself in the world despite the ‘unfortunate circumstances of his Embrace’ (neither brother elaborates on this).
- The two Tzimisce then leave on their nightmarish horses, saying that the coterie has twenty days to quit the Pass, or the Trial by War will be declared.
- The coterie immediately calls a council of war, to decide their course.
END OF SESSION
Attendance: Veceslav (Ben, 2xp), Maude (Dave, 3xp), Bernhard (Greg, 3xp)
Absent: Sir Alaric (Anthony, 0 xp)