GURPS Banestorm revived

The room was small but clean, with a bed, a small table, a chair, and a dresser. Jean Pierre noted that there was a ceramic chamber pot under the bed, and a water pitcher on the dresser with bowl for washing. All in all, a tidy little room that Waleed was providing.

He looked out of the window, which offered a view of the alley below but no more. The opposite wall was featureless, so there would be no watching young ladies undress like in the romantic novels in his parents’ library.

His belongings stored, the young man turned to Usman. “Merci beaucoup,” he said, then noticed the puzzled look the man gave. “I mean, sank you. Can you please tell me ze way to Newtown?”

He listened to the waiter’s instructions, dared not ask again, and bounded down the steps, his head filled with questions. To be receiving two hundred and fifty Cardian dollars suddenly seemed a problem: where to store the funds? Should he treat it as an account to withdraw from as needed? And what to think of the beggar lady? And how to begin? Before locking his room, he grabbed his empty shoulder satchel and put a small book in it with a pencil. It suddenly seemed like a good idea to keep notes going forward.

As he reentered the cafe, Waleed had moved on, but the young woman was also no longer lurking in the shadows. He stepped out into the mid afternoon street just as the sun emerged from a cloud. Now, where could she be? Did she already begin without him?

In the relatively brief period before Jean-Pierre emerges from the cafe, Hayu has time to gain a quick impression of the neighbourhood.

Oldmarket is a crowded and busy lower-class district, predominantly but not exclusively Islamic/Wazifi in character. Coffee shops and mosques take the place of pubs and churches, but there is a fair smattering of Anglish mixed in with the Arabic and it is not unusual to see occasional pale faces and Megalan fashions amongst the crowds.

Other than that, things seem to be fairly unremarkable.

Jean-Pierre whistled a sea shanty as he looked around. Now, where could she be?

No matter, he thought to himself with youthful overconfidence, he would head to Newtown himself, and see the scenes of the fires first. With a purpose in his stride, he set off to Newtown, and to see what remained of the church. Now, considering that the Mohammedan said the church was Father Ignatius’ church, that must be the name of the pastor. The name of the church was unimportant, anyway: how many churches fit the description of “the church that burned down yesterday”?

A realisation hit him as he added purpose to his steps: the burning church must be where he saw smoke rising as his ship arrived this morning! That seems like the best place to go ask. And he did not doubt what Waleed said, few of the houses were made of brick or stone, but had exposed half-timber facades and had grown to lean over the streets.

He switched tunes, from a sea shanty to a soldier’s marching tune Uncle Armand taught him, growing confident in his chances of figuring out what was going on. If he had any luck, the pretty* beggar woman would be following him, and he felt lucky this day.

*NOTE: don’t forget that JP is only 18, so naturally any young woman who dares converse with him is going to be pretty in his eyes!

If you wanted to hear gossip in Catholic territory, you needed to go where the wine was strong and the preists were scarce, or at least too busy with their own drinking to worry about the sins of the populace. Normally, that would be the brothel, but since that had been set ablaze, she went with the second best choice. In a small alcove on the roof of the tavern closest to the remains, it was but a couple of seconds work to loosen a shingle and glory in the voices lifted unto the somewhat less holy spirit. The fires would be on everybody’s mind. They had Waleed’s opinion of what they were thinking. This way she could get more than just the edited version.

As Jean-Pierre strolls towards Newmarket, Hayu stealthily follows.

The site of the arson is not hard to find; the smell of the fire is still strong in the air. Father Ignatious’ church is a gutted ruin; although most of the stone skeleton of the building remains, the roof is completely collapsed and solidified puddles of molten lead mar the ground beneath what were once windows.

As Jean-Pierre surveys the ruins, Hayu makes her way to eavesdrop on the nearby tavern. The taproom is well patronised, with beer and conversation flowing freely.

Although some of the talk is of the usual trivialities, it does not take long for Hayu to overhear chatter of relevance.

“Four fires in a month! And every one on a Monday! These ain’t no accidents if you ask me.”

“Aye, you’re right. And don’t expect any help from the palace. Ever since Duke Crivelli took the Princedom, us ordinary folk have been forgotten. The Prince is too busy making grand plans to look after his own city, and Count Furius is useless. They barely ever leave the palace district these days”

“The theatre, the tavern, Guinevere’s and now a church! They’re stripping the guts out of this neighbourhood, they are. It’s those bloody Oldmarket Imam’s what’s behind it, I tells ya.”

“That lot are always making trouble. You should hear how they go on whenever one of their lads dares to stop for a drink. Now, how is that fair and reasonable? Every man deserves a cold beer at the end of the day; that’s human rights, that is.”

“Hey, I haven’t seen you at Father Ignatious’ lately. What’s up with that?”

“Oh, the wife has got us going to church at Father Savidicus’ these days. Not that I mind, really; Father Ignatious’ sermons were dull as buggery, you have to admit. Father Savidicus has the gift of the gab; he really knows how to work a crowd. You’d almost forget you were in church sometimes.”

“Say, do you think that they’ll go for Father Savidicus’ church next? Maybe we should organise a guard.”

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As Jean-Pierre enters the ruined church to investigate more closely, a proliferation of footprints and scuff marks make it clear that others have been here before him. While the stones are still warm, the fire is gone, apparently drowned in the water which now combines with ash to form a thick sludge underfoot.

The destruction is almost total; even the stones are cracked. The only smell is of ash and scorching.

The church is packed tightly into the surrounding city; the building fills almost the entire block of land, with single-story stone cottages on either side. Only a yard or so of space separates the church from the neighbour’s walls.

Both neighbouring buildings appear unharmed apart from a coating of soot.

As JP pokes around the church, a sudden clattering of stones erupts from the rear of the property. Glancing up, he catches a glimpse of a small black figure darting out through a door in the rear of the building.

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Poor Sacred Heart*! Jean-Pierre thought to himself. The church may have been a small parish church, serving only the locals, but it brought comfort to those like his dear Aunt Bernadette, who went to Mass nearly every day after Uncle Luc lost his leg in that accident. A small pastor like Père Ignatius may not have been a monsignor, but still a small church was a large comfort.

The young man noted the warmth of the sooty stones, saw where the burnt beams had come crashing down atop the pews, the burnt wreckage of the confessional. Perhaps it was a mercy that the church had burnt as it did, the stone walls and narrow windows limiting the damage. Had the roof not collapsed, he thought (not truly knowing), it might have been much worse.

A clatter of stones startled Jean-Pierre, and he braced himself, hand on hilt. Was the floor about to collapse? Did this church even have a crypt under it? He had no time to consider this, as he saw, indistinctly, a shape in the late afternoon shadows. The figure dashed out, through the frame of the door in the nave.

Young Jean-Pierre, reckless as only a young man could be, dashed after the shape. “Attends-tu! Wait, I mean no harm!” he shouted, running as fast as he could without stepping on rubble or obvious weaknesses in the floor, and exited the building in pursuit.

*Or whatever the church was named

Jean-Pierre’s shout rings loud enough to attract the attention of Hayu in her perch beside the tavern, just in time to see Jean-Pierre dive through the rear of Father Ignatious’ church.

Emerging onto a narrow dirt-paved alleyway, Jean Pierre sees a figure dashing away to the left. In the seconds before it darts around a corner to the right, JP notes that it is (a) small, less than five feet tall and slightly built, (b) black all over, and © very quick.

Jean-Pierre gave chase, hoping to get a better glimpse of the figure. How exciting! Could it be that this was a goblin, or some other fabled being? He hadn’t seen one since those goblin merchants many years ago, when he was only ten!

Ah, but that person was quick! As the figure took the second corner to the right, Jean-Pierre braked, as even with his condition, the figure seemed too fast, and was more at home here than he was. He looked down the narrow street, and called out:

“I am sorry, please come back! I only want to talk!”

As he said this, he looked up and about, stories about being mugged in alleyways that sailors tried to scare him with on the voyage here suddenly seemed all too real. Did he let himself be lured into a trap?, he fantasised. If so, they would find him a tough target!