GURPS Banestorm revived

Hayu and Jeanne-Pierre mingle with the patrons, trying to steer the conversation around to the fires.

“Oh, aye, a terrible fire that was. The theatre’s completely fucked. It’s a right shame; I had tickets to Guinevere’s Follies next week.”

“I heard it was those Oldmarket bastards. Somebody oughtta go settle their hash for good.”

“What, are you gonna do it? I’ve never seen you do anything more vigorous than fetch another pint.”

“Besides, how do we know who done it? You didn’t see nothing.”

“I was there, I saw it. Freakiest thing ever; one moment all was calm, the next moment a roaring inferno. I never seen a fire blaze up so fast.”

“How would you have seen it? It burnt at two in the morning; I’ve never seen you out of bed before noon.”

“Well, see, I was feeling a little tired when I left here, so I had a little nap outside before I went home.”

“Passed out drunk in the gutter, you mean”.

“A little black what? A goblin? Well, maybe. There aren’t a lot of greenies living here, but there are plenty who work on the ships.”

“Waleed? Who? Nah, I don’t have a lot to do with those Oldmarket folks.”

“Hang on, I think I know who she’s talking about. He’s a scholar or somesuch, trades in antiques sometimes. I think he sold some swords to Guillame a while ago.”

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Jean-Pierre looked around, and saw a free spot to sit with his mug of ale. The men already seated at the table nodded, indicating he could sit. It was loud in the tavern, both from the squall pattering on the awning over the entrance arches, and from the boistrous crowd. The youth felt the energy of the drinkers wash over him, that feeling one gets from men just off work when they get their first beer, before heading home. He enjoyed the way they simply accepted his presence.

“Jean-Pierre,” he said to the man next to him, and the man offered his mug as a salute. “Henning,” the man said, and they touched mugs, then to the table before drinking. Jean-Pierre noted the custom, and did the same. He seemed to be a local, so Jean-Pierre tried his luck.

“I saw the building, there, it has just burned down in the last two days, non?”

“Aye,” the man said sourly. “A terrible fire that was. The theatre’s completely fucked. It’s a right shame; I had tickets to Guinevere’s Follies next week.”

“Follies?” The young man gave the man a quizzical look. “Pardon, what are follies?”

“Ah, it’s a grand show, with musicians, funny jokes, and pretty tarts dancing! I like to go whenever I can get away from the wife and the wee ones!”

“Ah,” Jean-Pierre said, and took another drink from his mug. “A theatre, and a church.”

“I heard it was those Oldmarket bastards”, a man with short hair and a moustache muttered into his pint. “Somebody oughtta go settle their hash for good.”

The man next to him barked out a small laugh. “What, are you gonna do it? I’ve never seen you do anything more vigorous than fetch another pint!”

“Besides, how do we know who done it? You didn’t see nothing,” Henning added. The men muttered assent.

The mustachioed man thumped his mug on the table. “I was there, I saw it! Freakiest thing ever! One moment, all is calm, and then the next—a roaring inferno! I never seen a fire blaze up so fast!”

Jean-Pierre was about to ask him when the man’s neighbour snorted. “Bull! How would you have seen it? It burnt at two in the morning; I’ve never seen you out of bed before noon!”

The man with the mustache looked down. “Well, see, I was feeling a little tired when I left here, so I had a little nap outside before I went home…”

“Passed out drunk in the gutter, you mean!” his neighbour laughed, and the whole table laughed with him.

“I thought I saw someone in the ashes,” Jean-Pierre said, after he had taken another swig, noting that his pint was nearly empty. “I think it was a goblin, it was so small and quick as one, but black as night. Is this some creature native to Hadaton?”

“A little black what?" one of the men answered. "A goblin? Well, maybe. There aren’t a lot of greenies living here, but there are plenty who work on the ships.”

Jean-Pierre finished his mug, and stood to get another. He didn’t really want one, it seemed more sensible to keep his wits about him. But no one bothered the youth as he stood. He noted the corner where Heyu was sitting, doing her best to blend in the shadows, talking to a couple of men. “Waleed?" one said. "Who? Nah, I don’t have a lot to do with those Oldmarket folks.”

“Hang on,", the other interjected, "I think I know who she’s talking about. He’s a scholar or somesuch, trades in antiques sometimes. I think he sold some swords to Guillame a while ago.”


But rather than hang around, Jean-Pierre returned his mug to the barkeeper, and hurried through the rest of the rain, as it lessened, the squall passing. He made sure Heyu saw him leave, as he decided to head to his little room. The sun was setting, and he expected to hear the cathedral bells announce the sixth hour was passed. He wanted to be here again after midnight struck, rested and prepared to give chase to whoever was causing such misery!

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Antiques. Weapons sales. Could be nothing, or could be a lot less innocent than it seemed. Especially the antiques. Not everyone in that business was a mild-mannered scholar, even if they did have a university to point at. A lot of very dangerous people hung around that trade, even more so than in weapons. Forgers and tomb robbers abounded, not to mention that it was a very convenient trade to change stolen and other misaquired coin into legitimately acquired proceeds.

It was also the kind of trade where one might acquire strange trinkets with the kind of ability to burn down a building but not otherwise throw off any heat. Not to say that Waleed was responsible, but it would hardly be the first time a businessman felt compelled to hire outsiders to look into a rival, to avoid the messiness of accusing the rival himself.

She watched the kid as he headed back towards Oldmarket. No doubt to revel in the exotic experience before he passed out from excitement. She followed – not for supplies or a nap, but the exact opposite. Where Catholics preferred beer or wine, or maybe a tea, they were lost souls at the true alchemical secret for a long night awake.

Night work called for two things. A set of keen eyes and a flask of good, strong coffee.

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Back in Oldmarket, she engaged in a few more discreet inquiries. Someone here might have a clue exactly what kind of role Waleed played in the antiquities business, or his community standing in general – certainly more so than anyone in Newmarket. As night began to fall, she procured a flask of strong, local brew, the kind of strength that generally gave good Christian souls pause – at least until it kicked in and pause became impossible. The kid was probably going to end up being awake for days. She grabbed some bread and kebabs almost as an afterthought – would he even give the first thought to supplies? Standing watch wasn’t as exciting as it sounded, and there was a large possibility that nothing would happen tonight.

Theatre, tavern, brothel, church. There weren’t many other places worth striking, were there? The marketplace, maybe? Why those places? What tied them together, beyond them being gathering places largely empty at the time of attack? And was that, too, by design or mere fortune? If she could put her finger on that, maybe she’d have a better idea where to look. One thing she was certain of now: these were neither coincidence nor misfortune. Someone was behind this, the question was what did they hope to gain?

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Jean Pierre returned to his room, and took the cuirass out of its oilskin bag. It was a family heirloom, his father said as he left home, a relic from before the Great Storm that rescued them from France and being killed for being… what was the word? Huguenots. Centuries old, a long time ago.

Jean Pierre carefully put on a quilted vest, testing to make sure it didn’t bind or pinch, then buckled the breastplate and the backplate together. It fit well, the old steel deceptively light. “I hope I don’t need this,” he said softly to himself in Aralaise, as he buckled the scabbard for his sword over his shoulder.

“I hope so too,” a voice said, and he spun. There, sitting on the window sill, was Heyu, the woman who dressed like a beggar. “You are lucky no one stole it yet.” She looked at him with a cynical gaze, and he blushed a little, feeling her contempt for his naïveté.

“I like to think all people are essentially good,” Jean-Pierre said, only to hear her snort. “That’s because you haven’t been around people long enough,” was her reply. “The people of Hadaton, they would rob you just for the insult of being a habitant, a cul-terraux here in their city.”

The young man became angry, but bit back on his temper. She was not being mean, just honest in her cynicism. He let his breath out, and tried not to glare. “All right,” he said, “so where do we go now?”

“To the roof,” she said, “I need to think.” With that, she stood, grabbed a handhold, and easily pulled herself up. Jean-Pierre watched her, then closed the shutters to the window, dropping the lock bar, and latching it in place to keep it from being jimmied again. Then he left, taking the stairs up to the roof.

Small puddles from the afternoon’s rain were still on the flat roof, and Jean Pierre saw Heyu looking out over the balustrade back to Newtown. “There must be a pattern,” she said as he approached her from behind. “We are lucky, our client lives on a hill, and we can see over the new city. There, that’s where the theatre stood. That is the church, that place, the brothel. Behind there, that is where the tavern was. Do you see, farm boy?”

“Is there a pattern?” Jean-Pierre asked. He loved puzzles, even though his sister was better at them than he was. He could only make out darker splotches amongst the lights of oil lamps in windows, and people carrying torches to light their way. It was darker than to the west, where lanterns were lit around the cathedral, and bright lights, possibly magical, shone from the prince’s palace. But still brighter than the streets of Oldtown, as the young man remembered this neighbourhood was called.

Heyu did not answer, frowning in thought as she studied the landscape herself. “Let’s go,” she said, and took a sip from a small goatskin flask. Seeing Jean-Pierre’s quizzical look, she offered him a sip. “Coffee,” she said. “Local stuff, it’ll help you to stay alert.”

Jean-Pierre had tried coffee before, but this stuff was different. Stronger, sweeter, with spices. “Is it magical?” he asked, and she gave a short laugh. “No, it’s coffee. It comes from a bush, you boil it with water and you drink it. Now, if you can move faster than a tortoise in all that, we need to go.”

She stowed the flask, adjusted the small bundles on her clothes, and shimmied down the side of the building. “Let’s go,” she said, “but try to keep up without clanking too much.”

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Jean-Pierre and Hayu head into Newmarket, establishing themselves at a central observation point (the roof of a warehouse built upon a slight rise).

The night is warm, and the streets are lively. Increasingly raucous conversation drifts up from assorted taverns as the life of the city flows through the neighbourhood below.

Apart from the usual minor scuffles, nothing appears to be amiss. The coffee disappears as the night closes in.

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As the night settled in, the torches and lanterns made the streets brighter than Jean-Pierre expected. He had heard that city folk would be active well into the night, but actually seeing it was something different. He settled on to his haunches, not exactly sitting, keeping low like the scruffy young woman next to him.

Their perch was not yet in Newmarket, but just on the edge. They still were in Oldmarket, the Muslim part of the city. The buildings were older here, and easer to scale, or to descend from, the young man noticed. They were atop a warehouse, which made keeping watch easier with no inhabitants to disturb, no light from below to ruin their vision. The Mohammedans were also not as raucous as the Christian denizens of Newmarket, he noticed, keeping to their hookah bars or their families.

Jean-Pierre shifted. “This is just like last spring,” he said to Hayu, and she frowned quizzically. “Someone was stealing chickens from farms in the dead of night, so my brothers and I watched, waited. After three nights, I finally saw the thief.” He paused, dramatically, but Hayu did not react. “It was a fox, but we got him. Well, my brother Marc did. He is better with a bow than I.”

“How interesting,” she said, the sarcasm in her voice indicating that she preferred quiet, so the young man fell silent again.

“I have been thinking about the black apparition I was chasing,” he suddenly said. “Whatever may be causing these fires, may not be human. In fact, it may not even be doing this with malice in mind.”

“Possible,” Hayu said, “but I need you to be quiet.” Under her breath, he could hear her mutter that the coffee was a mistake, that he drank too much. True, he felt energetic, almost jittery, but the tension of the hunt was more what he was feeling, he felt. But he kept his opinion to himself, and shifted in place.

Further inland, away from the night-black Blueshoal River and the docks, the city was merrier, brighter. There were bright lights in the gardens of the Palazzo, if Jean-Pierre strained his ears he thought he could hear music, but it was too far off and most likely imagined. The cathedral was less brightly lit, but lights inside illuminated the windows. And where Waleed had said the rich lived in their villas, lights here and there marked where the manors stood.

It was a distraction, the young man told himself. He returned to scanning the city, keeping his ears open and letting his gaze defocus, as if he were hunting that fox again, waiting for a sign of something out of place…

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The evening darkens into night, and the city mostly settles down apart from the taverns, which continue to see brisk trade.

Somewhere around 10pm or so, you notice several groups of men leaving assorted taverns who all appear to be heading in the same direction.

It’s unclear where they’re going or why, but they seem to be headed for somewhere near the boundary of Oldmarket and New.

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Jean-Pierre saw the men approach, and frowned. They were clearly not the arsonists, but they did seem angry. It did not take much intelligence to realise that these were men out for revenge.

“Keep an eye out for the fire,” he said to Hayu, and took the fastest path off the roof that he could. Although he was still new to the city, he was sure he could meet the men at the little bridge they were headed to, one of those over the brackish channel that marked the border between Newmarket and Oldmarket. He went as fast as he could without breaking into a run, hopefully arriving in time to stop the lynch mob before they could tarnish their souls under the deadly sin of wrath…

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Tabernac. The fool was going to try to take on an entire mob on his own. Because that always went well for the hero. A small voice in her haead said it wasn’t her job to save the world’s fools, and two would be no better than one.

Unless, of course, one of those knew that impassioned speeches were how you formed a mob, but doubt and fear were how you took it apart. Doubt in their own strength and the righteousness of their cause. Fear that they would become the hunted instead of the hunters.

Keeping high and to the shadows, she followed after him. It didn’t matter if there was a new conflagration – they wouldn’t have been able to stop it, regardless of how close they kept watch.

Besides, Waleed might not pay her the full remaining share if her partner died. And that would be an utter tragedy.

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