Terrible Freedom

Frost crunched underfoot as she entered the room. Every part of the chamber was covered in a thin layer of ice. Mistress Rosamund drew her wrap closer to herself and regarded Etitan. He had grown gaunt, his eyes sunken and even his clothes seemed more ragged.

“So, you finally remembered I was here,” he whispered.

“I didn’t ferget.”

“Liar.”

“Why won’t you tell me about those fellas that busted up my joint? What’s got you so bothered?”

“Nothingness.”

“Nothing? That ain’t true, if it were we would not be having this palaver.”

“I said nothingness, not nothing!” Etitan hissed.

“Not sure I get your meaning.”

The spirit sighed and the room grew colder.

“I knew another ghost, Constança Garro. She was very lovely and playful. Always playing pranks, nothing malicious, more impish than anything else. One day, she sees this man who was as dull as can be, almost invisible. So she begins to play little pranks, untying his shoes, hiding his keys, buzzing his door in the middle of the night, that sort of thing.”

“And I’m guessin’ he did not think it was funny.”

“It wasn’t that, she told me that he didn’t react. Clearly annoyed but he never lost his temper. Which of course just made her want to push further and further. Then one day, she was gone.”

“She moved on?”

“No, just she disappeared.”

“Are you sure she-“

“YES! Spirits cannot die, we can be bound, obviously, or banished from a place, but we cannot die a second time.”

They both stood there for a while.

“So what happened?”

“I don’t know and I’m not proud of this but I don’t want to know.”

“Fine, are you saying that that fella your friend was haunting was with those who smashed up my joint?”

“I never saw him. But Constança told me he wore a pin on his lapel, it looked like a flower at first glance but there was a spider in the middle. Those thugs wore the same pin.”

“Did they see you?”

“Of course not! They are connected to her disappearance, I would not cross them.”

Mistress Rosamund found her hand in the pocket of her skirt, she had them tailored for her with multiple pockets, you could never have enough, and she ran her fingers over a cold metal object.

“What else can you tell me about them?” she asked.

“If they can make a spirit vanish, imagine what can they do to you?”

“And that’s all you know?”

“I don’t need to know anymore.”

“Fine then, I’ma gonna let you out,” she said

Etitan floated up straighter at this and regained some of his former appearance.

“And I am sorry for keeping you bound like I did.”

“Apology accepted!”

“But I hope we put this behind us.”

“Of course, water under bridges and so on!”

“No need for bringing John Law into the picture.”

“Wouldn’t think of it.”

“Swear by Saint Januarius.”

Etitan hovered straight, his appearance now pristine and held his hand upright.

“I swear by Saint Januarius, who watches the dead, that this matter is over and no vengeance will be sought.”

The room grew warmer and the frost began to melt.

“Well then, I break the circle and unbind you.”

With that, she scuffed the salt ring. Etitan sighed and flew towards the wall when they heard a distant sound, like the ringing of a large bell. There was a pause, then Etitan howled. Mistress Rosamund fell to her knees and covered her ears and although all she wished was to flee, the shriek rendered her stunned.

Etiran began to expand, like jam smeared over bread, not evenly and not all at once. He glowed brighter as his features became more and more indistinct. Rapidly, he filled the small room and the screaming got higher and louder until Mistress Rosamund thought her head might explode. Just when she thought she could take no more, it stopped and the room went black.

She lay there, letting the silence and darkness cover her until she no longer trembled. It would be difficult to say how long it was, but eventually, she felt strong enough to get up. Striking a match, she looked around the room. All that was left was an open circle of salt and an empty wine bottle. Etitan was gone.

Taking a deep breath, she stood and went upstairs. Her clothes were covered in dust and she knew that she needed to make herself presentable for her customers. Pushing down what had just happened, she busied herself, changing clothes, washing her face, and so on.

In the looking glass, her hair, that morning a lustrous honey blonde, was now drained of color, like an achromatic fog.

Posted in Arrondissement, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Public Tête-à-Tête

Olivia was followed by cats all day long even though she was unaware of that fact. She was trying something new, looking for something without trying to. It was proving to be extraordinarily counter-intuitive. It felt like listening to music by covering her ears.

While she had found a pocketful of missing jewelry, three wallets and a set of spectacles, (and returned them, not being a thief) the one item she was looking for, a single key, eluded her. The advice given to her by that novice was not working quite as she hoped. It sounded very wise when she first heard it but theory was sweeter than practice.

Having spent the morning and part of the afternoon wandering the Arrondissement, hunger overtook her and she went to an automated restaurant. It was considered quite modern by some and critics of it felt the same. Each meal was prepared in an exacting manner with precise recipes. If you sat down for a bowl of vegetable soup today and came back one year later and ordered it again, it would taste exactly the same.

This outraged the culinary community from the top of haute to the greasiest of spoons. Protests arose and white tunicked kitchen worker marched in front of this affront to food. Of course this only increased people’s curiosity. That coupled with the fact that many restaurants were closed due to protest related staff shortages, insured that the protests were short lived.

Olivia had to admit that she was curious, and that fact that she could get a meal prepared almost immediately sealed the deal.

There was a queue as you entered that moved through a brass maze, until you came to a large panel with menu, complete with illustrations. You pulled knobs for you selection and then threw a lever. While walking to the cashier, you passed by a large window that showed your meal being prepared by an enormous and intricate machine.

She could not get a real sense of the shape of this automated chef. No, not chef, cook perhaps? It was a tangle of pots, pipes, grills, conveyer belts, spinning spoons, whirring knives, punctuated by gouts of flame and clouds of steam while juggling a parade of ingredients. Entertaining, if bewildering. Even so, when she arrived at the cashier, who was a living person, her croque monsieur and coffee with cream were awaiting her.

Taking her tray, she looked for an empty table. None where entirely so, but quickly she spotted one unoccupied chair in the back. After all finding things was what she did.

Moving quickly, she arrived at the table. Sitting with his back to the wall was a Renard reading a newspaper.

“Pardon Monsieur, is this seat claimed?” she asked.

Looking up, he said, “Only now by you mademoiselle.”

“Merci.”

Sitting, she cut a small piece of her sandwich, it was still hot (a good sign) and tasted… Fine. As she chewed, the word that came to her was adequate. The café near her home made a much better croque monsieur with deeper flavor and the edges were close to but never burnt.

“What do you think of the food mademoiselle?”

She looked up to see the Renard regarding her with curious eyes.

“Please pardon me, I don’t wish to intrude on your meal.”

“Not at all,” she said, “It is acceptable…”

The last word hung in the air, despite the clatter of cutlery on plate and the indistinct drone of dozens of conversations.

“And yet…”

“Not memorable.”

“Exactly. It is food, but it lacks-“

“Personality.”

“Well said!”

Extending her hand, she said, “My name is Olivia.”

“And I am Roland. A pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise.”

“May I ask you something?”

“Certainly.”

“Why did you come here?”

“Curiosity. And you?”

“The same.”

“I guess my curiosity was satisfied better than my appetite.”

Roland’s whiskers twitched as he grinned.

“You found the perfect words.”

“That’s usually my cousin Hélène’s thing,” Olivia replied.

“Ah, you’re a finder then,” said Roland.

She shrugged.

“I am.”

“A remarkable gift.”

“Sometimes. My Aunt always falls in love with the wrong person.”

“Everyone has.”

“Not like her. I could tell you stories but they would ruin your appetite.”

“Please don’t, right now I have too little to spare. If you don’t mind me asking, what is your thing? Other than finding mediocre lunch,” he said with a smile.

She laughed, and said, “We both did that, but I’m very good a finding lost things.”

“Very useful.”

“Have you lost anything?”

“Any number of things but at moment I’m looking for answers to questions.”

“Are you a philosopher?”

“Only in way that all that think are, I’m actually a gendarme.”

“You may have missed your calling.”

“Perhaps, but like yourself, I deal with the here and now.”

“It’s all we have really.”

“You also have a metaphysical impulse.”

“I’ll say this, if we were both philosophers, we might not have been able to afford this very average lunch.”

“Quite true.

Roland looked at his chronoton and sighed.

“I’m afraid that duty calls. Thank you for making an ordinary meal enjoyable.”

“No, thank you, it was fun meeting you.”

As he pulled on his overcoat, he handed her a card.

“If you ever find yourself in need of aid, you can reach me here.”

“You never know,” she said pocketing the card.

“If we did, how dull would life be?”

With that, he said farewell. Olivia ate her sandwich with little enthusiasm. Roland had left his newspaper so she read that to pass the time. It was filled with the usual, crime, politics (not so different from crime), the Cure-dent de Déant still enlarged for reasons unknown, news from abroad, as well as art and theater reviews. Nothing really of note, until a daguerreotype caught her eye.

Sitting on a post box across the rue a calico narrowed her eyes.

Posted in Arrondissement, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Silence is a Vice

Uniformed gendarmes pushed and shoved a large group of people into the station’s lobby. The arrestees were all shackled together and made no secret of their displeasure. As it happens, the gendarmes were no less happy to escort this large and unruly group so there was a certain balance to this event.

“Madames and Monsieurs! If you did not wish to be bound by law, you should not have tried to climb Cure-dent de Déant!”

“But I didn’t climb very far at all!” declared one of the detained.

“That in no way makes it less of a crime,” replied the gendarme.

Gendarme Sergeant Arpin observed the contained chaos and then left for the quiet of the interrogation wing. Unpainted brick walls comprising the hallway were meagerly lit to inspire the telling of truth.

Arriving at room VIII, he knocked. The peephole slid open to reveal two sad brown eyes.

“Sergeant Arpin,” he said.

With that, locks were turned, bolts slid and the door opened. Seated and shackled to a small table was the young man who followed, assaulted, and tried to rob him. Arpin sat across from him and opened a folder. The uniform stood behind him.

“Good afternoon monsieur, I must apologize for not speaking to you sooner but life is often complicated, is it not?”

The prisoner said nothing. Looking at the folder’s contents, Arpin read for a moment.

“You are not a talkative fellow, I see that you have not indentified yourself, you carried no papers, and if you will forgive me, you have a face that is very easily overlooked. Neither handsome nor ugly, unremarkable in everyway.”

With a slight smile, the prisoner shrugged but still said nothing.

“Unfortunately, it seems we have no way of indentifying you. You have not asked for an advocate, or even offered any defense of your actions, not that there are any. It seems that you are bound for L’île de Oubliette.”

There was no response.

“However, fortune has favored us. You employed a Forget-Me-Coat, a rather expensive garment. Very useful to avoid detection but each one is registered with L’agence des Règles. Otherwise people could use it for less than scrupulous reasons. The one you used is owned by a Monsieur Henri Giteau, an import export merchant. He bought it to avoid being robbed when he traveled. He was very surprised to hear from us that it had been used in several crimes. I’m sorry, would you like a cigarette?”

While the prisoner did not respond, Arpin noticed that he smelled slightly nervous.

“No? Very wise, it is an unhealthy habit, I’ve tried to stop but I’m afraid that is a goal for another day. As I was saying, Monsieur Giteau was shocked to hear that his Forget-Me-Coat was used for criminal purposes. However after I assured him that he was in no way responsible, he was quite relieved as you might imagine, he and I discussed you. Apparently, he had hired you recently as a junior clerk in his warehouse, and your name is…”

Arpin once more checked the file.

“Jules Thibault, age twenty three. You worked for him for about a month. He described you as quiet and hard working. Too bad, sounds like you might’ve had a future there. He also provided us with your address, 864 Rue de L’orme, apartment nine. Of course we seached it.”

Putting his hand in his jacket pocket, Arpin produced a pin, identical to the one on the burgler of Monsieur L’Horloge’s home, though not charred.

“We found this quite easily, would you not agree Gendarme Vasseur?”

The uniformed gendarme who stood in the room nodded.

“Very easily Sergeant. It was hidden under loose board. Squeeked when I walked on it.”

“Thank you Vasseur. Under a squeeky floorboard, very sloppy. And what does this have to do with your assault upon my person? An excellent question. An identical pin was found on someone else involved with a very serious crime. I am compelled to inform you that you are now a person of interest in another investigation, it’s looking very grim.”

Silence and smoke hung in the room along with the distinct odor of anxiousness.

“Vasseur, do you know what I think?”

“That these two cases are related.”

“Indeed, well done! But there is something else.”

“And what is that Sergeant?”

“That young Thibault is part of something larger.”

“A criminal organization, like the Society of Shadows?”

“I believe so, though not one we have encountered before.”

“Very serious and worrying that is.”

Arpin took one last drag on his smoke and ground it out.

“I’d wager, and I am not one for gambling, is that Jules here is a cog in a much larger machine.”

“You would win that bet Sergeant.”

“Thank you Vasseur. He is a likely a disposable asset to his superiors. It is even more likely that he knows little or nothing of value.”

“Agreed.”

“It’s a shame though, he is soon to be very famous.”

The smell of panic filled the room.

“Really?” asked Vasseur.

“Oh yes, this is about to become a very spectacular case. Gendarme assaulted, a high profile break-in, secret societies, the public will gobble it up. Once the fourth estate is informed.”

With a surge Jules yanked his shackles and flung the table at Arpin, who was knocked to the floor. Vasseur leapt in and grappled him but Jules slammed the gendarme into the wall with a thud. Arpin, who was shaken but uninjured, jumped up and began to pummel the prisoner. He disliked doing this, but he had been given little choice.

Jules took his punches with quiet grunts but did not pass out. With an unnatural serenity, he slammed his forehead into Arpin’s and the back of his skull into Vasseur’s nose. Both gendarmes staggered and he ran towards the wall, head first.

If he had not been shackled to a table, Jules would’ve smashed his head open with mortal results. Fortunately or un, he tripped and merely knocked himself out cold. Arpin shook his head and went to the door to call for help.

The chirurgeon who examined Arpin, after treating Vasseur and the prisoner, told him that he was extremely lucky, having only suffered minor bruises. She advised that if he wanted to not suffer a headache, he should give up smoking, at least for the rest of the day. He tried.
#

Posted in Arrondissement, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Growth Spurt

In the center of the Arrondissement lies the Jardin des Gens. While there are many parks available to the citizenry, this is the grandest one. In the summer, there are concerts and theater, both highly attended. The Crescent Lake is available for boating, though never on a new moon. Springtime is filled flowers in bloom and winter makes the trees glisten with clear ice, making the entire place feel like a frosted castle.

Even now, in the autumn, when the leaves turn to fiery red and orange, the paths and plazas of this woodland are filled with those who need a respite. It is said that a walk through the Jardin des Gens will refill your soul when troubles have drained your spirit. No natural philosopher has either proven or attempted to disprove this, it is just accepted as fact by most people.

While there are many wonders to take in, none are as impressive as the Cure-dent de Déant. It stands three hundred meters high and its branches stretch out far enough to cover Madame Bisset-Huger’s symphony as well all those who come to see her semi-annual concerts. Other times, outdoor banquets

Now it is autumn and the broad leaves have turned a bright gold and while the wind is a bit too brisk to sit beneath this mighty tree, people will often take a little extra time to walk past it, it is always worth seeing and as it turned out today, especially so.

It was midmorning, about ten thirty, as most would later report. A group of school children were walking past, guided by their shepherdess were passing by the Cure-dent de Déant. Slowly of course, it is not a sight that you just casually glance at, and school children will take any chance to dawdle. Think back on your youth and you will agree.

The shepherdess, Mademoiselle Fourneau, had brought her class by the great tree on the way to the Museum of for Natural Oddities for two reasons. One, as a treat for her charges, and second, so she might smoke a cigarette without criticism from the headmistress who thought it an unseemly habit.

She lit her smoke and closed her eyes as inhaled deeply. It was then that she thought she heard something. It seemed distant but loud, like an echo of a foghorn, but it was something else. Something mechanical? That thought was chased away by the cheers of her children.

“Quiet please! We are not beasts, we are people!” she said automatically. It was a phrase used by the shepherdess and shepherds at the insistence of the headmistress.
“Mademoiselle, look!” shouted one of the children, who clearly was unconcerned with etiquette at that moment.

With cigarette still in her lips, she looked up. The Cure-dent de Déant was is bloom. Springtime bloom. The leaves were no longer autumnal gold, but a pale chartreuse. Not only that but they were growing before her eyes, transforming into the dark sage of high summer. A rumbling was heard, and the ground around the trunk began to buckle as the tree began to rise.

“Children, to me!” the shepherdess called as she herded her charges away from the chaos.

The air was filled golden leaves, many more that any tree, even the Cure-dent de Déant should produce in a single season. Benches were flung into the air, a roast nut cart ended up hanging from a new but sturdy branch, and if Madame Bisset-Huger’s symphony were to perform her again, she could add more musicians as well as perhaps triple the audience.

Gendarmes arrived soon there after and set up a barrier to prevent gawkers even though it was easily seen from a great distance. Of course, it drew many to see what had happened. The members of the fourth estate arrived just after the gendarmes to spoke to all who would speak to them, which was everyone. Even Mademoiselle Fourneau and her class were interviewed and a daguerreotype of them appeared in the next edition of the Herald Trompette.

Botanical specialists from several universities came to investigate but all they would say to the press was “We will make a statement when we have something to say.” This did not go over well and produced headlines like, “Botanists Baffled!” and “Scholars Stumped!”

Later than night, long after Mademoiselle Fourneau had brought her students back, classes were canceled due to high spirits, and she had shared a bottle of wine with her beau over a meal in a small, romantic bistro, and shared more at his rooms, that she remember that distant sound. Not a foghorn at all but the tick of a clock.

Posted in Arrondissement, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , ,

Twelve Days of D&D

Merry Holidays and Happy Christmas constant readers.

Here’s a little nerd themed gift for you all.

Enjoy!

-Leo Jenicek

On the first day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

A Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Second day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Third day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant

On the Fourth day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Fifth day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Sixth day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Six Basilisks a-laying, Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant

On the Seventh day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Seven Krakens a-swimming, Six Basilisks a-laying, Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Eighth day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Eight Barbarians a-Raging, Seven Krakens swimming, Six Basilisks a-laying, Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Ninth day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Nine Paladins Smiting, Eight Barbarians a-Raging, Seven Krakens swimming, Six Basilisks a-laying, Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Tenth day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Ten Rogues a-stealthing, Nine Paladins Smiting, Eight Barbarians a-Raging, Seven Krakens swimming, Six Basilisks a-laying, Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Eleventh day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Eleven Bards a mocking, Ten Rogues a-stealthing, Nine Paladins Smiting, Eight Barbarians a-Raging, Seven Krakens swimming, Six Basilisks a-laying, Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

On the Twelfth day of Yule Time my DM gave to me,

Twelve,twelve sided dice, Eleven Bards a mocking, Ten Rogues a-stealthing, Nine Paladins Smiting, Eight Barbarians a-Raging, Seven Krakens swimming, Six Basilisks a-laying, Five Magic Rings! Four Clerics healing, Three Dwarven ales, Two Owlbears and a Goblin hiding in a Treant.

Posted in Gaming, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Two Gendarmes

“It was more or less of a coincidence,” said Sergeant Gendarme Arpin.

Mistress Rosamund took a deep drag of her cigarillo and regarded Arpin and Detective Durand sitting in her back office. One gendarme visiting was irritating but easy enough to deal with, but two was not an accident.

It was a smallish room, but not plagued by disorder. Papers were in orderly pile and a pen and inkwell stood at the ready. A calendar hung on the wall as well as a small painting of a mesa.

“I see.”

Durand placed a folder on the barkeep’s desk.

“Mademoiselle, are you familiar with the ghost of Etitan Chardin?” she asked opening the folder to reveal a daguerreotype of the spirit in question.

“I am. We used to have an act together.”

“Why did you stop working together?”

“Spirit shows lost their appeal for folks, so we stopped.”

“Would you say you parted on good terms?”

“No hard feelings for my part.”

“And his?”

“If he had, he never said anything to me.”

Durand, who had been taking notes, nodded.

“Mind if I asked you a question detective?”

“By all means.”

“Why are you coming in asking me about my past with Etitan?”

“Monsieur Chardin has been reported missing.”

Rosamund smiled.

“In my experience, when a spirit can’t be found, it usually means they’ve passed on. Of course it’s a mite challenging to confirm that.”

“This is true, but associates of Monsieur Chardin have filed a report with my office, so I’m duty bound to investigate matters.”

“Do you think I killed him?”

They each laughed at the idea.

“The living cannot kill the dead mademoiselle, but the dead still have rights, as you should well know as a former spirit wrangler.”

“True enough.”

“Have you seen Monsieur Chardin in the last few weeks?”

Mistress Rosamund took a puff on her cigarillo and considered the question.

“I can’t say I have, business has been booming lately.”

Sergeant Gendarme Arpin spoke up, “Even with the break in? I would think that might discourage people from coming.”

“A little notoriety gets folks curious, I’m happy to say.”

Durand produced a card which she placed on the desk.

“If you should recall anything or encounter our wayward ghost, please contact me immediately.”
“I surely will detective.”

The two gendarmes stood, bid her a good day and began to leave. Arpin stopped and turned around.

“One last question Mistress Rosamund, if you don’t mind?”

“Not at all.”

He took his notebook out opened it to a sketch of the floret spider.

“Do you recognize this symbol?”

She looked at it, her nostrils flaring and but she did not reply. After a moment, Arpin asked, “Pardon me, are you alright?”

Rosamund looked him straight in the eyes.

“Sorry, I’ve never seen that before.”

“Thank you for your time, au revoir Mistress Rosamund.”

“Happy trails.”

Once the two investigators had emerged back on the street, they stopped in a café for coffee.

“She was of course, lying,” said Durand.

“True, but we have no proof,” Arpin replied.

“Not yet.”

“D’accord. Thank you for inviting me to join you on your visit.”

“There is a connection between our two cases.”

“Mistress Rosamund.”

“Indeed. As to why and how…”

“We will see.”

They tapped their mugs lightly and looked each other in the eyes, as was the custom.

“Yes we will,” she said.

Posted in Arrondissement, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Beginnings and Webs

From the archives of the Coterie du Honor.

Our Chevaliers have fought in many conflicts over time from the Oni Rebellion, the Hunt for Le Barbe Bleue and the ongoing Oil Paint War. While many have fallen, we have never backed down from a challenge.

While our list of foes is extensive, there is one that we have never bested, at least not completely. While we may have won battles, the greater war still continues. They are not warrior nor are they monsters. They do not breath fire, eat children, or possess the other common qualities of monster-hood. But do not be deceived, they are wicked beyond the dreams of the Yaga. Let me tell you of the Coterie’s first brush with these fiends.

Many years ago, the Wandering Chevalier was engaged to escort a scholar, Madame DuFrey, from the Arrondissement to the University of the Zìzhì shì zhèn, which was a journey rife with peril and hazard at that time. At the halfway point of their travels, they stopped at a small hamlet, just before a treacherous mountain pass.

The Wandering Chevalier and Madame DuFrey lodged in the local inn and as is the custom, they shared tales of where they had been and seen. As travelers talked, it was revealed that six of them were headed in the same direction and it was agreed that a group is safer. Amongst those heading East was an eastern Chevalier, though they were called Youxia. This one was called the Dawn Youxia, and she was delighted to meet a distant cousin in arms.

At dawn of the next day, the group set out, and even though a mendicant who had just come through the pass warned them of a vicious herd of Ur-Goats that had been roaming the nearby peaks. The travelers felt having two noble warriors was protection enough.

Several days into the journey a fierce snowstorm arose and forced the travelers to wait till they could continue in a shallow cave. That night, The Wandering Chevalier, who was on watch, found himself overcome by drowsiness and fell into deep slumber but not before he saw two figures exiting the cave.

Fortunately, Dawn Youxia, who had not eaten the stew prepared by on of the party, (she was a strict vegetarian) was awakened by movement and saw two people leave and the Wandering Chevalier crumple to the stone floor. Using herbal oil that her order used to keep alert, she was able to rouse her fellow warrior.

Together, they ventured out into the icy maelstrom. Not much time was lost so the footprints were easy to follow. They lead to a cliff’s edge where Madame Du Frey lay unmoving while a figure quickly riffled through her pack, searching her papers. This figure was the first recorded encounter with the Spinners, though neither the Wandering Chevalier or Dawn Youxia knew it at the time.

This person was a member of their party but he was so unremarkable that no one had thought to question who he was or where he was going. He slipped into the crowd without a question. Their ability for anonymity is their greatest weapon, as we would find out.

The Spinner would not surrender so blades were drawn and they fought. While their foe was no soldier he fought with desperation and an absence of chivalry. Employing low tactics, he took the life of the Wandering Chevalier.

Dawn Youxia revived Madame DuFrey, who was merely drugged, and brought both her and the Wandering Chevalier’s body back to the cave. She swore an oath to see both the scholar to her destination and cousin in battle back to his home, where he could be laid to rest in honor.

The body of the Spinner was left to freeze in the mountain, as befitted a criminal. He had no papers or anything else of interest on his person save two things. A vial of sleeping draught used to disable his victims and a brass medallion that at first glance appeared to be a stylized floret but upon closer examination showed a spider, hiding.

Dawn Youxia indeed fulfilled her vow, delivering Madame DuFrey to her destination and bringing the Wandering Chevalier to the Arrondissement to be buried next to his sisters and brothers. It also helped establish the alliance between the noble orders in the grand districts.

Over time, the Coterie du Honor has continued to fight with the Spinners, sometimes victorious, but not always. They are the epitome of a dishonorable foe. They manipulate others to do their bidding, with little or no care as to their safety. If they are lucky, such pawns are abandoned once their tasks are done, others are disposed of like vermin.

So what do they want? It is unknown. They collect ancient texts, kidnap academics, steal seemingly worthless artifacts and leave riches untouched. What they ultimately desire seems indecipherable. There is no pattern we can see.

The Thoughtful Chevalier once said, “It is as if they are weaving a vast tapestry, but of what and to what end, it is impossible to say. They are, like their emblem, spinning a web that we cannot see.” Thus, we have named them the Spinners.

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