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Ross Fisher

[OL - AMRCA] The Tale of the Charon

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Chapter I. - The Patrons

The Archbishop François knelt in vigil. His older brother's coffin rested on the floor before him. He would rather be doing this at the family crypt in the countryside. But ever since Hercule had died a war hero, the nation had laid claim to him. People who had never even heard of the man while he was alive were singing songs about him now.

So now, in the vaults of Granoleon's Grand Mausoleum, he was having to collect his thoughts, make peace with a fresh mortality among his kin, and prepare to hand over responsibility to more important and less familiar persons.

He heard a noise beside him, and subtly glanced at the intruder. His sister. Celeste had been spending a lot of time at the Chateau Guemain recently; working to establish a guardianship until young Hercule Junior came of age.

Of course there were some kinks still to work out with establishing the succession. His Majesty had been all in favour of it when Hercule was alive. Now, there was a sudden reluctance. Of course, the right application of pressure in the right ears might speed things up again, but that was Celeste's arena, not his.

"Sorry to interrupt, Jules..." she whispered.

"Hmm?" he replied, standing, and straightening his cassock. He looked over his sister, but spotted figures behind her.

"We have guests."

A vigil for the departed

And they did. Four of them. Monsignor Orfeo, the Nuncio, was the most familiar to him.
Matriarch Melodia he knew vaguely, she led the Silent Sisters; the nuns who washed and prepared every body for the grave.

There was a shorter man. The Archbishop had a feeling he might represent the Grand Master of the Knights Irrevenant; the "gravekeepers". The highest ranking layman in the Church.

And then there was a masked figure. Wearing a broad-brimmed hat, and bearing an idol of Hades, this was the leader of the Shadow Council; "He who walks in shadow"; Hades' own representative in the mortal realm. To many he was pure myth. His true identity was supposedly forgotten the day he put on the mask.

The Archbishop, however, had resources. He had a good idea just whose face sat behind the mask. A time might come when that information might prove valuable. But not today.
He knelt again before the dark figure, and kissed an onyx ring.

"Holy Father, Brothers, Sister, you honour us with your presence."

"As does the late Général François with his." answered Matriarch Melodia.

"It is an honour to be in the presence of so great a man, so recently deceased," added Orfeo.

"Indeed, the newly departed may intercede on our behalf with those in the world below," added the Knight. "Glory be to Him."

They all echoed the catechism.

"Was there any particular prayer that a devout man should ask of his brother?" François asked. It was about as delicate a way of phrasing it as he could manage under the circumstances.
The councillors all looked to the masked man.

"Pray that Jean-Luc Montcalm returns to Granoleon in health. Many fates depend on it." The masked man intoned the words, but Jules thought he detected a slight northern twang to them.

He inclined his head towards his sister. "Montcalm?"

"One of Pierre's old set. But where Pierre fell from favour, Jean-Luc waltzed into the crown apartments with panache. He was last seen heading north, I believe?"

"Yes, there was a Royal Charter granted for an expedition to journey north. You may have heard rumours of a 'Northern Passage'?" asked the Knight.

The Archbishop shook his head. "I have been mainly concerned with the East these last few years."

"It was speculation, but it seems Montcalm managed to persuade His Majesty to invest heavily in a voyage to discover this Northern Passage. If they found it, they were to map it, claim it, and fortify it against all comers. You see, such a route, to lands unknown, might prove valuable beyond all measures in the game of nations."

"And if he doesn't return?"

"Then either he has met a terrible fate, and all of the royal investments are wasted, or he has taken that money, and abandoned his nation and his senses. Either way, it could be highly embarrassing for His Majesty, as well as anyone else who lent him money towards this venture."

"And if that included the Church of Hades?" François ventured.

"Then they would not be alone. The amount leant to Montcalm was significant. Multiple colonies were to be established."

"Then it certainly seems like a worthy subject to ask for intercession on," he replied. But in his head he was considering the cost of chartering a ship. He was pretty confident he could sense the same thoughts crossing Celeste's mind, too.

 

 

 

This is the new Oleon national AMRCA. taking part are:

@Jeff of Clubs

@Keymonus

@Khorne

@Ross Fisher

More to be revealed shortly!

 

 

Edited by Ross Fisher

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And here we start! Nice character choice and clever worldbuilding about the Order!

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Chapter II. - The Captain

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The warmth of the sailors’ tavern contrasted heavily with icy northwestern wind that swept the streets of St. Gallo outside, hammering the shutters and door. Inside the atmosphere was lively with laughter and music in the air and plenty of alcohol-filled pewter cups in the hands of the patrons. The eponymous ‘Captain’s Daughter’ could hardly keep up to keep all drinks filled.

St. Gallo was a fishermans’ city, one of the largest on the Courlandie peninsula and its nautical nature was clearly on display throughout the tavern, with whalebone trophies and fishnets dotting the interior.

“Another top up, captain?”, Gwen asked as she carefully meandered through the myriad of drunk fishermen and sailors.

Captain Kerouac merely grunted as he took a deep swig of his pipe and raised his cup, eyeing an unfolded letter on his table. As the barmaid filled his drink, he muttered through his bristles: “Would you be so kind and give the boys another round as well, Gwenny?”

“I’ll be sure to do so,” she replied as her eyes darted to the letter as well, “Good tidings, captain?” 

He chuckled. “I believe so. Some fancy schmuck from the interior provinces hired us to take him North. Can you believe it?”

The captain could hardly contain his laugh as he continued tugging on his pipe. “Paid us good money as well. Wants to see what the Northern Ocean is really like, since he’s read so much about it. Apparently, sailing North has almost become something of a hobby to those entitled nobs. The landlubbers should stay put, is what I say. Aye. The sea is not a playground and many a good men have already vanished in its treacherous embrace.”

“What’s the catch?”, Gwen asked intrigued by the tale.

Ambrose raised an eyebrow. “The catch? Heh, not whales or seals that’s for sure. I doubt the inlanders have the stomach for such hard labour anyway. Besides, I’m only sailing with a skeleton crew. The cargo is apparently more of the schmuck’s friends.”

“There’s always a catch, though. Be careful out there, Ambrose”, she replied gently and briefly caressed the captain’s worn hand. “Discerning stories come from the New World. Something’s off. Volcanoes erupting. Islands disappearing under waves the size of temples.” Gwen stared dourly into the distance and then turned to the captain once more. “And you know as well as any other man here, there hasn’t been this much pack ice in the Northern Ocean in years. It’s dangerous.”

“But the sea is freedom”, the captain philosophically answered.

Gwen chuckled. “Only to fools, captain. You whalers are an odd lot. Running from civilization to float around in the great nothingness.”

“Heh, who says we’re running, Gwen?”

She smiled and shook her head playfully. “Whatever suits you, Ambrose. Be sure to show the fancy pants how we do things in the north.”

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Completely forgot to comment on this. Thankfully @Fraunces broad it up again and i can only second what he said. Great start of the story and another great vignette!

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Chapter III. - The Muscle

TotC Ch3

He couldn't be certain but Madrice had the suspicion that the black sack over his head wasn't part of the typical commissioning protocol for an officer candidate of the Legion Penale. A slight pang of fear itched at him and he desperately needed to relieve himself. Had his ruse been discovered? Under the assumed alias of Remie Archambeau de Lavalette, he had entered the capitol prisons in search of an accomplice for his fledgling opium trade. Two years had passed and the only connections Madrice had made were corpses. Many were minted by his own hand, some were slain in El Oleonda and others still were executed. His mind raced. As far as the jailers were concerned, he was a 'model prisoner' and was heartily encouraged by them to apply for an officer's commission within the Legion Penale. He couldn't help but snicker at this thought. This slip brought him a sharp, wordless kick.

As his fabricated sentence was for a minor crime of embezzlement and he had military experience, Madrice's 'Remie' was a perfect fit. Madrice himself, considerably less so. Outside of a penchant for cruelty and violence, he had only ever impersonated military officers. The psychopath's only honest trade had been whaling in the northern waters of Halos but that was several assumed lives ago. Since that time he had made many enemies and some of them were quite powerful figures within Gran Oleon. The thought of these vexed men catching up with him churned his morning's gruel.

The con-man was pulled from his ruminations and the fetid cart simultaneously and was being hustled across a well polished stone floor. His surroundings reverberated with the sound of his manacles. Finally some answers were imminent. A moment later the smell of fine food and the clatter of attendant cutlery brought about his old companion, hunger. In his brutal tenure on this earth, he had dined with some of the strangest of people upon the finest of men but he had quite forgotten how enticing the works of Oleon's chefs were and now hunger churned his gruel once more and hammered upon his head.

His veil was lifted. These were not the jailers who loaded him upon his carriage, they were tall and formidable grenadier types in a uniform he did not recognize. He was made to kneel before a large table in an otherwise empty sandstone hall. Eyes blurry and dazzled by the sudden imposition of light, he was glancing around instinctively for the nearest means of egress when a low voice drew his attention to its source. A man clad in a black overcoat of a gentleman's cut, trimmed in gold and adorned with military epaulets was casually attending to the salmon mousse before him.

Without looking up from his task, this stranger began to address him, or rather, Remie. "Lieutenant Remie Archambeau de Lavalette, plead guilty in December 621ae before Courts Martial to 'Theft of Property in the Absence of a Declaration of War', sentenced to 2 years labor in Gueph, sentence completed-model prisoner." The stranger droned on but all Madrice could think of was how badly he needed to piss. Preferably in this dandy's hat. The thought brought a smirk to his scared face as the stranger continued unabated,  "Paroled and petitioned for commission in the Legion Penale in January 624ae."

Madrice's eyes finally landed on the only mark of office this man wore, the coat of arms for Godfrey de Tourment, Marechal d'Oleon. Whatever was afoot here, it was coming from the chief of the army's personal lapdog. The 'lapdog' was staring at him impassively, "Remie Archambeau, your petition has been denied." Madrice's gruel churned a third time as the stranger proceeded "I have before me two letters. One rescinds the denial and commissions Remie Archambeau as a Lieutenant d'Auxillie, to be assigned command of a platoon of Legion Penale who have been requisitioned by the Faith for yet another northern venture."

A poignant pause accompanied the stranger's piercing stare. "And the other?" Ventured Madrice, his grin fading.

Finally blinking, the man in black began to sneer, "The other notifies The Faith that 'Merde the Murderer', born Madrice Mortier, has fallen into the hands of La Grand Armee alive and details where he may be collected". Madrice's mouth went dry and his bladder made a water-closet right where he knelt. 

Madrice had served Archbishop Francois many years ago before taking his leave without permission. No money in that service. The sadist he was, he naturally enjoyed the work and admired the methods used by Francois but to find himself on the receiving end of them was a recurring nightmare of his.

Paying no heed to the puddle forming around his prisoner, the stranger pressed him instead, "Now which of these two letters would you prefer me to send?" 

Madrice Mortier, the so-called 'Merde the Murderer' struggling with his dry tongue, croaked his answer as fast as he could, lest any delay be mistaken for defiance.

♧...

Kneeling leg trick from @Keymonus, @Ross Fisher's character, and some inspiration from @Khorne's builds.

Edited by Jeff of Clubs

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A fine addition to the story, Jeff! Like I said before, lovely writing in this chapter and accompanied by an excellent build with some great character details in the faces and postures.

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Chapter IV. - The Priest

Father Leonard Theriault touched lightly the wall, as he walked along the corridor. A little gesture he had repeated innumerable times, since his first day as a novice: he had always loved the feeling of the marble wall against his knuckles... perfectly smooth, without junctions or irregularities. The best architects of Oleon had imagined that place, hundreds of years before, and the best artisans of their time had spent decades turning it into reality. Somehow, that idea had always pushed him forward, during his difficult studies: everyone could live a pious life, but only a few, chosen ones could try to honor the gods in a different way, using their capacities and their minds. Some could build a magnificent temple. Others, as he had done, could aspire to understand the sacred, immutable laws that Poseidon had imposed on the wind and the sea, becoming Priests of the Tides.

It was his first visit to the Sanctuary since the day he had taken his vows, in the little chapel by the Ocean, almost ten years before... but even if he loved that place, he knew that he would have left soon. His duty always called him to the sea, to help the sailors understand the will of the God of the Oceans, and in this way ensure His benevolence on their vessels. If Leonard was now back in that holy place, was because he had received a letter from a man whose authority could not be questioned...

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...a man who had just appeared from behind a column, immediately dragging him out of their thoughts. 

"Your Holiness!" Leonard bowed in front of the other man. Even if he was dressed as a wandering priest, he was one of the highest authorities in the Church of Poseidon, and the head of Leonard's religious order. "I received your letter, and I came here as fast as our Lord Poseidon allowed my ship to sail."

"Welcome back, my son." Even if he couldn't tell why, the voice of that man reminded Leondard of the sound of the waves on the shoreline: reassuring, almost hypnotic, but at the same time powerful and inflexible. "Our Lord Poseidon blessed you with smooth sailing, even though the Seas are restless, and the lives of several sailors were claimed by their depths. The benevolence He just showed you is a good omen for the journey you are going to take." Without adding a word, the man in grey started walking, gesturing to follow.

Soon, the two men arrived at a place Leonard remembered well, the little chapel by the Ocean where his life was changed. In that place, the voice of their Lord could be heard clearly, helping the believers to meditate. On a day of tempest, when the roar of the Ocean almost covered his own thoughts, Leonard had consecrated his life to the sea.
"Do you remember your vows, my son?" Asked the man in grey. "The vows we all pronounced in this sacred place, even before the Sanctuary itself was built?"
"Yes, Your Holiness. To honor our Lord through the knowledge of His laws, and to help His sons in need. To show His will to the sailors, and to save them from their pride, when they think they can defy Him." 
Leonard didn't hesitate a second. He had known priests who only wanted to lead a temple in a comfortable location, collecting gifts from the passing captains. That life was not for him, and his whole life was now based on that simple oath.
The other man nodded, and then he looked straight into Leonard's eyes.
"Once more, I'm asking you to honor your sacred vow. A ship will soon leave for dangerous waters, far in the North, where many have lost their lives, and others have lost their soul. Where the laws of our Lord become more inflexible, and His forgiveness disappears, there you will help them find the way." He made a few steps, followed by Leonard. In front of Poseidon's statue, with the Ocean immediately beyond, Leonard could almost feel the presence of their Lord. "It will be dangerous, I will not lie. More dangerous than you can even imagine. Your faith will be put to a terrible test, and I can't assure you there will be a return voyage. However, your presence is fundamental, if we want the expedition to succeed. The captain is brave, but he will hesitate. The sailors are hardened men, but they will lose their resolution. You'll have to be strong enough for all of them, or those men will have no chance to survive."
Leonard understood why the meeting was happening in that very place. They could have simply sent him a written order, and he would have obliged... but the man in grey didn't just want him to obey, he wanted him to remember his oath, to believe, to commit every ounce of his will to the mission ahead. Even if it meant facing the worst storms, even in front of his own death, he wanted him to go forward, whatever the cost. In front of his god, Leonard knew what to say.
"I will sail into the storm, if this is what's ahead. Our Lord's will be done."

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"Excellent, my son. You have taken your decision, and I'm sure you will honor your oaths. Our Lord will remember your devotion."
Leonard didn't know if he had ever had the chance to refuse, but it didn't matter. To help His sons in need. He had made his choice almost ten years before, in that very place.
The man continued: "You will sail in search of an unfortunate ship, and of a deluded man who thought he was stronger than the winds and the tides. But there is more, something your mates will not know, something they could not understand. Let me tell you the tale of a ship, and the unfortunate quest of a man named Montcalm..."

Edited by Keymonus

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Great stuff @Keymonus. The Priests of Tides seem a bit more sane than some other denominations. Beautiful gazebo! Is it me or should more, if not all of Oleon's state affairs be decided upon in gazebos?:pir_laugh2:

@Khorne, Thank you!

Edited by Jeff of Clubs

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15 hours ago, Jeff of Clubs said:

The Priests of Tides seem a bit more sane than some other denominations

Not sure what this is meant to imply. 

15 hours ago, Jeff of Clubs said:

Is it me or should more, if not all of Oleon's state affairs be decided upon in gazebos?

Huzzah! Gazebos for everyone!

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I hadn’t properly commented beforehand, but I wanted to comment builds I missed!

@Ross Fisher, you did an amazing job with the introduction! I like the way you hinted about the different religious orders, without making them too similar nor too weird!

@Khorne, your little tavern is great, and looks far bigger than its actual size! You really set the mood for the expedition! It’s nice to show how our empire is not only divided in Mainland Oleon and New Oleon, but has instead many regional peculiarities!

@Jeff of Clubs, I love the backstory you created and how well it fits with how Ross’ original character. The MOC itself is very well-thought and visually effective!

Well done till now guys!

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