A Path Accurst

To the Grey City
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Lair of the Ghost Lizards

As the party watched, the native burial procession moved slowly to the west, their soft chants carrying on the wind. Jimbri turned to Lord Thompson, “Are you ready to continue?”

The nobleman cleared his throat, nervously raising his voice for all to hear: “Let us continue on our illustrious journey, gentlemen! Follow me!” And with a flourish, he pointed towards the horizon, while coaxing his mount into motion.

The trip was most arduous. Jimbri led the men onward, as the hunting trail they followed grew more and more difficult to traverse. The terrain became rocky and dense with tall, seemingly ancient trees. The tree branches seemed to crowd the path on either side- in some instances overhanging the trail in a dark shroud, from above.

From the rear of the party, Luc, intently looking at the leaden sky, grunted: “Expect snow soon, yer Lordship. And expect much, by the looks of things!”

Jimbri called back from the front, while studying the faded, torn map spread across his saddle: “We will travel a bit longer, then find a place to bed down for the night, under the trees. There we will be sheltered from the snows.”

Just before night-fall, the weary men prepared prepared their camp. Jimbri had led them to a small clearing, surrounded by trees, a ways off the trail. This had met Lord Thompson’s approval. As Jimbri gathered firewood, Lord Thompson began unpacking a strange bundle of hinged sticks and heavy tarps. Pinault, done with the feeding and rubbing down of his horse, walked over to the fire, watching the nobleman with intense curiosity.

Grunting, but moving his ample girth with surprising efficiency, the “Lord of Lathbury” began to slowly assemble what turned out to be a “portable” hammock, suspended under a lean-to. Once done,
Thompson, dabbed the sweat from his brow, with his usual flourish of the wrist. Quickly turning, he walked towards the now- crackling campfire. “Now then, my libations await!”

As the snow steadily fell a hush seemed to come over the forest. All was deathly quiet. Only the fussy snap and pop of the campfire dared to break the silence. The moon and stars were hidden behind grey clouds.

As Lord Thompson lay snugly in his hammock, softly snoring, Pinault sat next to the campfire, watching the two mercenaries, Luc and Cabello, whisper to each other. Luc had disappeared earlier that evening, Cabello swearing that the man was relieving himself. Luc must have returned while Cabello was on watch. Pinault had no reason to trust either of the two men, just as they had no reason to trust him. But at least he was trying to be a penitent man. He fingered the wooden cross, which dangled around his neck.

Cabello turned, walking towards the fire. He loudly spat into the flames, causing the fire to hiss. “It is your turn to stand watch, ‘amigo’, eh? The night grows colder and since I have no ‘mujer bonita’ to keep me warm, my blanket and this will have to do!” Cabello held up a wineskin, taking a long swig. “Goodnight, and enjoy!” Tucking the skin under his arm, Cabellow walked over to the base of a tree, wrapped himself up in heavy woolen blankets and shortly began to snore.

Pinault jumped to his feet, a knife appearing in his hand, as a long, mournful howl echoed throughout the forest. Sighing, he threw a few more twigs into the fire. It would be a long night…



At the first faint light of dawn, Jimbri rose and began to tidy the camp. There was a thick blanket of heavy snow covering both the trees and the ground. Shortly, the horses were loaded and the men prepared to continue their journey. With the weather, Jimbri surmised that in another day, they should be at their destination: the lost city.

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The Night Stalker

Scene 1 Red mare
Juan Carlos is carousing at the Red Mare, a local gambling den. After winning his latest game of cards, he hastily buys every whore in the room a goblet of wine. Meanwhile, Abe’Lard, who has been chatting up many of the local prostitutes, ministering to them, finds himself at the same questionable establishment.

Abigail’s mother, Lady Anistasia Santos, sends a messenger-boy with wax-sealed letters to both Abe’Lard and Juan Carlos- asking for their help.

Juan Carlos’ letter reads:
My dear Juan Carlos, as I am sure you are aware, having recently lost my husband Antonio Santos to an unforgiving sickness of this harsh land we now call home, I have no other recourse, but to ask for your assistance. My daughter, Abigail, was attacked two nights ago, along with her handmaiden, Isabella.

Abigail merely received minor cuts and bruises, but would have fared much worse if not for Isabella’s selfless act of loyalty and bravery. Although I must admit, I was most surprised at this, as her kind are not typically known for their honor. Poor Isabel met her end most horribly and I will speak no more of it.

An acquaintance of my husband’s, a Lord Douglas Thompson, has made his services available to me, as the local Constable seems to be at his wit’s end. Please arrive most swiftly, as time is of the essence.

Yours,
Lady Anistasia Contessa Santos

Letter
While Abe’Lard’s letter is as follows:
Dear senior Abe’Lard Pinault, I, Lady Anistasia Contessa Santos, am sending you this correspondence, with the hopes that it reaches you in a generous mood. An acquaintance of my late husband, Lord Douglas Thompson, has made his services available to me, as the local Constable seems to be at his wit’s end. Unfortunately, as I am sure you are aware, Lord Thompson is suffering from what his physician calls, “melancholia”- the same affliction which took my husband from me.

As he will be indisposed for an indeterminate amount of time, perseverance suggests that I ask you to assist me, since he cannot. Please arrive with most haste!

Yours,
Lady Anistasia Contessa Santos


After both Juan Carlos and Abe’Lard finished reading their respective letters, they separately travel across town, posthaste, to Lady Santos’ estate, having no idea that their Fate’s are now mortally entwined!




Scene 2
A brooding Abe’Lard is shown into the estate’s anteroom, where he notes an athletic Spaniard lounging about, loudly demanding refreshments- the brash dandy, Juan Carlos! After a brief embroilment, Lady Santos enters the room, demanding their attention, berating Juan Carlos for his rudeness towards her guest.

Lady Santos gravely solicits aid from the two men, as she knows no one else to turn to, in her time of need. As she stated in her letters to them, the honorable Lord Thompson is bedridden and the local French authorities seem to not have a clue of what to do! Wringing her hands, eyes staring into the distance, Lady Santos recounted the tale of that horrible night, 2 days bygone.

Abigail Santos, and her handmaiden, the Creole Isabella, were attacked by an unknown assailant, while returning from visiting Abigail’s father’s tomb. Abigail lost track of the time, being deep in her prayers and as the two women rushed back to their villa, their attacker pounced upon them, in the encroaching darkness!

Abigail’s handmaiden bravely interjected herself between their attacker and Abigail, putting herself in mortal danger. The poor girl was decapitated. The only clue as to their assailant is a tuft of black, coarse hair that the handmaiden Isabella was clutching in her hand. Abigail is, naturally, distressed with fear and anguish. She remembers only the assailants “fierce, blazing, eyes, insane with malice”.

Abe’Lard, absentmindedly caressing the silvery crucifix at his throat, recounts the accounts of the many paramours he has ministered too. Many of their trade have been the victims of this “butcher”.

So after hearing Lady Santos’ account of her daughter’s ordeal and how she now refuses to leave her room upstairs, stricken with lingering fear, the two men decide to work together to catch the murderer! Abe’Lard, promptly refusing any sort of recompense from Lady Santos, states that the “godly” thing to do, would be to offer aid. Juan Carlos merely shrugs, smoothing an out-of-place wrinkle, his noting the matter to be simply one of honor and acclaim, which must be resolved.

Abe’Lard then suggests that their first destination should be the villa of Lord Thompson, wherein his added intellect may focus their endeavours. Arriving, the two found their plans obstructed by Thompson’s man-servant Wong. Refusing to allow Lord Thompson to be disturbed and harshly reminding Abe’Lard of the fact that the Lord of the manor is currently under the strict care of the physician, Dr. Thomas Thayne.

Lord Thompson has been suffering from a case of melancholia; an ailment caused by an imbalance in one or other of the four basic bodily liquids, known as “humors”. He has been bed-ridden for many days, and with his daily leeching, will likely remain so.

With evening almost upon them, the amateur sleuths decide to travel to the Orleans docks- that being the destination of many “ladies of the night”.




Scene 3
Arriving at the docks, Abe’Lard and Juan Carlos carefully tread through the dark, Stygian night, a thick fog blowing in from the Mississippi River. Juan Carlos strode ahead, while Abe’Lard equipped his brace of knives, strapping it across his chest.

The streets were empty of life, except for the occasional inquisitive rat, which darted across their path. Two figures materialized from the darkness ahead, directly in front of the creeping Spaniard.

Suddenly, a woman’s high pitched scream tore through the night!

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