The King is Dead

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Princess Errant: Duel dans la grande Gallium

http://www.dowdlefolkart.com/paris-city-of-lights

A couple of days after the ball celebrating her Grand Tour, Princess Dusk and her entourage set forth for Paris via clockwork ornithopter.  The brass and glass airship (shaped like a huge dragonfly) dashes across the Albion Channel at speeds of over 25 miles per hour, reaching the airfield outside of Paris shortly after dark, just as the gaslights of Paris light up the night.

A tremendous marching band parade greets the princess’ airship, and she is formally welcomed to the country by the Dauphine Celestine (who offers Princess Dusk a 7% solution of cocaine once they’re safely ensconced in her carriage).  The dauphine, Dusk soon realizes, plays at being weary and contemptuous of the spotlight but truthfully glories in it, insisting that the travel-weary Dusk participate in a grand ball welcoming her to Gallia.  Dusk reluctantly agrees and joins the riotous assemblage of Gallian nobles after taking a brief break to freshen up and change.


Dauphine Celestine looks land acts nothing like Kill la Kill's Nui, but they're an awful lot alike anyway.
(Gallia, unlike Albion, is ruled by hereditary nobility (unlike the Albish adopted nobility); the royal house, which practices primogeniture, traces its ancestry back to the water-fairy Melusine.  Actual power was consolidated into the royal hands by the current king’s grandfather, leaving the Gallian nobility as a parasitical appendix, collecting rents from lands they no longer have any hand in administrating while not paying any taxes into the nation’s coffers.  While this aspect of them is offensive to Albish principles, the Gallian nobility is paradoxically progressive in many social issues, tolerating broader gender roles and sexual orientations than most continental regimes.  After all, the heir to the throne is a woman…)


At the welcoming ball, there is an awkward moment as the dauphine tries to (almost literally) push her teenaged brother François into dancing the welcoming dance with Dusk (Celestine being rather narrow-mindedly cisgendered), but the awkward young lad is saved by the intercession of the Marquis Tomás de Carabas, a dashing ailuromorph.  While their initial encounter impresses Princess Dusk, subsequent attempts by the cat-like Casanova to chat her up over the next few days fall flat.  She barely even takes any interest in an assassination attempt against the marquis, chalking it up to the actions of the brutal former marquis that Tomás cheated out of the title.

[This is an excellent example of why you have to be ready to improvise in a duet campaign and also why I make it all up at the gaming table.]
The Marquis was somehow my least attractive Tennant character yet.

Dusk is overall unimpressed by the Gallian nobility and longs to move out of Versailles and stay in Paris, but Dauphine Celestine insists on having a masquerade ball.  Celestine also tries to pawn Dusk off onto the innocent, fabulously rich, and unpopular young Comtesse Martine le Blanc.  Le Blanc, it turns out, has suffered a series of near-fatal accidents recently, always being rescued in the nick of time by her wolf dog Raoul.  The wolf dog piques Dusk’s curiosity by being obviously a wolf smarter than average, but she’s still on the verge of blowing off the comtesse as well when Chief Inspector Jacquard of the Sûreté arrives to announce he has received notice le Blanc will be murdered at the masquerade.

Chief Inspector Jacquard

Princess Dusk has already suspected that Martine’s would-be murderer is her uncle, Merteuil, and is only persuaded to join the investigation because of her curiosity about Raoul and Jacquard’s confession that he also resents his nation’s nobility.  Jacquard is a self-made man who has advanced in his career by almost catching the infamous and suspiciously never-seen burglar Auguste Loup on several occasions – which seems excessively suspicious to Dusk, especially when a friendly bout in the fencing salle reveals Jacquard is adept at ungentlemanly fighting arts like savate.  She decides to play along with the investigation.

It turns out that Uncle Merteuil is a crony of Dauphine Celestine, and further investigation shows that Comtesse le Blanc is wealthy enough to greatly bolster the waning royal coffers (allowing the royal family to avoid raising taxes on the resentful peasantry).  Dusk wonders why Martine is not just married off to the kindly François if Celestine is after the money, but realizes that would mean Celestine would not directly control the fortune.  She then suspects that Celestine means to aid Merteuil in murdering his niece and then marry him for the fortune, but Merteuil is… um… gross… and it doesn’t seem likely that the fashionable young dauphine would want to marry such a man.  Dusk realizes that Celestine means to murder the both of them and then the le Blanc estates will default to the crown.

Princess Dusk attends the masquerade as the Pendragon, the foundling founder of the royal “family” of Albion, in an excessively clever costume that incorporates actual armor and hides her rapier in a decorative sword; Beatrix the modiste is quite proud of her creation.  The dauphine attends in a similarly-armored costume as Melusine, de Carabas comes as a furry-chested Apollo, le Blanc is Snow White while her uncle is Robin Hood, and a mystery man (whom Dusk assumes is Auguste Loup) attends as a Wild Huntsman wearing an oddly-familiar dog wolf-skin. Dusk certainly seems to finally begin to enjoy herself in this gravel-voiced mystery man’s company.

A seemingly-drunken man in a pirate costume jostles de Carabas; Dusk notices he is armed with two pistols – very real, well-used pistols – and remembers that de Carabas’ would-be killer shot at the ailuromorph.  Noticing that le Blanc and her evil uncle are waltzing together in a false show of familial piety, Dusk concludes that the ex-Marquis is going to “accidentally” shoot Martine and Merteuil while firing on Tomás.  She and the Wild Huntsman move to intercept but are too late.  Merteuil is fatally wounded, but the Huntsman’s cloak leaps from his shoulders to become Raoul the wolf dog, who takes the bullet for his mistress… and then coughs it up, unharmed, because he is in fact a spirit animal.  Chief Inspector Jacquard reveals that he is a practicing shaman and sent the wolf to protect the maiden.

He also reveals he is, in fact, Auguste Loup (which doesn’t really surprise Princes Dusk, but she seems rather happy about the reveal).

Princess Dusk does not dress like Matoi Ryuko.

And then Princess Dusk kicks Dauphine Celestine’s ass.  A dying more-or-less confession prompted from Merteuil allows Dusk to lay the accusation of murder at Celestine’s feet; Celestine replies with a challenge to trial by combat.  Dusk invokes her power of noblesse oblige and leaps into the battle.  The duel is tense, but Celestine is hampered by her ungainly costume, while Beatrix has designed Dusk’s dress for optimum mobility.  Dusk disarms the murderess and turns her over to the King f Gallia for judgment.

The King of Gallia, obese and slow as he may be, is nevertheless a man of honor and condemns his daughter and the ex-Marquis de Carabas (the “ogre” Tomás tricked out of his title) to imprisonment in the Bastille.  Prince François is promoted to dauphin and his engagement to Martine is announced -- with a press-distracting wedding in two weeks.  Dusk will act as maid of honor.  Auguste Loup disappears.

Princess Dusk finds a nice hotel and makes plans to move out of Versailles the next day.  She finds a note under her pillow, though, and goes to it the next day.  It’s an unassuming upscale brownstone, which she swiftly learns is Loup’s secret Paris base.  He invites her to join him on a jaunt to Marseilles, and asks for her advice on his wardrobe.  “Which do you prefer?” he asks, “The red jacket or the green jacket?”

She answers red.


Lupin III as Arsène Lupin by Tojosaka666
 

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