Our Heroes are…
- Edward Kenway, Son of Avalon and Captain of the Jackdaw
- Carmena Elena de Ibarra de la Luz, disgraced Castillian Naval officer and bosun of the Jackdaw
- Milaria Beaufort, Knight Arrant of Avalon and loyal servant of Queen Elaine
- Sebastian Valmont, wayward Montaignese aristocrat and porté mage
- Modestas Radvilas Kelrus (Mohai), Sarmatian Expatriate and former Dragoman to the court of the Empress of the Crescent Moon.
(Captain Kenway, Carmena, and Mohai are absent tonight)
Tonight’s Spotlight Hero is…
Part One: Shadow of Avalon
The Three Queens tavern in La Bucca is named for the three queens of the Glamour Isles: Elaine, Titania, and Mab. For many wayward Avalonians, it is a glimmer of home in this forsaken place. The tavern is known for its briny stews, spicy sausages, and its barrels of ale imported from the Glamour Isles (but mostly Inishmore). A crowd of jovial displace Avalonians can usually be found here, singing merrily along to the traditional songs of their homeland played lovingly by Candice and Richard, two minstrels who never found their way off the island.
This is why Milaria Beaufort, Knight Errant of Avalon and Queen Elaine’s Champion, has grown to love this place so much since she came to the Pirate Republic.
But tonight is different. Tonight, most of the local patrons have fled as a gang of raucous, carousing Maghrebis have settled in. They are no fans of the music or the musicians, but the spirits and stew seem to be to their liking.
Milaria and Sebastian Valmont sit in their cups, doing their best to ignore the obnoxious carrying on of these foreign pirates when a young, wide-eyed man in official looking dress stumbles through the front door. He quickly surveys the room and, spying Milaria, clumsily smiles and hastens to her table.
As the young man approaches, Milaria’s eye wanders to a table set in the back corner of the bar. A table that is always reserved for an honored guest who never comes. But tonight, a man sits there. Tall, broad-shouldered, with shaggy gray hair and an unkept beard. His piercing blue eyes do not shy away when Milaria’s meet them.
The young envoy is clueless of this exchange. He tells Milaria that Ambassador Zorita wishes to meet with her about her…problem. Tomorrow morning, in the embassy gardens, after morning prayers.
Milaria listens, but watches the old man. She says she will meet with the ambassador and gives the young man leave of the place.
One of the Maghrebi turns and sizes up Sebastian, then turns and makes a rude remark about the Montaignese man’s breeding and his mother to his companions. He thinks Sebastian could not possibly understand but he is wrong. Immediately, Sebastian’s blood runs hot. He stands and returns the insult. Immediately, half the pirates are on their feet, including a massive man with a large cutlass and a whip at his side.
Milaria quickly looks back to the table, but the old man is gone.
Steel is drawn. Milaria moves to protect Candice and Richard and tells them to go fetch the proprietress! Sebastian takes to his work with glee and satisfaction. The pirates fall before him, all but the big man with the whip. Skilled in the Mantovani style of Vodacce, the big pirate makes the fight interesting.
As Milaria confronts her share of the pirates, the old shaggy man reappears. He clubs two pirates heads together, gives her a wink, and is gone.
When Myrna Byrne, all 100 pounds of her, bursts furiously through the kitchen doors brandishing her cudgel, the battle is already won. The big pirate, now sporting a wicked “SV” slashed across his chest, is carried away by his companions. Sebastian has claimed his whip, a nice one of Vodacce make, as his own. One last straggler stops at the door to tell the heroes in broken Avalonian: “Your Queen will soon know the taste of Maghrebi steel! A thousand ship will be launched against her!”
His soliloquy is cut short by a sharp crack of the whip by Sebastian.
“If that lot is any indication,” Myrna chuckles, “I’ll sleep like a babe. I’ll take one Jeremiah Berek for every hundred of those devils!”
Milaria scans the tavern for the old man, but he is nowhere to be seen.
“What man? What are you talking about,” Sebastian says. “That table has been empty all night. Are you sure you’re okay?” Indeed, no one seems to remember seeing a man matching Milaria’s description. Tonight, or ever.
“That table,” Myrna says, “is reserved for the O’Bannon, should he ever wander to these shores to grace us with his presence. Only he may sit there.”
“Remind me. What does the O’Bannon look like?” Milaria says.
Part Two: The More You Know
Milaria is walking through a dense tropical forest. It is night. Stars peek out from breaks in the canopy above. In the distance, a voice is chanting. Derwyddon, certainly, but his words are too distant to be known.
A thin trail winds through the foliage, leading to…a small clearing. At the far side of it is a massive tree, about which is set a small, ramshackle cottage. Firelight glimmers from within. Milaria knows something terrible lives there. And yet, she approaches the door. Something moves within. She touches the door and it swings open, revealing the stern face of Godric, the Pious.
Milaria sits upright in her bed. She is soaked with sweat. Outside the window, the first lights of dawn are spreading out across the harbor.
She remembers her dream perfectly. Every detail.
* * *
The surgeon of the Jackdaw, a big Ussuran man named Deiman Ruikov, introduces Sebastian to two of the luminaries of La Bucca: Wynne Lynch, a Natural Philosopher, and Doctor Carlos Matez, a Castillain Boticario. Sebastian hopes these two men can shed some light on the bottle of Falisci wine that was connected to the massacre aboard the Jackdaw some weeks back.
Unfortunately, the two men can agree on nothing, leaving Sebastian to wonder if some unorthodox form of sorcery has been employed. To that, Josette, Lynch’s young assistant, suggests the duelist seek out Nazaret, a Castillian witch who lives in the Jenny’s Jungle near the old Syrneth ruins. “She knows many things that are unnatural,” Josette confides. “Bring her a gift. Something pretty.”
* * *
Milaria is waiting in the gardens of the Castillian Embassy when the chapel bells begin to chime. The congregation emerges ahead of the Ambassador. Zorita smiles when he spies Milaria. He introduces her to his chaplain Narciso Saravia.
“Tell me senorita,” Saravia says to Milaria, “are you among the faithful?”
“I serve Avalon and her church faithfully, if that is what you mean,” Milaria answers.
“Alas, but then our faith only ever reveals part of the whole. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Actually,” she responds, “I think faith can reveal the full measure of anyone.”
Zorita indicates it is time for the chaplain to leave, that he would speak with Milaria in private. Saravia smiles and nods, then says to the Knight Errant, “remember, Theus loves all of us, even his lost sheep.” Then he turns and walks back towards the chapel.
Sure they are alone, the Ambassador turns excitedly to Milaria. “I have news,” he says. “Does the name, Baca Salazar, have any meaning to you?” Milaria recognizes this as the name of a Castillian spy she met in Horchillo, before she and the heroes discovered that they were being played by agents of the Montaigne to perpetuate hostilities between that country and Castille.
Zorita tells her that trusted confidants from Castille have confirmed that Senior Salazar, an agent of the Atabean Trading Company, has been hosting meetings between Castillian dignitaries and certain, less reputable captains of the Maghreb. While the details are still somewhat vague, the Ambassador tells Milaria that he has arranged a dinner meeting with an old friend who he believes can shed more light on this arrangement. He asks her to meet him again, in the gardens, on the morrow after morning prayers.
“I hope this begins to make up for the trouble that befell you and your companions in Horchillo,” Zorita says. “I have not forgiven myself for the part I played in putting your lives at risk. Please tell Carmena that I hope to make things right by this.”
“Are you sure this place is safe to talk,” she asks him.
“I do not know,” he replies, “but certainly we can see anyone who might seek to listen in, don’t you think?”
Milaria agrees to meet again and the two part ways.
In the darkened shadow of the open chapel, Saravia watchs the two of them. His eyes narrow, his mouth tight. Knowing what must be done, he slowly closes the door.
Part Three: The Witch of La Bucca
Sebastian decides to pay a visit to Nazaret, the witch Josette told him about. He has purchased a fine, silver mirror, tastefully encrusted with precious gems, as a gift for her services. Together, he and Milaria set off from Sunset Haven into the Jenny’s Jungle to find her abode.
Despite a few mishaps along the way, the pair find their way through the thick jungle thanks in no small part to recollections from Milaria’s dream. And there it was, a ramshackled, disjointed cottage at the base of a massive tree in a clearing. The sun is low against the jungle canopy and a light flickers in the window of the cottage. Milaria is about to touch the door when it swings open, revealing a tall, lean woman with black hair. She smiles warmly, revealing half her face slack from palsy.
“I’ve been expecting you,” she says. “Come in.”
Sebastian gives her the mirror and she tucks it away. He beings produces a sample of the wine and the bottle as well, upon request. Nazaret sticks a finger in the mouth of the bottle and sample a taste of the residue therein and spits it out on the floor. She knows. She knows about the demon hidden away within the vessel. She knows its taste for blood and memory. But these are not the things she wants to talk about. She wants to talk about Milaria. About the knight’s mantle she wears. About the power residing within her — sorcerous power as old as legend. Pure. Intoxicating.
When Milaria expresses her desire to protect Avalon, she sees her opportunity.
“I can give you everything you need to protect your homeland from these foreign invaders,” she tells the Knight Errant. She can. But there is a price. An unspoken price. A price Milaria seems yet willing to pay. Nazaret produces a small knife from her robes.
The sound of trees scratching at the walls of the cottage seems to punctuate the moment.
“A price must be paid willingly,” she says. Foolish child.
Milaria takes the knife and looks to Sebastian.
“Where I am from,” he says, “blood must be paid.” Yes, blood. And so much more, fools!
Milaria takes the blade of the knife and presses it tight to the flesh of her arm.
“I will do anything to protect Avalon,” she says, reassuring herself.
The witch’s eyes grow wide She is so close.
The door to the cottage explodes open suddenly and a shaggy, lean, gray haired man bursts into the room.
“Don’t do it!” he shouts!
To be continued…