Brash Young Fools
It seems like forever since I was at my customary ease with something distantly approximating the funds which are my due given my station in life. And yet it is in such as state which I now find myself barely a day after bravely risking life, limb and not a little sanity to lead my disreputable band of common opportunists in the rescue of one of their (moderately) betters, and the preservation of the noble family Aschaffenberg.
You will recall that, when last I wrote, Karl appeared, not to put too fine a point on it, to have been dealt his final hand; his dice were showing snake eyes; he was, all metaphor aside, about to have his throat slit at the culmination of a bloody ritual the nature of which I have no desire to understand further. It was only my swift deduction which had lead me to the location of the ritual, Viktor and Boris in tow, with moments in which to save our companion.
No sooner had the oaf Boris demanded that I cease to record events for posterity (see previous entry) than I sprung into action. Viktor, with skill I can only assume to be born of a lifetime of poaching, loosed a well-placed arrow directly at the mutant figure of the steward, giving Karl a chance to break free from his hold. Boris advanced somewhat ineffectually and I determined to stay close to him lest he abandon us in our hour of need. A second and third arrow from Viktor put an end to the steward and left us facing his subordinate cultists, but the foul blood form his fallen form fell upon the focus of his ritual – the self-same picture we had seen in the study earlier – giving me cause to wonder whether we had not so much interrupted a sacrifice as merely provided an alternative victim.
Demonstrating wits quicker than his breeding would lead one to expect, Karl whipped the painting from beneath the fallen form of the steward, but was beset by the cultists before he could introduce canvas to torch flame. Instead he made cunning use of the canvas as a distraction by throwing it over the head of his nearest assailant.
Boris eventually proved himself useful, if somewhat lacking in backbone, by unloading his pistol at close range into the head of the baffled cultist, while I showed true metal and engaged mano-e-mano with the base ruffians. And Viktor made good use of his illicit skill from the cover of the entrance.
For the briefest of moments, Boris showed unnatural savvy as he grasped a nearby torch and attempted to set the painting alight, but his mind was no stronger on this occasion than it had been earlier in the evening, and the pitiful fool was left gibbering in horror, torch in hand, beside the painting. Worse still, in his delirium he applied his brutish strength to retain his grasp on the torch and prevent me from completing the task. It was only the swift intervention of Viktor, sending a flaming arrow to the floor beside me that provide an alternate means for me to end the threat of the painting.
From then he remaining cultists lost their taste for the fight, and a combination of Karl’s ungentlemanly approach (for which he may be excused on this occasion for being both unarmed and, until recently, the intended victim of a sacrifice) and Boris’ use of excessive force drew a swift end to proceedings.
We retired for the night, stopping only to remove certain incriminating items from the library, a task I undertook not with any thought of the monetary value inherent in the proscribed volumes, but rather out of a desire not to see suspicion fall on Rickard should events come to light. Anticipating the natural reticence for one man of good breeding to pay another for services rendered, but wary of the need for my fellows to receive a tangible reward for the work they had done (the lower orders do not understand the value of a favour done for one’s peers, or the advantages of the resultant good will when moving in society) I turned a blind eye as they helped themselves to such small valuables as could be easily disposed of and would not soon be missed. Not wanting to condemn their attitude to their very faces, it being only appropriate to men of their rank, I agreed for the sake of form to accept an equal share.
The following morning, we were awoken by the shouts of old Rickard himself in search of his manservant or, failing that, his trousers and an explanation for the absence of the man who usually supplied them. I applied myself to the task of explaining events to Rickard in terms he would understand, showing him the concealed lair of the cultists and helping him come to terms with their treachery as only a follow noble can. In his bewilderment he offered me payment for the work done – 20 shillings each – and not wanting to upset his delicate state of mind (Boris had shown me frequently over the past day how weak the minds of some men can be) I took the money on behalf of my associates (taking a cut for reasons of form as noted above).
We returned to town with Rickard – he in search of new staff and we in search of entertainment. OF his staff it seems that only the groundsman remained faithful. That fellow seems to have seen off an attack of beastmen with his hounds the night before while we were engaged with more pressing matters, an impressive display of skill. Something about the man seems unusual, but he left before I had the time or inclination to investigate further.
As I write, only the memorable sight of Boris in pursuit of another conquest as vile as his last disturbs my reverie. Come the morning I must give some thought to finding a discreet book vendor to dispose of the questionable volumes secured from Rickard’s collection. But time enough for that tomorrow.