In which our heroes meet, and learn of the perfidy of the French…
Our five doughty heroes met in Albany, New York State, on 31st October 1753, to attend jointly a summons to the Estate of the Lieutenant Governor, James deLancey. The American colonies were in somewhat of a state of tension, as the French had laid claim to the lands around the Ohio river and had begun skirmishes with the natives who lived there, perhaps preparatory to moving into the colony of Pennsylvania, should they so wish it. It is at times like this that people of dubious heritage and brave demeanour gain the chance to make their fortunes, and for this our heroes attended upon the Lt. Governor himself.
Approaching the Governor’s house, the heroes found themselves witness to a most unusual sight. An Indian brave – the first of that noble but savage race which they had chanced upon – burst from the front door of that splendid white house, stormed across the lawn and turned to vent furious words in French at the guards on the verandah. He shook his fist, within which he held the famous “Covenant Chain” by which the fates of the Iroquois and the British are intertwined. In truth it is not much to look upon, being merely a typical native belt of woven cloth and beads, with a part of a British general’s gold braid woven through it. But the natives put great stock in these symbols, and so he flourished it in the direction of the mansion, yelling his wrath, before turning to leave. As he did so, the characters were horrified to see a group of 8 Indian braves emerge from the shadows at the edge of the lawn, stepping into the waning evening light as if they had been resting there all along, though but a moment before they had been as invisible as the wind through the trees behind them. The 9 braves turned and marched into the cover of the forest, watched in their departure by the Lt. Governor himself, and 2 of his guards.
The Lt. Governor revealed that this brave’s anger was the cause of his need for the characters’ assistance. The French had begun attacking the far western reaches of the Iroquois nation and, the Iroquois being these last 100 years allied to the British, their messengers had naturally come to the British for aid. Unfortunately the British army is hard pressed in Europe fighting the war against the French, and can ill afford to antagonise them into opening another front here in America; so the Iroquois were declined the aid they believed rightfully theirs, and were sore over the affront. The Lt. Governor fears trouble between natives and British settlers which might provoke a war with the Iroquois that he can ill afford to fight. Most of the British soldiers are in forts in Pennsylvania and around Philadelphia, fearing a major French strike from that direction, and he can ill afford to spare soldiers for punitive missions against the natives. For this reason he wishes to send instructions to the Forts of the Northwest frontier, giving strict instructions on how to handle the natives:
- do not treat them rudely, or under any circumstances allow oneself to be drawn into conflict with them. Even a small conflict could spark a regional war which would distract the British from their main task of containing the French
- allow no one to trade with them for alcohol, drugs, potions, magic items or infernal weapons. The Indians have a strong objection to alcohol, and were the French to discover that the British were arming natives (even a single scrawny brave) they would have the excuse they need to demand concessions or wage war.
It is not, the Lt. Governor assures our Heroes, that Britain is weak; rather, that she aims to defeat the French in Europe, the central theatre of the war, and press them out of America as a concession, with little risk to men or materiel.
Also, the French King has asked the Lt. Governor to provide an escort for a French botanist who has come to America to study the fauna and flora of the Great Lakes. The governments being officially still under truce in America, the Lt. Governor must ensure this botanist’s survival, but does not wish to spare soldiers to the task. The characters are to deliver him to the town of Schuyler, which is a day’s journey from Fort Stanwix. Their path should take them from Albany to Cherry Valley, thence to Fort Stanwix, to Schuyler to deliver the French scholar; then to Fort Oswego on the Eastern edge of Lake Ontario and finally to Fort Niagara at the far end.
So the following morning, so early the mists were still gathering and the sun barely up, the characters met one Albert duPlessis, an annoying and foppish waif of a Frenchie, and set off along the Albany Road towards Cherry Valley. Riding upon Battle Thumbs, they passed for 2 days along a road nestled amongst the New York hills, their red- and gold-leafed forests stretching thick down to the valley floor where they rode.
Sadly, on the second day these forests disgorged horrors of the foulest kind. A strange witch, lately from the Caribbean, had set an ambush by the roadside. Amongst drifting smoke from the ritual fire she had started, enslaved zombie Indian braves came staggering from the forest, reaching and clawing for the characters. They fought back viciously, Lord Merton and his batman Russell forming a vicious killing team while the Dervish consumed undead foes in holy fire, and the Priest laid about him with gleeful abandon. Anna Labrousse caught sight of the Witch shrouded in smoke and paralysed her, before riding forward to kill her. Unfortunately Anna is a most incapable combatant, and failed to lay a good blow. The witch regained her powers of movement and lashed out with bolts of purest shadow, before being laid low by Anna’s comrades. Their first battle together had been completed with some success, and they were able to loot the Witch’s cave, confirming as they did that she was merely a lone, crazy hag in the wilderness, no part of any greater scheme.
They continued their journey, soon being greeted by Indian braves amazed at the power of the white strangers to lay low such a wicked adversary, and offering a gift – the coup-belt of one of her victims, which grants its wearer resistance to damage.
Before they reached Cherry Valley they had the first incident which made them think perhaps Mr. duPlessis was not what he claimed to be. As they were crossing a small stream, he slipped and fell in, and a book fell from his coat into the water. Father David recovered the book for Mr. duPlessis, but upon opening it discovered it was written entirely in latin, and contained a mesmeric spell of great power. Why would this be in the possession of a botanist? When confronted, Mr. duPlessis claimed the book an heir loom of his father’s, and demanded no more be said of it…
They continued to Cherry Valley, and on without incident to Fort Stanwix. Daily Mr. duPlessis drank more and more brandy, becoming inebriated by midday and ofttimes near unconscious by evening. Suspecting his plans, our heroes subtly ruined his mesmeric spellbook while he lay in a drunken stupor, and thus ruined his most duplicitous scheme. Now it merely remained to find out exactly what that scheme might be, and with whom it was to be enacted.
At Schuyler, having passed uneventfully through Fort Stanwix, the characters were horrified to discover that Mr. duPlessis had come to meet a squad of 6 English soldiers! Clearly some belligerent faction in the British army intended to use this French fop to mesmerise a band of Indians, and unleash them upon the French, starting a war the British would be forced to join! Despicable French treachery! In order to be sure, Lord Merton followed Mr. duPlessis that night to a secret meeting with the English sergeant, and there discovered that the sergeant was, in fact, a Frenchman in disguise! Who could imagine such deviltry afoot in civilised lands?!
The game was up. Once duPlessis had returned to his room, they confronted him with their knowledge of his activities, and he revealed the whole plan:
The following night, 5 of the soldiers would take their wagon to a nearby Indian village, where they would get the indians very drunk and prepare the ground for the mesmeric ritual. Once the natives were drunk, duPlessis would begin his ritual, mesmerising them all and ordering them to attack the town of Schuyler. At the same time the soldiers would prepare a signal fire on a nearby hill, and a fleet of 30 French ships – currently cloaked and laying just offshore in the nearby lake – would land and pour forth French troops. Once the natives had laid waste to Schuyler the British would sally forth from Stanwix to attack, and be ambushed by a vastly superior force of Frenchies. Stanwix would be taken without damage, and the Iroquois, thinking themselves attacked by the British, would join the French in war. Simultaneously, some of the cloaked ships would drop troops near Fort Oswego, and a major attack would commence on Fort Niagara. War, across and down the entire English colony! And if French plans succeeded, major gains would be made immediately. Mr. duPlessis was none too happy about this, revealing he had been forced to play this role by a wicked harridan in Albany… a French spy, no less.
The characters then decided on a simple course of action: slay the soldiers, explain the situation to the nearby Indians, and lay a vicious trap for the French waiting in the bay…
Once the trap has been laid, all that remains is to answer a few questions:
- who was the spy in Albany?
- How did the soldiers know that this Indian tribe would be willing to drink their alcohol?
- What was the mysterious infernal weapon in the wagon the soldiers possessed, and did it signify a special use?
- Is there a similar plan afoot at Fort Oswego?
- Did the Lt. Governor suspect all this, and send them into the wilderness gambling on their discovering an attack?