[RP Episode] A quiet morning's exercise


#1

A gentle breeze slowly sweeps its way across the rolling land, gently stirring the grass and trees as it moves past. The sun shines down on the plants, a beautiful summer’s day in this picturesque little corner of the world, away from the hustle of towns and castles. Across its surface, a few fields sit, crops of wine grapes ripen in the warmth. A few animals scurry about, making the most of the day. A few birds offer a song, almost in celebration of the serenity.

BOOM

A small explosion rips through the peaceful uplands. A few birds scatter, disturbed at the unnatural noise, terrorised by what dreadful possibilities it might be. Silence returns once more.

BOOM

Another crash of sound breaks the quiet again. It comes from a field nestled in the hills, away from anyone else. In it, stands a young man addressing a group. He’s simply dressed a comfortable white shirt and trousers, his black hair tied back. In his hand, he holds a musket, gentle smoky wisps floating out of the end. He addresses the group, pointing to targets further down the field:

“So, you need to be mindful that, the further you’re aiming, the worse the accuracy of the shot. This range factor serves as an important tactical consideration when fighting. Stand too far away, you won’t hit a damn thing. But if you get too close, we run the risk of losing the range advantage. A lot of armies still have notable sword and spear units, who would cleave through you. Being at range is your best defence in that scenario.”

The group of men behind listen closely. All are dressed in armour and uniform, the colours of the Condottiere, armed with their own muskets. The man turns back to face the soldiers, their attention back on the man, no longer on the targets twice struck that sits quietly down the range.

“Alright, now who can tell me, what we can do, to improve the effectiveness of this weapon?”
“You can fire it as a group sir, same as when we used crossbows.” One of the men speaks up.
“Correct. Massed fire of this weapon works well when facing an opposing force. Though this does nothing to help is when facing off against a singular foe.”
This time, a much younger man, barely a man, answers. “Account for wind sir?”
“What’s your name?”
“Aloisio, sir.”
A small laugh escapes the man stood in front.
“Let’s hope your name holds true! Good answer Aloisio, yes, winds and the weather in general, has an effect on the flight of the musket ball. This factor comes more into play the further the target you’re attempting to hit is. Keep an eye on objects like flags, they will tell you the wind’s behaviour. Anything else?”
There is a pause, the group stood quietly, before another pipes up.
“Rate of fire.”
The man stood in front points to the speaker, an officer, grizzled and older looking, stood to the side of the line of men.
“Thank you Tenente. Rate of fire is the most important thing that improves the effectiveness with this weapon. Getting 4 shots off a minute vs 2 or 3 makes a big difference on how likely it is you’ll survive.” A smile breaks the instructor’s lips. “Though as the Tenente can tell you from personal experience, you can’t rush it, else you might blow something off.” The tenente grins, lifts his hand to show a missing little finger. A nervous laugh ripples through some of the younger men present. The instructor allows it to pass, along with his smile, before continuing.
“I’m joking of course. But, respect the weapon and powder in your hands. You’re holding a device that directs a small explosion every time you use it. Be calm and confident with it. Shaky hands and nerves will be your undoing on the field. Practice with it, get it right. There is no substitute for it.”

The man allows the words to sink in, looking at each of the men assembled, studying them.

“Any questions?”

A brief moment, before the young man, Aloisio, speaks up.

“Have you ever had the weapon misfire on you sir?”

The man nods “I have, when I was younger. The barrel of the gun split open, ripped itself apart. Scared the shit out of me when it happened.” He laughs at the memory, smiling at the young man, who briefly shares in the moment. “Turns out the metal used for the barrel was very poor quality, that smith hasn’t worked since, I’ve been told.”

He steps forward and places a hand on the shoulder of the young man. “Odds are something like that won’t happen to you, but you will misfire your weapon at some point; don’t worry about it too much. Good practice and maintenance will help keep you safe. Misfires are the exception, not the normal. First time it happens, odds are you’ll panic a bit. But remember your training; we’ve all been there at some point.”

There are a few nods of agreement from the seniors present. The young man steps back, but before he can speak again, the sound of hooves begin to dominate the setting. The man waits patiently to see who it is, before another man, well dressed, bald with small facial hair, rides into view from further down the road. He travels with a small entourage of guards, before bringing his horse to a slow, finally a halt as he notices the younger man stood in front of them. The younger man approaches and addresses the traveller, grinning.

“Uncle Alfonso! I didn’t think you’d be back for another week. What news do you bring from the capital? Has something terrible happened?”
“No, thankfully. Though I do need to speak to you my Duque. Matters of the House need addressing, sooner rather than later.”
A small sigh escapes the lips of the Duque Fernando. Once again, his day is swept away from him.
“Very well uncle, I’ll join you in just a moment.”

He turns to face men still holding their muskets.
“I leave you in the very capable hands of the Tenente here, listen well to his advice, he’s seen enough action that the orators would have an easier time recounting the times he wasn’t in the thick of it. You don’t live that long if you’re not good at what you do.”
The Duque nods to the officer, who nods back.
“Thank you sir.” The officer turns. “RIGHT YOU LOT, FORM UP, WE’VE GOT A LOT MORE PRACTICE VOLLEYS TO DO BEFORE YOU GET TO GO HOME TONIGHT, SO YOU BEST BE GETTING ON WITH THEM!”

The duque steps away, walking to a nearby tree where his horse is tied up. He undoes the knot, guiding the horse from the low canopy before swiftly mounting his stallion. He gently tugs the reins, walking him over to the path where his uncle waits.
“Alright Uncle, let us be on our way. You can tell me what’s so important that you came all this way in person to fetch me.”


#2

The Duque rolls his eyes at his uncle, before speaking:
“That’s the reason you came back? You could have just sent a messenger.”
“We both know you would have ignored the message and not showed up.”
The Duque sighs, knowing his uncle speaks truth. His uncle opens his mouth to speak again, but is cut off by Fernando, who raises his hand in defeat.
“Okay, okay, yeah, you’re right. What makes this one so special then that I have to attend in person for it?”
“It’s the King’s 70th and he’s hosting a large celebration for all his nobles and foreign dignitaries to attend. You ne-”
Fernando protested. “Oh come on, seriously? I have to show up for a birthday party?”
“You need to be keeping up appearances, especially in light of coming events. The King isn’t long for this world and the Crown Prince will be in attendance. He will notice if you snub his father by not being there. Not to mention the other noble houses.”

Once again, he cursed his uncle’s perception when it came to all matters interpersonal. Though truthfully, he was thankful his uncle understood these issues, it didn’t diminish how much the Duque disliked the situation, particularly if the Crown Prince was going to be there.

“Alright, fine, I shall be there. We shall need to look at sorting out gifts to present to the Royal household.”
“We could give them an artisan musket or pistol. That would be fitting coming from us.”
“HA, like they would ever use them. The King’s too old to hold one steady, the Crown Prince is too stupid to use it properly and his younger brother would just study the mechanism.”
Alfonso lets loose a small smile at this. Despite the bluntness of delivery, Fernando’s assessment of the royal household was indeed accurate.
“Such weapons wouldn’t be for usage anyway, more for show. You know how these things go.”
“Heh. Well, we should run it past Miguel as well. He may have some suggestions too.”
“Agreed.”
The two move on towards their holdfast, dust kicked up from horses follows in their wake. Far up in Os Planaltos, the intrigues of the world seemed like a distant memory. Yet even here, it crept into the hearts of the uncle and his nephew. Fernando breaks the silence:
"Hopefully this won’t be as tedious if the other houses are there. I can have a conversation with my glass of wine at the very least. The Crown Prince though…”
“Yes, the Prince is…difficult to like-”
“That’s putting it mildly.”
“- but he will be our future monarch. We should at least attempt to have cordial relations with him, if nothing else then to keep him off our backs and leave us alone.”

A quiet descends over the pair, as they continue to ride back towards Castle Z. Both knew that the future King was likely to cause a lot of issues for the Crownlands. The prince had already earned himself a reputation for his arrogance and ineptitude in social situations in the Crownlands. The Duque restores the conversation:

“I just hope he doesn’t make such a fool of himself this time around. I take it you and Marianna will need to be attending as well?”
Alfonso’s curls his lips, before responding, “Yes, as it stands, both your sister and I shall need to be there as well.”
“I won’t suffer alone then, thank the gods. Marianna’s not going to like this though.”
“Agreed. I’m going to try and get her excused from the event if I can.”
“Lucky her.”
“You’re not going to receive the Prince’s advances if you attend.” Alfonso pointed out, dryly.

A shudder makes its way through Fernando’s body at the thought. He was indeed very thankful he didn’t need to deal with that. The memory of the last event burned in the back of his mind. While he loathed spending time with the Prince, it was the Prince’s behaviour to his sister that caused his outright hatred for the monarch to be.

“You’re right. Do what you can Uncle. I’m sure Miguel can help us cook up an excuse if needs be to keep her away from the event.”

As the duo finally arrived at the castle, Fernando sat quietly to himself. The whole conversation had left an unpleasant taste in his mouth and ruined his mood. At the very least he was going to keep his sister away from this occasion. He would willingly throw himself into the fire for that cause. He sighed, deeply.

“■■■■ the Prince.”

OOC: Yes, there will be a future episode where factions may be invited to attend a grand event, much like what the coronation event did last time. However, it is NOT this episode. Sit tight, it will come.


#3

The horses pull into the courtyard of the family home, Castelo Cavasta, the sound of hooves on cobbles echo’s around the courtyard. Members of the staff look up to see who has arrived, before continuing on with their work. A young woman, a few years younger than the Duque, glances up from her reading. A note of curiosity crosses her face, as she snaps the book closed and walks over, addressing her sibling:
**“Oh, back so soon brother? I thought you would have eluded capture at least for a day or two. You’re getting worse at this disappearing act.” **
“I was hardly trying to disappear. I was barely a stone’s throw away. You could have found me if you needed me.”
“It seems Uncle did that for us.” Marianna turned to address Alfonso. “Where did you find our wayward Duque? Up a cliff face? Perhaps swimming in the lake? Or was he in town attempting to chat up some poor farmgirl?”
Fernando crosses his arms, before responding in a haughty voice. “For the record, I was assisting with our families long term interests in secur…”
“By that, he means he was giving an impromptu lesson to a squad he found on the road.” Alfonso cut off his nephew, unprepared to put up with their banter. “Anyway, we have a matter that warrants discussion. Marianna, come with us.” He turns to one of his retinue. “Find Miguel and tell him we await him in the meeting chamber, we should resolve this matter with haste.”
“At once my lord.” The companion bows, before departing speedily into the main keep. A few young boys rush to take the horse’s reins from the various riders, as the group makes their way inside.

The trio go to gather in the Council chamber, passing various staffers and other rooms in the Castelo. The familiar halls of the family’s residence feel comforting yet cool. A stark change from their childhood years, where the rooms felt as sharp as a rapier’s tip. Fernando had approved notable changes over the years, transforming it into a home, rather than just a fortification. Alfonso pushes open the doors into a larger room. In its centre sits a large table, with space for nearly a dozen people to sit around it. Along the back wall sits a map of their lands, flanked by banners of their house. Shelves of books, objects and instruments line the walls, with windows filling the room with natural light. Each takes a seat at one end of the table, Fernando sitting in his usual spot, at the head. Marianna speaks up first:
“Okay, so what is this about?”
“We have received word that the Crown is hosting a formal celebration for His Royal Highness and that the Noble Houses are being invited, along with foreign representatives to this event.” Alfonso answered matter of factly.
“In other words, we need to show up and indulge the whims of our King and his eldest son.” Fernando retorted, a note of distain in his voice. Alfonso shoots a look of disapproval at Fernando, to which the Duque simply shrugs.
“Ha! Have fun dealing with the Crown Prince.” She grins at Fernando, enjoying the prospect of her brother putting up with him for the evening, though not without a note of sympathy in her voice at the situation.
“Well, the invitation is for all of the prominent members of the family to attend. That includes you too, my dear sister.” Fernando replies dryly.

Marianna notably sours at the response; her playful demeanour disappears into one of unchecked disgust at the notion. Her mind returns to the last event both attended and how the Prince Consort had tried to “woo” her. She shoots a look at her brother.
“You’re hilarious.”
Alfonso sighs: “Sadly, you’re brother isn’t joking. The Crown Prince made that quite clear to me that he would very much like for you to attend.”
Marianna’s face twists almost in disgust, the situation fully realised in her mind. “I promise you, if that bastard attempts to put a hand on me again, I’ll break his fingers.” She threatens, the anger clearly audible in her words.
“We know. That’s why we’re going to cook up a reason for you not to attend." Fernando responded. “Not to mention I would also break his other fingers if he did.” He added, sharing his sister’s feelings on the matter.
Attempting to calm the situation, Alfonso spoke up: “We really don’t want to be making a scene if possible. Our House is still viewed with suspicion by others who would attend; it certainly has not been helped by the events at the last formal engagement. We would rather avoid a repeat of that.”

Marianna slunk back in her chair, her mood notably unsettled by the news. As the trio sat around the table, mulling the situation, a knock on the door came. Through it, stepped a man with longer hair, neatly kept and clean shaven. Wearing formal yet comfortable clothing, carrying a large book under his arm.
Alfonso addresses the man: “Miguel, good for you to join us.”
Miguel slightly bows: “My Duque, My Lord, my Lady. It’s not every day we seem to gather for such a reunion.” A gentle smile creeps across his face.
Fernando returns the smile, standing to shake Miguel’s hand. “Very true, but you know my preference in such matters. Still, this particular situation warrants a more proactive response, one that is better sorted sooner rather than later.”
Miguel nods, before taking a seat at the table. “I’ve heard a little about the situation, but do tell, what’s happened? Something that sours my lady’s smile I assume?” He adds, noticing Marianna’s expression.
Alfonso recants the information he had passed onto Fernando, while Miguel sits, listening, almost in a trance in his attention. He comes out of his thoughts, before a face of concern emerges. He leans back, musing aloud:
“I see, yes I see the predicament we’re in. How soon do we have until the formal invitations are sent out?”
“A few weeks at most. They will want to give plenty of time to maximise the number of attendees to the event and allow foreign dignitaries to arrange transport.” Alfonso replies.
“Well, if that is the case, we can’t pass off any longer term plan as the reason for any absences then.”
Fernando speak up, “We can of course simply fake some sort of illness, nothing too severe but enough to dissuade travel.”
“It could work. It’s an older trick though.” Miguel turns to face Marianna “You’d need to be hold up in your room for a few weeks in order for it to be convincing.”
“Fine.” Marianna replies curtly.
“…so be it.” Miguel replies, surprised at the willingness of Marianna to subject herself to voluntary captivity. “That simply leaves the matter of an appropriate gift for the event. Everything else can be taken care of closer to the date in question.”
Alfonso nods “Agreed. We thought an artisan musket or pistol would do the trick. It won’t be cheap though.”
Miguel sighs “Yes, as it always is. I’ll make the arrangements for th….my Duque?”
Across the table, the three other participants turn to look at the Duque. His face is alight with an idea, a glint of mischief in his eyes.
“I have an idea. What if we give him something that is clearly valuable, yet so utterly worthless to their coin purse? Yes….yes, it’s ideal, perfect even. A gift suited for a King, yet so fleeting to never be of use to the idiot prince!”
Marianna, drawn up from her mood, looks inquiringly at her brother, her curiosity peaked. “What do you have in mind brother?”
“Is this going to land us in trouble?” Alfonso inquires an element of worry in his tone.
“I don’t think so Uncle, if anything, it would endear us to the Crown. Let me tell you my plan…”

FIN


#4

OOC: Regarding the Celebration Episode mentioned. I will be running a timetable of events, to give people time to write conversations, but keep the episode moving along so it actually finishes:

· 2nd September: Episode Starts, invitations will be sent out to players who wish to participate and allow time to write them arriving and any pre-event interactions they wish to have.
· 9th September: Celebration starts. People to show up to the event and mingle. Drinks and nibbles will be provided, though if you wish to bring along a local delicacy from your homes, go for it.
· 16th September: Mid celebration speech from Royal Household, transition into a formal dance event.
· 23rd September: Closing of the evening events with a finale. Final farewells and players to wrap up.
· 30th September: Episode finishes, closed.

Yes, these are all on a Monday, and it will be evening European time that the next phase will begin. No, I will not wait for you to finish your little bit of story. I will be writing as the Royal Household as well as Casa De Silva.

The event will be taking place (in game) during the winter months. The night will be quite cool.
I would also check with players out of the episode (discord, in game, etc) if they’re available to interact with. Since there will be a lot of people there, reply to the individual talking to you, rather than the episode as a whole. It’s easier for readers to follow that way.

The first part of the episode will take place over a 3 month period, between receiving the invitations and the Celebration itself. All the events after the 9th to the 30th will happen in one evening. If you’re interested in participating, ping me and I’ll add whoever you’re sending to the invitation roster.


#5