Session 63 – “Big Brother” – Tuesday 24th April 2012 – by Frithhill
Elapsed time – 673 days real time, 513 days game-time (2nd January 1604?)
Location – On a cruise up the coast of Cathay
Objective – To suppress the activity of a Nihonjin clan (headed by Shinzo Kamakura) engaged in depredations and outrages against Cathayan shipping.
(In this session the picaroons enjoyed relative leisure, applying themselves to whatever interested them. At intervals throughout a month, le Dauphin (of 76 guns) was required to blast away at craft which attempted to run from the flotilla of two larger (each of 30 guns) and six smaller (each of 20 guns) Cathayan craft under the overall command of General Qi.
On the second day of 1604, the ship, temporarily operating on it’s own sighted another craft, adrift and mastless, with smoke drifting from it’s sterncastle. It was a smaller but nevertheless substantial mercantile vessel. Closing, it appeared to be battle-damaged and abandoned. Drawing alongside, and attaching lines, a search party, consisting of Vittorio Tornatore, currently le Dauphins commander, his idle friends and a couple of Cathayan soldiers was dispatched. Shortly after they had all mounted down onto the deck, a splash was heard, and rushing to the rail, the captain saw a swimmer in the water, headed for the distant shore. A scramble to evacuate the junk, and cast off from it ensued, six men all trying to climb the same rope ladder at the same time. All except Thomas Rede who was at the bow, and hung off it, to put as much of the structure of the ship between him and an explosion as possible and Vittorio (commanding) who dived in after the swimmer and engaged in a knife-fight (in the sea). When he was stabbed in the chest, while the boarders were still climbing back onto le Dauphin, who’s crew were fending off from the junk, Thomas dropped into the sea and recovered him.
After some argument about what to do with a (valuable) ship, and a cargo consisting entirely of stockpiled gun-powder, it was decided that it should, for the sake of verisimilitude, be detonated. Standing well off, a boat was put out. The fuse (extinguished by Melchior Browne along with the brazier full of woodchips and some of the Dauphins below-decks lamps) was re-lit and craft and it’s cargo scuttled.
Attention turned shorewards, and where the most expendable man in the pirate crew (while still being thought capable of holding his nerve until the trap was investigated, and capable of lighting a slow-match) might have gone. And thus le Dauphin came to Ning Bo. No sign of where the Wokou came ashore was found and the head-man spoke on behalf of the remaining population, asserting that no such thing had been seen. (Of course in his defense people were busy putting their houses out, after they had been shelled liberally, judiciously put to the torch when a small horde of wokou landed, took everything and everyone they wanted, and killed some people who tried to stop them, or just got in the way. Some boats were sunk at their mooring, holed or set alight too). Also he was able to tell the strangers that the raid had co-incedentally occurred exactly when the tax-collector had been passing through Ning Bo.
With evening drawing in early (it is after all winter and a bare week after the solstice), the liberty of the town was extended to those ashore (the principals, ten marines and two of General Qi’s Dragons who Guy likes having around him).
In a teahouse fortunately undamaged by shot and fire, tea and rice wine were served. Being an unsociable creature, Thomas escaped out into the darkness for a quiet pipe. The sounds of hushed conversation impinged on his consciousness. Now, if Thomas had a penny for every time that he had been trapped or bottlenecked in an inn (against his better judgement on most recent occasions, though the second time in the same damn inn in Londinium is all on him) he’d have about eight more pennies than he currently has. More valuable by far is the wisdom that inns are naturally a good place for incidents to thrust themselves on you suddenly. This knowledge is priceless, so in his mind people whispering outside the back of an inn amounts to a conspiracy.
Standing by the corner of an adjacent building he was eventually able to discern two speakers, one of them a woman, who passed into the teahouse through a rear door when they parted, leaving a man propped up against the wall of the woodshed behind the teahouse. Thomas fetched the least drunk comrade from inside (Vittorio on this occasion), leaving the rest to wonder whether they had been drugged or poisoned. As it turned out they were just drunk.
As the two original torch-bearers were preparing to trap the bandaged man, who Thomas had watched Vittorio have an aquatic knife-fight with that morning, they heard the alarms placed by Guy at Melchior’s suggestion on the readily thievable boats, and broke into a run. They arrived in time to see the wokou and his local accomplice finishing the “Take me with you !” conversation, which the pirate ended by saying “I’m a free-spirit, baby, don’t try to change me” (or words to that effect in Nihonji) and ran his love-struck collaboratrix through with a katana even as she clung to him.
In the second essentially insane fight for the session, Thomas’ attempt to neatly incapacitate the sapper with a pommel-blow went wrong (a dodge was made, even with a minus two penalty baulking what was up until that moment a well constructed offence) and he was obliged to use the entire small fishing sampan as a weapon. Having succeeded he stroked carefully back to the unexpectedly crowded end of a pier, heaved his borrowed sword up onto its decking, hauled himself up after it and rolled onto his back to lie bleeding).