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Patience and trust
Pia was impulsive, she knew that. It has gotten her into much trouble and had taken more than one lashing for it. Luckily, the day she was set to get her worst flogging yet, Giovanni stepped in.

Pia had grown up on the streets and the only family she had were the other street urchins she begged and lived with. But they were all just children, some just barely walking.

Adults to her were untrustworthy, greedy bastards that only cared about one thing. Themselves.

But she may be starting to change her view. First Giovanni saved her from what would possibly been a terminal flogging. Granted, he did ask for her to steal for him, but she felt he would have done it even without the favor back. Or least she liked to think that.

Then, Giuseppe started to teach her how to defend herself and fight. For years, her efforts for begging and pickpocketing had been taken from her by bigger kids. She was fast and often gotten away, but when they caught her, she took quite the beating.

She could tell that she often tried Giuseppe's patience but he still continued his lessons. She found that the lessons really helped her concentrate and was teaching her to think before acting. Sometimes.

She still did not truly trust adults, but she would at least give them a chance. For now.
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You lead, I will follow
I've survived out here in the world a long time. I was tough as a kid, just as likely to pick a fight as any of the boys, and more likely to win. Once I left the family home, I learned that as a woman if you're going to make it you need to find a man who can handle himself. Not a husband or even a lover - a man who can lead, make decisions, guide the rest of the party to success.

Giovanni is that man. Whether he's wearing a jaunty hat or a simple religious frock, he exudes knowledge, confidence, leadership. I knew it the minute I first saw him. It was a few months ago, I was on my way to the market, when I came upon 2 men debating the merits of fresh vs brined olives. Such a ridiculous topic but you should have seen Giovanni in his full glory. Gesticulating, thrusting his chest out, punctuating his points with a toss of his head. His opponent, withering under the heat of Giovanni's sound logic, never had a chance.

Since that day I have trusted this man implicitly. I know whatever adventure our party encounters, this stable genius will lead the way.
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A Slight Change of Style
Of all the things Giovanni hated about life at the monastery - and he hated almost everything about life amid that dank, miserable huddle of buildings - it was the clothing that tormented him the most. He still shuddered when he recalled that coarse robe the color of faded shit that made him itch like a dog with mange. He had never felt such elation when he finally burned it in the campfire. That day he had spent his meager silver on a pair of sky-blue hose and a jaunty red tunic. He figured that the silver cross, which he had filched from the abbot's cell on his way out of the monastery, would be enough to signify his status as a cleric.

All he needed was a hat, and when that drunken noblewoman in the wagon rain from Naples left her thickly-plumed hat at the edge of the firelight while she stumbled off to puke, Giovanni's outfit was complete.

But his first few days in Florence had been disenchanting. People looked at him strangely when he claimed to be a priest, and some people even seemed to find him slightly ridiculous. He had never experienced this in Naples, when he dressed as jauntily as he pleased, but that may have been because people knew that he was an Alighieri, and feared disrespecting the family, especially his uncle Fausto, who was better knows as the Finger, due to his habit of relieving people of their digits when they crossed the family.

Agnola's rejection was most disappointing. He had never been good at getting women to consent to doing anything more than cooking for him, but he had hoped that his priestly status would help. There had been nothing but withered old men at the monastery, and the women he had met since leaving there had not seemed at all interested, but he still had high hopes about Florence.

So the next day, he traded the foppish outfit and the rest of his gold for the black habit of a Dominican monk. The plumy hat fetched him enough silver to buy a robe of soft linen, with gold thread work. Not as stylish as he would have liked, but still much better than the literal hair shirt that had afflicted him at the monastery.

He studied himself in the mirror, and was most pleased. "Buono," he said, blew himself a kiss. It saddened him to change out of it and don his simple adventuring clothes - leather breeches and a simple tunic - but he gave the teenage serving girl a silver to watch over the clothes carefully while he was away.

"If God allows me to return from this dangerous endeavor," he told her, "perhaps you will join me as I pray in thanksgiving."

Session: Game Session 01 - Sunday, Mar 29 2020 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Excerpt from the Journal of Giuseppe Uccisore
March 30, 1425 - Florence

Pia’s insolence taxes my patience. We’ve been here barely a day and she acts like a dog let loose from its leash, all the training and discipline, cast off like a collar. Hopefully, some temperance might rub off from spending time with Adelesia. I cannot speak too harshly, based upon my own foibles. After tracking down this Vincenzo fellow, imagine my embarrassment when this lying churl acted as if he wasn’t who he said he was! I nearly succumbed to the gratification of taking a pair of pliers to his balls, when that cox-comb Giovanni stepped in.

Luckily, a distraction, by the name of Agnola has a job for us. A Duchessa caught by her husband with her harp instructor’s delicate finger work in her knickers. Another Noble sob story, send in the street ruffians to fix it. If the combination to the strongbox doesn’t work, I’ll be taking Agnola’s delicate fingers.

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Hirow's tale, Pt. 1
Hirow sat down by Sister Orsolla at the hearth of the inn. The day had been warm, so no fire was lit. Nevertheless, the stonework was the focal point of the room.
"You never did tell me why you had to flee your homeland." she said as he settled. "And why you are hunted."
Hirow slowly pulled something from his pack wrapped in cloth. She glanced at the cloth, and then looked back at him. Hirow sighed.
"It is a tale I am loath to tell. Would it suffice to say that the Sultan and I had a difference of beliefs?"
Orsolla gave a quizical and somewhat impatient look and said nothing. From the cloth he withdrew a wooden flute, which he then used the cloth to polish. Without looking up, Hirow continued.
"The Sultan can be a cruel man, most especially to women. And though he has four wives, he also enjoyed a harem of almost a dozen young women; a most cruel enjoyment. One day I could bear his treatment of them no longer. Foolishly, I spoke to them, thinking I might devise some easement to their suffering."
Hirow paused and took a deep breath. He folded the cloth and set it on the pack. Then he brought the flute up to his lips.
"The Sultan was so enraged by my transgression that only by the grace of Allah was I able to flee with but my life. A fatwa was issued and a price was put upon my head. A most impressive price, I am led to understand..."
Hirow began a slow, somber song.
Orsolla listened and after a while the rest of the room seemed to fade.
She began to nod her head in time with the drums.
She opened her eyes and glanced around the room. No drummer or drums could be seen.
She moved her head from side to side, tilting and turning it. The sound of the drums was coming from everywhere. And from nowhere.
Hirow stopped playing, and the drums stopped as well.
"A sound, it flies like a bird through the air and on into your ear. Once inside the ear it stops at a gate, and on the other side of this gate a musician sits at a harp." Hirow paused for a moment, checking for her reaction. "This musician, he replays faithfully all of the sounds that reach the gate. It is this music that travels into your head, where you hear it."
She looked pensively in the direction of the ceiling rafters, imagining it.
"When an angel sings to you or when he speaks to you, there is no sound that traverses the air. Another person in the room, he might hear nothing. There is nothing that reaches the gate of your ear. Instead, it is the angel sitting at the inner harp; he himself is plucking the strings."
Hirow put the flute to his lips and resumed playing. Orsolla closed her eyes and listened.
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Session 01 Recap
March 29-30, 1425

Our campaign began with you arriving in the sprawling city of Florence on March 29, 1425. Giuseppe had hear a rumor that someone named Vincenzo, the proprietor of the Fox and Grapes tavern, was someone to talk to if one was looking for “employment” in the city, and thus you found yourselves heading there to make contact with him.

While on your way to the Fox and Grapes, however, you collided in the street with a young woman desperately fleeing a squad of halberdiers, church guards, who seemed intent on capturing her. The woman hastily thrust a scroll case into Giuseppe's hands and urged him (and the rest of you) to meet her on the Ponte Vecchio that night at midnight, claiming that she would pay well for its safe return and urging you to not open it. She then fled and disappeared down the street. Fortunately for her, Giovanni gave the guards misleading information and sent them in the wrong direction.

Later, after arriving at the Fox and Grapes, you were disappointed when Vincenzo claimed to have no knowledge of being an “arranger,” and told you that you had been misled. Both Giovanni and Giuseppi, however, had a strong sense that he was lying and simply did not trust you given that he did not know you.

Significantly, a woman who introduced herself as Agnola, overheard your conversation with Vincenzo and offered you a possible job. She told you that she is the servant of the wife of a nobleman, the patriarch of House Barzzini. Apparently her lady, Donna Serena, has been accused of adultery by her husband and has been imprisoned in their palazzo. Agnola is certain that her mistress is innocent of the crime for which she has been accused, but she fears that her lady will be put to death or tortured.

In essence, she wants you to rescue the Duchessa. Agnola has little in the way of money to offer as reward, but she knows the combination to the vault in her master’s office. The Duchessa, Serena, is the daughter of a minor noble house (House Dinofre) in the city of Ravenna (one of the Papal States) but she does have a cousin (Baron Piero DiNofre) who lives in the city who could protect her and perhaps smuggle her from Florence. When asked by Pia and Adelesia, Agnola strongly asserted her lady’s innocence; she hardly leaves the house, she said, though the Duke has accused her lady of having intimate relations with Taddeo, her music tutor who visits the palazzo two days a week to instruct her in the harp. Taddeo currently resides in the Duke’s dungeons beneath the palazzo.

(A Florentine Palazzo)

According to Agnola, the Duke is a cruel man who rules his household with a heavy hand, beating the servants or even having them whipped or branded for the slightest infraction. Serena’s own family , House DiNofre, can’t move to free her because they lack the power, it would seem too obvious, and they have no proof of her innocence. Thus, adventurers or those outside the law and society are perfect for the task.

Serena is currently locked in her chambers on the palazzo’s third floor. Agnola does not really know how you should affect the rescue, should you decide to do so. She can provided information about the dispositions of the guards in the palazzo, and she also revealed that a secret passage connects the cellars to the sewers, though she does not know its location. She also claimed that in four nights, Duke Barzzini would be absent from his palazzo, having been invited to a banquet, and that this might be a good time to strike.

You all carefully considered Agnola’s offer, several of you having grave concerns about antagonizing a noble, but eventually decided to take her up on her offer.

Having arrived at this decision, and despite the entreaty of the fugitive met earlier, you decided to open the scroll case that was thrust upon Giuseppe earlier in the day. Within you found a scrap of parchment apparently torn from some ancient book. The scrap, combined with your subsequent inquiries, revealed that the location of the ancient and long sought tomb of Count Rodrigo DeFausti lies beneath the abandoned and deconsecrated Church of Santo Spirito.

Apparently, the Count had been a Florentine noble who traveled to the east in 1095, a little more than three centuries ago, to wage war against the heathen Saracens in the holy lands. He returned deeply changed by the experience, and was purported by some to have lost his faith. He did return, however, with powerful relics of magical power, and became a person of great power and influence in Florence. Before his death, he commissioned the construction of a secret tomb somewhere beneath Florence, where the legends say he was buried with his relics. Rumors also had it that he had his wife, his sister, and his two favorite mistresses put to death and entombed with him as well. The tomb has never been found, though many have sought it through the centuries.

(Ponte Vecchio)

Later, at midnight, the mysterious woman from earlier in the day failed to arrive at the Ponte Vecchio, and you presumed that she might be dead. Seeing an opportunity, you decided to investigate the old Church of Santo Spirito yourselves and in fact did find the entrance to what appears to be an ancient tomb hidden beneath the abandoned altar.

Who knows what treasures and what terrors may lie within . . .
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Tags: Recap
Florence, City of (1425)

Florence, City State of (1425)
Population: 250,000

Government: Republic (Rule by representatives from Noble Houses, Wealthiest Merchant and Banking Families, and Guilds)
The government is fractious and byzantine in nature. Rule of the city resides in the Signoria, a body comprised of 54 representatives, each from a single municipal faction (12 from the wealthiest merchant and banking families, 21 from traditional Noble Houses, and 21 from major guilds). From among these 54 representatives, nine are chosen by lot every two months, and these comprise the actual ruling council which rules by vote, the other 45 serving in an advisory capacity. Extraordinary levels of corruption exist, however, and the lot drawing is often rigged in the favor of the wealthiest. While a republic in theory, the wealthiest families rule Florence in actuality.

There is a high level of rivalry between these various factions, especially between the older Noble Houses who see their power waning and the younger mercantile class that seems bent on supplanting them. Currently the most powerful faction in the city is the Medici Family run by its patriarch Colisimo De Medici.

Florentine politics thus typically involves bribery, thuggery, and often outright assassination. Each of the power factions maintains its own small militia of armed retainers used to protect and advance their own interests.

Parallel in power to the Signoria, of course, is the Church of Deum Lumine. In the city, the Archbishop of Florence (His Excellency, Amerigo Corsini), rules supreme and answers only to the Holy Pontiff (His Holiness, Pope Martin V) in Rome. While devoted to spiritual matters in theory, the church is deeply embroiled in secular politics and commerce, and finds itself riven with corruption.

Physical Environment: The city of Florence is crowded and dirty, but very colorful, a place of labyrinthine streets and alleys. It isn’t really organized or zoned into clear districts as say a modern city (ie. a section for the wealthy, a slum, a commercial center). Rather, the city stands as a sprawling heterogeneous jumble with the palaces of the powerful (Palazzos) scattered equally throughout as are markets, piazzas, tradesman’s workshops, taverns, brothels, tenements, churches, and hovels.

The only thing approaching real organizational units of urban geography in Florence are the wealthy noble or merchant families which tend to control the neighborhoods around their palazzos.
The city center, when viewed from a distance, appears as a dense block of masonry; with narrow streets and alleys windings chaotically through it. In many places buildings are braced by archways over the streets which have, in turn, been used as the construction for more structures above. Florence is also a city of towers, many towers, which range in height from five to ten stories.

Above all, Florence is a city of streets. Her thoroughfares, streets, and alleys bustle continuously with energetic throngs of people going about their daily routines. Over there you may see a craftsman hurrying to his workshop, or spot elderly widows wending their way through the crowd to visit nieces sequestered at a convent. Gangs of rowdy boys taunt each other, posturing for the benefit of young female spectators peering down and giggling from windows three stories overhead. Fisherman haul their morning catch from the Arno, while merchants and bankers openly conducted business, making deals as they amble along the city’s avenues. The streets are also the scene of numerous processionals. Weddings, funerals, in short almost every significant life event is celebrated by family and friends with processionals that move through the streets accompanied by horns, flutes and drums. And of course there are processionals to celebrate each of the numerous Saints’ Day celebrations and carnivals that make up Florentine public life.

Florentine street life can also be violent; rivalries and vendettas often resolving themselves with public duels and brawls in the streets. In short, Florence’s streets are always crowded, colorful, smelly, and wonderful.

Interestingly, below Florence lies an extensive subterranean world of sewers, ancient crypts, and secret passages. Some of these are known and are used extensively by the powerful thieves guilds and the various heretical mystery cults that secretly worship in defiance of the orthodox church. But many more are forgotten and waiting to be discovered.

Below are some images of Florence's streets and alleys. While there are obviously modern elements in some of these photographs, they are merely meant to give a sense of the physical environment of the city and evoke the atmosphere of the campaign.

Surrounding Geography:
Florence lies in the region of Tuscany, a hilly environment with a relatively mild climate. In fact, only 8% of Tuscany is flatland, the rest being comprised of hills and mountains. The city lies in the Arno River valley, the Apennines to the north and the Chianti Mountains to the south. It has grown up at a crossroads. 63 miles to the north (1.5 days ride), over the Futa Pass (elev. 3,000’) through the rugged Apennine Mountains lies Bologna. Pisa, on the Ligurian coast, lies some 50 miles to the west down the Arno River. And 164 miles to the south (4 days ride) lies the holy city of Rome, but 45 miles along this same road lies Florence’s historic rival, Siena.

Roughly speaking, the land in a 15 mile radius around Florence is cultivated and devoted to producing livestock and agriculture to feed the gigantic city. This region spreads down the Arno River valley and upwards onto the slopes to the north and south contains numerous peasant villages and hamlets dotting the hilltops, along with noble villas and monastic communities.

Beyond this sphere of influence, however the roads can be dangerous and travelers are advised to go armed or with an armed retinue as bandits and goblin tribes do prey upon the vulnerable especially in the mountains.
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