This final chapter of the “With Good Intentions” pre-release storyline will reflect many of the story decisions and events at Gen Con 2023. If you want to know more about how the community shaped the ongoing narrative in Five Sails, click here!

We’ve known since this storyline began that Francois Dufort, the fifth musketeer, was doomed to die. The Vodacce victory by Jake Laird at Gen Con 2023 has awarded them esteemed privilege of being the faction that murders Dufort. Nick Pruitt’s unique Vodacce deck that he used to reach the top 8 inspired which Vodacce character that would claim the kill for themselves.

An epilogue story, resolving other storyline effects from Gen Con 2023, is on the horizon!

“…And One for All!”

by Carmel Rechnitzer

The most difficult part of a sword fight was not killing your opponent. Accomplishing this feat while both of your opponents fully intend to actually kill you was doubly as difficult. The process allowed for an abundance of creativity, however, and that’s what François Dufort loved about such a challenge.

Fighting his way through the alleyways of the Five Sails docks allowed him ample opportunity to practice creative dispatching. Turning another blind corner past another unmarked warehouse left him face to face with two Eisen mercenaries, each equipped with a Langschwert – the famous heavy longsword of Eisen. They weren’t surprised to see him. He’d been running at full speed and they’d heard his heavy boots thumping against the cobblestones.

They coordinated their swings, the man aiming high and the woman aiming low. He’d have no chance to jump over the first blow, or slide gracefully under the second, without getting minced. His rapier was too light and flexible to stop a single broadsword, much less two. Hence Creativity.

François tossed his blade to the sky and tumbled backwards. Neither sword managed to catch even an inch of his flowing tunic. The blue musketeer tabard fluttered out of their reach a moment after he did. Both Eisen mercenaries cursed, confused by his speed and terrified of the sword point he’d spent spinning towards the heavens. The sun was setting into the shimmering purple waters of the Vatacine gulf behind him, and the overwhelming rays of hazy red and orange forced them to squint as they searched for the tumbling weapon.

Both sets of eyes left him as the men-at-arms stumbled back to avoid the plunging swordfall. François recovered to a coiled crouch and then sprung explosively forward. His fist slammed into the man’s groin, and his shoulder arced up into the man’s stomach. François let momentum turn his body into both wedge and lever, sheer force hoisting the man up and over his back. The poor fool collapsed onto the ground behind François before the rapier could hit the stones. Speaking of which

He wasn’t about to let his sword point dull against the cobblestones, and he moved forward to catch it. The opposing woman, short but broad, regained her bearings and swung her blade in a heroic arc. It was the kind of blow that could slay a drake, and for all François knew of Eisen monster hunters, this lady could conceivably have done exactly that once upon a time. But she was a veteran of the War of the Cross, if he correctly judged her badges and decorated pauldrons. Age had dulled her speed.

François danced underneath the blow and kicked the woman’s knee out from underneath her. As she teetered forward, François reached up, grabbed her neat, graying braid, and yanked. Her head lurched forward, and the pommel of his spinning rapier caught her in the back of the skull.

“Magnifique!” he yelled in triumph and reached out to snag the blade. “Oh, merde!” He continued as he almost fumbled his rapier. What was the expression Ms. Dubois D’Arrent’s chef always yelled at the kitchen help? A falling knife has no handle! The same thing clearly applied to swords. Thankfully, he managed to recover the weapon without accidentally losing one of his fingers.

With the two mercenaries dazed and incapacitated, François looked around to regain his bearings. He took a deep breath of the salty sea air. Grain storage to the right, spices to the left, coffee warehouse somewhere nearby if his nose was to be believed. But where were his comrades?

Un pour tous!” came the distinctive roar of Jean Urbain. The lead musketeer had the rich, booming bass of a trained opera singer. By Theus, if they got out of this alive, François just had to convince Mademoiselle Dubois D’Arrent to let them form a choir. The pleasant thought almost caused him to mistime his response.

Et tous pour un!” He bellowed in return. The marching voice of each of his comrades rang out across the warehouse district. Jean kept the beat of their impromptu rescue operation using the call and response chant of the Montaigne Musketeers. All for One! He’d call out every five minutes or so, and One for All! They would reply, so that each man knew his brothers were alive, well, and nearby.

Not knowing if he had moments to spare, he took off in the direction of the call. At some point, one of the Musketeers would find Kaspar Dietrich, the mad general who now ruled the Eisen district. The old man was tough as nails, and clearly ready to wage new war against the City and her citizens. François took a chance to peek through the window of the coffee-scented warehouse and realized that now was the point.

He screeched to a halt, less gracefully than he intended. He cupped his hands to the grimy window and confirmed what he saw: the coffee warehouse had been half emptied and rearranged. Herr Dietrich clearly had his eye on conquering the dockyards as well. The remaining crates and barrels had been pushed to the corners, and the Eisen militia had converted the remaining space to a secret little headquarters. The space was strewn with cheap arms, armors, and munitions ready for pick-up by Eisen’s newly enlisted forces. Jean Urbain and Leontine Giroux danced amid the supplies, carefully circling around Herr Dietrich himself.

Old Iron Dietrich was the most fearsome combatant François ever laid eyes on. He moved like a… like a… a battering ram and with all the destructive force of that destructive siege weapon. The Eisen general’s chest heaved with raging breath, his head kept low like he still expected cannon fire to sail above him. With mechanical precision, he swept the battlefield with his broadsword, keeping Leontine and Jean leaping backwards. Whenever the blade would pass them, each musketeer made a brave attempt to leap forward and thrust the point of their rapiers, only to be met by his Panzerhand.

The general’s left arm was encased in polished steel, with each finger extended to a vicious point. The gauntlet was as sturdy as a shield, and as deadly as the claws of a dragon. The Panzerhand was the real danger here. Herr Dietrich had the strength to punch the weapon through a man’s chest and pull out the victim’s heart. With stunned incredulity, François watched Leontine hurriedly flee from yet another of the deadly swipes. The fingers crashed into, then through, the six-inch-wide support beam behind her. Brute strength and cruel steel simply sundered the timber to pieces.

Not wishing to cut his arm open before joining the fray, François took off his Musketeer’s hat, placed it against the window glass, and punched into it. The glass shattered while keeping his hand safe. He’d definitely have to visit a haberdashery tomorrow, though.

He vaulted into the window and gave a hearty laugh.

“Worry not, comrades, François is -” his grand declaration was brought to an abrupt halt by the butt of a spear. Maryam Benu Pleroma, infamous champion of every arena known to man, hit him hard enough to fling him back through the window. He rolled twice and sprawled out across the street.

Maryam did not speak a word of the Montaigne tongue, but she certainly didn’t need to. The condescending look on her face made her intentions clear. Stay out of my window, or I’ll break your bones. Too late for that, he realized. Theus help him, he’d definitely cracked a rib. She winked at him, and motioned for him to flee.

She could easily have killed him, had she used the pointed end of her weapon. The thought, and the incredible pain, sobered him. Ms. Dubois D’Arrent was committed to the peace. Recognized that Herr Dietrich was acting out of some misguided sense of justice. There were no villains here to fight, and she’d begged them to spare every life they could.

But Kaspar and Maryam could not know that. So far as they were concerned, a villainous troupe of blade-bearing ruffians had invaded their territory. For the Musketeers to have made it this deep into the docks, to have reached Herr Dietrich directly, they would have faced resistance. Until someone reported their mercy to the old general directly, the man and his hired bodyguard were forced to operate as if the men and women under his command had been killed.

Un pour tous!” Once again the call rang through the marketplace.

“…Et tous pour un!” This time François’ could only groan in reply.

“You are lucky I hold the creed to my heart,” came the voice of Henri Michelette. The fourth Musketeer had finally made it here. Henri was the odd man among their squad. He was rigid, unfunny, and had no need for flourish or theatrics. Most uniquely, he preferred firearms. Henri pulled François to his feet, and gave him a stern look.

“All for one, including  François the Fool. Are you good to continue?” He asked.

“Promise me you haven’t shot anyone!” François demanded.

“Not yet,” Henri said. His tone was neutral. He wasn’t proud or upset by the fact. “I support Oddette’s logic. We are not here to kill. We are here to rescue. Though I worry, seeing the state of you, mon amie. Death draws ever closer.”

“Promise me you won’t shoot anyone,” François insisted.

“I won’t,” Henri said. François waved his hand in little circles, asking Henri to clarify that whether he wouldn’t shoot, or wouldn’t promise.

“Sorry, I mean, I will. Well, I mean to say – If I have to, I will shoot. I won’t promise.”

Bah! There was no time to argue or correct Henri’s grammar. The sounds of battle grew louder behind them. Neither man wished to be late. But neither man wished to try the window again, and face Maryam’s wrath. She had a fearsome reputation as a hunter of duelists. She traveled Théah challenging famous fighters so she could squash them for sport. She’d clearly joined Herr Dietrich’s cause, knowing it would bring all of Five Sail’s finest duelists to her feet. The duo exchanged looks to ask each other “do we dare?” and scurried to find another entrance. Maryam was best dealt with at extreme distance.

The thought troubled François. He had no love for Maryam. He’d never met her before she’d bruised him and flung him back out the window. But Mademoiselle Dubois D’Arrent’s orders were clear. Even if the mercy order hadn’t been given… Maryam was no villain. Not even a scoundrel. She was a daring athlete, and by all accounts an honorable woman. Sneaking behind her back so that Henri could simply shoot her was not… musketeerly of them.

The back of the warehouse opened out into a sizable dockyard. The space would normally be used as a staging ground for loading, counting, inspecting, and finally unloading goods. Neat guidelines had been carved into the packed dirt, to indicate lanes for crates to either come or go. The yard was barren now. No coffee, dockhands, or quartermaster. Instead, a single, unlit pyre stood at its center. Like something out of a storybook. Like something out of a horror story. Herr Dietrich truly meant to go through with this madness.

Maxime de Lafayette, court sorcier and noble of Montaigne, had been stripped of his fine clothing. He was re-dressed in nothing but the plain white garb of a prisoner and tied to the stake at the center of the pyre. François and Henry hadn’t seen or heard of such viciousness since their childhood. Such execution methods had been discarded or outright banned once the War of the Cross had ended.

“Theus help us,” François swore. They had probably arrived with only a minute or two to spare. A beautiful raven-haired woman held a torch to Lafayette’s bare feet. But her movement was stiff, indecisive. Her face was overcome with horror, pity, and regret. But also, very clearly, with hatred. One command from Herr Dietrich, and François had no doubt that fire would consume their friend.

Henri immediately leveled the barrel of his gun to her chest. “Drop the torch, Madame Daniella Dietrich,” he said.

“Do not drop the torch! DO NOT! DROP! The TORCH!” François corrected. “Theus help us, Henri, but I am renting you a tutor.” 

“Which is it, gentlemen?” Daniella asked. Her voice was full of ice and bile. She slowly waved the torch over the straw. “Maxime broke into our home and attempted to steal from my husband. Maxime bled the world with his sorcery, in front of my very eyes. This is his fate.”

Maxime, gagged and bound, could not deny the charges.

“Do not drop the torch,” Henri corrected.

Some fifty feet in front of them, the melee came to a pause. The sun was sinking fast, and François was thankful that just enough purple-pink light remained for everyone to catch sight of Henry’s rifle through the warehouse’s massive open doors. Each combatant brought up the point of their weapon cautiously, indecisively. Two sneaky pawns had managed to reach the back of the board and put Herr Dietrich’s queen in check. Wait a minute, thought François, that metaphor doesn’t quite –

“If you shoot my wife,” Herr Dietrich declared, cycling through all of Five Sail’s languages to make sure he was understood, “I will wage war against Montaigne herself and burn your nation to the ground.” There was a certainty in that voice, and it overcame the billowing wind with ease. It was like the sound of iron striking iron. It was not a threat. It was not a promise. Montaigne in ashes was the natural consequence of setting Kaspar Dietrich to mourning. Despite switching language each time, the repeating of this fact made it seem more true each time Herr Dietrich said it.

“We’ve killed no one so far, and don’t intend to,” Jean Urbain explained in Eisen, and just as loudly, so everyone could hear. Quickly, the lead Musketeer explained their mission, and the rule Odette had forced them to abide by.

“You are no villain, and we’ve treated you and your men kindly as a consequence. But you are misguided,” said Jean. “Maxime is our friend, and besides cheating at cards, is an honest, good man. We’ve come to rescue him, and not to wrong you.”

Herr Dietrich ignored him completely. His unblinking eyes remained locked with Henri’s.

“Maxime invaded the sanctity of my home through an act of vicious witchcraft,” he said. There was such certainty in his voice that François almost believed him. “Maxime dies. Whether you shoot Daniella or not, Maxime dies. You Musketeers have not come here to kill, it seems. I have.”

What in Theus’ name were they to do? For once, François’ creativity failed him.

Jean and Henri nodded heads to one another. At the fifty foot distance, the movement was only telegraphed by the bobbing of the feathers in their hats. Henri moved to point his rifle at Herr Dietrich. Daniella, as devoted a wife as any man in Theah could ask for, moved to stand between the gun and her husband.

“This gun has three barrels, Ms. Daniella. The first for you, the second for Maryam, the third for your husband. Please do not be foolish,” Henri beseeched her. She did not budge.

François knew this wasn’t right. There had to be another way. There must be words or actions he could take… Herr Dietrich asked his wife to step away, and she did. François breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps the old general could still be reasoned with?

“Daniella will walk out of this alive, dear Musketeers. Maxime will not,” said Herr Dietrich. Commanded it, like they were his soldiers, completely under his commission. François wondered how many years it had been since Herr Dietrich had met a man who did not obey him. How many decades?

Jean and Henri nodded again. François understood completely. Herr Dietrich could not be reasoned with. Their motto was All for One, and that included Maxime. But shooting a man like this? Who had no mechanism to defend – who believed with all his heart he was acting justly?

François couldn’t tell if his conscience or his doubts broke his composure. In the final moment, he brought his gloved hand down onto the barrel to try and ruin Henri’s aim. He hadn’t acted decisively enough. Theus help him, the shot would still connect.

Herr Dietrich, fast with his reflexes but not on his feet, reacted in the nick of time and brought his Panzerhand up to his chest. Instead of whistling through his skull, the musket ball slammed into his waiting metal palm. The old general flinched, and inconceivably, that was it. He did not teeter, did not fall. Did not collapse and die. Didn’t even scream in pain. He stood still, barrel chest heaving, plate armor somewhat dented inwards from the force of the blow, his gauntleted hand mangled and bleeding.

The common thread between all of them was disbelief. Disbelief that Herr Dietrich remained alive and standing. Disbelief that François had betrayed his fellow Musketeers. François felt no pity for the rest of the room. He could not believe his comrades would break their word to Madamoiselle Dubois D’Arrent. He wrestled the gun away from Henri, intending to seize charge of the damnable situation and resolve this nonsense with honor and dignity. Before he could speak, the sound of loud, sarcastic clapping rang out from the depths of the warehouse.

An Eisen mercenary skulked out from behind the stacked crates and barrels of coffee beans. He was flanked by an additional four brutes, each armed with knives, hatchets, and a concerning number of pistols. Each of them had done an ingenious job at hiding. Even eagle-eyed Henri blinked in shock at their arrival. The clapping mercenary smiled with the self-confidence of a man about to utter the most perverse pick-up line at the debutante’s ball.

“What a melodrama!” he spoke, using the Voddace tongue. “Like a bad bit of theater! But I’m afraid, you worthless curs, that the night is over. I’ve grown tired of your breathless tragedies, and I have women and wine to return to.” He couldn’t match Herr Dietrich’s or Jean’s natural volume. The words were shrill and strained with the effort of overcoming the wind.

Even at a distance, François recognized the man by his greasy mustache and beady little eyes. Herr Dietrich, in his rush to recruit every mercenary in town, had hired a disguised Servo Scarpa. The scheming mafioso, for some corrupt reason or other, had decided to play a trick on them all. They were all about to pay dearly for Herr Dietrich’s mistake.

“Disarm them all and bind them. Father will decide who lives or dies.”

“What is that man’s father?” asked Herr Dietrich in broken Voddace, completely confused. His face was turning as white as a ghost. The wound to his hand was severe and he was losing blood fast.

“My father is the one and only Don Constanza Scarpa, you fool! The prime criminal and true king of the City of Five Sails,” Servo explained, relishing in the moment.

Rage, hatred, and betrayal emanated from everyone else in sight. Still, Jean Urbain gave a calming signal to each of his men. The message was clear. First, we get out of here alive. Then we discuss François Dufort.

Un pour tous?” Jean asked. Even speaking softly, the deep timbre of his voice carried far.

“I beg your pardon, you worthless cretin?” Servo interjected.

…And all for one!

Each Musketeer sprang into action. Leontine, a practiced sorcier herself, ran her hand down the side of her rapier and used her blood to rip a porte – a magic portal leading back to Odette – into the ground beneath her feet. As she fell into the opening swirl of red, she  grabbed Maryam’s spear and yanked the other woman in.

Jean dropped his weapon, grabbed Herr Dietrich by his shoulder and belt, and pulled the other man into the portal with him. All four melee combatants were gone in the blink of an eye. The confused gunfire of the disguised Red Hand Gang rang out as they disappeared. The magic escape had elapsed so quickly that François couldn’t tell if any of his friends or foes had been struck or gotten out alive.

Henri Michelet, who would have shot Daniella a mere minute ago, shielded her body as the two sprinted for the nearest alleyway. The distance was too far to travel safely. François heard him grunt with pain as a well-aimed bullet found his shoulder. François didn’t follow them.

“One for All” meant “One for All.” His body be damned. Honor demanded he try.

François leapt towards the bound and gagged Maxime, clambering over dry straw and bundles of kindling. He pulled his main gauche from his belt and worked to cut the man loose. He expected red-hot lead to pierce him and end his life at any moment – but no bullet came. Perhaps the gangsters had spent all their ammunition and he’d have time – perhaps he would have time -perhaps he’d get out of here alive – perhaps Maxime could porte them away in time – perhaps –

The thoughts came as quickly and as panicked as his breath. Until suddenly they didn’t. His heart skipped a beat. His lungs failed to pull in air. Pain roared, screamed, and hollered throughout every inch of his flesh. His knees buckled. A sword protruded from his chest. Theus help me, he thought. There it is. Dead center, right through me.

He felt Servo Scarpa’s breath hot in his ear. Servo was killing him. Had successfully killed him. He would last maybe a minute more at best.

“I am furious the rest have escaped, dear Musketeer,” Servo said. “But I want you to see. Don’t close your eyes as you die. See the truth of the man  you died to rescue.”

François had successfully freed Maxime. The moment of triumph was ripped from him. Maxime de Lafayette – coward, traitor, and sinner – was drenched in François’s own blood. Shamelessly, the vile sorcier tore a volatile wound into the air behind him. This portal wasn’t like the rest François had traveled through. It was weeping and angry – sputtering chaos and pain as it drew on the suffering of the world around it to sustain itself.

No matter the context, ripping open such a blessure was a hanging offense back in Montaigne. Casting sorcery through indiscriminate suffering was the work of evil. Blessures drew misfortune unto themselves, harming all nearby and refusing to close on their own. Leontine would have to return here – to seal it closed at great personal risk – or the unholy fissure would continue to terrorize the docks. 

So it’s true. Maxime truly was a villain. The wretched socialite did not even turn his head back to give François an apology. He disappeared into his awful creation, fleeing for his miserable life. Servo laughed, clearly amused by it all.

François Dufort could not muster rage or hatred or even regret. The heat of his lifeblood warmed the skin of his chest… but he felt so cold, so cold, so cold. The Red Hand Gang dragged several bodies past him. The Red Hand Gang had slaughtered the Eisen mercenaries he’d worked so hard to save. If he hadn’t dazed and subdued them, could they have fought back? He guessed the brutes would stuff the corpses in the empty coffee barrels, and then roll the evidence of their crimes into the depths of the Vatacine Gulf. No doubt this would be his fate, too. If Theus pitied him, the water would be warm.

Servo and his villainy faded away from François and his life flashed before his eyes. He remembered his youth. He remembered being five years old, during the first year of the War of the Cross. He remembered his mother, terrified, holding his hand as they searched the fresh battlefield for his missing father. She had been a nurse, meant to stay behind and tend to Montaigne’s wounded back at camp. Instead, she’d entered the abandoned city streets, desperate to find any sign of her husband.

He remembered how they’d found him – his Musketeer’s tabard soaked red, just like François was now. He remembered the corpse of his father, triumphantly surrounded by the bodies of the six enemy Objectionists he’d held at bay during the Montaigne retreat. He remembered how everyone spoke so highly of his father – the most honorable soldier in all Montaigne! They’d insisted. His father had met a heroic end.

He remembered how his mother had begged him not to follow in those footsteps. Not become a Musketeer. She’d begged him not to die like this.

“I’m so sorry,” he mumbled. There was blood in his mouth.

“Don’t be, dear Musketeer,” Servo sneered. “This has been the most fun I’ve had in ages.”

Somewhere in the distance, a wounded Henri Michelet shouted out for his comrades. François barely heard it – but he did hear it: “Un pour tous?”

Et tous pour un!” François answered.

Next came silence.