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Mass Hysteria - (or "when you tell people what they want to hear")by Niels Just Rasmussen
When the voice of one man becomes country wide politics. This is a political adventure for basically all levels, since combat or even magic is not the issue here, but the general atmosphere of the people. The choice is really if the PC want to work for peace or war. Which group to support or bring down?
GM background information:
Gavril Anghelescu is an intelligent 50 year old man [0 level normal human], that has gotten no where with his life and has never left his birthplace of Specularum/Mirros.
He is "cursed" with an inquisitive scientific mind, but from a family with no means of sending him to special schools. Very absorbed in learning he was neither popular as a child or as an adult, so he became a loner, though not by his choice. He deeply wants to be a favourite of especially women, but they have always scorned him. He simply couldn't understand why all his interests where laughed at.
He had a special passions for mixing substances and fluids and became a quiet adept chemist. He also liked building stuff out of different materials and have a good grasp of engineering. He became by himself able to read and write with some skill in Traladaran, but haven't learned to speak much Thyatian let alone reading or writing it.
He lived all his life with his parents, to the dismay of his father that wanting him to go on a Shearing Ceremony, but protected by his mother that said he would have no chance of surviving such a thing always being bullied, where ever he went. His father ran a small grocery shop where his mother and their only child Gavril helped. After the death of his father Gavril took over running the small shop supported by his mother. He changed it from being a grocery shop to a "shop for intellectuals", but it was a total failure. He managed to save it by making it a shop selling "magical components" for warding off evil and for ritual use that has been fairly popular with the locals, and he managed to get some decent trustworthy suppliers from farmers/woodsmen outside of the city. Though Gavril didn't believe in all that nonsense it's important for his shop that the local community see him go often to the great Church of Traladara, so he did that with his mother (who contrary to himself was very much a follower of the morality of "The Three" - Halav, Petra & Zirchev).
His mother died recently which let him absolutely devastated. A local priest saw this and took pity on him and offered him a small job of restoring the decoration inside of the church, so he could be in close contacts of the three Immortals (Halav, Petra and Zirchev) to hopefully give him new purpose [the priest having seen Gavril and his mother coming to the church often assumed he is a faithful follower of the teaching of the Church of Traladara.]
What Gavril saw was suddenly a way for him to become popular. Never believing that the Immortals cared for humans (had they ever cared for him and his misery?) he started to think about a plan to exploit the superstitious believes held by the people around him.
He had discovered the mechanism of pressure: High pressure moving towards low pressure and never the other way. He even manage in his little home laboratory to create low and high pressure and to develop certain substances that could acts as a seal. He has also been able to draw blood from humans and animals using crude syringes, since stuff like blood is quite popular in his shop.
While renovating the church he discovered that each of the three big statues of Halav, Petra and Zirchev has hollowed-out-eyes that ended in a small chamber that could be filled with fluids. He has developed a resin that reacts with air and slowly dissolves over time but at a very steady rate. After going over his plan again and again and again in his laboratory he is ready to take his science to center stage - The main Church of Traladara.
The evening before a big ceremony he uses his tubes and resins to created an overpressure in the eye-sockets of the three statues of Halav, Petra and Zirchev. He then uses a syringe to fill the area with some of his own blood. He has precisely calculated the time for the resin will dissolve allowing the blood to flow out of the eye-sockets. The resin is put so it's not visible when looking at the statues as it slowly dissolves. His knows that the Church always follow a strict time table and have calculated it all with precision. His whole life have lead to this moment.
PC introduction - Gavril executing his master-plan to perfection:
At a big ceremony in the grand church of Traladara - where the PC is present - an older skinny, pale-faced and quite unkept middle aged man will suddenly take center stage shouting that: "I can hear Halav talking to me. It's important so everyone should listen":
He shouts out fast, but in a clear voice, before other people have time to hush him or remove him.
"When a servant of my choice will lead this country and people back to the Golden Age I will cry tears of blood for the courage and faith of this common man, as even I rose from humble origins in time of need"
Suddenly a woman shouts - "the Stature of Halav cries tears of blood". Enormous commotion follows. The present Patriarch Aleksyev Nikelnevich cast of detect magic spell, but finds that no magic is creating this effect ["does it means it's really true", he thinks for himself?] - he gives signals to all around him to let the man freedom to speak.
The people holding him released him in a marvel waiting to hear what he say next with the voice of Halav and what will happen next.
Gavril makes his voice more high-pitched and feminine "and as I was a simple potter this simple renovator of your church will lead you on to salvation. Follow him is like following me, as I cry for his humble and kind heart". Ecstasy breaks out in the church when the stature of Petra starts to cry tears of blood thereafter.
"He speaks with the voice of the three immortals" it is stated. "The time has come for freedom" other shouts as they are hushed when Gavril seems ready to speak again.
Gavril lowers his tone and speaks for the third time in a low steady voice "as I was fortunate to learn the magic of masters this intelligent man have been overlooked to long by all of you. In him I see a wisdom and seriousness that I cry for all the scorn and bullying he has received when he should have been praised, loved and supported. His word is the will of the three".
Then the statue of Zirchev cries blood and all the church-goers burst out into mass hysteria. People take to the street to bring the news. People flock around him to touch him and have him bless them. People shout asking who is he is, his name, where does he live. "It's Gavril Anghelescu ", some say "the shop-owner at "so-street", "this pious man that renovates our church out of love". "If only his blessed mother could have seen this", some older women cries.
Gavril seem very relieved like a huge strain or weight has been lifted from his shoulders [Gavril knew he had one chance so he had to have made exact calculations and preparations had to be spot on - but still it's a small miracle it actually succeded].
Patriarch Aleksyev Nikelnevich and his men (including maybe the PC) will use their authority to approach the new Prophet. He shouts that "we the clergy must take guidance from the prophet, so we can inform you all - don't worry everything will be revealed soon enough".
Then he takes Gavril alone into a sidechamber and let his men start guard in front.
GM information: (the PC might hear slightly different versions from Gavril or the Patriarch later).
Patriarch Aleksyev Nikelnevich will try to figure out what kind of man Gavril is. He introduces himself bowing before Gavril and learn his name (the Patriarch has no idea who he was until now).
Is Gavril the real deal or a fake? He had used detect magic and saw nothing when the statues were crying and using now "detect evil" shows nothing of the sort about Gavril or else in the room.
He asks Gavril the following questions:
Gavril say that he is very tired now and need a nights sleep after having been seaking for all the "three". He is certain that after a nights sleep he can speak for the three to all the people if the patriarch could arrange it around midday tomorrow. But it has been such a strain. [Gavril also needs to think. He was so focused on the science he really didn't think about specifics if it succeded, so he just tries to stall a bit]
"Why you do you think the three chose you?"
Gavril says it must be because he has been humble, hardworking and serious in the following of the teachings of the three immortals.
"Do you think we should already start to prepare for a confrontation with the Thyatian government"?
[The key question - does Gavril+ the Three immortals wants a direct confrontation with the Thyatian rulers?]
Gavril answers that the three immortals will use him as the mouth-piece for the return of the Traldar Golden Age and I'm certain that it can be done without bloodshed if people just listens to reason.
The Patriarch says he will send some men to escort him to his home for the night and then prepare for his return the next morning so he can give his speech at midday and inform the clergy more about what to do next. They will make the preparations.
After Gavril leaves and is escorted home by the clergy; the Patriarch stays in the sidechamber to Commune with the "Three". He has three question and formulates them like this:
1) "Is Gavril Anghelescu chosen by you Halav, Petra and Zirchev to speak for you"?
The Patriarch is bitterly disappointed, but continues.
2) "Should I expose him as a fraud for all the followers of the Church of Traladara":
Now the Patriarch is really perplexed, but he feels that at this points maybe the people will not believe such a claim since they have seen the three statues bleeding with their own eyes. He thinks long and hard about the third question.
3) "Should I use my religious and political standing in society to protect and guide him"?
The Patriarch has understood.
Gavril might be a fraud but the safety of the people is important. If the church leaders turn away from Gavril; he will be seen as a Thyatian puppet and that will weaken the Traladaran people even further if the leader of the Church of Traladara is regarded as a collaborator.
The Patriarch is not interested in an all out war with the Thyatians. Even if they should win the death toll would be horrific. Maybe Gavril can be used to put a little pressure on the Thyatians that their needs are to be taken seriously.
If the Thyatian government moves troops in to secure Gavril it might provoke an uprising, so he has to use his power to prevent that from happening.
[The Patriarch could order the PC to be a real bodyguard of Gavril].
Gavril's return to the public eye:
The church make sure that Gavril is followed home protected by clergy. When Gavril arrives at his shop (base floor, and his living quarters is on the 1'st floor) the area are packed with people that want to see the prophet. Surely Gavril has become Mr. Popular and he is very happy. Seeing a women fainting when seeing him he suddenly gets a "good idea". He stops up in front of his home declaring "The three has asked that to follow the example of Halav and Petra. It is important that I find a wife that can help me to carry out the wishes of the three". "If any of you ladies wants to take my side let them come forth with blessings of their parents and the three shall find me a suitable spouse." "Tomorrow evening I will start the selection".
Girly screams break out on the street and a female hysteria echoes through the city. Gold-diggers and serious believers both all over the city spend no idle second, but start to prepare themselves for looking as good as possible for the chosen prophet.
During the night Gavril can't sleep for all the excitement, but remembers he has to say something to the people when "his" church comes to pick him up the next day.
He really thinks it would be fitting if he was "Lord Gavril" given land and a good manor and had some better clothes, a cook and a tailer and some beautiful servant girls. But how to achieve this? Asking to much might give the game away. He knows he must continue to sound pious and humble like it is all for the sake of the people and the wish of the three.....so he doesn't get much sleep since his speech is first memorized late at night.
Groups of Traladarans stay around his home which basically prevents any City troops from coming near.
Minister of State: Lord Zogrov Yarol advices both the Minister of War: Admirals Lucius Hyraksos and Duke/King Stefan Karameikos to keep the troops passive and to investigate first what precisely is going on. They agree with him.
He will send some informers close to learn more. They report back that the town is very much waiting for the speech of Gavril next day. Lord Yarol gives the intelligence on the the Duke/King.
The Duke/King orders that troops have to stand ready in case of a riot, but not take any action even if provoked, before a direct order is given.
So "Guard Phorsis" (1'st division & City Guard of Specularum/Mirros) is ready and lead by Captain Mikel and is nearby before Gavril makes his speech. The 2nd division is split. The Elvenguard are left to protect the Duke's Stronghold while the Duke's guard are send out to provide assistance. Senechal of the Ducal Estates Lord Alexius Korrigan leads the Duke's Guard and with direct order from Stefan Karameikos to have the leadership of the troops deployed. [Stefan Karameikos sends him, because he knows he is a rare Thyatian - a Traladaran lover, so it will minimize the risk of a confrontation]. All these troop will form a huge ring around the area where the speech will take place, but with centers of extra strenght if they need to retreat.
The gathering of people for the awaited speech:
The next morning the Church of Traladara arrives to escort Gavril to the church where he will give his speech in front of the people of Specularum. It's a huge gathering. Many especially young people thinks it will be the signal to a general uprising and has armed themselves accordingly, while other older people hope that they will hear wisdom from "the three" being spoken.
Gavril arrives still looking very unkept and ragged (lack of sleep and general nervousness), but he is ready like never before: [He wants to reap what he was so long in sowing and he will enjoy every second of his popularity trying to direct society in the direction of his wishes]
Gavril speech to the people:
He stands on a platform made especially for him and he raises his arm as he begins stating with a clear loud voice that sounds slightly apprehensive (nobody knows what will happen so the tension is palpable).
"I Gavril Anghelescu has been chosen as the voice of the Three immortals to bring the Golden Days back to the Traladaran people. To long have we been sitting in the mud and sewage in the city and towns or backbreaking ourselves with hard labour on the farms, but we have been tested and the Three have found us serious and faithful in the old ways. Something has been taken from us though" (big voices from the crowd agrees and a lot of weapons are raised).
After this pause he continues:
"So to reward US they have chosen ME to lead us back towards more glorious days".
More loud cheering!
"First of all the Traladaran needs to have the right to full access to all positions in government and to give the Traladaran people a good education from childhood, so they will begin to value wisdom and be respected among all other nations. So the Three have decreed that Duke/King Stefan Karameikos is to the build of a School of Magic with a library here in Specularum to be lead by myself as hereditary headmaster and title of Landed Lord of this school and library and lead our people back to cultural mastery." [he holds himself back not asking for money or servants].
Some cheering but also some bafflement, since it was a lot of surprising information to take on in one go. A lot of people were expecting going to battle against the troops standing in the outskirts, but their readiness fizzles out.
Patriarch Aleksyev Nikelnevich is very very relieved that Gavril actually had a brain and didn't say anything insane. He is pretty surprised about the idea, and not really against anything right now.
He feel the crowd wavering and goes on the platform and takes over: Now is perhaps a Golden Chance to secure more opportunities for his people:
"Wisdom like this can only come from the mouth of Zirchev himself. Let us show that the Traladaran people have both wisdom and strength in patience. We will stay here waiting for the Duke's/King's answer confirming the will of Halav, Petra and Zirchev - together we will prevail, since the wisdom of these words cannot be denied".
Big cheers again as the mass of people make a sit-down. The troops of Karameikos stands unmoving even though tons of spite is yelled at them: "Oppressors".
Gavril is a bit disappointed that he has to stay. Because if it drags on, he will miss seeing all the ladies later in the evening. But he is quite happy that the Patriarch intervened so favourably and is convinced that he has fooled even him. "Ah it's good to a prophet" he thinks to himself, as clergymen comes to his service with a chair for him to sit on and refreshment.
GM has to decide here what will happen next since the ball is now in the hands of the political movers-and-shakers. The PC can be behind provocations that can start a general civil war, or they can work to prevent it. From here on all is possible.
A) Duke/King Stefan Karameikos can either refuse or give in.
Doing something half will bring discontent among all groups. Refusing could easily start a general uprising. Agreeing will make him seem weak, since he bows from pressure coming from a Traladaran nobody. Also how long should he wait to give an answer?
Maybe coming with a statement "that the idea had already been planned so his mind was already made before this statement and it would be fortunate for the country to have a wise noble and PEACEFUL prophet as hereditary leader and lord of the School of Magic being built."
How fast to start the building of the magic school - how long can they stall after agreeing?
The Duke/King and other Thyatian nobles want to see the prophet distracted by a lot of social gatherings and meetings so he doesn't have the time to talk with the "people" again. So he has to come to court to discuss specific plans for schooling and building and what about teachers? Long tedious planning with tons of meetings. All the things that can distract him. So sending him beautiful ladies to entertain him so he takes a long time finding a wife will be a trick to use. The intelligence will dig up all about his background so they can plan accordingly to his personality. Even if a prophet, the man can perhaps be distracted.
Even if they find out he IS a fraud they know that the Traladarans will never believe this if it comes from the mouth of a Thyatian, so that question is pretty moot. It will though make controlling a lot easier if he is a fraud.
Some Thyatian hard liners might try to do that to provoke a war, actually whether they know he is a fake or not. "Exposing" him or even killing him might start the real Crusader War they wish, where they can bring in re-enforcements from Thyatis. Even better the Duke/King has shown weakness in allowing it to come this far and can perhaps to removed for a more hard-nosed individual.
B) Both the Torenescu and Radu family wants to marry one of their girls with him, so to control him and bend him towards their agendas. Tons of other Traladaran women will seek to be married to a noble prophet, both from high and low in society.
C) Magda Marilenev will try to offer her hand in marriage to use him to reclaim her rightful position. Since she is too old to have babies she will try to convince him he can get all the mistresses he wants and she can provide all kinds of luxuries and freedom for him. She will use all tricks in the book to win him over to her cause. [Giving Gavril wants legitimate heir it is the problem of her cause. making some mistress child hair is out of the question for her, since she doesn't want some other woman to inherit her estate, but if the "Three immortals" are with him maybe she can have a child?]
D) The Patriarch will do his utmost to prevent Gavril to fall into the wrong hands (or lap?!). He will advice him to not take a wife from an established noble families since if/when he is appointed he has no need. Instead find a sweet girl that can support him without bringing him to much trouble in everyday life. Why go into the boredom of backstabbing politics? Tranquility and quiet pleasures are best for wise thought. Let us clergy do the boring stuff for you.
E) Many Thyatians/Mixed families knows that they really can't offer any of their daughters in marriage officially, though some will try in secret to get control or the protection of the prophet if war starts and the Traladarans looks like winning.
Some girls will try to become his wife without the blessings of their parents, leading to numerous family problems when it's discovered.
The GM can actually introduce a local woman that actually loves him and has done so from a distance for some time but never had the nerve to confront him.
Maybe even a female PC can try to seduce him or Gavril might fall in love with a Female PC that doesn't want him?!