Pages

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Highway Diplomacy

Previous Session: Infernal Framing

Paving the Spider has his ear to the ground - he's trying to identify a high-society party which will give them an opportunity to steal something valuable. From their Ink Rake contacts (gossip columnists are the best!) they hear about a soiree at the Iruvian Consulate; a masquerade ball to welcome a new VIP who is arriving from U'Duasha imminently. There is an associated occult ceremony and the paraphernalia will be valuable.

The new consul must be bringing in personal effects as well as this paraphernalia, so instead of infiltrating the consulate, they hatch a plan to hijack the goods when they arrive from Iruvia. Salia, their friendly information broker can't find any details of a shipment arriving through her stevedore/docker contacts, and their rail research suggests that the consul is bringing personal luggage only.

Digging deeper, they discover that the Leviathan Hunter 'Hotspur' is making a direct delivery of some boxes and crates - using only the crew and not the stevedores who work the docks. They're understandably upset at this attack on their traditional rights and duties, and the leader, a brutally honest Ripley, complains that this is just typical of the Leviathan Hunters. They place themselves above the dockers and other working folk, even though their rates of death in service are no higher - they play the 'dangerous demon-hunting' card to gain privileges they don't deserve.

They will interrupt the wagon with the Ripley's stevedores blocking the street to the consulate, and then hijack it from under their noses. Ripley's people will only bring clubs so as not to prompt a bloodbath which might attract too much attention. The two allied groups will split the bounty.


Locust the Whisper has been working on his ritual: it enchants a person to look like someone else, anybody else - but different for everyone who sees them. It draws on the powerful imagination of children (using baby teeth as the focus) and leaves the target with strange blank and black eyes. In the back of Locust's mind, he fears that this leaves the target open to demonic possession, as those eyes remind him of how Vestine looked when Setarra possessed her
There are six crew members bringing the wagon to the consulate. The wagon is being hauled by two sturdy goats and inside there's an assortment of crates, barrels and boxes. On a narrow street with a long way between junctions, 14 or 15 stevedores step out to block them off. Insults and abuse are hurled from both sides, but the number is just enough to make a fight possible but not likely.

Paving throws a smoke grenade into the wagon from a window above (one he liberated from Hammer's stash). It lands in between the cargo and spews out a torrent of smoke, enveloping the whole thing, along with the couple of crew still aboard.

Shrike the Cutter sneaks out from behind and jumps up on the wagon to drive it away. She kicks the goats into action (something Paving, with his cabbie experience, was able to drill her in) and they start through the shoving mob ahead of her.
The stevedores have pulled the ship's crew slightly away from the path of the wagon and clearing the way for Shrike. A wary Leviathan Hunter jumps aboard as it passes to confront Shrike. Seeing their comrade in trouble, Paving jumps down from his window, landing heavily alongside to fight the sailor. He throws a vial of potion at his face, but the sailor dodges it with relative ease. A cutlass is thrust into him, but Paving's leather armour takes the brunt of the damage. They both fall off in the struggle.

Locust leaps down, landing on the rising sailor and knocking him out just as he goes to skewer Paving for good. The two grab each other, hobbling a little, to jump on the wagon as it reaches the end of the street. The grenade is still aboard though and they're leaving a trail of smoke behind marking their progress clearly.

There's a moment when the assembled Leviathan Hunters weigh up their chances, and instead of fighting or breaking through to follow the wagon, they withdraw to get reinforcements. This gives them all the chance to disperse, and the barge and gondola that the two groups have gathered are useful in moving everyone and the booty away quickly.

**

The wagon contains:

  • a couple of barrels of raw Leviathan blood - upon closer examination, it's a peculiar sort, maybe it's the first blood of a harvest
  • a crate of personal effects - clothes, books and papers
  • a small box of occult paraphernalia - including a statue of the demon Ixis
  • a strongbox - full of official documentation, and a bag of small Iruvian gold coins
  • a couple of boarding pikes (maybe taken by the sailors just in case)
Going through the loot, they payoff Ripley with the bag of gold (about 3 purses of silver worth), which seems fair - and rewards the two groups interests and abilities. 

One immediate outcome that becomes clear is that Dowler, their explorer friend, leaves their company. Apparently he was relying on the Iruvians for his next expedition, and he cleaves to them. 

*

They approach the consulate to get a payoff - they'll sell back his goods to him for a hefty price. Their rooks - the Dolvestri couple, deliver the offer. However Ludmilla returns after a half hour to relate that the consul has take Argent prisoner, with a demand that they meet immediately in person to arrange an exchange for the items. 

They meet on a train carriage in Gaddoc Station - security will help ensure that weapons and violence are minimised. A 1st class carriage is connected to a cold engine at a secluded platform. Paving and Shrike walk in.

Two professional looking bodyguards are on the door (they're armed with swords) and behind the consul are three Red Sashes, including Mel (who they 'crossed blades' with a while back). The consul sits in a comfortable arm chair, pouring tea for Argent behind him. 

He's a young man, sitting comfortable in expensive (if crumpled) travelling clothes. He is calm and authoritative - everyone else in the carriage heeds his direction carefully. The presence of those very same Red Sashes they encountered when muscling in on Sanaat's covert drop speaks to a really impressive knowledge of their affairs, or is very suspicious. Either way, it's a message to them.
He introduces himself as Avid Anixis and bids them to sit down, if indeed they have his property and wish to return it.

Paving responds politely, bringing out a hanger of clothes to show that they do. He also wonders if Argent can leave, as Anixis clearly meant to hold him only to bring about the face-to-face meeting. The consul nods, and gestures for Argent to leave, there's no dissenting glance from the Red Sashes or his bodyguards and as soon as Argent is out of the carriage, Paving sits down opposite Anixis. 

Paving smiles and tells the consul that he hasn't pawed his way through them - about 8 purses of silver should suffice for the trouble of delivering the goods to him intact. Anixis shakes his head, thinking that a much lower price was what he had in mind.

Paving's smile disappears and he insists that is the only price they'll accept - Anixis' composure doesn't break but his pleasant manner disappears. He nods and Shrike leaves to send the signal to bring the rest. When Paving suggests that they exchange some tales to pass the time, Anixis is cold - his appetite for stories is much diminished when he is not in amiable company. 

He warns Paving that there will be horribly painful deaths, or ever horribly painful lives, if any of his property is missing or if they cross him in future. Paving has heard it all before, and grins; thinking of an unoccupied shallow grave under the cobblestones that awaits this consul. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Infernal Framing

Previous Session: Dead Drop

Word reaches the crew that there is a demon-corrupted Spirit Warden in the city; and that an Inspector is see. Locust the Whisper knows of this, as the Inspector interviewed Quellyn recently; apparently the Spirit Warden is under Setarra's influence.

They catch up with Arden Jayan on his way to work one morning. Paving the Spider has borrowed a friend's cab to keep the approach away from prying eyes. Hammer the Leech pretends that he's off-duty (not to mention a little intimidating) until their preferred customer approaches and then leaps aboard to drive the Inspector towards Charterhall. Locust and Paving get in after Jayan does and get right to the point. They're here to talk to him about the Spirit Warden. They brush past his denial that he could possibly share information on an investigation with them; until Paving convinces him that they can help with the problem.

When they wonder how he actually knows that the Spirit Warden is corrupt, he is obviously reticent, but does relate a tale of how he was in a den of ill-repute one night when he spotted a young woman descend from the upstairs room - as she passed him he spotted dark veins throbbing in her hand and blackened eyes. He had some experience with these things and thought that this was a sure sign of demonic influence so he followed her and over the course of a few days work, found out that she worked as a Spirit Warden and that her real name was Vestine Strathmill.

They have a deal - if they help him put her away, he'll apply himself to reduce their profile with the Bluecoats.


So they set to work; and their plan is as ambitious as it's complex. They'll find out if there's any incriminating evidence in her house (and if not plant some); then they'll abduct a local figure of authority (one known to support the Spirit Wardens), and stage an escape from a nefarious ritual involving sacrifice to an obvious demonic presence.

Hammer goes on a brief scouting mission to survey the Spirit Warden's house and its surrounds. It's in the nicer end of the Docks, Near the canal and across from Crow's Foot and Charterhall. The windows are tinted, and unlike the rest of the neighbourhood's houses there is little decoration or ornamentation outside. An extended surveillance sees smoke coming out of the chimney just before 8 in the evening, in anticipation of Strathmill's return - a maid or housekeeper has been working during the day. The deeds and census show that it's been owned by the Strathmill family for some sixty years, but only the Vestine appears to live there permanently.

Locust is out buying menacing looking ritual accoutrements, including a goat skull and a couple of pig fetuses from a local butcher.
Paving identifies a local magistrate, Stavrul Dunvil - a conscientious hard worker who appears to be friendly enough when off-duty; (and importantly) who takes a cab to and from his chambers daily.
He's also acquired a couple of Spirit Warden costumes - at least they came at costume prices, but in reality they do appear to be genuine, if a little old.

****

Locust and Hammer breaking into Strathmill's house in the middle of the night. Locust initially sends in a ghost to scout out the house for him, but it's arm is destroyed as soon as it moves through the back wall and it escapes screaming silent fury at the Whisper. They enter the back door the old fashioned way and find their way upstairs to the Spirit Warden's bedroom where she is fast asleep.

Hammer takes out his blowgun and the dart, filled with black lotus, which will induce coma-like stupor and visions for the rest of the night. They carry her downstairs into the basement, a bare room of brick and cobwebs.

Tying her firmly to a chair, Locust considers the woman, and the connection she has to Setarra. She suddenly looks up at Locust, and smiles. Hammer is confused - no one can be that lucid with a dose of black lotus in them!
Vestine / Setarra
Her eyes are black and she has too many teeth in her mouth, and her voice has a timbre that chills
them all to the bone.
-So nice of you to come see me Uno, I was wondering how I would entice you to show yourself again
Then, with impossible strength, she breaks her bonds and kicks the chair back
Locust steps back, holding his prized demonbane charm out towards her, and that does see, to give her pause. In flies Shrike the Cutter who has been watching from the stairs. Shrike fists glow with that blue lightening but despite the damaging attack Vestine/Setarra grabs her arm and goes to take a big bite out of her shoulder. Shrike goes with the flow and is instead slammed into the brick wall.

Shrike's winded but her leather jacket takes most of the force out of it. They all notice dark water rise up out of the ground, quickly covering the floor and working its way up their feet. Panicking a little, Locust jumps on top of Vestine/Setarra with his demonbane charm tied around his fist. Hammer slams a dose of Spark into Locust and the energy cascades through Locust as he punches repeatedly to her head. The charm burns Vestine/Setarra and eventually she loses consciousness. Shrike whips out an enchanted chain to restrain her, and maybe stop Setarra from taking control again.

***

Paving drives the cab past the magistrate's house; a couple of blocks away from where Strathmill lives. Dunvil leaves at his usual time and calls them just on cue. Hammer sits quietly in the shadows of the cab, in the Spirit Warden garb they've acquired. As he readies the blowgun at point blank range, a neighbour leans in the window to speak with Dunvil, who's still standing on the step and yet to sit down.

The conversation goes on for a minute (about thoroughly mundane neighbourhood matters) and eventually Paving loses patience and ushers the goats into action, driving away. Dunvil stumbles into a seat, though not his usual one; he actually lands right next to Hammer. He opens with a 'Good Morning' and Dunvil is thoroughly confused and a little outraged with someone sneaking into his cab! With the range too close to use the blowgun Hammer draws a pistol and goes to knock him upside the head with the butt.

Maybe it's the close-range and the surprise, but Dunvil is able to defend himself with his briefcase. In the chaos the gun discharges into the air. So Hammer stabs him with the sedative dart from his blowgun instead and Dunvil collapses despite his valiant defence. Paving picks up speed and the Dunvil's briefcase falls out the window - the concerned neighbour calls for the Bluecoats and they're suddenly racing the clock!

**

Locust is setting up the ritual space as quickly as he can - he's including a torn page from an occult calendar suggesting why today was the best day for a sacrifice. His preparations will be uncovered by the housekeeper, who will arrive imminently; so Shrike is standing by the door to open it for the woman.

She's left all of her obvious gear aside, so as not to arouse more suspicion than necessary. Shrike pulls off her creepy girl act (a little too easily) though Alayne, the housekeeper, does complain that she must soak her lady's oats now so that they can be ready for later. Shrike flexes her fists, causing a brief static flicker to discharge, convincing Alayne to leave now. The woman scurries away, but it's now obvious that she is leaving to report this dubious girl and whatever untoward religious ceremony she's involved in to the authorities.


They set a watch, to ensure that they're not disturbed by bluecoats, and as soon as Paving and Hammer arrive, they unload Magistrate Dunvil and Paving drives off, to draw some of the heat away.

Waking up Dunvil to witness the climax of the 'ritual' with chanting and flagellation, Locust manipulates the electroplasmic energy to give off a (mostly) fake explosion which is noisy and impressive, which flings them all to the floor.

Dunvil's bindings have become loosened and the crew escape, leaving the still comatose Strathmill (now dressed in their spare Spirit Warden garb) behind. When the Bluecoats arrive they are sure that Dunvil will have the upper hand.


Paving, closely pursued by a patrol of Bluecoats, ditches the cab next to an alleyway near a market, and escapes on foot. He'll have to pay his cabbie friend to retrieve it from the pound later, but it's money well spent.

*

Their newly recruited band of Rooks (Ludmilla and Argent Dolvestri, a delightful married couple that got blackballed from Paving's favourite theatre because they are dedicated revolutionaries) did get picked up by the Bluecoats, but they pay off the watch sergeant to release them.

Paving has been busy digging and otherwise preparing graves - he's looking forward to putting some worthy soul inside them.

Shrike visits the Archive of Echoes, communing with a long-dead ancestor, who appears to have had a similar gift, and who also had a weapon capable of withstanding (and possibly channeling) the mystic energy.

Next Session: Highway Diplomacy

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Dead Drop

Previous session: Digging up Dirt 
Locust, the Whisper joins up with the crew. He's a young Skovlander who knows Paving because he's a scribe for Quellyn, a local witch. She lives aboard a decommissioned Leviathan Hunter waiting for final paperwork to be broken up. His burgeoning powers were useful to Quellyn in her attempt to summon and bind Setarra (an ancient demon) - but the attempt failed and now Setarra is seeking them out in order to free itself fully. 
In the few blocks of government buildings on the north end of Crow's Foot that passes for their hunting grounds they have identified a covert drop, run by an Iruvian named Sanaat (who works regularly with the Cyphers). They concoct a complex plan to bring the operation under their control. Posing as regular customers, they will leave an ensorcelled item into Sanaat's care so that they can identify the secret location used by him for his operations. In their investigation they discover that the front of the operation is a book store and cafe frequented by civil servants and what passes for well-to-do in Crow's Foot. The operation is also frequently used by the Iruvian Consulate, and is protected by the Red Sashes.

Shrike the Cutter stands uncomfortably in the formal blue dress alongside Hammer the Leech in a black suit. Hammer's friend Eckerd (a corpse thief) helped acquire both outfits. Sanaat spots them enter and obviously recognises them as customers for his secretive business. He invites them to a large bureau at the back of the shop and offers them tea. Paving the Spider has discerned that all the Iruvian requires is a reference from a trusted compatriot, so they have used 'Thena', who fortunately is out of the country at the moment, so Sanaat cannot confirm their credentials.


After some chit-chat, the tea arrives, and he holds out his hands for the item to be taken in. She explains that she needs the item to be held for a time until she can safely claim it back. He delicately wonders if it is thieves or creditors she fears; and while she does not confirm, he understands that it is creditors after her prized heirloom that she's holding out on. Hammer scoffs when he suggested she might be afraid of thieves taking him on. He examines the piece, a somewhat plain glass bracelet is made to seem valuable by being - inside an expensive lacquered wooden box, along with the trapped ghost inside which makes it glow an iridescent red. Sanaat's suspicions are belied and the box disappears below the desk, and he outlines the steps when she wishes to conclude their arrangements and retrieve the item. They leave, happy that their ruse was successful.

***

The ghost returns to Locust after midnight. It describes the short trip and the place it emerged from - out the back entrance of the bookshop and across the alleyway is a hookah and coffee shop, run by the Red Sashes. There's a bedsit on the top floor and then the box was placed inside a cubbyhole under the bed - there was some kind of spirit screen or protection that made the ghost's escape a little more difficult that it should've been.

Later on that night, Locust sits in the corner; partaking of his table's hookah and maybe enjoying it a bit too much. Paving walks in, scanning the place with his usual careful attention and ordering a coffee. Hammer and Shrike are making their way across the laneway from a building opposite via rope.

Hammer lands quietly on the window sill of bedsit, and takes out the carefully concealed burglar's toolkit from the thieves' rigging. Cutting through one of the window's pane's, he's ready to unlock from the inside when the curtains open right in front of him and a sleepy woman stares directly into his eye. Too startled to do anything for a moment, when she opens her mouth to scream, Hammer has had time to draw a syringe from a pocket and inject her with standstill - it's effective and the woman drops to the floor like a statue.

They climb in and Hammer goes directly under the bed. The joins on the cubby hole are so well done that if he didn't know what he was looking for, he'd have no chance of spotting it. He examines the setup, to make sure there are no alarms set, but apparently Sanaat relies on subterfuge to secure the goods. Unlocking the hatch, Hammer is caught off guard when a trap triggers and the box inside goes across the veil into the ghost field. It's gone and there's nothing he can do to touch it. Hammer has bigger worries though, as a trapped ghost lurches out at him, hungry and murderous...


Downstairs, Locust's attention is wrenched from the game going on to the sudden appearance of a ghost upstairs. The smoke billows in an unnatural fashion, and most others in the room just shiver for no particular reason. The Whisper knows exactly what's happened though. He jumps up and makes for the back stairs up to the bedsit.

Paving gets up, suddenly unsteady with alcohol or other drugs found in a vice den like this. He engages one of the two armed Red Sashes overseeing the room, claiming that he's a city health inspector and that there's a problem with the sewage in the basement. The young thug looks confused and a bit panicked by the official-looking documentation Paving pulls from an inside pocket. She tells him that he'll have to stay there, she's getting the manager, and she walks down the corridor to get someone who'll know what to do.

Paving quickly ushers Locust down that corridor and upstairs, staying behind to deal with the fallout.

**

With the ghost trying to force its way into Hammer and consume his soul, the Leech resists desperately, falling to the floor and struggling. His attempts to shut the ghost out cause him to lose consciousness and as the ghost tries for another way in, Shrike draws and strikes in one fluid motion. Electrostatic energy cascades from her hands and all the way up the sword and as the attack concludes, the blue lightning flickers through the entire ghost's being, destroying it in an instant and shattering the blade in two.

Locust surges into the room, just to see the electroplasmic energy disappear back into the Cutter's fists. He's angry at Shrike for the needless destruction of a ghost. Hammer sits up, with a vicious look in his eye, he turns on Locust who's standing above him with a snarl, but the Whisper doesn't waste time. Swiftly pulling down his spirit mask he tackles opening a portal into the ghost field where the sought-after box now lies. The bizarre harlequin's mask covers his entire face, even that which usually shows the actor's jaw and mouth. Deathly white, it makes even Shrike and Hammer shiver with some unknown existential dread.


Paving eyes up the rest of the room. The other Red Sash at the front door is looking at him warily, but he does spot another useful idiot. Una, a low-level magistrate from his department has just been knocked out of a game she was sure to win; and he reckons her desire for betterment and/or revenge will make her a willing accomplice. He beckons her over to him, and with a smile tells her that he and the owner have a bet that no one could lift the strong box behind the bar. She frowns and shakes her head - wondering if he knows Mel? When he blanks on the name, she walks past him and out the back door.

Moments later, an older Red Sash comes out from the rooms, with the younger one pointing at Paving from behind. The grizzled and wary man walks over, and wonders who the hell Paving is. Paving spins a tale that he's checking out security on the place for the Cyphers, and 'Mel' shakes his head. Staring Paving down, he tells the Spider to get lost, pointing at the front door. Paving certainly gets the message; if he's spotted in her by Mel again, there'll be trouble (but not if he sees Mel first!).


Locust applies his full power to extract the box from the ghost field, and with Shrike helping (not helping!) manages to force it out, even spilling it out onto the floor and bypassing the physical security. As he stands up, satisfied with himself, the door opens behind them all.

Sanaat walks in, looking hurried - though his worried look switched to panic as he first notices the woman on the floor, and then the three scoundrels arrayed inside the room. Locust draws a knife and leaps at the man; Shrike, wondering what the hell the Whisper is thinking, kicks out and Locust sprawls to his knees - the knife sliding across the floorboards to Sanaat's feet.

Hammer stands up off the bed, pulling out a grenade and yelling at Sanaat that if he moves he'll blow them all to smithereens! He lights the fuse for added effect. Shrike doesn't know what to make of this, and Sanaat isn't convinced, turning tail and running pell-mell down the stairs. Hammer drops the grenade, and is terribly confused by this turn of events.

Actually, Shrike just did a nerve strike to the Leech's elbow, forcing him to drop the grenade. She catches the grenade before it hits the floor and pulls out the flickering fuse without so much of a second thought.

Halfway down the stairs, Flint, a friend of Locust's (and spirit trafficker) waits. He shows Sanaat a pistol and waves the man back upstairs.

*

Back at their lair, Sanaat wakes up from his stupor and they pull the bag off his head. He's sitting, unrestrained in an overstuffed chair with tea and cake in front of him. There's a scratchy phonograph playing in the corner. Paving proposes a reasonable solution, considering that they'll all be better off if the Red Sashes remain ignorant of their arrangement - with Hammer tossing a grenade in the background, Sanaat is very convinced and will remain so.

The items in the box under the bed included a last will and testament from a rich merchant who died several months ago - however the details therein don't mesh well with what they recall from the aftermath. So they'll do a bit of research with their friends amongst the Ink Rakes, and find a good angle to make that blackmail pay off for them.


They also advance their project to extort Grace (Shrike's erstwhile friend) and they gather everything they'll need to leverage a nice bag of coin out of her. Shrike herself delivers the bad news, arriving at the Fitzroy pub (where her brother's gang usually hang out). Grace is surprised to see her, casually shifting in her seat so that the dagger under a cushion is within easy distance. Shrike shakes her head, telling the extortionist that if it was going to come to that, she'd already be bleeding out on the floor. After hesitantly telling Grace that she's going to pay them, Grace grins. She knows they've got her over a barrel, but laughs as she outlines how Shrike should be applying the pressure.

Shrike comes back later on with the documentation, and looks on as Grace reads carefully through it all. Grace marks out all of the names of interest (she's obviously thinking of revenge, or counter-extortion) and after each page is finished with, it ends up in the fire. She hands over several full purses of silver, and then a small bag of gold coinage - that last one has to be from her emergency/retirement fund.

Hammer also finds that the last will and testament pays well - they've all put in a load of work to find out that this is a true document, and that things were not distributed as the dead merchant wished - they force the de facto heir to pay up a substantial sum from his petty cash for them to keep quiet.

Next Session: Infernal Framing

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Digging up Dirt

A new crew of Shadows gathers in Crow's Foot. Their lair is in the blocked off basement underneath the district offices of the Dept. of Paving & Verges.

Curt Seldom aka 'Paving', the Spider, is an Akorosi clerk who has a back office job in the Paving and Verge Department. An underclerk, really, immune to notice. Age has crept over his youth, infiltrating his eyes and tightening his mouth. He's thin to the point of bleakness, fingers always stained with a bit of ink, so the quicks of his nails are gray.


Mara Penderyn, aka 'Shrike', the Cutter, is one of the two surviving children of the Penderyn family, Mara and her older brother Adric were adopted by a long-time friend of the family, Dr Morlan Erdrad. An occult scholar, Dr Erdrad noted the children's innate sorcerous potential, and took them under his wing as apprentices.


Ring Helles, aka 'Hammer', the Leech is a Tycherosi construction worker. His demon blood is apparent from the bone spurs growing out of her skull instead of hair. He knows Paving from work, and the Spider was keen to bring in the gifted saboteur in.

**

Paving is feeling some heat from Jeren, the Bluecoat archivist who has been a thorn in his side for a while now. He's hatched a plan to direct some trouble Jeren's way, whilst compiling a blackmail file on Grace, the extortionist who is Shrike's enemy. They're going to hijack a wagon of casework which is being transported from the Bluecoat station to the courthouse.


They've gotten a worn Bluecoat uniform from Laroze, their favourite friend-in-common. Hammer turns up as the wagon is loading up, and jumps up beside the driver without too much comment. Bluecoats are always hitching a ride on these trips to the courthouse. Just as they lurch into motion another person leaps up, this time finding purchase on the rear step. Hammer can't tell who it is, and the other won't know anything about this unexpected twist when they plan triggers.

Earlier that day, near the main crossing into Charterhall, they arranged an accident to occur on demand. Hammer greased the axles of a delivery wagon and tampered with the brakes. A simple push from a child would set it careening down the street. And that's exactly what it does. Shrike leans against the wagon, and it begins its roll just as the Bluecoats round the corner. It hits a sabotaged cobble, catching the wheel, causing the wagon to flip. That blocks the way across the bridge, sending cabbages flying.

Alya. the driver of the Bluecoat wagon pulls it to a halt. She looks one way, and then the other; trying to figure out what the best way to go is. Hammer points down the narrow laneway to the left, saying that it'll take them to Charterhall the quickest.
From the rear step, a confident voice rings out to countermand his direction. It's Danvers, a junior lieutenant from the station house. He reckons that the underpass at the hollow of that alleyway is too low to let them pass. He points the other way, the safe way...

From a window above them, Paving opens his lantern, signalling to Salia, his favourite broker of secrets. Salia has a connection with the canal dockers and has drummed up a demonstration for rights to match the unionised dockers who work the Leviathan Hunter fleet. A couple of dozen of chanting dockers, with signs and cudgels comes up the road, and Danvers decides discretion is the better part of valour, gesturing for Alya to take Hammer's route. She has to jump down to haul the goats away from their surprise feast of cabbages but they get moving fast enough.

The alleyway is narrow and the cobbles are grimy and slippy. As they work through the detritus of crates and pallets, Hammer offers the rest of them a cigarette, from his special box. It only has a few cigarettes inside, but with a special spring that gives him a particular one on demand. The rest are laced with Skullfire poison (which'll give anyone a blinding and debilitating headache for a while). Rosser locked in the back refuses the offer - the barristers will have his hide if he puts a flame anywhere near the dusty papers. Alya and Danvers take it and within a minute they're both out of action (Hammer makes sure Alya doesn't fall off the wagon and break her neck).

Hammer drives the wagon down to the bottom and past the underpass which forces him to duck. Rosser inside notices the body of Danvers left behind them and starts to raise a fuss. Hammer closes the viewport and ignores him. When the shouting turns quiet, and he hears a pistol being readies, he pulls out his ace. He chucks a smoke grenade in (thankfully not one that'll burn anything) and the cases cracks, thwarting Rosser's efforts to throw it out.

Rosser opens the door with his pistol in hand, though he's pretty much defenceless with the smoke in his eyes and lungs, and Shrike comes up alongside him unseen, smacking him with a nightstick (Danvers' silver inlaid one) and knocking him out cold.

They turn the wagon left and away from Charterhall and into an empty warehouse where they load up a boat (piloted by Jenna, a servant who's friendly with Paving) with all the documentation and some moderately valuable evidence which'll give them some petty cash for their trouble.

Just before they escape, Paving pays a few witnesses to mention Jeren when questioned by the Bluecoats. That'll cause the archivist some headaches and maybe a sleepless night or two!

*

Salia is brought in for questioning by the Bluecoats; do they suspect that he's involved in the hijacking, or are they just applying pressure on his union activities? Paving pays off a Bluecoast to let Salia out quickly enough. It's worth it to let people know that they take care of their own.

They also work on getting paid on their new haul of documents. Some small-time blackmail and extortion requires a lot of reading and they make some hard cash from that. Their bigger project requires more work, Grace's weakness will need some finesse to leverage.

Next session: Dead Drop

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Belly of the Beast

Previous Session: Bloody Handed

Wire the Chopper comes to Dusk the Skinner & Kim the Savvyhead pitching a deal for her to take Purity over. Pierre has gone mad (apparently), pushing up prices and running the whole operation into the ground. That poses a real threat to life in the Valley, and no one can afford to stand idly by.

TumTum & company are busy with the clean-up of the bar. Mopping up blood and carting bodies out is grisly work. They notice a dead but unwounded Partridge - she has a huge bloody wart on her back. And then out bursts a silvery centipede; there's panic in the bar and Kim captures it in a bucket.

She does a hasty autopsy on Partridge, discovering that the lurgy has another stage - it incubates the physical manifestation of the weirdness inside the host, to emerge once the host is dead.


Well, they need to do a delivery to Purity for the Valley's water-purification requirements, so they're going to have to deal with it one way or the other...

Before all that, if you recall, Fox the Operator has been missing for ages.
She was dragged away from Brother's bedside by Johnson's people while he was unconscious. She gets treated to the same ass-kicking as Wire got. But this time, they know they've got the right person in revenge for Mad Bill's injuries. So she gets it much worse than the Chopper did.
After a round of beatings, they brings in the tools. Hammers, pliers and needle files. Amongst the lowlights, they cut off a couple of her fingers, and sew her eyelids and mouth shut. After what seems like months, the door is opened by strangers (or at least what passes for strangers after weeks of intimate agony). An voice from her past tells her that Mr. Lopez has been looking for her for ages, and they're getting her out of there.
On the road to Purity, the convoy comes across D & Martinez carrying a barely recognisable Fox to their car. Kim takes her to her van and removes the stitches, taking away the worst of the pain with her healing touch. The sunlight appears to do wonders for her. Dusk is aghast at the state of Fox, and feels guilty (should she have guessed Johnson would go after her?) D relates that they've been hunting for her for some time now, and had to kill a few of the hacienda's people to get her out.

When Kim wonders about her solar panels, they shrug. She'll swing by later and pick them up. When Dusk gathers that D & Martinez intend to bring Fox straight back to Lopez, she asks if they could go back in and get the solar panels - maybe head up to Purity with them and then they can all go back to Lopez together? They're ok with that, and come back an hour later, with fresh cordite coming off the barrels of their weapons.

**

With Kim stopping for her usual repairs for the hill marauders, the other push on to Purity. When they get there the place is quiet and deathly quiet. There's no response on the radio, and Dusk suggests that they wait a while; someone must be up there. Wire takes some of her crew inside, infiltrating the dark pipes at the base of the cliff. The gungy mess in there is an assault on their senses, but this is their best way inside.


Back outside, suddenly the quiet is shattered by screeching and clanking as the bus descends - but there doesn't appear to be anyone inside. Kim is overwhelmed by a sense that everything is hunky dory and rushes to get in the bus when it reaches the bottom - dumping her phazer into her van before she locks up.

Fox is in for some ass-kicking, at least for not sticking around and waiting to see what happens. She draws her 9mm and joins Kim in the bus. Dusk obviously feels like this is crazy - whatever's inside Purity is going to try to kill them, one way or the other! But she grabs a pump-action from Navarre's buggy and climbs in as well.

Kim is scanning the place as they ascend, she can't spot anything living, but it looks like there's something blocking her scan of the insides somehow. At the top of the ascent, they can spot a couple of blackened corpses on the gantry connecting the bus to the main entrance. Just behind the controls lies an almost dead Ulla - there are lumps on her body (though they're not quite 'ripe' yet). She groans to Kim as the Savvyhead examines her
-All gone to shit. It spread too fast

Dusk eyes up the darkness within Purity, and calls to Pierre, but there's no connection. Anything she felt the last time is just flapping lifelessly in the maelstrom.


Below, deep below, Wire is going deeper and deeper inside the bowels of Purity. She's nervous, but Gritch is sure they entered through the right pipe. The slope on the pipe is going down, and not upwards and even Gritch's optimism starts to decline after a while. But then, they reach a hatch high up in the ceiling - they have to wrench hard to open the wheel (it makes quite a racket). There's a ladder inside the tight shaft leading upwards, and they all get onto it. They take care not to put too much weight on any section of the ladder; it's a little old and rusty.

*

Wire reaches the top of the climb, and in the dark room, lit only by the torch strapped to her head, she spots her (long dead) parents. She freaks out and loses her grip on the ladder, smashing into Gritch behind her and causing mayhem below.


Entering Purity, the noise of the maelstrom has faded, only noticeable in its absence. The loss of connection is freaking Dusk out a little - it remind her of the feeling she had crossing the wastelands on her long trip to Lopez years ago.

There are lots of shadows flitting out of sight, and they are wrong turns aplenty. Kim sees her dead brother, terribly wounded beckoning to her. There's a cave in the other way, with an open access panel inviting them in. Graffiti above promises "As Above, So Below". Dusk is not going in there for love nor jingle and Fox stays with her. Kim goes down, and in the deep sand below she finds the feet sticking out.

She meets up with Wire & crew. With extra lights, they see blood spray and demented graffiti on the walls. Behind a closed door, Kim finds a handful of people chanting in a circle around Pierre; they wear dirty robes and she spies a dread portal behind them.

Wire kicks in the door and opens fire on the assembled cult. Kim directs her brain's aggression on Pierre to stop him from chanting and with a frightening look on his face, Pierre's stomach explodes, his guts writhing on the ground. Kim is grabbed back by Wire, and the Chopper chucks a WP grenade inside closing the door just in time for it to be crumpled by the terrible explosion which drowns the sounds of the screaming.


The way out to the bus is elusive and then they spot wires leading to explosive along the top corners of the corridors.