Pages

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Last Fare

Previous Session: Keep your Friends Close

The Noose are joined by an ally of theirs from the war.

Sethla "Stone" Dalmore (a Hound) is a mercenary from the Dagger Isles who fought on the Skovlan side during the Unity War. She's an experience Deathlands Scavenger, where her experience from the Dagger Isles - lands where there are no lightning barriers, was of great use. On her throat is a tattoo from her rite-of-passage there - it is imbued with power and acts as a spiritbane charm.
Her trained hunting pet is "Ghost", a grey fox - it's from the Deathlands, and its colour is a washed-out grey, like a negative.
The woman has a pale, freckled face., with dark, empty eyes and tied-back, dark hair.
Her vice is hard drinking (usually topped up from a hip flask she keeps with her) with a side of whatever other pleasure is going at the establishment she finds.
She is a Survivor, from hard won experience she is immune to the poisonous miasma of the deathlands and is able to subsist on the strange flora and fauna there.

Near the end of the war, Veleris, who fought on their side revealed himself as a spy for the Empire. She was betrayed and almost died. The thirst for vengeance is what brough her to Duskwall, when she heard that Veleris had resurfaced as part of the Wraiths.

Melvir (a physicker) rescued Stone's body from her grave and helped her recover. It's really a miracle that she's still alive today. It's likely that Veleris thinks she's dead...


They bring Mags back to the Skovlan neighbourhood where Shiv lives in Charhollow. They meet her at the door into the mean and overcrowded tenement building, and her tired face lights up with relief and joy. She calls out for a friend who's a doctor and Mags is brought into a room to have her wound tended to.

Shiv brings them upstairs to her room and puts the kettle on for a cup of tea. Wicker the Whisper carefully examines the room for signs of how attached Shiv is to their shared Skovlan culture. There are no signs of wealth here, everything indicates that life in these tenements continues at subsistence level.
The kettle is of Skovlan design, but obviously has been made locally (whether by an Akorosi crafter who knew the design, or dictated to by someone familiar),  there's some unfinished knitting in a chair by the window (local wool, but Skovlan patterns) which will be handy for keeping out the cold and damp of the Duskwall nights. The handles on the sideboard don't match the actual furniture; it's an cheap knock-off of an Iruvian design, but the brass handles are all from a set with traditional Lockport interlacing.

Stone notices a shotgun in the corner by the fireplace - it's a well-used and maintained piece, probably something that was used in anger during the Unity War.

Crow the Slide has a bag of bread that he got from the bakery before coming over, and they share it with their tea. Stone adds in a drop of whiskey.
-Your name carries a lot of weight in the community; how do you intend to use it?
Her gaze narrows; she understands the subtext of the question
-Our people here would be starving and freezing to death if we didn't work to make their lives better.
Crow's fanaticism comes through a little
-Surviving isn't enough, we need our pride
-Pride is no use when you've no wood in the stove.

They ask her what she thinks of the Consulate's role in her work, and she admits that she had thought that they were helping, by arranging work details and visas for refugees to come across the river into the city proper. But now, after what Lomond did to Mags she isn't so sure.
Lomond came and took Mags last night, with armed warriors who brooked no resistance. She tells them that her  brother died in prison under his command.
Crow wonders what she intends to do about it, and she leans forward, reaching under the table to tap what must be a long knife strapped there - the distinctive metal sound is so familiar to them all - that's one Skovlan tradition which dies hard.
-I'm going to find that little weasel Lomond and gut him
Crows counsels her against such a rash course of action, and assured her that they'll take care of him and give her a front row seat when justice is served.

Shiv, a leader of the Skovlan Refugees
Wicker wonders what she did back in the old country and if Crow's question was subtle about what her credentials are, this is anything but. She grins as if she knows that her answer will surprise them.
-I bought and sold goats. I was the best goddamned auctioneer in the Blackvale.
Wicker is taken aback, and asks what the most unusual or famous thing she auctioned off was?
She turns to look out the window, and proffers her cup to Stone to give her a wee dram of the good stuff. Stone fills her up, and she takes a long sip.
She tells of a night when a small company of Skannon's army arrived at her sheds. They had a captured Imperial officer with them, and after they had gotten all of the intelligence out of him, there was a disagreement over what to do with him.
She auctioned off the rights to him, mostly to cut his bollocks off right there on the table he was lying on. She got the price up to 3 shillings and 2 pence. Impressive total really, but suppose soldiers don't usually have much to spend their coin on.

In the midst of the story, Crow takes out a fine bottle of whiskey he's been saving for a special occasion - guess they're in for a long night of it. It comes out naturally, but they realise that she's Ulf Ironborn's sister - they're not sure if that's trouble or opportunity, as the up and coming violent criminal is definitely wreaking some havoc in Coalridge.

They go back to the original topic, and ask why Lomond thought she knew where Skannon is? She downs the rest of her drink and replies, calm as you like
-Cause I know.
Crow pushes to find out where he is, but she scowls and asks them why she should trust them with that information. They're a little insulted - didn't they just establish good credentials by saving Mags? But she's keeping her hand close to her chest and Crow just asks her to pass along a message from him since he worked with Skannon before.

In the morning, Mags is up and around again, and Wicker tries to gain some insight into their relationship by asking Shiv how they met. Shiv and Mags engage in a bit of good-natured (and obviously well-worn banter) where Shiv insists that Mags is the romantic and should tell the story (because Shiv always gets it wrong!).
Well, in comes this goat-herd with the mangiest buck she ever laid eyes on. Asking a ridiculous price; not fit for stew, a rough blanket, or even making glue out of his hooves. The only thing worth a damn was the fine set of horns (funny you should mention that!) - but she says that he'll sire the finest herd of goats anyone on the whole island has ever seen.
So, what the hell, she was cute (damn right!) so she paid half a crown for him; and that was that.

***

Stone the Hound is keen to target the Wraiths, but despite her desire to keep away from a Spirit Well she accepts a quid pro quo from the Noose - they'll help her fulfil her path to vengeance once they've prevented the Gondoliers from closing the Spirit Well on behalf of the Reconciler.

The Spirit Well is located in an underground canal near the Strangford estate in Charhollow. They have the maps and keys to get to it without attracting any attention, and Wicker the Whisper heads down there to attune to the ghost field and find out what kind of activity is going on there that might have attracted the attention of the Gondoliers.

He spreads out his lightning hook, stretching out the wire so that it forms a tripwire around the Spirit Well, and dons his spirit mask - it's made of leather and wood, in a flexible fashion with two sides - the outside is used when looking into the living world, the inside is meant for just the spirit world. It's a weird design by Akorosi standards, but all Skovlanders would recognise it instantly.

It's obviously not a very busy conduit into the spirit world outside the lightning barriers, but after a couple of hours something starts to come through. Wicker is aware of it before it comes through and rather than entrap it, he allows it to clamber unsteadily through the well before he makes his presence known. That process is like a birthing - the viscous spirit stuff sloughs off the body in an odd fashion. It looks human, but with a suit and mask which obscures its features. Perhaps recognising that Wicker is not posing an immediate threat, it raises the mask to the top of her head. It's a Akorosi woman, and when they introduce themselves, she gives her name as Moriya. (Flint can vouch for her, they're known to each other, at least due to professional courtesy).

First off, Wicker wonders what she was doing out there. She gestures to the heavy bandoleer across her body. She explains that she has brought back the ghosts of some lost sailors, along with a slew of demon eggs. She knows the family of one of the sailors and is sure that they'll put her in contact with the others if they came from the same ship. There are always buyers for demon spawn, usually to power rituals or potions.

He presses her on what kind of unusual activity she's seen her lately, and she's nervous, as if she fears that someone might target her because of what she could say. She describes how the Circle of Flame brings targets of their extortion here and pushes them into the Spirit Well; unprepared and untrained as they must be, when they are brought back they are prepared to do anything for the Circle to ensure that they are never exposed in that way again. She's see a household servant and a Bluecoat getting that treatment, but isn't sure of any other details.

The Noose aren't quite sure what they think of this - as horrible as it sounds, harm coming to noble houses or other aspects of the Imperial fist doesn't bother them too much.

Stone relates to Wicker how they close Spirit Wells in the Dagger Isles, though she can barely remember all the details from her childhood. It takes a major ritual effort from multiple whispers over a short period of time (no more than a couple of hours) - so that will surely make it easier for them to hamper the Gondoliers' effort to close it.

Crow the Slide takes out their gondola to gather intelligence on their target organisation. He rows up to a kiosk in Silkshore and saunters inside to grab a cup of coffee and a biscuit. He brought Nyryx with him (she's a friend and a frequent customer of the gondoliers here so she helps establish his cover).

Over a lunch break, he discovers that Griggs is the name of the Gondoliers' chief whisper, and he has three assistants. He was last seen at the kiosk in between Charterhall and Crow's Foot, but in any case he'll be at the weekly meeting tomorrow night. (The Noose didn't even know the Gondoliers had a regular meeting!)

**

After the Gondoliers meeting, Crow rows his gondola up to the hall where most of them have already departed. At this stage, it's mostly the senior gondoliers who still remain behind. They're going to fool Griggs into getting aboard their gondola instead of his usual ride (Goldie, who's currently busy with Nyryx).

Griggs is standing at the back door speaking to a few people, and Crow has mistimed his approach - two other gondoliers who he doesn't recognise jump into his boat. He protests that he's waiting for Griggs, but they point back at him and say that he can get the next boat
-you know the rank rules, first customer, first boat
But the Slide sticks to his guns and tells them it's a prearranged fare with Griggs.
They jump back out, cursing him light-heartedly and wait for the next gondola to pull up. But as they sit into their gondola Crow hears them wonder if the boat is Ball's - the one that went missing a while back...

Griggs, chief whisper of the Gondoliers
Griggs gets in, and he's much younger than expected. After Crow pushes off, the gondolier notices that it's not Goldie and wonders why. Crow tells him that Goldie was delayed and will be waiting for them, but he's not so adept a gondolier as to keep a complicated conversation going whilst rowing through the canals, and this raises Griggs' suspicions. Asked why he doesn't recognise Crow, the Slide tells him that he only joined a couple of weeks ago, and has been learning the ropes with Goldie.


Wicker the Whisper notices that Crow's under pressure and if his cover is blown now, the whole operation will fall apart. Wicker compels a ghost to rise out of the canal in an attempt to distract Griggs (or better yet, to consume him right there and then!)
A long-dead and troublesome ghost 'Vond' rises up out of the waters - it's unusual that a ghost would be active on canals this well-travelled by the Gondoliers, but Vond was a gondolier himself in life, and has long been a thorn in Griggs' side. A ghostly oar breaks the waters first and Crow is taken aback with the skeletal hand grabs onto the side of his boat. Since the boat hasn't been an official gondola for a while, the warding has lapsed and doesn't have its usual protections.

Vond is obviously coming for Griggs and the whisper jumps to his feet very quickly. He draws his lightning hook out from his coat and brings it to bear on the advancing ghost. His hook is a bone whip, and as it unfurls to show the fine wire connecting the bony vertebrae - it cuts through the ghosts hand and Crow nearly drops his oar in fright as it comes within inches of his head.
The next swipe of the hook cuts the ghost in two, from shoulder to hip and the electroplasm dissipates over the sides of the boat as the controlling spirit is destroyed. Griggs is standing in the middle of the gondola triumphantly.


In a high tower overlooking them at the end of the canal, Stone the Hound is set up. Her long rifle's sight has Griggs in its crosshairs. She has a custom electroplasmic round in the chamber - best destroy the whisper's ghost as well. Crow knows where to look and see the glint of the sight behind Griggs' shoulder and drops to the deck. Whether it's his sudden movement, or some other instinct that causes Griggs to shift his stance, the round misses and hits the water behind the gondola soundlessly.

By the time Stone has fished out another electroplasmic round to reload, the gondola has rounded a corner and is out of sight. On the upside, Griggs has dropped his interrogational tone of Crow and has turned his back to side down and he's scribbling away in a notebook.


Stone picks up her rifle and runs as quick as she can. The original sniper's perch she'd identified is still open and with a bit of rooftop running she can make it in time to take the shot. Crow rows slowly down the long canal heading into Six Towers. Stone stumbles descending the last rooftop, twisting her ankle, but she lays down on the kerb of the roof and steadies her breathing. She has an view of his chest, coat opened from when the lightning hook was drawn and she calmly squeezes the trigger.
The round goes straight through his forehead, killing him instantly. The electroplasmic charge stays inside, and his ghost is drawn up into his skull and implodes in a spiritually devastating attack. We'll never see his ghost again.

*

They dump his weighed down body (the weights and chains were hidden under the tarpaulin forward in the gondola; after having filched all his whisper ritualist equipment (they can be sold on for some profit via Flint.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Keep your Friends Close

Previous Session: The Noose

The Noose target the Skovlan Consulate - they want to find out what plans and schemes the Consul and her staff are up to. They're going to infiltrate the house with a disguise and deceive the guards to giving them the run of the place so they can fact find.

Tick-Tock the Leech prowls the neighbourhood, checking out the perimeter security and the ways in and out. He notices that the two guards out front pulls four hour shifts. They linger in between the door and the front gate. They are casual enough with visitors (so long as the weapons aren't too obvious) and just have a brief chat before showing them inside. About halfway through their shift they get cups of tea delivered to them from inside.
Out back there's a cobbled yard with a strong gate that opens onto an alleyway. A guard shows up there every so often, but usually just when the gate is in use, or when they're expecting a delivery.
There is a skylight in the rooftop, which could be used in an emergency - it'd be easy enough to use to get into either house next door (a solicitors on one side and a private residence on the other).

Crow the Slide meets with Adelaide Phraoig, their friend in the Consulate, who can give them some pointers for what files they should be looking for. They meet up in Slane's fishmonger, and sit down to a supper of smoked fish. He's struck by her sense of nostalgia at the smell and feel of the place, she relates how the smokey flavour reminds her of her home back in Blackvale.
Crow's so enraptured by this new side of the usually reserved Adelaide that he misses a member of the Wraiths at the counter behind them - he's picking up a packet of smoked kippers, but notices Crow and smiles to himself - they have a way of getting to the Noose now...
She tells him of his old mentor, Skannon, the most famous of Skovlan commanders during the war. Brynna Skyrkallan, the Consul, is seeking him out - and Shiv, one of the local leaders of the refugee community is said to have knowledge of his whereabouts.

Skannon was taken prisoner by the Imperial army late on in the war, right before the assassination of Queen Alayne  and collapse of Skovlan resistance. Many believe that he died as a prisoner of war, or still rots in some Imperial prison, but Crow knows that he is free - in fact freeing Skannon was the Noose's first job together.
Adelaide doesn't know what Skyrkallan wants with the heroic commander. She fears that this is a prelude to handing him over to the Empire, but doesn't really know the Consul's mind on this issue.
She give Crow a good idea of who they could disguise themselves as to infiltrate the Consulate - one of the Unseen, the captain of a Leviathan Hunter only known as the Chariot is seen frequently there meeting with the Consul, sometimes without an appointment. She reckons that the Consul has other business in a few days time, so they could use that opportunity to sneak in. Anyone who doesn't know the Chariot well would mistaken Crow for him.


Crow is dressed in a worn naval uniform, with a cane, tricorn, jeweled ring and pocket watch to round out the ensemble. He strikes people as an experienced, if dapper, captain. Wicker the Whisper is with him, his regular clothes with a few additions paint the picture of a down-to-earth if flustered assistant. Tick-Tock circles the neighbourhood, scouting for unforeseen trouble, watching for an opportunity or just to arrive in the nick of time to pull their asses out of the fire.

Crow and Wicker are speaking to the guards, blagging their way in seems to be easy enough - they're casual at best; maybe good in a fight, but not great at the vetting part of their job. One indicates that they should just sign in with the clerk who's inside.
A professional-looking woman comes out with a couple of mugs of hot tea for them - it's definitely earlier than they expected - it would seem that she's got a lot on her plate, with the Consul's busy schedule and thought they wouldn't mind their tea a bit early today. She does glance at Crow, and he reckons that she knows something's not right, but can't quite put her finger on it.

As they step inside, one of the two guards, an older guy, follows them inside. Apparently he likes his tea with a bit of honey so he's heading up to the kitchen to sweeten it to his taste. He's heading in the same direction, and as they hesitate at the bottom of the stairs he points in towards the front room, where Jor, a clerk is sitting behind a desk. The young man, is rifling through correspondence, obviously very busy, but gives them his (divided) attention. He can't find any details of their appointment, but knows the Consul is always ready to meet with the Chariot, and assures them that he'll let her know that they've arrived. (They're pretty sure that he'll forget and remember in about half an hour).


Out back, Tick-Tock spots a wagon approach the back gates of the consulate. He slithers underneath it as it slows to a stop. Grabbing the underside of it just as the gates are opened and it trundles inside. It halts just inside the gate, and Tick-Tock realises something just in time. It's one of the new prison wagons, as the cage inside is unlocked, the metal latches he's holding onto are released...but he's already secured them in place and instead of dropping to the hard cobbles, he just bides his time.

Tick-Tock recently did some work for Ironhook to redesign the security of their prisoner transports, so he recognised the mechanism as soon as he rolled underneath. He watches as a lone prisoner is hauled out of the wagon by two guards. The woman's bare feet aren't bloody or particularly dirty, so it would seem that she's been deprived of her shoes only recently.

**

Up one flight of stairs, Crow and Wicker allow the guard to go ahead into the kitchen as they stop on the landing; the adjoining records and waiting rooms are where their attention is for now. Wicker begins to reach out to attune to any ghost who might be lurking in the archives; but then they hear some noises from inside the room.
Crow remembers how he knows the woman who brought tea to the guards outside now. That's Emeline, sister to their friend who runs the bakery which conceals their lair. She's an assistant to the Consul, and from conversations he's overheard she's conscientious and a little conflicted about the consulate's mission - she knows it will improve the life of her compatriots, but at what cost to their freedom and identity. 
Emeline Tyrconnel, assistant to the Consul
She steps out, holding a dossier of files. Crow and Wicker cover their awkward placement just outside the door by acting up their self-importance and befuddlement respectively. This eases Emeline's suspicion and she directs them to the waiting room across the hall. She also mentions that while the Chariot didn't have an appointment for today, she'll make sure the Consul is free to see them very shortly.

Wicker's desperate incompetence is clear to her, and she finds this kind of thing infuriating - that masks Crow's quick-witted blocking of the lock so that as soon as she climbs the stairs to the Consul's office, they can creep inside the records room. Crow stays outside to keep watch, and Wicker searches for the records that'll bring them up to speed on the whereabouts of Skannon. The filing system is really well organised, and files appear to be cross-referenced and duplicated - it'll make the right dossier easy to find, but unfortunately, Emeline will be aware that something's missing very quickly.


Outside, Tick-Tock rolls out from under the wagon, following the two guards and their prisoner approach the back of the house. He's spotted by the driver though, and Tick-Tock just points at the bomb he left underneath it and tells the driver that he should check it out. That does stop the driver from yelling out to get the guards' attention, but unfortunately Tick-Tock's timer is off and the bomb explodes at that instant!

He hears the whine of the timer a moment before it triggers and turns and runs towards the house - he's catapulted forward by the blast, but regains his feet easily. The two guards aren't so lucky though; one smashes his nose against a step, and the other is blinded by the blast when she turns around.


Inside the records room, Wicker is getting the right dossier out of a cabinet by the window which overlooks the yard; he spots Tick-Tock running and steps aside just as the blast wave hits the window and showers the room with shard of glass.

Outside the records room, Crow is speaking to the guard supping his cup of tea. Crow made a casual throw away comment as he passed to go downstairs, and instead of nodding and replying (like usually happens) the guard took this as an invitation to get into an in-depth discussion on the dog racing (which Crow likes, but obviously not as much as this guy!)

The guard drops his cup and runs to the kitchen - there's a window there that'll give him a good view of what's going on out back. Wicker slips out of the room and he and Crow walk back out the front door - the obvious chaos is a good excuse to leave without any questions. They exchange a quick update; Wicker took another dossier which may prove profitable or generally useful to the Noose. Crow pats his coat - he cut out a fine painting which was hanging in the waiting room!


Tick-Tock grabs the prisoner and leads her to the back gate. The guard who opened it for the wagon is leaning against it, still groggy and yet to recover from the blast. The wagon is in bits; only the iron superstructure appears to have survived, and the cage was catapulted into next door's yard.

Tick-Tock shoots out the lock of the gate at a run, and that appears to have been the only thing holding the gate upright. It collapses and they leap over it. The guard comes to his senses and takes aim with a brace of pistols as they escape down the laneway. His first shot hits the prisoner's leg and the second shatters Tick-Tock's elbow. Nevertheless they disappear into a side street and back to the lair.

*

The prisoner, now recovering from her wound, is named Mags, and she is married to Shiv, a community organiser amongst the refugees - it appears that Lomond was bringing her in to apply pressure in order to find out the whereabouts of Skannon.

Wicker goes out with Flint to celebrate their victory, picking out a new set of cufflinks to go with his outfit. However he's a little over exuberant in describing the operation and someone in a changing room overhears - while the Noose were under a lot of heat due to the explosion and death of the drive, now the Bluecoats have their eye on the crew.

Tick-Tock picks up a few trinkets with Eckerd (a blood dealer), who finds a marvellous mechanical leech which might be useful in future. Otherwise he concentrates on healing his elbow with the help of some fantastic ointments supplied by Stazia (his apothecary friend).

At their lair, they learn more from the dossier - it would appear that Lomond, chief adviser to the Consul and veteran of the war could be the main enemy of Skannon at the consulate. While the Consul herself views Skannon as a lynchpin in attempting to align the refugees with her cause, Lomond liaises with the Governor General and is aware of the plaudits that would come with the capture of such an infamous enemy leader.

Crow starts researching Lomond, if he's the quisling inside the consulate then they must tackle him first. He was the commander of a garrison captured early in the war, and at the time was a fierce rival of Skannon's. In his view it was only chance which led to Skannon gaining fame in the defence of their country and not him. It's rumoured that Lomond goes missing every so often, but no one knows what he gets up to.

Next Session: The Last Fare

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Conspiracy of Ravens

Almost a year has passed since King Finndo came to power in Amber. He and his brother Osric, long-thought dead in exile by their father Oberon, brought a huge army to wrest the crown away from Random. A climatic battle was fought at the foot of Mount Kolvir which left millions dead and eventually on the twisting stairs rising up the cliff face to the castle, Random was captured alive by Finndo.

A couple of Amberites were killed in that war, most notably Deirdre and Caine, and the rest fell into line - though some have left Amber. Random was known to have been alive until recently (being paraded from time to time) but last month, he was declared to have died by his own hand in a dungeon cell.

Stavros, a scion of Gerard (or so he believes) was raised outside of Amber. During the war, he diverted the enemy's forces away from Amber on behalf of Random. He can manipulate the Pattern, but is also suspected of being a Shapeshifter.


Devon, not believed to be a direct line of any of the princes of Amber, has always lived in the city. Beatrice (once Queen Consort of Oberon) has always looked out for him, as well as used him as a knight (more useful than a pawn certainly) in her courtly intrigues. He led a significant army to the final battle of the war, but arrived too late to make a difference - exactly as those who are brave enough to gossip about Beatrice and Devon would suggest they planned!

He is a slight man, of average height, with dark brown hair and eyes. A little funny looking, and wears all black (though not with any fashionable sense or cool undertones). His cloak and brace of darts are notable accessories, and a black mynah bird which does his bidding is a very capable asset.


Thomas, with Amber blood though of unknown provenance is another ally of Random's from the war. He scouted Finndo's advance, covering the Vale of Garnath, cooperating with Julian's forces in the Forest of Arden. Not only able to manipulate the Pattern, he is also a Conjurer.

He is a tall man with a slim build, his long hair covers his eyes. His guardian wolf is always close by and it proved invaluable during the war.


Trixabella, a mysterious resident of Amber, was not involved in the war. She collected artefacts from war-torn Shadows along the path of Finndo's invasion. Her gift of manipulating the Logrus is highly unusual in Amber, and many smell the taint of Chaos from her. Is she some kind of Trojan Horse from those Courts?

She is a short woman, with short brown hair and blue eyes. She wears a curious mishmash of pastels and dour greys.

****

The four of them are gathered in an inn, under the shadow of the castle of Amber. They are catching up, but speaking only in hushed tones of King Finndo, the war and what could have happened to Random. Out of a nearby corner, unveiling himself from a dark cloak is Bleys. He approaches their table, his grin disarming and unsettling them in equal measure.

Bleys, the most exuberant
of the Princes of Amber 
His smile disappears when he regards Trixabella, he doesn't seem to know what to think of her. He quickly grabs there attention by revealing that he thinking of returning to Amber, and claiming his birthright. They wonder what they could do to help (some of them eager to exact revenge for Random, and some of them hoping that Bleys passes his eye over them and finds them surplus to requirements). He knows they helped Random during the war, and is sure that they could help him as well, if they found the right job.

He wonders if they could tackle Osric, the cruel and devious master of spies for King Finndo. Bleys will take care of the military side of things if they like. Trixabella looks at him, as if to ask why should they trust him; and he stands up, putting his hand on her shoulder, inviting her to speak with him privately.

She follows him away from the table, and then outside. After going through the winding streets of Amber and then out of the city, she begins to worry. By the time they reach the edge of the forest she stops, but it's too late. He's led her through Shadow and out of Amber.
-Well, if you can make it back, maybe we'll talk
And Bleys flashes an insincere smile and her and steps back into Amber. He notices a black mynah bird has followed him through the Shadow, but arrives back at the inn in no time.

When Bleys leaves, it would appear as if he's gained the group's agreement that they will tackle Osric and his web of spies. Trixabella gathers the Logrus to her, drawing herself back towards the city. The tendrils of chaos warp perceptions - they appear translucent black & white versions of the surrounding reality.  When she returns the group breaks up, with Devon promising to contact Llewella and Trixabella commits to speaking with Fiona.

***

Llewella is kept in a high tower of the castle. A close ally (and some say lover) of Random's, King Finndo keeps her under lock and key. Devon uses his patron's influence to gain access to her. After she offers him tea and her attendants have withdrawn, they can speak frankly.

Llewella, quiet and demure,
the most withdrawn of Amberites
She believes that Bleys is chafing under the rule of another, especially one so dull as Finndo is. While some Amberites find Bleys' personality to be tiresome, many find him magnetic; the sort of personality who could lead Amber properly. Of course, in many Shadows, Bleys is considered like a god (though you could find as many where he is considered demonic).

She adds that his scheming can leave many reeling in his wake, whether as allies or enemies. She doubts that Finndo and Osric have the true loyalty of any Amberites - their return after so long is suspicious to her.

She draws Devon's attention to Osric's power in policing Amber and its surrounds secretly. After all, she can only remember seeing him once or twice since Finndo came to power. If someone had the freedom of the city and an talent for shapeshifting, one could cause a lot of havoc.

Before he leaves, Llewella asks Devon if he has a Trump - he does not keep a deck, but is sure that Beatrice has one. She requests that he provide one to her so that they might keep in touch - perhaps the mynah bird could deliver it...

**

Fiona arrives at Trixabella's antique store, looking for something very specific that she's been waiting for for months. Her take on Bleys isn't surprising - as close siblings she walks a fine line between condemning her brother and supporting his claim. She has kept a position at Finndo's court but still doesn't think that his grip on power is at all secure.

*

From Thomas' journal
Six months after Random, and Bleys shows up. I wonder would the outcome have been if he had pitched in? Not enough in it for him. We have a supposed secret mission on our hands now, to take out Osric. This setup is extremely unlikely, but the question is what his real intentions are. We could go to Finndo, but I’m not sure what the reception would be like. We have a short window of time to get some information, but so far all we’ve discovered is that Bleys has no friends. Surprise! Although Llewella and Fiona both think he’s capable of it. If Bleys is genuine, we are part of a bigger plan to take down Finndo and get him on the throne. If not, his is genuinely trying to sell us out to Finndo as insurgents to curry favour. Probably a bit of both - if Osric is taken out, he may hope to become the new Osric. If we are caught and he warned Finndo in advance he gets the job. If we succeed, he may be in a position to strike at Finndo. If we go to Finndo, there is no chance we will be trusted. A spell in the dungeon could be the reward. More likely he’ll put us to work against Bleys. For a while to see if we are useful, see what our intentions are.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The Noose

The Noose are a crew of Shadows operating out of the back of a bakery in Charhollow. They specialise in espionage in support of Skovlan refugees in Duskwall. Their reputation is that of Fanatics, who will sacrifice for the cause, and who think that the end justifies the means. They hold to Skovlan traditions as well, like many of their fellow refugees.

The Noose is a dark name for the crew, but one with mundane origins to Skovlanders - it refers to a traditional knotted bread which is well-loved by the Skovlan people - its shape (especially when a batch has just been taken out of the oven) is reminiscent of a hangman's noose.

The close press of refugees in the tenements of Charhollow and in the tents and lean-tos of Dunslough make them particularly Slippery, it's difficult for someone not part of the clannish Skovlan society to track anyone down.


Their hunting grounds are located in Charterhall, specifically in the few square blocks where the consulates are located. Their contacts with the Skovlan Consulate (through their friend Adelaide Phroaig) helped them establish themselves there; but the Noose view many of those who work with the Consul as traitors and quislings whose collaboration with the Empire needs to be punished.

They have access to underground maps and passkeys, which allow them easy passage through the
underground canals, tunnels, and basements of the city. The Cyphers set them up with these, but what the messenger guild of the city gain from this arrangement, the Noose aren't so sure...

They stole a boat from the Gondoliers, but to placate that powerful and popular group in Duskwall, they paid them off.

The Noose's closest friend is Amancio, a deal broker who is renowned for his neutrality. Amancio is sympathetic to their cause and he backed up his commitment to them when he sent a job their way instead of to the Wraiths.

The Wraiths took this switch personally and have it in for both of them. Their mercenary ways contrast with the Noose's idealistic bent.

The Dimmer Sisters have a soft spot for Amancio, having trusted him since his childhood. He's one of the few people who enter and leave their manor house; they wonder what he had to do to gain the Dimmer Sisters' trust.


Aldric "Crow" Walund (a Slide) fought for Skovlan in the so-called 'Unity War'. While he grew up in a simple fishing village, he found a role as a messenger during the war; later rising to become an aide in service of the famous Skovlan leader, Skannon.
The bony man dresses in knickerbockers and suspenders, a Skovlan style that's popular in Duskwall as well.
His vice is the pleasure of traditional smoked fish he picks up at Slane's fishmongers & restaurant.
His specialty is in Cloak & Dagger, and back in the war his ability to slip through enemy lines was renowned.

Crow used to lose himself in drugs when he first came over to Duskwall after the war, and his friend Bryl (a drug dealer) gave him his fix regularly. Since then, he's clean, and despises what Bryl allowed him to become. He has a hatred for drug dealers and how they help keep the Skovlan people lost in stupor.

Klyra (a tavern owner) gave Crow a fair shot when he got off the boat from Lockport and was looking for a job. Her place 'The Elephant & The Castle' is located near the consulates in Charterhall, and Crow looks a bit out of place there, but as ex-staff the Slide can grab a drink or two on the QT. The place is popular with Iruvians who like the old-school ornamental wooden walls and the antique Iruvian gaming sets from which the tavern gets its name.

*

Phin "Wicker" Skelkallan (a Whisper) came over to Duskwall with the recent flood of refugees following the end of the war. He used to have a position as a Snare, the Skovlan equivalent of the Spirit Wardens, who protected people from vengeful ghosts.
The plump man wears a waxed coat and tall boots.
His vice is the luxury of custom-made accessories from Dunridge & Sons, the famous tailors of Nightmarket. He indulges in unnecessary items which don't take away from his Skovlan style (such as handkerchiefs and cufflinks) but has one of their lovely bags as well which he lugs around his whispering gear in.
His specialty is in Compelling ghosts to his will.

Wicker's erstwhile friend is Quellyn (a witch) who is in fact one of the Dimmer Sisters. The first time the Noose made contact with Amancio, Quellyn was very suspicious of them and thinks very little of Wicker in particular; she is dubious of the tension between what Amancio says of them and Wicker's fetish for luxury.

For the most part, Wicker finds spirit trafficking heinous, but Flint is different. So long as he doesn't deal with the ghosts of Skovlanders, Wicker finds him useful to have around. It goes deeper than that however; when Wicker arrived in Duskwall and attempted to control a particularly murderous ghost, he was outmatched and Flint's entirely selfless intervention saved the Whisper.

*

Grine "Tick-Tock" Rowan (a Leech) is a Tycherosi, who until recently was a professor of Sparkwright in the Doskvol Academy. His eccentricity (usually not something frowned upon by academics) got him into trouble with his fellows at the Academy, and he's no longer welcome in those hallowed halls.
He's a handsome man, who usually wears a long coat and tricorn hat.
His vice is the acquisition of weird and interesting trinkets from Ojak in the Silkshore rooftop markets.
His specialty is as an Artificer, his particular claim to fame inside the academy was his design of a timer that can be attached to bombs and such devices. Currently he has a large bomb which has such a timer, making it less than suicidal to set it off and less prone than a corded fuse to environmental affects.

Most recently, he was called in to do some emergency repairs for the Cyphers - they use a phonograph to record voice messages for some of their clients, and only he had the particular skills to fix it.

Stazia (an apothecary) is a close friend who still works at the Academy. He sometimes goes to her to acquire alchemicals, but mostly they just meet up for lunch to catch up on departmental gossip. She kept her head down when he got into trouble and has remained untainted by the scandal.

In his undergraduate years, he was friend with Malia; they debated all kinds of sophomoric nonsense back then, but since she's become a priestess of the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh and because of his continued suggestions that spirits weren't all bad their friendship decayed into general animosity.

Next Session: Keep your Friend Close

Friday, 27 October 2017

The Hotspur

Previous Session: Daggers in the Streets

The Orphans have 'acquired' a steam launch using Grace's contacts on the docks. They're going to pull up alongside the Leviathan Hunter 'Hotspur' as it approaches Duskwall and subdue Captain Milos Dunvil to inscribe the eldritch sign the Guardian of the Gates have provided them with.

Quess the Spider knows one of the crew aboard - the Bosun's mate Avon went overboard last year and Quess took care of his family for a while; however, miraculously Avon came ashore alive and well and he definitely feels like he owes Quess. She knows from talking to him that the Hotspur and Captain have been a little unlucky the last few voyages, not finding many Leviathans to hunt and harvest from.

The launch is big enough to bring their Thugs, just in case they need to switch from an infiltration to full-on assault - the dozen well-armed ruffians should be enough to intimidate and/or overwhelm the thirty-strong crew.

Fancy Frank the Hound talked to Steiner (his assassin friend) about the best ways to approach and board a Leviathan Hunter, so he's got a few ideas already. The launch pulls up aft of the lumbering ship, and ties up alongside. The cabin windows aren't big enough to use as entry-points so Fancy Frank and Quess climb aboard, using muffled grappling hooks, their water proof coats and hats will allow them to pass for sailors, at least at a casual inspection.

Art by ömer tunç
Fancy Frank spots a handful of sailors above deck, look-outs for the most part. Including a whisper standing in the bowsprit - reaching out into the sea for signs of any nearby demon-spawn. The Hound is inclined to take them out now, but Quess shakes her head - she's not willing to kill innocent sailors for no good reason.
An eerie forked lightning hits the sea a couple of miles away, lighting up the entire area, and giving Fancy Frank his first good view of the sea - it's ink blackness barely concealing the burning lights of not-stars below.

They sneak below decks and to the Captain's cabin without much trouble. Lurking in a narrow corridor joining the wardroom to the cabin, they can hear noise inside. They knock and are ready to burst in as soon as they hear "enter". But instead the captain's voice assures them
-Jenk? I'll be right out in a minute for the deck inspection.

An old thin man enters the corridor from the other end, distractedly approaching the cabin door where there are coiled and ready to explode. He glances up in surprise as Quess grabs him by the elbow and steers him back towards the wardroom. The Standstill starts to affect Jenk and she stops him from yelling out help in his final moments of control - however she notices a strange reaction, he must be allergic!

She bundles him into a corner, seeing two more sailors in the wardroom, she quickly closes that door. But now Quess starts to feel strange - whatever effect the Standstill had on Jenk is rebounding on her as well and for the first time since she was a child she feels her body slowing down due to the drug. She strains with the effort, but extrudes the corrupt drug out of her system, leaving it coating her pores.

**

Fancy Frank bursts through the door into the cabin and sees the Captain standing there glancing at a fancy pocket watch in the middle of buttoning up his jacket. The rain gear doesn't fool him for a moment and he reaches for a pistol on his bunk. Fancy Frank steps in and kicks him in the nuts.

He ties Dunvil up on the bed, and draws a wicked looking butcher's knife to make the incisions on the captain's chest. He can see some serious signs of damage there - a set of raking scars on the shoulder, way too far apart to be from a hand-held weapon - a star-shaped puncture wound on the lower rib-cage, like from a giant bolt. Fancy Frank is impressed, but starts to study the diagram of the symbol one last time before starting the cutting.

Quess shows up, looking the worse for wear. She sees Fancy Frank take out the vial of black liquid and pour it into the fresh wounds on Dunvil's chest. She's reminded of the Tycherosi Black Rain, a powerful oily substance that's used in occult rituals by the priest of her people. They say it's the bloody tears of creatures who fly above the ink-dark Void Sea. It gives prophetic powers and Quess understands what's going to happen as she sees the liquid spread quickly through the incisions.

It will allow something outside to subvert the defences of the city, and scrye through the lightning barriers, using Milos Dunvil as a focal point.

 There's a knock on the door - those two sailors got suspicious and are wondering if the captain is alright. Fancy Frank's attempt to sound like Dunvil falls flat, and there's a stand-off in the doorway. Fancy Frank shoots one sailor (who was brandishing a boarding pike) and Quess standstills the other.

Quess isn't happy with the death, but the cold stare Fancy Frank gives her brooks no dispute that their lives were in danger. He shepherd her (still a bit groggy) through the corridors and up an unlocked hatch and they escape over the side. The launch pulls into the mist before the alarm is raised aboard the Hotspur. Fancy Frank is happy with the haul - a very upmarket pocket watch for himself and the captain's log will surely fetch a good price with their friends aboard the Spitfire!

*

Ashore, it would appear that Strangford's adepts have kept things going on an even keel for the most part. However, one of their number, Dahlia (their expert researcher - previously a librarian with the Circle of Flame) poked her nose into the Guardian of the Gates, and now they are demanding some kind of reparation. Unwilling to go very far, they confine her to quarters and assign her to clean-up in the sacrificial chambers for the next month.

Fancy Frank, as well as exploring the secret crawl-space in the bath-house Casta frequents, tracks down Captain Dunvil's location once he comes ashore from the Hotspur. They'll be able to keep a close eye on him once things kick into action.