Thursday, February 27, 2020

Monster Blood Tattoo: The Peltryman's Behest 5

Chapter V:  Hob-rousing

The Handsome Grackle - bizarre creature of the genis sea-hag, identical in form at either end, its landward name derisively given it by the piscators who snared it. Small as sea-beasts go yet nigh indestructible, the Handsome Grackle is routinely swallowed by the great kraulschwimmen and other vasty beasts of the depths, only to travel the entire length of the alimentary canal and emerge at the other end, unharmed and setting off on its own obscure business once again. - Factotum

Silvernook, Winstermill
2-3 Calor 1602 HIR

The rest of their sea journey proved uneventful and they arrived at High Vesting at mid-afternoon on the first day of the new year.  

After obtaining lodging, Frangelin obtained a small corser's cart.  The party hoped ultimately to blend with the black traders who were said to still ply the Wormway east of Winstermill.  The cart was nondescript enough not to attract attention while they still were in the territory of Men.  At dawn of the next day, they set off on the road to Silvernook, the last friendly town before the fallen fortress. 

Near a post-house on the outskirts of Silvernook, they came across the camp of the army that was gathering to retake Winstermill.

The army was awaiting the arrival of the Archduke of Brandenbrass who was to take personal command of the endeavor.  To keep the soldiers occupied, the New Year celebrations had been extended.  Despite its official illegality, a rousing pit had been set up for the men's entertainment.  A huge derehound was to be pitted against some hideous monster.  Only slightly less hideous was the looks on the faces of the on-lookers; Accural was disgusted by their visceral reactions.

This monster proved to be the incredibly odd creature known as a Handsome Grackle.

The hound and the creature began a ferocious battle.

The party scanned the crowd of soldiers and camp followers who crowded the pit.  They suddenly heard a faintly familiar laugh.  It proved to be Abdank Skarbek, the Lausid knight they had captured prior to the Battle of the Vab.  He said he had been sent off just before the battle and, as a prisoner of war, spent the last seven years as a slave, recently in the silver mines here.  His master had gained some trust and so granted him a degree of freedom not usual for on in his position.  Upon learning of their intent to travel the Wormway, he asked to meet with them in a more private setting.

Immediately thereafter, Accural noticed the mysterious reddleman that they had encountered twice before.  Alhambra easily moved to intercept the man.  Unfortunately, Accural was less than light on his feet and crashed into the unfortunate servant who was holding a chamberpot for the convenience of the quality spectators.  The poor doused man's cries of "Why!" attracted the reddleman's attention.

Nonetheless, the party was quick to surround him. Accural noted again the symbol tattooed on the man's hand indicating his membership in a dread false-god cult.

Before they could question him, the reddleman smashed a potive on the ground nearby and escaped into the crowd using the ensuing cloud of acrid smoke.  

The party could not follow him as the crowd had gone wild due to the gruesome slaughter of the derehound by the Handsome Grackle.

To the horror of the crowd, the pit-bobs were unable to pursuade the Grackle to return to its cage.  The party chose to intervene.  A fierce struggle ensued.  Lord Danny's witting proved less than effective against the strange mind of the creature so it was left to electric charge, skold-shot, and saagari blade to bring the creature at last down.

Then a tall woman, dressed richly in calendar habit entered the ring.  It was a sister of the Soratche, fanatical calendars who pursued a violent and single-minded pursuit of the dark trades.  She began a tirade against the hob-rousers and the spectators, condemning their depravity.  Her special ire was directed against the party; she seemed to assume them to be part of this horrible display.  With a warning against further congress with monsters and black trader, the sister, whom they learned was called Perfidia, departed.

The hob-rousers, on the other had, were extremely grateful for the party's intervention, fearing that having the monster loose through such a crowd would have resulted in their ruin.  The rouse-master admitted they had been inexperienced with the Grackle and so underestimated the ability to control it.  He said he had gotten the creature from a hob-hunter in The Wight, a town further east along the Wormway.  It was likely this was the last creature they might obtain from this source, having not heard from the man since the road had been closed.

As night drew on, the party ventured to an old wind-pump where they had agreed to meet with Abdank.  He reported that he had been in Winstermill when it fell and but for the aid of the Duke of Sparrows, all of the everymen in the fortress would have been slaughtered.  Thus he confirmed, as the Lapinduce had indicated, that there existed urchins, those monster lords who were benefactors to everymen.  He warned them of that Winstermill fell to man-made gudgeons and they should watch for warnings from sparrows who would be there to aid them.

For the night, the party sought hospitality in the camp of a Fayelillian regiment that was part of the ever-growing army.  Fortuitously, the commander proved to be one of Lord Danny's many older siblings, Coniferus Figge.  Well into the cups the older Figge welcome the party and provided them with extra supplies and comforts for their journey.

The next day's surprisingly uneventful travel brought them to the ruins of mighty Winstermill. 

A preternatural silence pervaded the ruins, adding to their unease.

While Accural and Lorent waited at the entry to the fortress' undercroft, Prince Avi, Lord Danny, Alhambra, and Frangelin entered into the under-fortress as stealthily as possible.  Fransalir and Sister Angella began to circle the ruins hoping to discover any possible ambuscades. 

Within the fortress, the four discovered within a cold room, the remains of a shattered door behind which rose a steep furtigrade.  This ultimately led to large ill-lit room filled with the grisly indications of black habilist work.  At the moment of their entry.... 

Angella and Fransiler were making their circuit of the fortress; they noticed a small sparrow atop a broken wall. It was in obvious agitation.  It was then they all heard the inhuman growling coming from deep with the ruins....

Friday, February 21, 2020

Monster Blood Tattoo: The Peltryman's Behest 4

Chapter IV: Moldwood Park

Primmling: first monsters to tread the earth, breathe the air and drink the water, coming even before everymen and - as legend would have it - playing a role in the forming of all animals that walk, crawl, fly, swim of slither." - Factotum 

Brandenbrass and the Grume
Lestwich,1601 HIR- 1 Calor 1602 HIR

The sleuth Accural, becoming concerned at the rashness of the party with which he was now involved, sent word to an old companion of more proven reliability.  This was a Sedian male sagaar, Alhambra Corazon.  This worthy immediately responded and soon joined the party at Lord Danube's town house on Cannon Street.

The party was in preparation of their journey to track the transport of Albany Reeves' remains; their first destination being the ruins of Winstermill.  This was interrupted, however, by the arrival of High Constable Maile who informed them that Ashmonger Scollfyld had been found murdered in the interrogations room in which the party had left him.  As they were the last to be with the scoundrel, they were the chief suspects.

In deference to Lord Danube's rank, they would not be taken into custody but rather placed on house arrest.  They would be appearing before the city magistrates first upon the morrow.

A host of constables were placed on watch at the various exits from the house.

Lord Danube's ever-efficient major domo, Mr. Mordhowe soon showed them the hidden underground passage that would take them unseen to dense ancient woods of nearby Moldwood Park. Accural and Alhambra quickly departed, hoping to see what clues might be obtained from an examination of the late ashmonger's body. 

The remainder of the party would await the coming of the dawn in which to slip out and journey to the ship that would take them out of the city.  In hopes of a distraction, they approached Lord Danube's quixotic twin brother, Ural, who having disappointed his family by taking up a life on the stage, proved most enthusiastic to masquerade as his brother.  He was all the easier to convince since the party told him it was to participate in an avant garde form of immersive street theatre.

As per usual practice, the late Scollfyld's body was being kept at the Surgeon's Academy for further examination.  With a well-placed gratutity to the night porter, the pair were given access to the body.  They soon discovered that the corpse had been made to look as if killed by multipe fulgar attacks but in reality appeared to have been killed by a single wit attack that burst his brain from within.  They also noted the subtle imprint of the delicate handcuffs used by the state's secret police agents, the Silent Shadows.

Meanwhile the rest of the party departed a few hours before dawn, hoping to get to their ship unnoticed.  When they left the tunnel, a small rabbit seemed to show interest to them and began leading them deeper into the woods.

Much to their shock, in the depths of the ancient wood, which lay in the midst of this city of men, they met the Lapinduce, the Duke of Rabbits, who became interested in them, sensing that some bore the blood of the Duke of Owls, obtained at the Battle of the Vab, in their tattoos. Upon explaining that they had not killed the Duke of Owls, the aloof Lapinduce seemed little interested in the party's quest but did explain the nature of the primmlings, the Monster Lords, some of whom were bitterly opposed to everymen, others who aided, and finally those, such as the Lapinduce, who were utterly uninterested in the affairs of man.  The Rabbit Duke did inform them that Winstermill had not fallen to natural monsters but rather man-made abominations.  

Following this strange interview, the party reunited with Accural and Alhambra, telling neither of their encounter with the Lapinduce.  They boarded the Kestrel, the small but swift packet boat upon which the astute Mordhowe had arranged passage to High Vesting from where they intended to proceed overland to the ruin of Winstermill.

They had been but a short time out from Brandenbrass when they spotted a large tentacled sea creature that seemed bent on hostile intent.

The two fulgars, Sister Angella and Prince Avignon brought lighting down upon the creature killing it and several other hiding just below the surface.

The belief in there safety was premature.  Out of the mist came a small armed ram that began firing at the Kestrel.

Whether the ship was a pirate, privateer, or some other enemy was unknown for it bore no flag and was of a common design.  It began to overtake them.

Fransalir, using his habilistic skills, attempted to improve the workings of the gastrines.  However, he was struck down and nearly killed by a lucky cannon shot from their pursuer.

As the enemy ship grew nearer, it suffered a direct strike on one of its forward guns by the fulgars who's cooperation enhanced their electrical attacks.

Lorent was also able to take advantage of the close range, tossing first a potive that would place of cloud of smoke before their enemy and second a fusilade of bothersalts and acids that discouraged the enemy gun crews and began affecting their cannon barrels.

Finally, at the sagaar's insistent urgings, Lorent tossed Alhambra onto the deck of enemy ram.

Unfortunately, the ram made a sudden turn and Alhambra was tossed into the vinegar waters.  Fortunately, he was near enough to scramble back on board without significant damage from the acrid sea.

Crawling in through one of the gun ports, the sagaar used his razor-sharp sagaari daggers to cut down an enemy crew man while a swift back kick stove in the chest of another.  

Repeated hits from the deadly scripts and fulgar strikes turned the attacking ram into a wreck and it began to sink, most of its crew dead with the survivors fleeing on a lifeboat into the mist.  Only the ship's captain remained.  Descending from the conning tower, he threw himself upon Alhambra, striking him down with blade through the lungs.

The Kestrel hurried to reach the ram, the party desperate to save their unconscious companion.  The enemy captain, realizing that capture and worse was near, turned his pistol on himself.  Alhambra was taken with great care back to the Kestrel as the ram sank below the wine, it's motive in attacking still a mystery.  

Unhindered, the Kestrel turned its course to High Vesting.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Monster Blood Tattoo: The Peltryman's Behest 3

Chapter III: The Black Trade

Fabercadavery: also known as asnecrology or necromancy, the making of revers and other gudgeons, including jackstraws...Therefore, in nearly every realms of the Half-Continent, fabercadavery is illegal (even the liberal surgeons of Sinster regard it with caution), and its practitioners are often hunted down and goaled or even slain. - Factotum.

The Alcoves, Brandenbrass
Lestwich, 1601 HIR

After fending off the attacks of the Ashmonger Scollfyld's thugs, the party grew concerned at the long absence of their tamed corser Frangelin, who had gone into the ashmonger's quarters seeking intelligence.  Knowing that stealth was no longer possible, they prepared to assault the building by main force.

They were interrupted by the appearance of the long-absent Prince Avignon, one of their comrades from the Battle of the Vab.  He had been distant from the city when he received Widow Portent's summons and hurried to Lord Danny's town house upon his late arrival in the city.  Being told that his lordship was away in the Alcoves, he knew if he listened for the sounds of strife, he would soon find Danube.  He was not disappointed.

Meanwhile, Corser Frangelin had been greeted without suspicion by Scollfyld's right-hand man, Makepeace.  He was told that despite the disruption to the hob-rousing market, there was still plenty of business, with request coming from further afield.  This discussion ended abruptly when the party outside began their scuffle with Scollfyld's spurns.  Makepeace sent reinforcements and prepared the lower floors for any further attack.  He crimped Frangelin into the Ashmonger's service.

While sleuth Accural and Prince Avi watched the front of the bulding, Danny, Fransalir, Angella, and Lorent went to the rear building seeking a back entrance.  They discovered a pair of corsers loading their cart.  Thinking quickly, Fransalir convinced the pair that the party was extra security hired by Scollfyld.  Duped completely, the pair showed the party the secret entrance into the rear of Scollfyld holdfast.  The party proved equally adept at talking their way past the spurns guarding the interior of the place.

They advanced up a narrow stairway to room used for the processing of the corser's product.  It was well guarded by a spurn and two hired lesquins.

The party's subterfuge was discerned by the alert guards.  From a nearby cage, two undead revermen were released and launched themselves upon the party.

The party members were able to tumbled the two man-made horrors into the stairway they had just come up, slamming the trap door after the pair of gudgeons.  They soon heard the cries of horror as the uncontrollable creatures attacked the guard therein.

Back on the second floor, the lesquins proved formdable opponents.  One well placed shot struck Lord Danube in the chest where his proofing had been torn by the dogs; the shot nearly killed the laggard-wit.  Lorent proved luckier and soon drew a potent script from his digital.

"I'll be behind you every step of the way!" cried Frangelin as Makepeace led reinforcements into the fight with the two revermen.  Frangelin then slammed the door to stairway behind them, trapping Makepeace and his men in with the revermen.

Frangelin convinced the two remaining, unenthusiactic spurns to escape the carnage by leaving through the front door.  They saw that the constabulary had arrived, led by none other than the High Constable and Thief-taker General Caractacus Maile.  The three surrendered.

Soon after being placed in the constabulary rough lentum, Frangelin put his lock-scarfing skill to good use, opening both his wrist irons and coach's door.  He then slipped away into the gathered crowd.

Lorent and Fransalir flung their potives at their opponents catching them of fire. Then fell backward into a pile of discarded coffins, setting those alight as well.  Soon the room was filled with smoke. Angella managed to drag a ragged little man from his hiding place under the surgeon's table.  A book fell from this coat that Fransalir quickly realized was a fabarcadavery manual.

Realizing that their only means of escape from the burning building was back down the stairs by which they came, Lord Danube fired his long gun at the single remaing reverman (the other having been dispatched by Makepeace's men, not without casualities).  While the shot did little damage, it did attract the reverman's attentions.  When it turned to face Lord Danny, Makepeace and his men made a hasty retreated out the rear door.  Danny then using his wit skill, forced the revereman back down the stairs.  The Creature was flung backwards through the rear door. 

The thing collided with Makepeace and his men who had been in the process of surrendering to the soldiers that Maile had sent to cover the rear of the building.  The sudden appearance of the monster caused the nervous soldiers to act as expected.  Makepeace and his men were cut down and the reverman found itself inanimate  again.

The party soon followed after. Fortunately, Accural and Prince Avi, who had hidden themselves upon the arrival of the police were able to convince the soldiers and then his acquaintance Maile that the party members were his assistants.  The fortuitously captured black habilist lent credibility to this claim.

Soon thereafter, Scollfyld himself surrendered, fearing death by fire.  Maile sternly indicated that the ashmonger's future was almost certainly included an end on a Catharine wheel.

Accural convinced the High Constable to allow him to interrogate the ashmonger for a case upon which his was working.  Maile agreed with alacrity.

Facing the certainty of a falseman's gaze and the electrifying intimidation of two fulgars, Scollfyld soon yielded up what he knew.  They had received a large number of requests for bodies from Swill, the surgeon at the Lamplighter fortress of Winstermill.  These were delivered with no questions asked in exchange for a prompt payment.  After the fall of the fortress to a horde of monster, in which Swill was slain, the requests came from a Dr. Corvinus, who claimed to be a colleague of Swill's. These bodies were delivered to Silvernook where arrangements were to be made to send them further down the Wormway, past The Wight.  In addition to many general requests for any form of body, there were at least half a dozen special requests for younger persons, very recently planted.  These were to be treated with the best but mildest preservants.  The body of Albany was sent in response of one of these  requisitions.  

Satisfied with Scollfyld's cooperation, they agreed to his request to send a message to his patron and protector, the elephantine Lassitudinus Fleenor, who served under Baron Anthemius Lorq, Senior Metripolitan to the Archduke Narseses himself.