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.

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