Session 7. – The Great…err…ummm…The Train Robbery.
Things have certainly been interesting around here. The past 3 weeks since our return from The Bayou have seen a flurry of activity around the compound. The pump that we recovered from the Greystar ranch had been installed at a pumping station on the river. All of our time on duty was then spent guarding the work gangs as they laid a pipeline through the sewers from the pumping station to the MSEC compound. After 3 weeks the work was completed. Sometime during this period Stav and Madeline disappeared from their rooms? They left all of their possessions behind so I quickly made sure to claim the Babbling Cow and that soulstone of Madeline’s which I found hidden under her pillow as I searched her room. None of us cared overly much about them short of wanting to ensure that the same thing didn’t happen to us. All we were ever able to find was a report of ninjas in the compound that night? Odd? Roger had changed his appearance, he’d shaved his head and was now sporting a full beard, now we just need to see about those papers. I also met Mr. McHenry. He was an affable old Irish guy, although he is definitely still on the fence regarding me. I got the obligatory “what are your intentions towards my daughter” speech. I made it through the meeting fairly unscathed though, however, I made a note to try and keep my nose clean going forward.
The final night of our guard rotation was upon us. James had been reassigned to Madeline and Stav’s old quarters, this allowed Mary to become a regular visitor to my room during the nights. This night would be different though. I’d fallen asleep with Mary curled up alongside, much as we’d done many a time before. The next thing I knew I was shocked awake by the feeling of an impact, as if I’d flopped back onto my bed? I looked about and saw Xun and Roger standing in the doorway. My door had been splintered as if it had been kicked in. Mary was backed up in the corner, wide eyed and clad only in one of my bed sheets. When I asked why Roger and Xun were in my room, Roger advised me that they had been awakened by Mary’s screams. They’d broken in to find that I had been levitating above the bed. I’d been covered in a strange green aura and only awaked after Roger had counterspelled it, causing me to drop. Seeing that Mary was visibly shaken, I pulled on some trousers and went to try and comfort her. I took one step and she fled the room. This isn’t good.
I kicked Xun and Roger out so I could get dressed. I then made a beeline for Mary’s room. There were heads poking out of many doors, wondering what was happening. Great. I reached Mary’s room. She had the door locked and refused to come out. I assured her that I wouldn’t try to enter and I stood there and talked to her through the door. She was frightened that I would try to eat her heart. I was eventually able to convince her that my days of eating hearts were in the past. She then cracked the door and began to harangue me. She admonished me for scaring her and demanded that I do something about this. I reassured her that I had been making efforts but due to the workload these past weeks, I simply hadn’t the time. I was then told to make the time. She reminded me that I had a week furlough starting today and she advised me to put the time to good use. Noted. As I went to leave, she mentioned that she planned to ask that one of the company guards be assigned to me as “protection”. I’m sure that everything that I do will be duly reported back to Mary. Ce Sera.
Today also happened to be payday. I met up with Xun and Roger in the pay line. My new shadow Hector was with me. As we stood in line for our wages, we overheard some talk from the others. The company engineers have been attempting to reverse engineer the Greystar pump. It seems that they were having some difficulty due to its complexity. MSEC has also been sending agents out to the surrounding mining towns and camps to drum up support for the pump. The hope is that there will be a market for mines that use large amounts of water as part of their mining activities. Perhaps they would be interested in a mechanism that would allow them to purify and reuse some of the waste water produced. The rumor is that some of them would be sending representatives to view ours in action. Roger was standing behind a strapping man whose job was to daily walk the route of the pipeline to ensure that it was intact. I’m glad that that isn’t my job. As he pointed out, that sounds dangerous.
I recounted to Roger and Xun my conversation with Mary. I think that it is time to involve The Spruce. The others agreed and once we finished collecting our pay we made fast to the local M&SU office. Not wanting Hector to be aware of our contact protocols, He and I waited out front while Roger and Xun went in. A few minutes later, they returned and informed us that we were to meet het at the same park as before at noon. As we had some time to kill and had just been paid the others elected to visit some general stores along the way. I proceeded to get the name of some independent armorers in the area. I visited the nearest one in order to place a custom order. I commissioned him to install a modified helmet within the liner of the style of hat that I wear. In this way, I will have some head protection without the appearance of wearing a helmet. Might have to be careful about where I hang my hat though.
After our shopping trip, we met up with The Spruce. She was playing at her usual playground. She came over to meet us and asked us to play hopscotch? As we played, I told her about the “issues” that I’d been having. She recommended that I go and see her “Uncle” Levi at Captivating Logistics & Salvage. Roger also made a request. He indicated his need for forged papers. She subtly told him that it would be 10 scrip. Roger didn’t quite pick that up until we let him in on it. When he handed the scrip over, Spruce waved it around triumphantly exclaiming “I won.” One of the boys came by and said that Roger shouldn’t feel bad about losing, she’s a good player. Spruce then invited us back to play in 2 days. We told Roger that that is when the papers would be ready. Having gotten what we needed, we made ready to depart. As we’d played, Roger casually mentioned perhaps looking into Stav and Madeline’s disappearance. Hearing this, Spruce warned Xun to stay away from the 10. She had pointed at the hopscotch square, but Xun later mentioned that he believed that she referred to the Ten Thunders. Ninjas on company grounds, it fits that the 2 may have run afoul of the Ten Thunders. Good to know. As we left, Xun palmed the stone we’d used while playing. He gave it to the boy that tried to console Roger prior. Roger caught a glance at it and mentioned that he thought it may have been a soulstone! The Spruce paid the kid 20 scrip to get it back!
We asked about and were easily directed to Captivating Logistics & Salvage. It lay in the Slums on the south side of the river next to the Howling’s. It took us a good portion of the day to make our way there. Once in the slums, we quickly found CL&S. As we approached we were challenged as to our business. The speaker was a brunette 16 year old girl armed with a revolver, sitting atop the roof. When I stated that I needed to see Levi, see hoped down and unlocked the door to let us in. She locked the door behind us and ordered us to wait while she went to fetch Levi.
Levi as it turns out fit the classical mold of mad scientist down to the last detail. He had wild, white/grey hair. Dressed in a stained lab coat and had some sort of apparatus upon his back that seemed to be pumping chemicals of some sort into him. I explained to him that I had become infected with necromantic energies and had begun levitating in my sleep. He took me, and me alone, much to Hector’s disconcertment into the back to an examination room. As we walked I mentioned that this had something to do with the Crow that Devours Worlds. To my surprise, he seemed familiar with that term!
The room had a table and much equipment. There were also 3 women within. There expressions were blank and they walked in a jerking motion that was similar to that of a zombie, however they possessed none of the necromantic taint of the undead? Levi had me lie upon a table and remove my glasses. He looked into my eyes, listened to my heartbeat and preformed some other tests. After which he announced that I definitely had the Crow within me. Tell me something I don’t know doc.
Once we’d established that I was in fact host to the Crow that Devours Worlds, I moved on to asking about treatment. Levi offered to extract the Crow, however that procedure would have the regrettable, slight side effect of my death. Let’s call that plan Z, now onto A-Y. If he couldn’t cure me, I asked if he could just make it look as if I was cured. I mention how freaked Mary had been by my levitating act. Levi suggested tying myself into bed. Once again, not the helpful answer for which I’d hoped. He then suggested that I try counterspelling myself each night. Ok, now we are getting somewhere. While not the permanent solution for which I was looking, it’s a start. As we spoke, a 2 foot tall metal column on mechanical spiderlike legs, topped with a humanish skull skittered by, stopped and looked at me? When I inquired to Levi about it, he said, “that’s just Hank.” I bid Hank a good afternoon and he waved a couple legs in the air in greeting. Levi the muttered something about him talking too damn much?
Changing course, I asked Levi for more details about the Crow legend. He was quite vague, but he alluded to him being an emperor back in the days of ancient Rome. He’d challenged the Wizard’s Council (when I asked “Wizard’s Council”, he replied, “The one that controls the Guild,” like it was common knowledge) and they had imprisoned him within the heart of a man. I gave Levi a brief rundown of my experience, the Crow having passed to me from my old CO and to him from a native shaman. Levi seemed interested in this. He was unaware of any connection between the Crow and the Americas. At any rate, he was unable to offer any help. I thanked him for his time and made ready to leave when he asked if I had an object for at which to look? I was a bit taken aback. I hadn’t realized that this was also the Spruce’s contact for that matter. I advised that we would return tomorrow. Levi instructed me to mention that to Alice on our way out and to be ready for a journey in lieu of monetary payment for his services.
We departed and set about returning to the compound. I filled the others in on our conversation. Roger, during his time at Oxford, recalled hearing stories about groups of wizard’s, but he’d never heard of them referred to as the Wizard’s Council. As we walked, we discussed things further and realized that on a certain level it all added up. The Guild’s interest in soulstones per se. They collected massive amounts of them and shipped them Earthside. We never saw many of the Guild types using them. Their primary purpose was in magical applications, so the idea of a powerful cabal of wizards using the Guild to keep a steady supply of soulstones flowing was not a big stretch of the imagination.
It was quite late by the time we returned. I found that Mary had had my door replaced. However, I no longer had a conventional lock on my door. I now had a chain lock. I guess she wanted to ensure easier access should the situation arise. This did pose the issue of securing some items though. Not wanting to leave my grimoires in an unlocked room, I gathered them all up and left them with Roger for safekeeping. We then turned in for the night.
The next morning we arose. I stuffed the Babbling Cow in a sack and we set forth. We made faster time as we knew where we were going and reached Levi’s by mid-afternoon. Alice was waiting for us and let us in straight away. Levi met us in the waiting area and barely took a look at the head before announcing that he knew what it was and could tell us all about it, for a price, that price being he wanted us to rob a train for him!
Levi called for a Stephan to bring him “The compass”. As we waited, he gave us the particulars of the job. It seems that there was this miner named Scott who had gone prospecting up in the Northern Mountains. While up there he had run afoul of some of the locals. Levi was unsure as to whether he was alive or dead. However, 2 hours ago a Guild train had departed Malifaux for Ridley Station where they were to collect Scott and return him to the city. Ridley being a 4 day round trip by train didn’t give us much time. Levi wanted us to hit the train and bring him Scott, either alive or dead, it didn’t matter which as long as his body was intact. Alice gave us a set of fake papers for him, Scott Choo in case we are able to bring him in alive. Eventually Stephan, a part human/mechanical construct emerged and handed us a compass. Levi advised that it would locate Scott’s body within 20-30 feet.
Leaving the Babbling Cow in Levi’s care, we departed. We found a local tavern and spent several hours trying to come up with a plan, however we realized that we had a lack of knowledge in this area, perhaps the Spruce could help us with this? As we were set to meet her tomorrow, we made note to ask. In the meantime, we made another run for some supplies. Among our purchases was a horse. If we end up having to bring a dead body back into town it would be helpful not to have to carry it ourselves.
The next day we met again with the Spruce. Roger got his new papers, his new name was Sid Justice. We asked Spruce about anyone she may know with experience in train heists. She pointed to a sleazy looking guy who sat at the edge of the playground, watching the children. She said that “Uncle” Ed used to work with trains. I remember this guy from yesterday. As unlikely as it is that Ed may know anything, we decided to go and have a chat.
As I suspected, Ed was just an old perv. After some menacing, he dropped the charade that he was keeping an eye on the grandkids, whose names he couldn’t keep straight. He admitted that he was there to watch the kids, but he did in fact know and old railroader. Joe, who lost a leg and was now a ratcatcher. Ed gave us directions to his stomping grounds and after warning Ed to never mess with the Spruce, we went to find Joe.
After descending into the sewers, it was easy to find Joe. A small bribe is all that it took to get him talking. From Joe, we got a basic layout of the train and the dispositions of the guards. He also broke down the procedure by which one could uncouple the train cars. Using his information I believe that we can now properly time out where Xun needs to board the train and where it will come to a stop so we can plan our ambush. This knowledge in hand, we exit the sewers and make our way out of the city. I tell you, seeing those walls lined with cannon and guards, you really can forget sometimes just where we are. Anyway, we began moving, we angled over a bit so as to meet up with the tracks just out of sight of the walls. We then began to follow them north, all the while searching for a good place to hit the train.
The terrain was grassy with rolling hills. Though not a forest, there were still many patches of trees here and there, some quite thick. These could be useful. We spent a nerve wracking night camping in these woods. The next day we kept moving north until we found an especially dense section of woods. Normally the trees were cut back 50 ft. from the rails. Here though, they were too thick and had only been cut back 30ft. due to the amount of effort needed. This would be perfect. We had about a day before the train would pass by this point. We set up a camp nearby and then set to work planning. Eventually we worked out the plan. Xun would head up track a few miles alone to a predetermined point. As the train passed, he would teleport on board the last cargo car and decouple the rear section of cars from the cargo cars. He would then move to the first cargo car and uncouple them from the forward sections. Between them, Roger and Xun figured that that would result in the rear sections coming to a stop a mile or so away while the cargo cars should rollup to a stop right in front of us.
The day is here. Hector, Roger and I saw Xun off then we prepared some cover within the tree line and waited. It wasn’t too long before we heard the engine chugging along. Not long after it rounded the bend, we saw Xun atop one of the cars in hand to hand with a guard while another fired at him from a distance. Sure enough, the engine screamed on by while Xun and his cars stopped about right in front of us, exactly where they figured. Time to get our prize.
Hector charged out into the no man’s land and got all shot up. I told him to seek cover between the cars. Meanwhile, I had taken out one of the guards atop the car while Xun punched through the chest of another. Roger and I then dealt with the guard within the 2nd car. Eventually, Roger is able to freeze him while I finish him off with a shot to the head. Meanwhile, Xun has teleported within the 1st car while Hector had climbed up on top of the car and had begun to loot the dead guards.
With Xun inside the car keeping the guards occupied, Roger and I were able to get right up alongside the car and begin firing within. Roger kept hitting them with his cold spells and between us we brought down 1 of the guards. The other was bleeding profusely and surrendered. Xun accepted her surrender with a punch to the head.
Xun opened the doors and let us inside the car. We shouted for Hector to get down and search the dead guards. Meanwhile we used the compass to find Scott. It wasn’t difficult. The car contained crates of grain and a huge block of ice. The ice was magical in nature. Whenever Roger and Xun tried to chip away at it, it froze back. I then approached to examine the block. Within was the frozen body of a young man with long blond hair. I looked upon the body frozen within the block of ice. I wasn’t perturbed by the sight, I’d seen far worse during my time Breachside. The ancient bracer on his left arm, on the other hand, shocked me. It sparked a glimmer of recognition that caused something to stir within my mind. The world around me went green as my vision faded to black and I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness. Then, I saw a point of light in the darkness, it opened up and I saw once again, except it wasn’t my eyes through which I was looking.
I found myself standing in the midst of a huge construction site. Before me, 2 massive pyramids rose into the sky with a 3rd in process. By the architecture and dress, I can tell that this is Ancient Egypt. I am but a humble servant to the master builder. I am standing over a slave, ready to dismember him. The clumsy wretch had broken 3 tools within a week and his clumsiness was slowing work on the pyramid. Whether it be ineptitude or willful disobedience, he would pay with his left arm. My massive axe crashed down onto the outstretched limb and glided through muscle and bone as if it were butter. The blood that splattered onto my bracers quickly turned green and was absorbed. I can feel the energy flowing from them and my heart begins to race. I know that this feeling will not last for long, but I silently give thanks to the High Priest for this enchantment.
My view quickly changes. I’m now in the midst of battle astride a mighty war chariot. The bloodletting has become an addiction over the decades and the feeling has become for all that I live. Severed feet and legs fly in every direction as the scythes of my chariot slice into the ranks of the enemy. My sword whips about in a frenzy and soon the decapitate heads of these mighty warriors join the limbs of their comrades upon the desert sands. My bracers glow a brighter green with each death. The exhilaration is overwhelming. I watch my own wounds close almost as they are inflicted and I know that none on this field will survive the day, none but I.
Then I’m sitting atop a grassy hill looking down upon a still burning Roman city. The smoke from the fires and the smell of death let me know that it has been a day well done. My arms glow green as they absorb the power from my bracers. I know that it is no longer blood that my heart pumps, by pure eldritch power. How many centuries has it been? I marvel at how much I have changed, how far I have come. I no longer worship at the feet of Kings and Pharaohs. In many ways I am now one in my own right and someday soon I will be an Emperor.
My vison flashes and I find myself working the deck of a Viking longship. This was not how I had envisioned my future. The smell of salt in the air and the chilly sea spray are stark reminders of how far I’d come and of how far I’d fallen. Over the eons, I’ve learned many lessons, the greatest being to not interfere with the machinations of the Wizard’s Council. It was with scant hope that I bargained passage upon this ship. With luck, it will carry me the wizards and their influence. These proud warriors speak of new lands and a fledgling colony to the west, a land inhabited by people they call the Skraelings. This seems a place where I can make a new name for myself without having to worry about the Wizards.
It was now several years later, I’ve lost count of how many. The worst thing about these savages wasn’t the serrated swords that they used. Truly they were painful, but it wasn’t nearly as maddening as the screaming they did whilst using them. I flowed through my ears as a tidal wave, by the Gods it was irritating. Despite being savages, in some ways they were wiser than most of the peoples that I’d encountered. It had only taken them a few weeks to discover my immortality. It wasn’t my bracers, I’d long since passed beyond needing them. I’d merely kept them as a reminder of my humble beginnings. After my capture, the Mayans had taken them from me. In the hands of their warriors they had done something not done for me in ages, glow green. Their High Priest quickly realized their power and its meaning. He had given one each to a runner and had sent them off in a separate direction, never to be rejoined. I was amused at their petty efforts. Ultimately it would make little difference. Eventually I would win my freedom whether it took days or years. It would not be like the 40 some years imprisoned in London nor those 2 centuries spent buried alive in India. I still marvel at the fury of those people. I’d merely killed and raped the inhabitants of 3 pathetic villages, they were nothing compared to the wider world. It’s not as if I launched a crusade to exterminate them all as I’d done to the Philistines. I was then taken by the Mayans to the top of one of their pyramids. I’m unsure as to the reason, but I did take a moment to admire the view. In addition, I noticed the subpar work that they call craftsmanship. When these savages bend their knee to me I will teach them the proper way to build a pyramid. Suddenly, I found myself seized by several priests and thrown across an altar while being restrained. A priest stepped up, an obsidian knife in hand. “What is happening?” I thought to myself. Surely these primitives know that even should they split open my gullet, I can nor die. Whatever it is that they hope to accomplish will never succeed. I began to laugh as the knife plunged into my stomach. The pain was excruciating, but my laughter helped to mask it. I also enjoyed seeing how it un-nerved the Mayans.
Things slowly start fading into darkness. The pain was unbearable as the knife cut its way up to my chest. I felt the priest’s hands groping about within my chest. The last thing that I can remember was the priest lifting my heart high above his head, its bright green glow seemed to radiate for miles. As his teeth bite into it all goes black.
I awake on the floor of the train. I’m not sure if what I experienced was a nightmare, vision or a memory? Either way, that bracer on the arm of the corpse calls to me. It is bound to my fate and perhaps hold a piece of the key.
I stood up. Luckily I’d only been out for about a few seconds. I quickly recounted my vision to them as I examined the block. Then I had a thought. My weapon still held the fire enchantment so I took aim at the edge of the block and fired. The block shattered and Scott’s body fell free. I grabbed the bracer, then with the others, we picked up the body and carried it off into the forest to our camp and were long gone by the time the engine was able to reverse and come back to the cargo cars. At camp, we divided up some of the loot. Regrettably, we had to throw the rifles away as they had been stamped with the Guild’s symbol. Oh well. We have our prize and tomorrow we will see about getting it back into the city and to Levi. Not a bad day.
Roger took first watch while the rest of us tried to catch some sleep. Later, Roger shook me awake and told me that I’d been doing that levitate thing again. This time however, the bracer seemed to pull the green energy from me and absorbed it causing me to settle back down. Hopefully this will in time negate that whole levitate thing once and for all. It’s odd, I didn’t expect to find anything more about my condition here. Who knows what else is to come. I wonder if that 2nd bracer might somehow find its way to me as well?
Through the Breach, Into the Unknown
Journal of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian - Session 7: The Great…err…ummm…The Train Robbery.
Chronicle of the adventures of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian in Malifaux
Session 7. – The Great…err…ummm…The Train Robbery.