We all rendezvoused at Platform 3 and hurried to get out of the terminal. As we were pushing our way outside, many people were trying to get inside! Guards and workers had begun forming a bucket brigade in an attempt to put out the fires. We used the chaos to our advantage and finally got clear of the building. Once outside, we found the road leading into the city and discovered that no one was waiting for us. Big surprise, they took off and left us! So we are on foot from here.
It was a short walk from the terminal to the gates of Malifaux, (it would’ve been an even shorter carriage ride, thanks for nothing!). As we approached, we observe the Governor’s Mansion and the infamous Hanging Tree! Nothing, however, could compare to the city itself. We reached the gate and handed over our papers for inspection. The guards then admitted us without much trouble. I inquired as to whether any of them know the location of the MSEC compound. Having no luck, we entered the city.
The gate opened into the Downtown District. We made our way south along the main street. The area dripped with the trappings of power and wealth. Most of the people seemed to be well dressed and on their way to someplace. In the distance, we saw one of the towers of the famous Aircars of Malifaux. I stopped a passerby to ask for directions. He seemed hesitant until Madeline shook her tits in his face. The guy didn’t know how to get to the IZ, but he suggested that we consult a map at the aircar station.
We reached the tower after a couple of minutes. A quick look at the map showed us that it would take the better part of the day to walk to the IZ. Aircar fare was pretty reasonable though, so most of us elected to just pay the fare and take the aircar. Stav and James demurred and decided to walk. They started off to the east and 20 minutes later, our car arrived and we made the climb to the tower’s peak and boarded. As the car departed, we observed a large patrol of Guild Guardsmen below, they seemed to be conducting a security sweep. It seems that we go out of the area just in time.
The aircar proceed to the east. As we traveled, we got a good look at the city. We observed areas where the original architecture had been co-opted and others where it had simply been built over. I was able to get a general idea of how the streets were laid out. That is, until we hit the IZ.
There was no mistaking the Industrial Zone. We knew we’d entered when our vision was obscured by thick plumes of black smoke. Eventually, we arrived at the IZ station and disembarked. Once on the ground, we set about finding our way to the MSEC compound. Roger slipped a coin to some vagrant who pointed us off to the east while mumbling something about taking a left at the red brick warehouse. We were able to follow the landmarks for a ways. Once we ran out of reference points, Madeline batted her eyes at some tradesman and he guided us a ways before regaining his senses and hurrying back off to his work. From there, another coin to a factory worker served to provide us with directions that took us the rest of our way.
The MSEC compound was a sprawling monstrosity of buildings and smoke. The entire facility was surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence crowned with spikes. The gates were guarded by 2 hulking constructs. I ensured that my company badge was affixed to my lapel and strode up to the gates. One of the constructs swung open the gate and advised me to report to the office. The others followed suit and we found ourselves standing in the courtyard. Off to the side, we saw a large sign the simply read, OFFICE. I assume that that is where we need to go.
We entered the office and found ourselves in a room filled with filing cabinets and papers. Behind a counter was a middle aged woman who, while still attractive, must have been quite a beauty in her day. She asked if she could help us. I stated that we were here to see McKinney and went on to explain how we’d had some difficulty at the terminal and had had to make our way here on foot. The woman introduced herself as Mary and advised us that McKinney was busy, but he’d told her that we would be along and see was to get us situated. She took down all of our names and then escorted us over to the dormitory where we would be staying. She bantered with us (me especially?) along the way. She’s seems a friendly sort.
There were 2 dormitories across from each other, behind the main building. Ours, on the right, looked to be more for the working types, the other was fancier, obviously for management. Mary escorted us to our rooms on the 3rd floor. Our rooms had name plagues upon the doors. They were printed using the familiar form of our name. McKinney had only been here a few hours before us, how had they gotten these done so quickly?
Mary gave us our room keys and a brief rundown of the accommodations. The others all had rooms on the 2nd floor. Madeline ran down to hand out whatever weapons she’d been able to save from the train explosion. Mary gave us an hour to unpack before she would return to give us a tour of the compound. She also gave me her room number in case there was anything that I needed. It then occurred that she may be a bit taken with me. No, that was a foolish notion. Or so I thought. When Mary returned, she walked up alongside me and extended her arm just as she would were she being escorted to a cotillion. Not wishing to offend, I took it and we proceeded on our way.
We left the dormitory via the rear exit and proceeded to Plant #1. This plant was huge. It was devoted to the melting of reclaimed steel and was staffed primarily by constructs. The newly melted metals were then cast into ingots and transported to Plant #2 & 3. Plant #2 was a massive foundry, easily as large as Plant #1. The work area was filled with craftsmen. They labored, creating every type of metal implement of which one could imagine. The final plant, Plant #3 was smaller than the others, but that was where the action really happened. In here, the workers manufactured parts for constructs, pneumatic limbs and some type of engine that I wasn’t able to identify. I would’ve liked to have learned more, but not long into this part of our tour, a messenger ran up and handed Mary a note. It seems that McKinney finally deigned to see us. Mary quickly turned us around and ushered us all back to the admin building.
Mary escorted us to the 2nd floor and McKinney’s office. As she did, she passed along a word of warning. She advised us to watch what we say around here. Anyone present may be higher ups or clients, and being overheard saying the wrong things have gotten people tossed out on the street. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that?
McKinney’s office was a spartan affair. Nothing but a desk, cabinet, his chair and the twins standing alongside. He seemed impressed that we’d gotten out of the terminal and had managed to make our way here. He was a bit perturbed that Stav and James had elected to walk though. It was soon on to business. A job had come up unexpectedly and we were to be given the assignment. Even though we’d not been 12 hours in Malifaux, we were to be going right into the fire.
The mission was simple, right, what is ever simple around here? The story that McKinney told sounded somewhat unbelievable, but were aren’t being paid to ask questions. It seems that we are being paid to enter the Quarantine Zone! According to McKinney, the client had been walking near the wall of the QZ. He was then jumped by a band of street hoods and during the scuffle, had dropped a family heirloom into a nearby sewer. The heirloom, a box, floated away, with the current into the QZ. Our job was to enter the sewers, proceed into the QZ and recover the box. Time was a factor as other groups would also be interested in getting the box. We won’t be going alone though. Someone named Cher would accompany us. Wonder who Cher might be?
McKinney had expected us to leave bright and early in the morning, however, we suggested that it might be prudent to go now as this could potentially allow us to get a jump on some of those “other interests” that he’d mentioned. McKinney was fine with that, although he would need a couple hours to get everything ready. That was fine with us as we needed some supplies. While McKinney went off to finish the preparations, we caught a ride to a nearby general store. If we were going to the QZ sewers, we needed light and especially weapons. Despite being near a pauper from my travels, I had the funds to purchase an old, but serviceable Volyer revolver.
After our shopping trip, we returned to the compound and met Cher. Cher was a modified Watcher construct. She was being sent along to guide us and to ensure that if we found the box, that we returned it, unopened! We were then told to be very careful with Cher. If she gets damaged, we have to pay for the repairs, and if she is destroyed, we’ll all be working for free for the next 6 months. On the bright side, anything else we come across is ours to keep!
With Cher leading the way, we set forth. It took us about 3 hours to reach the location about which McKinney had spoken. We discovered a sewer grate that had been pried open, an iron rung ladder descended into the darkness. It was about midnight as we entered the manhole. This was either very stupid or very brave.
Just inside the sewer entrance we found a set of footprints. Cher identified that the track were from 5 human males. Xun noticed that one of them looked to have a ball and chain around his left ankle? They were about an hour ahead of us, so we’d better get moving.
Finding ones way in Malifaux is no easy feat, let alone navigating in the sewers. Luckily, we quickly stumbled upon a rat catcher, he’d seen the 1st group and Madeline was able to persuade him to point us in their direction. We were able to follow the tunnels that he pointed and I actually found a shortcut that shaved some time off our journey. We then took a couple wrong turns before happening upon a 2nd rat catcher. Once again, Madeline was able to get some directions from him. With a little convincing, he agreed to take us part of the way. We were finally able to catch up when Xun noticed a side passage that had recently been infested with rats. It seems that the 1st group had to take the long way around, but the swarm had departed by the time we arrived. This direct route took us straight to their location.
When he encounter the 1st group, we blundered right into them. There were 5 of them. 4 gunslingers and 1 man in a convicts uniform with a ball and chain on his ankle, armed with a pair of fighting knives. They saw us, we saw them, and everyone went for their weapons.
Xun charged up and began pummeling one with his fists. Madeline and I dropped his counterpart soon after. Roger began tossing around his freezing spells and froze a couple in their tracks. After Xun killed his guy, he engaged the convict. We put down the other 2 and turned our attention to the convict. Xun had landed some blows, but had also taken some bad hits. He teleported back to our position. Madeline sunk an arrow into the con’s gut and he raised his arms in surrender. Madeline then pointed out that one simply does not trust anyone in the sewers. So I fired twice. Both shots struck and he was somehow still alive! A cold blast from Roger fixed that though. His frozen head shattered like a porcelain vase. I attempted to patch up Xun, but the light was insufficient and I accidentally nicked him with the needle, we’ll need to wait until I can take a better look at things. Meanwhile we got some script and weapons of the mercs. I took up one of their collier’s, the others we can sell.
We continued to follow the flow of the current until we reached a dead end. The water disappeared into another grate. A jumble of branches and debris had caught there. Our hopes were dashed when after some searching, we didn’t find our target. Then we noticed some muddy tracks, leading away from the rubbish pile leading to a ladder, just below another sewer grate. It seems that someone else had recently been here and that individual may have absconded with the box. Up we go, but first, having better light, I was able to patch up some of the wounds sustained in the previous fight.
The grate opened up onto a street deep in the QZ. The muddy footprints led to a nearby warehouse. We hurriedly made our way there, being on the streets in the QZ at night doesn’t sound wise. The prints entered a small courtyard. We sent Cher up and she confirmed that it was empty and we snuck inside, following the footprints to a set of large double doors, padlocked from the outside. Xun pulled his lockpicks and set to work. Unfortunately, he was unable to defeat the mechanism. It was then that I posed the question, how had someone entered through this door and then padlocked it from the outside? It was then decided to try a smaller back door that Cher had spotted.
We made our way around back and tried the other door. It was locked. Xun stepped up to pick the lock on this one, then he noticed something. Reaching up, he plucked a key down from where it had been hidden in the door frame! Finally a break. We hurried and got inside as we’d begun to hear moaning coming from nearby.
The interior of the warehouse was filled with crates marked “fresh fruit”. They were stacked to the ceiling and the contents were long past fresh. The entire building was filled with a layer of dust and it didn’t appear that anyone had been here for some time. We soon found that to be incorrect. Within minutes of beginning our search we discovered a body. As I looked down upon the corpse, I realized that I knew him! It was Capt. Wymer my old Co from the 14th! His face was contorted in an expression of sheer terror! His green eyes staring up at the ceiling. The man was a wreck! He was dressed in rags, his body covered in scars. Then is saw his hands. All of his fingers had been broken! It looked as if he’d been holding something and whomever had taken it had had to break his fingers to get it!
Then the moaning began! A creature of transparent green energy rose up out of Capt. Wymer’s body! 2 other, smaller, similar looking creatures emerged from the surrounding crates. As one of the closest to it, the creature lunged at me. I attempted to dodge, but it moved like lightning. It came close and began to whisper. I was instantly overcome with such intense feelings of sorrow and despair, it was as if everything that made life worth living suddenly melted away, leaving only ashes. Suddenly, the memories came rushing back like a flash flood! I don’t know how I could’ve forgotten this? Perhaps it was witchcraft? Maybe it was trauma? But the combination of seeing Wymer dead on the floor and the creature’s attack unearthed the memories of an event long buried.
In my mind’s eye, I was once again a young trooper. I was walking through the ruins of Scapanee Village. It was just after the conflict had ended. History would record the Battle for Scapanee Village as one of the 14th Cavalry’s greatest victories. It was a massacre! The reports that we’d received were wrong! This place wasn’t a staging point for a renewed offensive. The weapons caches and hidden warriors that we’d expected to find weren’t here, they never were, if they ever existed. We swept in so quickly that we didn’t realize that the shadowy forms that we were striking down were women and children. But there were braves here, and they were armed which was a violation of the Indian Disarmament Act. So, despite everything, this battle would go down as a legitimate use of force against a hostile enemy. The aftermath wasn’t so black and white though. I remember stepping over the bodies of braves, women and children. Both the young and the old alike lay dead at my feet. The ground was saturated with blood and the cries of the dying filled the air. My stomach turned as I surveyed what was left of the burning village.
Then I hear screaming. “Thaddeus!” It came from the edge of the village and so I ran. I heard it once again “Thaddeus!” I then realized that it was Capt. Wymer calling. His voice came from one of the teepees. As I rushed inside it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light within. Then I saw. Capt. Wymer, on his knees, holding both hands on the stomach of an old Indian man, futilely attempting to stem the blood that was flowing like a geyser. “Fix him Thaddeus!” screamed the Capt. I rushed over and began trying to aid the Indian man. Although I admit feeling some confusion. We’d just slaughtered an entire village, what did this one life matter? However, I had my orders so I did what I could. What I could do turned out to be not a lot. The loss of blood was too great. A bloody ceremonial dagger lay next to him. This and the man’s garb and fetishes told me that this was the village shaman. His wound was self-inflicted and he’d known exactly where to strike in order to inflict the most damage. There was little that I could do. Even in a fully staffed operating room with the proper tools and resources it would have been difficult. But here, on the dirt floor of a deerskin tent in the wilderness with only the most basic tools and supplies, it was impossible. The shaman passed quickly, but before he died, he managed to gasp a few final words to the Capt. And whatever he’d said made Capt. Wymer turn white. I’ve seen fear before, it rode with us and I’d become used to its presence. It was natural in this line of work, but this was different.
“Remove his heart.” Spoke Wymer. “Captain,” I said calmly, “the man is dead.” “I don’t see what good could possible come from further desecrating his….”. My next words died in my throat as Capt. Wymer drew his Colt and placed it against my temple. “I said…remove…his…heart!” Capt. Wymer’s piercing blue eyes were looking around wildly as if he were trying to solve a puzzle and his brow was furrowed in a familiar manner that he was deep in thought. Without further hesitation, I opened the shaman’s chest and mere minutes later I handed his still warm heart to the Captain. He snatched it from my hand and devoured it as a starving dog would fall upon a scrap of meat. As soon as he’d finished, he was wracked with convulsions and lifted off his feet, floating in the air. Green sparks of static played across his body as it rose ever higher within the confines of the teepee. Suddenly his eyes opened and he screamed as if in pain. He then looked me dead in the eye and spoke these words; “The transfer is complete. If this vessel should ever fall, the transfer must be completed before dawn. If not, then the Crow shall feast upon the world.” Though I knew not the language that he spoke, I somehow understood his words. Then, green lightning arced throughout the teepee and I blacked out. When I awoke, I was back at the Fort in the infirmary. Lying in the next bed was Capt. Wymer.
The official story was that the Capt. and I surprised and fought the Shaman in his teepee. During the fight the shaman set off some type of firework or explosive, although we were both found without a single mark upon us. Later, the Major said that the Capt. must have used the shaman’s body to shield us both from the blast. It was written off as a mild curiosity and neither the men, the Capt. nor I ever spoke about the incident again, and no one ever questioned why the Capt.’s eyes were now green. Until today, the memories of this incident had been completely blocked from my mind. As reality came slamming back those words rang through my mind, “The Crow will feast upon the world.”
Madeline had been attacking one of the energy creatures, while Xun and Roger had been attacking the others. Roger climbed up on a stack of crates in order to get some distance for his attacks. I backed off as well in order to fire my Collier. The larger of the creatures turned to Xun and unleashed a horrific wail. Even though I was a few feet away from him, the wave of despair and misery that I felt was crushing. It felt as if my will to live was being drained away. Xun, who was the target had tried to step back, but was unable to fully get away. The effect hit him like a train and his right leg, the closest part of his body to the creature, withered and crumbled like a charred piece of wood. He fell to the floor, bleeding. The creature then seemed to radiate… satisfaction? It then sunk into the floor and was no more. The rest of us turned our attention to the other creatures and quickly finished them off.
I turned my attention to Xun and was able to stop his bleeding. While I did this, Madeline began to search the rest of the warehouse. I turned my attention to Capt. Wymer. As I pondered, I told Roger and Xun the story. Roger said that the body still had traces of necromantic energy about it. He also believed that the transference that occurred when Capt. Wymer consumed the heart of the shaman had elements of a binding ritual about it. Ultimately, the decision is mine, but as he stated, if the Capt. believed that it was important for him to do what he’d done, he must have had a reason. Roger is correct. Capt. Wymer may not have been the nicest sort, but he had a strong sense of duty and always did what he believed to be right. That was it.
I set to work and quickly removed his heart. Raising a macabre toast to the others, I took a bite. I remember waking up several minutes later. Roger recounted to me what had happened. He said that after I took the first bite, I then devoured the rest of the heart as a starving beast. Once finished, I convulsed as Capt. Wymer had before and floated off the ground, green energy flowing all over me. I then spoke the same words; “The transfer is complete. If this vessel should ever fall, the transfer must be completed before dawn. If not, then the Crow shall feast upon the world.” I then collapsed to the floor and awoke minutes later. I felt all right and other than being somewhat disturbed that I’d just eaten a human heart, everything seemed as it was. Then Roger and Xun gasped. I realized a moment later what it was. My eyes which had been brown, were now a piercing green.
I asked Xun and Roger not to mention this to anyone else. Although I then realized that Cher had been watching the whole time. Even worse, she wasn’t recording, she actively transmitted everything that she saw back to the MSEC compound. Damn! Well, nothing to be done about it now. We then heard a shot from the other side of the warehouse, Madeline must have stirred up some trouble.
After helping Xun to his feet or rather foot. We went in search of Madeline. We found her, unconscious and lying on the floor before the large double doors that we’d investigated prior. They had been thrown wide open. I managed to rouse her and she told an incredible story of how just after she found the box, a woman with demon hands and a hole through her chest who was accompanied by 2 shadowy bug like creatures had burst through the door and rendered her unconscious before then absconding with the box. Then she asked why my eyes were now green and I was covered in blood. I explained that I’d bitten my lip. She naturally didn’t buy it, but that isn’t my concern.
So, our quarry is now gone. I think that it’s time to just put this one in the draw category. We are all injured and I don’t think that pushing our luck is going to get us anything but dead. Besides, we survived a night in the QZ, which is something that a lot can’t say. With them being dead an all. We gathered up Cher and Xun and made our way back to the sewers.
As we made our way out of the QZ, Roger tapped me on the shoulder and mentioned that I now radiated a mild aura of necromancy. Just great! Now I needed to watch myself around the Guild and their thugs. I did notice an unusual side effect of tonight’s events. I’d stopped to do one last check of the group we’d killed. As I was searching the pockets of the corpse, I thought about how tired I was and something odd happened. The body dissolved into dust and I felt refreshed! I tried it again and it worked a 2nd time. When I went to try a 3rd, I’d held the thought in my mind and before I even reached the body, a pulse of energy flowed from me. The corpse dissolved and everyone within the burst was healed! This could be very useful indeed!
We safely made our way back to the IZ and back to the compound. Although McKinney was disappointed that we didn’t get the box, he was impressed that was made it back alive and we got our hazard pay. Tomorrow I need to make a trip back to the general store. I have some things to sell and better weapons to purchase. I’ll also need to see about getting a pneumatic leg for Xun, can’t have him sideline. Then I need to try and get a handle on what exactly is happening to me. I need to figure out these new powers and learn the truth of my condition. Who or what is the “crow that will feast upon the world?”
Through the Breach, Into the Unknown
Journal of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian - Session 2
Chronicle of the adventures of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian in Malifaux