Session 5. – Down to the Bayou.
I was not long returned to my quarters when Mary presented herself at my door asking if I was ready for our date? She was all guised up and the look worked for her. I took a few minutes to clean up and then we departed. Mary had arranged for Frost to take us anywhere that we wished, so I instructed him to take us to the Boar’s Pours. Perhaps its “character” will throw a wet towel on the evening?
Along the way, Mary and I chatted, mostly unimportant things, but I did learn some interesting things. First being that she was fully aware of the particulars surrounding the “crow” incident. Luckily those details had been kept confidential by upper management. The second item was regarding Mary herself, namely her family. When I inquired of her past, she claimed to have come with her father several years ago. This must have been shortly after the breach was opened. When I asked of him, she declined to say much, only that he was still involved with the company. From her evasive answers, I believe that he is probably more than just involved. Her father is most likely upper management, hell, Mary could be McHenry’s daughter! This adds a whole new level of complications to my life. Sleeping with the Boss’s daughter usually never ends well, however, if I rebuff her advances, no matter how tactfully, there is a chance that she will hold it against me and my life could become more difficult. Damn!
We arrived not long after. As we entered the tavern, I noticed that it was substantially less busy that the other night. The crowds must be staying away due to word of the attack. Leyla swooped in upon us soon after we arrived. She asked if James would be joining us this evening. She seemed quite eager to enjoy his company once again. I assured her that I would see to bringing him around again very soon, then I stepped over to speak with the barkeep. I hope that I can talk him into letting us stay even though I’ve got not one drop of Scot blood in me.
It turned out not to be an issue. We were quickly seated in a nice table off to the side, I was even given a complimentary drink. Leyla soon came by with our drinks and a candle for the table. Thanks Leyla. We soon got our meals and spent a pleasant evening in conversation. After we’d finished, Leyla came by and asked if we’d like a room for the evening. Mary looked in my direction expectantly, and at that point, I felt her foot running up and down my leg. Ok, one last chance to steer this train off the rails. I looked at her and said, “We’ve both been drinking and I don’t wish to seem ungentlemanly by taking advantage of a lady.” To whit she replied that some women like to be taken advantage of. No turning back now. I got a key from Leyla and with Mary on my arm, we retired to one of the back rooms. I will say this. Mary was NOT unappealing at which to look in a state of undress, and even though she wasn’t as fresh a maiden as Leyla, she was certainly as spry as one.
Frost had been given instructions to return on the next morning. After making ourselves presentable, Mary and I departed our room and made for the exit. As I was part way through the common room I was accosted by an unkempt hillbilly with a scraggly beard and ragged clothes who introduced himself as “Old Tom”. He asked if I wished to by a map. When I pressed for more details, he claimed that it was a map of the Bayou that showed the location of the lost Greystar Ranch. He said that there was a fortune there waiting to be claimed. I then asked why he hadn’t claimed it if he knew the location of the ranch. All Tom would say about it was that he’d been run off by a pig the size of a horse. I was feeling generous, so I gave Tom a half scrip and received a hand drawn map covered with stick figure like illustrations. The only recognizable landmark was Edgepoint Rail Station on the Bayou’s perimeter. I folded the map and tucked it away.
I’d not been 10 minutes back to my room when we were all summoned to McKinney’s office. James had tried to needle me a bit about having not returned last night. I simply mentioned to him that Leyla seemed very eager to see him once again.
McKinney didn’t waste any time. Our new assignment would be down in the Bayou. We’d been contracted to serve as guards for the Fairburn Bros. Gasworks Co. I believe that I remember hearing of them at the Pours the other evening. Our job was to help protect their gas exploration boat the “Sunken Queen.” However, this was only part of the job. McKinney was aware of the map that I’d purchased not an hour prior! I would think that Mary may have told him had I not known that she didn’t have the time? Our side mission would be to find some way to slip away from the boat, journey to the ranch and retrieve an engine of some type. McKinney showed us a picture. When I pressed for detailed, he claimed that it was a “sewage pump”? McKinney claimed that it was used to purify swamp water for drinking and use and the company hoped to sell them for use in sewage treatment. Right!
I asked for more details on this ranch. McKinney told us that it was once the ranch of Jake Greystar. He was the Greystar in Greystar Ranch! I remember reading of Jacob Greystar. He was one of the wealthiest ranchers in the U.S. until he faded into obscurity 10 years ago. Well, according to McKinney, he’d come Breachside and had attempted to create a new ranching empire here. However, after continuously loosing stock and men to the Neverborn, he’d had to change his plans. Upon hearing of the wild pig population within the Bayou, he’d gone deep into the swamp and created a swine ranch built upon stilts that he’d had sunk into the swamp. For some time, things went well and Greystar made a fortune. Then, one day he turned up at the gates of Malifaux with nothing but the clothes on his back, a gold watch, and an empty pistol. He claimed that a huge party of gremlins had attacked his ranch. There were so many that it’s said that they literally chewed his house off of the pilings upon which it stood. They’d killed all of his ranch hands and employees. Only Greystar himself had survived to tell the tale. After this, he truly go off and was never heard from again. That was 5 years ago. Only the legend of the fortune of the Greystar Ranch remains. Many have attempted to find it over the years, none have returned. Despite my reservations to the validity of this map, McKinney is insistent that we make the attempt. As our train leaves in 2 hours, we have little time. We hastily got on our way as we had supplies to acquire. On our way out of his office, McKinney pointed to James and myself and admonished us to curtail our amorous activities. That man knows entirely too much about my life.
Frost drove us to the station so that we could catch our train. Along the way, we stopped at a general store and restocked our weapons and picked up some tools to aid us in our recovery of the pump. Not having long to spare, we hurriedly made our purchases and continued on our way. Once at the station, it took a bit of subterfuge, but we managed to sneak Roger onboard and soon after we were on our way.
This was our 1st major venture beyond the walls of Malifaux. Outside the city, the terrain quickly grew barren and desolate. The only sight of habitation was the rail side homesteads (mostly inhabited by Chinese workers), set every couple miles. Even these got fewer and fewer the further we traveled from Malifaux, many had even been attacked and burned. However, nothing could have demonstrated with more finality how far we had come when, a few hours later, we reached Edgepoint Rail Station which was literally the end of the line. The ramshackle settlement that existed around the station was a tenuous speck of civilization on the edge of the proverbial abyss.
As we disembarked, the train was turned and a small army of workers began loading gas canisters aboard. It would seem that most every machine and gas lamp in Malifaux is powered by this operation. One of the plants foremen was awaiting us and he drove us to the facility.
The Gasworks were enormous. The compound was heavily guarded and stretched its pipes like tendrils into the nearby Bayou. As it was evening, we were given a meal and assigned to beds in the bunkhouse, tomorrow we’d be assigned berths on the “Sunken Queen” herself.
The next morning, we were escorted to the Queen and introduced to the Capt. And crew. Several other groups of mercs had been hired as well, and we all made an effort to appear friendly. Madeline was especially popular, go figure. After stowing our gear in our berths, we were given a tour of the boat by the Capt. the Queen is a side wheel paddleboat that employs some mechanism to float 3-4 inches above the water’s surface. According to the Capt. the Queen has become somewhat of a legend amongst the Gremlin Clans that inhabit the Bayou. They see it as a monster of metal and wood that feeds upon the blood of the swamp. Many a gremlin has tried to make it a trophy.
We were then given a brief explanation of what we’d be facing, along with our posting assignments. We got Port side duty. The ship will be stopping every day or so to sink some test drills for new gas or oil deposits. They must use a methodical approach due to the difficulty in navigating within the Bayou. The Capt. spoke of landmarks that change, trees that seem to move and the unreliability of maps in general. Most navigation is done the old way, with a compass and sextant.
As we had another day or 2 of waiting for the remaining guards to arrive, we took advantage of that time to mingle amongst the crew and other mercs. I struck up a conversation with Jim the 1st mate about the dangers found within the Bayou. When I mentioned Old Tom, Jim perked right up. It seems that everyone knows of Old Tom around these parts. When I went on to mention the map that “he tried to sell to me”, Jim bade me to come with him to the bridge. Mounted on the back wall was a large scale version of one off Tom’s maps. The thing about this one, it was laid out on moveable tiles? Jim went onto explain that when they say things move, they aren’t just speaking of perception, things actually move within the Bayou. He pointed to a glade and told me of how they’ve found it in several different areas?
I asked him about our route so as to try and plan our approach to the ranch. Jim showed me about where we would be going on the various days. I made a mental note of the best position and after slipping Jim a little scrip, went off to make some notations on my version of the map.
The next day, we observed some of the crew working on the platform mounted on the upper deck. This area was off limits and we soon found why. Mounted up there was a 10 pound gun. A while later, the final members of our team arrived. The cannon crew was composed of mercs from the Friekorps! They arrived in their uniforms and wearing gas masks. There was more than 1 murmur of relief amongst the crew at their arrival. The Korpsmen were rather standoffish though. James attempted to speak with them. They waved him off. I guess they feel that they are above speaking with the likes of us. The thing is, they are probably correct.
We departed the next morning. The morning passed without incident and towards mid-day we reached a collection platform that needed maintenance. The guards and workers that lived on the platform seemed glad to have company from the outside. The came aboard and we shared a meal. They spoke about their operation. It seems that they have a relationship with the local gremlins and even do some trading with them on occasion. From them I learned that amongst gremlins, the bigger the hat, the more dangerous the gremlin. So get the one with the biggest hat first.
Our journey continued the next day. We were on duty on the port side per usual. James and Xun were on the lower deck, Stav, Roger and I were at the rail on the upper deck. It was at this point that we discovered that the cannon was not intended for defensive purposes. The boat had stopped due to its passage having been blocked by a stand of trees. The Friekorps mercs proceeded to load the cannon and blast several trees out of the way. As the sound of the shot faded from our ears, we heard a new one. It was…giggling? The source was soon obvious. A horde of gremlins popped up from beneath the water, with them were feral pigs that they directed like dogs. As if this wasn’t enough, from the canopy above, all along the length of the boat, dropped more gremlins, like rotten fruit falling from trees.
3 landed on the upper deck near us. I shot a gremlin nearest to me, he then squealed like a pig and zipped right up next to me and Stav. Damn. I had to back off so I could resume firing. Another takes a shot at Roger, hitting him. I believe that Roger got some satisfaction upon seeing that gremlins blunderbuss backfire and injure him. I had turned my back to the rail as I’d moved. I then felt a slug graze my arm. From behind me in the swamp I heard, “got em’ Paw”, I’m beginning to dislike gremlins. The final gremlin to not act on our deck attempted to shoot Stav. Unluckily for his fellow hillbilly, the shot missed Stav, ricocheted off the rail and blew a hole through the gremlins head. Funny. I’d turned my attention to the gremlins in the swamp and saw another raise his gun at me to shoot. The enormous flash of powder sent him stumbling. Looks like he over charged his load.
Below, James had killed a pig with his swords while Xun finished off another. Roger took another one down with that freezing blast of his while I killed the one that had attacked me. It looked bad for Stav for a moment. The gremlin nearby took a swig from a bottle marked XXX that hung from his belt, then raised his gun and pulled the trigger. His entire gun exploded and directed the force backwards, blowing most of his face away! There were only a couple gremlins left on our section. They stood about 10 yards out into the water. James hopped overboard and charged them. They fell quickly.
The other mercs were also finishing up their battles about this time. I was surprised, for I’d seen a hell of a lot of magic being thrown around during the fight. As I watched, I even saw a couple mercs raising up dead gremlin as zombies. I guess anything does go out here. Roger and I were both wounded and at his suggestion, I gathered in some other mercs for healing via my subsume corpse ability. I received many a word of thanks. I then spent several minutes treating the remaining injuries the old way with bandages and sutures. As there didn’t seem to be any others around with any medical knowledge, my assistance was well received.
Having taken care of any injuries, I decided to try an experiment. I attempted to raise up one of the dead gremlins. Unfortunately that attempt didn’t go well. Maybe a pig will work better. Over James’s objections, I cast a raising incantation, and it worked! The pig clambered to its feet and staggered over to me, awaiting a command. James was a bit upset and actually drew his sword to kill the beast. At this point several of my new friends, (most of whom I’d just healed) stepped into his path and told him to leave it alone. It was more than gratitude that caused them to lend aid to my defense. They were of the opinion that better the next gremlin attack have to fight an undead pig vs. one of us. I’ll need to make it a point to do some regular rounds and check on any injuries. It’s good to have friends.
Through the Breach, Into the Unknown
Journal of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian - Session 5: Down to the Bayou.
Chronicle of the adventures of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian in Malifaux
Session 5. – Down to the Bayou.