Session 6. – Down to the Bayou: Pt.2.
The remainder of the day and the following night passed uneventfully. Dawn saw us resume our journey. At mid-morning we reached our destination. The ship stopped and settled into the water. At this point, the crew began bustling about on deck. They quickly assembled a drilling derrick on the stern. This was as close to the ranch as we would be getting and the ship would remain here until the next morning. I made my way to the stern and had a chat with Jim, the 1st mate. 10 scrip was sufficient enough for him to turn a blind eye to our slipping away. It also ensured that some mechanical issues would delay any departure until late afternoon the next day. I hope that we will have returned long before then, but it never hurts to take precautions.
We left the ship and began slogging through the swamp. Madeline remained behind. She was to try and delay the ship’s departure should we not return before the appointed time and perhaps try to arrange a rescue if need be, not that it would do any good. We all know that if we don’t come back it will be because we are all dead.
After a few hours, we reached our destination. It was some rough going, but Stav and I were able to work out our position using the map. With James doing some spotting from the treetops and Xun and Roger scouting a safe passage through some of the more rugged areas, we finally arrived at a clearing. In the center, it looked to contain the ruins of some structures that look to be our target. I must admit, I thought it would be tougher than this.
It seems that I spoke too soon. The area was covered in pig tracks. As we set foot into the clearing, we were set upon by 4 wild boars and 2 other pigs the size of horses! These must be those war pigs I’ve heard tell of the Gremlins riding into battle. These hogs are completely feral though. And mean to boot.
The boars were able to get into melee shockingly fast! Stav and I began shooting at the war pigs while the others (and Bacon) took on the boars. Being and undead piglet, Bacon could do little but run some interference. Roger, Xun and James were all able to put their boars down, though not without sustaining a few wounds. Between Stav and I, we managed to cripple one of the war pigs. James took care of the other. With Roger continuously freezing and paralyzing the beast, it wasn’t able to mount much of a defense. Once it was dead, an icy blast shattered the last war pig into pieces. I took advantage of the corpses to do some healing and get myself a new zombie pig (Oinkus), with Bacon having fallen in battle.
We continued onward through the marshy clearing. About halfway through, we found the remnants of an old barbed wired fence. It had long since been trampled and torn, but it looks as if we are on the correct track. The, further on, we found our quarry. The abandoned Greystar Ranch! The ranch itself seemed to have been entirely built upon a raised platform. Several buildings had been constructed atop it. The pilings at the far side had collapsed, leaving the entire thing sitting at a 20 degree angle. The front gate was still 3-4 feet off the ground, forcing us to climb up there. Except for Xun who just teleported to the ramparts. At least with entrance being this high, we shouldn’t have to worry about pigs getting inside. Amusingly, we were not the only one to realize that height = safety. As we entered, we spotted a gremlin skeleton in the crook of a tree not far off. It looks as if the poor sod had been treed by a pig and perished up there.
Xun discovered a couple skeletons within the guard tower into which he had teleported. As we were entering via the front gate, he crossed over the causeway above us and entered the building to our left. It was a bit tricky to navigate the sloped floor. We could see the extent of the damage from here. The entire back 3rd of the complex had collapsed into the swamp. Hopefully the pump would not be there.
James went across the courtyard and began poking about in what was once the stables. Roger and I investigated another door which opened into an old sitting room. The tilt of the place was giving Roger no end of trouble and he kept stumbling about. Despite this, he preceded me into the sitting room for a look. It was about this time that we began to hear moaning! Once again, I knew it wouldn’t be this easy.
The specters of the dead residents of this place had begun to manifest! From the back of the room in which was Roger there came a couple of ghostly women who looked like kitchen staff. Outside, some ghostly field hands came along with a spirit dressed in fine clothes who carried herself with a haughty demeanor, the Lady of the house by chance? Some of the spirits resembled those that we’d fought in the warehouse back in the QZ on our first day. Need to watch for those.
Xun came out and fired from the upper balcony upon which he stood. Stav and I retreated to the gate. He began firing at the ghosts in the courtyard while I engage the ghost of a little girl that came skipping down a path toward us and then let forth the most unearthly screams. I sent Oinkus after the Lady Greystar, he didn’t last long though. Roger had done exceptionally well, killing both of the ghosts that had menaced him. Unfortunately, he attempted to exit the building in which he’d fought, just as Lady Greystar happened by. She raked him with her talons and he fell, his legs a bloody, mangled mess. Due to our combined fire, the little ghost girl and the ghosts within the courtyard, save Lady Greystar had been felled. James emerged from a side building and after cutting down a Sorrow, moved to engage the Lady with Xun who’d teleported down. Together, they defeated her and she disappeared into the aether from whence she came.
I went at once to Roger. A round of first aid and a healing spell a la the corpse of Oinkus served to restore him to consciousness. His legs though needed more work. I took him out front and attempted another heal using the gremlin skeleton, needing more, I used the 2 skeletons from within the guard tower. His legs still useless, Roger would just have to wait as during his movement to join us in battle, James had found the pump and the others were already working to remove it.
With our tools, it didn’t take long to remove the pump from its housing. We carried it outside where James, Xun and Roger began to secure it within the tarp that we’d brought. Stav and I felt it a shame to leave without taking a look about, so we returned and began a search of the place.
We began with the most intact building toward the back of the compound. It seemed to be the Greystar residence. We quickly noticed that everything of value below chest height had already been stripped from the place. The Gremlins were thorough in their looting. There were a few things that they didn’t get though. We found some paintings still upon the walls that were in very good shape. Stav recognized the name of the artist and believed that they may have some value. We took them down and wrapped them. Then we noticed something at the end of the room. The back portion has under water, but hanging above the fireplace, was the stuffed and mounted head of a steer. It seemed to have some quality about it. Being the stronger swimmer, Stav waded in and swam to the fireplace. Once arriving, he grasped the head and lifted it from the wall! He promptly sank to the bottom!
I could see Stav, struggling. I began to wade in to aid him and promptly slipped on the muck of the floor. I was able to regain my footing and finally reached him. Together, we were able to pull ourselves out of the water. I’ll need to remember to oil my firearms later. Once we’d gotten out, we realized that the head was speaking! I listened to it for a moment and recognized then words as arcane spells! It seems that this head is a grimoire. It probably belonged to Greystar himself, a testament to his time as a cattle rancher back Earthside perhaps? At any rate, we secured the head within a sack and kept searching.
In the other building, where Roger had been attacked, we found a collection of silver tableware in the upper cabinets. In the upper chamber, on the mantle we discovered an ornate hourglass. It was quite unusual in that the sands within didn’t flow, they floated and swirled like mist. Xun had been in this room, I wonder how he could have missed this? A quick look at it and I realized that this was a grimoire as well! Quite a score indeed.
The pump having been secured out front, we gathered up Roger and returned to the site of our original battle with the pigs. Luckily, no new swine had come by and I was able to use the remaining corpses to fully restore Roger. With him back on his feet, we picked up the pump and began staggering out of the swamp.
We’d moved along for some time when we noticed something ahead. There seemed to be clouds of spores floating about. As we watched it, we noticed some of the trees behind the clouds begin to move! These would be the legendary wauldgeists of the Bayou. Then, 3 frogmen creatures leapt from the water and landed almost at our feet! We set down our burdens and began to fight.
The frog creatures didn’t pose much of a challenge. Roger, James and Stav killed them all very quickly. The wauldgeists on the other hand were formidable foes. They attack from one of them almost took me off of my feet! Retreat was impossible as the creatures were able to reach up and ensnare us with the very roots of the earth! Fortunately we had some readily available corpses nearby. I was able to keep us healed while Xun and James went to work on the wauldgeists. A fire enchantment on James blades was just what he needed to finish his off while Xun took care of the other. One of the wauldgeists served as plenty of material to heal us all completely. I think that the other will make a nice beast of burden.
With an undead wauldgeist helping to carry the pump, we made good time back to the “Sunken Queen”. The looks on the faces of the crew when we came strolling out of the tree line was priceless. Needless to say, when I asked Jim if he would mind us bringing our cargo on board, he didn’t object. We also brought the wauldgeist on board. I stood him on the bow and told him to keep watch. With him there, the rest of our voyage was remarkably peaceful. We observed a couple other bands of gremlins through the trees, once they got a look at our tree friend, they quickly lost interest in the “Sunken Queen.”
6 days after our adventure at the ranch, we returned to the Gasworks. I sent the wauldgeist off into the bayou and we cooled our heels for a day while awaiting the next train back to Malifaux. There was some curiosity regarding our tarpped cargo, but enough of a word about us had gotten around and no one bothered us. After getting cleaned up, Roger and I began examining the hourglass and the steer’s head. Stav was annoyingly underfoot, he refused to let that head out of his sight. After some experimentation, we discovered the correct pattern in which to shake the hourglass. Once done, the sand formed arcane runes from which we could read spells. The head will be a tougher nut to crack. All we were able to determine was that it needed soulstones in order to access its abilities. This will need further research.
The train arrived the next day and we were eventually able to get the pump loaded. We then boarded the train for our return. The return trip was uneventful. After we arrived at Industry Station in the IZ, we sent a message to the MSEC compound. Frost quickly arrived with one of the large cargo wagons. We got the pump loaded and returned to the compound. The way that McKinney’s eyes lit up when he saw that pump, I wonder what it does?
We got cleaned up then discussed a course of action. We decided to reach out to the Spruce, maybe she will know exactly what the steer head does. We went out to sell off the artwork and silver cutlery that we’d taken from the ranch. While we were out, we stopped by an M&SU office and mentioned to the rep. on duty that we needed to see the Spruce. Later that evening, after we’d returned to our quarters, we got a message, it was just a time and place.
The next day, at the appointed hour, we ventured to the address. We found ourselves at a playground! A young girl left the group with whom she was playing and came over to talk with us. I then realized that she was the Spruce! We told her about the steer’s head and opened the bag in which it was contained. She took a look at it and informed us that she had no idea what it was. She told us that she knew someone who would know, but she would have to take the head to him. It seems that he doesn’t like strangers, especially men. We suggested that perhaps Madeline could accompany her? The Spruce was open to the idea, but we told her that we’d need to discuss this further. As we returned to the compound we contemplated our next move. Stav argued for trying to find another contact so as to try and sell this. Roger and I felt that we should make sure that we know just what we have before trying to sell anything. For the time being, we will hold onto it and hopefully as Roger and I gain more experience in matters of the arcane, we will eventually be able to puzzle it out.
Through the Breach, Into the Unknown
Journal of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian - Session 6: Down to the Bayou - Pt 2.
Chronicle of the adventures of Dr. Thaddeus Sartorian in Malifaux
Session 6. – Down to the Bayou: Pt.2.