Thursday, January 19, 2017

Session 2 - Febuary 12th - 15th 1879

  As the adventurers were walking through the dusty evening streets of Neverwhere laughing about the peculiarities of their colony lives there was suddenly a shout from the main gates and people began to assemble before the fort as riders and wagons began to stream in looking exhausted. Emily Shaw recognized the man on the lead horse as Professor James Mountjoy , a respected explorer and cartographer of the Royal Geography society. John Henry took more immediate notice of a number of wounded men being carried in by the expedition's wagon. The full expedition of six horses, two wagons and a dozen men on foot slowly spilled into the crowded streets and began to slowly spit apart. Both Emily and Lance hurried behind the horses as they filed into the gates of the Fort, hoping to overhear news from far afield. Professor Mountjoy met with Lord Commander Newholm and while they couldn't make out much of what was said over the noise in the square behind them, Lance heard the expedition leader mention "Zula savages..".
   Patrick didn't see much value in watching the expedition file and and went to the Lonely Hart to get his rationed pint. It was good thinking as the returned expedition quickly filled the pub and as the other adventurers filed in they found seats at his table with a few other strangers who happened to be part of the expedition. Emily was hoping for some sweeties but the barmaid sadly told her they usually sell out of anything sweet in the morning, however they do bake pies on Friday nights. As they sat and drank Lance struck up a conversation with one of the expenditioniers about their outing. The soldier at their table was grim, painting the natives as essentially animals in clothing, savage and bloodthirsty. The soldier assured them that the savages did not wear animal masks but unimaginably had animal's faces and he produced a necklace made of leather and teeth as proof of his claim. As Emily looked the artifact over she recognized that the teeth looked like shark's teeth although nobody had found a sea anywhere nearby. Lance noticed the amulet bore a curious resemblance to a Constantinople Cross and pondered aloud that perhaps England wasn't the first visitor to these lands.
   While huddled around the table listening to tales of savages Patrick noticed a well dressed but shady looking gentleman with a sheleighly draped over his shoulders walk out of the back of the bar, accompanied by two big men of Scottish descent. He excused himself to go meet with a man he assumed was the infamous Tom Blackpool. He asked Blackpool if he'd be willing to teach him to fight with the stick. Blackpool looked at once confused and offended as he stepped back from Patrick "Boy you're not the one to ask me that, now make some space, you're breathin air meant for your betters.." Patrick snorted "The bar railing is the great equalizer as no man stands taller than another when both are leaning against it." Blackpool gritted his teeth in an almost savage anger as he regarded Patrick "Angus, learn our new friend a lesson in equalizin.." and one of Blackpool's big thugs stepped into Patrick, tightening his huge meaty hand into a fist. Patrick thought quickly as his friend stood from their table and John Henry's hands move to his guns. He glared furiously up at huge Angus and sniped "Your father never taught you to take your business outside?" and he abruptly left the bar before his mouth started the fight faster than his escape.
  Angus followed the hot-headed Irish Communist out into the street, unnerved when John Henry, Lance and Emily filed out and rested against the front of the bar. When Angus motioned for them to depart John Henry looked back at him unflappably and said "If it's a fair fight you have no need to worry and no reason to object to spectators. Patrick squared off against the big Scott, a little unnerved when the already huge man adopted a trained boxing stance but it became quickly clear the Angus was a slow study at the sweet science and even with no formal training Patrick was too fast to be hit my more than a glancing fist. Soon soldiers up on the walls of Fort Alice spotted the scuffle as Patrick planned and he and Angus each ran from the authorities as Lance and Emily distracted the soldiers with some clumsy fast-talk.
  As the party broke up Emily returned to the lady's boarding house only to be given a scolding my her house mother for sneaking in late. Emily didn't care for being treated like a child more today than when she was a child but in the interest of not making waves she took her admonishment. She asked about breakfast and found that it is served very late. Her House Mother explained that most of her girls work at night, indicating prostitution, but that there was a nice young lady who worked as a clerk for the provisioners and Miss Fordham, a chemist working over in the barn with the academics.

   The following morning Emily arose early and found a shady space in front of the main gates practice her illustration and people watch. She had agreed to introduce Lance Weston to the Pooles but didn't set a time to meet so she figured she'd just watch for him. As she surveiled the streets in front of Fort Alice, Emily began to notice peculiar patterns of behavior. She spotted military officers having discrete conversations with laborers, and Lady Poole taking audience of a rough-looking Irish woman. It would seem the social terrain in the New Imperial Territories was more complex than it first appeared.
   As Lance arrived on the scene Emily grabbed her sketch book and hurried to intercept him, escorting him to the Poole's home and offering him an introduction to Lady Poole. Lance had questions about how to become attached to the expeditions traveling out into the wilds but the Lady was little help, not really knowing how they sort out who is allowed on expedition. Lady Pool was however intrigued by the idea of a new spiritualist and asked if a demonstration could be provided. Lance decided to demonstrate his powers of levitation if Lady Poole promised not to let others hear of it. They thanks Lady Pool for her hospitality and said their goodbyes and within a mater of hours Lance spied a pair of ladies walking along the boardwalk of the town, pointing at him and gossiping about his remarkable powers.
   John Henry had risen from bed and set to work immediately on examining his sample of Orichalcum. The work he had done yesterday was productive but today each experiment he performed only seemed to lead to a dead-end. Distractedly he became interested in the other work scientists were doing in the lab and he found that they were either confusingly advanced or dubiously simplistic but he couldn't be sure which. After an unproductive morning he was tapped on the shoulder by Laura Popwell "Mister Jackson, do you by any chance have a mechanical inclination?" She led John Henry into one of the equipment corrals of the barn and showed him a high-powered pump that was powered by a drive belt. She explained that she had rebuilt it and now it seems to be leaking. John Henry was only fleetingly familiar with such devices from his mining career but he had a good mind for solving problems so he methodically took the pump apart and solved her problem for her. Popwell was joyous and promised to reward him for his good deeds.
   Patrick was woken roughly by a kick to his bunk and McShane stood over him "Up boyo.. I heard you were in a disagreement with Blackpool's boys.." Patrick dismissed to scuffle and let McShane look him over for wounds. McShane admonished Patrick for sticking his nose in Blackpool's business and warning him that the slimy Scottsman was a shark and should any more trouble come to Patrick he should bring it to McShane directly. Patrick worked his long morning at the Mill, still thinking about a sheleighly. As lunch broke Patrick ran to the Lonely Hart hoping to catch Blackpool. Entering the pub he went straight for that back room only to be stopped by the comely barkeep "Eh mill-boy, that's not the way for you.." Patrick explained that he was looking for Tom Blackpool and she nodded pouring him a pint and handing him a folded note. Patrick opened the note to find it was in fact from Blackpool.
"You held your ground against my meanest man and by his account you're a fast fucker. I have judged you too quickly. Please have a pint on me by way of my apology. Come around the Hart Saturday after nine-bells and I may have an opportunity for a man of your talents."
Patrick Returned and finished out his shift. As afternoon turned to evening the characters gathered at the Lonely Hart for another night indoors. There was fiddle music and the crowd seemed to be a great spirits. Emily ordered a fresh baked Goldfruit pie to share with the table. While the others were reluctant to try the peculiar colony fruit, and joked a about how a lot of things taste a bit like apple, when the pie arrived steaming and sweet they all dug in. Even Patrick who had taken a dislike to Emily's ruling class ideas had to admit it was a fine pie.  

   Lance Weston woke the next day in his little boarding house room only to find he had slept past breakfast again and found cold porridge on the stove. There was a young man in workman's clothes in the kitchen cooking and he struck up a conversation hoping to talk him into sharing some egg and toast. The introduced himself as Bernard Spencer, a disbursement clerk for the East India Company. After a cordial conversation Lance didn't get breakfast but convinced the practical young man to cook him wholesome hot meals for a frugal price and to teach Lance how to cook in the bargain.
   Patrick slept in late in the day and took his time getting himself together before hunting down McShane to ask about working to renovate the sorry dorm kitchen with his free time. McShane didn't have to be asked twice if he wanted something for nothing so he had a boy fetch some board from the mill yard and let Patrick have his run of the kitchen for the day.
   Emily woke early, knowing the line at the Fort Purser's desk was very long on payday. She got in line before the crowd got too large and collected her stipend then visited lady Abernathy to discuss goings on about town and read through her library for the afternoon.
   Lance was suffering afternoon boredom poorly as he window shopped through the few shops in town when he spotted John Henry emerging from Fort Alice after collecting he pay. Lance greeted him and asked if he wouldn't mind accompanying him out to the edge of the fields for some target practice. John Henry reasoned that a few rounds might help him get in a better mood for research. Then ran into Patrick on the way out to the gate and dragged him along in tow. Out at the edge of the fields where an old gnarled tree sat alone in the field. John Henry showed off a little of his fast-draw and Lance began to obliterate the tree with repeated blasts of lightning from his fingertips that didn't stop until the tree caught fire and Lance noticed that a crowd had gathered on the walls to watch.
   As the sun set John Henry was feeling a bit wild from nips of whiskey and gunplay and he opted hunt around town for one of the working girls he had seen loitering in front of the pub. After a brief negotiation he discovered that whores in Neverwhere don't have anywhere to conduct their business so while he pounded a prostitute in the space between the reeking stables and the palisades wall he mused over the possibility of building a whorehouse.
  Patrick showed up at the Lonely Hart to meet Tom Blackpool and found him there with Angus and the other thug. Blackpool was in a much more gracious mood, greeting Patrick and walking him into the back of the pub and down into the cellar where a crowd of men and women from all walks of life were making bets on two men pummeling one another in a fighting pen. Blackpool explained that win or lose a fighter makes a pound note for putting up fists. Patrick told Mr Blackpool that he'd think on it. Patrick could only imagine how crooked the fights must be, but still it was nearly twice his weekly pay just to step in the ring.
   Lance had stepped into the bar once John Henry abandoned him and had a pint while watching people come and go. Eventually he headed back to his sad little boarding house and skulked in the back. As he was trying to sneak in he heard a voice call his name and turned to find a figure wearing a hooded cloak in the moonlight. The sultry feminine voice told him there was an opportunity to join an excursion of Aether prospectors going to Silver Lake and they'd very much like his company. Lance was interested but insisted he know who was making the offer. The hooded figure pulled back her cloak to reveal Laura Popwell's attractive features. She explained that she wanted Lance's support but didn't want to spook people already working on the excursion. Lance said he'd go but he wanted to bring on his people, a mining engineer, explorer and laborer. Popwell agreed and said the excursion departed at dawn on Monday.
   One by one the characters rose on Sunday morning and dressed and groomed, making their way through the streets to the old white chapel to attend a standing-room-only mass. Each had their own reasons. Lance wanted to see how rumors of his prowess had spread. John Henry was hoping to see if the town's working girls showed up at church and how others reacted to them. Emily Shaw was legitimately looking for the solace of church. Patrick O'Mallie just didn't want to be suspected of atheism. The sermon was especially incendiary for an Anglican church, warning of the temptation of the devil in making you sympathize with the savage natives, tricking good-hearted people into believing natives are not so different from the proper English and the Hell that awaits those that put trust in the devil-spawn that populate this strange land.
   After church Lance caught up with Emily and John Henry to tell them about the expedition and while each had questions that Lance couldn't offer much of an answer to they were all intrigued. Patrick returned to the Irish Dorm, keenly aware that his rich and privileged friends were all excited about something likely to get him killed. While checking over his work in the kitchen Theodore McShane came in with a please smile and some sweet words for Patrick's work. He explained that he can see that Patrick is a man due some respect and that he had a special work detail for him to show thanks for his hard work, no need to show gratitude, it's just good old McShane looking out for his hard-workin brethren. Naturally the reward was a job on the excursion he had tried to avoid.
   On her way back to the women's boarding house Emily stopped off to the stable to speak with the manager. He was in charge of cleaning up the mess from hunters and tanners and he always had a few bones set aside for her to practice her scrimshaw on. She exchanged a few pence for a handful of clean white bones, some of which looked most peculiar. After she wrapped her ghoulish purchase in a handkerchief she continued down the boardwalk and slipped into the provisioners and had a look at the Rifles for sale. The selection was poor compared to what a woman of her means could find in London but there wouldn't be time for a trip to the city. She purchased a fairly expensive older military caplock and got a dozen nicely rolled cartridges.
   John Henry returned to the barn to find that packing crates had been left on his table. As he began to rage about the importance of an orderly workspace one of the other academics explained that Miss Popwell had set them for him to pack any materials he'd need for the excursion tomorrow. John Henry mused that he hadn't actually been asked to come, but more packed along like he was a piece of equipment.
   One by one the adventurers laid to rest, all anxious about what tomorrow excursion would hold..

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