Friday, March 24, 2017

Session 6 - Feb 23rd - Feb 28 1879

Session 6
   Tuesday morning Emily Shaw grabbed a burnt scone and marmalade on her way out into the shallow yard of the women's boarding house. She was tired and felt the weight of her troubles. As she stretched and stepped through her fight poses she felt some ease in the routine. However, her peace was ruined when she spotted someone spying on her in her underclothes from the gate. She bristled and covered herself returning to her room.
   Patrick woke late in the day, still badly beaten. Old Nan tended to him and made him some tea but he wasn't in any shape to move around so he slept the day away.
  John Henry rose and chased down some breakfast. He watched the other scientists working in the barn but didn't have it in him to conduct any experimental work. He tracked around the town, he stood on the wall and though about his ambition to make a gentleman's club, he counted his dwindling funds.
   In the late afternoon he encountered Emily Shaw returning checking in on Patrick O'Mallie. She reminded him of her expectation that he would accompany her on her ill-advised diplomacy attempt with Count Bridgewater to whit John Henry reminded her that she was to be working on his aims to be a businessman in Neverwhere. The pair of them headed into the Hart to get out of the afternoon heat and have an early dinner.
   Later they pair was joined by Lance Weston who had spent the morning trying to tune in the land of the dead and announced that he believed he was close to cracking the code of channeling the dead. As the sat drinking in a quiet corner they conspired on how they would get the invitation back from the Poole's. They decided none of them had the talent for burglary but that with a suitable distraction perhaps they wouldn't need much stealth, perhaps they could engage in a spectacle and their largely invisible Irishman could simply walk into wherever the scroll was held and walk out. John Henry reasoned that if a suitable decoy were left behind chances are Lord Poole would never know he was robbed. One-by-one the adventurers parted company and went to bed contemplating something shy of treason.
   Come Wednesday Lance woke from an unsettling dream that he stuck outside the gates of Neverwhere with the fields ablaze. He shakily carried out his morning rituals. Once he was centered he once more attempted to commune with the dead but he found them flighty, terrified of something in the spirit world, a most unsettling revelation. On his way down the stairs he encountered Mr. Spooner , and the pair of them prepared a sumptuous breakfast while talking over the business of the fort. Later Lance visited the Fort's armorer to talk about purchasing a sword but the man seemed reluctant to offer him one despite the many that were in his shop in various states of construction. As he explained it he can barely keep up with the cavalry's demand for blades. Disappointed but not undone, Lance took to the scrap bins and rubbish piles around Neverwhere, asking workmen where broken appliances are thrown out. With some luck he found a steel bracing bar, heavy and short for a sword but with the rust scraped off and handle wrapped in cloth it would make a serviceable practice sword. For good measure he walked it outside of the town gates to the tree he had lit on fire and gave the trunk a few sturdy hacks until he was satisfied it would work.
   Patrick awoke again in the late morning to the sounds of hammers in the kitchen as some of the men were doing carpentry. Immediately he wanted to investigate and pitch in but he felt woozy upon standing so he laid back down. Old Nan brought him some broth and checked his bandages. He resolved that he'd remain awake today so he got out a book and set about refreshing his knowledge of More's Utopia.
   Emily Shaw woke early, staggered downstairs into the yard and set about her exercises while still mostly asleep. While in the midst of her katas she heard snickering from the gate of the tiny yard between house and palisades and spotted a pair of youngsters spying on her. She bolted at them with clenched fists and while two of them bolted one stumbled and found Lady Shaw standing over him "Having a good look are you boy?" The young man apologized and explained that his friends said there was a woman doing Chinese boxing. He just wanted to see it. Emily Shaw relaxed and explained that her fighting art wasn't Chinese but Indian and admirable curiousity in the foreign aside, it wasn't appropriate for a young man to be spying on the lady's boarding house. She helped him to his feet and ran him off.
   Once she  had time to make herself presentable in her best dress, she hurried across the town to the gates of the fort and knocked at Mr. Montjoy's door. Montjoy appeared mid-shave, seeming embarrassed to see Lady Shaw at his door. He invited her in if it didn't offend her and cleaned the shaving cream from his face. She sat at his desk and laid out the plan to steal back the invitation from Count Volkov. She wanted to know if Montjoy could, from her description of the scroll, manufacture a forgery. Montjoy assured Lady Shaw that he felt it was essential to meet the count but he didn't see how he could make a facsimile with so little idea of what he was copying. Lady Shaw assured him he would just have to make a scroll of similar dimension and that they could roll it onto the scroll's bolster and fittings.
  John Henry woke to the sound of people arguing. High above his cubicle men were fooling around in the rafters of the work barn, sawdust drifting down. He got up and dressed, asking around the barn what was going on. Mr. Martins said "It's Wells, he's got some mad new project from the crown and he's tearing the roof of the barn apart." John Henry wandered into the kitchen to see what scraps could be found at the tail of breakfast and he overheard a pair of academics talking worriedly about funds. When one of them walked away he struck up a conversation with a melancholic lab assistant named Fennworth. Fennworth told him that the presiding manager of Fort Alice had been found dead in his room this morning and nobody knew who would be taking over or how anyone would be paid or work would be approved until there was someone else in his office. It was as if The Company's head had been cut off.
   As John Henry arranged his work table and began the ordinary work of studying Oricalcum a hammer abruptly dropped onto a nearby table with a loud bang. John Henry shouted at the rafters to get someone's attention and a young man with a dirty face and glasses looked down with a smile "Did we lose a hammer? I'm dreadfully sorry, is everyone alright down there?" John Henry cursed out the young Englishman until he came down from his ladder hat-in-hand to make amends. The scrawny spectacles man introduced himself as Herbert Wells, a journeyman carpenter and explained that the roof of the barn is being modified to open like a breadbox with the most exquisite pulley system by order of Lord James Robins of the Royal Army. John Henry was both charmed and annoyed by the young Herbert Wells who was eager to tear the roof off a building with eccentric mechanical aspirations yet no idea of the purpose of the project.
  Before too long Lady Shaw arrived and they excused themselves to the kitchen to conspire. Emily needed assurance from John Henry that he was committed to the diplomacy before she stole the scroll and wanted to know if he could help arrange provisions and horses for the adventurers and Montjoy. It was at this time that the abandoned Wells spoke up "Pardon? Not to intrude but did you say you're arranging an excursion? Are you going to Silver Lake?" Emily and John her unnerved to be spied on but couldn't help but find Herbert's curiosity charming. Wells wanted to test an Aether extraction machine he had built and would be willing to make a substantial contribution if he would accompany them. When asked what he could contribute Well's boasted that he worked four summers apprenticing to an upholsterer and has some skill  loading and driving a wagon. After a quick conference they told Wells they would have to first introduce them to their contemporaries.
   Lady Shaw and John Henry walked the gawky Wells over to the Irish Dorms to check on Patrick, only to find auspiciously that Lance was visiting him. We'll made introductions with vigorous handshakes, winning a smile from Lance when he recognized the young man as the new spiritualist in town. Patrick was harder to win over. He had some hard questions for the distracted young Englishman until Herbert interrupted him to ask if that was More's Utopia he was reading and after a few minutes of critique of More's vision of socialism Patrick had signed off on the gawky young man.
   As they stood and gabbed a group of solemn Irish carried a white pine coffin out of the back of the dorm. After the pallbearers had left the adventurers shared information about the demise of Mr. White and the disruption in the spirit world. John Henry decided that A. N. White may hold some critical knowledge about the Company mine or even more eccentric secrets. Lance Weston was eager to experiment with channeling, believing he could have the dead embody him for a short duration. Lady Shaw liked neither idea but was in need of the support of her friends so she backed them. The left Patrick to rest and parted company with Wells and they were off to Fort Alice.
  They arrived in the rail yard of Fort Alice, seeing the coffin laid out on sawhorses as a solemn crew of soldiers began to carry a body wrapped in sheets out of one of the rail yard apartments and gently laid it to rest in the coffin. Gathered around were the solemn faces of the leadership of the town and the soldiers that serve the fort. The one exception was spotted by Lance and John Henry, a pair of Knights of Avalon smiling gleefully as they shared a private conversation on the parapets. The three of them maneuvered to the deceased manager's apartment but there were too many straying eyes. However, once the laborers began to nail the coffin shut attention was drawn to the sound and quickly the three of them slipped into the ajar door of Mr White's quarters.
  The adventurers began to search the small cluttered apartment for any information they could find. Lance settled down on White's little bed and clutched the man's jacket while closing his eyes in concentration. Lady Shaw admonished him "Not to rush you but we have little time.." John Henry found a little chest in Mr. White's desk but it was locked securely, beside it were ledgers but their contents were a cryptic scrawl of notation. Suddenly Lance looked up from his concentration and his face hardened like he had just eaten a whole lemon. He scowled and began snapping his fingers at Emily Shaw "Ledger.. pen..". As Emily gave him what he asked for he began to move stiffly, writing notes quickly with a look of sour determination. Emily bent down and looked into his eyes "Are you Mr. White?" Lance replied in a monotonous voice "There is a key in my coat pocket for the cashbox, there will be more than enough to finish these tasks. It's unclear how long I can remain so it is paramount..." Lances eyes widened and he stopped scribbling in the ledger "What happened?". Lance had written more of Mr. White's notation but John Henry was able to quickly decipher that that it was four different transactions, credits and debits, a last wish of a dead man.. or an attempt to hide the bodies from beyond the grave. With the lockbox open John Henry found a stack of crisp pound notes. he grabbed a handful and stuffed them in his pocket before peering out the door and discretely the three stepped out into the rail yard to fall into a group of people walking by.
   Walking out of the gates of Fort Alice the trio parted ways with a plan. John Henry walked to the stables to secure horses and a wagon for their trip to Bridgewater. Lady Shaw and Lance walked to the Poole's home to convince them of the importance of a seance that night. Lord Poole was at first reluctant but his wife vouched for Mr Weston's impressive powers. Lady Shaw attempted clumsily to con Lord Pool into arranging a private seance where Mr. Weston would channel the Spirit of A. N. White. Poole was instantly suspicious but agreed to the seance, if only to get to the bottom of Lady Shaw's deception. It was agreed they could convene the elite of Neverwhere at sunset the following night.
   Emily slept restlessly, realizing that time to change her treacherous plans was evaporating quickly. She woke in the night and groggily packed her things for the journey and did her exercises in the half-light before dawn. After breakfast she dressed in her best dress and made her way to the provisioners to buy proper clothes for Patrick to wear in the charade. A suit of decent clothing turned out to be more expensive than she expected and she ended up taking a note of debt to the store.
   Patrick woke feeling all-together resolute, still injured but no longer fading in and out. He asked to return to work but Old Nan insisted he rest another day. Emily Show showed up at the Dorms with boxes of clean new clothes and shared with Patrick his role in their little conspiracy while he dressed. Patrick stopped to admire how he looked in the mirror dressed well and groomed.
   Lance performed a ritual cleansing to remove impurities from his body, then he dressed, packed his things for the journey and set out on the street. He made his lazy way to the work barn to see John Henry only to find Patrick and Lady Shaw there. they gathered in the relative privacy of the kitchen to lay out the plan. The only missing piece was Montjoy with the forgery of the scroll.
  Each of them arrived at the Poole's at their own pace. They found Montjoy waiting in attendance with a knowing grin. As Lady Shaw approached him to share a polite conversation he slipped a scroll into her handbag. Lady Shaw handed her coat and handbag off to Patrick as Lance Weston began to ask for everyone's attention. Patrick moved into the office to "put Lady Shaw's things away. Away from prying eyes Patrick began to search Lord Poole's office. He stealthily jimmied open the Lord's with a boot knife and found the scroll. He quickly unraveled the scroll while the show was starting in the parlor and rolled up the forgery. Just then Patrick realized that the good people of Neverwhere were gasping in horror. He walked out of the office and into the parlor to find Lance looming over the seated Brittains, fingers clutched in to claws, speaking to them in a gibberish language. Montjoy squinted at Lance's growled syllables piecing out what he could "I am Szasha.. I serve Krom in the.. go around? Your blood will .. pour.. fire-branch-man. Kron will lay you flat.. Something about the gift gone bad?" Lance fell out of his possession and stumbled to the carpet, holding his chest. All around him the good Lords and Ladies of Neverwhere flushed and shouted at him for his stunt. Lady Shaw made apologies as she tried to help Lance to his feet once more with the help of John Henry. She asked Patrick to please fetch their coats and after a good tongue lashing from Lord Poole for the embarrassing seance, they quietly walked out of the Poole home without anyone realizing they had stolen the scroll.
   They agreed to meet in the morning at the stables early and set out before anyone's suspicious can be aroused. Lance and Lady Shaw saw Patrick back to his dorm before turning in. John Henry felt a bit more adventurous. He wandered into the Lonely Hart and bought a pint. When the there were no prying ears close-by he leaned into the buxom bartender and ask if Mr. Blackpool was expected tonight. Miss Ainslee gave John Henry a tired look and nodded towards the cellar door, pretending not to notice as the gunslinger slunk by her and vanished into the back of the bar. John Henry found Blackpool at the fight room bar counting his money and struck up a conversation about a hypothetical arrangement where Blackpool would turn wheels to get his gentleman's club up and running in return for back-scratching in kind. John Henry continued to push for specific terms to get his business started until Blackpool held out his arms with pound notes clenched in each fist "Here in these walls walls lays the whole of my kindgom Mr. Jackson, ambitions not withstanding. I don't run this town and certainly not the fort. If you want land and right you'll need to charm Lord Poole. If you want customers you'll want to win over the Friar and the Cavalry Commander..". Blackpool poured John Henry a glass of whiskey and left him to grouse. Upon finishing the glass John Henry felt a familiar sinful thirst and returned to the bar where he began to collect glasses in front of him. When he finally stumbled out of the Hart he realized he couldn't trust himself to wake early in his stumbled state so he broke into the stables and collapsed in the first clean pile of hay he found.
   Friday morning came bright an early with the horse grooms rousting John Henry with a rake and still-wounded Patrick O'mallie struggling into the stables carrying his tools and a large sack. The Provisioner's boy arrived with a hand-cart full of supplies. Next arrived eager Herbert Wells with his cumbersome equipment and baggage. Montjoy arrived and signed out a horse for himself and Lady Shaw arrived shortly before dawn to survey the loading. Lastly Lance arrived with his small luggage bag and his breastplate, ready for adventure. The wagon and two horses pushed out of the gates of Neverwhere amidst the tide of workers heading out into the woods and within a few minutes Fort Alice began to fade into the distance.
   They felt a sense of trepidation as the road lead them back into the woods. An ambush without military assistance could be disastrous. The traveled slowly, John Henry riding ahead. When they stopped Lance Weston levitated above the trees to survey the area. He couldn't' see much in the forest below but he saw smoke to the south, a camp or village he reasoned. As they neared the edge of the woods they saw a rider waiting on the road, his horse slender with long spindly legs. As Lady Shaw looked at him through her spyglass he was clearly not a man, but some sort of fox-headed creature, dressed in armor, carrying a spear. John Henry collected the scroll and rode forward slowly, bearing it to be seen but as he neared the fox-on-horseback bolted away.
   The adventurers set across the plains in the evening and were treated to a beautiful sunset reflecting of silver lake. The set camp in the wrecked village on the lake shore and Herbert ran out to the shore to perform tests on his new extractor. Lance flexed his new cooking skills on a warm pot of stew with bread still-soft from the bakery. Montjoy turned out to be an able camper unafraid to roll up his sleeves and help with the labor of settling in and they slept restlessly.
   Saturday morning came with an urgent rush to push onward. Camp was broken and Herbert used what daylight he could get to make one more attempt at extracting Aether but his results would take time to examine. Lance doled out pasties made from the leftover stew and the wagon rolled onward. At the sight of the King's Highway Herbert pulled to a stop and gawked, unable to conceive of such a marvel. They rode closer and mounted it's huge black bricks, driving down it's wide lanes for miles.     Near sunset the road bridged a massive lake that Lady Shaw estimated at a mile long. At the far end the Adventures found the first exit to the high stone road they had seen in miles and decided to pull off of the way to camp for the night. The land was marshy but dry enough near the road. They set camp and started a campfire. John spotted lights in the forest across the moors and rode across to investigate. As he neared he could see the lights came from lanterns hung in the trees. The woods gave him a sense of unease and he rode back rather than investigate further.
   As the adventurers settled in for the night, laughing about the shared stories there was a mournful wail from deep in the dark wood. Montjoy rose out of his bedding like a shot and grabbed his rifle, searching the darkness. The others reacted in fear, grabbing weapons and looking for what they didn't know. "What is it?" John Henry demanded as he thumbed the hammers of his revolvers anxiously. Montjoy began to move slowly, searching the moonlit moors "The natives call it the Shadow Hound.. it is a very very disagreeable beast.." and slowly howling wails rang out one after the other, seeming to come from every direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment