Deadlands: Anastasis & Wormwood

Back to Denver

As the train pulls into Denver the city appears to have improved since the last time you were here. A gentle hum pulses through the city as it thrums with life, people walk out in the open, vendors are doing business freely. The sense of fear and anxiety that had hung over the town like a cloud has lifted replaced by a renewed sense of vitality.

Your sense of well being ebbs as you go through your day. Maybe you’re tired from a long trip. Maybe your good feeling was just nostalgia for the way you remembered the city. Maybe the excitement and adrenaline from your last adventure is finally dissipating. Whatever the reason you’re looking forward to a nice dinner with your friends.

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Mr. Guests Induction

Eugene blinks his eyes to come out of his daze, his mind lost to the past, thinking about the blow he had suffered from the engorged worm creature. Taking a glance at the English breakfast tea he considers the luxuries he now allows himself. As he brought himself back to the present he hears a knock on his compartment door. Everyone should be resting; he wasn’t the only one who had suffered at the hands of those creatures. He runs his fingers through the veil between two worlds and pulls deflective substance around him as a precaution. He notices its shimmer in the narrow mirror on the wall. Carefully he approaches the door and glances through the peephole, gently swaying with the train as it rocked to and fro. He sees a familiar figure through the door, it’s Tucker.

He opens the door, inviting him in. Tucker says “Can we speak privately for a moment?” before brushing past into the tiny room. Tucker’s eyes sweep around the compartment while his hand rests lazily at his side, gatling pistol glinting in the low light.

“I didn’t realize you were traveling to Denver as well Tucker. Business there?” Eugene asks.

Ignoring the question, Tucker remains standing as he said, “The agency has had their eye on you for some time. As for business, this was the fastest way to get there.” Eugene sits down, not entirely surprised at Tucker’s comments given the long conversations the two had been having about the beings that roamed unseen across the U.S. since the end of the Civil War, and maybe before. Eugene, after all, had been doing his own homework, and he had long ago suspected the Pinkerton Agency was merely a front for a smaller, more discrete and specialized unit, like the Agency. Their recent conversation about the experimental serum coming out of Deadwood had turned out to be a tense, but enlightening evening confirming many suspicions they both had about each other.

Tucker continues, “As you may have surmised, the Agency would like me to invite you to join them with an immediate promotion to a grade 1. It is highly unusual that someone should skip grade 0 but, as I mentioned previously the agency has had their eye on you for some time. They would have brought you into the fold sooner but balls were dropped and missions were left uncompleted. Several members have been disciplined appropriately, especially in light of your excellent performance with this latest series of events.” Eugene nods appreciatively. He did indeed guess that the Agency might offer him some work. But this seemed like it was turning out more official than he planned. That was probably good. And the promotion wasn’t lost on him.

“While employed with the agency as a Grade 1 agent you will receive a stipend of $60 a month along with additional support and backing. In return it is expected that you will use the utmost discretion when handling matters involving unnatural things. Furthermore you should limit the use of your, talents. Should you violate any of these terms, your contract with the agency will be terminated. Do you have any questions?"

Eugene takes a moment to think while pouring himself a whiskey. Before Eugene can answer Tucker says “Good, you should expect a package in the mail from the agency shortly after you arrive in Denver.”

A little abruptly, seeing Tucker’s hurry, Eugene commented while I put the cap back on his whiskey. “I don’t recall signing a contract, Tucker.” Ignoring Tucker’s arched eyebrow, he continues, “but I don’t think that will bother anyone. I understand the need for discretion. We discussed that the night we debriefed the Deadwood incidents. And I do try to make sure I don’t draw unneeded attention. It’s not good for me, let alone the Agency – I understand. But I do hope my employer understands I may need to use my special abilities on occasion, despite witnesses even, on the rare occasion. Up until now I’ve taken some care in cleaning up my messes, but I’m sure some people whisper. Hope that’s not a problem.”

Tucker eyes Eugene carefully, giving away very little. “I hope so too. Regardless of the past, you now have your employer to consider. The Agency can not share its most sensitive material with agents who attract a lot of attention.” Eugene smiles. Now there he is. That’s the Tucker who knows how to play his poker hand.

“What about my allies?” Eugene adds as he sees Tucker’s hand go to the doorknob.

“They can know that you’re in the agency.” Tucker responds. “But the less they know the better. You may continue to use them to aid your investigations if you wish. You were selected specifically due to your experience in law, knowledge of the occult, and general quick thinking. Your ‘friends’ seem to be only able to muster a few of those qualifications.” Eugene reflects on that with a sip. This was good for him. There was no controlling Min, and it gave convenient cover for Eugene’s spells. Even more so with her death and subsequent resurrection. But it might also be bad. The Agency may eventually want him to moderate their behavior. He’d cross that bridge when he got there.

Tucker watches Eugene’s face for reactions, but finds only hints of agreement and anxiety. After a moment Tucker resumes, “As I was saying, expect your first package from the agency your first day back in Denver, if you have any further questions you should contact your superior. Additional information will be in you first package. Good luck Agent Guest.”

Without hesitation Tucker swiftly left the room. Eugene realized he had never given him an opportunity to reject joining, perhaps that had never been an option. In either case, both he and Tucker know that Eugene had been looking for a partner to expand access to his own resources and information. He was tired of working in the dark, while behemoth organizations, like massive trains passed by him. Time to shine a light on them.

When Eugene received the package in Denver he finds it to be heavier than expected. Brown with twine and a yellowing label, simply addressed to Mr. Guest, and inside he finds a badge, an engraved gatling pistol with the words “Agent Guest”, and 12 bullets. 6 of which are silver. The badge looks like small notepad. Upon opening the simplistic covering reveals an ornate stamp that appears to shift as it moves; it will remove any doubt that a person is not an agent.

There is also a tiny note that reads, “Welcome. Please use these tools wisely.” He intended to get himself into trouble. But that’s what he was good at. They were no doubt counting on that.

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His Name was Django
Session 18

The next day Stefan and Clarisse wasted no time. They met with the posse and they had their morning brunch with Madame Laveaux. The only small trouble was that Iniwa and Ru were missing. What’s more, Eugene was feeling a wee bit nauseous. He was forced to keep a bucket beside him while he looked across the table through hollow, baggy eyes at Min, Laslow, and Felix eating. But he assured them he was well enough to get the show on the road. He had a strong suspicion what it was.

“It’s a reckoning, is what it is. This sort of thing doesn’t clear up easy,” he explained to Felix. Felix offered him a swig of whiskey which was only met with a shudder. “No, I don’t think this is natural. No hair of the dog is gonna help this. It’s an illness of a different sort. Of the soul sort.”

Min and Felix stopped where they were and looked aghast at Eugene. “Yep,” he continued. “I’m pretty sure I’m not gettin’ rid of this until I either die, soulless, or I get to Papa Lavaysse first. It’s a curse.” He explained what Laslow had seen the night before. The posse suspected Iniwa was possibly afflicted with the same illness and he may have taken Ru to look for a way to lift the curse. Afterall, it was Iniwa who diagnosed Felix in Shan Fan with a similar illness, Eugene reminded them. Felix was surprised that Eugene remembered such a small detail in their story, since he hadn’t been there to experience it.

With little choice, they met with Madame Laveaux. Over a pleasant tea that reduced Eugene’s nausea but gave him little strength back, they made their plan. They were infiltrate McCarthy’s new plantation. Stefan and Clarisse were going to take a team of Harrowed and distract the guards and the hell hounds while the posse moved inward to kill McCarthy and Papa Lavaysse. Madame Laveaux took Eugene aside and warned him that he’d need to get the voodoo doll away from Papa Lavaysse and make sure it was purified if he wanted to survive. If it was destroyed or if Papa Lavaysse learned of their attack in time, he could kill Eugene.

Now that put the posse in quite the pickle. Once again, they would not be able to just blow up their problems – unless of course they wanted to blow up Eugene and possibly Iniwa or Ru. So they gathered supplies, Eugene took some alchemical stimulants he picked up, and they made their way to the plantation.

On their way they had to cross a river infested with giant crocodiles. Making short work of them with a deadly firing squad, complete with ethereal silver bolts and smoke, they closed in quickly. The melee outside was furious, but Eugene made sure Clarisse’s back was covered the whole time, running ahead the of the group, throwing his usual caution aside. Inside the building they found a house of horrors. Some of the men they found were easy to dispatch. Still drinking around the table telling bawdy jokes, they hardly had a chance to get up before Min and Laslow shot them full of holes. Other rooms had undead voodoo priests and many-limbed ghoulish horrors, unchained and waiting for careless interlopers, but all of them went down in a matter of a minute. So it was that the posse came up to McCarthy who spat curses at Eugene and shot magnum bullets, one of them finally grazing Eugene. He then went down to the full barrage of her bullets – only to leap up and onto the ceiling, upside down, like some sort of deranged spider. Eugene and Min stood side-by-side and blasted McCarthy, stone-faced.

Gritting their teeth, they ran full tilt around the corner into a study. Scanning quickly, Min found a book slightly out of place at an odd angle, discovered a secret door. Surely Papa Laveysse had heard them. Why then was Eugene still alive?

They discovered the vodoun priest in the middle of ritual, calling something big from the other side, a great shadow growing over him in the cramped room. Min unloaded a full clip to no effect and everyone’s horror. Even Eugene had not heard or read about anything like this. His best guess – something in the room had the key to killing the priest’s manitou protector. Half a dozen silvery bolts flew from his hands sending candles and objects flying in pieces, staggering the priest. Finally, Felix screamed from the edge of the room to try the dagger in Lavaysse’s hands. Eugene grabbed the doll at the man’s waste, relieved, only to turn to the priest exhaling a noxious fume. Laslow coughed and grabbed the dagger to stab the priest in the back, but the priest knocked him back. Min grabbed the dagger and stabbed him in the stomach, watching him stagger and breathe the foul fumes again. Then Eugene, squinting through the poison, holding his breadth this time, tapped Min and took the dagger and stuck it through Lavaysse’s heart. Still he moved, flailing his arms. Clarisse walked in and grabbed the knife. She tore his throat open, spilling his blood, and nearly cutting his head clean off.

They left in a hurry. The candles they’d knocked over lit the dark curtains on fire, and the house was going up quicker than a haystack. They left as the entire plantation manor collapsed in a burning heap. Eugene didn’t look back this time.

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Ghoulish Activities
Session 17

It had been a very long since Eugene had walked the streets of New Orleans. It reminded him of some of the streets in Philadelphia where he first grew up – gothic, decorated features adorning buildings that struggled against decay.

Our posse found Dead Man’s Rest without too much trouble, tucked between two larger buildings outside the French Quarter, down a narrow set of stairs in a basement. Someone slipped a piano roll into the piano in the corner, lending a jovial air to the meeting. Garish faces watched them walk in, milky eyed and narrow, sniffing at the air like they were fresh meat. The bartender had pock-marks like that of a rotted corpse, but served Laslow decent whiskey nonetheless. Soon they found Clarisse and Stefan.

Before Eugene could finally put this all to rest, he’d have to prove to Madame Laveaux that he could handle a job like this without botching it. There would be no second chances, so they couldn’t take chances on Eugene or his posse. Of course, they weren’t counting on getting half a dozen hardened hunters. They needed the posse to clear Saint Gregory’s cemetery out of its ghoul problem.

“Anything else we should know?” Eugene asked with a raised eyebrow, looking to Clarisse.
“No nothing. I suppose if you make a terrible racket, you might expect the local police. Try not to destroy the gravestones.”

Felix shrugged. “Well there goes my plan to use dynamite.”

“That’s it?” Eugene thought back to the army of ghouls they’d already killed almost a year ago, and just how much they’d all learned on the road since then.

“That’s it. What, you gettin’ chicken already?” Stefan taunted.

“I’m just wondering if you really know who we are? And if so, what it is we’re missing. I like to be prepared.”

“Mmmm.” Stefan sucked his teeth. “That’s all, if you don’t go running. It’s not an easy task. Some of the people here go out in teams when they’re up for it. It’s a constant menace.” The posse took another look around at the Harrowed in the room.

“Huh.” Eugene looked from Clarisse to Stefan. “Really? Seems rather too easy. Is there a ghoul king we should know about?” He remembered the master that stared back at him from across the wasteland flats back in Burnside. It occurred to him that he never did meet that ghoul king face to face, and he may be lucky for it.

Ru rolled his eyes. “Eugene, really, you’re gonna stop having a pissing contest and get on with it.”

Eugene frowned. “Ru, you should know better. I’m making sure we’re not walking into a trap.” To Stefan he said, “Just seems like there’s something we’re missing. How many are there?”

“A dozen, no more.” Stefan answered flatly. “Can you handle it?”

“Yes,” Eugene searched his mind through all the research he’d been doing in the past year on supernatural phenomenon, and came up with a myriad of ghoul-like creatures that could get them in serious trouble quickly. Meanwhile Ru and Min chattered about Eugene’s posturing.

“Come off it Eugene.” Min snickered. “Stop comparing the size of your cock. Let’s get on with it.”

Eugene’s face clouded over. “Min, you should know better. I was the one who discovered the weaknesses to those ghouls back in Burnside. It was my careful research that did that. I was the one that killed those ghouls when you were just about overwhelmed. I’m trying to make sure we’re not walking into something we can’t get out of.” Turning quickly back to Stefan, “Alright. Yes, we can handle it. But a lot has changed Stefan. I don’t just walk into things blindly anymore. We’ll get the job done. We always do.” Min and Ru blinked. They’d never seen Eugene rattled. Maybe it was all just getting to him. Maybe he was so close that the fear of losing Clarisse again was getting to him. Maybe he just didn’t want to let a whole new group of people down.

They left shortly after and prepared for the evening’s ghoulish activities. Felix seemed intent on having a ball near Bourbon Street – never one to miss an opportunity for drink or experience. And while the posse gathered in the public square, watching the end of the day’s market dwindle, Laslow noticed someone slip past Eugene and snip a lock of his hair. The figure, lithe and black as a shadow, was gone done an alley before Laslow could even take a half dozen steps. He told Eugene, but Eugene could do nothing to track the figure.

The left for the cemetery. As Iniwa opened the creaky iron gate they saw the enormous graveyard stretch before them, shrouded in mist. The vapors stirred around the stones playing tricks on the mind. The sound of the city disappeared. Ru swallowed and could sense the bad energy. Iniwa resolutely took out his cudgel. Felix said it was a shame they couldn’t use the dynamite he was saving. It would make it so much easier… Eugene wryly replied, “We’ve got nothing to fear. Just a dozen ghouls.” No one believed that anymore. “Shut it,” Ru said irritated. “I can’t hear anything with all your jabber.”

And so, decidedly more grim than they were a few hours ago, they crept into the graveyard. Ru trailed them in the shadows, and eventually Min saw a movement in the shadows. They had split seconds to react. Eugene threw a light ahead with a flick of his wrist, revealing fast moving ghouls rushing out from behind gravestones, ignoring the light. Already, these were not your everyday ghouls, thought Eugene. Ru screamed out as a massive ghoul threw a heavy claw into his ribs with a crunch. Somehow it had seen him and walked almost straight out of shadow. Laslow was surrounded in the next seconds. He got off one glancing shot with his massive rifle, blowing a hole in a ghoul’s shoulder but it only stumbled a few steps and recovered. Iniwa rushed to defend Felix who shot madly into the dark. Eugene took a breadth and pulled the air around him to make himself harder to hit. Another massive ghoul stepped out of the shadows behind him. It looked otherwise normal in the moment he had to assess it.

Ghoul.jpg

Iniwa was hacking away at the ghouls in front while Felix shot at their skulls. Together they were barely keeping the four in the front at bay. Ru was locked in hand-to-hand combat with one of the massive ghouls, now noticing its glowing black irises, shining with ghost stone. Eugene “quickened” himself by cheating the same energies the manitou used, then attempted to slip past the ghost-eyed ghoul beside him to help Laslow. It threw a claw into his chest with frightening speed, knock him back, but he rolled with it, ignoring the bruised bones, and shot three heavy and silvered bolts from his fingertips into three separate ghouls beside Laslow. One dropped, and that bought Laslow time to finish off two that staggered against the magical bolts. Ru managed to hack away at the ghoul beside him, heaving as he tried to cut its head off. Iniwa and Felix finished off their ghouls. Seeing that Laslow was OK, Eugene nodded to him and turned back at the creature beside him. Three brilliant flashes flew into its chest, knocking it to its feet. Iniwa charged with a war cry and cut the ghoul’s head off.

They came back late that night to Dead Man’s Rest covered in bits of decaying skin, corpse pulp, and black icor. Eugene took some satisfaction that despite the very insufficient information they were relatively unscathed. “Good enough?” he asked Stefan.

“More than good enough. Very impressive.”

Artwork from psywarrior.com

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Strange Fruit
Session 16

In the aftermath of the werewolf attack the posse was moved into the first class cabin. They rested in the plush seats under the crystal chandelier, trying to recover. Mary Beth walked over to Eugene and asked if he would do the tarot reading he had promised earlier. When Eugene asked if there was a particular topic she was interested in divining she replied “my love life.”

Min snickered and rolled her eyes. “These customs are so strange,” Iiniwa said to her. “What are they doing?”

“Eugene is telling her fortune but really I think he’s trying to get her into bed,” Min said. “Now he’s saying some shit about a handsome stranger she’s going to meet. But beware! There’s something dangerous about him. It embarrasses me that women fall for this bullshit.”

That statement left Iiniwa feeling even more confused. The group disembarked in Jackson, Mississippi. Ru and Min went to buy tickets for the train to Dallas, Texas while Eugene, Iiniwa and Felix went to look for healing potions and monster hunting equipment in town.

As they waited for the others to return, Ru pointed at a pigeon some 40 yards away. “Bet I can draw and shoot it down first,” he said.

“You’re going to get us into trouble,” Min protested. But professional pride would not let her turn down this challenge. She shifted into her shooting stance.

On a count of three they drew. Min had already shot down the pigeon before Ru had gotten his gun out of the holster. He fumbled and dropped his weapon.

“You should know better than to draw on me,” Min said.

Eugene, Felix and Iiniwa returned with healing potions, silver bullets and wooden stakes. The posse boarded the train to Dallas, Texas and began discussing how the new equipment might be properly used against certain monsters. Unfortunately they were too loud. “Excuse me! We can’t have you talking about supernatural mumbo-jumbo and upsetting the folks on this train,” said a man wearing a military-style uniform. “Keep it down!”

“And who are you?” Felix asked.

“Sargent Mason,” the man replied.

“Well, Sargent, this is a free country and we have freedom of speech. I’ll say whatever I want. Suppressing information about the supernatural only leaves people unprepared.”

Ten men in uniform lined up behind Sargent Mason. “Come with me,” he ordered. When Felix refused, the Sargent drew his gun.

Thinking fast, Eugene cast a spell which created a fake government marshal ID. “I’m sorry, Sargent. We are on official business. We won’t trouble you any further and you don’t want to trouble our work either.”

“Actually, you are just the one I want to talk with,” Sargent Mason said. “Meet me at our private table in the dining car. No harm will come to you, I promise.”

Once there a polite but tense conservation ensued as Sargent Mason tried to find out what the posse knew about paranormal phenomenon and the posse tried to reveal as little information as possible. An uneasy truce was reached and the Sargent and his men departed from the dining car.

They arrived in Dallas. Ru and Felix tried to see what the word on the street was about the whereabouts of the outlaw Sam Bass. They caught a few leads but the trail seemed semi-cold.

The next night the group gathered at the Rusty Nail Saloon for the meeting with Clarissa and Stephan. As they waited a whirl of memories passed through Eugene’s mind – Clarissa dancing in the grass with the sun glinting on her dress, Stephan telling an impassioned tale around the campfire about running for freedom and most of all, the final image of both of them bound, being taken away to their fate as he fled.

The saloon door opened and the two of them walked in. Neither had aged a day in the decade since Eugene had last seen them.

Clarissa and Stephan informed Eugene that the McCartney Plantation still stood. Papa Lavaysse was still there as well and his zombie trade had expanded considerably. He was now in league with Baron Lacroix’s Bayou Vermilion Rail, which was notorious for employing zombie workers. The rebellion had been gathering intelligence under the guidance of “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau and they believed the time had come to strike.

“How did you escape? It looked like they were taking you to the old hanging tree,” Eugene said.

Clarissa and Stephan exchanged glances. “We didn’t,” she said.

“I don’t understand,” Eugene said. But as one trained in the occult he quickly began to realize the implications. “You mean—“

“No one was more surprised than us when we crawled out of the grave,” Clarissa whispered.

Eugene sat back in his chair. His old friends were Harrowed.

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Look the Beast in the Eyes
Session 15

Eugene pulled out the brown envelope just as he’d done countless times over the past couple days. He couldn’t put the trip off any longer, he was telling Ru. Ru had been sharing stories of the ordeal in Shan Fan, although truth be told, he told more stories about the fox-like masseuse and the never-gonna-forget-it-sorry-you-missed-it air ship ride back to Denver. The letter was addressed, “Little Boy Blue,” a name he hadn’t heard in over ten years. “Meet us in Dallas, Texas at the Rusty Nail Saloon within two weeks’ time.” Signed: C&S. Clarissa and Stephan. “We collectively have some unfinished business with a certain few individuals.” It was time to court disaster. He’d always been good at that.

The posse shared stories over a Tennessee whiskey, warmed by the alcohol and the wood-fire stoves in the kitchen, but Eugene noticed Min huddled over a sketch pad in the corner. He recognized the creature he drew – a vampire of sorts, named the pennangalan. She probed him with questions pertaining to the creature, clearly still searching for answers, trying to find out how this happened to her mother. And while he couldn’t dismiss that, Eugene could remind her he needed her. Maybe it would even do her good to help him cheat fate. She considered his request quietly, glancing at Iniwa’s missing eye. Here was a chance to return the favor the posse had done for her. No good would come of this, and she warned Eugene to expect as much. But she was in.

Eugene knew the letter he’d received was probably all just a set-up, and Master McCarthy planned to finally catch up with him. But he might not be expected Eugene to show up with the legendary gun Min, as well as the rest of the equally competent posse. If Papa Lavaysse intended to finish the job his curse had started or if McCarthy planned to finally punish Eugene for the attempt at rebellion some 10 years ago, he was in for quite the surprise.

“But if you know it’s a trap, why are you going? And do you really think any good will come of digging in your past. It certainly didn’t turn out well for me,” Min remarked grimly.

Eugene sighed. It was a good question. “Sometimes Min, you’re right, you can’t cheat what fate has in store for you. The best you can hope for is to meet it straight in the eyes.”

He couldn’t risk leaving Clarissa and Stephan a second time. Whatever was in store for him, he’d meet it head on in the best way he could. And this time, he had a half dozen of the best men and women the West had to offer, to stick by him through whatever hell the South had to offer in the dead of winter.

When Min and Eugene finished talking they noticed Laslow and Felix conferring about a man with an enormous sum on his head: $5,000. That’s money you just can’t look away from. Apparently, the fugitive Sam Bass, alias Sam Bushon, alias Honest Eph, robbed $60,000 in gold from the Union Pacific train at Big Springs Nebraska, also for the stage and train robberies in the Black Hills. The man got around. There was a description of this Notorious Badman, but there was no tellin’ where he was now. He’d been seen in the Dakotas, but word has it he went South to the contested lands – maybe Texas. They’d keep an eye out for this outlaw and his $60,000 in gold. Fitz, Iniwa’s new dog companion, barked in excitement.

Sam_Bass_Wanted.jpg

Headed to Witch’s Territory

They had to take the Black River Railroad all the way to Little Rock Arkansas, then they’d hop a minor railroad to Jackson Mississippi, and swing back along the Dixie Rails (thank god it’s not Bayou Vermilion!) to Dallas, Texas. And that would get them there a day ahead of the two weeks C & S had asked for. Of course, that took them through Coyote Confederation territory, and uncomfortably near the McCarthy Plantation. But what were the odds that McCarthy would have anyone looking for Eugene in the area ten years later?

The deeper they got into Coyote Confederation territory Felix started being plagued by dreams. They were strange dreams. A woman knew who was, spoke to him from the ether. The posse couldn’t get any clear information out of Felix – whether the woman was beautiful, whether sweet nothings to him, how she about the posse, and what exactly she was asking. They chalked it up to heavy drinks the night before, except Eugene and Iniwa. They knew that dreams could carry spirits. And they knew curses could work on the soul from afar. They worried about the influence of this dreamspeaker.

Min and Felix also spent time chatting up a senator who was on the train who was destined for Little Rock. Ru, Felix, and Eugene gambled an evening away with a soon disgruntled mustached man and a woman named Mary-Beth. She appeared to fawn over the gentlemen, and feigned ignorance of the game, but the ruse was up when she won $60 of their hard-earned money. Ru laughed and said he was out – that he knew better than to play with hucksters. Eugene murmured that he didn’t know what Ru was talking about – partly because he knew sorcerers were strung up by the noose, but partly because he didn’t know a bit of gambling tricks. But Felix and Eugene kept playing despite the odds. Felix, after all, knew what he was doing. He was gambling man – not just one to gamble, but one who knew how to gamble. Eugene just felt like risking it all. He was getting in that kind of mood.

Turns out Lady Luck is a mischievous mistress. Eugene not only earned his money back, he came out ahead by almost $100 more. Over the next day, Iniwa prayed to the spirits in forgiveness for riding the great metal horse that spit smoke from its head. Fitz whined incessantly longing to roam free. Iniwa wondered if it regretted taking up him as a companion. Eugene did join Iniwa for a whole afternoon, meditating on the past as Iniwa channeled the otherworld. In between rigorous sessions of meditation, they talked about the unseen world, the Manitou, and how they performed what Iniwa called “Miracles” or “shamanism.”

In Coyote Confederate territory, Iniwa saw a couple Cherokee board, guided by a Union soldier. They spoke enough of the general Algonkian dialect that Iniwa, Eugene, and they could all hold a conversation, though they mainly stayed away from the white man.

Bad Moon

There was a bad moon rising. Fitz knew it. He paced the small compartment nervously. Felix, Iniwa, and Eugene stayed more to themselves, trying to fish out the dreamspeaker. They suspected she road the train with them. They had begun to suspect a woman who seemed to also stay to herself – and lord knows, that must be suspicious. Ru and Laslow took it easy, and spent a fair degree of time in the dining car. Min drank heavily and continued to sketch violent, disturbing images.

Suddenly they all heard a howl – several howls, and close at hand. To their horror, they realized they were from inside the train, not in the black forests zipping by in the window. They heard screams of pain and roars of slaughter. Ru leapt to his feet just as a large wolf-man burst through the door, pressing its bulk through the doorway. He screamed for everyone to get out, and most did, but a couple unfortunates hid behind the seats on the other end of the car while the others pushed their way out. Ru shot the creature dead in the head as it came at its prey. It knocked its head back and shrugged off the bullet as if one would have from an unexpected slap. Ru clambered up latched door in the ceiling, just as the creature swiped below him. He could do nothing to save the other two unfortunates as the creature ripped them apart in mere seconds.

Elsewhere, two cars away, Felix opened the door to his and Eugene’s room and stared into the gaping maw of the werewolf – for he knew what this was. He had heard stories – reliable stories. He shot the creature in the chest, well and good, enough to burst a man’s lungs and heart. But the creature seemed similarly unfazed and stuck its claws deep in his bowels and bit down hard, caving his rib cage in. “Werewolves…” he sputtered. In the next room, the dining car, Min and Laslow ran to the door and saw a third creature tearing apart another commuter. Iniwa and Eugene came up behind them. Laslow’s heavy gun shot the creature and stunned it, while Min did the same to the creature looming over their friend, Felix. But it was only a momentary victory. The flesh and bones of the werewolves healed in seconds, hair back up brisling.

“Silver,” said Eugene and Felix together, though Felix said it through wet, bloody teeth. “We need silver.”

“What? I don’t carry silver on me,” said Min.

Laslow prepared to shoot it again – the only thing he could do. Felix clenched his teeth and regretted not buying that supernatural hunting kit he’d been considering. Eugene stuck his hands into his jacket pockets and pulled a single silver bullet from both his left and his right pocket, as if he’d planned for just this occasion, and carried loose silver bullets in his pockets. He stepped forward with open palms in each direction, one to Min and one to Laslow.

Iniwa took a big desperate step forward hoping to avert disaster. He knew the Cherokee had skinshifters, shaman-workers that did good work. “No,” he said desperately. “No, don’t kill them.” And to the werewolf that looked to be female, “No. Stop. Please stop.”
But the creature, consumed by bloodlust, lunged at him. And then the shots rang. Just as Felix saw the other werewolf open its impossibly wide mouth to consume him, its chest burst open. Again and again Eugene pulled silver bullets from his pockets. Again and again Laslow and Min took the bullets, in a blink they loaded their guns and fired. Mary Beth stepped into the train car behind them and admired the scene, while others ran in terror past her.

Iniwa held one werewolf in his arms as it breathed its last breadth. Eugene glanced down, understanding his friend’s pain, but they had no choice. Min and Laslow briefly checked on Felix who tried to hold his guts in and waved them on. There was still one more. Min, Laslow, and Eugene ran to the next car where Ru had been. They found an even larger werewolf climbing up through the latch, onto the top of the train car, where they could guess Ru had escaped to. The wind whipped into the car, and they imagined the winds tore violently at Ru up-top. They heard shots ring out from above. Apparently, he could keep his footing well enough to keep distracting the werewolf. Eugene gave another bullet to Min, but finding himself closer, he took the last bullet for himself and loaded his own gun. They saw blood spray as the creature finally grabbed hold of Ru’s torso in its claws.

They stood under the opening and shot together. Still it did not die, but wounded, and feeling its pack members absent, it reconsidered for a moment, and let go of Ru. Before Eugene could pull more bullets from the other world with his sorcery, the werewolf jumped off the train, disappearing into the darkness.

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Bison, after the events outside of Shan Fan
Session 14.5

The teeming streets of Shan Fan are largely ignorant to Bison as he strides down the road. People flow around him like water around a stone in a river. As he walks his mind wanders to the tasks he must accomplish before he can leave the city.

His first stop is the sewers to repay his debt. A group of rats crowd around him as his feet splash through the refuse and filth. He speaks to several mischiefs (note: a group of rats is called a mischief) before reaching an agreement on their reward. After returning to the surface he tracks down several shop owners willing to give him their leftover food at a discount. Even with a reduced price is the rats are many and Bison spends most of his coin to feed his small allies.

With the little remaining money he has he travels back to the gambling den. He does not relish another interaction with Rat Skinner but it is the only way to help one of the animals imprisoned there. Bison speaks to Rat Skinner and agrees to complete the second fight they had agreed on. He negotiates his payment in the form of freedom of one of the fighting dogs. His opponent was a greasy man who stunk of industry and science. With renewed purpose Bison dismantles his opponent. With his new friend in tow, a large mutt sporting a torn ear and scar mirroring Bison’s own, Bison heads back into the world to complete his last task.

He has not forgotten his mission given to him from Big Fox. He has much to say and proceeds to use the last of his remaining coin to ensure that a letter makes it to back to Big Fox and the Arapaho in Colorado. It reads as follows.

Big Fox,

I have seen much in my journey, both good and bad. This place, Shan Fan as the locals call it, has an interesting connection with the spirits. Parts of the town feel as though they channel energy, some direct it towards good spirits and promote harmony with nature. Others are dark places that bend and distort the spirit realm to serve Manitou and breed corruption. I have seen miracles of natural healing and yet I have also seen great abuse. My friends and I have done much to make the world better but I still sense a great darkness on the horizon. Having half my sight taken has turned out to be a blessing, I can see more than I ever could with two eyes. The world is much larger than I could have imagined and the more clear things become the less obvious the right path becomes. I will have to report once I have learned more.

-Bison

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Blood Ties
Session 14

During the trek to Lynchburg to find Min’s mother, the group spotted a cat trapped at the top of the tree, huddling miserably under the branches in the rain. Dr. Jourdain climbed the tree and retrieved the cat, which jumped into her arms like a trained pet.

Min, Dr. Jourdain, Laslow and Bison arrived in Lynchburg. They checked into a saloon and boarding house named and run by Mariposa Lil. Attractive saloon gals waited on the tables, hurrying on a little faster when Lil barked out orders. After a meal of tortilla soup and enchiladas, the Bison went outside to the stables to perform his rituals. Laslow retired for the evening; on the other side of the room divider Dr. Jourdain began crafting healing potions, the cat purring softly in the corner. Min remained in the saloon for an after-dinner drink.

Laslow was awakened from a disturbing dream about his late wife to find one of the Chinese saloon gals had come into the room. Suddenly her visage turned monstrous with a mouth full of fangs. The cat transformed into another monstrous woman and attacked the doctor.

Min heard the sounds of gunfire and rushed upstairs to the battle. She recognized the creatures as gaki, abominations with an insatiable desire to devour the living. Worse, bullets seemed to have little effect on them. After a long and difficult battle they put the creatures down.

They found the Bison and learned that he too had been attacked in the stables, but his club had proved more effective against the creature than bullets. The next morning the quartet left town for the Lynchburg Estate.

A light rain was falling as they reached the estate in midafternoon. Min told them her name and that she had been told her mother was here. The guards said to wait.

Min_Mother_Estate.png

  • artwork from _ Deadlands Law Dogs_ supplement (106).

They could not help but notice how disturbed the staff seemed. Some appeared absolutely petrified; others were as numb as zombies. An elderly caretaker shuffled over. “Get out before nightfall,” he whispered to Dr. Jourdain, “or you will never leave!”

A Chinese woman dressed in a sumptuous yellow gown approached them, her long black hair shining like fine silk. “Min, my daughter,” she said, tears quavering in her eyes. “I had given up all hope of seeing you again.”

For a moment Min could not speak. Here was her mother, the radiant beauty she had remembered from her childhood. But what of the corpse she had seen in the morgue almost two years ago? “How can this be? I saw you dead,” she said.

“I am sure you have many questions,” Meiying replied. “The servants will prepare rooms for you. During dinner I will tell you the story.”

As soon as they were alone Dr. Jourdain said, “We need to get out of here. That servant said our lives were in danger.”

“I didn’t come all this way just to leave before I find out what happened to my mother,” Min said.

They went down to dinner. At first it seemed Meiying was delaying by stretching out the small talk. Finally Min forced the point. “Mother, I need answers. Now.”

Meiying explained that her parlor house had fallen deeply into debt. Worse, the “Big Brothers” in Shan Fan regarded her as a threat to their territory. So she made a deal with Warlord Kang, who wanted to conquer Shan Fan. In exchange for her service he would act as her patron and even use his sorcerous powers to revive her if she was killed. Rat Skinner Hou eventually did assassinate her. Warlord Kang resurrected her and put her in charge of overseeing Lynchburg Estate.

“How did he do that? And what exactly is it that you do here?” Min asked.

“I cannot answer the first question,” Meiying said. “As for the second, I entertain guests and manage the staff.”

Min thought she was evading the question. All day she had been scrutinizing her mother for signs she was an imposter but could find none. So she tried looking around her instead. The servants were terrified of Meiying; they practically shook in her presence. The shadows in the room were jagged and nightmarish, the portraits on the wall had faces twisted in pain and the flowers in the vase had already died. To her horror, she realized the nexus for the powerful fear and evil in this place was her mother.

Min stood up and shot her mother with the special bullets Mr. Wen had given her. Meiying screamed and her head detached from her body and flew upward. Her head hovered in midair with the entrails still attached. She was a penanggalan, a particularly loathsome type of vampire.

“How could you betray me Min?” I sacrificed everything for you. Don’t do this to me. Your companions are your real enemy. They have tricked you!”

Min felt a strange feeling come over her. She was crazy to be attacking her mother like this. A daughter should defend her mother. She aimed her revolver at her friends, her finger quaking against the trigger. What was happening? This is wrong, she thought, shaking off the charm spell the penaggalan had cast on her.

A brutal battle broke out as the mind-controlled Lynchburg Estate servants tried to defend their mistress. In the end the penaggalan was destroyed but the Bison also went down, tangled up in the penaggalan’s intestine-tentacles. Dr. Jourdain’s weird science medical treatment revived him enough to get him back on his feet. After freeing the children the penaggalan had been using as food, the group left the estate. They saw a woman transform into a fox and vanish into the woods under the cover of night.
-——————————————————————————————————————————————————

The air felt hot and oppressive as Min walked down the hall of carnival mirrors, the surfaces reflecting back distorted versions of herself.

Suddenly the reflections in the mirrors began to shift independent of her movements. Her torso twisted and bulged and then her head and entrails broke free and hovered in the air as her body collapsed on the ground.

“Stupid girl,” the reflections said, and the voice that echoed through the hall was not her own but her mother’s. “You have only delayed your fate.”

Quick as a flash Min drew Wen’s Revenge and opened fire on the mirrors. But the bullets passed through harmlessly.

“Killing comes so easily to you,” the penaggalan continued. “Why do you suppose that is?”

“No,” Min gasped. She backed down the hall and then began to run. But there was no end to this hall of mirrors. Her reflections followed her everywhere.

“You cannot run away from yourself, my daughter,” Meiying said. Her high-pitched laughter filled the hall and the mirrors shattered. The shards moved in slow motion but there was no escaping them. One by one they sliced across Min’s soul. Her steps grew slower and she finally collapsed, succumbing to death by a thousand cuts.

View
Ms. A's Ivory Onyx Cupboard
Session 13

Dr. Jourdain opened a creaky door and discovered half a dozen weary children staring into space, fingers peeling poppy seeds from flowers, wrapping bricks of the black gold. The living dead, so young and so empty, in the dank windowless room. She called to them in a whisper, “Hello?” They did not even flinch. She guessed they had been trained to work and react to nothing on threat of violence, or something worse. Dr. Jourdain called the others in, but they could not suggest something to do. Laslow remarked matter-of-factly, “Well, we can’t let them out now. They’re in no state to leave. And it would blow our cover.”

Min knew the children here had likely come from the Chinese mainland. Most were young girls – a few young boys, a couple as young as 6 or so. It was a fate her mother had spared her from no doubt. She could have easily been one of these children. They closed the door on the children, both of the rooms they found. And they passed the dismal sleeping quarters that smelled of urine and mold. The followed the hall which had small shrines in small alcoves carefully prepared with flower pedals and incense, water and a small candle dancing tranquilly in front of a simple mirror.

They came to surreal open-air courtyard, lit by moonlight reflecting off pools off water. Manicured bonsai bordered stone benches. It smelled of fresh conifer and pristine water. The soft trickle of water ran echoed off the walls, tinkling from water running down a fountain of cascading concentric stone circles. The group set to work. Min and Dr. Jourdain threw dirt in the water. Iniwa broke the mirrors. Felix moved further into the courtyard, eyes fixed on the two-story building with multiple doors facing the garden. Laslow took a corner and relieved himself in the water.

It was Felix who saw a set of ornately carved doors open together on the balcony. Inside, he faintly saw glass glinting off firelight and colorful walls of red and gold thread. From out of the room came two tall figures dressed in banded mail, from what seemed to be from one of the East Asian islands. They each carried an obscene weapon on their shoulders – a multi-cylindered, dull metal object, with a string of of a hundred bullets trailing out of it. A gatling gun. The samurai stepped out onto the balcony and scanned the garden, their faces unreadable behind wooden masks of tortured expressions. But that was not the worst part. Certainly Felix shrunk from this. But what he saw next made him wish he had not walked so far away from the others and trapped himself just beneath the balcony.

A figure opened another door on the second floor slowly, its creak echoing across the open-air gallery where everyone hid below. The man or woman, if it could be called that, craned its neck out of the room, silhouetted by golden light. Its dark brown skin had a cadaverous color, and its beady eyes were midnight. Dressed in shimmering purple silken robes befitting a soiled dove or an emperor, it reached impossibly long arms out and gripped the balcony railing. Then it leaned its head over, like a vulture silently surveying the land below.

Laslow slid again the concrete lip of a pool. Iniwa, Min, and Dr. Jourdain shuffled quickly back into the corridor they came from. For a split second it looked like they would get by unseen. But then the large robed figure sniffed and looked below, matching eyes with Felix. Felix tried to put his hands up then saw the samurai train their guns on him and dove. The komainu statue beside him erupted in shrapnel. Laslow pulled his pants up and deftly quick drew his rifle. Dr. Jourdain could see Felix would need a distraction. She slid in and threw a lightning arc toward the samurai, disorienting one. The other fired back and sent her diving behind the fountain. As Min and Laslow opened fire to buy Felix enough time to scamper back to the group, a great shadow extended from the balcony and reached across the courtyard, sunk the water and the stones in blackness. And then, on a closer look, they all saw the fingers leading the darkness. A large hand stretched over all of them, twisting around even the doorway, feeling for them, pulling at Iniwa, running fingertips over Dr. Jourdain’s cheeks. Their blood rushed in their ears. And they swore they heard a cackling. In their ears. An inhuman growl and their world shook. They clenched their teeth and heard an ancient voice speak, “Who is it that comes hither? Just a nightengale on the wind? A kitten? Ahhh I do so love kitten. Come, let me pet you.”

Iniwa rushed forward and charged up the stairs even as the samurai unleashed innumerable bullets. Fingers clawed from the darkness at Min and Felix and Dr. Jourdain, keeping Felix against the ground shooting at the sky. It was Min who pointed them to the sky at a creature hovering – the robed figure hovering like a black angel. She’d swallowed an Owl’s Sight elixir, her only dose, allowing her to see the shadow against the moonlight. She unloaded her pistols, gritting through a nasty swipe of shadowy fingers that came from nowhere. Laslow took two careful shots, the rifle echoing through the courtyard. Dr. Jourdain flung the arcs of lightning upward. But only Min succeeded in wounding it – surprising it into fleeing. Iniwa busied himself by crushing one samurai with a heavy strike and flinging another through the railing and a hard fall on the stone below. Just at that moment, Ru came out of one the remaining second-story rooms naked and took a shot at the creature in the sky, wounding it further. Now it flew for its life, bitter and hateful sputtering with the effort. Min shot it once more, and nearly killed it. She watched it drop to a rooftop and slide over the edge out of sight, but she was sure it was still alive.

In the moments after Ru apologized to his attendant, a fox-eyes sharp-witted woman who had been in his room with him, enjoying the scented bath, when they’d been interrupted. While the others regarded her with suspicion, there was all-together too much to be done and too little time to ask too many questions. Dr. Jourdain tried to engage her in conversation and Ru took note of the fact that the woman took an exceptionally long time in getting her things together. They searched the upper rooms quickly for the manager’s ledger – Ms. A, and realized the creature they had fought, an oni sorceress, was in fact Ms. A. Her full name was Ms. Ama No Zako.

The next half an hour was a scramble. Someone came in to the garden with the a sort of assistant manager, but this new gentleman looked precisely like a bookish and hawk-nosed Ru. He held enough sway to convince the manager not to cause trouble so long as the group left quickly – not out of any good will, apparently, but because it was all better for business. This group was clearly equipped to deal with their immediate security, so best to quit while the losses were acceptable. And those losses were quite lucrative. The group found a safe and with the help of the faux-Ru the group gained access to the safe. Unfortunately, in related investigations, Felix opened a desk only to have a cold curse fall over him. While he couldn’t be sure at first, he grew ill as they began to leave and the group knew they’d have to deal with that before the night was through.

Leaving the Ivory Onyx in a right mess, they waltzed back down the corridor until Min stumbled into the work rooms with the children. But they still weren’t sure what to do with a dozen orphans whose families were still on mainland China. Dr. Jourdain would stand for nothing else but to leave with the children. Iniwa stood quietly by and watched, as did Felix although he looked a bit more uncomfortable, while Ru affirmed Dr. Jourdain’s stance. Min, still unsure, looked to Laslow who tried to explain that they’d be doing the children no favors by letting them onto the streets of Shan Fan free. They might even get the parents in trouble or be cutting off a source of income for the parents. Dr. Jourdain and Ru looked horrified, and that eventually convinced Min to help Dr. Jourdain with translations. The two women convinced the children to follow them with some effort. And so, a little confused, a lot richer, one man cursed, they all left the opium den with a dozen weary children. Min knew an orphanage, one of the only ones in town, led by a stern New England emigrant woman. They handed over the children there, and Felix left the woman an additional generous sum to her stunned gratitude.

The next day Felix was doing only worse. None of Dr. Jourdain’s science could do any good. Iniwa conferred with the doc and told her this was a sickness of the soul. They decided to seek out someone who knew what to do with the dark arts of curses. They discovered Yan Lo’s little house of hor…um…antiques. He took Felix back into the shop alone and Felix came back out weary but on the mend.

And with that they left Shan Fan, hot on the trail of Min’s mother. The ledger revealed the location of her estate – outside a town called Lynchburg. They walked out into the coming storm. Three days later they were crossing a rope bridge against howling winds, slicked by rain, hanging over a seventy foot drop above churning waters and jagged rocks. Felix caught just a glimpse of what might have been a maze dragon. The bridge snapped and left Felix and Ru cut off from the group. It was the only bridge for miles. Now it would be up to Iniwa, Laslow, Dr. Jourdain, and Min to finish the quest for Min’s mother at last.

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The Jade Rabbit
Session 12

In the morning, people place covered baskets full of red envelopes on their doorsteps. Dust and debris is swept from front step into the narrow alleyways between the maze of buildings. Iniwa wakes up in the garden to find the innkeeper tying strings of unlit lanterns to tree branches. Looking out the window, Min sees many people doing the same, or leaving open wooden mailboxes on their porches full of bright red ribbons. The Festival of the Moon. It had been a long time since she’d seen it. The activity, the smell of dumplings, the memory of soft lights warming the autumn evening and playing in the streets. How had she forgotten these moments of her childhood?

After some discussion over morning tea, a hard bourbon for Laslow, Min led the group to where she remembered Big Ears Tam had an estate facing the long Heavenly Garden. Guards in banded mail stood at attention atop a fifteen foot wall. They looked down at Min when she called up in Cantonese, and moments later the wide doors swung open – their ornate dragons reeling back.

In the courtyard a girl danced in a cloud of perfumed incense which swirled between two large ceramic censers. A crowd of about 20 gardeners, guards, kitchen staff, and other manual laborers sat smiling with rapt early morning attention. The smell of styrax blossoms was heady. The woman sang long and high-pitched notes, pained at some loss most of the group could not understand. Min quietly whispered, " She sings of otherworld." She remembered the soiled doves of the Gold Lotus Parlor House dancing impossibly to the lute and singing similar songs – their countless unspoken losses communicated in the songs they sang.

The group wandered the meticulously tended garden, Iniwa noticed the flora was of the variety to attract birds, and indeed, he saw more birds flitting about the garden than most places in Shan Fan. They picked at late blooming pink and white flowers, and ate seeds. Eventually, the song ended. The group looked to the large building in the center of the courtyard, approximately three stories high and very wide, with lacquered wood panels and interlocking bats carved into the archways of the porch. A large familiar man came out of the double doors, with a heavy chin and narrow, unreadable eyes. Ototo. The man who took a couple buckshot rounds from Laslow to the chest, and one of Dr. Jourdain’s flashing pouch grenades to the skull and kept going like a mad bull. The man who shrugged those off to nearly bludgeon Dr. Jourdain and Laslow, and only turned away when struck by lightning, and then only retreated when he saw his master, Misaki, was no where to be seen. He approached the group and quietly spoke in English, “Please. Follow.”

One onlooker watched as the group wandered into the courtyard, a man with uneven whiskers, and murmured to his portly friend, “Styrax is supposed to keep away snakes…” Before the door closed Iniwa noticed a woman with a fox’s spirit in her eyes watching the group from the outer gates which were also just closing.

Inside, Big Ears Tam sat on carved wooden throne of two Maze Dragons entwined. Behind him stretched colorful mural.
Moon_Festival_Mural.jpg
Moon_Festival_Mural_2.jpg

Big Ears Tam began mundanely. Ototo took up his shoulder, and above Misaki glowered from a balcony. Masked men in closely wrapped garments stood in the shadows, watching carefully. Above them four men leaned over the railings with crossbows trained on the group. A woman in shimmering robes brought tea in on a tray. Only when the tea had been served, and the woman had left, and everyone had the opportunity to take a sip of their tea did Big Ear Tam finally speak, his long white whiskers shaking just a touch. “What do you think you’ll do if you find out what happened to your mother? What do you think it will give you? Happiness? Peace?”

Min reluctantly spoke about her desire to talk to her mother, to discover what happened, but she kept the conversation safely vague. Best not to get too personal. Big Ears Tam thoughtfully chewed on his gums for a moment. “Perhaps you mother is like the Immortal Moon Goddess Chang Yi. Perhaps she flew into the sky to always be near you, and to never die. Impossible to catch her.”

“Whatever it is that you decide to do, I would hasten to your decision. You are becoming increasingly visible. I am not the only one who has noticed. Shan Fan grows more dangerous for you by the day.” The implied threat was not lost on Min, though Laslow and Iniwa shrugged. This wasn’t new information. Felix and Dr. Jourdain asked why were they attacked and now invited. Big Ears explained, “We can help each other. I have become convinced that you will not leave empty-handed. I can tell you where you’ll find answers, but you must do me one small favor.”

He told them of the The Ivory Onyx, an opium den, I have recently discovered operating outside my jurisdiction. Min and Felix noticed his irritation at its existence. “Kang has been using it for the past year as a meeting place for his most select agents. It is a place of terrors. Lost several soiled-doves. It’s an opium den on the surface, but I believe he uses it to draw otherworldly energy and creatures in. Go there, make a mess of things. Disrupt the energy. Let that teach him to traffic in the dark arts in my city. We are an orderly city. But in there, you will likely find a ledger, or a manager, someone who knows the particulars of who has visited the Ivory Onyx. And I suspect you will find information on your mother there in those particulars. They operate mostly in the day time as a spa, and after 11 at night. So the hours of sunset to 11 are pretty tame. Some people apparently stay longer though – patrons and guards both. The manager lives on premises; known only as the Mrs. A.”

Felix observed the offense the den appears to give the Chinese crime lord. He asks a question designed to prod Big Ears Tam to reveal a little more, and predictably, the crime lord sneers and admits the British have used opium to weaken China before and he has no wish to see it repeated in his city. “They used it to weaken the nation by providing luxuries to British agents. Tariffs were enormous, but the need is great. I will not see this diseased hunger grow in my streets.”

The meeting concluded with Big Ears Tam offering a generous sum of money for their work, on top of the mutual favor. Before leaving, Iniwa stopped to suggest the caged songbirds in the parlor would be more happy free, but he sadly reflected that their beauty was intentionally held captive in gilded cages.

That day the group got back to work. They were growing more familiar with the city, and between Felix and Min, they found a back way to The Ivory Onyx through sewage passageways. Iniwa also discovered the passages by speaking to the rats of the city – the crafty survivors that saw things no one suspected. They told him to be wary of certain sewage passageways that led to the water where a maze dragon kept its nest. Together, in the evening, they made their way to the cargo entrance of the den. In moments they dispatched the guards, who were too busy squabbling over a mahjong game to hear their approach. Iniwa brought his new wooden tool down on the heads of the unwitting guards brutally. Ototo’s weapon proved deadly. Iniwa hoped the one poor man he found on the latrine lived to die a more noble death.

As they ventured deeper into the den, they discovered those horrors Big Ears Tam spoke of…

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