Deadlands: Anastasis & Wormwood
Eugene J. Guest
forsaken huckster occult investigator
Rank: – 5 – Legendary
|Agility – D6||Fighting – D6||Shooting – D6||Riding – D4|
|Smarts – D12||Know. Occult – D8||Know. Law – D8||Spellcast. – D12|
|Investigation – D6||Streetwise – D4||Notice – D4|
|Spirit – D8||Guts – D6 +7||Persuasion – D8|
|Strength – D4|
|Vigor – D8|
|Derived Stats||Parry – 5 (+1 for walking cane rapier)||Toughness – 6||Grit – 6|
|Vow (major):||dissolve child labor & post-slavery systems of racism|
|Quirk:||flips tarot cards, admires Lonestar Rangers|
|Forsaken:||beneficial Miracles & Shaman magic have no effect|
|Loyal (minor):||After everything he’s been through with the posse, Eugene is willing to go to great lengths to ensure the safety of his friends. Few people have stuck it out with him like these folk, and as far as they come, they’re decent people.|
|Linguist||English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, Siouan, Dutch, Athabaskan, Haitian Creole, Latin, Algonkian|
|Arcane Background (Huckster)|
|“Veteran of the West”||+4 advances|
|“Born on the Harvest Blue Moon”||spend a Fate chip & make Spirit to roll-avoid backfire. Success = shaken but no backfire;raise= avoid entirely|
|“Snakeoil Salesman”||+2 Persuasion rolls, may engage in noncombat test of wills through Persuasion|
|“Elan”||each time a benny is spent on trait roll, add +2 to rolls it is spent on|
|“True Grit”||+1 Grit|
|“Scholar”||+2 rolls to Occult and Law|
|“Agent”||salary, ability to requisition items|
|Bolt||Trapping – smoldering indigo flame shards in black smoke|
|Invisibility||Trapping – steps into shadows or the gleam off a shiny object|
|Quickness||just a light touch, and subject’s movements become hard to follow|
|Trinkets||reaches into a pocket a pulls out just the right thing – a colored scarf, card, pistol|
|Deflection||with a touch, -2 or -4 to opponents’ shooting, throwing, or fighting|
|Detect/Conceal Arcana||traces a symbol in the air and eyes turn a milky hue|
The puritan bogeyman that stalked the Thornton cotton factory kidnapping children. Was it some kind of demon that knew the children were unsupervised and unwanted? Was it merely a figment of his imagination, the collective imagination of the children?
Short Version Background
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to French, Jewish parents. Early years in bohemian lifestyle, until parents passed. Worked in Virginia Thornton cotton mill;then Mississippi’s McCartney plantation, as notary, prospecting. Participated in indentured workers’ rights reforms. Ran from Mississippi, to Virginia, on discovering the influence of Reckoners on the Piedmont Collective. Barely escaped, cursed by the Reckoners & further shocked by a Harrowed tarot reader’s reading, traveled to Denver to escape. Habitually does readings, unable to forget.
Items on Hand
Plain black duster; with a thick brushed leather black vest; sword cane with ; double-action colt and a new heavy pistol (Gatling pistol)… in quick draw holsters; $146 cash on hand (100 of which is in a thin waller on the inside of his pants under the belt; black leather boots
heavy armored vest: Torso Armor 4, Weight 20 lbs., -1 Agility rolls (-2 Agility total, -1 Agility based rolls)
gatling pistol with two speed-load cylinders pre-loaded (12 shots, AP 1, 2D6+1, Speed Load edge)
dehydrated air tablets – 1 dose (in a mint tin in right pant pocket)
de-inebriating tonics – 1 dose (in a mint tin inside left breast pocket)
1 year’s subscription of Journal of Occult Sciences (in office)
Healing Ungent – 3 doses (in a tin within a pouch at side under coat)
Owl Eye Tonic – 1 dose (in a tin vial inside breasts pocket with cork & wax)
Restoration Elixir – 1 dose (in a tin vial inside breasts pocket with cork & wax)
Revitalizing Tonic – 2 doses (in a tin vial inside breasts pocket with cork & wax)
Smoke Pellets – 2 doses (in a mint tin in left pant pocket)
Vocal Unction Elixir – 1 dose (backpack, perfume bottle, packed in wooden box)
4 splat rounds loaded in the left side double action Colt peacemaker
2 glow dust round loaded first in the peacemaker
30 Colt rounds in bandolier belt
The Early Years: 1846-1853
In another life, I ate coriander spiced chicken in filo dough and snuck sips of Bordeux from abandoned wine glasses. My parents took me everywhere, believing that the only way to raise a free and curious mind was to immerse the person in the wonders of the world. I shuffled in after them into smoky rooms with artists and performers, exiled politicians and the most dangerous sort: intellectuals. I heard stories of the last days of Napolean alongside tales of Baba Yaga. All was equally real to me. My mother, or as I called her since she never took my father’s name, Mimi Bisset, was French-born Jewish, a painter and theatre designer. She tried to shield me a little at first, because even she knew that too much too soon could spoil a fine wine or a good show or her most precious work of art. My father, Alexander Guest, permitted me to stay in the cigar and poker parlor as long as I was seen and not heard, as children should be.
How Children Fare in the Orphanage System: 1853 – 1860
At 7, my mother took ill with consumption and passed. And my father, who doted on her til the last moment, passed within the year. Or maybe it was heart-ache. He was never a believer in the unseen, but he told me all the stories my mother never could, as best he could – at first on long walks with his walking cane, later from his death bed. They were stories of how I was born on a harvest blue moon, of the medium who said I had a powerful connection to the other side, of the card reader who almost stole his heart away from Mimi, and told him the devil was in my cards.
He stops for a long drag of the cigarette. His eyes admire the depths of his wine glass. You might say I was born unto trouble.
Well, papa did his best to finish the work of art my mother and he started, but all our work in the end is unfinished, isn’t it. After he passed, it wasn’t long until I was in the government orphan system – a veritable factory to blacken the souls of unlucky children. “Everyone must learn to earn their livelihood” they told me, and so I was placed in the Thornton Cotton Mill factory in Washington D.C. I can’t tell you about the things I saw there. They’re things you have to see in the eyes of the children, in the hollows that develop in their cheeks, in the way they learn never to straighten because of the hours they spend hunched over the machines. And then the accidents. I saw many of the children losing pieces of themselves.
I was lucky. That’s probably how I ended up whole – at least on the outside. My talent for languages and speech earned me a place in the offices, much like I once earned a place in papa’s poker room. Between the ages of 8 and 13 I learned to speak and write French and Dutch, in addition to the Latin I learned through my intermittent stays in the orphanage. They came easily to me after I spent every waking moment studying them. Better that than work the machines.
One night I awoke from my studies, up in my cubby, overlooking the factory floor. It was a cold November night. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw a man walking toward the dormitory adjacent to the main factory floor. He wore a wide brim hat, dressed all in black, with a heavy coat on. A wide gold buckle flashed off his shoes as he walked. I thought it strange, but nothing else – not until I awoke a couple hours later and saw him carrying a writhing potato sack – its contents the size of a six year old child. All winter he came, once every week or two, on different nights. I tried to complain, but I quickly got the sense from the manager he had no need of a translator who was not in his right mind. What was I about anyway? Was I fomenting dissent? It was true I’d been reading about those new factory laws in England, but this was different.
A Worldly Education: 1860 -1867
In the summer of my 14th year I was given reprieve. The foreman sent me to the McCartney Plantation in Mississippi. I left my mates in that factory. They knew winter was coming, and with it, the bogeyman, the puritan devil. I never discovered who or what it was.
At the McCartney Plantation life was a languid summer heat, the sound of the lash in the distance, and the bittersweet song of the working men. Factory work no longer suited me, Master McCartney informed me, and my knowledge of language, letters, and law would be wasted in the Thornton factory. He did however express some concern that I always remember that the path to power and comfort lay through him as master of the plantation. Without him as benefactor, this was a deadman’s land to me, and it would be a shame to my parents if it all ended badly. I could never be sure how he knew of my parents or even how much. I could only guess that there was a secret history of brokerage that ran from the orphanage system to the Thornton factory and finally to the McCartney Plantation. I was to mind the fine purchase of Caribbean working men, how to increase efficiency, and proper translation on the rare occasion he received foreign visitors. In addition, our tacit agreement was that I would put my eyes and ears to the ground to listen for rebellion.
You see this is 1860, an anxious time for southern whites. The powder keg leading up to the war was a heady mix of political fervor, economic disparity, geo-political power plays, frontier idealism, yes, but it was also, at its foundation, a racial and spiritual reckoning. 1860 is, after all, right on the heels of the 1857 slave revolts in both Bolivar and Clark County, just as bloody as the slave revolts in in 1858, again in Bolivar and Coffeeville, and then again, John Brown’s Virginia revolt in 1859. The relatively small white plantation population held fast to its distribution of power and wealth with an unflinching grip – all the more tensely in those years before the outbreak of war and the events of 1863.
As war broke out, life on the McCartney Plantation remained largely unchanged. Sure we saw soldiers passing through, but the front was far away generally. McCartney worked his hands harder, but the cotton still made its way to Virginia to various cotton mills to feed the Piedmont Collective. I learned of the system of plantation owners, financiers, and politicians through the course of my work for Master McCartney, and I learned Spanish and Haitain Creole from the best tutors he could buy. I brushed up on my French, Dutch, and Latin as well.
I accompanied McCartney on trips to purchase slaves and negotiations along the east coast corridor, despite the ongoing war. Business must go on, he’d chuckle, seemingly enjoying the show of it all. But The Reckoning shook everyone, and ground the war to a halt. McCartney grew darker and more isolationist afterwards. He secretly purchased a vodoun priest and consulted with him regularly. The priest, Papa Lavaysse, had run from Haiti, since it outlawed Vodoun in 1835, and he’d come here to help people like McCartney embrace their nature all the more.
What Comes of Heroics: 1867 – 1868
It took four years for me to do something. Four years I watched slavery turn to indentured servitude. Seven years I saw the work of McCartney, helped him make purchases, took advantage of his bought tutelage, saw the churning of souls. Still, for a couple years I listened to slaves whisper of Papa Lavaysse’s zombies, of the trains that led to distant factories full of live cargo. Some whispered this was a new kind of ghost rock. Others whispered Lavaysse had a deal with elder loa in which he bargained souls – living and dead. The plantation felt dark and cloistered in the light of a June day. I swear the willows themselves drooped mournfully and whispered with the voices of dead loved ones. It was not until 1867 that I finally helped the McCartney servants and workers in their desperate attempt at revolution. I’m ashamed to say Clarissa, a captivating servant who lost her father to Lavaysse’s treatment, had a lot to do with my newfound courage. Stephan would take my indecision and give it fire, like he had with half the plantation using his presence and his unmatched mind. Late night stories around the campfire felt to me like sitting with Toussaint L’Overture reborn – and I was not alone.
But all the eloquence, the care, and moral imperative would not withstand the painstaking disciplined system organized by McCartney and now further supported by Lavaysse’s own network of informants. He discovered one of my messages to Clarissa and the revolution ended before it began. I’ll never forget the look on her face and Stephan’s as they were brought in front of the evening bonfire; how they looked and didn’t see me among the bound. I can only imagine what they thought of me. I ran, ran from Mississippi all the way to Virginia. But Virginia and D.C. had no help for me. I wandered the streets of my childhood like a ghost, trying to figure what step I took that led me to this. The cotton mills continued their work. The bohemian streets of my early childhood were gone or moved.
A pale tarot reader found me in the opium dens and took me in. She went by the name of Madame Mirela, but I don’t know if that was her real name. It was she that taught me to use the cards and to pull from the other side and to see past the thin curtain that separates the two. A year and a day, Madame Mirela let me linger in abandon and oblivion, while teaching me to use those secret parts of myself. And then she revealed to me that I would need to know how to protect myself for I was forsaken – that I had a powerful vodoun curse on me, but she could help me. This curse cuts me off from beneficial shamanistic magic and divine intervention. A certain path he put me on, that Papa Lavaysse, a path cut off from god’s help. But she promised me I could still make of that what I would. Then she casually showed me her parlor, the semi-conscious man that lay there, and how she fed from his blood for power.
Once again, like all the other times, I ran. What was I to do? Slay this creature – whom I had shared a bed with, who taught me just two of her tricks and likely knew a dozen more. And really, just who was I? How did my previous heroics end? If I was forsaken, it was long before Papa Lavaysse. But I could not follow Mirela into this final shame.
All Trains End Here: 1869 – 1879
I took the first train as far it would take me, all the way to Denver. I’ve been here ever since, never staying long, passing through on one scouting trip or another, acting as translator. Negotiating train contracts between the Chinese labor force and train moguls was particularly difficult but I absolutely loved the noodle soups I got in appreciation. Over the years, I picked up Athabaskan, Algonkian, and Siouan, from 1870 to today. Different contracts led to different interactions, but generally it was frontiersmen looking to strike a deal with native populations. For a couple summers I even spent a little time in the Northwest on some trade caravans that dealt with Russian fur traders. It’s a decent living that lets me meet people from all walks of life – to hear their stories and pass some along of my own. Late summer and early autumn with warm mug of something strong is pure heaven. Occasionally, I’ll see something out there in the plains or the Rockies, something more than Indians and rotten mercenaries, and but none of it compares. I only wish they had a decent opium den here. Evenins’ I take to flippin’ the tarot and reading their signs, watchin’ patrons come in and out, play their games, smoke their cigars, and tell their stories. Sometimes they sit at my table, especially if there isn’t much room and they need an ear. People just tell me things – the names of their sons and daughters they left behind in Kentucky, their wife they send money back to in Boston. Listenin’ to them makes me feel at peace; I don’t know why. I pick up work that way too, on occasion – hear a rumor or get word of someone who needs a guide.