Welcome back to our steampunk tale of foreigners battling the Russian mafia and Jack the Ripper! With their territory secured from their nearest rivals, the players set to building up more goodwill with the locals. The Church of Morrow Ascendant was particularly high on their list of desired allies.
It was the evening of the group’s sixth day in Port Vladovar. Genpi and Larina headed to the slaughterhouse to alert Oleg and Tonkov of the shift in power, to strike up a deal between the Kayazy and the Burning Lead to replace the deal Tonkov had with the Cranemen. In the meantime, Raksha studied the dossier she had received from Overseer Oleg regarding the Claw whilst Olliver and Larkin relaxed in The Captain’s Daughter. Whilst there they learned that Father Erin had sent a message to them requesting their aid in some matters. The dynamic duo immediately set out to see the priest, stopping by their hideout to fetch Raksha before heading onto the Church of Morrow Ascendant.
On the way, Raksha filled the other two gang members in on what she had learned from reading the Claw’s dossier. Being an obviously trained medical professional, it stood to reason that clues regarding his identity could be found in the place he earned his training. Tonkov’s agents had already checked the hospitals in Port Vladovar for missing practitioners, but all have been accounted for. Which meant the man known as the Claw was either a foreigner, or he had something to do with the one place not even Tonkov’s agents dared enter – a burned down insane asylum. Fearing the building to be haunted, Raksha suggested having Father Erin aid them in investigating the building, a suggestion Olliver and Larkin agreed with, whilst Dog just followed them as always.
They arrived at the Church as the sun was setting, the building now somewhat renovated with scaffolding and a large tarp over the damaged roof. Entering the building, they found the interior cleaned up of broken pews and bodies. Heading straight to the office, the characters met with Father Erin again, the elderly priest glad to see them again. He quickly informed them of two matters that had been brought to his attention – his congregation had informed him of some graves being disturbed in a par of local cemeteries flanking the church to the north and the south, whilst the local Winter Guard Watchpost had asked for his aid in clearing out a potentially haunted house. Not exactly eager to deal with ghosts with night approaching, the group agreed to deal with the grave-robbers first. Olliver and Larkin set about planning the operation as Raksha spoke to the priest about the Claw and their leads, asking for his assistance dealing with the insane asylum.
Father Erin expressed surprise, not having known of an asylum in the Port at all. He looked for his maps whilst Raksha was sent back to The Captain’s Daughter to round up the urchins to act as lookouts at both graveyards as per Olliver’s instructions. One group was sent to the north cemetery whilst another was sent to the south one, both groups having a unit of alchemical waste and a phial of vitriolic fire to use as signals for the party who would stay in the Church in between both cemeteries. Each had a tiny amount of alchemical waste that would be added to a fire burning in the fireplace of the an abandoned house opposite the graveyard, making its smoke turn a certain color (green for the north, blue for the south).
This signal would be sent each hour, unless grave-robbers were sighted, at which point the vitriolic fire would be thrown in, making red smoke. Olliver and Larkin settled in to wait, whilst Raksha conferred with the priest about the asylum’s location. It turned out that the priest knew the building as the Orphanage of Ascendant Gordenn, though the copies of the map of Port Vladovar the Church had were a hundred years out of date. But the Morrowan Church had not been informed of one of their orphanages being turned into an insane asylum. Filing this away as a mystery for another time, Raksha asked for the priest’s aid in cleansing the asylum of any supernatural activity. Father Erin sadly pointed out he was too busy dealing with the rebuilding of the church and caring for the local community, making sure the dead had their rites to stop them rising again.
Reluctantly, he informed the group of a Menite Shrine in the city they could turn to for help. Satisfied, Raksha climbed up the ruined bell tower (slipping once and nearly falling to her death), before settling in on the roof, making sure the signals were sent each hour. Five hours into the night, just after midnight, the northern signal turned red, prompting Raksha to abseil down the interior of the bell tower on the bell rope, ringing the church bells as she shouted “NORTH!” to her compatriots. As the party ran out of the building, they noticed that the entire neighborhood was in an uproar, panicking over the ringing bells. Some people were shouting about the Cryx having returned, with clearly magical fires being spotted in the district as they ran for the sanctuary of the church.
It took the party about fifteen minutes at full sprint through the darkened streets of Port Vladovar to reach the small graveyard, and the came across a band of thugs trying to pry open a mausoleum whilst a female trollkin stood guard. Raksha wasted no time, yelling out a war cry as she charged in and felled a thug, binding him as he went down. The trollkin immediately shot at her with her scattergun, wounding two thugs who had strayed too close to the bounty hunter. Olliver took cover by the mausoleum and threw a stun grenade, which the trollkin managed to resist. Dog lumbered into the graveyard whilst Larkin took cover behind a statue of an Ascendant, and shot one of the thugs. The remaining lackeys took cover and shot back at the heroes, to little effect.
Raksha charged the trollkin, who immediately struck back with the butt of her gun, missing the wild woman as she smashed her summer into the trollkin”s shoulder. With an angry cry, it drew a heavy pry bar and smashed it into Raksha’s ribs, sending the bounty hunter crashing to the ground spitting blood. Olliver meanwhile shot the two thugs taking cover on the other side of the mausoleum, grievously wounding both before Larkin finished them off. The gunmage then shot the trollkin in the head, the bullet embedding itself deep in her helmet, giving the grave-robber a concussion. Dog ran in to menace the remaining thugs, who attempted to flee. only one made it. Larkin provided Olliver with a stabilizing brew he used on Raksha to stop her spitting up her own blood.
Larkin had Dog pick up the trollkin and follow Olliver, whilst he and Raksha headed back to the church with the dead bodies and the captured thug to report to Father Erin. Back at the church, the two found the place packed with panicking citizens, whispering of a new Cryx attack, the walking dead and so forth. Bullying her way to the front where Father Erin was leading the worried people in prayer, she declared there was no threat now that the grave-robbers had been dealt with, and that everyone could go home. Her faintly threatening voice promising nothing but violence convinced the people to start heading out.
Larkin stood guard by the bodies with Dog whilst Raksha asked for Father Erin’s aid in healing her injuries. He offered her the services of the apothecary who had taken up residence in the morgue, aiding the priest in dealing with all the dead bodies that needed to be prepared for burial. Unwilling to trust the apothecary, she asked the priest to heal her with magic, and in gratitude for stopping the theft of bodies, he did so. Though it was tiring and hurt, Raksha suffered no lasting ill effects from the magic. During all this, a patrol of Winter Guard with the district Kapitan arrived, demanding to know what the disturbance was. Larkin nervously explained what had happened, and the Kapitan, a man by the name of Boris Tvardovski, let him off with a warning, taking possession of the prisoner in exchange.
Having read the dossier on the Claw, and how it was clear he was a medical professional, Raksha asked for the priest’s permission to speak to the apothecary. He granted it as the Kapitan entered the office, demanding to talk to the priest. Raksha headed for the morgue as a shouting match between the Winter Guard and Father Erin began. Larkin headed off to meet back up with Olliver at the Winter Guard Watchpost, now empty since the whole patrol group had gone to the church. It turned out that Olliver had taken the trollkin prisoner back to his personal laboratory, strapped her to a table and attached a drip feeding her knockout drugs to keep her too dazed to try to escape. The other character’s remained oblivious to this.
Descending into the morgue, Raksha came face to face with the apothecary, a man named Voychek, who was fond of always wearing his beaked plague mask. Suffering from stimulant overdose and sleep deprivation, the man was somewhat…off as she spoke to him regarding his tools and duties. His manner completely threw the bounty hunter into confusion, though she managed to wrangle some information from him as he continued his work, cleaning and preparing bodies for burial. It turned out he had not been sleeping due to dealing with the sheer volume of bodies for burial, and new ones were still coming in, including what Raksha realized was the latest Claw victim from the night before, this one missing his entire head.
The morgue in the Church of Morrow Ascendant
Voychek mentioned that the Winter Guard figured a Gator had bitten it off, not noticing the sharp slash below where the ragged stump of the neck was – possibly a mark of one of the Claw’s blades, since the killer’s MO was to slash the throat. Raksha disagreed with the Gator theory, to which the apothecary expressed an interest in dissecting one of the beasts. That of course caught the bounty hunter’s attention and she asked how much he would pay for a body – and learned she could earn 25gc, a better deal than the 15gc the Winter Guard was paying for each gator killed. Voychek also wanted a head for the headless body, a mission Raksha also agreed to in order to keep the apothecary cooperative. He promised to inform the group of any new Claw victims if they came into his morgue. Satisfied, Raksha set off back to the lair as the barest hints of dawn began to form in the sky.
And here the subplots continue to develop towards a resolution. Who is the Claw? Why is he murdering people? What did the graverobber want? Will the Menite Church aid our heroes?