A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 06 – Thieves in the Night)

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?

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A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 05 – The End of the Cranemen)

Here’s episode 05 to make up for the long delay!

 

Two days passed since the clash with the sewer gators, during which Olliver and Larkin made good on sorting through their loot, upgrading Dog and brewing more potions. Genpi had returned from his business and was resting when Raksha came out of the sewers, angered by the presence of Winter Guard patrols in what she claimed were her sewers. Olliver was quick to point out that Empress Ayn Vanar would probably dispute that before Genpi asked for clarification of what had happened. At this point, Olliver and Larkin informed the rest of the group of what had transpired whilst they were busy.

Genpi had heard of Rurik Tonkov before – a relatively lowly Kayazy who had recently risen to prominence thanks to his whaling operations. He owned a slaughterhouse in the Merchant’s Docks, and controlled a small whaling fleet of no mean skill – many of the sailors also worked for the Khadoran navy. In addition to this, his income was steadily booming in a way that suggested other schemes in the works. Raksha also knew him as a man who was advertising a bounty for the Claw, worth 250 gold. Genpi considered hunting down the Claw to earn favor with Tonkov, which Olliver was firmly against, reasoning it could be a waste of time and resources. After a brief quarrel during which Larkin and Genpi let slip they had done a mission of their own (but without revealing they were behind the assassination of the Greylord), it was decided that Raksha would enter the slaughterhouse of Tonkov under the pretense of learning more about the bounty, whilst the party would wait outside in an alley, just in case she required aid.


The Tonkov Slaughterhouse

Two Winter Guard were posted at the entrance onto the slaughterhouse grounds, and they let Raksha in after a quick look over and her declaration she was there to be employed by Tonkov. Crossing the forecourt, she noticed there were no Winter Guard on the grounds, and order seemed to be kept by local thugs. Stopping a worker on his break, she learned that to gain access to the slaughterhouse she would need a punch-card issued from the security office, which proved barely troublesome. Upon entering the slaughterhouse proper, Raksha noticed that everyone was armed in some manner, mostly with flensing blades. She also noted the small amount of light and heavy labor-jacks as she made her way to the Overseer’s office.

The Overseer, a man named Oleg Mishin, identified himself as Tonkov’s favored lieutenant, and his proxy in all dealings. He provided Raksha with a file on the Claw, and wished her luck, his clerk making a note of the meeting. Raksha left peacefully and reported on the defenses of the slaughterhouse to the group, and they started planning. Ideas were voiced ranging from working for Tonkov to killing the Overseer via lead to send a message that the Burning Lead were not to be taken lightly. Ultimately, the gang elected to hunt down the remains of the Cranemen and learn what they could of Tonkov from them.

Returning to the Cranemen’s territory, the party set a fire at one of the cranes to bring the remnants of the gang to them, hiding around the pier behind barrels and crates (Genpi hiding WITHIN a crate for variety), and Raksha hiding on the rooftops of the buildings facing the pier to hopefully catch their prey in a pincer attack. Large crowds came to investigate the blaze, and Larkin managed to recognize the leader of the Cranemen, the woman who had led the attack at the tavern. He signaled to Olliver, who peeked over his cover to confirm. The woman, Larina, noticed him and opened fire. Olliver countered by throwing knockout bombs at her and her compatriot, but they managed to withstand the effects. Genpi popped out of his crate and shot Larina’s primary arm as Larkin one-shotted the mage who had come along with her.

And then Raksha swung into action, charging down the roof and swinging upon a rope she had used to climb up there in the first place, smashing her warhammer into the gang leader and immediately making her spit blood before binding her. Whilst Genpi looted the mage, the rest of the group fled with their captive as the Winter Guard approached. Managing to sneak away whilst the patrol dealt with the blaze, Genpi encountered a disturbing sight on his way back – a man tearing out the soul of an ogrun restrained by his two lackeys. He noticed the gobber looking at him in horror, smirked, and wandered off, leaving behind the dead ogrun laborer for Genpi to inspect. Meanwhile, back at the hideout, the rest of the group began interrogating Larina in earnest, settling on ripping off her toes with pliers to make her talk.

The first thing they learned was that upon losing Final Word (the mechanika handcannon that had been planted on the party in the first session), a thamarite sorcerer had come to the Cranemen and wiped the rest of them out. Accusations of theft were answered by increasing brutality from the party. Larina also revealed all of her dealings with Tonkov had also been done via the Overseer of the slaughterhouse. The Burning Lead offered the last Craneman a choice – join them or die, using the example of the ogrun already in their employ to prove they could be merciful. Having lost two of her toes already, she agreed in resignation, and Larkin cauterized her wounds with the molten lead they had prepared just in case.

As another night approached, the party was left with a particularly larger territory than before, and a new lackey for their gang. All that was left now was to find a way to meet Tonkov himself…


Current territory of the Burning Lead

 

And so the Burning Lead grows more influential. Though moving up the hierarchy of the underworld comes with it’s own dangers…especially when Kayazy are involved.

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 04 – Urban Adventures)

My apologies for the delay. New job, new place…anyways, here is episode 4 of the tale of the Enfield Eviscerator’s adventure in the Iron Kingdoms. Following the shenanigans of the volunteer-run session last time, I decided the party could do with a filler episode, which would also foreshadow various side-quest plot lines. Sadly, Raksha and Genpi were unavailable for this session too.

 

With Raksha still missing in the sewers and Genpi working on keeping information pertaining to his assassination attempt suppressed, Larkin and Olliver awoke early and set out to the Captain’s Daughter for some breakfast. Along the way, they came across a crowd of people clustered around the entrance to an alley. With such gatherings being rare this early in the morning, both men chose to investigate. They discovered the body of a young boy, one of the urchins who had been with them at the Church.

The top of skull had been removed, and his body had been slashed. A pair of Winter Guard kept the crowd at bay as an apothecary investigated the body before declaring it as another victim of the Claw. Olliver saw this as a potential threat, and wished to conduct his own forensic study. Using the Morrowan pendant he had relieved earlier in the week, he convinced the Winter Guard that he was with the local church, and for them to let him take the body there for it’s final rites. One of the Winter Guard was tasked with escorting him. Meanwhile Larkin asked one of the urchins in the crowd if they knew the dead boy. The little girl revealed the boy was named Petar and had a history of hearing voices no one else could.


The scene of the crime

Olliver wandered the streets towards the direction of the Church, Winter Guard in tow, and he pretended to stop in one of the alleys out of breath. Larkin had shadowed the pair as security when they left the crime scene. Olliver swiftly drew and dropped one of his knockout bombs, but to avoid suspicion he had not donned his gas-mask. As the Winter Guard coughed violently but stayed on his feet, Olliver lost consciousness. With a sigh of exasperation, Larkin put a rune bullet in the Guard’s head. After waiting for the smoke to disperse he smacked Olliver awake, looted the Guard, and the duo fled back to their hideout with the body.

Back in the hideout, Larking and Olliver investigated the body, and Olliver was the one who managed to learn much from it. The top of the skull had been removed with a bone-saw, and part of the frontal lobe of the brain removed. That part of the brain was commonly associated with madness by medical professionals. The slashes to the body were too clean and regular to be claws, leading Olliver to assume that a weapon that resembled a claw was used. With this information, the pair began theorizing why the Claw would remove the part of the brain responsible for madness. Whilst Larkin assumed it could have something to do with the Spark (trying to ignite it via eating the part of the brain potentially responsible for triggering it), Olliver suspected some bloodthirsty religious reason behind the removal of the frontal lobe – possible to induce insanity to communicate with a god.

Wishing more information, they went back to their tavern, and sent out their urchin gang (now understandably nervous) to find out what they could whilst the party interrogated the tavern keeper. From him they learned that the Claw – as the killer had been supposedly active in Port Vladovar for some time now, and earned himself quite a reputation – targeted the homeless and insane, and that fifteen deaths had occurred so far in the past year, starting just after the Cryxian assault. Whilst some assumed the Claw to be some kind of Cryxian monster, there has been no evidence to support this theory. With no way to predict the Claw’s movements, and no way to know if he would trouble their district further, Olliver declared it a problem for another time.

It was at this point that a thud was heard at the door. After investigating, Larkin discovered a letter addressed to the Burning Lead, telling them to take responsibility for their actions, signed by a Kayazy named Rurik Tonkov. This raised a fair few questions from the pair, but the party once more decided it was a problem to be dealt with later, once Genpi returned from his business. Heading off back to their lair (now the size of two basements, one of which was taken over by Olliver for his laboratory), the duo discovered the body of the urchin missing, the trail of blood leading to a large sewer grate that acted as the hideout’s escape route.

Intrigued, they set out into the sewers in pursuit of their quarry, eventually stumbling upon a pack of albino gatormen. Following a brief and vicious battle, they dragged the corpses of the gatormen and dumped them outside a Winter Guard outpost near the docks to alert them of the danger. And with that, the duo returned to their hideout, barricaded the sewer entrance, and went to sleep as dawn came, and the gatormen were discovered. Suitably alarmed, the Winter Guard were now made to patrol the sewers as well…

 

Another quick session, run mostly using the Urban Adventures supplement. Nothing groundbreaking, but it did give me a good starting point of what later turned out to be the main quest!