Flintlocks & Fireballs

Sep 5th 497: The Elfholm Heist

The party (Thorni Snevisson, a Dwarven Rose Knight; Zoe Rosenbecht, an Imperial Technomancer; Blink 52, a heavily-armed Blazer; Somta Taw, a Moctarim Duster; Freddie Black, an Arakeshi Ranger; and Angela Marianostellazzo, a Stellazzo enforcer) are brought together by their supervisor in the rebellion, Rebecca Grey. She provides them with a mission to rob an Elfholm warehouse and escape on a train as a trial run. They rob the train, interrogate and kill a number of Imperial Guard, and fight off a new magitech flying transport on the roof of the train.

The stolen briefcase turns out to contain two vials of very pure, high-quality Bindwort: a drug which can be used as a powerful analgesic, but which in its less pure form is highly addictive and debilitating. The briefcase also contains a note indicating that this shipment was the Emperor’s supply.

The party hand over the briefcase to the rebel contact who meets them, Vito Panzostellazzo. He explains that the drugs are the Emperor’s supply, used to treat his cripplingly painful arthiritis. Vito congratulates them on their mission well done and informs them that they are being considered for promotion to independent operatives, allowing them to have more of a say in what they do to help the rebellion; they are being a mission as a trial run of this, where they will have freedom to decide for themselves how to best tackle a problem and serve Rebel interests.

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Oct. 1st 497: Bierstadt Mon Amour

Vito tells the party that their mission is to travel to the town of Bierstadt, on the border between Elfholm and Dourmoor. Bierstadt was once a trading hub, but has fallen by the wayside after a cheaper and more efficient railroad was built between Elfholm and Dourmoor. The rebels are planning on setting up a series of safehouses to move dwarf slaves out of Dourmoor, and Bierstadt is a vital stop on this route. Unfortunately the rebel contact, Elias Voor, has ceased communications. They are to locate Voor if possible and finish his work, with his help or without.

The party decide to set up a business trading Elfholm salt for Dourmoor iron, and name themselves Bierstadt Development Merchant Services, or BDMS for short.

On arrival in Bierstadt they come into contact with Sam Gorrister, a young bravo from the Gorrister family, who have intimidated and corrupted their way to power in Bierstadt. They are led Sam’s cousin, Frank Gorrister; they own the Blue Pearl, a brothel outside town run by a devil named Eleanor Valdetti which caters to the rich and powerful Imperial owners of Dwarven slave farms in Dourmoor.

Angela investigates the office of Bierstadt’s mayor, Will Wayhew. She learns that he is weak-willed and easily-dominated, and doesn’t have a clue how to handle a problem like the Gorristers. He’s sent off to Unspecified Services for assistance, but they haven’t shown up; Angela poses as an Unspec agent and claims to Wayhew to be investigating corruption at a high level. Wayhew buys it, and agrees not to interfere in BDMS’ activities while in the town.

Sam Gorrister persuades Freddie, Zoe and Blink to go with him to meet Frank, with Angela, Blink and Somta at a discreet distance. In fact, Sam takes them to where Elias Voor has been captured and tied to a scarecrow frame in the middle of a field, and demands to know who Elias is and who BDMS are really working for. Freddie tries to bluff that Voor is an enemy of hers, too, but Sam calls her on it, offering her the opportunity to kill him here and now, and the party attack. After a tough fight with Sam, two Gorrister thugs and some snipers hidden in the long grass, Freddie severs Sam’s right hand and captures him, while one of the snipers flees to safety.

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Oct 3rd 497: Kissing Mr. Gorrister

Freddie, Angela and Zoe take Sam Gorrister to an abandoned windmill to interrogate him while Thorni, Blink and Somta cut Elias Voor down and bring him back to Bierstadt for medical attention: Voor has been badly beaten and is stone cold. Around about this time Somta goes AWOL after snorting etherite from Blink and receiving visions where he is burying his own body with the help of a devil, who betrays him and buries both of them (the living Somta and the dead one) alive. The interrogation of Sam is cut short when Zoe spots Gorrister search parties combing the area, and they behead Sam and rig the windmill to explode.

Back at Bierstadt, Gorrister goons have sent an ultimatum to the villagers: bring us Zoe, Angela and Freddie, or they will attack Bierstadt. The party decide to bluff the Gorristers into thinking that they’ve conceded and try to draw Frank into an ambush in the Silver Coins inn.

The party recruit a few villagers they believe they can trust to watch their backs; meanwhile, Thorni meets King Athric of the Bierstadt Dwarves, and tries to convince Athric to assist with the rebellion. Athric refuses to endanger his people, but in order that those who wish to leave to fight the Empire can do so, makes Thorni into a king. Two enthusiastic young dwarves, Ori and Clara, join up straight away.

The time comes and Frank brings a dozen armed Gorristers to the Silver Coins, as well as two wild-eyed dwarf bodyguards, to find Freddie alone and seemingly unarmed. As Frank advances, Freddie draws her weapons from under the table and the party burst out of hiding. Angela hurls Sam’s severed head at Frank and, thanks to a lucky throw, it kisses him on the lips. Frank Gorrister is shocked into inaction, and without his leadership the party are able to seize the initiative and defeat the clan.

Bierstadt is jubilant, and the mayor intends to try the Gorristers for their crimes, although with party influence the mood of the villagers turns nasty and they decide to burn the Gorristers in a wicker man. The party reach the Gorrister farmstead ahead of the angry mob and rescue some papers, worried that the Gorristers might have been riven with necromancy; they can’t find anything though.

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Oct 4th 497: The Sign of the Blue Pearl

The party arrive at the Blue Pearl to investigate and learn that a ‘rakshasha’, who they begin to suspect might be a masked Etherite-crazed Somta, attacked the Pearl, killed Valdetti, wounded a number of guards, and stole its drugs box. They are more concerned to learn the depraved excesses of the Pearl; in particular, of a torture chamber underneath it used by Lord Volpe, the most powerful man in Dourmoor, to watch people being ripped to death by angry dogs. In a fit of rage, Thorni kills the dog handler. The party inform the Pearl that it’s under new management, and argue for some time about the morality of keeping it open as a blackmail material-gathering operation for the rebels. At the very least, though, nobody in the Pearl is being tortured to death any more.

Somta communicates with the party before leaving them, telling Blink to find him at the Praxian observatory and hinting that the Empire have no idea what they’ve done in creating Blazers. Blink has no idea what Somta means.

Going through Valdetti’s notes, they find a letter from an individual named Zaszperezal which indicate that Valdetti is making contracts for souls and passing them on to him. They also gain a list of the details of individuals who have made recent contracts with Valdetti, some of whom are living nearby. They decide to investigate.

When Vito Panzostellazzo arrives, he’s astonished that the party have gained the support of Bierstadt‘s citizens so quickly. They leave Elias Voor in charge of BDMS’ dwarf-smuggling operaton, and Vito has a Stellazzo expert take charge of the Pearl. This means that while the Stellazzos largely control the Pearl, most of the rest of Bierstadt is loyal to BDMS above the Stellazzos. Angela privately invests some money in employing a Stellazzo expert to come to Bierstadt and train some of BDMS’ employees in urban combat and stealth, meaning that BDMS now have a hard core of well-trained militia loyal to them. On the way out of town the party pick up Jal, a dwarf escaping Dourmoor, who claims to have a map to the lost Dwarven capital of Netherfael. Meanwhile, the news reports that Emperor Leder has taken a tour of Ramaslu ‘for health reasons’, and his position is currently being filled by his son, the Dauphin Maximilian Leder.

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Oct 10th 497: The Valdetti Girls

The party tell Vito that they plan on spending some time investigating Whitendon, and he tells them of some work that the Rebellion needs doing there. There’s a train that regularly leaves Elfholm Fortress loaded with a cargo of Blazers and then vanishes off the records when it reaches Whitendon; also, the rebels have received a note from Bulwark, near Whitendon, from a mysterious “order of the Lidless Eye” requesting contact and offering assistance to the Rebels in exchange for help with their problem.

The party check out Whitendon. Of the addresses on their list of Valdetti’s contacts, five are in Whitendon (Jude Riches, Mary Wilts, Beth Pounds, Nearea Thale and Sue Cooper), and one (Pani Kash) in Bulwark. Wilts’ address on the list is the same location as the Rebel safehouse; although Samantha Slade, the safehouse operator, initially denies association with Valdetti she eventually implies, in a certain amount of distress, that there are certain topics that she cannot discuss due to the terms of a contract she signed with a Devil, leading BDMS to concede that she is one of the contacts. They’re not able to get anything else out of her.

The party check out the shoe factory where a number of the contacts were promised employment; only one of them, Thale, is still working there. Pounds apparently turned up for a few weeks and then stopped showing her face; the owner hasn’t taken any more workers on, since the factory’s fallen on hard times now it can’t import decent quality leather from Arakesh.

Thale’s address is empty, though clearly inhabited. Beth Pounds at her home, clearly addicted to cheap Bindwort and only vaguely coherent. The fourth address turns up trumps: Sue Cooper is angry with Valdetti, who promised her a new house, job, and money in exchange for her soul and having her debt to Frank Gorrister (which she was working off at the Pearl, but slowly, dangerously, and soul-destroyingly) but hasn’t delivered on the house.

The fifth house, belonging to Jude Riches, is empty, and booby-trapped; the party inadvertently set of a keg of explosives and are forced to flee the building as it burns down.

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Oct 15th 497: So Much Sorrow

It’s getting close to time to meet the Lidless Eye contact in Bulwark. Wary that this might be a trap set by Imperial agents, the party only send Thorni and Blink in to investigate the town while Jal, Angela and Zoe scout out the location of the meeting (and an ill Freddie recovers in the wagon).

Bulwark is being run by a Rose Knight loyal to the Empire named Andrew Alderton, who has enthused the townsfolk with his rhetoric. He happily confides in Thorni that he and his adventuring party have saved the village from a cult called the Order of the Lidless Eye who were terrorising its people and kidnapping them; in an attack on their headquarters he and his associate, Rini, were able to poison the leader of the cult. He’s confident that without a central figure the Lidless Eye will fall apart. In the meantime he’s remained in Bulwark to protect it from rebels. Thorni is disgusted at Alderton’s Imperialist rhetoric, but puts on a friendly face. Alderton shares with him some coded documentation that he captured from the home of a rebel spy they found in Bulwark, in the hope that Thorni is better with codes than him; Thorni makes a copy of this for later use.

BDMS meet with the Order’s contact on Hangman’s Hill, who turns out to be Pani Kash, the Whitendon name on Valdetti‘s list, and a member of the Rebellion. She tells BDMS that she’s fallen in with the Order after having to flee Alderton; that the Order’s leader has been poisoned by Alderton, that the Order don’t know what with, and that if BDMS can help find an antidote the Order will lend their magical assistance to the rebellion. BDMS agree to meet with the Order to see if they’re on the level.

The Order turn out to be a cult in the mesmeric thrall of an Eyebeast, Gaze-of-Dolor, which has indeed been poisoned; it promises that should they cure its poison, it will infiltrate the Seflheim sewers and “cause sorrow” for the inhabitants of the Imperial capital. BDMS are horrified to hear Gaze-of-Dolor gloat about the horrific tortures it forces those who worship it to inflict upon each other for its amusement, but decide not to threaten it when it has the drop on them. They agree to consider its request and leave, then agree between themselves to destroy the Order. At this point they realise they’re being followed through the woods, and capture their stalker, a ranger and associate of Andrew Alderton called Rini, after a long running battle in which Angela is mildly poisoned and Rini attempts repeatedly to flee into the darkness, but is thwarted by Zoe’s magitech.

The party interrogate Rini, who says that she was suspicious they would help the eyebeast and followed them to confirm or deny her fears. She tries to persuade them to help her assassinate Gaze rather than waiting for the poison to do its work as Alderton wishes; the party don’t agree, and leave her tied and gagged in the darkness while they go to finish off the Order. After a bloody battle, which features Freddie being repeatedly possessed by Gaze-of-Dolor and forced to attack Blink, and Gaze-of-Dolor exploding the heads of some of its followers in a last-ditch attempt to stop the party, the Order are defeated and Gaze-of-Dolor slaughtered. Some of the Order start to come round as Gaze’s power over them wanes; Freddie tries to talk them round to joining up with the Rebellion (since they face certain death should they return to Bulwark). BDMS argue about what to do with Rini, since she is now aware they’re rebels, and are worried that she’ll set Alderton on them; this is complicated by Blink falling in love with Rini as the only person she’s ever seen get one over on Angela. In the end, Thorni forcibly restrains Blink while Zoe murders Rini in cold blood, then defiles her corpse in an attempt to make it look like Rini was tortured to death by the Order of the Lidless Eye. Blink is understandably distraught about this. The party flee Whitendon, taking Pani with them; decoding her messages, they realise that she had been in contact with other people than her Rebellion supervisors, and Pani concedes — as their previous contact had — that the details of a contract made with a Devil prevent her from spilling any details. The party are kind enough not to push this further, but keep her communication.

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Oct 20th 497: On a Rail from Elfholm

On returning to Whitendon the party make preparations to catch the Blazer shipment as it comes into the station. They see six man-sized metal crates being unloaded from the train and moved into a warehouse. The party sneak into the warehouse through the sewers to find the six crates placed throughout the warehouse; one of them is making a banging noise, as if something — or someone — inside were trying to get out. They open another, non-banging crate to find that it contains a recently-converted Blazer, beside himself with fear. He tells them that his name is Wendell Fraser, that he hadn’t volunteered for the procedure; that he’d been about to reveal incriminating evidence that a Blazer expert called Dr. Neumann had been dabbling in necromancy when he was attacked, knocked unconscious, and placed in with the subjects for Blazerification. He knows the location of the facility where the Blazers are being transported: at this station they’re switched onto a horse-drawn cart and driven out to a secret location in the Elfholm alkali flats. He promises that he can draw the party a map there; the party free him, and Blink volunteers to take his place in the crate so that the switch isn’t discovered.

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Oct 25th 497: Sins of the Fathers

The party travel ahead of the Elfholm delivery and scout out the facility. They fight their way into the compound and find basic guard posts with an elevator down to a subterranean complex. They sneak down and meet a tough fight with a number of enhanced Blazer soldiers, and a Blazerified scientist whose crystals have significantly enlarged and elongated. He and Blink recognise each other, with some shock: this man, Blink suddenly remembers, is his father, Jacob Neumann.

They defeat Neumann and interrogate him. Neumann has been progressing Blazer research in the hopes of being able to resurrect Blink’s dead brother; he’d previously been investigating magitech-powered necromancy alongside a man called Dr. Bergholt (a name Zoe and Freddie both seem to recognise) before he realised that Bergholt’s research was going nowhere, and managed to get Bergholt exiled from Elfholm.

Neumann believes that the Blazer treatment doesn’t just make you stronger: it stops you aging; as he fills in elements of Blink’s past (including the incident involving Blink’s accidental murder of his brother, redirection of funds to the rebels, and affair with a Devil named Charity, which led to Blink ending up on the slab to be Blazerified; also including Blink’s real name, Isaac) he tells Blink that he is over eighty years old, and Neumann over a hundred. Neumann offers to work for the Rebels, transforming those of their soldiers they choose into his enhanced super-Blazers, in exchange for his life. BDMS discuss this, and eventually agree. Jal also considers Blazerification, but eventually declines.

On return to Whitendon, Thorni leaves the party, leaving a note behind stating his dissatisfaction with BDMS’ lack of respect for his dwarven heritage. He heads north to try and find Netherfael single-handed. Meanwhile, BDMS receive a note telling them to return to Bierstadt immediately: Lord Volpe intends to attend the Pearl for his ‘usual service’.

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Nov 10th 497: The Beast of Dourmoor

Thorni beats the others to Bierstadt and is suddenly confronted by Andrew Alderton, who has managed to identify him as a member of BDMS and identify BDMS as being Bierstadt-based. Alderton is furious with him, in the belief that Thorni was responsible for Rini’s death, and calls upon him to answer to the Rose for his crimes. Thorni refuses to repent or offer any explanation to Alderton, believing Alderton to have fallen from the path of the Rose; he and his vassals battle Alderton and his Rose Knight associate, Nazrin bin Tariq, in the city square. It’s a close call, but Thorni narrowly defeats Alderton and bin Tariq; he leaves them alive and gets out of Bierstadt as quickly as possible.

The party arrive in Bierstadt to find Alderton being kept captive in the BDMS safehouse by their operatives. Angela is able to fast-talk Alderton into believing that they attacked and murdered Rini under the psychic influence of the Eyebeast, and convinces Alderton that BDMS are Unspec agents investigating the corruption of Lord Volpe. Alderton forgives the party their actions, and, horrified of the allegations against Volpe, agrees to help. They have Alderton and Wayhew conceal themselves while Volpe visits the Pearl, and they both witness Volpe asking to watch a young woman being murdered by a Blazer for his entertainment. They burst in; Volpe realises the game’s up, and while Alderton and wayhew are away writing down a witness statement Volpe makes a bargain with BDMS: if they allow him to go free, he’ll turn in the rest of his circle and obey Rebel instructions, including withdrawing Dourmoor military forces from Arakesh. The party agree to this, half of the Dourmoor forces returning to Dourmoor and the other half going south to reenforce the Praxian borders. They assign a personal assistant to Volpe loyal to the rebels named Stinking Jack, who will spy on Volpe and ensure he keeps his side of the deal.

The party take some time to rest and recover in Bierstadt before heading south to Praxia, hoping to catch up with Somta and bring him back into the fold before he goes on an Etherite-inspired killing spree and needs to be put down. Meanwhile, the news reports that Dourmoor forces have withdrawn from Arakesh, and Lord Volpe has heroically uncovered a ring of torturers and brought them to justice.

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Dec 1 497: The Dead of Ramaslu

To reach Praxia BDMS must pass through Ramaslu; in particular, they stop off at the town of Dhurkut on the border to pick up cold-weather gear. The train to Dhurkut, however, stops as it’s going through a Ramaslu mountain pass and the party hear the crew call for any surgeons. The party head forwards to find that the tracks ahead have been blocked by a landslide and a train ahead has been derailed, with most of the inhabitants dead or missing. The derailed train looks like a military vehicle, with a gun emplacement and troops in Dourmoor livery, all wounded or dead. As BDMS investigate further, a call from up the mountain goes out: “By my command, rise!” and the dead get to their feet and attack, assisted by two magitech-powered zombies which turn out to be mere sacks of skin sewn up and filled with hungry rats, and led by a figure in blackened, decaying armour who spits poisonous bile at them and calls himself the Knight of Putrescence. Zoe is swarmed by zombies and badly wounded in the fight, but the undead are eventually defeated. The Knight mocks and threatens them as they interrogate him, Blink cunningly playing on his vanity and egotism to learn that he is a servant of an undead warlord in Praxia named Festerbloat who believes in the superiority of disease and rot. The undead are burned, and (the captain and several crew having been slain by the undead) BDMS take charge of organising the passengers on the train into clearing the rubble, and have made some progress when a train from a company called the Freeman’s Work Cooperative arrives in the other direction (past the rubble), laden with mercenaries and engineers. When the FWC learn that there was an undead attack they spring into action, bringing the passengers to safety and setting up a perimeter; their train takes BDMS and the passengers to Dhurkut, with a request to report into the FWC’s offices there to debrief them.

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