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Saturday, 4 November 2017

The Noose

The Noose are a crew of Shadows operating out of the back of a bakery in Charhollow. They specialise in espionage in support of Skovlan refugees in Duskwall. Their reputation is that of Fanatics, who will sacrifice for the cause, and who think that the end justifies the means. They hold to Skovlan traditions as well, like many of their fellow refugees.

The Noose is a dark name for the crew, but one with mundane origins to Skovlanders - it refers to a traditional knotted bread which is well-loved by the Skovlan people - its shape (especially when a batch has just been taken out of the oven) is reminiscent of a hangman's noose.

The close press of refugees in the tenements of Charhollow and in the tents and lean-tos of Dunslough make them particularly Slippery, it's difficult for someone not part of the clannish Skovlan society to track anyone down.


Their hunting grounds are located in Charterhall, specifically in the few square blocks where the consulates are located. Their contacts with the Skovlan Consulate (through their friend Adelaide Phroaig) helped them establish themselves there; but the Noose view many of those who work with the Consul as traitors and quislings whose collaboration with the Empire needs to be punished.

They have access to underground maps and passkeys, which allow them easy passage through the
underground canals, tunnels, and basements of the city. The Cyphers set them up with these, but what the messenger guild of the city gain from this arrangement, the Noose aren't so sure...

They stole a boat from the Gondoliers, but to placate that powerful and popular group in Duskwall, they paid them off.

The Noose's closest friend is Amancio, a deal broker who is renowned for his neutrality. Amancio is sympathetic to their cause and he backed up his commitment to them when he sent a job their way instead of to the Wraiths.

The Wraiths took this switch personally and have it in for both of them. Their mercenary ways contrast with the Noose's idealistic bent.

The Dimmer Sisters have a soft spot for Amancio, having trusted him since his childhood. He's one of the few people who enter and leave their manor house; they wonder what he had to do to gain the Dimmer Sisters' trust.


Aldric "Crow" Walund (a Slide) fought for Skovlan in the so-called 'Unity War'. While he grew up in a simple fishing village, he found a role as a messenger during the war; later rising to become an aide in service of the famous Skovlan leader, Skannon.
The bony man dresses in knickerbockers and suspenders, a Skovlan style that's popular in Duskwall as well.
His vice is the pleasure of traditional smoked fish he picks up at Slane's fishmongers & restaurant.
His specialty is in Cloak & Dagger, and back in the war his ability to slip through enemy lines was renowned.

Crow used to lose himself in drugs when he first came over to Duskwall after the war, and his friend Bryl (a drug dealer) gave him his fix regularly. Since then, he's clean, and despises what Bryl allowed him to become. He has a hatred for drug dealers and how they help keep the Skovlan people lost in stupor.

Klyra (a tavern owner) gave Crow a fair shot when he got off the boat from Lockport and was looking for a job. Her place 'The Elephant & The Castle' is located near the consulates in Charterhall, and Crow looks a bit out of place there, but as ex-staff the Slide can grab a drink or two on the QT. The place is popular with Iruvians who like the old-school ornamental wooden walls and the antique Iruvian gaming sets from which the tavern gets its name.

*

Phin "Wicker" Skelkallan (a Whisper) came over to Duskwall with the recent flood of refugees following the end of the war. He used to have a position as a Snare, the Skovlan equivalent of the Spirit Wardens, who protected people from vengeful ghosts.
The plump man wears a waxed coat and tall boots.
His vice is the luxury of custom-made accessories from Dunridge & Sons, the famous tailors of Nightmarket. He indulges in unnecessary items which don't take away from his Skovlan style (such as handkerchiefs and cufflinks) but has one of their lovely bags as well which he lugs around his whispering gear in.
His specialty is in Compelling ghosts to his will.

Wicker's erstwhile friend is Quellyn (a witch) who is in fact one of the Dimmer Sisters. The first time the Noose made contact with Amancio, Quellyn was very suspicious of them and thinks very little of Wicker in particular; she is dubious of the tension between what Amancio says of them and Wicker's fetish for luxury.

For the most part, Wicker finds spirit trafficking heinous, but Flint is different. So long as he doesn't deal with the ghosts of Skovlanders, Wicker finds him useful to have around. It goes deeper than that however; when Wicker arrived in Duskwall and attempted to control a particularly murderous ghost, he was outmatched and Flint's entirely selfless intervention saved the Whisper.

*

Grine "Tick-Tock" Rowan (a Leech) is a Tycherosi, who until recently was a professor of Sparkwright in the Doskvol Academy. His eccentricity (usually not something frowned upon by academics) got him into trouble with his fellows at the Academy, and he's no longer welcome in those hallowed halls.
He's a handsome man, who usually wears a long coat and tricorn hat.
His vice is the acquisition of weird and interesting trinkets from Ojak in the Silkshore rooftop markets.
His specialty is as an Artificer, his particular claim to fame inside the academy was his design of a timer that can be attached to bombs and such devices. Currently he has a large bomb which has such a timer, making it less than suicidal to set it off and less prone than a corded fuse to environmental affects.

Most recently, he was called in to do some emergency repairs for the Cyphers - they use a phonograph to record voice messages for some of their clients, and only he had the particular skills to fix it.

Stazia (an apothecary) is a close friend who still works at the Academy. He sometimes goes to her to acquire alchemicals, but mostly they just meet up for lunch to catch up on departmental gossip. She kept her head down when he got into trouble and has remained untainted by the scandal.

In his undergraduate years, he was friend with Malia; they debated all kinds of sophomoric nonsense back then, but since she's become a priestess of the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh and because of his continued suggestions that spirits weren't all bad their friendship decayed into general animosity.

Friday, 27 October 2017

The Hotspur

Previous Session: Daggers in the Streets

The Orphans have 'acquired' a steam launch using Grace's contacts on the docks. They're going to pull up alongside the Leviathan Hunter 'Hotspur' as it approaches Duskwall and subdue Captain Milos Dunvil to inscribe the eldritch sign the Guardian of the Gates have provided them with.

Quess the Spider knows one of the crew aboard - the Bosun's mate Avon went overboard last year and Quess took care of his family for a while; however, miraculously Avon came ashore alive and well and he definitely feels like he owes Quess. She knows from talking to him that the Hotspur and Captain have been a little unlucky the last few voyages, not finding many Leviathans to hunt and harvest from.

The launch is big enough to bring their Thugs, just in case they need to switch from an infiltration to full-on assault - the dozen well-armed ruffians should be enough to intimidate and/or overwhelm the thirty-strong crew.

Fancy Frank the Hound talked to Steiner (his assassin friend) about the best ways to approach and board a Leviathan Hunter, so he's got a few ideas already. The launch pulls up aft of the lumbering ship, and ties up alongside. The cabin windows aren't big enough to use as entry-points so Fancy Frank and Quess climb aboard, using muffled grappling hooks, their water proof coats and hats will allow them to pass for sailors, at least at a casual inspection.

Art by ömer tunç
Fancy Frank spots a handful of sailors above deck, look-outs for the most part. Including a whisper standing in the bowsprit - reaching out into the sea for signs of any nearby demon-spawn. The Hound is inclined to take them out now, but Quess shakes her head - she's not willing to kill innocent sailors for no good reason.
An eerie forked lightning hits the sea a couple of miles away, lighting up the entire area, and giving Fancy Frank his first good view of the sea - it's ink blackness barely concealing the burning lights of not-stars below.

They sneak below decks and to the Captain's cabin without much trouble. Lurking in a narrow corridor joining the wardroom to the cabin, they can hear noise inside. They knock and are ready to burst in as soon as they hear "enter". But instead the captain's voice assures them
-Jenk? I'll be right out in a minute for the deck inspection.

An old thin man enters the corridor from the other end, distractedly approaching the cabin door where there are coiled and ready to explode. He glances up in surprise as Quess grabs him by the elbow and steers him back towards the wardroom. The Standstill starts to affect Jenk and she stops him from yelling out help in his final moments of control - however she notices a strange reaction, he must be allergic!

She bundles him into a corner, seeing two more sailors in the wardroom, she quickly closes that door. But now Quess starts to feel strange - whatever effect the Standstill had on Jenk is rebounding on her as well and for the first time since she was a child she feels her body slowing down due to the drug. She strains with the effort, but extrudes the corrupt drug out of her system, leaving it coating her pores.

**

Fancy Frank bursts through the door into the cabin and sees the Captain standing there glancing at a fancy pocket watch in the middle of buttoning up his jacket. The rain gear doesn't fool him for a moment and he reaches for a pistol on his bunk. Fancy Frank steps in and kicks him in the nuts.

He ties Dunvil up on the bed, and draws a wicked looking butcher's knife to make the incisions on the captain's chest. He can see some serious signs of damage there - a set of raking scars on the shoulder, way too far apart to be from a hand-held weapon - a star-shaped puncture wound on the lower rib-cage, like from a giant bolt. Fancy Frank is impressed, but starts to study the diagram of the symbol one last time before starting the cutting.

Quess shows up, looking the worse for wear. She sees Fancy Frank take out the vial of black liquid and pour it into the fresh wounds on Dunvil's chest. She's reminded of the Tycherosi Black Rain, a powerful oily substance that's used in occult rituals by the priest of her people. They say it's the bloody tears of creatures who fly above the ink-dark Void Sea. It gives prophetic powers and Quess understands what's going to happen as she sees the liquid spread quickly through the incisions.

It will allow something outside to subvert the defences of the city, and scrye through the lightning barriers, using Milos Dunvil as a focal point.

 There's a knock on the door - those two sailors got suspicious and are wondering if the captain is alright. Fancy Frank's attempt to sound like Dunvil falls flat, and there's a stand-off in the doorway. Fancy Frank shoots one sailor (who was brandishing a boarding pike) and Quess standstills the other.

Quess isn't happy with the death, but the cold stare Fancy Frank gives her brooks no dispute that their lives were in danger. He shepherd her (still a bit groggy) through the corridors and up an unlocked hatch and they escape over the side. The launch pulls into the mist before the alarm is raised aboard the Hotspur. Fancy Frank is happy with the haul - a very upmarket pocket watch for himself and the captain's log will surely fetch a good price with their friends aboard the Spitfire!

*

Ashore, it would appear that Strangford's adepts have kept things going on an even keel for the most part. However, one of their number, Dahlia (their expert researcher - previously a librarian with the Circle of Flame) poked her nose into the Guardian of the Gates, and now they are demanding some kind of reparation. Unwilling to go very far, they confine her to quarters and assign her to clean-up in the sacrificial chambers for the next month.

Fancy Frank, as well as exploring the secret crawl-space in the bath-house Casta frequents, tracks down Captain Dunvil's location once he comes ashore from the Hotspur. They'll be able to keep a close eye on him once things kick into action.

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Fulcrum

I ran a one-shot of Blades in the Dark at the (fantastic) GauntletCon last weekend.
The Fulcrum (a crew of Shadows) break up a betrothal that would join two warring criminal families in a powerful alliance.


A great heist, switching spotlight between the two strands of the score was challenging, but fun!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Daggers in the Streets

Previous Session: Big Fish

The Orphans are casting around for a good target to build their war-chest - they know they'll need to scale up in order to take on their enemies. They hear tell of a shipment of  payroll silver for the Dagger Isles Consulate and resolve to bushwhack it. The monthly delivery of coins and other materiel is transferred from Gaddoc Rail Station to the Consulate by a couple of wagons through Nightmarket and into Charterhall.

Grace, Monger the Cutter's extortionist friend, is very familiar with this transportation hub and points them towards the carter involved. A old Tycherosi (named Vitter) has just two others helping him with the carts, though the Consulate usually puts a handful of guards with them as well. They've got a gondola ready to go, to take the stolen goods away to their lair.


The whole crew are arrayed in ambush positions along the road from Nightmarket when around the corner comes a patrol of Bluecoats. They seem friendly with the convoy and Quess the Spider signals for everyone to withdraw to their fall-back ambush positions.

This secondary ambush site is problematic - the carts go along a narrow pathway along the small canal at the edge of Charterhall. It's closer to the Consulate (so there's the danger of outside interference) and it's a more dangerous route back to their lair.

Their thugs, coming out of nowhere, run behind the convoy and steal something small off the back of the rear cart (unbeknownst to them, they are official Imperial documents) - they scarper across the nearby lock gate and 3 of the 5 guards chase them out of sight.

Quess is on point, and she approaches the convoy from the front; she knows Vitter to see, and opens up a conversation with him, he stops his cart to shake her hand and that's when she standstills him. The others leap into action at this. Fancy Frank the Hound is in the perfect sniping position on top of a building down the canal and kills one of the guards outright, just as she reacts to Quess (who is sure she feels the shot whizzing closely by her ear!).

Monger the Cutter clambers over the cart to take out the second guard, and is shot straight in the chest. He falls to the flatbed of the cart, a couple of his ribs are definitely broken but so glad that he decided to take his heavy armour this morning. He gets back up, with a cruel-looking crowbar and jumps on the guard who's reloading his pistol, horribly skewering the poor guy.

He looks up and sees the three guards who chased their thugs away come back around the corner. Damnation! They didn't keep them engaged for very long!

The guards open fire with their pistols, and Monger uses their fellow guard as a body-shield, diving into the canal to avoid the ensuing carnage! That heavy armour makes him regret the decision as soon as he hits the water...

Fancy Frank has lined up the guards and carefully shoots two of them down, causing the last one to run for his life. Meanwhile Quess has unlooped a whip from the cart she's on and sent it unerringly around Monger's hand, which is the only thing over the water at this stage. She ties her side to the cart and they haul Monger out.

**

Returning to their lair in the abandoned Leviathan slaughter house, the Orphans do not notice the important Imperial documents and regalia that were in the loot. They have bigger concerns when the pool that the Wicked Mother directs them from is disturbed...

A simple map has appeared - pointing out the main square of the Crow's Foot neighbourhood in Duskwall. A time is indicated: just one hour from now.

They gather their equipment and swarm into the square; keeping an eye out for trouble isn't so easy - with the tension between the Red Sashes and Lampblacks reaching straining point. They do spot an old man sitting on a fountain, looking in their general direction as they scan the place.

They invite him to meet them in The Old Rasp, a small pub that neither of the (almost) warring factions control. It's small and they know they can scope the whole place out very quickly while keep multiple exits in view.

Branan is a high priest of those who worship The Guardian of the Gates, a forgotten god. He won't divulge how they gained his attention, and doesn't threaten their connection with the Wicker Mother in any way - they fear how easily it was influenced by the Guardian's power and listen to what the old man wants.

He tells them the the Hotspur, a Leviathan Hunter, under the command of Captain Dunvil will come into port soon. They are to board it before it enters the harbour (within the lightning barriers) and perform a ritual on the captain.

He hands over a rolled piece of parchment, on which a diagram of an occult symbol is carefully drawn. He instructs them to carve that symbol over the captain's chest and then; he takes out a small vial of black liquid; pour this into the carving.

*

Afterwards, they go away to their own business, wondering what machinations they're being drawn into.

Monger attends a grand dinner party, hosted by his father - who is very pleased with the rise in the family fortunes. In his cups, Laudius snr. divulges that Strangford is in serious trouble on the City Council - there's talk that he could be ousted. There's bad blood between the two, going way back to when Laudius was a significant player in high society. Monger puts his thoughts to work on ways to raise his own house on the Council.

Quess is lining up their favourite enemies, the Skovlan Consulate, to take on the Silver Nails. That kind of fight will surely knock the Skovlanders down a peg or two and allow the Orphans to take up the slack.
As a bonus she mentions to Jeren, her friendly Bluecoat archivist, that the Skovlanders' disdain for the Dagger Isles Consul is well known - they will surely benefit from that terrible attack on the Dagger Isles delivery...

Next Session: The Hotspur

Friday, 25 August 2017

Big Fish

Previous Session: Book Deal

With Monger smoothing the burgeoning relationship with the Billhooks, and GhostBlade perfecting a new ritual; it's left to Gap and Fancy Frank to expand the Cult's power and majesty.
They're eyeing up a vice den, operated by the Skovlanders. It's near Kellen's bar and takes up a space in between the rest of their turf. So it makes sense as well as bringing in some much needed cash.

Fancy Frank is familiar with this type of establishment from the war - cheap booze and sex keeps the Skovlanders distracted from their lot in life. He knows just the thing to get the superstitious northerners off their game.

If they can concoct a haunting by the Wicked Mother; chills and blood and maybe a reenactment of Her appearance in the White Horse in which a handful of Billhooks were sacrificed. That would be perfect.

With some spine-tingling artefacts from Moriya, they set up the Skovlan vice den for this horrific experience.

As expected a few days pass, and the place closes for business entirely and then the Skovalanders come looking for them.


A few of them find the Orphans in the Red Lion. Their initial offer that the Orphans take over the running of the place in return for a tithe isn't well received. But then they appear to have second thoughts - if they can get some proof that the Orphans could dispel the effects, then they'll have to have a talk with the leadership to okay the deal.

They grab Strangford and a couple of his adepts and a couple of Quess' thugs and head directly there. The place is abandoned and the Skovlanders stay outside. There are a few things that Strangford has to do, but mostly it's an hour of pre-arranged theatre to fool any onlookers.

They head down the stairs to find the main bar occupied by Skovlanders. There are half a dozen of them. Including Ulf at the row of barrels which serve as the bar - he's sharing a pint with a druid (replete with antlered head dress). The others are at the front and back doors. This doesn't look good.

The guy who spoke to them in the Red Lion - Morgan - tells them to get the hell out and not to come back, and knees Strangford in the gut to show he's serious (Strangford ends up with a broken nose on the way down to the floor). Fancy Frank yells that this is crazy talk and pulls a knife and holds it at Morgan's throat.
The other Skovlanders, front and back have their own weapons out in an instant. The Orphans crew - bunched up at the bottom of the stairs, are like fish in a barrel.

**

With impossible speed, Gap vaults the barrels, landing just behind Ulf and whipping out the two smoke grenades from an upturned bucket where he secreted them previously - he chucks them towards the group of Skovlanders at both doorways and the smoke quickly fills them. They are blinded and although they open fire, it's not very effective.

Fancy Frank stabs Morgan in the throat and then charges towards the front door - he knows he'll be able to barge through the confused Skovlanders milling around in the smoke and distract attention away from the others.

Gap leads the rest of the crew out the door behind the bar. Strangford is being hauled along by two of his adepts. As Gap is making sure everyone gets out, he's sucker punched in the kidneys by Ulf. Gap throws a knife as rolls through the door, shutting it with a sweeping leg behind him. He exits through the front window as all the others go out the back.

As Fancy Frank races towards the door, Skehan, the druid, draws his claymore and cuts across the back of the Hound's legs. Fancy Frank stumbles, but his leather trousers protected him from the worst of the cut and he's out in the fresh air.

However, a dozen yards away are four fully armed Skovlanders, arrayed in a miniature version of a shield wall that Fancy Frank remembers with dread from the war. With only a momentary hesitation he draws his pistol and shoots at the leg of one in the middle, charging the outside flank of the warrior next to his unfortunate target, who collapses in a heap. His blade has little effect on his opponent, but he gets a sharp blow to his elbow in return. As he careens away from the fight, he has to check if his arm is still attached.

Gap comes out of the window and around the corner and sees that Fancy Frank will need help to escape this or he won't survive.

He attracts their attention and when a couple of them move to intercept he leads them on a merry chase, giving Fancy Frank the chance he needs to escape as well.

*

With their plan in tatters, things turn for the worse when an Inspector with a few Bluecoats shows up to arrest someone - Gap's going to Ironhook for a stretch.

Next Session: Daggers in the Streets