Blades in the Dark Ep. 2
The crew silently head for the stairwell, which is guarded by a note from building management explaining that the stairs are not to be used until a spirit warden can collect the vengeful spirit currently haunting them, and a janitor can subsequently be called in to retrieve and dispose of the remains of Mrs. Penniworth and her poodle, Cupcake.
Jet, the team’s Whisper, gestures at the rest of the team to let them know to hold back while he puts on a Spirit Mask and peeks into the stairwell. It is freezer-cold in here. The stairwell is a tall square spiral, and go one floor down and 7 floors up. At the bottom, two bodies. (Shayla: “oh, that’s Mrs. Pennybottom and her poodle” Curtis: “oh, no, there’s two bodies AND a third little body, which is the poodle” )
Nearing the top of the staircase is a shrieking spirit.
Jet manages to calm the spirit and call her to the bottom of the staircase, where she reveals her name, Jez, as well as the manner of her tragic death. Her husband hated it when she smoked in the apartment (Tiff: “Is this… based on real life?” Curtis: “No, no.”) - so she would come in to the stairwell to smoke every day at the same time, leaning up against the bannister - one day, when she went to lean on the bannister, it collapsed and she fell to her death. She believes that her husband Zeph loosened the screws holding the bannister together. She cannot remember what has happened to her, since.
In exchange for a promise of vengeance against her husband on the fifth floor, Jez the Stairwell Ghost promises to aid the team.
Here, the team splits up: Quill decides to go on an extended lurk up the stairs to determine the location of any other crows in the building while Mixy and Jet go to interrogate Crofton as to the potential whereabouts of Byron in the building.
Quill’s full-building lurk quickly establishes that the remainder of the Crows are nowhere to be found in any of these halls, but he does find a penthouse at the top of the building with (in his estimation) a fancy door containing a truly spectacular lock.
Mixy pretends to be a drug dealer hitting up Crofton for information about potential sales in the building, and while he has never heard about a young Byron, he has heard of a man fitting the players’ description - a mysterious rich scholar named “Crabdell Nylon” who lives in the building’s fine penthouse.
(Rob: “Crabdell Nylon? That’s definitely just an anagram, right?” Curtis: “Yup.”)
The, uh, privacy-valuing Byron is likely to be in the Penthouse that Quill has just discovered.
Crofton asks if he can buy any Dreamsmoke from Mixy, and Mixy goes “sure, dude” and sells him a small amount of potent weed, crossing it off on her “load”. This helps to secure her proposed backstory (what self-respecting drug dealer wouldn’t have some dreamsmoke to sell) and makes her a permanent contact at the university, as we decide on the spot that Crofton is a professor. (Prof. Crofton)
The team spends some time evaluating the danger involved in just popping open the lock and sneaking in to Byron’s home. Where are the rest of the Crows? Are they in there? Can we hear anything? (No). Can we lean out the windows and try to peek in to his apartment. (Yes: Messy, lights on, empty, no obvious movement.)
Quill spends a few moments waxing poetic about the lock - boring Jet and Mixy somewhat. As a locksmith he had studied designs very like this one. Quite easy to pop open with a fixman’s twirler (he pops one out of his locksmith kit), but otherwise a very clever design. One obvious flaw that he points out while he’s working the door open is that duplicating keys for this kind of lock is quite easy.
In doing so, Quill has expressed his background which is going to be worth 1 XP at the end of the session.
The room itself is completely empty, of both Byron and Crows. There are no signs of blood, but the apartment has been ransacked.
Books, papers, tins of fish, and bowls of noodles are everywhere. Jet surmises that Byron doesn’t keep a support staff - they’d prepare him fancier meals than tins of fish, and they’d likely clean up afterwards. Or at all.
Many of the books in this room are marked with the sigil of the Charterhall Library.
(Rob: Can I determine the… theme of all of these books? What’s Byron so obsessed with?)
(Curtis: Oh, I’m so glad you asked! You get to decide that! I’ve prepared a list of potential things that Byron is obsessed with, but you can pick whatever you like. It will be important. )
An ancient cult
A mysterious super-drug
All of the above
(Rob: I think… an ancient cult. )
(Curtis: Okay! An ancient cult it is! Tiffany, can you tell me the name of the ancient cult?)
(Tiffany: The Cult of the Wailing Widow)
(Shayla: The Cuwt of the Waiwing Widow)
(Everyone: The Cuwt of the Waaaiwing Widow)
(Rob: Can I identify the Wailing Widow as a folk-history demon that I know of from Iruvia? For XP? )
(Curtis: You can! A Baba Yaga-like figure, the Wailing Widow is used to scare Iruvian children into … eating their vegetables and such. )
On the mantel, in pride of place, is a small daguerrotype photograph of Byron, with another man, in an obviously affectionate pose.
(Rob: So that’s his father, Lord Clelland?)
(Shayla: I don’t think that’s what he meant by affectionate.)
(Curtis: Yes - the other man in the picture is young, and I mean “affectionate” )
Mixy takes this opportunity to scoop up the photograph.
Jet also finds Byron’s desk, upon which is a still-warm tin of soup with a spoon in it, and a list of books.
Jet’s careful study of the room also has made it clear that the list of book on Byron’s desk are not obviously books in the room right now.
Jet grabs the list of books.
Byron and Crows are nowhere to be found.
The team spends a little bit of time working out what they think has happened here. “If they’ve already captured or killed him, why would they leave a Crow downstairs as a look-out?” “I bet they think he’s at the library, so that Crow downstairs is waiting for him to return.” “Should we go to the library?” “Well, what if he’s not at the library, he’ll come back and the Crows will get him.”
A plan forms: the players will incapacitate the Crow on the bottom floor and try to intercept Byron at the library before the Crows find him there.
On the way back down the stairs, a secondary plan forms: Zeph must be punished for murdering his wife. She did promise her help in exchange for retribution, after all.
Jet doesn’t want to full on kill Zeph: any death during a heist will bring the watchful eye of the Spirit Wardens down on the team, heat that they’d prefer not to accrue - so they grill Jez about some details they could use to merely torment Zeph.
“Is there something he loves - something he loves more than anything?”
“Yes… his… figurines.”
(Shayla: “Of clowns!”)
“Yes… his… clown figurines. There are many of them, little harlequins and mimes and sad clowns. He… paints them and he has books of statistics, and he meets up with students every Wednesday to stage elaborate mock battles.”
(Rob: “Clownhammer 40K!”)
(Curtis: "Yes! He can’t get enough of Clownhammer 40K! He’s in so deep that he had to off his wife for the inheritance, just to get more figurines. ")
Mixy asks if Jet can retrieve a detail that only Jez would know about Zeph (Okay, his nickname is Cookie) and the plan forms: They will use the blood of Cupcake, the poodle, to paint “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID, COOKIE” outside of his door, knock on the door, and hide. When Zeph sees the message and freaks out, they’ll sneak into his apartment and just wreck his expensive Clownhammer 40K collection.
(Curtis: Because this is a bit of a side quest, I’m going to roll this entire action into one Wreck roll, Shayla, because you’re Wreck-ing this guy’s life and his figurines.)
(Shayla: 4, success with a complication.)
The plan works! Much too well, in fact. When Zeph opens his door and sees the message written in blood, he panics and runs to the stairwell, perhaps in an attempt to see how culpable he looks. As he pops into the stairwell, a ghostly presence gives him a little boop and he falls, screaming, to his death.
(Shayla: Uh… I mean, that’s still pretty good.)
(Tiffany: Yeah, I don’t think anybody’s too sad that that happened to Zeph.)
(Rob: We could resist that consequence, that extra death could still generate some Heat when we’re done, here.)
(Shayla: I’d like to resist that consequence.)
At a cost of some Stress to Shayla’s increasingly-Stressed character, the consequence is resisted.
The plan, instead, goes exactly as laid out: Zeph takes the elevator and flees his home in panic. Mixy takes this opportunity to just smash his clown figurines, but not before pocketing a few for good measure.
Success. Jez is so pleased to hear of this minor act of vengeance that she is able to achieve some peace, and, with no further tasks or goals, vanishes harmlessly from the stairwell.
The last that the players hear from her is the distant sound of thank you for fucking with my husband, he suuuuucked
Now on to the main plan: incapacitating the Crow goon at the bottom of the stairs.
And the plan is as follows: Mixy is to pass Quill a rag soaked in Chloromine, and Quill is going to Prowl up behind the goon, toss his single-use Silence Vial to the floor so that nobody hears what’s happening, and then knock out the goon. After this, he is to be tied up and stored in the stairwell, with the rest of the bodies, at the bottom, to be found by the Spirit Wardens in a couple of days.
Which is… exactly what happens.
Curtis quietly resolves that this particular crow, Smeg, is going to suffer some pretty severe emotional Trauma from being left in a stairwell, tied up with some corpses, for a day or so.
The team sneaks out the back once more. Mixy grabs a few handfuls of illuminated plant clippings on the way through, which she might find use for in her alchemical preparations.
Quill is to lie in wait between the building and the library and incapacitate any Crows that he finds. To this end, Mixy lends him another vial of Chloromine.
Mixy and Jet head into the library, hunting Byron’s books.
They attempt to ask around to find someone who can help, but apparently the Library’s helpful staff have been replaced by a “computer”, which resides in a nearby room - or the players could investigate the card catalogue in the library’s creepy basement.
Mixy resolves to address the computer while Jet heads into the basement.
Quill, outside, is able to identify a counter-skulk: this Crow is waiting in the darkness, presumably with similarly malicious intent.
He is described as a “gothy Iruvian”. Usually Iruvians in Crow’s Foot roll with the Red Sashes, so presumably he’s trying a little extra hard to fit in with the Crows, which has ended up leaving him looking a bit like a member of KISS.
Anyways, Quill easily incapacitates him with the Chloromine and leaves him, unconscious, tied up behind a dumpster.
The computer room has the acronym “D.E.W.E.Y.” emblazoned on a large placard on the door.
(Curtis refuses to invent a valid backronym for this.)
Mixy strolls into the “computer room” - which is, literally, a room-filling mechanical beast, covered with bulbs, gears, tubes, paper print-outs, and punch-cards.
Sticking out of the device is a horn, and when Mixy enters the room it begins to shout at her.
“I AM DEWEY! PRESENT YOUR LIBRARY CARD! OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES!”
“I AM DEWEY! PRESENT YOUR LIBRARY CARD! OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES!”
Mixy establishes, again using a flashback, that she keeps all kind of junk in her pockets and simply still has her library card from when she was a student here.
(Curtis: Okay, that flashback is going to cost you one stress.)
(Curtis: Yeah, I think it’s sufficiently implausible that you’ve held on to your library card for several years.)
By presenting her library card, Mixy is able to ask DEWEY where to find the books she’s looking for. FOURTH FLOOR! IRUVIAN WING! FOURTH FLOOR!
Jet, in the basement, finds a vast collection of cabinets containing tens of thousands of cards.
He puts on his Spirit Mask just to do a casual “ghost check” and, lo and behold, he notices a quiet ghost working in the corner.
This ghost is engaged in an endless task: he has a single row of cards and is paging through from the beginning to the end, then starting again from the beginning.
Jet manages, with some difficulty (and taking a little more time than he had hoped) to draw the ghost out of his sisyphean loop, and the ghost reveals that he is Clifton Miggs, ex-head-librarian. He offers to help Jet find the books he is seeking, but asks for Jet to smash the library’s computerized librarian in exchange.
Fourth floor. Iruvian wing.
Jet, Quill, and Mixy meet up on the ground floor and quickly decide to quickly, quietly, sneakily head up to the fourth floor, keeping an eye out for any Crows along the way.
And, success - they find Byron Clelland on the fourth floor.
Near them are the two remaining Crows, who have yet to find Byron Clelland but are certainly making themselves fairly conspicuous in the search.
The large, quiet, threatening one might be able to vanish somewhat if he weren’t so imposing, but the small, loud jackass is rushing around shoving people to check if they’re Byron, knocking over books, and generally making his presence extremely known.
Even worse, they are not far from the Iruvian wing.
Mixy takes this opportunity to head to the floor just below the Crow goons and create a distraction, knocking over a large bookshelf and shouting “Oh no, I think that’s young scion Byron Clelland knocking over that large shelf of books! Wow!”
This draws a crowd of both students and the Crow goons, buying Jet and Quill some time to convince Byron that he’s in terrible danger and needs to be whisked away, quietly and discreetly, to safety.
Byron takes a little bit of convincing, but he sees reason. It helps that he can see the Crow goons on the way out and strongly believes that his brother would, in fact, try to have him killed. He’s ready to go - he just needs to stop by his apartment for one precious heirloom. His only remaining photograph of his dead
love very good friend. Ah, good news, Mixy is able to produce this heirloom without necessitating a second trip.
The team quietly escape from the library with Byron in tow.
Byron Clelland moves back to his father’s high security manor in Whitecrown. Going forward he will be available to the players as an Expert in “Cult of the Wailing Widow”, and further Clelland adventures could turn this man - who is in line to become one of the most powerful in the city - into a powerful ally.
The players have pulled this heist off pretty seamlessly for a first heist, and accrue some Reputation, and no Heat whatsoever.
The Crows, presumably, get frustrated and take off, confused at Smeg’s disappearance, and on their return to base suffer some kind of mildly catastrophic but non-fatal carriage accident.
The day after the score, Jet and Mixy return to the library to smash up DEWEY. Jet discovers that DEWEY is, in fact, a Hull - “computer” technology is waaaay too far ahead of what people are actually able to accomplish with Sparkcraft, this is more of a Ghost-in-the-Shell style situation where a literal actual ghost has been forced into a Sparkcraft shell in order to serve as a slave to the machine’s creators. DEWEY is duly exorcised and Clifton Miggs, too, is able to use this closure to resolve his personal issues and disappear.
The team return to Marden’s tavern, where he and the team together start to plan for how they’re going to expand the tavern’s operations to help make the streets of Crow’s Foot safe once again, and our team create their “Crew” sheet. They’re going to be Smugglers.
The details of the team’s new Crew are going to be hammered out between now and the next session…