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It took a while to decide whether I would write up my party's adventures, they tend to the... unusual. but after all, this is Malifaux, so maybe they aren't that unusual after all. A Prelude, and a Warning (or three) This is a story that is eventually going to get dark. I mean really dark. If you have any sort of moral qualms or ethics, and have even the remotest chance of being offended by the actions of a group of filthy miscreants doing nefarious deeds you may want to stop reading here. . . . . If you’re still reading you’re either a terrible person, or you don’t believe me, seriously there isn’t going to be any happy endings here. Actually, now I think about it there definitely will be at least one happy ending, but it’s the kind you pay for in a seedy room with a companion of low virtue. See what I mean? Hopefully this has given you an inkling of what is to follow and the dubious or disbelieving will now realise that there are plenty of great stories over in the Iron Quill, and that they probably don’t want to carry on past this paragraph. . . . . Still here? You're pretty messed up, you know that? Ah well, two warnings are pretty good, but the third beats all as they say, so I’d stop now if I were you. This here is the adventures of a group of individuals who have no secret team name, no allegiance to each other, few ties to anyone but themselves, and even less loyalty. They aren’t so much a team at all really, more what happens when all the good guys leave town, and what’s left have to get their hands dirty. Dirtier, sorry. These are not heroes, they are just the bad things that happen to other people, and sometimes, on a good day, those other people are even worse than they are. The day of the Expectation murders started just like any other in the small mining boom town in the northern mountains, new arrivals came by coach and rail, the ore shipped out back to the city, and the people bustling about their business as usual. The first visitor that stood out was the twisted, garbling witch that the sheriff’s posse had found in the night, the sun hadn’t even rose when they dragged him back to town and threw him in prison, his effects confiscated to await his ‘trial’. Sheriff Courtson was an honest man, an ex-guild guard that served his time and left for more reputable work, but he had seen enough foul magic in Malifaux to recognise a Ressurectionist when he saw one, he’d hang, but he’d follow due process first. The second visitor was more noticeable by his stench than his sight; Lyle Bucktooth, a rough looking individual in tattered dungarees who stank of pigs and Bayou. Lyle arrived on foot, rare enough by itself in a town this far from anywhere, (even a day’s ride from Ridley) carrying a battered sack, and a serviceable shotgun. Installing himself in Salinka’s saloon and paying for a room, he seemed content to sip the local whiskey and stare out at the street, like he was waiting for someone, or something, to arrive. The bar around him emptied pretty fast at this point, his pungent presence forcing the regulars closer to the stage at the rear rather than the warmer spots by the windows, but something about the hermit spoke of violence, and none there had the grit to ask him to leave. For our next visitors we have to step slightly outside town to the carriage travelling in from Ridley, the stage took longer than the train at the newly built station, but it was cheap, and it was reliable. Inside we find a motley cast, The first to catch your eye (indeed to catch anyone’s eye that looked in) would be Huckleberry Sin, the tall three kingdoms gentleman in the shining green silk tuxedo, yellow shirt and crimson necktie, his green hat perched over his eyes to hide the fact he was studying the other two passengers intently. Next to him a buxom, blonde haired woman in a performers travelling gown sat wafting her face with a collapsible fan; beautiful and serene, many miners had dreamed about Eva Beldame the night after her show. Her obvious beauty, his handsome face and the fact that they both seemed dressed for a show (possibly a circus in Sin’s case) may make you think they travelled together, but whereas Eva was a genuine showgirl on loan to the town from the Star itself, Sin was nothing more than a street pimp from the alleys of Malifaux. An overseer of a small brothel he was here tracking down the john that sold his girls out to the local guards for not paying protection. This had lost Sin custom, a couple of good girls, and worse:- some of his hard earned rep. The gold rings that glittered across Sin’s knuckles were better than a set of brass knuckles in a fight, and the decorated three barrelled pistol at his hip wasn’t just for show. The third occupant was the focus of both Eva and Sin’s attention, dressed in a finely tailored suit just a little out of season, and more than a little worn, he slumped in the corner, just as unconscious as he was when the filthy, rotund man in the top hat that hailed the carriage as it left Malifaux dumped him through the door. Tarquin was a member of the De Walt aristocracy, farmers back in Africa, his fortunes were bright despite his rather poisonous attitude to everything beneath him (which was to say- everything), educated and erudite, he was busy making his father proud at university when he found a book that opened his mind to new possibilities, and he started on the path of the graverobber. This path first took him away from his cosseted life in society, then through the Breach and eventually to a graveyard on the outskirts of Malifaux’s more affluent areas. The guild had chased him for almost an hour when the sound of a shovel on the back of his head brought him blackness, which he was only now shaking off, to find his medical bag and books beside him on this bumpy carriage ride, and a folded note in his breast pocket You owe me. Find Meridian’s eye. N. As the carriage rode in to town it passed a small but gruesome procession; three noblemen fresh from the breach, out with an explorer’s league party to hunt legendary beasts, they had come north from the footprints and stumbled upon a small herd of Bayou boars both angry and lost. Did I mention angry? That is possibly a poor word for the uncontrolled fury with which the beasts launched themselves at the small party of humans; in fact their little jolly to Malifaux would have ended there had they not had the foresight to hire one of Ridley’s more violent Scrappers. Despite her grace and looks, Kato Kimberley Kallous is at heart more than a little psychotic, possibly from too many Noh theatre shows about Samurai heroes, and after a very short stint as an Oiran she was sent to learn sword techniques in the Old Kingdom by her Ten Thunders uncle. These techniques were put to good use defending her erstwhile employers against the rampaging porcine threat, especially backed up by the gunfighter Erdig Vax the explorers guild had attached to the party, inevitably the five dead pigs were being dragged behind the horses as they approached their lodgings for this evening in the Explorers League house in Expectation. Reaching town just before sunset the aristocrats, the two brothers went by the name of Du Bray, and thought money could buy them anything, even survival (which actually had worked out for them so far I suppose..) With them was the wastrel Henry Pocks, a Malifaux resident who had joined the well-armed party at the last moment, and joked with the brothers as they headed to their lodgings across the street from the Saloon, the eldest brother giving Kato orders to skin the boars and prepare them for tomorrows dinner. In the Saloon itself our friends Eva, Huckleberry and Tarquin had each taken rooms and now sat apart, Huck and Tarquin seemingly unbothered by the stench of the wandering hermit, (Tarquin genuinely thought all ‘poor people’ smelt that bad, and Huck was still brooding revenge). Lyle himself seemed smitten with Eva on sight, barely taking his eyes off her for the first hour. He was distracted however by the sight of Kato brutally attempting to skin one of the boars outside with what appeared to be a Nodachi, not exactly the right tool for the job. Craftsmanship aside, Lyle had spent two days herding those misbegotten creatures across the damn river and releasing them on the plains, but as he saw the mercenary become increasingly bathed in the pigs blood he realised that if the Hag was right (and when you grow up as the only other human in the Bayou, best to assume the Hag is always right) the pig’s blood was marking out the sword wielding savage before him as the tool of prophecy he was sent to protect, which wasn’t going to easy by the look of things. Sighing, Lyle drank the last of his whiskey, and went out to offer the poor girl a hand, if the pigs had to be butchered, they may as well be done properly after all. So, our cast is assembled, yokels, necromancers, pimps, wastrels, entertainers and porcine corpses. The sleepy town was so far blissfully unaware of the death that would stalk it’s streets before the night was over, and luckily so. After all their ignorance is a form of protection, just as you, the reader, have so far seen nothing of the darkness promised earlier, are protected from the bad things in store by your own ignorance of these events. However like the poor townsfolk who are about to find out exactly how bad things can get in Malifaux, the poor protection ignorance provides you is about to be shredded like the skin of the Boar that the mercenary just rather inexpertly butchered. Next time, that is.