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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.

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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.

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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. 

Edited by Ampers&nd
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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.

This only encouraged me to read further.

 

 

Still here? You're pretty messed up, you know that?

Yes, I know. AND?

 

 

 

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.

Can't wait.

You have quite the flair for story-telling.

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Welcome back, nice to have the repeat custom, unusual, but nice nonetheless.

 

Now, where did we leave our group of ne’er-do-wells? Ah, of course some time has passed since we spoke and those tasks left uncompleted are complete, with only a small amount of violence, and this inflicted upon those who are already  past the point of caring, therefore instead of their prior locations we now find most of our cast assembled (of course) in Salinka’s Saloon. 

 

Huckleberry Sin has barely moved, although his demeanour has greatly changed, now rather than brooding he has become a glowing bon viveur, chatting to all who approach, especially Salinka’s saloon girls, who are all very much taken by the charming eastern gentleman with the sharp suit. He has spent more on drinks and food than Tarquin certainly, who after has managed to irritate most of the staff and townsfolk with his offish behaviour and pretentious manner, indeed it seems that his eyes struggle to peer in any direction other than down his nose, although they did manage to slide (along with most of the bars occupants) along to the feminine figure of Kade as she descended the stairs, her gleaming leather armour cleaned of pig detritus and her weapon shining on her back. With a nod to Lyle who had retaken his seat by the window, Kade called for food and took a seat closest to the fire, laying her long blade on the table in front of her, a ward against conversation and company both. Although perhaps not as overtly cheery as the green-clad pimp, the second happiest person in the room was surely Lyle Bucktooth, he had found his ward without any real issue, and gained 4 boarskins to boot, the Bayou toughened leather would either sell for a good price in the traders or be useful for his own wardrobe, a good day made even more so by the cheap whiskey and pretty faces around him, much better than the Bayou in many ways, but less homely he thought.

 

Over the next few hours the townsfolk drifted in, along with a good contingent of miners from their shared bunks north of town, the rumour that Salinka had new talent in meant that the few other saloons on the outskirts would be losing trade tonight, Salinka only ever paid for the best, and it was rumoured he had Union connections, was it true that a genuine showgirl was to appear? The tables filled quickly, and at the only empty seats were around the glowering mercenary and Lyle. When Eva took to the stage and began her set, singing a slow song about home, hearth and heartsickness, the entire saloon was transfixed, bewitched by her beauty and the magic in her voice (all except Tarquin, who decided he had seen better, and that she could do with a little more voice training). The spell her voice wove around the room had a particularly strong effect on young Lyle, who could barely take his eyes from the stage. Her first song led to a second, and time seemd to stop for a moment in Salinka’s. This beautiful tableau was then totally ruined forevermore in the minds of those present when 2000lb of fleshless zombie pig complete with mechanical rear legs and a noxious cloud of bile and smoke leaking from its rear end smashed through the wall of the saloon and landed on the stage.

 

The silence that followed the abominations entrance was brief, as the screams of the townsfolk shattered it almost immediately, the rush for the door or the rear of the room an animalistic swarm, terrified beyond measure. Of course some in the room reacted differently, (luckily for us as otherwise this story would have been far less interesting) Eva herself frantically began dodging the beasts assaults as a few miners close to the stage rushed to aid her, the first was disembowelled on its foetid tusks, the second smashed into the side wall with enough force to push his head through it, and the last knocked to the ground and trampled into the stage boards. The threat to the angelic vision that Lyle had only just encountered (having spent most of his life in the Bayou or wilderness he had rarely encountered human women, especially such beauty as Eva) was too much for him, and the blast of his shotgun rang out across the room, shredding one of the piston’s on the beasts rear. The abomapig turned at this, and was caught square in the face by the second shot, which dazed it just long enough for the bejewelled fist of Huckleberry to cave in its skull with a series of well placed blows. As the innocents flocked outside more screams were heard, another of the horrific creations was in the street, tearing into the crowd with abandon, the bloodied corpses of several miners and two of Salinka’s girls lay at its feet, trails or gore and intestines testimony to its porcine rage even in death. As it swung it’s snout toward another of Salinka’s girls, prostrate on the floor before it,  the abomination found  another figure instead, The first swing of Kade’s blade severed the boars jaw from its face, the second drove it back to its rotting haunches,  and the final blow came from Tarquin’s revolver, driving  it’s bullet deep into the beast’s decomposing brain.

 

The inhabitants of the town stood in shock, the violence had lasted only minutes, but eight dead townsfolk lay in mute testimony to the horror that had taken place. They weren’t going to enjoy the peace long however, as the sound of gunfire and squealing came from the sheriff’s office up the road,  followed by a single agonising scream….

 

Why the strangers felt they needed to help at all is a mystery, but now they are involved as it were it seems natural that we follow them, if for no other reason, than curiosity at their motives. And if you think that next time they will be shown to be the good guys after all, think again

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Edited by Ampers&nd
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Surprisingly the sheriff was still alive by the time Tarquin kicked the door to his office open and burst in, followed quickly by a bloodlusting Kade, a bemused Lyle, and Huckleberry and Eva (he insisted she accompany him 'for her protection'). The sheriff’s leg was in tatters, with the half built form of another of the ex-pigs, melded with all manner of steel and iron attempting to finish the job by dragging itself up his torso. A scuffle ensued, which involved Kade's sword, Huckleberry's fist and a good deal of gore, but the beast was soon done, and Tarquin began stitching up the good sheriff's leg. After a short discussion it was revealed that the sheriff believed the creatures were attempting to rescue the miserable wretch in cell number one. The populace it seemed had come to much the same conclusion, and a noise outside drew the party into the street, where an angry mob had formed, surrounding the jail they were held off at this point only by the guild guards and their sergeant, who had arrived from the bank (late, as usual for members of regular law enforcement in irregular situations). 

 

Now we must step into the mind of Tarquin for a second, as distasteful and grim a prospect as that may seem. Since he first crossed the breach he felt the draw of necromancy pull him to the darkest corners of Malifaux, but despite his searches, his bribes and research the ability to raise the dead, to create servants to fulfil his every whim (including the one involving a human caterpillar and a vat of pigs blood) eluded him. perhaps this wretch had secrets to pass on, something, anything? That would finally unlock the key to the darkest of power. He resolved to keep the criminal alive, and in doing so spoke up to both the sheriff and the crowd. 

 

"I am an officially sanctioned defense lawyer, sent by the guild to represent this man, to ensure he receives a free and fair trial, and that justice is served in full, disperse immediately, lest the good sheriff and his men here be forced to waste their bullets on you, rather than on the horrors that stalk this town"

 

The crowd wavered, guild lawyers wore masks didn't they? And they had never heard of one so far from Malifaux before? But then there had never been an imprisoned resurrectionist in town either? The burly miners at the front retained their indignity and rage, but at the back the regular townsfolk were beginning to slip away, thinning the mob and giving hope to Tarquin. With a flourish he drew the note, with its rich paper and dark seal from his pocket and brandished it above his head.

 

"This writ from Lucius himself gives me the power to prosecute and fine any man or woman that impedes my investigation, and stands in the way of justice. I implore you to step away or I will order these men to open fire"

 

Now miners aren't all that great at reading, nor understanding the complexities of the law, but the harsh voice and condescending manner of the clearly educated and erudite man stood before them was enough to convince them that they did not want to call this man's bluff. The Miners finally began to drift away, leaving the guild guards looking strangely at Tarquin. The sheriff nodded his way, a doctor and a lawyer both, this man may be an arrogant bastard, but he was useful to have around. Limping back into the sheriff’s office, he indicated a locked cabinet on the wall, where the 'defendant's' goods were stored. Tarquin took them into his care, and no sooner than he touched the bag than a coarse, unspoken whisper entered his mind. 

 

"Read me... I am all you crave... all you need... all you can be."

 

Tarquin's head is about to become too full for us to remain with him, so perhaps it is time to visit the slighty less disturbed but definitely grubbier point of view of Lyle Bucktooth.  Lyle had spent the time during Tarquin’s crowd pacification with his attention split between the shapely forms of Eva and Kade, the rather solitary life he had as a tracker not quite preparing him to protect two damsels in distress, especially when one of the damsels is causing more distress than she’s feeling and seems determined to cut as many things in half as possible. After seeing the irritating posh guy slump into one of the sheriff’s seats with a tatty book in hand, Lyle started to do some maths, one pig they killed in the bar, one pig in the street, one in the sheriff’s office... One and one and one made… Lyle’s head hurt, this was a common side effect of maths (Lyle’s Mah taught him to count with whacks to the back of his head from her spoon, which had a somewhat permanent effect on him) and though he had to really buckle down to finish the sum he was pretty sure there was either one left or three. Definitely one of those numbers. Either way it meant that both of the ladies that he was trying to look after were still in trouble, and if anyone here could track a pig, it was him, time to step up and hunt the damned things down. He walked into the street and trailed his hand in the dirt, followed by a bemused Kade and Huckleberry. Sniffing the air he licked his index finger (tasted good, not sure what of, he spent a minute or so sucking something particularly juicy from under a fingernail) He (eventually) raised the spit sodden finger into the air and held it into the wind. As he did so an explosion rent the air, the sound of yet more gunfire and screaming coming from the explorer’s guild, red flames licking out of the doorway. Lyle turned to his spectators and nodded, speaking calmly with the wisdom of a born tracker;

 

“Dey’s to da south”

 

 

What Tarquin learnt from the book in that short time must be revealed later, but suffice to say all present were surprised to see him stride from the sheriff’s office, cane in hand and direct them toward the sound of gunfire.  Kade needed no such direction, as she sprinted toward the sound (followed by Lyle) Huckleberry came too, still dragging the bewildered Ms Beldame with him. The front door was too busy being a blazing inferno to let them in, so the group of mismatched saviours went to use the back. Or in fact the really big hole left in the side wall by a semi-robotic leviathan of revenge seeking bacon. Kade’s enthusiasm for a brawl was somewhat dimmed by the fact her armour slowed her advance, so the first through the broken planks was Lyle, then Huckleberry, with Tarquin wisely seeking safety at the rear.

 

The scene that greeted the fated as they entered the explorers guild could best be described as the anti-barbecue from hell, two of the abominations stood pinning a group of four humans into a corner, another two lay on the floor beneath the nightmares feet, A lantern had exploded in the doorway, the flames giving the scene an unearthly shade. Two of the figures were firing hunting rifles at the pigs, whilst a third was hammering heavy pistol shells into them, some of which were glowing in an unusual way, especially to the eyes of Kade (who’s ability to sense the mystical we will go into more detail later) Lyle’s shotgun added to the cacophony, driving the closer beast to its knees, and the triple barrelled pistol in Huck’s hand served to distract the second. In the corner the elder Du Bray brother (or the younger, I really don’t like them so wasn’t paying attention, I’m not sure anyone cares) shouted out to his rescuers.

 

“Keep at it fellows! We’ve got them on the backfoot!”

 

The gurgling squeal of a immense throat slit by a disturbingly large sword signalled the end of the closest beast, and with the last shell in his shotgun’s breach Lyle shredded the intestines of the last abomination. Racking the slide Lyle turned to the terrified Du Bray’s, his face covered in Ichor, the burning building lighting it in harsh shadows.

 

“Pigs have hooves. Stupid.”

 

The gunsmiths pistols disappeared into his coat as he hurled a mop bucket at the flames, stamping on the last embers he turned to thank the four intruders, he was interrupted however by a cold, harsh voice cutting across him. Huckleberry has stepped into the light to reload his pistol, and as he slipped the third bullet into it's chamber the Du Bray’s and their other companion stepped up to do the same. The light from the remaining lantern had fallen across the face of the fourth man, and their eyes had met.

 

“you…”

 

Huckleberry’s voice carried with it the threat of a thousand years of death, an inhuman hiss that did not fail to chill the heart of those in the room, the effect it had on Henry Pocks was even more pronounced. He had heard the tales of what happened to those foolish enough to damage Huckleberry Sin’s girls, men staked out in the quarantine zone with half their skin taken from them, or castrated and half drowned with the flesh they had lost stretched and pinned across their faces, you did not anger Sin, and Pocks had done just that. He didn’t mean to give the guild Sin’s address, or tell them about the ‘unusual’ services Sin offered, but they had been so persuasive, and offered so much money... When he heard Sin had escaped he thought he’d be safe out here in the wilds with a gunsmith and a swordswoman between him and danger, now he looked into the eyes of Sin and knew no human could be this evil, only a fiend in stolen flesh had the power to drive such fear into him. He fell to his knees, sobbing for forgiveness, he emptied his pockets, his wallet, his holster, he placed all his worldly goods on the table and he begged for mercy.

 

Huckleberry Sin showed mercy for the first time that day. He put all three barrels against Pocks skull and he spread the back of the wastrels head across the floor of the explorers guild.

 

They say that people in Malifaux either die inside, or just plain die. Perhaps that explains why almost no-one in the room so much as batted an eye at the cold blooded execution they had just witnessed. Lyle cared little for human life in general, the Du Bray’s little for those below them in station. Tarquin was too engrossed in the book (again) so only Kade and the gunsmith looked at Sin as he calmly took the wastrels weapon and holstered it at his other hip. Their eyes met and with the simple words ‘personal matter’ the subject was closed.

 

The gunsmith walked to the bar and grabbed a bottle, sitting at one of the remaining tables he offered it to Kade, who swigged it back before passing it to Tarquin, who giving it a disgusted look passed it straight to Lyle before sitting at another seat, eyes still pinned to the stolen grimoire. Eva stepped gently in the back door and fell back, horrified more by the calm, quiet demeanour of the humans who stood amongst the chaos of blood and intestines, brains and corpses, than by the devastation itself.

 

A quiet in the storm, this first tale concludes soon. One of our ‘heroes’ at least has revealed his true colours, so will you wish to hear the rest? Perhaps not, but I will record it here nonetheless.

Edited by Ampers&nd
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Once again the vagaries of time and my irresponsibility as a true record of passing events have left me lost, where did we go next? Our intrepid fated are resting in the burnt runs of a gentleman’s club, several corpses (including a steam-powered pig) litter the floor, one wall has collapsed completely but the upstairs appears fine. For now, anyway, besides the room they are accompanied by several bystanders, and an air of faint surprise after Huckleberry’s actions, but the present does not help me unravel the past, where to next?

 

 

I think Tarquin may be the solution to my amnesia, as he sits and reads his newly acquired grimoire amidst the carnage he finds that whilst most of the words are gibberish (probably written by a poor person, the penmanship is atrocious) the occasional paragraph seems to settle rather well in his mind. Rather too well actually, as the words become pictures, and those pictures begin to tell a story of a set of tools to capture a being of immense power, tools cursed to claim the souls of those around them. One of these tools stands out ever more, Meridian’s Eye, a round black stone, scarred on one side by four gouges, with a deep hole drilled at a 90 degree angle to them.  This stone is held in what for any other description is a golden harp, with 4 strings that stretch to fill the gouges left in the stone, holding the orb in a delicate oval cage.

 

 

The image of the black stone eye begins to spin in Tarquin’s memory, he had seen it, not in his dreams but within his grasp, no, not his grasp, of course he wouldn’t touch it whilst it was still inside… oh. He leapt to his feet and snapped the book closed, this burst of action startling the motley group seated around him and coming pretty close to getting him a face full of buckshot from Lyle, who was in fact beginning to enjoy himself, he hadn’t shot this many things in quite some time.

 

“We need to go back to jail. Now.”

 

His brusque manner aside, the small group had no better ideas, and rather than knock the hat from his head (Kade’s most restrained idea), they asked a few questions, to which Tarquin explained that he had an idea what was causing all this. Huckleberry had a burst of gentlemanly fervour as they left however, ushering Eva and the remaining Explorers upstairs and barricading them in the western room, with the gunsmith and a promise to return. An uncharacteristic burst of courage caused Tarquin to lead from the front, hurtling across the main street and past the gallows to the Jail, where he burst in on a surprised sheriff finishing binding his wounds.

 

“I must speak to my client privately, it is of the utmost importance that you leave immediately to allow me to do so”

 

 

Obviously the sheriff’s first instinct was to tell Tarquin to sod off until the morning, but here Huckleberry began to shine, with a smooth tongue and a charmed smile Huckleberry talked the sheriff into coming down to view the carnage at the explorers league, after all it was up to him to report it wasn’t it? Huckleberry led the lawman away whilst the rest of the crew gathered around the bound necromancer, who’s gibbering and wailing quietened drastically as he became aware of the company around him.  Tarquin’s words were to inspire even more wailing than usual however.

 

“I need his eye”

 

Let’s not go into too much detail on how exactly the got the stone eye out of the prisoners head, the only person with the right tools for the job had just left with the sheriff, and a massive sword isn’t the most delicate of tools, so perhaps we can forgive Kade for the mess, in any event it was Lyle who eventually worked the bauble free, and it was his knapsack that they then used to cover the ressurectionist’s head, hiding the blood, brain matter and other injuries from prying eyes. They finished cleaning up just as the sheriff returned. Tarquin’s imperious tone had carried him pretty far this evening, so he saw no reason to stop bossing people around now.

“This man is certainly a dangerous spellcaster, why he almost cast a spell on me had these good men not intervened, you must not make eye contact with him at any point do you understand? The hood must stay on him until he hangs tomorrow.”

The sheriff nodded, at least he now knew that the dishevelled mage had passed through due process, and would hang on the morrow after all, which cheered him up a little. He thanked the ‘lawyer’ for his help, and sent him on his way, grateful to have his house back, and the prisoners mutterings had certainly quietened down.

 

 

Back in the street the four strangers gathered to see what exactly Tarquin had claimed from the prisoner, and he showed them the strange stone he believed may be responsible for the creatures attacking the town, as unremarkable as it looked to most of the group, to one of them it was confirmation that something was very wrong, as it glowed and boiled with a sickly green mist in her sight. Kato had known for a long time that she could see things that others could not, even as a child she had been able to tell when a charm sold on the streets earthside was a true item, or merely an elaborate sham, since crossing the breach however that instinct had become focused into the ability to sense, and in extreme cases see, magic. Her time on Malifaux had taught her to instinctively distrust magic users,  Kato had little time for the guild in general but believed them when they said that magic needed controlling, several of her more treacherous jobs had involved guarding petty wizards in their search for power, and none of them had ended well. Kato looked at the stone with distaste, but she also noticed that the tendrils of smoke curling away from it all headed in the same direction, back toward the explorers guild. As she turned to follow its faint path her sharp eyes caught movement back in the ruined ground floor, and it wasn’t human movement. Her sword left it’s scabbard in the briefest of moments as she sprinted towards the shadows.

 

“We have some more company!”

Edited by Ampers&nd
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Memories are a wonderful strange thing, whilst we are unable to change the past, often leading to deep regret, our memories are quite adapt at shuffling people and places around with ease, leaving a poor remembrancer such as myself lost and confused. Luckily on this occasion the words have stayed fairly true and my rather more wandering mind can use them, as a navigator uses the twin moons, and pick where I left off so long ago.

Kato may not have been the fastest runner in the town, her armour alone weighing more than most people carry with them, but the thought of more innocent lives under threat gave wings to her feet, and she arrived at the ruined building in time to see a disfigured shadow slope up the stairs. Clambering over the wreckage of the front door she was halfway up the same stairs when Huck and Lyle caught up, both brandishing their respective firearms. The top of the stairs was a maelstrom of flesh and junk, the remains of the unfortunate wastrel has somehow become fused with part of the pigs movement mechanisms, and the Explorer’s waiter had sprouted wood and brass legs from his back and chest. Disjointed and crablike the abomination was using two of these inhuman limbs to punch holes through the door into the eastern room, whilst Pocks’ mobile corpse was slamming itself against the occupied door to the west. 

The screams of the inhabitants could be clearly heard as the door was shaken on its hinges, and Pocks’ mangled face, gore still dripping from Huckleberry’s callous execution had begun to force its way through a narrow gap, hissing and spitting into the room beyond. Now Huckleberry always had a soft spot for a pretty lady, and damned if Pocks didn’t have the good manners to stay dead, he drew a bead though the ornamented banister and began ploughing shots into the beast’s side, using Pocks own weapon against his magically augmented corpse seemed somehow fitting. Kato however had followed the crab-waiter construct into the room, with a delicate flick she up-ended the creature, and a final thrust pinioned it to the wall. The blow severed the monstrosity’s spine, and as Kato stepped in to withdraw the blade the waiter, dribbling a necrotic ooze, coughed and died, dropping a thin cane to the floor, a cane that practically shone with magic in Kato’s eyes.

The scene in the corridor had reached a peak of violence some moments before, and by the time Kato returned the combined weight of fire from the Gunsmith, Lyle and Huck had succeeded in putting Pocks down, this time a dedicated ressurectionist would need a sponge and a good deal of glue to bring him back. As Kato and Tarquin arrived on the balcony a strange phenomenon occurred- a line of green vapour stretched through the air to connect a gem on the cane (the unfortunate Pocks’ last truly valuable item) to the eye in Tarquin’s pocket, and then carried on toward the eastern room, as Tarquin and Kato’s eyes followed the trail they noticed each other watching the same thing, and an understanding that both in some way had magic within them was silently formed, reinforced by the fact that the others on the landing didn’t react to the emerald smoke, even when it passed straight through them.

 

 

We pass now with that smoke into the eastern room, where Eva and the explorers had barricaded themselves in, Eva appeared quite distraught (although in reality she was trained to deal with situations such as this long before she was allowed this far from the Star) and the gunsmith, who now sported a ragged gash down one side of their face, quietly reloaded their last rounds into their custom pistols. A prompt and delicate knock on the door startled all four occupants, by its politeness amidst such destruction if nothing else, and the stern countenance of Tarquin the supposed lawyer peered through the abominations damage.

“Could I trouble you to let me in?”

The furniture was shunted aside and whilst Lyle stood guard the strangers gathered, Tarquin and Kato made a beeline straight for Eva, almost as though they were following an invisible track. Both of them stopped before her, their eye’s fixed on her brooch, an abstract golden harp she had carried for many years. As Kato’s face darkened and her hand rose Tarquin stepped in:

“Your brooch, would it be an object of old Malifaux perchance? Ah, I see from your reaction that it is, I’m afraid that the item in question may be what is drawing these beasts to you. It’s quite obviously cursed you see, we are trained at the law office to spot cursed items you know, so I am afraid I’m going to have to confiscate it..”

Eva’s hand covered the brooch, it was her one family heirloom, a remnant from her ancestors trip through the breach, and proof they had survived it. To part from it would be hard, almost impossible, she began to protest at such harsh treatment but was soon taken aside by Huckleberry, who, through smooth words and kind ministrations, managed to convince her that the item really was bad news, and that should she relinquish it he would be very grateful, and attempt to recoup its value as much as possible. Brooch in hand he nodded to Tarquin, and the trio moved downstairs once again, collecting Lyle on the way.

“I don’t know what you wanted this for rich boy, but I’m assuming it really is cursed and I didn’t just fleece a pretty bauble from a prettier lady for nothing…”

He handed the brooch to Tarquin  who removed the orb from his pocket, with a delicate clock the two pieces snapped together, the green fog growing around them and stretching to the cane.

“May I?”

He plucked the gem from its setting on the cane, and slid it flush into the hole on the Orb. A draft of cold, foetid air, like the last breath of a dying creature older than time itself crept through the room, and Tarquin and Kato saw this draft catch the air, and pass through the rear of the house, into the backstreets. Drawing her sword Kato followed, shrugging Lyle moved with her as Tarquin gestured to Huck to move ahead while he brought up the rear (a position that to this day you are most likely to find Tarquin in any escapade I may add) once into the street the green mist led straight as an arrow to the rear window of the doctor’s surgery, and even those non-magical members of the party could now see a sickly green light emanating through the cracks in the wooden slats, and the eerie sound of a child crying from within...

Edited by Ampers&nd
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 I do not portray my protagonists as heroes, because in truth they are not. Curious, self-interested and almost completely amoral in some cases, they are still capable of heroic acts, though there will almost always be gain for them in doing so. The exception to this is Kato, who whilst capable of homicidal acts that would worry even the most stoic of the guild’s torturers, has within her a core of honour and courage that drives her to deeds of true heroism, she never killed anyone in cold blood, and no amount of money could buy her loyalty where the chance of a child being harmed was concerned. This duality within her nature was one of the main reasons she still wandered as a lone mercenary instead of signing up with a troop, or even the guild itself. The cries in the doctor’s house could not have fallen on a heart more apt than Kato’s, and an army could not have stopped her entrance at that point. 

The door however, did. 

Kato’s fury vented itself as soon as they reached the building in an overhead slash deep into the sandalwood door,   by pure chance piercing between two planks, and sliding down the gap between them till it reached the wooden crossbar, where it became quite stuck indeed. This of course brought Kato to a shuddering halt, knocking her off balance in time for the others to catch up. Lyle was the first to reach her, and after helping her up proved that logic is not restricted to those of higher birth by simply turning the handle of the door, which was, inevitably, unlocked. 

The darkness inside held no fears for Lyle, his youth in the bayou teaching him that daylight and darkness were twins that held an equal amount of danger, and those too scared to run into a dark cave were as like to get snapped up by a passing gator as the ones in the cave were to find an angry denizen of any one of a hundred different species. The trick was always to be the second one in any position of danger, that way the other grem gets their face eaten and not you (for this reason the common manners in Malifaux of saying ‘after you’ at a doorway is considered a great insult by most gremlins). With this in mind Lyle stepped back for Kato to enter first, The sword wielding brawler was also unafraid of the dark building. Mainly because she’s half psychotic.

Kato stepped into to the store room at the rear of the surgery, a large icebox in the corner gave off a gentle mist that drifted across the floor, and it was this mist that had caught and reflected the green light from the main room, the open door to Kato’s left now illuminated by a curling, steaming mass of sickly green. As the mercenary stepped through the door a green blast of energy slammed into the wall by her head, reflexes honed by years of living close to death threw Kato to the floor as another blast tore through the air where she had been standing. A muscled leg shot out and the closest table was flipped over to create a flimsy barrier between Kato and the unseen assailant. As Lyle entered the room he ducked down by Kato and checked his weapon. Huck was stood just inside the doorway, both pistols drawn, both Tarquin and him hidden from the enemies sight. The walls that had been struck by the green blasts were bubbling and slowly melting, Kato looked to her companions, though she hardly knew them she had to put her faith in them to back her up, the slightest of nods from the sharply dressed Huckleberry was enough to signal the moment, as she braced her legs, and leapt over the barricade into the surgery itself. 

The room was a shambles, boxes, surgical tools and paper had been spilled across the floor, the operating chair in the centre was occupied, not by a man, but by a toddler, no more than a year or two old, it’s skin flayed from the top of its head down to its waist, and these strips of skin help the child up, hanging from the ceiling like a gore-stained marionette. Next to this screaming nightmare a figure in a white coat held a filthy scalpel, dripping with flesh blood, a man in his later years, he giggled as he raised his hand and another toxic blast screeched through the air, this time Kato didn’t even attempt to dodge, it took her in the hip as she surged to her feet towards the fiend, she sliced upwards from right, a diagonal cut that split the hysterical figures stomach open and sprayed a shower of filthy black blood across Kato, burning her flesh and armour where it touched her. Kato staggered back, the poison from her injuries clouding her senses with pain, and the bad doctor stepped in with his scalpel, thrusting it towards her face. 

Huck had stepped into the room once he was sure the lunatic in the armour had distracted whatever hellish creature was in there, slipping round the corner he saw the slash that should have killed the foetid human, and Kato’s weakness. Huck can rarely be said to be a good guy, but he is a sucker for a pretty face, and the mercenaries face was definitely too pretty to allow this emaciated fool to mark it with his vile toxin. Dropping one pistol he dug into his pocket for his jewelled knuckle duster, and with reactions that bely his human appearance he stepped forward, striking the doctors elbow just before full extension, the cracking of bone and tearing of flesh a brutal counterpoint to the babies screams and madman’s gibbering. The creature stepped toward the child again, moving between it and the two would-be rescuers, holding it’s broken arm close to it’s chest it raised its arm for another toxic bolt, at this range it could barely miss one or the other of them. 


“Fire in the hole!”

 

Lyle was pretty sure he shouldn’t be shooting at the person he was supposed to be protecting, but at the same time he was pretty sure that the armour would stop his scrabbled together buckshot better than it would another arcane bolt of smelly green stuff. The blast of the shotgun was loud enough in the cramped room that even Tarquin, (still safely ensconced in the other room) ducked away. The pellets shredded the ragged doctor, tearing his ruined arm completely off, and blasting the ragged innards hanging from Kato’s slash into nothing more than scraps of offal on the surgery wall. The pellets also blew out all the windows, knocked Huckleberry from his feet and tore a chunk out of Kato’s thigh, as well as covering her in yet more of the brackish ichor that seem to fill the doctor. With one last gargling chuckle the doctor fell to the ground, and the babies screams halted. 

Kato looked at the filthy bushwhacker and his smoking shotgun, she knew enough about combat to know Lyle had taken an enormous risk with both her and Huck’s life firing into the scrum, but she also knew that he had probably saved her life doing so. Clamping one hand to her leg she stood and turned to the operating chair, and looked to the grisly child. Who looked back at her, and smiled. Its screams began again and Kato felt an evil presence force itself against her, pushing into her mind, jabbering and fighting, asking her to help this poor child, to turn and slice apart these fools who had come to kill it, protect me, protect me! Against one with lesser willpower this should have smashed aside their mental barriers, creating another meat puppet for the abomination on the chair to wield as an artist weilds a brush, but Kato had more than just willpower to back her up. The ability to see magic she had all her life had been changed as she entered the breach, now she had her own magic, the ability to smash aside magical attacks, to blunt the spells of petty wizards and end their rituals for good. Kato’s inner fire surged forth, shredding the magical assault like a hurricane, her Odachi slashed through the air, once, twice, faster than the eyes of the watchers could follow, the first blow slicing through the strips of flesh that held the demon child up, the second crushing into its juvenile ribs and sending it flying into the shelves, it fell to the floor, but no sooner had it hit the ground than its wounds began to heal, the flayed skin pulling back towards it and dragging it to its pudgy feet.

Which is exactly when Huck dropped an oil lantern on it.  During the creature’s mental battle with Kato, Huck, Lyle and Tarquin had all moved up, and now the three of them took great pleasure emptying every last round of their weapons into the burning, boiling lump of flesh until its agonising screeches finally stopped.

The four companions stood in silence as Lyle picked up a water bucket and threw it over the ruined corpse. Untouched by the fire a small bundle of mechanisms twitched where the child’s head and torso should have been. They all flinched into combat positions as the surgeries front door exploded inwards to reveal the sheriff and the two guild guards from the bank, their eyes agape as they took in the scene before them. Tarquin, the only one of the group untouched by the black blood and buckshot that had filled the room moments before, stepped forward and fired his last round into the head of the ghoulish doctor. 
“Here’s your man, he was obviously another foul resurrectionist attempting to free his comrade, but these good citizens have managed to subdue him. I suggest we burn his corpse and that of his unfortunate victim, but I believe the threat to the town to be over.”

The sheriff looked across the carnage, from the stinking corpse to the charred, fleshless infant. 
“Reckon we could have been in trouble had you strangers not been here. We don’t get this kind of thing in town often, but I’m grateful for your assistance. Why don’t you head back to the hotel and get cleaned up. The mayor wants to see you. All of you"

Edited by Ampers&nd
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I do spend too much time thinking about writing, rather than writing itself, and this in turn leads to a rather intellectual spiral of inertia as I start to think about why I spend so much time thinking about writing. Often the simplest thing can cause this, but in the case of this long delay between chapters I can confidently say that few authors would be able to tackle Tarquin de Walt's (shall we say unique?) experiences without at least a little introspection.

 

Of course nothing quite so disturbing ever lies at the beginning of a story, rather we will launch at a more sedate pace, but I will refer you back to my earlier warnings- this is pretty much the point the really twisted acts begin to happen, the mask slips, and the players are tinged in a rather more lurid light than you may have seen previously.

 

You are definitely going to see more of Tarquin De Walt than you are comfortable with. I did, and now (despite the help of several of the guilds best pyschologists, psychotherapists and counsellors), I cannot unsee it. That unfortunately is the peril of being a narrator, all life is your experience, the good, the bad, and the frankly disturbing. You however still have the option of not reading on, and, if you have developed a squeamish nature at some point between tales it would be worth jumping over to the Iron quill where much better writers than I will be creating texts far less scandalous than those you will find below.

 

For those of you who found my previous warnings unwarranted, and the writing simply too tame to deserve such a vigorous piece of advisory propaganda, I present to you the start of the second adventure of Expectations Miscreants: “A Riverboat Named Desire”

----

 

It took a few days for the people of Expectation to really get over the night of chaos that had ripped through the previously quiet mining town, however no-one survives long in Malifaux without a tough countenance, a resilient aspect and hopefully a pretty selective short term memory, and within a week most of the damage had been repaired (the explorers league was still a gutted hulk, and the league had placed it up for sale at a reasonable price, the whole attack on the building having been seen as rather bad for business). The saloon had made the giant pig-hole in the wall into an amusingly shaped window, the sheriff had splinted his leg and had the mines send down more iron to rebuild and reinforce the jail, and the surgery had been thoroughly cleansed, including a visit by the witch hunters to ensure no taint remained (a visit for which Tarquin was unable to attend having found urgent business in Malifaux, a family affair and utterly unavoidable, we are assured).

 

Our protagonists had settled into town relatively gracefully in this period. Kato, Huck and Lyle had all taken rooms in Salinka’s saloon (Huck never liked to miss a business opportunity, and having seen a lack of supply in the area had booked a few more rooms, having sent to Malifaux for a few ‘entertainers’ for the miners) Lyle,  having found the local wildlife significantly less threatening than the Bayou, was happily bringing in meat, fur and leather for the towns traders (along with the occasional snakeskin, in his defence only once was it still attached to a very angry snake, and Kato very much enjoyed helping him rectify that). Salinka himself had decided that with more girls turning up and the recent violence fresh in everyone’s mind, it wouldn’t hurt to hire a guard for a while. Having seen Kato’s blade in action he made an offer, and Kato was more than happy to accept the regular money. Kato also developed a burgeoning relationship as a stage partner to Eva Beldame, her martial training and brief stint as an oiran giving her a grace that was an asset to any dancer, and if anyone thought that seeing the bouncer performing pirouettes on stage was strange no-one was willing to mention it to her for fear of losing face in front of a pretty girl. Probably literally.  

 

Tarquin had found himself a different occupation, though he too took rooms with Salinka, he spent most of his time in the newly cleansed doctor’s surgery, having found that his status as the town ‘lawyer’ and his first rate education (and second rate medical skills) placed him as the ideal replacement for the previous incumbent. This also gave him a safe workspace to practice his more esoteric abilities with his new grimoire, and he had a good deal of success making dead rats twitch on command, and even managed to move the eye of the Rattler corpse he purchased from Lyle which he was keeping in the surgeries cold room for practice purposes. A three kingdoms nurse with easily bought morals and some actual medical training completed his cover, and Tarquin found himself in a position of respect he had not enjoyed since he spent a summer instructing the servants to fight each other for food at his parent’s summer retreat in india.  

 

So, frankly it’s all going quite well, our friends have all found roles, the events of the Expectation murders are behind us and as far as Malifaux goes everything is pretty hunky dory.

 

How very, very, dull.

 

Luckily (well, for us at least, for a fair few other people this isn’t going to end particularly well), life is never that dull through the Breach, and it was only shortly after this brief sojourn into the land of endless inertia that Tarquin found himself sitting in his surgery perusing the latest papers from earth when a familiar and rather foetid aroma came and tapped him on the shoulder. Mortimer stood far too close for Tarquin’s comfort (and should you ever meet the aforementioned gravedigger you’ll see why, cheap cigars, corpses and an endless supply of badly chosen funereal flowers combine to give him a particular scent that can only be described as wrong in every way) chewing his way through his customary cigar and holding a crumbled and stained letter in front of Tarquin’s nose.  

“Letter from the boss, guv'nor”

Drawing on one of the surgical gloves from his desk Tarquin gingerly touched the letter, had it been delivered by a rabid wolverine covered in its own faeces the envelope could barely have been grubbier, he gently teased out the folded paper inside and opened it, the writing was distinct, and clearly recognisable as the same hand that had got him into this mess in the first place.

 

Your presence is requested in my office.

Bring those you feel useful.

Tonight at 6.

N.

 

Tarquin was surprised for two reasons,firstly because since their initial meeting the mayor had been absent from town, and having concluded their original business Tarquin had believed their relationship to be over. However Tarquin was also curious as to exactly whom ‘N’ really was, and how much he really knew about the darker powers of Malifaux, and in the end he knew the same curiosity that drove him to Malifaux would take him to see N regardless of his inherent cynicism. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t be bringing a few meat shields along just in case it got a bit heated. the reason for the second surprise was that the Mayors office in the bank was less than fifty paces from the surgery,and just how filthy mortimer had got the envelope in that short distance was quite remakable.

"Tell your master I shall be along this evening. And please stop touching things, this room is supposedly sterile..." 

 Mortimer just grinned and gave the nurse a salacious wink before sauntering out into the street, whistling what sounded very much like a funeral dirge. 

It took little effort to convince Kato to come along, as the promise of violence was as much of a lure to her as power was to Tarquin, and once she agreed Lyle came along too (he had a job to do for Ma after all) he also brought his new piglet, which he had acquired on one of his hunting trips from who knows where. This only left Huck, who was generally found drinking and fleecing travellers in the Inn, though he occasionally disappeared for a few hours around nightfall when the first girl he’d arranged to come to town would start work for the evening. This left Huck’s days themselves pretty dull, so he agreed to visit N from boredom if nothing else...

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As they ascended the stairs behind the banks reinforced counter the four made as ragged a team as any you could imagine. The scuffed and worn suit of the gravedigger, grimly clasping a square shape in his inner pocket, the ragged pioneer in his stitched leather and denim, festooned with straps and trophies of hunts past. The battered brigandine and greaves of the weary scrapper, her once gleaming red plates chipped and dull, and finally the garish overseer, overdressed and overcompensating perhaps for a lack of true taste, or understanding of what taste actually was. Nevertheless as they stepped past the last servant into the mayor’s office the figure seated in the polished mahogany chair behind the desk nodded as if he approved of the group.

 

 

 

“Thank you for accepting my invitation gentleman, and of course, my lady” N nodded to Kato, who attempted to curtsey as Madame Beldame had taught her, forgetting that she was wearing her full armour and only succeeding  in crashing plates against each other and knocking Lyle several feet backwards. “I have been reviewing the trinket you delivered to me after the unfortunate incident of a few weeks ago, and as you delivered it so expertly I have a request to make of you”.  N reached into the desk drawer and produced 5 slips of paper, stamped ‘Burgess Casino- open invitation’ in smaller text beneath these words were a listed of rules of entry, but from this distance only  ‘no longarms’ and ‘formal dress only’ were visible beneath the mayors manicured fingers. “There is a floating casino, a paddleboat of impressive size that paddles its way from the docks in Malifaux down towards the Bayou delta and back each evening. This alone would not draw my attention, but as well as the usual tawdry entertainment such places usually provide, this particular den of iniquity has a line of work very similar to yours Mr Sin.

 

Huck raised his impeccably shaped eyebrow and smiled,

 

”It’s the oldest job in Malifaux Mr Mayor, I’d imagine I have competition in almost every casino this side of the breach, and the other, what makes me care about this one?”

 

The mayor did not return the smile; instead he riffled the tickets between his long fingers, before looking Huckleberry in the eye.

 

“Because this particular establishment claims that its workers are in fact able to shift their form into anything their client desires, no lust too base, no wish too degrading. How much would that be worth for a man of your designs?”

 

All the cockiness and charm of the pimp vanished, instead a cold, calculating look appeared on his face, one the others had not seen since our favourite dandy met the unfortunate Mr Pock in the old league station, and indeed one of Hucks hands was even now resting on Pock’s pistol.

 

“If it’s true? Let’s just say I’d be very interested indeed in finding out how they convinced the neverborn to submit to such… unusual… demands. IF it’s true”

 

Once again the mayor’s eyes locked with Huck’s, a slight nod from the thin gentleman broke the contact, and Huck’s hand dropped to his side, away from his armament.

 

“And that, Mr Sin, is why I called you gentlemen to me this evening. From my studies and through various networks of interested parties I believe the head of the Burgess family has come into possession of another artefact connected to the eye you acquired for me. An artefact capable of binding and controlling Neverborn, which in the wrong hands could disrupt the balance within Malifaux and place my own work at risk. In short gentlemen, an artefact that I wish you to steal.”

 

 

 

I think it’s time we switched from this rather descriptive narrative which whilst perfectly capable of bustling the story along is quite lacking in the depth of information that can give you an indicator of our anti-heroes reasoning and behaviour, and so we will (rather reluctantly) step away from the descriptive and into the frankly torrid mind of Mr Huckleberry Sin. From his reaction you can already guess that he will be very interested in both the Item and its use, but it’s harder to spot that the emotion which drives him toward this is not curiosity but anger. A deep and broiling anger was flooding through Huckleberry which meant he pretty much missed the rest of the brief conversation, a few questions were asked, payment was promised (which did briefly grab his attention) and the tickets were handed over, along with the instructions to change into something ‘more fitting’ from a Trunk that Mortimer had deposited in Tarquin’s room. By the time Mr Sin had calmed down enough to engage with the others they had separated to collect equipment, and then to meet in Tarquin’s larger room to get dressed.

 

 

 

Huck arrived in time to see Mortimer sniffing the unusual looking lock of a large trunk, and cautiously investigating a strange stain on the exterior,

 

“What you bin sticking in this ‘ole then?”

 

Tarquin blushed red, and then regaining his composure berated the cigar smoking henchman about not questioning the methods of his betters, a tirade that whilst both eloquent and demeaning need not bother us here. It certainly didn’t bother Mortimer who chuckled and inserted an antiquated key into the hole, causing the lid to spring open revealing a pile of suits, jackets and dresses of varying sizes and colours (it also released a pretty awful smell which reminded Huck of the graveyards around Malifaux).

 

“These here pretties should get yer looking fit fer a ball, instead o’ a fancy dress party” the gravedigger grinned, Huck’s inner rage was barely contained as it was, there was absolutely no way he was taking fashion advice from a man who would have to spruce up to look homeless.

 

“I think I got this covered Mr chunky, I’ve been dressing myself for a while now”

 

Mortimer just laughed again, and wandered out of the room shaking his head, leaving his stench and the key behind, he turned in the doorway and touched the brim of his hat.

 

“I’ll be out front in the coach, we should make Malifaux tomorrow evening if we set off in the hour, sir.. Oh, and the boss says you should take that nurse of yours, you’ll look better with a couple o’ ladies between you... I’ve taken the liberty of havin’ her sent fer”

 

This just left the party staring at the box of assorted clothing. Astonishingly it was Lyle who dived in first, never having had real clothes before he was rather keen to see what they felt like. After a few moments the rest joined in the root around, and as we are still trying to be vaguely gentle at this point, we will avert our eyes until the chances of seeing someone in their birthday suit has passed.

 

 

 

30 minutes later the group that walked out Salinka’s swinging doors was almost unrecognisable from the ragamuffin parade that had so recently graced the mayor’s office. Tarquin had been delighted to find several items by his families old tailor in Saville row, which just about fit him, and after the saloon girls gave him a brush (which made a nice change to him brushing them off all the time they joked once he was out of earshot) he was almost as dapper looking as the Mayor himself. Huck had kept his own clothes, though he had stopped off in his room to dress in his very best rattler skin coat and blue wendigo skin shoes, I’d go on but there’s not really any way to describe Huckleberry Sin when he dresses to impress, it’s really something you have to experience before you can understand the effect he has on others, particularly members of the opposite sex. Lyle had picked out a blue evening suit with tails and a passable hat. Which of course looked ridiculous on him, (especially with a small, pink and freshly polished piglet under one arm) but then he was possibly a lost casualty in the style war since he turned up in the bayou all those years ago so it’s not a massive surprise really. What would probably come as a surprise was his now sawn-off shotgun stashed in one of his tails.  The three ‘gentlemen’s’ appearance was further enhanced by the two beautiful girls stood between them, Kato had shed her regular armour for a fitted leather bodice and plates under a flowing dress, fitting a bodyguard to the gentry, whereas the nurse had found a Three Kingdoms kimono in bright yellow that fit her perfectly, and was loose enough to conceal a pistol under (Kato had given up on the idea of concealment, her sword hanging openly between her shoulder blades, fashion can only get you so far after all. Mortimer was ruffling through a box beneath the seats when they came out

 

“DeBier, DeClare, ah! De Walt!”

 

With a flourish the rotund gravedigger produced two metal plates bearing an intricate coat of arms, which he then proceeded to slip into specially designed clips on the carriage doors. Tarquin looked down on his family crest (An elephant beneath an inverted chevron, flanked by two ravens) and sneered,

 

“What would my dear father think of me attending a brothel, accompanied by ruffians, intending to rob the place, all with the family crest on the door? If it gave him a heart attack at least he’d have to listen to me for a change..”

 

 As they boarded Mortimer clambered up to the driving board, next to a dark figure in a long coat with a rifle on his shoulder. The familiarity of his uniform caught something in Kato’s memory, something that was definitely out of place

 

“That looks like a guild guard?”

 

Mortimer glanced over, but the figure didn’t react, turning to Kato Mortimer gave her a lascivious wink,

 

“Yeah... but don’t you worry, he’s seen the light, probably at the end of a tunnel as it happens!”

 

At this rather inexplicably amusing comment Mortimer sank into his seat, guffawing loudly, our friends finally embarked, and their journey back to Malifaux city began.

 

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A riverboat in Malifaux is usually an object of value, the hard wood of Malifaux itself is not suitable for building an airtight craft, its tendency to warp and twist even after cutting has left many an aspiring sailor swimming with whoever stands in for Davey Jones this side of the breach. This means the wood needs to be brought through the breach itself- and like all living (or ex-living) material this can have quite surprising effects. I once saw a Willow cricket bat sprout tendrils and burst into leaf as it passed that grim portal, the owner yelped and threw it out of the window, where it seemed perfectly content to put down roots and began flourishing.

(Once again I become distracted, bear with me as there is direction in here, as meandering and confused as it may seem)

Having had the wood delivered, you now need a drydock and the shipwrights to build it- and as there are few safe locations by the river in Malifaux, you can imagine that those drydocks that do exist charge quite a premium, as will the craftsmen and the guards that you WILL need to keep an eye on things. All of which will bring you into the auspices of both the Guild (material tax, property tax) and the Union (Porters fees, guard widows pension fund, craftsman’s tool fees). In fact before the first plank has been nailed to your hull you will find a good deal of scrip has disappeared from your account and the simple truth is you will need a lot more to float even the simplest of tugs into the river Malifaux, hold that thought, and try to imagine the scrip you’d need for a boat of simple dimensions.

 

Now picture the wealth required for the Burgess Casino. A Mississipi Paddle boat with twin paddles and Union made coal fired engines deep in its hull. Four storeys tall, with three above the waterline and one below, two great smokestacks at the aft either side of a dancefloor big enough for a governors masque.  The story goes that the Casino was stripped down across the breach, each part numbered and warded against the breach, then carried across on two entire private trains to be reassembled in the largest drydock in Malifaux, taking two full teams of Union engineers six months to reassemble and float. A bloated icon of overindulgence and gross pride that dwarfs the piers and docks it alights at, its existence alone is a display of wealth designed to stun and overawe it’s visitors.

 

I’d like to say this awesome vision impressed our visitors as their dust coated carriage approached the docks, but after almost a full days carriage ride sharing Mortimer’s rather piquant odor they were simply too desperate to get out to care. As they stepped towards the dock Mortimer waved them off, chuckling to himself and holding a one-sided conversation with the guardsman.

 

Huckleberry could feel something in the air as they approached the boat. Nothing tangible, not even as obvious as a tingle or an itch but something nagged at him, made his skin feel loose and his temper looser. To Kato the vessel simply glowed, her ability to perceive magical effects giving the whole hull and the floors above a faint glow that indicated more than nails held this behemoth together. A shared glance between the two of them was enough for Kato to loosen the peace braid across her scabbard, and Huck’s hand was rarely far from his holster. Tarquin could perceive none of this however, his lack of magical perception as complete as his lack of empathy for his companions. Slipping his arm through that of the nurse he drew the tickets from his jacket and presented them to the burly bouncer at the foot of the gangplank. The bouncer smiled in a manner that was probably supposed to be pleasant, tore the stubs off the tickets and handed them back before opening the red rope barrier to allow them past, he eyed Kato warily, the nurse lasciviously, and he patted own Huck with a touch of awe (the rattler jacket often had that effect). Lyle however was another matter, the bouncers arm came out and gently stopped him as he passed.

“What is that?” the bouncer poked the piglet, who gave out a pleased squee.

“It’s my seeing eye pig” replied Lyle, squinting his eyes and waving his head around in a bizarre impression of a blind piano player he’d seen in an inn once. “I need it to get around. “

Fate often plays games with the inhabitants of Malifaux, and often the merest whimsy is all that stands between good fortune and a grisly end, but it seems whatever god of fate was watching over the land on this particular evening had a soft spot for morons, because the bouncer in question was not only possibly the stupidest person in Malifaux (the Burgess clan like to ‘keep it in the family’ as it were,  which in the long run has dried the gene pool down to the gravel at the bottom, and this guy wasn’t even the sharpest pebble) but he also had a soft spot for one of his cousins who happened to be blind, and the two factors combined meant that this entirely implausible excuse worked like a charm. it also meant that the bouncer didn’t pat him down as he intended to as he was too busy trying to work out where he could get a seeing eye pig for cousin Lurla.

The party stepped onto the Burgess casino, and I suppose to get the full effect I should describe the view that greeted them. It’s not very interesting really, but it does help set the scene. If of course the scene and the area that will soon become somewhat less salubrious is of no interest to you, then I suggest you go and have a drink of tea (or coffee, or Nephelim excrement, it’s up to you really) and wait for the next instalment, which I assure you will be a good deal more to your liking.

Above the guests head were mounted gas lights on tall pole, each glowing in a different colour, casting eerie blue and green, hellish red and flickering purple across the dancefloor between them. The dancefloor itself took up the majority of the ships deck, only a small path around the outside to the tables and chairs in the prow from the casino interior breaking the glimmering marble tiles. Across this sea of marble swept the noble lords and ladies of Malifaux, in their finest evening gowns and tailored suits they danced to the most modern music straight from the otherside. Unaccompanied men were always able to find a partner in one of the exquisitely beautiful girls perched on the nearby chairs, or leaning on the guardrail at the ships edge (something about several of the girls grated on Kato, and she found her eyes constantly drawn to elaborate bracelets on their brazenly visible ankles, some of the waiters too). The great doors to the casino stood open, taller than the height of a man, and as wide as a wagon the lights and sounds that drifted from within were those of a carefree upper class, wine glasses, champagne corks and laughter, cheers of victory and the inevitable curses of defeat, and over it all the constant chatter of croupiers and the click of the roulette wheel.

Tarquin thought everyone there was far too gauche and gaudy, they had money but no class, and he sniffed suspiciously at the drinks offered them by a scantily clad waitress. Kato was still fighting to push her magical senses down and reduce the glowing of the ship itself, she was unhappy about everything from her lack of real armour to even being on a floating brothel, safe to say she was a bit tetchier than normal. Which is to say that there are wild boars in the bayou with a better temperament at this moment in time. Lyle was bowled over by the sheer excess around him. (Well the excess he could see through his squinted eyes anyway, he had taken to ‘all this undercover nonsense’ and was rather enjoying playing blind, if rather hamming it up to my eyes) The nurse was taking her cues from Tarquin, and affecting a supercilious air was sneering down her nose at anyone who danced too close as they crossed the dancefloor. The only member of the group who was paying real attention was Huck, taking in every detail, from the holsters at the bouncers waists to the colour of the girls eyes, nothing escaped his notice. He stood at the back of the group, in the shadow of the taller Tarquin and his escort, and the more he looked around, the more silent and distant he became. They crossed the threshold of the Casino, and a well dressed lady, beautiful though not young stepped out from the crowd, a thickset bouncer hovering behind her shoulder. (well not literally hovering, I’m trying to be poetic here, before the breach re-opened I wouldn’t have to point that out but in Malifaux there’s a chance that someone could actually be hovering so I need to be more specific, it is quite a chore at times)

“Welcome to the Burgess casino ladies and gentlemen, I’m Ma Burgess, proprietor  of this fine establishment, y’all settle in for a lovely ride down the river with the best entertainment this side of the breach”

Tarquin deigned to give the lady a short bow, echoed by the nurse. Lyle had been unaccountable struck blind again and bowed to a nearby statue of Aphrodite instead. Kato glowered at the mistress which in reality made no change to her habitual expression, it’s not that she wasn’t pretty, it’s that she was beautiful in the way a thunderstorm is beautiful, best viewed from a distance and wearing protective clothing. Huck paid absolutely no attention to Ma, his gaze fixed on the hulking bouncer, who in turn was staring straight back at Huck, a slow smile containing absolutely no humour spreading across his rugged face.

“Well, if it isn’t the squirt. Long time since we’ve been in the same breathing space”

Tarquin fixed Huck with a raised eyebrow, an expression he had perfected in his youth. Huck’s face split in an equally cold smile, as he squared up to the bouncer.  

“Seems a shame to end a good streak doesn’t it? I’d say it was nice to see you, but we’d both know the truth of that, wouldn’t we, brother?”

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Now we all know that Malifaux isn’t exactly a ‘family friendly’ environment, but despite all this there are still families spread across this benighted landscape, some of them even last a while before meeting a sticky end. That said, the colonised population of Malifaux is tiny compared to Earthside, so it is perhaps unsurprising that reunions similar to this one aren’t as rare as you’d imagine. Every day finds separated parents and children  reunited, disparate siblings and cousins forced together and the occasional encounter with a crazy old aunt who you genuinely thought was still in the attic (and if it’s not her walking around up there, who is it? And who eats the bowls of soup you poke through the hatch?).

Not that finding out that this wasn’t an uncommon event would have made Huck feel any better about it (it never does, why people try to comfort those in crisis by relating their own misfortune is beyond me, may as well come straight out and say ‘you’re not special, get over it’) and his hand was dangerously near his pistol for what could well have been anything from a few seconds or several days, as the thoughts that hammered through his mind at that point were so fluid a human  mind could barely cope with them.

Violence came naturally to Huckleberry Syn. It always had, ever since he was a child it was only fast, immediate violence that had saved him from the depredations of his older siblings. Strike first, strike hard was a way of life for the pimp, and now faced with a tormentor he hadn’t seen for years his instinct was to shoot first and worry about the implications later. But Huck was also a survivor, and this second instinct, hard learned on the streets of Malifaux, warred with the first. He’d seen the armed bouncers, noticed the delicate blades strapped to the legs of the serving girls and knew without a doubt Ma Burgess was more than just a pretty face. Countless eventualities flowed through him, each one considered and discarded as quickly as it arrived, shoot, slice, punch, run, each time a violent option came the fore he knew he would never walk away from this encounter if he followed through on his desires. He knew how to play the crowd, to blend in, he was an expert mimic and had learned that speed and stealth were his best assets, and here he had neither surprise nor the initiative. Paralysed by anger and indecision he could only stare into his brother’s eyes, no longer hearing anything but the blood pulsing in his veins.

“A family reunion! How sweet, you gentlemen should have said you knew Gwyn, I’ll take you to the best seats in the house!”

Ma broke the impasse with a dazzling smile, and beckoning them to follow turned and led them to a heavily ornamented booth at the side of the casino floor, she waved to serving girl and began to order drinks.

“What’ll you have gentlemen” she beamed, her radiant smile seeming no smaller for the fact that the atmosphere around the two siblings could charitably be called ’tense’

“A glass of your finest red” “Whiskey” “Same” “White for me” “Got any ‘Shine?”

(I’ll leave you to discern who ordered what) Ma’s countenance fluttered a little as she spotted the piglet, which Lyle had placed on the upholstered seat next to him, his bow tie only caked with a little mud.

“What in the hell is that?” Ma stammered, unaccustomed to being caught off guard.

“S’my Seein-Eye pig” Lyle returned, “On account of my bein’ blind’

“You don’t look blind to me?”

“I don’t look at anything, I’m blind.”

There seemed little Ma could say to this, and she settled for passing Lyle a glass of clear liquid with a faint haze over it from the returning waitress’ tray;

“Here’s a little something from over the mountain for you then sir, most men would be struck blind just sniffing it, but I guess that’s not a problem for you?”

“nope”

Lyle took a swig of the liquid and swayed a little. Now he’d been brought up right by his own Ma (cheek of this painted harlot callin’ herself Ma, when everyone knows there’s only one Ma in Malifaux) so knew his shine, and there was no way this was from over the mountain, he could tell that because he was still upright, and his teeth weren’t bleeding. Still, he was undercover, so he took another swig and beamed aimlessly around.

“S’fine stuff, bring me another fer the Piglet”

Tarquin meanwhile was beginning to remember what being one of the upper echelons meant, it had been a while since he had mixed with this level of society and the experience was greatly cheering to him. Ignoring the strained small talk between the two brothers (“whatcha been doin?” “Nuthin much. You?” “Nuthin much…”) he glanced around the casino floor, taking in the expensive suits and extravagant dresses. All this luxury reminded him that whilst he had stumbled into a respectable job that was perfect cover for his ‘hobby’, he was unfortunately barely above a pauper compared to his previous wealth. The roulette wheel took his eye, when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose, he mused…

“Excuse me gentlemen, I’ll leave you to catch up, ladies, care to accompany me for a spin of the wheel?“

He stood up to leave joined by Kato and Xi (thought you’d want to know the nurses name eventually), and across the table Lyle also stood up and made his way slowly over to a pontoon table, piglet in tow.  

 

The Burgess roulette wheel was custom built, and famous throughout Malifaux’s gaming dens, instead of the standard numbers it had 54 spaces, one to 13 of each of the suits of a standard card deck, plus a black and red Joker (everybody loses and everybody wins at 2/1 respectively). This gave the roulette table a unique look and a wide range of bets available; as well as usual single/straight/ split/corner etc. players could also bet on Suits, Order (Rams and Tomes) Anarchy (Crows and Masks), face (any number over 10) or Dumb luck (roulette croupier flips a card from a standard deck- you place everything on that). The odds for these bets varied but in general the house had a better than average chance of fleecing the customer out of their money.

 

Tarquin had never seen this wheel before, but then he was never really much of a gambler so perhaps all wheels in Malifaux looked like this. He sipped his wine and watched a round, then sending Xi off for chips (small denominations) he placed a first bet- Crows appealed to him, so a few scrip there would make a great start. The wheel span, colours flashed, and the ball finally settled- 8 of Crows. Pleased with this early victory Tarquin began placing other small bets around the table, he lost a little but in general his luck was in, and he soon had a pile of scrip in front of him larger than he’d owned since coming to Malifaux.

Now you may or may not know many rich people, I am fortunate enough in my role as chronicler to know a fair amount, and in my opinion there are two types- misers and spendthrifts. A miser is rich because they spend nothing, they hoard every penny and have usually worked hard to find their way to this high standard of living, and begrudge giving so much as a penny to another. Spendthrifts are the opposite, born or gifted into money, they have no idea of its true value and so throw it around as if it were beneath them to count even the most obscene amount. Tarquin was by nature a spendthrift. The De Walt fortune was large enough that he could have eaten into it in casinos for decades before he ran it dry, and though in recent months he had become more adept at keeping his coin, this evening his old habits were coming to the fore. Maybe it was the wine, perhaps the ladies, or the crowd that had gathered to cheer on his stroke of fortune, but right now he genuinely felt like taking a chance. He picked up his chips and deposited them on the table.

“Everything on the 11 of Crows”

A murmur passed through the crowd, giggles accompanying it. By the standards of the visitor here what was being staked was not a large amount, but it was big enough that the payoff should this extreme bet pay off the gambler would leave a much richer man.

Once again the wheel span round, the ball careering from one side to the next. Tarquin sipped his second wine and appeared unconcerned (though Kato was looking around and gauging the bouncers and other staff should things get frisky) as the spinning disc slowed, the ball came to rest in first one number, then another, two, three times it bounced before finally settling inexplicably and almost unbelievably in the dark Green wood of the 11 of Crows.

The crowd quite understandably went crazy (well as crazy as only half-cut nobles can, I mean there were cries of ‘huzzah!’ and ‘good show!’ alongside ladies fanning their faces and declaring how shocked they were. It’s a bit tame really but I’m trying to make the best of it). Tarquin simply nodded and accepted his chips. There were surprisingly few of them but the numbers imprinted on the side were acceptably ridiculous. The good doctor toyed with the idea of dropping one of them back on and trying again, but the wine wasn’t quite that strong just yet, and a great deal of Scrip could come in handy at some point… He gathered them to him and thanked the dealer, nodding to the crowd he passed over to the claims counter to swap them.

If any of you are wondering- Lyle did surprisingly well at Pontoon, despite refusing to open his eyes and look at the cards, his complete lack of understanding of non-bayou rules (when do we drown each other?) and his insistence on drinking a second glass of ‘shine. Some bystanders actually claimed he was letting the piglet play for him, and he received several offers to take the ‘lucky pig’ off his hands for moderate sums of cash. He also brushed off the attentions of a Burgess girl simply by having no understanding whatsoever of what they were offering (Ma gave out good learnin’ in huntin’, drinkin’ and Bushwhackin’, beyond that Lyle’s education was somewhat stilted) He did however offer to pay for the pig to have a massage as he thought it was some sort of sausage and the piglet looked hungry. Needless to say the girl declined.

The large guild coins and notes were heavy in his hand, and he recalled M’s description of the unique services the Casino offered. He caught the eye of one of the Burgess girls that had fluttered around him as he gambled.

“Ladies, perhaps you should return to the table, I feel the need to avail myself of some of the Casino’s other services, perhaps a massage?”

The girl nodded and smiled coquettishly, taking Tarquin by the hand she began to lead him up the grand staircase at the ships centre….

a note- next time it's going to be quite possibly the most horrendous thing I have ever written. I can barely write about what I have to write about but by all that's good in me I have to say- skip the next section as soon as Tarquin's name comes up. Base desires is a tame, tame description of what goes on in that mans head, and you are about to get a first hand look into why we should all be glad the whisper has left us alone so far...

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12 hours ago, Ampers&nd said:

a note- next time it's going to be quite possibly the most horrendous thing I have ever written. I can barely write about what I have to write about but by all that's good in me I have to say- skip the next section as soon as Tarquin's name comes up. Base desires is a tame, tame description of what goes on in that mans head, and you are about to get a first hand look into why we should all be glad the whisper has left us alone so far...

You're a great writer man, I know you can do some awesome stuff, even with something that's probably going to be a good bit more on the visceral side

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As the darker nights draw in around my comfortable tower I find my sojourns to the city become more scarce, indeed with all the trouble we’ve been having this side of the Breach it seems safer to stay within the confines of one’s own home till the sun is very much up in the morning. (And it’s always best to check it IS the sun, not a burning building or floating abomination immolating itself in the sky above). Since this forced reclusion from the outside world I have found myself wandering through my stacks and have been drawn once more towards my writing desk, and the unfinished chronicle sat upon it.

It has taken a while to reach the point where I feel I can write about the rest of the incident on the boat. I have watched bloodshed and violence aplenty in my days as a chronicler, and they have lost somewhat of their power to shock. But when faced with the deeds that took place within the confines of the Burgess brothel even I have been forced to draw a curtain over some of the misadventures- therefore the pure horror I have forewarned of in previous missives will be lessened for you. This is not for fear of upsetting you mind- you have read this far and are surely of stern stuff. Rather it is to save the dignity of those innocents who were involved in this incident through no fault of their own. Bad things may indeed happen, but I do not need to report them in fine detail.

----

Our first stop upon our return is the overly elaborate booth in the corner, where Ma Burgess has been called away and the long lost siblings have finished their first drinks, the second round arrives to find the previously cold atmosphere between them has become practically arctic, even Rasputina would be pushed to create such a frost with nothing more than familial hatred. (unless she has a younger sister perhaps, they are quite, quite annoying I find) 

“You didn’t look so dapper the last time we met, squirt” Gwyn’s southern drawl was as far from the refined accent affected by Huckleberry as anyone could imagine, the only real similarity the barely hidden violence that danced just beneath the words as they were spoken.

“Last time we met” Huck’s voice in turn was quiet, barely distinct in the loud casino, “you tried to kill me”

“Reckon'd I had. Not seen many walk away from where I left you in one piece”

“I’d have crawled away in half to meet you again, dear brother. ‘Gwyn’ is it now?”

Gwyn’s laugh was a cruel one, a nephelim’s cackle that soared over the noise of the crowd gathered around Tarquin, drawing kato’s attention in no-one else. “You always had fire for a runt. That’s why I killed you first, the rest of our kin just weren’t in our league.” He sank his shot in one. Before the glass hit the table he found himself staring down the lower barrels of Huck’s Maucher, drawn in the split second  where his eye was off Huckleberry  and on his drink.

“I still haven’t decided whether or not I hate you enough to get myself killed” The pimp’s voice was louder now, calmer somehow as if the act of drawing the weapon had settled some inner conflict.

Gwyn grinned, “be a shame to ruin that nice coat of yours wouldn’t it?” at this moment in time (despite the separation for you readers of several months due to my own failings) Tarquin’s last improbable bet came through, and the cheers from the roulette table were loud enough to momentarily distract Huck- enough time for Gwyn’s own pistol to appear aimed straight at Huck’s forehead.

After a strained few minute or two Gwyn released his grip, and swinging his pistol onto the trigger guard he raised his hands, a feigned placatory grin on his face. Huck slowly placed his own weapon on the table, though his finger never left the trigger. “You ain’t here for me squirt are ya? I know why you’re here, you’re here to see the boss” he beckoned over a Burgess girl. “Give it half an hour then take my darling brother here up to the bridge would ya honey? He’s got business with Ma” he stood and made a mock salute towards his sibling. “See you soon… runt”.

Now, you are probably thinking ‘this is a trap’ which is a fair summation of the situation. Huck is too, he’s not stupid, just a little psychotic. To understand Huckleberry Sin you need to do more than glance at his fancy attire and devilishly good looks, you can’t even get a full picture by talking to those who know him best (probably his girls, who have nothing but praise for him). Instead you have to look at who he was, where he came from and why he alone of all his kin was considered ‘different’. All these things I know and, as of now, cannot tell you. (There is a far greater power behind Huckleberry than even he knows, and I’m not stupid enough to think that her reach does not extend even to this side of the breach thank you very much.) Regardless of your continuing ignorance, it should be said that for all his treacherous and sly ways, Huck is a relatively straightforward kind of lunatic. If he sees a trap, he’s far more likely to spring it than duck aside, especially if he can do so by throwing someone else under the Hansom instead of himself. 

Therefore despite the reassuring presence of Kato appearing at his side as Gwyn approached the stairs down, Huck had already decided that trap or not there were scores to settle on this boat, and when conducting a vendetta it was always sensible to start at the top. (Many vigilantes make the mistake of starting at the bottom and working the way up crime syndicates, when really it’s an awful lot faster just to cut the head straight off. The thugs and brutes that make up the lower ranks will usually go back to menial labour and gardening once they aren’t getting paid which saves a lot of stabbing time, and I think all vigilantes should strive for efficiency in their work) they looked across the casino floor to see Xi and Lyle moving to a table together, meeting Huck’s eye in a silent signal. (Yes, alright, only the nurse met his eyes.  Lyle was still ‘blind’ and if he had too much more ‘shine it wouldn’t be an act much longer either, which luckily hadn’t escaped Xi’s attention)

Back (reluctantly I assure you, if you are going to skip a section, this is it, right now- delicate sensibilities and all- this isn't horror, it's just plain horrifying) to Tarquin. The bedrooms of the Burgess are decorated as ornately and as garishly as you would imagine. Baroque architecture and hanging swathes of red velvet disguise the roof and even the porthole is surrounded by a bronze octopus, its tentacles wrapping around its frame whilst its bulbous head covers the hinges. A large four poster bed, (each post carved as a naked tree nymph of ancient earth, Burgess take a perverse pride in their bad taste) dominated the room, and upon it (dressed only in diaphanous nightgown of pearlescent pink and an ankle bracelet) lay the Burgess girl of Tarquin’s choice.

Tarquin’s carnal urges were not strong enough to overpower his decorum, and as he slowly and methodically removed and folded his clothes he paid little attention to the girl on the bed. Instead he seemed lost in thought, his eyes glazed over perhaps dreaming of some past love, a chance encounter long forgotten (or potentially just imagining the dissection of the girl in defined stages, I’ve met Tarquin several times and he is really a rather creepy fellow).

“And what can the Burgess Hotel offer a winner like you this evening? The girl’s demure voice was as soft and overpowering as the décor. “Something fast, or something… slow”

“I want… a special…” Tarquin grinned at her. “Yes, something very special indeed.”

“What could you mean sir? We run an honest establishment and we don’t hold with perversion!” The girls act was entirely unconvincing, (and were she on stage at the Star she would have gained an intimate and well deserved appointment with the rotten half of Granny Magg’s fruit and veg stall, which can be found at the end of every day just outside the theatre with her remaining ‘produce’ already bagged up and graded for throwing distance, splatter and lethality)

Even the thickly quilted sheets could not quite mask the thud of the heavily weighted 100 scrip token that dropped beside the girl. “A special, I want what I want. Whatever and whoever I want. Do we understand each other?”  

The scrip disappeared into the rich hangings somwewhere and the girl smiled “of course sir, now what will it be, Gremlin? Beast? Do we have a craving for some Justice perhaps?” With each word the girl whipped her robe around her as her form twisted and changed, the mutations so bizarre even Tarquin had to look away. As she spoke the final word he looked back to see the Guild’s premier Resurrectionist hunter, complete with blindfold and an outfit that was definitely a fair bit skimpier than anything the red head would have worn fighting zombies on the streets. 

“Whilst there would be a certain irony in your last suggestion, I have a more immediate request for you. I would like you to be...” Tarquin paused here, as if until this point he was still unsure of his final decision- “…Me. As  I stand now before you”. Now the Burgess girls were pretty experienced in their field of work, but this caught our young lady off guard. It was (in a world largely defined by bored husbands wanting more submissive wives and ancient family heads reliving past conquests) something new, and that did not come along very often.

“Hmmm, you are an unusual one. Look away for a second good sir, and I’ll see what I can do…”

Tarquin did not look away. Partly because he wanted to see how his shape could appear from such a fair countenance, but mostly because he doesn’t take orders from people he’s paying to do a job. Despite his relatively strong constitution even he found the distorted mass of shifting flesh and sinews disturbing, and was rather glad when it resolved into another him, an almost perfect replica bar the small ankle bracelet on one leg. The doppleganger stepped toward him.

“Do I meet your approval you snivelling whelp?”

Tarquin nodded, the creature had nailed his attitude as well as the voice. He reached out to touch the face in front of him, a face that perfectly matched his own. He sighed in absolute bliss,

“The only person I could ever truly love….”

The two stepped in in almost mirror precision for a passionate kiss before the real Tarquin pushed the duplicate back onto the bed.

“Afterwards I’ll want 4, no wait- 5 of your friends. Same request. I want a whole room full of me. I feel an orgy coming on. ’

----------

This is where I draw the aforementioned curtain (probably a garish red velvet one) over proceedings in the boudoir. Nobody wants to see what happens next. I myself had to have several aggressive hypnotherapy sessions before I could even begin to erase it from my mind. In fact writing it has brought it all back, so I’m going to have to take a break from this record whilst I vomit copiously out of my tower window into the flooded streets below.

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Now the regurgitated taste of my last meal has finally  faded I can continue my narrative. You will no doubt be pleased to learn it will pick up with Huckleberry and Kato rather than Tarquin who is having far too much fun for my liking.

The thirty minutes passed slowly for the remaining miscreants, despite the flashing lights and entertaining staff you can only relax so much when you are expecting everything to go to the Bayou in a breadbasket at any point. Xi had started watering down Lyle’s shine with a thick smelling medicinal she carried in her purse and so far he either hadn’t noticed or approved as he hadn’t mentioned it. Lyle had always had a nose for trouble, you don’t last in the Bayou without one even if you are one of Ma’s favourites, and so whilst patting his pig (not a metaphor, get your brain out of Tarquin’s gutter please..) he had managed to sneak his shotgun from its hiding place. Xi too had drawn her pistol and placed it under her purse on the seat beside her.

When the scantily clad girl appeared before Huck and Kato’s table with a bow they finished their drinks (slowly and insolently, which didn’t bother the girl particularly as standing and watching two scowling drinkers wasn’t exactly a hard job compared to some things she had to endure on board)  and walked up the stairs. As they passed the bedroom doors upstairs they could hear sounds that I’m not going to describe as I’m sure they’d rather forget it themselves. Regardless of this distraction they were guided past several armed guards onto the bridge, a raised cabin above the casino itself. Gone was the baroque decoration that enveloped the rest of the ship, this room was utilitarian and sparsely furnished, bar the polished wooden floor. Broad windows to the front and sides allowed a view of the darkened river and city beyond. Besides the guards only two people were on this level, firstly a sturdy individual manning the wheel and steering the ship, and more importantly the Madame of the casino herself, seated behind a battered wooden desk at the rear of the cabin.

“Well, looky here.. looks like someone just can’t stay away from me!” Ma Burgess' slow southern drawl hinted at an inner amusement, and had been perfectly calculated over decades of use to be just as alluring, threatening or as commanding as it needed to be. Here she was definitely going for alluring, which (truth be told) had a much greater effect on Kato than Huck, as whilst she was not immune to the odd feminine wile Huck was still far too conflicted within his inner rage to notice even the most obvious approach.  Unused to her approaches being so ignored Ma decided to press the issue and gathering her mind sent a swirling mass of magical energy into Huck.

The matriarch of the Burgess clan had got so used to wielding the abilities of the artefact she had found in the quarantine zone that she could now summon its power from anywhere in the ship. At first she had reclaimed it from the tomb in a rotted ribcage simply seeking to sell it for the gold, but when she turned aside an attack by nephelim later that week, she realised that the item had enhanced her natural persuasion, (already greatly improved by her trip through the breach) and that she could literally tell people to do whatever she desired. When she discovered that it seemed to only work well on native residents of Malifaux she was a little put off (especially as she was trying to steal the casino at the time) but after further experiments in the wild with her kin she divined that not only did it work best on creatures with blackened blood, it was even more powerful on those creatures who could shift their shape. Since then she had used a combination of force and magic to carve her own chunk of Malifaux’s nightlife, taking the casino and using the artefact to draw mimics towards it where she could dominate and control them. (in an odd twist of fate because the Burgess’ clientele were primarily from the upper echelons of Malifaux city Ma’s power grab had actually filtered out more than one highly-placed mimic infiltrator in the Guild and M&SU, proving that even the most despicable creature can end up doing some good, even if it was an accident)

Something about Huckleberry had niggled at Ma ever since he’d stepped aboard. She wasn’t sure exactly what he was, but she knew how to find out. A warm glow suddenly punched through Huck’s rage, and he felt himself stepping toward Ma’s desk, a sense of calm and desire for family flowing through him. He shook his head and tried to remember why he was here- he was pretty sure he ran a brothel, he didn’t work in one? Did he? Would it be so bad? Imagine all the worries taken off his shoulders if he just let his guard down. Let Ma take control, she’ll look after him from now on. Mother knows best.       Mother.       Knows.      Best.

If you should ever find yourself in a situation where two armed mercenaries have attended you in a private suite, (It occurs to me infrequently but not, alas, infrequently enough) I have but one piece of advice to you- before you focus your not inconsiderable will entirely on dominating and subdued one of them, you should check first to see if the other one can see magic. Ma Burgess did not take this relatively simple precaution, and as a result I am chronicling the adventures of the Miscreants of Expectation, not the Burgess family. (this is a both a blessing and a curse, for whilst I have had to witness for more degrading acts by the miscreants I think having to chronicle the adventures of the family Burgess would be both less entertaining and far more ill-mannered) 

Kato’s headache had started when she got on board, and hadn’t stopped. Flickering tendrils of magic wrapped around the ship and its crew, and those ankle bracelets positively burned with power. This glowing, flashing and twisting light show had not helped her temper (which we have noted previously as being somewhat short) and when she saw the flare of energy pulsing between Huck and Ma she decided enough was enough. Channeling her own will she reinforced Huck, adding her own frustrations and rage to his own. (A trick she learnt a while ago but has always kept to herself, she didn’t like witches overly much, even those on her side, and rather enjoyed having a defense they knew nothing about)

A sharp stab of rage punched through Huck’s considerations, a life that wasn’t his own flooded through him, a life of rage and death and isolation. This drew his own memories to the fore, a youth of violence and treachery, a family he could not trust and a brother that had always tried to control him. A brother he had seen recently. A brother who was working with…. Her… He raised his head and met Ma’s eyes across the desk. A hint of the rage burning inside him must have shown as Ma flinched, there was a small shattering noise from beneath the desk and the waves of control engulfing him thickened. Every instinct pushed to his limits Huck’s body was trapped between love and hate, anger and acceptance, Ma’s will was as fierce as a hurricane and only the very mightiest could have resisted.

I think the three bullets that tore through Ma Burgess’ torso were genuinely as much a surprise to Huck as they were to the victim, the explosion of his Maucher in his outstretched hand an instinctive reaction that had saved his life in the past, and undoubtedly would again. The violent end of this battle of wills (which in reality had taken mere moments) broke not only Ma’s spell over Huck but almost every spell on the ship. Kato flinched as the blurring visions she had been experiencing flashed out of existence, but her own instincts were as sharp (and unusually deadly) as Huckleberry’s, and as the guard at the door started to draw his gun behind her she span on the spot, drawing her blade and disembowelling him with a rising slice that left him half the man he was. (Maybe two thirds, it’s hard to see with all the blood and intestines flopping about). She followed this up with a spinning overhead slash which descended straight towards the Burgess manning the wheel in a deadly arc of his cousins blood.

In the casino and on the dancefloor the Burgess girls and some of the guards staggered, falling to their knees they grabbed their ankles in pain.

Next door one of the Tarquin’s screamed aloud, and with a strength beyond its slight frame cast the other from atop it.

Gwyn winced, and reaching down he tore the ankle bracelet from his leg, throwing it into the boiler he motioned to the Burgess crew in the engine room with him. “Something’s wrong”.

A blind man and a nurse snatched up their weapons and started to run past incapacitated guards up the stairs.

There was a loud thud as the sword embedded itself into the wheel, stopping less than an inch from the pilot’s skull. The pilot was pleasantly surprised by this stroke of luck, and even more pleased when it appeared the weapon was stuck. (Yes, this is the second time Kato has embedded her weapon into a wooden obstacle, and not the last. it's a thing.) The pilot drew his own sabre and moved out to engage the disarmed mercenary, but between her agility and armour he managed to score nothing more than a glancing blow.

Perhaps tunnel vision was a Burgess family trait as the pilot was completely blindsided by Huck’s attack, dropping the empty pistol the pimp stepped in and grasped the soon to be deceased individual by the head. He twisted once, introducing the Burgess to a view of his own back that few people get to experience, and even then (as now) only briefly.   Even before the body hit the floor the two miscreants were already in motion, Kato wrenching the wheel to one side (We'll be coming back to that later) and retrieving her blade before turning to face the last guard entering the room, Huck had moved toward Ma, retrieving his weapon and slipping three more shells into it.

“A Happy ending is usually extra, but this one’s on the house…”

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