Episode 2: Shadows on the Wall
"When your shadow is cast upon the wall..."
After two days of basic guard duty Downtown, Jessup and Dekerd finally manage to learn of someone who is both a fence (to pawn off their gems) and Chinese (to translate the scroll they looted from the sarcophagus on the train). This takes them to the Lao Sze Chuan restaurant in the Little Kingdom, and after being warned by a few of their fellow Guild employees that the neighborhood can sometimes be dangerous for lone Guild operatives, they decide to bring the rest of their allies from the train - Pedro, Victor, and Jacyeon - with them just in case things go south.
The Lao Sze Chuan is a fairly small restaurant, but very much a part of the Little Kingdom, with stone lions out front and paper lanterns hanging outside to brighten the shadows of the early evening. The interior is a bit small and cramped, but food wasn't their primary goal in any case. Victor, however, stops dead in his tracks when he notices that the Asian man behind the counter - a small man with some stubble on his cheeks - as Quin Hon, one of the four men who killed his parents and stole his family fortune. Pedro notices Victor's surprise and tries to prod him into revealing what's wrong, but Victor just takes a seat with the others as they order their meals, his eyes never leaving his father's murderer. Fortunately, Quinn doesn't seem to recognize Victor, and everyone orders their meals, occasionally casting glances at the oddly-behaving Victor as they eat.
Midway through the meal, Jessup gets up and talks with Quinn, sliding him some Guild scrip in exchange for translating the scroll he had found in the sarcophagus and the note that Jacyeon had found on one of the train thugs. Though initially suspicious and suspecting some sort of Guild trap, Jessup manages to convince the man that it's not a set up and Quinn starts translating the documents as Jessup returns to his seat. It's only when they've finished their meal that Pedro's badgering of Victor finally manages to get the Russian to reveal that Quinn was one of the four men who killed his parents. Pedro is immediately on his side ("You must avenge your family!") and his support - combined with the others pointing out that the only other people in the restaurant are Quinn and the cook - is enough to spur Victor into action.
Victor stands up, walks up to Quinn, and punches the man in the face as he looks up, knocking him down and breaking his nose. The cook runs out of the kitchen with a cleaver, but Dekerd waves his hand and teleports him away. While Quinn still doesn't recognize Victor, he's quick enough to put two and two together and realize that the large Russian is clearly someone he wronged earthside during his outlaw days, and begins pleading for mercy. Grabbing the man by the shirt and lifting him up, Victor demands to know where the others are, and Quinn spills his guts on his former associates.
Lee, it seems, made a great deal of scrip soon after arriving in Malifaux by returning from a successful hunt with a Neverborn bounty, but he never came back from his second outing, leaving pretty much everyone to presume him dead. Kurtis went legit and got a job as a night guard at the Malifaux Museum of Unnatural Sciences, and Penn got in deep with some really bad people and fell out of contact with Quinn. The beleaguered restaurant owner went on to claim that he was just doing what Penn had ordered him and the others to do, and that he was the guy Victor should be after; they were too afraid of Penn to tell him know, and as a result ended up doing a lot of bad stuff that they regretted to this day.
Victor, however, was having none of it, and as Dekerd and Jessup looted the register and retrieved the translated scroll and mostly translated thug note, the Russian dragged Quinn into the kitchen for some frontier justice. The others could only see his shadow on the wall as he took a meat cleaver to his father's murderer, but despite the screams, Victor left him alive...and with a message. "You find the others and tell them that I'm coming."
<prologue ends, roll opening credit sequence as characters choose their Pursuits>
Victor: Mercenary (again)
Pedro: Gunslinger (again)
Dekerd: Dabbler (again)
Jacyeon: Academic (again)
Jessup: Pioneer (again)
The scene opens on the characters back at the Guild enclave, loading their guns and preparing to hunt down Kurtis to help Victor avenge his parents' death. As they're arming themselves, one of their fellow guards, Jane Cressido, walks in on them and warily asks what's going on. There's some initial evasiveness, until Pedro flat out asks Jane if she's willing to come with them to execute some murderers. The request is met with some reluctance, especially when Jane learns that this is very much an "off duty" sort of mission, until someone mentions that they're going to the Museum, at which point Jane eagerly agrees to accompany them.
The Malifaux Museum of Unnatural Sciences is a sprawling building of marbled stone in the southern section of Downtown, with a large two-headed dinosaur skeleton posed dramatically on its front steps. Though their surroundings are a bit more Bohemian, with various 'working class' bars and the lights and commotion of the distant Star Theater, there are still enough guards in the area to make the idea of breaking into the museum a bit daunting. Dekerd attempts to teleport the locks on the doors away, but with little success, so Jacyeon instead leads them around to a side service entrance, where he picks the lock. When questioned as to where he learned such a thing - the good doctor was seemingly the most upstanding person of the entire group - Jacyeon merely stated that he used to "run with a bad crowd" and left it at that.
Once inside the museum, Dekerd and Jane immediately began opening doors to search for valuable objects they could liberate for their own uses, but most of the manifests hanging on the walls of each storage room only listed items of marginal material worth. Pushing forward - and with Pedro holding the lantern - they pressed further into the museum, out of the storage area and into the exhibition areas proper. Jacyeon remained at the entrance to the first room, which was filled with five large displays of towering dinosaur skeletons and numerous smaller exhibits in glass cases while the others roamed further ahead. Jane, Pedro, and Victor moved into the next room - which was filled with the skeletons of whales and other titanic sea creatures - while Dekerd and Jessup went off to look for the employee offices.. The two of them soon found the security desk, which boasted a few recently smoked cigarettes and a large dog bowl, and a glance at the employee roster confirmed that Kurtis Sanderson was on duty tonight.
Just then, Jacyeon noticed the tap-tap-taping of small claws on stone and bolted forward into the dinosaur room as Kurtis and his guard dog came around the corner behind him on their nightly patrols. He caught sight of the good doctor and ordered for him to halt as he drew his pistol, but rather than stopping, Jacyeon ducked behind one of the mounted dinosaur bone displays for cover. The shout drew the attention of the others, and after Kurtis ordered his guard dog, Bowser, to sic Jacyeon, Victor drew his carbine, pointed it at Kurtis, and ordered him to drop his weapon, as they were there on official Guild business. The command shocked Kurtis, who quickly lifted his hands and ordered Bowser to heel.
As the dog trotted back to his side, however, Pedro took a shot at it, which reignited the battle despite Victor's shouts at Kurtis to just surrenders. The battle was brief but violent, with bullets flying through the dark, striking dinosaur bones and display cases and generally making a mess of everything. Dekerd teleported himself towards the sounds of gunfire as Jessup struggled to correctly chant the Chinese words on the scroll to summon forth its magic, with little success. Bowser got teleported into combat with Pedro and Jane, much to their surprise, as Dekerd nearly clipped Jane twice with poorly-aimed blasts of frost magic.
Eventually, however, Pedro caught Kurtis in the neck with a bullet, dropping him to the ground and immobilizing him with severe nerve damage. Jane dropped the guard dog with a blow from her axe - it had already taken two bullets, surprising everyone at its resilience -and finished it off as Jacyeon hurried to Kurtis's side to preserve his life, in the hopes of allowing Victor to question him. The surgery went...poorly, however, as Jacyeon's attempts to remove the bullet from the man's spine ended up killing him. It took a few minutes for Pedro to calm Victor down - he was certain that there would be no way to find Penn now that Kurtis was dead - and Jessup went off to fetch a sack to dispose of the bodies. Dekerd, meanwhile, searched Kurtis's body, pocketing his cash before showing the others the small flier that the dead guard had tucked into his pocket.
The flier was an open invitation to the citizens of Malifaux to attend something called the "People of an Enlightened Malifaux," a group that seemed interested in trying to convince the Guild to spread soulstones out among the common people, rather than hoarding them all for themselves. Most notable, however, was a scrawled note at the bottom of the flyer: "You should come to a meeting. - Penn"
With a new lead, Victor wanted to head to the tavern right away, but Jessup pointed out that they still had a body (well, technically two bodies, with that of the dog) in a sack that they should get rid of before leaving the museum. There was a brief debate over what to do with the body - it was basically a choice between the sewers or the river - but everyone decided that the sewers were probably a better choice, and Pedro and Jessup hefted the body and carried it out into the streets. Unfortunately, they were quickly spotted by a Guild guard despite the lateness of the hour, and he trotted over to them, his hand on his gun to investigate. Rather than run, however, Pedro just explained that they were disposing of the body as per Guild "off-books" regulations, which was enough to convince the Guard that they were fellow Guild agents on a secret mission of some sort (which was at least partially correct). The guard swore that he had "seen nothing" and strolled away as Jessup and Pedro dumped the bodies into the sewers.
While they were disposing of the body, Jane and Dekerd had wandered off, each one determined to walk out of the museum with heavier pockets. Dekerd managed to find the Egyptian exhibit, which was still being put together, and immediately recognized the central exhibit as the golden sarcophagus from the train. He attempted to pry the gemstones out of its surface, but with little success. Jane, however, managed to come across a deactivated loader, a man-sized construct with oversized arms designed for lifting heavy cargo pallets. Calling upon the magicks taught to her by the Oxfordian mages, she performed a grand ritual to animate the construct with a great deal of magical power.
When Jessup and Pedro returned from disposing of the body, Jessup became frustrated that nobody had attempted to clean up the blood and bullets from their gunfight. As the others marveled over Jane's new pet construct - which she dubbed the Mangler - Jessup found some cleaning supplies, mopped up the blood, gathered up bullets, and basically otherwise cleaned up the exhibit. When he was finished, it hardly seemed like there had been a fight...save for a few missed bullets here and there and some chipped dinosaur bones that had been caught in the crossfire.
An hour after Kurtis' death, the group was finally ready to make their way to the Ruddy Ale Tavern, which - fortunately for the impatient Victor - proved to be fairly close, as it was also in the southern Downtown area. Unlike the restaurant from earlier, however, the tavern was packed with rough, blue-collar types who were - this late in the evening - quite deep into their cups. The barmaids were all older women wearing wedding rings, and the group noticed that nobody was attempting to flirt or hit on them...clearly this was some sort of Union bar, and as they walked in with their Guild pins on their shirts - and Jacyeon still covered in blood from his botched operation - the entire bar fell into silence.
This began an ongoing challenge to win over the miners to the side of the group so that they could find out where they might find Penn. They were already at a disadvantage because of their obvious Guild affiliation, but the group quickly won them over to their side. Pedro busted out his guitar and began to play a lively (Spanish) song, while Victor sat down at a table and began gambling with the miners, losing just enough and just the right time to let his opponents warm up to him. Jane, meanwhile, moved among those with shoddy-looking mechanical limbs, tuning them up and earning grudging thanks from the miners as Dekerd sat down at the bar and told an outrageous story about how they were all secretly working from within the Guild to help loosen its restrictions on the Union. It was an outrageous story, but Dekerd apparently had a silver tongue, as he sold the story hook, line, and sinker, doing more to win over the miners to his cause than anyone else. As all this happened, Jessup lingered at the back with a cigar, eavesdropping on conversations as Jacyeon just excused himself and went to the restrooms to wash off as much of Kurtis' blood as possible.
By the time Jacyeon had returned, the group had managed to gather enough information to learn that Penn was apparently finished up the printing of an anti-Guild rag paper known as "The Voice of Truth." According to the miners, he was currently holed up in Warehouse 23 in the Industrial Zone, and a few of the miners even whispered that he was rumored to be in league with the Arcanists. Victor, Pedro, Jacyeon, and Jane (with the Mangler in tow) all headed right for the Warehouse, while Dekerd and Jessup parted with them to inform a Guild guard of the printing press's location and the possible Arcanist that might be held up in the warehouse. They were convincing enough that the guard immediately went off to inform her superiors, and with backup now on the way, the two of them hurried to catch up with the others.
Warehouse 23 proved to be a fairly large wooden building, and while there was light coming from inside, the windows had been covered to prevent the light from being visible in the windows; if the group hadn't known what they were looking for - or noticed the sound of a printing press that was mostly disguised by the constant mechanical clamor of the nearby McMannis Steel Mill - they might have passed it by without a second through. Spreading out to cover both entrances, Jane tried one of the doors and found it locked. Eager to test out her new toy, she ordered the Mangler to open the door...which it did by shoving its lift-claws through the wood and tearing the door right off its hinges.
Victor rushed into the building as a thin with a shaved head, beard, and goatee, wearing an apron, gloves, and tinted glasses, stepped out from the back room housing the printing press. Victor recognized him instantly from the pictures he had seen on various wanted posters all across Russia, and surprisingly, Penn seemed to recognize him as well...no doubt from the resemblance Victor shared with his father. Penn held out his hand, squeezing it into a fist as the light in the room faded away into dark shadows. "When I killed your papa," he gloated in his thick Russian accent, "I was but a man. But now, thanks to this city, I have become a god."
Four small, three-foot-tall creatures of living shadow and burning red eyes - Shadow Gamin - manifested out of the darkest corners of the room, drawing a warning shout from Victor as he shouldered his rifle and took aim at the Arcanist. What followed was a tough fight, with Penn pulling at the shadows around him to attack Victor with giant claws made from pure shadow. as his Shadow Gamin swarmed over the entire group. Dekerd teleported Jessup and then himself up onto the roof of the warehouse, where Jessup proved himself alarmingly good at firing slugs down into the building blow, raiding death from above onto Penn with alarming accuracy (despite the intervening shadows, warehouse roof, and basically firing blindly down below). One of the Shadow Gamin managed to float up onto the roof, only to get blasted into oblivioun with one of Dekerd's ice spells.
Down in the warehouse proper, the Mangler wandered into the middle of the fight and quickly became the biggest bullet sponge anyone had ever seen, as every shot fired into melee seemed to find its way into the construct's metallic hide (much to Jane's annoyance). One of the Shadow Gamin managed to clamp its mouth down on Victor's leg, severely wounding him and dragging him into some shadowy nothing-realm for a few seconds. He reappeared alongside the Gamin a few heartbeats later, but was so unsettled by the experience that he Shadow Gamin was able to viciously wound him. Eventually, Jessup got lucky and managed to catch Penn with a lucky shot to the leg, which made the Arcanist so woozy from blood loss that he passed out. Penn's collapse was enough to tip the battle in the group's favor, and soon the last of the Shadow Gamin was sent back to wherever it had come from.
In the aftermath of the battle, Jacyeon managed to patch Victor up enough to bring him back to consciousness, and then did the same on Penn...after Dekerd and Jessup had bound his hands behind his back and gagged him with his own bloody sock (and after Jane had looted a strange blackened dagger from his person). Penn had no sooner regained consciousness than Victor was on him, punching him over and over again as he called for a knife to do....well, unpleasant things to him. Jacyeon managed to calm him down by reminding Victor that the Guild was on the way, and that as an unlicensed (and clearly dangerous) magic user, Penn was going to suffer a far worse fate than anything they could do to him once the Witch Hunters got a hold of him and turned him into a Witchling.
The mention of the Witch Hunters - and the Witchling Stalkers - was enough to remind Dekerd and Jane that they should probably make themselves scarce, lest the little creatures pick up on their scent. Jane delayed their escape long enough to load up the Mangler with a bunch of spare parts from the printing press (they could prove useful if she decided to upgrade the Mangler later), and together the two spellcasters fled from the scene of the battle as the others waited for their reinforcements. Some ten minutes later, a dozen Guild guards, a Witchling Handler, and a handful of Stalkers were on the scene, and the group had little problem pointing to the Arcanist they had captured, the printing press they had discovered, and the hundreds of copies of "The Voice of Truth" that they had prevented from being circulated through Malifaux and the surrounding towns.
In the end, Pedro, Jessup, Jacyeon, and Victor were all congratulated on a job well done. With two notable victories in three days, the Witchling Handler noted that they Guild would no doubt be giving them a bonus for a job well done, but warned against future "off the clock" missions done without proper backup. They remaining members of the group congratulated themselves on a job well done, and were glad to have helped Victor avenge his family...even if both Kurtis and Penn had technically fallen at the hands of others. With this thought in his mind, Victor bid farewell to the others, but his path from the Industrial Zone did not take him back home...
In the final scene before the ending credits, the owner of the Lao Sze Chuan is wrapping a bandage around his shaking, bleeding hand, muttering to himself about how "those thugs" are going to pay for what they did. As he bites down on the end of the gauze, pulling it tight so that he can cut it with the scissors in his good hand, a shadow appears on the wall behind him...a shadow with a silhouette that looks very much like Victor. It silently draws a gun and points it at the back of Quinn's head, and the camera pans away as there's a loud gunshot, splattering the far wall with blood as Victor finally obtains some small part of the vengeance he had been seeking.