Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

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ChrisDDickey
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Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Thu Apr 25, 2019 12:35 pm

***Background***

Old Cusa sat comfortably on the sand with his back to the warmth of the smoke house as the sun drifted nearer the South-Western horizon. "You say what? You young scamps want to hear my stories again?"

When I was young, magic had not yet returned to this world. The voices of our ancestors whispered but faintly in the ears of our shamans, and the spirits of the sea were seldom moved to grant mercy to the men and women who sailed upon it in our skin boats. The spells that had been handed down to us by the fathers of our fathers fathers beyond memory did little but teach young shaman apprentices patience.

He drew out his ivory story knife and used the flat blade to smooth out the sand in front of him. He then used the point to start rough sketches of an old two masted sailing ship.

We never saw the large steam ships, or huge airships that we sometimes see today. Instead sailing ships would sometimes visit our Islands here in the Aleutians, first it was the Russians, then the Americans. I was a very young shaman then, fully trained, but there was no place for a 2nd shaman in our tiny village. Now-a-days our spells are so useful, and the spirits that we call are so powerful, that shamen are always in great demand. But back then shamans were mostly respected for their healing and their lore keeping, and one was plenty for any but the very largest of villages.

I was traveling from village to village looking for a place that I might call home, when a whaler anchored next to the village I was at. We were fearful when we learned the ship was plagued by sickness, for we are even more susceptible to many of the white-mens' diseases than they are, however I soon recognized that their problem was merely that their water had turned bad. I had the few able men left pour out their water, scrub the barrels thoughtfully, and refill them from the village spring, while I nursed the others back to health with a tea made of bark and roots. They were extremely grateful and asked that I would join the crew for the remainder of their voyage. I did not wish to journey so far from home, so I declined, but the night before they were to sail away we celebrated and I got very drunk. By the time I came to my senses the ship had sailed far from sight of land. I was upset but they would not take me back.

Old Cuso used his story knife to draw a crude map in the sand next to his sketch of the whaling ship.

I ended up staying with the ship for another 18 months before it made it's way to it's home port. I was the ships Surgeon's Mate (and the ship did not have a surgeon), and a whale-boat commander, The whaling ship carried many whale-boats, and their sturdy wooden boats would hunt the whales not much differently than we hunt them in our skin boats. Of course the whaling ship would follow the whales, and hunt them year around, not just in the spring and fall when they pass our island. Our ship took many whales. Of course there were more whales back then.

As I said, 18 months after I joined, the whaling boat returned to where it had launched from, a place called England. In all it's voyage had lasted 3 years and it returned with it's hold bulging with barrels of whale-oil. As the ship got closer and closer to England, I could feel my connection to the Spirits grow. Like I said, back then, even the best shamen had trouble hearing the voices of our ancestors, and then only very, very faintly, and the spirits of sea and air were mostly indifferent to our plea's. But each day we drew closer to England, my ability to hear the spirits grew, what is more, the spirits became stronger and yet more willing do what I asked of them.

By the time we exited the Barerits sea for the Norwegian sea (Cuso expanded his map), I could reliably cause a spirit to manifest just about any time I wished! About this same time I had to nurse a crewman through looking glass fever as he turned into what the English call a Snark. This was still several years before Looking Glass Fever came to our islands. The whaler paid off at the London docks, and I, decided to stay a while and learn more about the magic that was flooding into that strange land. Eventually I wound up in a boarding house in Earls Court frequented by spiritual people from all over the world, men, and even women who, like I, wished to learn more of magic.There were people from India, and Africa, and from all over really. There was a military chaplain who was studying Saurid Shamins and talked frequently with them. (The Saurids are a different tale, I will tell you of the first time I met one of them some other day). Almost every night we spent hours discussing magic and learning from each other.

The people of London do not hunt or fish for their food like we do, instead they get jobs to earn money, like Mr Ivonosky at the trading post, or like you youngsters did when the last freighter came in and everybody helped unload it and they gave you coins that you traded for sweets at the trading post. I had quite a bit money from when the whaler paid off, but if I wanted to stay in London for long, I knew I needed to get a job. The English are a funny people, and have strange customs. I was not allowed to take a job as a healer because I had not taken my apprenticeship at a place they called a "university". Even after I had learned about all their strange potions and medicines I was not allowed to function as a herbalist or maker of poultices.

Fortunately, since magic was so new, when I first arrived they had not yet gotten around to making any silly laws about who could and could not practice that (though it did not take them long to start proposing such laws, actually making the laws took a gratifyingly long time). So there I was, a perfectly good healer with years of training, forbidden to do that, but they allowed me to cast spells and summon spirits, which I knew almost nothing about! In fact learning magic is the only reason I had decided to linger in London. But it turns out that almost nobody in London knew more than I did about magic back then. We just all knew different things. At first I thought the people from India knew a great deal. But it turns out that they knew as little as I did, but everything that they knew happened to be different from what I knew. So I was able to learn a great deal from them, and they were able to learn a great deal from me. And the same with the Zulu shamans and everybody else who was studying magic. Even the Christian priests got magic work, though I never figured out how. We all knew tiny little bits. And making all those tiny little bits fit together was exhilarating.

So anyway, I knew just a bit of magic. Just the lore that had been passed down from the age of legends of our fathers fathers fathers. I had gotten 4 simple initiate spells to work All the other spells that I had studied in my youth were flawed, passed down incorrectly. It took me years to learn them correctly. It also turned out that I was one of the best among my group of friends at summoning and talking to spirits. It always took the Christian priests years to learn how to talk to spirits, and most of them never really liked it for some reason. They mostly acted like the spirits of dead people should not still be on Earth, and any spirit that was still on Earth had something wrong with it. The Mages were even worse. I actually had some tell me that spirits did not exist and that I was imagining them. Anyway, I knew that I knew almost nothing of magic, but it seemed that I knew about as much as anybody and more than most. Furthermore, magic was not yet a licenced trade, so I was allowed to practice it in their country.

Of course being allowed to practice a trade, and getting paying jobs are two different things. Fortunately I was approached by the Fairaday law firm and offered a job as an investigator. I can't really explain to you youngsters what a law firm is. I will just say that you can be glad that our people don't have them and leave it at that.

People paid law firms to make problems go away. Sometimes the Fairaday people would use their laws to make the problem go away. But sometimes the Fairaday firm would pay us to investigate the problem and see if we could fix it. I had some very unusual skills, and the Fairaday people thought it might be useful to an investigator.

***Cracking Bank Hall***
My first really interesting case was to investigate some strange happenings at Bank Hall. An estate in Lancashire in Northern England. The Fairaday people hired several investigators for that case. There was me of course, the Aleut Shaman. Captain Piper Barnes, was a Snark Military Officer, I think she normally commanded detachments of marines assigned to Airships or something. I am not certain why she was on the beach (as the phrase is) but she seemed to be between ships for quite a long period of time, Without duties she had been put on half-pay and was short of funds. This left her both the leisure for and the necessity of finding short-term outside employment. An Elf named Catherine Montague was something called a "Weird Scientist", I also heard people call her a "Byron" but she would sometimes correct people who called her that, saying that she was much better than a Byron. Anyway, she was really good with Analytical Engines and machines in general.

The Law firm also introduced us to their client, named "Lady Jane". She was rich, and had just inherited a big house in Lancashire named Banks Hall. However something was wrong at the Estate. The staff were acting weird. They were evasive, and unhelpful. There was supposed to be a hall within the manor house that held a great many pieces of art by somebody named "Antonio Canova", which was supposed to be a big deal. But she could not find the hall. Imagine, the house was big enough that whole rooms could get lost within it! Lady Jane was also worried that the staff might be hiding bigger secrets.

Anyhow, she had inherited the Estate, which I learned is a big house and lands, and she kept saying that she was having difficulties settling the estate. Apparently the estate needed to be settled before the funeral potlatch could be held, and the other relatives were anxious that the potlatch should happen soon. So we were to find out why the spirits of the house and lands were unsettled, and help her settle them.

Bank Hall is in Lancashire, which is very far from London. It would have taken many days to walk there. Instead we took something called a train, which is like a steam ship, except that it is smaller, but longer and goes on land. Even then it took 2 nights to get there. Also traveling with Lady Jane and us is her friend Professor Grundal, a Dwarf Spiritualist. He says he is very taken with the history of the hall.

Cathryn Montgomery saw a body flung from the train. The conductor refused to stop. We investigated a bit, and found out that it must have been a serving girl named Mary, that she had died and must have been flung from the pantry of the kitchen car ahead of the dinning car. Nobody else seemed to care. I was young back then, and ignorant, so it did not occur to me that I could talk to ancestor spirits who were not one of MY ancestors. So I did not do that. I had also not really had time to learn what a Spiritualist was or what they could do, so I did not think to ask Professor Grundal to talk to Mary's spirit ether. Since nobody else seemed very curious as to why the young woman had been killed and flung from the train, we let it drop as well, I figured things like that just happened in England, it did not seem to have any bearing upon our own investigation.

We eventually arrived at our train station, and took a coach to Bank Hall, which is a very large house on large grounds. The main house is a huge 3 story brick building. There are many outbuildings including an observatory and a mausoleum. At the manor, we met Mr Niece, another friend of Lady Jane's. As Lady Jane had warned us, the household servants were useless. I am surprised that Lady Jane had not sacked them all already.

Lady Jane took us on a tour of the house. It was huge. I did a few Astral Sight tests, but everything seemed normal. She explained that one of the problems is that some of the doors were locked and could not be opened. These include the library, lord and ladies chambers, office, observatory and taxidermy studio. During our investigations we also found many other locked doors that the staff all claimed could not be unlocked. Most of these rooms had the new-fangled locks that were controlled by security engine, though a few old fashioned keys were claimed to be missing as well. We also located the room the House Engine was in, but that was locked as well of course. My Drury, a local Lovelace was to be in the next day, but Miss Montague wished to spend her morning studying a report the engine generated, so Cpt Barnes and I left her in the dinning room and started poking around. We decided that our first goal would be something very simple, so we tried to find our way up to the top of the clock tower. The architecture was extremely confusing, and every route we tried eventually dead-ended at a locked door. I had never been in such a big and confusing mansion before. I ended up needing to summon a spirit guide to lead us to the top of the tower. The spirit I summoned was called a House Spirit. It was weird. The spirit was not apparently an ancestor spirit of any sort. Nor yet was it a spirit of nature. It was as if the house had been there so long, that it had grown a spirit, much like a lake or a grove can attract a spirit of nature that calls the grove it's home.

Anyway, this spirit I summoned was very comical. He gave us a few cryptic hints, and eventually guided us to the top of the clock tower so that we could look around the estate. Shortly afterwards Cpt. Barnes found a note in her pocket, that the spirit might have placed there. It said "To find the truth of the matter, speak with Mrs. Esme Clarke".
Last edited by ChrisDDickey on Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:22 am, edited 8 times in total.

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Andrew1879
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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Andrew1879 » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:00 pm

Interesting start, and nice backstory explaining why an Aleut shaman is in London.

utsukushi
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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by utsukushi » Thu Apr 25, 2019 11:14 pm

First, thank you for setting this up as a thread we can all share! I don't think I'd have thought of that.

But secondly, I must protest.
An Elf named Catherine Montague was something called a "Weird Scientist", I also heard people call her a "Byron" but she would sometimes correct people who called her that, saying that she was much better than a Byron.
Ah-hem! Cathryn is most assuredly neither! Byrons are unsavory folk, and there is nothing "weird" about her science. It's hardly her failing if no one else can replicate her results.

For the... format I picked, I couldn't really find a good way to introduce the character more, but then, she needs a little less explanation than Cuso. Maybe when it's more of an interview style, as Slimcreeper's suggested, which would probably make sense after this. She'd hardly be writing a review of Lady Jane's home! For the same reason, this really only covers the first session.


The Polaris Group - A Review, by Cathryn Montgomery

I've recently had the pleasure of travelling by rail upon that most luxurious line, Polaris. It was in almost every way a rare pleasure of which I must avail myself again in future. The quarters are inevitably cramped, but cunningly arranged to maximize what space they have to offer. The furnishings are nearly as comfortable as you might find in any parlour, and the food rivals that of any restaurant I have ever dined within. To be sure, it does not attain the heights of the creme de la creme, but when one considers the parameters within which it must operate it is beyond remarkable that it can even claim their company - yet it does. The staff were unfailingly polite and the company, of course, excellent. I was disappointed only in their reaction to murder, which I did find to be quite frightfully lacking.

I suppose a little more context is only justified. I have found myself of late working in the employ of the Faraday Company, in the private investigations branch of the famous legal firm. One may look them up if one is interested. To be sure, as a Montgomery, I am not greatly in need of employment, but I find it invigorating and it allows me to pursue my hobbies. My hobbies, as one might rightly inquire, run largely to the near limitless potential of the new Analytic Engines. Now, for those readers who follow the more unsavory side of our noble city and may have put these facts together and found the colloquial term "Byron," I feel I must set the record straight. I am well aware that these somewhat disreputable characters are the most common sort to work with Engines and find their calling with a firm such as Faraday, but I am none of it. I do not `fiddle with the numbers', as they say; my interest is with the machines themselves. But all of that is to no bearing on the Polaris, and I believe that is quite enough about me.

Our purpose aboard the train was merely travel, in the company of our client, the Lady Jane - a most delightful client, I dare say, though I shall write nothing of her business as it is quite irrelevant to my review. We were received aboard the Polaris, and our luggage expertly stowed. I took note that this is all done in plain view for any who care to watch; most do not, but the simple fact that we might assures that proper care is taken.

Dinner was delectable. I had the baked eel, alongside a small but diverse salad and a dish of sliced potatoes that I have not had before and regrettably did not quite catch the name of, but the seasoning was excellent and they were ideally crisped. I have dined on lesser trains in the past, and found a certain skill in matching the rhythm of the car's motion necessary to eat with any degree of decorum; here, that was almost wholly unnecessary. I should dearly love a look at whatever methods the Polaris employs to minimize that sense of motion.

I might also note here that even our foreign friend was able to find someone to talk to, passing late into the evening in a discussion about the new spiritualism. Truly, one can anticipate a delightfully diverse cast of characters for company!

Sleeping accommodations were very nice. The beds are necessarily small, but quite soft, and aligned with the train's inertia so there is no risk of being tumbled from their cozy grasp even should one stir at the wrong moment. I have in fact remarked before at how few passenger lines realize this simple answer, and was pleased to see it in practice here. And their trademarked pillows, with the Polaris logo embroidered into the corner, are available for those who wish a souvenier.

Breakfast was, of course, excellent, offering a delightfully full menu. I had the poached eggs and crumpets with jam. If I was a trifle disappointed in the limited variety of jams available, this is clearly a limit imposed by the nature of the venue. Their space must inherently be less than that of a full restaurant, and the jams they do keep, I can attest, are of top quality, and the butter perfectly chilled. However, it was at this time that I was watching out the window - enjoying a bit of morning air, and the way the mist played about the train as it passed through - and observed what was undoubtedly a human body hurled from the preceding car - the kitchen, naturally, though it might possibly have originated from the rear of the car before that. It could not have been further along than that or I'd not have seen it.

Naturally, I screamed a bit; it was a good deal more than startling. And I was attended upon almost immediately, but here, indeed, I must give my only black mark upon an otherwise sterling report. While the Conductor (whose name I shall withhold as a matter of propriety) was entirely polite, he insisted that such a thing was "most unlikely." Five minutes prior, had I been asserting that a body would be flung from the train, I'd have agreed, but five years earlier we all would have agreed that the likelihood of a hole punching between our beloved England and another world and inviting all manner of absurdity into our lives was quite impossible. I do believe the "likelihood" of an event that has, in fact, occurred, is beyond reproach. I assured him that I was not impugning the safety of the rail, and indeed, I do not! It remains among the safest ways to travel. But alas, people may be murdered anywhere people congregate, and bodies may be hurled from anything with a sufficiently large aperture. To this day I do not see what the overall safety rating of the railway had to do with it.

I will allow that a report was filed, but with several miles of wilderness to search before her murder could even be confirmed, and the suspects quickly scattering, I am not certain to what avail. I was myself able to ascertain that it was Mary, a serving girl, who had been killed, and fear I cannot rule out a connection to the very case upon which we were enjoined. Although I cannot posit such a connection, either - it only seems likely that her death was ancillary to some more nefarious purpose, and the likelihood of two such plots swirling around one train strains credulity. Though of course, my previous thoughts on the probabilities of factual events may also apply here.

I did have occasion to meet with the head of the kitchen whose name I shall happily share, a Mrs. Fiona Mackay*. I can attest that she runs the kitchen with the precision of a drill sergeant, and is yet able to handle the odd disruption (such as a hypothetical guest, perhaps one a bit overexcitedly pursuing an investigation on their own time, forcing their way in to make enquiries) with decorum.


In short, if one seeks a luxury locomotive by which to travel, whether going to a vacation or simply vacationing upon the train itself, I imagine there is none better than the Polaris Group. But if one is looking for a place in which one's murder will be thoroughly investigated, one might prefer to look elsewhere. Although the trade-off may be worth it. The baked eel is, as the saying goes, to die for.



*-- I don't actually remember if we were given a name for her or not, but if we were, I didn't write it down. Cathryn would have remembered, though, because she liked her, so I made one up.
Last edited by utsukushi on Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Andrew1879
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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Andrew1879 » Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:19 pm

Cathryn Montgomery and Tarliman Joppos must meet at some point, to discuss recipes and favorite dining establishments. :)

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Slimcreeper » Fri Apr 26, 2019 6:29 pm

** GM’s note: it is the Polaris Group, not Express. Now that I see the inevitable confusion, I have naming regrets. 😝

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Andrew1879
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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Andrew1879 » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:04 pm

Also, am I correct in assuming Cathryn is a Heron?

utsukushi
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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by utsukushi » Mon Apr 29, 2019 6:32 am

I can assure you, Slimcreeper, that at no time during the scenario did I think we were on our way to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus! I also realized the reason I was thinking "O'Rourke" for a last name is because that was the last name you gave us for Mary, the victim, and that certainly shouldn't be shared by the head cook. Made those little edits - thank you.

And... um, I don't think I should reveal *all* of her mysteries just yet. <grin>

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Thu May 02, 2019 9:08 pm

Old Cuso used his story knife to add more detail to the large manor house he was sketching in the sand.

Alas, neither the view from the top of the Clock Tower, nor the inside gave us any great insights. We attempted a bit of climbing about on the roof, but that seemed both dangerous and unpromising. Captain Barnes had found a note mysteriously appear in her pocket that said "To find the truth of the matter, speak with Mrs. Esme Clarke". We returned to the sitting room near the guest chambers, and she used the intercom to attempt to page Mrs Esme Clarke. The butler appeared and told us that Mrs Clarke had been the estates Apothecary, but that she had retired several years earlier. He gave us the address in town where we might find her. The butler was able and willing to let us into the old Apothecary lab, which we found in good order except for several years accumulation of dust. Looking through the papers reveled nothing of interest except a note that a quantity of arsenic had gone missing. That note of course was several years old.

After lunch, the three of us went back to the Engine Room, and Mrs Montgomery used the key card she had spent the morning making to unlock the door, giving us access to the Analytical Engine. A sequence of two more doors gave us access to the security engine and a records storage area. Mrs Montgomery got the security engine to cough up several more security cards so we all could open all the doors. She also produced a list of the doors that were controlled by the security engine. In addition to the 6 we already knew about, there were two more, one was labeled "kthn", and the other "l-hall". We speculated that the first might be a kitchen door of some sort, and the other might be the hall we are looking for. However a further report showed that none of the doors except the engine doors had been opened since Lady Jane's husband died, so it seems unlikely that any door in or near the kitchen could be so disabled without greatly inconveniencing the staff.

We decided to call upon Mrs Clarke next, since calling in the afternoon is much more appropriate than imposing upon someone in the evening. Mrs Black, the stable-mistress agreed to drive us herself in Lady Jane's light (2 horse) rig.

Old Cuso used the flat of his story knife to wipe away the drawing of the old whaler and quickly started to sketch in a strange three wheeled micro-steam vehicle.

It was the most curious thing. About halfway between the manor and the edge of the village, we were set upon by 3 most curious highwaymen. The two men and one woman wore domino masks that hid their eyes and cheeks, they also all wore the strange sort of collar that clergy there wear. Each of the three operated a most curious vehicle that ran upon three wheels, and each had room only for the operator.These contraptions roared up into the field next to the lane our rig was on, and without a word the highwaymen opened fire on us with the rifles they carried. Mrs Montgomery did something weird, which caused the first vehicle to approach close to ours to loose control and crash. The next driver exchanged fire with Captain Barnes, much to the highwayman's disadvantage. The third fired at our driver, all the while exhorting her to stop. I cast Spiritual Defender upon myself, and tried to give cover to the other persons within the vehicle.

One of the highwaymen managed to wedge his vehicle onto the back of our rig in an attempt to board us. He cried out some sort of gibberish about us not knowing what we were doing. I yelled back that if he wanted to put his rifle away and TELL us what we were doing, we would be glad to listen, but that we were finding his bullets singularly uninformative. About that time Captain Barnes finished unloading her pistol into his chest, and he lost interest in the conversation. The remaining attacker, as she slowed to a stop and allowed us to pull ahead, yelled out "If You awaken it, you will regret it, take a different path", which again I felt was lacking some very much needed context, and was again sorely lacking in non-homicidal reasonableness that I prefer advice to feature.

As we left our assailants in the dust, I made a note that even before calling upon Mrs Clarke, we ought to find a constable or sheriff or somebody to report this strange assault to.
Last edited by ChrisDDickey on Fri May 03, 2019 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Andrew1879
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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Andrew1879 » Fri May 03, 2019 2:10 pm

That "something weird" sounds like a Galvanic Mage...

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Slimcreeper » Fri May 03, 2019 6:12 pm

It’s even weirder than that!

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