If you missed the announcement earlier this week, the Kickstarter for the Companions reached its first stretch goal, and has unlocked the new medals as an add-on! The art proof for the medal has been posted in the announcement, as well as in the main story of the Kickstarter itself. Next goal is to unlock the full color poster at $10k. The add-on information has been submitted and should be available for you to pick up on your pledge shortly.
In addition to the work on the pin and the poster, there’s another special item that Don has worked up for us as an add-on that will have interest not just for 1879, but as a general FASA collectible. That will be getting posted to the Kickstarter later today, so keep an eye out for it on the campaign here.
With that covered, let’s jump right in to the continuation of our developing story:
This was an eventful night indeed for Mr. William Kipling. The past several weeks in fact had been much more eventful for him than he had been used to for quite a while. No longer having a job to keep ones self possessed of drink tends to spur such a man to action. Particularly when he believes that job to have been lost due to his replacement being a snark.
In truth, the man was a drunk and a layabout, and the dock foreman had been looking to be rid of him for some time. Catching the man asleep and inebriated in the center of a stack of crates he had been meant to move was the final straw. Of course, Mr. Kipling was much to far into the bottom of his bottle to recognize his own flaws. Once the last of his funds had been drunk away, and his newfound sobriety forced upon him, he took up with others who help similar views regarding their current lot in life, with anger directed toward the Rabbit Hole, and anyone and anything that had anything to do with it, viewing them as the source of all their woes.
This made him easy pickings for the man that now sat across from him in their carriage as they bobbed along down the dark London streets. A big burly man, but still a proper human, dressed as a workman like himself, but oddly possessed of funds. As their rally earlier that evening concluded, the big man swept him in, offered him a warm meal and a drink, asking only to hear his story and why he was there. Mr. Kipling happily obliged, though of course embelishing as much as possible in his favor, making himself out to be the subject of pity and, in his hopes at least, more charity. Rather than continue to feed the man, however, the big man offered to bring him to his boss, to hear an offer of something he might do to help himself in this situation. Mr. Kipling, having no other prospects, happily accepted.
“I tell yeh, bloody terrible it is, ‘avin’ all our jobs bein’ taken up by them ‘airy beasts.” He rambled on, still engrossed in his rants. “Puttin’ all us good and proper lads out on the streets, all a-cause we ‘aven’t changed into some sort of monster.”
The man across from him simply nodded, eyes fixed on him but otherwise giving no indication that he was actually listening anymore.
“And don’t get me started on them trolls!” He continued, undeterred by his companion’s apparent lack of interest. “Wretched ‘orned things, there’s the devil in ’em I says!”
The man across from him put up a hand to stop him from continuing as the coach slowed to a stop. “We are here.” He said simply as he took up his walking cane, but only as an extension to push the door handle down and hold it open, revealing a fairly unremarkable street corner, dimly lit by a single candle street lamp. “You’ll find my employer just around the corner. His words are for you alone. I shall wait here to retain the cab until you are finished, whereupon we shall send you back home.”
Mr. Kipling eyed him for a moment, but eventually shrugged and departed the cab. This whole business seemed a bit odd, but so far the man had paid for his needs and then some, so he might as well indulge him his secrecy. What did he care, as long as they might be willing to pick up the tab for another bottle or three. So out he clambered into the street and around the corner. There was indeed someone there, but this couldn’t possibly be the man in charge. The person he faced was naught but a boy, thin and wiry as if a stiff breeze would carry him away, bundled in a coat much too thin for this weather, a tattered scarf wrapped round his neck, and a newsboy cap atop his head.
“Wot’s this then?” He blurted out. “Who’s this twig they send out to see me, when I’m supposed to be meeting a man in charge?” He sounded indignant and much louder than someone meeting stealthily should.
“We all come in many different forms, sir.” The boy spoke, not sounding the least bit bothered. “But our goals unite us. I understand it is within your goals to see a return to the way things were, correct? Set things back proper?”
Mr. Kipling squinted and leered suspiciously at the boy. “Take your hat off, boy.” He said at last. “Let me get a good look at you.”
The boy grinned slightly and obliged, taking the cap from his head and stepping a bit closer into the glow of the street lamp, turning his head and bringing a hand up to flick one of his ears. He clearly was used to the suspicion of being an elf, given his frame. “Round and proper, sir, as they should be.” He returned the cap to his head. “It’s not the first time I’ve been suspected as such.”
Mr. Kipling nodded, satisfied with that at least. “Right then. You talk the talk right enough. But then what does such a stick of a boy want with me?”
“It’s what we both want, sir. A return to the way things should be.” He paused for a moment, letting that idea sink in. “Are you familiar with the events that happened in Wales a few weeks back, sir?”
This took Mr. Kipling a few moments to process, trying to piece back together what he heard and what that could possibly do with why he had been brought here. One could almost hear the gears in his head screeching and chugging as he finally put them together. “You’s the blokes that done up the iron works!” He exclaimed with a point at the lad across from him. “But ‘old on a tick, that means you was messin’ about with magics to make that ‘appen?”
The boy shook his head and waved a hand dismissively. “Tricks to throw off the scent of those seeking to undo us, my good sir, so they wouldn’t suspect a device was used.” It was clear he wasn’t going to elaborate further, not that the man was likely to understand even if he did. “And to that end, I would like to employ those outside of my own group for another strike. Keep them guessing, as it were.”
“And wot, you ‘spect me to run round with your little toy plantin’ flowers for you?” Though a vague answer, claiming to have caused the growth with a device was plausible; the police still weren’t certain of what exactly happened. But he was still dubious as to why, if this boy and whoever he had working for him had done this once before, would need someone else.
“Well, I certainly don’t expect you to do so alone. But then, you seem like the kind of fellow that is capable of attracting like minded individuals for a job like this.” A strategic pause here while he waited for the realization to hit the man. “Yes, a paying job. Doing important work to set things right in the world, no less. Is there anything more you can ask for?”
With this, the young man took a piece of paper from his coat pocket and handed it over. Mr. Kipling took and unfolded it, his eyes being immediately drawn to the money figures written there, and paying little attention to anything else. A wicked grin stretched across the old drunkard’s face. “Well now, lad, I think that can be done.” He scratched his chin, having a hard time taking his eyes away from the payment figures. “Yes, I do believe we ‘ave terms to strike a deal.”
“Most excellent.” The boy said and waved a hand, summoning the burly gentleman from earlier, who had at some point unknown to Mr. Kipling slipped from around the corner where he could watch both them and the cab. “Assemble the group you need, and my man shall meet you again in three days time, outside the same pub you met at tonight. You’ll get further instructions then.” All three walked back over to the cab, the burly man holding open the door for their guest to get in.
“Oh, one last thing.” The boy added as he was about to step in. “Could I possibly have your name?”
The man stopped and turned to look back at the boy. The question was a simple one, perhaps a bit odd for the type of deal they had struck that he’d want any sort of exchange of personal information. But, on the other hand, he was being offered quite a large sum of money, enough to keep him quite happily sustained, with a drink in his hand, for at least the next year. At that amount, he didn’t much care who it was that was handing over the payment, and he couldn’t see the harm in letting him know who to give it to.
“Kipling.” He replied. “Mr. William Kipling.”
For the briefest of moments, in the dim light of the street lamp, Mr. Kipling thought he saw something. The boy grinned, odd enough given that it was the first real sign of emotion he’d shown so far in their meeting, but for a split second it seemed like a grin that was much to wide for the face it came from. A face that also had a glint to the eyes, red in color, and almost seemed to glow in and of itself. With a shake of his head, he looked back and it was gone, just the boy standing there looking at him normally, as he had while they had been talking a few moments prior. A trick of the light, he thought to himself. Or perhaps just too much to drink.
Still, as he rode away in the cab, he couldn’t help but feel a bit strange. As if there was now a weight chained about him, pulling at him as the cab bobbed along the still, quiet streets.
“Just as I told you, wasn’t it?” The boy remarked to his much larger companion. “A bit of greed and anger and desperation, and they’re easy to string along. These humans really haven’t changed a bit.”
“No.” Replied the large man. “In many ways, I suppose they haven’t.”
“Well, enough of that.” The boy continued, seeming as if he were coming out of a fit of nostalgia. “Let’s be off, shall we, Warren? I would so like to be rid of this outfit.”
“As you wish, my lady.” The big man replied. As they walked down the dimly lit street, he clicked his walking stick against the ground three times, the sound echoing off of the buildings around them. A gust kicked up, blowing the flames of the candle lit street lamps low, bathing the street in darkness. By the time the gust cleared and the light returned to the street, the two were nowhere to be found.