1879: Actual Play NYC: Session 6: Hey Mike, We Got A Demon in the Sewers
GM: When we last left our intrepid explorers, they were pulling up at the Syrian bakery in Brooklyn, having paid the nickel toll for the bridge and got across before the morning rush made it impractical.
Yang: There was supposed to be za’atar bread.
Rivka: (gives him a look)
Yang: What? It’s breakfast time, that kid stole my gyro, and dude, fresh baked za’atar bread.
GM: There is in fact za’atar bread, still hot, you’ll need to take a paper napkin to wipe the olive oil off your hands. There’s also cheese and olive turnovers, spinach and feta ones, and an entire display case of variations on baklava.
Bethelie: I am gaining the weight by only standing here and breathing.
Yang: Please tell me hummus is in period.
Abraham: Goes back at least a few hundred years.
GM: Yep. They make their own daily. You know, refrigeration is expensive and unreliable and most people don’t have it in their home.
Yang: Okay, I’m covering hummus and za’atar bread for everybody, and get an extra bread for Mike since we’re waking him up. Uh, I glance over at Tsilla and make sure she’s okay with this, I dunno about dietary stuff?
GM: Tsilla just nods. She doesn’t talk much.
Rivka: The bread and hummus should all be pareve. No cream in the tea, if you want it please get it separate.
GM: Call it an even dollar and the baker throws in a pot of tea. He’ll send one of the apprentices up with the tray.
Yang: I’m good with that.
GM: So the five of you head upstairs?
Bethelie: Oui. And knock politely on the door.
GM: The old woman opens it, and a cloud of steam rolls out, smells like kitchen. She looks at you for maybe half a second, sighs, and beckons you in.
Yang: In we go.
GM: There’s a younger woman and a small boy sitting at the table, got a kind of assembly line going where they’re making the little decorative boxes the bakery packs their fancy stuff in. The kid’s trying to eat a piece of bread in between folding up boxes and keeps having to wipe his hands on his shirt so he doesn’t get grease on the boxes, and making a mess. Mike’s also at the table, looking like he just woke up after a heck of a night, still got bed head and wincing a bit at the noise as the old woman goes back to work at the coal stove, got the whole cook surface going with pots and pans and stuff.
Abraham: Mike. We came by to ruin your morning but it looks kind of rough already.
GM: He focuses on you with a little difficulty, nods once, slowly, then refocuses on the bread and hummus Yang is carrying. Better be summat in there for me, he says.
Yang: I bought enough to go around, and there’s tea on the way.
GM: Mike nods again slowly, like he’s afraid to jostle his brain too hard, and eases up out of the chair. Come on then, you lot, let’s get out of her way. He jerks a thumb at the old woman. She glances over her shoulder at him, sniffs derisively, and goes right on with what she’s doing.
Abraham. Ain’t got time for his shit.
GM: Mike leads you through to the front room, starts to open the curtains, gets a sunbeam in the eye and decides better of it.
Bethelie: You are the worse for wear this morning, no?
GM: He slumps down onto a chair. Some of these guys won’t talk to you unless you’re drinkin’ with them, an’ you got to stand your round like a man, and damn if they can’t drink as hard as a Dublin pub after a footie match.
Yang: I set out the bread and hummus.
GM: He helps himself, cautiously, like he’s not sure how his stomach’s going to take it. The tea service arrives, and that he goes for with more enthusiasm.
Rivka: We wait until he’s had a zakuska and a glezel tey. Get comfortable, have a shnecken ourselves.
Abraham: You haven’t asked who the new person is.
GM: Mike glances over at Tsilla, back to you. If you want to subcontract, that’s out of your pocket, not mine.
Abraham: Fair enough. She’s a spirit worker.
GM: Mike closes his eyes, sighs, and stuffs the last bite of his bread in with a little difficulty, it should have been two bites but he’s trying to finish it off quick and get to business. Mmf, he tries, thens washes it down with the last of his tea, and holds out his cup for a refill.
Yang: I got it.
Abraham: So your boys in the steelworkers got run off by some kind of smoke demon. Probably the same thing that ate your friend, and took one of the sandhogs right up the ventilation shaft from the tunnel project.
Rivka: Also that seriously injured our best lead last night.
GM: Mike raises an eyebrow. You ran into the thing yourselves?
Abraham: Oh yeah. Big as life and twice as ugly.
Rivka: We went to speak with Fish Hook Matilda at the tunnel project. She said to meet her after her shift at a bar nearby.
Bethelie: Did your people think to speak with the women? We have gotten much further in just one day by going to see the steelworker’s wives and the troll women working with the sandhogs.
GM: Mike looks slightly ashamed, and covers it with a sip of tea.
Bethelie: I thought as much. I sit back and gesture to Rivka to go on.
Rivka: We met Matilda, and went outside to talk with her in private. She told us of the incident in the tunnel, of the man who was taken up the ventilation shaft. This demon, it has a penchant for dropping feet as evidence.
Yang: I had a cat once that left the tail end of every mouse it caught, right by my bed.
Abraham: That was just an opinion being expressed.
Rivka: (glances at the men to be sure they’re done) Matilda was not there when the demon took the man, but arrived just a minute or two later, in time to see the foot drop out of the shaft. The man who was taken, you know him, right?
GM: Mike nods. He was going to be our shop steward.
Rivka: So the Pinkertons have not been sufficient, and now they are conjuring demons. It tried to take Matilda.
GM: Mike sits upright and nearly spit-takes his tea. Say what?
Rivka: (nods) We fought it off. It came up through the sewer grate, broke her leg, tried to pull her down, but we ran it off.
GM: You think you did any serious damage?
Rivka: Hard to say, it ran off.
GM: Tsilla shakes her head, once, and says, No. Nothing it could not shake off in a spare moment.
Abraham: So once we got Matilda to someone who could fix her leg, Rivka pulled in a bigger gun, and I nod to Tsilla.
GM: Mike takes a moment to think about this. So now, what do we do? I can talk to the Church, maybe get a priest?
Bethelie: I do not think we want anyone in authority being involved here. It is the rich and powerful who have called this up, they will have already thought of the Church and have spoken with the bishop. If you are not turned away with derision, you will only bring attention down upon yourself that you do not want.
Rivka: Besides, there’s more.
GM: Mike sighs. Of course there is. He makes a go-ahead gesture to Rivka.
Rivka: We looked into the finances. There is more material going into the tunnel than is needed to build it. Quite a lot. There are two separate teams of workers, one cutting the tunnel during the day, another going down in the evening and doing work overnight that does not advance the tunnel. Working around the clock to finish the tunnel as soon as possible, that would be understandable, but these night workers are not part of the project.
GM: So what are they doing?
Rivka: We do not yet know. We need to go down into the tunnel and see for ourselves, as we cannot trust that anyone will tell us.
Yang: Not after what happened to Matilda. They made an example of her, just like the other three. Her still being alive wasn’t part of the plan.
GM: You think they might make another try for her?
Abraham: If they do, they’re going to run into some stiff opposition. That being said, we probably ought to take Tsilla over, have her set up some wards. No way she’s going to put up anything like what she’s got at home, not on short notice, but whatever she can do would help.
GM: Tsilla frowns at Abraham. You left your contact without protection from demons?
Abraham: Not exactly?
GM: She sighs, gives you that look like your momma does, stands up, and heads for the door. Takes the last of her bread and the hummus with her.
GM: Mike grins. Your big gun’s self aiming. Okay, I brought you in because you had a reputation for knowing what you’re doing. Keep me informed and lemme know if you need anything.
Abraham: I drop the receipts on the table, and go catch up with Tsilla. She’s probably not leaving without me, I got the keys to the car, but why take chances.
Bethelie: Oui, the rest of us should go too. We have done what we came here to do.
GM: Okay, we’ll close out the scene here. Rather than play through it, we’ll just say that you run by the Promethean’s place, and Tsilla spends a half hour doing some serious ward building. She seems a little happier when she’s done, but tells Rivka, in Russian, that she’s not sure her wards will hold as she hasn’t seen the dybbuk that you called her in for.
Rivka: I’m sure we will see it far sooner than we want to.
Yang: We should get some sleep. We’ve been up all night, and we’re going to need to go back to the tunnel project tonight to sneak in and see what they’re building down there.
GM: Tsilla gives each of you a charm on a leather thong, tells you in no uncertain terms to keep it on even while bathing, and don’t spend too much time alone, there’s safety in numbers.
Abraham: No certainty, but at least somebody to watch your back. Right, we all need to go home, get some sleep, tend to stuff at home –
Yang: Geez, the folding machine. It’s gonna need adjusting by now, my dad’s going to be standing at the door tapping his foot and reminding me there’s a special hell for those who lack filial piety.
Abraham: Is that really a thing?
Yang: Big Trouble got one thing right, we got a lot of hells.
GM: Okay, so we’ll fast forward to evening and that’s where we’ll pick up next session. If you’ve got any damage, do your Recovery Tests, they’ll refresh from the day’s sleep, make sure your Skills are tagged, spend APs if you need to, and have your paperwork done before we start. Okay? Okay.