1879: Actual Play NYC: So Now What?
We pick up with Our Heroes as they arrive at the bakery in Brooklyn, sans Rivka, who has remained at the Knick to see to Tsilla. It is never good to be the bearer of bad tidings.
GM: Rivka, let me deal with you first, and then I’ll get to the rest of the party.
GM: When you take Tsilla in to the Casualty Ward, almost carrying her as she’s barely conscious at this point, the nurse glances over at you, says, Oh dear God what happened to Tsilla, then holds up a hand before you can answer and literally grabs a junior nurse passing by, ordering her to go find Dr. Crossmeier and get him down here regardless of what it takes. There’s a flurry of activity, you get asked a few basic questions by a woman who seems to know the kind of things Tsilla gets involved with, and then the doctor arrives. He’s mid fifties, short, balding, wearing a yarmulka, looks like he was sleeping in his clothes in a storage closet or something, still trying to pull himself together. He looks over Tsilla quickly, checks her vitals, then asks you in a tone that says he’s not really asking, you’re her family in attendance, right?
Rivka: I shrug. As close as she has.
GM: Fine. Stay with us, and pray. And with that he hustles you, Tsilla on a gurney, and the nurse off to a surgical treatment room and gets to work dealing with her injuries. It’s a little touch and go, but she was hovering right at Unconscious, so she’ll make it. By morning, she’s sleeping off the drugs the doctor gave her for the pain and you’re sacked out in a chair next to her bed in the women’s recovery ward.
Rivka: I need to find a messenger to let my family know where I am, but I cannot leave her bedside.
GM: The ward nurse will send a telegram boy up to you. They always have a few hanging about in the lobby.
Rivka: That will do. I send a telegram to my parents saying I am with Tsilla, she is in the hospital, but I do not say which one, and that I am fine and she will recover. I do not know Mike’s telegraphic address.
GM: The boy says you can send a message to a name at a physical address.
Rivka: Good, then I also send a message to Mike at the bakery saying that Tsilla is recovering, I am fine, and will be back with the rest of the team as soon as I can take her home.
GM: Okay, that runs you fifty cents, plus a quarter tip to make sure the boy delivers it promptly. Let’s move over to the rest of the party. You pull up at the Syrian bakery just before dawn. There’s an aroma of baking bread that would be really distracting if you didn’t have a smoke demon that might bust loose any second.
Yang: Yeah, for once I’m not thinking about food.
Abraham: Seriously out of character.
Yang: I know right? But I’m first out of the car when Abraham pulls up, hold the door for Bethelie, and Abraham can come up when he’s finished parking and shutting down the steam and whatever else that heap requires.
Abraham: Heap? Them’s fightin’ words. Don’t you be dissing a man’s ride like that.
Yang: Too late, I’m up the stairs and banging on the door.
GM: The old woman yanks the door open and says something really sharp in a language you don’t speak. The shushing motion is clear enough.
Yang: I turn it down. Sorry, I say, taking a more humble posture.
Abraham: That’s a first.
Yang: (pointedly ignores Abraham) We need to see our employer immediately, there’s been, well. And I let that trail off.
GM: She sighs, waves you in, holds the door for Abraham to bring up the rear.
Abraham: Nice that someone does.
GM: You go through to the front room as usual, and she goes into a side room. A minute or so later, Mike comes in, fighting off the dregs of sleep. What’s happened?
Bethelie: We have found the smoke demon. It was conjured by the rich people building the secret vault under Blackwell’s Island, but it escaped its conjurer and is killing people on its own.
GM: And it didn’t go well? He looks pointedly at the empty seat where Rivka should be.
Abraham: She’s fine, it was Tsilla took the hit, thing picked out the most dangerous person on the field right off and beat hell out of her. She’s in the Knick, with Rivka watching over her.
Bethelie: The conjurer repented, and was trying to contain the smoke demon, but it had proven too much for him. We were able to distract it and get it contained.
Yang: <bad accent> Chinese magic never fail.
GM: Mike gives Yang a sharp look. Thought you were a Brassman and a gunslinger?
Yang: I got connections. I hold up my wrist to show the remains of the cords. Never bring a gun to a spirit fight, or something like that.
Bethelie: So the spirit was contained in a bag. I look to Yang to prompt him and maybe help him focus.
Yang: Right, the Ministry of Air dropped a bag of winds on me and I used that to capture the spirit, but it wasn’t holding real well. The conjurer told us the story really fast, then told us to leave the bag in the circle and get out while we could.
GM: So he stayed in the vault to try and banish the thing he’d conjured up in the first place?
Bethelie: Yes, he repented and was willing to sacrifice himself if need be to correct the harm he had caused. I touch the crucifix at my neck when I say this. We locked the vault with him and the demon inside it and made the getaway.
GM: Mike exhales loudly, and takes a minute to think about this. Okay, he says finally. We need to get all the paperwork in order here. We’ve got a secret vault under Blackwell’s Island. You have anything to prove it exists? Jimmied-up documents from the construction company or anything?
Abraham: Rivka has those. She got into their Engine. Not sure what else she’s got. She seemed pretty pleased with herself.
GM: Okay, we’ll need to get her here for that. You’ve got the smoke demon’s last known location. Did you get the name of the conjurer?
Bethelie: Mais non, events were moving the bit too fast for that. I only had the moment to speak with him while Yang caught the spirit. He did say that he was hired by the vault project to conjure elementals for security, and then when the workers began unionizing, his employers demanded he also conjure something to see to them. Apparently his contract was very stringent about such things.
GM: Where there’s a contract, there’s a lawyer who wrote it. That’s a lead we need to follow. Find out who handles the contracts for the vault project, and raid their stash, see if you can get a copy of the contract.
Abraham: That’s going to be on paper, not in an Engine.
Yang: Probably signed in blood.
Bethelie: I would say that you are being the overly dramatic but given tonight I am thinking maybe not so much.
GM: What else have you got?
Abraham: Plans for the actual construction being done as opposed to what was filed with the city. Accounting for the materials. Rivka’s got the second set of books.
GM: Keeps coming back to her. And she’s up at the Knick.
Parker: Guys, when the GM points out that you’ve got a weak spot, it’s probably already under attack.
Abraham: I sigh, and say, right, we’re on our way. We get to Rivka before they do, assuming they have a way to track her.
GM: Did she do any damage to the elemental?
Bethelie: I do not think so.
GM: (checks notes) Nope, couple of swings and no hits.
Abraham: Then it probably hasn’t got much to track her with.
Yang: I don’t like probably. Let’s go.
GM: Mike stands up. I’ll start things moving with the Church. Conjuring murderous spirits is in their jurisdiction, maybe we can get heavier artillery brought to bear. Get to Rivka, get all the evidence collated and back to me, and find that lawyer. We need to know who the conjurer was, but more importantly, we need to know who hired him.
Bethelie: Of course, the contract will require at least two signatures, and the law firm would have records for the person or firm that retained them to draw up the contract.
Abraham: This sounds like your thing here, Bethelie. Let’s give some thought to sending you in the front door, looking to put the firm on retainer, and then having trouble remembering the name of the person that recommended them, Blackwell’s Island construction project, tip of your tongue?
Bethelie: I can present myself as having the hangover easily enough to make it plausible I do not remember such an exalted name.
Yang: Sounds like the start of a plan. Let’s talk about the rest of it in the car. We split the party, the GM pointed it out, and we need to get our butts in gear.
Abraham: I drive like the devil himself is after me.
GM: Off you go, back across the metropolis, another two dollars out of Bethelie’s pocket.
Bethelie: At this rate, I am having to tell my family I would like to come home for a visit so they will send me a bit more remittance to stay away.
And we’ll pick up next blog entry with their arrival at the Knick. Did the elemental escape? Has it tracked down Rivka? Has someone else noticed the arrival of a spirit worker, and sent a telegram of their own? Tune in next time for the next thrilling chapter of Actual Play!