Apologies for the late hour this is coming out – it has been a busy past several days, not the least of which is the successful completion of the Kickstarter campaign for the Player’s and Game Master’s Companions.

We came in $10,185, over double our original goal, and having unlocked two stretch goals! I am exceedingly grateful to everyone who has participated to reach this amazing milestone, and am especially pleased by how many have taken up the larger bundles, indicating we’ve got quite a few new people interested in the line! To everyone receiving the books, whether you’ve been with us since the beginning or are just starting out with 1879, I sincerely hope you enjoy what we’ve got in store for you.

With some luck, you hopefully won’t have to wait long for your books. We’ve got a layout of the Player’s Companion after Don’s work on the art end that I’ve been scanning through to make what are hopefully the final edits (part of what has delayed this post), and the Game Master’s Companion is being worked on now while I compile those notes. I realize I’m biased, but I do feel the look of the books has done nothing but improve with the effort put in, and I think we’ll have some fantastic looking books for you soon and in the future.

With that covered, here comes the continuation of the lead up to the new chapter in the Player’s Companion (and yes, we’re getting close to the final reveal):

The last station for travelers going to the Rabbit Hole was always a buzzing hive of activity, all hours of the day. Even in the evening hours as the sun went low and the mixture of oil lamps and carbon arc lights in the area were being lit, nothing seemed to stem the flow of activity.

Aside from the physical noise and confusion, this also muddied up the Astral. Not that the Astral space in this world was particularly clear anyway – at least not around this city called London – but a dirty pond can get murkier still if it’s given a vigorous stir. Likewise, even a fish native to the pond will have a hard time contending with the obfuscation.

So the rather fetching gentleman on the station platform let his mind’s eye close, and instead focused his gaze on the physical realm. He was fair of hair and skin, with high and sharp features that almost made him look elven, except for the standard human rounded ears and build that was more broad than most elves had. He was smartly dressed, the suit of a traveling businessman, a bit hardier in construction to hold up to the rigors of moving about in crowded areas, but still finely crafted such that it wouldn’t be out of place at any but the most high profile of meetings. He wore a teal colored paisley cravat and a black top hat with a similar plain teal band, a flashy looking copper colored vest and carried a simple black lacquered walking stick, which by his movement was clearly only for show and not any actual need of support.

He had an otherworldly grace as he walked about the platform, not so much in how he carried himself, but in how other people seemed to simply melt around him. Even through a sea of people, he moved with no further difficulty than a narrow skiff parting the water and leaving barely a ripple behind him. What’s more, none of the people that parted for him in this way seemed to even notice. In fact, none seemed to take notice of him at all. More than once he walked through a group of people conversing, and they did not miss so much as a breath as he simply moved between them while they unconsciously stepped out of his way.

He was not blind to the passing of people, though. His eyes cast about the crowds, taking a moment to study each person that came in to view, clearly looking for someone. At last, his gaze did settle on someone. A workman, or a man dressed like one, seated on a bench. His grooming was haggard and his eyes bloodshot, his clothing in rough shape and he clearly had not slept in days. His eyes were cast at the ground, his arms wrapped around himself as he rocked gently back and forth, seemingly unaware of it. He spoke not a word, though his lips seemed to move ever so slightly, as if he were speaking to himself within his thoughts. Even without slipping into a view of the Astral, the smartly dressed man could tell that this fellow would have a cloud of turmoil about his aura that marked him as the culprit he was looking for.

William Kipling took no notice of anything or anyone around him, not that people were getting at all close to him, even with the crowded conditions of the station. His arms clung tightly about him, his hand clutching his ticket to the Gruv, his hopeful salvation to escape his situation here. He still could not believe the mess he had gotten himself into, nor what he had been forced to do. He only knew that he couldn’t stay on this world. His only hope was to flee, and hope that maybe, he – no, she, that first night had been a ruse – would either not be able to or not have the interest to follow.

“Busy evening, eh my good fellow?” The business man asked, seated next to Mr. Kipling.

He nearly jumped out of his skin, as well as off the bench, surprised he had not even noticed the man getting close, let alone sitting down next to him. “… Aye sir, I s’pose it is.” He replied, unsure of how to proceed.

“Pardon me for saying so,” the businessman continued, “But you have the look of one troubled. Care to ease your burdens by bending the ear of a stranger?”

“I… I… “ He stammered, completely flummoxed that someone would be talking to him, let alone someone of such higher station and in such a way. “… I’ve nofin’ to say that’d be of interest to you, sir.”

“Don’t be so sure.” the businessman replied, and Mr. Kipling found himself inexplicably drawn to his gaze. While the man’s tone was firm, suggesting that this was not a request, it was also strangely calm and inviting, as if compelling him to unburden himself of everything that had happened. He wasn’t sure if it was the lack of sleep, the man’s presence and command, or some combination, but he felt the weight of everything come down on his mind all at once, and he simply couldn’t keep it together.

“I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry for what I done.” He began, hands coming from being wrapped around him to support and cover his face. “I realize now I been wrong, I been angry at the wrong people for problems that was me own doin’ for crawlin’ down inside a bottle.” He kept himself from tears, but the speed and tone belied that he was only just keeping them at bay. “I talked a big tough lot, I did, but it was mostly the drink doin’ the talkin’. I been half rats for far too long. My own fault, I know, but still, if I’d ‘ave just been dried out… I never meant no one no ‘arm.”

The businessman quietly nodded, making no sound or move to interrupt. He gave his full attention, listening carefully and seeming to make mental notes as the workman continued.

“But that woman, that… thing… she knew just where to ‘it me. She knew where the knife stuck and just how to twist it. I done terrible work for her. People ‘urt by my work that done nothin’ wrong.” He paused to breathe, taking a moment as he seemed to struggle to admit what he was about to say openly. “I killed a man. Oh ‘eaven ‘elp me, I killed a man. A good, ‘ard working man, who done no wrong. All by her orders. All a ’cause I gave her my name. Bloody idiot I am, I gave her my name.”

Mr. Kipling seemed to be unable to continue and buried his face deep into his hands, struggling hard to keep from breaking down completely. The businessman put a gentle hand to his back, a pat of consoling, as he re-opened his mind’s eye and took a good hard look at the man’s aura. To an onlooker, not that anyone seemed to even acknowledge their existence, it looked as if he simply stared at the man for a long time, a gaze that pierced deep in its search for details.

“Well, I don’t believe your problems are as much to blame on your drinking as you seem to think. Not in full, at least.” He finally spoke, causing Mr. Kipling to stop and look at him, confused. “But you are at least sincere about your regret. And that is what you need. A change is required to rectify this situation, and the desire to change is important to facilitate that.”

“How can you know…” Mr. Kipling started to ask. And then realization dawned on him, and his eyes grew wide. “You… you’re…. You’re one of…”

“Yes, I am.” the businessman confirmed, stopping him short as if to keep him from actually speaking it aloud. “Though not like her, I assure you. I suppose one could say I’m simply… curious.” He finally decided as the best phrasing for it. “The interference of those like her will skew my observations, hence why I’m going to help you.”

“You mean… you can break her power on me? Or give me means to fight back?” the workman’s mind reeled at trying to sort out what this meant, the prospect of having real hope for the first time in weeks having invigorated him.

“Nothing so direct, no.” the businessman put up a hand to stop him as he explained. “Unfortunately, I can’t intervene directly. You gave her your name – willingly, I might add – and there’s not much anyone can do to break that hold unless she gives it up willingly.”

Mr. Kipling’s heart sank again, though he was still paying attention as it seemed not all was lost. “However, names are a funny thing. They only really have power when they are the name of the person or thing’s true self. She does at this point have the name of your true self, the name you feel fits who you are in your soul.” He paused for a moment with another pat to his back. “If, however, your true self changes… well, the name you had wouldn’t apply to you anymore if you were a different person, would it?”

As he said this, Mr. Kipling felt something strange, as if the hand upon him had somehow tugged at something. Not a physical tug, but… a part of his being. He didn’t feel anything missing, and he didn’t feel any different, but it seemed like somehow, he should feel different.

“Well, it’s been lovely chatting with you.” The businessman said as he stood, and Mr. Kipling found himself subconsciously compelled to rise with him. “However, I must be off, business to attend and all that, and I believe you have a train to catch.” With a firm hand shake, he took up his cane and started to walk the opposite direction.

“Wait!” Mr. Kipling managed to pull himself out of his stupor just long enough to speak up and turn to face the man before he wandered off. “I… thank y-… I am grateful.” He finally offered after verbally stumbling for a bit. “An’ if I may ask, what can I call the man who’s saved me?”

The businessman paused in his step, and could not help but give a smirk to this. “Ser Tristan.” He replied simply, without turning back, and began walking away again. “So…” He muttered to himself under his breath as he strode out of sight, melting into the crowd. “They can learn the rules.”

After that day and his trip through the Rabbit Hole, Mr. William Kipling was never seen or heard from again. On the Gruv side of the portal, however, a Mr. William Renteze was instead found in his place, and now works as a porter at the Fort Alice station.