Steampunk Monster Hunters #3: “Breaking and Entering”

by mshrm

It’s been about two weeks, in game, since our last session. Octavious, worried about the possibility of becoming a werewolf, left to walk the earth in search of a cure, only to apparently come back just a few days later.

The Association has assigned Tommy Nine, a mechanical man with specialized expertise in hunting the fae, to the group. He is partly metal, well-dressed, carries a cane, and wears a bowler hat.

Who’s Who

  • Esmerelda Wagstaff, Accidental Hero Inhuman Changeling
  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero, Sleuth, “World’s Greatest Girl Detective”
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment

What Happened

On the morning of Friday, June 13, 1851, our heroes gathered for a social occasion. Margaret’s Uncle Byron had invited everyone to brunch at a London cafe. The party was seated outside, in a street-side garden area. At the meal, Octavious made several uncharacteristic moves: chiefly, refusing alcohol.

As the party was eating, they were approached by a young woman who called out to Margaret with a familiar manner, identifying herself as “Bill Turpin”. Margaret recognized the name as a small-time counterfeiter who had appeared in one of her early cases. In that case, the authorities had never recovered the man’s set of counterfeiting plates, because they had failed to take him alive. When arrested, he had fled, and in his haste, fallen into some ropes and accidentally hung himself. The girl detective offered the woman a seat and a drink, gently soothing her and asking her to explain herself.

The woman told a rambling and almost incoherent story. She mentioned several particulars of the Turpin case which appeared to prove her to be the dead counterfeiter. When she mentioned Turpin’s favorite whiskey, Nayler pulled a pint of the very label from his pocket and poured the woman a stiff drink. This earned him a heartfelt blessing for his kindness.

She said that she had been “double-crossed”, that she had been offered a “second chance” but it had been a trick. She appeared to be ill. As the party watched, she muttered something about “losing her” and then seemed to go to sleep with her head on the table. Moments later, she snapped her head up, snarling and mouthing obscenities as she dove for Margaret’s throat!

Lucretia pulled one of her pistols and bashed the woman in the back of the head while Margaret danced away, using her grabbering gun to ascend out of easy reach. Nine struck at the woman’s legs with his iron-shod cane, but became entangled and thrown off-balance. Mercy followed Lucretia’s example, also pistol-whipping the crazed woman. Nayler threw an empty whiskey bottle at her head, to no avail. With her initial target out of reach, the woman went to attack Mercy, but was knocked out by an uppercut from Lucretia.

With the other cafe patrons and staff scattering from the sudden and unexpected violence, the party beat a hasty retreat. They wrapped the woman in Margaret’s net, then Nine tucked her under his arm and carried her away. They went to Mercy’s estate on the edge of London, as it was the closest of their homes.

Mercy and Nayler examined the woman. He was able to determine that she was still alive, while Mercy realized that despite appearances, the woman was not a zombie, but a victim. A part of her soul had been sucked out, leaving a vacuum that a ghost could easily slip into.

After some discussion, the party decided that they needed to call up the spirit of Bill Turpin to question him. Knowing Octavious was a medium, the party asked him to do the job, but he declined with a rambling excuse. Instead, Mercy offered to perform a ritual seance, but pointed out that she would need something connected to the spirit being sought.

Octavious offered to take care of the spiritual connection by himself, accepting Margaret’s copious notes about the Turpin case, but when he left, Margaret quietly followed and shadowed him. He briskly walked to a nearby alley, checking behind himself to make sure nobody was following. As soon as he was out of sight, his appearance was transformed, making him look like a policeman! As Margaret peered closely, she realized she could see through the veil of illusion to a thin, pale woman inside the bobby’s shell.

The mysterious, disguised woman went to Turpin’s wife’s address, where she knocked on the door. Between the knock and the door opening, Margaret slipped in under her arm, cheerfully joining in the deception. Turpin’s widow answered the door. Distracting the woman with patter and fast-talk, Margaret provided enough distraction to allow Esmerelda, the woman disguised as a bobby, to stealthily search for something connected to Bill Turpin. She found an etched souvenir shot glass, which she stealthily pocketed. The two said their goodbyes and exited, returning to Mercy’s house.

Meanwhile, Lucretia and Nayler tried to question the growling zombie. Nayler quickly grew bored when there were no easy results, so he wandered off to tinker with some gadgeteering project. Thus unencumbered by assistants and their questions, Lucretia was able to accomplish a miracle of interrogation, extracting the name “Ann Bell” from the howling, cursing beast. Mercy recognized the name as that of a semi-famous London athlete and lady wrestler.

When the party gathered again, Mercy’s projections for how the seance would go were not looking good. To help make up the large amounts of magical energy required, they decided they would engage in some animal sacrifice. Nayler stepped out and used some of his great wealth to buy a fine horse.

Back when Mercy had obtained the house, she had been on the lookout for a home with certain mystical properties, so she was lucky enough to have a minor place of power in her basement. They decided to hold the seance there, but this led to the question: how does one get a horse into a basement?

“Octavious” stepped up and displayed some uncharacteristic skill with animal handling, and got the horse in place. During this exercise, Nine and Nayler were able to see through her veil of glamour, but also decided not to say anything.

The midnight ritual was a harrowing experience, with everyone donating significant amounts of Fatigue and not a few Hit Points. Nayler whipped up a quick injection to restore his lost Fatigue. Candles flickered, shadows danced, nearly everybody got a nosebleed, and… they summoned the ghost of Bill Turpin for questioning.

Who was it that had double-crossed him? Wormley and Minister, he said. They had offered a second chance at life, but it didn’t “take”. (Mercy and Margaret, being followers of the local news, recognized the name “Wormley” from a newly-opened business, Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon.)

How did he know Ann? He didn’t, he said. She had been a victim in the plot.

Where were the hidden plates from his counterfeiting days? In life, he had hidden them behind a false panel in the belfry of a particular church, but he was certain they weren’t there any longer; he had offered their location as payment for his second chance at life.

Was there anything they could do for him? “Too late for me,” he replied, shaking the weights and chains of his mortal sins as he faded away, “look to yourself, that you might escape my terrible fate!”

Exhausted, the party found their beds. Margaret didn’t even make it that far, curling up in an overstuffed chain in Mercy’s office.

The next morning, several members of the party went to Ann’s address to investigate, while Mercy researched a cure for the afflicted woman.

After Esmerelda picked the lock to Ann’s house, the searchers found some paperwork linking Ann to Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon, as well as pocketing some cash, loose valuables, and keepsakes. In the meantime, Mercy was able to use magic to restore the missing pieces of Ann’s soul, so when the searchers returned, they found the victim of their petty pilfering sitting up and looking at them. They returned most of the stolen goods, claiming to have recovered them from thieves.

When questioned, Ann had described her last memories, of Atticus Wormley approaching her in a menacing fashion. She remarked upon the frightfulness of his eyes, and specifically called him a “vampire”. (At that, everybody sat up straight.)

Wondering if they would find others under Wormley’s thrall, they asked Ann if she knew anything about other victims. She was able to recall mention of the name “Orlando Masham” but no details. This name was familiar to Mercy from legends. He had been a devil worshipper and powerful witch who had tried to destroy London in the Great Fire of 1666, only to be killed by a desperate team of monster hunters.

The party deduced that they’re dealing with a “vampire” who can somehow turn people into vessels for easy possession by ghosts, who is looking to provide a body to an evil witch who wants to destroy all of London – their first potential apocalypse!

Seeing no other obvious leads, the party prepared to infiltrate Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon, with Lucretia leading the way as an accomplished athlete who might want to become a customer, while most of the others hang back, nearby but not obvious. Several members of the group have decided to load up with an expectation of violence.

To be continued…

Cool Point: Mercy, for the awesome feat of the seance