Steampunk Monster Hunters #7: “Oh, The Humanity”

by mshrm

We skipped a month, there, due to various illnesses and troubles, but this time, we had a full house. With Esmerelda, the changeling, captured and taken by the fae last session, we see the return of an old friend…

On the character development front, Mercy has been saving up for Ritual Adept, and Margaret invested a chunk of points in Magery and Path of Crossroads. We’re digging deeper into Ritual Path Magic, after a long time dabbling.

Who’s Who

  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando, American gunslinger
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero Sleuth, snoopy apprentice witch
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage, nanny to the supernatural
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie, lapdog of evil
  • Octavious Buttersnaps, Hired Gun Psi, last seen on a quest to handle a werewolf bite
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment, undercover mechanical man

What Happened

The dispirited survivors of last session’s defeat sailed through the night aboard Nayler’s oversized balloon, as he tended Margaret’s wounds from the fight with the lamia. They returned to London, docking at Mercy’s townhouse, where they met Mercy and Tommy Nine.

Tommy had only just returned the night before from a mission to the Continent, helping track down a faerie smuggling ring operating between the Middle East and Britain. His team had discovered clues pointing towards a connection with Russia, which was being followed up by other members of his organization. Due to his status as no more than a coveted piece of equipment, no one particularly noticed either his absence or his return.

The survivors told their tale, with many pauses to consider how to diplomatically phrase certain aspects of the story, as Nayler, effectively brainwashed by the erotic powers of the lamia, stood by and listened attentively. When she understood the situation, Mercy offered to perform a “ritual of refreshment” on Nayler, if he would like. (Suspicious glance.) It would “cleanse the body and mind.” (More suspicion.) It might even “help cure hangovers.” (Enthusiastic nodding, wide-eyed interest.)

In fact, she performed a quick ritual to strengthen the addlepated inventor’s willpower. This was a success, in that the ritual took effect, but it didn’t help the problem. Nayler just didn’t want to exert his will to resist the love of his life.

The group moved to Mercy’s library, stored in her bigger-on-the-inside carpetbag, where Mercy and Margaret dove into researching faeries in general, and lamiae and the Goblin Market in specific. After the traditional mocking of the nerds, the others fell to their own pursuits. As is his way, Nayler started tinkering with his steam-powered jetpack, but his short attention span worked against him. Shortly, he grew bored with the task at hand, and decided to drop the invention off in the balloon half-finished, in hopes that his half-imaginary gremlin friends would pick up the work and complete it later.

The gang smiled and waved as Nayler stepped out of sight through the portal out of Mercy’s bag, then immediately fell to desperate, rushed whispers, taking advantage of the break in surveillance to speak clearly. As the tale unfolded, Mercy and Margaret made some deductions. Clearly, the faeries couldn’t expect such a thin charade to hold up over the long term; even they must realize that Nayler, no matter how loyal to his new evil mistress, obviously couldn’t keep a close enough eye on all of them. Which meant that they didn’t expect to need a long cover story.

Which meant whatever they were planning, was going to happen soon.

While that sank in, they plotted what to do next. When Nayler returned, Margaret had climbed up on a chair to come at him from an unexpected angle, surprising him with a watch on a chain and the powers of hypnosis. She put him into a trance, then led him back through the halls of memory to his experience with the lamia. There, she had him examine his memories, pierce the veil of illusion, and try to really see what the lamia was and what it had done to him. When he snapped out of the trance, he was able to see the truth and break free of the lamia’s control. He was shaken but resolute.

At this point, there came a knock on the townhouse door. It was Octavious, temporarily back from his quest to face possible infection with lycanthropy! He gave them a quick update on his travels to Lisbon, Spain, and Africa in pursuit of a cure. Everyone welcomed him back, except for Lucretia. She, of course, had been so taken in by Esmerelda’s glamour-backed disguise as Octavious, that she had always insisted that her husband had never left. She declared this “new” Octavious to be an obvious imposter.

To smooth things over, it was suggested that they might have tea and drinks. Tommy and “Lurch”, Mercy’s servant, another mechanical man of a lesser grade than Tommy, helped serve. At one point, Lurch passed on a message from Tommy’s mysterious patron organization: the leads they were pursuing from his earlier mission were now pointing towards the involvement of a Russian witch. (“Baba Yaga,” everyone sighed.)

Nevertheless, the whole gang returned to Mercy’s extradimensional library-turned-lounge for more research, planning, and plotting, with drinks in hand. With the full, focused knowledge of the the entire group, backed by Mercy’s extensive library, they rapidly answered several questions.

What were faeries vulnerable to? Iron, chiefly. After a ten minute scavenger hunt around Mercy’s house, almost everyone had armed themselves with a cast-iron poker. Lucretia, on the other hand, never stirred from her seat; she just reached into her pocket for the set of speedloaders she had already loaded with iron bullets, just like the silver ones she usually uses, and re-loaded.

When everyone settled back down, the list continued. Faeries don’t care for organized religion, particularly, and they really don’t like loud noises. Nayler cobbled together a sort of lighter-than-air drone equipped with a set of automatic bagpipes, plus several handfuls of noise-making fireworks on varying lengths of fuse. Several others dug out a variety of religious symbols and books.

Were the faeries of the Goblin Market violating the Iron Age treaty with the humans of the British Isles? Oh, yes, indeed. They had somehow brought the lamia into the country, clearly, which was prohibited. They certainly appeared to be engaging in some form of angel kidnapping, which presumably wouldn’t set well with the ecclesiastical courts of the Church of England. There were various other minor issues, but those two seemed to top the list.

What should they do? That was a more thorny question. For the most part, the group thought that the human world would be justified in a military response, but they had their doubts as to how quickly such an effort would be organized. Their expectation was that any raised alarm would only lead to questions, bureaucratic paralysis, and delayed action, even among the supernatural-aware Association. This would only play into the hands of the fae, who would be able to complete their plan – whatever that plan might be – before the human world could organize itself.

Eventually, the gang decided that they, themselves, had to take action against the Goblin Market. They loaded up their tricks and weapons, boarded the balloon, and headed back in the direction of Cardiff.

On the way, there came a muffled knocking from inside Mercy’s bag! Upon questioning, the person on the inside claimed to only be passing through. After several exchanges, the group opened the bag to see Patrick Murphy, the shabbily-dressed man who had sold Margaret some paut on the circus’ midway. In fact, he offered the same vial of silver liquid, claiming that the girl detective had dropped it. He claimed to be returning to the circus by the most direct means possible, which in this case meant hitching a ride with them on the balloon. He denied being any particular friend to the fae; rather, he claimed to only be a human dealer in oddities, a witch, who took advantage of the Goblin Market as a place for commerce without becoming involved with the machinations of the fae. After a short talk, they convinced him that tonight might be a good night to stay away from the circus. He declared his intention to spend the night investigating places of power, tipped his hat, and said he would show himself out. He stepped through a door into the next room and vanished.

When they arrived at the site of the circus, some distance outside Cardiff, it was the wee hours of the morning, a fact they hoped to use in their favor. The winds were such that they would arrive from the direction of the circus’ main entrance, crossing in a diagonal direction across the midway to the big top. The plan was for the team to split up. As the balloon silently drifted across the site, the “A” team would slide down ropes to disembark before they reached the circus. Once on the ground, as the balloon approached the big top on the far side of the site, they would set up a loud ruckus to attract attention while the “B” team quietly slid down their own ropes, undetected, to rescue Esmerelda and the little angel. Once on the ground, they would secure a line anchoring the balloon, then get on with the ninja sneaking.

The mission was rescue, they emphasized. If they had to kill every elf and goblin in the circus to accomplish that mission, so be it, but that wasn’t what they were there to do.

It was a good plan, while it lasted.

When they came into sight of the circus, it again looked like it did when they first saw it, before the glamour was lifted from them. It was clean and well-lit, with banners snapping in the wind and colorful tents.

The “A” team was made up of Nayler, Tommy Nine, and a reluctant Octavious. An old hand who knows the ropes of his own balloon, Nayler was the first to make it to the ground, where he made himself busy deploying the bagpipe drone and other noisemakers. Still offering reasons he should stay in the safety of the balloon, Octavious slid down his rope to land prone in a large haystack. Then Tommy Nine, encased in metal as he is, failed to control his rate of descent and landed in the haystack in an undignified heap, unhurt, but raising a clatter like throwing a barrel full of pots and pans down a flight of stairs.

This did not pass unnoticed. On the far side of the circus, the hulking strongman stuck his head out of a tent flap and raised the alarm, while all around the circus… kids started coming out of different hiding places. Our heroes were almost certain that they weren’t actually human children. They suspected the “kids” were disguised fae. However, they weren’t initially eager to test the question.

Seeing that the jig was up, Margaret fired her new multiple-shot grabbering gun, creating an impromptu zip line from the balloon to a spot near the strongman’s tent, just to one side of the big top. The “B” team, being Lucretia, Margaret, and Mercy, slid down the zip line, hoping to stick as close to the original plan as possible.

As they did, one of the “kids” brought something up to its shoulder and aimed it at the balloon. Nobody got a good look at what it was, exactly, but speculation ran towards “faerie wand of blasting” after it shot a sparking bolt of fire into the balloon’s gas bag. Of course, the balloon’s lifting gas was safe, well-understood… hydrogen. (Nayler’s player pointed out that it was also painted with this awesome shiny metallic paint…) It burst into violent flame and began to slowly deflate and descend towards the ground.

The “B” team found their zip line losing some of its tautness but managed to drop off before it went entirely slack. Lucretia landed atop the strongman’s tent, where the strongman revealed his true ogre form, pawing at her. She fired her iron-loaded pistol, crippling the ogre’s arm and setting up a shot for Mercy, who had landed on the far side of the tent. She came around the corner and thrust her poker into the howling ogre’s heart, killing it and causing it to burst into a cloud of fairy dust.

Margaret had dropped off the failing zip line early, making a stealthy beeline for the freak show where they had earlier encountered the lamia. Just inside the door, she found herself looking at the cow fetus in a jar of formaldehyde, when an odd idea occurred to her. “What if it’s been hidden right in front of us all along?” she asked, squinting at the jar and summoning up the full power of her will. As she glared, the illusion around the jar unraveled. The was no cow fetus; it was the caged angel!

“You really weren’t supposed to see that,” came a hiss from behind.

Meanwhile, the “A” team found themselves drawing a lot of attention. Every kid in the place was heading that way, some readying weapons, apparently drawn by the maddening bagpipe music and exploding fireworks. The “goblins not kids” theory was gaining a lot of traction. Tommy fought his way free of the haystack only to slowly grind to a halt, his gears clogged with straw and dust. (Player had to leave.) Things were looking dicey until Nayler got his TL 5+1 SMG, loaded with iron, into play. He sprayed fire in all directions, starting with the one who brought down his balloon, then hosing down each group that made an attempt on their position.

On the other side of the circus, the ringmaster, the knife thrower, and the lion tamer stepped out of the big top, coming within sight of Lucretia. She fanned her revolver, missing the two underlings as they dove for cover but putting two cold iron slugs into the ringmaster, the disguised Queen of the Banshees, who immediately died. The knife thrower and lion tamer rushed Lucretia’s position, hiding themselves behind the fabric of the tent that she was standing on. Undeterred, she spun her pistol to perform an instant reload, then again fanned her pistol. Even firing blind, her shots were deadly accurate, killing both elves.

One of the “kids” approached Octavious, who used the power of hypnosis to put it into a trance. It was revealed to be a goblin. Octavious convinced it to turn against its comrades. It drew a pistol and began enthusiastically mowing down the other goblins alongside Nayler. (Later, Nayler indicated a desire to keep him as a pet.)

Inside the freak show tent, Margaret put a quaver in her voice as she begged the lamia for her life. The lamia hissed in satisfaction, drawing slowly nearer for the kill.

In a flashback (using a Gizmo, really), we see Margaret picked up a LeMat revolver from the tangle of curiosities on Nayler’s balloon, earlier in the evening, and slipping it into her bag. (Nayler’s player insists it’s actually a knock-off of his own designed, based on the LeMat, which he called a “Le May-Not!“) Back in the present, she whirled, taking advantage of the lamia’s distraction to get one perfect shot. She fired the oversized revolver’s shotgun barrel into the lamia’s face at point-blank range, killing it instantly.

After some mopping up, the team held the site. They pondered how best to release the angel. At first, they suspected a trap. Then, after some experiments, they were sure the lock was trapped. In the end, they used one of the team’s pokers to disable the fae magic and open the cage. After several attempts at communication, they established that both the angel and Mercy could speak ancient Hebrew. After some hurried questions, they found that the angel was a messenger who had been kidnapped. Since she claimed to have no name, they decided to call her Angelica. She held on to Mercy’s hand and solemnly watched everything the team did.

Searching the circus revealed little in the way of useful items or treasure, but plenty of gaudy and decaying trumpery. In the big top, they found a full-length mirror in a frame, but it was nothing particularly special. In another tent, Octavious found a trunk full of faerie wine, which he immediately uncorked and sampled. It seemed harmless enough, until the conga line of pink elephants came around the corner.

Margaret used her practiced divination ritual to examine the mirror, finding that it had been used to open a portal. The other side seemed to be a vibrant but strangely-colored land, where a small but extremely tall castle stood.

Momentarily stumped, the group gathered together. Shortly, everybody had sampled the faerie wine, aside from Margaret, who was too young to drink wine, and Mercy, who has too much common sense to indulge in suspicious beverages while on hostile ground. The drinkers joined the conga line while Mercy watched, shaking her head.

Margaret left to track down the circus’ donkey, who had been seen wandering away from all the chaos of the attack. From their previous visit, they knew that the donkey was actually a disguised unicorn, and hoped that it might be kindly disposed towards them after Nayler’s efforts to help it by improving the mechanisms of the ride that it powered. Not wanting to see her wander off alone, Mercy followed.

It didn’t take long to track the unicorn. Once they did, they realized that they had something on their side that was far greater than any Nayler-generated goodwill, as unicorns are compelled to obey “maidens”. Margaret climbed onto the unicorn’s back. It started off at a slow walk, which turned into a quick trot, heading back towards the circus, with Mercy following along behind.

The unicorn carried Margaret right up to the mirror and into it! It used the mirror to open a rapidly-closing portal. The team, with varying degrees of reluctance, followed before the portal could close.

On the other side, they found themselves looking at an absurdly short and narrow, but astonishingly tall, castle, with a lone elf wearing armor standing outside on guard duty. They approached this elf, who challenged them. Margaret fast-talked the elf, truthfully claiming that Lucretia had killed the Queen of the Banshees, so now she was the rightful Queen of the Banshees!

This was enough to get them in the door, where they found that the castle was really only one high-ceilinged room. There, they found Esmerelda, badly hurt, unconscious, bound to a heavy wooden chair. They freed the changeling, then Lucretia claimed the chair as her throne.

Moments later, calls for celebratory drinks prompted Mercy to point out one of the rules for humans visiting the lands of faerie: never eat or drink anything you’re offered. A kingdom in faerie with no liquor didn’t seem all that appealing to Lucretia, who decided to rule the Banshees from Earth after all.

The team asked the guard if he could open a door to the human world, and he agreed that he could. He led them around back to a still pond, where he opened a door into – after some hurried discussions – one of the mirrors hanging in Mercy’s home. The team thanked him and exited the faerie realm.

Back in London, Lucretia expressed her dismay at having two Octavious’, which prompted an argument with the real Octavious. He left in a huff, while the others turned towards the rescued changeling and celebrating their victory.

Cool Point: Margaret, for selling the idea of Lucretia as the new Queen of the Banshees

Boobie Point: Tommy, for his loud fall, setting off the big fight