Back in Malifaux City at the Star Theater, the heroes are ready to begin their search for Kirai Ankoku, the woman they believe will be key to foiling the attempt of the Tyrant Plague to ascend to godhood.
A nervous stage hand approaches the group as they plot their strategy for locating Kirai. “Um, Viceroy Mattheson is at the stage door asking for all of you by name. What should I do?”
“He knows we’re here,” mutters Bal, “and he’s probably not happy with us.”
“He gotta crew with him?” asks Bernard.
“He appears to be alone,” stammers the stage hand.
“How about we get our story straight before talking to this gentleman?” suggests Zai.
“I know what the story is,” boasts Bernard.
“I think what the lady is suggesting here is that we all agree on one account. I’m not so sure we want to speak with Lucius, though,” says Bal.
“What’s there to agree on? There’s one account,” Bernard replies.
“What account is that?” asks Zai, archly.
“One where we ran around, got more powerful, and came back,” says Bernard.
Zai appears startled. “Okay, that works, I have no objections to that.”
Anna Mae looks nervous. “Perhaps we should mention the Arcanists.”
“I think that’s a detail best left out,” Bal replies.
“I think the important thing is that we were asked to retrieve an item, and we are not able to produce said item,” says Zai.
Bal interjects, “We were asked to procure an item to keep it out of the wrong hands. We just cut out the middle part.”
“And now it belongs to nobody!” crows Providence.
“That’s the part of the story I want to make sure we all agree on,” says Zai.
“To be fair, we did more or less do what we were asked,” says Anna Mae.
“I believe my exact words to Lucius were ‘we will ensure it does not end up in the wrong hands’. Well, my fine handiwork has ensured that will not happen,” adds Bal.
Zai sends her newly acquired Star Theater mannequin construct to bring Lucius to them. He arrives, and, as best as can be seen through his mask, appears quite jovial. “Well, Ms. Zai, you’ve come up in the world, it seems. Official Star Theater showgirl. Very impressive.” Turning to Bernard, he adds, “And I see you’ve acquired a rocket pack as well. They’re all the rage this year among the Gremlins, I understand. At least for those who manage to launch one without exploding into tiny green and red scraps.”
“Who’s your informant?” demands Bernard.
“I have certain connections with a mutual acquaintance from whom you may have acquired this device.” Turning to Bal, Lucius adds, “And I see that you’ve played cards with her as well.”
“Despite better ideas of how to live my life and make my decisions, I am a man of the cards,” says Bal.
“Temptation can be challenging. I would advise you to stay away from The Honey Pot.”
“While I do not quite know what you are referring to, I shall take your advice into consideration.”
“Of course, you might wonder why I would think you could even consider visiting The Honey Pot, considering there is a Guild bounty on your heads.”
“Yeah, about that,” puts in Bernard.
“Or rather, there was. Given the situation with increasing numbers of people in the city falling ill and your apparent connections to these matters, I have made arrangements to end the Guild bounty on all of you. I must say, however, that dear Sonia is not in agreement with this decision.”
“What if I send her some moonshine, would that sweeten the deal?” asks Bernard.
“Perhaps she might enjoy setting it on fire, but in general, probably not. I would suggest that you steer clear of her and make no use of magic in public. I cannot protect you from the Witchling Stalkers if it becomes publicly known that any of you can perform true magic.”
“Weirdos,” grunts Bernard.
“This will, however, give you the opportunity to move freely about the city without interference. By the way, I understand that the grimoire which I sent you for came to a rather unfortunate and dramatic end.”
“Well, I believe I did say that I’d ensure the grimoire didn’t end up in the wrong hands,” says Bal.
“I do admire a man who can improvise.”
“The situation had gone very south,” puts in Anna Mae.
“I cannot blame you for the situation with the rats. They are quite concerning, and have begun to appear even by day.”
Zai interrupts. “I feel like puppets are a larger concern at this point, quite literally.”
“Like your mannequin here?” Lucius laughs.
“Not just parlor tricks. These puppets are massive and dangerous. We’ve encountered them three times already, and we understand them to be the work of Nytemare,” Zai protests.
“Perhaps they are a danger for the future, but at present, they do not approach the city. That cannot be said for the plague zombies or the rats, or the disease they bring with them. The Governor-General may be forced to quarantine Malifaux entirely and cut off connection to Earth if the plague worsens. You can imagine the morale effect that this news has had on all the humans living here.”
“And I take it you hope our company will… deal with that?” asks Zai.
“I hope to maintain a base of power here in Malifaux City, and to ensure that those beings that have been bound in various ways do not escape their bindings.”
“What’s the job pay?” asks Bernard.
“I believe you may already have found an employer.”
“Don’t quite catch your drift there,” mutters Bal.
“No, I’m sure you don’t.” Lucius takes a swig from a hip flask. “Regardless, do give my regards to Madame Colette. Should you require any assistance in dealing with these matters, you may enquire at my office. But such assistance will of course have to be… discreet.”
“Well, we could drop a name on you here without makin’ an appointment. We’re followin’ up on a lead,” says Bal.
“And that name would be?”
Bal glances around the room and, not seeing any objections, offers, “Kirai Ankoku.”
“That name is vaguely familiar, but I cannot place it. I will make inquiries and see if I have any information to provide.”
Bal pulls Lucius aside. “As a matter of more personal significance here, could you perhaps tell me if you know anything about the force known as Nytemare?”
“One of the thirteen tyrants, believed to be imprisoned between the worlds, and apparently manifesting in the form of a being we call The Dreamer. The Dreamer is inimical to humans here in Malifaux. Thus far, I have not seen any reason to oppose it. If he keeps Nytemare amused and safely bound, I’m all for it. The only other thing I know is that very few people who have encountered The Dreamer have left the encounter in one piece.”
“It’s an eat or be eaten world,” puts in Bernard.
“We’ve lost a few pieces already,” adds Zai.
“Very well, I will leave you to your business,” says Lucius, and ushers himself out.
Armed with the freedom of the city, Anna Mae heads to the Guild archives to research Kirai. Zai summons a water gamin and sends it to scout the sewers. Bernard and Bal head out gambling to gather rumors, and Providence visits the Guild HQ and does her best to network.
The group gathers after a day of searching to compare notes. Providence determined that Kirai may have a connection to the Resurrectionists. Bal and Bernard found out that Kirai was connected to the Qi and Gong, a tavern and house of ill repute. Anna Mae found reference to a criminal file naming Kirai, but was unable to access it. Zai’s gamin overheard something about Kirai and a man called Nicodem from people in the sewers.
With this new information, Zai assumes a nondescript face and tries to sign on with the Resurrectionists. Bal and Bernard conduct a mini-heist to steal the criminal file on Kirai. Providence hits the streets to gossip with whoever she can find, and Anna Mae reviews the stolen files and discovers that Kirai was involved in a murder. She was attacked by an unidentified assailant, but a gentleman named Kirakawa Hoshi pushed her out of the way of the bullet and was killed instead.
Bal and Bernard head to the Qi and Gong to drink and investigate, while Zai continues her infiltration. She discovers that Nicodem lairs somewhere in the Northern Quarantine Zone, and that he has been making a habit of visiting someone in a tower there. Anna Mae returns to the Guild archives with new information to focus her research. There she learns that Kirakawa Hoshi is a pseudonym. His true name is Tokugawa Hoshinobu, third son of the shogun. Bal and Bernard also learn that Kirai once worked at the Qi and Gong.
Bal and Bernard continue their carouse, and discover that the murderer was likely after Kirai but Hoshi/Hoshinobu intervened. Zai’s infiltration pays off and she traces Nicodem’s visits to a specific tower in the Quarantine Zone, and rumors that there is a woman living there. The heroes head for the tower, and Zai summons a wind gamin to investigate. The gamin sees an attractive but haggard woman sitting on a bed in the tower, quietly sobbing.
Anna Mae heads for Guild HQ, and works her magic by invoking Lucius’s name to obtain a team of Death Marshals as backup in case Nicodem or his minions show up while the heroes are entering the tower. A squad of four Death Marshals accompanies the heroes back into the Quarantine Zone, where they ascend the tower. At the top, the woman is still there, drinking from what appears to be a bottle of plum wine. On her left hand, she wears a ring with two glowing green points of light. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” she demands.
“Are you the one that left your job at that sweet gig on the other side of town?” blurts Bernard.
“What we want with you has nothing to do with your old job,” Anna Mae quickly adds.
“Yes, I used to work at the Qi and Gong. What’s it do you?” she slurs.
“Didn’t you leave there after someone died?” asks Bernard.
“I’m sure there are better ways to approach this somewhat delicate matter,” drawls Bal.
“You little swine,” the woman hisses at Bernard. “How dare you bring that up!”
Indignant, Bernard replies “Why? It happened, it’s the truth. Are you trying to hide from it here?”
“We also aren’t implying that it was your fault,” Anna Mae puts in.
“And I know it’s confusing, but he’s a Gremlin, not a pig,” adds Zai.
“Those are fightin’ words, sir ma’am,” snorts Bernard.
“I’ve never seen much of a distinction myself,” sneers the woman.
“Those are ALSO fightin’ words,” Bernard says.
“If you don’t have anything useful to say, I would ask you to leave me be,” the woman says.
“We may have gotten off on the wrong foot,” says Zai. “Honestly, we’re generally a nice group of people, and we think you might be in danger and want to help.”
“Yeah, we came because we didn’t want you to get fed to a machine,” adds Bernard.
“Fed to a machine?” says the woman, baffled. “What are you talking about?”
“I mean, I assume that’s what they want to do with you. What else do you do with people and machines?” Bernard seems confused.
“I don’t know anything about any machines,” says the woman.
“How comfortable would you be having this conversation somewhere else?” asks Zai.
“Not comfortable at all!” The woman clenches her left fist, and the two spots of green light on her left fist begin to glow brighter.
Anna Mae raises her hands in an attempt to soothe the woman. “Are you by chance here because you choose to be, or is there any other reason?”
“I have nowhere better to go,” the woman says, lowering her fist.
“Ah. What would be better, then?” asks Zai.
“Some days, I believe, the grave.”
“No, see, that’s a temporary solution,” says Zai.
“There, I could see my beloved again.”
“Knew it,” says Bernard.
“Alright, I begin to see what’s happening here. I get the feeling that you are here, perhaps, to accomplish a not entirely legal goal,” suggests Anna Mae.
Anger flares in the woman’s face and she raises her left fist again, the ring’s eyes glowing. “What, you mean this?” A spectral form erupts from the ring and circles the room, leaving a chill in its wake, then dissipates. “I have no concerns for the laws of the Guild. They did not protect me or my beloved from the depredations of his father.”
“Well, how convenient for us,” says Bal. “We aren’t on the best terms together neither.”
“Look, they don’t really protect anyone that doesn’t make them money, so I don’t know what you expected,” puts in Bernard.
“Look,” says Anna Mae, “this thing you are doing, whether you intend it to or not, may be playing into the hands of a powerful magical being known as the Tyrant Plague who is plotting to destroy Malifaux.”
“I don’t know anything about Plague. The spirits often come whether I will them or not. My teacher is helping me to learn to control them. Ever since my beloved gave me this ring, they began to come to me, and much more so now that he has passed.”
“I feel like I must enquire about your teacher,” says Bal.
“I will not betray him,” answers the woman. “He is of aid to me. I must learn to control this power, especially if it connects to some catastrophe.
“Catastrophe is an understatement,” replies Bal. “I believe we are looking at a full-blown calamity.”
Anna Mae adds, “I don’t necessarily disagree that you should figure out how to control what is happening to you, but I feel that this person may be taking advantage.”
“At least you are here to learn to control uncontrollable power. I thought you were going to try to bring your friend back,” says Bernard.
“If only I could, but I have no interest in returning my beloved as an undead monstrosity.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen when that happens and… it’s not the best,” says Bernard.
“No. He merely haunts me, in incorporeal form. Perhaps if I can master my powers, I can at least speak to him from time to time.”
“You said he gave you that ring?” asks Anna Mae.
“Indeed, when he asked me to marry him,” says the woman, who the group is now certain is Kirai. “He said it had been in his family for many, many years, hundreds or perhaps even thousands.” As she holds up the ring, the heroes see that it is formed in the shape of a serpent with emerald eyes – and the workmanship suggests it was forged in Malifaux.
As the others look at the ring, Bernard reaches for the abandoned bottle of plum wine. Kirai notices the movement. “What are you doing?” she asks, exasperated. “Fine, drink. It’s not doing me any good anyway.”
Bernard tips back the bottle and gulps a few swallows. As he does, Kirai sends a spirit into Bernard’s face. Unperturbed, he drinks again.
“Very well. I will continue my studies and be on the lookout for this ‘Plague’. But for now, I ask you to leave me.”
“Before we go, have you seen any unusually large rats?” asks Anna Mae.
“There are always rats here, they come and go, but none larger than normal.”
“If you see large rats or living zombies, you might want to let us know,” says Anna Mae.
“If I have news of this Plague creature, where can I send word?” asks Kirai. Zai hands over a calling card, and the heroes head for the sewers, to see if they can find a way into the Necropolis.
While Anna Mae researches city maps at the Guild Archives, Zai sends her gamin to search the sewers and Bal and Bernard inspect the tunnels for engineering anomalies that might conceal entrances. Providence stealthily follows Resurrectionist minions in the sewers looking for areas they congregate. After a few hours of searching, the heroes find an entrance – protected by a crowd of undead zombies. Bal whips out his shotgun and takes down two zombies immediately. Providence pulls her revolver and drops another zombie with a headshot.
The zombies close the range, biting and clawing at Bernard and Bal but to no effect. Zai charges with her mannequin at her side; the mannequin stabs a zombie but does no harm, while Zai attempts to summon a gamin. Bernard punches one of the zombies, knocking him off balance. Providence shoots the off-balance zombie, killing it (again). As the mannequin continues to flail at the zombies, Zai summons a fire gamin on the opposite side of the zombie pack. Anna Mae blasts a zombie with her shotgun, vaporizing it, and Bal crushes one’s head with his shotgun butt. Bernard slips on the dungeon floor and falls down, rolling crazily to avoid the clutches of the remaining zombies. Anna Mae rushes in and pulls him to his feet, only to be attacked by a zombie herself.
Bernard punches the head clean off one of the remaining zombies, and the gamin blasts one of them but doesn’t hurt it. Bal shoots it while it is distracted, putting it down. A zombie scratches Bernard’s rocket pack, and Anna Mae blasts it back with her shotgun. Bernard punches the last zombie, putting it down, and the heroes proceed into the Necropolis…
Image property of Wyrd Games.
This week on the Happy MonsterCast, the heroes encounter a tiny robot with some very large enemies!
The heroes have survived their encounter with Rasputina, Avatar of the Tyrant December, but not without a change; Providence is now a member of the December Cult. Rasputina informed them that a woman named Kirai is key to Plague’s effort to ascend to godhood, and directed the heroes to seek her out in Malifaux City. The heroes decided to retrace their path to Hollow Point Pumping Station to confer with their new patron, Victor Ramos, but were intercepted enroute by Sonia Criid and her Guild Witch Hunters, and also by Neverborn Nephilim possibly seeking out Zai.
The heroes immediately saw that the two hostile forces would likely keep each other busy, and made a run for it into the badlands. Each commander, however, dispatches a small force to pursue them – a team of Witchling Stalkers led by a Handler for the Guild, and, from the Neverborn, a group of Terror Tots, hideous demonic imps, led by a larger winged demonic Nephilim.
Seeing the pursuit, Bernard fires up his rocket pack. “Come with me if you want to live,” he yells as he flies into the air, seizing Anna Mae by one arm and hauling her into the air as she screams in surprise. Providence uses her new abilities to cast an ice pillar in the path of both Neverborn and Guild, which results in a small melee between Witchlings and Terror Tots. The result is a chain reaction explosion with splashes of Nephilim black blood corroding Witchlings, who then burst into flame.
Zai summons a poison gamin atop the pillar, ordering it to blast poison into the ice in the hopes of shattering it as a weapon. Bal attempts to shatter it with his rifle, but the pillar only cracks, and his pause to take a careful shot puts him at the back of the chase. The Nephilim soars over the pillar, but the poison gamin manages to leap into the air onto its back. Meanwhile, Anna Mae fires wildly, but only manages to graze the Nephilim.
Bal fires at the pillar again but his trusty rifle Tawny jams. The poison gamin claws ineffectually at the Nephilim, who hurls it to the ground just as Zai summons a metal gamin. Distracted by the new gamin, the Nephilim slows for a moment, and the Witchling Handler shoots it out of the sky with her crossbow. She proceeds to finish off the remaining Terror Tots and then fire at Bal, injuring him badly. When the rest of the heroes turn back to fight her, however, she takes the hint and runs for it.
With their original plan to return to Hollow Point compromised, the heroes decide to set out overland for Ridley. Much of their journey is uneventful until they reach a point about a day from the town. They hear loud crashing through the brush. “That doesn’t sound like pig,” remarks Bernard. “You might want to ready your weapons.” Providence and Anna Mae take cover behind rocks on either side of the path, while Bal takes a sniper’s perch in a tree. Zai stands on top of Anna Mae’s rock, and Bernard stays put, squarely in the path of whatever is approaching.
Through the brush, two enormous wooden puppets appear, flanked by eight smaller marionettes. Bernard rolls up his sleeve on his punching hand and steps forward. “All right, step forward one at a time. None of you have anything good anyway, so I’m not really expecting much, but you could at least put up a bit of a fight before I beat you.” One of the puppets seems taken aback by the taunt, but both charge. Providence shoots one as it approaches, but the other wraps its arms around Bernard and attempts to crush him. The one Providence hit shrugs off the attack and punches Bernard.
From his sniper perch, Bal fires the repaired Tawny and shatters the head of one of the smaller puppets. The survivors immediately charge forward, claws outstretched. While Anna Mae cowers in shock and hides behind her rock, Zai gestures broadly and a fire gamin appears behind the smaller puppets; the gamin promptly claws at one puppet ineffectually and blasts another to pieces with fire. Zai summons a second fire gamin as well as an illusory gamin to distract the puppets. Providence pops up and blasts the damaged large puppet (which looks like a noble lady) with her shotgun, then drops back into cover, and Bal coolly picks off another of the smaller puppets from the tree.
Emboldened by her friends’ successes, Anna Mae closes on the large puppet dressed as a king that is holding Bernard. She takes careful aim and fires her shotgun – and it explodes in her hands, scorching and stunning her! Taking advantage of the distraction, Bernard breaks free of the king puppet. Ignoring the fire gamin, the small puppets continue to close in. Two of them begin to pummel Bernard, injuring him, one attacks Anna Mae, and two attack Zai. The lady puppet also punches Bernard, lifting him into the air by the belly and slamming him into the ground face down, unconscious and bleeding. The king puppet then leaps over the prone Bernard and punches Zai, knocking her momentarily off balance.
The smaller puppets swarm around the heroes. One leaps atop Providence’s rock and claws at her, two strike out at Anna Mae, one clawing across her back, and two strike at Zai, one sinking claws deep into her shoulder. Anna Mae reaches down and tries to unstraps Bernard’s rocket pack, intending to send it flying into the lady puppet, but she cannot puzzle out Bernard’s bizarre Gremlin control system. Providence smashes the puppet off her rock with a frying pan – its severed head flies off yelling “That’s the way to do it!” She then fires her rifle, which jams.
Bal, seeing Anna Mae in distress, tosses her his shotgun. Anna Mae catches it out of the air and blasts one of the attacking puppets into splinters. Bal then fires his rifle and the lady puppet collapses into pieces. Zai calls one of her fire gamin to her and detonates it, igniting two of the small puppets, then summons a whiskey gamin atop the king puppet. Anna Mae snatches up the sharp barrel of her broken gun and stabs a small puppet, sending it spinning to the ground. Bal leaps from the tree and runs over to patch up Bernard. “Gonna be OK, boss,” he mutters. The last surviving small puppet runs towards Zai but her other fire gamin claws it to pieces. Zai summons a new fire gamin on top of the king puppet as she runs for it, then detonates both it and the whiskey gamin. With a blue fireball, the last puppet falls.
The wounded party limp their way into Ridley, where they follow a trail of blue graffiti to locate an Arcanist safe house. There they find their old companion Cesar, a.k.a. Vito Sessa, juggling a small ball of fire. “Hey, how’s it goin’?” he asks.
“Oh, is that why you were there? Oh, is that where you were? Where we might be?” asks Providence, both excited and incoherent.
“Yeah, turns out I can do magic. Who knew?” answers Cesar.
“I knew I felt good about letting you go,” says Bal.
“So, you guys are Arcanists now? That’s pretty cool.”
“Yeah,” answers Bal, “We kinda ran short on options, but we’re glad to help out!”
“Somebody sure messed up your Gremlin there.”
“I’m in the works for a rematch,” says Bernard. “Until then the show’s suspended.”
“I’m not an arcanist. I’m a Child of December,” says Providence.
Unnerved, Cesar replies, “Yeah, well, I guess I’m gonna say keep your dietary habits to yourself, and we’re all good here. I hear from the boss that you’re all on some kind of mission. What do you need?”
“We need to get to Malifaux City,” says Bal.
“OK, I think we can hook you up. You all mind being packed in crates? We can ship you into the city that way and deliver you right to the Star Theater. You know Colette’s one of us, right?”
“I did hear about her inclinations,” answers Bal.
The smuggling plan is successful and the heroes arrive in crates at the Star. Colette is waiting as their crates are opened. “Fancy meeting you again,” she drawls.
Zai answers, “This is not how I intended to make my triumphant return to the stage.”
Between Bernard and Providence, the heroes quickly fill Colette in on all the details of their adventures.
“Well,” says Colette when they finally wind down, “I understand from dear Victor that you are now amongst the inner circle, as it were.”
“I’m not with Victor, but I am with Rasputina,” puts in Providence.
Colette gives a delicate shudder. “I’ve never met her, but I understand she is rather… creepy.”
“I didn’t see it,” Providence shrugs.
Bal adds, “I’m not going to say we joined because we were short on options, but we were short on options, and here we are.”
“Well, I know you are capable folk, so I’m just as happy to have you on the proper side.”
“Ya know, considering our track record, it’s almost like we were members all along, am I right?”
“Well, I can’t say that blowing up that grimoire was the best thing you’ve ever done. Nevertheless, I understand you have a mission to find this Kirai Ankoku. I’ll put the word out on the streets and see if we can find here. In the meantime, we can hide you in the theater. The Guild is certainly still interested in arresting you, and I’m afraid you’ll need to be subtle about moving through the city. Best get used to the sewers.”
Later, Bal takes Colette aside and asks her about Nytemare. “I’m not aware of a cult of Nytemare,” she says. “But there have been strange manifestations in and around the city that I believe might be related. There are also legends that say that Nytemare is the master of puppets.”
“We been attacked by puppets a couple times.”
“I have heard that Nytemare is trapped between the worlds and can only influence them indirectly, through his avatar, a small boy who seems to be dreaming his way into Malifaux, and manifesting horrifying nightmare creatures. I fought him recently, and lost one of my showgirls before I could escape. It was quite distressing.”
The heroes settle back into the Star and await news of Kirai, wondering if they can find her before Plague does.
Image property of Wyrd Games.
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