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CtL: Water Under the Bridge (2e Playtest AP)

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  • #16
    And here we have a little peek at one of the many Weird Things About Chicago:

    Freehold Fun Facts #2: The City Gray

    The City White hath fled the earth,
    But where the azure waters lie,
    A nobler city hath its birth,
    The City Gray that ne'er shall die.
    — University of Chicago Alma Mater

    Deep within the fae borderlands of Chicago, through miles of dream-twisted overgrowth, the broken roots of the city's history scrabble across the surface of the psychoactive landscape.

    It could be that the scorched fragments of nineteenth-century Chicago that litter the Underwood have been there since before the city first burned down. Stranger things have happened, after all, and the Wyrd is hardly averse to prophetic displays.

    As it stands, the Hollows and Hedge-towns strewn haphazardly throughout the territories of the freehold have only been a known phenomenon since its founding. Few of these fae estates are uninhabited, and fewer still house things less threatening than a clutch of territorial Hedge-beasts.

    Traditionally, freeholders lacking better Earthly prospects look to the practice of finding and claiming a piece of the ruins as a ready excuse to disappear for a few weeks. The Wind Court’s adversarial relation to the Hedge means the practice readily serves to gain renown among the Thorns, and a substantial bloc of the Fire Court has devoted their time to binding the properties into a secure nexus of transportation and communication.

    For those seeking to lose pursuers of a careful or halfhearted nature, the Hedge around the ashen buildings is substantially treacherous. Heat waves and cyclones and torrential rains plague most paths between the disparate portions of the City Gray, and the creatures that nest in such Hollows either have the means to flee through these elements or defend their homes to the last breath.
    Last edited by Satchel; 09-11-2016, 12:56 AM.


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    • #17
      [Previous Chapter (2)]

      Chapter 3: A Lot to Learn


      We opened on last session's cliffhanger. Johan, sensing that he didn't have much choice in the matter and remembering that he was under oath to help Danica out for the night, signed on with the motley.

      Some token attempts at getting the group to sort out first orders of business, pecking orders, etc, were made before Miss Warning advised them to enjoy the rest of the annual Fair while they have the opportunity and incidentally check out the wares on her lantern cart.

      Fairy lights can ostensibly do a lot of things, but the first demonstration was the Will-o'-Way, which was a little ball of cold green fire in a silver box that drifts directly toward the nearest Hedge gate.

      Milton abstained because Vector had another purchase on his mind.

      Sparvayne followed Milton.

      Johan was a stingy bastard and wanted to window-shop and check his budget before he committed.

      Dani had been trying to leave for a bit to check out other stuff in the first place.

      And I learned a valuable lesson about opening a game in a mercantile venue.

      We returned to the violet-mannequin's mat, where a grisly-looking blender and a threadbare bellhop's uniform caught the eye most out of all the other assorted junk left for sale. Milton's near-featureless mask seemed to prompt the shopkeeper to beckon him over, whereupon Spar demanded to know about a random item and got a demonstration of the Screaming Blender as a commentary on how much of the goods was pretty much exactly as it seemed.

      Milton used Inanimate Communion on the bellhop uniform and determined two things. Firstly, it was a Shiftingthread Shirt, which was basically a multitool if all the tools you could ever need were mundane worker's uniforms. Secondly, it had last been used in a dark and slightly-flooded tunnel by a man with wriggling worms for skin.

      Milton asked how much for the spooky magic jacket and got himself a quest prompt.

      The vendor took one of the violets from its head and asked wordlessly that it be placed at certain point in Chicago, chiefly the Pillar of Fire sculpture in front of the Fire Academy. Milton's secondhand Market Sense told him it was a fair shake.

      After a comical misunderstanding which shall not be described here, the Clerk voluntarily got his pledge to complete the task Sealed and the three children he's oathbound to help tried their damnedest to stop snickering at him.

      Spar expressed a desire to find some goblin fruits, which Dani knew to be pretty easy to come by in a market setting, and the motley started heading in a direction following her lead, beginning the trip with a minor social faux pas.

      Then everything got uncomfortable.

      Dani explained the Fairest's error to him and it turned out Spar did not understand what a spouse was. In a fashion that lead directly into a headlock.

      After Dani stomped off, it was left to the gentlemen from the Wind Court to give technically-complementary answers and follow-up questions.

      Spar put on a brave face before confiding his stark and utter terror to Milton and prompting another round of technically-complementary explanations of the notions of marriage.

      The bachelors Johnson and Holt were nearly spared the agonies of having to explain love to an innocent houseplant by Danica's call to hurry along from up ahead when old-hand Johan had it impressed upon him just how fresh half the motley was just in time for the Ogre to hear about Spar's situation and feel bad.

      While this was going on, Spar fought off the mental breakdown prompted by unwittingly quoting Haddaway lyrics and picked up Acuity for the next week (It was Milton's fault).

      Johan got an abbreviated timetable of how long everyone had been back (about a month for Dani and Spar, a little over a year for Milton) and the motley's walking got them to one of the centerpieces of the Fool's Fair.

      One awkward silence later, they came across that perennial favorite Fair game, Chicago Roulette.

      (There wasn’t a lot to say about the game; it was gambling with goblin market stakes on a giant roulette wheel.)

      The time topside was announced to be half past eleven by a barker in a blue parka. Spar checked his understanding of the concept of roulette while Milton checked out his new duds.

      Old Johnny Boomstick figured he’d see if the winds of chance would care to change for him after the night’s preceding shenanigans. Danica advised him not to blow the entirety of the Fair “cash” they’d gotten from Ragpenny, since she had her eye on some stuff, and he agreed to limit his bets to the disposable assets of the bunch.

      Danica checked the stars to discern whether using magic to affect the outcome of the spin was against the rules (it wasn’t, and most participants knew that). Milton more thoroughly checked out his new duds were as stylish as he’d hoped (they were, if croupier’s outfits counted).

      And then a harebrained scheme was concocted.

      The plan was that Milton and Sparvayne would create a distraction, Danica and Johan would essentially throw their relevant Contracts at the wheel, and there was very definitely no short-term kidnapping involved at any step in this process (they all agreed).

      To save the dear reader some suspense, the conclusion of that huddle was immediately followed by a jump-cut to two hours later (We will ideally never learn the full extent of the shenanigans that transpired).

      Whatever it was, it earned everyone in the motley a two-dot chunk of Cash equipment and a quiet suggestion from MacDougall to figure out what they were going to do with themselves going forward.

      Leery Thorn-Piper tried and failed to get Milton to explain what happened behind the jump-cut while some of the rowdier Fire Courtiers set about dismantling the remains of the Fair around them.
      Last edited by Satchel; 10-09-2016, 07:23 PM.


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      • #18
        And thus ends The Events of April 1st in the game. The events of the following Sunday are something of a doozy, comprising four chapters altogether and leaning on elements introduced in the preludes, so what follows is a pre-arranged list for a bit.

        We're moving from Chapter 3 to Johan's Prelude and Milton's Prelude, leading into The Events of April 2nd (Chapters 4 and 5), followed by Danica's Prelude and Sparvayne's Prelude, which should help set up The Events of April 3rd (Chapters 6 through 9).

        Meanwhile, the next vote is for what to cover between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7: Do you want more details on The Marketing Firm of Razor and Newcomb or The Lamplighter's Association?


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        • #19
          The Lamplighters

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          • #20
            Lamplighters, please

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            • #21
              The Lamplighter's Association it is, then. The next vote will be after the conclusion of The Events of April 2nd and will be over what element of the Wind Court to cover between Chapter 7 and Chapter 8.

              Due to the wide variance in temporal origins among the motley, the preludes aren't exactly uniform in the story beats they hit. That being said, each of them covers about three scenes, including at least one in Arcadia and one on Earth post-escape.

              Prelude 01: The Maker of Fearful Noise (A Brief History of Mister Jonathan Holt)

              In headaches and in worry / Vaguely life leaks away, / And Time will have his fancy / To-morrow or to-day.

              Johan’s story opens on the initial meeting with his Keepers in the Grand Estate — a Huntsman of eldritch flame pulled him here in the chaos of a room explosion and he feels a little concussed. The Lady of Dread and Fire argues with the voice that emanates from the Annex of Echoing Clockwork, then hands the watchmaker’s son over with visible frustration.

              Johan asks the Annex what’s going on and it gives him the basics of the job description — he’s here to keep the contents of the Timekeeping Wing working, which should be substantially less onerous than what the Lady of the Estate would’ve had him doing — along with a warning to stay out of the Fae noble’s way when She stops by.

              Johan gets his bearings enough to essentially piece together that he’s in a place that is not strictly real, then asks why a teenaged apprentice is preferable to his father or his grandfather. He gets the twofold answer of “it has to be you and there wouldn’t be time to get anyone else anyway,” and then a clock right next to him starts to break down.

              Johan expresses concern that he’ll be missed back home. The Annex simply tells him that “arrangements have been made” and sets him to work.

              Time passes. An escape attempt almost succeeds.

              Johan is among the group of recaptured servants of the Estate that stand before the Lady of Dread and Fire. The gathering is soon broken up as Her hunters take his fellows off to be more thoroughly broken; one of the captives exchanges a look with him as the Keeper Herself takes Johan, aiming to rub the reclamation in her cohabiting enemy’s lack-of-a-face.

              The threshold of the Annex suddenly becomes very far away and the Lady engages in questioning to pass the time. Johan, who needs to buy all the time that he can, indulges her:

              “What possessed you to run away?”

              “I am a maker, Lady, not a repairman.”

              “Oh? Do you mean to acknowledge your proper place as a maker of fearful noise?”

              At this point, the Lady abandons the prospect of gloating to Her Peer and hauls the Wizened into a cramped space the size of a boiler room, wrought in lead and eldritch flame — a torture chamber, essentially.

              A fire roars beneath a metal bed with a drainage channel, and a pile of decidedly unfriendly-looking tools lies next to the slab, mixed in with a lot of more familiar implements. The Lady summons a pair of Her servants, who set about preparing the space as Johan plays the timeslayer for a little longer, counting the seconds from the hot seat.

              Johan suggests there are more appropriate people for the task of fearmongering and tries to appeal his utility as a clockmaker. This is a mistake.

              The Lady of the Estate had the grandson of a Great Fire survivor brought to Her because she had need of a new blunderbuss. She asks Johan if he’s ever frightened anyone before; he says he hasn’t and wouldn’t be any good at it. This gets a dead laugh and a remark on self-knowledge among the fae out of the servant stoking the flames, who promptly loses an ear.

              The Lady says that a premonition such as the one she had of her fearsome noisemaker’s resonance with terror does much to persuade her that Johan is mistaken, and he realizes that the other servant who his Keeper dismissed left the room with most of the tools they were carrying.

              The temperature is rising. The instruments that form Johan’s Maker’s mien are starting to melt as he makes another appeal for his input on the resulting aesthetics, for which the Lady laughs in his face, and then the other servant loses an eye for pointing out the missing tools to his Keeper before being sent off to get their fellow hunter.

              The Annex of Echoing Clockwork laughs, and the Lady of Dread and Fire sets about the ruination of Its handiwork by carving runes of molten metal into Her Estate’s former logistics technician. Johan recalls a fragment of information about the Others’ abilities of deconstruction and hopes that this process is not lethally disastrous.

              Cut to black. The backup plan goes off with few enough hitches for the newly-branded Ifrit to get out.

              Time passes. A lot of time passes — Johan reemerges in Chicago circa 2011 and is drafted into the Court of Fire for a time, gaining ample experience in breaking both locks and legs before he reacquires his grandfather’s shop, has a chance encounter with Caulfield the one-time Crown Princess, and jumps ship to the Iron Bell amid a general mess of unmet expectations.

              Johan does desk work during the idle hours of early dinnertime when the entry bell rings. Floodlight Jack and Yawn the lizard-man walk in, the former having paid substantially more attention to the look of the thing as far as not being there for a shakedown.

              Yawn says he’s got a job for Johan, bulls through his lack of scheduled appointment, and makes a not-so-veiled request for the Maker to mess with the lighting at a local pub.

              Jack follows this up, though with little enthusiasm, by name-dropping Terri as the next person they’d ask for this — the implication being that Johan can either go along with the demand or throw his mentor under the bus if he doesn’t feel like trying his luck in a quick-draw against a clearly armed Coldscale.

              To Jack’s exasperation, Johan tries to refuse through the medium of the pretense — he’s a watchmaker, not an electrician, side-job fixing phones notwithstanding — and Yawn asks an uncharacteristic and likely-rehearsed mythology question:

              “Do you know what an ouroboros is?”

              Johan knows what an ouroboros is.

              “And, remind me: You’re Wind Court, right? Pride-eaters and all?”

              Johan quietly resolves to cut out the vectors through which he keeps getting tagged to assist with shady jobs by former Courtmates, then agrees, reluctantly, to head right over to the pub.

              Yawn seems genuinely happy at this state of affairs and offers to buy Johan a drink (after the job is done, once Jack reminds him that messing with electricity while drunk is inadvisable), and the three of them leave the shop.

              Jack promises not to tell Caulfield about her ward’s hesitance in diverting trouble from her door and advises Johan to either ask her for help in staving off repeat visits from lesser Red Courtiers or get professional aid from the local marketing firm in adjusting the image he projects within the freehold.

              Johan gets the feeling it’s going to be a long night.


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