Monday, October 31, 2011

Deadlands, Part V

When last we left our heroes, they managed to chase off some Rattlers, helped the St. Louis police force determine where the missing townsfolk went (they were acting as food and incubators for the Rattlers), and started on a train to Denver.  It was indicated that the head of the railroad wished for them to come to dinner.

And so they did.

As porters took everyone's bags, they started into the railroad head's mansion.  Jake and Miss O'Flahertie do not see the man in the mourning coat who gave Father Seward and David Hood their cards — he is later found to be incorporeal — but the Father and Hood see him.  He admonishes Father Seward to turn back and avoid this place, just wait for the train to take him to San Francisco, like he asked.  Father Seward ignores him and heads to the house, while Hood attempts to speak with him and passes his hand through him.  Strangely, the man is left impotently yelling on the front lawn, and does not actually step onto the porch or any portion of the house.

The group enters and greeted by the railroad head (his name currently escapes me, so I'll just refer to him as the railroad head, or the host, or the master of the house).  He is wheelchair-bound and seems to favor his right hand, as his left lays on his lap.  After introductions are made, servants show the group members to their rooms.  David Hood gets what appears to be a master bedroom, but the elderly railroad man likely doesn't go upstairs anymore, so it is used as a guest room.  Ruby O'Flahertie gets a room across the hall.  Father Seward and Jake are placed together, immediately putting them on edge, because what are the odds that putting the holy man and the sorcerer together are coincidental?

When party members arrive in their respective rooms, they find their clothes laid out for them.  Their weapons are undisturbed.  Before dressing, Father Seward speaks to Jake — given the smearing of blood from the old priest on the train, and the mysterious fellow following them, Father Seward suggests that Jake "do what he has to" if the old priest starts acting too strangely.  Everyone dresses in his or her finery — Father Seward reluctantly wears the white tuxedo he obtained from the mysterious man while Jake wears his least wrinkled suit — and proceeds to dinner.

Seated by social standing, the group finds itself separated — Hood and O'Flahertie find themselves near the head of the table, while Jake and Father Seward are cast further down.  Father Seward says grace at the request of the host, and then dinner commences.  Conversation is relatively pleasant, though it varies heavily — members of the upper classes are at one side of the table, whereas their servants are at the other end.

Eventually, dinner draws to a close.  The host takes his leave to speak with a Miss Hannity, while the other dinner guests are free to speak.  Once the business between them is finished, the host returns.  The gentlemen (relatively speaking, given the character of some of the rough-and-tumble servants) retire to a parlor to drink and smoke cigars while Miss O'Flahertie and Miss Hannity retire to a sitting room for similar conversation and respite.

Tea with the two ladies is relatively uneventful, though one of the queer, slow, black serving ladies of the house mutters disparaging comments about the two upper-class women under her breath.  When Miss O'Flahertie hears this, she attempts to stare the woman into submission, but the servant's piercing stare cows Ruby instead.  Miss Hannity intervenes to return the conversation to a semblance of levity.

As for the men, the experience is significantly more pleasant.  Jake does make certain to remark to the Father that the party guests' servants are uncouth and armed, prompting Father Seward to excuse himself to use the WC in his room — and get his gun.  Even so, the evening is pleasant.  As the master of the house falls asleep, the servants prompt everyone to return to their rooms.

(The same happens with the ladies, though the servant just abruptly turns down the lights and leaves them on their own.)

At Ruby's suggestion, the group goes to David's room to discuss matters, though Miss Hannity and her man, Jeb, also join them.  Seeing that private conversation is unlikely, Father Seward excuses himself to bed.

Father Seward unfurls his bedroll at the foot of the bed, and after arranging himself, prepares for sleep.  When Jake arrives, this causes a minor argument as each insists the other takes the bed.  Finally, Jake takes the bed after telling the Father he'll be sleeping in it the following day.

The house sleeps.

Jake is awakened by a queer sound, like metal scraping against stone — similar to a knife being sharpened, but the strokes are not so long as that.  Ruby is also awakened by it, as it sounds as though it is happening outside her door.  Jake awakens Father Seward, who painfully starts to assemble himself.  Just then, whatever is out there pounds on Ruby's door and screams.  Jake runs out the door.  Father Seward starts to go for his lantern.  Hood awakens and also goes for a lantern.  Jeb is on to move to find Miss Hannity, who is also looking for a lantern.

However, once Jake arrives, it becomes apparent that no one is there.  The various parties assemble around Ruby's room, but nobody finds anything.  Father Seward tries to explain it away as a nightmare, but neither David nor Ruby take the hint.  Hearing the racket, one of the servants gets Ruby warm milk.  Jake suggests that Father Seward asks if this place is on an Indian burial ground, but the groggy priest can't think of a way to phrase the question without sounding strange, so he lets it go.

Finally, everyone disassembles.  Father Seward locks his room and Jake and Father Seward decide to take Ruby's room for the night.  The house settles back to sleep.

Note that many strange things have happened, but everything could easily be summarized in a few paragraphs.  However, I have a suspicion that even the minor events may be important, as suggested by the next event.

Father Seward awakens first.  Everything seems to be in order, although Ruby appears to have some sort of grease around her mouth (the paranoid priest actually makes note of the fact that her left hand is beneath the covers, which will be important momentarily).  He sniffs it, and marks that it smells like pork and barley.  Unsure of what to do, he takes a deep breath, says a quick prayer, and casts succor to ease her sleep.

She awakens, muttering about her mother.  She looks somewhat alarmed once she finds herself fully awake, and she withdraws her left arm from the covers to reveal — a ragged stump, with exposed bone and muscle.  The hand is gone.

Father Seward is surprised, but manages to keep a typically stoic fa├žade.  He is poised to clamp a hand over her mouth to suppress the ensuing scream, but it never comes as she vomits — coincidentally answering his question as to the whereabouts of the hand by regurgitating bits of bone, tissue, and fingernail.  She immediately starts muttering about servants eating the hand.  Jake hears this commotion and awakens with a start, brandishing the shotgun.  Father Seward admonishes him to look away as he is not quite certain what to make of everything yet.  Jake follows the instruction.  Father Seward prays to God and lays on hands, hoping to regrow the hand.  Instead, he feels a strange and terrible absence, as though God is not in this place.

He then informs Jake that the young lady appears to have eaten her own hand, prompting him to vomit.  Jake again suggests that Father Seward asks about the history of the property — possibly over breakfast, which smells as though it will soon be ready — and they briefly discuss the prospect of the hand being eaten in a dream (after all, it seems unlikely for her to have actually cooked and eaten her own hand without them noticing).

It is about this time that there is a knock at the door — David Hood, along with Miss Hannity and Jeb, have come to check on Ruby and see how she is doing.  Jake explains that she is not doing well, while Father Seward sits with her on the bed, trying to comfort her despite the fact she is relatively unresponsive.

Edit: How could I forget?  As they approach her room, Miss Hannity and David Hood feel strangely full.  It is unknown if they participated in the dream-eating psychodrama — by description, they weren't there — but it's probably pretty likely.

Further information is available here: Arashi talks a little about this session — and horror and player agency and game design — over at this post on The Felling Blade.  He plays Jake, by the way.

2 comments:

  1. While we're remembering minor events, I did have the opportunity to note in my catatonic silence, that the two wealthy types (Miss Hannity and David Hood) found that they were filled with a sense of fullness upon coming to my door in the morning, despite not having breakfasted yet. I don't think anyone else was afflicted as such?

    That freaked me out sufficiently, because... eew, they have my phantom hand stew inside them. You know, probably. Ick.

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