Friday, September 21, 2012

Deadlands, Part XXIII



When last we left our heroes, they met the Gentleman (again), found the ritual to stop the Doomsday Clock, found the Angel of Death (aka Ruby's brother John Michael Patrick), shot Bashiel in the face, and murdered a small army of devil-babies.

This guy + Confederate uniform = John Michael Patrick

As Father Seward just attempted (and failed) to heal David Hood's wounds and developed a few of his own, Jake casts a hex to heal Father Seward's wounds and Seward prays over Hood again.  This time, all is successful, and everyone is uninjured.

As John Michael Patrick seems the best specimen to use as the ritual's sacrifice, they decide to wait for him to return, presumably around the dawn.  The prospect of just sitting around is dispelled however, as Jake hears a slow, clapping sound from upstairs.  No one else hears it.  He follows the sound, and Father Seward follows him, to the upstairs bathroom, where Jake sees his old mentor Cobb in the mirror, just clapping.  Jake speaks to him, and the image does not alter, so Jake smashes the mirror.  The sound and image stop, and everyone returns downstairs.

With the excitement passed, watches are set for three-hour shifts so everyone gets six hours of sleep; David and Jeb take first watch, Father Seward and Jake take second watch, Ruby and Rufina take third watch.

During the beginning of Jake and Seward's shift, they notice that Rufina is sweating and appears to look somewhat ill.  She is found to have an intense fever — as the next symbol on the clock depicted a wasting woman, it seems that the third hour is upon them.  Since Father Seward and Jake have limited medical knowledge, they debate asking David.  Finally, Rufina awakens, and rest of the party awakens with the commotion.  Rufina expresses an immediate need to go to the bathroom, so Father Seward escorts her upstairs and brings the bedpan out in the hall because of the broken glass in the bathroom.

The diarrhea is horrific.  Strangely, however, it's actually watery; as with the fever sweat, it does not turn to blood.  Father Seward returns downstairs to inform the others, and after some contemplation, David Hood recognizes the description of the "blue death" — cholera (evidently, the epidemic in the quarantined Irish quarter has broken out).  Since there is no potable water, the group decides to feed Rufina fruit.  Father Seward returns upstairs with an apple, which Rufina reluctantly eats as she has no appetite.  She does mention that she should probably boil and drink her water, which seems like a fine idea to try.

Artist's rendering of cholera.

Soon, cholera is upon the whole group, and each person heads to a different portion of the house to struggle through it.  Each person maintains a fruit-eating regimen.  At some point, somebody tries to boil the fluid, but it turns to blood as it heats.

As dawn comes, John Michael Patrick returns.  Between outbursts, Ruby decides to speak to him, and the two of them go off into a room alone.  Quietly, the rest of the group assembles around the door as the conversation between Ruby and her brother becomes more animated.

John still maintains that his soul is beyond saving, and that he has done too many bad things for him to be saved.  For one, he betrayed the group to Bashiel; he serves Bashiel, and that is how the demon knew where they were.  He also says they are too late, for Bashiel is moving the Doomsday Clock.  Ruby, however, argues that there is still good in him, and that there is a way to be redeemed.

Father Seward knocks on the door and interrupts.  John steps outside and closes the door behind him.  Seward indicates that nobody is beyond redemption, and that he wishes to give him the chance.  John agrees, and the two step aside so Seward can take his confession.  Finally, Father Seward makes certain that he fully understands what this will mean — namely, his death — and John still agrees.

Determining that they probably have some time before anybody is wracked with diarrhea, the group decides to leave immediately.  Father Seward takes a minute to bless two bullets for use against Bashiel before they go.

The group arrives at the docks to find a frenzy of activity.  Several people are busy; it appears that they finished loading bladders into the Peerless and are using the crane to place the Doomsday Clock onto the riverboat, presumably to take it out to sea beyond the reach of mortal agents.  Several robed figures — Dustmen, by their look — appear to be among the workers, and a few swarms of babies seem to be wandering around.

The group splits; Jeb goes looking for the riverboat captain in nearby taverns, while David and Jake go looking for a general store.  Father Seward, Ruby, and Rufina head towards the docks with John, attempting to do so stealthily.  No luck.  Bashiel looks down from his rooftop perch.  He does nothing, but the babies detach and start going down side alleys.

David and Jake find a general store, and Jake finds what he was seeking — dynamite.

Pretty soon, the demon babies are upon us.  With the general malaise from cholera, the group is all rather tired.  In the Ruby, Rufina, Seward group, only Rufina is holding her own; Ruby is a fine shot, although not the best, and Father Seward is not reacting as quickly as usual.

Jake takes his dynamite and tells David to hold the babies off.  He bolts.

Things start to run together in the chaos of combat, but the following things happen in the span of roughly half a minute:

  • Rufina starts cleaving through babies with her magic sword.  As she does so, the blade sets off this high-pitched keening.  The Dustmen catch fire when the sound reaches them.
  • Jeb and David meet up.  With plenty of fuel about, they torch a building, killing all the devil-babies inside.  Both are forced to stop, drop, and roll as their pants are on fire.
  • Jake runs for the throng of workers.  His goal is to blow them up to clear a path to the riverboat.  His plan is to light and throw the dynamite when he's close enough.  As he's running, the Dustmen start throwing fireballs at him.  Most miss.  One hits.  All six sticks detonate, leaving a smoking crater and an impressive dust cloud.
  • After being stabbed several times by demon-babies, Father Seward isn't feeling very well.  Just then, he feels arms lift him underneath his armpits.  Seward manages to grab the silver bowl as he leaves the ground.  John Michael Patrick hoists him into the air, takes him to the riverboat (managing to dodge the Dustmen fireballs during the process), and deposits him near the Doomsday Clock.  They determine that his guns cannot kill John.  Father Seward takes shelter in the belly of the ship and starts blessing his gun.
  • A Dustman fireball hits the boat.  The blaze starts.
  • John is fast.  He manages to fly from the boat, to Rufina to get the sword, and back to the boat in about ten seconds or so.
  • David has rejoined the others.  Ruby prays.
  • During this time, Jeb has been looking for a sniper position.  He finds a place atop a roof, takes aim at a Dustman, squeezes the trigger, and...
  • Rufina charges down the street to go hand-to-hand with the Dustmen.  As she reaches them, one gets shot in the torso and falls.  She charges another one and tackles him into the water as the remaining two Dustmen pelt her in the back with fireballs and she goes under.
  • Father Seward completes the ritual — he forgives and slays John, starts chanting, gathers his blood in the silver bowl, and pours the blood on the Doomsday Clock.
  • The fire consumes the boat.
As the blood touches the Doomsday Clock, the sky opens.  A deluge pours from the heavens, washing all the corruption away.

****************************************

At current tally, Father Seward, Jake, and Rufina are all dead.  Small price to pay to save the world, though.

There are some other thoughts about this game on the internet: Arashi (who plays Jake) at The Felling Blade and Nicole (who plays Ruby) at A Really Well-Made Buttonhole both discussed their thoughts on this session.

Also, I was really excited when cholera showed up.  Although this is hardly surprising, as I've previously discussed my love of microbiology.  Cholera in particular is pretty neat; it was the plague of the Victorian era, also known as the infamous "blue death" (because the extreme dehydration turns you blue-grey, don't you know?), and John Snow's work with cholera in London was instrumental in developing modern epidemiology (and he did it before the modern germ theory of disease!).

As for my next character, I've told Nicole about a couple of concepts, but nothing has gelled.  If the Random Number God is with me, I have a gravedigger in mind.  (Why do stats matter for unskilled labor?  Wouldn't you like to know?)  If my character creation card draws are lower, I'm contemplating a con man.

And I'll leave you with what I determined to be Seward's theme song, "The Pantheon" from the Bastion soundtrack:

4 comments:

  1. Ugh, the Dante's Inferno video with the demon babies... That was gut-wrenching. In other words, mission accomplished!

    I still feel very pleased that Ruby's prayer helped Jeb's shot hit home. I really didn't expect anything to come of it, although I shouldn't have been surprised.

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  2. Technically, I played Jake. Harrowed status generally DOES require most of the body, particularly the brain, intact.

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    1. One always writes about literature in present tense, because stories are ongoing.

      At least, that's probably why I wrote in present tense.

      Also, I'm banking on the fact that Jake will return in several session as Jake the White.

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  3. Nicole promised me an epic death for Father Seward over at her blog and she was right. I'm sorry he's gone, I really liked that character. This really is like the season finale of a favourite TV show.
    I'm looking forward to what you all come up with in the future.

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