Friday, October 19, 2012

Deadlands, Part XXV

When last we left our heroes, the survivors (relatively speaking) reunited, attempted to engage Bashiel, received some information and supplies from the Army, and prepared to go to the town of Buena Vista, Virginia.

The next few days are a flurry of activity.  The group gets supplies from the Army and whatever stores are open in town.  David Hood settles Father Seward's debt with the silversmith.  The group also informs the newly-arrived representatives of the Catholic Church about the Doomsday Clock, and they agree to move it.  As David Hood speaks French, Father Seward speaks Spanish, and Rufina speaks Mandarin, the group copies the ritual required to stop the clock into English, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.  Copies are given to the Catholic Church and also placed within the Hood family Bible for safe-keeping.

It is also noteworthy that crows have started following Father Seward.

Finally, the funerals begin.  There are funerals for the Hood family, funerals for the lawyers at Seward & Taft, and the group has a small funeral for Jake.  As they finish speaking their remembrances of Jake, Cobb arrives.  Father Seward asks him, "Do you want to say any words, Scratch?"  Cobb shoots him an angry, chilling look before breaking into a smile and stepping upon the grave to put out his cigarillo on the headstone.  Ruby spits on him, and he shoots her a similar look.  His expression then lightens, he wipes off the spit, looks at it, and says, "Yeah, that's fair."  He then takes his leave.

This prompts a discussion with their new companion Rex, who knows nothing of Cobb.  It is explained that he is the Devil trapped in human form due to a lost wager in Georgia many years ago.  Additionally, he drove David Hood's family to madness, stole Father Seward's daughter, trained Jake in the black arts, and had a presence at Ruby's wedding (possibly because the Hellgate he used to access the world initially existed on her family's plantation plot).  This prompts Rufina to realize something, and she pulls Father Seward aside to explain a dream-vision she had.  A female shaman led four men — each representing a different animal, specifically a wolf, a bear, an eagle, and a crow — in a ritual to purify their corrupted land.  The purification required the four to ritually rape a young girl, evidently Father Seward's daughter by description.

She also indicates that she is familiar with the spirit inside Seward, and that the creature should never be allowed to meet Henrietta.  Perhaps there is a way to exorcise this entity?

No funeral is held for John Michael Patrick O'Flahertie as Ruby wants him to be remembered in Georgia.  Shortly thereafter, Father Seward quietly goes down to the pier.  He explains his purpose to a nearby clergyman (the Catholic Church has people watching the Doomsday Clock until it can be quietly moved), and then dives into the water and gets a piece of the charred riverboat where John O'Flahertie died (the thought of trying to find his remains is outweighed by the fear of accidentally stumbling into the Clock and reactivating it).

Finally, the group has settled its affairs.  The party needs to travel to Connecticut by wagon so that they may catch a train headed south to Richmond, Virginia.  From there, they should be able to travel by foot, horse, or wagon to Buena Vista.

The journey to Connecticut is rainy, and is marred by one strange occurrence.  The group becomes aware of a follower behind them, and they manage to determine that the rider (in Union uniform) is slumped over his horse.  Father Seward, gifted with far sight from his time beyond the grave, sees that the rider is probably dead and the horse is badly malnourished.  As the rider approaches, his head raises and declares a letter for Jeb.  Everybody is wary, but when Father Seward goes to grab it, the mail carrier pulls it away.  Jeb grabs the letter, and the rider declares that there is no more mail.  He rides back the way he came.

As Jeb cannot read, David Hood reads the letter.  It is correspondence from one Sullivan to his very dear Sarah, and is evidently a wartime love letter.  It is dated July 14, 1861.  Nobody can determine any relation to Jeb, but they decide that perhaps they can find answers on their journey.

The train ride is uneventful, a welcome respite from the past few weeks.  When they arrive in Washington, D.C., they decide to take a day to inquire at the Army archives.  The request is fruitful — using a letter of marque from General Sully, they are able to gain the services of an archivist who says he will attempt to see what he can learn by tomorrow morning.  They wander around D.C. in the meantime, and one of the crows following Seward settles on his shoulder and pecks at him.  He takes a swing at it and it flies off, prompting a question about what they mean.  Father Seward explains that they are psychopomps in some Indian cultures,  meant to convey the dead to the World Tree.  When everybody asks how he knows that, he explains that he read a great deal both theologically and for personal research.  He also takes the opportunity to explain what Rufina told him about his daughter.

The next morning, they visit the archivist and learn that the letter possibly refers to one General Sullivan Ballou, killed by sniper fire at Bull Run.

Jeb, incidentally, was a sniper at Bull Run.  He admits that he recalls little about what happened there, as an explosion seems to have damaged his memory.

David Hood records the archivist's name — Thomas Johnson — and suggests that he will pass it along to General Sully.  The group then catches the train to continue onto Richmond.

While on the train, they discussed whether they would attend to Ruby's business in Richmond or the mysterious business in Buena Vista first.  They decide on Ruby's business.

As such, they agree to accompany Ruby to meet her estranged husband, Brent Manning.  They arrive to his estate by carriage, and find a black bow tied over the gate; the house is obviously in mourning.  The group wonders about who died; Father Seward suggests that Manning probably heard about the trouble in Boston and presumes Ruby dead.

An old Negro attendant answers their summons and seems very surprised when they say that Ruby O'Flahertie wishes to speak with Mr. Manning.  He trundles off.  A gunshot is heard within the house, and the butler is seen running back outside, followed by a disheveled man.  He has a gun in one hand, a bottle of liquor in the other, and appears to be wearing a woman's bathrobe over his pajamas.  He is admonishing the butler for playing dirty tricks on him.

Another man follows the drunken Brent Manning.  He, on the other hand, is well-dressed, but he is unknown to Ruby.  He appears to be comforting Brent.

As Brent approaches, Ruby steps out and addresses him.  He is shocked and begins weeping tears of joy; he runs for the gate, stumbles, stands up, and attempts to open the gate.  Unable to maneuver around the bow, he shoots it, sending shreds of black ribbon everywhere.  He finally pushes the gate open.

He runs at Ruby but meets her hand instead, as she pushes the disheveled Brent away.  Rex snatches his pistol while he's preoccupied.

Blubbering, he describes how distraught he was when he heard about the troubles in Boston, to which his companion replies, "Yes, he was inconsolable," while his hand slips into Brent's.

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

We play a little fast and loose with history (the poker game should bear that out), but having a primary document from history appear is still pretty neat.  (One of the things I really enjoy about games set in the "real world" is the fact that it is easier to establish verisimilitude than it is in fictional settings.)

(And for the GM: don't worry, I only looked for the text of the letter given the details you gave us.  I didn't look up any details regarding Sullivan himself, so your plot secrets are safe.  For now.)

Also, after slogging through a world of occult horror, the revelation of Brent Manning's homosexuality was unexpected but incredibly relieving.  Contrary to the typical attitudes of the time, I'm guessing the group as a whole doesn't care about his sexual orientation because he's not engaging in assault, murder, cannibalism, or attempting to end the world.

I'm guessing Cobb only appeared because he has a vested interest in Ruby's family, but we don't know that for sure.  Manning could still be some sort of psycho-killer cannibal occultist, I guess, but he's hopefully mundane.

Hopefully.

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