GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Eric Fattig, Karen Twelves, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Blades in the Dark, Rules v.8
The game opened with Arquo going to give a small comfort to Elke. Tea to help with her long studies in the private library. While they were stomping on LaRose, she was working feverishly on a grant proposal to do further research into the separation of body and soul after death.
He could see that Elke was worse for wear though. Still seeing phantasms in every corner and jumping at her own shadow. Melvir had been able to help Arquo some from his own terrors, so he offered to bring Elke to see the old man.
They found Melvir patching a hole in his roof, which had started leaking again after the last few days of rain. Arquo offered to take his place and work on the roof if Melvir would tend to Elke’s maladies. [Rather than make this a scene, we made a few recovery rolls and wrapped it up quickly.]
After giving Elke what medicinal brews he could muster (powerful sedatives to allow her a good night’s sleep), he continued his care on Arquo, who had some fresh wounds since Melvir had seem him last, courtesy of Valo [More recovery actions].
After a good night’s sleep (a REALLY good night’s sleep), Elke felt invigorated and went out with Jadvyga to finally acquire the Irruvian shadow silk needed for Malcolm Dundrige to tailor a cloak for Arquo. The purchase went smoothly, but once they had brought the material, Malcolm asked for the future wearer to come in and be sized so he could make it to fit (nothing that is sold in Dundrige & Sons is “off the shelf”).
So, Jadvyga agreed to sneak into Arquo’s house, borrow his old Lampblack coat, and bring it to Malcolm to get the measurements from. She waited till the house was empty, slipped, and left without anyone the wiser [Controlled Prowl. Full Success]. Material and measurements in hand, young Dundrige go to sewing! [Long term project complete].
Failed Exam? Opportunity!
At the end of Harland’s Physical Applications of Alchemy, exams were handed back and his was stained in black ink with the word “FAIL” written in professor Jayan’s blocky draft print. Harland was incensed and immediately sought out professor Jayan during his office hours… which were very late at night… held in his private residence… with a doorman that would have as soon run his pike through Harland as he would let him into the house, but was easily cowed by Harland’s fury.
Inside Donovan Jayan’s personal study, left to wait for what seemed to be ages, Harland finally gave up on waiting, pulled out some chalk, erased what was already on Jayan’s chalkboard to make room for his work [Devil’s Bargain] and began writing a mathematical proof for his work [Tinker Setup Action. Partial success. Complication]. Harland heard the sounds of footsteps coming on the hallway outside and knew that Jayan would arrive before he finished, so he worked with utmost haste to wrap up before the professor arrived [Resist with insight].
Donvan walked in, irked immediately that Halrand had erased his work and taken liberties with his study, but also appraising the proofs that Harland had drafted. After a long silence he said “Adequate.” and when Harland asked why an “adequate” solution got a failing grade he added “but indefensible” and then began counter proof. After he had both spend some time furiously smacking chalk to board, he stared back at Harland for an answer.
Rather than continue to debate alchemical theory, however Harland got down to business and admitted the he knew professor Jayan didn’t like him and wanted to know how to pass his course. He also brought in the Younghusband name [Devil’s Bargain] to add a bit of gravitas to his blunt approach. [Risky Sway. Standard effect, boosted from Limited by the setup action. Full Success].
Jayan responded and made Harland an offer. Passing his course in exchange for recovering something for him. [This was me using the “cooperation” entanglement and having Charterhall try to get the DSS to do a job for them, but because Donovan Jayan hated Harland, just getting to the “here’s a score we want you to do” stage was tricky]. “Bayan root is a typically common enough root, which we use in great quantity, and pay the radiant energy farmers in Dunslough (note, I got Dunslough and Barrowcleft mixed up here) handsomely for. However, after the recent Lightning Tower failure, the Spirit Wardens have Dunslough locked down and it’s impossible to get anything out of the district. I have a seller and I know you have a boat. Get me the supply I need and you’ll pass my class.”
[Reasonable enough offer right. I mean, it was something I just pulled out of the smugglers opportunities list (on page 123) “The city council outlaws a formerly legal product.” However, Eric’s reaction was masterful. I had essentially provided a random score, only significant because the tower failure was related to Hix, but otherwise it was just a normal score without any real ties the Spectral Society’s business. Eric, however, saw an opportunity to make this SO much better]
“How about instead you promote me to Associate Professor of Alchemy, I teach your classes, and you are free to live the life of a noble?” This was one of those long standing open secrets. Though he never said it outright, everyone knows that professor Jayan only teaches because the school is his birthright and he was saddled with job when his mother passed away. Until then he lived the life of a noble socialite. So, preposterous as this offer was, it actually had some glimmer of hope. I mean, that is what Jayan want’s, isn’t it? After fierce negotiation, Jayan agreed to these wild terms, but only under the condition that he, as dean of the department gets all the credit for Harland’s work. Harland would teach the classes, but the Jayan name would remain at the heart of the school, and Harland would even give over the formula he had invented for the alchemical binding agent he had created for his brother Corro [Devil’s Bargain], as by Jayan’s logic, that was created in university labs and both the product and the formula belonged to him! [Desperate Sway. Limited Effect. Full Success!]
The two stayed late in the night as Donovan summon a magistrate to perform all the paperwork necessary to make Harland’s appointment official.
After be tended to by Melvir [Recover], Arquo took him and Elke to dinner at his parent’s place. One night he brings Jadvyga to eat with then, the next time Elke… the end result of course was that each of his parents had a favorite. Arcus liked Jadvyga, she a rare person that has a conscience. Ramira was a fan of Elke, she was someone who could get things done. [Indulge Vice]
The next day, Elke got back to working on her grant proposal. She visited Bazso and asked him more about the Empty Vessel. When he found out that she was intending to publish this work, his mood turned sour and said that he wanted to see the text before it was printed, that it should make no mention of him or the Lampblacks, or the circlet, and that it must be respectful of the Empty Vessel! [Indulge Vice]
Elke and Harland
Elke found Harland in the Cat and Candle and ask him to come with her to the private library. Arquo was there as well and stood outside the door to ensure that none were listening in, as the mood suddenly had suddenly become very serious. What followed was a great scene that was both emotional an calculating. It game out that:
- Elke told Harland’s brother that the Society wasn’t the kind of people that murder other people, but Harland signed them up to do just that with Bazso.
- Then Harland wasn’t there when she needed him. He didn’t even follow through on his own promise.
- The both miss Hix. She would know what to do. (Flash cut to Hix in a bloody battle between the Rail Jacks and the Grinders inside Ironhook)
- The boat is gone (or at least sunk and beneath the North Hook Canal).
- Finally, Elke want’s Harlands help writing the grant proposal…and to have permission to include some of Society’s deeds as proof of her theories! Ridden with guilt for his many failures, Harland agreed despite the information being incriminating Elke and possibly all of the rest of the society!
[This culminated in Elke crafting a her grant proposal and spending the coin to make it exceptional (Tier 4)]
The Lost Spirit Well
A while ago, when Harland was still in tight with the Path of Echoes we asked the question if Harland was an adept of the Path of Echoes
When you make the appropriate sacrifices to the cult, master the ways of the secret rituals, and offer up your absolute loyalty to the Path, you become an adept. When you achieve the rank of adept, you receive permission to attend the forbidden spirit well rituals in the deathlands.
He had signed on as Vond’s second in command and announced his absolute loyalty (though it was a total lie). So, accordingly he should have had access to the spirit well, even though we didn’t see it on screen. Now was the time to remedy that omission.
Harland’s students were begging to see the spirit well, so he chartered a boat with the Fog Hounds to take them out to the Lost District where they found an old manor home with a functioning lightning barrier and people working inside it! Granted access with a serious of secret codes, Harland and his cult (along with Elke who came along to see what this was all about) were admitted inside the lightning barrier and then down into subterranean tunnels, where they finally came upon a spirit well. A shimming blue pool that acted as a great vortex sucking all spectral energy into it.
Harland stepped into the pool and then one by one baptized his cult members in a process he called the Harrowing. Not all of them accepted his offer but the ones that did were scorched by the powerful energies within. Hair fell out, burns appeared, and others traumas were endured to attune themselves to the well. [Harland indulging vice]
After the religious offering was complete, Elke decided to enter the well on her own, unprotected by Harland. Though she was easily allowed inside, as she tried to attune to the spirits she found they were quickly surrounding her and that her vision was being obscured. I was growing colder and they were trapping her within. Quickly she ran out of well, narrowly escaping their icy grip [Desperate Prowl. Full Success]
Improving Academic Status
Arquo, eager to prove that he could be a student one day accompanied Jadvyga to the office of Oilweather and Danwood to finish scribing their text on Severosi history. The work completed they now had a gift to give to the Severosi consulate [Long term project complete].
Danwood observed Arquo’s glacial pace and painful careful attention to detail. He saw that he wasn’t really cut out to be a scribe or a scholar and so inquired about Arquo’s other talents, which were apparently wrecking other people’s properly…
We cut to Arquo in some unknown part of Charterhall, throwing rocks through windows and starting small fires in order to draw attention away from the Spectral Society. As he collapsed one crate he noticed the symbol of a bee stamped onto it, which looked vaguely familiar but he wasn’t going to stick around to find out more, as not being there was key to [Reducing Heat].
Closing as we opened
The final scene mirrored the opening. Elke and Arquo, this time her bringing something to him. A paper wrapped parcel, that when he opened revealed a perfectly matte black cloak coat made of such fine silk that is threatened to slip out of the packaging the moment Arquo opened it. They then shared a very awkward scene of trying to give thanks (Arquo) and explain why they did it (Elke). It was beautiful.
I loved it that Harland shot right past doing a score for Donovan and jumped into being a professor! It was a really risky move (desperate even!) but it was also so much more meaningful than a simple smuggling score would be. So good.
The scenes between Arquo and Elke are deliciously awkward. It’s pretty clear that Arquo is into Elke, but he’s also afraid of her. We’re not really sure how Elke feels about Arquo. Guilty, because she’s gotten him into so much trouble. But anything else? Magic 8-ball says ask again later.
Similarly the scene between Elke and Harland where they talked about what really mattered to them and if they were the kind of people that just murdered others for money. That was great!
What could have been improved
Something I’m looking into is how I can represent all the impossible obligations that Harland has signed himself up for, and how I can show them pulling him in different directions without completely overshadowing the rest of the group. Currently Harland is:
- The head of a small cult (The True Path) that has some contentious membership (Elke sewed the seeds of distrust from the first gathering and many of it’s members are at odds with each other).
- An associate professor of Alchemy in Jayan Hall. Sure to be picked on by the more senior professors who resent his cavalier appointment.
- Running from Vond Kardera, a powerful specter that leads the path of Echoes.
- Tied up in several conflicting promises regarding his brother and the Hive (To ask them to reduce taxes on the pit fighting, to tell him the binding agent he made isn’t actually available for him, or if it is, to betray Donovan Jayan, and to rejoin the family business and further the goals of the Hive).
- Paranoid and Unstable.