The Porcelain Dolls: Session 45 (December 14 2016)

Note: Originally posted to the Blades in the Dark Google+ Community in December 2016.

Shade is in his quarters at the factory when there’s a knock at the door. He answers it, and it’s Jezelle. She says she figured it would have been rude to just go in. She tells him about the addictive effects of the spirit well, and speculates that sooner or later Sebjorn will have to come back there, so it might be a good place to ambush him. She recommends using wards similar to what Quellyn had around her apartment to protect it, though she acknowledges that Sebjorn might be powerful enough to break through them. After some reluctance, she also admits to having hurt someone really badly, and that she’s trying really hard to stay away from the well, but it’s pulling her back.

Constance heads back down to Dunslough to talk to the Skovlanders again while Gears is doing his thing. She tells Markus to throw a huge party two nights from now, and invite everyone he can think of, even Bluecoats. At first he’s confused, as he thought she was going to assist the refugees get revenge on the Grinders. Constance patiently explains that she will take care of the Grinders herself, and the Skovlanders need to stay out of it so they won’t be implicated. She uses Glorious Visage to seal the deal, scaring the crap out of everyone in the process.

Gears meets with Kamali outside the Broken Anchor. He describes Nelson and his buddies to her. The identifying feature is that they all wear thick leather weight belts that are common among the dock workers (this comes from a time when a majority of the Grinders were in fact employed on the Docks, but the affectation has long outstripped the actual employment). She stakes out the place until the four of them emerge, very drunk, and make their way to their clubhouse, a storefront several blocks away with a banner out front bearing the imperial crest (the closest thing Akoros has to an official flag). She creeps around back, and sees that the back door is open. She slips inside and sets a tripwire across the doorway in case she has to make a hasty exit, then hides in the kitchen to listen in on their meeting. Their leader, who Nelson identifies as Leo, berates the four for getting to the meeting late, and getting too drunk. He reminds them all that while they scored a victory against the refugees, they can’t sit back and get complacent. They need to keep pushing hard, and work on actually wiping them out. After much badgering from Nelson, Leo very nearly snaps, but allows Nelson to explain about the job they’d been hired for, to rough up an Iruvian shop owner and his son. Leo says to handle it quickly, as he needs everyone to be on point for the next step in their campaign against the refugees. Kamali gets very detailed notes, including a basic map of the clubhouse and sketches of the seven members present. However, she very nearly gets spotted when Leo notices that one of his buddies left the back door open, and tells them to go close it. Fortunately for her, they’re a bit lazy, so she has plenty of time to remove the tripwire and slip back out.

Constance holds a meeting. They know that while the Grinders are dealing with the job for Gears, they will be separated. She asks Shade which group he would prefer to deal with. He chooses the clubhouse, which leaves Kamali to deal with the four in Silkshore.

The Two-Stroke Folk Bloke Stoke & Choke:

On the night in question, while the Skovlander refugees are ostensibly partying down in Dunslough, Shade heads to the Grinders’ clubhouse and uses binding oil to seal the front and back doors, but not before tossing in a lit Skovlan Porridge. A crit on the Engagement roll means that he can hear the commotion inside as the Grinders first try frantically to put the fire out, and when that doesn’t work, they try to break the front door down. Eventually, the pounding stops. He uses alcahest to remove the binding oil on the doors, and the smoke begins to pour out. He sees that the fire is on the way to burning itself out (fortunately the building itself is made primarily of stone), so he very quickly enters and cuts the throats of the three now unconscious Grinders. On his way out he burns Wulfric’s symbol on the front door.

Kamali heads to Silkshore and stakes out the butcher shop. Before long she sees the four Grinders come stomping up the block and barge their way into the shop. There’s a lot of shouting, a lot of breaking glass, some screaming, some threats, some crying, and the sound of people getting beaten with wooden clubs. Several customers run out the front screaming. Once the noise dies down, the Grinders emerge, and Kamali begins tailing them. Engagement roll is 4. She’s able to follow them, but she can soon hear the sound of Bluecoat whistles down the block. The Grinders hear it too, and take off running. One of the Grinders lags behind, and Kamali shoots him in the leg with her crossbow. He cries out and goes down on one knee, prompting one of his buddies to turn around and come back to help him up. She takes the opportunity to shoot the second one in the eye. She drops down from her vantage point and cuts the wounded one’s throat, and stashes both of them in a nearby alley before taking off after the other two. There’s a tense moment when she loses them for a bit, but manages to catch up with them again a couple of blocks down. She banks a smoke bomb off the wall of a nearby building to land right at their feet. The ensuing cloud is enough to confuse and disorient them, and she uses the cover to sneak up on them, stabbing one in the back (getting him right in the lung), and then rolling up and clamping a hand over the last guy’s mouth before cutting his throat. She takes the time to stash these two as well. Later on, when everything has died down, she retrieves all four bodies, and stashes them somewhere they’ll be found in the morning, with Wulfric’s symbol prominently displayed.

The last thing she does is circle back to the butcher shop, where the Bluecoats are crawling all over the scene, taking statements and cataloguing evidence. It quickly becomes obvious to Kamali that it’s not a high priority case. Eventually the Bluecoats all leave, and then it’s just the shop owner and his family left to pick up the pieces. Kamali breezes right in the front door with a mask on, hands them a piece of paper, bows with a flourish, and exits.

The paper bears, in flawless flowing Iruvian script, a passage from the Book of Light, a classical Iruvian text: “I was parched, and you gave me vinegar. I was cold, and you closed your door to me. In Paradise, I will drink wine and wear silk. You will be judged.”

As she disappears into the night, there are calls of “Who are you?! Why are you doing this?!”

Notes:

I am REALLY loving the new rules for the Engagement rolls. Nice and simple: Start with your crew’s Tier, add/subtract dice for advantages/disadvantages, result tells you what the default Position is for the job.

This was definitely a case of work smarter, not harder. If they’d hit the Grinders head on (like the refugees had been trying to do), they would have needed a lot more hands, and it still would have been really difficult. They managed to find the gang’s weak spot and exploit it.

It would have been a bit too on-the-nose to make the Grinders actual skinheads (besides which, there were a very particular set of circumstances that led to the skinhead movement first coming into being in the UK in the 60s, and then becoming what they eventually became in the late 70s and early 80s), but I hit the important markers. The banner with the Imperial Crest was a reference to the National Front co-opting St. George’s Cross (and the Union Jack, for that matter) for their political aims.

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