Back at Sunrise House, Dillenger explains there's normally strict rules to join the Explorers' Society, but these are interesting times and hands over rings. He says we can identify Explorer allies by asking what head is over the fireplace in the lounge of the London branch (a jackalope), then gives us some background.There have alwasy been monsters, but it got worse after the Battle of Gettysberg, where soldiers died... and carried on fighting. That was the first event of what's known as the Reckoning, led by Evil known as the Reckoners. It's a worldwide phenomenom, but particularly bad here. Carson blames the ghost rock, but Pennington-Smythe's less sure.
The Explorers' Society is just the latest carnation of the battle against evil, heading back to my namesake King Solomon's time. Their particular branch, the Twilight Lodge, can trace itself back to the Roman Empire. The Rangers and the Agents are also fighting against the Reckoners, but their ruthlessness and need to squash the truth makes them tenuous allies at best. Not that Dillenger advises telling the whole truth carelessly: he saw a village ripped apart by paranoia after they were told about a shapeshifter. So we need to help people learn how to fight monsters without telling them there are monsters...
We spend the following week getting to know Shan Fan while D & P-S head out of town to try and destroy the amulet. When they return, they explain they still couldn't and have had to hide it again. They want to get us into their vault: when Big Ears Tam destroyed the lodge building, the vault survived but it's locked - and Tam has the key. He won it in a poker game with a disgraced lodge member. They need to clear it out before they can leave town, and if we can help they'll reward us each with an item from it.
That evening, we head out to some gambling spots to try and find out more about the key and where it was lost. Steve and Carson make a few dollars but don't learn much - Tesla and I stay away from the tables and learn less. When we leave, there's 3 dodgy looking white guys follow, slinking away when they realise we've spotted them. I spot signs we're still being followed, but can't tell if its the same people. Nudge Carson, who ducks down an ally. Follow and find him lying on the floor, unresponsive and burning with fever. His eyes flicker and his pulse races. We carry him back to the hotel to find D & P-S gone again, so put him into a cool bath, where the water steams. Sit with him over night, and he seems ok by morning - just even hungrier than normal. Don't know what happened.
We're eating breakfast when red Tongs arrive to escort us to Tam: a few of Carson's more pointed questions evidently found their mark. The estate is bordered by a giant wall, with beautiful gardens in a traditional Chinese style. We're led to a central pagoda where Tam waits with a translator - and a table laden with food. We're given tea to drink and Tam, via his translator, says he's heard about us and our questions. A giant man (like the one who melted into the ground in the cave) steps into the sunlight as he says that. It's... unnerving.
Tam wants to know what we want. It's hard to concentrate with all that food in front of us that we aren't invited to eat, but Carson managed to describe the key and put together a story that it was a family heirloom lost by his idiot cousin. Tam recognises the key and says it'll take 2 weeks to get it - and we're to work for him for those 2 weeks if we want it.
He's happy for his lieutenants (that's Thin Noodles Ma and Ratskinner Hou) to play games on his turf, but not an outsider, and Warlord Kang is trying to muscle in. He was weakened when the bombs fell in Lost Angels, and Tam wants to weaken him further by attacking his seafleet. Our task will be to take out his flagship, The Abysmal, an iron clad that causes trouble throughout the Maze. Her captain is Red Petal Su. The rest is up to us.
As he walks away from the table, he says we can eat. We fall upon the fresh food.