Sunday 1 October 2017

Deadlands - Tam's War: Betrayal at the Kumite

When Tesla and I wake in the morning, Carson is still picking through the wreckage. He'd managed to find the rest of my clothes, but still nothing of Steve. No food and only one small rowboat to get us anywhere. We're discussing our bleak prospects when we spot a Chinese lad, maybe a couple of years younger than me, watching us. His name's Chin. He was born in Shan Fan but came out here to mine ghost rock and scrape some sort of living after his parents died. The arrival of Kang's men means he doesn't really want to be here any more, so offers to come with us back to Shan Fan. He's also got a small rowboat and, more importantly, an idea how to navigate the Maze. We row hard and manage to reach the cliffs of the mainland before dusk. Tesla's still pretty beaten up, but between us we manage forage up enough food to convince our grumbling bellies to let us sleep, and we managed to keep that up for the 2 days it took us to walk back to Shan Fan.
As we approach, we see encampments around the outskirts: refugees, presumably, from Lost Angels - but the thought of Lost Angels triggers the memory of the army camp we saw there. I see Tesla and Carson shiver with the same thought. We thread our way through and into Shan Fan, then across town to Tam. Chin looks a little surprised, but knows a shortcut - which we quickly realise would be a lot quicker if we went through Stinktown... still, he does know the town better than we do.
We're welcomed into Tam's estate. He's heard of our success and considers the loss of the boat and its captain "acceptable". I suppress my shudder.
He's happy enough that we're fed more food than we've seen since leaving Helstromme's company, and offers to put us up for the night. Through his translator, in the morning he explains he now wants one of us to fight in a 'Kumite' the next day: a martial arts championship. With an excited glint in his eye, Chin volunteers.
Tam takes the rest of us with him to watch. We see Tam's lieutenants in the audience, and a few other faces we recognise (though no Explorers). Carson spots a white man dressed like a mayor sat next to Kwan. Tam's translator says he calls himself 'Emperor Joshua Norton I'. Kwan is rumoured to have seen in a vision quest that he would help a white man become "king of the land beyond the mountains". He decided this referred to California, and that Joshua was the man. No one knows where he found Joshua.
The fights are fast. Chin does pretty well in the first round, but goes out in the second. The final winner is someone called Chin Hsueh Wong, a fighter from somewhere called the '37th Chamber', fighting for Kwan. He's a phenomenal fighter, but prideful. As the final fight ends, everyone is startled by the sound of gunfire. 3 of the blue ogres appear and bee line for Tam - who uses his translator to point out to us that if he dies, we won't get the key that was the whole point of us working for him. Long Haired Tony, the sheriff of Shan Fan, joins us as we start to flee.
There's chaos and confusion as the ogres and other soldiers - all in Kang's colours - tear their way through the spectators. Chairs flying people screaming. I spot that Tam's lieutenants managed to make themselves scarce before this all started, and Kwan and his 'emperor' have vanished. 
We fight our way across the floor, trying to keep away from the ogres. Other fighters manage to get in our way, but we wrestle past. Tesla and Carson weren't allowed to bring their weapons, which makes the fight harder, but Tesla manages to take one goon out with a chair. He drags the last one with us, unconscious.
Back at Tam's estate, they tie the goon to a chair and take turns shouting and threatening. He takes it all in with an air of utter calm. My heart sinks: I think I know how to get through to him, and it isn't something I want to do, but nothing else is working.
With reluctance, I leave Tesla, Carson and Chin to their attempts (who knows, they might get somewhere afterall and I won't have to do this), and speak with Tam's men to see if they can get me certain herbs - and a small, airtight room. With that arranged, I return to the others, and they haven't managed to break the guy. I ask them to bring him (on his chair), put him in the middle of the room, and then leave. Carson is reluctant, but I turn to him and let the shadows that always surround me - that I normally try to hide - flare out and turn the full force of my one-eyed gaze on him... and he relents. I shut the door behind him and light the herbs, light a flickery torch behind me to enhance those vile shadows. Initially, he treats me with the same disinterest as the others, but as the smoke builds his eyes become wild and his calm - and coherence - melt away. My own self-control is severely eroded as he gabbles what he knows.
I crawl to the door and open it shortly before Carson and the others were going to break in to make sure I was ok: this took longer than I'd hoped. I pass out in the fresh air.

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