Sunday 15 October 2017

Deadlands - Tam's War: Repercussions and Spying

When I come to in the morning (17th October 1879), the worst of the drugs have left my system. Blearily, I explain to Tam and the others what I learnt from the hostage: that despite the attackers all being in Kwan's colours, Kang was actually behind this; and it wasn't just about chaos, but an attack on Tam's life.

Tam's livid - partly because he didn't see it coming. He's angry because Ma and Woo, like Kwan, left before the violence as if they knew what was coming.

Tam's heard that Kang and Kwan are meeting in Dragon's Breath in 4 days time, and he wants us to spy on the meeting. Us, because now he doesn't trust his men. He'll help us however he can, including getting us there in time. He warns us that Kwan knows it was us who sank the Abysmal, to complicate things further, but says this will be the last task he asks of us: he won't hold us to the rest of the time he originally demanded. We can have the key when we get back.

He looks after us for the day, feeding us and tracking down things that should be useful for the task. He puts us up for one more night, and we leave early in the morning on a boat called the Sturgeon - Tam's ironclad.

Around noon, the temperature falls. A thick fog forms around us, and frost forms on the hull. The captain slows the ship and the crew looks anxious. I don't blame them. The shadows extend and contract unnaturally in what light we have. I start, then race to Carson when he starts screaming for no obvious reason. When he calms again, he explains the fog is supernatural. 

By now, it's so thick we can't see more than a few yards - which means we can't see what causes the screams at the back of the boat, nor why they end so abruptly. The captain's never seen anything like this. I head over, and there, looming through the mist, is a towering ghost ship. The Abysmal. I shudder, but remember something Dillenger told me about ghosts: they can only be defeated with magic. 

I send Chin to punch the boarding spectres, hoping the powers he displayed in the Kumite are magic enough. Tesla's freaking out, so sit with him and calm him and bring him round. He lends his lightning rod to Carson, who passes him a knife - he picked it up in the wizard's lair on Felheimer's Folly and thinks it's magic, but is as good at fighting hand to hand as I am. Meanwhile, I head to the ship's guns to strafe the ghost ship, to see if we might be able to board it in return, but it seems unlikely. Instead, I climb to the highest place I can find and sing, to keep everyone's spirits up.

There's chaos every direction I look, but Carson notices every time one of the lightning bolts hits The Abysmal rather than a boarding ghost, part of the ship fades away, so he turns his attention on that until eventually the whole thing is gone, the fog lifts, and the only sign anything happened are the spent shells and the missing crew members. Roughly half of the crew, gone. Less than a minute has passed.

The rest of the day is spent acting as replacement crew. We borrow a dinghy to reach Dragon's Breath after dark and manage to find a place to stay.

Explore in the morning. Most of the buildings are traditional-Chinese in style, except one which is red brick and surrounded by creepy statues - human/lizard hybrids. Chin says they look like tomb guardians, used to keep robbers out (or dangerous things in). There's a single door to the building, dramatically barred. This isn't Kang's fortress, though, which has crenellations, guards, cannons - but is low enough you could jump to the roof from another building, if there wasn't a clear gap all round it. The guards on the gate are busy with people and carts entering and leaving. Some people are interrogated or even searched on the way in, but everyone is ignored on the way out, so Chin grabs a box and follows a group in.

The rest of us look for another way in, and settle on the sewer. Not pleasant, but it'll do. We've still got a few days before the meeting, but figure if we can, we should break in tonight, before security is ramped up for the meeting. Chin rejoins us, having scouted the place, and he and Carson head out to set a very smoky fire to draw the guards attention. Tesla and I head to the grate we'd settled on, and use some of his acid to cut through the metal, and some of his other spare bits and pieces to rig it so it looks sealed but should still be easily opened. Chin leads us somewhere inside where we can hide, and we stay there for all of the following day into the next.

Chin acts as scout, so he's the one who sees Kwan's posse arrive on 21st October, and works out where the meeting will be held. He fetches us and we hide by a wall to listen in. Kwan's brought 'Emperor' Joshua Norton with him, so most of the conversation is in English, which helps.

Kwan isn't happy the attack was carried out in his colours and wants to know who was behind it. Kang doesn't say, instead pointing out Tam believes it was Kwan and will want revenge, so Kwan should attack first. They discuss plans: Kwan can't attack without naval support, which Kang will supply. They switch to Chinese and we struggle to follow (even Chin, whose parents raised him to speak more English than Chinese), when we hear a shout of "INTRUDERS!" and make a swift exit (the sewer grate functioning as hoped).

We get back to the Sturgeon and race to Shan Fan, but don't get back before dusk falls and the captain makes us stop for the night. None of us sleep well, and in the morning realise we got a little lost: we don't get back until mid-afternoon. Kang's fleet is already in place - much sooner than should have been possible. Kang's navy means the ship can't get through, so the captain drops us outside and we'll walk through the refugee camp again. Or what we thought was a refugee camp, but now realise is indeed an army camp, so they'd both been ready in advance. Ready to betray each other? We can only hope.

Carson takes out the sentries using sleeping darts we got from Tam and we creep through the camp, into Shan Fan and back to Tam. He's very concerned with our news, but is true to his word and gives us the key. We hightail it back to the Sunrise Lodge to get our stuff. Pennington-Smythe and Dillenger aren't there, so we head to the remains of the Explorers' Lodge.

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