Sunday, 28 January 2018

Deadlands - Wailing Horror, Investigating Grave Robbery, Looking for a Rabbi

We return to Shan Fan and send a telegram to the Explorers in New York, then sleep on the boat. In the morning, we look for something to do while we wait for a reply, and remember the lightning mark in the Cave of the Wailing Horror. We gather ropes to help us get in and out, and follow Tesla, the route stitched to his mind with threads of terror.

The stench of decaying bodies - the Tongs' we'd left last time - meets us as we tie the ropes, and gets stronger as we make our way in. I feel sick, remembering the death and violence. And then we open into that cavern, and the pile of bodies is there, and I want to turn and run, only I can't, and anyway, before I can, the bodies start twitching as the ground swells - not the earth elemental we fought last time, but the ghost of the Blue Ogre who'd led the Tongs.

Tesla runs; Carson and Chin start fighting while I follow him. He's terrified, cowering, when I find him. I sit next to him, talk to him gently and remind him how effective his lightning's been against other ghosts - and doesn't he want revenge on the creature? It works: he charges back to the cavern, giving me just enough time to yell a warning for the others to duck as he opens fire.

The fight continues. I'm useless in a fight against something that you can touch, let alone something you can't; I can't help, even though this is one fight I'd like to. Last time, when it had been people, that one I'd have liked to avoid. All these bodies. Thou shalt not kill... All those bodies... And that's when it strikes me! What little I've learnt about ghosts, they always have a unique weakness, related to why they're there - and this one was killed by Steve's bullet. I yell what I've thought, and that we need to get Carson to just bleed on the sigil...

They manage it, defeat the ogre's ghost. Carson bleeds on the sigil. He's a bit pale afterwards, but insists he's ok.

We head back to Shan Fan; it's evening by the time we can check with the telegram office to find there is a message for us "Find the Rabbi". Chin doesn't know of any synagogues. We find food and go back to the boat to sleep.

Morning comes. We pick up a copy of the Tombstone Epitaph and flick to page 13; there's a message from Lacy O'Malley: "Good Intentions! Gallows theft and grave robbery in the waterfront, Shan Fan. A new ally?" Not knowing where to look for a Rabbi, we decide to head to the gallows and gibbets at the waterfront. They're all empty, so we move to the nearby graveyard. 

None of the marked graves are touched, but we find a large patch of disturbed soil to the south, surrounding a hole. There's no sign of any groundskeeper. Carson jumps into the hole; I follow once he says he can't see anything... supernatural about the place. We scrabble at the soil and find bodies: a mass grave. I swallow a yelp. This isn't somewhere I want to be, especially not so soon after being in that cavern again. But I have to hide it so the others don't have to worry about me. I examine the sides of the hole: dug with a spade, large enough to have removed one (or more) of the bodies buried here. Tesla mutters something about Burke and Hare, graverobbers from his homeland. Chin says the bodies here probably come from the gibbets - after they're finished being displayed, they're thrown in a hole.

We move away, hunger overwhelming the unpleasantness of the scene. A man at the noodle bar we found said he'd heard of bodies going missing from the gibbets and suggested we talk to the sheriff. I don't know about the others, but I feel a bit stupid: Long-Haired Tony is the obvious person to talk to.

Long-Haired Tony is happy for us to help. Three times they've come by in the morning to find the sturdy lock on a gibbet smashed and the body missing. He doesn't have any leads - to be honest, I don't think the abduction of criminal corpses is something he really cares about - but there is someone he can execute tomorrow if we want to guard the body overnight. It's always criminal corpses that go missing. He has no idea why anyone would be stealing bodies, but Tesla mumbles "Burke and Hare" again, so our best guess is a western medicine doctor wanting bodies to... practice on.

Carson's the only one of us any good at getting information out of people, so we follow behind him as he tries to find a white doctor. He eventually hears of one working out of Stinktown. We traipse after him, Chin looking particularly sheepish as we pick our way through the dirty streets. Feeling uncomfortable with the stench - more memories of that first visit to the cave - I keep my head down too, and notice, as we get closer, that there's no cart tracks in the area. We'd expected them - how else would you be able to get bodies here? - but nothing. Is this the right doctor? Do we even have the right idea of who's behind this?

Carson knocks and the door's opened by an older man, broad shoulders and with the kind of paunch that used to be muscle. Tesla spots a skullcap, and he confirms he's the Rabbi. We start rabbiting about graves and bless├ęd blades. It's when Carson mentions the Sin Eater that he ushers us into a back office and asks what hangs over the fireplace of the London lodge of the Explorers' Society. We show him our rings and tell him "the head of a jackalope". He relaxes immediately, tenseness we hadn't noticed flowing from him as he sinks into a chair. He confirms any grave in Shan Fan with a headstone would be sufficiently consecrated for our purposes. He can do something about blessing a blade for us, too, but that will take time. So while he works on it, we'll keep looking for this bodysnatcher. He suggests we might be looking for a necromancer, and as it hasn't been happening for long, it's likely someone new in town.

He won't come with us to the Isle of Ghost Tears, but is happy to wait for us to get back with the Sin Eater's corpse to bless the graves we use. He reminds us that Tam will likely kill us if he learns we've visited the island.

We go back to the boat for the night, head to the waterfront gallows in time for the execution. I felt uncomfortable - he may be a criminal, but I couldn't help feeling his death was our fault, for our benefit. We're skint again, so afterwards Carson and Chin find a bounty to hunt, while I travel with Tesla to translate as he looks for mechanics work. I nap in the corner as he fixes and tinkers with engines so I'll be refreshed for the evening.

As the day's light fades, we head back to the waterfront and hide ourselves away in a spot with a good view of the gibbet.

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