Tuesday 2 January 2018

Deadlands - Whateley Mansion and Whateley Isle

We return to Doomtown in the morning. Tesla and Carson head into the administration building. Chin doesn't bother joining them, feeling he'd be no help as he can't read. I go to step in, but after the night before, something about the enclosed darkness inside reminds me of the watchtower at the Explorers' Lodge, and the way those creepy twins had it sucked into Hell, and I find I couldn't enter. I stay outside with Chin, Eyes Like Fire and Weematai, looking round the remains of the town. I glance out and spot another building, a mansion maybe a mile or so out of the town, and call it to everyone's attention. Carson and Tesla rejoin us and explain they've learnt that the people left because the Whateley's were killing them. I look to the mansion again, trying not to shudder. As we walk to it, the ground is smoking: the ghost rock mines are on fire. I remember the scrap I found on the boat, and wonder who Emily, Billy and the author were.

The mansion is in perfect condition - even the gardens are tidy. There's no response to the knocker or doorbell, but on trying the handle it opens to reveal opulence. By the door is a table with neat stationery; a more ragged piece of paper catches our eye as out of place. It's a note from Nicodemus Whateley to  any other Whateley who comes, telling them their Gamorra empire has fallen and they're to head west to where "the sign of the lightning bolt hides in the rock." Weematai shudders: "that's where they've taken Born in a Bowl," but won't explain how she knows.

We all jump at the sound of a heavy boot outside. A large lad of maybe 16 or 17 stands there. He explains he's the caretaker of the place. He's a bit odd, to say the least! Can't tell us his name, doesn't remember his parents - or ever meeting anyone before. Says he learnt to speak from the library, and (more confusingly) learnt to read from the library. He doesn't know where west is, saying he's never left the grounds. He seems perfectly happy for us to explore the place. Simple-minded and kindly, but a little intimidating with his size.

The mansion is odd too: sumptuous in some ways, with a well-stocked library (Carson was particularly taken with it, though we don't find anything useful), and beautiful, sturdy furniture. But there's no art and no personal items, and all the food in the pantry is rotten. The Caretaker sleeps in the servants' quarters, despite the more comfortable beds available. We spend so long exploring, it's heading toward darkness before we realise. The stained glass windows by the west-facing doors cast a stylised 'W' to the floor. 

As we leave, spot movement. On the pathway leading to the mansion is a tumbleweed, but as I look I realise it's not blowing with the wind but rather heading straight for us - and there's 8! One veers to leap at me, wrapping its vines around me. I see 5 disappear in puffs of Carson's strange green fire, but the remaining two also leap to engulf me. I struggle against them as Chin races over - one leaps from me to him, and Tesla shoots to try and help, but accidentally hits Chin. 3 more flashes of green fire, and it's over. Carson's seen these before and knew they were vulnerable to fire: "blood-sucking tumbleweed" he calls them. I'm just grateful the others were there.

The Caretaker appears at the door then, to light the lamps. He offers us dinner, but even as hungry as we are, we'd rather take our chances fishing at the dock than eat the putrid food we saw in the pantry. I ask if he's lonely and he just closes the door.

As we pass back through Doomtown, there's signs of movement in the saloon - the one where I saw (thought I saw?) those bodies last night. Tesla and Chin fixate on the place, but we manage to drag them back to the boat to try and scrabble some food together and sleep another uneasy night. We're back in Doomtown in the morning, looking for a map of the mesas in the administration building that seems to double as a city hall. We find a crude map showing a large mesa to the west. Large? It's huge, maybe 12 miles across. More importantly, it's labelled as 'Whateley Isle'. Accompanying reports are not comforting: many miners went over, most came back. Some claimed to have been chased out by "things".

We head back to our boat and set out. By late afternoon, we're pretty sure we've found it. There's a column of smoke at the top of the cliff face. Tesla says it's from boilers, but he thinks that about everything. We find a jetty; Chin and Tesla agree it was destroyed deliberately with some form of explosives. We secure our boat to the remains as best we can, and again drop the anchor. The slippery steps lead up to the ruins of another mansion. It must have been more elaborate thathe other we saw if it hadn't, like the jetty, been exploded. This isn't the source of the smoke, though, so we explore further.

We creep along the clifftop a little way, when we see a small group in Kang's colours led by one of those blue ogres. They clearly spotted us first: most are running towards us, but one is heading in the opposite direction. Carson shoots the one leaving; they drop and another takes their place, so Carson shoots them too. Tesla uses one of his devices to speed up Eyes Like Fire, who proves himself very capable as between them the men take out the ogre and its followers. That done, Eyes Like Fire turns on Tesla, pulverising him. I stand in shock - Weematai explains that they - Native Americans - don't like technology, especially the sort Tesla uses. Some, like Eyes Like Fire, take this particular distrust even further. She apologises for his actions; in kind, I apologise for Tesla's, although he wasn't to know. She and Chin manage to get Tesla on his feet again, though he's still bruised and badly injured. None of the attacking party survived to answer our questions. There's no signs of anyone else at all, except that column of smoke in the distance.

We return to the ruins of the mansion. Carson and I explore the library, but don't find anything, just burnt or weather-damaged books. In the kitchen, Tesla and Chin uncover what looks like the top of a door leading below ground level. It's very curious; we spend so long looking at it, it's dark and we need to camp.

I fall into a deep sleep quickly. At some point in the night, Tesla wakes me for my watch and collapses to sleep. I look around and realise Carson's missing. Eyes Like Fire doesn't sleep so I trust him to look after Tesla and Weematai, intending to set out with Chin to find Carson. Chin refuses to come with me, saying he's sure Carson's fine, so I set out alone and spend the rest of the night searching with no joy. Carson reappears around dawn, saying he was patrolling and changing the subject when I ask why he didn't tell anyone where he was. I'm not happy about this, but squash down my feelings. 

He saw the smokestack of a ship on the move, heading towards where ours is moored. We scurry down to hide it - there's a small cave, slightly too small, so we try to disguise our boat as a crash. Still battered, Tesla hides with the boat and Chin stays with him while Carson, Weematai, Eyes Like Fire and I head into the cave entrance.

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