City of Scoundrels

Reasons to be Fearful, Part 2
A non-exhaustive list of things you have Fucked Up

“You remember our venerable house… opulent and imperial. It is a festering abomination!”

The great mages and powers of the world sit aloof, exalted and unvexed by the tawdry affairs of plebian mankind. They spare no thought for the teeming, infected multitudes of Mellanford Key. Unless some hideous and unnameable power should attract their gaze….

A great eye is fixed upon Tumbledown Hill. Its vision will not break, or waver. The chittering terrors and gibbering homunculi that whisper in the ears of the great magi tell of a new specter, one that has made its home in the seat of House Stumblebum. An otherwordly apparition of such fabulous and unfathomable power that it must be stopped. Or harnessed. The cabal of the learned now send all the spies and servants that can be mustered against this ancient and venerable house.

A house that has become black with tales of horror. The common folk of the city fear to approach it. The windows teem with the phantoms of the departed dead, the vaulted halls groan with the weight of centuried spirits. It is rumoured that deep in the salted cellars and cursed earth a damned portal of antediluvian evil is awakening. The walls between worlds become weak. Who will stand the gate, when the last seal fails?

For certain it will be not the Dark Lord Stumblebum himself. The clutching ravening shadows have claimed his heart. To reign from such a house of death and madness he can only be a devil made flesh. The locals tell tales of his voice, laughing and wailing through the blackened arcades of his estate, as monstrous shadows dance and cackle in an unearthly light. For such unholy times to fall upon his house, he must not only be complicit, but the genesis of this demoniacal horror.

Meanwhile, by night, safe in a circle of salt, lit by the flickering gloom of all the candles he can find, Lord Eddan Blackheath praises the Incarnate and passes the ammunition. For a man who has made it a life rule never to tangle in the affairs of anyone more powerful than he is, he is beginning to think he has made a huge mistake.

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Bargains

“Apply this to the affliction under the light of dawn, every morning for a week. If the ailment persists, seek me out at my clinic, at the Stumblebum manor. I have the equipment there for more… intense treatments.”

“Bless you, doctor.” The patient bowed. Azar Nejem returned the gesture, and the patient left.

Azar looked around. The sun was starting to set, and most people were heading home. He should do the same – there would be no more patients today, and darkness brought out the more… unsavoury types of citizens.

He packed up his supplies, and headed back towards the Stumblebum estate. A poor place to call home, but a home nonetheless. It would do, for the time being.


He stepped into his clinic and lit the lantern. It was not much of a clinic yet – still quite obviously a re-purposed stable with a some medical equipment. But it, like the estate and its master, had potential. If shaped and guided properly, they could be turned into something great.

With Lord Stumblebum’s funding, this stable could come to look like what the naive people of Mellanford Key expected a clinic to look like.

And underneath, we’ll have the real clinic.

Azar Nejem closed and barred the door, and dimmed the light of the lantern. He then pushed the heavy table to the side, and swept some of the remaining hay to the side. He used charcoal to draw the summoning circle, and filled it in with a mixture of pigs’ blood and various herbs.

The light seemed to dim even further as he spoke in a forgotten language, coaxing the walls between this world and the next to part, and let something through.

The creature, a thing made of shadows and draped in moth-eaten rags, rose up from the ground inside the summoning circle, and greeted Azar with an exaggerated bow.

Good evening, my dear Doctor. How was your journey?

“Watcher.” Azar nodded respectfully. “My journey was fine, thank you. No worse than the previous ones.”

Hmmmm. I’m not sure the same can be said for your lodgings.

“It’s true that its not much, but think of what it could be.”

Ever the visionary, Doctor. It’s what I admire the most about you.

But you didn’t call on me for pleasant conversation, I think. What can I do for you tonight?

“I need a place to perform my true craft, away from prying eyes.” He nodded towards the ground underneath the Watcher. “I don’t have the tools, nor the time to dig it out myself.”

Without tools of iron, you must rely on flesh and indefatigable purpose. I have access to plenty of both, Doctor, don’t you worry.

“And in return?”

Your true name.

“No.”

Why do you insist on this game of nicknames? Why not just tell me your name?

“Why don’t you tell me yours?”

Touché. Very well. In this new room we will carve for you, I want you to place my idol, you know the way. I want an anchor.

“Very well. I swear it shall be so.”

Azar stretched out his hand. The Watcher stretched out an arm in kind, and from out of the ragged sleeve came a bony hand with fingers like the legs of spiders. The two grabbed each other’s hand, and the deal was sealed.

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I say unto you... WELCOME!

“Loaded I tell you. The Stumble-Bum’s fortunes have returned.”

F. Dashwood slapped the fellow patron on the back and raised his glass of brandy in a toast to his own well-being. The inn was busy and full of life and sound. It had been a while since he had set foot in the Sunken Heifer but today was a day to celebrate. His manor was to be restored, the family’s coffers would so once more be over following and the honour of the Stumble-Bums was on the rise.

Oh and of course he had some new guests. Well, not guests, staff.

The morning had proven very bizarre indeed and a man of his stature should not have to put up with such organised chaos. The foreigner’s strange welcoming ritual had destroyed the last of the supplies of the onions in the cellar, not to mention stained the surfaces in the kitchen a rather unappealing shade of red. He’s always like the brown stains.

The doctor’s skill of medicine had come in very handy during the tidying up, fortuitously. It would be good to have a doctor on staff, he could help with Big Martha’s belching problem not to mention the green things between his own toes. It was the damp you see, gets in something terrible, well, used to.

The Manor was to be refurbished, no more damp there. Best of all it was to be paid for by the foreign merchant as a thank you for letting him stay. Sae was handling the money. A fine lad, good and trust worthy, though not much use in a fight.

Yes of course, those vagabonds, how dare they try to manhandle his staff. That was his job. Luckily for them they had known to depart before he had turned to violence. They respected the old order at least.

Yes things were certainly looking up. He had even noticed a spring in Sullivan’s step this morning. The people knew it to. He saw the way they looked at him and exchanged bags of money between themselves. Clearly collecting on some wager involving his fortunes.

“Yes my friends. The Stumble-Bums are on the rise.” He called triumphantly to the bar. A few people gave him an interested glance and more money was exchanged. He sighed happily, sipping his brandy.

“It’s so nice to have the support and faith of the common man.”

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Eye for an Eye

“I need them dealt with.”

The tall man raised a dark eyebrow at her. “It will cost you. You know the rates.”

“I can pay. Cash, or favour in kind. You know I’m good for it, Farrow.”

“I know. You’re pretty good for a quagger.” He glanced at her fading black eye. “That’s why I’m wondering why you’ve come to me, instead of doing it yourself.”

“They know my face. It will be too obvious if it’s me and I don’t want any connection. I need something a little more… subtle. That’s why I’ve come to you.”

“I see. I admire your taste.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “What did you have in mind?”

“There are plenty of options, I’m sure you can think of something. A brawl in the lower parts of the city gone wrong, an altercation with some of Broken Glass’ thugs, bad encounters with streetwalkers, tragically falling masonry. They don’t have to die, I don’t need that much. I just want them out of commission. You can arrange it.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Do you have higher up approval for this? If this gets back and you don’t…”

“I’m acting on discretion. I need to blend in, Farrow, and if they recognise me in places where I shouldn’t be I’ll be screwed. It’s too early for things to get fucked up.”

He paused for a while and then grinned. “How would you feel about blinding? Then they’d never be able to see you in the wrong places.” He paused again. “They work for Eyes, it would have a certain irony to it. I like irony.”

“As long as it doesn’t lead back to me and it looks like an accident. I don’t want to know any more than necessary.”

“Of course.” He held out a large brown hand. “A favour for a favour, bog-child. I’ll collect at the right time, and you’d better be ready to pay.”

She shook his hand.

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Reasons to be Fearful, Part 1
A non-exhaustive list of things you have Fucked Up

A dockside market district has required attention from a band of professional rat-catchers, a squadron of doctors from the Prince’s College of Surgeons, and a pair of Church exorcists recently after a spate of bizarre illnesses and strange occurrences. Everything from giant evil slugs to blood-crazed lunatics to a misplaced sense of ennui has been reported by those who drink the local water, and many are quick to blame it on the arrival of a mysterious foreign prince. They say he arrived hurling black curses, can turn himself into a swarm of bats at will, and that the ship that bore him sunk back into the briny ocean from whence it came.

A similar sense of fear at the new arrival has been felt in the upper levels of society, though for more prosaic reasons. Across the banks, treasure-rooms and counting-houses of the city, accountants are pulling double shifts to calculate compound interest, depreciating land value, and tax-deductible losses. Word has spread that despite all efforts to prevent him, the creditor has arrived, and he means to collect.

Meanwhile, the occult world are bracing for a wave of fiends and horrors to be unleashed. A hideous tome of black secrets, foul iconography and blasphemous writings is rumoured to have been found hidden amidst the common wares of a bookseller, and has already passed through a half-dozen hands. It is said to be searched for by powerful magicians, ambitious apprentices and daring treasure-hunters alike, although all may give up hope at the rumour that it has fallen into the hands of the King of Broken Glass himself. Who knows what evil that black heart might work with such knowledge?

Finally, half the city has been shocked to learn that the will of Mellanford Key’s premier criminal, the King of Eyes, has been defied by an impoverished nobleman. Though the very beams of his estate were rotten, and his silver tarnished, the tempered iron will of Mellanford nobility flashed again in his steely gaze, and the authority of generals past was found in his imperious bearing. With nothing more than a steady eye and commanding voice, he ordered twenty common ruffians to depart the hall of his ancient noble line, and finding their blood turned to water and their limbs to soup, they could only obey.

Bets are being taken on the exact manner of his upcoming horrible death.

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