The world beyond Darkness

Royal Flush

I shouldn’t have dropped my guard but I did, now I’m paying for it. What can I say. These things are bound to happen to the most cautious of us. I needed to blow off some steam and found myself in a familiar situation. I decided to spend an evening out in what would be known as a less than scrupulous game room, were it to be known. Not that there were unsavory types here, myself excluded, but this wasn’t on someone’s approved list of city establishments. There are people, all Brits of course, which come of a slightly higher status than I’ve been accustomed to of late. While picking up a few items in the market, I had been recognized as an associate of Al’s, and that apparently garnered an invite to such a fine non-establishment. This made the hair on my neck as straight as a boar’s brush but I eventually relaxed as I realized the invite genuine. Seems Al has more connections throughout the city than I originally thought. A quick assessment of this small fortune seeker lot had me guessing there were favors owed, which would be my humble guess but what the hell. I really needed a good game.

So it’s overall a quiet evening with some of the most savage poker hands I’d seen in a long while. I was pretty down on my luck and not far from finished for the night. In fact, the last time I laid eyes on cards of this genuine caliber was when Ol’ Willie Olsen was caught cheating some years back. Now I’m no card expert but a little intuition can kick you in the gut pretty hard. I was sure we were being duped. I hadn’t caught Mr. Dennington but I was damned sure, he was playing an Ol’ Willie on us, since he was the nights leader by a long shot, so I watched even closer. Wouldn’t you know it, after just a few hands, I saw how he did it. He’s sure as the day is long, a sly one. Palmed a card and had to have been doing it all night with none of us the wiser. Or so he thought. Soon as he completed the maneuver, I cleared my throat and he realized I was looking him dead in the eye. In hindsight, the look I gave should have been my poker face the whole night. I’ll work on that later for certain. On slick fingers Dennington though, I saw the slightest of a tense in his right jaw muscle. He’s now marked, that was his tell. The show was up and now he knew it. The quick glance around at the other players staring at him told the story to everyone seated.

Now this is the part of the story where I should be able to reminisce about how I handled the matter in a dazzling fashion which talked him into confessing and earning a great deal of face for Mr. Dirk Johnson. What a swell guy he is after all. Unfortunately, I let him get the draw on me. I’m fairly certain that he felt the absolute need to seize the moment due to any number of rumors that had to be floating around about my involvement in the last year’s worth of saga. The slimy toad did it too but a slight bit of fortune, it wasn’t a gun. I’m ashamed to say I was so focused on ensuring my message was wired to him direct, by deadly gaze, that I didn’t notice the knife that suddenly materialized in his hand. If there’s any ounce of luck in my bones, it was cashed when he sat to my immediate left. I had just swapped my gaze to the steel jittering back and forth from the force used to wedge it through my hand and into the table. Had it been my right hand, well… That’s not what happened so we’re not goin’ down that path. Let’s just agree, things could have been much worse for me.

Dennington had jumped to his feet and produced a second knife while starting toward the door. The attack had only happened a scant few seconds ago but he was sure to make it out the door and into the night. It had been a long time since I’ve seen a mortal man run for the hills with that kind of speed. To be honest, till I yanked the steel from it’s lodging, the fire hadn’t started to burn. Probably a good thing too otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to have solid mind enough to pull the blade out. The flick of the wrist toward slick fingers would have seemed to come natural but I can tell you, I’ve thrown knives before and it ain’t natural. I’ll take the luck though, which was probably only given out of pity by whatever puppet master is pulling my strings. The timing of it’s re-acquaintance with Mr. Dennington was spot on because he flailed as he dropped to his knees instead of slashing at the closest man to the door. This chap happened to think it a good idea to put his unarmed person in the way of a knife wielding bull charging through a china shop. I hadn’t even noticed him in the way until afterward but I’ll admit. I had other things on my mind. I later learned the would be hero, Mr. Turlington, owned the property and ran the gambling house so there was a good deal at stake if Slick fingers pulled this off and got away. Not my rodeo, so I’m staying out of it.

To wrap the story up, I got a lot of astonished nods by the blokes as they drug the whimpering slick fingers out of the room. A little help to wrap my hand and pats on the back with gratitude. I think the most helpful was Mr. Turlington ordering one of the men to get me a whisky before walking out with his boob prize. They weren’t stingy either, a glass filled almost to the brim. I could be wrong but I swear there was a second or two of silence as I knocked back the glass in one pass. A bit of a hiss as I took the first breath after. I don’t think I spoke a word though until I stepped out the door, looked back in, tipped my hat, and simply stated ‘Gentlemen.’ I turned on my heals and made my way back to the old lodge. Now I think I owe Al another bottle.

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Out with the old
Dramatic interlude momento
Since arriving back in Cairo, I have done a lot of cleaning. After the past few months, I have decided it is time to get rid of those things I no longer need. Gathering everything I own, which we all know is not much since I always have it on me, I went through all of it. While emptying me satchel I found a necklace that my husband gave me. Just holding it in my hand I was flooded with the memory of when he gave it to me. I had to sit down. I hadn’t thought of the good memories recently. Just the bad. The good memories involve when we got married. The necklace was a present from him before the wedding. When we were still really in love. Everything we did was for each other. I really needed that right now. Something good, something positive, something that does not involve death. So I sat there for a few minutes and let the good thoughts keep coming. Then I went back to the task at hand. Getting rid of the past. Out went the dirty used clothes, out went the letters from my husband, out went anything that weighed me down or reminded me of the bad things in my life. All I kept was my weapons and ammo, my clothes that I got in Cairo before, my parasol, any gear I had, and anything we had collected so far since we became rippers. Next came a shopping spree. I needed a new look. So me and Peter each bought 2 new sets of clothes. From top to bottom. Paying close attention to anything to cover up our faces. Neither one of us wanted to scare anyone at first sight. So we found ways to cover up as much of our scars as possible without completely covering our whole face like a mask. I found several hats that has lace covering on side of the face. Peter can cover some of his with facial hair, once it finally starts growing back. Then he got a wide brim hat that will shade even more of his face. We are not trying to hide. We have each dealt with the scars. They have become part of us. We just don’t want to effect others in a negative way. Peter knew that he needed to explain how he got the scar. He took the opportunity to write about our trip. He only wrote about things that were safe to talk about. No stories about werewolves to discredit him in his line of work. He told about our time on the train. It was his first time on the Oriental Express. He talked about what it was like staying in a castle and interacting with others there. Instead of talking about werewolves he said we were traveling through the woods at night and go attacked by wolves. Several people from our party suffered injuries and a few died. But no one else would have to suffer because we took out the pack that was reeking havoc on the local town. For once I didn’t have to worry about money to buy the new clothes. After what I found on the trip and what we earned I was okay. That and Peter would only let me pay a little. He said it was our new start. He didn’t want me worrying about being alone and poor anymore. We are in this together now. The scars seem to have brought us closer together. I think I’m really going to need that support as we continue the search ahead. I don’t know where its going to lead but I will take all the support I can get. We seem to bring death and destruction wherever we go. Adrianna Blackburn
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A Man in Wolfs Clothing
A surprising discovery, and a homecoming

23rd of July, 1893

Settling in at the new lodge in Cairo

Once the Old Ones Lodge is set up outside Szagred, our legendary heros settle into reseach about werewolves, hoping to acquire an eye for Al. They find that there is a hunting lodge a couple of days through the woods that has reported problems with werewolves. Johnathan confirms that Ambrus Keller has been hunting werewolves for most of his life and has assisted the rippers on occasion. He sends them with Domna, who knows where the hunting lodge is.

They meet Ambrus, and some of the women in his home. His english is not so good, but they find that he has been plagued by Loupe Rouzu, the Red Wolf. He believes it is a werewolf, but silver does not seem to affect it. They tell him they would like to capture one, and he balks. They make him a deal that if they help kill one, then they can do what they want with another, if they find one.

The next night, they go hunting, and encounter sign of lycanthropes! While hunting them, however, they are ambushed! After a fierce battle, they have killed one, and DK has subdued one. Peter is rendered uncounscoius, and Dirk suffered what appeared to be a grevious wound, but was barely a deep cut once examined. Oddly, the one they killed did not revert to human form, and Ambrus seemed to be missing! While looking for him, they are beset by another wolf man…which Adriana puts down with a single silver bullet to the throat! This one reverts to a young man, wearing only a wolf skin cape. Ambrus had been stalking this one. The other, according to Ambrus, was not a werewolf, but perhaps a Bont homse. Something that the ladies associate with American legend of a Wendigo.

Upon returnring it to Peytr, the Ripper Technologist, it is very similar to a werewolf for ripper tech, but they decide that they do not want to have to alter Al’s face to take the larger eye, so they return.

They help Ambrus make a new trap for the Red Wolf, while Dirk offered himself as bait! They set the traps, and waited…sometime after the midnight of the full moon, they are attacked! During the fight, a huge red wolf man tries to knock Dirk into the pit, but he digs in his spurs and stands his ground. The battle is grevious, and perhaps the tide is turned when 4 woodsmen show up to aid in the fight! However, they mistake DK’s restraining of the boy, who was a wolf until she incapactiated him, as trying to kidnap a boy who had been savaged by the dreaded Loupe Rouzu!

Bundling Peter and Adriana into the wagon, they hastily retun to the lodge and reveal all they have found to a near unbelieving Johnathan! He sends a runner after Mina who is returning to Sisi for some supplies, to tell Al, if he has not left, to not bother, they have been unsuccesful.

After taking time to heal, they then return to Cairo, where they invest the loot they acquired from Ambrus, to increase the facilities at the new lodge. They discover from Gwen that Al and two others have headed to South Africa to track a sighting of Quatermain. They also continue researching the clues they have about Frankenstien and Prometheus…

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Dear Mr. Jarvis
Dramatic Interlude 3 of Hearts

Greetings from the Austria Hungarian Empire! I just wanted to take the time to write you and let you know that your peculiar yet wonderful wrench has once again saved the day. You will hopefully remember my missive where I spoke of a particular stay at the Grand Budapest and the unfortunate stranding of the an entire car of people, myself included on the funicular up. A confined space full of tired and hungry aristocrats is no place to get stuck for any period of time. I recounted to you in that letter how I scrambled out of the window and perched, skirts blowing in the wind from the incoming storm, yes, it was very invigorating, but I digress. It was your fabulous Jarvis Articulated Wrench that got me out of that pickle, bending in such a way that I was able to access and bodge a repair to the gear mechanism allowing us to continue to the top where food, sympathies and hot drinks awaited us.

More recently I found myself travelling along roads that were little more than tracks, in wagons and buggies pulled by horses and a few oxen. The entire train came to a dead halt when the lead wagon, in a particularly narrow spot, broke its axle. Normally that would call for an unloading and painstaking removal of the offending vehicle to allow the others to continue, but the narrowness of the track at that point made even that too difficult to contemplate. Once again, your wrench allowed me to reach, remove and bolt into place a mechanism that allowed the wheels to turn without the connecting axle. It involved shimmying in mud, several levers, brute strength from most of the men in the party and outright theft from other pieces of equiptment, but it would never have been possible without the ability to place and tighten bolts around an acute angle.

Huzzah Good Sir. Huzzah. Your wrench has become my most necessary of equiptment and will always be kept in my closest work satchel.

Very Sincerely,
Darling Kimberly Greypartridge

P.S. Grandfather sends his regards.

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Off to Szagred we go
A new location for the Harkers

23rd of May, 1893

Outside of Szagred in what has been a safehouse

After the battle, Johnathan Harker spoke with the Empress, and it was determined that they must seal the lodge, at least for the time being. Dr. Jekyll and the other hyde have been transferred to the dungeon, awaiting a Professor Edwards, an experienced alienist. The entrance to the lodge is welded shut, and the secret entrance is collapsed.

Under the guidance of Adriana, volumes from the library are rescued, as are certain pieces of equipment from the workshop, under the watchful eye of D.K. . The empress grants each of our heroic reppers two months stipend, and tells Johnathan to also pass her thanks to them, and that she is sorry she did not have the opprotunity to meet these ripper prodigies.

A three day horse ride brings them to the small lumber town of Szagred, and just over a mile outside of town, one of the old manors is actually a safehouse of the Old worlders, usually used by the Wolfen Jeagers. This is now the temporary home of the Harkers Lodge.

Before the exodus, however, the three came up with a cunning plan and tricked a good deal of information from Henry. They now believe they know who has the pillars, but…Mina tells them that Victor Frankenstien, one of the holders, is dead …

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Another uncovered lodge
Battle at Buda

19th of May 1893, hours before dawn…

While interrogating Henry Jekyll, they discover a couple of things;

  • A few years ago Dr. Jack showed several of his students a pair of stone pillars that he supposedly acquired in Scotland.
  • It seems that Dr. Jack has also gone missing recently. He guessed, or taunted, that perhaps Dr Jack and Prof Van Helsing were off doing something with the pillars

However, at that point, there was a gun shot, and Jekyll grinned and said that his friends had arrived…Somehow a group of hydes as well as several invisible attackers found their way into the lodge!

The attack was viscous, but apparently the gunshots attracted the attention of some of the Empresses guards, easily turning the tide of the battle, but not before our heroes had already doled out significant damage. During the fighting, somehow the door to the cell holding Jekkyl was opened, but while he shifted to Edward Hyde, the cell was closed again, and the key removed.

After the battle, Johnathan and Mina Harker, both wounded, took over and swept the entire lodge with our heroes and the guards in tow. However, they found evidence that indicated at least one wounded person escaped into the darkness. To keep from walking into an ambush, Johnathan ordered the door closed and all available rippers to the meeting room. At this hour, it was deemed not to wake Sisi unless needed…

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The Lodge at Castle Buda
What's a Hungarian King more or less

18th May, 1893, late into the evening

Our heroic rippers travel to the student dig of the temple of Sosra, where relics are collected and a thourough, but rudimentary, translation of the heiroglyphs is complete. What they seek is not here, but the translation may offer some insight as to there path.

Once they return to Cairo, Al has returned to his post, and seems to be recovering well. They have already began using the new facility that D.K. acquired. They decide to follow a request from Johnathan Harker, and go to the Castle Buda. Al acquires them passage on the Orient Express, and they are on their way.

Upon arriving in Budapest, they are greeted by a driver and taken to Castle Buda, where Harker gives them a tour of the palace, and takes them to the Budapest Lodge. He and his Wife, Mina, have taken it upon themselves to teach them to run a lodge (in case they decide to build one of thier own).

After a few days in a large library, over dinner, Mina Harker comes to tell them they they have captured Dr. Henry Jekyll, but that Johnathan has been hurt.

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The Eyes Have It

Another day gone, another day anew. The downtime afforded me while in Cairo is both a curse and a blessing. I’m able to live somewhat well considering our circumstances of misfortune but I’m left with an exorbitant amount of time to daydream and self reflect. Sometimes I even have the notion to do so while visiting with my friend Mr. Bourbon. Today is no different really though the focus of my wandering mind is very sharp. One of the many theories about human life revolves around fate. If one were to subscribe to such a theory, it would be thrust upon me today like a dagger to my heart.

Cleaning up during my morning chores, I walked out the back door to rid our lodging of my reward for defeating the all powerful and mighty fiend, sand. Only a dastardly foe like sand, would reward you with,… sand. In every nook and crevice no doubt. Such was my fate. A fighter of growing renowned, relegated to a broom and dustpan. Nonetheless, I continue on with my fate and accept it as a man should. I step out and relinquish my winnings, and notice a slight scrape under my boot. It seems fate has blessed me again for my ‘good’ deeds on this world. I find a pendant that’s very popular in this part of the world. The eye of Horus, or eye of Ra if it sounds more exotic for you.

That’s when the dagger of my fate pierced my veiled attempts to occupy my mind. The one person who immediately came to mind who would possibly wear such a trinket would be Ayishah. The fate of our lives could be unbreakable. If so, it’s such a cruel misery we have to endure which has us fight as we do. The thoughts of Ayishah flood my mind and I’m taken back by the kick in the gut I’ve apparently received. She was able to look past all that’s wrong with me and still have an interest that put a sparkle in her eyes. Her very beautiful eyes. Cut down by fate.

Perhaps today will not be like yesterday. Or maybe it will. Other than fate, who knows. That’s of course only if you subscribe to such a notion. As for me, I might spend the rest of the morning consoling with Mr. Bourbon to wear through the pain of such thoughts. Guess it’s good I don’t believe in fate.

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Whitney House
or The Fighting Frazers find a home and a resident ghost

Yesterday? … yes… well… yesterday was an interesting day.

Everything started off normal with a gathering of papers and a visit to Allan as he convalesces, but while visiting a funny little man came to see Mr. Frazer… an acquaintance from the consulate… a Realtor of sorts I suppose you could call him. He told Al of a home he had been trying to sell for some time now, but everyone who comes to look is put off by the feel of the place. He does admit that there tend to be odd sounds of doors slamming, footsteps above when all are below and very odd cold spots. The man was nervous and embarrassed and did not in any way want to say that he suspected there might be ghosts but did say he had been told that Mr. Frazer often helped in odd situations and could he, or someone he knew come and have a look around? Allan and I exchanged glances and a nod and secured the keys and an address for this unsaleable building, promising to send someone for a look.

Although we were scheduled to leave the following day with the students to our temple, the three of us decided it would be good and useful to go check things out. I do, after all, have devices specifically designed to detect and see such phenomenon as “ghosts”… so off we go.

The address took us to a three storied corner building, shuttered and closed and looking the worse for wear, but quite charming in its own way… one could certainly see the appeal of the upper balconies that curved around the rounded front corner of the building, giving a lovely view of the square below and the river and desert beyond… until one looked at the building through my camera. One darkened, unshuttered window held the eerie outline of a spirit in the aether. I waved at the figure and snapped his picture… and a HE he certainly was. English judging by his dress and features as well for when I waved and took the image, the spirit realized he could be seen and solidified for an instant into a form familiar in many photographs and paintings on many gentlemen’s and adventurer’s club walls. Tall and lean he wore khakis, boots and a pith helmet, splendid mustache reaching to his ears, curled and waxed and a justified source of pride from the wearer… the picture of just about any English wilderness adventurer ever.

Sharing the image and what it was that I briefly saw with my companions we agreed that nothing had changed and that in we should go, so, Dirk unlocked the door, lit his lantern and in we went.

Our new found spirit friend was shy and disbelieving at first, he quietly followed us around as we explored and poked around in corners and closets. Spacious and well thought out the building had once been a comfortable abode for a company or rather large family, but appeared to be cleared out of anything personal. Furniture lurked, covered in dust cloths, chandeliers and wall sconces sat dusty and unused, empty cupboards and closets spoke of thorough removal before being left vacant. It wasn’t until we reached the attic space that we found anything that might yield information about who our silent companion might be… and we only found the attic space because he chose that moment to speak to me, polite, still slightly unbelieving in my ability to hear and see him he cleared his throat, pointed to the trap door above us and said simply…. “here”…

The attic space was dusty and filled with spider webs and mice nests and at first glance appeared to be empty. In fact, we might have missed his pile of personal effects tucked away in a corner if he had not, again, moved to his belongings, sat on the steamer trunk and cleared his throat politely.

You may wonder why I didn’t just speak with the gentleman in question outright from the beginning. I might have, if I had been my younger self, brashly addressing any spirits I felt, saw or heard. I was, however, taught by one spirit not so very benign that those trapped in the aether aren’t always benevolent and interested in being friendly or helpful. It was a terrifying and painful lesson, one in which I vowed to never speak to a spirit unless they spoke first. I have since altered the rule to include silent overtures along with the first words as I have encountered those too shy or unable to verbalize.

As it turns out, the household spirit’s name is Jeffrey Whitney Peregrine Kimball. Whitney to his friends, and please do call me Whitney if I may be so bold as to call you Darling? I had to smile at that… dapper spirits asking permission to use my Christian name. Mr. Kimball, the youngest son and somewhat of a blacksheep of the Kimball family… and yes, you would be correct in assuming it is the Kimball’s of the textile magnate Kimballs. Too restless to settle, too much a lover of women to enter the priesthood, Whitney filled his days with travel and exploration. Although he was never credited with any great discoveries or the naming of anything he was almost always a member of a team that did make great discoveries and name things.

Unfortunately, as many an explorer does, Whitney became ill, with some local disease and died before a doctor could be found. He is pretty certain no doctor could have cured him anyway and is, or was resigned to rambling around this old building where his brother so crassly left all his treasures and worldly goods.

With permission we removed his trunk and his packs… one of which contained his cremated remains to Al’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon looking through his trophies and papers. Wrapped in some letters from home and bank notices and such we found a golden statue of a rotund woman. When questioned Whitney shrugged and said it was just one of the things that made up his share of a find… something he was holding onto for a rainy day…. Which sparked an idea in my little brown haired head…

After discussing with my companions and running the idea by Whitney I took the statue and the keys back to Allan and explained… unsaleable building + a resident ghost + a gold statue = a lodge house for Cairo. Al, being a practical fellow at heart, grew a larger and larger smile as I lay out my thoughts.. and… leaving the keys and the statue with him I left to prepare for our journey back into the desert.

I am hopeful that when we return in a few days Whitney House, home of the Fighting Frazers will be opened and airing and plans will be underway for a growing lodge of Rippers.
Al_s.jpg

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Go away memories
Trial Interlude Adrianne Blackburn
While trying to relax before we head out into the desert again, yeah, my companions each receive missives. While most people might feel left out, I was relieved. The last time I received something I wasn’t expecting, Father Batch was handing me a letter meant for my husband from an “acquaintance” of his. I do not need to read any more love letters to my late husband that are not from me. So I excuse myself and get ready for bed. But who am I kidding. Just thinking about it causes me to toss and turn all night. Just when it seems like I am asleep, its just a dream. Of all things its about my husband. Back when I didn’t question him about being gone all the time and what he was doing. Oh how I wish I had.

So when he lied and said he was working I could throw the letters at him and say this doesn’t sound like just work to me. So in the dream we are a happy loving couple, just like I was fooled to believe we were. We would spend all his free time together. He was the one who taught me how to shoot. If he only knew how much that time practicing has come in handy for me now. But I don’t want to credit him with anything positive in my life anymore. Except to say that I’m not going to be fooled so easily again. I won’t be fooled by a pretty face and nice words. It takes more then that now. My companions might think I’ve let Peter do it to me as well. But I know more about him and what he has done then I ever knew about my husband. If I’ve questioned him he has always been honest and hasn’t kept things from me. I’ve probably kept more from him then he’s kept from me. I’ve worked hard to stand on my own two feet and I’ll be damned if old memories are going to keep me from sleeping any more. The past is the past and I can’t change it now. So I just need to stand strong now and move on. So this will be the last night I toss and turn and wake up feeling horrible. Go away memories and never come back.

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