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Episode Fourteen: Soap Opera Treachery

Stark's Reef

Leaving their erstwhile benefactor, the circle heads due west, toward Stark's Reef: the most hospitable part of Skullstone. It's a sizable port half-covered by shadowlands (spooky places full of ghosts with undead/underworld themed mechanical effects. The entire Skullstone archipelago is lousy with them). They pay for a pilot to navigate them through the eponymous reef, and submit to customs inspection and some (surprisingly reasonable) docking fees. Then everyone heads for a bar to catch up on local gossip (except for Rabbit, whose player was out). They find, among other things, the following rumors:

  • Ebon Siaka, local hero, has a new submarine, and just loves it. 
  • A ship tried to sneak in last night and foundered on the reef. Serves them right. 
  • A building was raided down the dock. It was a loud and impressive raid by the local black fleet garrison. 
  • Everyone loves the new plays. Opinions are divided as to which is best. 
  • A bunch of other stuff that I don't remember, because no-one dug into it. 

After some discussion confirms that Siaka's submarine is probably not the same as The Rose's Thorn, they split up. Howl, Hammer, and the redshirt who insulted Monsoon's cooking go to investigate the wrecked ship; Orchid, Monsoon, and Brad go to the Halls of Bureaucracy (“The Ministry”) to enquire after the ship which they are seeking. They enter the building, queue up, and are quickly at the front where they are cheerily directed to a different desk. 

Meanwhile, Hammer & Co. are rowing out to the wreck in a launch; and occasionally dragging it across reef. 

Team Monsoon enqueues in the much shorter line at the new desk, repeat their enquiry, and are led back to an office. They again repeat their inquiry, and a secretary is sent to find yet another person. 

Howl spots zombies staggering about on the wreck as they get closer. 

Yet Another Person arrives and is ghostly. He  hears what's up, and conducts them to a conference room, asking them to wait there. 

Hammer et al. are close enough now to see that the undead are moving stuff onto pallets. 

Team Monsoon are cooling their heels for twenty minutes or so, then Brad begins investigating the conference room.  It is simply furnished, but the furniture is sturdy. The walls are bare. The door is locked. Brad completely fails to unlock it, so goes back to waiting. They don't wait much longer before someone new comes in, looking police-ish and leaving a couple people outside the door. This person is not a ghost. They once again ask after the ship and their doppelgängers, but this time something new happens: he asks why. So Monsoon explains everything that's happened. The detective is thoughtful, then becomes much more helpful, and asks them to follow him. He leads them around the building to another, nicer conference room and asks them to wait there. 

Howl and Hammer and Redshirt arrive at the partially submerged ship and prepare to attack the animate corpses. Suddenly, one turns to them and asks what they're doing there! Howl talks to him and discovers that this zombie crew has been hired to salvage whatever they can by the owner, Dirgeful Silk. The cargo was grain, and is mostly spoiled. Hammer asks if he can look around the captain's quarters. The ghost snickers and says “knock yourself out.” The cabin is under about ten feet of water. Hammer solves this by holding his breath for a really long time. The ghost is surprised, but good to his word. 

In the cabin, Hammer finds a sodden mass which was likely formerly a set of valuable charts and informative letters. Now, it is a sodden mass. He also finds a small pile of jade money fetched up against the wall. Because he was previously indigent, this is actually enough that he cares about it. Then he takes his wolf and redshirt and goes home. 

Meanwhile, the gang is all back in the nicer, also locked conference room. After a somewhat longer wait, another new ex-person comes in. This one seems more upper level, though still dead. He does not ask them for their story again, and explains that regretfully, the ship they're looking for was raided early that morning for crimes against the state (which is not actually more descriptive than “crimes”). Also, they raided a warehouse, where all the people they are looking for were unfortunately killed, and all their documents were burned. So sad. They ask to see the bodies, and he readily agrees, leading them through the twisty passages and back outside, then to a different building. It's essentially a guard post, but with a proper morgue apparently. They are (again) asked to wait. This wait is short though, and the bureaucrat returns with a doctor of some sort, who conducts them to the morgue

Inside, the circle sees their own corpses. Some imitations are better than others: Orchid's is fairly close; Rabbit's resemblance depends on the orange armor and Mohawk; Hammer's is huge and robed, but the right skin tone (his is distinctive for the region); Brad's is completely unrelated except for the bow; Monsoon's has a mad-doctor lab coat and head mirror, neither of which Monsoon actually wears. 

Monsoon points out that theses corpses are all Frankensteined together, but the doctor is unimpressed. He agrees and points out workmanship details on them. 

Everyone is somewhat nonplussed. They investigate the ship, which is empty. They talk their way into the warehouse where their doubles were nominally killed, and find it mostly empty. There is a lofted area with offices, one of which has obviously had a fire (matching what they were told). Inside the office they discover what appears to have been a very localized desk fire. Brad investigates though, and discovers a false back to the drawer, full of shipping ledger. Someone has apparently been smuggling flour, and various other grains and grain products. Hammer recalls that the ship wrecked on the reefs was full of flour, so off they go to find the owner. 

Dirgeful Silk, when they find him, is busy moving out of a mansion. They briefly attempt to blackmail him, but this ends when he points out that he has already been discovered and raided. Also, he knows absolutely nothing about the duplicates. Or about anything else useful. 

Confused, they sail back to Coral. 


Once back in Coral, they trot down to the Sea Lord's guard barracks, and blithely drop off their duplicates, politely pointing out that these are counterfeits. The guards are confused, but are also mooks, and unwilling to attack a group of solars. They nod and smile, and eventually the circle leaves for Muddy Reefs. 

Muddy Reefs

When they get there, the bureaucracy monk pulls Hammer aside and quietly shows him that the monastery is a manse. Quel surprise. The statues are a guardian force, and it has a farmer's stone. Yay, crops!

Not too long after, a letter arrives from Lord Gerard. It expresses uncertainty whether they have actually kidnapped a second set of Realm representatives, but it doesn't matter now: they need to either return them, or Coral will crush Muddy Reefs. The Realm has made a similar threat to Coral, so it's not really optional. 

And on that high note, the session ends.