OPEN Chapter 1: A Murder Mystery

Jorick

A thought often makes us hotter than a fire.
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#21
The Land, Coal Shovel Tavern - Lucius "The Maggot" King

While chaos erupted around him, Lucius remained calm and composed. The bartender's insulting comment about his appearance earned her a lopsided smile. It had been a long time since someone was brazen enough to say a word about his disgusting appearance in his hearing, much less with a direct insult. She was either stupid or brave. Either way, her declaration of quitting was quite amusing. While the others in the bar were busy freaking out over the child and his message, Lucius finished his drink with two quick swallows and put his gas mask back on, making sure it was tilted just so to hide the ever-present wound on his face.

By the time he was satisfied with its placement, the Moray and Jackdaw had already run out to chase the boy and a good portion of the tavern's other guests had followed. Lucius strolled over to the former bartender and took a recently vacated stool right beside her, sitting to face her rather than the bar. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small wooden object, looking it over himself for a moment before he placed it on the bar in front of the cheeky woman. It was a wood coin with a simple symbol carved into both sides, a five pointed star made of five straight lines with the addition of an X carved into the pentagon at the star's center.

"If you ever get fed up with trying to conform to the chafing will of others to make a living, seek me out in the Underground. Ask to be brought to the Maggot and show this coin to anyone who says they can show you the way for a price. I've got a lot of plans to change this wretched city, many of which may greatly appeal to you. I could use the help of folks with a spine to see those plans accomplished, and I think you have what it takes." Lucius didn't bother waiting for a response before pushing away from the bar and heading for the door.

His little recruitment speech had been equal parts bullshit and honesty. The coin would work, but only for someone of her general description to avoid the chance of it being passed off to a Cloak, and he did indeed think his plans would appeal to the average citizen of Golden City. The talk of her being something special was nonsense, but he'd found that making people feel special was a good way to get them on your side. Hell, that was how he'd acquired the majority of his followers, and it might just gain him another from that little chat.

Recruitment was not his main goal today, though. Lucius turned the opposite direction from the child-chasing crowd and slipped down the first alley he came across, using it as the starting point of a twisting and meandering path that would take him away from the tavern and shake anyone stupid enough to try to tail him. It would also, conveniently enough, take him toward the home of a man he'd wanted to see dead for some time. Lucius wanted to get in on the game in his own way, and quite literally killing two birds with one stone seemed like a grand idea indeed.

The Sky, Overton Manor - Lady Almyra Grace Overton

"Well, that was easier than expected, but also less useful than hoped."

Alymra's silent guardian had nothing to say to that, but he did rise from his chair to come and see the results of her work for himself. Amidst the discarded bits of paper covered with all manner of scribbled notes, there was one clean and finished product. At the top there was a clearly labeled key, with the alphabet in standard order in the top row of boxes and the substituted letters below them. Below that, the ciphered text from the paper was written out twice: once in the spaceless block it had originally been in, and then with spaces added. Below that was the solved text in full, written in all capital letters as it had been presented in the paper with the addition of proper punctuation.

HELLO CITIZENS OF GOLDEN CITY HOW, LOVELY TO MEET YOU. I AM MASTER AND I HAVE COME HERE TO ANNOUNCE MY RETURN. CONGRATULATIONS SOLVING THIS PUZZLE, YOU HAVE PROVEN YOURSELF TO BE VERY AMUSING SO I WILL PLAY SOME MORE SOON. I DO GET BORED VERY FAST.

While the Inquisitor looked it over, Almyra called out for some of her own personal guards. The call was immediately answered by four men shoving into the room one after another. Clearly they had been less than pleased by her previous order to leave her alone with the Inquisitor, and as expected they'd remained lurking outside the door despite being ordered to go relax. She held up two simpler copies of the solution to the cipher and offered them to the guards.

"Take this one to the Golden Times, and pick me up any late run papers for the day on the way back. This one goes to Amos Fleming. Quickly now." The guards took the papers and had a quick hushed huddle, and within the minute two of them were headed out the door while the other two took up watchful positions in the room. Almyra let them be rather than ordering them out again, and she pushed away from the desk to return to her comfy chair on the other side of the room. She noticed the Inquisitor giving her a strange look, so she flashed him a fierce smile as she sat. "Never underestimate what a bored lady can accomplish with sufficient motivation, dear Cloak." He made that sound again, something like the very start of a laugh muffled quickly, but he couldn't hide the amusement in his eyes this time. Almyra suspected he would be less than pleased if he'd gotten the chance to read the notes added to those two copies of the solution she'd sent out, but she of course kept that to herself.

On the copy sent to Amos Fleming, she'd written a quick and chiding note: Amos, hiding in our homes is merely cowering in fear from petty criminals. Please lift your silly edict and send this Inquisitor to get out there and find the murderer rather than staring at me all day. There had been no need to sign that one, because Amos would doubtless recognize her handwriting or be made aware the delivery had come from a man dressed in Overton guard livery. The one to the Golden Times, however, was a different matter.

To whomever it may concern at the Golden Times,

Above you see the solution to the cipher that was printed in your paper and others this morning. I ask that you print it along with the message written below the line as soon as possible. Should any payment be required for the inconvenience, send someone with the bill to Overton Manor and it shall be paid upon arrival.

My thanks in advance,

Lady Almyra Grace Overton

~~~

Dear Game Master,

Your puzzle kept me entertained for about ten minutes. I must admit I was disappointed by its simplicity. I hope this is not your idea of a challenging mystery, else I'm afraid you do not live up to your reputation. Hopefully this four part key shall prove more intriguing, but I shall not hold my breath.

Regards,

Lady Almyra Grace Overton


Goading a murderer was absolutely not something a wise person would do, but Almyra had never laid claim to wisdom. She hoped it would prod the Game Master, for that was undoubtedly who was behind this twisted game, into hasty action that might get him caught once and for all. If nothing else, it served as a nice way to vent her frustration at being more or less imprisoned in her own gilded cage. If all she could do about the situation was to rattle the bars while being an irritation, then she would do just that. She suspected this first round of bar rattling would get the job done though, so now she waited patiently in pleasant silence to see what would come of her messages.
 

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#22

 

The Raven; The Land; Coal Shovel Tavern 


 

Raven growled in annoyance and glared at her brother as she was smacked on the head for no apparent reason. Well, one could argue the way she referred to the Maggot, sticking her nose into business that weren't her own even in passing like that, was a poor choice and thus the slap would be sufficient warning. Not that it mattered to Raven. She had not meddled with the Maggot and somehow she doubted the man would go out of his way to hurt her for such a passing comment. But, the slap was the least of their problems.


Somehow, Hagen had gotten himself involved pretty deep with the Bird. At least, deep enough to allow the Cloaks to get him for the Bird's murder. Now, Raven might have been kept mostly out of her brother's business, but she knew pretty well. No matter what, he would never kill someone, especially a woman, the way the Bird died. Rolling her eyes at his comment about announcing their engagement in the killer's game to more patrons in the tavern, she ignored it. "You're an idiot and you owe me the whole story this time. Don't think you're off the hook once we get home." She warned him and got ready to chase after the kid just as her brother was doing. She could feel the excitement of the chase already getting to her.

It all happened rather fast for Phineas. The Moray answered his questions, the bartender tried to chase him out, a paperboy came in to yell some random information that he couldn’t care less about. It all dizzied the young Rat who was getting an overload of information on an empty stomach.

Moray’s threats were clear, however. At last Phineas could understand that as he watched the man run off. Turning around to Raven the boy smirked before turning to the bartender that just resigned. He could understand that implication as well. How silly of the Moray to ask these unreliable adults to do a job.

“Well, I’m off,” he announced loudly, as if trying the crowd. Another woman had joined the small group, a rich one looking at that and Phineas couldn’t help but peek at the fair maiden. The rich definitely were of another quality. Another air, he would even argue that their skin was different! Long he didn’t stare, however as he duck his head to escape any grabbing hands and started to bolt towards the doors. He was not afraid of any ear-pulling.

And of course Phineas wasn’t planning on staying, Raven could tell as much and had purposefully stayed behind to make sure to foil his first attempt at an escape, even as Hagen and Jackdaw had ran off. “Oh no you don’t, you little bug!” She made a grab for him, but just as he ducked to avoid her grip on his collar, she heard her name being called and her path blocked by someone she never expected to run onto like that. It was enough for Phineas to disappear.

Raven groaned. She knew Hagen was not going to be pleased with Phineas, or with her for that matter. She had managed to fail him twice just about now. First off, she had Phineas and he slipped right through her fingers, quite literally for that matter, and second, she wasn’t going to be joining the hunt for the newspaper boy anytime soon.

“What in the world are you doing here?” Doctor Breston demanded in that no-nonsense tone of hers, quite the same she had used when Raven had broken into her shop with a bleeding arm one night. “Doc, this really isn’t the time for another scolding. I was just about to leave.” She told the silverhaired woman in a very urgent tone as she attempted to sidestep and make a run for it. If she took to the roofs and hurried she might’ve been able to catch with Hagen and the Jackdaw.

---
Ritual Lobotomy Ritual Lobotomy Nemopedia Nemopedia Jorick Jorick Aero Blue Aero Blue  
@Princess Misaou Giving you a chance to have Kaylee grab her, otherwise Raven's going to bolt out of the tavern. XD
 

Ritual Lobotomy

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#23

 
The Moray; Streets of the Land 

 

w/ Nemopedia Nemopedia

Moray groaned once the dim shadow of the Jackdaw’s swift and lean frame passed over him. Show off. But as long as it was put to a good use, he could show off as much as he wanted. For the moment of what later he thought of utter stupidity, Moray slowed down slightly, allowing Jackdaw to lead forward. People on the street made harder for him to follow the boy, and having a pair of eyes from the bird’s perspective was an advantage he had to trust the lanky clown with.

The streets of Golden City were hard to navigate through. With the alleys connected at random and sharp turns the boy had to skid frequently to catch the right path. Luckily he had some experience as a paperboy, which helped him in remembering the roads. That didn’t help him when an obstacle landed in front of him, however. With barely any time to stop himself his face collided face first into something soft from which he bounced off and then fell backwards, his head dizzy from the collision.

The large man made a turn where Jackdaw landed from the rooftops just in time to witness the head on crash that made his face wince slightly. Poor bastard did not see it coming, and on the level of being a man as well, he found an ounce of sympathy to spare. Dazed the boy blinked at the smoky air, the roofs of the buildings above him twisting before straightening themselves out again in the same organized chaos that was the city he had grown up in. The anxiety of his job was what helped him jump onto his legs again, finally meeting the person he had run into.

Moray wasted no time, and he quickly closed the distance between himself and the boy now focused solely on Jackdaw, with his back turned to where the other man was approaching from.
Clutching his crotch the miner seemed pale from the pain that the paperboy’s head had given him, but the boy had no time to think of that matter, face paling up as well for another reason.

“Don’t get into my way!” he yelled, loudly, attracting a few onlookers. Most of them passed him by placidly, apathetic for the screams and the panic from the boy. The shout of such nature, scared and urgent, caused the man to rethink the course of his action in the moment before he stepped behind the boy and reach out to grab him by the back edge of his trousers before he could resume his frantic run. Pulling the boy in stopping his attempts to break loose, he looked down at the man in agony with a smug smirk escaping under his dark moustache. “Go home, birdie. I can take it from here.” A certain amount of gratitude was in order regardless. “Thanks”, he thanked the man with slight insecurity, as if weighting was it worth it or not.

With task at hand, man’s face turned grim quickly and he pushed the boy forward slightly, stepping around Jackdaw and resuming the walk. “Listen, kid”, he mumbled, taking another look around them before leaning lower towards kid’s ear once his breath stabilized. “That was fun, but I am done playing. Go to wherever the hell you need to be so urgently, but I am coming with you.” Sealing his demand, he tightened his grip on the boy’s garments and yanked him forward lightly.

“After you.”

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Aero Blue Aero Blue

 
 

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#24
Amos Fleming; The Sky - Fleming manor > to > Overton manor
“A letter.” Amos took the letter from his secretary, opening it with a glance before smiling at himself.

“I was wondering when this would come,” he spoke, handing the note back before he buttoned up his jacket. The second seat was still at home, though apart from his secretary the house was empty in overall. No cloak in sight, which went against the orders he had given. Something wholly unsurprising, seeing as Amos was the conductor to the whole orchestra.

The house arrest he had put all Council members under had cut significantly into his own timetable. However, he wouldn’t be the celebrated member he was today if he didn’t manage to loophole himself around it. Dressed in baggy pants of muddy colour, a white shirt and a muddy coloured jacket, patched up and worn accompanied with the hat of a worker Amos found a familiar image within the mirror. Older than he remembered, but reminiscent nonetheless as it had been his before his career.

“No need to send out a response, I’m heading over there,” Amos called to the automaton. It was a smooth model, almost human in appearance, except from the lines at the joins and the way it spoke in. It was one of the reasons why Amos had commanded it not to speak.

“If anyone comes to the door say that I’m not meeting anyone.” With another last set of instructions the man left from the back, deftly moving around out of sight and away from the attention surrounding him. Though old the man still retained his fine skills from his vigilant days, his eyes still recognising the roads and knowing what signs to look for.

Slipping into the Overton manor, which was a matter of persuasion and discretion, he then entered the room. “Busy at work, I see,” he observed, hands folded to the back and standing straight. The aura of authority that Amos exuded clashed with the appearance of the commoner he actually had, yet it was recognisable all the same.

“I heard you wanted out?” he continued nonchalantly, unbothered with his intrusion as he smiled at the noble woman. “Disguise yourself and be quick about it, my guard must have noticed my unusual long potty time.” Amos laughed, eyes twinkling in mischief as if he was a young boy again. Though, somewhere deep down men never grew out of being boys.


Jorick Jorick
 

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#25
GM Post
The Underground


“Are you sure?”

A pathetic figure he was, all bones and skin, scrawny beyond imagination. The years had hollowed him out, literally and figuratively. Though supposedly young in age his appearance suggested that he was twice, perhaps even thrice his actual age. Skin hanging, eyes drooping, the male’s appearance screamed ‘pitiful’ and ‘miserable’, which is how he felt in every bit of his being as well.

“We can’t back down,” his companion gruffed, sterner, stronger, but still stewed in the same stench and melancholy that he was born from. “Maybe we will be luckier the next time,” he slid his hat further down his eyes, teeth gritted in an attempt to conceal his emotions.

“Maybe,” the young man sighed, clear blue eyes flickering one last time over to his friend before they both looked down at the burning ovens underneath them.

They held hands as they took the plunge down.

Coal Shovel Tavern


“I quit, I fucking quit,” Mallory snarled at the pale haired skywalker that neared her, emptying her glass in one go. Impatience ran through her as the brunette drummed her fingers on the wood. She needed the job, but she could impossibly hold herself back from the adventure and promise of grandiose. She wanted out, out of this place, rise up and become someone of her own worth.

When the man with the deformed face spoke up Mallory barely listened to him, thinking that he was ordering another drink from her. However, as his speech was too long for an order and the item near her was no gold, or silver the female straightened herself up. Though she only caught half of the message and though the man had left soon after the former bartender stared at the coin with interest. It was true that she was dissatisfied with the city and she had heard of fanatic groups banding together in secret, but was she willing to go that far and deep for change?

Rolling her eyes the female slipped the item into her pocket, telling herself that the answer was ‘no’, but convincing herself that she could get a pretty penny out of it if she handed the wooden coin over to the authorities.

Just as Mallory decided to leave the dump and start her investigation a rough shake of the establishment threw her back into her seat. Screams both inside of the tavern as well as outside mixed with each other as people threw themselves under the tables and seats. The bottles of liquor fell down and shattered on the ground as the loud explosions and the rumbling continued to growl throughout the city.

The Streets


Near the Tube a low rumble could be heard. First it were only the pebbles that trembled, then the people noticed something growling upwards. However, within another second the growl became a roar, bringing with it all the heat and stench from the Underground with it to fill up the streets. A cloud of dirt and heat, thundering black and red engulfed the open place near the tube before it dove into the streets. Windows shattered because of the force and the heat, people burned, the elevator shot upwards violently, squashing the passengers inside.

In another second it was over. While it was impossible to see it was clear that the damage was devastating on the streets. Coughs were heard while the Underground continued to rumble, as if giving a warning that it could continue again.

Near the Tube, where nothing could be seen through the darkness of the smog, a red glow could be seen. The flickering of the Ovens continued on the pace of the rumble that could be heard from down below.

Then, once more, from below a voice came. Awkward and rusty a mechanic voice started to sing. Loud enough to be heard over the rumbling, but still able to sound like a whisper to the ears of men.

The first word I have given to you
Have you guessed what it was?
Even so, it is only one fourth.

A B C D E F G
Now these are letters you will need
Singing is all I do
While you count around the clock
Exclude Y and Z
Read it carefully and don’t miss a clue

 

Jorick

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#26
Rock Salt; Give You Glory; Pacifico;

The Sky, Overton Manor - Lady Almyra Grace Overton

Almyra looked up from the cluttered desk with one brow cocked in surprise. "I expected a response by courier, not a visit. How uncharacteristically impulsive of you, Lord Fleming." The words came out almost dripping with amusement, and she was quick in getting to her feet. She'd always figured the man couldn't be so prim and proper as he appeared, given his previous profession, and seeing him disguised and running around alone despite his own orders to prioritize the safety of the Council members pretty much confirmed that long-standing suspicion. "I'll be back in just a moment." She noted that the Inquisitor didn't move to follow her as she left, doubtless because he knew if Amos was countermanding the protective order himself then he was no longer needed. That or he had enough decency to not try to watch a lady change her clothes, but she would bet on the former theory.

After slipping away and into her room, blessedly free of her maids who would have insisted on helping her, it took Almyra a matter of a few minutes to get herself ready to go. The nice clothing was unceremoniously tossed onto the bed, and she pulled on some of her workshop clothing with a couple modifications: brown trousers with an off-color patch on the right knee, a pair of old and scuffed boots that went up almost to the knee, a long-sleeved grey shirt that had a handful of obviously mended tears in the lower arm region and one across the chest, a leather vest that had a variety of stains and frayed edges, and a simple hat she'd picked up from a shop in the Land that was large enough to hide her hair after she pulled it into a messy bun. All she was missing from her normal tinkering outfit were her gloves and tool belt (plus all the odds and ends she'd normally have stuffed in the vest pockets), but the lack of all the well-kept tools would only help to make her look like a worker of middling status at best.

When she returned to the sitting room she'd left Amos in, Almyra had already abandoned the ladylike and proper walk that had been so annoyingly drilled into her among her etiquette lessons, instead adopting a slouching sort of walk that would blend in better among regular folks in the city. "Let's get going before my various fussing servants notice I'm leaving. Did you have anywhere specific in mind, or are we out for a stroll wherever our feet happen to take us?" Normally a lady would offer her arm to a man of similar or higher status when they were going out for a walk, but Almyra elected to instead shove her hands into her pockets to keep in character for a disinterested commoner. She figured Amos wouldn't mind the lack of proper behavior from the noblewoman, given the circumstances, but she'd also be perfectly happy to see him irritated by it as a small measure of recompense for the annoyance she'd suffered today.

The Land - Lucius "The Maggot" King

Doctor Sirrell's home was nearly empty, as it almost always was this time of day. The doctor catered to the wealthier clientele available in the Land of Golden City, the prosperous tinkers and merchants with eyes to moving Skyward some day. As such, as Lucius had found in many passes by the building that was combined home and doctor's office, the place rarely had any patients before midafternoon, and most arrived in the early evening and night. Lucius approached openly, perfectly fine with the possibility of being spotted entering the place. There was a chain hanging to one side of the business entrance with a sign saying to pull it if nobody was present in the office, so he gave it a tug and heard a small bell chime from deeper within, then checked to make sure the small knife in his sleeve hadn't been displaced by the movement.

As Doctor Sirrell appeared in the doorway opposite the entrance, Lucius removed his gas mask. The aging man's eyes narrowed in clear annoyance, though one unfamiliar with the white-haired fellow might have mistaken it for a squint caused by poor eyesight. It was obvious that he'd recognized the man peering through the window, and it was equally obvious that he wasn't eager for the visitor. Lucius knew the old bastard's main concern, so he pulled out a handful of coins and pressed them up against the window in the door, careless of the few that dropped away to the ground. That was enough to get the doctor's attention, but nothing more. He walked to the middle of the room and called out loud enough to be heard despite the distance and barrier.

"I already told you I don't give handouts and your pocket change isn't enough. Go away."

Lucius grimaced and put some pain and desperation into his voice. "I know, I know. But I reconsidered your offer. I'll do it. Please."

That made the doctor's face light up with pleasant interest, just as Lucius had expected. The elderly man hurried to the door and ushered him in, bidding him to sit in the examination table and wait as supplies were gathered. For the time being, Lucius did exactly that, watching as the doctor bustled around the room gathering bottles of mysterious drugs and chemicals. Doctor Sirrell had been one of the last doctors he'd gone to when seeking help for his disease, well after he'd already learned he was past saving. Where others had simply turned him away with apologies, Sirrell had tried to take advantage of a dying man. Lucius had learned all there was to know about his affliction, through talks with other doctors and research of his own, and he knew there were a couple varieties of it. His, mercifully, seemed to be a nearly painless variety that didn't infect the nerves.

Doctor Sirrell hadn't even bothered examining him long enough to learn that, and had instead assumed it was the more common sort that tended to drive the afflicted to death by self-medication long before the disease worked its way into their vital organs. Rather than simply throwing him out, the old doctor had offered a trade: pain medication to ease his way into the grave in exchange for consenting to be the subject of some experiments and allowing the doctor to dissect him after he died. For one consumed by gnawing pain that might have been a worthwhile trade, but for Lucius is was a clear ticket into an earlier grave. Experimentation could have meant dying immediately, particularly if the unethical doctor was using it as a cover to get a free corpse to examine. Anyone who spent long enough in the Underground knew a fresh corpse could sell for a pretty penny to those of a morbid scholarly inclination, and surely a quick injection of something to kill someone walking in off the street would be far cheaper.

"We'll start with something for the pain. Laudanum should relieve it very quickly." Lucius just nodded and watched as the doctor doled out two large spoonfuls of a brown liquid into a glass of water, hesitated for a moment, then added a third. Doctor Sirrell stirred the glass thoroughly, then pushed it forward on the small table with a slightly shaking hand. "Drink it quickly. It tastes unpleasant and will go down easiest if you treat it like a strong liquor."

"I think not." Before the doctor had time to respond, Lucius lunged forward and tugged free his concealed knife, driving it into the old man's throat with enough force that a punch probably would have collapsed his windpipe and killed him all the same. He followed the bastard down to the ground, grinning down at him as he flailed feebly. "Three tablespoons? Do I look like an opium junkie or are you just stupid? Three teaspoons would kill all but the heaviest users without issue. Do you know how common this shit is down in the tunnels?" The doctor had no reply other than a gurgling whimper. Lucius barked a quick laugh and pulled the blade free, letting the idiot bleed out properly.

As Doctor Sirrell died, but not before crawling a couple feet toward the door that exited out onto the street, his murderer set to clearing off a wall in the office. It had a couple paintings hanging from nails and some papers pinned to it with tacks, but by the time the dying man ceased moving it was clear of everything but the two nails. Lucius had thought up the perfect message to leave on his walk here, and the most sensational way to do it. He dipped his hand into the warm pool of blood and started painting letters on the wall, each about a foot high. It started near the ceiling and went down for four lines of bloody text, ending low enough that he had to crouch down to write them properly. Once he was done, he stepped back to examine the work.


The Eater of Corpses seeks the Jesting Genius
Lurking in a carcass with bloody hands to lend
Let us work together and find greater fun
For the best games are played with friends

A smile spread on Lucius' lips. It was a gory masterpiece. Surely the Game Master, the one who was doubtlessly behind the game at play is Golden City, would be able to decipher the simple clues. He was the Jesting Genius, and the Maggot was the Eater of Corpses. Folks in the Underground had taken to calling a certain cavern The Carcass, because it was the one used most often by the Maggot to organize operations among his group of followers. It was a morbidly amusing name, certainly, and a convenient one for times like this. Anyone with deep ties to the underbelly of Golden City or an information network that extended that far down was sure to be familiar with the term, and it wouldn't take a genius (despite the flattering title given) to link an invitation from the Maggot to that same cavern. All that was left to do was set the stage to ensure the papers would run this story on the front page of tomorrow's papers, or perhaps give cause for them to print a special evening edition tonight. After that he would simply have to wait and see if the Game Master had any interest in the offer presented.

Getting the room set up to be perfect bait for the papers was all too easy. He rummaged around with his still bloody hands and found things to write with. He wrote out a simple note, laying the situation out as him having come seeking to buy pain medication but the doctor tried to pressure him into agreeing to the deal he'd offered many months ago, then back to the truth with the prepared overdose of laudanum along with the suspicions of the doctor wanting to gain a cheap corpse for his studies, and finally he signed it with his publicly known name: The Maggot. It was plenty enough to get the journalists to view him as a dark hero rather than a villain, which was exactly what they drooled over in regards to many of the other named figures of the underworld. A few had speculated at heroic intentions behind the murder of the oxygen merchant that had gotten him named in the papers, so this would give them plenty more to run with that angle, and if that happened to work out and make more people willing to work with him in the future then that alone would be worth this effort.

This was the kind of crime Lucius loved, so many ways to profit but so few ways to get into any deeper trouble than he already was. He put the note underneath the glass of deadly laudanum, hoping that they'd get a reputable doctor to check it out and confirm his claims for the papers, and then went over to haul Doctor Sirrell's corpse onto the exam table. A good story would get the papers clamoring, but they needed some extra drama in the visuals to really get their juices flowing. After another rummage around the various drawers in the office, Lucius returned to the corpse with a handful of scalpels and syringes and various other pointy medical implements. He jammed as many as he could into the throat, just to make it harder to immediately tell that it had been a foreign knife that did the deed, and then the rest into his chest and stomach. The end product looked like a ghastly interpretation of a hedgehog or a pincushion, and it would definitely make for interestingly gory descriptions. That would work nicely indeed.

Lucius took a moment to hang his gas mask from his belt, then knelt down to collect a couple more handfuls of now cooling blood from the floor. On his way out he left the doorknob dripping crimson, with the door standing wide open, and smeared some more red mess onto the pristine white front wall of the building. As he walked away with quick steps, heading for the nearest path down to the Underground, he used the remaining gore to make bloody arrows pointing back toward the doctor's home. The one person who saw him on his way was wise enough to turn tail and flee. Between the markers and the witness, there was no doubt the dead doctor and the grisly message would be discovered soon. Lucius strolled back down into the sweltering tunnels of the underground with a satisfied smile on his face. Time would tell how successful his efforts were, but he'd had a lot of fun today, and that was of course the most important thing of all.
 
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Ritual Lobotomy

Hail the Apocalypse
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#27

 
The Moray; Streets of the Land 

 

The boy whimpered consistently, as he marched forward, followed by the large man. Understanding the boy's fear, Hagen asked nothing more. He certainly believed that the boy was completely oblivious of the reasoning behind his actions. Perhaps something that angered him more than anything was the way the that, whoever stood behind the name, used the people for their gain. Hagen's mind was going back and forth over the knowledge he possessed about the situation at that very point, which was not a lot. Perhaps it was a small ray of fortune in all of the misfortune that the lunatic took his time paying the game rather than simply doing the deed alone. Even so, all those small unnecessary games annoyed the living hell out of him.

"What is it?" Hagen asked strictly as soon as the boy halted after some time, jerking lightly at the man's voice and turning around with a desperate fear on his teary face. Hagen exhaled the frustration and pinched the bridge of his nose briefly. "Look here, kid. The faster we do this, the faster you will be going home".

"W-we are here", the boy sobbed, hiding his hands behind his back and glaring at the ground. "We are here," Hagen repeated as if he attempted to comprehend, looking around the square that encircled the Tube. "And where exactly is 'here'?" As a response, the boy whimpered again and Hagen groaned, waving it off with him hand, passing the boy and walking towards the Tube, as he examined the surrounding area. Nothing out of the ordinary caught his eye at first and he turned his attention back to the boy, frozen in the middle of the square.

"So now what?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders, but just as the boy opened his mouth to respond, the rumble sounded under the pavement and all of those present on the square stopped to listen to the racket that seemed to be growing gradually louder. And as many approached to the middle of the square curiously, Hagen instinctively stepped back once the cloud of smoke gradually appeared in the tube, growing darker with the crack of the glass.

"I'm scared," Hagen heard the boy whine just before his mind went into an overdrive, and the surge of adrenaline kicked in as he bolted backwards towards the terrified child. "Hold on tight," he instructed as calmly as he was able to, quickly grabbing the child, easily lifting him off the ground and into his arms where the boy shouted out and grabbed against him tightly, squeezing his eyes shut. The noise became deafening, and it was the final signal for anyone too close at that point to start running in panic, in any direction that they'd decide on as the best escape route.

The man hastely turned behind the first row of buildings, holding the boy covered opposite of the entrance to the alley, just as the rumble turned into a loud violent blow, followed by the rain of cracked exploded glass and warm black smoke flowing from the Underground. The pulsating rumble now mixed with chilling and shaken screams and violent fits of cough from the people and resumed whimpers from the boy clutching his coat desperately.

As the smoke now begin to enter the side alleys as well, Hagen let the boy go, grabbing his shoulders urgently. "Go home. Now!" he ordered and the boy nodded insecurely, stumbling backwards and disappearing deeper in the alley. With the boy out of the way, Hagen made his way out of the alley and back onto the square, holding his forearm against his mouth and nose, albeit not doing much to prevent the dark smoke and heat reach his lungs and send him into a coughing fit he fought to keep under control.

And while many that were able to, sought to run as far away as possible, the large man made his way towards the center of the disaster, breaking through the dark smoky curtain, towards the heat and the voice that sounded melodically from somewhere underneath. It seemed, however, that he was not the only one with such idea. A scrawny man leaned against the wall near the tube, frantically writing down the rhyme.

Startled by the sudden hand on his shoulder, the man dropped his notes and coughed violently swallowing more smoke. Hagen quickly grabbed the writing utensil from the man and lifted the notebook, ripping the written page and shoving it into the disoriented man. "Thanks," Hagen thanked him formally for the paper and pencil, before he swiftly scribbled the repeating words himself, fighting off another fit of cough that built up in his lungs.

Whoever this menace was, he was quite the drama queen, he thought as his mind processed the words appearing on the paper, ignoring most of the shouts and calls for help from those not as thoughtful to escape. The smoke was more often deadlier than the fire itself, and although aware of this, he persistently ignored the air heavy with coal, unavoidably filling his lungs. It would be a while until it made him sick, however. Being engaged into the fights that were the matter of life or death near those monsters of furnaces surely bought him a minute or two more of keeping his head clear. 
 

Nemopedia

Storms lie. A breeze it becomes. A breath it ends.
SECURITY DEPARTMENT
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#28
Amos Fleming - The Sky, Overton Manor >> The Centre [Sky]

Almyra was quick to respond and quicker to change. In a whim she had transformed from a proper lady from the Sky into the image of a typical Land habitant, with posture and speech to match. Chuckling the man found himself amused at the details the girl had put into the little act, knowing full well that the Overton member liked to mingle herself with the common-folk, or however they were called today.

“Impressive, I take it that you have experience,” Amos chided before pushing a fistful of ash that he had picked from the hearth into her face. “And now you look more the part,” he grinned, his own usually clean face also smudged in coal and dirt. Two could play the game of letting go and Amos happened to hold a few decades of experience over the head of the little lady.

“My plan was to hit up every tavern in the city, but after your letter an exciting trip to the slumps sounds like a better idea” the man proposed, his mood surprisingly good for a leader in a crisis situation. There really was no need to feel hung up over a wannabe threat.

Walking over to the backdoor from which he had come the Thumb was about to step outside once more before abruptly pausing and turning around, hands folded over his lower back as his expression grew grave

“Ah, that reminds me, however” he spoke slowly, voice low as if contemplating something grand. A silence fell as if the man wasn't sure how to say what he had on mind. As if he was the deliverer of some bad news.

“I will be calling you Allie,” he announced, bowing his head into the direction of Almyra. “You would do well to drop the lord as well. Father works.” Seeing his age it would only be appropriate if he assumed the role of an older generation. Though, knowing the lady she would probably put in some effort to come up with something creative. Nonetheless, Amos had stretched out his playtime for long enough and it was about time he finally went to business.

Without looking if the female followed after him Amos made his way over the floating islands, his hat pulled over his face to hide whenever he was forced out in the open space. Had he been alone the man would have taken another route, but as he had no idea of the extent of Almyra’s athletic ability he kept it simple, which meant a longer route through the shadows. There were surprisingly quite a few of such corners in The Sky, and the whole operation served as a good exercise to make a promise of mentioning it with the next Council meeting.

Reaching the elevator the man was soon enough met with the one in charge, a hand raised as if to stop him.

“Halt. Emergency situation, no one gets to go up or down.”

Frowning Amos peeked over the railings, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on down. Below, near the tube he could see the familiar red flickering of the Ovens. A surprise, as it was usually hidden from the view of the Sky. Especially from the Sky, because it was located so high. Being able to see the light meant that the ground had opened up from below, which could only suggest a few other possibilities.

“What happened?” Amos questioned, his voice urgent. The worker shrugged as a finger was pointed at the elevator itself, the buttons all seeing ‘red’ to signify that there was a defect to the Tube. Otherwise the person in charge didn't seem to be too interested in the why, rather enjoying the extra time spent in The Sky.

Gritting his teeth the Inquisition leader started to contemplate his options. This wasn’t in his plan. Amos wondered if the chaos below had something to do with the threats of this morning. The crisis certainly seemed to fit, but how and why?

“Change of plans, Allie,” Amos ordered, his feet turning towards the Town House.

Jorick Jorick


Thomas Baris - The Land, the streets

It seemed that the inquisitor didn’t really want anything from Thomas. Lucky, as the female wasn’t sure if the authorities had forgiven her and Minerva yet for their little snoop into the Nest a few years back. While she never got prosecuted for sneaking in with Minerva --having been spared from the process because of their hand in catching the Falcon-- Thomas was confident that the Inquisition kept a close eye on her. So close even that she was convinced that they had sent someone out to shadow her on a daily base and so for today, especially today as even a dull day in office proved itself to be a peculiar one.

However, she was pleasantly surprised. The Inquisitor was called away quickly enough for an emergency elsewhere and Thomas was suddenly relieved from her dull office day for something equally as exciting. The threats hadn’t remained empty words it seemed. They had taken shape, and how.

The tremor earlier had escaped no ones attention, the explosion from shaking up the whole Land level and the screams that came with. Panic could be heard from the outside as well as within the building. Reporters hiding under their tables, the braver ones instinctively running out to check what had caused the earthquake. The alarm rang and Thomas knew that she had to act fast if she wanted to have the juicy details. Running out herself Thomas immediately headed towards the center, where the smoke was still hanging thick.

Coughing the female pulled out a napkin to protect herself, moving against the flow of the crowd as she tried to get into the resident area. Hand travelling across the windows and walls the female moved slowly forward with the help of the buildings as her guide. Sometimes her hands would dive into the air, usually because of doors left open in the haste that many had. Other times it was because of an alley that she passed by. Being pretty familiar with the city Thomas had a good idea of where she was, being able to accurately predict when to expect an alley. However, when her hand brushed across something wet the female froze, confused as to why there was liquid smeared on the door. Water was too valuable in the city to be used like that and the citizens rarely washed their doors. Turning around the reporter lifted her hand closer to her face, trying to get a good look of what she had smudged. Rubbing her thumb against the top of her fingers she immediately took note how the liquid was solidifying into something crumbly. When she saw the reddish colour on her fingers her stomach dropped and horror settled in. Blood.

Never deterred the female slipped into the house, the blood wiped to the napkin she had earlier used to cover herself. More blood was found inside, smudged against the wall as if to leave a trail. Whoever had done this wanted to be seen. Gulping a little Thomas braced herself for what to expect, several scenes of horror and crime presenting itself within her mind. Nervously the female shoveled herself deeper into the house, still following the trail until she froze in front of a body.

“Oh no…” she trailed off, feeling her mouth go dry at the sight of the corpse and the text written on the wall behind. Blinking the female stood frozen for a bit before she finally flicked out her block and quickly copied down the text written. The style in which the scene was left was just as flagrant and what she would expect from the mysterious sender that had been harassing the city today. However, the text written suggested that it was someone else, a challenger, or a possible ally. Whatever the case, the mysterious sender had managed to garner the attention wanted and, most disturbingly, caused a reaction within the community.

Continuing on she tried to write down as many details of the crime scene as she could before she quickly tripped out of the place. It would be unwise to be found at the crime scene, especially as the authorities hadn’t found it themselves yet. She would be unable to release the story, not until an official statement from the Inquisition came that they had found the body and other reporters would gather around it like vultures. However, Thomas was confident that what she had found inside would help her in the chaos that had been today.

Entering the panic and smoke of the Centre Thomas almost ran into a shadow that she barely evaded with a startled jump. “Sorry!” she yelped over her shoulders, her voice shaking and cracking from the shock and trauma still imprinted in her brain. Forcing herself to relax the female quickly skipped into another alley, deciding that she wanted to be as far as possible from the murder scene. The singing voice, or the figure that called out for her both went unnoticed and ignored as she picked up her pace.

Turning Thomas started to run, but was stopped abruptly when she slammed into another figure. This time larger and heavier as Thomas's behind found the ground, along with her notes pooling out the message she had copied earlier eerily floating in clear sight of both Thomas and her accident:

’The Eater of Corpses seeks the Jesting Genius
Lurking in a carcass with bloody hands to lend
Let us work together and find greater fun
For the best games are played with friends’


“I’m sorry,” her voice pitched once more, but calmed down soon enough as she found the figure familiar. Realising that he was holding a handful of notes himself the female squinted her eyes, stepping closer. He seemed familiar, really familiar.

“Hagen?” the female questioned, naming the first person she could think of with such a huge build in the city. There were only a few after all.

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