The Golden Key: From the Casebook of Nigel Spenser (Updated 9/16)




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    The Golden Key: From the Casebook of Nigel Spenser (Updated 9/16)

    Daily Telegraph, January 6th, 1888

    British Museum Burglarized!
    Public Outraged! Police Baffled!
    Young Librarian Beaten Within An Inch of His Life; Stolen Book "History of John Uskglass" Thought To Be Forgery
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Britain Loses to Wales in Football, 2-1; Ensorcellments Suspected
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Fir Bholg Protest At Irish Embassy Turns Violent; Sidhe Envoy: "Well What Did You Expect?"
    Peaceful Picketing Interrupted By Arsonist With Alchemical Fire, Elves Blame Dwarves.
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Artificer's Guild Denies Hiring Sherlock Holmes To Investigate Missing Wizard
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    Last edited by Kid Charlemagne; Tuesday, 12th February, 2008 at 02:17 PM.
    "I hurt Firewing." is not something a huge number of people can say. "He dropped a parking garage on me," on the other hand, a lot of people can say. -Kazan, my Champions GM.

 

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    London, 1887
    221B Baker Street


    The young man shifted nervously on his feet. He had been ushered into the sitting room by a kindly old woman, the landlord, he had deduced, but now he had stood in front of the two older men for what seemed an interminable period of time. He knew that in fact, scarcely thirty seconds had passed, but it had never occurred to him just how long thirty seconds could seem, leaving aside certain coursework in his first year or two at the university.

    One of the two men sat in an armchair, the slightest hint of a grin beginning to play across his face as he looked first at the young man, then at his companion, who was engrossed in the afternoon newspaper. He made no sign of acknowledgment, and finally the man in the armchair could stand it no longer.

    "I'm sorry, dear boy," he said, as if apologizing for his friend. "What did you say your name was?"

    "Spenser," the young man replied. "Nigel Spenser."

    At this, the other man crisply flipped down the top half of his paper. He took in the young man's appearance in a quick glance, and gave a small, dismissive snort.

    "So, Mr. Spenser, you have decided to take it upon yourself to make my lodgings the very first stop after your graduation from Oxford. I am certain that I can see no reason for this. Perhaps you could explain."

    Nigel was caught off guard by the man's instant, yet accurate stating of his recent activities, but only for a moment. He smiled a wide grin.

    "That's very good, Mr. Holmes. Quite excellent, in fact. I see that Doctor Watson does not exaggerate in the slightest when he describes your deductive powers."

    "Doctor Watson is an exceedingly painstaking chronicler. But my question, you have failed to answer it."

    "My apologies. As you have rightly guessed, I am recently graduated from Oxford. This morning in fact. I took the first train to London in order to present myself at your door and offer myself as your assistant."

    He stammered for a moment and continued.

    "I have made an intense study of the history of crime, as have you. I have degrees in history and in chemistry, and have had some small success in minor matters at school"

    Watson rested his chin upon his hand and grinned, watching Holmes for his reaction. Holmes, for his part, stared intently at Nigel, sizing him up.

    "I'm very sorry, Mr. Spenser," he replied. "That is Spenser with an 's', I presume? I have no need for an assistant at this time, nor do I anticipate a need in the future. What assistance I require is ably provided by Doctor Watson. Perhaps you might find opportunities with Scotland Yard. I understand certain insurance companies employ detectives as well. Lloyd's of London is well known for that sort of thing. With your high marks in school, you could certainly find employment there."

    Nigel started again as Holmes seemed to pull facts about him out of thin air. Then his grin returned.

    "Of course. You saw the seal denoting my academic honors on my degree." Nigel was clutching his graduation papers like a dying man clinging to a raft, or a witch doctor to his totem.

    Holmes afforded him a small smile.

    "Quite right."

    He flicked the newspaper back up to resume reading.

    "Good day, Mr. Spenser."

    Nigel was stunned, suddenly speechless. Doctor Watson showed him downstairs to the door, continuing to apologize for Holmes' brusqueness.

    "I'm afraid Holmes can be a little harsh with visitors at times, Mr. Spenser. You should pay it no mind. He really does have very little need of help; I often wonder if I'm truly helping him myself." He showed Nigel the door, and shook his hand as he left. Nigel took it, in a kind of sleepwalker's daze.

    As the door shut, it seemed as if he came out of a dream. He started towards the street, then turned on his heels as if to return to the apartment, and then came to a full stop again on the sidewalk.

    "Hmph. Well."

    "That was silly of me!" He finally declared to no one in particular. "And why should the great Sherlock Holmes take me on as an assistant, after all?"

    A street vendor looked up at him, as if the question had been asked of him.

    "I oodn knooow," he offered, unhelpfully.

    "I have no real experience. Nothing to recommend me besides my marks in school. And what good are marks in school?"

    "Nayver poot mooch stok in graydes meself," the street vendor ruminated.

    "Lloyd's of London. That's not a half bad idea, even if I say so myself," Nigel said, his grin returning. His hand went to his pocket, and pulled out a newspaper advertisement. Lloyd's of London, it read, seeks Talented Investigators For Important Work. He glanced at the notice, and then stuck it back in his pocket.

    He walked down Baker Street to where it met Paddington Street, several blocks down, and hailed a hansom from there.

    He did not look behind him, but if he did he would have noted that his progress down the block was being watched intently from the window of the sitting room of 221B, Baker Street.
    "I hurt Firewing." is not something a huge number of people can say. "He dropped a parking garage on me," on the other hand, a lot of people can say. -Kazan, my Champions GM.

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    The Golden Key

    Lloyd's of London
    January 7th, 1888


    Nigel Spenser paced, bowl pipe in hand. It was not out of nervousness, but rather out of an inability to contain his natural energy. He did not much like sitting and waiting, and he had been waiting in the meeting chambers of Lloyd's of London for twenty minutes. By contrast the young, somewhat severe appearing woman nearest to him was sitting in her chair, absolutely still. She wore the outfit of a fencing instructor under her long coat, and bore a rapier openly in its sheath at her side. Nigel noted that her ears were slightly pointed, betraying elvish blood, while her eyes were almost lizard-like Kobold? Nigel wasn't certain. Small talk while waiting had revealed her name was Orla, and she was indeed a fencing instructor.

    For what it was worth she was one of the least unusual of the six "independent agents" that had assembled in the meeting chamber. Nigel had been in London for six months, since his graduation from Oxford the spring before, and had in that time seen Daoine Sidhe, Kobold, Orkling, and Fir Bholg in the city, yet he could not recall having seen such an motley assemblage in any one place. Nor had he seen such a large assemblage to investigate what was essentially an insurance claim. An odd claim it must be, Nigel thought.

    Sitting at the table was a powerfully built man with dark hair and a thick handlebar mustache. His name was Sandor Kertesz. He was, of all things, a performer in P.T. Barnum's Circus, which was in town at the moment. A knife-thrower.

    The young lady standing behind him appeared the very model of a modest English gentlewoman, apart from the telltale signs of the elfborn. Amanda Higgins-Rafferty was her name. She wore a long velvet coat, and carried a large case containing God knows what. Nigel had not the nerve to ask.

    At first Nigel had mistaken the next person for a slender young man, but he had quickly realized that it was a young woman, dressed in the suit of a fashionable gentleman. Nigel was reminded of George Sand, the scandalous French novelist. Her name was Catherine Cavanaugh. She was quite tall, thin, blond, and clearly to-the-manor-born.

    The last fellow in the room was perhaps the oddest. He was a tall man by the name of Artimis Swain, of sleek build and olive complexion, and had apparently decided to go for an appearance right out of the Arabian Nights. He wore billowy trousers that did not entirely conceal the tatoos that covered his legs. He was bare-chested sheer lunacy in the London winter, Nigel thought, leaving aside the questionable fashion and he wore a collar around his neck from which hung a half-cape. He looked like nothing more than a Djinn from a storybook. Nigel resisted the sudden urge to ask him for a wish.

    A tall thin man in his mid-forties bustled in to the room. He was quite bald, with sideburns so long that it seemed he was trying to make up for the lack of growth above his ears with the growth below. He looked at the assembled agents, and seemed to lose his train of thought at the sight. He composed himself quickly, with an air of modest disdain.

    "Ahem. My name is Thomas Peabody."

    "I believe you were working for Williams?"

    Orla was the first to answer. "Yes. But not together."

    "I see."

    "Well, let's get right on to it, then." Peabody placed a folder on the table.

    "The claim we would like you to investigate is that of a Leo Melthorpe. A locksmith. His offices are not far from here, in fact. His shop was broken into three nights ago, just as he was closing, and he was savagely beaten by an assailant with a"

    He squinted again at the report.

    "..Umm a table leg, apparently."

    "What was stolen?" asked Nigel. "Is the policy claim for the entire shop, or a particular object?"

    "The policy only covered one item in the shop. A key."

    Orla looked up. "How old is the policy?"

    "Forty years, about. It was purchased by his father, Godwin."

    Peabody harrumphed. "I'll be honest with you. We'd like to not have to pay out on this policy. We want you to go to Mr. Melthorpe's shop, find out what you can, and recover the key. Needless to say, our customer's reputations are very important; we would like this matter to stay out of the papers, and out of the hands of the police."

    "About our fee" Sandor began.

    "Oh, very well, very well," Peabody replied.

    Nigel Spenser allowed himself a small smile. He always enjoyed the little game the "independent agents" and the representatives from Lloyd's played when it came to fees. The fee finally was negotiated at 350 apiece. Considerable, especially considering that with six agents, that came to over 2,000. Nigel quietly calculated figures in his head. If they were willing to pay that much to try and recover the key, the policy was likely to be in the tens of thousands. All that, for a single key.

    Finally, Peabody left. The others gathered around the folder with the information they had to go on. Nigel looked for any sign of the text of the actual policy. As he expected, it was not there. They were to know only as much as was needed to execute their duty.

    As they got ready for the short jaunt over to Melthorpe's shop, Nigel took careful note of his compatriots' preparations. It was not unknown for unusual cases such as this to run into "challenges." Artimis Swain bore a spear, and a rapier at his side. The rapier was not an unusual weapon for London, but the spear was a tad unique, Nigel thought. Catherine or "Cass" as she quickly indicated she preferred brought out a longsword from a case, and expertly hid it behind the long suit coat that reached to mid-calf on her tall, lanky frame.

    Amanda apparently had an axe, while Orla already bore her rapier openly. Nigel set his doctor's bag upon the table, and pulled out a shirt of fine steel chain, and an intricately carved box etched with Fir Bholg runes. He opened the box, revealing two matching Fir Bholg hand axes of exquisite craftsmanship, and stowed them under his frock coat.

    Can never be too careful in London these days, he thought to himself.
    Last edited by Kid Charlemagne; Thursday, 21st July, 2005 at 09:03 PM.
    "I hurt Firewing." is not something a huge number of people can say. "He dropped a parking garage on me," on the other hand, a lot of people can say. -Kazan, my Champions GM.

  • #4
    Writing is crisp and well-edited - Check
    Story is unique - Check
    World is a little off kilter - Check

    Subscribed!

    Keep it coming.

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    Thank you! Credit has to got to eris404, who is the DM of this game - I am merely a player, Nigel's player to be exact.

    The setting is, as you say, slightly off kilter in a lovely way. I think it is really merely an excuse for eris404 to do her spot-on cockney urchin voice.

    Update on the way!
    "I hurt Firewing." is not something a huge number of people can say. "He dropped a parking garage on me," on the other hand, a lot of people can say. -Kazan, my Champions GM.

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    Leo Melthorpe's shop was a short walk from the Royal Exchange. As they approached, the Lloyd's agents could see that the front window of the shop had been shattered, as if from a heavy blow.

    Artimis Swain looked at the ground outside the shop, ignoring the small crowd of street urchins who had come to gawk at the crime scene.

    "From outside. Probably a weapon of some sort."

    Inside the shop, Nigel could see the form of the man he presumed to be Mr. Melthorpe, sweeping up debris and scattered bits and pieces from the floor. He was a roundish man, in his late thirties, with curly dark hair and a bushy mustache. One side of his face was purple and black from a severe beating. With a detached gaze, Nigel watched for any signs that the man was faking his injuries. Quite the contrary, he decided. He was hurt even worse than he seemed.

    Melthorpe flinched as he heard the bell over his door signalling their entry. Nigel immediately tried to put the man at ease.

    "We are very sorry to disturb you, Mr. Melthorpe, but we are investigators from Lloyd's of London. We are here to speak to you about your claim."

    Melthorpe released his white-knuckled grip on his broom.

    "Oh, thank you, you've come! I will do anything I can to help you in your investigations!"

    "Perhaps you could answer a few questions?" Orla asked. "We don't want to take up too much of your time."

    Melthorpe waved them over to a couple of chairs towards the back of the shop, antique furnishments that had been cruelly cut open, and their stuffing pulled out. Nigel and Orla sat down, while Cass and Amanda stood silently, watching over the small shop. Artimis remained outside, looking at the narrow alley and exterior of the shop. Sandor stepped into the back to look at the back door for signs of entry. The back door was in perfect condition.

    "Could you tell us exactly what happened, Mr. Melthorpe?"

    "Dear. Well, I had closed up the shop and gone home the other day, when I received an urgent message from an old associate of mine, a Mr. George Hunt. He is a fellow locksmith. The letter asked me to return to my shop at about seven, to meet a customer."

    "Who delivered the message?" Orla asked.

    "A young child, a little ragged thing. He just gave it me and left; I had never seen him before."

    Sandor looked out at the small crowd of urchins outside, and stepped out of the shop.

    "Shortly after I arrived, a very rough-looking Orkling came in. He didn't say much of anything, just 'Where is it?' and brandished a a table leg. Wrapped round with iron bands. I said I had no idea what he was talking about, but it was no use."

    "And he beat you until you gave him what he was looking for?" Nigel asked.

    "He beat me after I gave it to him!" Melthorpe wailed. "It seemed as if he did it just for his amusement!"

    "And just what was it he was looking for?"

    "A key. It was in the safe, along with some money."

    "Can you describe the key? Forgive my saying so, but considering this policy, it must be very valuable."

    Melthorpe buried his head in his hands. "It is made of gold, quite old, about two inches in length. It bears a symbol of a raven in flight."

    "Where did the key come from?" Nigel asked. "I understand the policy was taken out by your father some forty years ago. Do you know where he got it?"

    "No, I'm afraid I don't."

    Orla spoke up. "Just what does this key open, to make it so valuable?"

    Melthorpe's eyes widened. "I I can't say. If it gets out, I'll be ruined!"

    "If you don't tell us, and word gets out, the same will apply," Nigel countered. "We are not the police, Mr. Melthorpe. Our job here is to safeguard the property and reputations of the customers of Lloyd's of London."

    "So what lock does this key open?"

    "You don't understand!" Melthorpe replied.

    "It opens everything."
    "I hurt Firewing." is not something a huge number of people can say. "He dropped a parking garage on me," on the other hand, a lot of people can say. -Kazan, my Champions GM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kid Charlemagne
    Thank you! Credit has to got to eris404, who is the DM of this game - I am merely a player, Nigel's player to be exact.

    The setting is, as you say, slightly off kilter in a lovely way. I think it is really merely an excuse for eris404 to do her spot-on cockney urchin voice.

    Update on the way!
    Aw you make me blush! The story hour is really good so far - it's a little hard for me to believe it's actually my campaign.

    PS - I hope you write down some of the quotes - the players in our group are hilarious and I hope it translates well.

    PPS - I love doing the cockney voice. More urchins on the way!

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    Orla leaned forward. "What exactly do you mean? It's a skeleton key of some sort?"

    "No, no Well, yes, I suppose, after a fashion"

    "It's enchanted," Nigel replied, more statement than question.

    "Yes. It is capable of opening any lock that it is touched to, any kind of lock that I have ever attempted to open."

    "Who knew of the key, and more specifically, who knew of its properties?" Nigel asked.

    "Very few. My shop assistant knows of its existence, but not of what it does. I try not to use it very often, in fact I haven't used in almost two months."

    "Where was that? And I'll need the name of that assistant; we'll have to ask him some questions, as well." Orla jotted the details in a notebook while Nigel stood up and paced around the back of the shop. He noticed the cash register, and hit the lever opening it. The till was full. Curious.

    "Do you mind if I look through these files, Mr. Melthorpe?" he asked, indicating a filing cabinet. Melthorpe nodded his assent.

    "Adrian Poole is his name, I'm sure he had nothing to do with it; he's been with the shop since my father's days. And the last time I used the key that would be at the British Museum. They had an unusual old book with a very strange lock on it. They couldn't figure out how it opened. They've been a good client over the years, some of the more unusual jobs that I've done."

    "Who was present there?" Orla asked.

    "The curator was there, and a young man."

    "And his name?"

    "Gerald Whisk.. wait, no Wist. Gerald Wist."

    Nigel thumbed through the files in the cabinet. He noticed right away that one file was not neatly placed as were all the others. He pulled it out, and examined it closely. It was a bill of sale, and Nigel was just about to put it back when something caught his eye.

    "Do you have the letter you received luring you here?"

    Melthorpe nodded, and pulled it out from his jacket. Nigel examined it, comparing it to the bill of sale. Then he smiled a wide grin.

    "I can at least put your mind at ease that your friend, Mr. Hunt had nothing to do with this," he stated plainly. "Observe here, on this bill of sale. There are impressions, here, over the signature, which happens to be that of George Hunt. The size and shape of the impressions, and of the letters themselves, match perfectly with the signature on the letter you received. This bill of sale was used as a template to forge the signature on the letter."

    "Your attacker, can you give us a description of him?"

    "He was an Orkling, tall, very large olive skin, long hair, tied back like a sailor. Rather shabbilly dressed. He had a single tusk sticking out of his mouth, very odd. It was capped in iron."

    Orla grinned. "I'm sure he'll be hard to find."

    The investigators examined the rest of the shop for any other clues. The found a small leather pouch inside one of the torn up chairs, filled with small diamonds. Melthorpe identified them as being part of his savings; the Orkling thug had apparently stolen several others, but had missed this one. They thanked the locksmith and stepped out in the street where Artimis and Sandor waited. Sandor was interrogating the urchins, amusing them by juggling several of his vast collection of knives. The children were clearly enjoying it, swarming around him.

    "The children saw the Orkling arrive," the knife-thrower explained. "He threatened them to keep them quiet."

    "Well, that worked," Orla quipped.

    "I gave the older boy one of my knives. One of the smaller ones."

    "Lovely. Arming the urchins," Cass muttered.

    Sandor turned to Nigel. "I saw no marks to indicate that the shop was broken into. His story seems to hold up."

    "But if no one broke in," Nigel said, "how did the forger get Mr. Hunt's signature?"

    "Time to go see Mr. Poole, I think" Orla replied. "About the key, does that symbol mean anything?"

    "The raven in flight?" Nigel asked. "Yes, I think it does. The raven is the symbol of the Raven King."

    "Who is that?" Artimis asked.

    "He's a sort of mythical former King of Northern England," Nigel explained. "A powerful wizard. The folks in the north are fond of reminding others that they do not truly consider Queen Victoria to be their Queen. The Raven King rules the north, even though he disappeared four hundred years ago. Victoria is merely a steward."

    Meanwhile, Amanda sized up Sandor. "Just how many knives do you carry, anyway?"

    Sandor opened his jacket. Glittering steel covered nearly every square inch.

    "Twenty. Well, nineteen, I just gave one to that boy."

    "Hmm. I count two empty sheaths," Amanda responded.

    Sandor stared at her, then inventoried his armaments. "Basszameg," he swore, looking around for the now-long-gone children.

    "Fooking urchins."
    Last edited by Kid Charlemagne; Friday, 2nd September, 2005 at 10:00 PM.
    "I hurt Firewing." is not something a huge number of people can say. "He dropped a parking garage on me," on the other hand, a lot of people can say. -Kazan, my Champions GM.

  • #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kid Charlemagne
    "Fooking urchins."
    You, sir, are an excellent storyteller. For God's sake, don't stop!
    "Hey! What kind of talk is that? There are Bleakniks around!"

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