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

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
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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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
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.

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
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.
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Writing is crisp and well-edited - Check
Story is unique - Check
World is a little off kilter - Check


Keep it coming.

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
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!

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
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."


Kid Charlemagne said:
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! :eek: 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! :lol:

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
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."
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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Adrian Poole proved to be an easy nut to crack. The cracks appeared when Orla told him his employer had been savagely beaten, and he crumpled when Nigel brought up the subject of the police.

"I didn't mean for him to be hurt! Not that he doesn't deserve it, with what he's paying me!" Poole seethed. "I was approached by a man from the tavern across the street. A tall man, nicely dressed, dark hair with grey streaks. A flashy sort of fellow. East ender. Offered me 500 pounds."

A small commotion from the back of the building interrupted their conversation. Sandor and Artimis had attempted to sweet-talk the servants at Poole's boarding house, and after some initial success, found themselves being chased out of the kitchen by a woman with a broom.

"How were you to receive your money?"

"I was to meet him at the tavern, at seven o'clock."

"We will need you to make that appointment," Nigel said sternly. "If we can get back the key, none of this has to come out in the open. What is the man's name?"

"I never asked."

The doorbell rang, and Poole's landlady, a rather severe woman named Miss Tess, opened the door. Artimis and Sandor were at the door, trying to act as if their entire misadventure in the back of the boarding house had never occurred. She seemed disinclined to allow them entrance, but Artimis passed his hands over one of his tattoos, and she fell straight away into a deep slumber. He caught her as she fell, and sat her down in one of her foyer chairs.

"That would be our cue to leave," Orla said. "You'll need to stay with us for the moment, Mr. Poole."

Poole nodded dejectedly.

Cass and Amands followed behind Poole as they began to leave, but stopped as Artimis held up his hand to stop them. "Wait. There's someone outside, they've followed us," he said, without once looking behind him into the street.

"No, it's alright," he continued after a brief pause. "I think it's one of the children." He turned on his heels, and strode out of Miss Tess' boarding house, into the London winter.

As the others left, they found that Artimis had been right. A small, dirty elvish girl waited for them outside. Her tattered dress did not conceal that she was missing her left arm, from what ravage of poverty they could not guess. Artimis held up his arm, and from the peak of a house overlooking them, a hawk flew down, and landed on the offered perch.

"Good girl," Artimis murmured, offering the hawk a small bite of food.

"Lor," the little girl exclaimed. "Is 'ee yoors?"

"I suppose you could put it like that," Artimis replied, letting the little girl gently pet the bird's wing. Sandor knelt by the girl.

"Mary, isn't it? Why did you come here? Do you know something about the Orkling we were talking about earlier?"

The girl nodded. "Devin didn't want any of us to say anything. 'Ee's afraid. But we saw that tusky fella with another man there before. An' I know who brought that man the letter. It was Dorian, 'ee one 'at was there, too. Ee's sick, Dorian is. Fever, 'ee got."

"So you've seen the Orkling before?" Sandor asked the little elven girl.

"Oh, yes. Dorian follows him 'round all over. Dorian's an Orkling, too," she explained.

"The man you saw the Orkling talking too, was he a well-dressed fellow?" Nigel inquired.

"Oh, yeah," Mary responded brightly. "He real flash! Name's Balthazar, Devin calls him 'the Weasel.'"

"And he's friends with the big Orkling?"

"Nah, not really. He doesn't let 'im and 'is friends come 'round there much."

Sandor sent Mary back on her way with thanks, a few coins and a piece of candy, and the investigators decided to bide their time for the next several hours at a pub whle they made plans for their course of action. Orla left in order to find an old friend who she thought might be able to help them find the Orkling. When she got back, Artimis was starting to get a little tipsy. Cass inspected his drink.

"What are you drinking there?" she asked, eyeing him cautiously. She sniffed at his drink. "Tea?"

"I like tea!" Artimus proclaimed loudly, standing up so all could hear. Cass looked at Nigel with a questioning look.

"I'm sorry I bought him the tea," Nigel said. "How was I to know?"

He turned to Orla. "what did you find out?"

"His name is Iron Tusk," Orla explained. "He's a dockworker, and he's part of a gang called the Green Daggers. He hangs around a place called the 'Jolly Roger' or 'Hangman's Noose' or something like that. That's where he got his new favorite weapon. The table leg. He got into a fight there, broke a table up, and beat a man to death with it."

"New favorite weapon?" Amanda asked. "What was his old favorite weapon?"

"A cricket bat. So what do you think about Balthazar? Is he a Green Dagger?

"I hope not," Nigel said. The others looked at him curiously.

"I know a little about the Green Daggers," he explained. "They're small-time, but they're well-connected. Mostly brute force kinds of work, but they are just a small part of a larger criminal organization. A very dangerous criminal organization."

"What, is Iron Tusk a Sicilian Orkling?" Artimus asked.

Nigel shook his head. "London's criminal underground is made of many small groups, but the great majority of them are controlled by one man. A criminal mastermind."

"Well, out with it!" Orla exclaimed. "Who?"

"Do you not read?" Nigel replied, exasperated. "Have you never seen the exploits of Mr. Holmes, nor read the accounts written by Doctor Watson of their cases?"

From the looks on their faces, he surmised they had not.

"His name is Moriarty. Professor Moriarty. The Napolean of crime."
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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Death and Taxes

The name of Sherlock Holmes foremost rival drew looks just as blank as those a moment before. Nigel decided that his new allies were hopelessly uninformed, and prepared for Poole's meeting with Balthazar the Weasel at the tavern by Melthorpe's shop in the financial district.

The place was called "Death and Taxes," and the sign outside bore the image of the Grim Reaper, bearing a scythe in one hand and a sack of coin in the other. The place was long and narrow, in the cellar of a building and reached by a narrow stair. The bar reached nearly the entire length of the establishment, and was lit dimly by gas lighting, giving the place the scent of burning oil.

Sandor and Nigel entered first, seperated by a few moments. Nigel ambled down the bar and found a spot where he could order an ale, and observed the crowd. It was an odd mixture of clerks just off work and rougher clientele with seedier plans for the evening. Nigel paid no attention as Sandor entered shortly after him.

Balthazar was easy to pick out. He was having a loud, boisterous conversation with an elf with silver hair. Occasionally someone would approach, and that person and Balthazar would have a quiet discussion. This happened a couple of times within the first few minutes that Nigel watched.

Sandor stood at the end of the bar nearest the door, and found the barman.

"Do you have any wine?" the knife-thrower asked in his accented English. "I only see beer-drinkers here."

The barman looked over to where Balthazar and the elf were sitting.

"Kiervan!" he yelled out. "Is there any wine in the back?"

The elf turned to look over at Sandor, and strode over to speak to him. It was clear that Kiervan was the best-known person in the tavern, and he greeted Sandor with a wide smile and a clap on the shoulder.

"A true gentleman!" he exclaimed. "Of course I have wine! Most of the clientele here prefer their beer, but I keep a bottle or two for discerning customers." He vanished into the back of the bar, and emerged a moment later with a dusty bottle of deep red wine. He poured out a glass for each of them.

Sandor swirled his glass and took an appreciative sip. "Ah, this is more like it! It is like the wine in Hungary, bull's blood, we call it."

Kiervan raised his glass. "Then a toast," he said. "We are both Travellers, far from our own lands. You drink to Hungary, and I shall drink to Ireland!" He drained his glass, and poured another for himself, and for Sandor.

Nigel was mortified at Sandor becoming so friendly with the apparent owner of the tavern where Balthazar plied his trade, but his attention was immediately drawn back to business by the entrance of Adrian Poole. The poor shopkeep looked about ready to pass out. He stole a glance at Nigel as he walked past.

Balthazar noticed Poole instantly and waved him over to the small table where he sat. Nigel dropped a few shillings on the bar, and walked along the bar until he was very near to Balthazar, hoping to approach him before he was noticed. He was not so lucky.

"We're having a private conversation," Balthazar indicated as Nigel came near.

"I'm afraid I will have to butt in," Nigel said, stepping up to the table with Poole and Balthazar and leaning in close as his previous visitors had. "Mr. Poole. Mr. Balthazar. I need some information about a certain subject."

"A key."

Poole backed away from the table. At the bar, Kiervan instantly noticed something was up. Orla had entered the bar and begun walking towards Balthazar and Nigel, but kept her distance. Sandor's hand went to his vest where his knives were hidden. Balthazar held his hand up to Kiervan, indicating that everything was under control.

"I understand you have no love for the Green Daggers," Nigel said. "Neither do I. All I am interested in is the location of the key that was taken from the shop. I am not the police, I don't need to convict anyone, I just need to find the item in question."

"Love for the Green Daggers? Ha. I just like keeping my various extremeties attached to my torso."

"Then maybe you can answer a couple of questions. Did you hire Iron Tusk to do the job?"

Balthazar raised an eyebrow. "Iron Tusk came to me on this job."

"He was behind the job?" Nigel asked. "He doesn't seem the mastermind type."

"In truth," Balthazar agreed. "But so it is. He was quite desperate to get the key. I merely arranged for things to be set in motion."

Back at the bar, Sandor was watching intently the older man and the young investigator as they talked urgently. The danger of things getting out of hand had lessened, and he leaned back on the bar, and let his hand drop from his vest. He took a quick glance around to make sure everything was going well, and noticed Mary, the elf-urchin, at the top of the stairs leading down into the tavern. She beckoned to him urgently.

Sandor stood up straight again, and waggled his eyebrows at Nigel. The young investigator took note, and offered his hand to Balthazar, who took it.

"I'm glad this conversation went the way it did," Nigel said. "I was concerned the outcome might be quite different."

"I'm just a businessman," Balthazar responded. "I have no concern for what happens to Iron Tusk now. My business with him is done."

Nigel exited the Death and Taxes to find the others with Mary. The little girl looked up at them sadly.

"Dorian, ee's getting sicker," she said. "Can you 'elp 'im?"

"He's the only one who knows where Iron Tusk lives," Orla said. "Where is he?"

In answer, the little girl took of down the alley. Nigel, Orla, Artimis, and Sandor followed, while Cass and Amanda escorted Poole home, to ensure his safety.

Mary led the four down a number of narrow alleys through the London fog. Finally, they came to a dead end alley where a small orkling boy lay on a mattress of old boxes and burlap sacks. Artimis knelt by the child, and pushed the hair back from his eyes.

"Dorian?" he asked. "How do you feel?"

Dorian opened his eyes, and Nigel could see that they were cloudy, like those of a blind man. "I dunna feel very good," he said, quietly.

His turned towards Artimis' voice, but it was clear he could not see him. Nigel knelt by the boy.

"Dorian, what is wrong?"

"It's the blinding sickness," Mary said. "Lots of the big orkling's friends have got it, up at their 'ouse. They say its the water."

Dorian nodded gingerly.

"Mary, do you know where Iron Tusk's house is?" Nigel asked. The little girl shook her head.

"Dorian," Nigel turned to the boy. "Where do you get water at?"

"The well by Iron Tusk's house," the boy replied.

"Can you tell us where the house is?" Orla asked.

"It's by the river," he replied. Nigel shook his head.

"We'll never find it with just that to go on." He stood back up and paced along the alley.

Artimis had moved into action. He pulled a variety of herbs and poultices from a pack, and began putting them together, getting Orla and Sandor to help when he need extra hands.

"The blinding sickness is definitely spread by contaminated water," Artimis said. "It can also be associated with the close presence of the undead."

After an hour or so of ministrations, Artimis stood up and brushed off his hands. "He'll be all right. The worst of it is over, but he'll need to rest."

"How long until he can take us to Iron Tusk's house?" Nigel asked.

"His vision is not likely to clear up for at least a day or two," Artimis replied. "He was very sick."

"We cannot leave him here," Sandor declared. "It is not safe, or healthy."

"We have no where we can take him," Nigel replied. "We have no one to look after him."

"We can take him to Tsara," Sandor replied. "She will look after him. She is at the circus."

"Very well," Nigel responded, lifting the small orkling boy into his arms. "Then we will have to find Iron Tusk on our own."


First Post
Excellent start.

I just love the setting, especially the mix of Raven King (from Strange & Norell), fantasy and Holmes. And the writing is excellent, will definitely be following this onwards.


Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Thanks! I've got probably two more updates to get us up to the end of Session One, and then we're looking like we're playing again in a couple of weeks, so more updates will follow after that.

I'd just like to chime in and add my praise for the start of this storyhour. As Ziggy said, the blend of D&D, "Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrell" and Holmes is inspired. And a nice adaptation of "Mad God's Key" as well, I believe.

Another storyhour added to my list to keep an eye on ... :)

Kid Charlemagne said:
"New favorite weapon?" Amanda asked. "What was his old favorite weapon?"

"A cricket bat.

A bit of a shame that he didn't stick with his old favourite: Brits of a certain age would have gone slightly misty eyed at a wild man running around hitting people with a "clicky ba".

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.

Well so long as it doesn't sound like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins ... :p

One minor quibble:

Daily Telegraph, January 6th, 1888

British Museum Burglarized!

Not even the Telegraph would use a vulgar Americanism like "Burglarized"! ;)


HalfOrc HalfBiscuit said:
I'd just like to chime in and add my praise for the start of this storyhour. As Ziggy said, the blend of D&D, "Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrell" and Holmes is inspired. And a nice adaptation of "Mad God's Key" as well, I believe.

Shhhh! They're not supposed to know that last part! ;)

HalfOrc HalfBiscuit said:
A bit of a shame that he didn't stick with his old favourite: Brits of a certain age would have gone slightly misty eyed at a wild man running around hitting people with a "clicky ba".

That one broke, unfortunately.

Well so long as it doesn't sound like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins ... :p

I hope not - of course, since our group is mostly Americans, nobody's perfect. :lol:

Hi Kid Charlemagne and eris404,

Every so often, a story hour comes along that you just know is going to be something special. This one is certainly one of them.

The writing is clear, descriptive and thoroughly entertaining while the story (praise to eris404 and the whole party) is completely engaging. I simply read it from start to finish which is something I almost never do with most story hours.

I'm truly looking forward to more of this strange but wonderful London you have all created.

[sits down with popcorn down here in Sydney, Australia, fires up the satellite link to you guys up North and awaits the next direct feed]

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
HalfOrc HalfBiscuit said:
Not even the Telegraph would use a vulgar Americanism like "Burglarized"! ;)

Well, we are (mostly) vulgar Americans.

That's mostly Americans, BTW. We're totally vulgar.

Update in 3... 2... 1...

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Tsara was a halfling, a performer at Barnum's Circus, and she clearly had a mothering side to her. She took Dorian in with scarcely a second thought.

"He can sleep in my bed," Sandor told her. "We'll check back later."

"Now how are we going to find this Iron Tusk fellow?" Orla asked Nigel.

Nigel nibbled on a scone that Tsara had given him. "What was it your friend said about his hangouts? I know a good portion of London like the back of my hand, but the pub name you mentioned didn't ring a bell."

"He said it was something like 'The Jolly Roger' or 'The Hangman's Noose'," Orla replied. "Something pirate-related, or executioner-related, I suppose."

Nigel closed his eyes tightly for a moment. Then a grin broke across his face.

"'Hangman's Noose', my foot!" he exclaimed. "I know what it must be. 'Vain Robert's Gibbet' is a tavern right by the Thames. It's a dockworker's pub, very working-class. Run by a women named Elizabeth Talbot, if I remember correctly. She's a widow. Her husband was a sailor, and was swept overboard in a storm. "

Nigel led Orla, Artimis, and Sandor down to the docks. It had gotten quite late when they finally found themselves outside of Vain Robert's Gibbet, but find it they do. At first glance, it appeared closed, but close watching revealed a dim light moving within, indicating not everyone has put in for the night.

"Should we just watch, or knock?" Nigel asked.

"What do you know of her?" Orla asked. "Is she likely to be a Green Dagger?"

Nigel shook his head. "She's somewhat known for watching out for the sailors down here. A good sort, from all accounts."

"Then I say we knock," Sandor said. "But you should do the talking. You look more respectable than the rest of us."

Nigel and his companions approached, and Nigel knocked quietly on the door. He could hear footsteps from inside the tavern, and finally a small door over a peep hole was drawn back, and a quiet voice could be heard.

"We're closed," the voice said. "You can come back tomorrow."

"Forgive us, Mrs. Talbot," Nigel quickly replied, "but we are looking for a fellow who was involved in a beating a few days ago, and thought he might have been seen in this area. His name is Iron Tusk."

The peep hole closed, and a moment later, they could hear a bar being drawn back from the door.

Elizabeth Talbot stood in the darkened doorway, and beckoned them to enter.

"Come in," she said. "Are you hungry?"

The foursome entered, and quickly assented to their hostess' offer. Elizabeth Talbot was a strikingly beautiful woman, entering her later thirties. She was also a gracious hostess, and offered them food and drink. Sandor let the hospitality go to his head, and kissed her hand with a rather grandiose style. Mrs. Talbot humored the Hungarian with a grin.

"What has that awful man done now?" she asked. "He's nothing but trouble, that Iron Tusk."

"He beat a man rather severely several days ago, and stole several items from a shop," Orla replied. "Does he ever come here?"

"Ever?" Mrs. Talbot responded with a sarcastic tone. "Every day, more like. Always coming here, hanging out with his thugs, and harrassing me."

Sandor leaned over to Artimis. "How could an Orkling even think he could interest a woman like that?" he whispered.

"It's truly amazing," Mrs. Talbot continued, not having heard Sandor. "My dear husband was an Orkling, and yet you could not find two people further part in qualities."

Sandor turned red, which was luckily not noticeable in the darkened tavern, and Artimis stifled a chuckle.

"We'd like to come back here tomorrow," Artimis said. "We need to see what he's up to, where he goes."

"That is fine by me," she said. "If you'd like, you can stay here for the night. I have boarding rooms upstairs, there are a few that are open."

Again, Mrs. Talbot's offer was accepted with gratitude. The rooms were sparse but clean, and the next morning, the investigators made plans to seek out the Orkling thug. Nigel and Sandor walked the docks in the morning, looking for Iron Tusk, while Orla and Artimis stayed at the tavern in case he showed up there. When Nigel and Sandor returned at noon, having learned only that Iron Tusk was supposed to be working at a particular dock, but had not shown up, the pairs switched places. Sandor helped Mrs. Talbot in the kitchen, amusing her two adorable Orkling daughters with knife tricks and offering what assistance he could. Nigel went up to his room and watched the docks from the window.

As nothing seemed about to happen, Sandor went upstairs and caught a quick nap. Finally Artimis and Orla returned, having seen Iron Tusk, who finally had shown up to his dock job. Artimis's hawk, Kendra, perched outside, and kept an eye on Iron Tusk unobtrusively.

Finally, Artimis stirred. "He's coming."

Nigel stood up and looked out the window of the tavern. Orla settled into her chair, and loosened her rapier, preparing for, if not hoping for, a fight. Artimis ran upstairs to wake Sandor.

"Get up!" he yelled at the sleeping knife-thrower.

Sandor snored.

Artimis shook his shoulder. "Iron Tusk is almost here!"

Sandor rolled over, and pulled his pillow over his head.

Artimis stared at the sleeping man, and inspiration struck.


"What?" Sandor bolted upright like a man prodded with a hot iron.

"Iron Tusk. Downstairs."

He was already in the tavern by the time they got downstairs. To Mrs. Talbot's relief, no harrassment was forthcoming. Iron Tusk seemed in good spirits, and in an apparently non-violent mood. He drank his ale, ate his provender, and left at closing time.

Kendra followed him from overhead, while Nigel, Orla, Sandor, and Artimis left by the backdoor and followed at a safe distance. Nigel and Artimis, being the quieter of the four, followed more closely, while Orla and Sandor stayed a block or so behind. Iron Tusk led them through the docks until he finally came to a stop at a brightly lit three story house.

A scandalously clad woman answered the door, and gave Iron Tusk a hug that was more than friendly. The sounds of music and laughter could be heard from within.

"Umm," Sandor said, nervously. "What now?"

In answer, Artimis grabbed the knife-throwers arm, and dragged him, protesting, to the door. He knocked sharply. The scandaloulsy clad lady answered again, and after a moment, Nigel and Orla saw the two men enter.

"Lovely." Nigel said. "Artimis and Sandor are now investigating a house of ill repute. Meanwhile we'll be standing out here…"

"For about five more minutes," Orla finished, with a sly grin.

Nigel paced.

"This is no good. They're taking too long. Probably forgotten what they went in for." He looked at the house, and the narrow alleys to its side and rear. He turned back to Orla.

"Iron Tusk could get out of there any number of ways. The alleys are narrow, he could jump from one roof to the next. There could be access to the sewers. He could sneak out a side door."

Finally, his nervous energy got the best of him.

"Here, keep an eye on this," he said, dropping his doctor's bag on the cobblestone street. He looked up at the roof of the building next to the cathouse, and began to climb.

"What are you doing?" Orla protested.

"Getting a better look," Nigel shot back, scaling the building with more ease than Orla would have given him credit for.

Nigel reached the second floor, and avoided a window with a light behind drawn curtains. As he reached the edge of the shingled roof, he caught a glimpse of a shadow above him. A booted foot stepped to the edge of the roof, just by Nigel's outstretched hand.

"Been following me all night, ye have," Iron Tusk growled. "What'cher gonna do now you've found me?"


First Post
This is excellent! And at last I've found a story hour I can get in on at the ground floor, so to speak. Now I'm just envious of the setting - I've wanted to play in a steampunk campaign for years but most of my group aren't interested and we've got no room in the schedule. :(

I'm curious, what rules are being used for the non-standard D&D stuff - locomotives, firearms, and the like?

I look forward to the next installment. :D

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