So far I have done character generators for noblemen, occultists, bandit tribesmen, and elite detectives, but I wanted to try to place the spotlight on the lives and dramas of people from the general population for the mercenary character generator.
A mercenary character will acquire skills and assets across three background stages:
1. Youth: What the character did before they were 20 or so.
2. Profession: What the character did in their early 20s.
3. Most Recent Work: What the character did immediately before becoming a mercenary; this is the “character class”, and each is intended as a suitable launchpad for a skilled mercenary or other freelance problem solver.
This post covers the Youth stage.
It is divided into three sections:
Index: Enumerates the 20 youth backgrounds.
Stats & Assets: Assigns skills, treasures, and (occasionally) powers to your character based on their background.
Formative Experiences: Outlines the formative experience that reflects your character’s skills, treasures and powers.
First, use the Index to determine what your character did during their youth.
3 Breaker Boy
5 Child Soldier
6 Chimney Sweep
9 Farm Boy
10 Garbage Heap Picker
12 Office Boy
18 Street Urchin
Next, roll a d4 under your relevant background in Stats & Assets, note your result, and select your next Profession under To Profession.
After this, search the Formative Experiences section for your Background, and then go to the relevant entry for your d4 result. This will explain how you came to focus on the skills you have and how you acquired your assets.
Skills & Assets
Most Backgrounds have 4 results. Some results have subfactors (eg 2a and 2b etc).
Subfactors reflect narrative choices that you have made in the course of your development. If your d4 result contains a subfactor, you may go to the relevant entry in the Background Experiences section and make the decision for yourself.
1: Secret technique with regard to your later Profession
2: +2 Alertness, +2 Influence, +2 Engineering
3: +2 Urban Stealth, +2 Influence, +12 ounces of gold
4: +3 Engineering, Tight-knit social network of prosperous enterprise owners
Any TRADES except Patrolman or Jailor
1: +2 Equestrianism, +2 Battle Command, +1 Fighting
2: +4 Influence, +1 Alertness
3: +3 Influence, +2 Agility, +2 Dancing
4: +3 Alertness, +1 Prowess, +1 Influence
3 Breaker Boy
1: +2 Fighting, +2 Alertness, +2 Might
2: +3 Fighting, +2 Influence
3: You are amphibious but cold-blooded except when digesting a live mammal
4: +3 Alertness, +2 Might
1: +4 Might, +1 Agility
2a: +3 Urban Stealth, +1 Alertness
2b: +3 Engineering
3: +3 Alertness, +2 Might
4: +4 Alertness, +1 Might
5 Child Soldier
Roll on the Negative Wartime outcomes table in the Nobleman Generator after you make your d4 roll here.
1: +3 Gunplay, +1 Deep Time. A creature considers you the servant of its lapsed two million-year empire.
2: +2 Gambling, +1 Gunplay, +1 Fighting
3: +2 Gunplay, +2 Deep Time
4: +2 Gunplay, +2 Alertness
6 Chimney Sweep
1: +2 Climb, +1 Might, +2 Influence (++1 Seduction)
2: +4 Climb, 5oz gold prize
3a: +2 Climb, +2 Urban Stealth, 15 ounces of gold and a Shipping House’s friendship
3b: +2 Climb, jewelry salable for d20x3 ounces of gold
4: +3 Climb, +2 Agility, +2 Deep Time
1: +2 Urban Stealth, +2 Explosives, +1 Gunplay, +1 Influence
2: +4 CLS, +3 Might, +2 Trauma Surgery, dietary restriction
3: +3 Agility, +3 Engineering
4: +2 Awareness, +2 Influence (++Seduction)
1: +1 Influence (++++Seduction)
2: +3 Influence, +1 Alertness
3a: Ermine, pocket watches and lady’s jewelry salable for 4d4oz of gold
3b: +2 Stewardship, +2 Finance, +2 Influence
4a: +3 Agronomy, +3 Stewardship, +3 Finance, +2 Influence
4aba: +3 Gambling, +2 Urban Stealth, +1 Fighting, +1 Influence, +3d4oz of gold
4abb: +2 Stewardship, +2 Finance, loving wife, healthy young child
9 Farm Boy
1: +4 Agronomy, +2 Might, +2 Gunplay, +1 Engineering
2: +4 Fighting, +3 Might, +3 Agronomy, +1 Deep Time
3: +4 Fighting, +3 Might, +2 Influence
4: +2 Agronomy, +2 Stewardship, +2 Influence, +2 Finance, +2 Might, +2 Alertness, +1 Fighting, +1 Deep Time
10 Garbage Heap Picker
1: +3 Climb, +2 Alertness, d4+1oz of gold, friendship of a slag heap deity
2: +3 Influence, +3 Alertness, +2 Climb, claim to a fief in a city-state (to be named by the GM or player)
3: +4 Fighting, +2 Influence, +2 Climb, +1 Engineering
4: +4 Influence, +3 Stewardship, +2 Climb
Any UNDERWORLD except Pamphleteer
1: +2 Engineering, +2 Might, can’t feel pain in hands and arms, option to marry Elena Jameson, a good-hearted and intelligent girl from an upper middle class family
2: +2 Engineering, +1 Might. You are able to bend light through your body and focus it into in a laser that is capable of setting fires if concentrated on dry wood or a similarly flammable matter for at least five seconds. You can easily flense flesh and otherwise score surfaces with your fingernails.
3: +3 Influence, +2 Engineering, +3d4oz of gold, reputation for glass art (positive among general public, negative among artists)
4: +3 Climb, +2 Engineering
12 Office Boy
1: +2 Alertness, +2 Botany, +2 Tradecraft, plants that you tend to on a recurring basis will whisper secrets to you and steal things that you might want.
2: +1 Influence (++++ Seduction), +1 Stewardship
3: +2 Climb, +2 Might, +2 Engineering, set of numinous schematics whose true purpose you will divine before you die, even if it flashes before your eyes at the moment of your death
4: +2 Climb, +2 Acrobatics, +2 Alertness, +2 Influence
Any TRADES except Farmer
Any UNDERWORLD except Enforcer and Highwayman
1: +4 Equestrian, young superior Andalusian warhorse
2: +3 Equestrian, +3 Gunplay, +3 Fighting, +3 Influence, switch to Nobleman Generator track with mandatory roll on the negative War Experience table, no fief and no assets.
3: +5 Equestrian, 4d4 horses of custom breed
4: +3 Tradecraft, +2 Equestrian, +4d4oz of gold
1: +3 Fighting, +3 Climbing, +2 Engineering
2: +3 Tradecraft, +3 Alertness
3: +2 Fieldcraft, +2 Tradecraft, +1 Engineering
4: +4 Engineering, +2 Alertness
1: +3 Climb, +2 Alertness, deployable gliding membrane like a flying squirrel
2: +3 Tradecraft, +1 Agility
3: +2 Alertness, +2 Climb, +2 Influence, +2 Finance
4a: +2 Urban Stealth, +2 Agility, +2 Gunplay, +2 Tradecraft
4b: +3 Agility, +2 Finance, +2 Influence
4c: +3 Stewardship, +1 Influence
Any TRADES except Farmer
1: +2 Tradecraft, +2 Swim, antediluvian dagger of resonantly-encapsulated (ie arranged against self) star energy
2a: +2 Alertness, +2 Tradecraft, friendship of alchemy witch
2b: +2 Stewardship, +2 Influence, +3d4oz of gold, membership in a warlord’s inner circle
3: +3 Influence, +3 Engineering, +2 Fighting
4: +3 Fighting, +2 Might, +1 Influence
Any UNDERWORLD except Highwayman
1: +4 Precision Fire (Slingstaff), +3 Fieldcraft, +2 Alertness
2: +4 Climb, +2 Fieldcraft
3: +2 Stewardship, +2 Fieldcraft, +1 Influence
4: +2 Influence, +2 Gunplay, +2 Climb, +2 Fieldcraft
General Merchant Painter
18 Street Urchin
Table 1: Wild Rover
1: +3 Influence, +2 Alertness, +1 Fighting, +3d4oz of gold
2: +2 Influence (++Seduction), +2 Alertness
3a: +2 Influence, +2 Finance, +d4+1oz of gold
3b: +3 Stewardship, +2 Influence, +1 Finance
4: +3 Fieldcraft, +2 Agility, you can happily eat things that would debilitate most people
Any UNDERWORLD except Highwayman
Table 2: Lookout
1: +3 Gunplay, +3 Urban Stealth, +2 Agility, +2 Alertness
2: +4 Agility, +2 Fighting, +1 Alertness
3: +3 Agility, +2 Alertness, +1 Tradecraft, +2d4oz of gold
4: +3 Climb, +3 Agility, +2 Deep Time
1: +4 Fighting, +1 Influence
2: +4 Gunplay, +3 Fighting, +2 Fieldcraft, +1 CLS
3a: +3 Finance, +3 Stewardship, +2 Engineering, +1 Influence
3b: +3 Influence, +2 Tradecraft, +2 Alertness, +15oz of gold
3c: +3 Influence, +3 Tradecraft, +2 Gunplay, +2 Fighting, +2 Alertness, deep Anarcho-Syndicalist connections (you have many friends among them but they also have your fingerprints, know your bank account numbers, and know where your family lives)
4a: +3 Might, +3 Alertness, +3 Deep Time. Enter the Occultist Generator at the Reward and Punishment section. Roll a d4: 1-2 use the Gray Path, 3-4 use the Gold Path.
4b: +3 Agility, +3 Alertness, +2 Driving, +2 Deep Time
1a: +4 Fighting, +2 Agility
1b: +3 Gunplay, +2 Alertness, +2 Fieldcraft
1c: +4 Driving, +2 Engineering
1d: +4 Might, +1 Influence
2: +3 Influence, +1 Engineering, +d4+1oz of gold
3a: +2 Influence, +2 Alertness, +4d4oz of gold
3b: +1 Engineering, +1 Deep Time, black bodysuit of the chitinspiders
4: +3 Engineering, +1 Alertness, silicasilk garments
(1) You fell in love with your master’s daughter but he wanted her to have a better life; the life of a merchant’s family, not the working life that his own wife had to live. He told you as much, and warned you that if you persisted it would mean your life, and his too on the gallows if necessary. You swore you would grow wealthy and marry his daughter; he teared up and told you he hoped that you would. He taught you a secret technique he’d been saving for his son, which he was hoping to eventually have.
Choose your adult Profession and determine with the GM what this secret technique was.
(2) A new technological innovation made your master’s handicraft obsolete, and he turned to drink. Every day he would tell you that what he was teaching you would amount to nothing, that you were better off drinking like him and living life for the spirits. He worked his fingers to the bone and his larder grew lighter and lighter with each passing month. Eventually he lost several fingers in a drunken accident. You sold his liquor, sold your coats, sold his tools, sold your furniture and bought a single used machine. You locked yourself in a room with your master as he raged and hurled himself at you, but you stayed with him until he sobered enough to work the machine with his palms and feet. You saw light in his eyes for the first time in a year. Then the machine broke and he cried and cried. He tried to leave. Said it was hopeless. You opened the machine by unscrewing it with your thumbnail and worked while your master screamed until you fixed it with your belt. He sat down again. Today he is a respected minor craftsman and removes his cap when he sees you.
+2 Alertness, +2 Influence, +2 Engineering
(3) The guild came one day to forcibly induct you and your master. You would pay tithes, make a monthly report, and use the approved tools and techniques that were the mark of your city’s trade on the international market. Your master refuses, having no experience with their techniques, and they cut off his hand and foot. Their trade is too precious to the city to be punished. When your master recovers enough to walk on crutches, he throws himself from the top of the hospital. You take your master’s tools and use them to break into the guild and then to break into their strongbox. You arsonize the guildhall and then flee the city to practice abroad. You swear that someday you’ll return and overthrow the influence of the guild, which is absolute- today, the man who maimed your master is the city’s Director.
+2 Urban Stealth, +2 Influence, +12 ounces of gold.
(4) Your father and your older brothers practiced the trade and promised to initiate you, before the plague came. A whole family working together- unstoppable, except by the cruel Fates.
Your family died one by one and your heart was made of aching tears. You inherited their tools and their workspaces. They were so empty. Shadows, wood and cobwebs. You were unskilled, but it did not matter. There was no competition. You took in boys whose families had died one and all, and they were unskilled, but it did not matter. What did matter was that your mother had people to love and tend to in her grief, and your sisters had tight-knit men to wed as the summers cleaned the plague from your home city.
Today, you have a tight-knit social network of prosperous enterprise owners in your home city, where conditions paradoxically flourished after the reduction in population given that demand for its products did not decline at all.
(1) You shine the boots of a warrior-industrialist who takes you on as the bootblack and mascot of his entire cavalry regiment, and you keenly observe their maneuvers and techniques. You are dressed in a brocaded cavalry jacket and dine in the Officers’ mess, fed on confit and schnapps. You sit on their knees by the fire and hear tales of charges and grapeshot. You ask the commander-manufacturer when you will be able to join his regiment as a cavalryman and he laughs and laughs, telling you to know your place. You will be a bootblack your whole life and you need to accept that. His regiment is for gentlemen. You sneak away from the firelight and sleep in the street that night. The next morning you shine shoes once more, but you know that what you were told will not prove true. Your trade has already proven to be a stepping-stone.
+2 Equestrianism, +2 Battle Command, +1 Fighting
(2) You worked with Gassuile for years, the famed pit crew of Trimgrove Alley. You got the left boot and he got the right. People would go out of their way to see you. You were fast, careful and your banter was legendary. You were sunny and wry, and Gassuile was acid acerbic. He would insult the customer and you would wink. You would compliment someone’s neckerchief and he would stick out his tongue. An amusing couple of urchins. One day a man offered you both a position working for him; your diligence and spirit would be appreciated. You said you’d like to come and see his workplace. Gassuile spat and said he’d take the doubled pay for shines without all the chipper badinage. Your heart sank for him but you went and took the new job. A few years later you saw Gassuile shining boots on Trimgrove Alley. He did it roughly and had to bend far lower than when he was a little boy. He did not speak but his eyes terrified you.
+4 Influence, +1 Alertness
(3) One day the most beautiful woman in the world came for a shoe shine. You worked her tall, slim leather boots with shaking hands as the snow fell around you. Her long green coat was full of beauty-magic just because she wore it. You looked into the snowflakes upon it with a kind of gentle envy. You dared look up at her when you finished and she smiled at you. Your eyes teared up and you looked down at your ratty trousers where you knelt in the snow. “You are such a sweet boy,” she said, and you wished to God that you had a mother. A man walked up and whistled gently. You looked up past his brown calfskin oxfords and saw a silver coin in his wool-gloved hand. You took it. He smiled and the woman took his arm, kissing him on his smooth-shaven cheek. They went away together up the street and you followed them to a ballroom made of big round stones mortared together around great windows, through which there was an orange-lit dance floor. You gazed through and there was a banner: “Grenadier’s Ball”. The man was an Air Grenadier; a brave, tall, handsome and generous warrior. Your heart was sick with longing when the band started and people gathered to dance. You saw the man and the woman dance and their skill and harmony broke your heart in a way that has left it open to such things ever since. You knelt and watched them until you couldn’t feel your knees and then went away dancing.
+3 Influence, +2 Alertness, +2 Dancing
(4) She came down your street every day at noon and went back up again at 1. You’d tip your cap and she’d smile. You’d hide your rag and your oilsmudged hands. You’d lean and let prospective fares go by, and eventually you struck up a conversation with her, asking her where you could find a confectioner’s. She told you with a smile and asked her what you wanted. You didn’t know what to say but “Chocolate” and she laughed and thought you were being cheeky. You smiled too. She was so beautiful she seemed to bend time and space around her. You’d have conversations. At noon she’d go to her parents’ house for lunch (tiny sandwiches cut into little squares and tea with milk) before going back to the place where she was tutored. She would tell you about her father, her brother, her friends, the places she wanted to visit. You sat in the wind and thought of the two of you laying in a boat of curtains and petals off Cape Cittacotte or touching your cold noses together on a snowy balcony of Ascension. One day you summoned up your courage and told her. “Wait, I have something to tell you… I love you.” She spat a laugh. “You’re a bootblack! I don’t want *you*! I have to go get tea!” Then she went up the street, full of energy, ready to tell her family what had happened. You went in the alley and fell on your knees between a pair of trash cans, hyperventilating with your nose in the filthy dirt. You went to the port district in a haze of grief, staggering up into the sodden attic of an abandoned warehouse and lay there for days, sick and heaving breaths amid sacks of wet wastepaper on a floor strewn with insulation and broken glass.
When you emerged, it was without your rag. You didn’t care what else came next: you would never bootblack again.
+3 Alertness, +1 Prowess, +1 Influence
(1) You sat in the row, a grid of iron benches with conveyor belts screaming slowly between them. Your hammer bounced up and down across the coal with a rhythm as if controlled by a machine and your hand darted in and out, throwing away little flecks of rock. Your mouth hung open. A lump of buttery leaden metal rolled from the belt with a tremendous clatter. You jumped but immediately struck it as a matter of course. It burst into flames. The other boys looked over with expressions of bleak horror on their sootstained faces, rolling out of their sunken workstations, holding onto their hats. The coal dust would kill you all. The thing burned hotter than you could believe but you cast your coat over it, which burned too. It grew hotter and hotter and you cast your coat into the mire bucket. It burbled and hissed with a horrific stink, but finally the water bubbled without inner fire. You made your way towards it. “Troglodite,” the nearest boy whispered. The most precious metal of the earth; more precious by far than gold. You reached into the horrid bucket, pushed aside the dark scraps of your coat and lifted out the leaden weight. It was slick, but all liquid fell of its unmarred surface in your filthy hands. You carried it to the mouth of the shaft, wobbling with your fingers straining. “They’ll never let you escape,” a boy said. But you saw the fork in the road before you.
“I don’t care. This is my chance.” You carried it past miners down to the river. “S’wrong with you?” asked a fork-bearded old miner as you waddled past him. “Got a burden to lay down in the river.” “Ha! Right,” he said, not looking at you closely enough to see your prize. You went to the river and washed your hands, laying the troglodite at the bottom but it began to sink into the soft sand immediately and you desperately rolled it out. You carried it up the bushes and into the bushes and cached it, then you went back to work.
That night you secured your prize and set off on the road, making for the railroad. You made slow progress and the night and road were endless as your agonized fingers clutched the enginestone. You fashioned a bindle from your shirt but it ripped its way free. Finally you came across a hobo fire where they were boiling beans, but you didn’t dare approach the laughing, bearded men lest they set upon you. You miserably smelled the boiling beans, watching them from the bushes, and when they fell asleep you snuck forward, filled your boots with dried fish in a newspaper bundle and went to continue your journey. Finally you reached the railroad and boarded a Shipping House line bound for the city of Fennelfig. When you awoke, laying among bales of cotton, there were a pair of boots in front of you alongside an unfurling cat o’ nine tails. You looked up at the thick-necked, leather clad, prickly-haired railroad bull, who gave a genuine grin. “Will this be your first time with a man, cherry?” You got up on your knees as if to present yourself resignedly and then heaved your troglodite forward as he took a step forward, shattering his metatarsals. The troglodite went rolling across the freight car slats and fell out of the open door. You rushed to it and saw that you were on a long bridge over a wide strait specked by dark wood and orange metal. The Flensing Station. This was a lawless stretch of countryside and pirates scuttled ships they wouldn’t use here, controlling passage to a tiny inland sea. Your troglodite would come to rest inside a great half-flooded freighter that you’d been passing over or on the strait’s rocky floor around it. You absconded the freight car as soon as you came over land, leaving the bull to his misery, and stood among the calendula gazing down into the strait for a long time. You swore that when you were big and strong, you would come back and claim the prize that would make you rich. Then you started your long, cold walk to Fennelfig.
+2 Fighting, +2 Alertness, +2 Might
(2) You sat, sorting, casting little flecks of rock out of the coal pan before you. You flung them restlessly, heedlessly, furious at the dumb task ahead of you, the refusal of the rock to be gemstones and gold and amber. “Watch it, prick!” yelled Avegall, who you hit in the cheek with a chunk of rock. You didn’t answer, throwing rock down past your thighs with great annoyance. “You hear me, ragpicker? You don’t throw rocks at me! You hear me, orphan?” You stood up and faced him, and he did the same. The other boys had fallen silent, which was palpable even over the screaming conveyor belts. He climbed on top of the sorting platforms and stalked towards you with the rattling of thin iron. You stood up too and he reached you, throwing a right cross that clipped your head and knocked your hat off onto the conveyor belt despite your low slip. You tried to swing at him but he leaned down on you from above and you fell on your side on the platform. He sat on your hip and began punching you around your head, neck and shoulders. You scrabbled around and found your coal hammer, whipping it up and into the center of his skull. He let out a throaty cry like a slaughtered calf and you rolled over on him as the boys let out a cry as one, yelling no. You brought your hammer into his temple, leaving a coin-shaped cut beneath his blonde locks. Scrabbling hands raked across you from every direction as the other boys dragged you back, pulling away your hammer. You were crying, sobbing, hyperventilating. You looked at his lolling head as he began to spasm. “Wait! I’m sorry!” you cried at Avegall, “Please, just say something! Let me know you’re okay!”
You sat in your workstation with your face in your arms, catatonic. You felt as if you were beneath the earth, like you belonged in that cold, emotionless place and not among the living. You would have accepted eternal torment.
A supervisor came in and stood behind you.
“Avegall’s dead,” he said. A cosmic scream erupted from your heart but you were silent except for letting your head fall upon the iron.
“That’s another three years on your contract,” he said, then walked away silently except for the scratching of his pencil. The boys left. You were an orphan but you bereaved a pair of parents. It would be better if you had never existed.
It was days before you could work again and they added that to your contract, too. You began leaving secreted coal at the Avegall residence to heat their fire. You swore that someday you would leave something far more precious than that for them, and that any children they would have from that moment would want for nothing when you reached majority, though they may never know your name.
+3 Fighting, +2 Influence
(3) You sifted through the coal dust, sniffing much more than usual. Mucus poured from your nose and you wiped it away relentlessly, smearing your face with coal. Your hands sparkled. You looked at them closely. Soft jade scales were flecked here and there across your hands. You wiped them into the coal dust and realized that the stuff was full of it. You looked around. The other boys worked without any attention to you. You coughed and spat the little flecks of sodden green flesh across the sifting platform in front of you. You wiped your nose and gaped.
That night you lay on your canvas sack stuffed with old clothes while your sister sat on a rotten cask next to you knitting a burlap sweater while your parents made love beneath a tarp on the other side of the room. You lay gazing at the stars through the open window, wondering about the strange things that must lurk beneath the surface of each one of them. Suddenly a rat poked its head furtively over the windowsill and you leapt up and seized it between your teeth before you or it could even think. The rat shrieked and bled down your chin and you shook it back and forth, running your tongue back and forth over its delicious nose. Your sister screamed and you turned to look at her while you began to swallow the rat.
You are amphibious but cold-blooded compared to other people, and will gradually enter hypothermia if your body is directly exposed to temperatures below room temperature unless you are currently digesting a living mammal.
(4) You worked playfully. The coal and rock and dust danced beneath your hands. You stirred it and stacked the pieces and made little statue gardens before you while waiting for the next big chunk to come down the conveyor belt. You’d be ready with your hammer and there it would come, bang, coming to rest amid the landscape and splitting into pieces like an asteroid striking the earth. The stacked up stones and carefully carved sand garden you’d make would leap up and be displaced into serial heaps by the cracking of the coal globe. And you’d begin again.
This was to be your life. You would work at this, going home under the cool starlight to eat bread and cheese and maybe even campfire stew, and someday you would become a great, mighty man like the miners who bent the earth to their will, who won gold by their toil and grew sinuous and strong like the heroes of ancient times. You had seen farmers and scribes. You knew what a hero looked like and what one did not.
And one day you would be old and you would return to the breaker pits to initiate the next generation.
All of you were laid off as one. The overseer came in while the boys laughed and clambered around, pulled the conveyor stop lever and cried out, “Everyone haul what they’ve got! We’re closing the seam, boys! Go on home and have a childhood!”
You were distraught. You cried your eyes out. You walked the roads in a fugue. You watched people at their happy lives. You saw a shepherd boy carrying a sheep across his shoulders. A swineherd with a pair of pigs underneath his hairy arms. You stood to off the road to let a patrol of soldiers go by, laden with rucksacks, ammunition, water, rifles of heavy wood and steel that were as long as your body. You came to the city and watched big tattooed men hauling sacks of cardamom and seed down gangways, returning with enormous steel crates marked COAL, PROCESSED. You saw construction workers carrying beams of steel on their shoulders and porters bearing up pyramids of brass ingots on shoulder litters. You went home and sat on the hill beneath the trees behind your family’s shack. And you reflected on the things that you had seen.
+3 Alertness, +2 Might
(1) You stood watching the children carrying piles of bricks on wood panels atop their heads. Some had rolled up handkerchiefs for padding. Some did not. “A copper an hour,” said the foreman. You looked across the street at the chicken stand. Six coppers a bird. “Got it,” you say. “You serious?” asked the foreman, “You must be hard up.” You shrug.
You carry the pallets till your spine shrinks and your back broadens. Your hands, back and shoulders are dead with calluses. You lift things even when you don’t need to. You lift bricks up and down as you walk or carry them overhead. You wait with your load in a squatting position. And you eat chicken after chicken. You save no money. You sleep in a pile of sawdust or clay dust on the worksite. You devour bird after bird and you grow. The work crew takes a day off per week and you sneak into the ice factory, laying on the ice on a sheet of canvas in varying positions all day, aching. Then you’re back to it. One day the foundations are laid and the foreman gives you a bonus. A week’s wages. You buy a whole sirloin the circumference of a cow and cut slices off it with a handsaw, eating them raw, before stashing it in your secret place in the ice factory. Then it’s back to work on the ground floor of a twenty-story tower.
+4 Might, +1 Agility
(2) “Dipshit!” the foreman screams and kicks you in the rear with a steel toed boot, “Your fucking wall collapsed, you stupid son of a bitch! You’re fucking useless! You’d be worth more to me as mortar than as a bricklayer!” You stagger away, crying. You climb onto the bright tan wood of new scaffolding, smelling the freshness of the planks, rubbing your hands over them as the work continues below. There are a few bricks laying around you on a piling and by the makings of a chimney. You take one and stand where the scaffolding’s incomplete, seeing the foreman walk below. He gestures around to a couple of pipe layers, and his bald spot is a perfect target for the corner of the brick. You envision it visibly denting his head, knocking flanges of bone into his brain. You’d be gone before the dust settles. Just another worksite accident. Do you:
A: Drop the brick.
B: Set it down and go look at your wall.
-A: You drop the brick and it hits him almost silently, tumbling into the loose dirt with a thump. He throws his hairy hands up and falls sideways. You watch from a crack in the scaffolding and a stunning quantity of blood pours from the top of his head into the sandy gray earth. You didn’t think that place was so venous. You sneak out of the construction site, hiding in toolboxes, burn piles and foundation pits. They walk by around you, intuiting what might have happened, calling your name. They go to see your parents but they have no idea where you are.
You’re on the next train to Periapt.
+3 Urban Stealth, +1 Alertness
-B: You set the brick down miserably and walk to the other side of the cedar scaffolding where the light pours in through a notional window. You look across to your miserable little retaining wall covered in gravel that poured out atop it. You look around the site and see the foundation walls being laid; you see the engineers cant the slabs ever so slightly so they’ll settle into position and then scaffold the wall as soon as the mortar begins to set. You start looking around for scrap wood and twine.
(3) You walk among the other kids at night. “God, you’re so tough! Look at you! You’re a roughneck!”
You smile slightly.
“Let me pinch your arm!” says another, and you let him. “It’s like iron!”
“You’re a pretty big guy,” says Elallia, delighting in your prestige.
“I just carry things,” you say.
“Nah,” says Jerit, “I feel safe around you.”
That night, you sit on the side of your wireframe bed, looking at your hands. You just carry things. You shake your head. A marten can stand down a wildcat. They think you’re a hero, but they’re wrong, and it’s killing you inside.
+3 Alertness, +2 Might
(4) You walk through the site. You pass a couple of potbellied workmen laying on powdersacks in an alcove, guzzling boilermakers. You see a box of rivets broken open; those ones aren’t used anywhere on this site but someone’s been driving them because that’s what was at hand. You go up the scaffolding and see that a concrete foundation’s been cracked and the beams have bent inside. You look up at the tall and naked tower, then back at the foundation. Someone’s smeared some brick mortar in it. You see no evidence of further repairs in process.
You walk to a balcony veranda in progress overlooking a prospective garden. The delicate terra cotta tiles have been cracked by debris cast off by the workers in higher levels. The foreman is standing with the architect, speaking to a city official. “I did take the loam into consideration when I drew up the foundations! That’s already been accounted for! There’s supposed to be some shift in the concrete, the stack’s supposed to settle.”
The foreman cuts in. “My crew is the best on the South Coast, collectively I’ve got hundreds of years of experience represented here and they don’t make mistakes. Every one of these men knows this site and knows their trade like the backs of their hands, and every single one of em’s got the completion of the project forefront in their minds, which is why we’re *two weeks* ahead of schedule as you well know! That’s impossible in this business but we can do it! So I think you should have just a little bit more faith in the project, Mr Commissioner!”
You walk back down to the lumber stockpile, where your supervisor’s sitting up in a hauling tractor with a prostitute in his lap. “I’m clockin’ out,” you call.
“You’re setting beams at the top tomorrow,” he says. The prostitute glances up at the top of the tower. You nod.
The next morning you’re across town in a cafe halfway up the Stoyer building, gazing out on the naked floors and elevator core of the Tixlen Tower. You see the crane on the top floor moving ever so slowly. You are supposed to be beneath it. You drink your spiked black coffee. You’ll tighten your belt but it won’t be long before you find another-
A line suddenly slithers up the central foundation like a viper going up a tree. You lean forward and put a hand on your head. Like clockwork, as soon as the line reaches the tower top the crane begins to sag, then it tips over the side of the building like the fall of a great yellow hammer. It catches for a moment and hangs horizontally in space when a great dust pours from the top of the tower as the foundation begins to collapse all the way down. Men go falling from the card-like floors of the tower and a great plume of dusts pours out through the surrounding streets. There is nothing where the mighty skeleton tower stood just a few moments ago. The bartender rushes out and looks through the window. “That new tower! The Fates! The Fates! The Fates are cruel!”
“That they are,” you say, thinking of the new hires who probably went in this morning.
+4 Alertness, +1 Might
(1) “These villages once served the Dumanoia Xenocombine. They were the battery for an infernal machine whose superstructure is still at play beneath the earth. They are not people, but the mud puppets of the distributed golem. Tear their hovels up root and stem and we shall prevent the world from once more seeking out a boiling tide.” With that the lunar helix creature began to spin in the air, illuminating the village with a nightmarish staticky strobe. People came to their windows, gaping in the shadows of their brows and awnings. You began to fire, the enormous rifle bucking beneath you like a wooden snake. The people screamed as the killers stalked in through the night.
+3 Gunplay, +1 Deep Time. This creature still considers you the servant of its lapsed two million-year empire
(2) You brought in the tray of espresso to the filthy men with their greasy beards where they played craps on a table made from a hubcap. They took the little cups and slurped them barbarously, interpersonal considerations leading to conclusions other than violence still being several generation in their genealogical futures. Tiny globes of espresso dotted their oily beards. One of them looked at you with livid eyes, and then he picked up his rifle where it sat beneath his broken and plundered rocking chair, standing up and taking you by your collar. “Come on, espresso boy.” Only one man glanced up with any curiosity; the others looked to their game. You can smell the fighter’s ass through his tunic as he leads you to a rat-riven stockpile room, and he casts his rifle in the corner. You have seen this man before, fellating the arm of a cat held up by the scruff in one hand while masturbating with the other. You have seen him stomp his feces down the communal shower and steal the underwear of other fighters from the drying racks. You have heard of boys caged and chained in these camps. You will not be his plaything.
He begins to disrobe and as soon as he drops his sweat-stained hose you run your straight-backed switchblade up into his ass. He lets out a soul rending shriek and you pull the blade out, and it is followed by a stream of quivering blood. He bends halfway over with his knees shaking like a man in desperate need of a toilet, and he falls forward on his knees, putting his hands on an ammunition crate, digging his filthy yellowing nails into the fresh bright wood. You step forward and stab your knife in once more, this time upside down and at an oblique angle. He leaps forward and slams into the ammo crate like a dog attempting to mate with it. You step back and watch the blood pool in the dust between his heels.
“Nnnnnyeeeeeeeaaaaaaa!” he screams, his voice breaking raggedly. Several fighters rush into the room with rifles leveled.
You close your eyes and prepare to be shot.
“Ha! Well.” You look up at the fighters, who’ve lowered their weapons and are eyeing you bemusedly.
“Bury him when he dies. Be sure to get his rifle and then come pick up his hand.”
+2 Gambling, +1 Gunplay, +1 Fighting
(3) The pillars raise in the pale white sleet. They are lit by an ephemeral inner glow; the source of light on this field of Mars. Lightning crashes around them, and for moments here and there the golden iconography upon blood red stone is blotted out by crescendoed of light. These great pillars, like fingers dipped into hell and taken back out with legions of the damned and doomed crushed across them in gold. A conqueror priest with a manifold antler-tree headdress hung with a hundred heads. Towers carved from the spines of mountains by slaves whose bodies cemented the stones of new plateaus. Antediluvian and exocosmic advisors floating or projecting like tesseracting asteroids and serpent bundles woven into decagrammatic wheels behind the great men of history unwritten except in coral in the blackest trenches of inhuman anchorites. You stand with thirty thousand slavering gunmen heralding the time of vengeance against a history so petty it sullies existence by its very recording. Now is the time for deeds of cosmic renown once this little ball of wax has been melted down and reformed in the image of the Precursor’s dream in the time when the earth served a purpose.
You can still remember the pillars. That day was so long ago; that dream so far gone. You were lucky to have survived the invasion; lucky to have found your way to a city and anonymously found employment, claiming to be the boy of a town that had been crushed by the horde. That you crushed. It is all over. But you remember.
+2 Gunplay, +2 Deep Time
(4) You sat in the light of the gas lamp that swung from the roof in the foyer of the captured mine. You and the boys leaned left and leaned right with your arms around each other, shouting verses at the top of your lungs between long pulls of spiced mead that made some of the boys choke and spit.
“Ten thousand dead motherfuckers
Ten thousand ladies for me
Ten thousand sweet little babies
And ten thousand thrown in the sea!”
You remember laying there among the boys with your head spinning once everyone had collapsed from drunkenness. You rolled around a bit pretending to waltz with your rifle. “I’m gonna cut off a duchess’s head tomorrow and give her necklace to my sister,” slurred Gekin Pandremi. You felt a pang at this considering, what the gang had made you do to your sister when they “recruited” you. The pang did not lift and it was all downhill from there.
You remember the next day when it finally went to shit. Your last memory of Gekin is seared into your memory. He was pale and staggering in the rain with his eyes wild and blank. He stepped on his own guts, which hung from his belly where he’d been shot by a Troutbridge Marine. He stepped on them and was held in place, so he tried to get away, yanking them even further out of his body. He’d lost his rifle. He stumbled and fell on his side, looking up at you. “Where am I?”
You heard nothing else but gunfire and high-pitched screaming on the wind. You threw down your rifle and ran.
+2 Gunplay, +2 Alertness
(1) Your nights were cold in the belfries and dovecotes. Little did they know how often tears stained your sooty cheeks. An orphan in the black labyrinth of the city’s neverending chimneys.
The seascape of rooftops was your domain. You saw through their windows into well-lit tiled kitchens and soft bedrooms with molten flowing drapes and piled-up blankets of shimmering purple velvet or satin arabesque. You espied these flat and joyful places but the hard foothills of rooftops were the lot of the roving chimney shepherd.
You alighted by a weathervane to plot your path to Manor Hill when you heard a voice call out from a rooftop veranda.
You looked and saw Mrs Brimwell the young widow laying on her settee in her bedroom overlooking the veranda. Her soft pale legs were free of her nightdress and she slid them across each when she saw you look, her cheeks aglow.
You alighted on the veranda, went inside, and closed the shutter doors.
+2 Climb, +1 Might, +2 Influence (++1 Seduction)
(2) The streets were deserted. A hush across the gables except for a strange tapping in the distance. You made your way across the creaking roofs, casting about for folk but there were none outside- but a few hugging the doorways and many crowding the windows. Strange! The tapping continued. Then you saw a dead man in a park with his head shot in two. Then a bloodstained bullethole in a window. Ah.
You set off towards the Gurney Tower where the tapping was coming from. The tapping became an echo that rushed across the air like the remnants of a crashing tide. Foul smoke poured from a barricade in the building’s lobby and there was a dead fire brigadier who’d yet to be recovered from where he’d been shot. Someone was sniping from the tower.
You closed your eyes and felt the wind. You shed your tools and leapt onto the lower roof of the Gurney Tower. This was your moment and you would lay your life down as the ticket. It would be incredible heroism to those below, but it was simply what you had to offer, the right boy in the right place at the right time. You would take hold of the killer and leap from the tower if you had to. It was what you had to give.
You climbed the side that was shielded by the wind and dried by the sun. You climbed and climbed the cobblestone, laying your hand on each smooth rock as if to pick up a baby turtle. You looked down once and saw pale mustachioed faces gazing up at you silently, men holding each other by the arms not to point and give away your ascent. You tried to smile reassuringly. But this was your field of mastery, this climb. The manhandling of an outlaw- that was theirs. If only you could lead them in the climb and be done with it.
You neared the top. BANG! It was so loud you almost let go and your palms grew sweaty. You wiped them on your dusty trousers one at a time to chalk your hands. You realized he’d shot above you and would see you coming. You shifted around to the windy side of the tower and almost fell off going around the corner. You almost bit the stone for one more point of contact. Then in an act of supreme impatience you threw yourself upwards and grasped the lip of the belfry. You came full free of the wall for a moment. Somehow you knew you knew that you could.
You peered up over the edge. A man in a wool overcoat with a hunting rifle. He wore earmuffs. Dressed for comfort in his last moments up here in the wind.
There were little burlap courier sacks all around the belfry, bristling with loose rifle rounds. His preparation.
The bell hung still and silent between you. The man racked another round. You stood up, put your hands beneath the rim of the bell and lifted it overhead. The uvula struck the far side of the bell and then man jumped, spinning around with a eyes like alien portals to the inferno.
You put your palms on the outside of the bell and hauled it down with all your might. The man curled down but could not escape the rim, which struck him and sent him toppling over the edge. The bell gave a great second toll as it swung back towards you and you stood for a long time pushing it back and forth, ringing the bell as if to reawaken the city.
+4 Climb, 5oz prize of gold
(3) You crept down the chimney headfirst. It was critical that you be able to see what was in the room right away, more critical than an easy descent. Your head pounded and you breathed deep through your mouth. There was a pale light from the room below.
You reached the bottom. Your hair was clipped back like a girl. You peered across the roof of the hearth. A study with two men in sumptuous green leather armchairs smoking cigars. They would throw them in the fireplace at some point.
“What do you propose.”
“Auxiliaries. Dynamite. A raid. The old way.”
“They will tuck away the photographs. We will never find them before our invaders are driven off.”
“Yes. But no one will question whether we are to be crossed. The pictures will be a moot point. People will be reminded of what really matters.”
“Could we not simply employ a consulting repossession agent?”
“Who could be relied upon for a matter of such delicacy? Who that does not have a price that would mark us out as the only possible customer? One false move and we’ve tipped our hands as sneak-thieves, not shedders of blood.”
A: Volunteer your services
B: Wait until these fat wankers are through blathering and then go pilfer their jewels
-A: +2 Climb, +2 Urban Stealth, 15 ounces of gold and a Shipping House’s friendship
-B: +2 Climb, jewelry salable for d20x3 ounces of gold
(4) The other kids talked about the manor on the hill. Slipping through the bars, breaking the locks, knocking out the windows, finding out what was inside.
It was an old blockhouse fortress converted to a kind of military mansion. Foreboding, like a freestanding bank vault cloaked in an onyx ziggurat. But it was a manor. And a manor had chimneys.
The walls were an easy climb. Perhaps a clumsy man would have been impaled on the trident-pronged fencetop but a boy like you could step through them and alight with a tumble on the grass below. The walls were smooth but seamed and you dug your fingers into the masonry cracks, tugging your way to the top of the humming manor.
You went down the boxlike chimney headfirst to reconnoiter the way below. There was no soot; ether they had the best sweeper boy in Chancregate or this had never been used for fire. The hair on your neck began to stand up at fantasies that this was used for something else; an ancient delivery point for unwanted babes or a trap for the very likes of you.
The chute did not bottom out in a fireplace. In fact, it began to curve like a u-bend. You made your way to your left, hoping against hope that it would open into a room, but then it took you up. Your heart pounded. This was no natural chimney that you had ever heard of. You had crawled into something else entirely.
You climbed vertically until you emerged from a welling pit that was raised in a tumbling dias as if a tree had been fully uprooted, cleaned of soil, inverted and turned to stone, and you had just emerged from the trunk. Coils of stone poured away from the hole; roots, conduits or tentacles, you could not say, but if these were the roots then it was as if the whole world had grown from this place.
You looked around you into the wet misty darkness that painted the stone roots with a film of dew and saw that you were in a domed chamber whose walls were made of strange and unaccountable creatures, also of stone, all curled on fetal positions wrapping around one another in tessellating taijitu. The bodies were alternatingly demonic, dryadic, insectile, elemental, crinoidal, annelidic and polyzoan. An engorged thrumming was palpable from behind them like a chorus exalting in lust and disintegrative unity.
There was a dripping of ichor above and you looked up and saw great clay breasts and belly pushing through the ceiling, bringing with them a liquid that burnt you into stone where it fell and left permanent scars when the shards flaked away.
“Here already?” came a purring voice from within your very body, “I will reclaim you in time.”
You still don’t know how you did it but you bent over inside the tunnel, turned yourself around while scraping the hell out of your back and then dragged yourself back down the shaft while the imprisoning ichor trickled down behind you.
+3 Climb, +2 Agility, +2 Deep Time
(1) You were a courier for the Faunsbower Anarcho-Syndicalists during their Three Month War against the occupying cities of Tourmaline Gorge. Your father was captured and faced the machine guns for the movement. The resistance leaders took you in and taught you a great may things before the end; today you could seek refuge with those who survive in exile in the City of Leagues, Passwall, Thanofane, and elsewhere.
You have an instinctive hatred of the Free Cities of Tourmaline Gorge, Starling & Shrike, and the Red Charter Companies. How you feel about the issues of the revolution is up to you; some of the leaders of the uprising have deepened in their faith, others have become utterly cynical, others would look on you with kindness but have otherwise tried to forget the struggle, and at least one has taken up religion with as much fervor as he once had for Syndicalism.
+2 Urban Stealth, +2 Explosives, +1 Gunplay, +1 Influence
(2) One day you emerged from the Checkmate Rookery nightclub and gunfire erupted from an alleyway. Bullets took your legs out from underneath you and you lay in a daze as thieves rushed out and stole the bag of money you’d been carrying to an armored car.
You spent the next two years in a hospital, undergoing surgeries and therapy paid for by the owner of the nightclub. You relentlessly observed the goings-on in the surgical ward and engaged your mind by querying the physicians and nurses about their trades, even asking for their old medical textbooks.
When you emerged from the hospital you embarked on an obsessive regime of weightlifting and jump rope to regain your health as fast as possible. Alas, your guts were stirred up by the gunfire and you have to be very careful with what you eat or you will be violently ill (generally cream and foods fried in oil are out of the question) with a 1/10 chance of tearing open internal weak spots when you vomit or have serious diarrhea.
+4 CLS, +3 Prowess, +2 Trauma Surgery, dietary restriction.
(3) You were carrying a beautiful handpainted toy truck to some little lordling as a present when a revolver was placed against your back.
“Don’t worry. You just stand still, friend, we’re modifying your delivery and then you’ll go on your happy way.”
Someone slipped a package into your satchel, then affixed a handcuff to your wrist. It was linked to the package.
“Give this to the wee tyke at fourteen-hundred flat. That’s when the cuff will come free. Be out and away by fourteen oh one. Grok it?”
“I- I grok,” you said.
“Good. We’ll be watching.”
He gave you a little push with the revolver.
“Don’t turn around.”
You started walking in a cold sweat. You checked your pocketwatch. Ten minutes. You could hear it in the man’s voice and smell it in his breath. He was in his late thirties, smoked, ate like shit, was ever so slightly out of breath from walking and he’d had a dose of rum within metabolic memory. There might be some young men with him but they’d be looking to him for direction and even that would be a moment in coming. You ran those streets for a living.
You came near Rotgut Alley when you suddenly darted right into traffic.
“Wha- grab him! We’ll haul him!”
They rushed towards you in their big coats keeping one hand on their hats to obscure their faces and you leapt spinning into the air, dropped into a sprinter’s crouch in front of an oncoming motorcar and then took off like a rushing wind. A man in a camelhair greatcoat tried to grab you but his hands slipped right off your body as you sped into the darkness of Rotgut Alley. You sped to the right along a filth fence as gunshots erupted from the street, then you leapt up on a trash pail, almost sending it sidelong beneath you, grabbed the damp and decaying whitewashed planks of the fence and rolled your way over it. You could hear the men rush up to the fence as people shouted from the street behind them, and you went rushing out onto Pottercoal Avenue and down 4th. You reached the Cradle Precinct police HQ, rushed up the steps and blew through the door.
“Someone stuck a bomb to me!”
“What? Get him out of here!”
“No, get him to the cells!”
Someone hustles you off your feet and bodily carries you down a row of cells wherein and variety of rough or terrorized faces peered out with shades of rapture or disinterest. You are carried into the furthest open cell, and a group of blue-suiters gather round, opening your satchel. One of them handcuffs you to the bars.
“Just in case.”
Someone opens the package. It’s a beautiful little strongbox painted with scenes of ancient battles. An item for a boy to sit and admire for a while before even thinking of opening it. Your handcuff runs through the keyhole. Something murmurs rhythmically inside.
Suddenly you hear echoing pops from the street outside and a man in the lobby gives an anguished yell and the policemen all run out to the lobby, leaving you alone with the notional bomb under your arm. There is a ferocious exchange of gunfire. Some fat clerk in the cell across from you sits down, leans over his pot belly and puts his graying head against the bars, moaning. A few roughly tattooed thugs rattle their bars, hooting and hollering, yelling “Die pigs!” and “Burn it down!” though you rather wished they didn’t.
Minutes ticked by. The assassination party were maintaining their fire, if only to have their bomb go off in the police station. The cops were aware of this and one came into the cell block soaked in blood, which had turned his uniform almost purple from his armpit to his pant cuff. He had with him a firm old clockmaker from up the street; when this man had last braved gunfire it might have been musketballs going by.
He took a few delicate tools like dental picks and worked them around your chain. He pressed something and then immediately opened the lid. There was a chamber full of some kind of dusty agglomerate and a gear assembly which was winding merrily along. He reached in and fished out a single gear with his pick and held it quavering in the air, peering at it through his spectacles. The fat clerk stared at it. You stared at it. All was silent.
A policeman crept up the hall.
The killers had expended their ammo or been cut down in the siege.
The clockmaker freed you from your handcuffs.
+3 Agility, +3 Engineering
(4) You went through the daily contracts. Clams to Barrier Hall, Champagne to Moonscape Manor, arithmetic primers to Gilfenpond. Big profits on the first two. Prominent families. You took the third.
You knocked on the townhouse door and a little boy opened it. “Hello,” he said.
“Hello, son. Your daddy home?”
You knew he wasn’t.
“Sorry, he’s at work.”
You could just give the arithmetic primers to the boy.
“Is there a lady in the house?”
You know that there is.
“My sister. I’ll get her.”
The boy goes away and you look out into the bright-lit street. You hear the shuffling of feet. Here she comes in a white dress with cloth streaming from the arms. She looks up at you with soft eyes and puts her arms around you without a word. You look out into the street again, a little worried and bemused, but return her hug. You smell her hair. It’s like gingerbread.
“You look beautiful. It’s good to see you.”
She looks up at you with big, open eyes. You raise the books a little and she takes them and hands them off to her brother and returns to her hug.
You reach a heel back and kick shut the door.
+2 Awareness, +2 Influence (++Seduction)
(1) The marquise lays spread across the sheets on her belly, totally nude. Her hair is a tangle and her buttcheeks are rosy. You stand, donning your neckerchief.
“Good?” you ask. She raises a thumb but otherwise doesn’t move. You slip out of her chambers, tickling her foot as you pass.
Later you stand before the donjon with a troupe of other household staff to see the deputation off in their carriages. The marquise doesn’t look at you as she passes. You smile. Good. That would be unwise.
When the carriages clear the gate, the next visiting deputation makes its way up the winding groundskeeper’s road in a convoy of sleek black motorcars. You brim with anticipation. Once they’ve pulled up on the motte, servants come forward to open the doors and take their bags. You’re acquired by a blonde young lady in a short salmon dress with eyes of trouble. You’ve had this one before.
“Sir, you have a reputation as a most… able raconteur.”
“Is that so? What have you been telling people, Diana?”
She looks at you quizzically.
“Diana? That’s my twin sister.”
“You have her eyes.”
“I’ve seen your sister before. At a distance. Such a spitting image. I’d have liked to have talked to her but I didn’t get the chance. You must be Margaret.”
“I am. And I promise you that I’m the more interesting conversationalist.”
“But how could we know?”
“I’ll call for pears at midnight and we can put it to the test- my conversation and yours.”
“There’s no test devised that could measure my conversation, but perhaps you could measure up- we’ll see.”
You decide not to mention her cousin.
+1 Influence (++++Seduction)
(2) Your lord stands by the window which is dark purple with lashing rain and the glow from the gates below. His skin is pale and his nightshirt hangs milk white in the candlelight.
“You ought to stand clear of the window, oh chieftain.”
“How now? All is clear.”
“As summer, my royal oak, with brushfires and their signal smoke.”
“And smote we are as sallow fields, my walls collapse with winter. I am their heavy-antlered stag and this, my own delightful deer park.” He turned to the window. “Hail, my new king, what I’ve made for thee thinking it were mine.”
Gunfire erupted from the kitchens.
“No king below, a mere heraldic witness. He will see many shields but no banners of coronation, my rampant lion. Are not our finest tales born from the lips of lowborn witness? Is not the new calling marked in the cogs, whatever color the machine? I claim special emissary from the silent gears and bid thee set a spectacle upon the winds of fate to dust these drafty harriers. I would see raiments of my tender days when the men of your House made mighty figurines on the maps of boyhood’s mind. Bid me drape your limbs that still know war and give you to the annals of fate in a funeral of fire to suit this light of life.”
He turns and faces you, then takes a step forward.
“Then cast open the casks of finery and crashing cartouche mantles, mouse who may see the morn. Once more I come emissary of Lord Death, granter of all titles.”
You take his shirt and comb his hair, laying a tunic of white over his shoulders and bind it with a mighty leather belt whose ample length you tucked back through itself like a scabbard. You rolled azure hose up his mountained legs and buckled his feet in a lord’s black shoes. You draped him in a a gold trimmed hauberk, steel blue, and fastened a tabard around it with the gleaming symbols of his House. You draped a fluted mantle and a great black fur around his shoulders, and then affixed a pair of long black revolvers in holsters to his belt. Last you raised a semi-automatic shotgun on both your palms before him, its lacquered wood glowing in the glassborne firelight. He ran a finger across its barrel of damask, and then took it in his hands.
“Take roost, my spying sparrow, for the tide wells up the stairs. I go to sample the fruit of our legacy and tell our final tale.”
With this he swept from the room and there was nought but crashing gunfire.
+3 Influence, +1 Alertness
(3) The lord and lady of the house are striding around looking for papers, documents, anything that might serve them in the coming time of deprivation.
“You must leave now, my dear! If there’s a retrial who knows how long you might be held!”
She grabbed him around the waist suddenly.
“Oh George, I will miss you.”
“And you, my dear,” he said, touching her hair for a moment. Then he pulled away.
“There’s not a moment to waste! Into the chariot and I will see you on the other side!”
They left, her maidservant taking her by the arm as her hand went to the bridge of her nose and her face became a mask of grief. They entered a waiting carriage with stained glass windows and the whiskery, rotund coachman roused his horses with a jerk of the reins.
“My boy, what can you learn from this?” said the master as he passed you, once more traversing the central hallway.
“To be wary of debt and sea investments, my lord.”
“That’s right,” he said as he opened a drawer and pawed through his correspondence, “Even at your station you-“
There was a sharp rap on the door. A pair of footmen stood by the flanker windows, one bored, the other hoping for trouble.
“They’re here…” said the master, and looked about his home.
“I will miss this place.”
He walked to you and handed you the key meaningfully.
“My lord, I… what shall I eat?” you asked.
“I’m sorry, my boy. There are so many things I have not accounted for.”
He straightened his coat, stepped out between the footmen, and was led to their waiting motorcar.
A: Pilfer the Lord’s belongings and abscond from the city-state.
B: Maintain the house, seek temporary employment and visit your master in debtor’s prison.
-A: You find ermine, pocket watches and lady’s jewelry, which you are able to sell for 4d4oz of gold before fleeing the city.
-B: Your master reflects on his endeavors and indirectly teaches you about finance and administration. When he’s released, both his and his lady’s health have suffered, and though they look forward to parenthood when she becomes pregnant, both the lady and the child are lost in childbirth. He lives another two years but the light has gone out of him; he names you his heir and one cool and cloudy morning he does not wake up. His flesh is cold as the flagstones as you nudge him. You inherit his house and assets worth d4oz of gold.
+2 Stewardship, +2 Finance, +2 Influence.
(4) You all sit around the parlor singing together, the lord and lady of the house with all the servants, some of whom are playing instruments. You sit next to your paramour Rouana, a maidservant, carefully separate, but you can feel her chest lift and fall as she sings.
The master of the house lifts a pipe to his mouth and all fall silent as he plays a rollicking, fey melody. He trails off and lowers his pipe with a flourish, and all sing a cappella as hands hang idle next to fiddles and tin whistles. You finish as one and all give each other a little round of applause.
You look at Rouana and both of you smile with satisfaction.
Later you are in an agronomy lesson, paid for by the master. The sage old farmer is discussing the qualities of the manure of varying breeds of cattle when the heavy door bangs open and both of you jump where you sit together on a bench before a drawing board. The master stands in the doorway, livid with his green velvet coat askew.
“Good Lord, boy, are you yet to learn my system for restocking the study? I’ve just wasted fifteen minutes looking for a book on Tovan because you misplaced it at the edge of Natural History.”
You lean away from your tutor and the master sweeps down upon you, striking you from your seat with a blow across the temple and then delivering a kick into your thigh where you lay on the carpet.
“Damn fool! You *will* learn the system!” He stalks from the room.
You pick yourself up and sit down next to the mortified agronomist.
Later at dinner you are waiting on the lord and lady’s young children, making faces at them which they return with barely-stifled smiles.
Rouana brings a covered platter and sets it before the lord and lady at the head of the long dark table and removes the cover. There is a roast pheasant beneath, garnished and peppered in a little bath of juice.
The master puts a fork to the bird’s flesh and drags a knife down it, then lets the knife fall to the table with a clatter as if he were a painter who’d just given up. He sat back.
“How many times? How many birds, wasted?” The room falls silent.
“Who cooked this dry beast?”
“I did, milord,” says Rouana quietly.
“Why you useless girl, you’ve been taught culination at my expense. The lady has gone to distraction giving you craft. Yet still the art *eludes* you!” This second to last word was punctuated by the master throwing the platter cover at Rouana, which skipped off of her head and clattered across a grandfather clock. She turned away, putting her hands to her face. He stood up, took off his belt and began to beat her with a length of the leather until she sank to the carpet, sobbing. Your fingers are white on the backrest of little Arnuil’s chair as the boy gapes at the scene. The master turns, panting.
“Bring out last night’s crisping. BOY!”
You jump and look at the master, who is staring at you.
“Bring out last night’s crisping!”
A: Put up with conditions at the house and attempt to gain as much of an education as possible.
B: Run away with Rouana.
-A: You keep your nose to the grindstone, swearing to Rouana that some day you will take her away from service in this place. She is wan and noncommittal and you worry for her. In the hours when you do not work you are schooled in agronomy, administration, investment, rhetoric and history.
One day a coach driven by a grave monk pulls up outside the manor. Rouana comes to you, tearstained.
“I am sorry, my love. I’m to leave the house. I am pregnant.”
You can barely speak.
“Who is the father?”
“Our master,” she whispers.
You stagger backwards and fall to a seat on a bench beneath a small statuary alcove in the hallway wall.
A pair of grim maidservants come and stand by Rouana who goes with them to the coach, her head hung low.
+3 Agronomy, +3 Stewardship, +3 Finance, +2 Influence
-B: “I will not stand to see him strike you any longer. I will put a revolver to his head before I permit him to displace a hair on yours. I have half a mind to do it already.”
“Oh, my love…” says Rouana, putting her hands on your cheeks and planting a kiss on your lips. You pull away after a moment.
“Pack all your things. We go to make a life for ourselves.”
“But how?” she asks.
“We will find a way.”
It is not easy. In short order you are reduced to eating lentils and have stolen carrots and cabbage out of freeholders’ gardens. There is work for a single man who will take crusts and vegetable soup as payment, but little that could hold a family. Rouana seeks work as a maid for some other lady but you are persona non grata among the servanted class.
You come home to your unlit, unheated hovel soaked in sweat and slathered in dirt with a desperate expression on your face. Rouana looks up at you in horror.
“My dear… we cannot live like this. There are other ways that we might keep ourselves until something better comes along. I know you will not hear of it, but… you need not hear of it.”
A: Live off the proceeds of Rouana working as a prostitute
B: Keep trying to get a menial job and scrape by
-A: She goes to the rookeries and you continue to seek employment. In time, however, you find that you can live just fine on what Rouana makes. You’re introduced to a few associates from the “entertainment” scene and win a nice little pot one night trying your hand at cards; her worried face lights up when she sees your winnings and you’re off on your merry way. Soon you’re a luminary of the underhalls, all velvet and tweed, and doing just fine for yourself this way. And when you don’t, you just talk to your sweetheart and she gets you started again.
Alas Rouana grows distant, and you find yourself beginning to despise her in spite of yourself. One night you’re out wandering and decide to try a new boozehall, coming through the door into a firelit bar ringed by big armchairs on swivel poles. They swing around to see you as you enter and there’s Rouana in the arms of a giant, tattooed thug, who grins and gives her breast a squeeze. Rouana’s utterly cynical expression doesn’t change a whit. You hurry away from the bar with your hand over your mouth and tears stinging your eyes.
+3 Gambling, +2 Urban Stealth, +1 Fighting, +1 Influence, +3d4oz of gold.
-B: You sleep about four hours every night, coming as you do from a variety of half-paid positions shoveling, hauling, milking and sowing. But you spend those hours in Rouana’s warm arms, and you keep her fed.
In time she finds work with an up-and-coming middle class family who haven’t heard or don’t care that she deserted her former employer, and this eases the burden somewhat. With your newfound clear head and put-together appearance, you find steady work and you’re able to keep a warm little home, dine together some nights, and have a full night together almost every night. You fall in love again, one another’s refuge. In time you have a baby together.
+2 Stewardship, +2 Finance, Loving wife, healthy young child.
(1) You walked by the gulch, cracking the crisp dry grass beneath. You remembered the river, diving in sidelong with your golden retriever in your arms. The fields that were soft and warm as the bread they would make. The legs of the goats that Onyx, your farm cat and boldest of all the animals, would walk through like a magnate through his factory.
That world has died, literally. You stand with its corpse. An arrested memory of something that breathed with the seasons.
You walk up Geoglyph Hill to gaze upon the dried-out fields below. You think you see a bit of cloth flapping in the wind but it’s the skin coming off a dead ox like an ill-done papier mache.
You look upon the city, glowing in the haze of the horizon: the great mill where you too will be transformed and made a waste.
+4 Agronomy, +2 Might, +2 Gunplay, +1 Engineering
(2) You walked among the tomatoes. Jaunty melons of rosy red, these boisterous things encamped in bowers of furry green tangle. You smile, twirling your hoe like a bindle and periodically trying on your whistle.
A shaggy tendril like a cat’s arm with a cat’s eye for a palm slithered up through the ground before you and opened. It blinked, the pupil narrowing like a viper’s. You let your hoe fall down into your free hand.
A dozen tendrils or more came from beneath the earth. They began to slither around your prize tomatoes, appraising them like perverts seizing upon the busts of mars. They shaved the stalks of fur and passed the lumps between them. The eyestalk before you raised up as if to intimidate you, daring you to intercede in this rapine. You knocked the head off it with a blow.
Instantly you were seize upon by a pair of tendrils that pulled your arms apart so you couldn’t swing the hoe, dragging you towards the ground and tearing your shirt and pants, baring mighty thews. Another two lifted up the luminous glow of your overripe Lady Green: the crown jewel of your collected which you had dreamed of making the toast of this year’s Summer Equinox. The tendrils began to squeeze, and juice and seeds flowed from the splitting ripe skin of the tomato like a stepped-on wine grape.
“Nnnnnnnnyeeoooooooooaaaaah!” you screamed, tearing your arms together with a might that ripped the tendrils through the earth like torn-up vines. With both hands on your hoe you leapt forward in a blind berserker fury, slashing down upon one of the tomato torturing tendrils and breaking the bones beneath, before whirling the hoe on the air with a pirouetting spin, cutting away the tendrils that bound your arms and then knocking back several interposing strands.
You saw a plump tomato being pulled into the earth like an overripe damsel down the toilet of the Sewer Sovereign and you dove forward to salvage her rotund form, but alas when your hands scooped beneath her body the tendrils pressed down and your palms were soaked in gore. You leapt up and pounded the squirming strand into slurry with your hoe.
“Back into the earth you damned thieves! Do you know what you steal? The chance at my blue ribbon!”
You saw the largest, hairiest tendril of all, a great puffy thing with fur of dark gray and bands of black, holding upon its floofy tip a tomato with eight discrete bulging segments arising from a central column. It reminded you such of the badge of victory offered at the Equinox festival that you threw your hoe in a bolt of vengeance, knocking the tendril into a loop of agony. You follow your missile by a charging drop kick, exploding into the interloper feet-first while snatching the eightfold tomato from where it wheeled in the air. With your prize under one arm you stood up upon the flailing tendril, seized it with your free and hand stood, wrenching and wrenching until it snapped off in a shower of blood. You held the shivering tendril aloft until it died into a limp torpor, and with this the remaining tendrils shyly yielded the field, retreating into the earth one by from beneath your baleful gaze.
+4 Fighting, +3 Might, +3 Agronomy, +1 Deep Time
(3) You walked with Jodan Mirkif, the tractor salesman’s nephew. He came from the city every other week or so to help service the fleet of machines his uncle had sold contracts for.
He was a small boy, easily a foot shorter than you despite being the same age. You made a funny pair as you walked by the little greengrocer stands and repair shops on the trail that surrounded the city walls.
You arrived at the mince pie stand by the Marlin Gate and inhaled the earthy ceramic waft that was laced with so many different types of filling; in a kaleidoscope of nutty flavor you catch raisin, herring, eel and partridge one after anther. You smile at Jodan, but he’s got his head crooked over his shoulder looking intently at the gate. You swing around and see a little crew of smiling boys about your age making their way towards you.
Jodan is wringing his hands nervously but putting on a stern face. He faces them and stands as tall as he can. He was expecting them; he brought you here to make a point. You’re bemused, not sure whether you should be annoyed or flattered.
Their leader smiles with tobacco-strewn gums. You expect him to call Jodan a shortcake or something but then realize that none of these boys are much taller than he is.
“Got the village idiot for a friend, Jody?”
“He’s not an idiot,” says Jodan darkly. You are a little moved by the pathos of this artless but impassioned statement.
“Well, bumpkin? Let’s hear your moo.”
You smile a little at these small, shifty guys.
“Rudeness won’t get you anywhere outside the gate, boys. Now come have some pies, you look like you’re in need of one.”
“You buying?” says the leader, advancing. The other kids don’t fan out but keep in a cluster behind him.
“No, are you?”
“I think you’d better buy.”
He walks right up to you and stares in your eyes.
“Why don’t you show me your money, bubba?”
You pick him up by his belt and collar, turn him sideways in the air and cast him into his gang with a tremendous push, as if you were unsticking a plough without bothering the oxen. They’re knocked over in a tangle and all try and get up but each is either pinned underneath his fellow or can’t find solid ground.
“Yeah!” screams Jodan shrilly.
“Look boys, unless you want to keep playing bocce I think you should leave Jodie alone and go on back to your heated rooms.”
They finally get up and come towards you angrily. You reach out and slap their leader across the head and he falls over unconscious. A boy leaps on your arm and you pick him up and dump him into another that had begun to pound his fists into your shoulder; the noise of their heads colliding makes you wince. You seize the last one who reaches you by the hair and hold him at arm’s length. He takes out a pearl-handled switchblade but you grab his wrist and squeeze till he drops it, then you pick it up and give it to Jodie.
“Think you need that more than I do.”
He looks down at it with reverence.
+4 Fighting, +3 Might, +2 Influence
(4) “Where you from, fella?” asks the man in line behind you. He wears a linen suit and carries a bag of figs.
“Castor Creek! You know I used to work in the census office. Castor Creek was known as Poo-Butt Burn in our father’s times! You must be from really far out there, way out in the sticks!”
“You know what these are?” He holds up the figs.
“Ah… no,” he says, not knowing what a persimmon is.
“Where are you from?”
“Dramsbury, just down the road.”
“Ah, interesting… Dramsbury, used to be a gong farm for the motte fortress that this city was built around. It had a linear holloway entry trail that raw sewage flowed down into the hamlet. Only lepers, beggars, leatherworkers and gong farmers lived there. It’s named for the strange alchemical liquors that were made for sui generis plants that grew from the runoff beneath the stilthouses; it’s said that the strange rituals the Duke and his entourage engaged in transformed them and their leavings, meaning that nothing that grew in Dramsbury was healthy or normal.”
“Dramsbury’s a nice place now! That must be ancient history!”
You shrug and pay for your mincemeat.
When you first came to the city, there were few things you knew beyond field and stream. You changed that in short order.
+2 Agronomy, +2 Stewardship, +2 Influence, +2 Finance, +2 Might, +2 Alertness, +1 Fighting, +1 Deep Time
Garbage Heap Picker
(1) You love the far southeastern pile. Most of the kids won’t go there because it’s nothing but sharp heavy metal that you can’t dislodge, but you’ve never once been cut and you find that it warms you in the night. Some of the kids dig themselves into soil on manure piles that warm their hands and feet a little when the wind blows and the rain lashes them, but you feel like you’re on a thermal stone in one of the bathhouses that the old men from the country go to lay on. It keeps you warm and the bad kids don’t come after you there, fearing to be cut.
At least until one day.
Gumshank started picking his way up the garbage pile towards you, cussing and snarling.
“You little rat! I told you that if you sell a net, you give me half the proceeds!”
“I won’t, Gumshank! It’s not fair!”
“Fair’s when I get my cut! Come here.”
“No!” you dart away from where you were playing barmymonk on some milk crates with other ragpicker boys, who don’t care to get involved. Gumshank has a chunk of rubble in his hands.
You make your way across the tidelocked sea of filth to the southeast pile, gleaming like the snot of Hephaestus in the day’s failing light. A group of men on the pile lot walls dump several barrels of slag and scrap over the edge, adding to the steely agglomeration.
You reach the jagged heap and begin to climb. Gumshank is madder than hell at having to follow you and begins to pick his way up carefully, then suddenly shouts in rage as he slices his palm on a damaged railcart’s inner edge. You get up and and he climbs, but keeps on slipping as blood slicks his hand. The scrap collapses a bit beneath him and he yells again, rolling sideways to expose a thigh cut open like a great wet berry with toasted cheese laid across it; muscle and fat. You feel a rumbling inside the heap and hope to God the whole thing doesn’t collapse.
Gumshank’s lost his piece of rubble. He looks up at you, his filthy skin smeared with blood. He’s got no more access to a physician than you do and you live in a world of rot. You’ve never seen a boy survive cuts that size given the necessary infections.
He begins to climb once more. He has magma in his dull eyes. He wants to take you with him.
“I’m gonna get-“
His eyes and mouth go wide as the metal collapses beneath him and he tumbles into the depths of the pile.
You slowly pick your way down and gaze into the hole. A dark wiry pathway of blood-slick curling metal. He must have been cut a thousand times on his way in. You can’t see where he ended up; the tunnel descends into darkness. You are about to climb away when you hear a gusty voice from the depths. ”Come and see me, my child.”
“No. It is I, your new parent.”
You look back over your shoulder across the vast dump in the wan light.
The climb into the hole.
You follow a clear path through the jutting steel and copper. There is an ephemeral glow down the gullet of the tunnel and it grows warmer and warmer as you descend. You see a burning light beneath you and emerge into the burning warmth of a round chamber of scrap lit by an enormous glowing glob at the center; a molten lifeform of burning slag and steel.
“You have fed me, and so I shall feed you. You have fed me, and so you shall feed me,” it says to you with a voice like the rush of a street vent.
A drooling glob of billon pours forth from the creature and sizzles on a pan of bronze.
“Take it, trade it, and eat. Then bring me more of your oppressors to devour.
+3 Climb, +2 Alertness, d4+1oz of gold, friendship of a slag heap deity
(2) Megadahlia was slaughtered. Her fields were plowed with ink and her observatories melted into museum pieces.
Many nobles, merchants, monks and scholars had made the night star city their home. A place of eternal nighttime cloudlessness, now a hill of ruins for amateur astrologers.
There had been a feeding frenzy in the aftermath. Looted halls, galleries and magazines. Many estates found delectable by men of culture. Of ancient vae victis culture.
Much had lain unclaimed. Much was laid on the burn pile. So then did boys like you descend upon the heap.
Megadahlia played host to the fledgling outcasts of a hundred city-states. There would be baubles that the mighty had overlooked.
A great hill of burning paper, lit only at the top. Denied to the unknown enemy, a pile of records and correspondence left unrecorded from sheer disinterest. The private libraries and studies ransacked. Enter the bonepickers.
The other boys spread out before the starbathed bonfires, seeking strongboxes and jewelry casks. You are known to pass such things up for a chance to rifle paper, because unlike your compatriots you have made yourself literate from sheer deduction of captured wastepaper.
You dove into the well of receipts and musings. Past scrawled notes and tax liens in search of stationary.
It was not fable that called you, but legitimacy. Scrawl was not the axis of the world, but writ.
You pushed a curling bundle of harried madman’s ravings from before your eyes and in the light of other fires you saw the beautiful red border brocade of a notarized deed of regency spread beneath your palms. Behind the shade of your own head you saw “the bearer of this deed”, the words that every thief and ragpicker cherished like the word of god.
The claim to a fief in a city. Legally binding if ill-advised in its issuance.
Your life now has an organizing, orienting destiny. Before it was the search for a fate. Now it is its preparation.
+3 Influence, +3 Alertness, +2 Climb, claim to a fief in a city-state (to be named by the GM or player)
(3) The knights went by on their white horses, their breastplates silver blue. You hung from the corrugated iron walls and watched their feathers bob. The mighty haunches and the guns. The splendor and the power of clean men at arms. Angelic aliens to the scrapheap.
You took a cast iron oven door and wrapped up the hinges and latches with twine. You cut a hole in a doormat and draped it over your body, tying the door on top of it in a breastplate. You cut the sides of the doormat into pteruges that draped down over your shoulders like shaggy epaulettes. You put on your razor-brimmed newsboy cap and felt the hammer-straightened strips of bronze that you’d sewn into the crown curl across your scalp.
You laced the steel saucers that you’d beaten into halfpipes onto your shins and forearms, and you bound your stocking-hilted sheetmetal shortsword to your waist with a mildewed shower curtain. You plucked up your antenna lance and your corrugated targe and turned to look upon the face of the vast Receiving Pile. This was the source of all wealth in the scrapyard and it was claimed by unjust men and boys who called themselves the Irisbirds. You passed shivering, kneeling forms awaiting their chance at the remnant of each new deposit after the brigand-lords had picked it clean of desirables. They looked up at you in wonder and fear as you strode to the base of the mountain and set your heel back contrapposto, gazing up at the thieves as they turned to look down upon you, drawing gleaming knives or taking up missiles with which to skirmish you.
You would kill seven men that day.
+4 Fighting, +2 Influence, +2 Climb, +1 Engineering
(4) You are a respected elder among the lost boys after you led the city guard through hazardous jungles of overhanging scrap entrenched with frost and icicles to find the lost magnate’s daughter. The realm of reeling bobbins had been too unstable for a retracing traversal, and so you led the bluesuited deputation through the hollows of the Bloodbarterers. When the wild boys appeared upon outcropping in their blue towels and tall red hats the guards were terrorized and raised their rifles, but you leapt forward and gave the trill of diplomatic immunity while waving for the riflemen to lower their muzzles. Thus was feuding averted.
The magnate poured dump trucks of white bread into the scrapyard and all the pickers rejoiced.
You were glad for them, but your heart was heavy as you stood in the wind atop a mountain of scrap with your plastic shepherd’s crook by your side. They would go back to their shelters full and happy, but disunited. There was no principle for you.
You retreated to the Wayward Warrens. A hinterland of scrap unpenetrated in the normal course of business. You passed a squirrelherd with his charges on a cat o’ nine tails and an exile in a hermitage overlooking the forlorn pass. Neither spoke. This was a land of prophecy, not impression.
You wandered where the boxes were barren and the stink was wet. Labels unknown to the current age, tins devoid of color. You poked, dug, and meditated. This was the time of revelation- and the place. Things could be clear in the barrens.
Something caressed your arm where you sat cross-legged. You opened your eyes. It was a paper that drifted past you silently. You looked around and found that you sat among the 8 1/2 x 11” cherry blossoms of a tree of knowledge. A great pile of binders shining glassily from a nearby grove of lightstands. You made your way to it and found what you had sought in the form of a deprecated lawyers’ reference.
You sat beneath the moon and stars and the baking sun reflected in the cola cans. You blotted out this with tar and highlighted that with blood. You tore out pages and when you finished, you wrote another with a fingernail full of potter’s ochre. When it was finished, you took beneath your arm a single binder filled with your work and returned to the Unfinished Kingdom with all speed.
You united the far-flung people. No more would neighbor fear to speak to neighbor, no more would barter be fraught with circumstance. There would be a common reference and a common legal tongue. All were equal before the law.
But not all before the light.
There were pockets of something less than civilization in the scraplands. Proponents of the old ways; practitioners of the arts of the time when men were serpents.
Only one man was held foremost among these plumbers of the depths. An alchemist of the trickling underworld that were the sickening veins of the scrapyard mountains. He was feared as a concoctor of poisons but held as a kind of cambion or halfbreed angel, for he moved between the realms of scrap and the city-state. He was a figure great value to the upworlders and of awe to those beneath.
You entered his caverns one day with a dozen followers armed with pipe lengths and cinderblocks. You shined a burning torch upon his works, waving the beam over burbling cesspools and teapot alembics hissing with an infernal life.
His minions shrunk back from the light, but he merely exhaled a gasp of wafting blue smoke from a pine-shaped brazier in his lap. Every layer was lit with a different prophetic incense.
“The day of industrial poison has left us, man of the waft. The day of the law has dawned, even in the liver of the world. Join us and turn your wits to medicine, for your profit shall double and so shall your pleasure.”
“Cousin lawgiver, there are codes more ancient and natural than those found in a book. My laws have been derived empirically and tested across the generations. Their foundation is in the skin of the earth.”
“I am well aware of those laws. That is why I have brought enforcers of the codes of man. Join us and let us make reference to a common consent, lest we fall prey to a paradigm that permits us no future.”
“I will join you beneath the umbrella that you have erected, wasteland wanderer. But know that in time your tent will fall prey to the elements and you will reckon with the sand where you’ve built your edifice.”
“The work of constructing our shelter will never end. That is our covenant with the sand.”
+4 Influence, +3 Stewardship, +2 Climb
(1) The sleeve articulator bumped you and your hands went through a red-hot agglomeration of molten glass drooping from a rotisserie pole. You pulled them out and watched the flesh slough from your muscle until rough hands seized you up. Then came days of screaming.
By the grace of the glass gods you lost only your nerves. Numb things, your arms, half-felt but functioning. Strange-colored like corned beef, non-tactile but strong. You learned to operate by instinct and trust; this was the only way you could be deft while being partially estranged from your hands.
One day there was a fire from the gas lamps outside the Jamesons’. The door was a sheet of fire, the handle too hot to touch. Mr Jameson tried to kick the door open but merely set his pantleg on fire. The fire brigade was coming but Elena Jameson was caught in a cupboard and rapidly suffocating.
“Give me the key,” you said. He handed it to you with disbelief.
You went over, reached into the fire and unlatched the door. You went inside through a hellscape of flames that burnt your shoulders and hair with real pain, and opened the cupboard by its brass handle. You picked up Elena and carried her from the inferno.
You spent three months in the hospital and nearly had your fingers amputated, but in your last days in the burn ward Elena Jameson brought you a golden ring in the shape of a little cupboard handle.
+2 Engineering, +2 Might, can’t feel pain in hands and arms, option to marry Elena Jameson, a good-hearted and intelligent girl from an upper middle class family
(2) You saw an astral blue comet drip from the sky like a tear. It really moved like that, a slow hang and then a quick fall into the world. You went to its glowing cradle of earth and found that the asteroid had crumbled into pale blue sand like a pile of spices at an imports bazaar. Little inertialess lights flitted through the air around it.
You would make the most beautiful glass art ever known with this material and you would sell it without the knowledge of the petty glassworks owner and laborers.
You began ferrying the sand to the glassworks using a pair of milk buckets.
You melted it in the purification tub. You stood on the extraction catwalk above the great stone bowl, gazing down into the molten glass that was as blue as sea ice. The inertialess blue lights danced around the rivets and struts, and you watched them where you leaned on the railing, entranced. You realized too late that they were cutting their way through the metal. With a heart-stealing lurch the catwalk fell in half and dumped you headfirst into the bath of molten glass. The pain was a horror you could never have imagined, but then it was over like a moment spent inside the sun. You lay panting, unable to see or think, at the rough bottom of the purification tub. You looked at your skin; your hair was gone, as was the glass. You put out the tub fire and walked shaking into the night.
+2 Engineering, +1 Might. You are able to bend light through your body and focus it into in a laser that is capable of setting fires if concentrated on dry wood or a similarly flammable matter for at least five seconds. You can easily flense flesh and otherwise score surfaces with your fingernails.
(3) You stay late, sweating over the fiery ovens. You pay your own fuel and your own sand. The foreman admires your labor. No one questions your use of the tools. You are possessed.
By day you make lamps and pitchers with the rest of them. By night you spin glass art of an intricacy defying coral reefs for weightless interwoven delicacy. You have porters carry these to storage rooms and when you begin selling your pieces to shipping houses and joint stock companies you pay the glassworks a commission for the use of their space. You are the pride of the workshop.
The fruits of your labor are far from beloved by all. The painters, the sculptors, the poets and the authors despise you. You are a witless charlatan, your work is a meaningless frippery, your customers are tasteless bean counters and rentiers.
You reflect on their spitting contempt as you lay swaddled in a silk Armando Fournier bathrobe in your vast goosedown bed while a beautiful young lady snuggles each of your arms.
+3 Influence, +2 Engineering, +3d4oz of gold, reputation for glass art
(4) There is a glow beneath the glass factory. It has never been explained to you how the furnace works, but rather how to manipulate the rods, levers and chains that control the arms and runners that manipulate glass in the depth.
One day there is a misfire in the machine and a thousand balls of molten glass leap from the cracks that run through the floors of the factory where the articulating tools emerge from the underworld. Many glassblowers are stunned, singed, sizzled or blinded by this white-hot starscape.
All work thereby ceased.
The manager trod the floor, still marked as it was by flat beads of molten glass like the drippings of a vast candelabra. He nearly set his cap afire with a pipe held to his forehead.
“You must go beneath, my boy, but be warned: this place is most fearsomely haunted. Do not believe what you see beneath the grating, though it may seem to move your body: merely deliver this rod into the center bobbin and work may resume.”
“Why my boy, you’re the only one who will fit!”
They lift up a grating that you never noticed before. It’s in the shape of a gust of wind blowing away little figures from where they clung from trees and doorways. You descended into the hissing mist, into platforms of stone past overhanging poles and axles, a barren upside down image of the glassworks floor above. That’s when you passed the first child, a ragged filthy thing in a sackcloth. It looked at you in terror, perched on a little outcropping of rot like a soul climbed from hell with no way to purgatory. You spoke to it but it could not answer. You descended further and came to a place where the pillars and plains of rock rose more consistently, and there you saw more children peering at you from places of scanty refuge. You saw now how this factory worked. The glass was lowered on levers but was turned and shaped by the children below.
You sought the center bobbin but there was no such thing. Instead you found an articulating spider of levers and glassturning arms that spun and whirred like a clockwork daddy longlegs.
“Tell me of your origins,” it clangs.
“I-I’m from the city,” you offer.
It extends a pincer arm which cuts an X into your forehead in a single ferocious stamp.
“That was not the arrangement,” trills the thing, “This contract is terminated.”
It rises its mechanistic central mass up into the air before you and then reaches up to the stone pillars and walls with its long, thin appendages. It pulls itself smoothly upwards through the mist and then, with a single flexation, rips open the glassworks’ grated floor from below. You hear screaming, crashing and the shredding of steel and kneel with a group of the strange children, now all gazing upwards. There is a crumpling smash as the loading dock doors are mashed like tissue by the thing on its way out, and as you climb you see drizzles of blood and strands of mashed viscera trailing through the grating before you even emerge onto the charnel house glassworks floor.
+3 Climb, +2 Engineering
(1) You walk among the plants in the darkness of the office at night. You water them one by one and adjust them carefully as they grow.
“Martin Cress is planning to badmouth you at the next Accounts report,” whispers a lily, tickling the pinna of your ear as you pass.
“Ellie Cassava is attracted to you but claims she is too shy to make eye contact,” purrs a snowdrop on the windowsill.
“I stole this for you,” whispers a bluebell, uncurling to reveal the boss’s liquor cabinet key.
You smile and run your fingertips across your devious friends.
+2 Alertness, +2 Botany, +2 Tradecraft, plants that you tend to on a recurring basis will whisper secrets to you and steal things that you might want.
(2) You gazed up at the art deco skyscraper.
“You ever been up that high?”
“Only when I’m dreaming,” she said.
You held her hand in the lift and watched the stories pass you by through the fluted grating.
You took her into the silent foyer and you looked out across the city spread below and the limitless wilderness, wet and thick like moss in the dusk.
You sat on the edge of the vast wooden meeting table and rubbed her back as you pointed out Chancregate bristling on the horizon.
She sucked your cock in the men’s bathroom and then you fucked her on the executive’s couch. When she climaxed she soaked the linen through and you gazed down in awe.
The next morning you’re summoned to the executive’s office.
“You’re the only junior hire with after hours access. You got drunk, passed out on my couch and then pissed yourself, didn’t you, you little fucker?”
“You dipshit. Get in here with a scrub brush.”
+1 Influence (++++ Seduction), +1 Stewardship
(3) You open the red slat door of the records alcove. Blueprints and schematics bristle from bins in the darkness and sit in rolls on the narrow shelves above.
You sift through the glossy tubes of paper, wondering at the communiques and diagrams. This was the business of the whole organization written backwards in time; a definition and example for its every victory and misstep. Everything that they will not teach a novitiate like you can be learned here for your benefit, and, in your opinion, theirs.
You see one shimmering diagram like a sketch in magma. You move a few rolls and it slides down the center of them as if descending a funnel. You reach over the edge of the bin but it’s just out of reach. You push aside the entrapping bundles and the thing slips from view. You lean over forward, reaching into the dark, intending to recover it and push yourself back up off the ground but you tumble forward face first into the world of rolled-up paper. You slide through it, gripping and crumpling waxy paper as you go, shifting and straining the rubber bands that encircle every roll, and begin thrashing, totally consumed in a loose floating jungle of dark pale paper. You see where the faint glow comes from; the Goetic diagram is poking between the bars of a set of dark floor plans. You take hold of it and something takes hold of you, grabbing you by the ankle from below. You kick and struggle and fight but you cannot kick its head in the press of sheafs- if it is a hand you cannot say from whence it came. You claw your way up as if in water, thrashing and dragging the thing that crushes your ankle. You feel the inside edge of the bin raising up from a ceiling of identical wood like a skylight and claw your way up the edge by your fingernails while kicking. You wrap your fingers over the bin’s wooden rim, diagram still in hand, and the thing releases you. You kick yourself up over the edge and fall to the carpeted floor on your back, wood stuck beneath your bloody fingernails.
You gaze upon the numinous schematics and see that your blood is sinking into it as if it were fresh ink.
+2 Climb, +2 Might, +2 Engineering, set of numinous schematics whose true purpose you will divine before you die, even if it flashes before your eyes at the moment of your death
(4) “How are you?” you asked the owner.
“Could go for an Espresso Crunch,” he mused, gazing into the sleet-speckled window.
“I’ll get you some.”
“Do you have some?” he asks, regarding at the weather doubtfully.
“Don’t worry,” you smile.
You walked into the blistering hail. This would be enlivening.
You pushed your way up the street, wind freezing your pantlegs to your skin, beaten by soaking chunks of ice. You reached the canal embankment ramp and found that it had been closed and blocked off for possible flooding, so you went to an electrical wiring pipe and began to climb, your fingers stinging and freezing from the wind on the icy steel. Halfway up you began to lose your grip, wrapping the thing up in your arms and shimmying the rest of the way. This effort warmed you nicely.
It did end up flooding and soon there was a nautical rushing like the wrath of a sea spirit from the canal zone and soon people were screaming at you from their balconies to get off the street. You climbed onto a bus stop cover and held on; when the double decker bus drifted by you leapt into the upper story and did your best to cool and reassure several elderly passengers trapped within. When the bus became trapped on some kind of gravel container you leapt onto a table below whose drawers were sealed tight enough to give buoyancy, took up a street sign and used it as a rudder and paddle, singing loud into the juddering streets to keep your spirits up as the cold began to cling to you. You reached the Tarragon Building and saw that the great grape-graven double doors had been sealed against the seawater; you used your street sign to pole vault off your desk, grabbing hold of the lower rail of a balcony’s wrought iron fencing, clambering over it with freezing hands. You entered through the unsecured doors and gazed down onto the green and cream tiled commercial atrium below where you would find your imports store and your boss’s favorite chocolate.
You loved having a sense of purpose.
+2 Climb, +2 Acrobatics, +2 Alertness, +2 Influence
(1) You pound through the underbrush on the glorious Andalusian that is your charge, pressing your nose into his soft mane and picking out a sprig of fir from it in spite of yourself. You tend this beautiful horse for your liege and you too take pleasure in his equine perfection.
You ride together down a soil slope and cut across a gravel road. You catch a glimpse of furry antlers crashing away from you through a hedge of flowering shrubs and urge the young horse on in hot pursuit.
You crash through a hole in the shrubbery and find the great stag laying on its side before you. Your liege stands in the stirrups of his charger, flush and panting with a bloody spear held aloft. The rest of the hunt are gathering behind him with genuine smiles. You drove the magnificent beast right into the ducal hunting party.
It’s clear that you drove the stag to where your lord speared it and he sits back and smiles at you as if you allow you a moment of glory, but you bow your head and turn your mount back through the hole in the shrubbery, claiming none of the credit. You hear three cheers lifted in the name of your lord behind you and you rub the Andalusian’s elegant mane with satisfaction.
That winter you, along with the barons and staff, are gathered in the great hall of your lord for the New Year’s feast. You stand back with the chandlers and machinist’s boys with a bright-garbed squire standing before you as if to answer for the plebeians.
After distributing gifts of gold, silks, and battle tanks to his barons, the duke calls forth each servant in turn to recieve his New Year’s gift. A new set of clothes here, a linen duvet there, a truckle of cheese to him and a tin of oil paint to her. Then he comes to you with a glimmer in his eye.
“To you, my Andalusian.”
The snow falls past the lavender sky above.
+4 Equestrian, young superior Andalusian warhorse
(2) Baron Ciminia made you a squire. This was the greatest honor possible for a commoner like you. You could not be made a knight; squire would be the highest echelon you would reach.
You tended Sir Mistral’s steeds, wardrobe and weapons. You fastened his clothes to his regal body and wore his green and yellow livery with pride. And one day you accompanied him into battle.
Baron Ciminia was the first peer to die. His tank was hit by an anti-tank rifle round while he was unbuttoned in the hatch and it struck the magazine. The tank buckled, blew and burnt with a shockwave that leveled a nearby farmhouse. His upper body fell among a platoon of foresters, carrying pinecones through the canopy with it. They only needed one man to strap him to the haunch of a horse and carry him back to Cradle Hall, though his silks were so shredded that the fire-scoured body kept on coming loose and dropping into the pine needles.
You saw Sir Gasgal machinegunned alongside a levy militia, his cataphract’s plates coming loose and spinning in the hair as if he was an unsummoned coin golem. His men’s bodies deformed and went stringy like deboned roosters, flopping around with their bones shattered by the heavy bullets. Dumb peasants following him into the low ground. They would have stood no better chance deserting.
Sir Mistral led you in an outriding maneuver to flank the machine gun but a field gun led him and placed a shot just before his horse. Your horse was filled with Sir Mistral and his horse’s bones, and you were scratched in twenty places in the wet and dirty blast, lucky not to loose your eyesight. You extricated yourself from beneath your horse and climbed a dew-slick slope. When you reached the top your eyes went wide to see a troupe of Charnelgrove militiamen led by a foot knight crawling on their bellies up the slope on the other side. The first shot was oblique and struck you in your heavy breastplate, ricocheting into the stars. The second shot hit you beneath your glengarry cap, carving a deep groove in your skull and splitting your scalp in two. You tumbled head over heels down into the gore of Sir Mistral’s horse. You’d lost your carbine and had only your .45 so you picked up Sir Mistral’s ballistic targe. A grenade that you hadn’t seen in the dusk went off and peppered your arms and legs with tiny fragments of shrapnel. Once again your face was spared and your organs were guarded by your plate; you staggered up the hill, not knowing what else to do. A grenade came over and you picked it up and hurled it back, falling flat; it burst in the air and cut you down the back of your neck. Another two came over; you threw one back and lay on the second with your ballistic targe, and when it exploded it knocked you over and onto your back and you swear it concussed you. You stood up and another grenade came and you swung your targe and knocked it back though you fell over at the crest of the hill, and then another came and you swatted it with a clang as if cheating at volleyball. A Charnelgrove levy, bloody with grenade fragments, poked his head over the ridgeline and you blew it in half with your .45. You laid flat, took his fragmented head by his bloody blonde locks and dragged his body over to your side of the hill with his men shoot him as if to make sure he wasn’t taken prisoner. You took a pair of grenades off of his belt, charged them and hurled them over the edge; one came back and you pressed his body into it, blasting you once more out of position in a maelstrom of wet smoke. You found your forearms cut with steel or bone, you could not say, and you staggered back down the hill with your ears ringing as if to drown out the apocalypse and recovered Sir Mistral’s satchel charge.
Your actions that day broke a hole in Charnelgrove’s lines and allowed a platoon of Grenadier Dragoons who were coming to relieve you to brave the gap and flank the enemy, sowing panic in their lines and leading to a rout.
You were knighted by the Bishop of Brindlestoat, the highest-ranking peer left alive in the duchy. Switch to Nobleman Generator track with mandatory roll on the negative War Experience table, no fief and no assets.
+3 Equestrian, +3 Gunplay, +3 Fighting, +3 Influence
(3) You work the brush and file in the early morning, plying the horse trade before even the milkers reach their benches. You keep your wards beautiful, well-fed and healthy, taking them for trots and learning each one’s psychology. They are like well-behaved children.
In the evenings you bring out the belt for a different clientele. You travel to the farmsteads and hamlets, breaking penned wild horses for the proud people there. On occasion you demonstrate your skill for passing nomads, and you become one of the few civilized men welcome among their campers and sheepshag yurts.
You earn extra money doing this and are able to acquire your own herd of wild horses, which you break one by and and then begin to breed. After a generation or two you realize you have the makings of a prize genealogy.
+5 Equestrianism, 4d4 horses of custom breed
(4) You go to town atop your horse, just a lone cowboy from the outlying keeps. You smile and tip your pava to the city guards, who wave you through while eyeing the carts and litters thronging to pass their station. You have no saddlebags and no satchel. You are small potatoes.
Once in the city you remove the dried entheotruffles from your bootlegs, the twined worldroot for your hat and the putty explosive from underneath your saddle and ride whistling to your favorite black market bazaar.
+3 Tradecraft, +2 Equestrianism, +4d4oz of gold
(1) The mill is as tall as most skyscrapers. It’s the pride of Chrysopoeia, which imports grain from half a dozen other city-states just to mill it for them. Its machines were designed a century ago by maverick mechanism-seers and have not been bested in design, merely reinforced with superior materials and supplied with enough seed oil to run without friction from dawn til dusk.
You go to work with a bag of work clothes slung over your shoulder, whistling and gazing down at the dandelions in the lime green grass. You look up and see a little trail of smoke coming from the top of the great windmill. Fire. You dropped your clothes and ran.
When you arrived there was a rough boy in nothing but blue slacks with black soot-tattoos smeared all throughout his skin like squished caterpillars of night. He grinned, swinging a sack of grain, and began a slow semicircular stride towards you.
“Thermophorites,” you said, naming his bandit tribe.
“Uh huh,” he grunted like one sexually aroused, and grinned. You rolled up your sleeves and he charged you, whirling the bag of grain overhead.
You launched a side kick into him but he curled himself up and flipped you by the heel, kicking you across the back of your head and practically knocking your eyes out, by the feel of it. You staggered forward and felt him loom, and this time your horse kick told true, catching him in the solar plexus. He dropped the dusty grain bag and you reached inside, hurling a handful into his eyes. He staggered backwards with his hands on his face and you punched him one in the cheek, two in the jaw from below and he dropped like an eyeless mummy. You knew the fire brigade would be coming and left him there for the axemen to enjoy taking him into custody.
You went into the articulating darkness of the mill and looked up into the great clockwork agglomeration of hoops, gears, and onionlike rotary appendices. A bandit boy was riding a threshing hoop like a sloth on a Ferris wheel and dropped to greet you. He carried a short sickle he’d found on some homestead between here and Thermophorite territory and advanced on you, spinning it around his hands and arms relentlessly. Meanwhile you heard someone else alight behind you and stretch out a rope to strangle you with. Keeping your distance, you rotated into the threshing hoop and rode it to its apex before reaching out and clambering onto a beehivelike husk jumper. The boys could resist taking the bait and rode the hoop up as well, and you took your position at the tip top of the jumper. When the sickle boy was halfway up the side there was a burst of steam from a nearby compressor and the jumper did as its name suggested, bouncing up and down with extreme violence. You were able to simply make a jumprope up-down on top of it but the boy who was climbing was shaken bodily off the side and fell painfully into the slats below. The second grimaced at you, winding his rope around his body, and began to climb the beehive jumper in his comrade’s place.
“That was a neat trick but I’m afraid you’re stuck in the honey now.”
“That’s alright, it seems to be the place to catch flies.”
He leapt the last few feet and wrapped you up by the legs. You hadn’t expected him to make such a jump, and he rolled his way down the side of the beehive recklessly, pulling you with him. You spread your arms like to make a snow angel to arrest your tumble, but you skidded across the jumper in your smooth work clothes and were afraid it would activate again in a moment, jarring you into space.
You poked the boy in the eyes and he yelled and lowered his face between your thighs, and you found that your upper body was now hanging halfway off the jumper. He sensed it and let you go, but you clasped the skirt of the thing between your hands, holding you for just long enough to swing out, release and grab hold of the grain escalator, which immediately began carrying you for the upper reaches of the mill. You clambered up onto the furry track and looked down just in time to see your friend do the same. You looked up and realized this would carry you right over the edge into a deep well of grain from which there would be no quick escape. You resolved to raise the stakes, and when you reached the top you went walking out along the inchwide rim of the grain silo. You turned and smiled at the boy, daring him to follow. He grinned and you saw that his teeth had been filed to nosferatic points. He undid his rope, standing on the rim as well, and formed a loop with his rope; not a lasso, but a long semicircle to catch you up in. He threw it around you to pull you way off center but as soon as it was behind you, you lunged in towards the grain silo. You will never forget how his eyes bulged as you were the one who yanked him. You caught the rim and looked across your shoulder; he was pitching headfirst into the grain below with a lusty scream. He would stay until the fire brigade was good and ready to fish him out.
You looked up into the roof of the mill. There was a smoldering fire where the bandit tribe boys had interfered with the gearbox of the machinery crane, which was operating on a permanent turn, clearly tearing itself out of alignment with massive friction. You moved along the rim until you reached a ladder on the wall of the mill itself and began to climb, rising up into a smoky, choking blackness of burning wooden machine housing and pulverized steel.
You went along an iron catwalk to the edge of the vast wheel with a gear assembly at its center. The gear assembly was suffering massive stress due to excess operation and you pulled a canister of seed oil from the machinist’s cupboard. You leapt out onto the outer rim of the wheel and it carried you along its edge like a merry-go-round, threatening to plunge you off into the empty space that looked over most of the mill. You began to work your way up one of the spokes to the burning gear assembly when the wheel made a pass of the platform and you saw the last bandit boy coming up onto the platform. He’d recovered his sickle and was severely bruised- and furious. You reached the gear assembly and soused it with seed oil, greatly reducing the terrible noise that had dominated your perceptions since mounting onto the wheel, and you felt a little bump as the bandit boy came on as well. He stalked towards you, round and around, his sickle glinting in the last of the firelight. You were growing sick from the rotation and were disinclined to fight at this height.
“Just leave!” you shouted, “Take a bag of grain and get out of here, but don’t sabotage this place or hurt anybody!”
“Too late! It’s been sabotaged and people have been hurt!” he rasped sardonically.
He began his traversal of a spoke leading to the gear assembly, where you knelt. You began moving along the opposite spoke back out towards the edge of the wheel. Along the way you took the last of the seed oil and surreptitiously poured it across a section of the wheel as you passed it, then you reached the edge and sat, growing sicker by the second. You wanted to get off but you needed him to take the shortest route between you if this was to work.
He reached the center.
“Come no further,” you said, “I don’t want to hurt you!”
“But I want to hurt you!”
“You defeated two of my kinsfolk! If I kill you, then I’m superior to them!”
“And what if you die along the way?”
“Then I deserve what I get!”
“Fair enough,” you said with resignation and sat.
He reached the slick spot and his eyes went just as wide as his kinsman down in the grain pit. He waved his limbs around like a cat on ice, at last attempting to bear hug the spoke, and you leaned forward to climb out and grab him as he dropped the sickle, but just as you reached him he lost his grip and careened into the mill below, striking several chains, machine arms and outcroppings on the way down. When he hit the bottom it was with a floorboard-breaking bang.
You met the fire brigadiers down below and they carried you from the mill on a litter made of their axes while the millers cheered around you.
+3 Fighting, +3 Climbing, +2 Engineering
(2) The company overseers stood at the doorway with shotguns loaded. You worked your fingerbones into the threshing machine, inhaling a continuous slurry of tasteless agricultural dust.
Every time they spoke to one another or looked outside to check on a noise, you slipped some threshed grain up the leg of your shorts. You knew what some of the old heads had done to get grain out of this place; the people were starving. They did what they had to do. You were only willing to clench it between your buttcheeks.
+3 Tradecraft, +3 Alertness
(3) The Red Chartermen were out there on the walls, drinking. You could hear their evil songs wafting in over the sound of the grindstone. They didn’t take off their goddamned red fatigues or black armor at night, but they drank and sang their heads off. You couldn’t say the bastards were consistent, but they didn’t seem to need to be this far out in the hinterlands. Or maybe they just hadn’t reckoned with what they had coming.
For now, you were the one who was punished.
You sweat into the husks that covered your body. You could see the breath of the others, and the steam rising from their skin. Their bandy legs, the muscles fanning in their arms, their loose lips and sweaty brows. Some hand banded cloth around their heads but even this was a dangerous expression of humanity here.
There was a trustee sitting on a plump ottoman at the heart of the mill. He had a machete tucked through the waistband of his bathrobe. He was a de facto slave just like the rest of you, but it was his job to watch you and cut a hand or foot off of anyone guilty of sedition, sabotage or malingering. He had a cynical expression and a get-on-with-it voice, as if this was a natural situation that everyone had better just get used to.
You couldn’t call him over to you. It wasn’t his job to help you. You could only get the drop on him.
He walked to a pile of sawdust in the corner which everyone used to piss. He raised up his bathrobe and went. You stood up and snuck up on him.
Everyone watched you but kept milling. The noise was atrocious.
You struck him across the jaw and he collapsed. You pressed his face into the piss-sodden sawdust and held it there with your foot for several minutes. Then you pulled his bathrobe off him and donned it. Only a little piss stained, but right around the collar.
No one objected to you taking the bathrobe. You were the one who killed him. It was only right that you were the one to escape.
You tried to get them to come with you. You told them that they would be killed for what had happened, and perhaps this was true, perhaps it was not. Your appeals failed and they waved you off. They were not prepared for the escape. Finally you relented and departed.
You walked through the fields of grain that were at the heart of the slavers’ star fortress. You walked up a ramp to a place where a pair of the Red Chartermen sat, one dead drunk, the other nodding and shifting. You stuck the machete through the back of the second one’s neck, and then the first, and then stepped over the wall to freedom.
It occurred to you a few days later that if the slaves had been executed or brutalized as a result of your escape, it would have been the killing of the
two Chartermen that sealed their fate.
+2 Fieldcraft, +2 Tradecraft, +1 Engineering
(4) The threshing machine comes apart at the seams. People leap away from it as the cover falls off of it and it starts trucking across the floor like a dancing anvil. ”Goddammit!” screams the mill foreman, crushing his sun hat into his black locks.
You rush over to the machine and deftly fetch a runner free of its seating, and the machine works itself to a stop despite still running on its internal combustion engine.
“What did you do?” asks the foreman.
“Untorsioned the crankshaft,” you say.
“You know how to do that?”
“Can you fix this thing?”
“Could you disassemble and reassemble the ovens?”
“With all the gas and everything?”
“Ok. No more milling for you. I’m gonna have some bad news for our machinist when he gets back from his vacation.”
+4 Engineering, +2 Alertness
(1) You see a man seemingly made of delicate white frosting. His mouth is stretched into a black chasm like a hole in space and his eyes are slashes of onyx. His clothes form a tube of cloth draping from his shoulders; he does not have the familiar limbs of a human.
He peruses your wares where you sit on a blanket by the road outside the city.
“Your pottery is top-notch,” he says.
“T-thank you,” you reply.
“I would like to buy some.”
He produces a gloved, thumbless hand from the opening of his coat, at the very center of his body. There is a tiny nub of blue crystal in his fingers.
“This bean is magic. Plant it and it will open a portal to… heaven. If you’re a worthwhile little boy, you might even be allowed to stay.”
You sit for a long time. He does not move. You extend a hand and he releases the bean into it. Then he collects three glazeware bowls and puts them into his coat one boy one. Then he stands up very straight, turns and walks towards the city.
You plant this thing in a mossy gulch and go back to your blanket. That night you wake up where you lay to a great creaking noise. There is a shadowy sinew snaking up into the stars in the purple night sky from where you planted the crystal.
You cache your wares and creep through the forest, the floor of which was dry before but now is warm and sodden. You thought that the forest had thickened but then you realized many of the new trees were the snaking roots of a larger agglomeration of warm, soft bark. The water grew thicker, viscous, and as you disturbed a pool of the great complex estuary that had been made of the draw where you planted it, a number of creatures stirred within and moved away or towards you. You froze as you saw their forms: eels, you hoped; snakes, you feared. You turned to go but saw figures begin to creep into the shadows; soot-scarred men carrying assassin bug blowpipes, millipede muskets and BURSTING FRUIT catapults. They wore tremendous masks set with luminous jewels that you knew were eyes to them. Their bodies were ringed with magnificent feathers that you knew had pierced their flesh. This tribe had come to the sky-root, to worship to to cleanse it or to circumvallate it, you could not say, but they filled you with terror.
You stepped onto a root and realized that there were many water snakes draped over them, things you’d seen in water now taking refuge along the only path left open to you. Heart in your throat, you crept forward along the wet log, praying not to slip. One serpent rose its head up as you passed it and you nearly leapt into the water, but it just watched your ankle as you swung it by and then settled down again like a bored cat once you’d passed.
The roots give way to the great pillar itself and you began to climb into the mist. You had nowhere else to go. The clouds came low based on how far you’d gone, when you began to see shapes around you in the fog. A great polished eye made of stone on a stalk of steel came out of the ether and looked you up and down, its pupil narrowing and widening as it went. Some kind of many-legged fractal crab appearing higher up the stalk and shadowing you at an utterly consistent distance.
You reached a stone landing that hugged a portion of the root, which continued upwards into the swirling mist. There was an empty dais and you stopped to rest. After a moment, something that was like an upside down steel tree whose root-hairs were tipped in bronze and whose central body had been painted with a starscape mosaic of ruby-colored metal alighted on the dais from the fog.
“How did you get here?” came a silent voice from within you.
“A-a-a-a man, a w-w-white man-“
“It is essential that you be here but you are not in the correct state of entropy or energetic entrapment. Return when an unlocking arrangement is more probable.”
“I-I can’t go, I don’t know where this leads and there’s snakes below-“
You fall to your knees, wracked in agony as the sides of your body split open bloodily. You think you are being punished by the thing but then you realized that a membrane has developed along your underarms, lateral muscles down to your ankles.
“You are rearranged to mitigate your subjection to inertia.” Then it sped off into the mist without moving a whit to herald or prepare for its departure.
You flexed your membrane and it flared out from your tattered and bloody clothes. You felt the wind blow across its raw surface, and you knew that you could glide. You stepped off the platform and fell; you had already left your last life behind to such a degree that this wasn’t so strange a step. You flexed your membrane and nearly smashed into the great brown tendril, but then you caught the wind beneath you and sailed out of the cloud and over the green earth below.
+3 Climb, +2 Alertness, deployable gliding membrane like a flying squirrel
(2) “Poor little child, better off in school!”
“He must have took the dunce cap and filled it up with drool!”
“Now look how he lacquers hinges joints and slats!”
“Would you buy this as anything but a poo box for your cat?”
The chorus of women began to push you around between them like a pinball.
“Little boy, go back to class, your labor can’t compete!”
“If you somehow found a lass she’d never be complete!”
One leaned her face down into yours.
“Did you think your handiwork’d be enough because you did it?”
Another bumped you with her enormous rear end and sent you tumbling across the market cobblestones.
“The lord and lady, marshal, reeve and sheriff should forbid it!”
They reached down as one and lifted you up into the air, singing from below.
“Little boy, we think it’s time for you to lay your tools down!”
“But we’ve got the perfect job for you: a silly little clown!”
Then they set you down and went away laughing.
Little did they know you’d picked every one of their pockets.
+3 Tradecraft, +1 Agility
(3) You travel with the army of Pikesgrove, rushing out to buy provisions and luxuries from the nearest cities and towns before returning to the central column to sell what you’ve picked to up the soldiers, and sometimes to other camp followers. Cigars, chocolates, whisky, scarves and socks, you’ve got it all. You even take purchase orders from the general as a hedge in case you ever need a little special consideration.
One day the Pikesgrove army runs into the Baratheter main force. Lead is hot and heavy in the air as the Pikesgrovers spread out along a forested ridgeline, trying to get their field guns in position to fire directly on the Baratheters in the boulder gulch but their fields of fire are stymied by the necessary low angle of fire in the forest.
Incredibly, the Baratheters advance up the hill on the Pikesgrovers, their movements largely concealed by the canopy.
Most of the other camp followers flee, driving their donkeys and heavy-laden motorbikes away from the ridgeline with all speed. You see their terrorized old faces or flushed fat cheeks going through the trees, and you smile. This is your time to shine.
You rush back and forth between Pikesgrove positions, wheeling and dealing. You have a second zipper on the bottom of your pack and this is where you keep your combat supplies. You dive into a Pikesgrove mortar pit, machine gun nest, or between two riflemen firing from a fallen tree and open your bag. “Bandage packs two silver, hemostatic! Thirty ought six, one silver a stick box! Religious icons, two silver: Burning Eye, Sun Lion, Fates!”
Coins would fly at you with shouted orders; you would scoop them up and then rush in with your wares, or throwing them if you’d have been forced to cross the little pockets of no-man’s land marked out by machine guns, branches and bark littering the way like the threshing floor of a lumberyard.
You rush into a fighting position a hundred yards from the Baratheters and they shoot at you on your way in, heavy bullets thumping into the earth. You see a Pikesgrove soldier leaned against a bloody stump with an expression of agony; he’s been shot and two companions crouch around him while a third takes potshots with a tiny SMG.
“Tourniquets, four silver!” you cry.
“Give me a tourniquet!” yells a soldier, stalking towards you from his wounded comrade. You climb up the nearest tree and crouch in the branches. “Four silver!”
“WE DON’T HAVE FOUR SILVER!” the soldier screams.
“Then give me two grenades!” you say.
Do you want him to die?” you ask. The soldier racks his rifle and starts to raise it.
“I’ll shoot you and take it!”
You produce a pineapple grenade from beneath your leather jerkin and hold it up with your free hand on the pin.
“Fine, you little FAGGOT! Take em!” he pulls a pair of stick grenades from his bandolier and hands them up. You give them a quick once-over and hand him the tourniquet, which he rushes to his friend.
You leap out of the tree and go rushing towards a flamethrower position as bullets crack through the forest around you.
Business is business.
+2 Alertness, +2 Climb, +2 Influence, +2 Finance
(4) You ramble along with your strongbox swinging, gazing around at the chocolatiers and couturiers of Brassland’s finest hill. ”Jewelry on consignment from Brassland’s most august families! Unique pieces not found in stores!”
A man dressed all in tight black winter clothes approached you. He tugged at his hand inside a glove, gazing down at you.
“Hello, sir! Looking for something for your lady or concubine?”
“House Kennelwight has decreed that you will deliver their monthly payout immediately.” “What? But I don’t have it right now! All my coin is tied’s up! It’s on a silk shipment that’s due back in the 17th! I can pay you then!”
“No. You’ll have to call in some favors. I’m sorry, little boy. But do not let this slide.” He looks at you pointedly. He genuinely does not want to murder you and take the jewels of other Houses, but he genuinely will.
A: Rob and steal until you have enough to pay them
B: Sell your other jewels at cut rate and deal with the fallout later
C: Seek a loan from the Shipping House whose cargo you invested in, explaining the situation.
-A: +2 Urban Stealth, +2 Agility, +2 Gunplay, +2 Tradecraft
-B: +3 Agility, +2 Finance, +2 Influence
-C: +3 Stewardship, +1 Influence
(1) The chef was a man with no name and no tongue. His work was his testament.
He did his work with a dagger, a double-edged sliver that was only metal when it was still, so it seemed. When it moved it flashed and danced and caught all light.
That was why you went at night. You snuck down out of your rope hammock between violently snoring sailors, unlatched the porthole door and snuck down the bulkhead to the kitchens.
He kept his tools in a manifold leather sheath like a dentist might use. Mundane handles of stained ceramic protruded from the sheath. The shard of light was hidden within.
You opened it up and gazed on your prize. In the darkness you could see an extended diagram on the blade: the arterial workings of a man spread up and down the blade like a tabard laid flat for the examination of its crests. Even the head was displayed and this rested in the center like the face of a watch on a strap of vines.
This was to be the marker of your fate: the place where it went from the mundane living death of the predictable, into the strange but living waters of a fateless tide.
You leapt from the rail of the the riverboat.
+2 Tradecraft, +2 Swim, antediluvian dagger of resonantly-encapsulated (ie arranged against self) cosmic energy
(2) You stood in the low hovel of the alchemy witch. The trapdoor was hidden in the muck of the reeds. The steam of her alembics went into a hot spring. Nobody would ever find this place who was not wanted.
“I was his lover, once upon a time,” said the witch, chopping ingredients with her nails, “And a mighty thing it was, to be the lady of such a host. Before I saw what they did to this kingdom, of course.”
“Who knows. Maybe your father is one of his men. That’s how things are.”
“I don’t think so, ma’am.”
“Of course you don’t.”
She took a handful of dry basil and simply wafted the decanter of what she’d been working on over them. The mist rolled past the tiny green curls and onto the ground.
“Don’t ingest these or get them in a cut. This is my finest work but you still don’t want to taste it.”
You stood in the kitchens where boys, men and buxom young girls hurried back and forth. All were from this destroyed kingdom, this land that the warlord had looted. They set themselves to the task with resignation.
You had minced onions for 12 hours on end but finally the feast was ready to begin. You stood just-so in the line to deliver food that you carried the pheasant to the warlord’s high table, overlooking all his warriors and servants. The thing heated the top of your head where you carried it. You would walk through a dark hallway before emerging into the house of light and noise where the festivities would be occurring. The weight of your options was more than the pheasant.
A: Poison the warlord and his retinue
B: Tell the warlord about the swamp witch
-A: As you walked, you reached in your pocket and cast the basil over the top of the pheasant. You walked across the thick red carpet through the noisy hall, bathed in golden light and already slick with spilled wine and beer.
You delivered the bird from the top of your head and quickly ducked away, not showing your face to the fat man or the muscular murderers who flanked his chair.
Soon the hall was in chaos. You darted out of the kitchens and saw things being thrown and spilled as a surge of bodies moved to get a look at the warlord and his band, who were rolling around thrashing. Sic semper tyrannis.
Six months later the prince retook the kingdom from exile.
+2 Alertness, +2 Tradecraft, friendship of alchemy witch
B: You walked across the thick red carpet through the noisy hall, bathed in golden light and already slick with spilled wine and beer. You laid down the pheasant down before the great fat man, who spun a Bowie knife through his sausagelike fingers with maddening dexterity. The killers by his shoulders looked down at you with livid eyes, that you had not departed in a heartbeat. One reached a hand forward but the warlord laid the flat of his Bowie knife across the man’s rough arm.
“If I wanted him gone I would have beheaded him already.”
The man withdrew his arm.
“You want some pheasant, boy?”
“My lord, I’ve come to tell you of an assassination plot. There is a witch who plans for your demise; she gave me these to poison you.”
You held up the handful of basil.
The warlord had another serving boy force-fed the basil, and you stood by aghast as he rolled around frothing, his blood becoming a foreign agent in his body.
The warlord laid his great knife on your shoulder.
“You are a retainer of my retinue, little boy. Take me to this swamp witch.”
+2 Stewardship, +2 Influence, +3d4oz of gold, membership in a warlord’s inner circle
(3) In the morning you served the captain’s quarters, where he would be dining with his midshipmen. You cleaned yourself to the nines and put on your only pressed frock coat, entering with a tray of little plates. One held slivers of sausage that were so thin as to be translucent, and were folded over shards of fresh tree wood as if they were chrysalis-caterpillars slinking along a sprig.
The captain is laughing at a long table with his staff. There are dioramas of ships, precious instruments from foreign lands and maps of a clearly decorous character upon shelves and cherrywood boards across the hall. The cabin looked out over the merry blue waves through a golden-framed window whose bars were wrought like the blowing of the wind on stylized manuscripts.
“So then I told him he couldn’t have the commission even though I thought he was the best man for the job. *That* got him motivated!”
“Should have got him drunk and then he’d have just told you what he wanted!”
That afternoon you served the Engineering Mess, where the machinists and boilerchiefs met for intense discussions at spare metal tables. You served them eggs mixed with sour cream with a patina of green chili sprinkled over the top. These men did not give a *fuck* what they ate. No one looked up as you served the plates. You noted certain words as they hotly debated the finer points of fuel injection, which you are fairly sure is not even a function aboard the ship. Once you were out of sight you wrote down a number of concepts they had mentioned for research once you hit land.
That night you served the enlisted galley. The cursing, the oaths, they thickened the air even more than the boiling tubs of beef broth bobbing with bread and onions.
You were bumped by the sudden rise of two sailors from where they were sitting, sloshing hot stew out over your hands.
“Strewth!” said the man closest to you.
“Silly cunt!” said the other and clocked him across the face with a trunklike arm, sending a mist of liquor-laden spit wafting over your head. The sailor collapsed backwards into your cauldron of soup, sending it spilling across the deck with the shouting of sailors as several of them set upon the enormous striker.
You pitied the paltry education of boys in school.
+3 Influence, +3 Engineering, +2 Fighting
(4) It was just before the morning rush. The people would be descending from the tower above into the restaurant at their base and they would demand two things above all: tea and buttered bread. These things had to be perfect, they had to be consistent, they had to be available. They were not.
You stood over the gurgling oatmeal, stirring in a coalheap of raisins and an espresso trail of brown sugar. You worked the pot like a man unplugging a giant’s toilet, yanking the giant stir stick around as if you were a vertical galley slave.
You glanced at the breadcutting counter. There was nothing there. The tub of butter sat covered; the low brick toaster oven was empty.
“Gallis!” you screamed, calling for the other scullion boy whose job it was to prepare the toast and tea every morning.
“Yyyeessss?” came a disinterested call from the preserves pantry, where you knew he’d be dipping his filthy fingers in the jam pots to sample them, as if he didn’t know what they tasted like.
“Butter the toast!”
“Butter the what?”
“Fuck you, dipshit! Get in here and butter the toast! The morning rush is gonna start in like fifteen minutes!”
”Oh, is it? And those people will *need* their toast, will they?”
“I’m not in the mood for your shit, Gallis. Butter the toast.”
He came in and leaned on the center island. Darcy, the flourmaid came by, dusting her hands on her smock. Gallis gazed at her ass as she went.
“What will they do without their toast?” he asked. “Oh! They could eat oatmeal! Look at you working that stick, slaving over the pot! Working your life away! It’s like they’re eating your soul, I think. Drinking your sweat.”
“Gallis. You can’t do this forever. You’re gonna get fired eventually if you refuse to fucking work with us. You were lucky to get on the hotel and you’re going to fucking starve if you don’t get with the program.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I’ve stashed away a nice little bundle of food by now… in any case, this place will probably burn down any day, or have an outbreak of some deadly brain fever, or there’ll be a war and we’ll all be buried in rubble down here while the rats up there ride out on airplanes. Why not enjoy the journey?”
You give him a hard look over your shoulder.
“I don’t give a shit. I’m banking on this place working just fine. In fact, you’re the only thing getting in the way at the moment.”
“Maybe from where you’re standing, but your vision is so narrow in that pot of oatmeal. You’re a servant of this heap and of all the fat men pooing in our direction from their heated bedrooms and their feather beds. You have some sick, servile love of that, you know. I march to the beat of my own drum.”
“The only drum getting beat is gonna be your head if you don’t butter the fucking toast.”
“Hmmm… you know, if you get meaning out of menial scullion work, I’ll just let you do it! If you’ll forgive me, I have a date with the hors d'oeuvres, they should be all plated up and scrumptious by now…”
You swung the mixing stick two-handed from the oatmeal pot, catching him across the ear and cheek, dropping him as if you’d cut a puppet’s strings. You let go of the stick with a sticky clatter and straddled Gallis, windmilling him with your fists as he reached up and tried to grab hold of your face.
“BUTTER THE FUCKING TOAST!”
+3 Fighting, +2 Might, +1 Influence
(1) You sat on the brae while your sheep milled about around you. Your sling staff lay by your thigh and you had a journal bound in sheepskin in your hands.
January: Lochcheetahs emerging early from their snowbanks. Accounted for 7 with slingstaff, gran made me a lovely blue cloak from their furs.
February: Tumbling birds pulling the sheep down fjords when we go to trade with the river pirates, eating guts where they splatter on the rocks. Accounted for 3 with slingstaff, gran made me a lovely feather headdress.
March: Moths the size of greydogs swooping in and rotting the flesh of the herd, displaced in space from some kind of woozy dust, had to use the butt of my slingstaff, with which I accounted for 9. Didn’t give the bodies to gran.
April: Rustlers came in on horseback; shotguns, muskets, lever carbines. Accounted for 3 with slingstaff, gran made me a lovely sashimono with their hides.
+4 Precision Fire (Slingstaff), +3 Fieldcraft, +2 Alertness
(2) You’ve been almost too successful. Your herds are blossoming, a white sea flowing across the valleys like a tide of froth. The grass grows shorter. Soon they will begin to starve.
It is just before dawn and you are in the shadow of the Mincewell Plateau, a highland place unpenetrated except by mountaineers. You gaze up the steel-gray crags, featureless except for little spurs, draws and cliffs.
You set up the side, scouting for paths. There was little a man unarmed could do, but you carried your long crook with you. You used it to pole vault between boulders, several times almost slipping down their dusty, domed sides, always managing to get your sandals stuck in or at least scrambling so that you could get high enough to hug the rock and inching the rest of the way limb by limb. Once you leapt up and wedged your crook between two outcroppings, then you stood on it and pulled your way the rest of the way up, bringing your crook to you with your foot.
Finally you were almost near the top and the dawn had almost broken. There was no way up. It was a sheer cliff face the last ten feet. There was only one option. A dead black tree jutting from the cliff wall in open space, eight feet or so from the outcropping where you stood. You would have to leap out into the air, hook it with your shepherd’s crook, climb your way on top of it, and then clamber up onto the plateau. Or you could climb back down.
You swung. You hit the tree with the shaft of your crook but pressed with a scream and the curl of the crook caught the tree and you slid down, nearly losing your grip on the staff. The tree came loose from the wall and dumped dust all across your head and shoulders, but then the last root held. You looked up through the haze and saw your crook hanging precariously onto the tree. You clambered up it and it came loose at your last handhold, but you reached up and grasped the tree as your crook fell a hundred feet and broke on the rocks below. You dragged yourself up to the root, stood on it and reached up to the plateau. What you felt was the thickest, dampest grass you had ever known.
You will never forget how the sun broke in the very moment you pulled yourself up onto the plateau. It was a wide plain of thick green grass that stretched on for miles. You spent your morning searching the edges of the plateau until you found a saddle where a number of large rocks blocked view and passage from below. You maneuvered a boulder to the lap of the saddle and pushed it down, where it crashed into the stones below, knocking a narrow hole in the way as several boulders tumbled down the shifting gravel below them. As if on cue your herd came streaming up through the gap to find you.
+4 Climb, +2 Fieldcraft
(3) You sit under the stars, barbecuing a lamb over a fire of deadfall. God, it’s delicious. You eat it off the bone and wipe your hands on a passing sheep, which baas over the fire. You look down on the villages below, where men eat *bread* as if that was a foodstuff for free men.
You’ve done this every few nights for a month running and the herd is dwindling. You look around and realize you can account for every sheep. You think of the owner’s face if he saw his flock and it occurs to you that you’re as much of a rustler as any thief from the valley below.
The next day you buy a prize breeding stud from Runoff Well with your own money.
+2 Stewardship, +2 Fieldcraft, +1 Influence
(4) You stand near a firepit. It’s gone out except for a smolder and a thin stream of smoke. Two old shepherds lay on sheepskins with steins of hooch forgotten in their hands. One snores, the other drools. This is how they’ve lived their lives.
You look up the hill to the grassy crags above. There are yurts lit from within. That’s where the moonshiners live and work, as they have been allowed to by the shepherds for a generation in exchange for their services.
The sheep are going blind. Wandering off cliffs, falling prey to wolves. They drink from the poison streams that glitter like mercury with the runoff of the stills. The old men say oh well and barbecue the lambs. This is a waste and who could say what is in their bodies.
There is other runoff. Men from the cities going to drink and gamble in the yurts. Outlaws too. You see men staggering down the hill, beaten and robbed, to go home empty-handed to their wives and children. Perhaps they too go blind.
You hate it.
You take your lupara and move up to the highest rocky peak, looking down on the yurts below. There is harsh laughter and the flipping of cards within. Lamplight. There will be chiaroscuro confusion in moments. You cleared your throat.
“Woolwick Police! Throw out your weapons and lay down! You’re under arrest!”
There was a moment of stillness and silence from within the yurts beneath you. Then came lurching, staggering and shooting as the men from the village and city rushed for the flaps and the moonshiners and outlaws within were forced to make a quick decision. They fired almost at random, hoping to keep the heads of the police down until they could figure out what was going on. The yurts were torn this way and that, and one was set on fire. Men from the towns streamed out of them, falling over each other and yelling in desperation at their drunkenness. Outlaws staggered forth into the darkness, desperate not to be caught, firing revolvers, semiautomatics, sawed-offs and submachine guns into the darkness. A drunken moonshiner from a neighboring tent falls flat and empties his machine pistol and the agglomeration of gunfire and soon there is a roaring shootout between the tents. A still is hit and explodes in a rushing whoosh of thin flame, lighting several of the combatants on fire. You suck your teeth.
You scan the figures in the dark. There is a man with wild black hair and a gigantic pot belly who is firing this way and that with a comically small pepperbox derringer. You recognize the white pearls hanging from his neck, taken from a duchess’s corpse. He is an outlaw but works as a torturer for a thieves’ guild in the city-state and is said to have been the one who disemboweled the old police chief and his son before one another’s eyes.
He is the only one who you personally shoot.
+2 Influence, +2 Gunplay, +2 Climb, +2 Fieldcraft
Were you a wild rover or did you serve as a lookout for a criminal organization?
Table 1: Rover
(1) The Grand Temple has been spending its lucre on boys for the delectation of the priests, neglecting its charter and taking vast quantities of boys out of the workforce.
You assemble a dozen urchins and a bum. You tell them your plan and it is agreed.
You pool what you have.
You go to the docks and watch the prostitutes from the second-story window of a lodging house. You see how they approach their clients, how they balance apparent desire and hesitation, politeness and boldness, internal contradiction. You hold a round-table with the boys to articulate what they have seen.
Then you go as a pack to the bathhouse, then to the barber’s, then back to the bathhouse. You personally oversee the bum, spending your last coin to have him oiled and shaven. A wildlooking man, but smooth-cheeked and jauntily curled, like some of the foreign nobles you’ve seen cavorting in the city.
You go to the gates of the temple. Twelve boys on leashes held by the bum. The priest opens the door and nearly has a heart attack. He gathers the potbellied fraternity and they look across the boys with unbridled lust. The bum walks the cloister with them, haggling them as he has learned to haggle over bootlaces and cigarette butts in the hard dampness of the streets and alleys. Finally they pay.
He comes out of a tall, mosaic-girt side door with an incense pot full of gold. He looks back and forth, preparing to run. You come out of an alley with a switchblade drawn and smile. He smiles back. He will play ball.
The windows break. Second story vestries, study halls, reliquaries. Even the stained glass of the confession redoubt, half-submerged in the street. The boys come running from screaming, red-faced clerics. Eleven of them. You rally the boys to the bum and rush into the temple.
You hear a boy screaming for help from the myrrh foundry. You open the door and find a soft-hipped priest in a robe trying to pin the boy in a bag of resin, and you stick your switchblade into his buttcheek. He leaps up, banging his knee on the shelves above the boy and sending a cascaded of pots and powders down upon him, but you and the boy are already out of the room and heading for the door.
+3 Influence, +2 Alertness, +1 Fighting, +3d4oz of gold.
(2) The black cat sits on a fencepost at the edge of the park, scanning people doubtfully as they go by. Then it sees you and begins to purr.
It is mid-afternoon and you are selling newspapers from a stand between a pair of statues, the Lighthouse Maid and the Great Pharmacist, who hold hands above your stand. You lock up the stand and go to get a sandwich.
You walk towards a black cat with green eyes who stands right in the middle of the flagstone path, staring at you. You walk around it amusedly and it reaches out, sinking its claws into your pantleg.
“Ow! What the fuck do you want?”
It doesn’t remove its claw. It looks at you with heavy-lidded eyebrows, curling its claw deeper into your pants. You reach down and start to extricate its claws with your fingers. It looks up and down the path as you do so. A fat guy, a little girl and an old lady go by as you try and work its claw free of your trousers.
An attractive young lady in a coral dress and black tights comes down the path towards you. She has a matching beret and brown curls. The cat frees its claw and then sinks it into the fur mouth of her leather boot.
“Oh, yikes! What do you want, little guy?”
“He did me the same way,” you say.
“Ooh! Doesn’t wanna let go!” she says, trying to pull her boot away, but the cat holds on. She is carrying a little stack of books.
“Here,” you say and kneel down, beginning to extricate the cat’s claws from her boot.
“Thanks,” she says apologetically.
“It’s nothing. There.” The cat seems to relinquish its grip as you take hold of its paw, and then it begins to intently rub itself across your legs and her legs.
“I think we’ve conquered the beast,” you say.
“Hmm, she’s really eager to get to know us, do you think she’s hungry?”
“Wouldn’t surprise me, doubt anybody owns her given that she’s just sitting here in the park waylaying people like this. If she follows me she can get some pastrami, I was about to get a sandwich. You hear that, stinker?”
The cat began to purr intently.
“Well, nice to meet you. I appreciate you rescuing me,” she says, putting a hand out. You take it and smile, and she smiles back, and then turns to go. The cat reaches out and sinks her claw into the girl’s boot.
“Ah! She’s at it again!” says the girl says in mock anguish.
“You rascal!” you say and lift the cat up and away from the young lady’s boot.
“I don’t think she wants me to go!” she says, and then strokes the cat’s belly. The cat purrs and looks up at you both.
“Ok… I’m just gonna walk away and see what she does,” you say.
“Ok,” says the girl, and takes a playful stance. You each take a step away from each other and the cat yowls in protest.
“God! What is her deal?” you ask.
“I don’t know!” says the young lady.
“Come on kitty! You can have milk, herring, cheddar cheese, you just have to stop being a terrorist!”
“Don’t worry baby!” she says, touching the pads of the cat’s feet, “This man will get you some food! Speaking of which, I’m starving!”
“Yeah, I was going to Marchduke’s for a Reuben, maybe she’ll smell the sauerkraut and run away.”
“Oh, you know a good Reuben? I haven’t been able to find one since I moved here.”
“Well, you’ve found one now. Hit up Marchduke’s next time the pastrami madness takes you.”
“I’ll do that. I was actually just going to lunch now. I was thinking about a salad but it’s such a cold day.“
“Why don’t you tag along to Marchduke’s?”
“You don’t mind?”
“Course not. What do you think, kitty, do you mind?”
The cat purred intensely.
A few nights later, you and the girl slipped into her dorm room, and with you came the cat. It stalked around the apartment like a duke surveying his chambers, before taking position on a dresser overlooking the bed.
You walked into the room with the girl in your arms, kissing her deeply. You slipped her from her clothes, then shed your own, still kissing. You picked her up and laid her on the edge of the bed, pinning her with your body and making love to her with your feet on the floorboards.
The cat purred behind you, unnoticed, slowly opening and closing its eyes as it witnessed its chosen pairing.
+2 Influence (++Seduction), +2 Alertness
(3) You have a positive relationship with a soldier from abroad. He gives you food from the communal pot and you tell him when the partisans are planning on carrying out a bombing, which you hate. The soldier’s company usually steps up patrols as a result and prevents the bombing without anyone being killed.
One day the partisans come to you and tell you to feed the soldier bad information; if you do it they’ll give you enough money to eat for a few years, if you don’t then they’ll kill you as a traitor.
A: Mislead the soldier
B: Tell the soldier what’s happening
-A: The soldier’s patrol walks into an ambush and they are cut down with high-caliber rifle bullets and then riddled with 9mm SMGs. The partisans hand you a little pouch of gold and tell you to spread the word that working with them has its advantages.
+2 Influence, +2 Finance, +d4+1oz of gold
-B: The soldier’s unit turns the situation around on the partisans and slaughters them. Not one fighter escapes, and you hear later that several men and a woman who tried to surrender were bayoneted where they knelt. The soldier brings you to meet his captain and you’re given a job in the vast main camp of the occupation force.
+3 Stewardship, +2 Influence, +1 Finance
(4) There is famine in the land. It is a frosty early spring and the countryside is rapidly deserting. You hear tales of terror from the city-state. Those who can are going abroad. Those who remain are languishing.
Your family has starved to death; all except your uncle, who was shot by the roadwardens for eating your sister. You are alone upon the road.
You learn the limits of the human digestive system. First you steal breadcrusts green with rot from the sheds of abandoned farmhouses. You eat barley in a rich family’s stable until they cotton on and station a guard, who eats it himself. You eat leather boots, tallow candles, a dead old widow’s bark bread. One day you find a dead golden retriever, its stomach burst with maggots. You eat handfuls of the maggots right out of the gut, then pick them from the nose and tongue, savoring them one at a time. Finally you set to work on the dog’s clean, ruby flesh. The maggots had eaten what was rotten. It is the most delicious thing you have ever tasted.
It has been a long time since the famine. You survived, grew strong, and won respect in the outlying communities serving as a turd burglar, sneaking into the closed city-state and coming back out with buckets of the stuff to refresh the struggling fields. Today, those dark days are behind you, but you’ve retained your sense of culinary adventure, and your companions have occasionally noticed you eating from the trash can or keeping your leftovers in unrefrigerated rooms.
+3 Fieldcraft, +2 Agility, you can happily eat things that would debilitate most people
Table 2: Lookout
(1) “You’re a good boy,” says the Thief Lord, “You might even become a great man. But you’re too sweet right now, you’re just a pair of eyes but you don’t have hands.”
“I have hands, my lord,” you say politely.
“Not like a man has hands, if you follow. You can’t take action, you can’t change things, you can just say what you see. Which is useful, but eventually you have to do something about it or the world will pass you by and that will be that.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Have I done a lot for you? Have I given you a place to sleep, meat off the bone, wine? Have I made bullies fear you?” ”All of that and more, liege.”
“I’m a developer. I develop people, it’s in my personality. I make men. I create men who *do*, because the world needs more of that.”
“Who would you like me to kill, my lord?”
“You catch on quick,” he says, slightly worried.
You wait. The guards are silent. The domed ceiling of dark stone drips.
“A pimp. Like the animal who killed your mother. Not the same man, but the exact same type. Don’t worry yourself about why, I’ll bring you into the financial side of this business in a few years. For now, just know that it’s a good deed and that can be its own reward. What do we live for? The intangibles. Even with tangibles, it’s the intangible part we love.”
“Serving the enterprise is its own reward, my lord.”
“You catch on quick,” he says, running his hands through his thin hair and looking at his lieutenant with concern.
+3 Gunplay, +3 Urban Stealth, +2 Agility, +2 Alertness
(2) You’re standing in the snow with your hands in your pockets and a little gauze wrapping of ephemera in your jaw, glancing up and down the street. You’re to swallow this bundle should you be approached by the guard, but if a customer comes you’re to go to your superior where he sits by a tavern fire and have the buyer pay him in person. That tavern is Narcotics Guild property and the guard will have a war if they move against it at the moment.
Your world is split in two by a truncheon blow and you find yourself laying flat on your belly. Blood is running over your ears and down your nose into the filthy snow. Before you know what’s happening, fingers in wet leather gloves are digging through your mouth and they come out with the ephemera. ”Little pusher!” spits a city guard in mock indignation, “Is this what they’re teaching you in school?”
“Come on then!” says another, hauling you to your feet and shoving you, “We’ve got a nice warm cell for you!”
The cell is not nice and warm. You sit shivering and slightly dizzy against a wall that is frozen with slowly-moving water. You cannot feel your feet. There is an empty cell across from you and the wall inside may as well be an iceberg for all the frozen water.
Guards come in their red-and-gold livery and throw a boy who you recognize as a stick-up artist and throw him in the far cell. Then they set stools and casks between the cells and take seats. The jailor comes and spins his keys while the guards appraise you.
“That one’s got a bony face, he’s ill-fed,” one says about you.
“No no, those are strong features, he’ll take a punch.”
“Yes, but I almost broke my nightstick on him, he gets hit he might have an aneurysm,” says the one who hit you.
“Well he walked his way here didn’t he? Plus I almost twisted that one’s hand off to get his .38,” says another guard indicating the young robber.
“Alright gents, place your bets,” says the jailor, putting a little wooden box next to each of the cells. They begin to drop coins into the boxes, heavily favoring the robber.
“This is judicial combat,” says the jailor, “Winner’s free to go, loser will be retained for trial. You’ll stay in one of these cells and eat once a day. Current wait time for a public hearing is three months. Punishment for felony conviction is 20 years in the mines.” The guards look at each other and snicker.
“Stand against the walls.” He unlocks your cell doors, then takes a step back.
You each come to the bars, looking at the other in dread resignation. You push the bars open with a creak and step forward with the guards eyeing you in rapt silence. You step in towards your opponent, who is skinny, quick, wiry and clearly inured to confrontation. He swings at you and you duck, feeling a warm rush go through your body and taking a step back woozily as your injury tells. You jab and stick him in the cheek, and he takes a step backwards. You dart in and grab his arm, and then suddenly lurch sideways with him and fall sidelong between the guards.
“Oh!” they cry and reel backwards as if at an out-of-control boxing match. You knee and slap at your opponent, and then when you’ve got him arched a little bit up above you, you roll over and bolt down the hallway. The guards roar and rise up, but you are already entering the receiving station. You look back to see if the robber has followed you, but the fool tried to dart in and seize one of the betting boxes before running and a guard stomped on his instep and is now kneeling on him as he screams. You grimace and sprint out the door before a fat supervisor can lunge in for a bear hug.
+4 Agility, +2 Fighting, +1 Alertness
(3) You stand outside the green and white Musterson’s Savings and Loan Bank. The dark grid of windows are opaque and people pay you no mind as they pass in their loose summer suits and dresses. You spin your bindle as you eye the door.
You see the four men go into the bank. Turtlenecks and gloves to hide their tattoos. Every extra moment counter. This was where you came in. Or rather where you left the scene.
You went and sat up on a stoop. A man went sprinting up the street in the direction of the Crane Street Police Station. The action had began.
You ran up to the next corner and waited til you saw a hulking black motorcar come speeding up the street. Then you ran back, undid your bindle, opened up the double-wrapped burlap bundle and scattered caltrops across the street.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a sweating man in a tweed coat stopped to ask you, putting his hands on his hips. You ran away up the street.
“Hey! You come back here and clean those up!” he shouted and stalked afterwards before leaping back as the paddy wagon came around the corner. It hit the caltrops and its black and white wheels exploded one and all. It careened into the curb with a tremendous crash of metal and turned over sideways, nearly falling into the divot between the street and the townhouses, halfway crushing the railing. You sprinted away with an utter thrill as the blue-suited, black-capped policemen staggered from the back of the mauled automobile. You knew you’d get your cut.
+3 Agility, +2 Alertness, +1 Tradecraft, +2d4oz of gold
(4) The mansion on the hill. A house of green, absolutely coated in pipes and ivy. It flooded every month, pouring moss and a strange fuzz like dandelion spores into the streets and the neighbors’ yards.
Complaints went nowhere. The city-state’s bread was buttered.
Your lord of the underworld was a strange one. You’d only ever been invited into a single meeting, and he sat at one end of a 100’ table with his capos clustered at the other. You stood by the door behind them. The master spoke very quietly and everyone had to be utterly still to hear him over their heartbeats- including the master, apparently, for he moved least of all. The capos were in terror of the master’s personal guard, who were men draped in silk that flowed down from circlets as if they were green ghosts, except for the fully automatic 30.06 rifles that protruded equidistant from either side of their garments, which hung from the rifles like interrupted waterfalls of green ichor.
You looked up the walls, and the thousands of tiny portraits that had been placed haphazardly over the red wallpaper and its indistinct bronze patterning. You saw that there were large glass orbs hanging from the ceiling; these were equidistant except above the doorways, where they were concentrated. They were filled with some kind of black powder. Your blood ran cold. Gunpowder?
“What’s inside of those?” you asked a sifter boy.
“Look at the edges,” he said.
You looked at the edges of the darkness. They moved. You looked at the brightest bulb, which hung over the gas lanterns of the main doors. You saw many hundreds of red hourglasses. The orbs were filled with black widow spiders.
“They’d make this place a deathtrap,” you said, seizing the boy’s sleeve. He shook himself free and hissed,
“Not for the guards or the master, fool.”
That was a month ago. Your curiosity has grown morbid and overwhelming. You steal into the manor one night. It isn’t hard. The reputation of this place is as a condemned diseased manor that some inbred offshoot of a shipping house uses for mad relatives too incorrigible for use outside of wartime. Is this really a more frightening tale than its actual defenses?
You climbed a fluted column and stole into a study, where you had to press your nose into your thigh to avoid sneezing. It was full of books, though clearly only for observation from the street. Dust sat a quarter of an inch thick on the shelves and the books were illegible from cobwebs. You crept out into the hallway and saw rotten bears’ heads mounted on the walls, medieval weapons clearly taken still bloody from a battlefield and affixed to the walls in a mockery of museological style. They were pitted and waxy as if from acid, and the shields bore strange markings; chitinous darts studding them as if the shrapnel of a reptilian grenade.
You gazed through the smoky windows of a glassy bedroom door, the panes affixed to a matrix of wicker.
You think you see something sitting in a great basket like a baby in a cradle, and then you realize it is sitting on itself. A giant snakefly larva with its upper body resting upon its own abdomen.
It is speaking to several of the men who are draped in silk from their circlets. Several stand in green with their rifles, and one is hung with gold, apparently unarmed but lit with an inner light.
The snakefly larva waves around a dummy head and torso on a stick like some kind of scepter. This had been what the capos were communicating with at the meeting. The thing had been sitting with its abdomen beneath the vast table.
The man in gold turned to face you as soon as you looked through the window. The men in green advanced on you and you staggered backwards down the hall with a shrill scream. The door broke into a cloud of glass and splinters and they entered the hallway heralded by a carpet of black widows. You were in the study when the first of their bullets exploded bast the door and you leapt from the balcony onto the grass below, trusting your youth to save your bones from breaking. You would have been over the outer wall in seconds even if they had.
+3 Climb, +3 Agility, +2 Deep Time
(1) You are summoned to the library. The old woman looks through her square spectacles at you, her cheeks taut from her iron-hard bun.
She opens a viticulture manuscript. It has a red stain across a vapor diagram.
“What is this.”
“Ah… wine, madam.”
“Why must you insult my intelligence while you deface my books and your body?”
“Ma’am, I…” you say, your hand going to the deep cuts on your face.
Some are scars. Some are fresh. You remember the flashing blades in the basement last night. Going home with fresh cuts on your face. You never take a backward step at the dueling club, but the same cannot be said of your grades.
+4 Fighting, +1 Influence
(2) Your cohort is assembled in the courtyard of the university. The vines spill over the stone benches and the sun glints off of the black windows whose sills are haunted by bluebirds.
A colonel in gold braid stands before you.
“Men. This is the hour of Hexroad’s need. We enter a great struggle that will ascertain whether we are fit for self-determination or whether our nation will go down in history as another failure of will. Your home, your people, your army needs you. You are the cream, the fruit, the finest of our city. You are to be assembled into a Cadet Battalion of warrior-scholars, and I am to be your commanding officer.
You fling your caps into the air as one.
There has never been a more eager fighting force. Hexford’s struggle is just and you have more understanding of the issues and implications than the common soldier. You go to war with the dawning of the summer, and people weep and shake your hands in every outlying town and village. You arrive at the front laden with cognac, chocolate and sausages, some of you sans your virginities.
The war is a shower of steel. Your unit will take risks and responsibilities no one else will. Life becomes a deadly blur as fatigue and hunger consumes you, day by day, month by month. The cold embrace of the earth becomes a reality as you sleep in it every night, the inside of the body becomes as familiar to you as the outside as your friends and rivals are blown inside out by mines and mortars, tank guns and hand grenades. You feel like the surface of the earth: a tiny sliver of light and consciousness atop the infinite mass of the underworld. Life is as thick, vivid and incomprehensible as a pool of paint.
Then it is over. You wake up on a train heading back to Hexford. Your first good night’s rest of the war and you can think clearly. There are a few of your fellows around you, resting. A bellhop makes his way through quietly, lit by starlight on the chaparral outside.
“Hey,” you say, dropping a hand on his arm as he passes, “what of the war?”
“The negotiations have just concluded. Status quo ante bellum,” he says quietly, and moves on.
As it turns out, what is left of your battalion fits on a single train car. Just one out of every ten members of the Cadet Battalion has survived.
You walk into the freezing drizzle of the platform stunned and aimless. The light has left the skin of the underworld and now there is nothing but the entombing abyss.
+4 Gunplay, +3 Fighting, +2 Fieldcraft, +1 CLS
Roll on the Negative War outcomes and the Preoccupations list from the Nobleman Generator.
(3) You are called to the dean’s office, and then the dean leaves. A pair of men enter. They are plainclothes gendarmes.
They ask you to infiltrate an Anarcho-Syndicalist student movement for the good of the city’s future. You will report on their doings, serving the city as a patriot and receiving a bonus at the completion of your term of service.
A: Refuse and focus on your education
B: Agree and go undercover
C: Agree and act as a double agent for the Anarcho-Syndicalists
-A: +3 Finance, +3 Stewardship, +2 Engineering, +1 Influence
-B: You join in on the late-night meetings, learning the lingo and befriending the main participants. One day the gendarmes as you to hold a meeting of your own, which you do at your apartment. They mix and drink wine, discussing matters over the coffee table, looking over your collection of books, mingling in the kitchen. You laugh and smile with a girl by the refrigerator. Then fatigued gendarmes in breastplates burst through the door with submachine guns raised, shouting and striking those nearest to them. The student Syndicalists scream, but there is nowhere to go. They are taken into custody.
A week later they are convicted of conspiracy and hung.
+3 Influence, +2 Tradecraft, +2 Alertness, +15oz of gold
-C: You join the Syndicalists in their midnight meetings, and as soon as you begin to win their trust you confide in them that you were sent in as a plant and offer your services as a double agent. They take your hand and thank you, swearing you into their organization.
You feed harmless information to your handlers, just enough to keep them looking into the members they’re already aware of. One day the head of the Syndicalist cell asks you to request a meeting with your handlers at the docks. You meet the two of them there, all bowler hats and mustaches, and the Syndicalists come out of the shadows, pistols raised.
The gendarmes are taken out on a fishing boat, tortured, given concrete shoes and dumped into the bay.
Your connections to the Gendarmes thus severed, you are sent to the City of Leagues to be trained as a full-time intelligencer.
+3 Influence, +3 Tradecraft, +2 Gunplay, +2 Fighting, +2 Alertness, deep Anarcho-Syndicalist connections (you have many friends among them but they also have your fingerprints, know your bank account numbers, and know where your family lives)
(4) You become the confidante of a professor who is obsessed with a dark and decadent period of a lost empire. While his associates in the Antiquities department study the empire’s law codes, military tactics and sewage systems, the professor is fascinated by their spiritual underworld, including a sect that sought to exhaust and enervate public figures through relentless orgiastic cavorting. You suspect that he would gladly participate in such rites.
Eventually you uncover one of the lost sewage pits where initiates of mystery cults would have sex with each other for days on end as part of their initiations.
A great red discus pokes its way out of the muck and bids you enter and be transmuted as in the days of old when the great empires built the future with blood and bone.
The professor eagerly stepped forward into the pit.
-A: +3 Might, +3 Alertness, +3 Deep Time. Enter the Occultist Generator at the Reward and Punishment section. Roll a d4: 1-2 use the Gray Path, 3-4 use the Gold Path.
-B: You sprinted back up the tunnel. The Professor laid down in the ancient sewage and was filled with it, encased in it, becoming a kind of mud golem that stomped after you. You leapt into the motorcar and sped away, thanking God for internal combustion.
+3 Agility, +3 Alertness, +2 Driving, +2 Deep Time
(1) You take up weaving and find it to your advantage to be surrounded by girls. However, you are distressed to find that many of your erstwhile paramours are more attracted to bullfighters and boxers than weavers. You decide to take up a few other trades in your spare time to boost your chances.
Pick or roll one of the following:
1/a) Boxing: +4 Fighting, +2 Agility
2/b) Hunting: +4 Gunplay, +2 Alertness, +2 Fieldcraft
3/c) Motorcar racing: +4 Driving, +2 Engineering
4/d) Weightlifting: +4 Might, +1 Influence
(2) You begin to construct elaborate clothes in the weaving house at night, beginning with elaborate lace hems that bought you access to the middle class before graduating to striking and splendid ensembles that gained you access to aristocratic balls and gambling sessions, though more as an entertainment than anything.
Eventually you are prosecuted by your former employer for stealing fabric and using the weaving house’s tools without leave, but you are able to pay off the fine you incur because by that point you’re the personal dressmaker of a duchess.
+3 Influence, +1 Engineering, +d4+1oz of gold
(3) You make a pact with a constellation of chitinous green spiders and begin weaving their webs into bulletproof armor. This is not silicasilk; it is thicker, and it is not suitable for industrial processes, but it generally defeats rifle bullets without injury to the wearer (though a bullet may bowl you over depending on its composition and velocity).
One day they instruct you (through indestructable spidersilk messages) to aid a faction of malcontents who plan to open the gates of the city to an enemy flying column.
-A: The spiders withdraw their webbing from you and leave the city. You warn the city guard, and both the faction of malcontents and the flying column are crushed, earning you the keys to the city.
+2 Influence, +2 Alertness, +4d4oz of gold
-B: The city is conquered, sacked, and undergoes a regime change. The new government begins planning an invasion of several nearby city-states and rules its domestic population through despotism. You are sidelined as the spiders begin working directly with the regime, however in thanks they construct a whole-body suit of black armor for you. This is more comprehensive than any other armor, and unlike all of the spiderweb armor these creatures have fashioned before, this one will not decay within a year (as yet unknown to the city-state’s junta).
+1 Engineering, +1 Deep Time, black bodysuit of the chitinspiders
(4) You acquire a store of silicasilk from a burning textile warehouse (as it was the only thing *not* burning inside). Your cloak, scarf, shawl and weightless hauberk are all priceless silicasilk. They can be combined into an unbreakable 30’ rope, which you begin to experiment with, constructing mechanisms not hindered by the tensile limitations of chains or cables.
+3 Engineering, +1 Alertness