Innocence lost....

Kwan's Emporium

A journey delayed

  So the evening we were supposed to be headed out to "Hayden's House"  we ended up instead at this nasty little saloon run by a foul tempered Turk. I waited patiently for my "friends" to go inside as I had some little surprises to pack away in the wagon. I wanted to make sure I had some toys with me when we went out to lands infested with the neverborn.

      I took the time to apply more perfume, quite liberally in fact. To the point where Thomas refers to me as their French whore. As if I were French indeed! It is difficult to hide some smells. Death being a big one. Well it didn't take Hayden long to want to get away from labor and have a drink. Thomas went with him and I got down to it. I had this wonderful vulture I found poisoned (or it merely ate the wrong carrion) and after a little bit of maintenance I was able to get it into some condition for reanimation. It was quite the foul tempered bird.

         As I was getting finished the largest man I had ever seen came sauntering up to the bar. A quick appraisal and I was absolutely giddy at the thought of being able at some time to reanimate that thug to serve my purposes. He had a thick Russian accent and I was somewhat flummoxed talking to him. To test the musculature I had him harness up our jackasses to the wagon.  I was astounded that he lifted the harness with his hands and easily managed the feat. I would have to consider him more carefully.

    Finished with the tasks and with the night getting colder and darker I figured to go into the bar for a drink and smoke. It would be a long evening if the boys were in their cups already. When I entered I saw Thomas brooding as usual and Hayden off about to start trouble. Considering my options and realizing Thomas is already suspicious of my nature I decided to sit with my brooding friend.

     He had been sitting in the corner ( the spot we affectionately call the "mysterious clown" chair) drinking from some whiskey ( I had not bothered to ask where or how he got it) but since he was inclined to share I was inclined to drink. He can be a true gentlemen in his cups and I was ready to relax a bit. Animating the vulture took a bit out of me, what I really wanted was to animate a true corpse. Instead I sat back drinking whiskey and trying to relax. All was going well, we made a little small talk, but since we have so little in common it was usually awkward.

     When the Russian came over to our table, for some reason I had a chill in my spine and reflexively leaned into Thomas for protection (a somewhat foolish notion considering his penchant for using me as a shield), but he was quite cordial. His name was Vasilli? well it was hard to understand. I was a little light headed at the time anyhow and was not interested in what the men were talking about. I had hit something with my toe (I had of course kicked off my heels in a place like this) and was now extremely curious as to what was under the table.

      I finally could not stand it any more  (curiosity and the cat thing you know) and had to get under the table to find out. Well there seemed to be some wires under the boards. I had to use one of my hair pins to get the right leverage to pry up a board (this had the effect of making my hair an absolute mess). having pried one up I was excited to see there was a strange wire network under the floor, it could go all over! so of course I had to mess with it, and of course it would shock me. It caused me to bump my head on the table bottom, and I hoped I had not spilled any whiskey.

        When I excitedly came up to tell Thomas what I found I saw the barkeep (the sour mannered Turk) looking at me with a look of half disgust, half….well whatever. I later was horrified to hear what it looked like with me under the tablecloth. And of course Thomas had to make it seem far dirtier than merely me grubbing under boards. Apparently I was playing with his wood down there. Ignoring the bawdy behavior I excitedly revealed all I had found. He seemed either distracted or uninterested.

       I went outside to clear my head, I intended to check on my "bird" one last time for the night to make sure the rats weren't nibbling on it. I stopped to smoke and noticed a metallic glint in a window. Now I am not the kind of person to poke my nose where it does not belong, but I can feel when things are not right ( or in my case an opportunity for new specimens) and I had that feeling right then. It may have been foolish or dangerous to stay out in the open but I decided it best to be casual. As I stood there in thought, I had that nauseating feeling like at the saloon where I met my companions. Something was certainly not right. The gunman in the window was clearly not interested in me (or I likely would have already been shot) so I waited a bit.

           Of course Thomas was the first one out. I was not sure if I was happy or frightened that it was him. But I calmly got his attention. He came over to me and I played it off as if I was with him, and whispered in his ear to where the danger lurked. The gun had started moving as Thomas came close to me, I hadn't noticed at the the time, but then he cried out "GUN!" and I was tossed like a potato sack to the ground. That man moves faster than a rattlesnake. I had barely bounced off me arse when he had spun around, drawing his carbine and placed a round through the window. The pistol fell, I heard it hit the ground. I was too dazed from bouncing the back of my head off the cobblestone to do much.

          Vassili and Hayden had run out towards us and Thomas had already approached the house. I tried to remember to act winded when Vassili assisted me to my feet (in truth he lifted me like I was no more than a child) and set me towards the house. I intended to follow my instincts in this. As I entered Hayden was quite reckless in his pursuit and while I and Vassili followed at a safe distance, Hayden carelessly flung the door open to the gunman's room.  I swear if he gets Thomas shot I was animate his corpse and have him tear Hayden apart.

        The family that lived in the house was brutally murdered by the gunman, who turned out to be the gambler at the sour tempered Turk's saloon. I had a good mind to animate them all, they would be great assets in the journey to come.  Thomas of course was having none of it. When I entered the room, the gunman was dying. He was not being very talkative with a hole in his lung. I cheerfully asked "is he mine yet?" which of course did not make the man any more comfortable. Thomas and Hayden tried questioning him more but he was slipping fast. He had a slip of blank paper in his fist that he refused to part with. I believe this was tied to our "benefactor"

      Thomas ended him quickly with a single stab to the heart. I found myself thrilled. I was going to get to have this one. I quickly reanimated the dead gunman. It was hard but so worth it. He was in fairly decent shape. Thomas then took the wind out of my sails by making me use my new toy to bury the family out back in their yard. He is so sentimental. I was of course horrified to waste my new toy in this kind of labor, but we do what we must. It took hours and I was in foul spirit as my zombie came apart with the effort.

           We returned to the saloon and while I helped myself to some more whiskey Thomas had a short, sharp discussion with the sour tempered Turk. He walked outside but handed me the room key. I was ready for bed, I was well bruised up and in fact had been more damaged than I realized. When I got to the room it was small, there was one bed (that looked so comfortable) and a small dresser and finally to my delight … a washtub. Thomas came in after getting Hayden and Vassili settled in and was kind enough to give me the bed. I had him help me reset a dislocated joint (after all the brute had been the one to hurt me in the first place) I crawled into bed and was fast asleep.

          I woke up first and took a nice hot bath. I was no longer careful to hide the killing hole in my chest from Thomas (well I was too comfortable and careless to cover up when he awoke and went outside) I rested a bit longer in the water, I added some oils to help my stench, and of course keep my skin nice. Then I headed down to be ready for our trip to the badlands. Of course I was to be disappointed. It would appear we were going after mister Kwan.  I knew of him as an opium and brothel operator ( my uncle had loaned me to him in the past to handle issues) and I was not looking forward to it. Kwan was a deadly old man. More to the point, he was far stronger in necromancy than I.

            The sour tempered Turk was acting terrified (I thought it was merely the thought of challenging Kwan, but it later turned that "The Benefactor" had sent him a note.) Well nothing for it. I tried to stall for time to convince Thomas it was a bad idea. He had his head set in this and there was no dissuading him. At the least I put on better clothes for a fight (I swapped my nice dress for heavier leathers) and grabbed my bird. I was going to field test him after all.

         We arrived at Kwan's at around 9 a.m. and of course it was closed. When we discovered the door locked I was a bit relieved, we could say "we tried" and get on with our business. Sadly Thomas was able to pick the lock, so in we went. Dammit. Thomas went first, and I followed. The sour tempered Turk came in and finally Vassili and Hayden. Thomas moved as if he was some soldier clearing a building, I was less careful. I would regret that.

        Once we had all entered, the place was gloomy and dark, as it would be in an after hours bordello/opium den. We were not prepared for the door to slam shut behind us and relock. That was a bit of a shock.  We were plunged into darkness. I sent my bird to the upper roof, to get a better look, hoping that the vulture had better night eyes than I did ( a running joke enroute here that my companions kept up was that the poor creatures eye kept popping out and I had to push it back in the socket, for full disclosure that only actually happened twice). It was so quiet we could hear each other breath. I made sure to make breathing noises in case Hayden and Vasilli could count.

      I felt the first knives hit my back shortly after, three in rapid sucession. It hurt like hell. I also heard the sour tempered Turk take a blade to the heart. He grunted and hit the ground. I was shocked as my bird was rudely wrenched from my control. I heard its demise. In the dark the group acted out of instinct with Thomas and Hayden shooting into the dark. Thomas and Hayden fanned the hammer on their pistols with such speed I almost wet myself.  I am truly glad they are on my side…for now?

          I lightly stepped over to Thomas, I had stopped breathing at this point, just in case our mysterious attacker could count in the silence. When I got close he was a bit jumpy. I calmed him by whispering in his ear a decent plan (or so I thought) but only after he pulled the daggers from my back, I had to explain they were poisoned. He put on his glove and pulled them from my body. I then whispered a spell to bind up the holes in my body, other than Thomas the rest would not pay attention to holes in my leathers that weren't bleeding.

            I stepped into the middle of the room as planned and sent up some witch light from my hands ( a little trick when I animate corpses or such to scare the "peasants" so to say,. I do have a flair for showbiz it is after all in my blood) and once the room went bright, my companions sent a wall of lead into the assassin hiding in the rafters. And of course deadly Vasilli had to toss in a throwing knife for good measure. Needless to say the man was dead before he hit the ground. Unfortunately he managed to bury a knife in my gut. Thomas was quick to remove it before anyone else saw. Thankfully I was able to cover it up, but I was starting to feel like a pincusion.

        I was allowed to animate him and the sour tempered Turk. I was positively glowing with delight at the sweet gifts from my friends. I quickly and with flourish animated the dead men to my service. It is almost ecstasy to force the dead to your will. I watched them shamble with pride, my toys. I quickly hid the pleasure at the sight of my companions disgust. I need to be more careful it would seem. They can tolerate my presence and activity but not it would seem if I was enjoying it..too much.

            Thomas pushed us deeper into the bordello and I proudly moved my pawns through the door first. They would bear the brunt of any ambush or surprise. I felt alive again the way I did in my uncle's service. I sent them shambling forward and Thomas stopped at a window. The room itself was likely where whores and opium addicts would lounge about . Thomas was concerned and he put his deadly carbine to his shoulder, took aim, and unleashed death through the window.

     It was Master Kwan. I wish I had known, I would have tried to stop him. But the bullet struck true and Kwan let out a howl. Thomas spun around away from sight and I took the brunt of Master Kwan's wrath. His spell made my insides feel as on fire and began twisted my internal organs all about. I began vomiting black blood and losing my balance. The pain was unbelievable. I quickly lost control of my toy. ( earlier, Thomas tried to use a disguised voice and the puppet of the sour tempered Turk to trick Master Kwan, but it had failed and the Master destroyed my first puppet) I was mostly of little use as apparently a battle broke out around me. I tried to stand, tried to gain some sense other than vertigo. Thomas was trying to pull me to safety (which was nice, I thought he may use me as a shield to get down the hall, but then I was puking far too much to be useful) as we got around the corner, I started to feel a little better.

          Then I felt Master Kwan put forth his will to dominate me. I was near powerless. I tried desperately to resist him, but the call of the grave spirit was too great and I felt myself a prisoner in my own body. He was able to read me like an open book and It was horrifying for him to speak through my lips. It seemed to irritate Thomas as well as he smashed my head with his rifle butt, snapping my neck. I fell limp and lost consciousness.

             He slapped me awake some time later, I had him set my neck so I could heal myself, but the spell was slow and just enough to get me mobile again. I retaliated by wiping my face on his nice shirt. Serves him right. Again, my luck and his assistance held and no one saw how bad of shape I had been in. I stood behind Thomas and Hayden as Master Kwan engaged in "negotiations" with my companions. He seemed to recognize me and I merely stared daggers at the old monster. He did not reveal it though and it appeared he and Thomas came to some accord.  I was beginning to get a sinking feeling in my gut that either me or my uncle or horridly both of us may have had some hand in the loss of Thomas's wife. We had been of use to the Ten Thunders often. I would have to wrack my memory to see if I can come up with anything that might be helpful. As it is, we are now finally going to "Hayden's House" in the badlands. But hopefully first a bath and some rest…………..

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