Innocence lost....

A night on Cheshire Street
Prologue: Bad things can happen to good people

The night, dark and rainy, as usual. Here in Malifaux it can often make one depressed. I had long ago stopped fearing the night. I was more intimate with what went bump in it. I had just managed to leave my burnt out wreck of a home and stumbled into the more habitable parts of the city.

     I felt curiously drawn to this seedy little back street. Cheshire street it is called and I was not sure why. Almost as soon as I passed onto its crumbled sidewalks I felt the chill. Looking around I did notice that things watched from the darkness. Fortunately I was not the meat they craved and I was able to pass unmolested down block after block.

     My wanderings left me with no real purpose, but something compelled me onward. I ended up at the "Stoney Street Saloon". This place smelled awful and was full of vermin (mostly of the two legged type). Ducking into a corner, I felt compelled to reapply my "cover".  A more than liberal dose of perfume (bought on the cheap) to cover the smell, and my last mint to cover my breath. Pulling my shawl to cover as much skin as possible I entered and found one of the few empty tables.

     I had the misfortune of sitting between two other tables filled with hooligans. I had unnecessarily concerned myself with my smell, as the locals were far fouler. Unwashed and over active. I had to fend off too many drunken advances. There were whores aplenty in here and I felt insulted that these filth considered themselves worthy to speak to me. I would have to be careful though as some keen eye may pick out my pallid tone.

     I would be fortunate there as well. These men were interested in cards, whiskey, and brawling, not always in that order. I ordered a drink, mostly to fit in, and watched…looking for some sign as to why I was here. I am convinced that nothing in my waking mind brought me here but in deed some subconscious summons. I caught sight of a crazy old man (though he was quite finely dressed, and handsome enough in his own way) who looked at me with triumph in his one good eye. 

     I was beginning to think him a necromancer of far greater strength than I to compel me here from so far away. He leered at me in such a way as to make me quite uncomfortable. As I lit a cigarette I noticed under my glass a strange note, it was not there before and I was now vexed. I could only read the lovely calligraphy "A tall dark stranger will try to steal your heart this night, but the swift shot will be your salvation, yet only moonlight will make it so". Even in my state, I felt the sharp spike of fear. As I looked back up, I noticed my "admirer" had also seen something written (though in truth I had not seen him with a drink earlier).

     I was beginning to get angry at this point. I am no one's toy! I had intended to give him the rough side of my tongue, or perhaps a more lethal retort when a strange man came right up to me and started rambling like a madman. I was certainly well aware of what he was talking about but that was also the kind of talk that prying ears could use greatly against me. I brushed him off as rudely as I was able. It made me cringe about to act in such a boorish manner, but self preservation was necessary.

    I would be saved by a brutish looking beast of a man. Apparently a drunken mountain man had taken either a liking to me, or a great dislike of the well dressed gentleman stranger who had verbally accosted me. It was getting tiresome quick, though I realized they were bringing far too much attention to me. I needed them gone quickly. I was fortunate that the gentleman took his leave. I had initially thought it cowardice, but seeing his well maintained pistol (I was horrified to notice it was a guild peacemaker)I realized he was likely a witch hunter and I was in mortal peril.

     The mountain man likely had not scared him off, more interfered with his investigation. If I could not get out of here quickly perhaps I could divert his attention to the old man. Damn my ill fortune, another tall, dark..( I stifled a gasp, here was a man fitting the very description of my note) he had attempted to make contact with the necromancer, but was being deceived into thinking the man was an idiot. I felt trapped, worse I was being used as a pawn. I had my mind racing when I realized the entire time the mountain man was talking to me.

      I smiled at him and thanked him for the rescue. He moved in to be more "amorous" but fortunately for me, yet another drunken dolt came over and challenged him to a duel. I am ever surprised by the foolishness of these people. I had to be grateful for the reprieve. But now I had other issues to worry about. Namely all my worldly possessions (that being merely two changes of clothes and some assorted toiletries) were now in a hand bag under my table and I may have to bolt and try to outrun a witch hunter.

     I sat back and took another drink of…absinthe? I knew the look, yet I had clearly ordered a white wine, in fact had been sipping on exactly that but a moment before. As this new circumstance added to my mounting frustrations I noticed that the tall dark stranger was now in a conversation with the witch hunter. My heart sank into my stomach *(not literally I think) as I realized I was now likely trapped.  My own senses started to pick up and I noticed the necromancer started staring out the door more intently.

    The piano man picked up a strange (for him ) sonata. It was quite classical and clearly well beyond the means of that drunken sot. It was pleasant to hear though, I would have enjoyed it more had I not an inkling that others were hearing something else entirely. I was now looking for a way out.

    The tall dark stranger was walking towards me and I had foolishly lost track of the witch hunter. I cursed under my breath, as possible doom approached me. He surprised me with his courtesy. He merely asked me to dance ( to be honest I wanted to) and so I took his hand and we danced slowly. I was now keenly aware that my attempts to disguise my nature would be of little use at such close quarters. To my dismay he was also clearly not attracted to me, simply being polite. I had no zombies near enough to aid me if he discovered me.

    I tried a combination of "hard to get" and a bit "easy" to distract him from too much inspection. He was truly a gentleman, but a gnawing unease at the back of my mind made me think of the rest of the warning. I was flummoxed on how to get him outside, where the moonlight should protect me. Unsure of myself, I merely asked him to take me out back, claiming I needed fresh air. The smells of rancid packed humanity in here made my request less suspect than it would be otherwise. I was not sure how he took it. But graciously he led me out.

    I had to ask him to get the door for me, and that made me alarmed, he was not nearly as off guard as I had hoped. I was not now certain that my warning note was so true. He could easily overpower me at this distance (though to be honest the rifle on his back did not give me great prospects for escape) with any luck some vagrant would be dead in the alleyway in case I needed a distraction. It would prove unnecessary as he was still being polite and accommodating. 

      It was cool and wet outside and the rain had kept a steady drizzle. There was a light mist over the ground and I felt strange energies about ( I felt this same way when hunting for parts in old cemeteries) so I resolved to keep he and I out of harms way. I pulled him into a darker corner with me. I was certain he would get the wrong (though admittedly in the circumstanced fully understandable) idea of my intent. As we were again getting off on the wrong foot in our awkward conversations, I noticed what initially I had thought "one of my own" shambling in an alleyway turned out to be to my horror and dismay, another "tall dark stranger" this time he was wielding a pistol and smoking a cheap cigar… but he had the drop on us.

      At this point he started to condescendingly talk to us. He stated in his awful southern colonial drawl that he had come for both my heart and my acquaintances soul.  He set a small cheaply made jewelry box on the ground and kept his pistol trained on us. I admit at this point to being frightened, and somewhat ashamed that I had gotten so much so wrong. The man who had me so terrified for my …life…was actually the one likely to save it.

     Again I was wrong, as he quickly fell backwards and rolled. I was taken off guard and broke the heel on my shoe. That would be the least of my worries as the gunslinger who had so recently had his pistol aimed at my companion fired a single shot into my chest. The pain was excruciating and the force of it slammed me into the wall behind. I slowly slumped down and realized I had neither gasped nor screamed. I would give myself away quite easily!

     Luckily my companion was more interested in getting his rifle to bear, so I clasped my hand over the entry wound.  I was certain there was no exit wound as I could feel the bullet inside me. And again I was not "bleeding" so I thought I could pass it off. Just my luck, the witch hunter had stepped right out the back door and with one shot killed the man. I was horrified at both his speed and accuracy. He hit the man in the head, killing him instantly (and coincidentally destroying the one piece of the corpse I would have needed intact to be useful).

     I was more surprised as I stood up to have that rifle pointed right at me. I could tell he certainly did not trust me. I protested my innocence but he was not having it. It was fortunate for me that he merely suspected me of setting him up to be shot. Being that I am in fact innocent of that at least, I was able to calm him to a degree. I was sure now that I would have to handle him with more care. The "witch hunter" apparently was nothing of the sort. The gun was either stolen or acquired in some other manner. It seems I had fallen in with ordinary mercenary scum.

    I was fairly comfortable with their sort. But I was not prepared to hear the full details they had discovered. They had found that this man was hunting them specifically. But the description was for 2 men and a woman. The description of my companions was spot on. I was concerned greatly when I realized that the description included the clothes they were currently wearing (I am of course assuming they have more than one set).

     I realized now that being more open and truthful would serve me well. They insisted on glad handing and introducing themselves to each other. I was not so eager to give my real name. After all these men could turn on me in a minute. I admitted in good faith about the note I received as well. I would keep the necromancer to myself, I would have to deal with him later I was certain. The men (Thomas and Jack) heard something stalking and went in pursuit. I knew it to be the necromancer, but I also knew he was without any means, before I could yell out they ran off in chase.

      I used that time to fix the hole in my chest ( and cough up and out the bullet). My top was pretty much ruined, but I would make do. I took the time to see if I could salvage anything from the near headless gunslinger. He had some nice things, but I left it. I was really hoping there was enough left to animate, but sadly his carcass resisted all my efforts. I was getting irritated with it when my companions returned. They were unable to catch the old monster, but I was not ready to chase that yet. I did recall that the woman's description was nothing like me, I was about 4 inches shorter and 15 pounds heavier, also her eyes were green, mine are grey (to note my hair is naturally blonde, this woman is clearly bleached, but i digress).

      Why was I targeted or was I a mistake/bystander? the question kept in the back of my mind. It would trouble me greatly. As it grew later it became apparent we were not going to find much out tonight, but eventually they found a key in the box I had nearly forgotten. It was to a safe deposit box in the Schyuester's bank. I also was concerned I had nowhere to go. I coyly asked Thomas if I could stay with him.  I ignored the quips he and Jack mentioned about my nature. I was certain they knew I was "different" but I was not going to admit it. I asked Thomas to go get my bags.

       While he was gone I went over in my head about who or what "the benefactor" was. Whomever he/she is was talented at writing, and must have had some magical skill. Likely a fairly potent arcanist. I shudder to think that the neverborn would be involved. Thomas came back with my bag hanging from the barrel of his rifle. That for some reason angered me. I could not really get to mad at him, he was letting me stay at his place.

      We split up for the night with Jack going home after he and Thomas exchanged addresses. Neither of them owned their place, but it was far better than mine (nothing). I walked hand in hand with him home. He was kind enough to give me the bed. In hindsight I should have paid more attention to his neighbors, I merely assumed they thought me a "lady of the night" and spread fool gossip, I would be wrong again.

      In the morning we got ready quickly, of course he could not resist "you slept like the dead" to me. I let it go. We headed to the saloon to meet with Jack. He was busy questioning patrons and Thomas joined in, I was getting bored. I was also frustrated that things began slipping from my mind. As I was distracted they decided we should finally go to the bank. It was not that bad a trip, really a fairly pleasant walk in a misty grey, cold morning. The drizzle made everything more wet. It was starting to be depressing. I was forced to use more perfume than I had intended. I need to figure out something about the smell.

      We arrived at the bank to discover that there was a guild guard outside and he allowed no weapons inside. I was not surprised, it was a bank after all.  They realized that Jack's gun was a no go, if the guild caught him with that, there would be trouble. So as a compromise, I went inside with the key. The teller was a polite old lady (she must have been 70+) and she ushered me into the back and took me directly to the box, nattering the whole way about kind Mister Follinger and the awful shame (about what I cannot recall, in hindsight I think she also hoodwinked me) but the box was mine.

     I opened it to find merely a map, it led near the town of Innocence out in the badlands. It also was the house that the Follingers owned. I could not get a straight answer from the old teller about them, or maybe I could. I was too befuddled. If I can recall I will tell my companions about the strange sensations. At any rate I dutifully delivered the contents and told my companions what I had learned. They had decided that we needed to get back to Thomas's place. The gossip mongers had him paranoid.

     When we arrived in the neighborhood we needed a plan to "flush out" the watchers without fully revealing all our cards. Well gossip mongers needed something to gossip about. So I took off my outer garments (this had the added effect of me trying to convince them I was alive and well, and not some shambling ghoul) and handed them to Thomas. I then brazenly walked up to his front door and began knocking. I assume that it was effective. Thomas and Jack cornered a man of three kingdoms decent that was certainly interested in me in a purely killer/victim way.

    He turned out to be merely out for Thomas. I was convinced he was a red herring. I then pretended to be cold and embarassed. I was not sure Thomas bought it, but he indulged me and gave me his house key and my clothes. I dressed quickly as he admonished me to be swift as we had a journey ahead. We pooled our meager cash remains and bought a wagon (covered for comfort as we were headed out into the badlands) and some mules. Thomas and Jack were quite thorough in getting us what we needed, though Thomas shamed me by using me as a "damsel in distress" to get us cheaper prices.  I have no way to really "get him" some time he is the model of courtesy and gentlemanly behavior and others quite the rogue. He even admitted to me he was married.  I can imagine his wife will quite despise me if the gossips reach her.

     We decided to soon set out for the Follinger house. A full weeks travel into the badlands. I am not afraid of the trip, but I am sure it will be uncomfortable and dangerous. I am well prepared for that though.  I was the henchman for a powerful necromancer in fact.

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