Society Retrieval Cell 6
Subject of Adventure: [REDACTED]
Players: Bov as Lord Howser; Colin as Howser’s manservant, Konrad; Nathan as Magnus the Axman; Dorf as Rudiger the bounty hunter; and Jake as the fanatically religious Blacksteve.
The briefing was simple. Everyone knew, generally at least, why they were there. The man called Anders filled in the details. He gave a good speech, this Anders fellow, talking about being the bright spot in the darkness and protecting people who would never know of the blood that had been shed for their sake, but it was all for show. They’d signed the papers already. They couldn’t back out now.
“Your first assignment is a routine investigation,” he told them. People were dying in Ritern of the Black Towers, suffocating over the course of an entire day. One would think poison or disease, but no–an autopsy had revealed seawater in the lungs of one of the more recent victims. People were drowning in the landlocked city of Ritern, and the Society wanted to know why. They had but one lead; the deaths seemed to be happening at or around the estate of one Lord Lanstern, a man fond of fine wine, beautiful women and rare artwork.
Cell 6 set out to Ritern of the Black Towers. It wasn’t hard to find Lord Lanstern’s estate–Rudiger asked a man pulling a rickshaw, who directed him to one of the towers that gave Ritern its epithet. Lord Lanstern’s estate was a massive tower, the size of a skyscraper, constructed of black stone. Red banners and other trimmings adorned it, but there was no making the tower look anything less than bleak.
“Are you here for the gallery?” asked one of the servants in the courtyard. “You’re early. The exhibition isn’t for two days.”
“Could we get rooms in the tower until then?”
“I’ll need to check and see if you’re on the guest list…”
“Lord Howser does not announce his visits. He will not be on your guest list, but rest assured the honor in having him here is great indeed.”
Konrad the valet managed to get them a suite in the tower by out-arrogant-ing the major domo. They were put in the Vermillion Suite, eighth floor, Green Wing.
“We, ah…we’ll need a little while to freshen up the rooms, m’lord,” said the major domo. “We weren’t expecting to have to use them.”
“Quite all right,” said Lord Howser.
“I’ll oversee the cleaning staff,” said Konrad, “to make sure everything is done according to Lord Howser’s standards.”
Konrad followed the servants. Meanwhile, Rudiger and Magnus hit the streets, asking questions about rumors of mysterious deaths. They didn’t learn much. Magnus spent most of the time in a tavern, and the people Rudiger quizzed hadn’t heard anything beyond the vague rumors that had brought the players to the city. Frustrated, they returned to Lord Lanstern’s tower.
Konrad, meanwhile, was having far more luck talking with the cleaning staff. They didn’t particularly want to speak of the deaths at first, but Konrad is nothing if not a smooth talker.
“We’ve lost three people from the cleaning staff,” one of the housekeepers told him. “I heard one of the guards died as well, and poor Travis Dillhr…he was the chief of staff. A good man. We thought it was just disease, but when Travis died the lord ordered an autopsy, and the Doctor found–I heard he found seawater in Travis’ lungs. But that’s impossible, isn’t it?”
“Hmm.” Konrad was noncommittal.
Cell 6 reconvened in the Vermillion Suite sitting room.
“Lord Lanstern is displaying his most recently-acquired artwork two days from now.”
“It’s the artwork,” Rudiger guessed. “A painting that’s killing people.“
“Might not be a painting.”
“Well, yeah. You get what I mean, though.”
There was a brief discussion on how artwork might be drowning people on dry land. In the middle of it, they formed half a plan.
“Excuse me, my good man,” said Lord Howser to one of the cleaning staff, “I don’t suppose I could get a list of the artwork being displayed at the exhibition?”
“Ah…I don’t have such a list, my lord,” said the servant. “I think Travis was putting one together–he was in charge of determining the worth of the new pieces–but he’s, uh…I think the responsibility will have fallen to Gerald Morningson in his absence, my lord.”
“And where might I find this Gerald Morningson?”
The servant shrugged. “Out drinking, is my guess. He’s not in the tower, at any rate. Try the Raven’s Foot Tavern.”
“Thank you, my good man.”
The Raven’s Foot was a dingy, smokey, unpleasant bar in the east side of Ritern, far from the black towers of the nobles. Rudiger asked the bartender where Gerald Morningson might be found, and was directed to a long table, crowded with young people drinking.
“Did Dillhr send you?” asked the bartender. “Whatever you’re going to do, I don’t want any more trouble, you hear? What Morningson does is not my problem and not my fault.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Rudiger said.
Gerald Morningson proved to be a dark-haired young man with a mug of ale in one hand an a girl of similar age in the other. He was laughing and joking with the others at the table, just one guy out having a good time.
“Yeah, I can get you a list of the artwork,” he said when Rudiger approached him. “How much is it worth to you?”
Rudiger started glaring.
It took them a while, but they managed to get Gerald to promise them a list of the art that would be displayed at Lord Lanstern’s gallery party, without even having to bribe him. Gerald would deliver it to them personally the next morning. With no other plans for what to do until then, they took advantage of Lanstern’s unwitting hospitality and slept in the Vermillion Suite.
A knock on the door the next morning heralded the arrival of Gerald. “Here’s the list,” he said. They passed it around.
The Fall of Lord Altilian (original name) – War painting
Hunter’s Green (named by Travis) – Forest, calm, majestic stag
Last Stand of the Black Company (original name) – War painting
Light from Above (named by Travis) – Underwater lights
Love (original name) – Scupture of a woman
Knights of Fallho (named by Travis) – Fresco of a company of knights
“Light from Above,” said Rudiger. “Underwater. Lights coming down from above. It’s the view of someone drowning. That’s the one.”
“If there’s nothing else you need me for…” Gerald bowed and left. After a quick discussion, Konrad ran after him.
“Lord Howser has a…ah…family problem,” he said. “He must leave before the exhibition, I am afraid. My lord was wondering if he could view the gallery before then.”
“Well, I suppose I could arrange something,” Gerald began. Konrad interrupted.
“The matter is rather urgent,” he said. “Lord Howser would hate to have come all this way and not be able to view the gallery. If you could lead us to it…”
“What, now?” said Gerald.
Yes, now. Cell 6 had gotten a solid lead. They were onto something, and they weren’t about to let anything slow them down. Gerald, after some further persuading, began leading them to the gallery, on the twenty-third floor of the tower. Along the way, however, they were ambushed by another servant who drew Gerald aside for a fast conversation.
“I’m sorry, my lord,” said Gerald to the group, “but Lord Lanstern has requested my presence. I’m going to have to delay your viewing of the–”
“Very well then,” said Lord Howser. “Lead on.”
And so it was that a bemused Gerald Morningson led Lord Howser and retinue up to floor twenty-five and presented them to Lord Lanstern, High Lord of Ritern of the Black Towers and one of the most powerful men in the city.
Lord Lanstern, as it turned out, was willing to be convinced that Lord Howser was interested in seeing the gallery before the official exhibition. The group wandered down to the gallery, with servants scurrying about to bring in something for the lords to snack on, Lanstern all the while waxing eloquent about his collection.
Once in the gallery, with the servants off to the sides and out of earshot, they explained the actual situation. They thought that one of the paintings was killing people, the one Travis had called “Lights from Above.” Lanstern was disturbed by this allegation, calling it akin to a charge of black magic, but agreed to test the effects of the painting on a vagabond taken from the streets of Ritern.
The next day, the vagabond was dead, as was the servant who had held his head and made him look at the painting. Lord Lanstern willingly sold “Lights from Above” to Lord Howser for twenty gold crowns. Cell 6 arranged for the artifact to be taken away by Class-D personnel (or “gallowsmen,” as Howser called them). The mission ended with Lord Lanstern’s party where he displayed the wonderful, nondangerous pieces in his collection, leaving the SCP artifact safely in Society hands.
Subject of Adventure: SCP-151