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Blades in the Dark» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Blades in Cardiff - Session 10 - Gunpowder, Trains & Plot rss

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Jim Patching
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++Gaddoc Train Station, early hours of the morning++

Gaddoc Station is Duskvol’s main transport link with the other cities scattered beyond the Ghost Barrier, beacons of civilisation in the parched DeathLands. Trains come through the popping and crackling electrical Ghost Barrier, cross either one of two huge viaducts, before rolling into the station itself.

The platform’s quiet at this time of night, although not as quiet as usual. Three stationary horse-drawn wagons are attended by a group of around a dozen men – drivers, labourers, guards and, taking charge, a main in a fine great-coat. As he clumps around the posse it’s clear that one of his legs is artificial, made of wood. He slaps a lit cigarette out of the mouth of one of his charges, stamping it out with his stump and barking something angrily at the cowering man. Other than this group, the only other living souls present are a few station employees, manning the signals.

And of course, Madam Ticklier and her gang.

“So who are these chumps?” Whispered BJ from the gang’s hiding place.

“According to Salia, the peg legged gentlemen down there is called Mr Gatsby,” said Madam Ticklier. “But as to who he works for or who he represents I’m afraid I have no idea.”

“So what do you reckon this shipment could be that they’re waiting for?” asked Lionel.

“I suspect it could be another part of the Kotar artifact. As such, I presume Mr Gatsby either works for the Circle of Flame or Baszo Bas and the Lampblacks. Either way, that artifact is going to fall into our hands.”

“So what’s the plan?” asked The Kid.

“The train is due into the station in an hour,” said Madam Ticklier. “You three need to get aboard it and remove the artifact before it arrives at the platform.”

“I’ve always wanted to jump onto a moving train,” said Lionel, cracking his knuckles eagerly.

“Well tonight’s not the night for that,” said Madam Ticklier as she unfurled a station officer’s uniform with a flourish. Placing the cap on her head she said “Disguised thusly I shall infiltrate the signal box and stop the train at the viaduct. You gentlemen can then hop on. Much safer.”

“But not nearly as bad ass,” bemoaned Lionel sadly.

“Hey, maybe we can wear red bandannas!” said Lionel mischievously. “Lay the blame for the train heist on the Red Sashes instead of us!”

“No!” said Madam Ticklier vehemently. “The Red Sashes are one of the few gangs that we’re on good terms with, we don’t want to shit all over that relationship.”

“Shame, I think I look pretty good in red,” said Lionel.

“I think it’s a good idea,” pressed BJ. “It’s not as though we actually like the Red Sashes.”

“Absolutely not,” said Madam Ticklier staunchly. “Right now the Red Sashes are our friends and I intend for that state of affairs to persist. No one is to pretend to be a Red Sash. No one! Does everyone understand?”

There was a chorus of disappointed grunts of acknowledgement.

“So Madam, are we just going to jump on the train ‘as is’? asked The Kid. “No disguises?”

“Of course not,” said Madam Ticklier as she unfurled three Bluecoat uniforms. “Here you go, policemen carrying out routine checks.”

Lionel and BJ took the uniforms with a look of disgust, stuffing them into bags. The Kid liked the shiny buttons on his. As the three of them moved away, BJ said to Lionel “Are you going to wear your disguise?”

“Hell no,” said Lionel.

*

++Gaddoc Station, 02:15 hours++

Madam Ticklier waited until the station officer manning the signal box vacated the little wooden shed before making her move. She marched across the dimly lit platform, having changed into a station officer’s uniform, her long hair hidden under her cap. Gatsby and his men noted her but paid little real attention to just another employee of the Gaddoc Rail Company.

Madam Ticklier’s luck was in, the signal box had been left unlocked and she quickly slipped into the room. She took a chair and jammed it under the handle of the door, hopefully buying herself some time if needed and then turned around to find herself confronted with an array of levers, switches, dials and electric lights. Funnily enough, her time working the high end brothels of Duskvol had afforded her little chance to become acquainted with the intricacies of the modern railway signalling system. But really, how hard could it be? She reached out for a likely looking lever and heaved it down.

++ Ghost Barrier Tunnel, East Side of the southern viaduct 02:25++

The ghost barrier was a shimmering, crackling curtain of electro plasmic energy strung between towering pylons, stretched all around the city. The rail lines pierced the barrier through a stone-built tunnel plunging straight through the barrier itself, linking Duskvol with the Deadlands beyond the wall. BJ, The Kid and Lionel perched on a narrow lintel on the peak of the tunnel mouth, the Ghost Barrier popping away just feet behind them.

The Kid looked uncomfortable. “How much longer til the train gets here?” he asked, casting furtive glances at the Ghost Barrier, which was playing havoc with his ghost senses.

“Not long now,” said Lionel.

“Do you think Ticklier’ll fix the signals so the train stops?” asked BJ.

“I hope not,” said Lionel, “I've still got ambition to leap onto the roof of a moving train.”

“I’m still tempted to wear a red sash,” said BJ.

“Madam Ticklier told us not to,” said The Kid. “Besides which, we’ve got these cool Bluecoat outfits.”

“Can you hear that?” asked BJ. “Am I just imaging that, or can anyone else hear the train coming?”

“Yeah, it’s coming,” said The Kid. “I can sense it’s plasmic engine screaming through the ghost field. Did you know they run on Leviathan Blood?”

“If Ticklier’s going to stop this train, she’d better hurray up,” said BJ.

All three of them stared at the array of signals which stood just forty yards beyond the tunnel mouth. As they watched, a red wooden signal clattered down and a dim crimson light flickered into life on a brass porthole affixed to the signal tower.

++Signal Box, Gaddoc Station, 02:30++

“Hey, who’s in there!?”

The voice called from outside and the door handle rattled as someone tried to open it from the other side. Madam Ticklier thanked her foresight for jamming the door handle with a chair and, in her deepest most gruff voice, said “Barry sent me.”

“Barry?”

“Yeah. Frank told him there’s a problem with the signals.”

“Frank?”

“Just need to carry out a bit of routine maintenance and then I’ll be gone.”

“But we’ve got a train due through any minute now!”

“Well it’s going to be a little late. We’ll be as quick as we can.”

Madam Esmerelda held her breath. She knew her ruse was pretty thin. I mean, what were the chances that the names Barry and Frank would mean anything to the station officer on the other side of the door? One Hundred Percent as it turned out, as the fellow bought the lie hook, line and sinker.

“Okay, well if Barry sent you I’ll leave you to it then. I’ll just let that group with the wagons know. They’re waiting for a shipment of some sort.”

++Ghost Barrier Tunnel, 02:45++

“Hopping down onto the roof of a stationary railway carriage was not the exciting train heist that I’d been picturing,” muttered Lionel.

“I don’t know, I still felt pretty bad ass,” said The Kid.

The train had come to a stop at the signal just beyond the tunnel entrance. The locomotive and a single passenger car stood proud of the tunnel, the rest of the train still residing within its depths. Peering into the darkness with his Darksight goggles, BJ said “Looks as though we’ve got a handful of passenger cars before we get to the freight cars at the rear of the train. I reckon whatever this shipment is, it’s likely to be in those.”

“Come on,” said Lionel, leading them into the darkness. They had to duck as they moved into the tunnel, there not being much space between the roof of the carriage and the stonework of the channel. The end of each carriage had a little balcony with a door leading into the car. To get from car to car required stepping over the couplings of the wagons. They descended from the roof at the end of the first passenger carriage, stepped across the couplings and passed through the door of the next car.

“Can you gentlemen please return to your seats?” asked the Rail Jack from within the car. The coach was almost empty, safe for the Rail Jack and a passenger in a smart suit with a bushy mustache.

“We were just wondering why we’ve stopped?” asked Lionel.

“I’m not sure, I was just going to check,” said the Rail Jack.

“Is there some sort of problem?” asked Lionel.

“No, I’m sure everything’s ok. Take a seat here and I’ll be back as soon as I know what’s going on.”

As the Rail Jack exited through the door the trio had entered by, BJ got his tools out and fiddled with the lock, more or less permanently securing it.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” asked the mustachioed man in the smart suit. “Leave that door alone!”

“Sit down,” said Lionel, quietly but threateningly.

“I most certainly will not. Who are you gentlemen?”

“Stay in your seat and mind your own business,” growled Lionel.

“No sir, I don’t believe I shall. I’m going to find someone in authority.”

The smartly dressed man left his seat and hurried for the door at the opposite end of the carriage. The Kid stuck a foot out to trip him and, though he did slow him, he twisted his ankle painfully in the process. As the man reached out for the door handle his lights were put out with a bang as a black crowbar flew through the air and caught him on the side of the head, both crowbar and man clattering to the floor. Lionel stood over the comatose form and retrieved his crowbar, fixing it back into the quick-release, spring loaded mechanism he had strapped to his arm beneath his suit.

“Now what have we here?” said Lionel, as he checked through the unconscious man’s pockets.

“Is he still alive?” asked BJ.

“Yeah, but he’ll have one hell of a headache when he wakes up. Looks as though he’s a Bluecoat captain, according to his ID here. Captain Soren Lorenson. Think I’ll keep this, could come in handy.”

There was a thump at the door BJ had locked and voices started demanding “Open up, at once!”

“Uh guys, I think we should move on,” said The Kid.

The trio moved through another passenger carriage (where they reassured the family found there and several other various and sundry passengers that everything was ok) before passing through a number of freight wagons.

“Well there’s nothing of interest in these cars,” said The Kid. “Just seems to be food and shoes in these boxes.”

The next carriage was an open topped, flatbed wagon filled with barrels covered with tarpaulins. A Rail Jack armed with a strange pole sat atop one of the barrels, no doubt keeping watch.

“This looks more like it,” said Lionel under his breath before brandishing his stolen Bluecoat Captain ID at the Rail Jack and declaring “Bluecoats, customs search.”

“Is that why the train’s stopped?” sighed the Rail Jack.

“ ‘fraid so,” said Lionel. “Nothing to worry about though, just a routine check. Open up one of those barrels, there’s a good lad.”

The Rail Jack obediently opened a barrel to reveal it to be full of a granular black dust.

“Gunpowder,” said Lionel in surprise.

“Aye, this and all these other barrels.”

“How many barrels are there?"

“Thirty six in all.”

++Signal Box, Gaddoc Station 03:02++

“How much longer is this delay going to go on for?” asked Mr Gatsby from outside the signal box.

“Not long now sir,” said Madam Ticklier in her gruff, ‘manly’ voice.

“I work for an important man, this delay in unacceptable.”

“Please accept the apologies of the Gaddoc Rail Company. The issue is almost resolved, your train will be here presently.”

“Humph.”

As Mr Gatsby left, clopping on his peg leg, Madam Ticklier took the opportunity to slip away from the signal box into the shadows of the station.

++Gaddoc Rail Company Train, 03:05++

“Who the hell are you people?” asked the leader of the trio of Rail Jacks who emerged from the carriages that our heroes had just traversed.

“Bluecoats,” said Lionel, brandishing his stolen ID.

“If you’re Bluecoats why did you bust the lock on the door back there? And why is there an unconscious passenger in Carriage B?”

“Yeah, about that, I can explain everything – “ began Lionel, before he was interrupted by a voice screaming “Don’t one of you Flapdoodlers move or we’ll blow your bloody brains out!”

The Rail Jacks, Lionel, BJ and The Kid all turned in surprise to see three figures in grey cloaks emerge from the rear of the train brandishing pistols. The gang’s spokesperson leapt on top of a pile of barrels covered by a tarpaulin and yelled “This is a robbery and if any of you gibfaces move you’ll be picking lead out of your teeth for weeks.”

“Uh fella, see that open barrel over there,” said BJ.

“Yeah, what of it!” snarled the robber.

“It’s full of gunpowder.”

“ … oh.”

“And those barrels you’re standing on?”

“Also gunpowder?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay guys, change of plans, put the guns away.” The three rogues holstered their pistols and melted away into the rear of the train from whence they came.

“Now look,” said Lionel rounding on the Rail Jacks, “You gentlemen get back to the locomotive and secure the train. Make sure you’re ready to move when the signals change. Leave these robbers to us. We’re the Bluecoats, we’re the professionals.”

Lionel, BJ and The Kid moved through another wagon before arriving at the door to the caboose, the final carriage. Lionel tried the handle but the door wouldn’t budge, it was barricade from the other side.

“Get lost!” came the voice of the gang’s leader.

“I think I know who you people are,” said Lionel. “I recognise your mantles – you’re the Grey Cloaks aren’t you?”

“We ‘aint talking to a Bluecoat Hornswoggler.”

“I ‘aint no Bluecoat.”

“Then what are you?”

“Maybe a friend? I know the Grey Cloaks, I know you people have the good of the city at heart.“

“We heard a large shipment of gunpowder was coming in and we thought we’d divert it from its intended destination. Divert it into the River Duskvol.”

“Well then we’re on the same side, you and I. We don’t know for definite who’s arranged to receive this shipment of gunpowder, but all the likely candidates are scum and villainy. What say we team up for this one purpose?”

The door opened and the Grey Cloak appeared in the doorway. “I say you’re on.”

“Guys, the train’s moving!” said The Kid. “But we aren’t! I think they’ve decoupled the last carriage!”

++Gaddoc Staton 03:15++

Madam Ticklier hauled the unconscious form of the driver into a darkened corner of the station, somewhere where no one was likely to stumble across him. When he awoke he would find himself in the undignified position of wearing nothing but his underpants. His uniform was a little big for Madam Ticklier but in the dark she’d just about get away with it. She walked back to Mr Gatsby and his men and took up position in the driving seat of one of the wagons.

++Ghost Barrier Tunnel 03:15++

As BJ clung to the underside of the flatbed train car, the rails of the tracks whizzing by just a foot below his back, he had a moment to ponder where his life might have gone wrong. Lionel lurked in what was now the rear carriage but they’d had to leave the kid behind, his twisted ankle meaning he couldn’t catch up with the train as it began to chug through the tunnel.

The hastily concocted plan was that BJ was going to climb along the underside of the gunpowder laden carriage and de-couple it from the rest of the train. There were two Rail Jacks up there guarding the cargo but between himself and Lionel, BJ was fairly sure they could deal with them. BJ had briefly thought about shooting one of the barrels and setting the whole lot off – that would certainly deal with the issue of disposing of the gunpowder. He was no expert when it came to explosives but he was pretty sure he and Lionel would survive the resulting detonation – I mean, how big an explosion can gunpowder really make? (see historical note at the end of this report to find out).

But caution had won through over wild abandon, hence BJ finding himself clinging to the underside of the carriage like an infant marsupial clinging to its mother. He reached the end of the carriage and reached up to the couplings. The noise here was deafening and the wheels of both his carriage and the next one loomed alarmingly large on the periphery of his vision.

“Come on you bugger,” he swore under his breath as he fiddled with the couplings, deftly trying to unhinge the two wagons. Finally with a clunk they separated. “You beauty!” said BJ, but his moment of triumph was short lived as he was yanked painfully away with the main section of the train. The sleeve of his expensive suit had caught on the couplings of the other carriage and as it pulled away he went with it. The train was now crossing the viaduct and he was hit by a blast of cold air.

“Ooof, arrghh, Euchh!” he exclaimed as his heels and the backs of his legs thumped against every rail sleeper. Reaching up with a knife recovered from his belt, BJ paused briefly before cutting the sleeve of his suite, dropping him heavily to the tracks.

He lay there for a second catching his breath, before hauling himself up into a sitting position.

“Oh shit!” he gasped as he saw the flatbed truck hurtling towards him, it’s forward momentum still carrying it forward despite being decoupled from the engine. The two Rail Jacks looked in surprise at the pedestrian sat on the tracks as he hurled himself off to one side and pitched over the side of the viaduct.

As BJ clung from the edge of the viaduct, a dizzying fall below him to the Duskvol river, he once again had a moment to ponder where he’d gone wrong in life.

“Up you come son,” said Lionel as he reached down from the outside of the next carriage, grabbed BJ under one armpit and hoisted him back onto the train.

“Come on, lets deal with those two Rail Jacks,” said Lionel, brandishing his crow bar. “Remember – no guns.”

“Who’d have thought this Bluecoat uniform would come in useful for something,” said BJ as he rummaged in his bag and withdrew the policeman's truncheon within.

“Good man. Let’s go to work.”

++Just Outside Gaddoc Station 03:20++

As the significantly shorter train approached Gaddoc Station the large lamp on it’s nose flashed a warning.

“Something’s up,” snarled Mr Gatsby. “Get ready for action boys!”

++A Lonely Wagon stuffed with gunpowder 03:22++

With the Rail Jacks subdued, BJ and Lionel discussed what to do with the gunpowder.

“How about we set down a lantern, retreat a few hundred yards and shoot it?” suggested Lionel. “That should set the whole load off. We should be ok – how big an explosion could it be?” (see historical note at the end to find out).

“Well the wagon’s stopped now,” said BJ. “We’re still on the viaduct and it’s a long way down to the river. How about we just pitch them over the side?”

“Yeah, ok. And here’s The Kid and the Grey Cloaks, they can help. But I’m keeping one for myself.”

The gang tossed the gunpowder and then melted away into the darkness.

++Gatsby’s Wagons 03:30++

After speaking to the Rail Jacks on the locomotive, Mr Gatsby had sent most of his crew down the rail line to attempt to recover his cargo. He now stood waiting impatiently for them with a single wagon, accompanied only by a driver, a guard and a couple of labourers.

“What do you think’s happened?” asked the guard.

“I think someone’s got a whiff of our cargo and made off with it,” snarled Mr Gatsby. “Lord Strangford is going to be furious.”

“Uh, I think I saw some of the Lampblacks hanging around the station earlier,” piped up the driver. Mr Gatsby walked ungainly towards the driver and snapped “Why didn’t you say something when you saw them you idiot!” He back-handed the driver, sending him sprawling. As his cap went flying off, Madam Ticklier’s long hair spilled out. “What have we here?” growled Gatsby. “Boys, grab her!”

Madam Ticklier was grabbed, bound with rope and thrown into the back of the covered wagon.

*

Madam Ticklier was in a tricky situation, but she'd been in tricky situations before. She'd listened intently to the sounds of Gatsby's posse returning to the wagons and smiled with satisfaction at the curses of the one-legged man. Whatever had been on that train, her men had evidently got to it. "Well done boys" she said.

Fortunately Gatsby's men hadn't searched her. If they had, they may have found the small knife held in a sheath on her left wrist. Not to mention the smoke bombs secreted in a pocket of her clothes.

The flap at the back of the wagon was opened and Gatsby climbed inelegantly in. The wagon set off with a jolt and Gatsby sat down heavily on the bench opposite Madam Ticklier.

"Who are you love?" asked Gatsby.

Madam Ticklier was silent as she furiously thought of a story she could spin, all the while secretly working at her bonds with the knife. Gatsby was evidently in no mood to be charitable with his time though. He drew a bulky pistol from his belt, jabbed it in Esmerelda's face and said "I'm going to ask one last time - who are you?"

"I work for the Red Sashes!" blurted Madam Ticklier. "They sent me here to steal a wagon!"

"What would the Red Sashes want with a wagon?" asked Gatsby incredulously.

"I don't ask questions, I just follow orders."

"And were they your accomplices on the train?"

"I don't know anything about the train. Like I said, I saw the Lampblacks loitering around the station earlier on."

"Well maybe you're telling the truth about the Lampblacks but either way, things are looking grim for you love. You don't screw with Lord Strangford and get away with it."

With a bang, Esmerelda's smoke bomb exploded in the carriage. She cried out in pain as the explosion burnt her legs and set the bottom of her clothes ablaze. Acting on instinct she threw herself out of the wagon, landing heavily on the road and dislocating a shoulder. She rolled in desperation to avoid being trampled under the hooves and wheels of the next wagon, got unsteadily to her feet and ran. Gatsby appeared at the rear of the first wagon, attempting to yell orders at his men, but all that came out were coughs and wheezes, the one-legged man having inhaled a good lungful of smoke and cordite.

Esmerelda flew through the streets, running blindly, in pain and panic until she saw the relative safety of a manhole cover. She withdrew a tool from her pocket, unlocked the manhole and climbed down into the darkness.

"Never leave home without a key to the sewers," she said as she limped in the direction of the nursery.

*

You can find the rest of our Duskvol adventures on this Geeklist

*

Historical Note

So just how explosive is gunpowder? Every November 5th here in the UK we commemorate Guy Fawkes, a Catholic plotter who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I. He stashed 36 barrels of gun powder in a cellar beneath the palace of Westminster and, if he and his fellow conspirators hadn't been caught, would have set the whole lot off whilst the king attended the state opening of parliament.

But would 36 barrels of gunpowder have done the job? I've got to admit, I was doubtful about this. I mean, gun powder is a pretty primitive explosive isn't it? Just how big an explosion would it have made?

As you would expect, people on the internet have looked into this question and the answer is - very big.



Every building within 130 feet radius would have been completely razed to the ground.

Every building within 330 feet would have at least been badly damaged.

Windows would have been shattered up to 3000 feet away.

So really, what I'm saying is, if the team had carried out one of their plans to detonate the gunpowder, Madam Ticklier would be carrying on the rest of the campaign solo.
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