Arcanum 1780: A New World

From the Journal of Oliver Thackery - And the Lost City
In which our noble protagonist, posing as an archaeologist, goes to the Caribbean to seek a mage who has vanished into a mythical lost city.

August 20th 1780, Taunton, Mass.

Our endeavor has begun with an ill omen – Espinosa grows concern over the reach of the Spanish Inquisition. It is likely their presence will be felt, and that brings me slight pause, as it is just one more enemy to be facing in the unknown of the tropics. It would seem that they had infiltrated the College, which is as unwelcome as surprises go, as the war never truly ended, in my estimation, just moved from the candlelight into the shadow.

August 30th 1780, H.M.S. Dryad, above NY.

We are now bound for Florida, much like I was when I first took the Shilling, but now the company is older, I am certainly wiser, but the nerves are the same. Death could be there, for me, much as it almost was back then. The night air is still just as sweet this high over this strange and magnificent landscape. I will miss this cold when we are in the depths of the jungle. I already grow nervous – my usual protections will harm more than help in the climate, so I will feel less protection than normal, and I will need to rely on my wits where I can. I am disturbed by the spirits bound to our Spaniard, but not as much as this spectre of the past that has visited upon the Dryad – the spirit of the bear that Cy and I struck down has risen again, and this time it is aloft, striking down unsuspecting sailors.

August 30th 1780, H.M.S. Dryad, above New Yorkshire.

Seeing the horrific creature barreling down on us from above, I think something in me broke. I could only see Cy’s face again, and I fired off into the night, hoping to wound the beast, but my shot went wide. In time I’ll be able to forgive myself, but Espinosa and Miriam set the creature to rights, though the smell is something that won’t soothe my nightmares. I must needs drill more, so as not to be caught off-guard again – I felt the luck course through me through the charm, but it just wasn’t enough to make a difference. Miriam, though, brought low the beast with a shot even I was envious of.

September 9th 1780, H.M.S. Dryad, above the Gulf of Mexico.

Every time we come near New Orleans, ill fortune awaits. I’m not sure if it is the Vodoun in the area, but the area seems cursed with bad luck. Not the first hurricane I’ve had to fly through, but each one surely I wish was the last. I thought I had been done with them in New England, but fate twists in strange and malevolent ways. We made it through, but it was a near thing, and we almost lost Espinosa to some debris. I stayed out in the storm far longer than I should have, but I can’t hardly sit by and do nothing when there is a hand to be lent.

September 13th 1780, H.M.S. Dryad, Belizeshire.

Strange to me, to set foot in the Caribbean again. It will be hard to escape the memories of this place, but hopefully the new ones will be more palatable. We must needs track down Sir Hayward Moon, and picking up his trace from the porters, guides, and supplymasters of this place should be fairly simple – while seekers of fortune are commonplace, I expect that Sir Moon may have made a lasting impression here.

September 13th 1780, Belize City, Belizeshire.

Mama Guigon, practitioner of Vodoun, seer of the unknowable, and crafter of the finest gumbo I’ve ever set my tongue to. So much of this trip has brought back memories – some of them painful, but many warming. It is curious, and fearful, the names she has for us. Espinosa, the Devil, a portent of ominous deals and treachery. William-Miriam, the Hermaphrodite, one body possessed of two souls, dispossessed of both for reasons known only to her, though to hear Maman speak to her as though she is the servant of the Eater of Souls has me filled with some concern. Cole, Frigga’s Chosen – an epithet that escapes me in meaning, but I expect will be revealed in time. That she named me the Hanged Man, though, bodes not well – the loa are strange and wonderful, and though I am not confident in their ways, that she can see what I have been dreaming bodes ill for me on this journey. The gumbo was as I remember, rich, earthy, full of the salts of the earth and sea, but the aftertaste scarred me. As I ate, I began to see yourself myself looking on from the outside, hanging from a mast, ropes wrapped around my body. All that I could feel was this immense intensity, like I packed full of exploding gunpowder. Everything was cold blue light, and a crew of dead men swarm the rigging and decks of a skyship around me, keeping it on the course I demanded of them. I know nothing of which this means, but it chills me to the core of my soul, as scarred as it is.

Meeting with Henry McTavish was nothing short of what I expected – a man so loud and brash can’t help but be good, and that he was Hayward’s guide is all the more luck. That he knows the location of the fabled Lost City of the Monkey God – icing on an already fascinating cake.

September 14th 1780, Belize City, Belizeshire.

It’s a bit of a first for me, embarking on a canoeing expedition in the light – it seems more pleasant, save for the weather. The company is nice as well. Henry’s in-laws, such as they are, seem capable enough guides for our journey, though they are hardly talkative. The first day of the journey was a kind one, and we even had a roof over our heads for the evening. It was a nice stopover, and there was fresh game and food aplenty – I even went to forage some wood for the fire, but what I found was… unexpected. Cole… seems different, in the jungle. Larger. Fiercer. I thought I was in for a rough fight, when all I had to do was to fetch the crocodilian Cole had hunted back to camp.

September 17th 1780, Belize, Jungle.

I grow to hate this jungle. I have been sick with fever for the past two days, after a leech bite incurred when I was bathing in the river. I am wracked with pains and movement is impossible, but still I must press on for the sake of my comrades. Providence has seen us to a small village on the river, and the shrewd negotiations of the natives have cost one of Henry’s cousins a musket – hardly a fair trade for a night indoors, but at this point I would consider any price. Through the efforts of Cole and Espinosa, I have beaten back the fever, but my hatred for this jungle has hardly subsided. To think this is only the beginning of our journey here. The night was peaceful, but to take Henry at his word would have us believe that this may be the last peaceful night we get for a while.

September 20th 1780, Belize, Jungle.

A storm in the depths of the jungle, days from anything that we would recognize to be human – this is what I was fearing would happen. It was bad enough being on patrol in the tropics back when I was with a team of fighting fit soldiers, but now I am older, and softer, though now surrounded with capable men, women, and cats that I am glad to be travelling with. We were forced to turn off-river to find some ancient ruins, trespassing on sacred land to save our own hide. There were so many dead here, unhappy, died through violent means – despite Espinosa’s reservations, I felt like I had to do something to calm them. What happened here was horrific, detestable. These people were flayed alive, in a manner that was both malicious and inept, before being tossed into the sacrificial pool, from which an anaconda rose to crush the life from them. And then, to hear a young babe being sacrificed to this creature is almost too much to bear – worse still with the fear that these people would be sacrificing their children with or without the creature present. I was at least able to grant peace to three of those who died here, but then the beast-snake who resides at the foot of the temple was enraged by their final scream.

September 20th 1780, Belize, Jungle.

I expected what would follow to be a tense and bloody battle, but it seems that there was another, shimmering snake in the area that led the snake off – I suspect more of Cole’s innate magic at play here. It seems our guide, however, is much weaker willed than our cat, and has abandoned us in the middle of the jungle. Espinosa has gifted me with an idea of how this river flows for now, and hopefully we can make good progress today, once we are out in the river.

September 29th 1780, Belizeshire, Deep Jungle.

The pages from this part of the journal are smudged from near-saturation with rain, and legibility is difficult.]
The easy part of the journey is over. We left the canoes behind and struck overland – just one week more until our journey’s end. I begin to forget the comfort of my own bed, the joy of walking my estate, and the promise of a warm meal that is cooked by hands more suited to the effort than those of mine or my companions. Espinosa, though, his magick continues to be unerringly useful – this map he has provided fills me with a certainty of direction I have never felt before. It was a restful sleep after hacking through the edges of the jungle to the foot of an immense waterfall – the camp was comfortable enough, as these things go, though sleep was plagued by fears of having to climb those decrepit stairs in the morning.

The climb was harrowing – I fear we almost lost Miriam when she went up unassisted, but she made it – I suppose all that time aboard ships really paid off for her. Fortunately for Espinosa, I was able to lash a rope to myself and went ahead to ease his ascent, and we both made it atop relatively unscathed. At the peak, there is a strange monkey-carved glyph in an arch, with eighteen separate indents where pearls along a string might be, though their meaning is lost to me, it seems as though Cole and Espinosa have theories as to what we are looking at.

September 29th 1780, Belizeshire, Deep Jungle.

While my companions turned their attentions to the arch, I set mine outwards. Far off, a day’s climb and a half-day further hike, I caught the glint of metal, which intrigues me, as it tells the tale of civilization here, and bears investigation, should this endeavor with the arch not pay off. It shows great promise, perhaps as something to revolutionize our understanding of magick, allowing for some sort of long-distance travel that is beyond my understanding.

What I do understand, however, is that wearing heavy leather in this climate is absolute murder, but I cannot be sure what is on the other side of this gate. Still, the weight of it is comforting when we heard the sound of distant gunshots – though their precise origin eludes me. Espinosa was able to open the gateway, and it was like looking through a frosted window into another place – a high-sloped valley with mountains in the background. An avenue of colossal carved statues leads to a great stone temple, and above the temple looms the huge statue of an ape-like being. I’ve never set eyes on anything like it – few from Boston have, I expect, and there is a strange honor in being in that small group. It is our hope that Sir Hayward lies beyond, someplace safe, at least until we can recover him.

Stepping through the portal was entirely unpleasant experience the likes of which I never want to go through again. Being pulled and stretched in directions I knew not existed, I lost my stomach to the trip, though I strangely seem to be the only one affected by this strange magick – I wonder if that means something?

September 29th 1780, Belizeshire, The Temple of The Monkey God.

We’ve finally done it. Followed in the steps of Sir Hayward Moon, and arrived at the Temple of the Monkey God. A truly impossible place that I would hardly believe if I were not here to see it myself. Signs of current human habitation – dead civilizations tend not to keep up appearances and sun-shades. It’s too quiet all around, and that has me filled with a great concern. It seems as though this portal has moved us a few days travel – we can still see the same waterfall we just left. I think that our Sir Hayward Moon suffered a minor misfortune – Miriam found his pocketwatch, smashed, in the gear at the camp. That explains the lack of communication from our man.

After we approached the temple, I felt a great fear wash over me – it was as though I was back there, on that cold, frigid night, and I could do nothing else but run. It seems as though this Monkey God was messing with me, which is not something I appreciate overmuch.

September 29th 1780, Belizeshire, The Temple of The Monkey God.

To be offered a banana by some sort of giant primate is not how I imagined today would develop. I also hadn’t thought that we would be pursued by the Spanish either, when I awoke, but that’s how days go. Some days it is best to just roll over and return to sleep.

Hahue, as the creature is known, a great hulking ape that towers over the tallest of men – appears to take umbrage at being identified as a monkey, though that is the only creature I have ever seen that is close to its like. That we are so close such that we have laid eyes on Sir Hayward Moon is a blessing I did not expect to feel – anticipated it, certainly, but it makes my heart glad that we have made it so far and succeeded in our journey. It would seem that Hayward’s guides are still alive, one Lieutenant Godfrey of the Royal Navy, and his Ensign Thomas. Hayward has completed his study of the gates, which will be a great boon to the great nation of New Britain – we must get him and his research home at any cost.

September 29th 1780, Belizeshire, The Temple of The Monkey God.

To see the Spaniards step through the portal just as Sir Hayward was setting up his own runic ritual was a shock – it brought back the memories of stumbling on their compatriots in blue back when I was in the Rangers. Hearing Espinosa call out a Wait command was like hearing an incomprehensible language from another time – Sir Hayward had called out to me to keep them off of his work, so I felt I must oblige. There was a half-second to react, and I managed to steady Karenna and let a shot out straight through the neck of one of their Jesuit-mage priests, dropping him to the ground. While I stood, ready to engage them in hand-to-hand combat, my colleagues set about them as they approached, with Cole rendering a number of them unconscious with some sort of magick, while Miriam, inspired by my own marksmanship, took it upon herself to absolutely destroy one of the other soldiers – it was a wound I had only ever seen when a man was set upon by cannonfire aboard a skyship – a truly gruesome affair, for which I do feel a slight bit of pride.

The combat was over as soon as it began, we had to put the sleeping Spaniards to rest, and I’m sure for all the world that one of their ghosts was stolen by that infernal book Espinosa keeps in his pocket – I put haste to my blade so that no others might suffer a similar fate. Already I can feel my sleeping mind calling to me, and dread shutting my eyes tonight. Through the portal, we found ourselves in the Foothills surrounding the Royal College, and it is almost as though we had never left, save for our clothing, and the horrible memories of the swamp.

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From the Journal of Oliver Thackery - The Royal College
In which our noble protagonist takes to the skies for the first time in years, in hopes of securing the magical artefact they have been entrusted with.

August 13th 1780, Taunton, Mass.

It is at times like these when I remember the decisions that led me to join the Royal Rangers rather than the cavalry detachment. Horses and I, much like gunpowder and fire, are seldom good to mix together. It seems the same is true for Espinosa – the poor beast threw a shoe, and it’s hard enough to handle them when everything seems to be going right. We had both set ourselves to walking when Captain Crispin Uphold came upon us – I thought it an ambush, given the cargo we hold, but was pleased and surprised when it was friend, not foe.

August 13th 1780, Boston, Mass, and elsewhere in the skies over New Britain.

The remainder of the journey home was without incident, though my feet are sorer than they ever have been. To lay eyes on the H.M.S. Dryad must be like when Cy comes home to his darling. She’s a beautiful creature, as they always are, and the thought of taking to the sky again fills me with such hope and thrill as ever I have felt.

Our first morning aloft, the crew spotted two skysail, down below, waging combat against each other. It has been… a long time since I was last engaged in combat from the skies – it happened a few times when I was with the Rangers, but rare. Firing at distance is a risky proposition, and my shot was close to its mark, but off just enough to be without effect. It would seem that Espinosa and some other source caused significant damage to the pirate’s ship, and sent the whole thing into gravity’s clutches, but not before Miriam took a clean shot through their helmsman’s neck. I’ve made some great shots in my day, but the luck of my friend knows no bounds.

On the horizon, now, a bastion of all the good that the Ur has brought us – The Royal College, a place of learning, wonder, where ideas can almost be seen to float through the air of their own bidding.

August 15th 1780, The Royal College, Mass.

The first sight when we arrived at The Royal College, as impressive as the architecture is, was a surprise – as impressive as the gear carried by the College Guard Regiment is, the sight of the Grand Wizard and Magister, Lord Benjamin Franklin, a personage until recently I had only seen from afar. To say the paintings do not do his raw intellect justice is a gross understatement, the likes of which I do not have the eloquence nor language to do justice. I am glad to see the back of that cursed violin. It feels as though here is as safe as it ever will be. This place is filled with marvel beyond compare or comprehension. Were it within my power and reach, I would sorely love to fit my home with some of these very same amenities – the heating and the lighting are so soothing and comforting, it is a shame they are out of reach… for now.

To think that we will be guests of the college for a full week – a treat I had not been expecting, and hardly something to decline, even if the cost was steep. To gaze into the mirror in that hall, and confront the truth of ourselves, it is no small thing. That Will-Miriam still sees herself as Miriam, a pirate queen, is a refreshing turn from the thing I saw when I looked in the mirror. I knew that the curse was bad, but I did not quite know the extent until I saw it with my own eyes. To think that I might have once looked younger than even I do now, and would still if I had run a bit faster, a bit longer, on The Cold Night.

It would seem that I am not the only one here who carries these selfsame unseen and unknown secrets – the spirits that haunt the Spaniard seem to run deeper than most. An owl with a human face seems to signify something that I can’t quite lay a finger on. And our Griffin, perhaps carries more twist than most – his reflection carries with it a pain I cannot adequately convey through pen.

August 25th 1780, The Royal College, Mass.

This has been the most relaxing stint of time in recent memory – would that more time could be spent like this, although the trappings of the rooms here leave some comforts of home to be sorely desired. That our leisurely meal was interrupted by an upstart student who can’t watch his feet. It soon became clear that perhaps his feet were not the problem, but rather one of his classmates with some loose fingers. It reminded me of the time we spent at meals in the army – there was always some jokester playing silly on some of the lads, though the real humor came from when we pulled one over on those above us, but those were riskier plays. Espinosa extended a kind offer, to enchant a bullet for when it feels most needed – I could hardly turn down such an offer. Nor could I turn down the cocoa and charming company of the high society women that frequent this place – perhaps the Royal College is not so stuffy after all. A whirlwind of comedy left me struck down to the floor – a flirtatious message in a cup, meant for our Will, but drank by our Espinosa, a illicit meeting in the library, coupled with a direct invitation to an evening at the Albus Auditorium for comedy – I think I need a few drinks before all this comes to pass.

August 25th 1780, The Royal College, Mass.

The Lucky Fingers Bar – I’ve lost my fair share of cash at this establishment, but nothing more than I haven’t won back in Boston proper – a minor setback, brought with it a fair number of entertaining evenings. It’s a place with charm coming out of its pores, if you don’t mind the horrendous smell of the tannery, the unsavory clientele, the ratting, the rutting, and those who cheat at dice and cards. But I’d consider it to be part of the backbone of culture in this place, for it cates to the base needs of those who study here. I think I may have encountered a pickpocket whilst inside – despite winning more games than I felt I lost, I seem to have parted with more than my intended wager. We encountered the youths from earlier, and it seems they have a hound in the ratting – I suspected something was afoot when they put down a large sum on their pooch, out of sorts with the type of bets we’d seen here previous. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I gained a whole bit of cash betting on the greed of youth.

The library is an impressively styled and lavish affair, and leaves me wishing that I cared more for study. That I had more time, for study. If I knew more, perhaps I would have been less stymied by the fact that our dear Griffin was in fact the familiar to our young Cole. A more welcome surprise I cannot imagine – though it shall take a bit of adjustment to make myself used to the fact that our newest companion is in actual fact, a verbose feline.

August 25th 1780, The Royal College, Mass.

The Royal College Library – a place of research, and in my case, idle curiosity about the type of affair our dear Espinosa was about to find himself embroiled in. In waiting for the meeting to get underway, I stumbled across a memoir written by my old commanding officer – it seemed harmless at first, but then, as I continued to turn the pages, the memories came flying back to me. To think that the madman actually wrote about the events of The Cold Night – for others to read. You may find its retelling in these pages, my dear journal, but hardly are you meant for the consumption of others.

The true marvel today was not the mischief at the library, wherein I suspect the meeting with our Spaniard was a cover for something more nefarious afoot. Nay, the true marvel was the shoppe of D’Urberville, purveyor of magicks potent and portable – he fitted us with kit such like I had never seen, including a rifle that may yet surpass the finery of my own Orenda. Though I do have my misgivings about how a small cat can maneuver a crossbow – seems as though Cole has significantly more surprises for us than I thought.

August 25th 1780, The Royal College, Mass.

From once place to another, we are constantly on the move through the confines of the College, but it seems that our time here draws to an unfortunate close – there has been a theft at the College, and we have been asked to safekeep the item’s creator and fetch him home again – some sort of para-archaeologist, Sir Hayward Moon. He’s off galivanting around British Honduras, seeking some fabled White City, seeking some connection to some ‘otherwhere’, a concept which is alien to me, I will admit.

That he has a six month head start on us and is as yet-undetectable by magical means does not bode well, but perhaps he is an absent-minded sort, or the Ur-Ice in the area is complicating things. Despite it all, we will aboard the HMS Dryad and make haste down to Belize City of Honduras, and see if we can uncover his trail from there. It has been many years since I last set foot in the jungle, and I doubt it has grown kinder since. I must needs prepare myself and my companions for this journey – it will be quite the endeavor, and no mistake, this may be the trip I fear. The journey there should be long enough to train my mind and body, I hope. This is a secret mission that the Spanish must not uncover, for New Spain is abutted to Honduras in a way such that all there may be compromised – it is for us to pose as Archaeologists and no more.

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From the Journal of Oliver Thackery - And the Puritans
Journal the Second - In which our noble protagonist is engaged in righting wrongs and getting to the truth behind multiple charges of malicious witchcraft.

August 11th 1780, Nathaniel’s Coffee House, Boston.

It has been a mixed few weeks here in Boston – welcome to return to my estate and sleep in a warmed bed each evening, as nice as the accommodations were in Staughton, but there is still much life and adventure to be found in the bars of Boston at night. These past weeks have seen me up and down in my fortunes, in equal measure, and my pockets have come out of this idleness no fuller than they went in. When Captain Uphold called us up again, it was a genuine pleasure to discover my services required again in service of the Crown, and not in best dealing with the Bostonian fellows who undoubtedly cheat at cards, backgammon, and winning the hearts of fair maidens everywhere.

It seems that in Taunton, this summer, has been a hotbed of reported malicious witchcraft, harming property and body alike. There seems to be some credible evidence being presented at trial, brought about by one Caleb Burnam, the region’s puritanical minister, some ten days hence, to be presided over by Sir Robert Treat Paine. We must take pains to investigate and present our case for innocence, should it be warranted, to the honorable Thaddius Denton, who holds his lawyerly office in Taunton proper. Magick is certainly afoot in Taunton, but whom is directing it, and to what end, that is the true mystery here.

What else will those good eggs at the Royal College come up with, given enough time? Uphold has gifted Espinosa with a loaned boon of an enchanted watch, capable of speaking fifty words at a distance, to reach Doctor Graham’s ears within moments after speech has ended. Truly a fascinating device, one which could have saved many lives if the Rangers had that long ago.

On our way to Willards, we were accosted by possibly the world’s worst spy, a young urchin under the employ of Ezekiel Farley, who has expressed an interest in keeping tabs on those Thommy Thruppence has taken an eye to. And apparently, he’s willing to employ urchins and spirits to keep tabs on us.

August 12th 1780, Taunton, Mass.

This town is absolutely the fit of a painting, aside from the nastiness of a puritan setting up for a Witch burning speech right when we rolled into town – I feel like I might not be as welcome here as I have been in Boston. We are supposed to be above this sort of prejudice against the Twisted – I must be half a fool to think I’d be immune to it, but It hasn’t been a main fixture in my life. In the Rangers, it were your other flaws that got brought about for banter, not something that the war inflicted on you. The exception being poor Old Seamus, an unlucky Irish Sot who got Twisted with an unholy stench that wouldn’t go away even if he were bathing.

Taking up at the Taunton Crown Hotel is the most luxurious treat I have afforded myself since being away from my estate. I had forgotten that this is how Uphold and the like can treat themselves all the time – maybe, someday, before the end, I can find myself in a similar state. Still, an absolute lovely establishment, though I find it endlessly amusing that only myself and William can provide our real names to the clerk here. It seems that there is a Mr. Sixpenny, a purported seed and stock salesman, who has business here, but I am curious that he might be in business with, if not directly, then operating on behalf of Thommy Thruppence.

Our Albert Higgins certainly surprised me with invitations to a grande ball at the behest of Baron and Baroness Taunton, Lord and Lady Cushing. I did not think that word of my name had travelled so far, but it would seem that my works in Boston have at least carried to Taunton. Mayhap I am a mite closer to Uphold than I originally thought.

August 12th 1780, Taunton Crown Hotel, Taunton, Mass.

I had not expected my first day of Taunton to be filled with so much fitting, jostling, tucking and pinning, but such is the nature of a delicate investigation, being prodded by a high quality tailor, all for the sake of gathering knowledge. Nothing more than that, surely. The preacher giving his sermon drove me near to the brink of tears, to think that those who have found kin with the new way of the world to be persecuted such as they are, even in this civilized place.

We finally were able to make the acquaintance of Thaddeus Denton, the lawyer whose clients we are here to investigate, and he seems a congenial sort. He’s taken us on a tour of the alleged crime scenes – the first of which we saw was the second crime scene, at The Bow Tavern, where the barn caught alight, with a green flame at the base that resisted all attempts at being extinguished. At first, I expected manmade explosives to be the culprit, but nothing seems to cater towards that suspicion of mine, leading me to believe my first instinct was incorrect. The accused are said to have acted together, as a coven, to set the barn alight, for the perceived slight of one of their members being kicked out of the barn for the third time. What’s more strange is that while magick was certainly involved, it left the residue of a violin song, “Fire on the Mountain”. Incredibly common, a jig I have drank to on many nights, but curious nonetheless.

August 12th 1780, Beaconflat Farm, Taunton, Mass.

The senseless slaughter of innocent animals is a crime I will never quite understand – the motives involved are so alien from the victims comprehension, it seems almost worse than some quarrels you might imagine. The site seemed clean but for the remains of the livestock brought low by the wasting disease.

The smell of magically wasting meat is something extraordinary, the rot and disease something my companions are hardly familiar with, but nothing is quite so extraordinary as the resolve and ability of my friend Espinosa, who perhaps sought to question one of the beasts, and so brought it back into the realm of the life-full, but it seems it came back quite wrong, and with a vengeance. It looked for all the world as though poor Espinosa almost lost his leg to the creature, although its assault was magically tempered by the presence of an apparition – its eyes seemed like they had followed us from Boston, but there’s something more to that tale that I can’t quite put my finger on. To cast a spell which emblazons the notes to “The Ages of Man” – against something living, from beyond the veil – this is a danger unlike that which I have tousled with before. I can but hope that this apparition is without malice, as it seems to be, but I grow filled with concern, as spirits seem to be tied to places, but this one has traversed the roads with us.

August 12th 1780, Beaconflat Farm, Taunton, Mass.

Though I have been through the motions a few times before, speaking with spirits is always unsettling to me – to make the connection and bridge the gap between They That Were and Those Who Are is something weighty on my soul. Today I spoke with Hosea Mantle, formerly of Germantown, then Boston, a spirit unfamiliar to myself, but it seems that Espinosa has had dealing with it before. That he was able to bind a living spirit to himself speaks of incredible talent, but one that is slightly worrisome. I am not entirely comfortable that Espinosa has managed to bind a hedgewitch of this particular moral caliber. Consorting with one so obsessed with Death magic and who is so fortitudinous of spirit to persist for twenty years after interment is both fascinating and horrifying, all in one unsavory package. Curious that this site was affected by a young untrained mage, and certainly not good for our client’s cause.

August 12th 1780, Taunton Crown Hotel, Taunton, Mass.

High tea is an inadequate method of compensating for murderous revivified bovines, but the Crown Hotel did a good job of it nonetheless. Nothing was too weak, nor too strong, nor overwhelmingly flavorful, but it was pleasant. Denton, despite all of what has happened, has kindly offered to show us the scene of the murder of Isiah Horning, father to two of the accused. While it is not unknowable that kin may slay kin for all manner of reason, my fear is that the girls are innocent, and are suitably aggrieved of having lost their father while being accused of bringing about his demise. The killing of the harbormaster certainly would

The eldest girl, hardly a girl at all, given that we share the same age, Abigail, is married to the bank manager of Taunton, no small position of wealth to that position. Her sister, Prudence, younger by five years, already a spinster. Motive, perhaps financial, from her sister, but their temperament hardly seems to cleave towards the murderous, just the standard level of sin we all tend to find ourselves faced with.

The timeline, as it stands, is that the cows were the first to go, unless there was something else that has yet gone unnoticed. From there, the mage moved on to the fires, consecutive, a week later. Lastly, on the 8th of August, poor Isiah was brought low. Our William sussed out that perhaps the violin score we discovered is a key to it, and Espinosa has confirmed that with his deductions as well. It seems as though the spellwork is interwoven with the talent driven from one who works the violin, which unfortunately leaves us with the party tomorrow night as a venue for which to identify and subdue a potential violin-caster. We’d need a reliable witness to observe young Prudence for the duration, to ensure that she was not up to anything that could be untoward – the Watch Sergeant, Bill Bower, would do quite nicely, as the Lieutenant of the Lancers is a bit biased, considering his relation with one of the accused.

With daylight waning, we set off to see what we could discover at the scene of Isiah Horning’s death. When we arrived, we had not yet begun to examine the scene before Griffin’s keen senses picked up something – our poor Thaddeus has been marked by music. Handel’s Messiah, a classical tune, different from what we have seen before. Espinosa seems to have broken the spell, but it seems that this magick goes far deeper than any we previously has suspected. Thaddeus has cast his finger at Amelia Harrison, she who runs the music shop, and has financial dealings with Isiah – it seems like she has bent the whole town to her will.

August 12th 1780, Taunton Crown Hotel, Taunton, Mass.

We found ourselves in pursuit of Amelia Harrison, suspected of ensorcelling the town. The storm was rising around all of us, and a felt bile rising in my gullet – this was The Long Night writ anew. This musician has summoned a manastorm, and I could feel it coursing through my veins, threatening to twist away more of my humanity. Amelia seemed set on destroying the town with hellfire and brimstone, cast down from the sky, green flames licking at our faces and feet as we were struck from above. A battle for the soul of Taunton, set to a horrific rendition of “Israel in Egypt”, as played by a maniac who let the twist mutate her human form into something from the nightmares of the Ur – some sort of spiderlike creature – the manastorm grew more intense as we approached her, to the point where Espinosa was affected by some sort of fungus. I had a clean shot, but in doubting my ability, I put a bullet into Amelia’s torso, rather than her cursed violin. The heat of combat always leads to rash decisions, and it found me sprinting into a building, hurling insults at a deranged magician, which our Spaniard seems to have upended the rules of our world around. Through the Manastorm, I saw something – a sliver of a connection, between our ghostly hedgewitch Hosea, and our friend Espinosa’s tome. I expect there is some more story written there than we are ken to.

August 12th 1780, Taunton Crown Hotel, Taunton, Mass.

That what once was Amelia Harrison lay before us, a haunting creature that is twisted by that which makes the world so vibrant and unique. Something happened on the stairs up to the roof – the world lost sound, even the familiar sound of my own breath, the thud of my feet as I drew up the stairs, but only for a moment. There was fear in that moment, but not overmuch. I had but one foe, and she was above. As I drew near, I fell victim to Espinosa’s peculiar brand of sorcery that upturned my stomach, rendering me helplessly floating in air, unable to hear, or speak. I lost a good deal of fine food, and was beset upon by some foul flames of origin unknown, but when I was able to right myself, I set upon she-who-was, and cut her down. When the magicks fell, I took her head, to end her reign of terror and deceit, such that this town may dream of nightmares no more. We are introduced to Lord Edward Halsey of the 17th King’s Lances, and betrothed to one of the accused, Ruth Landry.

August 13th 1780, Hopewell House, Taunton, Mass.

It is a change most refreshing to be welcomed with applause after a job well done, by none other than Lord Thomas Cushing III. To be met by Lord Benedict Arnold is a welcome but suspicious surprise – rumors tell the man always has aims other than those that are best for England in his heart, but it seems he might have employment for us. It would seem that our Young William had been hiding a secret sister from us for all this time, and she seems to have the acquaintance of Lord Arnold as well – I had not figured the lad to run in high circles, but he does continue to impress. I was not keen on starting a dialog on any ensuing work without his presence, but it would hardly be the first time I’ve needed to brief a soldier who was absent the start of a mission.

To learn that the origin of the violin was at the hands of Amelia’s father comes as a bit of a shock, but no moreso than most incredible things these days – it certainly explains a good deal more than it hides. But none hides more secrets than our young William, who it seems is not quite a William at all but instead a Miriam by name and by birth. A rude surprise to discover in strange company, but I’d sooner wear the embarrassment of shock than to have discovered it another way.

We now find ourselves temporarily out of the Employ of Captain Uphold and under the employ of Lord Benedict Arnold. We have been tasked with escorting to the Royal College the eponymous diary and violin that nearly brought this town low. After the end of the party, we are to make our way to Boston Harbor, to find passage on the H.M.S. Dryad. Curious, though, that Lord Cushing is cohorting with Lord Arnold – with the rumors surrounding each of them, I suspect that there is a game afoot. Two people with rumored attachment to the Crown Secret Service working together would imply that something larger than us is at play here.

August 13th 1780, Hopewell House, Taunton, Mass.

The Ball this evening was on some accounts a success, but mostly a disaster. This life of high society is still new to me, and apparently newer still to Espinosa, and we have created no small scene of embarrassment for ourselves. Some lug thought it wise to assault poor Miriam and received a bruise to his ego for his trouble, though it seems she was a bit caught off-guard.

Past the witching hour, we were met by Marquesa Ariane Bonnevie du Pondicherry, Attaché Generale to the French Ambassador to New Britain. She is a handsome woman, but incredibly… cagey and supernaturally intense. When speaking with her, it felt very much as though a cat playing with a mouse, but not yet intending to kill it – merely to keep itself entertained. Whether that is her French nature bleeding through, or her intellect, I am not sure.

Hefting around this violin is no small feat, given the protective measure in the case, but I feel like I can still feel it in there, like something alive, caged, almost.

It is a night of continued surprise – outside, waiting in Lady Bonnevie’s coach, is a man Miriam seems to have acquaintance, or at least knowledge of.

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The Cold Night, Staughton
Thackery's Nightmare, June 25th, 1780

June 25th 1780, Staughton River, Doty’s Tavern, Midnight

As Thackery finally sets his head against the pillow on the rented bed in this rented room above Doty’s Tavern, he thinks to the oddities experienced today. The duality of man-trapped in pig form, to the distant shuddering and shaking in the woods. His eyes finally begin to close, his breathing evening out, and the room grows still for a moment. From behind his eyelids, an intense white glow begins to spill forth, and his eyes, now unseeing, snap open, flooding the room with light.

Beneath his head, Oliver Thackery feels the hard ground underneath the crudely rolled cloak he had balled up against a log, resting his head against it in a futile attempt to prevent his body from falling to pieces. In the woods beyond, the trees in the distance crashed and thundered, and slowly the thick tendrils of fog began to seep into the clearing where his regiment had set down for the evening. He could vaguely hear his friend Cyrus shouting in the distance, his deep blue eyes still trying to focus in the early morning light. He begins the process of shoving his swollen and bloodied feet back into his boots, but when he is done, finds himself unwilling, or unable to stand. They had been on the run for days, now, their regiment a fraction of its size, having lost many to the mists, or to the exhaustion from an endless march to nowhere, fleeing from something they could not see.

A panic rising in his heart, Thackery found himself hauled bodily to his feet after what seems like an eternity by his friend, Cyrus, who clapped him roughly about the cheeks. “Not today, my friend. This is not the day we die.” How he found the strength to continue escaped Thackery, but he found a profound sense of shame in the temptation to disappoint Cyrus, and so he began to stagger forward, away from the mists, into the unknown woods ahead. Behind, thundering crashes in the wood gave chase.

Hours later, thoroughly turned around and lost, Thackery collapsed onto his knees after the next break in the underbrush. The summer day had just grown colder the longer it went on, against all history and experience. He struggled to get his breath to catch in his throat, his lips dry and cracked as his body made every possible attempt at keeping his vital humors balanced. When he heard the brief sound of water cascading into a cup at his side, he could hardly bring himself to blink or even look, so heavy was his heart with the feeling of relief and hope for a moment’s rest.

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His eyes dipped closed for a moment, and he found himself kneeling in front of a small campfire, a small wooden cup half filled with water nestled in his hands which he greedily sipped at with what strength remained. The world was covered in a haze, and for a moment a panic set in, but it seemed to have a different nature than the mists. Off to his side, he could see a figure’s back, swaying as it toiled over something. Finishing what was left in the cup, his hoarse throat croaked out, “Thanks Cy, I needed that. Can’t believe we’ve made it this far without dying. I don’t know how much longer I can press on.”

His eyes dipped closed again, and his cup, filled half again with water, drops from a waterskin from just out of view. A voice with the rough sound of dry leaves whispering came from over his shoulder, “No, Oliver Thackery, today is not the day you die. You will, someday, but today is the day you begin to live.”

A cold terror gripped Thackery’s heart then, and his eyes shot open, the white light fading from the room above Doty’s Tavern, unable to breathe, unable to bring himself to close his eyes again. For the remainder of the evening, Thackery finds himself fighting sleep, cradling his rifle and sitting back against the wall, afraid of reliving more of what he saw in his mind’s eye.

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From the Journal of Oliver Thackery - For the Greater Good
Journal the First - In which our noble protagonist gets an offer he cannot in good conscious refuse, to serve king, country, and coin.

A Sketch of Oliver Thackery is included in the front of this journal – it is drawn with some considerable skill considering the medium, and it is inconclusive whether the drawing is a self-portrait or an inclusion from another hand.

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June 23rd 1780, Nathaniel’s Coffee House, Boston.

Today, I have been hired by an old friend, one Captain Crispin Uphold, for a neat sum of money – over a full prize-shares worth, to investigate some sabotage of a new copper rolling mill. While it’s a terrible shame, sabotage, decidedly dishonorable, the incentive is more than worth the price of admission. I’m hardly built for investigation, but I seem to be joined by two steadfast and able companions – one Mister William Carter, the eldest of an aristocratic line or some such, undoubtedly will be handy talking his way through this, should it be needed, and one Griffin. Quiet, reserved, but very observant – I feel that Griffin sees many things that others do not, but then again, those of us who are on the outside due to how we have become rarely see things the same as those untouched by the Ur.

Undoubtedly there will be others who take the good Captain’s Shilling, riding to his cause for their own reasons, and hopefully he won’t run us out on a wicker basket and leave us to dangle. But for now, the next step in my career seems to be as an investigator for an insurance underwriter – not quite what I thought I’d get up to when I signed on with the Navy, but I’ll be damned if I’m not pleased with the results.

June 24th 1780, Willard & Young Occult Supplies, Dorchester.

Today we have met a most curious individual in Hidalgo Aristides Espinosa, a curious Spaniard, seemingly expatriated, but still proud of his heritage. I’ve had my fair share of animus-laden encounters with the Spanish in the past, but that was when I was in service to the Crown and they weren’t. Espinosa doesn’t seem to bear me any ill will, and as such deserves none in kind.

We were solicited by the proprietor of the establishment, one Thomas Willard, and set upon his shop like a flock of ravenous birds, picking and pecking at the curios on display, seeking some sort of advantage in defeating the dastardly saboteurs that dare to strike at the heart of the Crown’s technological innovations. While he was a jovial sort, he seemed overly keen on Griffin – I think the fellow might carry Twist within him, as Griffin and I do, though neither of us possess the pure unbridled animal animus towards another that poor Willard has within himself. He speaks honeyed words of being discrete, and it is with all my heart he holds to them, as the nature of our travels to the copper rolling mill at Staughton Canton. Thankfully, instead of riding atop my murderous beast of a horse, Espinosa has hired us seats on a coach such that we can travel in luxury.

June 24th 1780, Boston Turnpike, Near Staughton

A horrific trip by coach, and one I would not recommend to fellow travelers – ambushed on the Boston Turnpike of all places. Hardly the class of accommodation I expected at this cost. I’ll insist Espinosa choose a different courier next time. The rain was incessant, and fouled our guard’s weapons, as it is wont to do, but young William has a dead eye on him and tagged one of the miscreants. Josiah Fulton and his brothers, they were, wanted, at $500 a head, or so it seems. Had on them a brooch from the Moore family out of Boston, likely taken during a robbery.

The one I had in my sights gave me the slip in the underbrush – native, from the sound of it. Proud and insulting, all in one, when he escaped. Hard to be mad, they have a like mind to be as ghosts in the woods if that’s what they choose. Espinosa, though, has wrought what I only often see in nightmares on one of the poor souls – stripping the years from his flesh with a condensed ritual of sorts. In some ways, it reminds me of the Cold Night. I dislike being reminded of that day. Still feel the cold, dead ache in my limbs from the ceaseless marching. The blood pooling in my boots. Never again.

June 24th 1780, Staughton

Doty’s Tavern – a place remarkable for primarily its proximity to the great Revere Works, set at the junction of two rivers. While the location of the Works is obvious enough, I struggle to imagine if Doty had the gift of prophecy to set up here, or if it was just fate, or luck, or some other similar contrivance that brought the luck of industry to Staughton. Though on seeing the interior, it is clear that Thomas Doty is a man of singular taste and distinction, particularly where his whiskeys are concerned. The clientele that frequent the tavern, however, lack the tact I would expect from such a place, but Thomas’ wife is absolutely lovely. Sometimes I forget about my condition, as it is difficult for me to see, but it brings me no small feeling of ire when I hear of others being disparaged for their state of being. We finally were brought face to face with Sir Paul Revere, the local Justice of the Peace, the man himself whom Uphold sent us to levy assistance to. I don’t find I have much care for his companion, Major Crane, but I suppose it’s due to the fondness I find in myself for Espinosa. William and Griffin seem to have tracked some ne’er do well skulking around the inn, which is a matter of concern for those I am travelling with, so I am settling in for a night with a bit less sleep. Just like I’m back in the Rangers. I didn’t miss that part.

June 25th 1780, Staughton

Let no man besmirch Doty’s Tavern – their breakfast is just what is needed after a long night wondering what person found your mission to be so interesting that they created some sort of magical distance-listening device and stuck it in your favorite Spaniard’s room. But today is the day we get to see Revere’s Factory from up-close, and what a pleasure that is. The wheels of industry gently and smokily trundling along, bringing the future ever closer to us with each revolution. No closer to our saboteur, save from slowly narrowing the chase to a local, or someone with loyalist ties to one of the other Great Nations. Though the line of thought that brings us to a curse by the Old Hobgobbler does bear a bit of consideration, if only because the Event visited all sorts of unpleasantness upon us. Almost as unpleasant as a man getting shoved into a waterwheel or watching his son burned by a malfunctioning copper smelter. But Sir Revere has given us some leads to go on – if we discount those who were injured in the accidents, we have three names to go on, Bob and Roger Billings, or Moses Wentworth. Though those people come from old families, and likely aren’t significantly compromised to the point of sabotage. But it’s them or the Hobgobbler, which I’d rather find to be innocent than attempt to bring to justice.

June 25th 1780, Staughton, Revere’s Mill

This job has been a first, for me. An honest investigation – the sort of thing typically done well in advance of the missions I am used to finding myself on. Cy had a nose for this, skulking about in the shadows and the like, but I am more at home with the social pursuits than anything else. A first, seeing a bronze smelter in the flesh, as it were, and I don’t much care for it – the heat is unbearable.

Curious, though, that Moses isn’t in at work today, though that may be from fear that Sam Gooch might put a boot in him, but he was the one who was supposed to care for the clay dome such that the crack that caused the foundry to burst wasn’t to happen. As Espinosa noted, the man doesn’t seem to care much for work, showing up for work, or people visiting on his property. It seems like the inspection not going through is a bit more serious than initially thought, could have possibly brought the whole place down if it were bad enough. But what motivation? My gut tells me the secret lies on Wentworth land, and this constant talk of Old Hobgobbler is getting my curiosity piqued like nothing else has on this job.

June 25th 1780, Staughton River, Near Blue Hill, Afternoon

My impressions of the natives of Staughton grows increasingly negative – a guide who, on promising to meet us, has opted to go for a swim. I understand the heat as well as the next man, but there’s a time and a place, and before meeting someone is neither of them. While we cast about for the young irresponsible responsible for our delay, the sounds of local porcine wildlife beset our ears, driving further investigation, and eventual capture at the hands of yours truly. We heard… something, out in those woods. Espinosa believes it to have been the Hobgobbler, but I am less certain, but no more sure of what it could have been. The pig, though, has caused no small degree of irritation, and appears to be a young Jeb Billings, now as naked as the day his mother kicked him from her home, squealing about being eaten by his grandfather, instead of us doing the eating of the pig we caught. It occurs, that maybe this pig was running from Espinosa’s ‘Hobgobbler’ out in the woods. How is Old Man Billings tied up in all this?

June 25th 1780, Staughton River, Doty’s Tavern, Night

I had a dream last night, of the Cold Night. I would give anything to be rid of it. Being reminded of it makes me sick. No sleep for me tonight, which makes the unwelcome intrusion by a puritanical minister stirring up a mob that much less appetizing. First, finding out that Jacob Billings is the Old Hobgobbler, and then having to call the Pastor Benjaman Jordan out for satisfaction, all to prevent a mob that would have seen poor Jeb torn asunder, and myself and Espinosa as well, no mistake. Baron Revere is on our side, which is no small favor. We have been issued a warrant for Jacob Billings and his kin, a thousand dollars for the Cunning Man hisself, and two hundred for each of his family we bring to the King’s Justice and live to see the proper court, for attempted murder, criminal damage, and treason.

Something about Jeb’s story piqued a curiosity in me, about this Cunning Man, the Old Hobgobbler. Young Jeb has claimed that family legend is that a cave on the west side of the Blue Hill is where he keeps the family treasures and secrets. It’s old Indian territory, seems like, a tribe that was wiped out long ago. It seems like we need to track down Jeb’s four uncles, and of course, Jacob.

June 26th 1780, Staughton River

This entry is covered in bloody fingerprints and the handwriting is shaky.
A lunch of roast duck sits well in my stomach with all this pig business going about, but the manacles weigh heavily in my pack. It was a lovely jaunt through the woods after an even better lunch, and it was ruined by the clap of thunder and a sudden bullet to the chest. I’ve been shot before, but each time it feels like nothing I can describe. The intermingling of hot and cold, of weakness and utter despair – it makes me wonder why I press on in such pursuits, but my heart knows that I will take many more bullets for our country before My Time is Done. Lord above I hope not too many. Three men died today, and I almost made a fourth. Some easy job this turned out to be.

June 26th 1780, Staughton River, Billings Manor

This entry is covered in blood drops that have soaked through the previous page handwriting is improved.
Every time I have to take a drink of one of those infernal healing draughts, they invariably make me feel worse than the ailment I’m recovering from. I’d still drink one every day rather than adorn myself as these farmhands have, with pig talismans, and all that I am presuming that entails. Foolish of me to think a path was safe to walk down – I’m getting soft, since I left the service. I miss having Cy at my side, he was always one to call me out when my sense had left me. But now we are faced with a prickly problem of an uncomfortable sort – our Cunning Man knew that someone would come. His home is a two-story fortress with clear line of sight through a well maintained clearing that gives those within plenty of visibility on any approach, and they know that someone is coming, else they’d not be so on guard. Espinosa has come up with a plan and committed us, but his methods give pause to me, as seeing young Alden Billings well again after being so very thoroughly dead not an hour before disquiets my stomach. Too much like my memory of the Cold Night.

June 26th 1780, Staughton River, Billings Manor

A Revenant. Eyes be damned, a Revenant, brought to us by our own Espinosa. Cruel, to witness a fratricide, even though it were not his son’s own true hand, but what a terrible fate for a father. Of all the things that I wish not to carry with me through this world, I wish to forget the sight of a man slaughtered by his own brainless son, only to then be covered by the body of the very son what laid him low. I am filled with disquiet at my hand in putting down one of the Billings clan, but nothing compares to the dread in my stomach when the enormous hog burst forth from the estate. I have faced down ur-twisted bears with nothing but a knife, but those dead eyes of the Old Hobgobbler were filled with nothing short of pure malice. Seeing the tusks nearing brought me back to fighting alongside Cy, and the grace with which I used to move, and clumsiness that he fought with – in some ways, Griffin reminds me of him, and I feel like he saved me from a world of pain, this day. Shame the same could not be said for poor William, betrayed by the pepperbox which had let him down for the final time.

June 26th 1780, Staughton River, Billings Manor

Tis done. The reign of Old Hobgobbler is no more. All that is left are the trauma-filled offspring of the wretched hog, four young souls, no older than men I joined the Royal Marines alongside. I expect they did not want this lot in life, and for that I will bend Baron Revere’s ear, such as I can. Young Daniel has been most helpful, and has indicated to us that his Uncle Thomas has been twisted by the Hobgobbler’s magick, and yet guards the family cave. The Old Man hisself has some strange ink, which Espinosa claims to be similar to writings found in South America, though I am unsure if I hold too much stock in that. This man hardly seems travelled. It is a loaded wagon filled with Billings, a macabre sight, but profitable, if all is truthful, though the circumstances that led to us obtaining this sum of $3,000 is truly unfortunate.

Griffin’s discovery in that short letter changes things, though. Signed by none other than Tommy Thruppence, something of a macabre legend in the Boston underworld. He gets his name from the phrase “right as thruppence” which, since there is no such coin and any you had in your possession would therefore be very bad forgeries, isn’t right at all. I haven’t heard his name bandied about in taverns for half a year yet, and when I have, it was largely speculation that he found some sort of patronage, and is working his nefarious deeds further afield than the bent back streets of Boston proper. Baron Revere needs to know about this, and Griffin has offered to go up ahead to the cave and keep an eye on this Twisted Thomas until we get back. I hope that I can bend Baron Revere’s ear enough to see the lads conscripted rather than executed – they were pawns in whatever this invisible game is, and I feel they deserve a chance to earn their way home again, however hard that path may be.

h3.June 26th 1780, Staughton River, The Cave on Blue Hill

Griffin might be the death of me. Even in the Rangers, I’ve not seen the likes of anyone who can just blend into the forest without a hint of presence to be noted, even with these cursed eyes of mine. He was able to stay here, unobserved, watching Thomas the Unfortunate in our absence, and it was as clean a job as I’ve ever done, likely moreso. This poor man, this huge, hulking, twisted man, is now bereft of family, thankfully isolated from the crimes of his kin, but now more alone than before.

But this cave, for all of the tales that it tells through the pictograms, and the shamanic transformations that used to take place here by the Neponset, it felt as though I was down in the Carib again. I could feel a spirit pressing on my soul, and made myself known to it.

He called me the Brother of Death. Words chilling to me, but I cannot deny them. How he can see that the others have seen the worlds beyond this, I do not know, but am not filled with surprise. He charged me with removing his binding from the earth, which I undertake gladly, and to see that no harm comes to Thomas. How this will see us better in the future I see not, but my eyes fail me even in seeing the mundane.

After all this, it seems Captain Uphold might have more work for us yet. Someday, I’ll be able to get my name attached a full shipyard, I reckon, not just a slip.

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Prelude: For The Greater Good.

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Captain Crispin Uphold, late of the Royal Navy and now financial entrepreneur of Boston, arose from his chair as the manservant showed his illustrious guest towards his table. Self-consciously, he tugged his pale blue silk vest straight and adjusted his white silk cravat. Bowing slightly, he reached out to take his guest’s hand, exchanging a complex handshake which was hidden from the casual onlooker’s gaze by the newcomers bulk. The two then smiled briefly at each other.

“Commodore, it’s good of you to grace my humble table with your presence again,” Uphold said, as the coffee house’s manservant took the heavy woolen greatcoat the man was shrugging out off and hung it from the hook of a coat-stand by the table. “Please, have a seat. Coffee, Sir?”

“Thank you, Captain, I’d prefer chocolate on a night like this though.”

Nodding to the manservant and gesturing for two, Uphold sat himself back down and studied his guest anew. A big-boned man, with a long and prominent nose and florid complexion – made worse by the shock of coming in from the cold night outside and, perhaps, some brandy earlier in the evening. Well dressed, as befitted his station, in a silk cravat and a velvet jacket with gold silk lapels and big ivory buttons over a golden silk vest with gold fasteners. The man’s hair was white and swept back in a widow’s peak, but plentiful for a man of his age and plentiful enough that he needed no wig. His eyes were quick and intelligent, searching calmly and analyzing all they saw rather than darting about. His mouth, Uphold had always thought, betrayed a pursed look that spoke of parsimony and a peevish spirit. A better insight into the man’s baser characteristics than his piercing eyes. All in all, a man who knew what he wanted and expected to get it, by God, and a man it was never a good idea to cross or try to double-deal.

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Uphold became aware that The Commodore, for that was all he’d even think of him as in this place, had been studying his host at the same time. The view could not have been so imposing, Uphold thought ruefully. Simply a man who was once a sea officer of the King’s Navy and had made some shrewd investments he’d parlayed into a second career as an insurance underwriter on this upper floor of Nathaniel’s famous coffee-house, where trade and finance were as much a part of the daily bustle as coffee and liquor. His clothes, while of good quality, were nowhere near the opulence of those worn by the man opposite and his features – well, perhaps they were a bit misleading. Slightly sad and droopy brown eyes in a pale face, and with a distinct shadow from the lack of a shave since early that morning.

Uphold smiles then and took a small brass box from his vest pocket, opening it towards the Commodore to show its brown, dusty contents.

“Snuff, Sir? My own blend I get made special from Abraham’s in South End.”

“No, thankee kindly, Crispin. My physician says I’ve to stay away from snuff and stick to cigars. He says the sneezing might cause my old heart to fail.” The Commodore replied, and Uphold placed the open snuff box on the table between them, with a gesture towards it to say ‘if you change your mind’.

“As if a heart as calculatingly precise as a mariner’s clock could fail except by deadly force,” thought Uphold, a mite uncharitable, as the manservant returned with two steaming mugs of rich chocolate, with a little added cinnamon for the cold night outside. Outwardly, he simply nodded to the man in dismissal, knowing the cost would be added to his monthly bill for rental of his table in the “Underwriter’s Room”.

As the servant departed, The Commodore took two bone disks, each the size of a gold sovereign, from his pocket and carefully broke each in half. Immediately, the light dimmed as sight beyond a circle around the table seemed to become blurred, and the sound of the coffee house, already raucous and jumbled by the many customers’ talk and merriment, became dulled and distant.

“Now we can talk, Captain,” The Commodore began and -secure in his knowledge that the magical charms he had employed would shield them from prying eyes and ears, produced a leather document wallet from his jacket and laid it on the table between them. “Here are the final files, checked as best we can. You’re sure these are the people you want, now? Some of them, well, they aren’t what I’d call ‘the right kind’, y’know?”

“As sure as I can be without knowing them personally, my Lord.” Uphold replied carefully. “The others had some questions in their files too after they were worked up by your people. These have less uncertainties even when the certainties might not be ideal for our choosing. They’ll serve, maybe better than serve.”

The Commodore, or Lord, harrumphed. “Be damn careful, Captain Uphold. This is a sensitive business and we can’t have the wrong waves made. The right ones, mind, well, they might wash ashore some interestin’ flotsam, eh?”

“That’s part of the intention, my Lord” Uphold replied with a smile. “You will have to rely on my discretion and watchfulness, sir – unless you’d rather find another instead of myself?”

“What? What? No, of course not, young man. You have my sponsorship, and I’ll give you your head and see how you sail, d’you see?” The Commodore had the good grace to look slightly abashed, but Uphold didn’t believe it for a second.

“Then you shall have my report as soon as there is something worth including in it, my Lord.” he told his superior. “Is there anything else?”

The Commodore drained half his chocolate at one swig, then wiped his mouth with a dainty lace handkerchief before standing and offering his hand.

“No, I think that’s it for now, Captain.” Another of those intricate handshakes. “A fair wind to ye, for the sake of the Widow’s Son.”

“For the Widow’s Son, my Lord, and for the Crown.” Crispin Uphold said gravely in reply, then helped his visitor back into his long greatcoat and let his find his way out into the night. He sat down again, staring at the painting on the wall of his old frigate, HMS Courageous, until a new presence dragged his attention away from contemplation of the past and future.

Lochlan_Graham__DofM.jpg

The newcomer placed another snuff box, identical to his own, on the table and shut both – also shutting off the charm that had allowed him to eavesdrop on every word of the previous conversation despite the Commodore’s precautions.

“You heard, then?” Uphold asked his old friend, Lochlan Graham, lately a Lieutenant on the Courageous and now a Doctor of Magic graduated from Harvard College with a specialty in philosophical magic. The magician’s blue eyes sparkled as he replied. “Aye, ev’ry word, what there was o’ it.” The magician’s hangover Scottish burr, relic of his father and his forefathers, was soft and lilting.

“So what do you think?”

“I think the old bugger has more up his sleeve than his arm and a stiletto, Cap’n. There’s ne’er been a situation he hasnae tried to take personal advantage from before – either for power or enrichment or both – and I doubt he’s started now.”

“Oh agreed. The old battlecruiser is too set in his self-agreed glory to change his tack now. Still, I think we know all the flags he’s likely to fly, don’t we? And the job still needs done, one way or t’other. I’ll arrange to have them all meet me, here I think where they’ll feel a little out of place."

“So, we sail on but prepare for the storm if it comes? Aye I suppose so, for the need o’ the Nation, which is greater than the need e’en o’ its most powerful.”

Crispin Uphold raised his mug of chocolate in toast to that.

“For the Greater Good,” he agreed.

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