Arcanum 1780: A New World

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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