Arcanum 1780: A New World

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.


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.