Arcanum 1780: A New World
Tales - The Device
New York (New Britain)
The thunderous crack of the door being forced from it’s frame broke the sepulchral silence of the small office, nearly causing the weary bookkeeper to spill ink over the ledgers he was laboring over. Angered, the began to prepare a nasty tirade to the rudeness of the intruder – most likely some ruffian burglar too simple to understand that this office carried no coin – but he choked down the words when he got a look at the pair of intruders. The first man, obviously the one who burst the door from the hinges, was a thick-set mountain of muscle, his shaved head accentuated the patchwork of scars and tattoos that dominated the right half of his face in a somehow familiar way; the second man was barely out of his teens, but carried himself with an inflated sense of importance. As the pair approached the desk, blood drained from the bookkeeper’s face as the large man’s swagger sparked the memory of why he was so familiar – Bull Kerny, the bare-knuckle champion that fractured the skull of two separate prize-fighters last summer. Rumor was that no one else would step into the ring with him, and he had started looking into other lines of work.
“You recognize me? You know who I am?” Kerny grumbled in a gravelly voice. Words chocked into his throat, the bookkeeper could only nod his head, mouth slightly agape. “Good,” Kerny continued, “Then you know what I can do to the skull of a professional fighter with may bare hands.” The brute slipped a set of brass knuckles onto his left hand, then slapped them into his right palm for emphases.
“Boss says we’re to leave you broken but breathing,” the smaller man informed, “I’m to ask a few questions, and if there are any lies, protests or even hesitations, the bull over here is to put you back on track.” The young man loosened his tie and unbuttoned his shirt to reveal an intricate eight-pointed star brand on his collar bone, “Let’s save us all some trouble and get straight to it – where’s the device?”
The construction sight of Fort Mackinac (Haudenosaunee Protectorate)
‘General Christopher Godfrey, First Baron of Mackinac’. The ancient soldier read the pretentious brass label on the portrait his aide was hanging on the wall of his temporary office in the small cabin that served as both home and headquarters until the forts construction was completed. Soon, the fort would be populated with a company of Rangers that fought for the honor to serve under him, as well as a unit of Haud skirmishers hand picked to serve a baron. Baron. Commander of a small outpost fort deep in the Haudenosaunee Protectorate – more like exiling an old man that had earned his place in court but had no taste for the foppish formalities other nobles seemed to dedicate there lives to. Godfrey wasn’t young when the world was reborn, and he surely didn’t have it in him now to kiss the pampered arse of some would-be pretender to the throne. By god, Godfrey unlisted when Queen Anne ratified the Acts of Union, and was still commanding men when King Henry IXth ratified the Albany Parliament, and it by the looks of things, he’ll be stuck commanding this fort in the middle of nowhere when the next king grabbed the throne. Who’s arse warmed the throne made little difference in the long run.
“It’s a magnificent likeness, My Lord,” the aide fawned, portrait hung. Godfrey chocked back a vile retort, the boy meant well, he always did, Godfrey’s melancholy mood wasn’t the fault of the boy. Looking at the boy, Godfrey realized he was hardened killer when he was the boy’s age. By god, he could remember calling the boy’s grandfather “kid” back when they were fighting the French in a world without magic. You are old indeed, Godfrey thought to himself, to be outliving nations, bloodlines and even the natural order of God’s Green Earth. “In a few short months, this place will unrecognizable,” the boy continued, sensing the Baron had no interest in talking about the painting, “What with a full company of Rangers and a unit of Haud scouts manning the fort, which should be up and running in now time.”
The baron was spared any small talk as three men made their way into the cabin uninvited. It was obvious that these men were not construction workers or soldiers, but they were killers, of that Godfrey was certain. “All we want is information on the location of the device, Old Man,” the leader of the trio brazenly announced, “We know there are no soldiers here yet, so just tell us what we want and there will be no trouble at all.”
“They only sent three of you?” Godrey demanded, outraged, “Don’t they have history books where you are from?”
The leader smirked, “You are ancient, Old man, you’re a soft, gray noble, your glory days are decades behind you,” the thug began unfastening his thick buff-coat and opening his shirt, “I think you’ll recogni-” BOOM the thug was cut off mid-boast as the pistol round smashed into his cheek-bone, sending him to the floor before he had a chance to expose the eight-pointed arrow branded onto his chest. Godfrey dropped the pistol and drew a sword from the wall, running the second man through before he even knew what was happening.
As the baron turned to face the third, a thousand knives of fire ripped through his chest. His left hand instinctively tore at his collar while he tried to maintain his balance using his saber as a crutch. The young aide fired on the third thug with a rifle that made a monstrous boom as the leader scrambled out of the door, clutching his ruined face. “My Lord!” the aide rushed to his master, “Is there anything I can do?”
After a brief moment, breath returned to the baron in a deep gasp. He waved the boy away from his personal space as he cleared the dizziness in the comfort of an old armchair. “Just see that that the bodies are taken care of. A little too much excitement this close to supper is all. They’ll be back with more men, but they lost the element of surprise,” the baron noticed the look of honest concern in the boys eyes, ”I’ve taken more lives than anyone save the almighty, son, I’ll outlive all of my enemies and most of their grandchildren.”
With a weak smile and nod, the boy went off to get a few workers to help with the bodies, there would be soldiers and a doctor here before long, and the Baron was going to outlive them all. As soon as the boy was out of sight, the baron let out a deep sigh and for the first time considered the fact that he may not live long enough to see the fort completed. Pulling a bottle from his desk, he took a long pull, then admired the rifle the boy used to down thug, “There are two things Kentucky does better than anyone else.”
Philadelphia (New Britain)
The Spanish diplomat curled his lip in disgust as he made his way through the filthy alley for the rendezvous. Couldn’t the informant have chosen a place a little cleaner to sell the information? Rain water and most probably urine mixed in sporadic black puddles of stagnant foulness dotting the alley, forcing the Spaniard to prance as he dodged the dank pools. Small piles of trash deposited randomly added to the sense of perpetual grime that seemed to hang in this gray-skied city – Capitol of the Great Empire indeed!
“The air is wet, but the sun is high,” the voice of an Englishman whispered from a partially sheltered doorway. The Spaniard rolled his eyes at the trite trade-craft – why else would two men such as these be meeting in such a place? He supposed he must answer, “The sun maybe high, but the alley is still dark.”
The Englishman stepped from the shadows, well dressed, but not noble. The Englishman cast a glance around the alley and nearly missed the filthy vagrant sleeping in a pile of trash, cuddled up to an empty wine bottle and muttering drunken whispers to himself. The Englishman looked like he was about to chase the vagrant away, but then shrugged and let the bum be. Why not, the Spaniard thought, just more ambiance for the experience.
“The trip to the Protectorate was a wash,” The Englishman informed, “the old man has a lot more bite left in him than we thought. We got a solid lead from a few others, though, all consistent.” Pulling a sealed envelope from his satchel, the Englishman offered it with one hand while hold out his other. How vulgar, the Spanish diplomat thought as he tossed the small pouch of coins into the hand and snatched the letter, “We are done here.”
Nearly an hour after the two men left, the vagrant finally stirred. Stripping the filthy, matted false beard and connected wig off of his face and taking off the top three layers of soiled clothing, he reached into a concealed bag and pulled out a great coat that conceal his clothing long enough for him to make it to a place to change and pass this information to his superiors. Burning the disguise in a barrel, the young noble hurried on to complete his mission. The false location of the device has been found, the trap needs to be set.
- By Danukian.