In the previous installment, the PCs:
- Killed a load-bearing vampire.
- Answered several longstanding questions.
- Participated in Endon's second and third car crashes.
- Lost a friend.
The PCs are:
Electric Wizard and heir to the bankrupt Shambledrake estate. Inventor of the Lightning Accumulator, the Lightning Inverter, and the Iron Spike.
Dandy. Assistant Professor at Loxdon College. Deeply enmeshed in stock-jobbery and financial chicanery.
Dr. Augustus Hartwell
Biomancer. A foreign doctor and self-described "quack", currently employed at Blumsworth Hospital. Ally of speaking rats, workers, and other vermin.
Civic Wizard, Private Investigator. Broke his arm in Endon's first automobile accident.
Lizzy didn't leave a will, and as far as the group knew she didn't have any living relatives. After some debate, they decided not to bury her in the vampire-haunted cemetery, and instead tipped her mortal remains into Ooze Vat #6. "It was what she would have wanted," Jonty said, without much conviction.
The Revolution Revolves
A revolution may be judged by two things; its transfer of political power and its transfer of economic power. In Endon, the Revolution granted political power to a segment of society that had previously sat outside the traditional parliamentary structure. High office was suddenly opened to the bulk of the Middle Class, and even the Lower Class... in theory. In practice, the leaders of post-Revolution political thought tended to be upper Middle Class citizens with a background in law, publishing, or rabble-rousing.
The class structure of Endon remained largely intact. A thoroughly titled noble of an ancient family might surly glances instead of obedient hat-doffing, lament the loss of a few vestigial privileges, and have to pay their servants and tradesmen, but mass executions and confiscation of property failed to materialize. The slower members of the Upper Class are waiting for the Monarch to return and the Army to march on Endon. The quicker ones, hedging their bets, quietly support Revolution-adjacent causes, perform public charity, or retreat to their country estates.
Economic power is almost entirely unchanged. Citizens who were rich before the Revolution are, despite threats, strikes, and better pay, rich after it. Wages rose by a few percent, but rents in the increasingly crowded city rose faster. Thanks to the Leonine Cartel, even beggars could eat (polymorphed) steak. Thanks to the constant thunderstorm orbiting Endon, vegetables were becoming a rare delicacy, and bread less and less affordable. Arcadia-Brand Ooze Milk (and Ooze Cheese), Lizzy's invention for turning waste whale guts into nutritious fluids, could supplement an all-meat diet.
Jonty debated "nationalize" the Iron Spike Company, but, when Tom proved reluctant, decided it was easier to "Iron-Spike-ize" the New Parliament. Jonty Earl, assistant professor of law at Loxdon College, also controlled Endon's central bank. The Bank of the Realm, and the Grim Baliol, were under mild siege. The last Coppers and a few die-hard royalists were trapped inside, surrounded by Benjamin Fits' revolutionaries and a network of barricades. With the Royal Mint inoperable, and the city's gold reserves inaccessible, no new bills could be printed.
Endon's more cautious citizens hoarded gold and silver. No matter who ended up in charge, and no matter how quickly they had to flee the city, Endon's citizens knew a sock full of coins would be more valuable than a chest full of paper, whether printed by the old Royal Mint or a revolutionary replacement. Iron Spike Thaumaturgy stock certificates became, temporarily, one of Endon's mediums of exchange. Everyone agreed they were valuable, would only increase in value (but not enough to encourage hoarding in these uncertain times), and could be stored in a wallet or vest.
As long as the value of Iron Spike Thaumaturgy stock remained stable, or increased at its steady post-debut rate, everything was fine. If the value of the stock suddenly plunged, it could take Endon's entire economy with it, from high finance to basic commerce.
Such a realization might keep a lesser man up at night, but Jonty no longer slept. Six days in seven, he drank SpaceBeans Coffee and used an exhaustion transfer wand to move his need for sleep onto a very well paid servant hired specifically for this purpose. He'd tested both the coffee and the wand for weeks, found no significant side-effects, and adopted the system... despite Dr. Hartwell's vocal skepticism. While the lack of sleep would play havoc with a wizard's brain, it gave the un-magical Jonty a significant advantage in all his affairs. He could lecture in the morning, campaign in the afternoon, write letters and newspaper columns in the evening, balance the books at night, dispatch fresh orders before dawn, and repeat the whole process indefinitely. The enemies of the Iron Spike Company might get up early in the morning, but Jonty was awake all night.
Mary and Lamb
Mary Berger, apprentice, had just been expelled from the Guild of Alchemists for insubordination, low test scores, political agitation, and a tendency to fall asleep on duty. She hadn't written to her family. They'd hoped the Guild would provide a stable future for their third eldest child. Mary wasn't interested in a stable future. She wanted a revolution.
She'd left the Guild with nothing but the robes on her back, a handful of coins, and a creature that Should Not Be. One of her final projects at the guild involved assisting in the creation of a homunculus.
| Sherbakov Stanislav |
She hadn't invented the process, or contributed most of the work, but as the only surviving apprentice of the group (and the main contributor of blood), she felt entitled to walk out of the Guild with Lamb, a 6' tall humanoid tumour, behind her. She needed steady employment, and she knew where to find it. The famous Dr. Hartwell, foreigner, doctor, revolutionary, and friend of the labouring masses, would surely hire her.
Side Note: Mary has an Int of 8. Lamb, her homunculus, has an Int of 10.
Tom was recovering from de-trollification surgery in Blumsworth Hospital. With a sharpened spoon, strong acid, a paintbrush, and opium, Dr. Hartwell cut away Tom's trollish eye, arm, and a chunk of his skull, then acidified his blood to prevent reinfection. Without Lizzy's guiding hand, her experimental troll centrifuge was deemed too dangerous.
After surgery, Dr. Hartwell left Blumsworth Hospital to get some rest, while Doyle took over monitoring Tom's convalescence (and warding off Snedge-type assassins). As the good doctor walked through the hospital's gates, he was accosted by a tiny apprentice in rubberized alchemist robes and a gigantic nurse.
"Hello hello!" Mary said. "I am Mary Berger and this is Nurse Lamb."
"Ghuh," Lamb said, staring at Dr. Hartwell with watery makeup-caked eyes. Mary had done her best, but even a mask, cap, and robe couldn't disguise Lamb's unnatural nature. Lamb wasn't the weirdest thing walking the streets of Endon these days (thanks to the Leonine Cartel's ability to polymorph strange pets), but the towering figure was still noteworthy.
"Ah, hello," Dr. Hartwell said. "Wait. You're an alchemist." Doyle had been ranting about the Alchemists for days. He suspected they were up to something.
On the third floor of the hospital, Doyle could see the conversation. "That's an alchemist," he muttered. "Stay here," he said to his heavily sedated friend, then walked to the window, opened it, and fell out. He activated his amulet of featherfall, opened his umbrella, and landed on his feet in the hospital's courtyard. He lit a cigarette and sauntered forward, ignoring the astonished bystanders.
The Alchemists are up to something," Mary explained. "The exploitation of the labouring masses!"
"Anything beside that?" Doyle asked.
"Well, I wasn't very high up in the Guild. Apprentice 4th class. So I don't know all their secrets... or any of their secrets."
"And that... thing?" Doyle regarded Lamb with trepidation.
"This is Lamb, my very best friend. My parents told me to make friends at school, so I..."
"Yes, oh dear," Dr. Hartwell interrupted. "Well, I don't think she's a spy for the Alchemists," he said to Doyle. "They wouldn't be this obvious."
"Unless..." Doyle countered.
"But I'm not a spy!" Mary said indignantly. "I'm trained in alchemy. I can do all the fiddly glassware bits and get the flasks bubbling, no problem at all. And I'm also trained in basic field medicine, on account of all the explosions and burns. Please can I have a job?"
"You made that?" Dr. Hartwell said, pointing at Lamb. Lamb stared at the doctor's finger. "Very well, you are hired as an apprentice. Talk to Professor Earl about the rates. Don't touch anything without permission."
"Yes!" Mary said, punching the air.
Two weeks later, rumours that the Army (or some of it, at least) was returning from Foreign Parts to crush the Revolution sparked panic in Endon. The rumours were confirmed two days later when a proclamation from General Brockton was posted by monarchist loyalists on prominent street corners.
The General informed Endon that he would restore Parliament, place a temporary Monarch on the throne until Harold II could be located, undo the excesses (unstated) of the Revolution, execute a few traitors, and generally return Endon to a nostalgic golden age of prosperity, peace, and good government.
He asked wizards to "respect their traditional role and not interfere in civil matters." This was a cunning political manoeuvre; wizards had, traditionally, kept out of politics. It gave hesitant wizards a way out of the dilemma they faced. They could simply let soldiers fight citizens, then join the winning side. If partisan wizards fought with full intensity, the results would be catastrophic; there wouldn't be an Endon to conqueror.
The PCs called a meeting at the Iron Spike. Tom, still in bed and wrapped in bandages, spent the conference leafing through a catalogue of prosthetic arms.
"Option one," Doyle said. "We help the Army."
"Vetoed," Dr. Hartwell said. Tom grunted in agreement.
"Option two," Doyle said. "We stay out of it. Let Benjamin Fits and the other revolutionaries fight the Army."
"Result: massacre," Dr. Hartwell added.
"If the army wins, we'll be fine... probably. If the revolution wins, we'll be traitors," Doyle continued. "Option three, we help the revolution. Result..."
"I think I could blast an army," Tom said. "Run the lightning accumulator in reverse, or throw a magic battery at them, or maybe summon a series of iron golems..."
"Result: massacre," Dr. Hartwell said again.
"But of the wrong side!" Tom said plaintively.
"Do you think the average soldier in Endon's army has the vaguest idea of the political aims of the Revolution? They are just annoyed they haven't been paid. And once you and every other wizard in Endon has blasted the army into smithereens, who will defend Endon?"
"What does the Army do, anyway? I didn't think we were at war?" Tom said.
"The Army protects Endon's interests. In particular, the eight and a half percent minimum interest we charge on loans. They help maintain the balance of trade, open new markets, and defend the rights of commerce," Jonty said, from the other side of the room.
"Well that's fine then," Tom said naively. Dr. Hartwell tried not to snap at him.
"In any case," Jonty said, "we have a fourth option. We tell the Army to go away."
"Go away or we'll blast ya!" Tom said. "Bang, zap, boom!"
"No, we tell them to go away in an official letter signed by the Minister of War," Jonty said patiently.
"But the Minister of War exploded with Parliament."
"We'll elect a new one. Show the Army that the Revolution is not a disorganized group of bickering wizards, opportunistic plutocrats, pamphlet-addled revolutionaries, drunkards, and thieves, but a legitimate government. Please hold your comments for the time being, Doyle."
"But the General says he's going to attack in two days. Do we have time to have an election?," Tom asked.
"We do," Jonty said confidently. "I'll propose it at the Royal Palace immediately. Doyle and Dr. Hartwell, come with me. Tom, you should stay in bed.
A Snap Election
The old Royal Palace had become a meeting hall for the Revolution, neutral ground where anyone with a loud voice and a strong opinion could be heard. The building smelled of sawdust and sweat, as unpainted wood panels divided stately chambers into workrooms, barracks, and meeting halls. Benjamin Fits and some of the other dedicated revolutionaries lived in the palace full-time.
At Jonty's subtle urging, the second Constitutional Congress met that night and, with input from various groups,
adjusted Endon's draft constitution, the Magna Costermonger, to a final and controversial form.
Some issues required hours of furious debate; others were slipped into
drafts and quietly accepted without anyone noticing. Single women got
the vote. Married women didn't. Instead, married men got two votes. Nobody is happy with this, and the demographic and social consequences will be immense, but it's currently the law.
requested that "affordable speech" be changed to "cheap speech." He was
aware that Endon's merchants and landlords considered "affordable" to
be "exactly what the market will bear and then a little bit more", and
also recognized that Endon's press treated facts like exotic
The unwieldy 512 elected representatives of the original draft were reduced to 64, creating a Parliament that was far cozier and, coincidentally, easier to control."Getting 33 votes is far easier than two hundred and fif... sixt..." Tom said later, trailing off as his powers of mental arithmetic failed.
Tom, via Jonty, tried to get the "regulate the use of magic" clause struck out, but failed to convince enough delegates. "Wizards can police themselves!" he said. "Why should Parliament get to decide what constitutes 'harm to another person'?"
Loxdon College refused to be included in any district map. Eligible students can still vote if they reside off-campus.
Other powerful wizards district around their main workshop or residence. Smacks of magical corporate feudalism, or Magiocracy-by-Proxy, to Dr. Hartwell. Instead of Members representing districts, they instead represent the major business in that district. Unless truly revolutionary or otherwise affiliated.
Parties and factions go against the spirit of the Revolution. Everyone is, in theory, united in a common cause. Parties are a symptom of a decadent and paralyzed oligarchy.
The parties Endon does not have include:
The Iron Spike Party. With their slogan "Workers and Wizards", their symbol of the crossed wand and hammer (or a big beefy arm clutching a robed skinny arm), the Iron Spike Party is Tom's creation. Social programs include an ambitious rent-and-partially-construct-to-own housing scheme, urban beautification, and magic put into the service of ordinary people. There's more than a touch of Tower Madness in Tom's proposals
Benjamin Fits and the Mechanics Societies. The organized core of the Revolution, still reeling from its success. With their main goal accomplished (in theory), the subfactions within the working-class core of the Revolution are starting to bicker, splinter, and plot.
The Guild of Alchemists. Their candidates ran independently, or with the appearance of independence, but share alchemical leanings, training, or financing. A reservoir of anti-wizard sentiment. Doyle suspected the Alchemists were a major power behind the Revolution; the Oil of Azide that destroyed Parliament didn't fall off the back of a milk cart.
The Leonine Cartel. The polymorphers, producers of whale oil, cheap steaks by the cartload, and rare delicacies for anyone who can afford their prices. A nervous alliance of old capital and experimental wizardry, the Leonine Cartel has few proactive policies, but wants to avoid further instability in Endon. Free food is a powerful draw for the newly enfranchised or unemployed.
George Miles, inventor of the flying Mira, seemed to lack the
charisma and focus to meddle in city-wide politics, but ran a few
candidates for the districts around his workshops and factories, and
seemed to be on good terms with most wizards.
Snedge. Running in the wealthy [area]. Old money, but the subtle kind. His policies appeal to both the wealthy and the merely affluent, while containing a mix of patriotism, revolutionary rhetoric, and good old-fashioned flattery that could easily carry him (horror of horrors!) into the New Parliament.
Wizards can vote, but cannot be elected to Parliament. Wizards do not de-escalate well. There's always a risk of a heated debate turning into a superheated debate, an expanding cloud of plasma, and mass casualties.
Dr. Hartwell is a wizard and a doctor. He argued that Doctor trumps Wizard (and both trump Foreigner), an argument that Endon silently accepted (or failed to hear). No real Wizard would ever call themselves anything but a Wizard. Under the banner of the Iron Spike Party, but with one foot in the caucus of the Leonine Cartel, he ran for a seat in the New Parliament with the explicit goal of creating and leading a novel Ministry of Health. Nobody else seemed to want the job. Dr. Hartwell recognized that some basic improvements, such as a sewer system, water treatment, a diet that included more vegetables, and not dumping magical waste over the fence and into the nearest alley, could significantly improve the quality of life for most Endoners.
Alan Dard had risen from gambler to mobster, from mobster to real estate investor, and from real estate investor to slightly shady Public Citizen of Means. He lamented, from his sumptuous and well-funded campaign office, that most of his time was spent doing paperwork. He was so corrupt that he'd accidentally stumbled into legitimate politics. He loved the Iron Spike Party like a dog loves lunch, and worked tirelessly among the people of Needle Circus.
The Night Before The Election
Thanks to the finest and most expensive magical healing in Endon, Tom felt great. His new prosthetic arm, made of polished steel and bright ceramic, worked almost as well as his old one. It could transform into a sword, a shield, or a three-slot wand holster. His new eye, a perfect tourmaline crystal, should allow him to see invisible creatures and illusions.
Sure, he'd lost some of his conventional good looks, but his unconventional good looks were off the chart. With one tourmaline eye and one fire eye, with a magnificent hat and embroidered robes, and the confidence of owing the tallest tower in history, Tom felt invincible. He decided to investigate the reports of the a glowing light in the Great Crater at night.
"I'm going to investigate those reports of lights in the Great Crater," Tom said one evening. "There has to be a reason tours close at night."
On his twin brother's broomstick, Tom corkscrewed through the dark skies of Endon, heading for the earthen cone of the Great Crater, the former site of Parliament. Doyle, Dr. Hartwell, Mary, and Lamb waited in a cab on the edge of the crater.
Tom cast invisibility, then descended into the crater. The soft golden glow around the central spire resolved itself into the fuzzy outline of a dragon, a glowing sketch of the exploded Balchezazar the Azure. It raised an incandescent head and stared at Tom with unmistakeable malice. Shambledrake, it said, speaking directly to his mind.
Oh bugger, Tom thought, and swung his broomstick upwards.
From the ground, Tom was invisible, and the dragon-wraith pursuing him was just a suggestion of lights and fog. Parts of it flashed into visibility whenever it collided with a building or flared its wings to make a tight turn.
"Follow that... glowing thing," Doyle said to the cabby.
In a panic, Tom decided to head for Loxdon College. After the last dragon attack on Endon (just before Parliament exploded), the College had invested considerable energy in fortifying its ancient boundaries. If those wards couldn't stop a ghost dragon, Tom didn't know anything that could.
A few inches off the pavement, Tom passed through the wards with a faint flare of magic as his invisibility spell failed. The magic keeping his broomstick in the air also seemed to falter, sending him tumbling onto the pavement. The dragon, ethereal jaws snappng, pursued, slammed into the wards, and stopped. It coiled its body, dug its claws into the invisible barrier, and started to pry the wards apart. Octaire fire burst into the night sky, illuminating the dragon, Tom, and the speeding cab.
The dragon lunged forwards, teeth burning, and caught Tom in its jaws. The wounds were both physical and spiritual. Tom seemed to age before the group's eyes. His youthful chin sprouted a grey beard, his skin wrinkled, and his back bent under the weight of unnatural years and sapped vitality.
"Hit it with everything you've got," Doyle said, leaping from the cab and pulling out his wand of scorching ray. Dr. Hartwell fired off wave of mutilation, while Mary and Lamb, lacking magic of any sort, ran forward to try and help Tom.
Tom, in a panic, called out for Uriah Shambledrake Junior, using his full and enchanted name in the hopes it would summon his time-cloned twin brother. It worked, and a moment later Uriah stepped through a nearby door using his triple doorway spell.
Doyle cast knock on the dragon, forcing it to vomit up the contents of its ethereal stomach, which included bits of Tom's soul. Tom de-aged as the torrent of ectoplasm washed over him... and over his soul-twin Uriah. Though Tom found the effect unnervingly revitalizing, Uriah seemed to be in agony, as his soul experienced an unprecedented crisis.
Instead of helping Tom, Mary scooped ectoplasm, wizard blood, and the groundwater of Loxdon College into a syringe, then injected it into Lamb. "Get it!" she said, pointing at the looming dragon. Lamb's body twitched and convulsed. Its jaw opening wider and wider as the homunculus dug its hands and feet into the ground. A moment later, it belched a column of coruscating blue-white flame into the dragon's face.
"Good job Lamb!" Mary said, as the rest of the party stared in horror.
The ethereal dragon roared, aimed, and breathed a wave of white fog towards Lamb. Uriah quickly cast wall of force behind the Homunculus, protecting himself, Tom, and Mary but leaving the unnatural creature exposed. Lamb was smeared over the street.
"There should have been more bones," Doyle said, trying to keep his lunch down. "A thing like that should've had bones in it."
"Keep blasting," Dr. Hartwell said as he dug through his bag for another wand.
"I'm out of spells," Doyle replied. "I don't think weapons will work on this thing."
"Hit it with your magic sword then," Dr. Hartwell said, irritated.
"The magic sword you said came from a vampire in a floating evil castle? No thanks," Doyle said. He'd secretly had the sword's enchantments examined, and while the "decaptiation" one was appealing, the "trap and revive the corpses of those you slay" spell worried him.
"I'll get it," Tom said feebly. He sat up, cast lighting bolt, and fell over. The blast illuminated the College and, as far as anyone could tell, scattered the remains of the etheral dragon.
"What the hell was that," Uriah said.
"What?!" Mary replied, as she tried to scoop Lamb's remains into a large pile.
"Damnation, we're all deaf. Good work Tom," Uriah said. "You, detective. Help me drag my idiot brother through the portal."
Dr. Hartwell cast fix flesh on Lamb's remains, returning the homunculus to life... or something close to it. Mary was overjoyed.
"At least we avoided the press," Doyle said, as he took one last look across Loxdon College.
What new surprises would election day bring? Can a dragon ever truly die? What are the Alchemists planning? What does Uriah Shambledrake Jr. really want?
Find out next time.