In the Previous Installment, the PCs:
- Incited a Small Mob
- Obtained a Rich Reward from a Dead Man
- Were Interviewed by the Dean of Magic
- Committed Financial Chicanery Using Private Shares
The PCs are:
Electric Wizard and heir to the bankrupt Shambledrake estate.
Dandy. Assistant Professor at Loxdon College and moral gymnast.
Dr. Augustus Hartwell
Biomancer. A foreign doctor and self-described "quack", Augustus is now accredited and theoretically accepted by Endon's establishment.
Potion Wizard, former cook, former brewer, and current secretary (of no fixed portfolio) to Doyle Wormsby.
Civic Wizard, Private Investigator. Not so much a hardboiled detective as a fried egg sandwich with no napkins.
Riggles the Helpful Urchin
Animist Wizard. The result of the "late" Professor Tallerand's experiments with potions. Riggles' player missed this session, so Riggles was presumably off enjoying freedom and roast chickens.
After investing their combined wealth in Krahlhammer's Fine Security Apparati for the Discerning Home-Owner, the PCs, like any good industrialists, moved to protect and improve their investment. Gel Knights rented or sold by Nero Krahlhammer were going berserk with alarming regularity. Lawsuits and reputational damage threatened to sink the firm. But the group had discovered the source; a poison administered by the rival firm of Nortgreen & Louton.
Unfortunately, they lacked any concrete evidence to support their claims. A lawsuit could take years to resolve. The group instead decided to intervene and present a clear and dramatic chain of evidence to Endon's citizens. "We don't even need to lie," Lizzy said, "we just need to ensure people see the right parts of the truth."
The first step was reconnaissance. Elementalists recognize eight elements, but from reporters to cut-purses, Endoners recognized a ninth; surprise.
In newly purchased and very fashionable upper-middle-class garb, Jonty, Tom, and Lizzy arrived for a respectably booked tour of Nortgreen & Louton's manufactory and showroom. The Shambledrake name still carried hints of money, and, among close readers of the papers, suggestions of danger and intrigue. Jonty attempted to train Lizzy in upper-class manners, but Lizzy, who'd studied the genteel classes very closely from her position below stairs, did not need much instruction.
"Delighted to make your acquaintance," Liddel Nortgreen said. A young, tidy, and nervous man in grey and purple velvet, Liddel left a faint trail of hair oil and perfume as he guided the group through Nortgreen & Louton's showroom. Their premises in Needle Circus consisted of a large warehouse and manufatory, a glass-domed garden and show pavilion, a sand yard for demonstrations, and a small coffee room. It was the height of taste, probably rented or purchased on credit.
After explaining Gel Knight theory, showing off the latest armoured casings, Liddel agreed to a tour of the manufactory. "This is merely the final assembly area," he said smoothly. "Casings are manufactured elsewhere, as are the gel wafers and bulk gel stock."
The manufactory was impressive. Leather-clad workers manipulated vats of translucent green ooze with steel paddles, carving off slices and moving them to smaller tanks. Reagent distillation towers converted herbs and alchemical ingredients into potent extracts. Lizzy studied them with a seasoned eye. Nero Krahlhammer has to buy his ingredients at market rates. Nortgreen & Louton made them in bulk. "Newt centrifuge," she whispered, pointing to one ominous machine. "Very nice. Breed them, blend them, and decant the eye layer. Oh, and look, they've got a coronal discharge ring on the top of their pseudohemlock tower. Very nice. But they could probably get 10-12% more efficiency if they..."
"Try to look like a lady," Tom whispered, "and don't touch the equipment." Lizzy stuck out her tongue and simpered theatrically, then discreetly scooped some dripping gel into a vial.
As Liddle Nortgreen burbled on, the group spotted an older gentleman on an elevated catwalk clearly listening in and offering silent gesture-based commentary. "Grandfather and grandson?" Jonty whispered, gently directing Tom's attention.
"Possibly," Tom said, then turned to attract Liddle's attention. "What is behind that door?"
"Our offices and research laboratory," Liddle said. "Unfortunately, they are not part of the tour. Trade secrets."
"Of course." Jonty said politely, "Please continue."
Liddle burbled away, discussing ooze variants and training methods, while the group listened politely and committed the building's floorplan to memory. Lizzy was startled by the sudden appearance of the old man at her side. "What have you got in your purse, my dear?" he whispered.
"A gentleman would not ask," she whispered back.
"Only, I thought I saw you collect a sample of our ooze a few moments ago. I am Cecil Nortgreen. That creature is my grandson. He speaks well but he has no aptitude for research. Pity. And you are?"
"Alice" Lizzy said. "I am a friend of Mr. Shambledrake's".
"Alice," the old gentleman said lecherously, "why don't you put that ooze back in the vat, and then we can have a nice little chat in my office?"
"Ooh, I'd like that," Lizzy said, with forced naivety, as she tipped the ooze out of the vial.
"Toodle-oo, grandson," Cecil said, waving his cane. "I am taking this young lady to my office for a private tour." Liddle sighed, clearly recognizing his grandfather's proclivities. Lizzy tittered.
"This is my research laboratory. We have nine different ooze lines here. That ceramic vat, for instance, contains the infamous black ooze, which consumes metal as food. Did you know that it also consumes lightning? A fascinating organism," Cecil gabbled, his love for his gelatinous subjects clearly overpowering his other desires.
While the neatly labeled drawers, alchemical devices, and elaborate glassware attracted Lizzy's attention, she paid careful attention to the dog in the middle of the laboratory floor. All the workers seemed to give it a wide berth. The dog drooled and stared with benign confusion at people passing by, but Lizzy could see a clear halo of diffuse magic around its head. She decided not to mention it, or ask about the mysterious smell of yeast wafting from an adjacent room.
"And this is my office. Step inside my dear. Do you have any questions about my work?" Cecil said solicitously, clutching Lizzy's hand.
"Why yes. Why do you use a Rochefort condenser on your pseudowormwood stack?" Lizzy said, without dropping the naive tone.
Cecil was momentarily flummoxed. "Ah. Eh. The coronal discharge. We need to..."
"But you're routing it to the atmosphere. Surely you could use a coronal imploder - perhaps Stapledon's - to send it back down the stack. You could easily improve yields by 10%. Let me draw you a diagram," Lizzy said, reaching for a pen and paper.
Cecil's hopes of a titillating encounter faded. He eventually attempted to hire "Alice" as a secretary, and Lizzy agreed to an interview the next day, throwing in a bit of flirtation for free.
Jonty and Tom managed to avoid signing a rental agreement by suggesting that the Loxdon College porters needed to be consulted, but promised to return soon with a deposit. The PCs departed in good spirits.
|Jack T. Cole|
Side Note: Doyle rolled Int 6 and Cha 5. 3d6 down the live giveth and 3d6 down the line taketh away. Arguably both Clouseau and Columbo have Int 6 and Cha 5 (or thereabouts). Columbo just works harder.Over a late lunch at the Unicorn Arms, Doyle explained his findings to the group. "It's the perfect cover," he said. "Nobody pays close attention to the night soil men. Our poisoner could join a team, enter a courtyard, inject the poison, and slip away."
"The Gel Knight would still attack them," Jonty said.
"The smell," Dr. Hartwell said. "Of course! The Gel Knights may detect people by scent. A night soil man may not smell like a person."
"All we need to do," Doyle said, "is ask various night soil crews about strangers, then pay to join that crew temporarily, then grab the guy and ask some very pointed questions."
The thought of joining a night soil crew, even temporarily, did not appeal to Jonty, who smiled the polite smile of someone who wished he were elsewhere. Lizzy, as a woman, was automatically exempt, and was quietly smug about it. Tom said he had exams. That left just Dr. Hartwell and Doyle to don some rags, roll in the gutter, and spend the evening bribing their way into one of the least desirable professions in Endon.
In the dead of night, in a very respectable neighborhood north of West Cross, a night soil man silently detached himself from the crew and casually padded along the street, checking house numbers by the light of the moon. Two other night soil men prodded each other, nodded their heads, and followed.
"Evening," Doyle said, sliding in front of the mysterious worker, as Dr. Hartwell flanked.
"Evening," the stranger replied, trying not to make eye contact.
"What've you got there? Ah, no need to move," Doyle said, patting the stranger's waist, and drawing out three steel syringes. "How mysterious."
"That's... cow medicine," the night soil worker replied. "My cow is very sick."
"Cow medicine, eh? You see, we're investigating a series of cows getting... very healthy, in these parts."
"Suspiciously healthy," Dr. Hartwell added.
"And we'd very much like to know where you got your cow medicine," Doyle said. The night soil man started to move, but Dr. Hartwell clapped a hand on his shoulder.
"I don't remember," he said. "And if I did and I told you, it's my life on the line. Or at least my job."
"I wouldn't worry about that. I hear the whole cow medicine business is about to go under," Doyle said, passing over a handful of silver. "In fact, you could take this money and spend the next few days in the country."
"I could do that," the night soil man said. "But if my... my sick cow doesn't get well tonight, the cow doctor will know I didn't do my job."
"We will take care of your cow," Dr. Hartwell said. "Just tell us where you got the medicine."
"A warehouse. 4 Dagle Lane in Needle Circus. Around back. There's a door."
"Got it," Doyle said. "Now go take a vacation. Somewhere nice and quiet."
As the night soil man shuffled off, Dr. Hartwell inspected the syringes. "It is certainly Gel Knight poison. Pure and undiluted. Mr. Krahlhammer will want a sample. We should poison a Gel Knight and alert the others."
"Why?" Doyle said, "we've got proof. That address is definitely the Nortgreen and Louton warehouse."
"First, this is not enough proof. Second, if we do not poison a Gel Knight, Nortgreen and Louton will become suspicious, and may anticipate an attack. Third, we will be present on the scene to prevent a rampage and spread rumours of the source. The poison must take some time to react with the gel. The automatons are poisoned at night, but only go berserk in the morning," Dr. Hartwell whispered. "Therefore, we have several hours to bathe and prepare."
"And the whole story will look neat and tidy for the Coppers," Doyle mused. "We're on the scene. We stop the rampage. Drop some hints, leave some clues, give them a nice thread to follow to Nortgreen and Luton. Coppers look competent. We look like model citizens. Let's do it."
Doyle and Dr. Hartwell walked east to Grenville Court and woke up Nero Krahlhammer, who, by now, was used to unexplained late-night visits from the co-owners of his business. He was delighted by the syringe and by the sketch of the scheme presented by the odorous pair on his doorstep. He also provided a list of addresses with non-Nortgreen & Louton Gel Knights.
The next stop was a gin joint. Doyle obtained a tin cup of gin by placing coins on the doorstep and threatening to come inside and "touch things" if the proprietors didn't pour him a glass. For once, the gin wasn't for him. The pair meandered towards a house near West Cross, where a Gel Knight from the lesser-known firm of Wexton & Sons was on patrol behind the locked gate and thick walls of a small mansion.
After confirming that his arms weren't long enough to reach the Gel Knight through the gate, Doyle set down his drink and cast dancing gin. A tiny translucent homunculus made of gin leapt out of the cup and did a cheerful sloshing jig on the cobbles.
Either the noise, the spell, or the sympathetic resonance of two animated liquids attracted the Gel Knight's attention. It wandered towards the gate, seemingly unaware of Dr. Hartwell and Doyle. All the good doctor had to do was reach through the gate and gently push the syringe into one of the automaton's joints. The Gel Knight did not react. Doyle scooped the gin back into his cup, watched the automaton return to its patrol route, and smiled contentedly.
"Now let's slip into something more comfortable," the private investigator said, "like a bath. And then, we've got a stakeout to plan."
"At least we'll have... lots to eat?" Tom said, yawning.
"Oh yes. Six nice steaks, roast potatoes, mustard, and I've got a little jar of pickles in there somewhere." Lizzy said. "You see, when Mr. Wormsby said it was a stake-out, I thought he said..."
"We understand," Jonty said wearily. It was far too early in the morning for this sort of thing.
"One of us should get Angelica Hopewell," Tom added.
"Right. And we should tell her almost everything. That we are discreetly investigating the Gel Knight poisonings. That we have a suspect. That if she plays along she will get inside information. If we try to pretend that we are accidental bystanders, she will probably start investigating us," Jonty said. "Reporters love uncovering a conspiracy. We only need to ensure that she uncovers the right one."
"I'll do it," Lizzy said. "If one of you carries the basket. It's good value."
"Enough with the comestibles!" Dr. Hartwell said. "We must hurry."
Lizzy took a cab across the River Burl to Haymarket Square, and, after bothering many newspaper reporters and editors, located Angelica. After summarizing the plot, she tried to haul the reporter into the waiting cab.
"No time!" Angelica said, grabbing a carpet bag and pushing her bicycle onto the street. "Hop on the back!" Lizzy, who had never been on a bicycle, adjusted her skirts, put her feet cautiously on the wooden platforms above the back wheel's axle, and held on for dear life. Angelia had clearly absorbed the dictum that speed is stability, and, at the unbelievable speed of 7 miles per hour, raced through Endon's traffic. Pedestrians stopped to stare. Horses collided. Coppers dropped their whistles.
Meanwhile, north of West Cross, the other PCs had located a bench and set up a small pic-nic on the quiet street. With their newly purchased clothes and carefree attitude, they projected an air of calm respectability. They cast the occasional glance at the walls and courtyard of the mansion, listening for the tell-tale sounds of Gel Knight havoc.
Angelica arrived in a cloud of dust, dismounted, helped a slightly stunned Lizzy to the bench, and started setting up her equipment. Her semi-autonomous photography rig was as expensive as her self-writing pen. "Any sign of the mysterious poisoners?"
"None," Jonty said. "Also, please do not use our names. We are merely concerned citizens. Doyle Wormsby, Private Investigator, is working a case."
"He's a what?" Angelica asked.
"A Private Investigator. That means he's a sort of freelance Copper, I think," Lizzy added. "I'm his secretary. Though I don't know what that means. Would you like some steak?"
As Lizzy handed out steak and potatoes, a Copper, eyebrows colliding with mild concern, wandered down the street towards the group. "What's all this then?" he said.
"We are having a pic-nic," Jonty said casually. "Care for a steak sandwich?"
"Not on duty," the Copper said instinctually, then corrected himself. "Did you say steak sandwich? With mustard?"
"And good fresh bread. Here you are."
"This is a private street, sirs, ma'ams," the Copper said between mouthfuls. "And I must ask you to move along."
"Oh we will, as soon as we've finished our pic-nic," Jonty said. "Potato?"
"Very kind of you sir."
Suddenly, screams and splintered wood cut through the jovial atmosphere. "Good gracious, what could that be?" Dr. Hartwell said, with almost believable surprise.
"Right!" the Copper said, scarfing down the last of the sandwich and striding purposefully forward. A terrified horse, harness dragging, bolted from the coutyard, followed by an equally terrified groom. A Gel Knight, partially covered in the splintered remains of a carriage, followed, swinging its weapon menacingly at anything that moved.
"A Gel Knight rampage!" Tom said. "How terrible!" Lizzy swooned. She then got up and swooned in a better position for Angelica's camera, ensuring her face was covered. Servants milled in the courtyard, unwilling to approach the irate Gel Knight. The house's owner, a portly gentleman of advanced years, was yelling for his gun, for the police, and for his lawyers while turning an unhealthy shade of beetroot red.
"Stand back, citizens!" Doyle Wormsby said dramatically. He aimed his umbrella at the Gel Knight and cast knock. Every buckle, clasp, and clamp unscrewed. The Gel Knight's armour fell off in pieces, revealing, briefly, the human-shaped gelatinous core, which slumped into a heap with every step. The growing crowd applauded.
Dr. Hartwell ran forward, tapped the gel with his hand, and extracted a vial full of black liquid. "Poison!" he declared, holding it aloft. The crowd gasped. "Who could have done this?"
"I don't know," Tom said, at the back of the crowd, "but it is strange that Gel Knights made by Nortgreen & Louton are never poisoned."
"Very strange," Jonty agreed.
"It could be foreigners," someone helpfully suggested.
"Nortgreen & Louton could be... owned by foreigners?" Tom suggested, slightly taken aback.
The house's owner, between gasps for air, was demanding legal satisfaction and a full police inquiry. "Poisoned! My property! I'll have them whipped through the streets!" Dr. Hartwell cheerfully handed over the gel poison as two footmen tried to pour the squelching gel into an empty barrel. Doyle pointed out an empty steel syringe in the gutter to a nearby urchin and suggested the Copper, or the house's owner, might offer a reward for it.
"We should depart. What's the plan?" Jonty said.
The PCs stared at each other. "I thought you had a plan," Dr. Hartwell replied. "We played our parts."
"I thought Doyle was in charge," Tom said.
"Don't look at me," Doyle said. "I've solved the case."
For the first time, the group realized that they'd lit the fuse on a bomb, without knowing where exactly the bomb was placed. "Gods and devils," Jonty said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "We'll sort it out in the cab."
The group decided to act quickly and decisively. Tom, Alice, and Jonty would return to Nortgreen & Louton's showroom and cause a scene large enough to attract the police. Doyle would stop by the Grim Baliol, bend the ear of an Copper or two, and send them on a targeted search of the premises. Dr. Hartwell would ensure the search turned up undeniable evidence.
Dr. Hartwell's Mission
With as much haste as his creaking knees could tolerate, Dr. Hartwell stepped from the cab, purchased a set of old clothes at a rag-and-bone stall, changed in an alley, stuffed his suit into his doctor's bag, and sped towards the back door of Nortgreen & Louton's warehouse. After stowing the bag out of sight and checking that he still had a one syringe of Gel Knight poison, he cast alter self. Under his cap, Dr. Hartwell now resembled the mysterious night soil man.
He knocked on the unmarked door. A metal plate slid open, revealing a pair of scowling eyes.
"I need to talk to the boss," Dr. Hartwell said, attempting to mimic the poisoner's accent.
"Password," the figure inside whispered.
"It's me. I don't have time for this. It went wrong. The Coppers are all over the place. Let me in."
The eyes considered this. The door slid open, revealing a stout and grimy figure in leather overalls. He checked the alley, then hustled Dr. Hartwell into the recieving dock. Cabinets, crates, and assorted tools were scattered around the cramped space.
"Fuck's sake, what did you do?"
"I didn't do anything. It was the stuff. I put it in the thing and it went mad immediately. Started smashing the place up. Get the boss. I've got to talk to the boss."
The worker considered this. "You're such a lump. Stay here. Don't touch nothing." The moment he left, Dr. Harwell carefully opened a drawer and stowed the poison syringe.
"Says it went mad immediately, Mr. Louton," the worker said, as the mysterious Mr. Louton entered the room. Dr. Hartwell eyed him criticallly. Mr. Louton was sturdily built, with a fashionable suit and diamond tie pin. He had the air of a prize-fighter or quarrelsome farmer.
"That's right," Dr. Hartwell said. "It went mad right away. There are Coppers all over the place.
"That's not possible," Louton said. "Where was this? The job up in North Cross? Gods and devils. Gods and devils indeed. Were you followed?"
"I don't think so."
"What about the other syringes?" Louton asked. Dr. Hartwell patted his clothes.
"Must have dropped them on the way. Damn."
Louton and the worker glanced at each other. "This is what we'll do. You, go get three new syringes. You, you contemptible little worm, take them the Wexton & Sons warehouse on Bismuth St. Get them inside somehow, I don't care how. Hide them. I'll call some Coppers and direct them to search the place. Frame it as a racket. Go."
Dr. Hartwell took the three syringes and stepped out of the room. He waited until the voices receeded, then carefully hooked a finger in the keyhole and pulled the door open again. Three more syringes found homes in three more drawers. He was dressed in his clean black suit before the alter self spell faded.
In the cab, Tom, Lizzy, and Jonty had agreed on the basic framework of a plan. Jonty arrived at the showroom and monpolized Liddle Nortgreen's attention with vague promises, demands for demonstations, technical questions, and puffery. He did his best to accumulate a crowd of technicians and workers in the showroom before launching into an improvised speech.
"Demonology, friends! Yes! The drop of blood spilled on a Gel Knight trust wafer is the seal of a diabolical contract. Now friends you're either closing your eyes to a pact you do not wish to acklowledge or you are secretly aware of the infernal disaster now bubbling, boiling, rising within these walls. Now a drop of blood for biomancy, sure, that's biomancy friends, and I've got no quarrel with the doctor or the quack who wants to smear the sanguine humour on a slide or a flask but a wafer. Yes, a wafer friends. A wafer is a loaf and a loaf is bread and bread and blood is diabolica!"
"Yes diabolical! Now an ooze as you know has no brain and no soul so perhaps, yes perhaps, it wants one. Wants yours! Or yours! To digest and invest and control by a pact with the Powers Below, that's right."
As Jonty fascinated and distressed the crowd of employees, Tom slipped into the main manufacturing hall. He wanted to try out his new purchase, a handstealer glove. He slipped the silver glove over his right hand and carefully looked at a worker on a gantry. The worker seemed to be measuring out gel from an enormous copper vat. The levers and chains in front of him looked delightfully important. Tom waited until the worker glanced away from the levers for a moment, then gently - and unobtrusively - took control of one of his right hand. When the worker went to pull a lever, he found his hand on the next lever over. Chains slid past. The worker frantically reached for the brake, but Tom flicked his hand to the side. The sluice gate on the vat opened, and a slow wave of green gel flooded across the manufatory floor.
Workers started shouting. "Oh gods, not again!" was a common cry. Someone ran for an alarm bell. Other workers ran for the exits, or grabbed steel paddles to try and keep the ooze away from the equipment. Tom stepped back into the exhibiton hall and closed the door just before the ooze arrived. He watched the layer of gel slowly rise up the glass windows, then, after waggling his eyebrows at Jonty, casually walked out of the building.
"And look!" Jonty cried, pointing at the catastrophe unfolding in the manufactory. His rheteroical spell broke. The crowd dispersed in panic.
Lizzy broke off from the gathering crowd early to find Cecil Nortgreen. She clung to his arm, steered him into his office, and began a precisely calculated campaign of mild flirtation. She was almost on the point of braining him with a lamp when alarm bells and shouts distracted him from his goal. "Goodness, what is that?" she simpered.
"Stay here," Cecil said, running into the main manufactory hall.
Lizzy followed at a discreet distance. The wave of translucent gel pouring out of Vat 3 had hit the distillation towers. The ooze bubbled noisily as it sloshed over the burners, extinguishing them, and smashing glassware along the way. Unstable reagents began to mix and ferment.
"Out the back then," Lizzy said to herself. Avoiding agitated researchers and workers, she returned to Cecil's office, rifled through his desk, and pulled out a large magically sealed book. "So nice of Mr. Nortgreen to leave his research notes unattended," she said, stuffing the book and some spare change into her handbag.
Her next stop was the research hall. She avoided the mysterious enchanted hound, but opened all the cabinets and doors to ensure the poison distillation apparatus was on full display for even the most simple-minded Copper. She even put a syringe next to it.
The smell of yeast still intrigued her. She checked the side room and found a large white loaf-shaped ooze in a glass tank. The charts and notes attached to the tank, and the sacks of grain on the floor, suggested a tantilizing project. This ooze seemed to be capable of digesting grains and excreting pure alcohol. A sort of super-yeast. Lizzy's eyes lit up.
A Nortgreen & Louton employee picked that moment to step into the room. "Who are..." he started to ask, but Lizzy cast inebriate before he could finish the thought. She spun him around like a top and pushed him out the door, then grabbed a steel paddle and a three-gallon jar. "Come to Lizzy," she muttered, carving off a chunk of the ooze.
"You're sure you've got proof?" Inspector Silas said.
"I'm sure. I don't even want the credit. Just catch these guys. One of those Gel Knights hit my secretary, you know."
"My condolences," the Inspector said unsympathetically.
"Anyway, it looks like you'll have plenty of reasons to search the place," Doyle said. He pointed out the window of the police wagon. The Inspector stuck his head out and watched a column of purple flame rise from Nortgreen & Louton's chimney.
"That doesn't look right," he said. "It's not Thursday. And there's usually less debris."
"Told you," Doyle said, as he leaned back and crossed his arms.
The Coppers arrived and, with a few hints from Doyle and Dr. Hartwell, found all the evidence they needed to arrest Cecil Nortgreen and Mr. Louton. Angelica Hartwell arrived just ahead of the mob of curious citizens and was able to get a report to her paper before the afternoon edition went to the presses.
Lizzy slipped out the back entrance and was nearly arrested for carrying a jar full of gel.
"It's evidence!" she said to Inspector Silas.
"If it were evidence miss then we'd have to confiscate it. This is ooze you brought from home, remember?" The Inspector winked at Doyle, who tipped his hat in acknowledgement.
After a few hours, Nortgreen & Louton's workers had coralled the ooze back into Vat 3 and extinguished most of the fires. The PCs split up to rest, but met again in the evening to celebrate their good fortune with Nero Krahlhammer.
The perfidious action of Nortgreen & Louton were front page news for a week. The public perception of Nero Krahlhammer rose meteorically, especially after a three-part advertisement series on his new "super-immune" gels. While Gel Knights in general suffered some reputational damage, Nero was quick to point out that they could replace construction workers, cart horses, or even entire kitchens.
"Think of it," he said, after a demonstration. "I fed this ooze a chicken drumstick, then transfered a portion of its body to this ooze, which, when fed raw starch, ejected this object which very closely resembles a chicken drumstick."
End of Season
Their initial investment in Krahlhamer's firm provided, after the Gel Knight scandal settled out, a substantial income boost for all the PCs.
Dr. Hartwell took a position at Blumsworth Hospital, the first step on the ladder of respectable quackery. He decided not to specialize yet, but instead to cultivate connections with other members of his profession, and try to gently bring them around to his style of medicine. He also accidentally initiated a feud with Bartleby Zoon, a chef at the Forked Eel dining hall, over the correct method of steaming an eel.
Tom passed his exams and was, by the admission of most of the College, a fine upstanding wizard. His hatred of lightning drove him to experiment with magical devices. Lightning had killed his parents in two separate hot air balloon accidents, and he'd sworn revenge. With the aid of a thaumic engineer named Chastity Flintwich, he managed to create the first stable Lightning Accumulator, an engine that trapped lighting itself in coils of glass and mercury. He secretly funneled some of the group's investment out of Krahlhammer and into the machine, rationalizing that it would make the money back some day, provided anyone could find a use for trapped lighting bolts.. or a safe way to remove them from the accumulator.
Jonty was eventually offered a position with the Faculty of Law, though still as an assistant professor. He sent 15gp by registered post to Lord Tarrigan-on-Burl, with a note firmly severing any future social connection, then set about acquiring the trappings of an upper-middle-class lifestyle. He convinced the group to buy a house in a new neighborhood off Needle Circus, and privately invested funds in SpaceBeans Magically Enhanced Coffee.
Doyle found a new combined office and apartment. It wasn't fancy, but he didn't feel like flaunting his wealth or aspiring to middle-class values. He was a working slob, and he'd die a working slob. The office was cheap because it used to be a photography studio. The residual effects of magical black-and-white development fluids rendered the rooms monochrome on rainy days. It was a bit unsettling, but it kept the rent low.
Lizzy continued to experiment with her pilfered distillation ooze. With Nero Krahlhammer's help, she managed to get a stable division mass, with every prospect of industrial success once a few contaminants were removed. Lizzy also set her sights on middle-class respectability, but finding such a role in the group's shared house - with inquiring neighbors and social conventions - would be a challenge.
And yet, many mysteries still lingered. The manner of Uriah Shambledrake's death, the goals of Uriah Shambledrake Jr, the location of Professor Tallerand, the desires of Lord Tarrigan-on-Burl, the methods of the Thaumaturgic Detectives, and the last words of Mack the Mangler all swirled in the minds of the PCs in their idle hours. Would any of it be resolved? Would they all get stinking rich in the process? Was property and prosperity a blessing or a curse?
Find out next time.