CONTEXT/RATIONALE: Here’s an odd one: a short Tuesday game in which everyone turns up. And everyone doesn’t just mean regular luminaries like Alec, Ray and Alex, but also Nick. And Luke. Yes. So, a twisty-turny sort of storyline that tries to work in everyone’s character(s) and set up the epic fight and the Season One Finale.
Fergus Ironsides and Malbeth left Lot’s Grotto some time ago to return the book of shadow to its werewolf owner. They travel down the Old Kent Road to Surluse, then cross Waterloo Bridge without incident to enter Cameliard. At the Torchlight Detective Agency they meet with the vampire Marlowe Tyburn and his imaginary sidekick Marty. Marlowe takes the book and calls his part-time werewolf Sherwood Shaftesbury, but then stalls for time, because another client is interested in Fergus. However, when Shaft arrives, he’s enraged to discover the page with his name is a fake; on the reverse is a taunting IOU from Queen Morgause. Fergus agrees to take Shaft back to Lot’s Grotto so he can confront Morgause himself.
Outside the office, Fergus is seized by dark-suited men armed with tranquilizers, sent by Dr Myra Thornfield. However, when Shaft turns into a Crinos-form werewolf, they flee in terror. They hail Mystic Taxi and drive back to Bedegraine. At Eros House, Fergus enchants Shaftesbury and they take the lift down to Lot’s Grotto.
Shaftesbury goes to confront Morgause in her sanctum. The Queen is concluding an esbat with her cult of cannibal-hags, the Bean-Nighe. Morgause seems to have been expecting the werewolf and reveals that the missing page is in the keeping of her son Gawaine. If Shaft can find Gawaine, she’s sure the Troll will hand over the werewolf’s name… So long as nothing dreadful happens to him in the meantime… Cursing, Shaftesbury sets off into Dreaming Bedegraine with Fergus as his guide, towards the Trod into Surluse.
COMMENTARY: This resolves actions for Fergus that were ‘in the past’. The encounter with Morgause takes place after her return from the Great Cog in Welcome To The Machine, so presumably her meeting with the Bean-Nighe was to discuss Thora Drake’s identity. Did she plant the name on Gawaine so she could later manipulate the werewolf into going to his rescue? Or was her original plan to send the werewolf to attack Gawaine, in which case what does her change of heart portend?
At around the same time, Swami is presenting a chimerical dance/music act on Prince Gallehault‘s pleasure yacht on the Thames. He overhears the phone call from Sir Gawaine and witnesses Gallehault telling his cog-people to find the Forgotten Factories and arrest Gawaine. Swami remembers receiving Gawaine’s help before and decides to return the favour. He goes to a chimerical inn called The Tabard to track down an Eshu and finds one, called Caradoc ‘Carrot’, being menaced by a drinking party of Shakespearean murderers: Macbeth, Brutus, Claudius, Othello. Pacifying Macbeth with flattery, he rescues Carrot and tells him about the Story he wants to be involved in. Carrot promises to contact him if Swami will keep him in drinks till the right time to be in the right place comes along.
Several weeks later Swami is pulled out of a classy roof party by a dishevelled Carrot who needs his help breaking into a museum to steal Dross. Swami is irritated but realises the Story must be starting. They break into the basement of the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI). Carrot starts stripping an old BBC Dalek of usable Dross when the many TV screens burst into life and explode: Bors of Ganis emerges, followed by a glowing pillar of radiation that strips the Dalek completely to form a machine husk for Malegea. There’s a tense standoff until Sir Dodinel the Savage emerges and recognises Swami as an ally.
The fugitives know they must hide from Gallehault’s pursuit and Swami knows a nearby bolt hole, a secret Trod right underneath Gallehault’s chimerical gaol in the Liberty of the Clink. Out on the streets a curfew is being announced by patrols of sinister cog-people – an unheard-of thing in Unseelie-by-night Surluse. Nonetheless, Swami and Carrot guide the fugitives to the Clink, where the chimerical dandies, gamblers and prostitutes pose less of a problem to them than to the authorities. An urchin called Uriah leads them to the hidden Trod in a dungeon underneath the Clink. Carrot sets about opening it, but there’s no need: the cages and chains electrify and a portal of light appears with a figure running out towards them. But instead of Gawaine this is a young girl with a broken robot on her back.
COMMENTARY: An extensive digression here to bring in Luke/Swami who hasn’t been with us since the start of the chronicle. Nonetheless, this did establish some interesting points about Unseelie lifestyles in Surluse, chimerical inns and their imaginary patrons, Malegea’s husk and the Liberty of the Clink as a good-to-know location. We’re also exploring the different time-flow in the Autumn World and the Forgotten Factories in Dreaming Surluse.
Back in the Forgotten Factories, Sir Gawaine hears Prince Gallehault’s announcement that he has changed sides. Gawaine makes his way to Thora and they agree that her R-Thor regiment should fight a rearguard action while they commandeer a Sleipnir robo-lizard to escape. Tickertape pilots the lizard and Gawaine uses Thora’s magic spyglass to find the secret Trod that connects Surluse with Bedegraine’s One Tree Hill.
After a frantic chase in which the lizard is disabled, they flee on foot to the Trod. This appears as a wide ventilation shaft with enormous fans at either end. A big pull-down switch starts the fans and accesses the Trod, but someone must stay behind to keep the lever held down so that the Trod can stay open long enough for the others to enter it. Gawine nominates the valiant Tickertape but Thora won’t countenance sacrificing the cog-soldier in this way. This leads to a heated argument in which Gawaine challenges her to choose between the cog-soldier and himself. Angrily, Thora chooses Tickertape and Gawaine pulls down the lever and holds it down so Thora can escape. Gallehault’s forces are already breaking down the door.
In the Autumn World, Thora arrives among the fugitives under the Clink. Without thinking further, Dodinel dives into the Trod to rescue Gawaine. After hesitating and saying goodbye to Malegea, Bors follows just as the Trod closes. Malegea starts using her Steampunk Art to repair Tickertape, but Thora, gripped by guilt, pleads with a panicking Carrot to reopen the Trod. Since he recognises Thora, Swami is left wondering how he can turn the situation to his advantage.
COMMENTARY: the Trod runs from Surluse to Bedegraine. Down in the Forgotten Factories, Gawain and Thora have found a ‘siding’ that lets them join the Trod mid-way. Normally you’d need high levels of Wayfare/Fae to do this, but I’m keeping the mechanics ambivalent. Did the Trod open for Thora or was it because, at the same time Gawaine was pulling the switch, Carrot was opening the Trod over in Surluse? Or does it boil down to the same thing, with the Eshu getting sucked into Thora’s story and his Spirit Pathways birthright making his Trod-opening one of those right time/right place syncs that Eshu are famous for.