Despite the intervention of the Neverborn, Cassandra had managed to glean what she needed from Sensei Yu. The trail had led them to a Guild-owned mine – one of the few not controlled (indirectly or otherwise) by the M&SU – on the outskirts of a small town called Prosperity Wells. A rather ironic name, Cassandra thought to herself. The town itself had been little more than a shanty, the buildings run-down and neglected, the inhabitants surly and unwelcoming.
As dusk fell, she’d led her party to the mine entrance, swathed in dark cloaks and hoods. They’d met the more conspicuous members of the group there (the Arcane Emissary could hardly blend in, after all). A lone railway track led down to the mine entrance, which loomed out of the darkness like a gaping maw. Despite the dusky darkness all around, the mine entrance seemed to be a darker pitch black, with the rusted railroad disappearing into the darkness after only a few feet. Discarding her cloak and drawing her sabre, Cassandra lit a lantern with a puff of conjured flame. Turning to her showgirls, she smiled. ‘This is it. Let’s find Colette and bring her home.’
The lantern-light should have cut through the darkness, but instead it barely illuminated the pitch-black, only creating a dim glow of light that seemed to be fighting a losing battle against the dark. The sounds of men working echoed around off the walls, creating an oddly disorienting effect that seemed to be coming from all directions.
Ahead of them, Cassandra saw the glow of lights and heard the worker’s voices more clearly. As they rounded the corner, she found herself on a flat plateau overlooking a vast cavern. Gaslights and lanterns were positioned around the cavern, with various groups of men working to break precious soulstone veins free from the surrounding rock. Some were dressed in the casual attire of miners, while others wore the muted grey prison suits, manacles shackling them together. All around stood Guild guards, shouting orders and striding around.
One figure stood out from the rest, a giant of a man dressed in a flowing white robe and turban. He sported a midnight-black goatee, and held a long-barrelled gatling gun in one hand as though it was a mere pistol. But before Cassandra could appraise the situation further, she found herself suddenly pulled backwards by an unseen assailant. Instinct kicked in, and she pivoted away, dropping under her attacker’s reach and drawing a stiletto dagger from her boot in one fluid motion. She swung the weapon up, and found herself staring straight at a smiling Colette.
‘What are you doing?’ Cassandra asked incredulously. ‘And’ – her brain suddenly realised – ‘why are you wearing a Guild guard’s uniform?’ Colette looked down at her attire as though she’d forgotten. ‘Well, I needed to blend in. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before I left, Cassie, but I couldn’t risk you all.’ She looked around at the assembled showgirls. ‘There’s a traitor in the Arcanists. You’ve all heard of the Ten Thunders crime family?’ Heads nodded in unison.
‘They’ve been disrupting our operations for weeks now, and I’m sure they’ve got someone on the inside feeding them information. I just need to find out who, and faking a disappearance gave me the freedom to investigate. I just need a little more time to find out who it is.’ Cassandra nodded gravely. ‘You’ll have to explain your presence here somehow’ Colette continued. ‘I’d suggest making it look like a theft. Besides’ – and she flashed her trademark smile that brought strong men to their knees – ‘we could always use more soulstones.’
* * *
This week’s campaign game saw my showgirls go up against the Guild. The weekly event was The Plot Thickens, so the strategy was chosen from the story encounters. The strategy was Theft, while for terrain we flipped the Mine option (making for a very thematic game, in my mind – the Arcanists raiding a Guild-run mine to loot it of precious soulstones!). The game started slowly before Cassandra and the Coryphee (now formed into a duet) broke through the Guild lines and started grabbing the precious gem markers, while the Emissary and her low low Wk of 4″ was unable to hold the Arcanist line, resulting in Guardsmen and Wastrels breaking through to lay false gem markers.
The game eventually came down to schemes as we both scored the maximum 4vp from the strategy. Adam hadn’t managed to kill enough of my models for his Roundup scheme, and hadn’t been able to place any scheme markers for his undeclared Breakthrough. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a showgirls crew, I’d littered the board with scheme markers, and scored the maximum 3vp for both my revealed schemes (Protect Territory and Gathering Power), ending the game with a 10-4 Arcanist victory. The sheer volume of scheme markers also put me one step closer to hiring Colette, as my bounty’s now halfway done! Unfortunately all good things come with a price, as my success has ensured that my next game will be against the only player who’s finished his bounty and just hired Shenlong. A henchman-led crew against a master-led crew – this could be a challenge!
I’m trying to hold on to some scrip to pick up Colette after the next game (bounty completion pending, of course), so my arsenal currently stands at:
Arcane Reservoir, Smoke & Mirrors
This coming weekend will be a bit of a Halloween spectacular on my blog, with posts across the weekend. I’m looking forward to it, and hope to see you back here then!