Battleshed Diaries

Thursday 18 May 2017

The Warehouse: part one

Lord Curr's Company are attacked by the Servants of Ra Cultists

November, 1886. Leaden grey clouds draped listlessly over the abandoned soot stained industrial buildings somewhere in the north of England. Lord Curr thrust his cold-numbed hand deep into his jacket whilst his other tightly gripped his hunting rifle, slick with wet after the recent downpour. Dakota, his American Wolfhound, sat disconsolate and trembling at his side, the dog's fawny-white fur hanging lax and dripping wet. Muffled scrapes and wet booted slaps from the approaching Company detachment sounded nearby as they shuffled into position. Ahead, the warehouse loomed above the grime-slick cobbled streets.

There was no sign of activity. The only sounds the groan of old wooden boards and the frigid, sombre air gasping through crumbling masonry and the ragged remnants of numerous broken windows. Lady Felicity carefully hitched the ends of her dress to step over an oily black puddle to join Lord Curr.
“Delightful place to take a virtuous and refined lady. Are you sure this is the right address?” she asked sardonically in her familiar husky cadence. A flicker of a wry smile blunted the Peer's rancorous visage.
“This is the warehouse. And you can be rest assured, I’d never invite a virtuous and refined lady to such a location.” There were sounds of sniggering from the crew before being abruptly cut short with a warning glance from Lady Felicity. Lord Curr surveyed the dilapidated three-storey warehouse ahead.
“Those swindling hustlers had better uphold their end of the arrangement,” he commented darkly. The maverick peer and his crew were there to recover Professor Belfry-Chuffnell, a key scientist in the field of Advanced Chemocybernetics, who, recent in the company's employ, had rather recklessly managed to get himself kidnapped and ransomed by a criminal gang. With his company resources and personnel stretched, Lord Curr could not afford any delays to his nascent master plan. The sum demanded by the gang was unambitious, but exigencies had forced Lord Curr to resentfully order his man - the brusque Geordie, Burton Cartwright - to negotiate the scientist's release. The situation left the sour taste of indignation in his mouth. And now they were here, in this forlorn industrial wasteland to see if the criminals had stuck to their end of the deal. Still, at least it was an opportunity to assess how his latest company recruits, Smyth and Newel, integrated with his team. Both came with impressive, if tarnished, reputations. The scientist should be tussled up and abandoned somewhere in the warehouse, but otherwise unhurt. He'd better be thought Lord Curr malevolently, as he gestured for this crew to advance.

The Setup: In Her Majesty’s Name, 250 points ('ish), using the standard Bring Him Back Alive scenario set in an abandoned factory complex. No scenario complications. 

I'd not played IHMN for quite a while and with Sam Pate of Wee Blokes scheduled to play a game at the Falkirk club, we organised a casual refresher game in the Battleshed as Sam wanted to try out his new Servants of Ra compan,.

As I’d had nothing specially prepared I dug out my Lord Curr company roster from our, as yet, unfinished campaign, The Super Weapon.

And what an agreeable return to IHMN it was! For me at least it was a welcome return to Lord Curr’s adventures and it soon sparked an idea that this adhoc scenario could easily sit as a prelude to our current campaign. Incidentally, Sam's Servants of Ra roster is inspired by Gordon Richard's list available as a file download on the IHMN Facebook group. What follows is a serialised narrative battle-report. But before we head back to England’s 19th Century industrial north, it would be remiss of me not to introduce our cast:

Lord Curr (Hunting Rifle, Combat knife, Jack, Leadership 2, Fearless, Hunter, Tough), Dakota the American Wolfhound (Big Teeth! Stealthy, Tough), Lady Felicity (2xPistols, Gunslinger, Magneto-static waitcoat), Mohan Singh (Machine gun, Sabre, Jack, Strongman), Dr Angus Remington-Newel (Lancaster Patent Machine Pistol, Combat knife, Brigandine, Medic). The Incorrigibles (Military Rifle, Brigandine) – Burton Cartwright, Captain Smyth, Murray Straw.

The Servants of Ra: Akhenaton (Leadership 2, Terrifying, Erudite Wit, khopesh of Osiris sword, Immortal Oil of Horus, Mystical Powers -Clouding Men's Minds/Levitate/Mesmerism), Professor Abir (Leadership 1, Fanatic, Lined Coat, Mystical Powers - Mask of Imhotep/The Path of Shadows), Sairah (Poisoned Fighting Knife, throwing knives, Stealthy, Fanatic, Mystical Powers -Strengthen), Mummified Priest (Terrifying, Numb, Ancient Wrappings, Hands equivalent to Clubs, Mystical Powers - The Path of Shadows), 4 Cultists with Clubs (Fanatics).

Lord Curr's Company advance towards the old warehouse

RM, investigate that building over there,” ordered Lord Curr pointing towards an enormous hanger off to the left wrapped in rusting metal walkways. Doctor Angus Remington-Newel forced a desultory salute and, adjusting his dripping top hat, slunk off towards the huge metal doors shouldering the building. 
    “The rest of you follow Captain Smyth to the warehouse.” A chorus of half-hearted mumbled Sirs and the Incorrigibles stepped ahead. Strongman Mohan Singh’s ammunition belt clinked dully against his multi-barrelled machine gun as his muscular frame followed the artilleryman Burton Cartwright and Captain Smyth, in his incongruously resplendent crimson military tunic towards the warehouse entrance. The young apprentice, Murray Straw, hesitated. Torn between following the other men and his desire to see where Lady Felicity went. His barely disguised infatuation with the pistol-toting adventuress was cause for much amusement within the Company and, to Lord Curr's consternation, not altogether discouraged by Lady Felicity herself.
    “I think I’ll take in the sights. Such as they are," said Lady Felicity with a mischievous wink towards Murray. "I’ll start over there,” nodding towards the rear of the warehouse. As she headed away, Murray made to follow her but a glance at Lord Curr's glowering face checked his impulse. He quickly turned away and increased his pace to catch up with the others. 
    “One of the men should have a word with that lad, eh' Dakota?” mumbled Lord Curr as he ruffled the dog’s beefy, damp head. Dakota’s tail twitched on the wet cobbles in acknowledgement.
The Mummified Priest inside the old warehouse

Unseen among the grimy red-brick buildings, disused coal bunkers and abandoned machinery, shadowy figures silently stalked towards the warehouse from the opposite direction. Their leader, crouched and hidden behind a tumble of broken bricks from a collapsed wall peered with a keen eye at the scab-red cloaked Cultist conveying a silent array of complex hand signals from near the giant hanger across the street. The man grunted in acknowledgement as he returned the signal for the Cultist to advance.
    His bald, deeply tanned head glistened with a greasy mixture of Immortal Oil of Horus and damp from the dripping buildings. At his waist hung an ornately jewelled sword, the Khopesh of Osiris, secured by a black silk sash tied around his waist under his sombre European Morning coat. Adornments aside, the man's unprepossessing visage was nothing more than a conveinance; a useful human vessel, rent of its original soul by the consummation of dark sacraments and arcane theurgy executed by a fanatical sect, the Servants of Ra. The human body was now in the possession of a living incarnation of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. Akhenaton.
    The Pharaoh twisted around at the sound of approach from behind. A stale stench preceded the disconcerting form of a Mummified Priest, completely swathed a wrap of ragged cerement stained with corruption as it shambled clumsily over the brick-strewn cobbles. It was accompanied by the jangle of bracelets as a flamboyant, raven haired woman sporting a fuchsia shawl draped over an ebony dress followed close on the creature’s heels. Akhenaton hissed for the pair to be silent. A flare of anger, quickly suppressed, crossed Sairah’s face as she intoned a few muted Words of Command at the cadaverous priest. The creature stopped moving. 
    The trio were soon joined by three more Cultists and Sairah’s fanatical Turkish father, the Egyptologist Professor Abir. It was through the professor's academic connections and a propitious tip-off from one of his contacts within the international criminal underworld that Akhenaton's interest in their target's worth and valuable talents had led him and his followers to this wretched part of the world. It was an adroit opportunity to snatch the scientist right under the noses of these western amateurs whilst they were concluding their artless deal.
    Akhenaton took a few moments to clear his mind. Then, breathing deeply and with practised concentration, he began to conjure the Mystical Power of Levitation. Suddenly, he abruptly stood up, his arms rigid by his sides and his eyes and mouth clamped tightly shut. Then, unbelievably - slowly and unsteadily at first - Akhenaton silently rose into the air from the rubble, quickly gaining height as he expertly channelled his mystical efficacy. Soon he angled off towards a small wooden gallery jutting from the rear of the highest tier of the warehouse. 
    The remaining Servants of Ra implacably tracked Akhenaton as his floating visage disappeared from view behind the warehouse. Professor Abir waved his bright crimson Fez in the air in exaggerated salutation and cried in Egyptian Arabic,
    “Farewell, my Lord. Be in favour of Ra!”
    “Quiet father! The Englishers will hear us,” admonished Sairah.
    “Nonsense, they’re not a problem my daughter. But it is time our malodorous friend and I were on our way. We’ll secure this repulsive building’s lower level. You and the others will guard against any interference and protect our retreat as planned.”  The professor secured his Fez squarely on his bare head and made an ineffectual attempt to brush away imaginary dust from his sodden overcoat. Behind his back, Sairah rolled her eyes, accustomed to her father’s eccentricities. 
    Belying his advanced years, the Egyptologist then moved sprightly over the rubble to stand expectantly on the wet street next to the warehouse. Sairah briefly intoned more words of command and the mummified priest jerked into motion towards the professor. Once there, the unlikely duo began to incant Path of Shadows. Sairah and the Cultists watched impassively as the very air around the professor and the dead priest began to shimmer and ripple as if the air had turned to liquid. Then the Professor Abir and the hulking monstrosity moved forward, their movements slow and deliberate within the lens of distortion and passed without encumbrance through the solid brick wall of the warehouse and disappeared from view.

Dr Angus Remington-Newel investigating the airship hanger

Damn and blast the interminable thing!”
Doctor Angus Remington-Newel shuck the carbide lamp as if shaking it would get it to light. As he did, dribbles of water leaked from the cylindrical brass upper reservoir. He knew it was no use. Without a healthy reservoir, there would be no acetylene gas produced by the reaction of the water and the calcium carbide in the lower chamber. And without the gas, there would be no light. He irritably attached the lamp to his belt and considered the two huge iron doors guarding the immense hanger building. Unbidden lines from Dante’s Inferno surfaced in his mind.
This way a good soul never passes...
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here... 

Quickly dismissing the unsettling citation, he once again reconsidered his decision to indenture with the guileful Lord Edward Ronan Curr. And, more specifically, his secondment to the Company’s Extraordinary Affairs Division. Being associated - let alone in the employ of a questionable Peer of the Realm - would likely seal any chance of redeeming his once prodigious medical career. The tiresome, irrational superstitions of the uneducated masses - stoked by a wheedling gutter Press - and the contentious matter of being struck-off by the inexorably chary British Medical Association had almost inevitably led to his current unbefitting circumstances. That said, a not insubstantial salary and the resources to continue his controversial experimentation, albeit covertly, were not to be dismissed. But as he squeezed through the gap between the two looming doors into the shadowy, cavernous interior, he was having major misgivings.
    He stood anxiously inside the doorway absently smoothing his impressively manicured flapwing moustache, trying to suppress his rising nyctophobia and allow time for his eyes to adjust to the gloomy interior. A draft of dank air caressed his face, flowing from a split of weak grey light spilling from the exit at the far end. In between, all he could make out in the half-light were the disquieting, distorted forms of old steam-driven machinery. Thick iron chains-links, as thick as his hands, hung clinking in the intermittent gusts from hidden vaults. A caustic odour caught in his throat causing him to cough. The sound he made seemed to reverberate around the Stygian chamber. He thought he could hear faint rustlings and skittering that made is skin crawl.
    Come on Angus, you can do this old chap, it’s only an old airship hanger. No time for the collywobbles! he chided himself. Nevertheless, he loosened the leather flap of his concealed sling holster and drew out his Lancaster Patent Machine Pistol. Even though it had only been used against inanimate practise targets and to impress his friends and acquaintances, it's reassuring bulk in his hand helped bolster his resolve against his mounting phobia. He cautiously advanced further into the hanger. As the light from the doorway receded he suddenly felt insubstantial, vulnerable. He became conscious of his heart thumping in his chest. Come on old man! Just get to the other end. It's not far. His steps quickened as he focused on the dull light emanating from the far end of the hanger.
    Suddenly, there was a loud metallic crash that jolted his nerves and forced him to involuntarily cry out. He swung his machine pistol wildly in the darkness, his trigger finger instinctively squeezing but fortunately it was outside the trigger guard. The sound clanged and reverberated until he realised he’d dislodged an iron pole protruding from a workbench. Bloody hell! “Sod it, I’m done with this!” he exclaimed, hurriedly sidestepping the treacherous obstacle, hastening towards the exit.
    He was almost there, the dull daylight filtering from the exit doors gradually increasing in luminescence as he approached. Then, a fleeting, shadowy figure momentarily blocked the light before dropping out of sight. The doctor almost slithered to a stop.
    “Who…who’s there? Reveal yourself!” he demanded as convincingly as he could muster. His voice sounded small and inconsequential in that yawning building. A faint swishing sound and the creak of wooden boards sounded nearby. “Reveal yourself I say! I’m armed!”  He pointed his machine pistol and pivoted around, searching the gloom for the mysterious interloper. Then, almost imperceptibly he caught a glimpse of wraith-like movement in his peripheral vision. A figure suddenly rushed howling out of the darkness. Doctor Newel just had time to register a swirl of dark crimson clothing before he was hit by a solid shunt to his chest. He staggered backwards, his legs folding, sending him collapsing to the ground. As he hit, his machine pistol spilt from his grasp and his top hat went spinning away. He was momentarily stunned. His assailant was nowhere to be seen, vanishing into the shadows as quickly as they had appeared. As he scrambled to his feet, fruitlessly searching for his gun but there was no sign of it. Instead, he hastily struggled to free his Combat Knife but as he pulled on its handle it became snagged within its hidden pocket inside his thick leather lined brigandine.
    He again sensed rather than heard movement from somewhere behind him. As he spun round there was another deathly howl as his attacker dived at him from atop of some old machinery. Doctor Newel just had time to register something dully glinting in the attacker's hand as once again he felt a heavily blow to his chest and was sent staggering backwards. But this time he somehow managed to stay on his feet. He roughly tugged on the handle of his knife but it was still snared. This time his assailant did not turn away. As the two combatants circled around each other, Doctor Newel caught a glimpse of his attacker’s features from the weak light spilling from the doorway a good dozen or more strides away.
    The man’s crimson hood had fallen away revealing a bare-headed and clean shaven individual. Doctor Newel guessed he was in his late twenties or thereabouts from what he could discern.  A strange sun-shaped symbol was inked on his forehead. The man skillfully grasped a long, deadly looking dagger in his right hand and adopted a leery fighting stance as he shrewdly closed the gap between them with every silent step. He stared balefully at Doctor Newel. The doctor instinctively understood there could be no negotiating with this man with fanatical murder in his uncompromising gaze.
    The man deftly angled so he was between the doctor and the hanger exit, and with a sudden half-lunge and flourish of his blade, Doctor Newel was pressed back further into the building's gloomy interior. He was still struggling to free his knife, the blade stubbornly refusing to release from the fold in his overcoat. He was desperate for something he could use as a weapon. His heart was pounding in his chest, his breathing ragged. He barely felt the dull ache in his ribs as he followed almost hypnotically the movement of his attacker’s weaving blade.
Dr Newel fighting a Servants of Ra Cultist in the old airship hanger

Then the man rushed him again, the vicious looking knife held high as he bore down on the floundering doctor. At the last moment, the man cunningly brought the knife low and jabbed directly towards the doctor's front. But the doctor just managed to half turn at the thrust and instead the blade struck the brass encased carbide lamp hanging by a short chain from Doctor Newel’s belt. The man crashed into the doctor but he managed to grab the man around the neck and pull him close as they both fell to the ground. They desperately floundered and struggled, his assailant's robe becoming entwined with the Doctor's heavy jacket.
    They grunted and laboured. The man trying to free himself to use his knife whilst Doctor Newel clung on with all his strength to lock him in position whilst he frantically searched for a way out of the situation. The man’s breath stunk of garlic and he reeked of some sort cloying incense. The man twisted violently in the doctor's grasp but he was slightly shorter and less bulky than the doctor allowing him to twist on top of his adversary using his superior weight to pin him to the ground. His arms were still clasped tightly around the man’s neck. He was conscious that the man still held the knife and was furiously trying to angle it in towards the doctor's exposed shoulder. Doctor Newel felt inexplicably betrayed that he didn’t have some inherent knowledge of anatomy that would assist him in such a perilous situation. All he could think to do was to hang on and hope one of the others would hear the commotion in the hanger and come to his aid.
    The man still forcibly twisted under him. The doctor felt his arms straining, their grip weakening with each contorted struggle. Then the doctor had an idea. He subtly shifted his weight and, still clasping the man’s neck with all this strength, he freed his left arm enough to quickly pin the man’s knife arm to the ground. With one swift movement he released his hold on the man neck and quickly sat up, drawing his knee up and hard against the man’s chest. Doctor Newel knew intuitively that the next few seconds were critical if he was to survive the assault before his foe overbalanced him and seized the advantage.
    He fumbled for the clasp at his belt holding the carbide lamp by a small metal chain. Then it was suddenly free. The doctor's hand clasped the chain tightly, close to the lamp, feeling the familiar brass weight. He glanced at the man striving beneath him.
    “Sorry about this, old chap,” he rasped out before swinging the lamp down hard at the man’s exposed head. It hit with a dull smack. In surprise, the man momentarily stopped struggling. The man’s hateful eyes locked on the doctor before resuming his struggle. The doctor swung the lamp hard down again but it only seemed to enrage the man even more. His assailant’s efforts to free himself frenetically redoubled. Doctor Newel could feel his grip on the man’s knife arm loosening as his weight shifted with each blow from the lamp. With a dread realisation of rising fear and panic, the doctor knew he had no more time. He hefted the lamp once more and with a last-ditch frenzy of desperation he repeatedly struck the man’s head and shoulders with the carbide lamp. He was oblivious to the man’s grunts and whimpers, the unseen splatters of warm wet blood, as he struck again and again, caught in a exaltation of dark, black rage.
    The doctor was unaware of how long had passed since the robed attacker had stopped moving. He sat back, panting with spent exertion. Sweating heavily despite the damp chill in the gloomy hanger. The carbide lamp still grasped by his knuckle-white hand. He cautiously lumbered to his feet as if he expected an another sudden treacherous attack from his assailant. With his chest heaving, he moved warily around the prone body, kicking the man’s knife away. He felt as if his whole body was shaking, riven with adrenaline. His rational mind fought for an explanation. He knew he was in shock. He’d somehow survived the violent encounter when only seconds before he was certain he was at the cusp of his final moments.
    But at what cost? What concealed and unbidden malice had he discovered within himself in those last rabid seconds? He feared to comprehend. He did not know if his strange robed attacker was dead or merely unconscious. A sudden urge to flee the godforsaken hanger hammered at his thoughts. He knew he should try and find his gun but his desire to escape was unassailable. He lurched towards the hanger exit, still fumbling for his knife. As he approached the doors he could hear muffled shouting from somewhere outside and the distinctive excited baying of Lord Curr’s wolfhound.

To be continued in The Warehouse: part 2...

The Warehouse pdf (complete)

[The Super Weapon campaign]

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