Jill oddly loves the word wench.
Tag Archives: stories
Lloyd is a sweet ninja muffin.
Sophia Suarez is the town herbalist. This puts her practically on par with the Doctor, Doc Svendsen. The town of Lost Hallow does not have a drugstore nor a pharmacy, there is just Sophia’s Herb Shop, which has the cure for most anything that ails you. Anything, that is, that you at least stand a chance of coming out the other side of alive.
There was a feller some years ago who did try to open a pharmacy and he stayed open a little over a year. Fact is, he couldn’t do near the job Sophia does and he specialized in pills and needles. Reglar folk don’t like pills and needles. Sophia’s got herbs and teas. Folks like herbs and tea. And she doesn’t just have stuff for curing your sickness, she’s got herbs for pep, herbs for relaxation, herbs for a cheery disposition, herbs for concentration, herbs for alleviating existential dread, herbs that’ll make music sound like a choir of gawdam angels, herbs that will make you giggle til you spit your drink up all over the table and for the discriminating connoisseur, herbs that will trip your balls off til next tues.
Sophia can mix up the most incredible concoctions to help with the oddest things imaginable. It’s a true talent, although when asked about it she claims she communicates with the plants themselves who tell her how they can be used and mixed with others, and sometimes communes with the Green Man who discusses primal and arcane botanical philosophies with her.
Once every season Sophia goes away for a weekend, so to speak. She’s got a place on the mountain that shes goes to where she grows a lot of what’s in the store, and she consumes a very special little something she grows and mixes herself. You could say that she trips her face off, but looky here, we’re not talking about some thrill seeking young collegian out to drool at the pretty colors. She is deadly serious and personally, i have no doubt she goes to some kind of sub reality and talks directly to the plant spirits.
As to how this all started, pull up a seat.
I don’t know who you are or how much you know or remember, but some years ago, back when Sophia was just a teenager, there was this real popular series of books by Michael Mendelson in which he meets some kind of aboriginal shaman and learns all about all sorts of strange native sorcery and magic and using all kinds of weird drugs to open the mind’s hidden powers…and stuff like that. You kids probably don’t know much about it these days, but they were huge back in the day. That Mendelson fellow made a killin’ and all kinds of spiritual seekers and just plain outright flakes were singin’ his praises there for awhile.
Well little teenage Sophia got ahold of a few of them books. She didn’t have no one to talk about them with ’til she started hangin’ around Fenna O’Kelly a few years later, and certainly no access to anyone who would show her any of them rituals or drugs or nothing, so she did it all by herself. She went out to the mountain and picked all sorts of herbs and stuff and tried to recreate them magic rituals and over the course of a few years from about 17 to 22 just taught herself all this crazy stuff. She became able to pull off some weird shit. She also started actually… well…. peeling down the layers of the onion of reality which eventually got her communicatin’ to the plants and Green Man, but that came a little later.
So Sophia learned to smoke and eat a bunch of strange plants and do a heap of magical kind of stuff. And she decides now that she’s a grown woman, being 22 and all, that she should learn at the feet of the master. So she goes and tracks down ol’ Michael Mendelson himself. Takes her a heck of an effort to travel to him but she finally gets there and announces herself. She thinks maybe he might remember her from the letters she sent him, but seein’ as he never wrote back and gets a whole heap of mail, it wasn’t any great surprise he didn’t know her or expect her.
But he’s got some disciples who hang about, mostly women, and he tells her she’s welcome too and off he takes her to interview her and see where she is spiritually. And by “interview her and see where she is spiritually” i mean off he goes to get her somewhere where he can set about parting her from her clothing. You know, take…. a real personal inventory.
So he’s doing this “interview” as he often does with these doe eyed girls who come flocking round, and from the way she worships him he is all but ripping his clothes off in expectation. She however keeps wanting to discuss minutia about the rituals in the books. He just smiles and nods and says some very vague, platitude kind of stuff as he’s working the buttons off her blouse. Finally, getting a little frustrated at his not answering her questions before he boffs her (she’s okay with the boffing in theory, but she really, really wanted some of these questions answered) she tells him to hang on, she’s gonna show him where her trouble is directly and proceeds to perform one of them reality bending spells which works for a minute, but then falls apart. Then she looks at him to ask what is she messing up that she can’t keep it going.
Except, Mr. Mendelson’s erection has shriveled to a dead shrimp and his mouth is hanging open and he’s got this look of… well somewhere between “wtf” and outright horror. He’s sort of sitting on the floor but crawling away at the same time. And Sophia is real confused. I mean, she knows she fucked up the spell, but how bad could she possibly have fucked it up? She looks around to make sure she didn’t damage or curse anything or summon an elder god or something, but everything seems fine. So she keeps asking him What? What? What did she do? She wants to know what she did wrong. She’s been trying to fix it for months.
He asks her to do it again. She does and this time she even keeps the ball of bent reality going for a couple minutes, a new record for her. But Michael is just white as a ghost. He asks what other stuff she can do and she goes down some of his spells, performing them, and apologizing and explaining to him what she had to do differently since she didn’t have access to the same stuff he did. Afterwards he mumbles through some more vague platitudes but he has real trouble putting words together.
She sticks around a little bit, about a week, enough to figure out this:
Michael Mendelson was more full of shit than the Danbury’s outhouse that time last summer they threw that chili cookoff. He had never met an aboriginal shaman, he had never learned all those spiritual secrets, he had never actually had any spell or ritual produce any result ever. He had written the first book as a college paper, making up the encounter but filling out the ritual details with random stuff he had gotten out of old occultish library books and botanical tombs that showed how to make psychoactive compounds from various plants. He hadn’t expected the book to be sold to a general public much less make a shitload of money, but when it did, he repeated this winning formula for the next two books. By now he was wealthy and gettin’ laid like a king.
Then Sophia came along and actually had enough God given raw talent that she made it work. It helped that the occult books Mendelson had copied turned out to be relatively on the level. And what had kick started Sophia’s talents and abilities was ingesting the herbal brews she had concocted.
Thus Sophia left that flabbergasted douchebag and returned to Lost Hallow where she began a dedicated course of self study. She and Feena O’Kelly worked together a lot in those day, Feena exploring her own esoteric interests which make her such a competent seer. It was about this time that those rumors started up about how the two of them are sleeping together, rumors which pop up every few years, but not only do i not know if this is true or not, i reckon it ain’t anybody’s business but theirs.
Sophia’s psychoactive endeavors finally hit an epiphany when she achieved communication with certain plants. It was the beginning of a whole new world. However, they were very clear to her: if she wanted to develop a relationship, continue communing with them and set down a path that would lead to, among other things, meeting the Green Man, she had to quit with that sorcery crap she had picked up from Mendelson’s books. Non reality is abhorrent to plants. Human consciousness is non real enough and the stink of human consciousness mucking about in sorcery they likened to trying to hold a conversation with a pig who’s rolling in his own feces, masturbating. You know, good luck and all pig, but they ain’t stickin’ around to watch.
It was a no brainer for Sophia.
Thus have them years passed. Sophia has collected herbs from all over the world. Stuff folks claim cannot grow in the climate of Lost Hallow Sophia can grow. Sometimes. She’ll be the first to tell you she’s failed a lot more than causal customers will ever know and there’s things that should never be taken outside of its native region. Wise she has become, and like i said, you got something that ails you physically or maybe mentally or even in some cases spiritually, go by Sophia’s Herb Store. If she can’t cured what ails you, well son… then you got yourself a problem.
The writer for the most popular soap opera on videovision is a brain in a glass jar. As part of his contract every evening a young woman comes in and for an hour sits with him and describes in minute detail the day’s weather.
They say the New Albion monorail F Train is haunted at night by the ghost of a pop star who not only hasn’t died yet, but hasn’t even become famous yet. Amongst a very special circle of the entertainment industry there is an active hunt, an obsession with very high stake bets, to find this person while living and “discover” them.
One of the most popular musical instruments of the day does not in itself make a sound. It allows you to conduct the different sounds in your environment, mixing and looping them as you walk about and they occur. Kid Z’s weekly Saturn Park remixes which he makes while strolling in the afternoon through Saturn Park on Saturdays are a consistent bestseller.
The power for the Syer’s Building is supplied by the dreams of 150 sleeping volunteers. They sign on for a period of time ranging from a week to 3 years (although plans are underway to offer up to 10 years). They are placed in a state of deep sleep and offered a variety of incredible themed dreams. The energy their dreaming minds create is used to power the building and it’s well regarded top of the building lighting. The dreams are “induced” by a computer simply reciting 10 key words related to the chosen dream theme over and over again every few minutes for the legnth of the sleep.
New Albion has its own superhero, Captain Apollo. Some nights he can be spied high above, leaping about buildings in his never ending quest to fight crime. He is basically adored. Interestingly, he does not actually exist. He was initially a performance art project that proved so popular the team behind him decided to just keep going. He is simply a 3D video projection. It takes a team of 3 to produce him and whenever, after a year or so one of them decides to move on, they are easily replaced, as many young videographers would love to be involved with Captain Apollo for awhile. What the team behind Captain Apollo cannot explain is the number of crooks who end up hog tied outside police buildings or at crime scenes with a note from Captain Apollo taped to their shoulder.
A series of transparent plastic tubes connect buildings for block and blocks allowing pedestrians to walk about in any weather well above street level without ever having to go outside. The biggest nuisance of these tubes however are gangs of cosplayers who play a day long elaborate chase game in these tube. The game is a unique combination of Laser Paint Tag, Spy and Capture the Flag where they hunt each others’ team in costumes from popular comic and videovision series (although some will dress normally until a key moment when they will throw off their disguise to reveal their colorful “real” clothing), shooting each other with stained light and trying to capture each team’s Princess (who is not necessarily female or even at times human. Dogs, cats and goats have on occasion been used).
A popular form of fashion involves clothes made out of electricity.
Amongst the New Albion middle class there is a popular oracle they go to in order to divine the future. The oracle resides in the Psychedelic Basement deep in the industrial park. This oracle is actually a puddle of radioactive ooze. Due to a rather improbable accident the ooze somehow possesses the ability to cause hallucinations when stared at for over a minute. What’s more these hallucinations are sometimes of a possible future. When they are, the probability of that future being accurate is about 67%, which makes the ooze far and away the most accurate fortune teller in the city.
One of the most popular taxi drivers in the city is an automation who cracks jokes and dispenses with hilarious and homey advice. No one is quite sure how he operates. Some think he really is an automation and others assume he’s controlled by someone at the central depot. Actually he is controlled by a talking mouse named Kevin, who comes from a long line of very intelligent mice and sits in the automation’s head where he has controls to drive the cab. Kevin also helps the police solve all sorts of crimes. Several constables are in the habit of taking a leisurely cab ride when they are particularly perplexed by a case. Kevin’s ability to think like and predict criminal behavior is unsurpassed. Even most of the cops do not know that the automation is actually Kevin the mouse. There are only a small handful of people who know that Kevin even exists much less is the wisecracking taxi driving automation.
Hideee ho all! It is that time once again to sit and write a whole bunch of little snapshot of New Albion in order to have something to use for fodder for New Albion 9.
As usual i could sit and write this stuff all day. In fact, i will have to continue tomorrow because although i just sat here and kept writing and writing, i didn’t actually write any of the kind of stuff i can use for little vignettes in the song. I’ll have to do this again tomorrow and focus a bit more diligently on usable mini vignettes.
In any case, here is the first installment of Snapshot of New Albion for the Atompunk Era:
-Some of the tunnels beneath new Albion have become quite fortified and developed. They exist in the area where the Albino Tribe live. Access to them is gained by only a few locked iron doorways and trespassers are killed instantly. Inside the tunnels cover several kilometers and are quite lavish. The tribe does good trade with the aboveground world and the vast majority of their money is made by providing a very popular drug called Tansan, a rust colored powder that produces euphoria and is a mild hallucinegenic.
– In years past there was quite an effort by several criminal parties to obtain control of the drug. The albinos tribe, which had been living under New Albion for centuries, were threatened by such intense interest and things occasionally got rather bloody, but eventually peace was made when a red haired man finally brokered a deal with the tribe.
– His daughter, the red haired albino girl, inherets the criminal organization which controls the drug and is poised to one of the most powerful criminal bosses in the city. This will not come to fruition, however, as she will lead her people elsewhere.
– After the civil war the 8 districts remained independent although over time ceded a small amount of power to the central Parliament, mostly for defense and basic infrastructure. The Parliament and Major’s office has long tried numerous attempts to gain more power but the districts have stubbornly resisted.
– The Voodoopunks gained popularity very quickly, as they were backed by the Major’s office as an attempt to establish a city wide religion that would bring the districts together and run in close, albeit secret, cooperation with the Central Office.
– This strategy allowed the Voodoopunks to expand rapidly but didn’t quite produce the results the Major’s office was looking for. The Voodoopunks had their own agendas and didn’t return the backscratching to any appreciable extent.
– When Avalon Corp came along promising exciting new technologies and sleek visions of the future, the Major’s office chose to back them, hoping to use technology to create a homogenized culture. This worked also to some extent, especially after a generation and certain events had passed. The tax shelters and favoritism Avalon Corp received allowed them to develop and market a slew of new technologies, transforming New Albion fairly quickly into a City Of The Future.
– However, Avalon Corp has deep secrets of their own. Their work on what we would call a personal computer was revolutionary and utterly undreamed of in the world New Albion exists in. The stages they had planned would culminate in the Mascot 3000 series of personal tablet interfaces. Very much like Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy type of devices, but interactive personalities.
– The Mascot 3000 had purposes beyond this of course, but that is a secret for another day.
– The vast amount of Avalon Corp’s resources eventually went into the Infraspace Exploration Project and an enormous amount of the city’s economy became inadvertently tied to it.
– With the sudden collapse of Avalon Corp (also a story for another time) the personal computer industry fell overnight. A few businesses managed to reverse engineer some basic computers and thus the great automation of every aspect of personal life in New Albion continued, although in much simpler form.
– Only one working Mascot 3000 actually exists. You will meet it soon enough.
– A species of mutant crickets lives in the ventilation system of the High Rise Park. Their song has been slowed down to a speed comprehendable to human ears. There is a subculture of residents who crawl into the ventilation system in the evening and even assemble in groups in makeshit room deep in the high rises infrastructure to sit and listen to the cricket song for hours as if attending a concert. The drug Tansan is quite popular with them.
– Jet packs were invented, put on the market and immediately taken off. However, since the Mayor’s offce possesses only a fraction of actual power, the central ban on them has been very ineffective. Accidents while operating jet packs are currently the number one cause of death in New Albion.
– There are alas, no robots. Avalon Corp would have done it had they had another generation or two to keep working. The Mascot 3000 is the closest they got.
– A series of floating agricultural cloud stations were proposed and one was built in order to conserve space and grow plants in the sky. After the sudden collapse of Avalon Corp threw the city into economic disarray, the project was abandoned and the station forgotten about. There is however still a man living there who chose not to leave. He is up there in the clouds alone, growing his food, living out a quiet life and watching from high above the world go about around him.
– The designs he uses to decide where to grow each plant and the path formations have grown more and more complex over the years. This has a bit to do with his ever increasing knowledge and mastery of agriculture, but it also has to do with the rather occult like relgion he has slowly developed over his long, lonely years up there. The plants form an elaborate sigil meant, among other things to attract the 6 disciples he believes will one day appear to join him, 3 men and 3 women. He believes they will over time give birth to a new race of cloud dwellers who will live in accordance with a great Scripture he believes will be revealed to the Group once it assembles.
– During the immense housing boom following the end of the civil war and culminating in the height of the Voodoopunk Era, a number of incredibly visionary and creative housing areas were built. After the sudden population decline however, many sit abandoned. Or at least, officially abandoned.
– The homogenization of culture and the dominance of the new era of “responsibility, productivity and serenity” brought about as a direct reaction to the passing of the incredibly dynamic Voodoopunk Era has created a much more calm and stable society. However with such stability there is a certain percentage who cannot live in such structure and monotony. Thus there are groups of younger citizens who are abandoning the comforts of the sleek high rises, houses and apartments that “do it all for you” and forming tribes who live in the many abandoned housing areas. It is from these that the new music and art trends which will come after the Atompunk Era is slowly beginning to simmer and surface.
In an act that would surprise no one, the cigarette girl smoked a cigarette.
She was in the alley outside the Rumba Club in her slightly tacky uniform, clearly on a smoke break. Some patrons noted that the management seemed to allow her a great amount of luxury in taking breaks, and indeed she and management took great steps to maintain the illusion that she was in any way answerable to them instead of the other way around.
The Rumba Club was one of the hottest nightspots in New Albion. It was large and designed brilliantly so that seating areas of the club accommodated different social spheres while allowing for careful intermingling. Naturally the club centered around the stage where top tier bands performed. However, as good as the acts were, Friday and Saturday nights were dominated by the house band, The Rumba Wolves, whose infectious rhythms and dazzling performances would drive the crowd into a frenzy, assisted of course by the Cigarette Girl’s various blends of smokey treats.
Finishing her cigarette, she paused before lighting another one to carefully examine her stock. She carried a large cigarette box, full of numerous brands of cigarettes. And that was just the top layer. Beneath, in the inner compartment was the same number of cigarette boxes, but these were arranged according to properties of the additives mixed in with the tobacco.
Obviously the THC cigarettes were top sellers followed by energy boosters and of course the opium laced ones. There was in addition a new blend which was currently all the rage. The ones with TanSans. This new drug, some type of mysterious rust colored powder was all the rage across the city. Supply was limited and no one could figure out the source, although her contact for who she now waited, the red haired lad, had sworn he would find and penetrate the pipeline.
The Cigarette Girl had attempted to get around this imbalance between supply and demand by designing a concoction of her own. She had come up with a magnificent blend of organic tobacco, a splash of opium and a dash of TanSan. It was subtle yet effective and stunningly popular, if also a bit addictive. However, she also had two rows of cigarettes which had nothing to do with indulgence. These cigarettes were various degrees of poison or truth serums, even aphrodisiacs, but not the kind intended to be used by drunken revelers looking to get lucky.
The truth was dealing out drugs to New Albion’s nightlife was originally set up to be a cover behind the cigarette girl cover. A cigarette girl at the most popular and frequented nightspot in the city with nothing shady going on was enormously suspicious and the type of people who love to puzzle over suspicious behavior would dig until they uncovered her true agenda.
She ran New Albion’s independent spy network.
The never ending civil war that had gripped the city for almost a decade now had a never ending thirst for spies. Furthermore, treatment of them was nothing short of barbarous. Constantly doing thankless, insanely dangerous tasks which would invariably end in hideous torture and gruesome deaths had become more and more unpopular as the war dragged on, and so a unionized spy network had emerged.
It worked very well to a large extent. Compromised spies had a bit more assurance that their removal from play would be moderately painless. Whichever faction broke union rules as to treatment of compromised spies would find all their spies suddenly on strike, a potentially fatal position.
Thus the cigarette girl had a third, thin compartment hidden in the bottom of her cigarette case. It had a lock designed by a brilliant box maker modeled after more complicated Asiatic prototypes. The cigarette girl of course knew the delicate finger movement needed to open and access it and could be in and out this hidden compartment it in under 3 seconds, but to anyone not familiar or practiced, it was virtually undiscoverable and inaccessible.
It was from here she regulated union business. She disseminated work requests and quotas, collected dues and kept lists, the kind of which were worth many lives. She passed out various work tools to members on jobs, which included little stuff like lockpicks but mostly involved the various cigarette blends not intended for nightlife consumption.
Lately there had been a bit of talk about some new government operation to wipe out the rebels as well as rumblings from that weird cult in the sewers about some big plan to do something equally big. This sort of talk happened periodically and was normally nothing to take seriously. The cult however took great pains to remain as hidden as possible, and so rumors regarding it were highly unusual.
An end to the war would be… interesting. On one hand it would certainly be good for the city, but it would put the cigarette girl out a job, and, well, truth be told, she loved her job. She didn’t think she could function in a normal society.
So here she was waiting for that red haired boy. The one with the stunning gaze and fascinatingly calculating eyes. He wasn’t so young, definitely old enough to bed and she had it on her do to list to get around to that one of these nights.
Tonight however was not one of those nights. He had wanted very badly to meet. In his stoic, always playing it cool kind of way he had all but begged. He wanted her to talk with someone. That was in itself unusual, but even more interesting, it was some faction’s political planner. What the cigarette girl knew, which she highly doubted even the red haired lad knew much less anyone else, is that this policy planner worked for quite a few opposing factions. If the war ever ended this person was one of those most likely continue to continue their employment.
The cigarette girl had been told to bring some samples of some of her popular “special” homemade cigarette blends. She also knew the red haired lad’s running obsession was discovering TanSan’s source and supply line. Perhaps this policy maker had promised some method of helping him accomplish that. That would earn the red haired lad’s loyalty for sure. The red haired lad ran the greatest dispersement pipeline in the city, above or underground. Whatever supposed post war scenario they wanted to discuss with her would be very interesting indeed, that much was sure.
She finally lit another cigarette. Two figures emerged from out of the shadows and they all bid each other good evening.
Over the course of writing this blog i’ve occasionally written tales set in the New Albion universe. I’ve been meaning to collect them and have them in one easy to find page and now i’ve finally gotten around to it.
If you look at the top of the blog, where it lists pages such as Home, About, Buy The Full Album, etc, you will see a new tab, Stories From New Albion. In this are all the stories taking place in New Albion or about its residents.
While i do sometimes try to go back and fix the really horrible grammatical and spelling errors which plague my writing and posts due to the limited time constraints i have in my day to actually bang out blogs, many survive i am sure. Apologies.
If there are any facets of New Albion you would like written about in the future let me know. Otherwise this new page will sit here for all y’all’s casual perusal.
Here is the list and links as they appear on the page above:
Simon The Albatross:
The Red Haired Dwarf:
The Fae Under New Albion (post dieselpunk, pre atompunk):
.The Fairy Tales of New Albion:
The Little Dead Girl:
Snapshots From New Albion (steampunk era)
Snapshots From New Albion (dieselpunk era)
We now fast forward 18 years. The girls have grown into 35 year old women. Sam the Mouse and Simon the Albatross should have died long ago, but in fact they have barely aged due to the Faerie essence in their blood. Agatha is in her 40s and owns the library. In fact she has built a number of libraries all across New Alibon and is active in founding and funding literacy programs and scholarship foundations who give students educational grants for University.
The Gang is still active. After the Vault heist they became rock stars of the underworld and over the years have worked with and for numerous colorful characters and groups of various dubiousness. They have a solid reputation and almost every client and aquaintance in their history speaks highly of them.
For many, many years the New Albion mafia was run by a red haired dwarf. The Gang and the dwarf got along very well on the rare occasions their paths would cross. However, one day the dwarf was killed and his killer, his son, took over the mob. The son did things differently and brought a new philosophy to running the underworld. At the end of the day this is a story about competing philosophies and the fallout.
The red haired dwarf was legendary for a pair of silver dice he always carried wth him. It was said that for major decisions he would role the dice and base his decision on the outcome. Obviously he had a system whereby a certain number meant a certain type of decision. This legend was a favorite to tell and talk about, and the dwarf was loved for it. However, few actually believed it was true. Everyone assumed the die rolling was a showpiece, a piece of theater that was part of the dwarf’s colorful presentation. He was such an effective mob boss that he couldn’t actually be so insane as to really use die roles to determine his major decisions.
We will go ahead here and now settle this dispute. The dwarf most certainly did use the dice to make decisions. The dwarf believed in a chaos element, a randomness of chance or fate and believed embracing it made him a more effective leader since his style was more in tune with the way reality went about its business.
The Gang did not use dice or any colorful props, but they did agree with this outlook in their own way. In fact, the trouble started when Sam the Mouse argued this very point. Actually, no, that’s not fair to Sam. The trouble started with the red haired dwarf’s son brought the Gang in to swear him fealty.
The son had been in power a for awhile. He was little by little bringing everyone of any importance in the city’s underworld to swear allegiance to him. The Gang was not at the top of the list so it took awhile to get around to them, but one day they were indeed brought in.
The son was a different man from his father. In fact those stupid dice had driven him nuts over the years. The son didn’t believe in idiotic props or clownish displays of decision making. He knew they best way to run and even expand an empire is through tight control. He didn’t leave anything up to chance. He micromanaged, he got down into the tiny details, he believed in diligence and discipline, he believed in holding the reins tight, he believed in a strict regiment, in the pursuit of effectiveness, excellence, in hierarchy and dictatorship.
He lectured the Gang on all this. He went on for quite a bit. He had delivered this lecture before and in fact had worked it into quite an impressive delivery. There were a few lines the late middle he was still honing but he was almost perfectly satisfied with the final memorized lecture. The speech did go on, though.
It was Mags who rolled her eyes even though Sam was going crazy trying to bite his tongue. The son caught the eye roll. He stopped his speech and walked up to Mags and got in her face and asked her if there was something perhaps she felt she had to add.
It was Sam who spoke up. Sam had worked on strategy and mission planning for 22 years now. In his younger days he too had aspired towards the perfectly planned plan, but over time had yielded to the truth that no plan survives contact with the enemy. When he embraced this, embraced that plans must allow for improvisation and spontaneity and must be able to breath and turn on a dime, he became a much better tactician.
He explained this to the son. He pointed out that many of the son’s points were all well and good, the pursuit of excellent and a disciplined approach, but his obsessiveness with control and rigidness were flawed and were inferior to a more open, chaos embracing approach and would also simply create more resentment.
Obviously the son wanted to squash Sam right there and then. There were a number of people present, some of importance and this disagreement of philosophy was sure to be discussed at length for a long time afterwards. The son felt his only recourse was to prove his methods and he demanded a contest.
The son would plan and execute a highly difficult heist, as would the Gang. They must use the same number of people. When asked how many people the Gang wanted they said five. Considering they were known as the Gang of Four, this was interesting and the son made note. But five it was. Both sides were to begin immediately. The contest was not only to be judged on success but on elegance of execution and lack of detection.
The Gang won hands down. Both succeeded but the son’s methods were clearly not as elegant and creative. He got away with the heist but had some trouble as where the Gang not only succeeded but the people they stole from didn’t even know they had been robbed and swore after the fact that they hadn’t.
The judging council ruled in favor of the son of course, not wanting to lose their lives, but everyone, the entire underworld including the son himself knew he had been not only shown up, but shown up with flair and style.
The son was furious. Vengeance was necessary.
However to kill the Gang immediately after the contest would be an admission of defeat. He’d lose face. Again.
But…. but. There was a fifth. The Gang of Four was not truly a gang of four. There had long been rumors of a fifth and the gang themselves had confirmed it when they requested five players. This fifth was the perfect target. Eventually the son discovered Agatha and ordered her death. Her very painful, very gruesome death.
Men were sent to the library where Agatha now lived, having built very luxurious apartments both underneath the great library and in what was once the attic. The men entered at night, heavily armed.
Simon however loved to perch on the top of library and watch the city. He saw the men. He flew into the library. They entered the main room where Agatha was meandering and set upon her. But Simon flew in attacked the men before they could get near her. He clawed and bit at their faces and when they threw knives at Agatha he intercepted them, all three of them, one after the other, using his body as a shield.
The fact that a bird flew in front of one hurtling knife and stopped it by taking the blow then, with the knife sticking out of him flew and intercepted a second knife is downright preposterous. The fact that the same bird, with two knives sticking out of him still remained airborn and intercept yet a third before finally collapsing due to the weight and the injuries is outright impossible. But he did it. He loved Agatha. He loved them all. He would have died for any and all of them a hundrend times over. And laying there with three knives sticking out of his little body, that was indeed teh day he died.
Agatha had been roundly surprised when the men came in, but upon seeing Simon attack and then fall, responded as quick as she could. She was an accomplished witch, but her spells for tight spots were mostly defensive. She cast a quick protective spell, then caused the room to disorient for her attackers, then basked herself in shadows and escaped. As she fled tears streamed down her cheeks over poor Simon, and by the time the Gang found her was weeping uncontrollably.
The Gang buried Simon the next day. They were devastated, but Sam was inconsolable. For a week the little mouse would not rise. He just lay there in his little dollhouse unmoving. After a couple of days Mae would come by twice a day and force him to eat and drink, force him to live.
At the end of the week Sam got up. He scampered up onto the table top where Mae, Mags and Agatha were sitting. He told them they were going to now systematically destroy the son and see his dead body hang from a bridge with three perfect knife wounds for all to see, and that dangling there, the son would wear a metal plate around his neck. Sam was very adamant about the plate. He then walked away to go eat. The three women looked at each other, then shrugged and nodded.
The war lasted 6 months.
It was not actually so bloody. Sam and the women were well liked and had built up a lot of good credibility and trust, and they cashed in on this. They worked hard to develop a strong series of allies before they ever even took a step towards engaging the son. For all of Sam’s rage, he conducted a campaign based on calm, cold, masterful tactician’s logic. It was not a war of armies, it was a war of subtly and out maneuvering and Sam masterminded by far the best campaign of his life. In fact, a large part of his end game relied on the Gang having spilled as little blood as possible. He was successful in this.
All right. He was mostly successful. Up until the end game was not very bloody, but the end game itself was pretty damn bloody. And when it was all over, he had the son captured, knifed three times in very exact spots then hung from a bridge, but not by the neck. Nor were the knife wounds instantly fatal. No, the son died very slowly while hanging off the bridge. And he was fitted with a plate sticking out from the front of his neck, extending out about 15 centimeters perfectly perpendicular to his face.
On this plate sat Sam. The whole time the son dangled, slowly dying, Sam the Mouse just stood in front of his face and stared him in the eye. Just stood there. For an hour and a half. Didn’t move. Just stared into his eyes.
When the son finally died Sam scurried up the rope and went home to where Mae, Mags and Agatha were eating dinner and trying to think of what to do as New Albion’s premiere band of thieves.
It is usually assumed that the Gang Of Four (the two girls, Sam the Mouse and Simon the Albatross) initially became cat burglars in order to provide themselves much needed food and money. This is not really accurate. They did indeed need food and money and burglary did provide these things. But in truth, they began enacting ever increasing heists of breaking, entering and stealing in order to practice. They were practicing for a single heist they knew it would take them years of training to pull off, and this heist was not for any personal gain, but so they could help their secret fifth member break a terrible curse her father was caught in.
Agatha had been researching curses and artifacts for years and one thing she knew for sure was that in order to break the curse upon her family and stop these stupid, psychotics wraiths from showing up and dismembering everyone whenever she got even mildly tiffed, she would need the actual artifact that had caused it. But this artifact was in the possession of the most powerful banking family in the city, the Millhouse Seths, and locked in the single most secure vault in all of New Albion.
The girls, Mae and Mags, Sam and Simon had all vowed they would help their dear friend Agatha the Librarian, even if it took years, which it did. They discussed and discussed it and agreed they would have to become thieves extraordinaire, so they set about this task with great focus.
Sam quickly proved to be the strategic brains of the group. He would plan more and more complicated operations over time and showed a genius for tactics and planning. Also, as a mouse, he was sometimes invaluable in getting into difficult rooms.
Simon, being a bird, was not only the perfect lookout, undetectable and airborn, but through flight he could transmit messages from team member to team member with a speed unheard of at that point in New Albion history. He could also simply make off with a desired item. If Mags procured say, a necklace that she needed to get off her person as fast as possible, she could simply reach outside the nearest window give it to a waiting Simon who would fly it to safety.
Mae and Mags had always been good at gymnastics, but now they trained themselves to perfection. The human element was needed in their heists, although at times they themselves did not actually need to enter the room with their desired target item was kept. They were needed to interact with other people, usually to act out a narrative and as teenagers they had to learn how to pass as adults or play the child/youth card.
Agatha never went on heists, but instead acted as researcher. She had access to architectural blueprints for the entire city as well as information about the history and details on any building, neighborhood, or social strata.
Their first few “jobs” were incompetant near disasters, but they quickly became a well oiled machine and after two years were nothing short of dazzling. Legends of a master cat burglar began to spread across the city and Sam quickly recognized the value of such a thing. The legends assumed a single male, which the gang would play off of. Sometimes they would leave taunts by this fictional male and other times not, carefully changing their tactics so that police would build a false methology and character analysis.
However, even after two years they were nowhere near ready. It took another two years of work after that until the gang finally thought though they might be skilled enough to tackle the M&S vault.
The problems were multitude. The vault was buried far underground and other than that no one knew a thing about it. Procuring information on the vault tooks months and several raids on the Millhouse Seth Manor and some of their top clients as well as the bank itself. The daughters also spent over a year building identities as rich, spoiled heiresses. They were too young to pass for the kind of high power client who would garaunteed to get their possessions stored in the main vault, but by hiring an actor to play their wealthy father on a few occasions and some well placed appearances and press they built an identity and account that was recognized by the bank.
The amount of time and energy that went into just getting information about the vault was tedious enough, so imagine the shock and near defeat they felt when they discovered that due to the MIllhouse family’s propensity for black magic, the vault was not actually stored in this dimension.
The gang was all sitting around, shoulder slumped, mouths hanging open, in near tears. It was Simon was got them out of their stupor. In the library was a Victrola, an exciting new contraption at the time. Simon played it, and the cylinder on it was a brass march. Simon marched up and down the table with a paper hat on his head, head up, chest out, in a gesture of complete resolution. Everybody laughed and before long they were marching in a line around the library. They sat back down again, their spirits raised and got back to planning.
Agatha’s years of researching magick and Sam’s years of developing complex heists were tested to their limits, but after some time the entire Gang came up with a Plan. It had taken over four years of training, a year of prep, but finally they enacted their great Plan.
Mags made an important deposit for their prime account in the mian vault. The Gang had amde a number of very valuable depostis over their career to build up their credit and insure they had a deposit box in the main vault. The item to be stored was strange, but it was done.
Sam the Mouse was in the item, and so he ended up in the vault. Once he was certain it was after hours he crawled out and began work. Also in the item was a bag of salt. He bit a hole in the bag and dragged the salt around the vault floor in a circle.
Each night the vault was sealed with both locks, seals and sigils, impervious to thieves and occultists. The vault upon being sealed magickly was transported to another dimension, a dark, chaotic one where if any human were to enter, the sight of which would drive them instantly insane.
Sam cast a circle and scratched the various runes taught to him by Agatha. Meanwhile, back in the basement of the library, Mags, Mae, Agatha and Simon did the same. Each team created the exact same Circle and at the appropriate time opened a portal connecting them. Simon the took a rope in his beak and flew into the portal in order to connect the two Circles.
A human could never have done it as it required watching where you’re going. However human vision and albatross vision are quite different and although they had not been certain this part of the plan could actually be pulled off, in fact Simon was only partially bothered by the chaotic alternate dimension. It freaked him out but did not drive him mad.
He landed in Simon’s circle. Mags and Mae then put on blindfolds and crawled slowly along the rope, through the monstrous abyss, not daring to open her eyes and ignoring the terrible sounds howling arouond her. Agatha kept the ritual going, the portal open, and the rope anchored.
Once in the vault, the girls went to work scouring the boxes in the area where the family was most likely to store the artifact. At this point time began ticking. The more important boxes would have astral golems protecting them. The astral golems existed to do one task and one task only: if the boxes were disturbed they were to fly through the astral byway to deliver an alarm to another golem on the other side.
Due to this never having happened before, the Gang could rely on a little bit of time passing before trouble came barging in. However, as time goes, not much. Not much at all.
They worked as fast as they could. The boxes were sealed well and to open them the girls had brought hammers and chisels. They pocketed a full items of interest, but mostly just methodically went through the boxes as quickly as possible. Finally the room began to rumble and the sigils and seals covering the door began to glow, signalling impending intrusion. Time was up.
Mags was the one that found it. The door began to open. Simon was already waiting with the rope in his mouth. Sam tucked himself into Mae’s bra and the girls leapt from the walls to the rope. Mags would have landed poorly on the floor and would have probably broken something, but the floor disappeared completely.
When the door opened, the room would return to reality. The Gang banked on this. The rope connecting the Circles would still exist in the terrible dimension and the room would simply disappear from around it. Thus the Gang was left clutching a rope suspended in the space of a horrific dimension, terrible, terrible sounds howling around them, the girls unable to open their eyes lest they go insane and Sam unable to open his eyes simply because he was scared shitless. They all were and the fact that he peed in Mae’s bra was never held against him.
Simon was their only hope. With the end of the rope in his beak, he slowly flew it and those clutching it in a ball together across the nightmarish space, the chaotic nonsensicalness, the blasphemous unreality, slowly but surely until he reached the portal and landed them all in the Circle in the library where Agatha waited. She immediately closed the Circle after them.
Simon suffered from nightmares the rest of his life. They were worse during the weeks following the heist, but the Gang cared for him with great love, and eventually they receeded, only appearing a few times a month from then after, more when he was stressed.
Agatha’s family curse was lifted. While there is more to the story, we have spent more than enough on this particular chapter. There were a few more heists needed and a couple more adventures required to get the job done, but we assure you dear reader, the mission was accomplished and Agatha’s curse was forever done away with. She remained with Gang thereafter, never going on jobs but always as their unknown librarian and 5th member.
When the Gang first entered the Vault they left their cat burglar calling card and despite the family’s best attempts to keep the theft under wraps, it got out, at least amongst a certain strata of New Albion and the gang found their reputation after that to be elevated to an almost unfathomable level. They soon found themselves with a power and influence they had to struggle to come to grips with.
There are so many stories to tell and perhaps one day they will be told. But we cannot go through their entire career here and now. It is time for us to skip ahead and talk of how Simon’s end came about.
If you were to ask as to the what industry Agatha the librarian’s very prestigious family were stewards of, most people would correctly answer banking and trading. There would only be a small number, almost too small to even be worth mentioning would who answer Black Magic. Both would in fact be correct.
Agath’s family had been bankers in New Albion for generations. Akers Finance was of the great Banking firms of the city. They were always in close competition with M&S Banking owned and run by another prestigious family, Millhouse Seths.
The banking industry in Albion can be viscious. Each family was always trying to guess what the other was doing, find the best investments first, or sweep the carpet out from under the other. This started innocuously enough as good old fashion business rivalry, but over generations the rivalry had grown into all out epic.
It had started escalating when the families had started hiring spies. The spies led the hiring even deeper spies who would not just infiltrate the business but attempt to marry into the family or least date daughters and sons. A bunch of the money used by Beltane Undustries to fund Project Doolittle, the talking animals experiment, had been providing by M&S. A dog who could secretly understand language and talk would be a super spy extrodinare.
But spies were only tips of the iceberg. After some time, willing to try anything, the familes started exploring alternative methods of out predicting the other. The first generation to use psychics and clairovoyants to give them an edge were thought to be flat out insane and an embarassment to the family name, but this sort of thing soon became par for course. In fact, supernatural methods worked well enough that soon each family had a branch dedicated to witchcraft. It made sense. Each generation produced individuals with different strengths. While normally most sons and daughters would be good at finance, trade and the market, there were always a couple artsy and therefore useless types. They would be sent to learn witchcraft.
Witchcraft led to ceremonial magic and soon, based on the types of results the familes needed, they decided to stop putzing about with this namby pamby crap and became immersed in full out black magic. As their underground war escalated and families needed to constantly keep up with and best the other, from market predictions to investment strategies to casting and defending from hexes and demonic assaults, they would employ the best and brightest New Albion and other city states had to offer. This included some of the darkest magicians and rituals ever devised by either man or demon.
Both banking families heavily invested in trading companies who brought all manners of imports into New Albion. The Akers had scored a major coup by cornering the tea market and all ships sailing in with shipments of teas and herbs were protected by a complex array of glyphs and sigils. M&P scored big by backing the trading company responsible for silk, and thus on and on it went.
Agatha’s grandfather, Augustus had been at helm of Akers Banking his entire adult life and was one of the stronger stewards of the family business. His son, Agatha’s father, worked closely with him and was a solid CEO in his own right, but a life time of trying to live up to his father’s shadow and gain some type of approval, which was very, very difficult to do, had made him a bit obsessive, and while being a workaholic he had a secret opium habit he kept in very careful check.
There were in New Albion a number of major executives and power players who used opium to take the edge off their immensely stressful and hard working lives and most were part of an underground club who catered to them. The club provided an expensive but mysterious atmosphere, fine cigars, top notch brandy, opium and should you desire it, a discreet partner of whatever gender you required. Agatha’s father had two particular friends at this club: an executive of one of the top trading companies and a dark magus who was a bored dandy from a long line of money who tried desperately to be a poet but whose genius at creating and working spells and ceremonies gave him a claim to fame and feared notoriety.
It was the three of them who had come up with a plan to attack M&S. One of the trader’s ships had returned from an exotic port with a very strange relic which the magus had recognized contained a very ancient, wild and powerful energy of a nature never before seen in New Albion magic circles. This could be a game changer. They would use it to strike a major blow against M&S Finance.
Each family had a basement with a black and red pentagram room were they concocted a lot of their family rituals, but this extraordinary curse would require proximity to the curse. Access to their sworn enemies Manor was difficult and so they plan had been underpreparation for some time.
However, it must be noted, although acess was difficult, it was not as impossible as one might think. The reason for this also ties in to th same reason the curse went awry. Let’s start with why the curse went awry.
They curse would affect everyone within a series of rooms. The three men were stationed secretly in a servants hallway behind the rooms. Their view of the inside of the rooms was limited, so they knew some of the most important people they needed to do away with were present, but not necessarily everyone present. If, say, Augustus’ wife was there with his daughter but off to the side, they might be missed.
We realize we may be completely trying the attention of our audience if at this point we take a detour and suddenly bring up Romeo and Juliet but it makes explanation easier and will explain why access to the house is not impossible. Romeo and Juliet, the story of two young lovers, who despite their family’s feud and rivalry yet find passionate adolescent love.
This sort of thing is not rare. Actually, it happens all the time. It happens like clockwork with the Akers and the Millhouse Seths.
Despite their family’s endless feuding, children of the two families get the hots for each other all the time. Forbidden love, the unallowed passion… its a garaunteed recipe for sexual attraction. The elders let it happen because they know that the torrid affair almost always ends very badly. Once they rut themselves into boredom it usually ends nastily and the jilted lover will become even more passionate in their taking up the family war.
There are occasional problems. The unexpected baby for instance. Agatha was that unexpected baby. Augustus’ wife had an affair with a Millhouse Seth which unknown to Augustus produced what he thought was his daughter. Augustus’ wife, as a kindess, would twice a year secretly go over to the real father’s place to show him his daughter.
Because of the all the secret copulating, some members of the other families did know secret ways into their rival’s house. Just to wrap that little mystery up. In any case, Augustus cast the curse, the artifact was juicing up for the big boom, and as the three men were exiting he saw his wife and child in his rival’s room and instantly understood what was going on.
So why did he go back, grab the artifact, throw it down into the basement in which they had come, where his two conspirators had already fled to and then throw himself down and on top of the evil thing? He insured his own destruction. Didn’t he realize the little girl, Agatha was not his? Didn’t he realize his wife had been unfaithful? Didn’t he realize he was doomng himself and his two companions?
The answer is simple: Yes, he realized it all. He realized the girl was not his real daughter. He didn’t care. He loved her to death and back. And he loved his wife. And he was absolutely unable to let his family be harmed so he did the only thing he could think of to do in the circumstance: he took the curse for them.
As for his two companions, they were opium buddies. Given a choice between them and his girls, well, they got screwed.
And that’s how the three of them ending up as shadow wraiths who roam the fog of New Albion never able to live outside the fog and never able to die. They possess immense power. Immense. They’re dumb as doorknobs but they’re powerful as hellfire. Why would you cast a curse on an enemy that makes them powerful as hellfire? Well, you wouldn’t, but that magus was an idiot who didn’t actually fully understand the artifact. Also, by dying in a room where a high emotion was present, namely Augustus’ desire to sacrifice himself for his daughter, this last emotion permeates their undead life. They are thus not only extremely powerful, they are extremely dedicated to and protective of Agatha. She has to worry about getting annoyed with the baker if he rips her off because the damn wraiths, one of which is her father, are likely to pull his entrails out.