Picking up some threads from the previous session...
Crucible went to see Etty's friend the physicker to get the shrapnel dug out of her left. Melvir? was excited by the challenge of digging out the shrapnel without ruining Crucible's skin. ("But... that's not what I care about.") After the second session with Melvir left Crucible not much healthier, Crucible sighed and shelled out some coin to her friend Stazia? for a bit of unguent which (the apothecary promised) would help the appearance-obsessed physicker work more quickly. After the third session, Crucible had a leg she could walk on -- if not put pressure on -- so that was something.
Dock spent his time working on getting his still over to the boat. He moved a slew of small pieces one at a time, using different routes each time, and he's got only one big chunk left. In between moving sessions he fed the bottled ghost from the Water Rats?' lair to his dark gods.
Etty spent some time improving herself, practicing her social skills on the barflies at the Old Dragon. She also made a visit to the Dunridge & Sons, a high end fashion boutique she used to frequent in... different times. She wore the Widow's Collar, with an eye towards trying on a dress that would go with it. It was a great experience, just like old times, until the subject of payment came up.
Etty: "Um... perhaps I could pay when the sewing is done?"
The clerk: "Of course, madame. We'll get the work done, and when you... decide you're ready to wear it... send over a messenger boy and we'll finish it up."
Etty left feeling like she had not entirely indulged her vice. But she felt a little bit better, so time not wasted.
Cas resorted all the funerary urns at the Church, and took all the extra grave dust over to the steps of Marin?'s shabby little church. "Your beliefs are as false and as hollow as the inside of your head!" She then dumped the grave dust on the steps and stomped off, satisfied.
This did not resolve the issue of the Skovlander ghost in her head. He was getting pushy and rambunctious, so Cas checked in with her new pals to see if the Hexhounds had any ideas about how to get rid of it. Crucible introduced Cas to Griggs, given that the Gondoliers? have some expertise in ghostly matters.
Griggs was, as always, on the canals in his little skiff. He was happy to meet Cas -- apparently he'd heard about her before. He was also quite happy to help her with her ghost problem. As he chalked the runes of the circle around her, he explained a bit about how the Gondoliers were the ghost killers of last resort, for times when the Spirit Wardens? screwed up. The painless removal of the ghost certainly supported that idea.
Griggs: "So, you know how if you're rich you can afford to keep your potatoes so long that sometimes you get rot? You don't always eat them as soon as you get them?"
Cas: "Yeah, that's weird. I can't imagine not eating a potato."
Griggs: "Well, if you have a rotting potato, the rot spreads to the other potatoes."
They paused to consider the idea that you might own a lot of potatoes at once.
Griggs: "You don't want that to happen, so you cut the rot out as soon as you see it. Ghosts are like that rotting potato; you let them hang around and the evil spreads, you see."
Cas: "Huh. You don't say."
Griggs: "But nobody ever listens to old Griggs."
Back at the boat, the Hexhounds discussed the final fate of the Widow's Collar. Etty really wanted to keep it; the others impressed upon her that breaking their bargains would be a bad reputation to establish so early in the game. Somewhat reluctantly, Etty agreed, and Cas and Crucible headed off to return the Collar to The Attic while Etty and Dock fenced the other random loot they'd picked up in the Water Rats' vault. Cas and Crucible made a feint for more money, but alas, Mishya shut them down hard. On the way home, Cas and Crucible had a discussion about destroying the Attic utterly for their presumption, or at least Cas explained that it would be a good idea and Crucible listened with some degree of unvoiced skepticism.
When Cas and Crucible got back to the vote, the three founders kicked Cas out for some quick discussion. It didn't take long before they invited her back in. "Hey, if you would like -- we would be happy to initiate you into the Hexhounds as a full member." Cas accepted with some enthusiasm. The ad hoc initiation ceremony involved drinking down a full glass of the hallucinogenic wine made from the mushrooms of Dock's pocket dimension. Cas' grip on reality did not, on the whole, change significantly from what it had been and with many esoteric hand gestures ("Hexhounds!") she became a full member of the crew.
Without any immediate issues requiring (or paying for) their attention, the Hexhounds decided it was time to get serious about the wine business. They considered and discarded the idea of opening a wine shop; it'd compete unfairly with Rigney. Instead, they decided to move the cultivation and winemaking off the boat into a good basement somewhere near the Old Dragon. This, of course, meant expanding their turf at someone else's expense.
As was habit by this time, the crew split to pursue separate investigatory avenues. Etty chatted up Rigney's sausage purveyor, a gangly lad named Oscar?, in hopes that he could shed some light into the food and beverage purveying business. He took her interest somewhat the wrong way, but was able to provide a little information on how best to market food nonetheless. In the end she had to pawn him off with a promise of a date later on.
Dock hit the city archives in Charterhall looking for a building with a good solid basement. In a stupendous bit of luck, he found the perfect building: formerly a Bluecoats? watchtower, it had been burnt down under somewhat mysterious circumstances and was now the home of a disreputable band of former Bluecoats, the unimaginatively named Gray Cloaks. They dwelled in a basement which was tailor-made for growing mushrooms.
When the Hexhounds compared their knowledge of the Gray Cloaks, they recalled that the fire had been set by the Gray Cloaks themselves in order to destroy evidence. This was beyond the pale even for the notoriously corrupt Bluecloaks; thus, their fall from grace. Rumor on the street was that the evidence somehow involved Lord Scurlock, which might pose a complicating factor. The Gray Cloaks also outnumbered the Hexhounds, with something around ten members. This merited on-site investigation.
And so the Hexhounds went to visit the Gray Cloaks in their lair.
The Hexhounds found the Gray Cloaks hanging around their home, drinking and exchanging light badinage. Somewhat aggressively, Tocker? -- the leader of the Gray Cloaks -- demanded to know what the Hexhounds wanted from them. Etty stepped up and explained that they were interested in acquiring the very building they were standing in. This was met with some laughter. The Hexhounds pointed out that living in a basement with a burnt out watchtower on top of them wasn't the greatest situation, which the Gray Cloaks allowed was true ("Yeah, and these bunk beds are uncomfortable...").
Etty: "OK, so what can we do for you that would be worth moving out? There are all these rumors about what happened to you guys -- do you need your names cleared?"
Tocker: "That asshole Phin! That utter dick!"
Well, that was promising.
Further conversation revealed that yes, the Gray Cloaks had come into possession of evidence regarding Lord Scurlock, but they certainly hadn't destroyed it. They were in the dark as to how their guard tower had burnt down. What they did know was that Phin, that utter dick Phin, made an excuse and vanished right after the sting which had netted them those crucial documents, and a few hours later the tower burnt down with all of them (except that dick Phin) inside it. Close thing, their escape.
And now Phin, whose character the Hexhounds felt quite familiar with by now, was living large in Charterhall, with money he sure didn't have back when he was a Bluecloak, so what was up with that?
Etty: "OK, So if we can made Phin admit that he destroyed the evidence and get you guys off the hook, would that be enough?"
Tocker: "Sure, babe, that sounds pretty good. We'd like that."
Crucible: "Would you go back to being Bluecloaks if that happened?"
Gray Cloaks, en masse: "Hell no!"
Tocker: "Crime is fun. We don't answer to anyone, we push people around, life is better now."
And so the deal was struck.
Etty headed off to Charterhall to see what she could find out by following Phin. She picked him up outside his house -- the Gray Cloaks pointed her in the right direction -- and followed him until he noticed something and took an abrupt right turn into an alley.
She made the same turn him only to find him waiting; he'd made her. She successfully feigned distress at the loss of her beloved Diamond, then pretended to find him in the street. Phin bought this. After a bit of witty banter, Etty suggested that maybe she'd see him at his favorite restaurant sometime. He allowed as how Lopara's was one of the nicer restaurants in Charterhall, and they parted on friendly unsuspicious terms.
Etty hung out at the Old Dragon again until Oscar stopped by, and cashed in on her promise of a date. "We'll go to Lopara's, it'll be great!" Dock went to the lightning walls and kind of... nudged one aside a bit... to capture a ghost from outside the city. Once it was safe in a bottle, he negotiated with it: Dock was willing to give it a host if it would promise to confess that it burned down the Bluecloak watch tower. The ghost was amenable.
Cas, Crucible, and Dock found a table at Lopara's. Etty hung out at the bar, waiting for Oscar. When Oscar showed up, she scooped him up with much elan and ferried him back to the back table. Oscar's face fell when he saw the other three, but then he made a quick calculation of the odds -- three women, two men -- and perked up a bit. Conversation flowed reasonably smoothly while everyone fended off the waiter. Actually buying a dinner would have strained the Hexhound bank.
The date for the date had not been chosen at random; Etty knew that Phin (still a dick) liked to eat there on the third day of every week. Sure enough, Phin showed up, and Etty beckoned him over to the Hexhound table. (Oscar looked more relieved; apparently this was a triple date.) Etty made a point of introducing Phin to her friend Crucible, and the merriment proceeded while Dock had a last minute word with his pet ghost.
Dock: "Let's make sure we're both clear on this. I'm going to stuff you inside that guy, and you're going to confess to burning down the watch tower to destroy evidence."
Ghost: "Yep. I burned it down, I did it on purpose, I wanted to destroy the evidence."
Ghost: "And after that, I can do anything I want, right?"
Dock: "Sure, sure. Just make sure you confess first, okay?"
Dock took a breath. Cas sat ready, slipping her ghost-fighting gauntlets on under the table, just in case. The ghost hopped out of the bottle into Phin's body. Ghost-Phin immediately leaned over, kissed Crucible hard, and yelled "Hey! Everyone! I can out-fight any of you in here, and I can out-fuck you too!" The restaurant went silent. Ghost-Phin kissed Crucible again -- his tongue was disturbingly cold -- and hopped up on the table.
Ghost-Phin: "Yeah, I said it! And I'll say something else! I burned down that tower over in Six Towers! I burned it down and I tried to kill those other Bluecloaks and I'd do it again! You know why? Because they're dull, always talking about how much they liked enforcing the law, and I was so tired of dull! So I burned down the tower and destroyed the evidence! I'm not dull!"
The Hexhounds began to look pleased.
Ghost-Phin: "Now, let me tell you all about how dull you are! How dull this place is! Who wants to fight me first? Come on, we're gonna get lively!"
The Hexhounds began to look alarmed. Oscar saw an opportunity to be a hero, and started to climb up onto the table to fight Ghost-Phin. Ghost-Phin leaned over and casually bit Oscar's ear off.
Ghost-Phin didn't seem like he was going to stop any time soon, so Cas got up and took a swing at him. He danced away and leapt off the table, coming down on top of Cas, grinning maniacally into her face and preparing to take a bite of something else. Crucible frantically dove over, fish-hooking Ghost-Phin's mouth to keep him from eating anything sensitive. Ghost-Phin promptly bit off the last joint of Crucible's index finger, but she still managed to tear him off Cas.
Faced with the prospect of fighting off Cas and Crucible at the same time, the rampaging, hungry, maniacal, now completely utterly dickish Ghost-Phin made a break for it. He grabbed a chair and threw it through the nearest window. Etty hauled her pistol out of her purse -- preloaded with electroplasmic ammunition -- took careful aim, and... shot Ghost-Phin in the back of the head. The ghost inside Phin died immediately, and Phin fell unconscious to the floor.
The Hexhounds, all of one mind, made for the door. Crucible stopped to tie a handkerchief over Oscar's former ear on the way out.
Dock: "He bit your finger off!"
Etty: "Was it your shame hand?"
The Gray Cloaks were very happy with the outcome, particularly given how public it was. (In fact, they heard the news before the Hexhounds got around to coming over to tell them.) Tocker asked for a week or so to move out, and the Hexhounds were glad to oblige. Both crews toasted to a new partnership.
Afterwards, the crew wandered back to the Old Dragon. For once, Rigney wasn't behind the bar. The anonymous bar keep looked up: "Oh, Rigney's in the back, hold on..."
Rigney came out of the back; his arm was in a sling and his face was battered and bruised. He grunted. "Ulf Ironborn worked me over... 'm I under your protection, or what?"
And that was the end of Session Three.