Under the Steel Web

This is Cursed, Those are Wasted, This is Bad
The Warrens continue to reveal their awfulness

Jabiri and Victor climb up the hatch, and then see something in the darkness of the shaft far above them: a spider? Jabiri shoots at it, and it is indeed a spider, which drops terribly fast almost crushing the Muster before he dodges. The two fight it, while all the other calculate the chances that the spider can get to them, and assess it as not possible. The elevator lurches slightly down more than once as the fight progresses. Victor proves able to injure the spider: his ferocious dueling style is dangerous even to whatever alien things they are. But Jabiri is hurt, reasonably badly, and retreats; Victor is injured as well, and retreats, and the spider returns to its haven. All agree that the place is just as cursed as recommended.
They return to Zulema’s tribe, who have no patience for them. Passing back to the entry hall, they head the other way, toward the tattooed man, who they soon in fact encounter. He is a fanatic psychic who is against technology with fervancy. His tribe do not use it, and will not trade for it, but he will let the characters take any they find. He tells them of the Steel Priests beyond him, and of the Huli Hulis just inward of them, and they decide to pass through his territory to that of the Huli Hulis, who grow much fungus. On a hill of rubble in the black-coated territory of that tribe, they encounter a rather distracted young man, lean and covered in black smears that turn out to be fungal growths. His tribe produces many kinds of fungus, and are constantly afflicted by various mental fugues, it seems. But they agree in theory to trade darts for their blowguns for various poisons and drugs. From the Huli Huli territory the characters push back out to the gates of the Steel Priests, where they are welcomed with some hesitation, and taken to meet with Brother Blessing, spiritual head of the group (their martial head is called Sister Steel). Brother Blessing rests in a fancy bed in a chamber above a guard room and a room filled with large wooden lockers. He speaks gently, and is friendly, and offers even to heal the injured ones, as he is of the Sanctuary Aeon. But his belief is admittedly heretical: the Steel Priests are bound together by wounding and healing. Brother Blessing injures them all, and heals all the injured. He himself is not much more than a torso with a right arm, needed for his rites. He tells them that unless they “join” by being healed, which requires them to be wounded, there will be no trade for the valuable goods that Sister Steel secures. But he can freely give healing to the two injured men, who accept it; then Allen Sook accepts the burning ritual and the healing which follows; but all three of the tech contingent refuse for different reasons, and the impasse of whether and how to trade remain.

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The Book Man
A man with books, and a woman with information

They travel into the Warrens, cautiously, and hide when a light comes from one passage. A tattooed man and another with rebar knives appear, but do not see the hidden characters. They comment on the body and leave. Down the other passage, and they encounter another gang/tribe, who have offered to trade with the other explorers, and are willing to do some trading with the group as well, only they have very little of any value. But a little later, the group finds, or is found by, an old man named Bernard who has a secure chamber full of books; he is a scholar, and has valuable things that they can certainly trade for, though mainly he is interested in bullets. Or in getting out, which is what they really offer him. They are to return in two weeks by which time he will have selected the best and most important books. They leave and speak to the gang which lives above and about him, headed by a woman called Zulema: she says there is an old stronghold, yes, an old lair, but it is long abandoned. But they can take a guide, a boy called Scabs who can show them where it is. They go with Scabs and come eventually to a sealed elevator, which Jabiri and Victor pry open. Inside are two long dead bodies, and an open maintenance hatch.

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Listening to Rumors, and Acting on Them
A man in the window turns out to be of some use

Days pass. Rumors swirl in the city that something is happening in the Warrens: has loot come out of the place? has a coffin been removed from it? are the Hazat going to crack down? In any case, inquiring folk seek to find out what has happened. Our heroes already know. But the Inquisition is sniffing about, and that’s trouble. They are deflected, for now, but Brother Marcus may be trouble later still. Our heroes gather and discuss reentering the Warrens, but not, perhaps, by the gates. Shula has stories of an old dig in one of the walls of the Warrens, not far from Foul Lakes, which might have gone deep enough to allow entry. So Shula and Gray and Valentine cut through the Lakes, menaced by a mutant who Gray disposes of promptly, and then they come to the Warrenwall. There is something there, that’s certain, something that’s been plastered open, a shaft like a mine’s. An eye peeks out from behind a curtain, and Valentine issues a bribe to not notice the three of them. The curtains close. But then another group comes along; Gray and Shula hide; Valentine does not, and is shooed off. But he watches from afar, and the others from nearby, as the other group cuts open the plastered door to the shaft, and then enter, and then one of them stays behind and seals the way. The man at the window asks if this should not be noticed, but it should, says Valentine. Our heroes meet up and share this news, and as they talk, one of the party who entered shows up at the Tendril and buys a round for all. Victor chats him up, and learns enough to know that they made a big score of some sort, and ingratiates himself enough that he’ll be contacted if they seek to enter again. But there is a window of opportunity, and so the group decides to attempt the plastered entry themselves: they bring a manservant, who seals up after them, and they crawl through a narrow passage, and open a hatch, and are in the Warrens, in a dark place with a dead man, they know not where.

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In Which Our Heroes Escape with Loot
They can get it, but can they keep it?

As they pause outside the vault, spider locked within, they realize another is coming, and they move on rapidly. Victor and Jabari carry the generator as the six make their way back to the Ashfaces. But in the clearing there, the Ashfaces are threatened by a mob, who seek the outsiders. There is a struggle, and the mob is battered and beaten and flee. The surviving Ashfaces are offered the freedom of slavery if they accompany the six, but misunderstand: they think only one will be allowed. One of them emerges victorious: Garrett Cinder, who slays the others and then takes the six with him toward the Stumptown Gate. On the way, they encounter the Skulls, who are a tribe of savages who gather skull. Cinder has told them that they can send a champion to fight the Skull champion: Victor volunteers. If he wins, they can pass freely. If he loses, they must pay a tithe and go back the way they came. The fight is long and tough, but Victor, although injured, wins. They push on toward the gate, and when the sun ends, they leave, paying a tithe to the watchmen; Allen Sook having converted and comforted a few others.

Outside in the city they make their way to Dark City, where Valentine has his lair. His partner Solomon and the rest discuss what to do with their goods: Allen Sook will take the scrolls of the church; Valentine will keep the generator but all the group will share the benefits; the jewels will be sold and the profits split. And the next day, they all gather to discuss matters, and determine that they will work in some degree of partnership to gather and scavenge loot from the Warrens, where they suspect much more remains to be found.

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Into the Warrens
In which our heroes meet

They gathered at the Pentecost gate, four men, a woman and an alien. Their purpose was to enter the Warrens, the dangerous prison of all those who disagree with the Lord Mayor, and see what value might be hidden there. Brother Allen Sook, head of the Eskatonic Order, was their point of entry, accompanied by his escort Victor Decados, Brother Battle Acolyte. Through the Battle Brother came Valentine Sparks, his cybernetic doctor; Valentine brought along a Scraver of his acquaintance, Shula bint Saffiyah, and Shula’s bonded serf Gray, a Ur Ukar. Lastly, they brought a Muster guildsman, as muscle and as a sort of guide, though he knew the Warrens only slightly better than others.

While the gate guards hesitated to let them through, for fear of harm, they went all the same. In the square beyond, which was dark and crowded even though dawn had just happened, they found a guide to take them to a Maker, whatever that was. The narrow paths were long and winding, but eventually they found a fellow with a rebar blade obviously electrified, and they asked him what he made under the sign of lightning. Except that he was the front door guard, not the Maker. The Maker was an old man with screws and washers and bits of wire, and he had nothing good to say. The doorman took them off, to find a vault in another part of the Warrens, that no one had been into. Only it was passed danger, so Dunlop, who was the guard, warned them and took them the best way.

They passed a gang of Ashfaces, who were violent and threatened often to burn folk with rendered human fat. Only the Eskatonic persuaded them to be friends, and they went with that. So they went on, and came to a vault hidden in a broken wall, and then Shula stepped forth and made it open, with a little help from Valentine.

Inside were jewels, and sacred scrolls, and a medpak, and a generator, and an empty chest. Only the empty chest had power cells, or something, which suited the generator. And only, a spider came, black and horrible, and seized Dunlop. Then it came for…something? And it fought against all the party, batting away Brother Battle, and not much noticing the rest of the, and trying to seize the generator. Only how Valentine opened the chse and showed off the power cells or what have you, and it went for that. So the vault was closed and sealed with the spider alone in it, and then they took up the generator, which they had gotten out and distracted the spider from, and they started back into the Warrens.

But no one knows the way…

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