We started the session with a little bit of off table work- establishing the terms and details of the group’s motley pledge, focused on Perception and Resources as a benefit. We hadn’t dealt much with pledges in my other Changeling campaign, so I want to present a solid sense of how they function in my games. Pledges which bind promises or oaths with sanctions are easy; pledges which offer benefits and boons are more difficult, twisting fate and requiring symbolic energy or a pledge-crafter. Last session had ended with the Wizened Smith John on the outs a little with the rest of the group. He’d smoke bombed the Summer Court after the group met them. That had caused some fallout for others in his motley. He was reluctant to go along with the group when they chose to investigate the Railroad Museum. Eventually he climbed in the back of the murder van and went along. The group was still seeking information on the dead Smith Greyhand Grip who had fired himself in a rail car across the night sky.
The group had several different leads: Kappachani Leather Swan’s clearing out of Greyhand’s lab; Carpenter Husk, one of Greyhand’s ‘friends’; and a site where he might have stolen the rail car from. They chose the Rail Museum. (GM Note: that was by far the most direct route, with the clearest linking core clue. I like being able to put lots of choices out there for the players to see how they’ll jump. Each scene had some information, some more or less vital to the bigger picture. The museum most directly lead to the final resting place of the rail car. But the others had details which will eventually come back to haunt them.). At the museum, they found Hob Sign, suggesting the Hob Gang they’d heard about did use the place. They suspected the Hobs had come across and taken over Greyhand’s old digs. The model railroad ride on the museum grounds held a cheap fake mountain tunnel. The entrance to that opened into the Hedge, where they found a massive launcher machine and a vertical tower of thorns and brambles, with tracks running up it. John immediately leapt into the machine.
Morosa could see the dark Hedge Sky at the top of the tower, with a full moon shining down. She could also see something floating but attached. She began climbing up to see what it was. Andi looked at the tower, considered the science of it, and calculated in her head exactly where the fired train car would have fallen. (GM Note: 8 Successes on a Math check). Near the top, Morosa realized that she’d misread the scale of the thing floating above, less weather balloon and more dirigible. It proved to be a giant floating rotted peach, wrapped in aluminum foil. A hole at the bottom with a rope ladder suggested that this was the vessel of the Hob Gang. The popping out of a Hob Guard confirmed this, as Morosa climbed quickly back down. The Gang poured out and began flinging horrible things down upon the group. Syd activated her presence to cower them, quite successfully. After a wrestling match, physical and verbal, the group managed to convince John to leave the machine. (GM Note: Originally, I'd planned that the scene would require the group to make a sighting from the base of the tower and the top. The scene at the top would lead to a direct conflict with the Hobs or require cleverness and sneaking around. Andi’s 8-success successfully circumvented that whole thing).
Andi had calculated the exact longitude and latitude of the landing site, at the far western outskirts of Vegas. They drove there, but had to park a distance away and walk the last mile. There they found a tanker car sticking out of the ground like an arrow. It lay somewhere between Hedge and the real world, slowly decaying back into dream. The outside of the car had funnels, clearly designed to gather something. On the ground they found pools of liquid which carried the full moonlight, despite the waxing moon in the sky. They stank like spoilt milk. Syd looked around and calculated that they were in the first act of a 50’s horror movie, where the innocents stumble on the alien craft and accidentally release the monster. Despite that, she opened the hatch on top of the car and peer inside, with only a lighter to illuminate the inside. She climbed into the darkness- and then Andi followed, ignoring Syd’s protests and illuminating the interior.
Inside they found the fever dream of a Wizened Smith. The vessel had been built with pumps which had apparently drawn in the strange Moon Milk. Many canisters of it had spilt and spoiled, but three remained intact. Andi confirmed Greyhand’s corpse, dressed in a Verne-ian spacesuit, dead from the impact. John clambered inside as well beginning to examine the device and trying to listen to the soul of the dead machine. Outside, Morosa saw headlights in the distance stop near their truck. She called to warn the others. Syd and Andi quickly emerged. John, remaining in the car, discovered sketches of Shark-Fingered Princess on the dead Smith and took them. Unfortunately Andi, the Telluric Fairest had kept up her aura of light. Morosa saw the truck clearly spot their light and begin to slowly drive across the mile span between them.
The truck stopped as Syd and Morosa approached. A rugged man, cowboy-dressed but unarmed, approached them in a strangely friendly manner. He introduced himself as Lucas and said that he’d been following a scent, a strange and powerful smell. Syd looked with her kenning as best she could and saw the wolf-like form hanging behind him, not a Changeling but something else. Lucas and the group conversed chaotically- with hurried discussions of how to handle him. John emerged from the rail car depressed, yet another machine he’d found this day which he would be unable to repair, or at least fix as he wanted to. After various back and forths, the group struck an informal deal with the Born-Again Lycanthrope. He’d offer then use of his truck and rig in the future if they would pour him a water bottle of the Moon Milk. The group now considered how they would deliver Greyhand’s body and the contents of the car to the Autumn Court. (GM Note: Especially in early days, I like throwing NPCs and monkey wrenches around to see how players react. I’ve run for groups where Lucas showing up would have immediately led to a fight or direct confrontation. Just as players have to figure out what a GM’s style is, I have to figure out how the group handles twists and new situations).