So, today his exotic imports are finally supposed to arrive. Vlad is not happy at having to deal with a pirate, even an ex-pirate, but needs must. There’s a possessed child to save, and that ritual requires the bones of an unusual creature. Preparing to head down to the docks, he conceals a chain shirt under his clothes – after all, one can never be too careful – and straps on his sword since an armed man is less likely to be the target of thieves. Both items are gifts from grateful families, as part payment for his services.

Heading to the docks, he is, as always, slightly upset at the way that people shy away from his presence. Ok, sure, he spends most of his time dealing with demons and the problems caused by them, but it’s not like he carries one in his pocket. Only a madman would summon a demon after all, since it’s not like an ordinary mortal can bind the demon to their will. Of course, fools still try, and that keeps him employed. Poor bastards.

Arriving he sees the pirate waiting for him, along with another irregular contact, this one definitely from the less savoury side of the tracks, no matter how he may try to portray himself. Greeting them, the pirate Heilong points out the approaching ship, however it quickly becomes evident that something is wrong. The sails have been shredded and there is no one visible on deck. Also, the ship is not slowing as it approaches. A short argument breaks out between the 3 acquaintances, however it quickly ends as they rapidly realize that they need to get off the dock before the ship crushes them.

After the ship has come to rest, Vlad watches as Heilong and Mal carefully board the ship to check on what had happened. They shortly return reporting bloodstains everywhere, and 3 ‘giant tiger-like’ creatures in the main hold apparently sleeping off their snack. Realising he needs more information if he is to determine what these things actually are, demonic or not, Vlad steels himself (with a swift shot of something alcoholic) and carefully creeps on board and across to the cargohold. As he looks down on the creatures and the remains of the crew, his stomach turns. However, he is relieved to find these are not demons, just ‘ordinary’ mutant simhata – normally giant lion/horses, these are based on tigers with viscous claws. One of them cracks an eye at Vlad, and he rapidly retreats to the dock where he empties his stomach (after looking on the chewed remains), revealing to the others the somewhat less dire, but still dangerous, situation they find themselves in.

By this time the Doctor (always standoffish), the crackpot inventor Demeanor (usually has useful items to be used in rituals) and that old blowhard from the immaculate order Brother Sun had shown up to see what the fuss was about. Now there was a real threat to this region: the Immaculate Order and their ridiculous dogma. Humans pray to the gods, the gods take power from that, and protect the land from supernatural threats such as Anathema and Fair Folk attacks. Reducing the amount of prayer being given to Silver Heron would increase the problems around here, not fix them.

The pirate Heilong, in defiance of all good sense, decides it is a good idea to provoke one of the simhata into a fight, creating a makeshift arena out of the ship. Mal, ever helpful, follows this by starting a betting pool. Vlad is tempted to put money on the simhata (this fight was a foregone conclusion), but refrains, as it would be unseemly for someone in his position. The Doctor hurries off, presumably to prepare for casualties. Vlad sends some of the guards for reinforcements, but otherwise stands well back, since the thin ‘wall’ of flame Heilong had setup would hardly prevent the creatures from leaving the ship.

After Heilong got predictably mauled, and that hunter fellow, Pyotr, showed he was both around and in a good position to prevent the creature leaving the ship with a couple of well placed arrows, Mal and Vlad carted the nearly dead Heilong off to the Doctor, where-upon they found he/she was less than caring and more just doing a job. An interesting revelation about one so respected for her ‘compassion’.

Returning a while later to the docks, after being assured Heilong would recover from his wounds (eventually), he found Borther Sun preaching to the locals and taking at least partial credit for dealing with the situation. Shaking his head, Vlad made arrangements for the bones of the simhata to be delivered to his home, so he could prepare.


Belicht Dionysus