Posted by: lordkyler | March 15, 2014

Radiance: Part V – The Heist

In the last installment, the party came face to face with the Mongrel gang. After surrounding the heroes, their leader, Noah Simonson, agrees to help them in their search for information, so long as they help him first. The task? To raid a shipment of weapons from the Mongrel’s rivals, the Blades.

“I’m glad you agreed to help,” said Noah. “Our attack is scheduled for this very night, and we would be glad of your help. Here, I’ll show you the plan.”

He crossed a plank bridge that had been laid across the subway tracks while the Mongrels set their weapons aside and helped Aria, Connor, Lilly and Ian up onto the platform.

Noah walked over to the table where the card-playing decoys had been and swept the cards and chips off the table.

“Ah, boss, I ‘ad a good ‘and!” one of the gangsters protested.

“Shut up, Ronald,” replied another. Noah pulled out a battered map of the city and spread it over the rough table. Our heroes crowded around him.

“The shipment is coming in at the docks, over on the west shore,” Noah said, pointing to the place. “We’ll take the train in, bail out at the bridge, and make our way to the docks. From there we can subdue the guards and before you can say Jimma-me-Jack, we’ve got the run of the place.”

“You make it sound easy,” Aria said.

“As I said, we’ve got a lucky break. One of the Blades has betrayed them. He’ll make sure security is light. It’ll be easy.”

“What if it’s a trap?” asked Lilly. “How do you know he won’t double-cross you?”

“I’m confident he is sincere,” Noah said. “The Blades have grown arrogant, and their security is lazy. They won’t be expecting the heist. If they wanted to kill us, they’d just mow us down on the streets like they always do.”

The heroes studied the map for a moment longer, calculating the route and the risks. But in the end, it wasn’t as if they had much of a choice. They just had to hope everything was on the level. Besides, if it was a trap, the Blades would find themselves with more than they bargained for.

“Looks like we’ve got a train to catch,” said Connor. “Let’s get moving.”

Two Hours Later

This patch of the western coast of Republic Island was rough country. Small inlets and outcroppings zig-zagged in and out, forming a jagged shore, and the hills and cliffs climbed and plunged violently. The railroad cut through the jumbled terrain on a level track, cutting into a berm one moment and crossing trestles thirty feet above the ocean the next. Across from the train tracks, a small peninsula mirrored the coastline, forming a small bay that was a popular shipping port. As such, the peninsula was crowded with warehouses, in many cases extended beyond the boundaries of the land and propped above the shore by an extensive series of docks and piers. It was one of these warehouses on the fringe that was their target.

At the moment, our heroes are crammed into an abandoned freight car along with Noah Simonson and four of the Mongrel’s top dogs. It wasn’t a pleasant trip. Shortly after leaving the Mongrel’s den, a storm had appeared on the horizon, and by the time they had boarded the train, dark clouds had blotted out the moonlight, and heavy rain lashed the ground and quickly soaked through the loose slats of the freight car.

“It’s not pleasant, but it’ll provide some cover,” said Noah. “It’ll be good for us. Everybody waterproofed your gear?” Everyone nodded. “All right. Everyone be careful during the jump. Thirty feet is nothing to sneeze at, right?”

He pried open the large sliding door of the freight car, admitting a torrent of cold rain a sharp, howling wind. The noise, combined with the constant clack and rumble of the train, served to completely drown out any further conversations. Our heroes and the Mongrels crowded the door. They wouldn’t have a large window of opportunity. Within a moment, Noah pointed at a string of pale lights perhaps a hundred feet away, barely visible through the sheets of rain. He said something which was completely lost to the wind, but his meaning was clear enough. There it is.

Turning his gaze to the waters below, he held up three fingers and counted down. As his hand formed into a fist, he threw himself from the train, followed shortly by the rest of the crew. One by one, in short succession, they crashed into the turbulent waves.

Seconds later, all heads bobbed to the surface, but one of Noah’s men was clearly struggling, barely keeping above water. Over the wind, they could hear only snatches of his cries. Apparently he had twisted his ankle in the fall. He would not be able to continue.

Lilly, being the closest and of a kindly disposition, swam over and helped the struggling Mongrel to the nearby trestles, where he would have a safe place to rest and get some shelter from the storm. The man nodded his thanks, and Lilly blew him a kiss as she swam back to the rest of the group.

Making progress in the choppy waves and harsh wind was difficult, and the group became somewhat strung out as those who were stronger swimmers or caught better breaks pulled ahead. By the time they had closed half the distance, they could make out two guards walking the docks that surrounded the corner warehouse, one on each side.

A sudden flash of lightning ruptured the darkness, briefly illuminating the world. The guard on the side closest to them suddenly straightened up, as though he had seen something. Or thought he had. Leaving the shelter of the eaves, the guard headed to the end of a dock and used the scope on his rifle to get a closer look at the sea. However, with the poor visibility, he would have to wait for another flash of lightning in order to see something. He began to pace the boardwalk, keeping a wary eye trained on the harbor.

Aria, Connor and a Mongrel named Carl made it to the docks by the time the next lightning strike occurred. The others were trailing, some twenty feet offshore. The guard, now certain that he had seen something, raised his rifle and called for his fellow guard. Aria and Connor took advantage of the distraction to stealthily climb over the edge of the docks. Carl, seeing his comrades in position to strike, drew his rusty cutlass and began to wave it in the air.

The Blade guard snapped his head to the left, away from Connor. Connor didn’t hesitate. Taking a deep breath, he drew from the wells of magic within him, and sent power coursing through his body and down into his legs. In order to reach the guard, he would have to travel ten feet down the dock, and another ten down the boardwalk. Unless he went as the crow flies.

Taking two steps and launching off a post, he leapt, enhanced strength sending him flying some fifteen feet through the air. The last thing the guard saw was a black form descending through the rain like the angle of death. Connor used the quick blade strapped to his forearm for a clean thrust through the throat. The man died instantly.

The other guard  was running at a full tilt, alerted by the earlier cries of his friend and catching a glimpse of Connor’s movement. In his haste, he did not notice Aria running to intercept him. However, he had a slight headstart, and Aria could see she would not reach him in time. As the man rounded the corner and stopped to survey the situation, his back turned to her, Aria drew one of her throwing knives and cast it in one smooth motion. The knife spun through the air and struck the man at the base of the skull. He was dead before he realized what had happened. Aria stepped up to the man’s body and caught it before it fell.

The bodies were thrown in the harbor as the rest of the crew made it to the boardwalk. “Good work, crew,” said Noah. “Let’s try the door.”

“Why don’t we go for the windows?” Aria asked, pointing to a series of windows a story above the boardwalk. They had trapdoor shutters which were propped open, creating small pockets of light underneath.

“We don’t know what guards may be up there,” Noah said. “But if we can’t get the door open we’ll have to take the risk. We brought grappling hooks just in case.”

The crew nodded. The door was on the side of the building the second guard had been watching. As they rounded the corner, Aria, in the lead, saw a dark figure sneaking along the side of the building. It was a man carrying a gun, although he didn’t appear as well-equipped as the other guards had been.

Acting on pure instinct, Aria snapped her mechanical bow open, drew, and fired in a matter of seconds. The stranger never had a chance to react before the arrow caught him square in the chest. He keeled over silently.

Aria cursed and went to inspect the body. The rest of the crew gathered around the door. It was a large, wooden affair, reinforced with iron and featuring a heavy lock.

“I think I can get the lock,” Lilly said, bouncing on her heels in an attempt to stay warm. “Just give me a minute.” Focusing her attention and strength, she began to use magic to try and magnetically pick the lock.

Aria, after investigating the stranger, determined that he was definitely not a Blade. Neither his clothes or his equipment was nice enough, and he had strange tattoos on his neck and hands. He wore an amulet, a golden ring with a strange, twisted symbol where it met the chain. Her arrow had gone right through the center of the ring. Other than that, the man carried little besides a knife and a few coins. Aria frowned, puzzled by the intruder, but retrieved her arrow and took the man’s amulet, stuffing it into a pocket.

Lilly’s attempts to pick the lock were proving unsuccessful. Suddenly, a cry on the other side of the building was heard. “Vinny? Hey, Vinny, where are you?” It sounded as though the voice was coming from the upper windows. A few seconds later, it repeated, even closer. The upstairs guard was going from window to window, and he was getting close.

Aria abandoned the corpse and headed to the window where the man would appear next, bow drawn. Noah produced a small vial from somewhere in his gear, filled with a sickly lime green. He poised to throw, in case Aria missed.

The man poked his head out the window and opened his mouth in shock, providing just enough time for Aria’s arrow to fly through it and nail him to the trapdoor shutter above.

“That is gross,” said Lilly. She had given up on subtlety and was instead freezing the lock. She stepped back and kicked it, shattering the brittle metal. “Just disgusting.”

One of the Mongrels tried to open the door, but found it was blocked. Through a slight crack between doors, one could make out a massive beam barring the doors shut. Solid wood.

“There’s no metal for me to lift with,” said Lilly. “Aria, could you use telekinesis?”

Aria took a look at the bar and frowned. “I could, but it would take nearly all my strength. I’d rather save it for an emergency. I’m going to go through the window.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Connor. Aria shrugged. One of the Mongrels produced a crowbar and began work trying to pry the bars apart, assisted by Ian, while Aria took a grappling hook and cast it up to the window. It landed right next the suspended guard above, and found purchase.

Aria swarmed up the ladder, followed by Connor. They found themselves on a narrow catwalk that extended around the perimeter of the warehouse. Crates of all shapes and sizes were stacked in the middle of the warehouse. The Mongrels had definitely scored big tonight.

Aria and Connor were interrupted in their considerations by a loud click. Another guard had appeared, and he was holding a very large, high-powered gas rifle. Our heroes had about two seconds to react before the man fired. Standing in single file as they were, this gun could kill both of them in one shot.

Aria, closest to the rifleman, instantly dove to her right, hopping over the railing and clinging there above a ten-foot drop. Connor began running along the catwalk in the same direction, using his still-enhanced speed. The rifleman squeezed off a shot, barely missing the both of them. However, he had a clear shot on his second try. He sighted and prepared to pull the trigger.

But before he could do so, a young man carrying a silver-trimmed staff appeared behind him and thrust the pole into the rifleman’s back. The man froze as if paralyzed, and the young man used the staff to levitate the unfortunate guard and then tossed him out the window with no apparent effort. The man flew thirty feet before crashing into the ocean.

The young man returned his staff to its upright position and raised an eyebrow at Connor and Aria, along with Lilly, who had heard the commotion and had just reached the top of the rope. Aria hauled herself back on to the catwalk, and Connor turned and walked back as well. The young man didn’t seem like an enemy.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” said Aria, appreciatively. The young man nodded.

“What are you doing here?” Connor demanded.

“My name is Drake Weaver,” the young man said, but before he could continue, he caught sight of the amulet Aria had taken. During her evasive maneuvers, it had fallen half out of her pocket. Aria noticed with a sinking feeling that the lad wore an identical amulet around his neck.

Drake’s friendly nonchalance evaporated instantly. “Where did you get that?”

Aria spoke quickly. “I found it,” she said, in a half-truth.

“Where?” Drake demanded. “Where did you get that?”

Connor drew his sword. “Calm down,” he growled. Lilly primed her crossbow for further emphasis. Aria said nothing.

Drake was immediately reconciliatory. He held up his hands. “Hey, all right. I surrender. Here, take my staff.” He held it out, bridging the gap between the two sides.

Aria shot him a dirty look. “I’m not stupid, kid. I just saw you throw a guy through the window with that.”

The staff wavered and finally fell as Drake’s bluff was called. He stood warily, as if unsure whether to fight or flee.

Aria felt guilty for killing the lad’s partner, especially after he had just saved their life. Besides, he was kind of cute…

“I killed the man who had it,” she said. “I’m sorry. It was in self-defense. I thought he was an enemy.” She pulled the amulet free of her pocket and tossed it to Drake, still wary to touch him.

Drake caught the amulet and looked at it sadly. “I suppose he knew the risks. He and I came here alone on a tip. He could just as easily have fallen to a guard.”

“I’m sorry,” Aria repeated.

“I don’t want your apology,” Drake snapped.

At this moment Noah Simonson appeared, having also climbed through the window. Ian and the other Mongrel were having no luck trying to budge the beam down below. Noah’s keen eyes looked Drake over quickly, taking in his clothing, silver-trimmed staff, and the pendant he held.

“Arcaneum!” hissed the Mongrel leader. “What are you doing here?”

“Same thing as the Mongrels,” replied Drake. “Heard of a rich bounty and figured we would take what we could.”

Noah and Drake stared eye to eye for a long moment, locked in a silent bartering match. Despite the commotion earlier, no further guards appeared. It seemed they had wiped the place out. At last Noah broke the silence.

“The enemy of my enemy is my ally, I suppose,” he said.

“He did save their lives,” said Lilly.

“Very well,” Noah continued. “Perhaps we can work together on this. Even if we did get here first. I’ll be generous and give you a twenty percent cut.”

“Forty,” countered Drake. Noah just laughed.

“Don’t need your help that bad, kid.”

Drake paused to consider. Twenty percent was more than he and his friend would have made on their own, and Arcaneum could use allies. “Fine,” he said.

“All right,” said Noah. “Looks like we have the place to ourselves. Let’s call in the boys.”

With the warehouse cleared of Blades, the rest of the evening proceeded quickly. The doors were opened, signals were sent to the Mongrel crew and members of Arcaneum, and within two hours the warehouse was picked cleaner than a bone.

Noah stood in the center of the warehouse. Only a single crate and a few boxes remained. Around him in a circle stood our heroes, along with Drake Weaver, who had been instructed by his superiors to stay with the Mongrels for the time being.

Noah gestured to the empty warehouse. “You held up your end of the bargain, folks. Now I’ll hold up mine. As promised, you will have access to my whole network of informants, and if they hear anything at all about your bounty, I’ll have a message sent immediately.

“I also promised you a few pieces of the haul,” he continued, slapping the crate for emphasis. “I’d say you’ve earned it.”

He opened the boxes one by one and handed them their loot. The first piece was an electric pistol. Judging by it’s delicate construction, it was likely a prototype, it seemed to function well. Noah used it on a nearby rat, which promptly collapsed. Ian, being the most skilled with firearms and the only one with any knowledge of electrics, received the pistol.

After that was a set of wireless morse headsets, allowing them to communicate over a distance via radio signals. Every member of the company received one of those. This was followed by a box containing three vials of a gray fluid, which Noah explained contained a tremendously sticky substances that would activate when the vial was broken.

“And finally, the main piece, and a token of my gratitude,” Noah said, and theatrically kicked a corner of the large crate, causing the sides to fall away, revealing diesel motorcycle. It was rather plain, but looked very sturdy.

“That’s mine,” Connor said, while the others gazed admiringly.

“I’ll keep it at our headquarters for now, but whenever you need it, you can come get it,” Noah said. “Goodnight, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a wonderful evening.” And with that, he walked away whistling.

The rest of the party left soon afterward, heading a nearby safe house owned by the Seven Sisters. Drake followed a short distance behind. He didn’t much care for the group yet, and although they were willing to tolerate an extra ally, they made no effort to bond with him yet either.

The rain had cleared up by the time the heist was over, revealing a full moon that made the wet streets shine as if paved with silver. The crew was silent, for the most part, reviewing the events of the night or fiddling with their new equipment. None of them expected the man who appeared from the alley and stood in the middle of the street, blocking their passage.

The man was blond and fairly handsome, appearing to be about in his thirties. He wore a heavy gray trench coat that flapped in the lingering breeze, and red scarf draped around his neck.

“Good evening,” he said, his voice strong and confident.

“Who are you?” Connor snarled, instantly suspicious.

“I’ve heard of your recent… adventures,” the man continued, unhearing. “I’m here to deliver a warning. You should cease your investigation, along with any illegal activities you may be involved in.”

“Why? Who are you?” Aria demanded.

“Consider this your warning,” the man said, then walked into the alleyway he had come from. Connor glared daggers at the man, while Aria ran to catch up to the stranger, but by the time she reached the alleyway, there was no trace of him.

“What was that all about?” asked Drake from the back.

“I don’t know, kid,” said Connor. “But I don’t think we’re going to like it.”

•••

Our first session in a while. We actually played the first part (where they dive off the train) in a previous session that was aborted, but finally wrapped up this chapter in this session. This marks the point that I thought would take one session earlier. Now I know better, I suppose, but it will be fun.

This session marks the integration of a new PC, Drake Weaver. He is played by Tavish, the twin brother of Tom (who plays Lilly). It seems that he is off to a bit of a rocky start with the gang, but we will see how things develop. His main skills are magically based, but I won’t share too much detail right at this moment. Still, he should make for a good member of the party.

•••

Radiance Info: Alchemy

Alchemy in Radiance has two primary schools, that of chemistry and that of arcane potions.

Chemical alchemy is a well-developed branch of science with many many practical applications, one of the most widespread being in combat vials. Different substances are stored in glass vials, which are thrown and broken to activate the substance, usually through contact with air or mixture with a catalyst. There are a wide variety of useful effects that can be used through combat vials, the most common being smoke or fire. Some more creative potions include sticky or slippery substances, and rarer and more expensive ones can even create electricity or instantly freeze water. There are also a wide variety of gels and powders with a broad spectrum of practical uses.

Arcane alchemy is not available to the public at large, since it is generally more expensive and somewhat illegal. However, they can be quite powerful. The basis of arcane alchemy is magical plants and animals, which is one reason for the carefully controlled natural preserves. By extracting special materials from magical flora and fauna, the resultant potion can be ingested to produce temporary effects. Some effects of useful potions include accelerated healing, night vision, glowing skin, ability to feel magnetic fields, generating static electricity, and more.

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