An Improbable Heist

The call goes out across the seedy criminal underbelly of London, carried by nervous urchins and reticent couriers to only the most dependable master-thieves. An Episcopalian Cracksman is assembling a team to do the impossible, or at the very least the highly improbable. He seeks to breach the Bazaar, hoodwink the ravenous bat flocks, fiery Correspondence traps and the agents of the Masters, and recover its chiefest treasures from the deepest and most impenetrable vaults.

Can it be done? That remains to be seen. But the prize is nothing less than your heart’s desire.

Gideon, the Episcopalian Cracksman, sits back in his lodgings like a spider waiting for the first twitch of his carefully-woven web. They will meet in the catacombs of St Meliflua’s Church, that haunt of the most devout anarchists, in two days’ time to lay out plans and make a compact that must not be broken on pain of death (or something approaching it). Perhaps they will even succeed.

[i](This is an RP with a semi-planned plot, with the Episcopalian Cracksman as the leader of the heist. There may be major events that are pre-planned, but the plot - and the success of the endeavour - will primarily depend on the actions and interactions of the players. If you want to hop in later, feel free.)

(While not necessarily[/i][i] encouraged, it wouldn’t be a proper heist without at least one betrayal. Toadies of the Masters are also welcome to apply.)

(A Google document for planning and signing up can be found here, or you can post in this thread.)
edited by JimmyTMalice on 8/14/2016

It is not quite clear when Hark DeGaul, the Enlightened Ailurophile, entered this particular scheme. It was probably when they appeared unannounced in their new employer’s bedroom to offer their services.

Hark is known for two things: their hideous appearance and habit for smuggling cats under their clothing. Their last raid on the Brass Embassy ended in explosive disaster, but in all they are decidedly more subtle than a glowing-eyed lunatic has any right to be. They regard the Master’s presence in London with some distaste and claim to have taken on the heist in an attempt to show the people of London their need to stand up and fight for a brighter future. The pay doesn’t hurt either.

(OOC: We’ll wait for a few more people to join, and then the meeting in the catacombs will commence.)

The appointed time has come. One by one, the thieves and reprobates make their way to the passages beneath St Meliflua’s at the chime of midnight.

Tonight a heavy stone door in the fog-wreathed graveyard behind the church hangs conspicuously open, guarded by a nearby Robust Gravedigger. Unwelcome guests are repelled ungraciously.

Past the door the catacombs are dark, old, cold. The ceiling is bearded in hanging moss and the damp floor fares little better. Mementoes of death line the labyrinthine passages; illegible inscriptions, worn effigies and stone coffins slip past before a central chamber is reached behind an open gate.

Here the closeness of the crypt is relieved a little; a circular marble room like a cistern rises from the narrow passages. The walls are lined with hooded angelic statues in shadowed alcoves. Moonish light from a grate in the ceiling illuminates an extravagant coffin in the middle; darkness presses in all around it.

Next to the coffin stands Gideon, swathed in voluminous dark silks that drink in the light and shroud him in shadow. A jewelled crucifix necklace glints amidst the midnight folds. He is young, no more than twenty and fresh-faced, but his penetrating blue eyes seem much older.

He speaks. His voice is low, hushed, but in the silence of the catacombs it reverberates clearly. “At last, we are all gathered here. Welcome, my congregation.” He smiles at that last word. They all know there is nothing holy about this meeting.

“We are here because we dare to do the improbable. What secrets lie beneath the skin of the Bazaar? What treasures will we uncover in her vaults? Only time, and those who return from this endeavour intact, will tell. Let no word of this venture slip to anyone who cannot be trusted, particularly associates of the Masters. Our plan must be held in absolute secrecy. I will trust you in your areas of expertise, but know that on the rare occasion I give you a direct order, it shall be as the Judgements’ Law. If you deviate from it without exceptionally good reason, you will be judged to be compromised and dealt with accordingly.”

An expectant silence stretches a moment too long. Perhaps the Cracksman simply wishes to let this sink in.

“Shall we introduce ourselves, then? I am Gideon Stormstrider; perhaps some of you know me better as the Episcopalian Cracksman. As that epithet suggests, my particular skills lie in the charming of locks, and the locks in the Bazaar require a very charismatic individual indeed. Thus, I have been selected for this endeavour.

“I hope that we shall become very, very good friends over the course of this scheme. It would pain me greatly if I had to dispose of any of you. Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

He smiles that quiet smile again, maddeningly.

Blabbing was informed. Of course the Sky-Topped Ruler of New Newgate fame was informed. Most information passes through them, be it from man or mouse. The Crime Lord crouch in the dark corner, mumbling to itself. At least you hope it isn’t addressing you. That’d be a problem.

At the end of another’s speech it rises and crawls to closer to the centre. It whales of a star-topped throne with a unquestionably unpleasant voice. &quotTheRoofTheRoofTheRoofTheRoofTheRoofTheRoofNewNewgate…&quot A pause. It is hard to judge what is worse, this critter’s screech or the uncomfortable anticipation before it decides to conti… &quotIIIIIIBlabbing! TheRulerTheRulerTheRulerTheRulerTheRulerTheRulerAboveAll!&quot It swings it’s hands and bangs upon it’s chest as if a primate. Blabbing is mad, clearly, but the ‘Ruler’s’ exploits are well-known among the little people.
After this disturbing introduction, Blabbing flashes a toothy and possibly smug grin to Gideon and crawls back to it’s original position.
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 8/16/2016

When one works with devils and priests long enough, one tends to hear rumors. Rumors like somebody planning on robbing the heart of the bazaar. Put the pieces together, and a network of facts will form. Soon, a clear image. An opportunity. He stepped forward.
&quotGreetings. You may refer to me as the Ticking Scientist, or Ticker for short. My specialty is the language of stars, the correspondence.&quot He says, sitting down once more.

Robbing the Bazaar. Robbing the Bazaar.

A fine tale to be sure. The Bazaar as a symbol of capitalism, the new order of things in London and a paradigm shift of Empire from master to servant. Robbery as an act of change, taking from those that had to those that had not. To rob the Bazaar was to change the status quo, to enact some measure of power over that which had power over you. No wonder it held so much appeal. A fine tale.

Of course it was also the height of foolishness. A fine tale, but a terrible plan. The Masters did not mess around with security, and there were plenty of other tales of those who tried to rob the bazaar and failed. Terrible, bloodstained tales. Anyone who sought to steal from the powers that be in London would either need to be extremely confident or extremely dense.

Another figure stepped forward from where he had been lounging against a crypt statue. Though his attire was professional, a neat cloak-and-mask get-up that concealed any distinguishing features, the effect of it was somewhat ruined by the numerous ribbons wrapped around his arm and legs. Streamers of gold, black, and violant fluttered as he nodded pleasantly to the others and tucked a furled umbrella under one arm.

&quotWell now, this is all very fine isn’t it? A secret congregation in a crypt conspiring at the stroke of midnight, very Gothic and so forth. Can’t say I wouldn’t rather have met somewhere nice to discuss matters over a bit of dinner and drinks instead of here, but it does add a touch of excitement to the logistical planning…&quot

&quotAnyways, you may know me by Citizen Blackburn: mercenary for equity. Anything that needs to be done with firearms, I’m your person.&quot
edited by Hotshot Blackburn on 8/17/2016

Hark sits near the entrance of the crypt, resting upon a huge rustling box as cats prowl around them.

&quotHark DeGaul, friend of cats,&quot they lilt, &quotMy abilities include, but are not limited to: surveillance,&quot Hark indicates the cats around them and a particularly grim looking kitten chuckles, &quotBreaking and entering, casing and just generally getting into places that aren’t supposed to be got into. And then, of course, there’s this beauty.&quot They tap the box. The box taps back. &quotIf we do need to go loud, then there isn’t a building in London that can withstand one of these.&quot
edited by Hark DeGaul on 8/17/2016

Gideon nods to each of the team members as they introduce themselves.

“A pleasure, I’m sure.”

He turns his head for a moment, as if listening to someone behind him.

“So, let us return to the subject of breaching the Bazaar. I’m sure you’re all wondering how we can do it. The plan is a work in progress, but the essential points are as follow:

“Firstly, we will need to enter the out-buildings surrounding the spires. A Shaper’s Pass will get you as far as the Side-Streets, but the deeper repositories clustered around the Bazaar’s base will be tougher to crack. Fortunately, thanks to my own larcenous activities in the area, I have found a way through.”

Gideon rummages in the folds of his bombazine cloak and extracts a segmented copper cylinder. When held up in the moonlight, it gleams. The portions of the cylinder still in shadow shine with a light of their own - a faint fiery glow like remembered sunlight.

The radiance forms the outline of sigils; letters of the Correspondence are inscribed around the three segments. It leaves a faint afterglow as Gideon places it on the marble surface of the coffin before him. Despite the faint slope, it does not roll off.

“I liberated this from a Special Constable on his way to the Bazaar. He was unwise to stop to relieve himself in such a secluded alley. I don’t know how it works, but I was hoping you could help me in that matter – particularly the Ticking Scientist. I believe it will allow access into the area directly around the Bazaar from the Side-Streets. However, we will need one each. Making a copy may be difficult; I tried copying down some of the symbols and found that my parchment burst into flames in short order. Perhaps it is better left to a Correspondent. Or we could just steal some more from the Special Constables, although they will no doubt be on the lookout.

“It will not, however, protect us from more physical threats. The bats that ever circle the spires and the other agents of the Masters are still a cause for concern. Even if we manage to enter undetected, they will surely know us for interlopers. Going loud would likely result in us all being killed as soon as reinforcements arrived, but there must be a more stealthy option.”

He turns his head again, falling silent for a long moment.

“Further matters of interest: the doors to the Bazaar. Copper, ivory, glass, ormolu, steel. One of them will be suitable, but I do not know which one. Opening them will require… payment. The Correspondence traps on the floors and walls may also require some attention.”

As Gideon continues to speak, his eyes burn with fervour and his voice slips from the well-practised cadence of the gentry into a guttural drawl like the last foul breath of a dying man.

“Once we are inside, no man knows what may await us. The interior of the Bazaar may be a battlefield, or a city on fire, or a ship crossing dark water, or a house of mirrors, or a windswept cliffside. It may bring a vision of the heart of the sun, or a sensation of such infinite melancholy that it crushes our hearts in sorrow. (Not in the false-summer, though; the lacre-pits will be much depleted while the Bazaar prepares to cry herself to sleep once more.)

“It is not a place for humanity. It is further above us than we can ever comprehend. How can we hope to understand it? The Chain separates us, as it always will. It is further above the Masters than the Masters are above us.”

His voice returns to normal. A light sweat breaks out on his forehead and he mops it absently with a surface-silk handkerchief.

“Terribly sorry. A… lapse in judgement. It won’t happen again. Suffice it to say, the passage will be difficult. But it will be well worth the trip.”
edited by JimmyTMalice on 8/17/2016

The Ticking Scientist examines the cylinder.
“Creating a replica should be possible, though it will take some time. Having said that, it would be for the best to obtain a few more from the constables to compare. If they match, we’re fine. If not, it will take a bit longer to make new ones that fit the pattern.”

Blackburn’s gaze is both unwavering and composed as Gideon outlines his plan. He chuckles slightly at the crackman’s last words. Very melodramatic, certainly. And a bit of a downer. But this Gideon certainly had character!

&quotMuch like the Bazaar, humanity has a way of surviving in places it shouldn’t. Given time and observation I believe I can create a plan for taking care of any bodily opponents that try to intervene. Bombing the Bazaar rarely works (I tried once - wasn’t the first to try, wasn’t the first to fail either), but enough force allocated in the right places…&quot

Gideon frowns at Mr Mauvais’ antics, but presses his already alarmingly thin lips together and makes no comment.

A fine bunch of lunatics and wastrels we have here, he thinks. But considering my current state, perhaps it is a case of the blind leading the blind. What we are doing is certainly something no sane person would attempt.

I’LL NOT ARGUE WITH THAT, says the other voice sanctimoniously.

“So, we have our first task. The cylinders, the passwalls, the keys must be obtained before we can enter the inner courtyard. This task takes precedence over all else for now, and as always, it must be performed with stealth. It would be a d__n sight better for all of us if the constables believe nothing is out of the ordinary.”

Gideon pulls a slip of parchment and a pen from one of his many billowing pockets.

“The matter that remains for now is the disposition of our little group. I fear a gang of six may be too conspicuous for waylaying Special Constables, so perhaps we should divide ourselves up a little to cover more ground. I think teams of two or three should be sufficient. Hopefully each team can recover at least one cylinder to help our Correspondent here get the measure of the curious devices. Now, who shall go with whom?”
edited by JimmyTMalice on 8/23/2016

Hark nods and rises, a number of cats twisting their way out of Hark’s cloak as they do so. The felines disappear into the darkness of the Neath in an instant and DeGaul offers their new compatriots a wide grin.

&quotThey say there is a rat for every Londoner, but there are also around thirteen cats for every Special Constable in London. We shall have one with a key found within an hour, and then we wait. The eyes of the Masters may be tireless but their men have to sleep eventually. I know at least three gentlemen and a lady who spend the odd night in the Parlour of Virtue and access to that particular establishment is hardly difficult. I wouldn’t even need to break in.&quot

They cackle.

&quotIf trouble does arise though I’m not a fighter and while my cats can be vicious they weigh about as much as a small sack of apples. A special constable will have no difficulty dispatching us. I will need an experienced fisticuffer. Perhaps you, Citizen Blackburn, or our Sky-Topped Ruler over there? Unless you have plans of your own?&quot
edited by Hark DeGaul on 8/24/2016

Blabbing does not rise to the call, but scuttles on all fours towards Hark. It has plucked one of the ‘leaves’ of it’s laurel, presumably one belonging to Hark. &quotTheDealTheDealTheDealTheDealTheDealTheDealHasBeenMade.&quot The Ruler gibbers, looking upon the Calling Card, and not it’s owner. &quotWeWorkWeWorkWeWorkWeWorkWeWorkWeWorkTogetherNow.&quot It finally turns towards them, giving a repulsive smirk. &quotAndIAndIAndIAndIAndIAndIWillFeastToday.&quot Blabbing lick their many teeth, and scratches upon the stone with clawed and gloved hand in anticipation.

“Is that so? In that case, I will be joining you. I might not look the part, but I can handle myself when need be.” The Ticking Scientist states, moving to join Blabbing and Hark.

Gideon nods in approval. Like all of his movements, the gesture is measured, precise, conservative. He is not a man who lets anything slip easily.

“Well then!” he says, with what might actually be a hint of excitement. “It seems that I may be able to experience your prodigious talents of marksmanship first-hand tonight, Citizen Blackburn! Mister Mauvais, you can come along too if you wish. Should we get into a concerted firefight, you may be able to soak a few bullets for us! I’ve heard you’re quite quick on the recovery despite your many deaths!”

“Before we go about our delightful business, there is a small inconvenience to tend to.”

With a flourish, he finishes his scribbling and pushes five almost identical documents across the surface of the coffin towards his fellow conspirators. The pen and inkwell follow shortly afterwards. The sixth document remains in front of him, already signed and dated in a neat hand.

“Legal matters, you understand. I had these contracts written up by a Studious Intriguer of my acquaintance; the specifics of the job were kept vague, naturally. What we’re doing is beneath the law, so it will not be enforced in any official court, but there must be honour among thieves. The penalties should anyone decide to go running to the Masters will be quite severe.”

The documents are written in a cramped hand, as if the scribe wished to save parchment by cramming as much as she could onto a single sheet. They mainly summarise what Gideon has already told the group, along with a stern warning that those who break the contract will be thoroughly unwelcome in the majority of London’s underworld.

Should such a regrettable thing happen, the Cheery Man will send his regards in the form of bulky gentlemen with a fondness for limb-breaking. The Gracious Widow will cut off supplies of illicit goods. The Topsy King will “fie the plumsy goden from walkskies,” although it is anyone’s guess what that could mean.

The contracts are marked with five names. All that remains is to sign on the dotted line, and this unlikely endeavour can begin at last.

Contracts! Dangerous things - as the warnings proposed by London’s leaders of the criminal underground should things not be fulfilled could attest - but useful all the while. Blackburn eyes them with a critical eye, though his countenance remains positive. Gideon’s words are met with a hearty chuckle.

&quotAnd here I thought we were to keep it quiet. A shoot-out is a terrible and horrible thing: I for one shall do my part to avoid creating one at all costs. But in the meantime…&quot

He sweeps forward to meet the contract, refusing the pen and inkwell. &quotI prefer to read before I sign, thank you. Contracts are tools of power: too often, they are used to trap rather than help.&quot