O, Faust! A Bizarre Expedition

A madman’s journey.
The carriage rattles.
Light neath-rain patters against the mahogany exterior, slicking down the thick glass windows that peer out at the dwindling outskirts of London.
That’s what they say.
The inside is dry as a bone, however. Only literally, of course - a drinks cabinet, stocked with Grim Vineyards chardonnay that would have cost a fortune if not provided by the man himself, sits squat to the side, supporting an engraved cigarbox and a stack of newspapers.
A lunatic’s mission.
Through the tapestry of raindrops, the last buildings of London disappear. The brief nothingness between the carriage’s home and its destination stretches out beyond the window.
And they’re right.
Rumors, as they always do, swirl about London like fog.
A terrible, immortal beast, out in the High Wilderness.
A mushroom that stretches to the sky.
A Drownie heading mining operations out in the Prickfinger Wastes.
Rumors, and nothing more.
Fiction, and the talk of gossipy socialites.
So how did you end up in the back of a well-furnished carriage, being driven away from London into a rumor?
How did the four sitting quietly, hunched and thoughtful, in the carriage with you end up in the same place?
How did those in the carriage following behind you end up signing up, as you did, for the pointless quest?
How did the madman convince anyone to fund a suicide expedition?
You look at the newspaper on top of the stack once more.
Earlier this week, Elton Grim, well known founder of Grim Vineyards and up-and-coming business rival of the Portly Sommelier, announced that he would be funding a mining expedition situated in the Prickfinger Wastes.
&quotYes, well,&quot Grim said to reporters, shifting uncomfortably in his chair and scratching his moustache, &quotThe expedition is actually being headed by, and was the idea of, a dear friend of mine. A gentleman by all definition, and a lifelong adviser - though the plan may seem farfetched, I can assure you, as he assured me, that it is in capable hands. There is no man I trust more with such a dangerous task, and no man whose ambitions I would be happier to fund.&quot
Though Grim refused to publicly share who exactly this ‘friend’ was, saying the mining team’s leader had requested secrecy in their identity, doubt grows that the wine collector’s ‘adviser’ is a man at all, many claiming that they have seen the figure talking with Grim and that it is, in fact, a Drownie.
Reporters of the Unexpurgated London Gazette asked Grim what the purpose of the expedition was.
The text here is underlined sharply in red ink.
&quotTo find the Stone Pigs, of course,&quot Grim replied confidently, &quotThere is no greater quest of man.&quot
You look away from the newspaper.
You’ve read the rest of the article, and seen the advertisements already. The same as the rest of London’s dime-a-dozen newspaper ads - calls to adventure through overly fustian speech in thick blocks of font changing size with each break.
The Stone Pigs.
The Prickfinger Wastes.
How could anyone believe such a claim?
How could anyone join such a fool’s mission?
Why are you here?

(A warning - This quest will surely fail. Join with this knowledge in mind, O Faust.)

A spray of dried asphodel adorns the lapel of one Elliot Oates. A handsome enough man, with features that could have been carved out of mahogany. He’s a florist by trade, though down in the Neath actual flowers are an expensive luxury. Sprays of toadstools and fungi, instead, are the language of subterranean romance. Each color, each subspecies, each little detail could mean anything from &quotI love you&quot to &quotI shall always regret&quot and a world of meaning in between.

Oates leans back against the side of the carriage, a friendly sort of smile flickering across his lips. He catches the redhead’s eye and sits back up, eager to find out who his fellow passengers are.

&quotI’d remark on the weather but there is none. Let’s just skip straight to the the conversation, hm? I’m Elliot Oates.&quot

In another seat sits Bruno Steinmann, romantic and oddity. He was in this for the sake of art, he says. He wished to learn of the world and himself. Nothing short of a masterwork would do for this hard-faced advocate. A little profit wouldn’t hurt, either.
Most of his appearance was fairly negligible. An average frame in a suit, and an iron hat were easy indicators from a distance. Up close, the focus was his face: seemingly a mask of cinnabar. Ask, and you may receive an answer, or just a vague suggestion.
He laid down his book, now that something was happening.
&quotBruno Steinmann, at your service.&quot

It is some time before the occupants of the carriage notice that they are joined by another. How did he get in? Was he present when the carriage set off?

A patch of darkness in the corner of the carriage shifts, removing a night-black hood. The fifth passenger is a man in a silk suit that seems to drink up the nearby light, creating a halo of darkness. Brown-haired with a young and earnest face, he wears a silver cross necklace.

Gideon has travelled through esoteric places to arrive here; places that defy understanding. How could he resist one more enigma?

“The name’s Gideon Stormstrider. I heard you were looking to go after the Stone Pigs, and I’d be much obliged if I could join you on this expedition. I don’t know much about the target of your quest, but if they’re creatures of the Bazaar as the rumours say, you’ll need someone who’s an expert on the Correspondence. In this case, that would be me.”

His expressionless features suddenly split into a grin as he regards the other passengers’ faces. “I’m sure we’re going to get along famously.”
edited by JimmyTMalice on 12/11/2016

&quotA pleasure. Now, would it be rude to ask about your mask? Surely you realize that wearing the thing invites inquiry. Especially when one is embarking on an expedition that requires members to trust each other.&quot Oates replies, fully aware that this is the sort of line of questioning that would get him yelled at back on London’s streets. But he’s always been a curious type.

He is cut off, however, by the appearance of a young man nestled in the corner’s shadows. A nice trick.

&quotMarvelous. We need somebody to read the damned language- if, as you say, the rumors are true- and I won’t be the one setting my head on fire.&quot

“This?” He raps his fist on it a couple of times, “You must excuse me. I honestly couldn’t take it off if I wanted. Plenty have tried, believe me.”
Not satisfied with his own answer, he continues, “I got it from a devil, I think. I was touring the Republic when the law changed. The strings cut a bit too deep, if you can imagine. Now it seems bound to my soul.”

Meanwhile in the second carriage a boy fidgets. He doesn’t seem very old, no more than 19 at least, but he carries with him a strange air. The boy’s name is James Smythe, a former urchin. He wears a simple black cloak, covering most of his head, a simple tunic and trousers, and plain shoes. He joined the expedition for two reasons, the first was curiosity, and the second was his knowledge. While he appeared to be young, he knew more secrets than anyone else. He looks around the carriage, trying to identify the other passengers, but he had never seen them before.
&quot’Scuse me, if ya don’t mind my asking, who are ya?&quot

Gideon raises an eyebrow at Jimmy Mariner’s air of barely restrained violence, but makes no comment.

To Bruno, he says “I wouldn’t mind taking a look at that mask some time, Mr Steinmann. I could even take a crack at removing it after sufficient study, if you like. It would undoubtedly be excruciating, but sometimes one has to endure a little suffering to be free of that which plagues us. Others may have tried, but I know a little more than most about bending the Law. You’re not the first amalgamation I’ve seen, although you’re a little less conspicuous than many.”

Bruno invisibly winces at the thought of whatever twisted procedure was being presented. One might be able to notice, if their eyes were keen enough. “That would… hardly be necessary, Mr. Stormstrider. I’ve rather grown fond of it, to be frank. Besides, such a curiosity may present itself a boon in the coming journey.”

A sudden commotion came from one of the streets, with the cries and loud complaints heralding the arrival of a jet black horse. The horse stopped right by the twin carriages, with a diminutive figure almost falling off while dismounting. After its passenger feet had touched the ground, the horse sped off with a dismissive flick of its head. A heavily bandaged figure hunched via age, knocked on the side of one of the carriage.

“Is this gathering place for the stone pigs expedition?”

James looks out the window after hearing the knocking. He hears the figure’s words and decides since no one else seems to be responding that it is his job to do so.

&quotYa it’s the right place, you 'ere to help?&quot
edited by anarchetype on 1/5/2017

“Indeed indeed, I am. Where are my manners though? My name is The Book Thief, I lost my actual name a while ago.”
The Book Thief is small hunched figure, covered in bandages. Outside of the bandages he is never seen without his voluminous robe, and the seemingly endless pockets contained. He is constantly fidgeting with small knickknacks pulled from his pocket.
“The Stone Pigs, are one of the last great mysteries of the Bazaar. I hope to at least see them, before the boatman comes for a final visit.”

James carefully listens to The Book Thief, and ponders where he is getting all those random assorted objects.
&quotGet in the carriage then, 'ere heading out now.&quot
James shifts a tad in his seat, and checks his bag to make sure his belongings are intact. Knife, journal, knife, vial of I----- and a few other assorted things. He takes another look out the window, and a glance at The Book thief. He analyses the man’s outfit. The bandages imply that he was either a tomb colonist or at least likes them. But that robe, where on earth did he acquired such a thing.

Engrossed in his preliminary notes, Bruno had only just now noticed the stop.
&quotWhat’s the meaning of this?&quot he thought aloud, looking out the window of his carriage, faint hints of the mask shining through.
He gave the bandaged fellow a thorough look before continuing, &quotOh. Just another one along for the ride. Why didn’t you get on with the rest of us, then?&quot

Edward Frye, looking up from his book says &quotAh, The Book Thief… why does that name sound familiar? I’m Edward Frye, perhaps we’ve met before.&quot He then turns to James and says &quotIt’s good to meet you young man&quot and offers him his hand to shake.

James looks at Edward’s hand for a moment, and then shakes it. James then says to Edward.
&quotName’s James, if ya don’t mind my askin why did you come out here?&quot
He then turns to The Book Thief.
&quotI’d get in 'ere i you, 'ere leaving soon as you do.&quot
James then proceeds to close his bag and make sure no one sees what is inside.

He thinks for a moment &quotI guess mostly to find out why Elton Grim is funding this expedition. He wouldn’t fund it unless he had a good reason to. It could be very valuable information And also of course I want to see these so called ‘Stone Pigs’&quot. He then asks James, &quotMay I ask why you’re here?&quot
edited by Edward Frye on 1/12/2017

James pauses for a moment
&quotCuriosity.&quot He finally says.
James looks out the window, wondering what the book thief is doing. After a short time he turns back to Edward.
&quotAny idea what the stone pigs are?&quot James says.
He then goes back to fiddling with his bag.

The Book Thief seems to jerk and snap all the sudden. “Coming, Coming, I got lost in the brain for a bit. Apologies and thank you for letting me join you on this journey.” Book shakily climbs into one of the waiting carriages. “I was remembering an old acquaintance of mine, a noman to be precise. Charming little thing, I was quite sad to see it go.”

&quotThey are said to be gigantic beasts under London who are drugged every year to make sure they don’t destroy neath&quot His says.
edited by Edward Frye on 1/15/2017