The Empress of India

TEoI 20 - The Urchins of New-Moscow
Human trafficking in occupied British India

Background: We’re introducing three PCs to the campaign. Two were prensent in this session. Everyone else made up an orphan and played a kid while we fold the new faces into the main storyline.

The fate of the VON orphans

When the Shah ordered the internment of all Europeans in Delhi, “white” orphans and the nurses of the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) were removed from the orphanage and imprisoned in the Red Fort. Personnel from the Palace took upon themselves to provide minimal care for the orphans. This remained for only a few weeks until the Tsar’s airships invaded the city, which precipitated the collapse of the Shah’s rule. At this point, the orphans left were on their own amidst the chaos caused by the absence of civil rule in the city.

Two spunky orphans ensured that the abandoned youths were provided the necessary of life. Jane, 16, took care of the kids still at the VON orphanage while Harkesh, 11, built a network of connections outside and slowly found new homes for the neediest. In the process, Harkesh became the protege of the local Kingpin, Rafi Jahan III. Rafi put Harkesh in touch with an apothecary under his protection, Jia Jamun, who was tasked to provide medical care for the orphans.

Eight month passed and life’s quality keeps on degrading. Furthermore, kids started to disappear at night. Harkesh had heard stories of Russian men in the night, buying orphans under the threat of their guns.

Pavel, fallen angel

Pavel was a captain of an airship on the day of the invasion. His ship experienced mechanical problem and, while flying low, got shot in close range by a strangely mounted field gun. He survived the explosion with nothing to show but sore ribs and a broken foot. He was recovered by Russian cavalry. Capt. Igonow summarily court-martialled him: Pavel pleaded guilty to incompetence and was sent to recover in a musty jail cell.

Pavel was born under a lucky star. This star was to shine when it turned out that the jail warden was his cousin. His cousin confessed that he was to be sold at the slave market in Bokhara. The cousin organize a jail break a few weeks later.

On the day of Capt. Igonow’s son birthday, a party was organized. Pavel was given a loaded navy revolver, an indian outfit and a wad of local money. They staged a brutal struggle. Pavel acquired an infantryman outfit, and headed to the inner garden of the Red Fort.

Pavel made it through the crowd of revellers and into the streets of New-Moscow (formerly known as Delhi). He stripped from his uniform and dressed like an indian man. His wandering lead him to a parlour where he was admitted despite not speaking the language. He found out quickly what the place was about when a posse was assembled to run into the street to beat a groups of Russian soldiers that had wandered too far into the blacked-out city.

Rats in the dark

Issa was a musical prodigy and one of the lucky VON orphan that had been entrusted to a benefactor. The Benefactor, Mr. Keemun, was very quick at capitalizing on Izza’s musical talent and got her gigs in all sorts of places. Unfortunately, Izza had fallen ill on that day and Mr. Keemun has alerted Harkesh of the matter.

Harkesh and Jia arrived late in the evening. Jia identified the fever as consumption, and pulled a concotion to treat the condition. Izza fell asleep quickly, and the pair left the home. However, her sleep was to be very short-lived. Bad men was trying to get inside Mr. Keemun’s home. There were shouts. Izza panicked and decided to run away from. She opened the window and ran into the alley.

Only a few moments later, her phobia of critters took over her mind. She collapsed in a corner, trying to get control of her fears. Eventually, her phobia got the best of her and she ran right back when she got spotted by a huge Russian soldier.

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Izza ran back into the dark to escape the bad man. She was riding a fine line between running into evil critters in the dark, and being caught by an all too real man. After a good 5 minutes of cat-and-mouse, a group of armed indian man and a young woman turned into the street where she was scurrying. The Russian soldier was stopped in his track. The chase was over.

The cavalry arrives on time

When the Russians tried to enter the home, Harkesh sent Jia to bring back help from Rafi’s haunt. Jia did just that and returned with about 10 armed men. One of them was Pavel, who wasn’t trusted enough to carry a rifle, but enough to be taken along for the brawl.

Pavel tried to talk to the Russians, but they didn’t want to talk back to him. When Pavel realized that there was a kid in a heavy sack, he shot one of them to give the kid a chance to run. Jia grabbed the sack and pulled Harkesh out of the bag. Izza jumped out of the shadow and clinged to the Jia as well: by far the least threatening figure in the street of New-Moscow on that night.

The men were brought back to Rafi who, through Pavel, conducted a brief interrogation. The men were harvesting orphans to be sold to the slave market in Bokkhara. An airship was to take off on the following day. Rafi was so angry that they had tried to harm Harkesh that he ordered them out of the parlour into the backcourt. He personally shot them dead and returned to the assembled crowd.

Aftermath of this session

There is a sense of emergency as the PCs now know that many of the VON orphans are to be taken away on the following day. Pavel is now part of Rafi’s merry crew of strongmen. Harkesh and Izza barely avoided the sad fate of the others. Jia is now entrusted with the care of Izza. A plan is hatching, however, as Pavel is a former airship captain, and Izza’s photographic memory as recorded the entire launch sequence of such airship while she was performing at the birthday party. Wouldn’t it all come together perfectly if they could hijack an airship and save the orphans?

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TEoI 19 - Lady Bell-Hudson's last breath
Death of a playing character

The drati raid

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Two dratis overran Sojiro and barged on the cobblestone pavement atop the sacred hill. They caught everyone by surprise, despite the feeble attempt of the young samurai to raise the alarm. One of the drati impaled its leg in an impromptu pit, but merely caused it to notice.

The drati were blinded by the bonfire near the Jita-Da. Devasheesh and Gubdan were busy fixing the steel cable on the airship when the creature arrived. The largest of the pair savaged the gas envelope. The leaking gas spontaneously ignited and caused a huge fireball to light the night sky.

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Nathan rallied the royal guards while Devasheesh and Gubdan reached for their rifles. A third, and much smaller drati arrived from the rear and started snacking on the royal guards.

The witch is dead

Following his skull fracture and subsequent estrangement from his wife. Lord Bell-Hudson had developed an odd streak. His wife had gone native, against all sense of propriety and Christian morality. He knew that he would find her in the temple praying to pagan gods. As the drati were engaged by the others, he rallied two guards and ran up the hill to the temple.

There, he indeed found Gene praying in the presence of the Queen. He knew exactly what he had to do: “Now or never, Lord. Gene will redeem herself”. He uttered as he walked to her and shot her in the back. Gene fell to the ground and snapped out of her trance. She begged Nathan to help her, but Nathan was beyond reason. He wrestle a rifle from the hands of one of the guards and shot Gene one last time. Gene lay on the temple floor as her blood was running through the cracks. Gene asked Nathan to take care of the others, and died.

The Queen takes matter into her own hands

The Queen, oblivious to the murder taking place in the temple, had found her way to the mind of one of the rampaging dratis. She took it over and assaulted the other with vicious bites and tail sweeps. To everyone’s confusion, the two dratis fought each others while being peppered with gunfire. The Queen finally lead the drati away from the camp.

Some 4 guards had died in the incident. As many more were wounded. The Jita-Da had exploded and scattered the Voronod engines to the ground. In the temple, Nathan was bound and dragged away from the lifeless body of his wife.

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Aftermath

The following day, the Queen was loaded carefully on a cart (due to her broken leg), along with the other wounded men. The pilgrims returned to Alwar with the knowledge that the temple granted untold power to the Queen, but also was guarded by fierce creatures.

Later in the month, Devasheesh recovered the Voronod engines while the others prepared to take Gene’s body to the Gange for a proper sendoff to the afterlife.

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In loving memory of Lady Genevieve Bell-Hudson.

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TEoI 18 - Pilgrims and beasts

Lady Bell-Hudson’s return

In the month leading to the faithful events which will conclude this session, Lady Bell-Hudson spent a whole lot of time laying the groundwork for an EITC representation in Alwar. Helped by the Queen and the unwavering support of Minister Narayan, she charmed her way across the stratified social scene in the remote kingdom. She manage to insert most Britons somewhere within the commercial fabric of the city. This worked so well that by the end of June 1868, the Britons were occupying key posts across businesses and were back into a postion of monetary abundance.

Lady Bell-Hudson tried to navigate the bureaucracy at the palace, but managed to become accepted as de facto emissary of the EITC in Alwar. That is, until a link to the EITC could be made.

Alwar’s new army

In parallel, Devasheesh got busy elaborating technical improvement for the Jita-da under the patronage of the Queen. These efforts bore little fruits in the end and the airship remained underpowered as far as propulsion goes.

He was most successful, however, in getting the Queen to grant a military rank of captain of the guard. From this position, they expanded the guard from 100 to 200 riflemen. Regular drills were devised and a marksmanship course established. By June 1868, the Alwar guard was a competent defensive force. The Queen spend a lot of gold for this expansion, but no one from the treasury complained.

The pilgrimage to Tavoo-Gumbad

The Queen Marathi-Shiva finally set out for the ancient temple of Tavoo-Gumbad. The temple had been abandoned since the days of the last Queen, some 400 years ago. Devasheesh identified its location as near the territory of the Dratis that he had observed from the air in the recent past. Little substance on the nature of the Drati was discovered from the folk in the city. However, the most persistent myth seemed to be that the Dratis were guardians of the temple, and that the Queen is safe under their watchful eyes.

A small contingent of 20 rifles, 10 advisors and servants, Lady Bell-Hudson and her husband, the Queen and Sojiro, her guardian angel, set out into the hills for a 3 days’ journey. Sojiro and the Queen were riding atop a beautiful white elephant, while the others were riding on mules, camels or carts.

A series of unfortunate events

Sojiro took upon himself to steer the elephant. By the end of day two, he had mastered the basics and was enjoying himself weilding such a large beast. Unfortunately, he failed to notice a weakness on the hillside road and sent the elephant rolling down the slope. Both himself and the Queen were thrown to the ground. Sojiro got seriously hurt in the fall while the Queen had her femur fractured when the elephant rolled over her.

In a loud crash, the elephant rammed into trees some 20m below. The elephant wrangler made things worst and caused the animal to enter a stampede. In the flight, the elephant knocked Lady Bell-Hudson. The panicked beast had to be taken down by rifle fire, but not before it sent the whole of the pilgrim caravan in all directions.

From their vantage point on the Jita-da, Devasheesh decided to pass the controls to Gubdan and rapell to the ground to provide first-aid. It took an hour or so to get the caravan back on track, minus the elephant. They decided to camp in place such that the temple could be reached early on the following day. The Jita-da got damaged upon landing and needed a few hours to repair some structural wiring.

The ancient temple

The ancient temple was largely overran by vegetation. A large number of wild monkeys were giving attitude to the pilgrims as they set out camp. Lady Bell-Hudson had a dream on the previous night which lead her into the temple itself, ahead of all others. There, she found on the ground a fresh mango. A blue bird was looking down on her. She offered the mango to the bird, but it flew away. She saw it as a sign and ate the fruit. In the distance, a lightning bold hit the hills. She felt the electricity through her feet, something had changed.

Later, the Queen entered the temple and began to meditate. The temple turned out to be an incredibly powerful ceremonial site (+8 to the ritual Siddih path). She sank in a deep trance and found herself traveling freely of her physical body. She flew over land, observed Delhi from high above. There was a number of airships on the grounds of the Red Fort. She pushed further to the Himalayas where she knew that the Russians were staging their invasion.

There was an airship base in a deep valley, near two lakes. She descended into the military base. Although she could see, she couldn’t hear. She saw a number of inebriated officers pouring over a map of British India. She couldn’t make the meaning of the figurines on the map, but noted their positions.

After returning from her trance. The weather had turned to a wind storm. She describe in utmost details the map. Gene figured out from the description that the Russians were besieging Calcutta at the moment and appeared to be stalled. They also occupied thinly most of British India. She noted that the logistics on the map seemed to be precarious.

Drati Hunters

Sojiro was resting on the edge of the temple, staring into the darkening night. He had suffered life-endangering wounds the day before, but was now capable to rest and appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the area.

What Sojiro failed to notice were the two huge lumbering shapes sneaking in the dark. They struck like lightning and the young samurai escaped with as much luck as skills on his feet. He drew his sabre and called for help. “Dratiiiiiis!”, he exclaimed. The beast ran past him to head for larger pieces of meat such as the camels and the mules.

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Queen Marathi-Shiva sank into a hasty trance, seeking and finding the approaching beast in hope to possess one of them and foil the raid.

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TEoI 17 - Para-kaya pravesanam
Foiling disaster with a prayer

Bodysnatching a grand minister

Queen Marathi Shiva (a.k.a. Pingyang) resolved to attend the supper with the russians scouts. She assembled a group of mentors in her contemplation room, and initiated a Para-kaya pravesanam ceremony. While she drifted into a trance, her consciousness shifted into the mind of Grand Minister Narayan. She took him over while he was pacing in an antechamber, a few minutes before the diplomatic supper began.

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Attending were the Grand Minister (possessed by the Queen), Devasheesh as a russian translator, Sojiro as a novelty, 5 aides to the minister and the three russians. Devasheesh recognized their ranks as Rittmeister Tikhonov (Captain), Sub-Lt. Stroyev and trooper Zaytsev. All from the imperial cavalry. Stroyev was the only Hindi speaker, and couldn’t hide his contempt for his hosts.

The Queen emulated the minister perfectly such that none were the wiser (critical success on acting role). She dodged questions on the royal guard and the city’s defense. Tikhonov specified that the Tsar had no claim on Alwar. Through the mouth of Minister Narayan, the Queen was exacting and incisive. This suprised the aides, but not enough to raise suspicion. Tikhonov tried to get Narayan to reveal whether he was aware of the whereabouts of the Europeans, but the Queen kept her story straight, resulting in the frustration of the envoy.

Upon his decision to leave the table, the Queen informed the russians that they were’t allowed to wander and could leave only with the permission of the Queen. Tension rose, but the Queen stood firm and cowed the officers into their quarters. By evening’s end, they knew that the russians were looking for the refugees from Delhi, to be tried for theft and subsersive activities.

If only they learned that the europeans lived in a small ghetto some 300m from the palace… Minister Narayan remembered the evening as if he had been railroaded through supper. Since the outcome had been good, he pat himself on the back and went to sleep.

Keeping safe from harm

Devasheesh reported to Nathan, who passed the news to Gene. Gene delegated to Dr. Hensby the task to ensure that no caucasians roam the streets until the scout had gone. Since Hensby was contesting her leadership, she figured out that keeping him busy and “on the inside” was a reasonable course of action. Hensby deferred to Maritje the task to communicate to all others via her English language newsletter. Maritje made a well written case for following these instructions, and printed enough copies to be passed along to all household in the ghetto.

Devasheesh rushed to the ouskirts of town to deflate the gas envelope of the Jita-Da. If the russians were to ride around Alwar, they were bound to notice the airship. Gubdan moved his machining work indoors and the voronod engines were covered with rubbish. Devasheesh also convinced Lt. Elwood of the Lancers to setup an ambush/watch on the road to Delhi in case that the russians were to escape with too much information.

Gene appealed to Minister Narayan to ensure that the royal guards would interfere or stall the russians if there were to wander around town. Minister Narayan, now feeling like himself again, acquiesced. Gene then proceeded to run down the list of propsperous merchants in Alwar. She was looking for telltales of organized crime which characterized her former associate in Delhi: Rafi Jahan III. She made contact with Pradeep Vishnish, a transportation Moghul in Alwar. Vishnish was most interested in dealing with Gene and entering a mutually beneficial relationship where he’d peddle the Europeans mobile assets and provide eyes, ears and arms in case of need.

Drinking with slavic fiends

Life in Alwar had been quiet for Sojiro. In Delhi, the russians had taken away his family’s katana. For months, he wallowed in shame about this. He purchased a decent cavalry saber so that he could resume his Ken-jutsu training on the grounds of the royal palace. When the sun was at its highest on the day after the supper, he spotted a human shape in the shadows. It suspiciously was sneaking behind pillars. He followed the man into the palace and eventually came head to head with Trooper Zaytsev. The russian didn’t speak a word of hindi, while Sojiro’s hindi was minimal anyway. However, Zaytsev beckoned him to follow him to the russians’ quarters.

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There, Stroyev encouraged Sojiro to drink along. Sojiro was hesitant, but eventually caved under their insistence. Unfortunately for the russians, Sojiro drank them under the table (Being Japanese and all). Sojiro knew that they were helpless, yet a jolly bunch. He planted the seed that the Queen possessed untold wealth, hidden somewhere that could only be discovered after a hunt for fragments of a map. The officers, admitting that they were after the reward for finding the Europeans, became very fond of the treasure tale. Sojiro tried to forge one of the fragment of the map, but Tikhonov knew that it had been scrawled while they were out to the latrines. They all laughed, made plans to include Sojiro as part of their hunting team, and parted as friends.

Branching out (players making their own fortune)

The russians were to be released for as long as they left without snooping. The crisis had mainly been averted by the Queen’s devious possession of the Minister’s body during the diplomatic negociations. As sighed in releif, planning for their next step resumed. Life in Alwar wasn’t Delhi, let alone Britain, but it was their new normal.

Maritje was curious to discover what happened to her sister who was awaiting trial for espionage when the russians invaded. Was she free now, was she rotting in a damp jail cell? She made contact with a Chili pepper trader and arranged to visit Delhi under the disguise of a maid. It will be dangerous, but stalling in Alwar was at this point of limited use.

Devasheesh planned with Gubdan to power-up the propulsion of the Jita-da. While Gubdan would work out the design, Devasheesh decided to leverage his credits within the Royal guard to offer special marksmanship training. The Queen was supportive of the initiative: the stars were aligning for Devasheesh to assemble a new group of underlings.

Sojiro resolved to leave Alwar with the russians in hope to locate and retrieve his family’s katana. The Queen had guards to protect her, and had drifted aloof of his company in the last few months. He felt no big attachment to this place.

Gene resolved to make room in Alwar for English presence. This would start with a shrewd partnership with Vishnish, and ultimately turned the establishment of England in Alwar as a fait-accompli.

The Queen decided to go through with her plans for an out of town retreat. There was a temple in the hills to the North with had not been visited by royalty for centuries. Her Hindu mentors and astrologers proposed to her to pay a visit to the ancient site. The place, of course, turned out to be within the hunting grounds of the Dratis (raptor-like creatures observed earlier by Devasheesh and Gubdan).

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TEoI 16 - The three caballeros
Russians make it to Alwar... dang.

Maritkje and the three horsemen

Maritje arrived from England to help her sister. The sister in question was awaiting trial for espionage. She had been framed by a fellow spy, whom died at the hands of two close friends, also russian spies unbeknownst to her. She had the best story in the world at the end of her nose, but didn’t know about it. Instead, she carefully documented the life and times of the European refugees in Alwar. This fall back story was pretty much certain to make her a household name in Britain upon her return.

Nine months in Alwar had made her a stronger, more self reliant person. She had taken up a small place in the European ghetto where she lived with Har and his Sikh friends. On the morning of January 13th, she was near the southern gate of the city when she heard the excited shouts of children as they rushed outside of its walls. In the distance, some 1000m down the valley, rode three horsemen in drab uniforms. They were russians, there could not be any mistakes about it.

She pleaded to the locals to be careful, that the horsemen weren’t friends. They didn’t seem to care as throngs of children rushed to meet the pasty men. Maritje returned uptown to warn Gene of the coming danger.

A thinning grip on things

Lady Bell-Hudson was the diplomatic envoy to Delhi. Her position became somewhat vague at the onset of the Sepoy revolt and the subsequent russian airborn invasion. The coronation of Queen Reiko shook her faith to its core. As she turned to the very tangible hindu mysticism, proper folks in the ghetto started to notice that she was “going native”. Gene did her very best to avoid being branded as such. However, in the privacy of her own home, a rift was widening with her Anglican husband, Lord Bell-Hudson. Around the corner, she noticed more people turning to Dr. Hensby for guidance and leadership. She didn’t like to be sidelined at all.

Maritje explained the sighting to Gene. Both we most concerned. Gene bounced to her feet. She used her privileged relationship with Minister Narayan to have Devasheesh included in the audience between himself and the visitor. Devasheesh wouldn’t stand out, and was one of the few capable to speak russian. His luck came through soon enough as Gene and Nathan ushered him to the palace for an official dinner function.

An audience with the minister

The three russian soldiers arrived at the gate of the Palace and demanded an audience. Reiko refused to meet with them. She was actually planning a retreat out of town (maybe even an escape) when these events unfolded. Minister Narayan met with the officers in an inner garden within the palace. Reiko kept her distances as she didn’t wanted to be seen nor identified by russian agents. She still had not sorted out why as a russian spy she had been tasked to eliminate other russian agents: she had no concept of who were good and who were bad russians.

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The welcoming feast

Reiko returned to her room to seek counsel in meditation. She was contacted by Devasheesh, sent to her by Gene. The Queen devised a plan where talks between Minister Narayan and the russians would take place where others could keep an ear for details. She ordered that the russian visitors be welcomed as guests and prepare for a formal dinner on the same day. The russians accepted the offer without much reluctance.

The set was now staged for the showdown. The russians must be fooled into ignoring that there are no European refugees into the heart of the city. Even as a Queen, Reiko was unsure of the determination of the hindu population to protect those who were not so long ago a problem rather than a solution.

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TEoI 16 - The maiden voyage of the Jita dā

Once that the Europeans settled into Alwar, under the protection of the new Queen, Devasheesh and Gubdan busied themselves with the assembly of the two Voronod wondrous devices. The job wasn’t too difficult since they were packaged as kits into large and well layed-out crates.

The devices were assembled, tested. They derived rates of hydrogen production through steam reforming catalyzed by a vanadium internal sink. From these measurements, they designed an airship capable to fly for 10 hours and named it the “Jita da”. The Jita da’s size and shape was defined by its gaz envelope: 5m long and 2m in diameters. A cage was built around the envelope, with footpath all around, a coal store, two engines and propellers mounted on each sides. The thing was ugly, but it did lift off the ground, and had a shiny telescope at its bow.

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The Jita dā’s maiden voyage was precipitated in January of 1868 when two Europeans did not returned from a hunting trip in the northern hills. The wilderness around Alwar was a dangerous place, with the Dratis (raptor-like creature) prowling the bushes for easy meat. Devasheesh and Gubdan volunteered to sortie and search for the hunters.

The controls were a bit sluggish, but the airship steered as expected. They took off and headed for the valley to the north. The two screws weren’t generating a lot of power and the aiship was predictably drifting with the winds. A vibration developed, threatening to become worst. Devasheesh, helped by Gubdan’s engineering, attempts to diagnose the problem but fails. They shutdown the engines to confirm that the problem is in the drive train. This sends the airship into a drift eastward for about 10 minutes. It drifted off the valley and passed into another.

Gubdan was peering into the telescope. His eye was drawn to a network of trails first, then to a pair of roving Dratis on the ground. They steered to maintain contact and drifted northward for a few hours. They identified a large Drati’s nest in a clearing and made a note of its location for later reference.

Most importantly, they spotted a plume of smoke coming from beyond the valley. They headed to investigate and found the camp where Dr. Hensbee and Mr. MacMahon were encamped. The Englishmen assumed that the airship was Russian and threatened to open fire at first. Devasheesh found a flat area nearby to nearly land.

It turned out that MacMahon had been struck by a fever and the hunters had settled on the hill until he felt up to return to Alwar. Devasheesh offered to fly both of them back while their guides would return on foot. Unfortunately, MacMahon was too weak to hang on to the airframe and slipped. Gubdan tried to catch him but tripped on the wires and fell too some 30m.

Gubdan (played by RPG first-timer Jack) fell flat and broke some ribs, but came back to consciousness after a few stressful minutes. Mr. MacMahon suffered multiple fractures and got impaled through his left thigh. He, too, survived the ordeal. Dr. Hensby did his best to control the traumas. They fashioned two litters and hung them underneath the Jita dā.

The airship returned to Alwar not so much as a scouting airship as history’s very first airlift conveyance.

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TEoI 15 - The Queen of Alwar
How a russian spy became fodder for legend

Pingyang paced for days around the palace grounds, hounded by the Minister and a slew of holy men. They were expecting something from her, but remained enigmatic as to what this was about.

She was relieved to hear that she was not to marry the crown prince for a while longer. Put at ease, and getting accustomed to the relentless heat, she started to enjoy her new found fortune. Meanwhile, the Europeans were allowed under one of her edict to establish quarters in the merchant neighborhood, not far from the palace.

She was educated in the basics of Hindu mysticism. Already an adept of meditation, the transition wasn’t too difficult. It was clear that they expected her to participate in a highly expected ceremony involving the mausoleum in the coming few days. While walking through the central garden, she should see inside: a beautiful sari was resting on a stand. There was a giant jade orb and coffers of what she assumed to be treasure. The weird thing was that she was the only one capable to see into the monument.

The coronation

On the day of the coronation, a number of mystics came from all around. A large number of lawn chairs were arrayed, facing the mausoleum. Pingyang was dressed in a simple white dress made of light muslin, almost an undergarment.

The chanting began and grew to a climax. She was prompted to walk into the monument. To her surprise, she became weightless and lifted off the ground. Her body effortlessly floated over the walled-in chamber. She entered the room from a light well and saw once more the treasure, the orb and the sari. She felt trapped for a moment, but figured out that putting on the sari was the natural course.

Strong men crushed the front wall to reveal her to the gathered crowd in the garden. The Indians in the audience bowed their heads very low and welcomed Queen Marathi-Shiva. Pingyang was wishing then to be somewhere else.

And thus Pingyang became a Queen. However, she couldn’t tell then and still didn’t six month later explain what was actually her duties.

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Transfiguration

Gene was most shocked by the coronation. Something inside of her broke. The doubt that her Christian faith was an error grew to a scream in her heart. She became more receptive to new ideas. Most importantly, Gene started to feel Hindu spirituality as something tangible that she had never felt in the past.

The others started to suspect that Gene had gone native. Nathan, her husband, tried to talk her away from these new ideas, but in vain. Over the course of the next few months, Gene remained careful to maintain her victorian proper lady persona, but it was a facade to her and people near her knew that.

Things came to a head only a few months later when the russians caught up with them… but this is a story for another time.

Gaming notes

What happened with Gene was caused by my campaign rules on religious conversion when in presence of a miracle. The player, Alex, decided to voluntarily make Gene a devout of the Hindu faith. All other PCs passed their unmodified Will and either had their Christian faith shaken, or remained steadfast.
More happened, but I’m going to bundle it with the next session report.

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TEoI 14 - Into the Maratha Kingdoms
The launch of the second chapter of The Empress of India

Taking down another giant

Devasheesh and Gubdan left the field of battle once that the outcome had been decided. The Russian infantry had thrown their weapons down under the pressure of the English lancers. The supporting airship got cold feet and avoided the battle altogether, which threw the morale of the invaders in the tank.

Devasheesh chased the second airship across the rural lanscape until they managed to place a few good shots. Devasheesh’s jezail punctured the gaz envoloppe a few times, but a lucky shot by Gubdan hit the armature and sparked the explosion that took the airship down.

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When they returned to the farm, Lt. Elwood was in the middle of an interrogation of the Russian Captain. The officer was shaken and offered no resistance. He explained in a broken English that they were the spearhead of a large-scale invasion. That the Russians were staging the invading forces near a lake high up in the Himalayas.

Devasheesh was then unaware that the English had escaped the Red fort and left for Delhi to improvise some kind of rescue. Meanwhile, the diplomatic envoy Cresford and a few messengers left for Calcutta while the rest of the English cared for the wounded. By coincidence, Lt. Elwood was made aware of the fleeing Europeans and managed to intercept Devasheesh before he entered Delhi.

After joining Dr. Hensby and the other Europeans on their way to the Kingdom of Alwar, they packed the crates of two wondrous engines, some 70 peoples including women and children, and headed into the unknown wilderness south of British India where they hoped to find enough compassion to escape mass execution.

The Kingdom of Alwar

The trip for the five scouts was difficult. Nathan, reeling from a skull fracture, fell from his horse and broke his arm. Reiko and Sojiro weren’t the equestrian type too much. Gene and Jerome the butler lead the way. They arrived in Alwar and found a local doctor to care for Nathan.

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It was decided that Reiko and Sojiro would seek an audience with the King of Alwar and request his protection against the Russians. Being English in the free Indian kingdoms was not expected to be the best way to make a first impression. Reiko and Sojiro had a hard time to get into the palace, but eventually got through. While expecting a cold reception, they got completely the opposite treatment.

In the main garden, there was some kind of reception. Reiko, dressed in a bright sari, was received like a dignitary. She was introduced to the prince of Alwar, a sulky teenager. The minister and royal advisor was most interested in Reiko. The sun was hot, she was feeling woozy from the journey and the heat. It appeared that there was some decorative and architectural elements in the palace that reminded her of home.

At the far end of the garden, there was a mausoleum. Reiko could see a bright jade orb inside. The minister smiled. It became clear that nobody could see inside the walled-in mausoleum but Reiko. The minister explained to her that the prophecy was that an Eastern princess was to arrive and claim the throne of Alwar to save the kingdom from certain destruction.

When Gene arrived in the Palace, she was assumed to be a member of Reiko’s retinue. Gene played along until she could talk to her. Gene is most interested on the reason why Reiko is treated like royalty. Reiko is increasingly confused as the heat stroke intensifies. Although she manages to avoid talking about her background as a russian spy, Gene can tell that the asian princess is hiding something sordid.

As they take Reiko to the shade where she will recover from the heat, Gene walks by a wall adorned with a Dragon similar to the scene of St-Georges and the Dragon. Intrigued, she asks why an iconic English creature is painted in a Maratha palace. The minister explain to her that the “Dragon” is called a “Drati”, and that they live in the forest around Alwar to this day.

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TEoI 13 - Leaving Delhi behind
The end of a chapter, the start of a new one.

The council of survivors

The escape from the Red fort had been almost too easy. All 80 europeans cowered in the basement of Dr. Hensby family home. There was enough to eat for maybe two days if everyone ate as little as possible. Outside, the roads were blacked out as no one was bothering lighting the lamps during wartime.

A select few assembled around Lady Bell-Hudson, former ambassador of the Company to the court of the Shah. They debated whether splitting the escapees over a number of homes, and how long to sit the storm before breaking out of Delhi. It was decided in the end to favour a quick escape on the following day, and to keep everyone together until then.

To her surprise, Reiko was received kindly by the europeans. This was in sharp contrast with the treatment that she had received in Calcutta. Maybe misery softened the english stiff upper lips. Sojiro was enlisted to travel across the city to find Rafi Jahan III and request his protection. Reiko obliged and released Sojiro for this tricky mission.

The return of the chess player

Rafi was surprised to see Sojiro and Jerome as well as three english youths deliver a letter from his friend, Lord Bell-Hudson. He understood that the europeans had managed the impossible and escaped the Shah’s palace. Nathan’s letter was moving in its pleas, and convinced him to help to his best abilities. He deployed his men to screen Dr. Hendby’s home, procured them with more food and located two carriages and a few riding horses.

In order to get enough horses, Rafi had to liquidate the Hensbys mobile assets. In the end, five saddle horses had been secured. Two carriages were readied to take the infants and elders out of Delhi.

The great escape

For some reasons (which we know was the defeat the day before to the hands of the Lancers), the gates of Delhi were not kept by the Russians, nor anyone for that matter. The carts and the pedestrians made it through the gates in the shadows of a moonlit night. They decided that the safest escape would be due south into the wooded areas of the Indian kingdoms. The way to Calcutta was deemed too dangerous, and the way to Punjab perilous.

Gene, Nathan, Sojiro, Reiko and Jerome the butler left ahead of the contingent in hope to secure a safe passage and shelter from one of the Indian princes. A day into the trip, Nathan fell from his horse and broke his arm. This left him to recover from a minor skull fracture as well as is arm. His health began to wane dangerously.

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Some four days later, they arrived in Alwar. The shape of the Castle of the Prince of Alwar was towering over the town. Since the english weren’t most welcome in the land, it was decided that Reiko would make first contact. If anything, a beautiful japanese woman begging for help was likelier to get anything out of a Hindu Prince.

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TEoI 13 - The battle of three farmhouses
GURPS mass combat in 1867

Preparing for the battle

After altering its gun carriage, Gubdan managed to set the 3-pounders into a well covered position where it could be used to fire at passing airships. The night was spent digging and reinforcing the farm in preparation for an attack by the Russians in the morning. Devasheesh devised a spike trap across the main approach of the estate.

By sun up, a group of scouts were sent to seek the invaders. They were found bivouacking some 2500m to the south along the main road. Devasheesh and Lt. Elwood decided to take the battle to them. They left ten lancers at the farm, along with the Punjabis, Maritje and the emissary Mr. Cresford.

Raid on Russians

Lt. Elwood and Devasheesh split the lancers into two forces. They were detected before they made contact, but long before the Russians could form a battle line. Devasheesh led about 10 lancers into battle as they engaged into a skirmish at long range. Meanwhile, Lt. Elwood hooked deep into the West to approach the Russians from their flank.

Fire was exchanged for some 20 minutes until the situation became more fluid. Devasheesh moved forward to get a better line of fire. The Russians were hopelessly pinned: they couldn’t rally nor they were inclined to retreat. Devasheesh pushed his luck too much and found himself flanked by a small group of daring Russians. He dashed for better cover and took a hit on the shin, crippling his left leg and throwing him down on the ground.

By the time that Devasheesh was pulled to safety by the Lancers, Lt. Elwood decided to withdraw and hopefully draw the Russians towards their prepared positions. Devasheesh’s leg wasn’t broken and the bleeding stopped as soon as a lancer patched him up.

Inching to victory

The East India Trade Company soldiers concealed the horses and reinforced their positions. The had lost a man during the skirmish while two more wounded men were laid to rest in the main building. They were later assigned to the static position around the 3-pounder. The sound of an airship could be heard, but the ship wasn’t sighted.

By an amazing stroke of luck (critical fail on scouting by the Russians), the Russian forces made of about 50 infantrymen, proceeded to the farm and mistakenly assumed it to be clear of enemies. The English opened fire in point blank range and forced the Russians to hit the ground and crawl across the open to find better position. As they moved back, they entered the field of fire of the 3-pounder and took punishing fire from the gun.

The Russians struggled and never managed to rally as the Lancers on horses harassed them from all sides. Devasheesh brazenly led from the window of the farmhouse and barely dodged a volley of bullets which sent him back in the building, pondering the fragility of life for a moment.

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Huffs and puffs

The drone of an airship drew nearer. The massive armoured turret bristling in the sunlight. The 3-pounder was tasked to engage the airship which preventively withdrew and climbed higher up in the sky. Devasheesh hoisted himself on a horse, without the help of one of his leg, and launched into a pursuit of the airship across the countryside.

Lt. Elwood’s luck held as the Russians held on to their pathetic positions in the open instead of running away. As he spotted Debasheesh from the corner of his eye, he launched into an attack from their secure positons and overran the last of the pocket of resistance across the field. What was left of the standing Russians, maybe 20 of them, threw down their weapons and surrendered.

Note 1: And thus ended this thread at the end of the session. It will take 2 weeks to find out whether the airship will survive, and what will become of the Russians in the hands of Lt. Elwood. Lt. Elwood is a new PC for an old player (Sophie).

Note 2: Mass combat-wise, the English were lucky to win a battle with numerical inferiority. The cavalry advantage was the main factor, shortly followed by the fact that they got lucky on both reconnaissance contests. This caused the Russians to spend both battles forced to take Rally strategies. The airship not showing up on time because the Russians were surprised was another key factor.

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