Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Adventure of the Black Heart, Part 5

I had not forgotten my theory that the body of Bernard Blindside, the archaeologist, had fallen from - or was thrown from - the Clockhaven town wall. The next day, I made my way back to Clockhaven once again in order to test my theory. I crawled into one of the guard stations and from there onto the top of the wall. As I nearly reached the end of the wall, I saw a familiar sight: yellow chemical blotches, the same blotches I had last seen in the sewers after the Beast and its liberator made their escape. I was on the right track!

I followed the trail into the tunnel inside the wall until the splotches abruptly ended. I stood there, puzzled. Where could they have gone - inside solid rock? Then I noticed that the rock became unnaturally smooth for a few inches, a span so small that a casual passer-by would not have noticed anything unusual. I ran my hands around the smooth area and heard a catch spring open. It was a door! I pressed against it and the door swung in, revealing a small laboratory. Drawing my pistol, I stepped cautiously inside.

The room was empty. An upended chair, several chains, and blood stains suggested my theory was correct: this was where Blindside had been taken and tortured. When his usefulness was at an end, he was taken topside and thrown off the wall, his body eventually floating back to Port Babbage and the docks. How much did the archaeologist know? Was he part of this fiendish plot, or did he stumble across part of the secret? We may never know.

I searched the room quickly, afraid that its owner would return at any moment. Several charts were tacked to the wall, one revealing the plans of the Mark IV Beast cage that the urchins had developed (the one that finally succeeded in trapping the creature), and one displaying a schematic for a device of some sort. On the table lay Salador's journal, with all the alchemist's notes about his horrible experiments. Finally, a note, written on the stationery of the Van Creed society, said that Salador had discovered the homunculus and a formula that would bring the homunculus to life.

Before I could be discovered, I left the tiny room and returned to the Hotel Excelsior to ponder what I had learned.

And with that, my role in the story is essentially at an end. I was at a standstill, not knowing who might be responsible for the present atrocities. I could speculate: someone - probably in the Van Creed society - uncovered Salador's journal, learned of the experiments with the homunculi, learned of the story of Helen and Sebastian and understood where Saldor went wrong in creating the Beast, and decided to create another immortal. Who and why, though, was something I could not fathom, and had no leads to follow. As anticlimactic as this may seem, that's the way it goes some days in the investigative journalism business.

In another sense, however, the fun was just beginning. Clockwinder Tenk called a town hall meeting of Babbage citizens to discuss the matter. Before they could assemble, however, young Miss Myrtil Igaly was attacked, made to cry, and, odd as it may seem, had her tears stolen. At the meeting, the mysterious stranger who lurked on the rooftops revealed himself as Mr. Sebastian Verwood, of the Order of Malkuth - as improbable as it sounds, the very same Sebastian who once loved a young lady named Helen! Mr. Verwood's analysis of the situation was that "we believe that someone in this town wants to try and complete the formula and correct Salador's failure," though he did not know who this person might be.

The urchins, in their own way, related to the assembled townspeople how Myrtil had been attacked, her tears stolen, and how the assailant had fled into a room above Sir Willard's lodgings, locking himself inside with the homunculus machine.

As Mr. Lans Starsider related, a cadre of Babbagers, including Mr. Starsider, Mr. Maltheus Canis, the Malkuth knights, and young Master Tepic, Master Gadget and Miss Myrtil, stormed the secret room, only to find Mr. Slooth Mosswood - yes, the same Slooth Mosswood with whom I had a seemingly innocuous conversation the day before - having engaged the regeneration machine, planting a brain into a homunculus. Gadget succeeded in destroying the machine, causing an electric surge and a flood that apparently killed Mosswood, but not before the machine successfully brought to life the mind of Jason Moriarty, a villain well known to Babbagers. No one knows Moriarty's fate, though most believe him to be alive and planning mischief.

Afterward, I visited the room above Sir Willard's laboratory, but there was nothing left to salvage.

I write these notes in the hotel lobby, waiting for transportation back to the airport to take the Hangover Two back to Caledon. This part of the story may be finished, but I cannot help but believe that more remains to be written.

[Note: I would like to thank Mr. Loki Eliot for the hard work he did in creating this puzzle for all to enjoy, and I'd also like to thank all the Babbagers who participated in the roleplay. Clearly many others were following the clues as I was, and I make no claims to great cleverness. I spent many enjoyable hours exploring New Babbage, tracking down the clues provided, talking with some of the residents (including one villain!), and finding additional hints in the journals of Babbagers. I look forward to future adventures in the city. - RJ]

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