Enroute to the next city.. the PCs sleep… and they dream. We awake upon the Dreamlands Express. Bennington finds out that a few other dreamers have joined since we last slept and we get their names. Mabel and I head towards the cat compartment, and quickly meet up with Blackjack. We ask him how to be better at living in the Dreamlands, and he says "You need to get more comfortable here." Henri says we're 1 to 2 hours from Dylath-Leen. We ask Blackjack if he knows about the Salims, but he doesn't seem to know them. "Owen and Mackenzie and Madame Bruja, they're all good people!" (Note that Monsieur Karakov wasn't in that list although he's aboard.) Henri mentions that it's quicker to travel atop the train rather than through it — there are no guests currently in the lower chambers. Thinking about Henri on the train sends a message to the beasts who informs Henri that his service is needed — and it works for other guests. Blackjack thinks that everybody on the train who appears to be human actually is. The dining car has an amazing menu.
There are four dreamers in the dining car, Karakov, Bruja, Mackenzie, and Owen. Nikolai goes up and introduces himself to Owen, as do most of the rest of us. He's also on the Orient Express headed to Venice. Mackenzie says that it's possible to be on the Dreamlands Express even when not on the Orient Express. He hints that Bruja is actually dead and lives here. "The living can be here dreaming. The dead, if they died in the right way, can continue to exist here. Some are born and live their whole lives in the Dreamlands." Owens is early 30s, and describes himself as an academic from England and Paris, clearly Irish in origin.
Mackenzie: "I provide information to Her Majesty's government. Many books written by many sleeping minds fill the libraries of the Dreamlands." We discuss the Gulf of Nodens and its eating of experiences — actually removing events from history so that it never happened. Nodens is generally on humanity's side?
We ask about getting into libraries, and the cost. It can be an exchange of knowledge valuable to the librarians instead of an item of value to yourself. If the latter, whatever you give up will be gone from the waking world. A sorcerer may pay the librarian quite a lot for an item that can serve as a battery of power, or a focus for a spell… but it might be a spell targeted at the former owner… who could never escape it (Bruja: Unless she fed all of that experience to Nodens).
Bruja's advice for newcomers? "Do not trust." She's here because of 'unfettered freedom'. She's unlike Owens, who's interested in 'terrestrial' knowledge. We find out from Mackenzie that it can be easier to create magic items here if you bring something from the real world, rather than creating an artifact by pouring your own power into it.
After talking with Owens, we find out that he knew Professor Smith, and was even at his funeral!
The train draws close to Dylath-Leen. We'll have an hour or two to access the library. Karakov admits to being from St. Petersburg, but only says that he's no longer there.
Owens hasn't been to any of the libraries. How does Mackenzie get into libraries? To get into the library of Dylath-Leen, Mackenzie shared the secret of how to turn a man's marrow into lead.
As we're talking and the train is stopped at the station, we're joined aboard the train by Mironim Mer, a man with bright yellow eyes. Karakov doesn't mind him. Bruja is apprehensive. Mack and Owen nod pleasantly. Some of the party notice that he's not quite… human… though. I notice when I shake his hand that he's cold, like room temperature. Mironim and Bruja have history apparently. Mironim asks after Mr. Lantern, and then reveals that he is 'Impasse' from the Ghost Train experience. He's here to sell wines to Henri.
The salon car shifts, and we hear a lip-smacking, clicking sound. Henri appears and explains that the Beings of Ib are boarding the train, and will be riding in the lower compartments. The noises go away after a while.
Next is the approach of people laughing, singing a drinking song, etc., and a half-dozen people board — The Sarnathians. They were here to meet with the prince and they're now heading back to Sarnath. Nicolai discovers that non-natives to the Dreamlands 'glow'. Bruja and Karakov look a little different (but in different ways). Mironim Mir also has a glow as well. We ask about Sarnath — it's huge, welcoming travelers from all across the Dreamlands. One of the Sarnathians offers to teach Nicolai a ritual which will taken you when dreaming to the temples of Sarnath. Richard expresses interest in learning the ritual but the Sarnathians want to play with the Ibs while they do it.
As we pull out, a woman calls out 'Don't go!' and a train tentacle reaches out and pulls her aboard. Dressed quite scantily, is Zsusza. She introduces herself as a dancer and singer – and was just dancing for the prince! But he didn't want her to stop… so now she's trying to escape the city and got on board just in time. She offers to sing for us – she sings like a talented nightclub singer… but she's no Cavollaro. Nicolai starts up with a singing and drinking song and mild debauching ensues. Drinking continues for a while, and then the group starts to drift off. Meanwhile, Richard works on learning the ritual to visit Sarnath.
Mabel comes and fetches me when there's catfighting going on in the cats-only car. I think this sounds really interesting and a couple of the Sarnathians come too. On the way, we pass through sleeper cars and a bathhouse car, a men's saloon, a lady's parlour. One car before the cat's car, we see a bloodstain poorly concealed under a rug — someone was hurt here and then moved into a room. We summon Henri, he comes in from the cats' car, and says that Blackjack is missing… and this is quite possibly a Blackjack-sized pool of blood. Tentacles come in from all sides and push the curtains aside, opening up the whole train car. Under a pair of pillows, the tentacles move them aside and lift up the body of Blackjack. Examining him, he looks like he was hit with a mining pick — doing a lot of damage to his little body.
Suspects? Impasse, Madame Bruja, Karakov, 2 of the Sarnathians unaccounted (Robert and Dorothy) for when we left. The 11 other cats were all in the cat compartment.
Henri tells Sofia, who is first angry and then in deep grief. I ask Sofia's permission and examine Blackjack's body — he got somebody with his claw — there's blood and skin under them. The wound is huge, he was hit with something mining-pick-like twice — no chance. Marcus, a calico cat with a known great sense of smell, is summoned from the cat car. I ask him to examine the blanket, the pillows, and Blackjack's claws. Henri mentions that along with the Beings of Ib, another being joined the trained known as the "Burned Man". Marcus reports that he has the scent, but can't track it — but it smells like a man. Can we use the blood and skin under the claws to track to the attacker? Several people agree yes, possible, but only Mackenzie seems to know how — calling a 'homing pigeon' (it's not a pigeon) and seeing upon whom it alights — they are known as Shantaks.
We take Marcus down to the baggage car, where he is able to rule out the Sarnathians, but not Karakov — he says that Karakov has something horrible in his luggage. Burned Man has no luggage. Mironim Mir, he's not sure — there are a number of suits (flesh-suits) in there. Madame Bruja's luggage still smells of death.
Impasse/Mironim, Burned Man, Bruja, Karakov.
Mironim Mir is the weakest, so he's first. A different man with yellow eyes answers the door. Nude, with sticky yellow liquid dripping off of him (because he rushed to…. 'dress'?). He expresses un-humanly surprise at the news of the murder, but claims that he had "briefly left the train". He claims that he saw Blackjack "looking at his things" and that it hadn't upset him but might have upset multiple others — if Blackjack did that to them. He has 14 human suits aboard the train. I lose 8 san from watching 14 human suits get pulled out for inspection by Marcus, the last one is… the 'soiled' suit, a body that had been ripped open, and the smell is horrible. Marcus isn't sure if it's the one, but it was ripped off. We… guess it isn't him.
Karakov is next. Owens warns us that his reach extends into the waking world. He answers the door and invites us in. Richard notices a little blood on his cuff — Nicolai notices that AND a wound on his arm that extends down his cuff. He admits that he found Blackjack in his room, and told him to shoo. He claims that the wound was intentionally, for a spell to keep the cat out — actually all cats, and the Sarnathians. Marcus is allowed to sniff the wound, and confirms that it's not him.
Madame Bruja. Blackjack couldn't have gotten into her room, and she didn't see him. It wouldn't have been the Sarnathians because Blackjack wasn't tortured. Bruja recommends inspecting Mir's claws – Mir tried to get into his room. Mir is not one of Bruja's Serubians — he belongs to the Burned Man. Bruja seems to mind-control Marcus into saying that it wasn't her, "asserting the proper order of dominance". The Burned Man covets Madame Bruja's power and is nearly the sorcerer she is. Richard points out that if the Burned Man had ordered Mir to kill the kitten, Mir might have been misleading with his answers because it wasn't 'Mir' killing the kittens.
Back to Mir. When asked again, he admits to having been given orders to kill anyone that came in his room. Mabel asks if he has other orders involving killing… and he unsuits and attacks. We start popping back awake — knockknockknock "Fifteen minutes to Venice, sir" — but I get a shot off at it before I transition back to the waking world.