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Orpheus and the Dark Aether – Chapter 16: The Investigation

(( Since the Dark Aether event is now over, I feel that it is safe to post this now. If you still haven’t investigated the murder of D. Mawatt, be warned spoilers ahead!))

Orpheus tramped along the tram tracks out of the city. The
journal he had found by the dead man’s body had said the truth could be found
by the “Woe Tree,” whatever that was. As Orpheus approached the tree, he saw
that someone had deliberately posted some more pages from the journal, as well
as what looked like a key. Before he could get closer, a chill came over his
body. He heard a voice calling to him, vaguely familiar as if in a dream he had,
and then that horrible “tick tick tick” sound. A group of crabs climbed out
from behind the tree and began to give chase. Orpheus ran as fast as he could.
He looked back. The crabs stopped midway down the track, their claws clacking
in the air. Orpheus made his way back to town. He would have to come back when
he was more prepared.

A few hours later, he was better stocked to follow the
clues. He had picked up one of the new “Dapper Zappers” from town. He also had
a block of wax with him. As he approached the dreaded tree again, the crabs
once again attacked Orpheus. He was ready this time. As each one approached, he
whacked them repeatedly with the Dapper Zapper. As the prod struck their outer
shell, he could hear the sweet sound of electricity arc through the air. The
battle was fierce. The crabs were relentless, but Orpheus was more so. After a
few minutes, the last crab was vanquished as it exploded in a gooey mess.
Orpheus approached the tree carefully, but no further crabs appeared. He copied
the contents of the pages into the journal he carried with him. He also pressed
the key into his wax block. He replaced the key and the journal pages and began
to head back into town.

By the time he reached the heart of New Babbage, the
duplicate key he had made had hardened. The journal pages had mentioned the
room hidden above Loki’s. Orpheus remembered the place well. He had discovered
it last year when the homunculus was tearing through town. He entered and
looked around. “Everything looks the same as it did last year,” he thought to
himself. Still, the journal had mentioned this place by name. Orpheus was
beginning to surmise what had happened to Mr. Mawatt, and in order to solve
this crime, he would have to play by Moriarty’s rules. “Why this place? And why
the key?”

Suddenly, all became clear. Off in the corner, he spied a
keyhole in the wall. “Strange, I don’t remember that being there before. And
yet it must have been here.” Orpheus took out the copy of the key and inserted
it into the lion’s mouth. He could feel it click into place, and then a
grinding sound as the wall lowered into a recess in the floor. In its place was
a work station. Alexander Eliot’s secret notes on the Porta Terrarum lined the
station, and Moriarty (for Orpheus was sure Moriarty was leading him on a sick
and twisted scavenger hunt) had left behind a few more pages from Mawatt’s
journal. He copied the pages and went down to have a drink and a brainstorm

As Orpheus sipped his beverage he read through what he had
copied. The more he read, the more he wondered if the people of New Babbage
were horribly mistaken about Moriarty. He had only met the man once, and knew
him only by what others had said; that he was a horrible monster and an evil,
vile man. The journal spoke of Mawatt’s (probably final) conversation with the
man, and revealed some very intimate details about Moriarty’s life as a youth.
It seemed that Moriarty was quite misunderstood when he was younger, and he
only wanted to be admired and loved, the same as anyone else his age.
Unfortunate circumstances turned him into the man he was now.

As he read, Orpheus knew where the next pages would be
hidden. True to form, they were hidden almost in plain sight. When he retrieved
them, he also found a ring hidden with them. He casually put the ring on – a
perfect fit! He brought the pages back to the table, where Doctor Sonnerstein
and Miss Hermit had just sat down. Orpheus joined them and they discussed
briefly the nature of the spirit of New Babbage. Orpheus copied down the notes
and then excused himself, returning the document and the ring to its hiding
spot. He then hurried down the street, preparing himself for a trip into the
bowels of New Babbage, feeling like he was one step closer to finding Moriarty.

Alas, Moriarty was a wily adversary and remained one step
ahead of Mr. Angkarn. Orpheus did however find his old hiding spot (as well as
yet another Aether Creature) and a letter directing him to City Hall of all
places. It seems that in the archives of the Hall of Records, the truth to
Moriarty’s origins and master plan had been stored this whole time. Orpheus
made his way to the Hall of Records, and after a quick perusal of the recently
repaired Writer and its book, Orpheus made his way up the ladder, searching for
the correct file. After some precarious ladder work and a bit of rummaging, he
found at last the cards he was searching for. Each contained a riddle,
describing a location in the city. As he spent the day running back and forth
through town he discovered that each location on the card had a unique marking.
“But what is their connection?” he asked. A Norse hammer, an angel, dolphins,
stars, and a moon – how were they connected? Finally, as Orpheus stood covered
in who knew what deep in the sewers of New Babbage he feared he had been lead
to a dead end, quite literally.

The wet and tired investigator leaned up against the wall,
dejected that Moriarty had beaten him, or so it seemed. As he did so, he felt a
brick push inwards and the wall began to move as the one in the secret room
had. Inside, Orpheus stared as a large store room was revealed. It was quite
obvious that it was a Van Creed storeroom, perhaps containing the effects moved
from their now abandoned factory. A number of documents sat out. Orpheus read
them and stood, shocked! Of course, it had all been so obvious! He jotted down
some notes and planned to find Miss Hienrichs. The truth about Moriarty was
spelled out, clear as crystal in that vault. Orpheus also found a canister with
some film in it. He took the film with him, curious what truths it laid out.

As night fell, Orpheus entered the Imperial Theater. No one
was around, so he went up to the projector and laced up the film he borrowed.
He watched as the face of Moriarty spoke into the camera, revealing why he had
done what he had done, the body of Mawatt seen swinging in the background. It
was just as Orpheus had predicted. He decided to return the film to the vault
where he had taken it from. Finally, he returned home to develop the
photographs he had taken. Once developed, he placed them in an envelope, along
with a report of his findings, and arranged for them to be delivered to Militia
Headquarters so a formal investigation could be done.

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