In the Waterfront tavern, they quickly examine Clee’s stuff. There are the letters, a few pounds in cash, the crude black medallion with a white bone and a heavy padlock key. Cleetis Rose seems to have been an alias for Clee. This is further supported by the little boat outside having an painted Rose on the prow. They also searched the boat before the watch arrive, and find that the collapsible mast has a lot of recent scratches on the tip of the fixed stump (about 3 feet from the waterline). This suggests he has been taking the boat into a low tunnel.
Ezekiel and Masa spend the next week searching the river banks and asking around in seedy places, trying to track Clee’s movements. Ezekiel begins to hope that the “P” at the bottom of the letter, refers to “Volodya Putin”, the necromancer who killed his family. Clee, had sold them to Putin, so they had worked together in the past. They hired a few bargemen to give them a tour. There were lots of tributaries, lots of wharves, several warehouses and private houses with river entrances, either tunnels or built on stilts.
Meanwhile Clara is wandering around town, guarded by Harry, with measuring sticks, a sextant and maps, trying to calculate the exact spot where the first of the Harbingers will reach the earth. It seems likely to be within half a mile of Tower Bridge. With luck, they will narrow it down further next week, a few days before the actual event.
They spot that they are being inexpertly followed by a scruffy fellow (wearing good shoes) who, when roughly questioned by Harry, says he is John Marston, a Playwright. He has been offered a small sum of money to keep tabs on Clara and note the locations they visit and if they appear to have found a particular spot. He has been told to go to The Olde Swan Inn on Saturday Night and his contact will meet him to get the info. Marston describes the contact as having a beak of a nose, a sallow complexion, middle-aged and with long, straggly grey hair. The man was a londoner, by his accent and wore decent quality clothes, like a middling merchant.
Marston was a very ineffectual spy, clearly just doing it half-heartedly in order to make a few shillings. When harry pushed him away down the road, he hung about a bit and said sheepishly, “but I live the other way!”.
They went to the Inn to see if they could spot the contact. A number of off-duty members of the city watch were in there, and they seemed to have a few shillings extra to spend. This was unusual, according to locals. Our heroes watched Marston go in, but decided not to follow. Ezekiel found out there was a sort of walled garden out back where gentlemen could rent female companionship. He tried to climb a drainpipe on a building on the other side of the street but fumbled it. Near the top it pulled away from the wall, leaned slowly across the street and dumped him into the garden of the Inn. He managed to charm his way out without being arrested as the three soldiers in the garden were otherwise engaged.
Marston was having a good night. His play had been performed at the Blackfriars Playhouse. It was a bawdy satire, attacking another playwright and had some good insults in it. They were managing to avoid certain restrictions by having it performed by the Blackfriars Child Actors Company in a Playhouse that used to be a catholic church. Marston was being bought drinks and stayed at the Inn well into the night.
Eventually they gave up their vigil, deciding that Marston’s contact was probably working for Robert Cecil (the Imp) , Spymaster for the Queen.
During the week, they had also heard rumours of a Jesuit Plot to spread disease and that the Privy Council were preparing for it by laying in medical supplies. They had also learned of some “miracle” cures at three hospices along the river banks. A few sick people had woken up at these hospices with all their symptoms cured. This sounded suspiciously like the work of a Plague Demon such as they had fought near Dresden a few months earlier. That had drained away illness from several people to brew up a more virulent sickness.
They thought that the “bitches” mentioned in the letter might be giant rats who were absorbing sickness ready to become Plague Bombs.
They visited one of the Hospices, near the Temple buildings on the north bank. Clara had her measuring devices and they managed to get allowed to measure up the Hospice ready for some potential building work. Clara even went into the Pox Ward, where the most infectious victims were kept and asked around. it seemed that the few people who had been cured, had been bitten by rats in the night and then woken up cured.
They had a few uneasy moments when they spotted the pathetic bloated figure of Mary Miggins, once keeper of a pie shop, now poxed and penniless. She was heavily pregnant and the monks who tended her didn’t know if she would last the week and whether death or birth would come first.
Finishing off the surveying the grounds, Clara was shown into a storeroom where they had some brand new Plague Doctor outfits, heavy leather robes and gauntlets and special helmets. These had been supplied by a government grant just last week. It seemed that Cecil was taking the threat seriously, at least enough to lay in supplies.
They caught a rat in the cellars of the Temple Hospice and brought it back to their own tavern in a heavy sack. Clara had tried to detect if it was magical but got backlash and lost her powers for a few hours. Later Masa had a go and found very faint signs that the creature had been magically influenced last night but was now free from it. Unable to find a way to get any more info from the rat, Harry killed it.
Another few days searching and Masa and Ezekiel found a likely gated tunnel in the South bank. The tunnel led to a Warehouse district with a covered basin for unloading. Clee’s key fitted the padlock and they all floated inside in a rented rowboat. They entered under cover of night so as to avoid being seen by the watchmen. Halfway along the water tunnel they found a secret hinged section in the wall and managed to push through into a hidden tunnel running parallel to the bank. A few yards along there, they were attacked by four zombies who rose up from hiding in the shallow water. These were probably the “Drowned Guardians” mentioned in the letter.
Despite wobbling about in the boat, they managed to destroy the zombies (the drowned guardians) without too much problem. searching the three caves ahead they found that Putin (assuming it was indeed him) had had a bedroom/study here until very recently. He had left swiftly 2 days ago. It occurred to them that the crude medallion might have been a symbol to prevent the Zombies from attacking.
Ezekiel also found tracks for three very large rats (pig-sized) lying in one of the chambers and found tracks of a man, wearing excellent boots, who had apparently stood very still in the corner of the office. They thought the man may have been “the Vessel”. There were no obvious clues to where Putin had gone. The only other thing they found was fished out of rats’ latrine pool by Clara. It was a soggy, foul-smelling book about the Roanoake Colony and it had a single page cut out, a Map. It was fairly common knowledge that the Roanoake Colony, in the New World, had been found abandoned 10 years before and the only clue was the word CROATOAN written on the wall of the little fort.
They continued with their measurements and calculations and, as near as they could tell, the Harbinger would arrive at a spot on the south bank of the Thames, almost opposite the Tower of London, perhaps half a mile from Putin’s abandoned base. The necromancer had kept a short barge in the tunnel too and the barge was now gone.