Monday, May 17, 2010

A Man of Wealth and Taste

"We may not pay Satan reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talent."
- Mark Twain

Mr. Scratch, or sometimes "Nick Scratch", is a mysterious fixture in the City. Scratch makes all the right parties, and can be seen in all the tony night-spots.  He might be glimpsed hobnobbing with the scions of old-money Dwerg families, rising-star city aldermen, or high-placed members of the Blefuscu crime family; or buddying up to the hippest entertainers, or even some of the more public supernatural denizens of the city. At the same time, more than one down-and-out hophead, or death-row loser, will spin you a tale of having met him outside some dive in Hell's Commot, or on a smuggler's dock obscured by midnight fog off the Eldritch.

Wherever he's met, Scratch is always stylishly and impeccably dressed. His handsome features are typically adorned with a sardonic grin. His moustache and beard are always neatly trimmed, and his hands well-manicured. Most people either don't notice--or are too polite to mention--the small horns on his forehead. He's usually flanked by "muscle" of almost preternatural quiet. This goons act more like well-dressed statues than men--unless Scratch needs them to make a point.  He maintains a well-appointed office in a skyscraper downtown (on the 66th Floor, naturally), though that's seldom where people first meet him.

The business he conducts is as eclectic as the people he conducts it with. Often he gives favors, some seemingly inconsequential, others of great importance, but doesn't always ask for anything in return. At least, not immediately. He provides tidbits of information at a price, but is just as likely to save someone's life gratis. It's not always hard to discern some pattern in his actions, but his ultimate goal remains elusive--if indeed there is one.  Still, more than one tale of woe in the City begins with a seemingly positive meeting with Scratch.

Scratch's physical appearance, and thedeals he sometimes offers, suggest a connection to the Hell Syndicate, though which of the eight infernal families he might work for is unclear. Some have suggested he might be the son of a hell-lord, given control of the city to "make a name" for himself.  Others think that for all his mysterious airs, he's just another sap working out the terms of a Faustian contract.  Still others point out that the diabolic boss of bosses hasn't been seen for sometime. It's been whispered, perhaps recklessly, that Scratch might be old Morningstar himself, in disguise. What a being of that kind of power would be doing in the role of middling operator in the City is a worrisome thought.

art by Seth Frail


Unknown said...

Sweet. No doubt there are bazillion pop-cultural, literary, and rpg references to handsome devils of this sort but in this case, my mind drifts to the treatment of the devil in Gurps Goblins (*the* most hilarious and underrated RPG supplements ever).

Fran Terminiello said...


told you the big five oh was at your heels - congrats!

Trey said...

@Risus - Despite owning virtually every other GURPS print supplement, I've sadly never owned Goblins, though I have heard its very good. So common is the trope I don't know that I can pin down specific inspiration for Scratch, but I had in mind the look of the devil's of the artist, Faust of course, and Max Collin's Johnny Dynamite limited series from several years back.

@Dungeonmum - Thanks. Your comments acted as a Summon Follower spell, I'm sure. ;)