Midnight Express

t first glance, the train appears to be just a normal train, though its exact appearance varies greatly depending upon your vantage point. At the head of the train is an old steam engine, No. 13, followed by several Pullman cars of the same era. Next come a few ornate cars from the Orient Express of years past, followed by several sleepers from a modern Amtrak train that have strands of strange moss dripping from their corners. This exotic assortment of cars continues down the track for as far as the eye can see; there are even circus cars among them.

Each of the cars is the ghostly counterpart to an original that was destroyed at some point in the Skinlands and now exists only in the Shadowlands. Each of the cars shows some hint of how it met its fate, whether it sunk to the bottom of a murky river or was destroyed in a head-on collision. This indication may take the form of cracks in the walls, scorch marks, or (as in the case of a sunken car) evidence of submersion, such as algae-coated fixtures and a generally dank and reeking atmosphere within the car. The train has several unusual properties, the secrets of which have yet to be discovered.

Boarding

During its nightly journey around the globe, the train arrives at each of its stops at exactly midnight within a given time zone and departs at exactly 12:03 a.m. This creates some obvious complications if the train has more than one stop within a given time zone, yet somehow the operators manage to work around these difficulties in a manner that still has Artificers befuddled. At each of the stops only one car is accessible for boarding and disembarking. The rest of the cars, though visible, simply do not exist for those wraiths boarding. During this period that the train is present within the Shadowlands, passage between cars is impossible, though this is hardly an inconvenience, as it only last three minutes. During the trainís stop, the guards ensure that all who wish to board the train may. Therefore, any who can make it to the platform by midnight can usually make it onto the train. J.W. Stillwell, the conductor, greets each of the passengers only after everyone has boarded and the train is under way once again. During his rounds, he inquires as to each new passengerís destination and directs her to the proper car for disembarking. He will also accept requests for stops at this time. He will usually acquiesce to requested stops, as long as there is, or was at one time, a train station at the desired location. It is customary for those requesting a special stop to offer some sort of payment, usually two-quarter oboli. Unless a passenger wishes for special arrangements to be made (sleeping compartments, refreshments, first class or a stop request, travel on the Midnight Express is free.

Through the Tempest

It is known that the train travels to each of its destinations through the Tempest along well-established Byways, known only to those who run the train. While in transit, those within the train are resistant to the usual adverse effects of the Tempest; in fact, the train is immune to all but the most powerful Maelstroms, and even these usually do little more than create a bumpy ride for the passengers. There have been some reports of individuals being attacked by Spectres while traveling between cars, but these incidents are extremely rare. While in transit, wraiths may travel freely between cars, though when disembarking, it is best for a wraith to be in the car corresponding to her destination, because the doors in all cars do not necessarily open at each stop.

Unlike modern trains, there isnít necessarily an enclosed walkway between cars. This is because the Midnight Express is composed of many cars from different periods. Some cars are connected in this manner, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Way Station

During its run, the Midnight Express does name one stop that is not in the Shadowlands; this brief stop is in the Tempest. While traversing the Pacific Ocean, the train makes a short detour to the way station there. This station stands fast against the constant bombardment of Maelstroms that scour the Tempest, and even endures the onslaught of the Spectres who continually assault it. This stage of the journey is considered to be the most dangerous and is avoided by many wraiths that know of it.

This purpose of this brief stop at the way station is to transfer goods and individuals bound for Stygia. From the way station, there is another train that travels directly to Stygia. This method of transport is often used by Wraithlords who wish to transport large amounts of goods to or from Stygia. For decades this stop was kept secret from others, but has come to be more and more public knowledge in the last few years. Many feel that it is only a matter of time before an ambitious group of Spectres, or even other wraiths, successfully hijack the train from this point.

The station resembles a small train station from the early 1920ís, complete with a ticket counter and ticket seller. Other than this one individual, the station is empty. Anyone disembarking from the train is usually struck by the fact that the station is adrift in the Tempest. From the boarding platform, the train stretches down the tracks into the swirling mists that engulf it. In order to load or unload cargo, the train is positioned so the proper car is by the station and is easily accessible. While on the platform, wraiths are still vulnerable to attacks from Spectres or anything else that may emerge from the Tempest. Guards are usually stationed on the platform during loading and unloading to watch for any approaching danger. The interior of the station is as safe as any Citadel, for it was built to withstand the most powerful Maelstrom and is maintained by the Ferrymen. Additionally, the Hierarchy maintains a presence here to safeguard shipments to and from Stygia. From here, transportation may be arranged to Stygia, though few wraiths can survive there for any prolonged period of time. The price of such transport is usually quite high.