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It Was Written In The Dust - A Promethean Dark Era Actual Play

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  • #16
    Our resident artist has also knocked out character portraits for each of the core cast:





    • #17
      Chapter 4 – Reunion under the best of circumstances

      Riley fled town on foot, trekking cross-country to the Lawson farm. They avoided the humans on the property, made their way to the building where Terah was stabled, and curled up in a corner of the horse’s stall.

      Elsie sat quietly in the room as she listened to the Reverend describe his assault at Riley’s hands. The sheriff, an older man with a mane of white hair, listened gravely. She perked up when she realised they were talking about Riley. “Hey, that’s my friend!”

      Abram returned to the house with Al, to find the place turned upside down by Elsie’s cleaning efforts. Al seemed more bemused than upset. When Abram asked permission to leave and track down “the wife”, Al waved him off.

      “Just be back here in the afternoon. We’re going to pay our friend a visit.”

      Abram eventually located Elsie. She was wandering around Main Street, gawping at the different shops. When he asked her where she’d been, the whole story of running into Riley, then meeting the priest, then meeting the sheriff, then the sheriff agreeing to hunt Riley, then her telling him how she was looking for Riley too, then him asking her to leave while he went about his business, then her coming to Main Street to look at the markets, then how she ran into Abram came tumbling out. Abram wasn’t given a chance to interrupt as the words burbled happily over him. When she finally stopped because she’d recounted everything up to the present, he took a deep breath and tried to get as much information as he could out of her. He worked out where she’d seen Riley from the clues Elsie had bothered to remember, and even roughly what direction Riley had been heading in. There didn’t seem to be any chance of finding Riley by searching on foot, but Abram hoped he could at least stop the Sheriff from intervening. He went back to Al’s home, got a pen and paper together, and he and Elsie wrote a letter to the Sheriff asking him to please not hurt their friend.

      On the Lawson farm, Riley’s miserable reverie was slowly intruded on by the sounds of a commotion emanating from the family home. They could hear voices coming from far off and near, all calling out a single name. “Mary! Mary!”

      They shook themselves free of their misery long enough to go outside. Jarred was standing there, looking shocked to see Riley emerge from the stables. He’d been in and out all day, but Riley had kept out of sight. But he was also distracted, and didn’t waste time asking what Riley was doing there. When Riley asked what the commotion was, Jarred explained that his niece, Mary, was missing. Riley joined the search, going off on their own, seeing what tracks they could find.

      It took them a few hours, but they found the young girl’s tracks leading towards town. Riley eventually found her sitting in the lee of a rock, some distance from the road. She was filthy and looked absolutely miserable. Not sure how to approach the situation, Riley stood somewhere where they were plainly visible and waved. When the girl made no effort to come closer, Riley tentatively advanced. The girl stood up, and Riley froze in place. At last, Riley spoke, telling the girl that her parents were worried and looking for her. She stared at her feet at that, and told them that she didn’t want to go back. Her family was cursed. They were poor, their animals and crops kept dying, her parents were never happy, she was never happy. But she was lost and tired and hungry and she wasn’t too hard to persuade to get onto Terah’s back and allow Riley to lead her back to the farm.

      Back in town, Al and Abram got into Al’s car, joined by two local boys who’d agreed to help. They drove north from the town, reaching a farm that looked like it had fallen upon hard times. There was no one in the farmhouse when they knocked, but they could see figures out in the fields. One of those figures came towards them, a lean young man with a worried expression.

      “Time’s up, Jack. Time to pay,” Al said, sounding almost bored.

      The man protested. His daughter was missing. Once he found her he’d be able to get the money together. If Al would just come back in a few days’ time…

      Al gave Abram a look, one Abram knew the meaning of. He stepped forward. Jack clearly recognised the danger. He threw a punch at Abram. Even though the Tammuz made no effort to dodge the blow, the wild swing still went wide. Then Abram slammed his fist into the base of Jack’s jaw. Something crunched. He staggered, slipped to one knee. Half a broken tooth fell from his lips, a thin trail of blood with it. Then Abram was on top of the farmer, bearing him down to the ground, pinning his arms easily.

      Al whistled, and his two helpers came out of the car. He sent them towards one of the barns, and they soon emerged carrying bits and pieces that Abram recognised from a still. Once they had removed everything the car would carry, they went back inside one last time. Abram could hear glass breaking, loud bangs, as whatever else was in there was systematically destroyed. Jack mumbled pleas through his bloody lips. The bank would repossess the farm if they didn’t make the next repayment. His family would be homeless. Al didn’t seem to be listening.

      At last, the men emerged. Al looked down at Jack and sighed. “Sorry about this, Jack,” he said, and kicked the man in the head. Jack went limp. Al walked back towards the car, and Abram dutifully followed. They drove away.

      A horrified Riley slumped against the wall of the main farmhouse. They’d been watching everything, keeping Mary out of sight where she couldn’t see. At last they stepped out, carrying Mary, in time to see Jarred and the woman they assumed was Jarred’s sister, Jack’s wife, come rushing up. The woman, Maureen, was too distracted by her husband’s injury to pay much attention to their return. She made sure Jack was still breathing, then tried to help him up.

      Then Jarred spotted the open barn door. He rushed to it, swung it open. When he saw the destruction inside he threw his head back and howled.

      Riley let Mary run to her mother. They stared at the tableau.

      “Be better,” they said quietly to the stunned family. And then they left.

      Although Riley felt the temptation to seek out the source of their vision from the Athanor, the place of pale leaves and still water, they couldn’t let things with Abram stand like this. They stuck to the outskirts of Joseph’s Cross, wandering until they found the car they’d seen up at the Lawson farm. They saw Al saying goodbye to Abram, and then driving off. Abram went back inside the house.

      Riley approached the building. They checked the windows, spotting Elsie inside as well, but no humans. They went to the front door and knocked.

      The following hour was long, almost excruciatingly so. The throng was wounded, Abram and Riley each felt aggrieved by the other’s actions. Abram felt Riley had no right to criticise the recent violence, when it had been committed so that the throng would have somewhere to stay and look for Riley. He was able to explain, finally, that the pain Riley had suffered was unintended. And when it was clear that Riley was still hurt, he offered to go out and look for someone to care for them. He wanted to help. He had always just wanted to help.

      Riley, for their part, was struggling with guilt at having behaved so much like Malik. They recounted what had happened to them since they had left the group, and described the visions they’d had of the pale leaves. They told Abram to go and look for Iris, since she had been the one who had cared for them originally, and she had mentioned she was a gardener. She might know something.

      Abram went to look, since it wasn’t safe for Riley to be wandering the streets with the Sheriff looking for them. They ask around and are able to find Iris’s house. They pass Sarah Lawson’s dress shop, and see the Sheriff inside speaking to her.

      Iris, for her part, is happy to come. All Abram tells her is that he is from out of town, and that his child is hurt. When they arrive at the house and step inside, she is surprised to see Riley. She starts to care for them, and tells them that they need to stay put for the next few days in order to completely heal.

      As she works, Riley asks her about the plant. As they describe it, Iris begins to look worried. She asks them where they heard of it, and Riley lies and says that the priest spoke of it. This seems to concern Iris even more. She looks at the other two Prometheans, and tells Riley that, although she likes them, she isn’t sure if she can trust their family. Riley persuades her otherwise, telling her how far out of their way their family had come to look for them.

      At last, Iris agrees. “When you are healed, I will take you to the plant you described,” she says.


      • #18
        A few quick notes I didn't really find a good way to weave into the story:

        Mary Lawson is at Disquiet Level 1, because Riley's player is just so darn good at rolling Disquiet checks.

        Riley completed the Watcher Role when they decided not to get involved in the Abram/Al vs Jack Lawson dispute. They haven't yet settled on a new role or the new Alembics they've unlocked, but I'll make some note of it when they do.

        I glossed over a loooot of the conversation between Riley and Abram, but this was basically the heart of the session. One of the things I most regret about this way of recapping the game is that I can't quite capture that kind of back-and-forth roleplay very well So much drama.


        • #19
          Chapter 5 – The Root of the Problem

          Riley took a few days before they felt fully recovered from their wounds. Iris visited every day, checking on their progress. She didn't talk much, but she didn't show any visible signs of suffering from Disquiet.

          On the Sunday, Elsie attended the church service out of curiosity. The Reverend seemed pleased to see her there, though a little wary after the revelation that she was friends with Riley, but the two didn't spend much time talking. Afterwards she wandered around town for a while, but all the stores were shut and she ended up back at the house. The following day she picked up the new clothes for Baby.

          Iris had deemed Riley fit earlier that morning. She came back in the evening and led the throng to a hill outside of Joseph's Cross. There were a group of figures, hard to make out in the darkness, waiting for them when they arrived. It wasn't until they were almost face to face that Abram and Elsie recognised the Sheriff. Abram tensed, but Iris hurried to make clear that they meant no harm. The sheriff, and those with him, were locals who knew of the plant the characters had described. She beckoned them to follow her, and parted the long, hanging grass on the hill to reveal a deep passage, tall enough for even Abram to walk down without stooping. Just inside where was a small sign nailed to the wall. "Sioc's Cavern".

          The group descended into the depths of Sioc’s Cavern. Iris spoke to Riley, telling them of how she found this place. She described how Joseph's Cross had been devastated by the onset of the Dust Bowl, the first Black Blizzard several years ago had almost destroyed it. Her own home’s roof caved in. Her husband was shattered and left her in the aftermath. Then she heard the voice one day while trying to coax life back into her garden. The voice, named, Sioc told her what she needed to do to restore the fortunes of the town.

          As the rocky entrance gave way to a maze of slick clay walls and damp air, the sheriff further back in the line mentioned to Elsie and Abram that he had got her letter asking him to show mercy to Riley. Elsie found this enormously gratifying.

          The twists and turns the throng had to follow quickly made it clear that it would have been easy to get lost without Iris as their guide. At last the tunnels gave way to a cavern. The circle of light from their guides' torches didn't illuminate very far, but they could see a large pool of water running almost to the cavern's entrance. It was clear and shallow, hardly more than ankle height. Iris's decision to wear wellingtons became a bit more clear, as she strode forward into the pool. The flickering light of her torch soon illuminated a tangled mass of vines sporting large, pale leaves. The leaves dipped low to the water, as if drinking it.

          Riley opened their eyes to Twilight, and found that the plant existed both there and in the real world. They looked back and saw that their water spirit companion was coiled at the entrance to the cavern, refusing to come closer to the plant. They stepped forward, took a deep breath, and reached out to one of the leaves. When they touched it their muscles locked in place. Though to Abram and Elsie it looked like Riley was just, just barely brushing their fingertips across the leaves, Riley felt utterly paralysed. And then they felt a sibilant voice slide into their mind.

          “What do you wish?”

          Riley's thoughts filled with Malik, their need to find him, their desire to find out where he had gone.

          “And what are you willing to pay?”

          Riley's first thoughts were of their Pyros, but Sioc’s revulsion was immediate and clear. It hissed into their mind about its hatred for such burning, twisting change. Riley's muscles trembled, but they didn't lose contact with the plant. They thought then of their physical possessions, but Sioc gave the mental equivalent of a yawn. It had no interest in such things. Finally, Riley considered the ephemera in their bodies in place of blood, and Sioc was intrigued. It asked for a taste, and in return it would show them what they wanted. Riley asked for a moment to speak to the others, and Sioc generously allowed it.

          It took a few minutes for the Prometheans to come a decision. Abram didn't like the idea of Riley being hurt by this thing. Iris was standing nearby so he couldn't express his true feelings, but he desperately wanted to bring the entire cavern crashing down.

          Riley couldn't be dissuaded. They stepped back to Sioc to let the creature know and found their hand plunging onto one of the thorns and dragging, carving a deep, long furrow in their flesh. No ectoplasm gushed from the wound, every drop was pulled into Sioc.

          In the midst of the sudden loss of essence they saw in their mind's eye a vision of Malik rushing into the church, his right arm smoking. They heard a sound like a pack of hunting dogs. They could dimly hear Sioc’s voice saying that after that night, Malik fled north and beyond Sioc's sight, leaving corruption in his wake. When Riley’s eyes opened they realised from the Vitriol in their veins that the Jovian Athanor has been resolved.

          Iris's eyes clouded and she started to speak with a voice that Riley recognised as having echoes of Sioc's. She told them that their caustic presence would undo the good work Sioc had worked upon Joseph's Cross. They were ordered to leave town in the next 24 hours.

          They are led from the cave and head back to town. Riley wanted to make sure they had investigated the matter of the ghost in the graveyard before they left Joseph's Cross. The throng headed to the graveyard, where they waited until past midnight for the spectre to appear. The young black man appeared in the same place as before, beneath the broken bough of the graveyard's only tree. The rope around his neck trailed behind him as he ran towards the church.

          The Prometheans, who had hidden within the graveyard, rushed in to talk to the ghost. He pushed past them, pausing only when Riley grabbed him. He had materialised physically, but was uninterested in conversation. His only words were cries for mercy. Abram grunted and clasped at his head, feeling a cavalcade of images and sensations fill his mind. He was being beaten, burnt, hung. He choked and gagged. The ghost struggles against Riley who, rather than hold on, chose to release him. Abram staggered upright and the Prometheans followed him into the church. Riley stayed at the door as the others headed inside.

          The ghost rushed to the altar, hands reaching out for it. Just before they made contact his body froze, and Abram and Elsie could see his flesh indent and his clothes bunch in places moments before he was hurled to the ground by invisible hands. He curled into a ball and his body jerked and shuddered as if he was being kicked and beaten. In the midst of it his eyes fix on a place somewhere above him and he pleads, “Please, Sheriff.” Then his eyes went wide and he vanished.

          The three Prometheans stood there in silence for some time. At last Abram told the others that they should go and pack and be ready to leave. When Riley turned to stare at him, he shrugged and said that when they confronted the Sheriff they would probably want to be able to get out of town quickly.

          They arrived at the Sheriff's home a few hours before dawn. Riley attempted to pick the lock, but their fumbling alerted the Sheriff. Riley and Abram hid when the door opened, to reveal the Sheriff with one hand hidden behind the door and obviously grasping a weapon. Elsie was left standing there in front of him. She smiled up at him disarmingly claimed that she just came by to say farewell. She asked him if he wanted to sit down for a cup of tea. The Sheriff stares at her beaming face for a moment, and then lets her inside.

          He was standing in the kitchen with his back turned to her when Elsie burned her Pyros and lashed at him with her Disquiet, forcing it into his mind. She charged him, trying to use that power to force him into submission, but he fended her off and struck her across the face. Elsie staggered, snarled, and leapt on him. The two were struggling when Riley and Abram rushed. Riley was carrying the sheriff’s shotgun, left by the door. Pointing the weapon at him, with Elsie still hanging from his neck, they ordered him to freeze.

          Slowly, carefully, the Sheriff raised his hands.