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Chronicle Report: Keepers of the Wyck

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  • Saikou
    Session 13.1

    The final segment in the Umbral Quest for the Egg.

    Cast list:
    Alfred Camlann: Excalibur Mage
    Sean Heath: Templar Knight

    Notable NPCs include

    Vivian: High Priestess
    Kael: Talisman Crafter.

    ---CHAPTER 13b: A TANGLED WEB---

    The sky is a dark malaise of broken hues. A soft glow surrounds the mountains Alfred finds himself, and they slowly seem to be brightening. When a gap in the clouds slides into place, the rich beams of the full moon break through the darkness, piercing the haze and providing a brief moment of brilliant clarity. Alfred has been waiting for longer than he can tell, but the spider spirit showed no sign of changing. He needed a way to get up to the aetherian reaches, and since climbing was far too difficult for him, finding a spirit to open a moon bridge directly seemed the only other way. Getting restless waiting for the spider, he investigates the small cave behind him, from which a strange clicking sound can be heard. Soon a strange, blue and brown snake like creature slivers out of it. A serpentine, one of the nature spirits of the stones.

    Alfred: Hello?
    Serpentine: It speaks?
    Alfred: Yes, I was wondering if I could have some help?
    Serpentine: Help could be provided if the need was so.
    Alfred: Do you know any spirits that can open a moon bridge?
    Serpentine: I am aware of them…
    Alfred: are there spirits that can make moon bridges in the cave?
    Serpentine: There are certainly things round and silvery within.
    Alfred: …ok. What about you? Can you open a moon bridge?
    Serpentine: I may only assist to those who show their merit.
    Alfred: Right, what do you need?
    Serpentine: Tell me, what do you think lies within this cave?
    Alfred: uh… I have no idea.
    Serpentine: Answer this: What Fishermen use to make their day is weaved within the create all.
    Alfred: Oh… a riddle.

    Alfred mused on this one for a while. He thought about what fishermen us. Rope, lines, boats, hooks, nets… Nets are weaved…
    He thought of all the stories he knew within the spirit world, of how reality is weaved and maintained by the pattern spiders…

    Alfred: The web, the pattern spider’s web is there.
    Serpentine: And then what may be there which is both round and silver?
    Alfred: A pattern spider? Maybe?

    The Serpentine swayed its head, enjoying the look of uncertainty on Alfred’s face. They had a short exchange of riddles, with Alfred getting less and less certain of his reasoning.

    Further up the mountain, Sean took a moment to look down and noticed that Alfred was nowhere to be seen.

    Sean: Vivian! We’ve lost Alfred.
    Vivian: Wait here, I go see what’s happened.

    Vivian calls out a chant and transforms into a bird, swooping down out of view. Sean gets himself to a ledge on the mountains face and waits holding the egg. He looks around at the dark atmosphere with uncertainty. Truly this was a godforsaken land, rife with all manner of demons. No sooner had he thought this that a noise was heard behind him. A pattern spider had climbed on to the ledge from a hole not far away. Sean jumped into action, readying his gun, the creature spat its web and started to bind Sean up. He struggled against it, pulling hard and snapping the thread as the spider swiped at him. Sean fired his gun and the spider recoiled, but did not relent. It shot its web and this time caught the egg. Sean stopped shooting, not wanting to hit the egg as it clambered along the rock. He tried to get his pistol as close to it as he could and fired straight into it.
    The spider, seemingly hurt, retreated with the egg back towards the hole. Sean leapt over it and caught on to the side, almost falling over the precipice. Sean pulled himself away from peril and towards the whole, using his body as a way to block the spider’s retreat. Sean didn’t have much time, so he focused on the hole, taking out his crucifix and chanting a prayer to ask that the hole be sealed. It started closing up, but the spider drew too close for Sean to finish the effect. The spider dove into the whole, but could not take the egg which fell and began to roll down the mountain. Sean made another herculean leap and caught the egg while keeping balance.
    He stopped, breathing heavily and he held his stance on the side of the mountain. Vivian was nowhere to be seen and it was far too dangerous to wait. He continued his ascent towards the cloud canopy above.

    The serpent seemed happy with Alfred, and started making a corkscrew motion. Before his eyes, a narrow beam of light appeared from the Serpentine and shot straight up towards the sky, it grew into a sturdy thick path, a moon bridge had been opened.

    Vivian arrived, guided by the light.

    Vivian: I see you’ve found your own way up.
    Alfred: Yes…
    Vivian: Be careful, the moon bridges only last until the end of night. When you get up, head towards the mountain.
    Alfred: Of course.

    Vivian flew off and Alfred took his first tentative steps onto this beam of silver blue light.
    It was much more stable than he imagined, and felt almost like stepping on tempered glass. The ascent as much less steep than the mountain, and felt a lot more confident as he climbed away from the mountain and towards the sky, the brilliant light of Luna acting as his guide.
    Shimmering ribbons of light began to circle him. He looked and recognise them; the spirits that Lydia spoke with, the Lunes.
    Alfred paused, and tried to bow his head in a show of respect. The Lunes circled him with deliberate pace, gradually getting faster and faster. One stops and floats inches away from Alfreds face, it’s ribbons rotating furiously. Alfred tries to speak with them, but they do not respond. A thought goes across his mind, “Where’s Lydia when you need her…” The Lune strikes Alfred, pushing right through him as it floats. Alfred gives up any pretence of respect and runs up the bridge; the Lunes follow in pursuit but lag behind, their erratic behaviour pushing them in odd directions.
    Alfred runs up, but looks behind him just before passing through, only a single Lune is behind him. With nowhere else to turn, Alfred pushes through to the Aetherian Reaches.

    The landscape is magnificent. As far as they can see the ground is littered with clouds, spirits fly all around and above them the wonders of the cosmos appear in vivid view. All planets are visible as are a cacophony of stars. There is no darkness up here, but a flurry of light. Every planet is so vivid and detailed it looks as though you could reach up and touch it, though they all remain out of reach, as distant as their mundane counterparts. The moon starts to disappear over the horizon, and with it the bridge Alfred stands on begins to fade away. Tentatively he steps on to the clouds and is surprised that, not only do they take his weight, they feel both sturdy and soft. As the sun rises, a shimmer of rainbow light is seen reflected over the entire sky, the dreamshell Alfred had heard so much about. The stars and planets remain totally visible no matter how bright the sun becomes.
    Beyond the edge of this world, within a haze of mist and light, tall spires reach up into swirling clouds just out of view. From what little he knows, he can tell that this is a glimpse of the Astral Realm. The high umbra.

    It does not take long for Alfred and Sean to find each other, the pull of their stone runes brings them to a point along the clouds. Once they meet, Vivian soars down, tells them that the two of them should head over to the tree and wait. She will meet with the Talons of Horus and lead them to where they are.

    She flies off. Alfred and Sean notice a strange tree which seems to be growing out of the clouds and head in that direction. On the way, Sean notices what looks to him an Angel float nearby. He had wondered if he had been taken to some version of heaven after his trials in the hell bellow, and this may just confirm this idea.

    Alfred: Sam, where are you going?
    Sean: I must speak with the angel.
    Alfred: …Is it necessary?
    Sean: Of course!
    Alfred: Fine, but give me the egg first.

    Sean gives up the egg and makes his way to the Angel, bowing at it.

    Sean: I am at your service.
    Angel: What is it you seek?
    Sean: To deliver an egg.
    Angel: Then you shall do it.
    Sean: Yes.

    Sean walked away, not wishing to interrupt the spirit from its duties. Alfred was wondering whether or not this was actually a Valkyrie.

    [ST NOTE: Yep, this exchange turned out to be as pointless as it seems. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this sort of felt like a missed opportunity on Sean’s part. Here he was in what he thought was Heaven next to literal Capital A, Angels, and all he does is tell them he’s delivering an egg. There’s a Futurama episode in that somewhere…]

    Alfred watched from a distance while this exchange ended and Sean walked back, keeping careful hold of the egg. But something was moving the egg, jostling it about, and pushing it out of Alfred’s hands. The egg rolled down to the edge of the clouds. Sean immediately ran ahead and dived over the egg and almost fell over the edge. He grasped out and managed to grab the edge, just in time to push the egg back before it rolled off.
    Alfred picked up the egg and held it tight, but it wouldn’t stop moving. The egg lifted into the air with Alfred dangling off. Sean pulled himself back up just in time to witness the flung about Alfred. Alfred realised what they were dealing with, a Wind Sprite had come to play.

    Alfred: Excuse me, I know you’re having fun but could you stop?
    Wind: Stop?
    Alfred: Yes, could you put me down please?
    Wind: Oh, you want to go down.

    The Sprite carried the egg and Alfred over the edge, and just hung him there. Sean prepared his gun as he watched the spirit try to whip Alfred off.
    Through a series of Charisma rolls, Alfred was able to convince the spirit to just let him back on the clouds. He and Sean made their way to the tree just as a large storm cloud was drawing near. Except it wasn’t a storm cloud, but a cloud of about a hundred different kinds of birds, all flying rapidly towards them. Vivian was amongst them, and flew down to human form besides them. She took the egg and presented it to the flock.
    The egg slowly rose in the air, cracks forming around it. Two magnificent black and blue wings burst through, followed by a head which completely shattered the shell. The Talons flew around the new bird who gently joined the flock. They spoke to Alfred and Sean with gratitude.
    Two black and blue feathers fell from the new bird and landed in front of the two mages, and the Talons of Horus flew off into the sky and out of sight.

    Vivian: This was why it was important you were both here. The spirits must recognise the deeds you do for them. These feathers may be a mark of this, and a way to ask for favours in the future.

    Sean took a look at the feather with Prime sense, and realised it was Tass containing 4 points of quintessence. This could come in handy.

    Vivian said it was time they returned home, and asked that they follow her. She then jumped off the edge of the clouds.

    Sean: She wants us to jump?
    Alfred: Well, she said to follow her, didn’t she.
    Sean: If we jump, and she’s just turned into a bird half way down… I swear.

    Alfred jumps, and with nowhere else to go, Sean follows.

    The wind roars past them as they fall. Beneath them a forest hurtles ever closer. Starting to panic, the two of them work to cast effects to break their fall. Alfred focuses on the grass, trying to build a bed of daffodils to land on, while Sean prays for assistance, so that his shoes may become more elastic, bounce, and absorb the fall. Their effects set off, and they land, but neither receives any problems. They land without incident on the ground. The two of them are equally bewildered.

    Vivian: The first time is always a bit confusing. Falling from the Aetherian reaches is almost never painful.
    Alfred: I see… Good to know.
    Sean: We’ll have to go back for the Surtur sword now.
    Vivian: Oh yes, your promise… I’m not sure how we would return, the Spirit Wilds rarely stays consistent.
    Alfred: Would it not be possible to take the Pattern Web there?
    Vivian: The Pattern Web?
    Alfred: It connects to everywhere, doesn’t it?
    Vivian: It does, yes. But it is far too dangerous. Besides, I am worried we have been away from the Chantry too long already. We need to return.
    Sean: We can’t leave without that sword.
    Alfred: We’ll have to come back for it on our own.

    Vivian looks in concern at the two of them.

    Vivian: If you truly intend to travel the Pattern Web, then I think your first time doing so is best done with me. We can use the Pattern Web to return to the penumbra, but we’ll need a spirit guide or we’ll get lost.

    Vivian leads them towards a large cave with a number of spider webs coiling out from it. The webs themselves seem much sturdier than what you’d expect; thick strands which mesh into the ground and the stone, as though seeing a wire frame from which the environment was built upon. Alfred notices upon one of these strands a small chrome cockroach crawling slowly along the surface of the web. The Kilakac’n. He remembered what Lydia had said of their helpfulness.

    Alfred: Excuse me
    Cockroach: Aah!!!

    The roach ran along the web and behind a rock.

    Alfred: It’s ok, I’m not here to hurt you. I need help.
    Cockroach: Help? Help what?
    Alfred: We want to get to the penumbra through the web. Do you know the way?
    Cockroach: The way? Yes, can help.
    Alfred: What would you like in exchange?
    Cockroach: Got food?
    Alfred: What kind?
    Cockroach: sweet. Sweet is good.

    Alfred looked around and saw a thorny bramble. He took it and caused it to explode with a great number of blackberries. He gathered them up and held them up to the kilakac’n to eat. He noticed that the spirit seemed unwilling to step off the web and so brought his bounty closer.

    Cockroach: Ok, follow.

    Vivian, Alfred, and Sean followed the cockroach as it walked along the web. Soon the cave began to fall away, any notion of ground or wall quickly fell. All that they could see is a massive web going in every direction imaginable. There seemed to rhyme nor reason to its construction, and yet it’s design was so intricate. It felt solid to traverse, but its terrain was inconsistent. Sometimes the web formed great tubes or cliff faces. Sometimes it would turn to a path, or a multitude of crossing paths all about them. Sometimes it turned to its side and required the group climb vertically. Around the web were fragments of other paths or structures, but beyond that only a dark black void. No one wished to consider what might lie beyond the abyss.

    While passing through a more cavernous area of web, a muffled sound is heard, like someone crying through a gag. Sean stops for a moment.

    Alfred: Sam, what are you doing?
    Sean: Can’t you hear that? We have to help them.
    Vivian: We can’t stay here long, it’s not safe.
    Sean: I have to try. Give me a moment.
    Alfred: I’ll keep a look out for him.

    Vivian waited with the Kilakac’n as the two of them walked towards the cry.
    Sean follows the sound and finds something wriggling, hanging of the wall, someone is trapped. Sean rushes over to the body.

    Alfred: Don’t damage the web.

    Disregarding his words, Sean gets to work pulling at the strands which bind the figure. Alfred looks around, and notices a slight bit of movement.

    Alfred: Sam! Hurry up… Something’s about!

    Sean continues to pull apart at the strands, cursing the fact he didn’t bring a knife. Before he can make any more progress, however, a great Guardian Spider slowly descends down the wall towards Sean and strikes him across the chest.

    Alfred panics and calls for Sean to give up and leave. Sean hesitates, compelled to help any in need, yet aware of the imminent danger he and the others are in. As the spider draws nearer, he pulls himself away and runs. While avoiding the strike of the spider, the Kilakac’n runs down the side of one of the webs, and instructs that everyone hang off the edge. The three of them do so, and wait.
    They hear the spider moving about above them, and the return to the web behind it. They wait, neither one daring to move. Alfred begins to lose his grip and slips, Sean makes a grab for him but in so doing falls. Vivian catches them, forming a human rope hanging perilously over the darkness. Alfred and Sean struggle trying to climb back up, with little progress made. But as they struggle, the entire web seems to shift orientation, curving around and forward. Vivian has cast an effect, shifting gravity ever so slightly to bring them back to solid ground. A terrible clicking is heard, and they suspect the magic has drawn the attention of the pattern spiders.
    They start to run, but Alfred is struck and falls, a web is shot and slowly pulls Alfred away. Sean jumps back and pulls Alfred away, carrying his body and trying to leave. They run for a while longer down the snaking corridors and bridges of the Pattern Web, following the lead of the coackroach, the spider in hot pursuit. It strikes several times but misses, until it doesn’t hurtling Sean to the ground. The spider draws close, it’s mechanical legs stepping ever closer. The web around it begins to react, curling around the spider, Vivian stands between them and the spirit, calling an effect to ensnare the beast. She gestures at the two of them to run, and they do, following the cockroach down a long series of tubes and into what looks like a small cave.

    Cockroach: We wait here.
    Alfred: For how long?
    Cockroach: Until safe.
    Sean: Was Vivian following us?
    Alfred: No, she stayed behind to fend it off. I can’t imagine they’d be too happy about someone messing around with their web.
    Sean: Let’s hope she can take care of herself.
    Alfred: She’s the high-priestess, probably the most powerful mage we’ve met so far.

    Alfred tends to his wounds; using the berries he still carried in his hand to sooth his wounds.
    And then they wait. Hours go by, how many is impossible to tell. The cave they lie in seems quite distinct from the web itself, as though they reached another piece of the umbra, but had been blocked off some time before. The cockroach still seemed adamant not to step off the web, and remained standing on the strands, occasionally moving as though listening out for something distant.

    Cockroach: Ok, let’s go.

    Neither one knew how much time had passed. Alfred unhooked the stone rune from his necklace and felt its pull, Vivian must be nearby. He tried to tell the Kilakac’n but the creature seemed adamant that they leave now.

    Cockroach: We must go now. Before it is not safe.
    Alfred: But we have to find Vivian first.
    Cockroach: Cannot find and leave, the web is too big.
    Alfred: We can use this to find her.

    Vivian appeared from around a corner, somewhat surprised that they were all here. She herself had been running around trying to find them using the rune while evading the spiders. Relieved but not relaxed, the three of them continued to follow the cockroach as it lead them over yet more tangled web. After a time, the web began to become more systematic, pillars started forming around them, and large metallic structures starts to loom over them like some kind of cathedral frame. The web gradually lessened as they came closer and closer to a misty light, and before long its shape changed to that of buildings surrounded with web. They had arrived back in the penumbra of London. Alfred recognised that they had reached Camden. They thanked the cockroach and informed him of others that had been seen near Holloway Police Station, to which the cockroach seemed pleased to know, walking away.

    Before they could return home and cross the gauntlet, Vivian knew it was important that they healed their wounds first to minimize the risk of the storm. They walked towards the node on Hampstead Heath. As they walked, Vivian and Alfred could not help but notice the ground had started to turn brown around the ponds. Corruption was spreading, and when Alfred looked on within the ponds, instead of Water Nymphs, he spied only one of the Wyrm’s poisoned elementals.

    Vivian: What has happened hear…

    Alfred explained to her the brambles that Malady had asked them to plant, and the effect he thinks they had.

    Vivian: Melonie… I never thought she would… Quickly, let us gather our strength and return to the chantry.

    Sean could not see any of this, the Heath seemed little more than vividly lit with vibrant autumnal hues. The three of them gathered quintessence, and Vivian healed them all of any damage. They then followed her back to the chantry. Alfred noted that there was no real corresponding penumbral place where the lower chantry sat, instead they would climb up a hill towards the grand tree who’s mundane counterpart stood within the chantry. The hill seemed only present if you knew where to look. Once climbed, Alfred was given the honour of pulling them back through.

    The storm was calmer this time round, and all three managed to pass its wind unscathed. Their bodies returned to their physical form, without swirling patterns, or bright light. Vivian left to put on her clothes, and Alfred stood triumphant, feeling as though he had done something worthy of being called a Verbena. Sean was just happy to be back on the correct side of the gauntlet.

    When Vivian emerged, there was a look of unmistakable concern on her face. She had decided that there was no other alternative; she would have to tell them about Melonie.

    Vivian: Before we found Melonie, she had been part of a village community. But the village had ostracised her, they called her The Malady. We took her in and started training her, giving her avenues to learn and take command of her awakened powers, we even trained her as the Coven Maiden. But Granny Elm could see something in her, and told me she was a Widderlsainte. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but in time, as her confidence grew, it became much more apparent. I tried to teach her, to guide her away from that path, but then she did something terrible.
    Alfred: What did she do?

    Vivian paused, as though pained to recall the thought, and then continued.

    Vivian: It’s not important. What is important is what happened afterwards. I took her aside and tried to talk to her, but things go heated, I lost my temper and she stormed out, angrily. Many other members lost their confidence in me, they didn’t agree with the way I handled it, and they left.
    Alfred: How many people were there before now?
    Vivian: Eleven. Over the course of the next few months, a total of four of them left including Alfred’s apprentice, Alex.
    Alfred: Did you try speaking to them?
    Vivian: What could I say? If they no longer saw me as a voice of authority, then what right do I have to tell them how to act?
    Alfred: It’s ok Vivian, you’re human. And to be human is to make mistakes.
    Vivian: Responsibilities don’t allow for such mistakes

    Having heard this, Sean starts to question his view of the pagans. Perhaps there were more layers here than he first thought.

    Kael appeared with a serious look on his face, though it softened somewhat when he saw Vivian had returned. He informed them of the break in that had happened a few days ago, and their missing artifact, a ceremonial dagger. He invited the three of them to examine the office. Sean used his Prime sense, and could feel a lingering magical pattern, of the kind that only recent vulgar effects create. It spanned the door frame and the corner of the room nearest the desk, though was not a sphere he had much experience with.
    Alfred sensed out the Resonances of the room, and could feel a number of them. In the room a heavy Insightful and Seething resonance filled the area, with a small amount of Swirling resonance, which he recognised to be Vivian’s. In addition was a sedated Lost resonance, and a weak yet visible Constant one.

    While investigating the drawers, Alfred came upon a letter which seemed somewhat reminiscent.

    “Yes, it is difficult. The extent of the Nephandi’s reach can be confounding even for those with years of experience. I can recall a coven who’s High Priest had fallen years before his true nature was discovered. By that time, a lot of damage had already been done. Many innocent people suffered greatly, the land had been spoiled, and half the circle had fallen along with him. The damage was immeasurable. If your coven’s maiden is truly tainted, then you must deal with her as soon as possible. Such a corrupting force cannot be allowed the chance to grow and spread. You put the whole cabal at risk if you don’t. I understand your concern and hesitation, and no, it isn’t fair for anyone who is born corrupted. But-“

    Alfred slipped the letter in his pocket while Vivian was distracted speaking with Sean. From his grandfather’s letter, he knew Boris used to be his apprentice, and Boris had been in contact with him until as recent as the previous year, and it wasn’t until earlier in the year Melonie left and the other Keepers followed suit. Zandros was still an unknown as no one in the Keepers had any knowledge about him, though his actions seemed incredibly nephandic. Perhaps Zandros had found her and converted her entirely towards the path of the nephandi…

    Sean asked Vivian a few questions.

    Sean: Is it possible that Melonie can still enter the Chantry?
    Vivian: No, you’d need a necklace to enter.
    Sean: We saw her with one.
    Vivian: But its power has been removed, she would not be able to enter.
    Sean: Not unless someone helped her in.
    Vivian: But then anyone may enter if they are helped in, not just her…

    Alfred excused himself, and started to talk with Sean about what he had suspected. They then retired to bed, having realised that neither of them had sleep, or even much need for sleep, while exploring the Umbra.

    And thus concludes my first real attempt at roleplaying a spirit world quest. They did pretty well, though they did neglect the Surtur’s sword, so the Norns are probably going to come up again to screw things around. If you guys have any ideas on how the Norns would mess with these mages lives, by all means throw them at me.
    Out of character, both Alfred and Sean’s players were almost certain that Helen had something to do with the robbery. The only hint they had in character that it could be her is when Kael told them that darkness had been moved around, and that her Constant Resonance was present near the effects, though it was still fairly circumstantial. In the words of Alfred’s Player “Oh Helen, please tell me you haven’t been this stupid”. If only Helen’s player was there to respond.
    Next week will be the last two sessions before Holiday Break. Think of is as a Season Finale of sorts. Unless other people turn up, I’ll have one session with Hanson and Helen and may include a confrontation with Boris, and another with the other four and a long awaited Progenitor battle. Other things may happen though; it really does depend on what direction the players pull.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    13th Session

    Doing two sessions a week and having players choose which of the two days they can do is starting to bite back at me, because certain groups get certain bits of information that they then fail to share with the rest of the group, either because they forgot not everyone was aware, or because they simply didn't realise it was important. Needless to say it's resulted in a lot of problems with trying to get players to do things and keep them all on the same page. Hopefully giving them a chance to sit down and talk about what's been going on will help.

    Cast List:
    Helen Walter: Hermetic Spy
    Lydia: Moon Witch
    Aaron Gibson: Punk Hacker
    Joe Hanson: Noir Detective

    Notable NPCs Include:

    Camellia: Coven Maiden
    Kael: Talisman Crafter
    Mica: Techno Witch

    Sarah Phillips: Edwin's Sister

    ---CHAPTER 13a: SLOW DOWN---

    Arron sat in his room in the Keeper’s sanctuary. He had been there all day in quiet contemplation. That dream he had, it ended in him falling into darkness. He knew it was something important, as though he was on the edge of discovering something great, and he had actively chosen against it. Perhaps this was some kind of message, as though something in his mind was punishing for being so subservient. It was still so clear in his head, he had a choice to make, he knew he had to do for himself, but instead he did for another… Perhaps he should start charging for his services or something. He then remembered the Esther file. There was something going on with it, perhaps he should go home and take another look at it.
    There was a knock at the door, Camellia came inside.

    Camellia: Hello?
    Aaron: Oh…hi.
    Camellia: You haven’t left your room all day, is everything alright?
    Aaron: Yeah… mostly.
    Camellia: I know what that’s like, would you like some tea?
    Aaron: what kind?
    Camellia: The kind I usually drink.
    Aaron: …sure.

    He follows her down into the communal kitchen, and starts to brew him her Mind effect tea. Upon drinking it, suddenly everything that Aaron was concerned about started to float away. It was as though all his worries had just faded into mist, and he was left floating in a sea of calm, nothing was all that important after all.

    Helen and Hanson were quietly arguing. Hanson was certain that they had to get back to the Keepers, try to gather people up and tell them what they’ve found out so far, before whoever the black cloak guy was came back and made them forget all of it. Helen was not willing to do this though. She wanted to follow this guy, she wanted to know why Boris had come here, and she absolutely didn’t want to lose them. Hanson eventually won out, and Helen agreed to make a note of GPS coordinates on her phone and moved to a nearby tree to mark it with a spiral. Hanson turned, pulled up his sound focusing effect and tried to listen out. He could hear people talking.

    Male: “Did they follow you?”
    Male: “No, I made sure they left.”
    Female: “Right, let’s get through then.”

    Hanson looks as Helen who now has a strange spiral pattern over her skin. A mild bit of paradox perhaps. Helen was less happy about this, she had more paradox about her than she was comfortable with. She took out her wand and extended her dark vision to Hanson in order to assist with their escape.

    Lydia arrived back at the keepers, and found Aaron down in the node room, lying under a tree and fiddling with stones.

    Lydia: Aaron?
    Aaron: Oh hi Lydia…
    Lydia: Is everything ok?
    Aaron: Oh yeah! Have you seen these rocks? They’re so…nice.
    Lydia: I see…
    Aaron: They’ve got ten flat sides, and they’re so good to hold, and if you squint you can even see numbers on them.
    Lydia: Have you had any of Camellia’s tea?
    Aaron: How did you know?

    Hanson and Lydia arrived back at the Chantry around this time. On the way Hanson was hit with a barrage of Lydia’s voice telling him how stupid he was, and eventually just singing Irish songs in a overtly annoying tone. Hanson was doing all he could to tune it out.

    [ST NOTE: I thought it to try an experiment and let Lydia’s player act as Hanson’s paradox, as an abusive voice inside his head. In theory it would be serving a dual purpose. First it would give some kind of strange psychological weirdness into the game, and hopefully take a look at this strange relationship the two characters seem to share, with Lydia disliking a lot of Hanson’s ways fitting bizarrely well with his already self-destructive tendencies. Second, it was a way to test the waters for a potential stab at a Wraith game in the future. I probably should have communicated this better to her. In practice it turned out to be a rather flawed plan. Lydia’s player was more interested in being annoying rather than psychological. It was funny for a while but soon became a bit trying. I could tell that Hanson’s player was becoming less and less amused as it continued. Eventually I just decided for the effect to end before it got too out of hand. Lesson learnt; never give the players an excuse to be obnoxious.]

    Before entering the house, Hanson took a look at his phone and saw a missed call. Sarah must have tried to call him while Helen cancelled out all noise.

    Hanson and Helen looked at the scene. They greeted Aaron, and asked Lydia how her trip was, and she told them a bit about her conversation with his uncle, saying that she felt she understood the Chorister a little better, though was now more uncertain than ever about Alfred.

    Camellia came into the room

    Camellia: Oh, everyone’s here. Well, except for the ones following Vivian in the umbra. Everyone ok?
    Aaron: We’re just fine.
    Camellia: Ok. Just letting you know that since Vivian is still away, and Boris hasn’t returned yet, I’m the one who’s supposed to make sure everything’s going fine.
    Hanson: Hey, Camellia, what’s in that tea?
    Camellia: Oh just a few things like Lavender and Ashwagandha. It’s just something to help calm people.
    Hanson: There doesn’t happen to be any magic involved, does there?
    Camellia: Just a little. Do you want any?
    Hanson: Actually yes… I could have some.
    Aaron: I could go for some more!
    Lydia: No he won’t. You’ve had quite enough.

    Camellia left the room. Hanson pulled Helen aside.

    Hanson: Helen, the man in the cloak. His face was in darkness, right?
    Helen: Yes.
    Hanson: and you had this “dark is light sense” effect on while you looked at him, didn’t you.
    Helen: I did.
    Hanson: So you must have seen his face. Could you recognise him.

    Helen concentrated hard on the face she saw. She knew she had seen him before somewhere, but couldn’t quite recall.

    Helen: I’m… I don’t know.
    Hanson: Maybe I’ll know. Helen, if you let me set up a mental link with you, you can pass that image along to me and I could take a look.

    Helen was reluctant, but after assuring her he wouldn’t try to look any deeper, she agreed. Hanson took a swig and concentrated on chaos between their minds, shifting it slightly in order to create a temporary bridge. The image was clear and strange, though Hanson could recognise this man’s face very easily. Zandros.
    Hanson smiled, he had a hunch it was him, same cold demeanour, same skills at reading and manipulating memories, they guy certainly had a keen mind for, well... minds. He whispered to Helen what he had found out.

    Aaron: There was something I was going to do today… Oh yeah, The Esther File. Why was that important again? …eh. Nevermind.
    Lydia: Esther?
    Aaron: Hmmm?
    Lydia: did you say something like Esther? That means star.
    Aaron: Oh, does it? What language?
    Lydia: Persian, that’s not important though. I had a prophecy in my mind: “Three men, Profit, Fear, and Charting stand in search of the star for control, utility, or understanding. The bearer may decide on whom the star shall sit. It’s secrets must be learnt within the astral realm, before the death spiral is complete.”
    Aaron: Oh… ok then.

    Aaron looked up at the tree and saw the fruit hanging from it. He thought perhaps if he ate the fruit he might absorb some of its power. He knew he’d been warned against it in the past, but that didn’t seem to worry him right now. He plucked an apple from the tree, and took a bite. A wave of disgust washed over him as the bitter taste hit his tongue, instinctively he spat out the apple. Aaron decided it didn’t matter too much, and just let it be. Lydia was somewhere between amused and appalled.

    Camellia came down with a cup of tea which Lydia instantly took of her. She sniffed it and tried to work out what kind of effect was in there.

    Aaron: Hey, that was mine.
    Hanson: Actually, it was mine.

    Lydia begrudgingly gives it back to Hanson, who tries to drink it and drown out the sounds of inner voice Lydia constantly singing “I know a song that will get on your nerves”. However, it did not work. Magic cannot cover up paradox effects it seems.

    As the evening drew to a close, everyone decided to retire to bed, except for Aaron, who just fell asleep under the tree, and Lydia who had other ideas. She stayed in the node room. Her magic seemed to be quite coincidental while here, and she wanted to try something she had always wanted to do. She scribbled some runes on the ground and started chanting for assistance, and from her back, thin, delicate whips of blue and silver grew, forming into gentle wings. She gave them a flutter and tried to fly, though found it very difficult. She spent a few hours trying to train her new wings, and though no flying happened.

    The next day. Hanson had his morning coffee followed by his first smoke of the day. He considered Zandros, he wanted to know what it was he was trying to do. An image appeared before him, a green landscape, rich wild woodlands, slowly succumbing to an all-consuming darkness. Hanson was a little concerned by what he had seen, thinking on it as he smoked.

    In time, the four of them met in the kitchen area, first with Hanson and Helen. Aaron was not in the best of moods, he had woken up with a searing headache and a great deal stress. All the worries and concerns that had felt so far away the night before had suddenly flooded back into view. He suddenly felt an urgent need to go home and check the Esther file, but was stopped by Aaron, wanting to talk to him in the kitchen. Lydia joined them shortly after that, she had wanted to try again to tell Hanson about her prophecy.

    Hanson started to tell everyone about what they had seen last night in the Common, and their suspicions about Camellia potentially being a Widderslainte kept under calm with her tea. He also talked a bit more about his suspicions that Edwin may be being manipulated by some kind of Nephandic force, and that this all may have something to do with whatever was happening at the Common last night, they all decided that this was the next thing they needed to check.

    Kael entered the room.

    Kael: Excuse me, Hanson. I’ve heard from Boris that you were investigating something for him.
    Hanson: I was, yes, but now isn’t really the time to discuss this.
    Kael: Someone has broken in to Boris’s study.
    Hanson: I see, well I’ll try to look into it later, rather pressing matters are at hand.
    Kael: I’ve had a look around, and whoever it was came in, rummaged around his files, and stole an important artefact from us.
    Hanson: What sort of artefact?
    Kael: Our ceremonial dagger.
    Hanson: I see…
    Kael: The door had been locked for the last few days, but I found it unlocked and open.
    Lydia: But only members of the Keepers can come down here.
    Kael: Yes, unless let in by someone with these necklace… Whoever did it seemed skilled in manipulated forces, the darkness had been disturbed within the room, and it left a subtle Constant resonance in the air.

    Helen was starting to squirm a bit, as quietly as she could she started texting under the table.
    I’m currently not free to go and see you, however I do have thing to ask you to keep for security reasons.
    There is a dagger in my student accommodation, and it is Boris’s. Could you go to my room and keep it with you safely please? You have my spare key and you are the person I trust the most.
    I’ll write a report and send it to you soon.
    Please hide the dagger in a safe place. I’ll visit you once I’m free.
    Thank you!

    She waited for Kael to leave and quickly told everyone that she had a lecture to get to, making a hasty retreat.

    Aaron: I have to get going too.
    Lydia: You going to check out that Esther?
    Aaron: Esther file? Yes.
    Lydia: Can I join you.
    Aaron: I guess so…

    Hanson decided to make a call to Sarah.

    Hanson: Ms Phillips?
    Sarah: Hello? Who is this?
    Hanson: It’s Hanson.
    Sarah: Detective, what happened?
    Hanson: Sorry, I got a bit caught up yesterday, would you be able to talk right now?
    Sarah: I can, yes.

    Hanson set up a time and place to meet her, took a swig of his hipflask and put up a haze around him, his perception filter, and left.

    Aaron lead Lydia to his home in Shoreditch, and up into his room. He took a look at the poisoned cheese he left out for it, but it remained untouched.

    Aaron: Sorry, I’ve got a bit of a rat problem.
    Lydia: Oh really? What kind of problem?
    Aaron: The problem is it won’t die!
    Lydia: Where is your rat?
    Aaron: Somewhere around, under the bed maybe?

    Lydia called out to the spirits to see if any Rat Gafflings were about.

    Rat: You call?
    Lydia: Yes, I was wondering if there was a rat trapped in here?
    Rat: I’ll check

    The spirit jumps away, and then returns.

    Rat: “Yeah, in the cupboard.”
    Lydia: Thanks
    Rat: Be nice to rats.

    Aaron couldn’t see the rat spirit. All he could see was Lydia talking in a strange language to what she said was a rat, and then walk over to the cupboard. Lydia peered inside and saw a fairly large rat trying to run into a hole, and being stopped by some kind of barrier. Aaron marched over and started shouting at the rat.

    Aaron: What are you trying to do? You want to leave now? Is that it?
    Lydia: Why are you talking to that rat?
    Aaron: You talk to it then!
    Lydia: I can’t. They don’t speak English.
    Aaron: Then speak in whatever weird language you just spoke.
    Lydia: It won’t understand.
    Aaron: You said you talked to that other rat!
    Lydia: That was a rat spirit.
    Aaron: WHA! ok… you’re a life mage right?
    Lydia: I suppose so.
    Aaron: Then use your life powers and kill it!
    Lydia: No.
    Aaron: Why not?
    Lydia: I don’t use my powers that way.
    Aaron: It’s a rat!
    Lydia: I made a promise to keep rats safe.
    Aaron: To who exactly?
    Lydia: The rat spirits.

    Aaron was at the end of his tether, he was already in a bad mood and this wasn’t helping. While he tried to calm himself, Lydia watched the rat more closely.

    Lydia: I think it wants to leave.
    Aaron: Well it can’t. I set up a barrier around this flat. Anything of lesser intelligence than a human can’t go in or out.

    [ST NOTE: It transpired that Aaron’s character had recently read a bit of VTM stuff on the Nosferatu and found out that they can use animals like rats to gather information. However, considering Aaron has no points in Occult, even though he may have been briefly kidnapped by them, there was no way his character would be aware of this. Shame, because he was completely right.]

    Lydia: Why won’t you just let the rat go?
    Aaron: It took two hours to set this thing up ok. I’m not about to get rid of it for that.
    Lydia: If the rat wants to leave, you need to let it leave.
    Aaron: ….fine.

    Aaron released the effect and the rat ran free.

    Aaron: Right, now take a look at this file.
    Lydia: file?
    Aaron: Yeah, it’s the Esther file, that’s what you’re here to look at right?
    Lydia: What’s a file?
    Aaron: You cannot be serious…

    Lydia was getting fed up with the way that Aaron was speaking to her, so she left. Aaron sat at his computer and tried to look at the Esther File himself, opening the seemingly random strings of numbers that seemed to go on for pages and pages, but after half a minute of staring, he realised he wasn’t getting anywhere.

    Aaron: LYDIA!

    Lydia had only reached the stairwell at this point. A little more calmly, Aaron asked Lydia about what she knew about the Esther file, and so she told him the prophecy once again.
    “Three men, Profit, Fear, and Charting stand in search of the star for control, utility, or understanding. The bearer may decide on whom the star shall sit. It’s secrets must be learnt within the astral realm, before the death spiral is complete.”

    Aaron: So if the Star is this, then that means someone is looking for it, and I get to choose who that is? I don’t understand this at all…

    Aaron was stumped, none of his decryption software gave him anything, it just seemed like a garbled bunch of numbers. Lydia had a look as well and started to notice that there seemed to be a pattern. Confused, Aaron checked again and realised she was right. He had another look and realised that they seemed to be incredibly complicated and precise coordinates. He ran them through his Location Tracker software (Corr 1) and ran the numbers through them, but couldn’t seem to match it with a single place. He tried again but none of them coordinated with anywhere on earth.
    Then realisation hit him… What if these weren’t geographical coordinates, what if they were astronomical ones, tracking planets or stars…
    Aaron: Did you say we needed the Astral Realm?
    Lydia: It’s secrets must be learnt within the astral realm.
    Aaron: Where’s that?
    Lydia: It’s somewhere in the spirit world.
    Aaron: And we have to use this code to get there… or maybe take this code and use it there.
    Lydia: I think I should go and as the Keepers if they know more about the Astral Realm.
    Aaron: Sure.

    Lydia left. Aaron looked around and remembered he was finally rat free. He spent the next 30 or 40 minutes cleaning up.

    Hanson met with Sarah in the park. His perception filter was active, so when he spoke with her, it seemed to her as though he just appeared out of thin air.

    Hanson: Ms Phillips, you said that a lot of people were chasing after Edwin, do you know what kind of people?
    Sarah: I don’t. Maybe other mages? I saw men in suits, men in robes… A lot of people…
    Hanson: Can you tell me more about the people who are trying to help him?
    Sarah: I don’t know… They said they were like me, on the run. That people were after them too and would… if they were caught.
    Hanson: I’m worried that Edwin might be in danger, that some dark mages may be looking for him. Are you aware of the nephandi?
    Sarah: Not really.
    Hanson: And you can’t tell me anything about the people who are searching for you.
    Sarah: No…
    Hanson: Ms Phillips. What I’m about to suggest may seem strange, but hear me out. It’s possible that I’ll be able to create a mental link. You can send any memories you like to me and I’ll be able to help you identify them.

    Sarah was initially hesitant to the idea, but Hanson managed to convince her round to it after a while. He set up the link and prepared started asking her questions telepathically.

    Hanson: Ms Philips, have you heard of someone by the name of Zandros?

    There is no response

    Hanson: What about the name Malady? Or perhaps Melonie?

    For a while there is no response. But soon a flurry of images start heading towards Hanson, more than he is able to deal with. He tries to focus in on as many as he can, but only four stay in his own mind for any significant length of time.

    1. A car filling up with water, viewed from the passenger seat.
    2. Men in suits holding up a gun, looking down the barrel.
    3. Othe left hand side is a city, while on the right is an alien landscape, in the middle a strange mixture as though one were turning into the other. Edwin stands off-centre, looking confused.
    4. Someone in a long robe, the robe if clean, and yellowish grey.

    Sarah starts to get distressed at the experience and pulls out of the link. She clutches her head and winces.

    Hanson: Ms Phillips? Are you ok?
    Sarah: Yeah… Sorry. That happens a lot… Sometimes I can hear what other people are thinking… and then my thoughts just go.
    Hanson: Some mages call that effects in the Mind sphere, and it needs practice to control. Your brother, Edwin, I think he might have lost a lot of that control himself. When you’re around him, I’m sure you’ve noticed that things seem to change. He’s a marauder. The world changes to suit what he thinks of it, so if he sees an alien world in his head, the world becomes alien.
    Sarah: Those stupid books…
    Hanson: Yes, I think the book he has might be the source of some of his powers.
    Sarah: He read them all the time, and they just become all he talks about sometimes…
    Hanson: Oh… yes the Lovecraft ones.
    Sarah: I hoped to get him help, but he just keeps getting lost.
    Hanson: Ms Phillips, do you know a man by the name of Boris.

    She pauses for a moment and looks down.

    Sarah: No. I don’t.

    Hanson can tell something’s strange about her answer.

    Hanson: Please, Ms Phillips, I’m trying to help you. If there’s anything you can tell me, anything at all.
    Sarah: I think you should focus on finding him.
    Hanson: That’s what I’m doing.
    Sarah: Then do it! Find where he is and either bring me to him or bring him to me. That’s your job.
    Hanson: Of course. And I will.
    Sarah: Thank you, detective. I’m sorry… There are so many people who want him locked up or killed, it’s just.
    Hanson: It’s ok, we will find him.
    Sarah: Thank you… Oh and please, don’t call him a marauder. That’s what they call him, they use it as a guard, a label, they ignore that he’s a person.

    Hanson leaves with a final promise for reassurance.

    Helen arrived at her university, and started writing out a report.

    “To: Olivia Georgiana Raphanel, bani Jerbiton

    From: Aillen Davina Freya, bani Jerbiton

    After spending time with the Keepers of the Wyck, I discovered a few things that could have serious impact.
    • The Keepers of the Wyck is hiding one of their coven’s maidens away from the public and her name is Camellia, who could be a widderslainte.
    • Her widderslainte nature was suppressed by a special herbal tea which infuses with powerful calm mind magic.
    • The high priest Boris and the high priestess Vivian are certain that they are doing the right thing to keep Camelia alive yet they don’t know how to save her soul.
    • There is a marauder called Edwin who might be controlled by a group of Nephandi.
    • Edwin has created a lot of twisted dimensions and in the real world. It could explain why pattern spiders and spirits appearing and other supernatural things happened.
    • The spirit world is overlapped with parts of this world, causing harmful spirits entering our world.
    In my opinion, Nephandi could be causing Edwin to be insane at the first place and let him create chaos in this world.

    Two days ago in the evening, I followed Boris to Wimbledon Common but lost him. Then in the forest, I encountered a man in the black cloak who was a powerful life mage (Zandrus). Zandrus was trying to hide something and he forced me to leave the forest. Then I heard two people whispering not far away from me. It is likely that those two voices could belong to Boris and Zandrus.
    From what I know, Zandrus is a mage from the Celestial Chorus. This tradition usually doesn’t interfere with Verbena. So I have the suspicion that Boris and Zandrus are also involved in this matter. At the moment, other people in my group are trying to find a way to help Edwin. I believe there is a temporary solution for this. if Edwin drinks this special herbal tea which would calm him down as he is the only clue we have to find out if Nephandi are behind all the chaos. He might tell us what really happened to him.

    If the tradition were to take any actions, I suggest we should keep Edwin and the keepers of the Wyck alive for now, especially Boris. I do think the keepers of the Wyck are still useful for the tradition because they have the temporary method which can suppress the nature of widderslainte. Also they could be another link to look for Nephandi. As for Camellia, her widderslainte nature is not awakened yet so I shall keep an eye on her.
    I will return to Wimbledon Common to investigate this further. I will inform you if more significant things happen.

    Signed: Aillen Davina Freya, bani Jerbiton

    [ST NOTE: Helen’s player explained to me that she was not certain of who Zandros was. She considered he might have been a Verbena, but none of the other Keepers seemed to recognise his name. So she assumed that he was from the only other tradition of mages they’ve had much involvement with.]

    She made two copies of her report, sent one to her mentor, and then another to House Quaesitor, and went to a lecture.

    Lydia arrived at the keepers and met with Mica. This was the first time these two have really spoken. She showed Lydia her little room on the side of the antechamber, though Lydia did not quite understand what it was she was doing in there. She started to ask Mica about the Astral Realm.
    Mica: Oh yeah… that place is weird. It’s in the Umbra, but not like the spirit wylds which is kind of a piece of everything that’s felt. The Astral umbra is like everything that’s thought. You can get there with understanding of spirit alone, though I remember hearing that Mind magic works just as well. I dunno, spirit was never really my thing. I think Gwynn might be able to tell you more…
    Lydia told her about the prophecy she spoke, and Mica typed it up, along with a brief description of the Astral Realm to send to Aaron upon Lydia’s request.

    A few hours later, and everyone met back at the chantry to head out to Wimbledon Common together. On seeing everyone preparing to leave, Mica asked if she too could come along, getting a bit tired of being left out of things.

    It didn’t take long for Helen to find where in the woods they were last night and locate her spiral marker. The group started too look around to see if they could find anything. As they explored the area Hanson recalled Zandros running towards, the environment became more decayed, the wildlife was partially wilted, and the ground was a sickly brownish grey. While a few of them remarked on a fox they found sleeping behind a bush, Helen managed to find a ground level well with a putrid black sludge in the centre. The mind mages of the group could feel the heavy rotting resonance emanating from the place.

    Lydia: Aaron? You’re walking strange, you ok?
    Aaron: It’s fine, It’s just a bit of Paradox burn.
    Lydia: You should have said something, I could have healed that.
    Aaron: Oh, could you?

    Lydia healed him, and noticed that magic seemed to be easier here, perhaps they were at a node. Lydia took a look at this well and thought, perhaps if there was a node, there may also be a pathway. Mica then recognised this place, that she had been here before with the other keepers, and that a pathway did lead from here to two other nodes, one at Hampstead heath, and another at Greenwich. Thinking that Zandros and possible Boris and Malady may have used this path, they all decided to follow. Lydia managed to get everyone into the strange penumbral landscape, and the narrow path that snaked away.

    They hadn’t gone far along the path before they encountered a strange black mist of a spirit.
    Spirit: You shall not pass.
    Lydia: Why not?
    Spirit: I shall guard this from followers following those who have summoned me.
    Lydia: Who are we following?
    Spirit: Anyone who follows along this path is stopped, none may pass, and those who try shall die.
    Lydia: Why though?
    Spirit: Those who try shall die!

    The spirit lashed out at Lydia, wrapping its mist around her, choking her.

    Helen: This spirit is some kind of bane!
    Hanson: Oh no, not another one.
    Aaron: I’m going to try shooting at it!
    Hanson: Don’t hit Lydia!

    Lydia started hearing whispers of violence, but was able to shake off these notions without much trouble. Aaron aimed his gun while Hanson and Helen tried to throw opposite emotion at them. The bane tried its best to suffocate Lydia, but was hit, a bullet flying straight into it.

    Aaron: Guys! Bullets work!

    The bane jumped towards Aaron and did the same to him. Helen took out her gun and tried to aim and Lydia got back to her feet.
    The bane managed to get into Aaron’s mind without difficulty, and started filing his thoughts with all the negative aspects of his life, that everything was crumbling around him, and he would never be able to climb his way out of it.

    Aaron: I’m…Sad…
    Hanson: Aaron, that things a spirit of corruption, it’s going to do everything it can to control you.

    It started to whisper thoughts into his ear, all his problems, the situation he’s in right now, it’s all because of Hanson, him as his hunches throwing his life into danger. It’s all his fault!

    Aaron: Fuck you Hanson!

    Helen was taking pot shots at the spirit with limited success, while Lydia started chanting, asking Luna for some kind of help.

    The bane told him that Hanson was trying to harm him, and he’d better shot him first. Aaron lifted his gun and aimed it at Hanson, but managed to fight the urge and instead tried to aim it at the bane itself, which floated all about his head.
    This was a very bad roll to botch. The gun shot straight into his head with a deafening bang. Blood sprayed everywhere and Aaron fell to the ground.

    Mica sprang into action, fiddling with her gem tech and rewound time to the moment just before the shot was made, and lept to Aaron pushing the gun out of his hand. The spirit jumped from Aaron to her as Aaron fell to the edge of the pathway. Mica did all she could to resist the influence of the bane.

    From beyond view, a group of four Lunes arrived to Lydia, who directed them to get rid of the bane. They happily obeyed and swarmed the spirit, getting their energy from the full moon, and making short work of the spirit.

    Mica did not move, the group around her tried to rouse her but she did not respond. The group feared the worst. A full minute passed before she moved, and was slow to get up. It suddenly became apparent that Mica may have suffered some kind of paradox backlash, and was now much slower than her surroundings.

    The four of them stood around her, unable to communicate with her. They couldn’t leave her like this, but nor could they continue on with her. Two of them would have to go ahead, while the others would help her back to the chantry.

    There were a number of minor paradox backlashes I didn't detail above. Lydia's skin went blue because she botched some healing magic, and Hanson had a lot of trouble creating a mental link with Sarah. Nothing which hung around, though almost every character has quite a large pool of unbacklashed paradox. So that's going to be fun.

    As said about, doing two sessions a week has been getting rough. Sure, it's been great for making sure everyone gets a chance to play each week, regardless of schedule conflicts, but having half the time to do twice the work takes its toll. This week I had three sessions, Umbra Adventures, Lydia's visit with her Uncle, and then this one, and between doing real world things, researching, and writing things up, I basically left myself with little to no time to properly think this session through, and personally it feels like one of my weakest.
    Everything that happened today was improvised, and I could tell that there were moments when things started to drag. At the last minute I decided to through in a bit of combat just to liven it up. It seemed to do the trick.
    It's difficult to tell whether the shortcomings of tonight were just imagined, or if my players also felt a bit disappointed with the lack of action or plot revelations that occurred today.
    Oh well, we all get bad days I guess.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    Session 12.2

    Lydia's player wanted to have a discussion with one of her contacts, an uncle who was a member of the Celestial Chorus. Her player wanted to have a more discussion based session between them, so this is what that is, a small session between Lydia and her Uncle.

    The conversation was a lot longer and a bit more repetitive at times than what I've written below. Part of this is simply because I couldn't remember every intricate detail of the conversation. But hopefully this should give you a good impression of what was discussed.


    Lydia left London in the morning, it had been a chilly autumn morning and she awoke to a strange headache and pain around her face, a small amount of pattern bleed from her disguise, though luckily not a severe amount. She was on her way to Salisbury to meet with her uncle, a man she hadn’t seen for years. Whenever she thought back to him, it was always with a mixture of joy and concern. He was a catholic man as most people were on her island, but when she came to study the ways of the Verbena with her aunt, he had long since left, joining the Celestial Chorus after years of growing distant. Lydia remembered fondly when he was still in the village, when they talked about theology and he taught her more about Catholicism, but her aunt was always sceptical of what Lydia had told her of his views on magic. Eventually he left the village, becoming more and more involved with a group of Choristers based in Salisbury, and they hadn’t spoken since.

    As she stepped out the train, already she could sense a difference from the stuffy and often claustrophobic feel of London. The air was clearer and the ground piled high with autumnal hues. Even the gauntlet felt looser here, as though a great heavy curtain had been drawn back and the bright of day was finally able to shine freely over the land before her. It had only been a week, but a week away was enough to miss this. She started scribbling runes in her notebook, scrawling a message asking Luna to assist her in finding where her Uncle lived. In her mind’s eye, a silver path glowed gently before her, leading her straight to a door of a small cottage. Lydia knocked with only a little hesitation.

    Her Uncle opens the door and looks down at her.
    Uncle: Hello?
    Lydia: Uncle Michael?
    Uncle: Who is this?
    Lydia: Don’t you recognise me? It’s Lydia.

    Uncle Michael took a moment, but soon came to realise that this was indeed her.

    Uncle: Lydia! You’ve changed quite a bit!
    Lydia: I have.
    Uncle: What have you been up to?
    Lydia: I’ve been teaching, recently went to London and met with some Verbena, and then I got locked up and am on the run from the police.
    Uncle: oh…. Are you in trouble?
    Lydia: Not really, can I come in?

    Uncle Michael invited her in and offered to make her tea while she sat and the two of them continued to talk.

    Uncle: So, you’re not in any trouble then?
    Lydia: No
    Uncle: Then what brings you here?
    Lydia: I’ve got a class to teach here in the afternoon, and I thought I’d drop in to see you while I was here.
    Uncle: I see… How’s your aunt?
    Lydia: She’s been well…

    They talk for a while about Lydia’s progress with the Sphere of Life which meanders into a Uncle Michael tying it into his catholic faith.

    Uncle: When we work with life, it is through the will of God, the will of the One that we make such changes.
    Lydia: But surely life is something inherent in all of us, something we all have the power to affect.
    Uncle: But it isn’t just us. There is a greater power which guides our actions at work here.
    Lydia: I’m not denying that.
    Uncle: Many pagans would, they’d have us look towards the sun or the moon and call them both a different spirit, each one worthy of prayer. They look at the signs but ignore the message. Such a stubbornness can only hold them back from true understanding.
    Lydia: Is that why you left my aunt?

    This question takes Uncle Michael aback, he acts a bit flustered for a while, but quickly regains composure and tries to answer her question as calmly as possible.

    Uncle: I left her? Is that how she tells it… It was her who pushed me out.
    Lydia: She never told me that.
    Uncle: She wouldn’t… She found my attraction to the faith difficult to accept. Said I was supressing her, dismissing her beliefs or something like that.
    Lydia: Weren’t you?
    Uncle: She denies God, denies the concept of the One. What can I say to her when this is what she tells me?
    Lydia: So is that why you divorced? A difference in belief?
    Uncle: It was much more complicated than that. Yes, our faiths were a factor in that, but there was a lot more going on. Your Aunt was a very…determined woman…
    Lydia: Did you remarry?
    Uncle: No…I live alone for now.
    Lydia: Do you still love her?
    Uncle: ……Lydia, was there a reason you came to see me today?
    Lydia: Just to see you, tell you what’s been happening.
    Uncle: So what have you been doing? You say you were captured by the police.
    Lydia: Oh yeah, but that’s not unusual. I’m currently staying with a group of Verbena, I met two of them at one of my seminars. I also met a Chorister?
    Uncle: Did you indeed?
    Lydia: Yes, he’s nice, though he seems like some kind of army man. There’s also another guy in our group who drinks a lot, he’s more a liability to himself than anything, but I still feel I need to keep a close eye on him.
    Uncle: I suggest you keep close with this Chorister you’ve met, you may learn quite a bit from talking with him.

    They continue talking, and at some point Uncle Michael gets up and walks to a book case, taking out his copy of the Book of the Ages in order to teach Lydia about The One.
    Uncle: In the beginning, there was the One, and the pure harmony that was sung. The One was then split into the Many, each one making up a part of the song. Each of these pure fractions of The One were scattered around the universe, and their presence can be felt in all manner of miracles.
    So in order to perform amazing feats, we have to recognise this power for what it is, something greater and beyond ourselves, attune ourselves to it with prayer or song, and allow this power’s will to be done.
    Lydia: What is pure about the One?
    Uncle: It’s a force of good, ultimate unity.
    Lydia: And everyone has to recognise it?
    Uncle: But so many do not. If you look at the pagans for example, they would dismiss this idea and just pray to some kind of spirit, or some force of nature.
    Lydia: And how is that any different?
    Uncle: It’s different because these spirits are only aspects of the One’s being, there is something greater behind it which they deny. They try to impose their views of nature as the be all and end all of everything.
    Lydia: So you wish to impose belief of the One on all of us?
    Uncle: We don’t wish to impose at all. If you limit yourself to praising aspects of The One, then you only limit yourself. If we wish to achieve mass ascension, then Sleepers need to be aware of the nature of this heavenly force. It’s others like the Pagans who try to
    Lydia: but if they’re all aspects of the same thing, why should it matter?
    Uncle: Because by supporting these methods, they deny the presence of the One, they directly ignore his Will, and go against the message.
    Lydia: It’s just a different point of view, it doesn’t mean they’re against you.
    Uncle: Perhaps… Though look at the Technocrats, they wish to see all of our beliefs be relics of the past, they want to control the sleepers will and push them further away from ever awakening to the will of The One, and thus to their own destruction. Then there’s these Sons of Ether, how do they differ from the Technocracy in their way? They too deny The One and his Will.
    Lydia: I can see what you mean a bit there, I’ve never really understood technology either.
    Uncle: Then there’s the Hermetics, they are just as bad as the Technocracy in many respects, they wish to reduce his Will into little more than a series of languages, charts, and equations. They consider such power to be only possible under the way they teach it. They claim to speak with angles, but do they really listen? Do they acknowledge the message such peaceful beings bring?
    Lydia: Who’s to say they are wrong? Just because they do not share your views on The One?
    Uncle: I can see you’re just as stubborn as your Aunt…

    The room grows quiet, Uncle Michael gets up to get Lydia some more tea. In order to break the tension, Lydia decides to grow a Shamrock out of her hand and show her uncle.

    Uncle: My… You really have improved your practices… Now, how do you think you did that?
    Lydia: I focused on my hand, made a prayer to Luna and it just happened.
    Uncle: To Luna…
    Lydia: Yes.
    Uncle: Oh Lydia… When you make such prayers, it is not just to Luna, it is through your own Avatar, itself is part of The Many, a shard of The One.
    Lydia: My Avatar appears as Luna.
    Uncle: That it might, though this is only to make it easier to understand. See, The One is so grand and beyond our comprehension, that it appears as many things to many people. This is what I mean when I say that Verbena and the like stop short at the aspects. To truly commune with The One, you must go beyond these aspects.
    Lydia: But if it’s all the same, it shouldn’t really matter.
    Uncle: Again, I point towards the Technomancers and their wish to put everything into cold lifeless machines. Is this also the same? Can the greatness of the Will and the beauty of the world really be the same as an uncaring machine?
    Lydia: I met one of those in London, a mage who does magic on computers.
    Uncle: And what do you make of his techniques?
    Lydia: I don’t understand them, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong necessarily, just different.
    Uncle: How can we even think of ascension if there are those who ignore the Will and instead bring about change by ignoring their potential and forcing it within machines?
    Lydia: What is mass ascension Uncle?
    Uncle: It’s the eventual reunification of The Many into The One, where we can once again become a single pure and perfect being.
    Lydia: And what is perfect?
    Uncle: How can we possibly know?
    Lydia: Well, you must have some idea if you believe in it so.
    Uncle: I can only imagine.
    Lydia: So how would you say we achieve it?
    Uncle: By mutual understanding, with tolerance, and with a shared wish to do well to us all.
    Lydia: With empathy.
    Uncle: Yes
    Lydia: And how much empathy have you shown when you speak of other beliefs the way you do.
    Uncle: It’s not simply a matter of empathy.
    Lydia: But empathy is a very important part. It’s part of my big idea.
    Uncle: Oh really
    Lydia: I know you want to hear what I have to say Uncle Michael, because I’m sure I’ve been here longer than fifteen minutes.

    Lydia points out the clock and, though subtle, it did seem to tick much slower than a normal second would. Her uncle was no stranger to Time, and this was an old trick he’d employ any time he wanted to make the most out of present company. Slightly humbled by her observation, he stopped and awaited what Lydia had to say.

    She told him of what she believed, that too many mages spend their time guarding their traditions and pushing each other’s ideas away, when their methods and thoughts are actually a lot more similar than they would otherwise purport. That if they tried to look at things objectively rather than through the guise of being the one true way, then we would be able to recognise each other’s talents for what they are.

    Uncle: But without tradition, what is there?
    Lydia: Tradition helps us contextualise what we learn, but it isn’t the only way to view the world around us…
    They debated this point for a while, and as their conversation meandered, it eventually came to the subject of the sanctity of life, something Lydia still has a strong belief in…

    Lydia: I don’t understand those death mages who just think killing is the answer to everything.
    Uncle: Some mages just don’t see the value of life if they can justify removing it.
    Lydia: I sometimes worry about my own group. One of them I thought cared about the sanctity of life as I did…
    Uncle: What happened to him?
    Lydia: I’m not certain, I’ve seen his avatar, and it seems to drive him to do horrible things?
    Uncle: Horrible things?
    Lydia: It bullys him, calls him useless and worthless and torments him constantly. If his avatar is a part of The One, then why does it treat him so callously?
    Uncle: The Avatar may be a part of The One, but how each mage interprets it is personal, and my display more of their own traits than that of a higher power.
    Lydia: So he’s constantly fighting with himself? …I suppose I was just very lucky with the avatar I had.
    Uncle: Are you worried about him?
    Lydia: I don’t know. I see him as one of my students, but at the same time he’s a grown man who can take care of himself. But I think he may have done something…
    Uncle: You don’t think he may have fallen? Become one of the nephandi.
    Lydia: No… I don’t think pure evil like that really exists.
    Uncle: Oh Lydia, how naive you can be. Evil is real and palpable in this world, there are those who choose this path and corrupt their avatars in the process, and such activity cannot be tolerated where it is found.
    Lydia: But if the Avatar is a part of The One, how can it be corrupt?
    Uncle: There are some in the Chorus who think similarly, that the Avatar is immune to such corruptions and it is just the Mage that refuses the Will. I don’t believe that however. Each avatar is a part of The One, yes, but it represents an incarnation of its will, and as such can be turned if willed to do so. Falling away from the way of the Will, and instead works to subvert it.
    Lydia: Like Lucifer.
    Uncle: Yes, just like Lucifer.
    Lydia: And how would you deal with these people? Have them killed?
    Uncle: This is difficult, for to kill them may not cease the avatar… It may live on to infect another…
    Lydia: So what can be done…
    Uncle: They must be found and stopped in some way… Some talk of destroying the avatar, but I… I cannot consider…

    Lydia began to worry a lot more about Alfred now. Something was wrong with him, and she needed to be careful about how she handled the situation. She had never considered that he may be in danger of falling, but was now a lot less certain. Lydia talked with Uncle Michael for a while longer before saying goodbye. Before she left, he gave her a parting gift, a small vial of oil which he had told her was tass. She thanked him and promised to write more often now that she found his address and left.

    In truth, Lydia did not have a real seminar to teach, though she was able to create a last minute opening with a few well-placed Entropy effects. The local history professor’s car suddenly got stuck in hour long traffic, and Lydia’s teaching expertise was just what was needed. She walked in and started teaching in the hopes of inspiring them to greater things, always eager to search out in case there were newly awakened or keen sorcerers in the audience. She returned to London the same day, pleased to have had the chance to finally speak to her uncle.

    Again, a lot of details have escaped my memory when I wrote this up. Although nothing especially plot heavy happened during this one, it was a good opportunity to contextualise a few of themes of the game, and to discuss a few differences between paradigm.
    Out of all the players, Lydia's is probably the least experienced with RPGs, but she's an enthusiastic writer, especially of characters, so I think she really enjoyed having a chance to not have to worry about game mechanics for a while, and just focus on her character and how she views the world. I do worry sometimes that her player might start to get a bit disinterested in the game when it becomes too much, especially if she's missed a few weeks and can't quite recall how this system works. Though when the focus is on character and ideology, she always perks back up and gets involved.

    I have to admit, having at least two sessions per week is really starting to get difficult. Part of it is just keeping track of time and where everyone is and which NPCs are where. But most of the difficulty is in having to double my efforts in half the time to think up content for each session. Split sessions like this are a good way to ensure everyone stays involved and has something to do even with conflicting schedules, but I sometimes wonder if the lack of time to make worthwhile content and thought through encounters is really worth it...

    The 13th session is finished, and I'll hope to have it written up before I conclude Alfred and Sean's umbra adventure. Let's hope I can get there in time.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    Session 12.1

    And thus we continue Alfred and Sean's adventures in the Umbra. Also, we have our first visit to one of the many realms within the Spirit Wilds.

    By the way, between these sessions, Alfred gained the third point of Spirit.

    Cast List
    Alfred Camlann: Excalibur Mage
    Sean "Sam" Heath: Templar Knight

    Notable NPCs Include:

    Vivian Porter: High Priestess.


    Alfred and Sean looked out over the midnight view of Great Plains moonlight flooding the area. Vivian was no where to be seen, and save from their immediate surroundings, the landscape had subtly changed, with certain rock formations looking morphed and in different places. The egg was still within a large bush at the centre of a declining plain, not unlike a bowl, and the Surtur still stood, sword in hand, ready to guard. Sean and Alfred discussed their options for a while. With Vivian gone, their primary strategy of "distract the giant while Vivian swoops in" was not going to work. They devised a new plan. Sean would keep the surtur busy, distracting it in any way that he could while Alfred would prepare an effect to force the giant into slumber. Sean transferred some quintessence from his own body into Alfred, and crept around the perimeter of the field and lay low behind a short knoll.
    Alfred picked up the grass near by and started to squeeze and stress, feeling the rhythm of their pattern and used this to encourage the grass around him to grow, giving him a short amount of concealment by the rim of the field. He watched the Surtur stand alert, but not moving.

    Sean watched, the giant did not acknowledge him. Sean stood up and drew his gun, the giant turned his head. Sean began to aim at the egg and the giant responded, standing in the path. Alfred began to prepair his spell, constantly picking up and throwing down his wooden runes, using their formed words in his chants. Sean ran down the field and prepared to shoot, but before a single shot was fired the Surtur blasted him with fire. Vivian's effect managed to shield him from most of the blast, but Sean wasn't willing to learn how long this would hold out for and ran back.

    The Surtur turned its attention towards the sudden bulge of grass, where Alfred desperately continued to build his effect. The spirit drew his sword and caused a blaze of fire to burst forth, a straight line right into Alfred's space. While the Forces effect absorbed the bulk of the damage, Alfred still sustained severe burns, though miraculously managed to keep his focus on his spell and avoid being set on fire. Sean looked back at this and started firing his gun at the beast, first aiming at its shoulder, and then at its head, but neither had any effect, his bullets were simply absorbed. The Giant drew his flaming sword, called out the words "Face me!" and forced it down onto Alfred, wounding him, but not breaking his concentration. The Giant drew his sword to take another wing and Sean responded in kind. This time he wasted no ammunition, firing three bolts of pure prime energy straight at it. A bright flash of light and the creature was finally hurt, taking a moment to keep its balance.

    Alfred was really struggling now. The number of distractions and the pressure of having to keep going under literal fire was starting to mount, and for a while he was unable to progress his attempts at building the effect. The difficulty had climbed to 8. He had already accumulated 7 successes, but wasn't certain if this would be enough to lull the giant into slumber, he tried once again to build his spell. But it all proved too much. He botched the effect. Alfred received 10 points of paradox (3 plus the 7 for each round he'd been building the effect). A grand total of 20. 7 points back lashed upon him, and for the moment, nothing seemed to happen.

    The Surtur turned his attention to Sean, now the bigger threat, and swiped at him with his sword. Sean again absorbed most of the fire, but the blow landed, pushing him to Lethal levels of wounded. To keep the giant busy, he resolved to make a run for the egg. The Surtur placed a heavy foot down in his path. It blasted fire at Sean, who managed to doge the impact entirely, but still made slow progress getting near the egg. Meanwhile, Alfred had retreated back to behind the rocks, tried to centre himself, and try casting the effect again from the start. While Sean kept him busy, he had accumulated enough power to force his narrative on to the spirit's story.

    Suddenly, the Surtur began to look ragged, it's clothing slightly torn, its beard frayed. Sean kept trying to run for the egg, but each time a swing of the sword would force him to make evasive action, dipping, jumping, and diving out of the way. The Surtur became infuriated, and in desperation, hit the ground, forcing the entire field to erupt into flames, all except for a circle around the bush. Sean stood in the inferno relying heavily on Vivian's effect to keep him from burning, Sean tried to run to the bush, to get out of the fire more than anything else, but the Surtur would not let him, blocking every attempt, Sean made to rush around him, but the giant lowered his arm and sword down as a barrier, making a wall about 30-40 feet across. With his other hand the spirit swung a punch, knocking him down into the flames. Alfred launched another attempt to force the spirit into slumber, staying behind the rocks as he cast. The Surtur trembled, tried to stand, dropped to his knees, and fell forwards, Sean managing to roll out of the way to avoid getting crushed. The giant lay amongst the flames, all energy lost from its great eyes, the grip of its hand loosening, the swords falling to the ground.

    [ST NOTE: In game turns, Vivian's effect gave both players 3 dice of soak against all things fire. When the inferno started with Sean in it, I made him roll to soak the flames every turn, and amazing he managed to consistently get 8s and 9s each time. I guess God really was on his side.]

    Sean had been in the fire far too long and was starting to get badly burned, he rushed over to the clearing and dove into the bush in search for the egg. Alfred took some time to heal himself of all but the burns, emerged from the rocks, and saw the fire had spread considerably. Fire elemental were dancing in the flames. He tried to speak to them but they ignored his attempt at niceties, instead the began to scream and swarmed over him, engulf him in a storm of fire, all around him felt of piercing heat, his senses assaulted by a harsh yellow light, the world around looked to burn out of existence.

    Sean had managed to retrieve the egg, and held it with both arms. He was exhausted, down to crippled with burns, cuts, and a massive gash in the side of his chest. He looked to see if Alfred was near by to offer help, but could see no sign of him. Sean looked around, the fire seemed ceaseless. Looks like he would have to get himself out of this. He took his crucifix and prayed for safety in the flames, using Matter to make his clothing more flame retardant, and made a dash with the egg away from the bush and out of the fire. He was far too injured to try and take the sword. He would have to return for it after he found the others.

    Sean felt a tugging in his pocket and a vague correspondence effect, and found the stone rune Vivian had given him, one of the pair given to him and Alfred, it seemed to tug towards the mountain. Thinking this might might lead him to either Vivian or Alfred, he took the egg in are and proceeded to climb. Due to his injuries he elected to climb as shallow a path as he could find, disregarding the pull of the rune. He was part way up the mountain before he misjudged his step and slipped, falling to the ground where he lay incapacitated.

    Alfred looked around. He was surrounded by a scared landscape. The ground was scorched and blackened, with jagged cliffs marking a cruel outline against a dark sky. Clouds of black smoke formed above him, and all around was the scent of burning flesh. Alfred had no idea where he was. Had he been ejected from the Umbra into some kind of volcanic mountain? He wondered around, looking for any kind of landmark. From a distance, he could hear screaming, bloodcurdling screams of fear and terror. Before him a pair of children ran out of a cavern, bleeding and limping. Tears of dread in their eyes. There was an almighty sound, and one of the children fell, lying in a pooling puddle of their own bed. Shot by a man. Alfred could not bare the event he had witnessed, and could only close his eyes and collapse to his knees to cope. The look of terror in their eyes etched into his withdrawing memories.
    When he opened his eyes again, the children, along with the blood, had vanished. Had the spirits brought him to some kind of underworld? Alfred walked on, and the parched ground soon turned to bloodstained grass, men in armour were massacring each other without relent. The smell of the blood was almost too much to take. He looked up and saw two familiar characters staring at each other for what felt like an eternity. "I'm at the battle of Camlann..." he thought, and certainly this battle did feel so familiar to him, so much of the scene reminded him of his recurring nightmare. The two men lunged at each other with great ferocity, and struck each other in one identical motion. Locked in each others weapon. Alfred rushed to help, and tried to conjure the grass to grow and separate them, but the effect immediately backfired, the plants rose up and struck him, cutting into his skin, while paradox began to accumulate around him. The men collapsed with a look of confusion on each other's face, slowly loosening their grip on their arms.
    Alfred looked down at the fallen sword and hesitantly walked up to take it, but the sword was absorbed into the dirt.

    The entire scene faded into darkness and Alfred was left wondering yet again what was happening. "Is this a dream? No, it is far too vivid? Am I in a paradox realm!? Is a vicious spirit playing with me?"


    A voice calls out his name. He recognises it as his Fathers. Another calls out, this time of his Grandfathers.

    Alfred: Hello? Grandfather? Father? What are you doing here?
    Grandfather: Alfred... You have been consorting with Technocrats. Have you not?
    Alfred: ...I have.
    Grandfather: How could you!? They mean us nothing but harm!
    Alfred: Given the circumstances, it was the best possible thing to do.
    Grandfather: They have contaminated you Alfred. You put us all at risk!

    As they talk, other members of Alfred's family gather behind his Grandfather. They all start talking, accusing Alfred of betrayal. The ground beneath him starts to shake and a giant wooden stake rises from just behind him. Alfred tries to defend himself, denying the accusations as best he could while his sisters tied him to the stake.

    Alfred: This was the best course of action! I had to talk to them!
    Grandfather: Them!? They will only destroy whatever they touch! Just trusting them is enough to let them win!
    Alfred: Grandfather Please!
    Grandfather: This is for your own good Alfred.

    The ground around him starts to get very hot. When he looks down, he can see a huge fire building around him, slowly engulfing his entire body into flames. All around him are members of the Verbena.

    Grandfather: What do you have to say for yourself?
    Alfred: I had no choice!
    Grandfather: Neither do we.

    Every member of the Verbena he has ever met are standing in front of his burning naked body. His entire family, and their network of covens. Every member of the Keepers including Vivian and Boris, as well as Helen and Lydia. They all stand there and chant. "Cleanse the body! Free the spirit!" The fire builds and the pain is intense. Alfred screams intensely, their chants drowned out by the raging fire that surrounds him. Until he can do nothing but give in.
    The peoples faces begin to fade and their chanting feels more and more distant. The orange glow of the flames starts to pale, as does the sound of the embers. Alfred cannot tell if he is lying down or standing up. He tries to move but the pain of his death is still fresh. Slowly, he manages to regain a sense of himself and feeling returns to his body. The world around him starts of a dull white, but in time he starts to make out shapes, jagged rocks within the mist. Alfred shakes off part of the damage, some wounds that seemed aggravated turned out to be lethal. He looks around and realises he stands upon a cliff face on the side of a great mountain. He looks around for some kind of herb, finds it, and proceeds to heal himself as best he can. Reducing his damage back to a single bruised level of aggravated. He is shaken. These events were unlike any dream. They were real, as real as everything that had happened to him so far, almost more real than mundane reality. He could still remember how it felt to slowly burn to death. Something in his hand began to tug, the stone rune was pulling. Alfred made a consorted effort to try and set aside his shaken thoughts and reunite with Vivian and Sean.

    [ST NOTE: One of the things I love to do in Mage is use Health Levels as a way of making the players feel their character's pain. When Alfred was put on the stake, I made him take a level of agg damage slowly until he was down to incapacitated. This gave his player a sense of urgency, and a feeling that perhaps there was something he could do before it was too late. Each level closer to the bottom brought home just how bad this situation was for his character, and how authentic his time in the Wasteland felt.]

    Sean slowly opened his eyes. Vivian was standing over him.

    Sean: What happened?
    Vivian: I took flight and tried to divert the umbral storm, taking it as far away as I could. I reached the mountain and found you collapsed on the path.

    Sean looked around and saw the egg was safely balanced on the side of the path, not a crack to be seen.

    Sean: Thank you for healing me.
    Vivian: Well done for retrieving the egg. What has happened to Alfred?
    Sean: I don't know. I couldn't see him. We'll have to go back anyway to retrieve the sword.
    Vivian: The sword? Oh, yes, your promise with the spirits. We can't go back now.
    Sean: Why not?
    Vivian: The Spirit Wilds are ever changing. Turning back will only lead you somewhere new.

    Vivian could hear someone calling out to her, she and Sean looked up and saw Alfred standing further up the mountain waving his arms to get their attention. Vivian transformed herself into a bird, grabbed Sean, who held the egg, and flew up to meet with Alfred, transforming back to human upon stepping talon on ground.

    She could tell from Alfred's face that something was wrong, that he had been deeply disturbed.

    Vivian: Are you ok Alfred?
    Alfred: ...It's fine.
    Vivian: What happened? Where did you go?
    Alfred: I tried to lull the Surtur to sleep. It was the first time I'd ever tried such a spell, and I botched it. Soon after I fell into this horrible place filled with fire and suffering...
    Vivian: I know of this place. The Garaou call it the Atrocity Realm. Others have called it the Wasteland. though some simply call it Hell.
    Alfred: What is it?
    Vivian: It's been said that the umbra is a shadow of the mundane world. Here emotions and experiences are heightened reflections of what is felt on Earth. The Atrocity Realm is where the most horrible events and feelings are reflected. The worst parts of humanity conformed into one single place.
    Alfred: It felt so real...
    Vivian: I'm sorry you had to experience it. It's dreadful for all who do. I hope this will not take away your wish to visit the spirit wildes again, but understand if you'd prefer not to enter this world for a while after.
    Alfred: It's fine... I'll have to manage...
    Sean: This place has been a demon infested hell from the start... The sooner we finish this, the better. Where are we taking this egg?
    Vivian: To the Aetherian Reaches. A realm which lies above the clouds. Normally I would fly there, but I don't think I can carry both of you and the egg at once.
    Alfred: Then you two go, I'll go back to find the sword.
    Vivian: No. We will all reach the realm together.
    Alfred: What other ways are there of getting there? Taking an airt trail?
    Vivian: Certain spirits may be able to take us there through airts, though I don't know many who can. But look, the moon is full tonight, so perhaps we may be able to find a moon bridge, or a spirit willing to open one. They always arc towards the Aetherian Reaches. Failing that, we'll just have to climb this mountain until we're over the clouds.

    Alfred and Vivian discussed a quick ritual to allow the mountain to change shape whenever their body touches it, allowing them to grab into it and create handholds and footholds as they scale the side of the mountain. Vivian would lead the ascent, Sean would follow with the egg, stepping in each hole she made, and Alfred would bring up the rear. They climbed for what felt like an hour during the seemingly endless night. While the others kept their pace, Alfred began to falter, growing far too tired to continue. He called up to the others to continue while he caught his breath, shaped an alcove in the side of the mountain, and sat looking over the misty night.

    As he sat, he noticed a small spider appear, it was about the size of a tarantula, but was hairless, a smooth body of patterned deep brown on obsidian black. Alfred tried to speak with it as it began to build it's web.

    Alfred: Hello?
    Spider: Who speaks?
    Alfred: I am Alfred.
    Spider: Alfred.

    The spider speaks slowly and deliberately, as though no syllable is left unconsidered. It resumes its web building leaving Alfred unsure how to continue.

    Alfred: Could you help me?
    Spider: Help? With what?
    Alfred: I want to find a moon bridge, do you know where I can find this?
    Spider: Patience.
    Alfred: Do you know anyone that might be able to open one up?
    Spider: Patience.
    Alfred: I see...

    Alfred waited for a while, watching the spider as it slowly built up its web. The side of the mountain was not a very stable position for it, and so had to restart several times as the wind would disrupt its construction. Alfred began to worry that the others were no longer in sight.

    Alfred: Uh... how long exactly do I need to be patient for?
    Spider: Patience...
    Alfred: Why?
    Spider: It is important.

    Alfred returned to his self-made ledge but began to hear a mysterious clicking. He turned to look and saw a small hole, and opening just about large enough to crawl through. The clicking seemed to come from within. It reminded him of the Pattern Spiders, but could not be certain. Alfred decided to investigate the hole.

    Yes, the session ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. The majority of it was taken up with combat which I'm sure you all know can take a very long time to get through.
    One sad little irony is that Surtur are capable of opening moon bridges, and I did imagine a scenario by which they may win a challenge against the Surtur for both the egg, the sword, and perhaps even passage to the aetherian realm. But that's not what happened, instead he went down in a blaze of glory. Shadow of the Colossus music on standby.
    I was kinda hoping that this would be the last session in the Spirit Wilds, that they would get the egg, climb the mountain/take a moon bridge, deliver it and then head home, but then things got a bit complicated. Everything to do with the Atrocity Realm as improvised just as it was happening, I honestly did not expect this to happen, but it seemed the most appropriate response to a 7-8 point spirit sphere botch in the umbra.
    Hopefully the next umbra session will be the final one. If I keep Alfred and Sean separate from the main group for too much longer, then certain scenarios just can't come to pass, like Alfred's relationship with Beranabus becoming known, the conversation between him and Lydia regarding his near murder experience, a fight between the Choristers and the Verbena over the node's protection which Sean will have to temper, and actually having Sean and Alfred in the same room as Edwin for once.

    Also, I've got something big planned once everyone's schedules finally start to sync up and we can once again have everyone in one session.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    12th Session

    I’m starting to have a little fun with the party being split up. Since no one person has a complete map of events, a lot of them are making quite interesting assumptions based on incomplete tales.

    Also, we have another Granny Elm card segment part way through. So look forward to that.

    Cast List
    Joe Hanson: Noir Detective
    Helen Walter: Hermetic Spy

    Notable NPCs:

    Boris: High Priest
    Camellia: Coven Maiden
    Granny Elm: Seer Witch and Barabbus


    Helen waited until midnight before she left her room. She made her way down to the door to the lower Chantry, but of course it did not open. She tried knocking but no one seemed to be around this late. The key to Boris’s Study weighed heavily in her pocket. She knew there had to be something in there she needed to see, all she needed was a chance to get there. Helen turned back, intending to find someone to let her down, under the guise of needing to meditate, but not a single person could be found. Suddenly she heard the front door open. Silently, she peered around the corner and saw Boris come inside, and make his way to the lower Chantry. She followed behind him as quietly as she could. She watched as he opened the door and descended down the steps. Helen quickly drew out her wand and traced shapes of speed into the air, slowing the door down as it closed. Helen ran to catch it, made her way through, and gently closed the door behind her.

    She couldn’t see Boris from where she stood, but could hear movement further ahead. She made her way down to the antechamber and listened out. She could hear a murmuring, faint whispers that sounded strangely familiar, all calling out to her, calling her name. She crept along the corridor and towards the Node room; it’s magnificent tree standing as tall and proud as ever. Boris, however, was nowhere to be seen. The calling became subtly stronger as the approached the Study, the more she listened, the more familiar they sounded. A voice she hadn’t heard for years. She slipped the key our, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.

    The room was pitch black, so Helen took out her wand and moved the darkness around, concentrating as much of it to the doorframe. What was left was an eerie lack of darkness. While the room wasn’t bright by any means, the contours and shapes of the objects within were easily contrasted, like a darker black placed upon a lighter shade of grey. She listened out and followed the voices to the desk, and then the drawers. Their whispering was now unmistakable, she knew these voices too well… “mum?”

    She opened the first drawer and found a letter.

    I’ve yet to hear of a single widderslainte that could be brought back as it were. Their fate was sealed at birth. I know it’s tempting to think they can be saved, but such thinking endangers yourself and all those around you. Sometimes it’s necessary to prune the diseased branches to keep the tree alive. Until your High Priestess is certain about the true spirit of your coven’s Maiden, I suggest you do what you can to support her efforts.

    Berenabus… That name again. And now talking about a Widderslainte? This was definitely something the Order needed to know about. She pocketed the letter and looked through the drawers. While the second was empty, the third caused the whispering to grow louder and louder. She started rooting around, digging in as far as she could until she found a long, sleek, dagger, the look of which she had seen numerous times in her dreams, the voices stopped all at once. Helen stood in stunned silence. She had been waiting for this day almost all her life, the day she found the man who chased her out of the woods, the man who killed her parents and now it felt far too close for comfort. She carefully picked up the dagger. Footsteps, coming towards the Study. Helen quickly jumped into a corner of the room and directed the darkness to surround her with her wand, and waited. She heard the Study door open, then silence. She daren’t make a move or a single sound. Within her patch of darkness she could see nothing, and hoped beyond hope that she was just as obscured. The door closed and Helen waited still as she listened to footsteps walking away.

    After waiting for what felt like hours, Helen crept her way to the darkness that covered the doorway and peered beyond, the door was closed. She heard another door open from somewhere beyond the Study, footsteps walking across the way beyond. Helen waited to hear the footsteps die down before carefully opening the door and stepping out, dismissing her Darkness effect behind her. Boris was in the corridor ahead of her, walking towards the stairs. Helen started to get a bit distressed, if she was seen now, all of this would be for nothing. She tried to creep away but tripped, the dagger slipped from her hand and clanged on the ground.

    Quickly she grabbed the tool and ran behind the tree, crouching as she heard Boris approach.

    Boris: Who’s there!

    Helen did not respond, wishing beyond all will that Boris would just turn around and leave. She heard him walk ever closer to the tree.

    Boris: I know you’re here, show yourself!

    Helen quickly tried to hide the dagger somewhere in the tree and tried to pretend she had been asleep just as Boris wondered over to her.

    Boris: What are you doing?
    Helen: huh? Wha? Trying to sleep…
    Boris: Why are you down here?
    Helen: I just wanted… to sleep under the node, it’s so nice down here.
    Boris: Who else knows you’re here?
    Helen: Hanson does.
    Boris: …You can’t just wonder around down here without permission. If you want to rest down here, you need to speak to either me or Vivian first. Understand?
    Helen: Ok, I promise there won’t be a next time.

    Helen grit her teeth into a smile, hoping that would be good enough.

    Boris: Have a good night.

    Boris turned and left. Helen relaxed, finally feeling able to breath normally. She decided to stay in the node room for the rest of the night to keep up the story of wanting to sleep down there, and resolved to leave for her Student Accommodation, find a better place to hide the dagger, and contact her mentor Eve.

    Early morning, Hanson sat awake, thinking about the case. Edwin was a marauder, and a dangerous one at that. He seemed to think himself trapped in a Lovecraft story, and the world shifted itself to suit. But from what little contact he had with him, he could tell it wasn’t his fault, Edwin didn’t want the world he was trapped in any more than the one Hanson himself was stuck with. There was a lot to empathise with there.
    Hanson remembered what Violet had said, that there was no hope for him and the only way to end this was with his death. Was that really the only way? Or was there some way to cure him of his insanity? If there was, he’d better figure it out quick. Violet only gave him until the end of the week before she’d try giving him the Good Death, and it was already Friday.
    Hanson sat and stared out the window at the slowly dawning sky, smoking. If they were going to have another chance of helping Edwin, they’d need to do it in a way that didn’t trigger his transformation power, but how? Aaron didn’t transform until he told him he was a Mage, so maybe it was just anything that didn’t seem to fit his world view would change… Hanson thought on this, on what they could do to try and reach Edwin and slipped into a dream, somewhat enchanted by the shapes his smoke made, shapes of a book, and open book with pages riffling in the wind.
    Edwin had a book, the Choristor’s Book of the Ages, the source of his power perhaps? Or maybe he just believed it held power. What other books could help though… The Keeper’s Book of Shadows? With a head full of questions, Hanson made his way downstairs, and saw Helen walking out from downstairs.

    He stops her, and talks to her for a bit, explaining to her what he’s been thinking about regarding Edwin.

    Hanson: I think we need to get someone who’s never been in contact with him before to try and talk to him. Perhaps there’s a way to guard against his transformations though…
    Helen: Maybe we could ask Granny Elm.
    Hanson: Maybe yeah… Perhaps we could even ask for the Keeper’s Book of Shadows?
    Helen: We don’t need to ask…
    Hanson: What do you mean?

    Helen quickly shows Hanson the key she used to get into the Study, Hanson stares for a moment, then decides to take Helen out of the Chantry so they can speak more covertly, putting up his perception filter. Helen explains that the key should let them into other parts of the chantry if they needed to look around. As she talks, Hanson notices something sticking out of her boot.

    Hanson: Hey Helen… What you got there?
    Helen: This?

    Helen pulls out the Dagger from her boot.

    Hanson: You’re carrying a knife!?
    Helen: I can explain. This is the knife that killed my parents?
    Hanson: Uhm…
    Helen: I found it in Boris’s Study. You remember I told you I think he killed them? Remember the letter? Well, this is the evidence! He used this knife to try and kill me too!
    Hanson: Well… The knife being found in the office, if you think it’s the same one… It’s all a bit circumstantial but it’s certainly compelling. Might want to talk to Vivian about this, though we better keep an eye on Boris…

    Helen says she has to go to class soon and heads off, Hanson walks back into the Chantry and finds Camellia sitting down with a small cup of tea.

    Hanson: Hey, Camellia. What can you tell me about your Book of Shadows?
    Camellia: Our book? Oh, it’s just where we record all our rituals.
    Hanson: Is it quite powerful then?
    Camellia: Maybe. Every coven has one. Though they should be unique to each one.
    Hanson: I see. Do you ever take it out?
    Camellia: Only for rituals, like the time we helped you when you got hurt.
    Hanson: Thanks, you know where Vivian is by the way?
    Camellia: She’s probably taken Alfred and Sam to the spirit world.
    Hanson: Oh… Wait what?
    Camellia: Yeah, some sort of quest. I’ll let her know you wanted to talk.
    Hanson: I see… Well, I’m thinking of speaking with Granny Elm. Any idea how I set that up?
    Camellia: Don’t worry, you can just go down and see her. She’s probably expecting you.

    Camellia opens the door for him and Hanson ventures down to have his meeting with Granny Elm.
    She sits across the table from him and almost looks through him. Hanson can feel a strange sense of loss in the air as he approaches the table.

    GE: Ahh, welcome. Please, take a seat.
    Hanson: Thank you.
    GE: Tell me, how have you been finding our coven?
    Hanson: It’s been pleasant for the most part. Most of you have been very accommodating.
    GE: Yes, I’ve heard you have some issues with trust.
    Hanson: Perhaps…

    Granny Elm starts to lay her cards out in the same pattern as she does everyone else.

    [1] [2] [3] [4]


    .....[8] [7] [6]

    GE: What do you think of fate?
    Hanson: I’m not really one for fate myself. I prefer to think of such things more along the lines of random chance.
    GE: Ah… Well, chance can play a big role in one’s fate. But even still, we are all capable of pushing the odds in our favour when made aware of what factors affect this chance. And this is what I offer for you today, a glimpse into these forces which affect your fate, the odds. Whether you consider them as likely or not is up to you.

    As with the others, she turns the cards over one at a time, discussing the meaning and implications as she does.

    1: The self. It is THE HERMIT.
    GE: A lonely figure, one who carefully and cautiously makes their way along an uncertain path. They only keep their eyes ahead of them, never straying from what they can see. This may show your single minded approach to the world around you, or depict you as a careful traveller along an uncertain path.

    2: What you were. It is FOUR OF PATTERN (Coins).
    A man, relatively content, he sits at the centre of their universe. The world that they have inherited is easy to understand if requiring a bit of reasoning doing so, and for the moment they do not have need to question their surroundings. This may show a simpler time for you, back when things were not as difficult to take in as they have become.

    3: How you developed. It is SEVEN OF PATTERN (Coins).
    This card represents a moment of dismantling, or revaluation of previously accepted things. The man stands over a pile of dust which was once an important part of their thinking. Perhaps it shows a violent jolt into re-examining previously accepted truths. While this may represent your awakening, it may instead demonstrate the beginnings of a greater understanding of the cruelty present in our world.

    4: Your avatar's will. It is DEATH REVERSED.
    Hanson: Hm!
    GE: Death, though the more symbolic meaning for the card is that of change. You see the man here, pulling back the veil to reveal the harsher landscape behind. It may indicate a removal of the kinder illusions and force attention to the crueller realities, the great storm of harsh potential. In the reversed position, the change it demonstrates may me more of dismantling than of gentle metamorphosis. Perhaps your avatar seeks for you to take apart such false illusions when it sees them.

    5: Your Future. It is WHEEL OF FORTUNE REVERSED.
    GE: Chance itself. I take it from your expression you are no stranger to the barrel of a gun. This card, however holds many meanings. At once it represents the wheel of fate, the nature of chance, and even holds the symbol of the Euthanatos.
    Hanson: …Violet.
    GE: In the reverse position, it indicates an event of misfortune. Perhaps your future holds a difficult moment of bad luck, or simply a conspiracy of events culminating in a point of failure, destruction, loss, or regret.

    6: What you desire. It is SEVEN OF DYNAMISM REVERSED (Swords).
    GE: This figure has come up before in previous readings… It shows a man who walks along a tightrope, to continue on is a fool’s errand, but to turn back is even more perilous.
    Hanson: As I walk across the water, I go too far to turn around…
    GE: However, their face is covered, preventing them from sight. They may be unable to see the position they are in, making their precarious position all the more perilous. Curiously, this man bares the sign of the Marauder.
    Hanson: A Marauder…
    GE: This could indicate some sort of desire for a change of mindset, or even a wish to pull away from this difficult path. Though it could also literally mean you desire to find such a lost person.
    Hanson: I’m working a case, actually, where I’m looking for this woman’s brother, and he might be a Marauder. Do you have any idea how you’d go about that?
    GE: Marauders can be difficult to approach. Their avatars have become demented and beyond their immediate control. In order to approach one, you will have to act in accordance with what they expect.
    Hanson: Do you have any idea if you’d be able to cure a Marauder?
    GE: No such magic has yet been found, though if there was a way, then it would be individual to each marauder.
    Hanson: I see…

    7: What can help you. It is NINE OF DYNAMISM (Swords).
    GE: Tell me, what do you see here?
    Hanson: A woman, she’s crying, sitting in a crypt, skulls under her… She’s surrounded by knives… and there’s that mark again, the mark of the marauder you called it?
    Hanson: This card represents despair, the woman here is, as you rightly point out, surrounded by knives, all which may cause pain and grief at the slightest touch. She sits perhaps in mourning. Though this card could indicate that despair itself may offer some kind of help for you, it feel this card may again refer to an individual.

    Hanson picks up the card, and looks at it intently.

    Hanson: Sarah…

    He dropped the card. It fell, snapping back into place as it touched the table.

    GE: Perhaps this is someone who might be of help in your search for the marauder.
    Hanson: I’ve been meaning to call her anyway…

    8: What you dread. It is THE DEVIL.
    GE: This card depicts a tyrannical force, a being of pure malevolence, and symbolises the spirit of corruption itself. In a more evocative sense, the spiral seen here can demonstrate a spiral out of control, a slip away from this thin tightrope you walk between breaking down the veil and falling through it. Perhaps you fear the spiral turning your man to monster, or maybe from monster to man. Perhaps this misfortune may be the tipping force one way or the other.

    9: What can harm you. It is TEN OF PRIMORDIALISM (Cups).
    GE: This card represents contentment.
    Hanson: This is contentment?
    GE: The gruesome scene you see before you has more than just its literal meaning. It shows a family of sorts, a group who are comfortable with one another’s stranger points. However, perhaps you dread that this illusion of ease obscures you to something deeper and much more grim. The father figure manifests as a demon while the mother some kind of sultry acolyte. The children too, while they play by candlelight, there is a sense of the otherworldly and the sinister about them. Perhaps this represents the trust you feel for members of your group and the ultimate undoing such trust can cause.
    Hanson: Just when I was starting to trust people again…
    GE: It’s possible you even see yourself as one of these characters shown, but which one…

    10: The Unexpected. It is THE TOWER.
    GE: This card has a great many meanings, at once it evokes the story of the tower of babel, the collapse of one’s convictions, and more literally the collapse of a chantry. We see also a figure escaping through a portal, whether it is to seek refuge, are being magically transported, or are escaping the destruction brought by their own hand, it’s difficult to say. As this position represents what is, rather than what will be, has happened, or is happening, perhaps it demonstrates that a close groups dismantling is at hand.

    GE: One thing which is clear to see in these cards is a running theme of pulling things apart. Where once you were headstrong and sturdy, your previous ideas of realty were torn apart, transforming you into the careful hermit who tries to assume nothing. You have an inner desire to tear away at the illusions surrounding reality to expose their harsh truths, though you fear you too will suffer becoming all too harsh in truth. The trust you build around you is not immune to this desire to tear down…

    Hanson stared at the cards for a moment, and one by one Granny Elm collected them back together. Hanson gave a bit more details about his Case, telling her of Edwin’s name, and the experience he’s had so far trying to find him and transforming. Though the information she gave was little more than restating what she had already told him. He thanked her for her time and as ever she assured him she was always available for consultation. Hanson left and returned upstairs.

    [ST NOTE: Hanson was a little easier for Granny Elm to read from. His natural state of dismissing reality as nothing more than an illusion made it very easy for her to give him a reading he’d accept. She had three different agendas with this meeting. The first was to genuinely assist him with finding Edwin and brining him to Sarah, so Sarah may bring him to their group and they can begin a ritual to break open the gauntlet and let the Wyrm’s influence spread. The second was an attempt to get into Hanson’s head and make him question the allegiances he managed to forge. If he starts to question everyone around him, perhaps he’ll start to distance himself, making him easier to turn. The Third is a simple matter of pushing his attention towards a more nephandic point of view. His view point is already part of the way there, it’s only his strong code of self-made morals which seems to prevent him from taking the plunge. In time, she may be able to test these morals to breaking point, but not just yet. Such a code cannot be underestimated.]

    Hanson left the chantry and made a few phone calls. The first was to his Library informant. Hanson knew that Edwin saw himself as the protagonist in a Lovecraft novel, and those guys tend to end up in only one of two ways; dead or insane. He knew that there were other novelists who expanded on the mythos and perhaps they introduced more benevolent beings with more positive endings, this could be something he’d be able to use to calm and help Edwin. He asked his informant if he knew of any such stories.

    The second phone call was to Miss Sarah Phillips.

    Sarah: Hello?
    Hanson: Miss Phillips? It’s Joe Hanson.
    Sarah: Oh! Did you find him!
    Hanson: Almost, got really close but he slipped away. Listen, I need to ask, is there a good time to meet up?
    Sarah: What is this about?
    Hanson: I want to talk about Edwin, about his…condition, and if there might be a way to cure it.
    Sarah: There is! I met some people who told me they could help!
    Hanson: You did? How?
    Sarah: Well… they didn’t tell me too much, they said their methods aren’t easy to accept for most mages.
    Hanson: I see… When would you be able to meet?
    Sarah: I can meet tonight.
    Hanson: Good, call me when you’re free.

    Hanson put his phone away. He wondered for a moment who these people she mentioned could be. Maybe it was a group of choristers from the chantry that got looted. Hanson decided to make a quick stop to a little known arms dealer and purchase a few rounds of revolver ammunition.

    Helen had arrived back at her Student Flat. It was worse than how she remembered it. A tower of beer cans blocked out the light of one of the windows, and there was a horrible smell of rotting coming from the kitchen. A small white maggot wiggled out of the trash, Helen didn’t dare look inside. She just made her way to her bedroom, the only clean, if dusty, part of the flat. She found a place to stash the dagger, took pictures of the letter, and sent them on to Eve before rushing off to a lecture.

    It wasn’t until part way through a lecture in operant conditioning that Eve responded.

    Eve: Helen, if the Keepers are talking about a potential Widderslainte in their ranks, you have to report this.
    Helen: What about the dagger?
    Eve: We’ve talked about this. Try to put it behind you and focus on the task at hand.

    Helen sent a quick message to Hanson to meet up with him later. She decided that she may need his help with figuring out what this letter might be talking about, and what they should do about it.

    They met at a not too far away bar, Hanson still had his perception filter up, so they were at least ensured a discreet meeting.

    Helen: Hanson… Have you heard of the widderslainte?
    Hanson: One of the nephandi right? Screwed up avatars, born with them. Why do you ask?
    Helen: Well… I think you should look at this.

    [ST NOTE: Getting Helen’s Player to show the letter to Hanson’s was actually a lot more arduous than I’m presenting it here. For whatever reason, she really wanted to keep this information to herself, even going so far as to make Hanson’s player suspect that Helen was secretly a widderslainte (saying things like “Well, there are secrets about me which I don’t think I can reveal”. What an amazing spy…). It was hilarious, but ultimately not all that relevant to the actual game story.]

    Hanson takes the letter and reads through it.

    Hanson: So they think the Maiden is a widderslainte… Do they mean Camellia?
    Helen: Oh Camellia! I didn’t think of that!
    Hanson: That might explain why they’ve always got her drugged up on that tea of hers.
    Helen: Maybe they’re trying to help her.
    Hanson: Maybe, though this Beranabus guy seems pretty certain that there’s no helping a Widderslainte… Sounds a lot like a certain Euthanatos girl I know…
    Helen: Dubois?
    Hanson: Yes… Dubois.
    Helen: She asked that we tell her the moment she found anyone who was potentially nephandi.
    Hanson: She would, wouldn’t she. The moment she tracks them down, she’d just kill them. We’ll have to be careful who we tell about what we found.
    Helen: Should we talk to the keepers?
    Hanson: Maybe, not all of them though. Mica maybe, Vivian certainly. Not Boris though… I don’t quite know what to make of him.

    They start to head back to the Keeper’s Chantry, Talking for a while longer, going fairly unnoticed thanks to Hanson’s mind effect. Helen starts to let Hanson know of the various types of Nephandi she has learned about. The Infernalists and their demon gods; The Malfeans and their devotion to spirits of corruption; and the K’llashaa and their Monsters from beyond comprehension.

    Hanson: Hold on a moment… Those K’llashaa sound like something out of Lovecraft… I though Edwin was on his own, but maybe he isn’t, maybe he’s being manipulated by some external force, by these K’llashaa guys… Sarah’s friends, the one who said they could cure him. She did say they had “strange techniques” that other mages wouldn’t approve of… Perhaps they are the K’llashaa and they’re going to try and use him in something… Their leader will be flung across space…

    They had just arrived at Churchil Gardens, when they both noticed Boris walking quite hurriedly away from the chantry. He did not notice them. Helen and Hanson decided to tail him. They followed him down a series of streets, and then round a corner. Helen tried to peak around and suddenly a flock of pigeons flow out. There was nothing else but a dead end. Helen could sense that some kind of Life effect had just taken place, and they deduced that Boris must have transformed himself for a more difficult to trace method of transport.

    Hanson watched the pigeons fly, took his notepad out, and tried to make sense of their flight pattern and direction to get a good idea of where they were likely to be traveling to. Just as they started to fly out of sight he had managed to determine a place. Wimbledon Common. The two of them made their way there immediately.

    They stand at the edge of the woodland. It’s about 4pm and they were beginning to lose daylight. Hanson spied what he thought was a flock of pigeons fly overhead, and this felt good enough. The two of them rushed into the forest in warm pursuit.
    Hanson and Helen crept through the woodlands for a while. Helen took out her wand and gave herself darkvision, while Hanson relied on the light of the full moon. It isn’t long until they notice someone standing in the darkness, a figure in a black cloak. Feeling safe with Hanson’s perception filter at full blast, the two crept as close as they dared. They could not make out this figure’s features. He walked off into the woods, and they followed at an equal pace, making sure neither one accidentally veered away into the darkness.
    Hanson prepares his Focused Hearing effect to zero in on any form of speaking while, but the effect botches, and instead concentrates his energy on not exploding. Helen puts her own effect on the two of them, cancelling any noise either of them may make. They follow on. Communication becomes difficult between the two of them, but they are able to work out some combination of pushes, grabs, and nods to generally agree on the right direction.
    Then, the cloaked figure just stops and stands. They look around to try and figure out why, but the only thing Helen can see is a Fox. The fox looks back at her. Hanson can only hear a light muttering, but cannot make out the words. Without warning, Hanson starts to feel his perception filter break around him, somehow someone has managed to dispel his effect. Getting paranoid, Helen suspects the fox and looks into its life pattern. What she sees confuses her. It’s certainly the pattern of a fox, but it seems distorted in some way completely unfamiliar to her.
    Hanson pulls her attention away and points towards a tree, the cloaked figure has moved to it and now seems to be waiting there. Wordlessly, they agree to make their way slowly towards the tree. There was something very suspicious going on, and neither one of them wanted to leave without finding out what.
    As they drew near the tree, the figure took off. Helen and Hanson both broke into a silent sprint chasing after in what they thought was the right direction. They flew past trees and plants until they found themselves running into a clearing covered in moonlight. The space looked clear and untouched to Hanson, though Helen’s dark vision made it seem much darker than the woods she had just left behind.
    As the pair of them walked across the clearing, Helen felt her bracelet sharply warm up, just as Hanson’s danger sense kicked in. Helen concentrated hard on her surroundings and could almost see the subtle shapes that change when Life magic is in the air. She grabbed on the Hanson to warn him, but before they could move the ground beneath them opened up, giving way to a large pit. Hanson managed to grab a hold of something solid, while Helen dangled from his arm. Bellow was nothing more than pitch black, but Helen could see something moving beneath them, something large with a great number of teeth. Terrified she pulled her way out, clambering over Hanson without hesitation. Once up she turned to help Hanson up and saw the cloaked figure standing not so far away, watching them.
    Hanson can hear him saying something, a definite male voice, in a language he can’t understand, and they watch as he cuts his hand and throws his palm to the ground. Helen can feel a change in the life patterns of the grass beneath them, and takes out her want to try and counter act all these changing shapes. For the next several minutes, these two are locked in a battle of opposing Arete rolls. Hanson tries to call out to the guy, wanting to say something along the lines of “Who are you and what are you trying to do?” But not sound leaves his lips. The figure continues his struggle against Helen’s will. While he’s preoccupied, Hanson starts to peer into his mind to read his surface thoughts. Unable to defend himself, Hanson easily sees his intention, to stimulate the grass to grow and entangle the two of them. This is more than enough provocation for Hanson, he pulls out his gun and takes aim, shoots, and misses.
    Helen’s countermagic is slowing his effect down considerably, and upon seeing he’s now being fired at, the man abandons his effect and moves on to immobilise Hanson as quickly as possible. Calling on his muscles to seize up, preventing any kind of movement for as long as he can hold the effect. This magic is far beyond Helen’s studies, leaving her unable to prevent or dispel it. She instead decides to speak with him, and dispels her sound reducing effect to this end.

    Helen: What are you doing?

    The man does not respond, and only walks slowly toward the immobilised Hanson.

    Helen: Please, we mean you no harm!
    Man: Will you leave this place?
    Helen: Yes, just let us go.
    Man: Hmm…

    He looks at Hanson and puts his bloodied hand to his head. Hanson can sense he’s trying to access his mind. Hanson attempts to allow him in as he is currently unable to talk, and the two of them have a mental link style communication.

    Man: What are you doing here?
    Hanson: We could ask you the same thing, Beranabus.
    Man: How did you learn that name?
    Hanson: I’m a detective!

    The man pushes further. Hanson can feel him probing into his memories. Starting to regret letting him in, Hanson pushes to eject him from his mind with all his will. He succeeds, but not before he had the chance to do some damage. Hanson can no longer remember why there are here.

    Helen is watching and can feel power mind magic taking place. Worried, she takes out a pen and scrawls “Wimbledon Common” on her arm, hoping she may trigger memories if they too are removed from her. Helen considered using the pistol she concealed on her person. She hesitated though, not wanting to harm anyone until she was sure it was necessary. Before she can react though, he turns to her and forces his mind on to hers. She does everything she can to fight him off, and the cloaked man is only able to remove a single recent memory. Helen cannot recall the thing she saw in the pit.
    Though still obscured by his cloak, he seemed satisfied with the effect, and turned his attention to Hanson’s gun, still held out in Hanson’s firm unmovable grip. He placed his finger into the barrel and said something in another language, putting an “always miss” effect upon it. He then walked away, dismissing his effect on Hanson only after walking out of sight.

    The two of them start to head back, Hanson can’t recall clearly what they were trying to do, but isn’t able to ruminate on it. Paradox has started to backlash, and there’s nothing he can do about it. 8 points go off at once. He gets a severe headache and a brief moment of tinnitus. After recovering from this, however, something more concerning occurred. He heard as clear as day the voice of Lydia as though she were stranding right next to him, saying “Hanson… You idiot!”

    A lot of assumptions have been made this week, though to be fair all the information available has been spread out across multiple sessions between players with conflicting schedules. It probably won’t be until after Christmas where we can finally have everyone on the same session once again, and a bunch of revelations can start to take place (if they actually talk about things, otherwise it’s going to be fun watching them accidentally working across purposes). Just to clear things up for everyone watching, here are a couple of the assumptions made.
    1. Camellia is a Widderslainte. The letters were purposefully vague, though if you recall Camellia was not the only Coven Maiden, as Alfred learned while speaking with Mica.
    2. The man in the Cloak was Beranabus. Beranabus is actually the name of Alfred’s Grandfather and Mentor. He tends not to deal in direct names if he can avoid it, excluding his own. The man in the cloak was actually someone else.
    3. The Fox was some kind of spy. Nope, the Fox is just really important.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how both Helen and Hanson react around Camellia when the other players are around. Especially if she asks for their help in something.

    Leave a comment:

  • Michael
    It was just a funny contrast to the repeated attempts to explain that nature spirits aren't demons.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    Originally posted by Michael View Post
    It was nice of you to give the Templar a chance to not be totally wrong for once.
    Yeah, the whole point of this game is that, on some level, everyone is correct about how they think reality functions. Since two of players are Verbena, and another is pretending to be Verbena, the whole Verbena paradigm of nature spirits has been getting the most limelight so far.

    Leave a comment:

  • Michael
    It was nice of you to give the Templar a chance to not be totally wrong for once.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    11.1 catch-up session

    Hello everyone, so nice to be back after a few weeks away. Ready to continue?

    Cast List

    Alfred Camlann: Excalibur Mage
    Sean "Sam" Heath: Templar Knight

    Notable NPCs include:

    Vivian: High Priestess
    Boris: High Priest

    Joseph Kent: Preceptor of the Knights
    Lance: Void Engineer R&E Scientist


    It was 9am. Most days this wouldn't be a problem, but it certainly was today. Alfred hadn't slept more than a few hours before his nightmares forced him into the ranks of the early risers. He lay there in silent terror, thinking not only of his wretched dream, but of the night that came before it, the decision he made, and the terror he inflicted. He tried to tell himself "It was just a progenitor, she would have done worse", but such thoughts gave little solace, the image of the limp body caught in the thorns, the blood trickling from her arms and neck, how easily she could have suffered worse, and how a slightly firmer grip may have ended it all the faster...

    Trying to clear his head, Alfred decided to see who else was up, his head throbbed with exhaustion as he got himself properly dressed. There was no chance he was going in to work today. He knocked on the door of the lower Chantry and found Boris there.

    Boris: Ah, you're up.
    Alfred: Yes...
    Boris: Sleep well?
    Boris: You don't look it. Come with me, I might have something for that.

    Boris leads Alfred down the stairs and towards the apothecary which attached from the node room. Though Alfred had been in here before, this was the first time he saw Boris make use of the many tools which lay within.
    Boris: Vivian has been asking after you.
    Alfred: Oh?
    Boris: She made a deal with a group of spirits and says she may need some assistance in fulfilling her end.
    Alfred: I see...

    Alfred: I received a letter from my Grandfather.
    Boris: It's good to keep up family relations.
    Alfred: Yes, and he sends his regards. He said he knew you, back at the Glastonbery Circle.
    Boris: I did, yes. Interesting man.
    Alfred: Then you know of the family quest. Our search for Avalon.
    Boris: Yes, I even took part in it. but as time went on things changed, and I found a stronger cause here...
    Alfred: He too left to form his own coven, he believes he can find the King near Tintagel.
    Boris: Oh really? What has he been up to these days?
    Alfred: Chasing of tourists.
    Boris: Ah yes... that sounds like him. It's been a while since I've contacted him myself...

    Boris finishes the potion and hands it to Alfred, though still tired, it seems to aliviate a lot of the eye itching and head acheing that had been bothering him for the past few hours.

    Boris: Vivian tells me you were dealing with Progenitors.
    Alfred: Yes, we were trying to stop them breaking the node.
    Boris: Very good. We cannot allow these people to further corrupt such natural spaces.
    Alfred: That's something I've been thinking about. The ponds in the heath, they're man made-
    Boris: Man made or not, spirits reside in them now, and the Heath depends on this energy to thrive.
    Alfred: quite, though the ponds are not in good shape, they seem tainted, poisoned some how, and the spirits said they could feel the "push of the Wyrm"? I think it might have something to do with the brambles we planted. Well not us, two people we met, Zandros and malady, or Melanie I think, they told us to plant them.
    Boris: oh...

    Boris seemed strangely unperturbed by this news

    Alfred: Forgive me for saying so, but you don't seem too surprised by this.
    Boris: Vivian was looking for you, perhaps it's best you speak with her.
    Alfred: There's something, some outside force corrupting the ponds of the heath.
    Boris: What do you know of the Wyrm?
    Alfred: I... I understand that it is a great spirit of corruption.
    Boris: It is much more than that. The Wyrm is the very force of corruption the lies dormant in all humans who betray their land made manifest. It is a force which feeds off of those who ruin the landscape and pervert the natural.
    Alfred: Ah, that does make more sense.
    Boris: Perhaps it is these progenitors you faced who polluted the ponds of the Heath. The sooner we chase them off for good the better.
    Alfred: Perhaps yes.

    Alfred walks up the stairs to speak with Vivian, who sits in the communal area, before he gets there, however, his phone rings with a withheld number. For a while he deliberates on whether or not he should answer it. While waiting he sees his phone quickly flash the a number before returning to the "withheld" sign, but does not recognise the number. He answers the call.

    Lance: Alfred?
    Alfred: Speaking...
    Lance: It's Lance.
    Alfred: Ah...
    Lance: We've been getting a number of strange fluctuations from the area of South Hampstead, you know anything about this?
    Alfred: No...
    Lance: Well, we're preparing to investigate the area as we speak, so if there's anything you know that can help, we'd really like to hear it.
    Alfred: I do know one thing. The many you're looking for is a Marauder.
    Lance: A Marauder? Seriously?
    Alfred: Yes, you familiar?
    Lance: Only from reports, those guys are meant to be highly dangerous.
    Alfred: Yeah, well this one seems to transform everything he sees into something...Lovecraftian.
    Lance: Well, we received some footage from the area we may investigate, and it seems your friend Hanson was in the area.
    Alfred: Hanson...
    Lance: Do you think he might be a Marauder then?
    Alfred: No, or at least I highly doubt it. The man you're looking for carries a book, and I think the book he holds may be the source of most of his power.
    Lance: I see... That's actually quite helpful to know. Right, let us know if you learn anything else.

    Lance hangs up. Alfred puts his phone away, preparing to speak with Vivian.

    Alfred: High Priestess?
    Vivian: Alfred, hello.
    Alfred: Good morning. You sent for me?
    Vivian: Indeed I did. I must thank you for your part in defending the Heath.
    Alfred: That is most kind of you, though I fear they may be back in stronger numbers.
    Vivian: I would expect as much. Though if it's one thing I know about the Technocracy, it's that they tend to act on calculated measures. They will take their time to regroup.
    Alfred: So defending the Heath from them is not urgent.
    Vivian: Not for now, though if we can find a way to slow them down or stop them before they try again, it would be best. Also, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on what the Choristers are planning in the interim.
    Alfred: Yes, certainly.
    Vivian: You recall the spirits that assisted us last night?
    Alfred: Where they the ones who caused the storm?
    Vivian: They called forth the wind and cloud while I directed its power. And yes. These are the Talons of Horus, a great array of avian spirits who agreed to assist in return for a favour.
    Alfred: And this favour is?
    Vivian: Tell me, have you ever been into the Umbra?
    Alfred: Not yet no, I lack the knowledge to do so.
    Vivian: Are you interested in exploring the Umbra?
    Alfred: Yes, very much so. I also understand that it's one of the rites for membership into the Keepers.
    Vivian: Then perhaps you may be able to assist. This favour requires I enter the umbra, but it is dangerous to venture out alone. Would you be willing to join.
    Alfred: ... Yes!
    Vivian: Good. Of the other initiates, For Helen, I reserve my trust as I found her wondering in Boris's study not long ago. While the last time Lydia dealt with spirits, she told me she lost her necklace.
    Alfred: To be fair, I think she was dealing with some particularly rough Stormcrows.
    Vivian: Such carelessness can be catastrophic in the Spirit Wilds, it's not something which can be dismissed.
    Alfred: I see...
    Vivian: However, Camellia told me of another who helped save her from the Pattern Spider, and thought against the H'ruggling.
    Alfred: Sam
    Vivian: Perhaps it would be safer to have him along with us.
    Alfred: I'll go find him.

    Sean woke up at about 11, all things told he had a pretty good night's sleep. After getting ready, he was going to go to the Chapter house to restock on ammunition, when he was stopped by Alfred informing him of Vivian's Quest. Sean was reluctant to accept until he heard more details, which Vivian gave when they returned.

    The Talons of Horus spoke of an egg which contains a new spirit, for a while it has been kept under the watchful eye of a Surtur, a great fire giant spirit. Now the time has come for this egg to hatch, but still the Surtur guards over it without relent. The Talons of Horus are forbidden from harming another worrier of Gaia, yet the Surtur refuse to deal in anything but confrontation, and thus they require an intermediary to take the egg from the Surtur and return it to the Talons of Horus where it may be hatched properly.

    Though a bit unsettled by the idea of walking into what sounded like some kind of nether world and dealing with demonic creatures, he reluctantly agreed to assist once he returned.
    Sean left for the chapter house, approached the munitions department, and was able to sign out for two magazines without drawing much suspicion. He considered requesting the Machine gun, but the paperwork that would be required put him off the idea. Sean then left to pray at the alter and draw up some divine energy into his soul. As he prayed, a voice spoke loud and clear in his ears.

    Voice: How do you judge them?
    Sean: Judge who?
    Voice: The Pagans, and the rest.
    Sean: The Pagans are...misguided, but I don't think they have done harm.
    Voice: Are they worthy of your help?
    Sean: They have done no ill to me.
    Voice: That does not mean they have done no ill.
    Sean: Of course, my lord.
    Voice: You must watch their actions, and bring judgement down upon the deserving when necessary.
    Sean: I understand, my lord.

    Before leaving to return to the Keepers, Sean was stopped by Preceptor Joseph Kent.

    Kent: Heath!
    Sean: Yes Preceptor!
    Kent: At ease. I hear that you were involved with a skirmish at the Heath last night.
    Sean: Yes, Progenitors trying to take the ponds.
    Kent: Assisting the Choristers then?
    Sean: Yes.
    Kent: Very good. The Choristers are planning a ritual to drain the node within the next few days. When this happens you will be called upon to ensure there is no interruption. You are still with these Pagans?
    Sean: I am, yes.
    Kent: When the time comes, keep them busy, keep them away from the Heath. Is this understood.
    Sean: Understood!
    Kent: Good. Oh, and next time you sign out on your ammunition. Make sure you pass it by me first next time.
    Sean: Yes Preceptor.

    Meanwhile, Vivian and Alfred return to the Node room to meditate and draw up the spiritual energy from the node. Alfred takes this opportunity to ask the tree spirit some more questions. He wishes to know more about Queen Boudicca, so he may prepare his plan to call on her assistance in defending the node. But the spirit seemed unable. Years were short to the Spirit, and a single separate human life was a difficult concept for the spirit to fully understand. Getting nowhere, he switched his questions to that of Avalon, but was only able to hear that Avalon lay beneath "Hidden Waters", and little more.

    He spoke with Vivian for a while, and explained to her his plan, that he had managed to obtain an iron age bracelet that he hoped he could use to summon Queen Boudicca from, as the rumours were that she had been buried at Hampstead Heath. Lydia frowned at this and spoke with concern.

    Vivian: Necromancy is a difficult and dangerous variety of magic, Alfred.
    Alfred: Necromancy? I'm not trying to create an army of the dead, I just want to receive council from her.
    Vivian: If you wish to commune with the dead, there are many things you need to consider. What is her soul has already moved on and has already reincarnated over a hundred times. How do you even know this bracelet you've found is hers?
    Alfred: I don't, but I still might be able to use it as a way to connect with her time, especially if I use it at Boudicca's mound.
    Vivian: Gwynn would be able to tell you much better than I the risks involved in what you wish to do. But as it is, I cannot advise you attempt it.
    Alfred: ...I never thought this would count as necromancy... When does Gwynn return?
    Vivian: We still do not expect him until the end of the month.

    Sean arrived and was brought down into the Node room. Vivian handed the pair of them robes and left to change as she intended to travel skyclad. Alfred was not unfamiliar with the concept having done many skyclad rituals in the past, and prepared to get changed. Sean, however, was much more sceptical about the idea, and instead took some time to pray, consecrating his clothes and gun.

    Alfred: You're going in like that?
    Sean: And you like that?
    Alfred: Carrying more than your own life pattern is going to be harder to cross.
    Sean: That shouldn't be a problem anymore.
    Alfred: But won't you miss out on the experience of being one with nature?
    Sean: ...I think I'll manage.

    Vivian returned in a robe and started drawing a circle on the ground with a number of symbols ordained within it. She noticed Sean was stilled clothed and made a comment along the lines of "typical Choristers...". She removed her robe and the three of them stood within the circle. Vivian had only her necklace from which a number of other things hung. Alfred wore nothing, and only took with him his own wooden runes. After several minutes of ritual chanting, Vivian stepped through the gauntlet and took the two of them with her.

    Alfred and Sean's senses were assaulted with a barrage of sound and touch. A great number of screaming voices pierced their minds as they both felt clawing and scratching at their very souls. Alfred tried to pull his thoughts away from the obvious suffering tone in their voice, but could not screen out their cries, falling through the other side with a siring headache. Sean was not so lucky. His avatar shown like a flame to the storm and attracted a great deal of attention, he could feel it scratching at his bones, clawing at his soul, biting into the very essence of his being. He felt a small amount of Divine Influence fall away from him as he fell out the other end, bleeding and in great pain.

    [ST Note: I'm using a custom system for crossing the Avatar storm where it's possible to get anything from 1 point of bashing to Full Arete worth of Agg damage depending on how you roll, if you want details then check the very first post I ever made on this forum. In this case (strangely enough) Alfred got 1 Bashing, and Sean got 3 Agg and had to roll Avatar to prevent Gilgul.]

    Sean: Is this what always happens when you leap into the pits of hell!?

    Sean spoke as he tried to stop himself vomiting.

    Vivian and Alfred helped him up to this feet, then looked around at the eerie scenery. No longer were they in the node room, but on the peak of a hill next to a great tree, beyond they could see shadows of the city of London, Alfred could see a face within the tree, looking at once ancient and steadfast, an expression of contemplation. To Sean, however, the scene was distinctly dull, as though lacking true enlightenment. When looking at each other, they noticed differences in how they looked back in the mundane world.

    Vivian's skin had darkened, and great swirling patterns flowed over her, every changing, as though a subtle tattoo of a tempest flowed continuously over the ocean that was her body.
    Sean's clothing seemed resplendent and intricate. He shown like a beacon of power, the quintessence in his system filling him with an aura of cleansing spirituality.
    Alfred at first appeared to be unchanged, though his movement was more rhythmic, and his skin seemed to pulsate slightly, as though his whole body beat in time with his heart.

    Vivian started moving, walking down the hill while the others followed. As they drew closer to the buildings Alfred could see the great number of spider webs which covered them and could even make out a few Pattern Spiders which crawled on its surface. Sean on the other hand only saw a more vivid world where areas of light and shadow, indicating places under the influence of righteousness and sin. While he could not immediately see the spiders, if one were to present itself to him, he would be unable to ignore it.

    Sean: Is this the demonic vision we saw when passing through those halls?
    Alfred: halls? You mean the Pathways?
    Sean: Yes, the world of the demons.
    Alfred: This isn't the world of the demons. The spirit world is split up into three parts. There's the Astral world, which I suppose is sort of like heaven, then there's the middle world which is a sort of purgatory, then there's the dark world which I'd guess is close to hell.
    Vivian: That's not entirely true...

    Vivian informed them that they were currently in the penumbra, a shadow cast of the mundane world on to the spiritual. She then proceeded to give her somewhat limited account of the Umbra. While she had very little experience with either the Astral Realm or the Dark Umbra, she knew enough to know which one had Wraiths in it. The Spirit Wilds, however, she was able to explain in a bit more detail, describing it as a world that humanity has slowly been pulling itself away from, where spirits live and fight to preserve the natural. She also informed them of the balance of the Triat, and the presence of the Wyld, the Weaver, and the Wyrm. Lastly she mentioned some of the dangers of the spirit wilds, including the Garou, beasts known in some circles as Werewolves, beings of exceptional power. She knew of some Verbena covens who were able to work with them for a time, but such alliances would never last. She herself had no contacts with any tribes and considered the best course of action was to stay out of their way and avoid becoming their target. A lot of this information was lost on Sean, who just considered a demon a demon and left it at that.

    The streets of penumbral London were strangely empty, except for the occasional shadow and a number of darting around spirits, not a single person could be seen. Vivian explained that very few human cast a shadow on the penumbra, there were exceptions, and mages tended to be one of them. She told him that they were looking for a way into the spirit wilds. It's possible they'd find it if they just kept walking long enough, but she knew it would be quicker if a spirit could assist them.

    Alfred decided to try his luck with one of the Pattern Spiders, he quickly cast a spirit effect on both him and Sean so they may speak and understand the spirit's language, and spoke.

    Alfred: Hello?
    Spider: Who are you?
    Alfred: We are mages.
    Spider: What are you here for?
    Alfred: We're trying to find an Surtur who guards an egg.

    The Spider moved on, obviously disinterested in what Alfred had told it. Alfred looked up and noticed a large number of stormcrows flying off in the same direction.

    Alfred: Hey! Where are you going?
    Crow: We're going to have a ball!
    Alfred: What does that mean?

    The crow laughed and flew on. He asked another.

    Alfred: Is there something happening over the there?
    Crow: Is there?
    Crow: Is there indeed!
    Alfred: Could you tell me what it is?

    Again, the crows laughed and flew off. Alfred was beginning to understand why Lydia despised them so.

    Sean stared in the direction of a hospital surrounded in thickly woven pattern webs.

    Sean: Can you see it?
    Alfred: See what?
    Sean: There! Hanging in the sky over the Hospital
    Vivian: I... no....
    Sean: A pair of angels.

    Sean started walking up to two spirits that hung in the air, two genderless humanoids with great wings on their shoulder and a pure light softly glowing from their skin. As Vivian and Alfred followed, the angels became more apparent.

    Sean lowered to his knees and spoke to these celestial beings gently and with respect.

    Sean: I pray to you

    One of the angels floated gently down to meet with Sean and spoke softly.

    Angel: What do you seek?
    Sean: We wish to find a way towards the spirit wilds

    The Angel smiled and bent down to kiss Sean on the forehead.

    Angel: Have faith, you will find it.

    The kiss felt purifying, all of Sean's wounds had closed up and healed, leaving a sense of calm and reassurance. The angel flew back to the sky and almost seemed to dissipate from view.
    Alfred and Vivian discussed what they had just seen, and concluded that this must have been some kind of Spirit of the Wind who were often known for playing games.

    A rat gaffling scurried towards Alfred shoe.

    Rat: Hey buddy? You know how to get to Camden from here?
    Alfred: ....yes?
    Rat: Right, where's the way?
    Alfred: I think you might be going to my house...
    Rat: Great, so how to get there?
    Alfred: I'll tell you if you help me first. We need to get to the Spirit Wilds
    Rat: Is that all? No prob! I'll get a friend of mine to show you the way.
    Alfred: Ok...

    Alfred explains how to get to Camden and the rat runs off. Moments later another Rat appears.

    Rat: You want to find the spirit place?
    Alfred: Yes.
    Rat: You let me stay at yours?
    Alfred: ...this is getting out of hand...
    Rat: Yes or no?
    Alfred: Fine. Go ahead. But only until I get back.
    Rat: You mind I bring a few friends?
    Alfred: ....Fine, sure, go head.
    Rat: Right, follow me.

    The spirit races down the street and Alfred chases after, calling to the others "Follow that rat!".
    They three of them sped down the streets and through an alleyway which became longer and longer as they ran through it. Eventually the passage began to rotate like a corkscrew making it difficult to run. When the wall gradually became the floor, it started to curve up. Vivian and Sean began climbing though Alfred couldn't find a way to grip on. Noticing his trouble, Vivian called out a quick chant which crew out the nails in Alfred fingers into sharp claws, making climbing very easy. Vivian dispelled the effect as Alfred climbs up and over the top where they saw the most amazing natural landscape either Sean or Alfred could recall.

    The stood on top a great mound, the sky was bright and vivid with the suns fantastic light shining upon all. Beneath them a great forest spread, to the right a rocky mountain range cut over the horizon, and to the left an expansive dessert. The forest was anything but consistent, and a patch of darkness held in the centre of it, despite how intense the sun's light shone.
    Vivian explained that the first thing they needed to do was to find the giant. She pulled a rune from her necklace and handed it to Alfred.

    Vivian: When you find the Surtur, cast this rune to the ground, it will help me find you. But be careful, it will only work if we stay within the same realm. Do not step over into others if you can help it. Other than that, trust your instincts and keep each other safe.

    She then transformed into a great bird with jet black wings and flew off into the sky, they gathered she left to search for the Surtur in the air.
    With little other indicator of the correct path to take, Alfred and Sean ventured into the forest to investigate that patch of darkness.
    They made their way down the mound and traversed into ever thickening bush. The sky had almost completely vanished, and the stench of rot and decay filled the air. Sean sneaked into the bush, he had a bad feeling about this place and wanted to keep hidden until he figured out what was going on. Alfred remained and tried to sense the presence of spirits. Although everything was spiritual here, he was able to determine between mobile and inanimate spiritual beings, and could see something was hidden in the bush not far from Sean's hiding place.

    Alfred: Sam! Watch out.
    Sean: What?
    Alfred: There's something right beside you.
    Sean: How can you even tell where I am?
    Alfred: You're still glowing with your prime stuff.

    It's true, The quintessence Sean held in his pattern made him glow like a light. Alfred peeked through the bush and saw the unfortunately familiar sight of a H'ruggling. This wasn't a battle either of them wished to have, so they slowly crept away. Sean tried to find their way back to the mound, but the path they took seemed to twist in a different direction, nothing stayed consistent. They ended up walking down into more open woodland which was vibrant and full of life, eventually finding themselves by an unnaturally blue river, as though seen through an over-saturated photo. Alfred was so distracted by the odd colour that he walked straight into a tree, knocking an Owl spirit of its branches and on to his head.

    Owl: Who are you?
    Alfred: What... oh, I'm Alfred.
    Owl: Are you searching?
    Alfred: Yes, actually, we're looking for a Surtur guarding an egg, could you help us?
    Owl: Perhaps yes, if you help him, you will get to where you need to be.

    The Owl gestured over at a strange white mouse which looked timidly at the water. Sean had been watching this mouse and wasn't so much an animal as a skeleton. A skittering skeleton that didn't seem comfortable with that deep blue water. When Alfred tried to approach it with his ever friendly "hello", the mouse quickly scuttled into the bush.

    Alfred: No, it's ok, it's ok. I'm not going to hurt you.
    Mouse: No?
    Alfred: Do you want to cross the river?
    Mouse: ...y-...yes.
    Alfred: We can help with that, but we need help too. We're looking for a Surtur guarding an egg.
    Mouse: Oh... I've seen before. That's in the great plains.
    Alfred: Could you take us there if we help you cross the river?
    Mouse: ....Ok...

    The Twice-Dead clambered up Alfred's leg and up to his shoulder, his bones felt light and delicate. Sean and Alfred discussed what the best way of crossing the river would be. They both vetoed simply wading or swimming across, in the spirit world who knows what that might lead to. Alfred though about forcing plants to grow across but Sean wanted to check what this water actually was first. He did a short prayer for insight and could sense the river was certainly made of water, though not entirely, perhaps it was both water and water's spiritual equivalent mixed as one. Perhaps if it was a matter pattern, he'd be able to manipulate it.
    He called forth the power of the lord and asked if they may solidify themselves a path of ice across. Without his bible to focus on, he had to rely only on memory for a relevant passage, and though more difficult, sure enough a narrow bridge of ice began to form, linking the two banks. The two of them began to cross, and got half way before a strange burbling alerted them to another's presence. A water elemental emerged from the depths, taking a vaguely bipedal form.

    Spirit: Who here disturbs our waters!

    The mages did not respond, only quickened their pace.

    Spirit: I will not let you pollute our lands!

    The Spirit swung at Sean who blocked the mass of water.

    Alfred: Sam...
    Sean: We need to get across!

    The mouse jumped into Alfred's hair and held on for dear life. Running was far too difficult on the ice, and the bridge was not wide enough to doge anymore attacks. They would have to run across and risk the spirits wrath. Sean lept and managed to break through without too much trouble. Alfred, however, passed by got hit hard by an torrent of water with the ferocity of a flailing fist, knocking down to the bank.

    Spirit: Now you will learn what happens to those who tamper with others domains.
    Alfred: Get rid of the bridge, Get rid of the Bridge! Get rid of the bridge!!

    Sean tried to melt the ice, but found it too difficult to concentrate on everything at once, and the effect botched. He grabbed Alfred and picked him up over his shoulder and ran as far as he could away from the angry water spirit.

    Alfred: What are you doing?
    Sean: Running!
    Alfred: What about the bridge?
    Sean: God wills it!

    As he carried him and ran, the forest opened up into a great expanse of sand. Like a beach in low tide, but spreading out beyond the horizon, the sun was begining to set and the moon could be seen great and large. Sean dropped the naked man he carried, sensing the danger was over. The mouse crawled up onto of Alfred, sensing he had been hurt, and healed him a little with it's own charms.

    Alfred: Thank you.
    Mouse: Can... Can I ask, what just happened?
    Alfred: Well, we ran away from a spirit that wasn't happy with the magic we just did.
    Mouse: Magic?
    Alfred: Yes, we're mages.
    Mouse: Ohh!! Mages! I've met mages before, there was this one time that this made I met in the forest asked for help, and he made me really really big, like really big, so big I could see over all the trees, I've never been able to see so much before. Anyway, that was just the one mage, another mage-
    Alfred: Little friend. I'm sure it's very exciting for you, but we still need help. You said you knew where the Surtur was?
    Mouse: The Great Plains, yes, follow!

    The mouse darted off down the sand, and Alfred and Sean had no choice but to keep up. He run through an Airt which took them across the sand which started to form bridges over a dark void, soon the bridge became patchy, until only small platforms of sand floated solidly over the void. While both the mouse and Sean were happy to jump across, Alfred manipulated the spiritual matter within the soil to bridge the gaps as he stood upon them.

    They found themselves in a jungle, still on the airt when the mouse stopped and sniffed the air.

    Alfred: What's going on?
    Mouse: I semll the Garou.
    Alfred: ...oh no.

    Alfred quickly grabbed Sean aside.

    Sean: More demons?
    Alfred: Shut up! Now listen. Werewolfs are real and they are here right now, we do not want to be seen by them, so keep quiet!

    Alfred started squeezing the runes in his hand and tried to encourage growth in all the plants around him to obscure them from the Garou. His ritual we growing long and they could hear movement in the bush ahead of them. He quickly rushed it and fixed the plants to cover them.

    Alfred: Don't...make...a sound...

    A fire bird emerged from the path ahead and flew quickly across and away, behind it two figures with a great deal of hair and strangely misshapen heads drew near. They were speaking in gruff voices as though they both had something caught in their throat, and they wore tattered clothing. One of them stopped, and sniffed the air.

    Garou1: What's got into you?
    Garou2: I can smell something...
    Garou1: We're going to a Wyrm infested hellhole, you're going to smell a lot! Not come on!

    The first Garou walked ahead while the second lingered, Alfred did everything he could to keep silent while the beast approached their hiding place. He could feel its breath on his face as its mouth grew inches away. He held his breath and he forced himself not to look into its eyes, seeing the creature bare its teeth and growl in growing rage.

    Garou1: HURRY UP!!

    The second Garou stopped, howled after him and transformed into a more wolfen shape, running far down the road. Alfred and Sean stood in silence, waiting to be sure they were long gone. Alfred's plant effect began to wither. They decided to move on quickly.

    The jungle turned into more of a swamp environment, where Alfred and Sean were stopped by a group of Norns, three spirits taking the form of old crones cackling and chanting. The refused to allow passage until they told them of their quest to find the Surtur, and then only let them pass when they agree to give them something in return. The Surturs Flaming Sword. They cackled and warned that if they did not present the blade before they left the umbra, they would know where to find them. Shaken by this, but seeing no other options, the agreed and walked on, The Twice-Dead mouse thanked them for keeping it hidden during the past transaction, and lead them out into the great plains where the grass was an unusual blueish yellow, the sky was covered in ever changing clouds, and large rock formations spread littered around. Not far from them a grand mountain pierced through to the sky above. The sun was starting to set and the moon shone through a haze of light, and though blurred, its shape was still clear to see. Up ahead Sean spied an orange glow from a figure in the distance.

    Sean: I think this is the place.
    Alfred: Ah, Vivian said this wouldn't work if we entered a new realm...
    Mouse: This isn't a new realm.
    Alfred: It isn't?
    Mouse: No, just the great plains, still in the spirit wilds. Who's Vivian?
    Alfred: She's another mage.
    Mouse: Wow, three mages in one day!

    Alfred threw the rune to the ground, they had no idea what to expect, but it seemed as though nothing had happened. Alfred began to grow very weary after all this walking, and though he had no idea what time it was, he felt as if he'd been walking for over half a day. Alfred lay down on the grass and started to drift off. "I guess I'll take first watch then" Sam said.

    Alfred awoke in his bed, fully clothed in pyjamas. He looked around and recognised the room from his home in the village. He used to live in this cottage with his parents and siblings. He called out to see if anyone was around, but couldn't hear anything. He got dressed and made his way downstairs. The kitchen was just as he remembered, but everything felt still, as though it were left behind. He opened the door and looked outside, the dirt road the winded between the houses was still there, just as the crops fields beyond it. But not a soul could be seen. The wind was strangely still, and very little was moving. "Where is everyone" he thought to himself as he made his way to his Grandather's home at the end of the road. "Grandfather?" He called as he knocked "Are you there?". The door opened, but no response was heard. Alfred crept inside the room and saw all the things he knew so well, the books, the shelves, the collection of tools and farm gear that lay strewn around, but not a sign of where anyone could be. He cautiously walked to his Grandfathers desk and decided to have a look through them. In the top drawer all he could find was a picture of his Grandfather's face with a stern expression on it. He folded it up and placed it in his pocket. A thought occurred to him, perhaps they had all gone in town. He ran out to where he knew his bicycle would be and peddled down the dirt road. To either side of him great crops of grain could be seen. As he progressed further down the path, each new crop of grain seemed to be taller than the last, until they seemed ripe for harvest. A few fields after and the crops had already been harvested and lay bear and empty. Frost began to form on the track and the path grew a fin layer of snow. Alfred had been peddling for what felt like hours, he should have been in town by now. Alfred stopped peddling and tried look around, the scenery was slowly disparaging under a layer of pure white snow.

    Sam kept an eye of the orange glow, it moved around within a single spot from which it did not leave, he had been keeping a close eye on it just in case. Above him he noticed a great black bird sore above him, gradually lowering closer and closer until it fell into a swoop and transformed into a woman upon touching down. Vivian had arrived. Sean gave Alfred a quick kick to try and wake him up.

    Alfred's bike fell, and soon disappeared under the intensifying snow. He called out but couldn't see a thing, the sky and the ground bled together into one continuous scene. Alfred's vision began to cloud and soon he couldn't tell if he was standing or lying down. "Alfred?" He heard the voice of his father call out "Alfred? Are you there?" The voice of this Grandfather joined in. He wished so desperately to call out but all his words seemed to be swallowed by the sky. His vision had fallen to pure white. "Such a shame" he heard his Grandfather utter as the world grew more and more distant, "such a shame."

    Alfred opened his eyes, standing above him were both Sean and Vivian, the Twice-Born mouse was looking very excited.

    Mouse: She flew in! She was a bird, and then, then she wasn't! Are you sure she isn't a spirit?
    Vivian: This your spirit?
    Sean: It was just guiding us.
    Vivian: How very cute...

    Alfred got up, somewhat troubled by the vividness of the dream he just had, never before had a dream felt quite so real. He could still feel the crisp falling cold of the snow that touched his face. He got up, and bid the mouse farewell, and then followed Sean and Vivian as they got closer to the Surtur.

    They kept a distance way, but could see well enough. The Fire Giant stood with its sword in hand over a large bush. Through magic, the three of them determined that the Egg was in there and about twice the size and weight of an Ostrich Egg. Alfred had peered into the mind of the Surtur and could see it was very alter and quite focused on ensuring the egg remained where it was.

    Sean and Alfred talked tactics. Vivian told them that a Surtur will never back down from a challenge. This gave them three possible methods of approach.

    The first was Sport. They may be able to challenge it to something and win. Vivian advised against any kind of fight to the death as the Surtur would not stop until it sees them killed. But perhaps another kind of challenge such as breaking rocks, a race, or something they'd be able to win with magic in exchange for both the egg and the sword. The problem with this was what may happen if they lose, and whether it was even possible to win against a sentry of this size.

    The second, then, was Trickery, perhaps they could challenge it to something that would bring it away from its post, or at least be able to distract it long enough for either of them to sneak in and take the egg. Perhaps Vivian could take the egg and fly off with it. But this still left the problem of how to get the sword.

    The third was illusion. Perhaps it would be possible to create some kind of mental or physical illusion to distract it. Maybe have it think there was a threat approaching the egg, maybe make it think a pile of rocks was an Ice giant (which they assumed would be the fire giant's enemy). Something to keep it busy while they took the egg. But again, how to take the sword was still a problem.

    This left then a fourth option, and one they didn't feel quite ready for. Direct combat.

    In the time they took to consider their options, the sun had set and night had set in properly. The only light came from the flames of the surtur and the light of the moon. The wind started to pick up and Vivian began to look worried. A storm began to set in, and Umbral Storm carrying a great amount of chaotic energy. Without warning dust and dirt got kicked up into the air, wind started raging, and all about them was thrown into dissaray. Sean managed to run to a nearby formation of rocks for shelter, but Alfred tripped and fell. Vivian stayed back and created a barrier, trying to protect him from the storm. Sean saw this and tried to run to help Alfred up and drag him to the rocks, all while Vivian stood there and maintained the barrier. The dust grew and soon neither Alfred nor Sean could see Vivian within it. Alfred tried to sense out her life pattern but was only able to for a brief moment before she the storm intensified.

    They waited a good 5 minutes for the storm to settle, and when it did, Vivian was nowhere to be seen. The Surtur was still at his post, as was the egg. This is where the session ended, with both mages wondering what exactly to do, the night had only just begun.

    The basic idea behind this session was to introduce these two players to the Umbra. None of my players have been in such a bizarre setting before. Alfred's player has been saving up to get the third rank in Spirit, so I thought he might as well have a crash course in Spirit Wilds. Just having two people wondering the Umbra makes things a lot easier to keep track of, and the hope is that they may then serve as guides to the spirit world for the other players later down the line. As ever, my players are proving to be the most peaceful mages ever, and have either ignored or run away from any chance at combat. (though to be fair, I was expecting they wouldn't try to fight a Werewolf given how deadly they are.)

    One of the things I make sure is that I'm being fair. Since I was forcing the players to jump through the Umbra with this task, I wanted to allow every opportunity to heal after the damage done by the storm. After all, if their first time through was so traumatising that they'd never want to chance a second trip, what good does this do to the scope of the world? Such opportunities for healing may not be so forthcoming if they later chose to cross the Gauntlet for their own purposes, however. They know the risks now, so its up to them to make precautions.

    This was also the first chance I've had to do a session in the Umbra. I wanted to focus on the otherworldly aspect of it, on the way that it's environments seem to be constantly shifting, and only the spirits themselves seem to understand its layout. I wanted to make a Spirit Wilds which felt open and imposing in equal measure without having to rely on the great number of realms within it. Alfred's player told me he felt as though his character was way in over his head, so I think I might have managed that quite well.
    I must admit I did not expect the brief trip into the Maya that took place (the dream world), so a lot of that dream stuff I was making up as I went along.
    If you have any comments on how I did the Umbra, by all means let me know. Although I've read a lot of WTA books, I've never actually played a game of Werewolf, so I have almost no game experience to draw from when describing these places.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    11th Session

    I'm going to be away for a week after this, so there will be a short gap between now and the next write up.

    Cast List

    Aaron Gibson: Punk Hacker
    Lydia: Moon Witch
    Joe Hanson: Noir Detective
    Helen Walter: Hermetic Spy

    Notable Npcs:

    Boris: High Priest
    Mica: Technowitch

    Lance Armstrong: R&E Scientist
    Dennis Howard: NSC Cyborg

    Edwin Phillips: Our Marauder
    Violet Dubois: Euthanatos Assassin from afar


    It was 10 in the morning when Hanson woke up. He had fallen asleep watching over Helen. Someone had obviously come to tend to him during the night because all his wounds were gone. Helen too seemed to be in better shape. He decided to return to his room and prepare his morning coffee and smoke. While sitting by the window and watching the shadows cast behind the mid-morning sun, he started to think intently about the problem at hand. He managed to find Edwin, but now he wanted to know, how could he help him... As he thought, he slipped into dream, the smoke forming images as it mixed with the air. He saw a woman's face, he could make it out very clearly as Sarah's. But then it shifted into another's, Violets... As he stared at the smoke he became more confused, and could not tell exactly which woman he saw...

    Lydia wakes up at around noon. She's had a long night of confusion. She's concerned about Alfred as he seems to think he did something terrible, perhaps even killed or at least seriously harmed one of the progenitors last night. In need of something to clear her mind, she makes her way down to the node, Boris opening the door for her. She rests there for a moment, breathing in the air and letting her avatar be one with the potent spiritual forces of the node. She feels a presence trying yet again to enter her mind. Unsettled by this, she shrugs it off, and harmless quintessence with that familiar Alive resonance fills her system. She feels rejuvenated immediately. With this newfound state of calm, she begins to clear her head and focus on her avatar.

    Lydia: Luna?
    Luna: Hello?
    Lydia: Hey. I'm worried about Alfred.
    Luna: Yes?
    Lydia: I think he might have killed someone. Or at least thinks he has.
    Luna: and?
    Lydia: Well, we're Verbena, we should be about life! Killing isn't something we should be promoting, is it?
    Luna: Death and life are inherently linked.
    Lydia: Well, yes. But it's still not good to kill, is it?
    Luna: Do you think he is in danger of being Fallen?
    Lydia: No, I don't.
    Luna: Then what harm is there? Sometimes killing is part of the narrative of survival. Does the wolf not kill in order to avoid being hunted.
    Lydia: But we're the ones doing the hunting this time...
    Luna: The wolf too hunts to survive. Yes, killing is better to avoid, but not if the story then turns to self destruction.
    Lydia: Why does everyone seem to think killing is ok? Is there not a better way, a better solution?
    Luna: Perhaps there is...
    Lydia: What is it then?
    Luna: A very good question.
    Lydia: Aren't you going to help me!?

    Hanson left the room and found Boris downstairs and learned that he was having trouble finding the key to his office.

    Hanson: Where did you have it last?
    Boris: Before my injury. Vivian had it after this.
    Hanson: Perhaps I should go investigate...

    He took Hanson to the bedroom, he took a quick look and then asked for fingerprint powder. Boris had no idea what this was, but said he'd speak to Kael about it and see what they could do.

    Helen woke up and made his was down to the Node room as well. She was hoping she'd be able to sneak into Boris's study before anyone notices, but was a bit shocked to find Boris himself open the door for her. He let her know that Vivian was not in at the moment as she was repaying a debt to spirits on the other side of the umbra. She walked cautiously to the node and acted as though she was only going to meditate there. Just as Lydia had done before, she gained this very Alive energy within her and rejected the feel of this entity trying to search her mind. She noticed Lydia was quietly meditating by the node as well, and watched for a bit until she opened her eyes and shouted "Well screw you Luna!". They talked for a bit, with Lydia catching Helen up a bit on what had happened at the Heath, though unable to explain in detail what Alfred actually did. Helen made her way to Boris's room interested in sneaking in but with Lydia watching her, it was going to be impossible to do this secretly. Lydia started questioning her about what she had been up to the previous night, doing the Ring of Truth effect in order to assess her answers. Helen just told her about spirit attack and her paradox induced unconsciousness.

    Hanson arrived and started confirming a few things. Hanson was concerned for Helen and was glad to see she was ok. Hanson almost didn't recognise Lydia's Life changed hair and face. Boris entered and started to talk to them all, informing them about a few things.

    Boris: I'm grateful that you fended off the progenitors last night, though they may return soon enough. We should keep an eye of the Heath and be prepared for anything.
    Lydia: Yes. We should also keep contact with the Chorus.
    Boris: The Chorus?
    Lydia: There were some Choristors who were helping us defend the node, in their way...

    This was discussed a bit, Boris not exactly trusting of these Choristers, before moving on to what Hanson had been up to.

    Boris: You say you were at a hotel last night.
    Hanson: Yes, on a case. Ended up getting trapped in some strange world and then fighting a few spirits.
    Boris: That's quite concerning... We've been looking at the tears in the gauntlet from the other side and it looks as thought the gauntlet itself was pulled out of shape by something. It might be worth having a look.
    Hanson: Could be, yeah...
    Boris: Did you notice anything, or anyone, that might have caused these tears?
    Hanson: I have suspicions...
    Boris: I see. Well, the gauntlet seems to be getting weaker further south of where you were, closer to the river...

    Hanson decided to return to the hotel, taking Lydia and Helen with him in case there was some way to trace where Edwin had gone.

    Aaron awakens to the smell of rat droppings. This is getting problematic... Unwilling to remove the non-human mind ban, he got up and went to the store to get cleaning supplies and rat poison. He was going to deal with this properly and permanently. While waiting in the queue he got a text from Rubrix saying he had a job for him. After getting home and lacing some cheese with poison, he got to his computer and responded.

    Aaron: What is it?
    Rubrix: Place in Wandworth, there's a list of passwords on their mainframe, need you to get in there and retrieve them.
    Aaron: Sure, whats the address?

    Rubrix describes the place, an office tower in Wandsworth, the 8th floor. Aaron gets ready by putting on a high-vis jacket and a clipboard. The idea being he'd try to look like some kind of worker and just waltz right in. When he got to the place he started looking around but was approached by security.

    Guard: What are you here for?
    Aaron: Just checking things out is all, I've got a lot of things to check off here (gesturing to the clipboard)
    Guard: Can I have a look.
    Aaron: sure

    Aaron shows the clipboard. It's at this point that I should point out that Aaron botched the roll to disguise himself.

    ​Guard: This here's a petition...
    Aaron: ((oh no...))

    Thinking on his feet, he quickly came up with this.

    Aaron: Damn, must have the wrong forms. Listen, this was supposed to be a pretty quick job. They really aren't paying me enough to do this and they don't even give me the right forms to do it. If you could just let me in so I could get things done and finished, you know how it is, just want to get the job done with.

    [ST NOTE: I was planning for this to be a bit more challenging, but Aaron's player didn't seem to be in the mood to deal with this at the time, so I just let it go. Sometimes challenge for challenge sake isn't worth it if it annoys the player so much that they just stop caring.]

    His appeal seemed so genuine the guard was somewhat overcome by it, and let him in into the back entrance. Aaron was now in the stairwell climbing up to the 8th floor. On his way up he heard a man talking angrily about Hampstead Heath. Though he couldn't quite make out what was being said due to the echo in the stairwell, he could tell he was talking about unexpected setbacks, and that making him wait was not acceptable. Aaron quickly walked past him as he climbed, not wanting to get any attention.

    He got onto the floor, a room filled with large machines processing things throughout the building. a few computer modules sat in the middle, and Aaron got to work searching through the directories for the passwords. As he worked, he heard a hum coming from behind him. He looked back and saw an open console. Looking further he saw it was an email page with the title "Searching for the Esther File" as the subject. Trying to interact with the computer didn't seem to change anything. It became apparent that this was some kind of monitoring software giving a live stream of another computer's display.
    Aaron returned to searching through the directories and found a number of encrypted names and passwords. This looked like what Rubrix wanted. There were too many to printscreen, so copying them all to a flash drive seemed the best choice. It was going to take several minutes though.
    Again, he heard the hum, the other computer's screen started to change, someone was typing out an e-mail with the subject "RE: Searching for Esther". The door began to open, and Aaron quickly jumped back to the other machine, and moved the screen. A man came in and sat at the over module paying him no attention. The moment the files finished transferring he got of the page, and walked the hell out of there.
    On his way down, he heard that same hum coming on one of the floors on the way down. He checked the floor and peered into an office. An open computer sat with that same email, he saw the address as: [email protected]
    Not wanting to stay too long, he skimmed over the contents.

    The thug you hired wasn't able to complete the transfer, so no we don't currently know the whereabouts of the file. We're still looking.

    Not wanting to take any more chances, he left and tried headed north, crossing the river in an attempt to obscure his route from possible tails. While walking by an alleyway, he notices that twig symbol he's seen before. Edwin must have been here. He looks down the alleyway which seems to turn into some kind of cavern. Cautiously he made his way down, sneaking ever closer and closer to what he thought was the sound of reciting. A voice he only barely recognised.

    Hanson guided the others towards the hotel, then recalled that they never actually checked out and so brought up the chaotic winds of his perception filter around the three of them to avoid this awkward conversation. Lydia focused her senses through small chants, trying to feel out the strength of the gauntlet, letting the others know when and where it warped. As Hanson guides them closer to the hotel room, Lydia's sense of weakening gets larger, while Hanson's danger sense starts to lift. From beyond the door to the hotel room Lydia could hear some spirits speak. They sounded like Stormcrows. "I hear there's a big event going by the river" "Oh yeah? Right then!" "Better get to it, perhaps we can burst it!"
    Hanson and Helen could also hear voices, human voices.

    Voice1: It's here, the Dimensional Barrier is definetly weak.


    Voice1: The breach is in the bathroom. And it might be a recent one too.
    Voice2: Hmm... What about this?
    Voice1: Looks like some kind of... symbol... does it look like the others they found?
    Voice2: ....Yes.
    Voice1: Maybe this has the same cause!

    The start to move towards the door and Hanson backs the three of them against the wall, hoping his perception filter keeps them out of danger. Lance and Hector opened the door and walked right by them, towards a different corridor. Hanson lead the others down and out of the hotel as quickly as possible. The storm crows seemed to talk about another area of weak gauntlet, somewhere close to the river just as Boris had described. This was where they decided to head towards. After an hour or so of searching, Lydia brought her mind in sync with the spirit world and saw a large gathering of Stormcrows in the area. She lead Hanson and Helen to them.

    (note, it's not always the same crow speaking here)

    Lydia: Right everyone, hide your necklaces, these guys will take anything shiny...
    Lydia: (to the crows) hello?
    Crow: Yeah?
    Lydia: What are you all gathering here?
    Crow: What's it to you?
    Lydia: (digging in her pockets) I could give you a shiny coin if you tell me.
    Crow: Oh will you?
    Lydia: Yes, so what are you all doing here?
    Crow: We're going to...have a ball.
    Lydia: Oh, do crows normally have balls?
    Crow: Not normally. This is a special ball.
    Crow: We're going to be having one on the other side.
    Lydia: Oh, the other side, is it nicer?
    Crow: It's new. That's good enough.

    One of the crows gets a bit impatient and tries to grab the coin out of Lydia's hand, but she snatches it away. The other crows laugh at this.

    Lydia: Here. (throwing the coin at one of them, the rest scurry towards it) can you tell me anything else about this ball of yours?
    Crow: Yeah... it's gonna be fun.
    Lydia: What do you plan on doing then?
    Crow: Having fun. Yeah..
    Lydia: Can you not say anything more than that?
    Crow: Nah!
    Lydia: I do have better things to do, you know!
    Crow: Then go do 'em.

    While Lydia was having her crow conversation, Hanson and Helen drew their eyes towards the symbol on the side of the alleyway. Hanson peered inside, his danger sense rising, along with Helen's bracelet's temperature. Hanson listens out as he slowly creeps in. There is something coming from around the corner. Hanson is hit, a great beast with lots of eyes and mouths, countless formless limbs and tentacles, it lashes and and smacks Hanson down. Helen recognises it as the same sort of thing Lydia had turned into and immediately tries to calm it with mind magic. Lydia tears herself away from the crows and looks in. Hanson gets up and tries to brush himself off. With the creature subdued, at least for the moment, he tries to create a mental link with it but only hears a rally of confusion and desperation partially tamed by an artificial sense of calm.

    Lydia: Oh, it's a monster like I was! Maybe it's human.
    Hanson: Not sure about that... It's not thinking like a human.
    Helen: Maybe it's an animal?

    Lydia tries to sense its life pattern, it seems like that she'd expect from a dog, but it's horribly perverted by something.

    Aaron gets his phone out and quickly tries to draw up some night vision as he crawls deeper into the cavern. He can see the man with the open book. Afraid of alerting him and scaring him off, he tries to form a mental link with him. But something's gone wrong, the effect botches and a heavy amount of paradox rains down on him (total = 15). He does everything he can to try and hold on to it and suppress it. "Who's there!?" the man calls out. Aaron hesitates, staying perfectly still.

    Hanson, Helen, and Lydia make their way further down the alleyway-turned-cave cavern getting close and closer to the end.

    Aaron decides to try his luck.

    Aaron: Hello?
    Edwin: Who's there!?
    Aaron: Do you recognise me?
    Edwin: I... maybe.... Who...
    Aaron: Calm down.

    A strange creature shambles forward, another mass of tentacles an teeth. Edwin stared at it and started chanting something out of his book. A rip in space opened up and thrust the monster through it, banishing it from this realm.

    Aaron: what was that?
    Edwin: Did you see that creature ten?
    Aaron: yes... You know what it is?
    Edwin: That thing, that horrible thing. It was a Shoggoth!
    Aaron: A shoggoth... Right... I think you might need to-

    Aaron stops, a look of terror stretched across Edwin's face. A strong smell of fish fills the air. Aaron turns behind him to see a great monster with bulging eyes, swollen lips, and inhuman skin. Edwin grab's Aaron's hand and runs.

    Hanson watches them run and stops himself from calling out. Helen tries to explain to Lydia the transformation and quickly sends a text to Aaron explaining the same.

    Aaron in the mean time is in no mood for texting.

    Aaron: What just happened!
    Edwin: It's one of the creatures from Innsmouth. They've been chasing me ever since I escaped that wretched town. It is not a place for tourists.
    Aaron: Innsmouth? You mean like the story? Shadow Over Innsmouth?
    Edwin: You've been there to?
    Aaron: No, it doesn't exist. It's just a story. H.P. Lovecraft, you know the guy?
    Edwin: We cannot stay here, these caverns hold great evils.
    Aaron: Listen to me! It's ok. I can get you to someone who can help.
    Edwin: Who?
    Aaron: I know a number of mages, they can give you help. Here, take this. (taking of his necklace)
    Edwin: What trinket is this?
    Aaron: It's a key, go to the Keepers of the Wyck. They can help you.
    Edwin: I will not deal with cultists!
    Aaron: They aren't cultists.

    Aaron suddenly feels a rift open in space, something has just entered the area, the two of them look around and they see a great monster, a strange biped with a large tentacle like limb in place of its hear, without a face. It holds a knife and moves with uncertainty, eventually writhing on the floor as it approaches. Edwin makes to run and Aaron follows. There is no way he wants to be near this thing.

    Hanson's feels his body shift. Though he hasn't fully reverted, he is now able to speak at least. He recognises both the rending resonance and the knife in the creature just ahead and stops the others from doing anything. As Edwin runs further away, the thing starts to shift back, it's face forming into that of Violet's.

    Violet: What the...
    Hanson: Violet, don't be alarmed.
    Violet: Hanson? What happened to you?
    Hanson: Same thing that happened to you it seems.
    Violet: That man, he the one you were searching for? This is Edwin?
    Hanson: The one that ran off? Yeah.
    Violet: Right... He seems to be able to transform the world around him...
    Hanson: I don't think he's doing it on purpose.
    Violet: And he transformed you when you got near him?
    Hanson: Yes.
    Violet: Then I think I know what we're dealing with... This Edwin, your missing person. He's a Marauder.
    Hanson: ...((God Dammit!))

    [ST NOTE: At this point in the game most of them had pretty much already figured this out, so it didn't really come off as a surprise reveal, but more of a confirmation of theories. I'd always imagined there were three sides to this particular chronicle. Searching for, the Mystery of , and Dealing with Edwin. While the Searching is an ongoing thing, I thought 11 sessions was plenty enough Mystery, so why not kick start the third and arguably the most interesting side of it all]

    Violet: Who are you?
    Lydia: Me? Lydia.
    Violet: Another one of your associates?
    Hanson: Sort of...
    Lydia: You're a mage then?
    Violet: I am.
    Lydia: Which tradition?
    Violet: Euthanatos,
    Hanson: Death cults.
    Violet: Hardly, though I'm sure there are no guesses about what I was here to do.
    Lydia: Why do you follow Hanson around?
    Violet: Simply put, he killed one of my colleagues.
    Hanson: I'd like to point out that this colleague of yours had murdered a bunch of people.
    Lydia: If you think he's a dangerous killer, isn't it dangerous for you to keep so close to him?
    Violet: Oh, he knows exactly what would happen if he tried anything ...rash.

    Aaron and Edwin managed to run back out of the cavern and on to the streets.

    Aaron: Ok... I think... I think we got away from that.
    Edwin: Yes... But we can't stay here... there might be more...
    Aaron: You've been chased for a while?
    Edwin: Yes... I've been looking for a way home long now...
    Aaron: Listen, you need help. I know who can help you. Trust me. Speak to the keepers.
    Edwin: What are you talking about.
    Aaron: They're mages, they can help you.
    Edwin: You mean cultists? I wouldn't deal with them! They might-
    Aaron: Shut up! You have stumbled on to something, and have awoken to a truth much greater than you know. You need to understand it.
    Edwin: What are you?
    Aaron; I'm a Mage!!
    Edwin: You... You're one of them....

    Aaron feels his clothes start to change form, turning into long black robes. Without meaning to he started to speak in a bizarre language with impossible syllables. Edwin backed away as Aaron's voice lifted to a crescendo, causing him to run away yet again. Aaron's clothes began to shift back to what they were as we left.

    Aaron: No! Wait! Come back!

    Suddenly, the wait of all this paradox started to weight heavily on Aaron, but little came of it. A single point backlashed, and with it a lone thought entered his mind: "You blew it".

    A flurry of noise was heard from the alleyway, and suddenly a great murder of Stormcrows erupted from further down, all of whom began flying out towards the street.

    Lydia: Well, I guess they're going to have their ball now.

    The commotion brought the attention of two men in suits, one with a bowler hat. Lance and Hector were walking towards the alley. Spying this Aaron took the petition he had and quickly walked in front of them.

    Aaron: Excuse me! Would you be able to sign this petition? We're trying to stop any and all construction being done on Hampstead Heath.
    Hector: Out of the way!
    Aaron: It's a very important cause! Keep the Heath Green!

    Violet noticed the pair of them being held off, and started swirling her dagger in the air concentrating hard on getting them out. Hanson, Helen, and Lydia stayed close while she performed her magic, cut a whole through space and brought them away from the alley. Hanson had just enough time to smirk at Hector as Hector's face changed to loathing.

    Hector: You seem quite far from the Heath for this...
    Aaron: Well yes, you have to spread the word somehow
    Lance: Did you just arrive here?
    Aaron: Oh no, I've been drumming up interest for a while. If you don't wish to add your names, then I won't take up too much of your time.
    Hector: Hold on a moment... What was your name?
    Aaron: Rusty.... [This guy makes up so many alias, I keep forgetting which one was for what.]

    Both Lance and Hector were trying to look this guy up on V-DAS. Lance wasn't having much luck though Hector managed to get his real name.

    Lance: Come on Hector, I don't think this guy is connected with this.
    Aaron: Right, well I'll be on my way then.
    Hector: See you around. Aaron....

    Aaron froze for a bit though pretended not to notice. They knew his name, they'd probably know his address too. Looks like he's going to have to stay with the Keepers for a bit just in case.

    Helen, Lydia, and Hanson looked around. They stood in a room adorned with paintings of various things. Hanson noticed in particular one which looked like himself holding a gun to a man he hadn't seen for years.

    Helen: Wow, that's a lot of paintings.
    Hanson: This is how she does her magic... Of course.
    Violet: Creation is on the same coin as destruction, both may influence the wheel in turn, so of course both acts hold a great deal of power.

    Helen and Lydia start looking around for other paintings to see if they are in them, though they only find two. One depicts Hanson and Helen being attacked by the Kalus, the other depicts a scene not unlike that which they had seen just a moment ago, with all three of them watching Edwin.

    Lydia: Can you predict the future?
    Violet: Not quite. I can see events sometimes, fragments of fate and possibility. However, I did not bring you here to admire the gallery. This Marauder...
    Hanson: He doesn't seem to be aware of what he's doing.
    Violet: Aware or not, he is dangerous, and so he must be dealt with.
    Lydia: How do you mean, dealt with?
    Violet: I mean dealt with... problem is that I can't get near him without changing... I'm going to need some help. If you have anything that belongs to him, something or someone who he holds dear, I might be able to reach him through that. Do you know of anything?

    Helen remembers the page from the book he held, she keeps quiet about it, unwilling to draw anyone's attention to this.

    Hanson: Perhaps he can be helped. Maybe we can get someone to see to him.
    Violet: Help a marauder? You obviously have no idea what you're dealing with.
    Hanson: There may be a chance, please.
    Violet: I'll give you until the end of the week. But the moment more trouble starts...

    The group leave to return to the Keepers, all of them are more or less in agreement that killing or allowing Edwin to be killed doesn't sit right with them.
    Despite what everyone else keeps telling her, she cannot accept that killing is the correct course of action for anything. She doesn't see this man as a threat, but as someone in need of help, unable to properly help himself.
    Hanson seems to be in agreement with these sentiments. He hasn't done anything wrong except lose his mind. In a world like this, that's a pretty easy thing to do.
    Helen is in two minds on the subject. While she agrees that he's not at fault, she also is aware of the danger he poses. Though unable to definitively chose a side, she leans more towards what the others have said.

    When they return, Aaron speaks with them and everyone gets caught up. Aaron's opinion is basically "She's a Euthanatos, killing's their answer to everything. So screw 'em!" He got very close to being able to speak with him until he started getting scared, so there's obviously some way to get through to him...

    Aaron sat in his room, his high level of paradox had a strange effect on the computer screen, discolouring it as though they were magnetic. Brushing this aside, he sent the encrypted files of to Rubrix.

    Rubrix: This is going to take some work.
    Aaron: Yeah. By the way, ran into some Technocrats on the way here, they seemed to know my name.
    Rubrix: Ah. You got hit up by their V-DAS then...
    Aaron: Seems like it. Well, I am pretty heavily Doxed and they know my name, so I'm going to try and lay low for a while.
    Rubrix: Staying with your Witch Girlfriend/
    Aaron: She's not my girlfriend.
    Rubrix: Whatever, I'm not going to judge your relationship status.
    Aaron: Seriously?
    Rubrix: Send pix tho.
    Aaron: You disgust me...
    Rubrix: good.

    Aaron: Also, there was this file I found. The Esther File, know anything about that?
    Rubrix: Esther File...
    Aaron: Yeah, there was this guy, Jason Stavero
    ::Rubrix has signed off::

    Aaron: oh...

    Mica sees Hanson and hands him a pot of recently transformed print powder (or its nearest equivalent). He started dusting and collecting the prints in Vivian's room to help determine what happened to the key, finding a lot of prints under the bed which matched the cabinet, the last known whereabouts of the key. Helen noticed this and decided she needed to explain something to Hanson.

    Helen: You're helping Boris, aren't you?
    Hanson: Yeah...
    Helen: I need to tell you something.
    Hanson: What?
    Helen: When I was younger, something terrible happened... my parents were killed, their killers left me running away for my life.
    Hanson: Oh... I'm sorry.
    Helen: I don't know yet, but I think Boris might be involved with my parents death.

    She shows him the letter she found in the study, the one signed by Beranabus.

    Hanson: I see... Don't worry, I'll keep your secret.
    Helen: Thank you...

    Most people went to sleep at this point, and another day was ended.


    Aaron's Avatar is Dynamic and has noticed how often he has been relying on his Mentor for guidance and instruction. His Avatar isn't too happy with this as he think this constant crutch is holding him back from achieving his true potential.

    The Seeking is constructed as follows.

    Aaron wakes up and finds himself in a dark room, the walls are black but the corners are a bright glowing green. A single laptop sits in front of him with a clear line of communication to Rubrix. Each room ahead is some kind of puzzle, either it's simply knowing which direction to go, having a combination of buttons to press, shapes that need fitting into slots, or colour matching puzzles. Any solution or decision made by Aaron and Aaron alone will be the correct one. But any time he consults Rubrix and follows his advise, the floor beneath him will start to open up.

    Aaron carries the laptop with him, walking around this strange neon maze. Some rooms have blue corners, others have red, some have yellow. Sometimes they were just long endless corridors. Either way, when presented with the puzzle ahead, he would face it with confusion until the ever present "Need Help?" message came from the laptop. After several escapes from opening floors, Aaron began to cotton on, concluding that he needed to do the opposite of what Rubrix told him to do in order to progress. This was a step in the right direction, but it still had him relying on his Mentor for assistance, so the Avatar started throwing less binary situations. He now had a row of doors to try and navigate, or a branching path with three different directions. He would sometimes ignore his Mentors instructions outright, but never let go of the laptop or stopped detailing the layout of the room to him.

    After a bit more of this, Aaron's Avatar decided to present him with the final task. Rubrix told him that he had a job for him. There was a golden egg somewhere in the maze and he had to find it for him. Aaron entered a room with a map in it. He could see the pathway to the egg clearly, but in the complete opposite direction was a path out of the maze, he had to choose which way to go. Aaron agonised over this decision. It was quite obvious that this was a seeking of some kind, and he really didn't want to fail it. He was aware that virtually everything Rubrix had told him was causing him problems, but he just couldn't leave empty handed. He chose to go for the egg, which sat at the end of a long corridor. On picking it up the floor started to open up. He tried to make a run for it but the corridor was too long, in desperation he threw the egg down into the void, falling along with it.

    Around Aaron was nothing but darkness, nothing but void. He looked at the screen of the laptop and saw Rubrix's final message: "oops"

    The seeking had been failed.

    This was a rather laboured session. Not a bad one by any means, but there was something in the air that day which made things a bit trying. Aaron's player might have just been having a rough few days, but he was just not in the mood. He seemed to perk up by the time he found Edwin though. But failing his seeking certainly didn't improve things. Lydia's player was also having somewhat of an off day too. She had a hard time staying focused on the game and would often drift off mid conversation and need everyone repeat what they were telling her, adding a few levels of frustration around the table. That and she seemed to have forgotten a few key details about the mechanics of sphere magic, but this game is complex so that's forgivable. Helen's character too was not doing to great. From the start she wanted to have a chance to use the key and enter Boris's study, hoping to find more evidence or information, but she never got a good chance. This frustrated her a great deal, and by the end of the night this had almost reached a critical point.
    Hanson's character was mostly getting frustrated by the above.

    It's difficult to cope with players who just aren't in the mood one day, it can be quite tempting also to just say "nah, we're obviously not feeling it today, let's go home". But I don't like doing that. It was a really slow start but once the Edwin stuff started happening, everyone seemed engaged with the story again. I even had a number of interesting conversations with the players about how they viewed the whole Edwin situation now they knew more about him.

    To make this clear, I don't make my players spend another Arete worth of Exp just to do another seeking. That is monstrously cruel. There will be another Seeking for Aaron in the future. Since it's a Dynamic Avatar, it will probably be very different from this one. I'm thinking this time the laptop will be chained to the wall and the advice will much more like a walkthrough, but he'll have to keep coming back to the laptop in order to escape better. This might change if I get a better idea later down the line.
    Otherwise, let me know what you think of these Seekings.

    Just in case you were wondering, Violet was transformed into the Faceless form of Nyarlathotep. It's a pretty terrifying form which no doubt inspired a couple of Silent Hill monsters.

    Oh, and Lydia has become the first player to level up a Sphere. She now has Life 3. Welcome to your new life as Team Healer.

    See you all in a few weeks!
    Last edited by Saikou; 11-08-2016, 11:11 AM.

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  • Saikou
    10th Session (2nd part)

    While Hanson and Helen were having their little midnight mishap, the other group had a night time adventure of their own.
    This is how it went.

    Just a heads up, things get a little dark.

    Cast List

    Aaron Gibson: Punk Hacker
    Lydia: Moon Witch
    Alfred Camlann: Excalibur Mage
    Sean Heath: Templar Knight

    Notable NPCs:

    Vivian Porter: High Priestess
    Camellia: Coven Maiden

    Joan Frank: Septarian
    Stephan Bates: Septarian

    and introducing a few Progenitors

    Dr Andrea Nickleson and her Team:
    Dr Rachel Zormpa
    Dr Hasan Answar
    Dr Deborah Keene

    ---CHAPTER 10b: THE BRIAR---

    Lydia is still in a tree. Stephan sits below, he is still curious about Lydia.

    Stephan: So... Where did you learn that song?
    Lydia: I was brought up in Ireland, Catholicism was everywhere.
    Stephan: You were raised Catholic then?
    Lydia: Sort of, everyone on my island was a bit magical, though I don't think they knew it.
    Stephan: So what happened? How did you leave the faith?
    Lydia: I left my village and ended up spending time with an old woman, and then with my aunt. They were Verbena and taught me how to speak with the moon.
    Stephan: Pity.
    Lydia: Now if you excuse me, I need to ask the spirits to send a message to my Chorister Uncle.

    Stephan had no idea what to make of her and Lydia delighted in his confusion. She toyed with the idea of coming on to him just to watch him squirm a bit, though a good opportunity never arose. They agreed to take 4 hour shifts each. She started chanting a little in order to shape the tree around her, providing a much more comfortable vantage point and a nice pillow of leaves.

    It was 3 am during Lydia's shift when she saw something. Near the ponds a number of people had arrived, standing in front of the briars. She tried to call down to Stephan, asleep on the ground. After enchanting the tree to lower her gently, Lydia woke Stephan and told him about what she saw.

    Stephan: Do you think it's them?
    Lydia: I don't know, I think I should go check.
    Stephan: It might be risky.
    Lydia: Well, you can go if you like, or we can both go.
    Stephan: One of us should stay behind and guard the node. Besides, I can watch you from afar.
    Lydia: Ok then.

    Stephan prepared a short prayer of vision and was able to watch Lydia from within his mind. Lydia made her way down to the ponds, treading as carefully as she could. Though the moon was waxing and provided enough light to see by, she could only make about three or four figures standing and talking, about what she could now say.
    As quietly as she could, she chanted to Luna for help, and cast her voice out into the spirit world for any kind of assistance. Three Rat spirits looked up at her.

    Rat: You want something?
    Lydia: Yes.
    Rat: You like Rats?
    Lydia: Yes, I do.
    Rat: She likes Rats!
    Rat: Ok, she she do for Rats then?
    Lydia: Well, I could give you something.
    Rat: You got a home?
    Rat: Yeah, we stay at your home.
    Lydia: No... I don't.
    Rat: Oh.
    Lydia: Wait, you could stay at Holloway Police Station! It's a lovely place with lots of food and friendly Cockroach spirits.
    Rat: Cockroach!?
    Rat: Oh, no. Don't like Cockroach.
    Lydia: Hmm. How about that tree? I could make a good home of that.

    The Rats take a look at the tree Lydia pointed at, inspect it, and return.

    Rat: No, we don't like. We'll just go.
    Lydia: Wait! Ok, I promise I'll find somewhere for you to stay, I just need you to deliver a message.

    A good Leadership role later and she managed to get the Rats on board with this idea. She asked them to go to Alfred and the Keepers, and to tell them that the Progenitors are here, and that she needs them to come for Hampstead Heath at once. The Rats left in moments. Lydia slowly made her way back to the node to speak to Stephan.

    Alfred was in bed, he hadn't been asleep long when he was awoken by a sudden pressure on his chest. He couldn't see anything, but could feel its spiritual presence. He snapped on his spirit sense and came nose to nose with two Rat spirits.

    Alfred: Ah!
    Rat: Message for you.

    Alfred slowly tries to get up as the Rats relay the message.

    Alfred: I see... Thank you.
    Rat: You know where "Keepers" live?
    Alfred: Churchill Gardens.
    Rat: Ok.

    One of the rats scurries off, while the other remains on Alfred's bed.

    Rat: Can we stay here?
    Alfred: Uh... Ok, just until I get back.
    Rat: Good. Can we eat your soup?

    Alfred looks at the pot he left on the stove.

    Alfred: Ok...
    Rat: Already did.

    Alfred decided to give Aaron a call, his phone seemed just as sleepy as he was. Aaron had only recently gone to be himself, and did not exactly appreciate being disturbed.

    Aaron: ...whaa..?
    Alfred: Aaron, it's Alfred, Progenitors are-
    Aaron: Do you know how late it is...?
    Alfred: Yes. Lydia just sent me a message, the progenitors are at the Heath now.

    Aaron checked under his bed, the Rat was still there, and the plate of cheese was empty. He kept his "lower mind" ban up for the moment. He got over to his computer and started focusing in on Sean and Aaron's number, though had trouble reaching Sean. When he threw his simcard away all that time ago, he never actually got around to telling anyone his new number. Aaron noticed Hanson's message, first the text telling him everything was fine and they weren't in trouble, then the voicemail about how Helen was covered in Blood.

    Aaron: Wow, the Hanson show really picked up after I stopped looking...

    He checked the time of the to messages, they were about two hours apart, with the text about three hours old. They were probably fine. He sent a quick reply: "Believe in yourself more."

    Sean was in Kenwood House, the site of a Chorister Chantry on Hampstead Heath. Joan woke him up and told him the Progenitors had arrived and it was best the left now. Sean didn't have much time to suit up, and noticed he was starting to run low on ammunition. He knew this Chantry was not a military outpost, but more of a gathering place for the more theological of the Chorus. He would have to make do with what he had.

    Alfred arrived at Hampstead Heath and saw four people in work clothes standing by the briar. He could make out three women and one man. They had strange tools and seemed surprised by the briars. He could barely make out what they were saying.

    Nickleson: This wasn't in the report.
    Keene: Must be a new development, very strange.
    Answar: We won't be able to get to the pond with these in the way.
    Nickleson: we'll have to search the perimeter for an opening.

    They continued discussing as Alfred tried to sneak off. A well times Sneeze on the progenitors part aided greatly.

    Alfred, Sean, and Joan arrived at the node, and the five of them began discussing their options. Aaron listened in and occasionally texted a few comments.They know that they're trying to get to the ponds but are getting slowed down by the briars. However, Sean recalls that he threw his seeds into the pond, and son one of them lies without protection. This is likely where the Progenitors will go. Aaron hears this and tries to key in the coordinates of the pond in questions, making a new scry point to keep an eye on it.
    It's decided that Joan and Alfred will go back down to where they first saw them, while Sean and Lydia will go to the exposed pond. Sean enchants his gun in preparation. He's not taking any chances.

    Sean and Lydia are sneaking down to the path where briars didn't grow. Well, Sean is sneaking, Lydia is having a very hard time staying quiet, she steps on every branch and stumbles on every leaf. Sean tried to direct her path, but it did little to help. They arrive by the lake, walking into Aaron's field of view. He can also see two Progenitors walking in their direction. Aaron prepares his programs in case he needs to act. Sean stopped and listened out, Lydia tried to keep up but slipped and fell into the pond. She thrashed around for a bit but managed to drag herself out. However, the noise alerted the scientists to their direction. Sean ran to the nearby bush and dove behind it, Lydia made to do the same, but was stopped by the scientists.

    Lydia: hello...
    Anwar: What are you doing here?
    Lydia: Why don't you tell me?
    Keene: Did you jump in the pond?
    Lydia: Yeah... I was going to go skinny dipping, but I forgot to take my clothes off, so I got back out.
    Anwar: ok... Well, we have work to do here, so you'll have to make way.
    Lydia: Oh, really? What are you doing?
    Anwar: Just checking the ponds.
    Lydia: Ok, any idea when you'll be finished?
    Anwar: We should be done before the end of the week.
    Lydia: I'll just come back at the end of the week then.

    Lydia walks away, then turns back and tries to look pas the gauntlet. She recalls Alfred telling her about spirits in the water, and wondered what they could say to her.
    Through the gaze of the Videre Spiritum, she is able to see the water turn turbid, murkey, and the soil around a sickly purple. Helen called out for the spirit and only a weak voice met her.

    Lydia: Hello?
    No response
    Lydia: Spirits? Are you there?
    Water: The Wyrm...
    Lydia: Hello?
    Water: It's push is too strong...
    Lydia: We can hel you
    Water: Help... too weak...

    The spirits sinks down into the rechid water.

    While this is happening, Dr Keene is setting up some equipment, Aaron gets ready to overcharge its electrical output and short it out.

    Keene: Dr Anwar, look at this.
    Anwar: What?
    Keene: There's something very strange with these water levels.

    The machine starts to smoke.

    Keene: What's happening?
    Anwar: That was a brand new machine...
    Keene: Hold one.

    She pulls out something else and measure the air.

    Keene: Looks like there's been fluctuation in the prime energies...
    Anwar: Deviants... Of course.

    Dr Anwar looks around and finds Lydia crouching by the pond, she looks up at them as they stand over her.

    Lydia: ...hello.
    Anwar: What are you still doing here?
    Lydia: I'm just looking at the lake.
    Anwar: We know what you are, what did you do to our devices?
    Lydia: I didn't do anything.
    Anwar Get up, we're taking you with us.
    Lydia: ...No!

    Dr Anwar pulls out what looks like a gun and now everyone is on alert.

    Sean takes aim at the man's leg and shoots. He hits. Dr Anwar quickly hits the side of his leg, hitting a pressure sensitive needle which injects a nerve desensitising agent through him, giving him a temporary numbness to all pain. None of this is seen by the others.

    Lydia prepares an entropy spell, furiously scribbling runes down trying to make the it much harder for Anwar to hit anything. They exchange shots again, Sean manages to avoid a lot of the hits. Aaron, in the mean time, works on affecting the kinetics of the gun, forcing it to jam. Dr Anwar holds his gun out and talks.

    Dr Anwar: Stop shooting. Now.

    It falls on death ears. Sean continues to fire shot after shot with Dr Anwar returning fire. Most of his shots miss, however, due to the combined efforts of Lydia and Aaron. Dr Keene, throws a med-strip onto Dr Anwar, healing him up, Sean makes to shoot at her but she dives out of the way. Getting up, she starts to fire her gun at Sean, hitting him with what is essentially a stun gun bullet. Sean keeps firing but can't help notice no matter how much he hits, it doesn't seem to phase the guy. Dr Keene pulls down her sleeve and talks into her wrist, asking for help. Lydia steps up and causes the tree behind them to move, swiping across and hitting both Sean and Dr Anwar. While Sean keeps his balance, Dr Anwar falls to the ground. Dr Keene takes a shot at Lydia, hitting her with the similar stuns.
    Dr Anwar gets up and points his gun at Sean, Dr Keene at Lydia, Sean at Dr Kene, and Lydia stares menacingly at both of them.
    They stop, each one with a trigger on the other.

    Alfred and Joan get as close as they dare to the two Progenitors by the briar. Alfred puts up his Background Character effect on the two of them, allowing them to be ignored for the time being. They watch as they examine the plants and prepare equipment. Alfred tries to read the surface thoughts of what he presumes to be the one in command. "The nitrate levels of the soil here are far outside normal range..." Not particularly helpful. Then they start talking.

    Zormpa: Dr Nickleson, take a look a this.
    Nickleson: Hmm... These plants seem to be parasitic in nature...

    "Parasitic?" thought Alfred. "What did Melanie/Malady, have them plant!?

    Nickleson: We'll have to have them removed before we can start treating the ponds.

    Joan: I don't remember those plants being here before.
    Alfred: No. They're new. An attempt at keeping them away from the ponds.

    Alfred looks up and notices a Dr Nickleson has received a phone call. She picks up her phone and responds.

    Nickleson: Hello?... Deviants?... Right. (puts the phone away) Dr. Zormpa?
    Zormpa: Yes?
    Nickleson: The others have encountered some Reality Deviants, You stay here and get to work on the plants.

    Dr Nickleson starts to walk away, Alfred needs to act fast. He pulls out a sample of the briar and holds it in his hand, squeezing it and letting the blood run down his arm, channelling several points of Wild and Alive quintessence. He focused all his attention on the plants and started running through ancient poetry in his head, reciting specific key phrases. The Briar suddenly came to life, ensnaring the now separated doctors, the thorny plants holding each back, pulling their arms behind them and the legs to the ground. They weren't going anywhere.

    Joan: What now?
    Alfred: ...I'm not sure.
    Joan: Well, we have to deal with them, don't we.
    Alfred: I don't want to... well.
    Joan: They're Progenitors! These are the people you play god! Make unholy abominations out of divine creation. We will have to deal with them!
    Alfred: How?
    Joan: The old fashioned ways are best.
    Alfred: I see... Then I'll go for this one (pointing at Dr Zomrpa.

    Joan walks to the Progenitor's team leader, while Alfred marches slowly towards the completely immobilised Dr Zormpa.

    Dr Zormpa looks very confused and somewhat scared by her current situation.

    Alfred: Leave the Heath alone!
    Zormpa: What? Who are you? Did you do this!?
    Alfred: I'll do much more if you don't leave our Node.
    Zormpa:'re a Verbena aren't you. What the heck! We're trying to fix these ponds you know!
    Alfred: By draining them!?
    Zormpa: Yes! How else do we find the problem?
    Alfred: And kill the spirits in the process. I can't let you do this.

    Alfred causes the Briar to tighten, he notices the thorns digging into her wrists and a line of blood starting to form down her sleeve. His soft heart almost causing him to stop.

    Zormpa: What is wrong with you people!
    Alfred: I have to deal with you now...
    Zormpa: We're trying to fix things!!

    Alfred speaks his rhymes and forced the briar to contort further, it presses around her neck so that she may pass out. In doing so the thorns dig deeper and blood starts forming around every part that was held. As she hung there choking and bloody, Alfred's head filled with flashes of thought. His grandfather had always told him that the only good Progenitor was a dead progenitor. He knew what Excalibur would prefer, the direct route to victory. He knew many mages that wouldn't think twice at ending it quickly. He feels the pressure of the thorns in his hand squeezing just a little harder, only stopped by how frantic she looked as she twitched and contorted, further deepening her cuts. Alfred had to look away while she struggled and panicked unable to scream, the thick stems sharply pressing close her neck.. Seconds pass, and then silence. Alfred lessens the grip of the thorns, unable to look at what he did.

    [ST NOTE: This was the most shocking part of the night. Everyone was staring at Alfred's character in disbelief and slight terror. Even Aflred's player was taken aback by just how brutal the effect turned out to be. He was certain that Joan had meant for him to kill her, and was going to do just that by snapping her neck, but the horror of taking a life felt far too real for everyone in the room, especially Alfred's character, so he adjusted it to choking her, accumulating Bashing until incapacitated. It was still brutal beyond all belief though.]

    Guns are pointed and tensions are high, for the longest time no one says a word. Dr Keene takes a good look at everyone, she has a sense recorder and is making absolutely certain she captures every detail.

    Anwar: Who are you all?
    Lydia: The people you're shooting at!
    Keene: You were shooting at us!
    Sean: Lower your weapon!
    Anwar: You lower yours
    Sean: Lower your weapon!!

    Dr Anwar slowly lowers the gun, Dr Keene follows suit, as does Sean.

    Anwar: Well? Who are you people?
    Lydia: Tell us who you are first.
    Anwar: We're Preservationists!
    Lydia: Preservationists? What are you doing with guns?
    Keene: We need them just in case we run into people like you.
    Lydia: We haven't done anything to you!
    Sean: Well, you did hit them with a tree.
    Lydia: Yeah, afterwards.
    Sean: What are you trying to do here?
    Anwar: we're trying to restore the ponds.
    Lydia: By draining them!?
    Keene: We'll put the water back afterwards.
    Lydia: And what about the spirits?
    Anwar: ...what?
    Lydia: Where are the water spirits going to go when the water's gone?
    Anwar: What are you talking about?
    Lydia: This is a natural place you're affecting.
    Keene: Natural!? These are man made ponds!
    Lydia: No they aren't.
    Sean: Actually... they are.
    Lydia: Oh... There are still spirits here!

    The progenitors give up talking to Lydia and focus on Sean.

    Sean: We are not going to let you harm these ponds, this location is greatly important to many of us.
    Keene: We're trying to help them!
    Lydia: Then let us help!
    Anwar: How can you help? Do you have a degree in Environmental Engineering?
    Lydia: No...
    Anwar: So what can you do?
    Lydia: I can talk to the spirits!
    Anwar: Oh not this again!
    Keene: We have backup coming, so it's best if you two leave now.
    Sean: Well, it seems your backup has been delayed, so perhaps we should both turn and leave peacefully. We are not going to stop defending this place.

    A moment of silence, and then the Progenitors turn and head back.

    Sean breathed a sigh of relief when they were out of earshot. He looked at his clip, he had only two bullets left. It's a good thing that didn't go on for too much longer.

    Luna's rays had been sweeling up inside Lydia, she had been holding off paradox by sheer force of will for a while. Finally a great buzz of light flashed cross her eyes. When her senses returned she had noticed her hands were beginning to change colour, a soft brown with strange bark-like markings. One the tips of each of her fingers, a number of leaves began to sprout.

    Lydia: Cool... I've got tree fingers!!

    Alfred found Joan speaking angrily to a still entangled and very much still alive Dr. Nickleson. Alfred pulled Joan aside to speak with her.

    Alfred: What are you doing!?
    Joan: Trying to get answers out of him.
    Alfred: I thought you said you're dealing with him the old fashioned way!
    Joan: Yes! Torture! Scare them and hurt them into talking.

    Alfred stood there in shock and the realisation of his misunderstanding. The guilt began to mount on him. He did his best to brush it aside and turned hi attention towards Dr. Nickleson, who was heavily scratched.

    Alfred: Who are you?
    Nickleson: Who are you? What have you done to my team!?
    Alfred: I'll ask the questions here! Tell me who you are.
    Nickleson: We are Preservationists of the Progenitors.
    Alfred: And what are you trying to do.
    Nickleson: You've seen the ponds! There's something wrong with them. We wish to fix that.
    Alfred: By draining them, destroying the spirits the make their home in them.
    Nickleson: Verbena, yes?
    Alfred: What of it?
    Nickleson: You people... Even when we're doing something you want, there's not pleasing you.
    Alfred: Don't you dare try to tell me we I want.
    Nickleson: We're trying to get an alternative source of energy!
    Alfred: Energy...
    Nickleson: Yes, reduce fossil fuels. Become more green. Besides, there's something polluting the water.
    Alfred: Yes, I dare say it's probably all that concrete you people had been dumping in it.
    Nickleson: Whatever it is, we're working to fix it.

    The wind starts to pick up

    Joan: The Chorus does not approve of your methods, to disrupt a holy sight of divine power, and we will do are utmost to defend it from the likes of you.
    Nickleson: So what, you're going to kill me then?
    Joan: If that is what it takes.
    Nickleson: There will be more of us you know. We will return especially to take care of dangerous threats.

    The wind is getting very harsh now.

    Nickleson: What are you doing?
    Alfred: I'm not doing anything.

    Alfred feels something spiritual in the wind. Whatever's happening, it's powerful. A click, Alfred turns just in time to see two figures, one of whom has a gun pointed at his neck.

    Keene: Release him.

    Alfred dispels the effect, and the briar returns, freeing Dr. Nickleson. Dr Anwar runs off while Dr Kenne keeps his gun pointed.

    Aaron has been watching all of this and is just shocked. As far as he could tell, he saw Alfred try to kill someone and then leave them for dead. The wind picking up takes more of his attention however, he notices a thunderstorm is brewing above them. A quick Force check confirmed the building energies. He quickly programmed a Lighting barrier around Alfred, keeping him from being harmed.

    Anwar: Dr Nickleson! It's Rachel! I've stabilised her, but she's been badly harmed and lost a lot of blood!
    Nickleson: (at Alfred) Did you do this!?
    Anwar: We have to get her back to the lab now!

    The wind is roaring, the sky is filled with a great dark clouds. A bolt of lighting strikes down right in front of Alfred. The progenitors see this and leave him behind, running off, as does Joan. Alfred makes his way back to the node where Lydia, and Sean are. Stephan is nowhere to be seen. And standing in the centre of the field is Vivian.

    Vivian: (at Lydia) I got your rat...
    Lydia: oh good.
    Vivian: I notice you haven't lost your necklace this time.
    Lydia: No...
    Vivian: Good.
    Alfred: Thank you... I was in a difficult spot.
    Vivian: I only did what I needed to do. I'm just glad we did not lose the glen for now.
    Alfred: There was... something I did...
    Vivian: Yes?
    Alfred: one of the progenitors... I might have harmed her quite severely.
    Vivian: ...It can't be helped. Given have the chance, a Progenitor would no sooner look at you than turn you into some perverse and monstrous creature. Dealing with them is dangerous. Sometimes harming them cannot be helped.

    They all returned to the chantry, Vivian leading them through the pathways of the Wyck for secrecy.

    Aaron's effect ends and he's left looking at a black window. He shuts the window off and his attention is drawn to the number of files he pulled form the hard drive, especially that heavily encrypted one labeled: Esther. He glanced at the clock and saw it was almost 5am. "I'll look at that tomorrow..."

    Camellia is the only other person in the chantry, she greets them as they enter, though somewhat tiredly so.

    Lydia: Hey Camellia! Look at my tree hands!
    Camellia: Oh, paradox right? I once had my ears grow leaves like that.
    Lydia: What was that like?
    Camellia: Like I could hear the air.

    Camellia seemed strange in the way that she spoke. The incredibly calm persona they had all grown used to was gone, and in its place was a somewhat empty and almost pained expression.

    Lydia: Are you ok Camellia?
    Camellia: I'm fine... It's just, it's a bit early for me is all...

    Camellia heads to the kitchen and starts getting her tea ready,

    Sean goes straight to bed, he tries to clean as much of his gear as possible, but fatigue quickly sets in and decides he'll continue in the morning.

    Alfred enters the kitchen and catches Camellia sitting as she waits for her tea to brew, she is on the verge of tears and quite obviously struggling to hold on to her composure. With a sense of controlled desperation, she drank the tea and quickly slipped back into that familiar carefree smile.

    Alfred: Camellia?
    Camellia: Oh. Hello Alfred.
    Alfred: Is everything alright?
    Camellia: Oh yes. I'm quite ok now that I've had my tea.
    Alfred: I see...

    Lydia: Vivian? Is Camellia ok?
    Vivian:....She's fine. We must all get some rest, we have a lot to discuss tomorrow.

    Alfred is still rattled by the experience, the things he did. Camellia brews him some of her tea to help calm him. She then lets him down into the node room, where Alfred sits, takes out his runes and concentrates on meeting with Excalibur. Soon the hilt can be felt in his hand as he enters a trance.

    Excalibur: Utred.
    Alfred: Excalibur... What are your thoughts on what happened tonight?
    Excalibur: ....Better.
    Alfred: I almost killed someone.
    Excalibur: To defend your kind.
    Alfred: Would it not have been better to solve it peacefully?
    Excalibur: It is noble to want a peaceful solution, but not at the expense of one's own.
    Alfred: I see... Well, soon we'll be asking for assistance of the ancient Queen.

    Alfred thinks about the bracelet he has, he believes it to have belonged to Queen Boudicca and intends to contact her spirit form with it in order to gain her assistance.

    Alfred: Excalibur, what do you know of the Queen?
    Excalibur: Long before my time...
    Alfred: Of course... Well, hopefully she can lend a hand in combat. Will you be at my side in the fight ahead?
    Excalibur: If you fight, I will be at your side.
    Alfred: will you sing?
    Excalibur: Only for those worthy...
    Alfred: I see...
    Excalibur: You have improved... but do not become complacent, Utred.
    Alfred: No... no, of course...

    Alfred lets the image fade and puts the runes away. Deciding now was the time to go to sleep. It was 5am. He was certainly not going to be in for work tomorrow.

    Lydia tries to rest, but her hands are keeping her awake.The leaves kept catching on to everything and felt like each finger had a set of incredibly uncomfortable hangnails. She got up and went back downstairs to a vaguely smiling Camellia.

    Lydia: Camellia, you said you had leaf ears right? How do you sleep with these things on?
    Camellia: They'll probably go away after a while, until then, do you want some tea?

    While Camellia was brewing her a cup, Lydia thought back to how distraught she was a moment earlier. She wanted to do an Entropy check on her to see if she could discern the reason, but didn't want to alert her to what she was doing. Lydia decided to pretend to spill a bag of sugar, and while apologising and making a show of cleaning it up drew her runes within it.
    After several seconds of writing, Lydia got a flash of insight. She saw a hospital. The lifeless glow of the lights, the almost too clean corridors, The smell of the disinfectant. And it was gone.

    Lydia: Thank's for the tea.
    Camellia: It's ok.
    Lydia: And sorry about making a mess just then.
    Camellia: That's fine. It can be difficult to write runes with leaf fingers.

    Camellia leaves. Lydia, now very relaxed, returns to her bed and rests without problem.

    Alfred retires to bed too, slowly falling into a deep sleep.

    The sky is read, the ground is dark and bloodstained, all around him sits broken weapons and the contorted bodies of the dead and dying. Ahead of him stands the man he knows only too well. They stare at one another for what feels like an eternity. They both draw their swords and prepare. This is the moment they both dreaded. They charged at each other and with one clean swing, they both hit one-another. He feels the searing pain of the blade in his flesh. The desire toe scream almost overwhelms him but it's stopped by the look on his face. For the first time he'd ever known, he could see fear in his eyes. That face branded itself into his memory, those lost eyes, those questioning lips. lost of confidence. All as the pain of the sword grew greater and greater.

    Alfred awoke. It was 7 am. His heart was racing and sweat had formed around his eyes. He was not going to get a good nights sleep tonight.

    Ten sessions in and so far, literally no one has died. I think that's the reason that one scene with Alfred and the briar was so shocking for everyone. If this game had been conducted like good old 2nd edition Kill All Technocrats style, then I don't think anyone would have been all that fussed. I prefer things this way. If death is scarce, it remains as something "other", something which is both horrific and terrifying. If death is normalised then it's little more than a means to an end.
    It's really difficult for me to describe accurately the atmosphere in the room while Alfred's player fumbled through the event trying to think up what his character was going to do. Their eyes were wide with disbelief, it was unlike anything I've seen from a roleplay group before. We all sat there and waited for him to make his decision. I'm not sure even he knew exactly what he wanted out of this.
    I think part of the reason was what I said before about death being scarce and thus more impactful. But I think a large amount of it is down to the character themselves. Alfred has never been one for fights, and would either try to talk things out or simply escape given the chance. To see him with complete power over someone for a change and with the tools at his disposal to do whatever he needed (or wanted), all that gentility was lost, and what remained was an almost desperate viciousness.
    I think it scared everyone, at least a little bit. As much as a game like this can scare anyone. The thought that once you have total power and total control, you no longer feel the need to be courteous to those who threaten you. You no longer feel the need to be civilised. I dare say he might have gone through with it had the rest of the room not been there to judge him.

    It's quite possible, however, that I'm reading way too much into this.

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    10th Session (1st half)

    Another Helen and Hanson Adventures today. Our most cautious player teamed up with our most reckless. Oh the high jinks that shall ensue!

    Cast List
    Helen Walter: Hermetic Spy
    Joe Hanson: Noir Detective

    Notable NPCs

    Violet Dubois: Euthanatos Assassin


    Hanson sat in his hotel room. The bottle of gin lay empty on the counter as he listened out for the slightest hint that Edwin had returned. While waiting, Hanson had found himself "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" on his phone, and was reading it through, with particular interest in the 4th chapter, a series of events which unfolded with eerie similarity to what had happened to them. They may not be in that putrid harbour town anymore, but something fishy was definitely going on, he decided to go check on Helen.
    Helen was still in her room finishing up her studying. She felt like she made quite a bit of headway and thought she'd check in on Hanson. The two of them met in the hallway when they both heard a strange sound coming from what they knew to be Edwin's room.

    Hanson and Helen started whispering to each other.

    Helen: I think there's something in there.
    Hanson: I hear it too.
    Helen: Should we check it out?
    Hanson: Stay behind me.

    Hanson was slightly inebriated, but able to keep on his feet. He listened out with this Precise Noise-filtering Hearing effect up and running. He was certain someone, or something, was behind that door. Hanson quickly whipped out his notebook and started writing a quick message. "We are friends of Sarah, we just want to help". He slid the paper under the door, and as he did so, the noises on the other side stopped. Hanson and Helen looked at one another, and cautiously opened the door, which curiously wasn't locked. It was dark inside, Hanson put on his shades and focused the chaos around him away, providing a form of night vision. He couldn't see anyone, only the bedroom inside. Helen followed and turned the light on with a click. A flurry of movement shifted out of the corner of their eyes, but what and to where was not possible to determine. Hanson looked down and picked up his note. There was a huge slash right through it.

    The pair of them looked around the room. It seemed as though it had been cleaned recently, but it wasn't tidy. The furniture seemed out of place somehow, as though it had been shifted slightly. The bed was made but disturbed, and certain objects like tissue boxes had fallen to the floor. "Edwin?" He called out. "Are you in here?" No response.
    Hanson checked searched to see if he could find that all too familiar twig symbol, and sure enough he saw it on the wall, faded as though someone had tried to wash it away. He recalled the cleaner had been in earlier. Hanson listened out, there was something moving in the bathroom. A void rang out in Hanson's mind "This is all her fault! You should get rid of her!" Hanson realised this wasn't his mind and managed to eject, but he was on high alert. Something had just tried to play with this mind.

    The bathroom stood with the door slightly ajar. Helen opened it slightly more, but the darkness revealed no more. Hanson tried the lights, but they didn't work. Helen took out her phone and Hanson followed suit, they peered inside. The bathroom was a decent size, with a bath on the opposite end and a fully drawn show curtain. "Figures" Hanson muttered. He took the lead into the bathroom. He could definitely hear something as he cautiously walked inside. Helen stood behind him at the threshold. A void spoke in Helen's mind "He's the one who leads you into danger! Kill him and rid yourself of his folly!" Helen too is able to shrug this off and quickly builds up a mind effect to protect herself from future effects, Hanson doing the same.

    They shown their torches ahead as Hanson made his way to the bath and listened out. He couldn't hear anything behind the curtain, "Kill her" another voice spoke "She means you harm!". Again this is easily shrugged off, but he couldn't deny it was an external influence of sorts, and it came from over the doorway. He shone the light above and saw a fowl creature. Great claws for arms and hooves for feet, it stared down at him in anger and frustration. Hanson got out his lighter and the thing jumped down, closing the door and pushing Helen out. Hanson was alone in the bathroom with whatever this thing was.

    A fight ensued. Hanson stood face to face with this thing blocking his only retreat. Helen tried to push against the door but this creature pushed her back. Helen was about to try again when she noticed another one standing before her, claws out stretched. The creature charged at Hanson ripping straight into his flesh and badly wounding him in the process, but he managed to fend it off with several blasts of his lighter. Again it tried its corruption attempts but Hanson grew wise to that and simply torched it before it had a chance to speak. The thing burnt up in the flames and disappeared from view.
    Helen was staring head on at this beast, it looked ready to charge at her so she quickly brought out her wand and drew shapes in the air, encouraging the electricity in the lights around her to come and form a protective barrier. It was a quick flash but it did the trick, the creature jumped straight into the shield and electrocuted themselves. Angry, the being tried again, this time slashing a great gouge into Helen's arm and chest, wounding her greatly.
    Hanson opened the door and managed to barge it of her, the two of them stood there and tried to assist each other in pushing the flame's energy into the creature. Feeling out matched, the thing started looking for a method of retreat. Helen saw this and quickly made a reverse momentum barrier against it, forcing to bounce back as it jumped, with no where else to run it focused on Hanson as a target. Helen was able to identify this thing as a spirit, and spurned by this Hanson tried a new tactic. He focused on his inebriation and tried to force some kind of emotion blast onto the creature, a feeling of sadness. But the creature seemed to take strength from this emotion, and charged at Hanson claws outstretched.

    Then it stopped mid jump. suspended in the air, a large knife piercing through it. The thing slowly dissolved away and Hanson looked on at Violet Dubois, appearing in full view.

    Hanson: Thanks...
    Violet: You do get yourself into these situations quite often, don't you...
    Hanson: You've been spying on me again?
    Violet: I've been painting again.
    Hanson: ...I have no idea what that means...
    Violet: So, detective, are you going to explain what you're doing here?
    Hanson: On a case, missing persons. Tell me, you ever heard of Innsmouth?
    Violet: I've read stories.
    Hanson: Well, you ever been there?
    Violet: Excuse me?
    Hanson: Never mind. Anyway, we tracked him down to to here, and then fought those things, whatever they were.
    Violet: Kalus's, nasty creatures, though they don't usually appear this side of the curtain... Strange. Perhaps there is a rift here too...

    Helen: You... you saved us.
    Violet: Yes, I suppose so. And you are?
    Hanson: This is Helen. Helen, this is Violet Dubois
    Violet: A colleague of yours?
    Hanson: More of an associate.
    Violet: I see... (To Helen) If you're near him, you should be careful. He can danger on legs at times.

    Hanson chuckles at this.

    Helen: Did he do something to you?
    Violet: He murdered my colleague.
    Helen: *gasp*
    Hanson: He had already murdered a bunch of people before hand! I was just saving myself, and other people.
    Violet: Had you not intervened, we would have dealt with it properly.
    Hanson: Look, I see someone kill a bunch of people, I'm going to stop them.
    Violet: Do you know what happens to those denied the Good Death?
    Hanson: What?
    Violet: They stay trapped, unable to move on in a harsh and painful landscape. Forever held by what binds them to this world. The great wheel stops turning for them, their chance at a new life closed off. I've seen it myself, it is an existence of eternal torture and emotional turmoil. It isn't something that you'd wish upon anyone.

    Hanson seems unperturbed by this description, as far as he's concerned Violet is somewhat of a hypocrite with a penchant for rationalisation.

    Violet: So, this person you're searching for. Are they often around places where the gauntlet seems to warp?
    Hanson: You mean weird stuff like this? Maybe. I know someone who met him and ended up in Boston, know anything about that?
    Violet: I can't say that I do... Is that a chance this guy is causing these rifts?
    Hanson: I think there's a link, certainly. Can't be sure if he's causing them though.
    Violet: Can I get a name at least?
    Hanson: ...Edwin.
    Violet: Edwin... I'll be keeping a look out for them. (To Helen) It was nice meeting you. I'd be careful if you're staying around him though. He's not the sort you can rely upon. Watch yourself.

    Violet takes her knife, cuts a hole through space, and vanishes. Hanson takes this moment to explain to Helen a bit more about his Awakening, that he used to be a cop in America, and was on a case searching for a serial killer. The search lead him to London and turned out to be a mad Euthanatos mage. He shot him dead and that's how he came to meet Violet, she didn't take too kindly to this and she's been tracking him ever since.

    Helen gets to work trying to heal herself. She's been doing quite a bit of Vulgar magic recently, and just got herself to 10 points of paradox, so she's a bit unwilling to get more. She puts a quick charm on Hanson to make him numb to the pain by applying herbs to his wounds. The damage is still there, but he'll be able to walk and act normally. As for herself, she goes to the bathroom and wraps a towel around herself, gets out some herbs and applies them, transforming her Lethal damage into Bashing damage which should heal up before the new day comes. Nice and coincidental. Hanson look around the room. It is covered in their blood. Hanson gets a bit panicky at this. Anything that can trace them to this place is going to make things look bad for him, and with the Technocracy still on his tail, DNA evidence is the last thing he wants to give them. He convinces Helen to try and help remove it, and the only way she knows how is with a Vulgar Life effect to literally move all the blood away.

    Helen: It'll be vulgar! I'm already so full of paradox!
    Hanson: We need to do this Helen, we can't leave the room like this.
    Helen: ... Fine, but I'm going to explode. You're taking care of me when I explode, ok?
    Hanson: Ok.

    Helen draws up her shapes and adds a few squiggly lines of movement. The blood lifts from the carpet, still wet, and starts to move itself towards the bathroom, slithering like a snake made of blood. It wrapped itself up the sink and down into the drain. Helen held her breath and waited for the inevitable backlash.
    4 points backlashed.
    Helen botched her Stamina roll and received three points of Bashing.
    Helen fell unconscious to the floor, large bruises forming around her body.

    [ST NOTE: This was the mildest backlash we've had so far, but it's done the greatest amount of burn. Here's the thing though, because Helen's player wanted to avoid doing Vulgar magic, she didn't heal herself fully. Had she healed herself properly then this bashing damage wouldn't be that big a deal. It just goes to show that if you're going to go vulgar, you better not do it half-heartedly.]

    Hanson tried to rouse Helen, but she was completely incapacitated. As he tried moving her, he noticed a pool of blood growing underneath her, though couldn't find any signs of bleeding. This was not good. In a panic he did the only thing he could think of to do, he called Aaron and left a message.

    "Aaron! Ok, uh. Damn. Was kinda hoping you'd pick up here. Uhm... If you get this any time soon, if you could come to South Hampstead and help us or, you know, spy on us in any way that would be a great help. Helen's collapsed, she collapsed, she's covered in blood. We were attacked, we're fine now except, you know, collapsed...covered in blood... It's just me trying to get her to safety. Just trying to find someone who can help me with, you know, blood, and trying to get an unconscious woman covered in bruises outside of a hotel room without, you know, being stopped by the police... Cool, anyway speak to you soon. Take care, bye."

    Hanson then called Mica and left a similar, though less panicked style of message. He surveyed the room. The blood stains on the floor were the least of his worries now, he needed to get out quickly and without being noticed. He took a big long swig of his hipflask and concentrated hard on trying to increase the strength of his perception filter to vulgar lengths. He then poked his head out the door and heard someone walking behind him. Danger sense buzzing. A man in a shirt and tie was talking to someone next door, another customer of the hotel who was complaining about the noise in the other room. Hanson looked around for some kind of fire route and found a fire exit map showing an escape at the end of the corridor, this was their best chance he thought. Hanson picked Helen up and tried to support her but putting one of her arms over his neck. She started stirring a little bit.

    Helen: Uhh?
    Hanson: It's ok Helen, we're getting you out of here.
    Helen: out...

    Hanson started to pull Helen towards the door. As he did, he noticed the pool of blood trailed behind her, following her like a snake of sorts. At least they won't have to worry about leaving any blood behind. He opened the door and stepped, his Mind effect keeping the Hotel Staff from noticing him. He made his way towards the fire exit and as he walked his danger sense spiked. He looked behind him, the hotel staff was looking down at this moving trail of blood. Hanson had to act fast and quickly put a thought in his mind, a suggestion that something else was of greater importance to him. This did the trick and the hotel staff promptly ignored the blood trail and drew his attention to something else. Once Hanson reached the fire exit, he checked around him again. There was a camera facing right at him. He took down his shades and focused on the energy it held, trying to short it out, though gave it barely any time as the Hotel Staff may be coming at any moment. Hanson switched on a fire alarm. Doors started opening all around him with disgruntled guests piling out. In the chaos, Hanson rushed out the escape and down the stairs, the trailing blood slipping through the grated steps.

    Hanson suddenly had a thought, he needs to call Sarah. He picked up his phone and called her.

    Hanson: Hey, Sarah. Sorry about how we left things last time, but we need to meet. I met Edwin.
    Sarah: You found him?
    Hanson: Sort of. Look, we need to meet. Is there a good place nearby?

    They agree to meet in a park not too far away. Hanson gets his phone out and sets up an Uber to pick him up. The strength of Hanson's perception filter was so great that it took a long time before the driver realised he was there, and even then he didn't notice until after Hanson stepped into the car.

    Hanson: Hi
    Driver: JESUS!!! What the heck? I didn't even hear the door open!
    Hanson: Yeah, I have that effect on people.

    He starts to detail exactly where he wants to go, the driver looks behind and notices the barely conscious Helen being forced into the back seat.

    Driver: Is... Is she ok?
    Hanson: Oh yeah! She's fine, just had a little too much fun tonight. We're taking her home.
    Driver: You sure? She doesn't look so good to me.
    Hanson: It's fine, we're taking her to a friend of ours, she's a nurse.

    Helen manages to come too slightly, and looks around confused.

    Hanson: Hey Helen, it's going to be ok, we're just going to meet with someone.
    Driver: Do you know this person ma'am?
    Helen: Uhh... He's... friend.
    Hanson: There, see?

    The driver reluctantly sets off, driving for about an hour before they get to a nondescript.

    Hanson: Here's good.
    Driver: Here?
    Hanson: Yeah, my friends house is not far.
    Driver: I don't think you're friends in any shape to walk.
    Hanson: It's fine, I'll keep her safe.

    Hanson's danger sense was beginning to rise, he could sense this guy was getting more and more concerned about what was happening. He tried to implant an emotion of general acceptance in his mind, the idea that "This is fine!". It seemed to work, the driver's face changed expression, he stopped questioning, and let Hanson leave without a problem, driving off into the night.

    Hanson lay Helen on a bench, she was completely out of it, but he noticed she wasn't still. She was making faces of pain and anguish, as though she was watching a painful sight. every now and again saying "no... No...! I can't...!"

    Sarah arrived, and after a lot of time trying to direct her towards him while his perception filter was up, they managed to speak.

    Sarah: Who's she?
    Hanson: Friend of ours.
    Sarah: Is she ok?
    Hanson: Paradox backlash, I'm sure you know how it is.
    Sarah: I see... So you said you found him?
    Hanson: Sort of.

    Hanson explains their encounter they had in Innsmouth.

    Hanson: Tell me, if your brother a Lovecraft fan by any chance?
    Sarah: He is... but how is that relevant?
    Hanson: It seems that reality warps around him, is that something you were aware of?
    Sarah: ...oh no... Not again.
    Hanson: Ms. Phillips?
    Sarah: Something happened years ago, Edwin got lost somewhere in, they said the spirit world. I managed to find some mages who could find him and bring him back, but he was never the same since. It was as though in his head he never returned, he was still out there surrounded by these things...
    Hanson: The last time we spoke, there was something I said that upset. I'm sorry about that, it's some prophetic thing I can't control. Anyway, do you remember what I said?
    Sarah: Parts of it.
    Hanson: The leader will be flung across space... Was Edwin a leader of something at all?
    Sarah: No, not that I know of.
    Hanson: Hmm... You upset by the part about madness...
    Sarah: yes...
    Hanson: Why was that?
    Sarah: It was something said when they brought him back. They said he was beyond hope, that his mind was...was lost. That he was a danger to anyone near him and it was better for everyone if they... they... If they killed him!

    Sarah started to lose her composure as she explained, Hanson leaned in to reassure her.

    Hanson: It's ok Ms. Phillips, we're going to find him. Now, is there anything you know that might be able to reassure him? Calm him down?
    Sarah: I don't know...

    Hanson offers her a cigarette and the two of them smoke for a short while. Helen regained consciousness just long enough to reprimand Hanson about his smoking habit.

    Hanson: When I saw Edwin, he was carrying a book, do you know anything about that?
    Sarah: Uhm.... Well, the first time we got separated, that was in Birmingham, he had a book. It was just an ordinary phone book when I looked at it, but he called it something else, called it a Necronomicon or something.
    Hanson: What about this? (Hanson goes into Helen's bag and roots around, for the page they found and shows it to her) Does it look familiar?
    Sarah: No...
    Hanson: I see... Right... Thank you Ms Phillips.
    Sarah: I'll let you know if I can think of anything he might respond to.
    Hanson: Please do Ms. Phillips.

    Sarah left. Hanson called another Uber, and with a similar amount of difficulty, got Helen and herself back to the Keeper's Chantry. Mica finally returned Hanson's call, and the two of them helped Helen up to her room where Hanson watched over her through the night.

    As Helen slept, she started imagining she was in the woods again, the calling out of her mothers voice impossible to escape.

    "No!" she spoke as she slept" "I can't help you! I can't!"

    Hanson stood over her, watching with concern.

    "I will make him pay!!"

    Originally, I was going to have them fight 3 Kalaus spirits, but after it seemed really obvious that they could easily kill them in two shots, I quickly revised the plan. That's trouble with putting Werewolf enemies in Mage, even the weak ones are deadly.
    I've been rather conscious of the duel narrative that's going on. Having the party split like this is certainly making things complicated to that end. What's annoying is that so many of the players that have encountered Edwin are in the other group, and there's never been a time where they've actually sat down and properly talked about what this Marauder has been up to.

    The other session is probably going to feature some Verbena Vs Progenitor action. So that should be interesting.
    The session after that will come just before a break of sorts, I'll be away for the week following, so if I can get everyone in one place for that one, I might be able to do something nice to round it off for the moment.

    Oh yeah, and Hanson's player also managed to accumulate 32 Experience points. Shame he'll have to wait until I'm good and ready to do a seeking for him.

    Leave a comment:

  • artuard
    Man I wish you did a podcast of this game or others that you run, your knowledge of this system is staggering not to mention the awesome plot!

    Leave a comment:

  • Saikou
    So this is there the second half of the 9th session proper begins.

    Cast List
    Lydia: Moon Witch
    Alfred Camlann: Excalibur Mage
    Aaron Gibson: Punk Hacker
    Sean Heath: Templar Knight

    Notable NPC's Include:

    Kael: Talisman Crafter

    Templar Knight:
    Joseph Kent: Preceptor

    Introducing some Choristers:
    Jenifer Cromwell: Monist
    Stephan Bates: Septarian
    Joan Frank: Septarian


    Alfred woke up. He had to get to work but first he needed to talk to Lydia and warn him both about the Technocracy's potential tracer on him, as well as the Progenitors attempt to come to the Heath. He quickly checked his phone for any messages. His phone was slow to react, as though it was a bit tired, like it had just woken up like he. Curious though it was, he put his phone aside and chose not to muse over it too long. Lydia was only just waking up herself moments before Alfred knocked on the door to speak with her.

    Lydia: Hello?
    Alfred: It's Alfred, we need to talk.
    Lydia: What's going on?
    Alfred: It's not safe to be around me anymore.

    Alfred told Lydia about what happened in the Void Engineer base. How he was captured after the Sturm fight, and that they may be keeping an eye on him.

    Lydia: You told them about us!?
    Alfred: No, I didn't. They don't know your names.
    Lydia: But you still told them about us. About Hanson, about what we did at Euston.
    Alfred: I only told them what I had to. They still don't know about the Heath.
    Lydia: What do you think they're going to do to us?
    Alfred: They only seemed to be interested in fixing the holes in the Gauntlet.
    Lydia: And you trusted them!?
    Alfred: Of course I didn't trust them.
    Lydia: You trusted them enough to tell them everything though, didn't you?
    Alfred: It wasn't a choice I made lightly! And they didn't know who you were, they called you Morwenna
    Lydia: They have Hanson's name though. And Hanson gave my name to the police when he was looking for me! I can't believe you'd help them!
    Alfred: Lydia
    Lydia: And you're here! You probably lead them right to our door!
    Alfred: I tried to take an alternate route, I used the pathways of the Wyck.
    Lydia: You traitor!
    Alfred: Listen to me. You need to go to the Heath. While there I overheard that Progenitors were coming to "fix" the things we did to it.
    Lydia: I'm not sure if I can trust you anymore.
    Alfred: ...Whether you trust me or not is up to you. I'm just telling you what I know. You need to go to the Heath, warn the spirits. You can't be seen with me... I have to go to work. Please, go warn the spirits.

    Alfred leaves Lydia who looks on with anger for several minutes. She gets up and leaves towards the lower chantry, hoping to meditate at the node downstairs, but found no one to open the door. Still fuming, she walked outside in search for the node in the garden not far from her, the one they first arrived to on the night of the blackout. She meditated in front of it and drew up the Tidy energy it held, calming her down significantly. An hour later and she ventured back towards the lower chantry, where Kael was there to let her inside.
    Lydia hadn't spoken with Kael formally up until now, having only briefly met Mica yesterday. After some introductions she told him about what had happened with Alfred.

    Kael: Yes... I did hear this had happened...
    Lydia: I'm not sure if I can trust him anymore.
    Kael: The Technocrats are certainly worth your concern. But it can be dangerous to let them think you're hiding something from them.
    Lydia: So you think what he did was ok?
    Kael: Having spoken with Alfred, I don't think he's one to betray secrets to the enemy. We should certainly be cautious about speaking freely when near him, but I don't think he's done anything to earn distrust just yet.

    Lydia seemed encouraged by this. She left to go and warn the Spirits as Alfred had suggested... but then realised she had no idea which spirits to warn about what in particular. Alfred hadn't really explained his plan very well... She had to find him. She took out a pad of paper and started scribbling down some runes, asking for guidance to walk to wherever he may be.

    Sean woke up and his first priority was to buy some new clothes. His shoes were still stuck to the floor of Aaron's apartment, as was his jacket to the cupboard. His next port of call was back at the Chapter house near Stratford. When he arrived through the gates, he noticed the Chapter House leader, Preceptor Joseph Kent, speaking with another man who he recognised as Mathew Davenport, the Preceptor in charge other London based Chapter House. While there were only five or so Chapter houses in all the UK, the templars held London as a historically significant site of power. These two men seemed to be discussing something, but Sean couldn't quite make out what. He decided to leave them to it. Sean went to the records and started searching through them again, seeing if there was anything else he could learn.
    He noted down the exact day and time of the 5 known breaches, trying to find some sort of pattern.
    1&2: Same day in and out of the Station
    3: 24 hours late, Underground
    4: 24 hours late, in Highbury
    5: 24 hours after, near Hampstead
    48 hours since...
    There seemed to be a circular pattern to these tears. So perhaps, he reasoned, he'd be able to get ahead of the next one...

    Kent: Heath!

    Preceptor Kent had stopped Sean just as he was about to leave.

    Sean: Sir!
    Kent: I've been informing Preceptor Davenport about what we know regarding the tears in the gauntlet. On your missions, have you learned of anything that may be pertinent to this?
    Sean: Not as of yet sir.
    Kent: So you are not aware of any activity done by these pagans that may cause these tears?
    Sean: No sir, I have not seen anything from them.
    Kent: I've come to understand you've been spending quite a bit of time at Hampstead Heath.
    Sean: Yes sir, I have.
    Kent: There is a very powerful node there. No doubt you are aware of it. A number of Choristers will be making their way there to defend it. Be alert.
    Sean: Yes sirt. Thank you.

    Aaron got up to the smell of fresh rat turds. Today was the day he was getting rid of this rodent! None of his traps were sprung, and no where could he see it, but he knew it was still around somewhere... He got to his computer and did a quick scan for any less than Human minds. It was a very quick scan and though he couldn't pinpoint exactly where, he could sense the Rat was definitely still in the room...
    He got to work. pulling out his coding software and began furiously typing for over two and a half hours straight. His goal was to create a ban around his apartment, refusing entry to anything with less than human intelligence. Hardening the space around every threshold, every hole, and every crack.
    Exhausted and sick of looking at lines of code for the time being, Aaron went back to bed and slept.

    It was lunch time.
    Alfred was taking his break at a local sandwich shop. He had put a mind charm around himself in order to avoid being noticed, one that made him the background character in other peoples narratives. He still felt guilty from the conversation he had with Lydia, and had tried to focus his mind on other things. All morning at work he had been trying to find out what "hidden waters" might have referred to, and with it perhaps some hope of finding Avalon itself. But no luck, not a single lead was unearthed, he ate his sandwich and looked out the window in contemplation, staring at the busy streets, the passing people, Lydia entering the shop.
    Alfred froze...

    Alfred: What are you doing here!?
    Lydia: Your instructions weren't very specific.
    Alfred: What if they're watching!?
    Lydia: What? We're just two people at a sandwich shop.

    Alfred took a moment to compose himself. put his wooden runes in hand and started preparing his Mind Palace. If they were going to talk, it was going to be in the absolute privacy of his mind. Lydia was introduced to the rustic hut, the great hearth with a dull fire within, beside it, a sword sits in a stone. A great table in the centre of the room sits Alfred and Lydia.

    Lydia: Nice place...
    Alfred: thanks... I know we're not exactly on the best terms right now...
    Lydia: It's ok Alfred. It's hard to know what the right thing to do is. You did what you had to to stay safe... I forgive you...

    The room lightens up as Alfred hears this.

    Lydia: So what exactly did you want me to do?
    Alfred: The Progenitors are coming to the Heath either today, tonight, or tomorrow. They seek to drain the ponds, and with it the spirits that depend on them.
    Lydia: Which spirits are these?
    Alfred: Water nymphs, they are bound to the water they inhabit.
    Lydia: So if the ponds are drained...
    Alfred: The spirits will be lost, and with it the energy that keeps the node.
    Lydia: So why can't you go speak to these spirts?
    Alfred: I can't be seen anywhere near the Heath! The Technocracy might be watching me.
    Lydia: Oh, but it's ok if I get seen!
    Alfred: Well...

    The word "Coward" appears across Alfred's mind.
    Alfred: You keep out of this!
    A chicken comes by, jumping through the window and flapping about on the floor.

    Lydia: What's going on?
    Alfred: Nothing...

    Alfred gets up and tries to grasp the sword, but it always seems just out of reach. For a moment he makes a slight bit of contact.

    Excalibur: Do you think yourself worthy?

    Alfred wishes he did, but in his heart he knows he is not, the sword stays still, hard stuck in place.

    Lydia: Is that your avatar?
    Alfred: It's fine.
    Lydia: Hey! Do you really think this is helping him? Constantly demeaning him and undermining him? How do you expect to teach someone if that's the only way you talk to them?

    There is no response.

    Alfred: Thank you...
    Lydia: Anyway, so what's the plan?
    Alfred: You go to the Heath and try to warn the spirits. When work finishes I'll try to join you. Camellia told me that the node on the Heath connects to one in Wimbledon and Greenwich. We can use those to get around without being seen by the technocrats. Don't go to Greenwich though, that's where they have a base.
    Lydia: Ok.

    Alfred opens the door of the two of the walk out. As they do this, the view of the sandwich shop stands ahead of them, a short walk towards this and both of them are back in their respective heads, seeing through their own eyes once more.

    Lydia: Hang on, I'm going to do something first.

    Lydia gets up and goes to the bathroom. She chants a song of transformation and alters her appearance slightly, causing her hair to grow longer and change from red to blond, she also puts a mark upon her face.

    Aaron gets up and notices two messages on his phone. Both of them are from Hanson talking about strange metallic birds, Edwin, and a strange town called Innsmouth which turns out to be a Lovecraft story. The only thing Aaron can assume is this Edwin guy must be a Lovecraft fanatic. Aaron sets it aside, he's got work to do!
    He turns on his computer and gets to work hacking into Void Engineer records. He needs to find the directory that holds Alfred's details, he can then pass on the information to his Mentor who knows how to wipe it without causing suspicion. The searching is long, tough, and time consuming, who could have known so many people are named Alfred!? To make things worse, a number of the databases are hidden behind security codes. Hacking that would be far too risky, he'd have to find a way to mimic clearance.
    An admin comes online. Aaron keeps very still, not wanting to alert them to his activities. After what seems like an eternity, the admin goes idle and Aaron resumes his search. Finally, he finds the name: Camlann, Alfred, Potential ally. Aaron makes a note of the directory and is about to log out, but first tries to set up a back door to get in quicker.
    The Admin, however, never actually left, and notices his activity immediately, kicking him off the server before he has a chance to get out quietly. "Good thing I masked my IP".

    Aaron sends the directory over to Rubrix. He's about to try and spy on what the others are doing, when the broken bent computer catches his eye, the one he took from the Train earlier in the week. The thing is horribly warped, and it's doubtful the screen will ever work again, but perhaps the hard drive is salvageable. Opening it up proves to be a real challenge, the bend has it caught in an inconvenient angle. Aaron wrenched and tugged at it, only managing to ply it open in the end. The motherboard was beyond repair, a massive crack forming down the middle. Several cards seemed to have been partially disconnected, and the CPU itself looked in very bad shape. The hard drive, however, seemed untouched. Amazed by the luck of this, Aaron excitedly worked at extracting it, put it into his hub, and started rooting through its files.

    He found a great number of photographs, none of which were of much interest to him. What was of interest was an heavily encrypted set of files. He put his decryption software to it and let it run for an hour. In the mean time, he heard a squeak coming from the cupboard under the sink. He slowly opened the door and saw a tailless rat pushing against an empty space, trying desperately to get through. Seizing his chance, Aaron leaped at it, but the rat quickly scurried away. Running a quick mind scan on his phone, he saw the creature's mind was under the bed. Wasting no time, Aaron brought every trap he had around the perimeter.

    Aaron: Try escaping now!
    Rat: *Squeak*
    Aaron: Yeah! That's what I thought!

    The decryption software had done its stuff. The files were fairly nonsensical, mostly a bunch of seemingly random numbers. The only thing he could make out was the word Esther.
    How curious.

    Lydia had arrived at the Heath and noticed there were a lot of new plants growing beside the pond. After wondering around for a bit, she realised she had no idea where the node was, or even where the spirits were that Alfred wanted her to warn. She was really starting to reconsider Alfred as a competent strategist. After a bit of fruitless wondering, she starts to scribble in her book again, hoping to feel out the right way to the node, letting Entropy be her guide. Wondering through woodland, she eventually found it, a great wild clearing of primal energy. She froze. Three figures in long robes stood in the centre, all of them seemed to be conversing strongly. She couldn't hear what they were saying, and so tried to sneak closer to them behind the trees around them.

    She did a quiet chant to try and speak to a spirit, a Rat spirit came to her.

    Rat: You need something?
    Lydia: Could you find Alfred, tell him I need him to get to the Node as soon as possible.
    Rat: You like rats?
    Lydia: What?
    Rat: You be nice to rats? Keep rats safe?
    Lydia: Yes, sure.
    Rat: Ok...
    Lydia gives the Rat a small bit of food. the rat eats it without delay.
    Rat: Be kind to rats.

    And the Rat leaves.

    Alfred returned back to work, and while searching through the archives in vain for anything resembling "hidden waters" an idea struck him. If Queen Boudicca is supposed to be berried beneath the Heath, then perhaps he might be able to summon her spirit. But this might only work if he had something which belonged to her... But of course! The museum's bound to have something! He began searching through all the indexes for anything that would have fit the time period and location and was not currently on display. For hours he looked until he came upon an iron age bracelet which was due for restoration next week. This was his best chance.
    He dropped by the security office and put a quick suggestion in the guards mind. "now is a good time for a quick break!". The guard left and Alfred rushed to the case with the bracelet inside. He careful managed to take it without damaging it or tripping any security alarms, though he came very close.

    While waiting for a train, Alfred feels something land on his arm. Sensing a spirit, he tried to talk to you.

    Rat: Hey, you Alfred?
    Alfred: Who's this?
    Rat: Message for you. Get to the Heath as fast a possible.
    Alfred: Did Lydia send you?
    Rat: That's your message.
    Alfred: Thank you.
    Rat: Be kind to rats.

    The rat Jumped of his should and disappeared. Alfred made his was to Wimbledon. From there, he'd get to the Heath

    When he arrived at Wimbledon, he walked towards the common as it seemed the most likely place for a node to be. Though not dark, the light was certainly starting to go and Alfred wasn't confident he'd find anything in the dark, not least because he wasn't even sure what he was looking for. He called out to the spirits and found a Night Spirit before him.

    Alfred: Spirits?
    Spirit: Secrets....
    Alfred: I need to find an entry point to the spirit world.
    Spirit: What secrets have you?
    Alfred: Avalon lies beneath Hidden Waters. Now can you help me?
    Spirit: What do you seek?
    Alfred: I seek entry way into the spirit world, do you know of a passage?
    Spirit: Yes...
    Alfred: Can you take me there?
    Spirit: First, reveal a secret of yours.
    Alfred: ....My true name is Utred Pendragon.
    Spirit: Pendragon....
    Alfred: There, I have told you two secrets already, please lead me.

    The Night Spirit cast a shadow across the ground which Alfred tread upon going deep into the woodlands. Unbeknown to him, Aaron had been watching from his computer. Although he could not see or hear the spirit, he certainly heard Alfred speak to it, including the statement of his True Name. Aaron kept a note of he for future antagonism.
    As Alfred continued, the ground started to get less solid, and a strange rancid smell began to flow. The spirit stopped, in front of them was a circular hole in the ground, a well of sorts made of stone, with a putrid black ooze within it.

    Spirit: The gateway...
    Alfred: I thank you spirit.

    Alfred walked up to the spirit and searched for the entryway for the pathways. Aaron watched Alfred as we circled the black circle, and then disappeared without warning stepping towards it. Bewildered, Aaron tried to scry on him again, but couldn't find him. He decided instead to spy on Hanson. He was lying in a hotel room with a Gin and Tonic, the bottles still on the table, half finished. "This is your idea of a stakeout?" He said to himself.

    Sean had been searching south of Camden, not far from London Zoo for a great deal of time now. But not once on his patrols had he come across a portal or any sign of demonic activity. Having met with failure, he decided to go up to the Heath. When there, he too noticed the new plants that had sprouted up by the ponds, but unlike Lydia, he was able to determine their nature. Briars, harsh and thick, they seemed to snaked their way around almost all the ponds. He continued up the way to the Node and saw three figures in what he recognised as Choristor robes.

    Sean: Hello?
    Stephan: Who are you?
    Sean: I'm... Sam
    Stephan: Are you looking for someone?
    Sean: Give me a second.

    Sean took out his crucifix and made a quick request for insight. He could see these people had awakened avatars.

    Sean: Sorry about that, just had to be sure I knew who I was dealing with. You are Choristers, right?
    Jenifer: Yes, we are. And you?
    Sean: Yes, I am.
    Joan: Which faction are you?
    Sean: Sorry?
    Joan: Which faction?
    Stephan: I should know you if you're with the Choir...
    Sean: I'm...

    Sean was not willing to reveal himself as a Templar, he was well aware of the polarising opinions the Choir had of his group. He tried to think up a convincing lie.

    Sean: I'm of.... the latter day saints?

    Suffice to say, it wasn't too convincing.

    Stephan: I see... Sam, was it? And what brought you here?
    Sean: I... heard there might be Choristers over here.
    Joan: Oh, so you're hear to help us then.
    Sean: What are you trying to do?
    Joan: We're going to drain the node.

    Lydia had been listening to this, having kept hidden all this time. She needed to get Sean's attention without alerting anyone else. She picked up a rock, drew a few runes asking for good fortune in her throw, and managed to his Sean right on the head.
    Sean jolted forwards, then turned around.

    Joan: Is everything ok?
    Sean: Something just.. (He looked behind him and saw Lydia peering out from behind her tree)
    Joan: Did you see something?
    Stephan: Someone's spying on us.

    Lydia was about to run behind a bush, but Something happened. Joan had started singing and Lydia found herself unable to move. She was then violently pulled out of her hiding place and crashed to the ground beneath them. surrounded by the three.

    Lydia: Uh....hello.
    Stephan: Who are you?
    Joan: Perhaps she is one of the pagans, trying to stop us!
    Jennifer: Do you know this woman?
    Sean: Yes... She's an associate of mine.
    Joan: Is she? Oh, then perhaps you can aid us too.
    Lydia: Did you say you were going to drain the node?
    Jennifer: Yes.
    Lydia: Then you're right, I am going to stop you.
    Stephan: Pagans! What do you even know about this node?
    Lydia: I know that it's a scared place that will suffer if you take away its energy.
    Stephan: The Technocracy have been trying to harvest this node, we much protect it.
    Lydia: I agree. How will draining it do that?
    Joan: Once drained, the node will be of no interest to them.
    Lydia: How does draining the Heath save the node?
    Joan: The celestial power within is not tied to the place, we can transport it with this (She holds out a golden cross)
    Lydia: You're going to put it in that!?
    Jenifer: Just so we can preserve its power, keeping it away from where it could be exploited.
    Lydia: At the expense of the spirits who need it!
    Jenifer: That's another point. There have been many holes in the gauntlet, we fear that demonic spirits are trying to break through.
    Joan: So by draining this node, we close a potential gateway for them.
    Lydia: They're spirits though!
    Stephan: They are demons, being of destruction! We have to protect the sleepers.
    Lydia: Yes, we do, but not all spirits are demons. There are many different spirits, as many as there are humans. If you tried talking to them, you'd see that.
    Stephan: There is no use talking with a demon, they will only try to trick you. Better we drain the node and strengthen the gauntlet rather than run the risk.

    Lydia started to scribble runes in the ground, asking someone, anyone for help. She felt something around her, as though a shadow had passed overhead. A Moonshadow had come to protect her as dusk had settled in.

    At this point, Alfred bursts through the Node.

    Alfred: ...hello?
    Stephan: Who are you?
    Alfred: Lydia? Are you ok?
    Jenifer: Another one of your associates?
    Sean: Yes...
    Joan: What are you doing associated with pagans anyway?
    Lydia: They want to drain the node!
    Alfred: Ah, well I'm sorry, but we can't let that happen.
    Stephan: What is wrong with you? We're trying to save this energy.
    Alfred: If you wish to save it, then it should be left where it lies.
    Stephan: It'll flow back in time!
    Lydia: Then why take it in the first place!?

    The Argument continues like this for a while. During which, Jenifer took Sean aside to ask him somehting.
    Jenifer: What do you know of these people?
    Sean: They care about this node a great deal.
    Jenifer: Are they dangerous?
    Sean: Not especially, no.

    Stephan: Pagans! You care more about this patch of grass than you do your fellow man!
    Lydia: These spirits are important to life here. You can't just dismiss them.
    Stephan: Enough! Let's just settle this the old fashioned way!

    Jenifer: That will not be necessary. We both wish to keep this power away from the Technocrats. Perhaps we can put aside these problems and work together for this.
    Joan: They're pagans! Why would they work with us?
    Lydia: If we both want the same thing, why can't we?

    There was a bit more discussion, Sean helped ease tensions a bit by assuring they meant well. Names were exchanged and Lydia stopped being surrounded.

    Lydia: Jenifer? That's a Cornish name, isn't it?
    Jenifer: Quite.
    Lydia: What are you doing with the Choir?
    Jenifer: Well the Chorus has those of many different paths, and all are welcome. You too would be accepted if you were to devote yourself to The One.

    Joan and Stephan make chortle at the idea of Lydia becoming a member of the Choir.
    Joan: Don't waste your time Jennifer. You know how they how. They'd sit in huts built in mud while we in our homes in cleanliness.
    Lydia: So you're boasting yoru wealth now, are you?
    Joan: Boasting!? Not at all! Dare you be so judgemental!
    Lydia: Judgemental? You've been the one judging us.
    Joan: And you are one to live without sin?
    Lydia: Of course not, but that isn't the point.

    Alfred: This isn't getting us anywhere. The Progenitors will be here either tonight or tomorrow, we have to prepare properly. I need to speak with the spirits and warn them.
    Jenifer: You speak with spirits? So do I, though I must as admit, the spirits I speak with are more angelic in nature.
    Lydia: You speak to angels?
    Jenifer: If they allow me to, yes. Anyway, we should act soon. If the Progenitors are on their way as you say they are, we cannot waste any more time arguing. Stephan, stay with Lydia and look out here. I'll go with Alfred to speak with these spirits.

    Jenifer and Alfred leave the node.

    Lydia: So, you're named Joan right? Didn't someone by that name get burned at the stake?

    Joan was so caught of guard by this, she just stood their in anger.

    Lydia tried to climb a tree in order to get a better vantage point.
    Lydia: Does any of you have knowledge in Forces? I could do with a lift.
    Joan: Gladly...

    Lydia was thrown up about 30 or so feet into the air, she landed with a thud into the tree.

    Jenifer was walking with Alfred, being lead towards the pond.

    Jenifer: I must apologise for my associates. They are Septarians you see, very conservative, and not at all accepting of things outside of their understanding.
    Alfred: And yourself?
    Jenifer: Monist. We see any and all paths to The One as equally valid.

    They talk for a while, with Jenifer explaining to Alfred a little more about angels and the Astral Realm. Informing him about how "Everything that was ever thought can be found there" and that Astral Projection can be a much more useful tool than pure spiritual Sojourn. Alfred makes a note of this, it sounds a very useful place to visit.

    Alfred arrives at the pond, the only one not obscured by briar plants. He gets ready to speak with the spirits, taking of his shoes and stepping in the water.

    Crow: Allo!
    Alfred: A strom crow!?
    Crow: Yeah, What you wanting?
    Alfred: I was trying to speak with the spirits of the pond.
    Crow: You got me now!
    Alfred: Well, no offence, but I need to speak with the water nymphs.
    Crow: Suit yourself.

    Alfred tried again, this time peering into the Umbra so he could see who he was talking to. Something was wrong, however. The ground was not the luminous green we had seen before, it was tinged with purple, and the water was thick and turbid. Though Jenifer could not see what he saw, he made his feelings known. He called desperately out to the Water spirits. A lone figure emerged.

    Alfred: I have to warn you!
    Water: Your warning... It was... no use....
    Alfred: What?
    Water: The wyrm, the wyrm pushes...
    Alfred: What's happened!?
    Water: The wyrm does not stop... till all is gone.

    The spirit sunk into the water, Alfred called out, but no response was heard.

    Alfred: We're too late... How though? We stopped the Tehcnocrats, how did the water get this bad? There must be a clogged drain or something....

    Lydia sat in her tree.
    Stephan looked over Sean.

    Stephan: Sam, you said your name was?
    Sean: Yes.
    Stephan: I'm sure I know you from somewhere...
    Sean: It's possible.
    Stephan: Ah yes! I know, you're a knight! Aren't you!
    Sean: ...I am.
    Stephan: I thought so! See, I know almost everyone in the Chorus. So what are you doing with these pagans?
    Sean: I've been investigating them.
    Stephan: Say no more, keeping an eye on them yes? I understand. Good idea.

    Lydia began to sing "An Irish Blessing". Having been brought up Catholic before she awakened, Lydia was quite familiar with many cultural and historic facets of Christianity. She thought she'd take this opportunity to confuse them a bit.

    It worked, Stephan looked up at her thinking. "What in the world kind of pagan is she?"
    Lydia took this chance to call out for Luna's help, the Lunes appeared and she asked one to send a message to her Uncle, himself an Anchorite of the Chorus. The lunes floated off as the moon was blocked by cloud. Lydia remained in the tree.

    Aaron received a note from Rubrix. "Done" it said. He passed a text over to Alfred to let him know that Technocracy was probably of his tail now. He then looked down at his bed, the Rat was still there.

    Aaron: Hey... Truce?
    Rat: *Squeak*
    Aaron: ...I'm taking that as a yes.

    Aaron put the traps away and looks under the bed at the cowering rodent.

    Aaron: Here you go. (places a small plate of cheese under the bed) This whole fight was silly anyway...
    Rat: *Squeak*

    Sean was invited into Kenwood House, a building on Hampstead Heath which the Choristors used from time to time. He was welcomed to stay there for the night, ready to confront the progenitors at a moments warning.

    Alfred returned home. As he stepped inside, he noticed a letter had arrived from Cornwall. He opened it, it was written in Gaelic with certain nouns written in Runes.

    Dear Alfred
    Though your letters are infrequent, it gives me great pleasure to hear that you are well. It has been a trying few months with Technocratic Reductionism sprouting right on our doorstep. They call themselves “Historians”, but if they wanted to know anything about History, they’d listen to our wisdom and realise how little they understood. Every moment brings a new battle to protect our lands from their insurgence. But at least they do not harm our village. Besides, to learn that you have finally met with other Verbena after all these years brings me no end of relief. Let me know of their names if you have them, perhaps I can trace their lineage for you and determine their roots.
    I am pleased to hear that you have met with the *Keepers of the Wyck*. While I haven’t met all their members personally, the ones I have met with have strong blood within them and have a good reputation amongst the spirits of Nature. *Gwynn* is an accomplished spiritwalker who used to make frequent pilgrimage to the fabled *Seasonal Realm* within the depths of the umbra. When the Storm first raged, travel to this realm became much too hazardous to do routinely, but perhaps, if the storm subsides, there may be chance yet to return and reclaim this once bountiful land.
    I am also well acquainted with their High Priest *Boris* whom I once took as my apprentice many years ago. This was back when I still walked with *The Glastonbury Circle*. Though a fairly hot-headed student, he grew into a respectful mage, and I couldn’t be more content with you being under his guidance. Last I heard from him, he had an apprentice of his own. *Alex* I think his name was.
    Your experience with the Spirits is very encouraging to read. Though I would advise you stay away from *Pattern Spiders*, these spirits are not of nature, but of machines, and will consider you their enemy. To speak with the beings of Nature is something to be applauded however. Listen to what they have to teach and pay always your respect and do not promise a spirit that which you cannot provide. It is only through the spirits and through blood that the *Our Family Quest* can continue. I know you think these dusty records held in the Technocrat’s City will provide you the key. But I still say your trust in these records is misplaced. Think about who wrote them. Think about their intentions. The Technocrats have no interest in preserving ancient texts, but rather relegating them to mere stories of fiction. They dismiss anything that does not fit their own decided views. These records will be no different. It’s been how many years since you left home? And what have you learned in this time? Are you really any closer to finding *Our Great and Noble King*?
    I must admit that the names *Sean Heath, Zandros, and Melody* do not hold much significance to me. I believe you are right to be wary of members of the Chorus. Some are more tolerant than others, though if he is dressed as you say then it is likely he is one of the Chorister’s “Guardian Orders”. Though my experience is limited, I know they are not as open to discussion as their theological counterparts. The Guardian Orders are difficult to predict, but if he is helping you in protecting a Glen, then perhaps he has earned at least a sliver or trust. Do stay alert though.
    As the autumn air approaches, so too does the time of harvest, and while we understand if you are engaged elsewhere, you are always welcome to return back to your roots.
    Never forget that.

    In case you couldn't tell, everything in the above letter with between the *asterisks* were written in Runes. Literally, I downloaded a new font and everything.
    In case you forgot (or I neglected to mention it) the rat Aaron has been having trouble with is one who is loyal to the Nosferatu Vampire who Aaron has as an Enemy. Once the ban is lifted and the rat can run back to the sewers, it will most likely inform the Nos of all the things that went on. And more importantly, an address. This will most likely be used to obtain his IP, and thus start terrorising him a little more virtually.
    I was half expecting there to be a Mage fight this session. But Sean managed to help curtail thing before they got out of hand. (He said a lot more than I wrote down here, but I'm having a hard time remembering all the details). This has to be the most peaceful group of players I've seen in a Mage game...

    Also, It's finally happened. One of may players has been saving up experience since the start, and they've finally hit 32 and they're cashing it all in for that sweet sweet point of Arete.
    This means I'm going to have to think up a Seeking for them... Oh joy.
    The Character in question is Aaron. He's not going to get his Arete before Seeking, and that's not happening until I have a good idea of what it'll be about.
    If you've noticed any character flaws or particular lessons that Aaron could require a Seeking to learn from, by all means write about it. Anything that can help me figure out this guys seeking would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Saikou; 10-27-2016, 05:54 PM.

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  • Saikou
    ---9th Session (2nd Half)---

    This session comes in (at least) two parts. The first details Sean's meeting with Granny Elm, while the next deals with what happened in the session proper.


    Sean entered the room and was immediately met with Granny Elm. He felt a strange resonance of loss as she greeted him, nether looking directly at his face.

    GE: I believe you prefer to be called "Sam". Do you not?
    Sean: ...Yes.
    GE: Then that is how we shall call you today. I believe you called yourself a member of the Celestial Chorus
    Sean: ...I did.
    GE: And how have you been finding out coven?
    Sean: It has... it has been an experience.
    GE: I hope it has not been to overwhelming for you.
    Sean: Well, It certainly is an adjustment.
    GE: Tell me, "Sam", what do you think of fate?
    Sean: It's not for me to question.
    GE: Perhaps, though fate is not something which is immutable. It is all a matter of potential. Knowing what one's fate has in store for them gives one the tools required to take a certain level of control. This is the gift I provide, it is up to you whether you take it or not.

    Sean is quiet. He feels marginally uncomfortable being so cut off from his usual environment, but does not wish to say anything that may cause animosity.
    Granny Elm begins to spread her cards.

    [1] [2] [3] [4]


    .....[8] [7] [6]

    1: The self. It is KNIGHT OF QUESTING (Wands)
    GE: A mighty force, a gallant hero, and one who uses their skills to further some kind of goal. They have a clear direction and a assured in their quest to complete it.

    2: What you were. THE FOOL REVERSED
    GE: The fool is usually a character of possibility and limitless potential. Though when reversed, its meaning can refer more to listlessness and aimlessness. It indicates that in the past you were one with little in the way of direction. Leaping around in the air, only going where ones feat takes them, directionless and void of real purpose.

    3: How you developed. THE SUN
    GE: A card of truth, but also of positive enforcement. It perhaps indicates some Utopian ideal that you aspire to. Though the Sun also represents vulnerability and innocence. This image may be the thing that gave you the direction you lacked in the past, something to quest for. Perhaps to protect or to achieve.

    4: Your avatar's will. JUDGEMENT
    GE: I'm sure you are well accustomed to the concept of judgement. It seems your avatar seeks for you to play a role in its deciding arm, but whether this is to make the judgement, enact the verdict, or both is yet to be seen.
    I notice that the theme of the sun follows you in these readings so far. It lies behind you in the past, lighting your way but beyond your notice. While in these cards it stands tall and prominent at the centre of all events, something that gives you guidance, the quest that turns you from Fool to Knight.

    5: Your Future. It is FIVE OF PRIMORDIALISM (Cups)
    GE: A curious card isn't it. The central figure seems quite monstrous, though I do not think this is to be taken literally. The figure stands on a desolate scene, spilled cups of wine at his feet, a ruined city in the background. The five of primordialism has the meaning of disillusionment. Perhaps the future holds a certain dissatisfaction with what you've been given. The grand metropolis seen in each card up until this point begins to fade, even the sun starts to set, that one shining force that has been ever present in your life.
    This may mean that something of great importance to you has lost the sheen it once had, and now the hair is moved from your eyes as you start to question it properly. Perhaps that which you looked upon with innocence before has started to lose it's spark

    6: What you desire. It is STRENGTH
    GE: The very essence of power and virtue. The sun is gone, leaving a steadily darkening sky, a dark time of uncertainty perhaps brought about by this uncertainty. In such a time as this, Strength is something you desire above all else. While this strength may be physical, the card also refers to mental fortitude and the ability to strive onward even when reduced to their core. This will feel important for you. What what you relied upon for direction is starting to lose its appeal and some form of resilience is needed in order to keep you quest. How do you consider this?
    Sean: Well... Certainly a thought...

    Sean simply sits, he is sceptical about a lot of what Granny Elm is telling, keeping his guard up at all times. Granny Elm notices this, and decides give him something to satisfy his suspicions, and thus allow him to become more accepting of the other aspects of the reading.

    7: What can help you. THREE OF QUESTING (Wands)
    GE: Interesting... In the previous cards the Sun was an ever present symbol, but now we have the moon. The biblical imagery suggested by Judgement contrasted by this much older and more spiritual image of magic. This card is usually associated with companionship of a sort, a coming together or different individuals or groups. While this man may perform a branch of magic that may at first seem alien to you, there is a chance that such different forms can be to your aid. Perhaps in this moment of darkness, allying yourself with those outside of your normal group could be what you need to attain your strength.

    8: What you dread. THE HIEROPHANT REVERSED
    GE: Very interesting... The Heirophant is a card showing an advisory figure, one of great wisdom and reverence. But when reversed, it depicts one who abuses their position for personal gain. Perhaps a figure in your life, or even a central dogma which has long outlived its purpose. This may represent a specific person of respect and that you dread the thought that something you hold in such esteem may be in some way corruptible. It may also refer to a grander scheme of questioning the hierarchy you are placed in, one that does not match the ideals that lead you there in the first place. Perhaps this lies at the heart of you disillusionment from the naivety you used to grow. Maybe this is the task that requires clear judgement.

    9: What can harm you. It is THE LOVERS
    GE: A card with many facets. What do you see?

    A burning bush... The Sun... A man and a woman, and an angelic figure...
    GE: And a snake... The Lovers is a card of many facets, at the heart of which is choice. While it can refer to love in and of itself, it may refer instead to the idea of commitment, devotion, and respect. As you point out, We see here again the sun has returned, along with these many biblical images, but this time it's rays are blocked by this angelic figure. This could symbolise a blind devotion of sorts to this idealistic image you possess, one which may cloud your judgement of the deeper corruption, one which may prevent you seeking the aid in unexpected places and thus forfeit the very strength you seek. Alternatively, it could represent a lack of desire to question the flawed authority you answer to, authorities which may not shine with the virtues you ascribe to, and thus deny yourself the sun itself.

    Sean grins slightly, thinking he has seen through a finely veiled attempt at conversion. Though beyond that, aspects of what she had told him were beginning to form a pattern. He wasn't sure what he was looking at, but when he looked back on his life and the questions ahead of him, he could not deny that what she had said had at least a small amount of merit.

    10: The Unexpected. It is THE KNIGHT OF DYNAMISM
    GE: A strange one this... What do you see?
    A dragon destroying a city, with no sight of the sun...
    It shows a being of great destruction. A monster of sorts. Perhaps it refers to a great source of destruction, and as they too are a knight this force may be equal to you... This could be a person, a group, or simply an event. A large scale point of destruction stands present. One thing of interest to note is how the majority of your cards seem to be of the Major Arcana. This may mean that a great event is ahead of you, one which will challenge you and deeply alter your current view of the world. Whether this is the making or the avoiding of this destruction, however, is yet to be seen.

    Sean: Well, it certainly was an amusing pastime. But you did not just ask to see me in order to play cards, I assume.
    GE: The cards provide one with a better understanding of the path ahead of them. I merely wish to show my servitude to you.
    Sean: I see... Not sure I buy into this though.
    GE: All I do is provide for you the options, it is up to you how you regard them. You are always free to consult with me in future, if you wish.

    Sean thinks for a moment. considering the cards she had just shown him. Perhaps there is a chance that she can be of service to him after all...

    Sean: Well, as you seem to know a lot about myself, having laid on the table, I suppose it's only right that I lay mine on the table for you. I am here for an investigation of sorts. The Chorus has lost a precious artefact, and I have been asked to find it. Is there a chance you would know if anyone from your group is involved with this?

    Granny Elm shuffles the cards in her hand, and starts dealing out three ahead of him.

    SEVEN OF DYNAMISM. The talisman you seek, held in the hands of this tragic character. One who is too far over the pit to turn back, but knows to continue is foolhardy.
    PAGE OF QUESTING REVERSED: He is associated with this, a poor unfortunate who is searching just as you are. But while you have one sun, she has at least three to contend with, her path is confusing indeed.
    TWO OF QUESTING REVERSE: A use of force, a grand deceleration of power. The artefact you seek may be utilised for things outside of its intended purpose...

    Sean: So that would be a "no" then, your coven isn't involved with this artefact.
    GE: The cards do not deal in absolutes, though if you are asking me specifically, I can tell you I know not of any involvement of us with your quest.
    Sean: I see, and what of the rest of my group? What can you tell me of them?
    GE: The people you have been travelling with...

    Granny Elm draws out five more cards and lays them down.

    A tragic figure, she sits beneath an ever mounting number of daggers and knives, all of which may fall onto them at a moments notice. She lives in turmoil with the deaths of those she cared about sitting at her feet.

    Someone who is bound, possibly by their own indecision, their tools lie before them but they are unable to wield them. There is a great feeling of desire to break against their own bonds, but they lack the courage to do so.

    Someone for whom misfortune is not unfamiliar. Their lives have been a constant tirade of misstep after misstep as they stumble through life, attempting to better their lot.

    A powerful force of will who wishes to attain control of their outlook, and person of great imagination and self-reflection, in constant review of their own subjective thoughts.

    A powerful force of change, though not a tempered one. While their potential is great and terrifying, their lack of experience and coordination threatens to undermine them.

    Sean: Well.... this certainly is a lot to consider... I thank you.

    GE: You are always welcome to return for another consolation if you feel the need for it.

    Sean leaves and returns to his room in the upstairs.

    With the exception of the Seven of Dynamism, all the cards taken for Sean's request were completely at random from the deck. I'm surprised by how well they managed to line up with things, but I'm not sure it's something I'll be making a habit off. Leaving this sort of thing up to chance can very easily force me to reveal things that shouldn't yet be known.
    Granny Elm is wary of Sean. She has been watching everyone from the chantry through time and space, and is well aware of who he is and what may happen if his order suspect a nephandi is within reach. She chose to tread lightly here, providing a reading which pandered to his sense of monotheism but just couldn't miss the chance of inserting a little potential doubt.
    The problem with giving doubt to the faithful is well known. So instead of try to make him doubt his beliefs in "The One", she instead elected to direct his strong faith against those in the Chorus, and those who manage the Chapter House.
    Faith can be a very powerful tool is used correctly.

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