Sunday, 20 December 2020

Silent Legions solo - Part 7: Blood and old secrets

7 October

Elgin rings Cat to say he has made progress with the translation. "Also, I have a friend who may be able help us. He wants to meet you. Both of you."

[Scene 19

Respite (1d12=): Some cult or outside actor with a reason to hate the local Enemy finds it useful to keep the heroes alive as a weapon against their foe. An Actor in their service offers shelter to the PCs, sincerely wanting to aid them for very dark motivations.

N.B. I've been pretty loose with interpretations of the Silent Legions scene descriptions. Instead of rolling an Enemy off the Location Tags, I just assumed it's the Cult that's been the antagonist so far.

Actor d6=m
Age: Youthful, perhaps someone up-and-coming in their role.
Profession: Teacher, professor, or other education worker
Memorable Quirks: Remarkably well-prepared for whatever situation they find
Social Standing: Formerly honoured, but now in less repute
Relation to Situation: An unwitting pawn necessary to someone’s plans
Their Advantage in the Situation: Personal prowess and a capacity for great violence


Gerrit Ball
Background: Dutch
Personality: Skilful, Direct
Archaeologist - palaeolithic
Language skill 1d3-1=1: Dutch, English, Russian, French
stats as cult enforcer, +1 damage


UNE to determine the substance of his conversation--
NPC Relationship: friendly
Conversation Mood: cautious
knowing - account - current story]


The meeting takes place in some crappy gastropub near Spitalfields. Elgin's friend is tall, fair, and lean, with severe features and intense blue eyes. His dress is almost casual, but his starched shirt collar, pressed trousers, and tweed blazer carry the whiff of Jermyn Street about them. He stands and shakes both Cat's and Amit's hands with a painfully tight grip, and says, "Gerrit Ball. Delighted to make your acquaintance." His English is impeccable in the way that only foreigners ever manage, but neither Cat nor Amit can place his accent.

"My esteemed colleague has, no doubt, told you that the cult won't rest until they get what they want, namely your death. Or capture -- you've no proof they aren't intending to take you alive. In fact, their failure to kill you makes me rather think they must find you somehow useful."

"Maybe," says Cat. "Maybe not. I've, uh, lived through some stuff that should've killed me already. Before all this bullshit, I mean."

"No doubt. Though perhaps this self-styled Circle, for all their vaunted power, are simply unable to get what they're after. Though their blundering does appear to cause rather a lot of bloodshed." [prejudiced - dislike - antagonist]

"To put it mildly..."

"But whatever interest they may have had in you is twice what it was before, after the, ah, incident at your flat." [knowing - effects - last action]

"How did you...?"

I have my sources. Moreover, I have every reason to want to see the Circle fail in their endeavours. All of them. And so, I should like to offer you my aid."

"I'm listening."

"I keep a spare flat in Highgate. You could hide there whilst I, and others of my acquaintance, decide how best to put an end to the cult's machinations."

"That sounds ominous."

"I don't mean it that way. It were rather best for all concerned to avoid any further violence, to show that you are not a threat, and to see them move with more discretion from now on."

"I might have something they want, but I'm not sure I feel safe letting them have it."

"No, I don't suppose you should be. Might I see the item? I do find these objects so interesting." [prejudiced - bias - relics]

"Um, OK." Cat rummages through her bag for a few moments then hands the artefact across under the table.

[For touching the artefact, Gerrit must save vs. Magic (14+); d20=11, he is Unworthy. 2d6+2=10 vs. Cat's Wis/Perception 2d6+1=8: she doesn't see through his poker-face.]

"Any idea what it is?" she asks.

"Ah, no. I'm afraid my knowledge of material cultures doesn't extend much past the chalcholithic. I might be able to find someone who could determine the use of this object, but it may take time to examine properly."

"I'm not--"

"Letting it out of your possession? Nor should I expect you to. I'll bring them to meet you, at the place of your choosing. Though it would be simpler if we meet at the flat, where we wouldn't have to shout over this awful music."

"OK, sure, I guess. But why are you doing this? Offering all this help?"

"Oh, come now. Surely you of all people must know that nothing in this life is free. I am doing you this favour, and someday I shall have to call it due." [scheming - means - future action]

- - -

[Q: Where is hideout? 1d4=outer ring; 1d18=Highgate]

Gerrit leads them to a modest, two-bedroom flat, located on an unassuming side street set back a little from Highgate High Street. He gives them a cursory tour, hands over the keys, and bids them curtly farewell.

"So," asks Amit, "how well do you trust this friend of yours?"

"I don't really have a choice," replies Elgin. [Location Crafter = Angrily]

"Shit, bruv. Why'd you...?"

[UNE--
NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: guarded
inquisitive - request - treasure]


"He has a knack for finding things that other, uh, interested parties are looking for," says Elgin.

"Things like...?"

"Like the artefact, for instance."

"Interested parties?" asks Cat. "Shit. Does he know about the cave, then?"

"I've not mentioned it."

"See you don't."

"He knew you had it, by the way, without me telling him. The artefact. It's good you showed it him. Proves you're trustworthy."

"Who's he working for?"

[Q: Does E know? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and...]

"They're a magical order known as the Message of the Austere Star."

"Pretty naff name," says Amit.

"It's a reference to a passage or incantation in an ancient manuscript their founder discovered. I haven't seen it -- they don't show it to outsiders -- but I wouldn't go making fun of their name if I were you."

"Gimme some credit. I thought we were all friends here."

"Fair dues. So, as I understand it from what I've pieced together about them, there was this chap who used to teach divinity at Oxford. I think he was, or had almost been, a priest. But his studies took a more esoteric bent, and he eventually began experimenting with the various theophanic rituals in some old books he'd got his hands on. And one of them worked. He introduced a few choice colleagues to his findings, and in 1948 they established themselves as a proper Order. They've been hiding in academia ever since, and recruiting members to their cause. Their ultimate aim is whispered to be a Great Summoning. God only knows what'll happen if they pull it off. But they'll have to work together to do it, and they're a right nest of vipers at the mo."

"They sound lovely," says Cat. "But at least they don't like the Circle."

"They see them as upstarts and parvenus."

"Didn't you just say they were founded in 1948?"

"Still older than the Circle. Plus they have resources: money, power, magic, that sort of thing."

"Why isn't any of this comforting?"

"The cult are currently out to get you. The Star is, at the very least, neutral. For now."

"So you think it's a good idea to wait here for them...?"

"You've a better plan?"

"No..."

- - -

[the Respite lasts 1d6+6=9 days (to 16 October)
DI Wang rings in 2d6=6 days (on 13 Oct.)
Elgin needs 2d6=4 days for research

Q: Are there any weapons in the flat? unlikely (5+): O5 C1 - yes, and... a gun
1d12: 1-2 auto pistol, 3-5 revolver, 6-11 shotgun, 12 smg; 2 -- I arbitrarily decided it was a 9mm Browning (why yes, I did used to play a lot of Top Secret as a kid.)]


Gerrit's flat is modestly furnished and could almost be a holiday rental, though in place of the usual collection of tattered Mills & Boon paperbacks and tourism brochures, the sole bookshelf is stuffed with archaeological journals. Also, Amit finds a loaded pistol in the bedside table.
Elgin takes a brief trip to his own flat, returning via taxi with a laptop and box full of his own books. He spends his days at the flat doing research, whilst Cat and Amit go for a walk in Waterlow Park and up to Hampstead Heath, and drink in the Angel. Amit buys a pile of English lit at the Oxfam to keep busy on the rainy days. Cat sleeps a lot.

[Elgin's research: Int/Language 8+ to decipher sigils: 2d6+1(Int)=12, success.
9+ Wis/Occult to comprehend meaning: 2d6+1(skill)=3, fail. Spending a point of Expertise to re-roll a class skill: 9, success]



11 October

"I've pretty much cracked it," says Elgin, beaming.

"Don't keep us in suspense," says Amit. "What's it say?"

Elgin arranges his papers on the low coffee table, placing a few sheets ripped from a notebook end-to-end. Each bears a few hastily scrawled hieroglyphs copied from the stone sphere in the cave.

"It wasn't immediately obvious, but the inscription runs in a spiral round the stone. The rubbings are hard to follow, so I wrote it out in order. It reads, 'whoever would receive the sleep -- or perhaps -- dream-nourishment of the splendid one -- or ones -- must provide dry offerings -- grain, probably -- and libations of blood for the god, the great of summat-or-other'. And then the last few signs are a name, but without a phonetic complements it can't be pronounced."

"Huh," says Cat, half to herself, "maybe it was so awful because I went empty-handed."

"What?"

"Went where?" asks Amit.

"I meant the dreamscape."

"You never did tell us about it."

"It was a lot to process. But I might have learnt something... interesting."

"Ee by gum, Cat, and I though I had a cryptic pronouncement to share!"

"Sorry. How about some show and tell, then? When I was -- I'm not sure how to say, dreaming I guess -- I met a sort of a wizard. Shit, that makes it sound corny. But this wizard looked right into my soul, and... and I looked into its, and... I saw how to cast a spell, I guess."

"To do what, exactly?"

"It should let me read any language. If it works."

"Seriously? That would've helped a lot with the inscription..."

"Um, I didn't want to risk ruining your notes. It's kind of a messy procedure."

"Messy in what way?"

"There's a bit of, er, blood involved."

"Blood magic! This couldn't possibly go sideways..."

"We'll try it on something completely innocuous, then. Amit, write a few sentences for me in Bengali."

"What about?"

"If I tell you what to write it kind of defeats the purpose."

Amit scrawls a few lines on a piece of paper and hands it over. "I hope penmanship isn't an issue," he says.

"I shouldn't think so. Let's do this in the kitchen though. Gerrit'd prolly kill us if we get stains on his carpet."

[Cat is casting Truths written in Red. She spends 1 Expertise to avoid accruing Madness automatically. The spell level is higher than her Occult skill, so needs to roll Int/Occult at 6+spell level (8) to avoid failure or additional Madness (SL p.35): 2d6+1=10 success. She takes 1d4=2 damage from blood loss.]

Cat takes a carving knife from drawer, grips it in her palm and pulls it down sharply.

"Motherfucker!" she screams, dropping the knife into the sink. "That hurts way more than you'd expect from the movies."

She smears the blood on the paper, soaking it through. When she looks down at the writing, the sea of unfamiliar lines and whorls starts to seethe and twist, and finally resolves into something comprehensible. Cat reads aloud: "Hey, Elgin, did Cat ever tell you about the time in sixth form when she tried to shoplift a bottle of white lightning on a dare and--"

Cat wads up the paper and throws it at Amit's head. He sidesteps it deftly and it bounces off the refrigerator. The blood has vanished from it before it hits the floor.
[Scene 20]

13 October


DI Wang calls to say she's got news, and suggests meeting at pub in Shoreditch.

[Q: Did she get info on Elgin? Certain (2+): O6 C4 - yes, but...
Q: Did DI Wang get good information from Sadowski? Likely (3+): O5 C8 - yes]


"What'd you do to your hand?" asks Mary as she gets settled in to their table.

"I shouldn't be allowed near a kitchen," says Cat "I'm a pretty lousy cook." She hopes the essential truth of the statement keeps any suspicions at bay. Fortunately Mary is intent on getting right down to business.

"Fist things first. I looked up Elgin Radcliffe. He's clean: no record, no cautions, nothing."

"Damn," says Cat. "I was sorta hoping there'd be something... something to go on."

"You're disappointed?"

"I shouldn't be. I guess I ought to trust him by now. Anyways, how'd the other thing go?"

"It took longer than I'd hoped to get in to see Sadowski. When I got there he was really... odd [Boldly / Abnormal]. Like, I can't believe he wasn't at a psychiatric care facility. He saw me without a solicitor present, and wouldn't stop babbling incoherently until I told the guard to leave us. He kept it up until I mentioned Vera by name. That seemed to snap him out of it. He asked bluntly if they'd caught up with her. I asked, 'who?', he said 'The Cult'. The person he was in there for kidnapping was one of Vera's superiors, and he was trying to get them to let her leave. I was blunt and said that we think she was killed because she had possession of a certain odd antique. He started screaming and crying that it was never theirs, but we were all doomed if they got their hands on it [UNE: hostile - rage - relics]. He calmed down a bit when I said it was safely hidden, and confirmed that we were indeed talking about the same, em... that thing. He said they don't understand how dangerous it is, or what it's really for, and that using it at all invites destruction. And the cult would probably use it to start a war against their enemies. He was less clear on who those might be, only that there were other such cults and a sort of equilibrium kept them from lashing out at each other."
 
"Great. I've a new, er, friend who's expressed an interest. And his friends and their magical order, or summat... What did he say it does?"

"He refused to tell me, 'lest anyone be tempted to invoke it'."

"Anything else?"

"He wants to know how you came by it." [inquisitive - interest - experience]

"Did you tell him?"

"You've only cursorily told me."

"If you talk to him again, mention Fr. Mike, I guess. Anything else?"

"Just that he'd be better able to help if I got him released, or at least sent to minimum." [scheming - compromise - superiors]

"Heh."

"Soooo.... what next?"

"I'm waiting for a formal meeting with this mysterious new group. And I have a another name to run by you. A foreign bloke [Wis/Language roll 10+: 2d6+1=9]. Danish I think."


next post: a field trip, with cultists

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Silent Legions solo - Part 6: Dreams worse than waking

 

5 October

Cat rides buses at random until the city starts to wake up, then pops into the first full builders' cafe she sees open for a fry up and black coffee. She gets another to go.

She's completely lost track of what day it is, and doesn't want to draw attention to herself by asking. A discarded Metro on the table informs her it's now Wednesday -- unless it's yesterday's edition. No matter: either way the buses are going to be rammed with commuters soon, and a much as she intends on using the heaving masses to shield her from the cult, she's not too keen on being packed in like a sardine with (invariably) some bloke's armpit in her face.

The map at the bus stop does at least reveal her location, being somewhere in Peckham; she doesn't even remember crossing the river. It also points the way towards London Bridge, and she decides to follow the route on foot as far as  Borough Market and get lost there for an hour or three until she can reasonably expect Amit to be awake. Maybe she'll even treat herself to some over-priced coffee.

She rings him at 11:00 exactly, explains her predicament. He agrees to meet her, and find a friend who's willing to let her crash at theirs for a few hours.

* * *

Cat's thankfully dreamless sleep is interrupted by her mobile. It takes her a moment to figure out why someone named Mary is calling: it's Detective Inspector Wang.

"Hello...?"

"What the hell, Cat. [1d4=]Two people hacked to death at your residence, [1d6=]five injured, one shot dead, a bullet hole in your door, and you disappear. You're wanted on warrant now." [UNE: inquisitive - demand - history]

"Shit. It wasn't me. I don't know an--"

"Just how stupid do you think I am?"

"I don't have a fucking clue who--"

"Bollocks. I'm trying to help you, in case you hadn't realised. I can't help you unless you come clean with me. Off the record, of course."

"Uh..."

"You're no good to me banged up, so this isn't some sort of lame attempt at a trap. You'd do better to trust me. We can help each other. I'm not sure anyone else can." [scheming - arrangement - community]

"Yeah. OK. I might just have another name for you, anyways."

"We need to meet."

"I gotta be honest, I haven't really slept."

"I can't meet until after work, obviously."

"Oh... right... so where we meeting?"

"I was hoping you'd have a suggestion."

"Right. I'm way out east at the mo. Lemme ask where's good nearby. I'll text you."

"Fine."

Cat stumbles out into the front room to find Amit on the settee next to a takeaway pizza box, a bottle of Cobra in one hand and a tattered copy of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa in the other. The relative normalcy of such a scene would give her comfort, were it not for the enormous revolver on the coffee table before him.

"Sleep OK?" he asks.

"Yeah, until my mobile went off. So, like, where's a quiet little pub round here? I gotta meet someone this evening."

"You got a date or summat?"

"Ha! Hardly. Would you believe me if I said I'm working with the bill?"

[Q: Are there any problems before the meeting? unlikely (5+): O3 C2 - no, and...


Scene 17 : the meeting

Setup--

Q: Does Mary have a major lead? 50/50 (4+): O5 C5 - yes
+Event:  PC negative - strike / fear (I instantly knew what this was going to be, part of the Experiment in Horror that is unknown secrets from Cat's background coming to light. And it only took 17 scenes to introduce it; this campaign is a really slow burn).

Q: What lead(s) will Mary present? roll 1d6 thrice, ignore duplicates
1 burglary at psychiatrist's office
2 psychiatrist's murder
3 Vera's murder
4 Mike's murder
5 Cat's attempted murder
6 the priest behind bars

3d6=3,3,6]


Amit's suggestion turns out to be a formerly working-class pub that's been transmogrified into a gastropub. It's the kind of place Cat normally wouldn't be caught dead in -- but it does mean her enemies would never think of looking for her here. Cat gets to the pub early enough to make sure she gets a good table, and she sees DI Wang come in soon afterwards.

"So it seems you were right," says Mary once she's sat down with her pint, "there was a connexion between Vera and Fr. Sadowski."

"Huh. what?"

"Did you know that Vera once saved Fr. Sadowski's life?" [d12 The Other Character Is... (SL p.6): Someone who saved their life; 1d2=V saved S]

"I... wow, no. But then, I didn't know she was messed up with the cult until Mike told me. I mean, I didn't really know her at all."

"Really? Then why...?"

"I don't know. Trying to be a better person, I guess. And look where it's got me."

"Hm. But here's the weird part: she called 999 from outside his church and said he was collapsed down in the crypt. The paramedics rushed him to hospital, where he was treated for severe malnutrition, like he'd been starving to death; but he'd performed mass not three hours prior, and was by all accounts a picture of health. He claimed to have a secret eating disorder, but..." [d30 phenomena=energy drain]

"What do you think it was?" asks Cat.

"Poisoning maybe?"

"Maybe. But I doubt it."

"What's your theory?"

"Black magic."

"Ah. Yes. That would fit."

"Don't be patronising."

"I'm not. You see there's... I think there's another connection. [UNE: mysterious - whispers - current scene] Sadowski was lucky. Two of those names you gave me from your old cult days -- Steve and Ian -- they both died of starvation within a month of Sadowski's collapse."

"Shit."

"Both very suddenly, and no one who knew them had any suspicions. It's too similar -- too weird -- to be coincidental."

"So where's this leave us?"

"Oh, I'm just getting started. I'm going to have to interview this Sadowski character. He shouldn't be too hard to find--"

"Heh."

"--but I need to know what to ask him."

"Ummmm... I'm going to try trusting you, if only because you made the same face when you first walked in this place as I did."

"I gotta say I wondered who you pissed off bad enough to recommend it," laughs Mary as Cat rummages through her bag.

"Ask him about this," says Cat as she places the tooth-laden metal artefact into Mary's hands.

[Mary's saving throw vs. Magic (1d20=3) fails; she's Unworthy.]

"Eeewww. No. Take it back. How can you touch that thing. It's so... it feels like... it's nauseating!"

"It doesn't bug me."

"You must have a strong stomach."

"I s'pose," says Cat, stowing the artefact away.

"Was that writing on the back? What's it say?"

"How's your Latin?"

"Seriously?"

"I'll write it down for you. And another name, too: someone you might want to meet. Not sure if I trust him yet, but... I prolly oughta."

"Anything else you'd like to share? Actually, think it over a little. I was planning on having an early night but after seeing that... that thing, I feel the need for another round. Same again?"

"Ta."

Mary comes back from the bar with a forced smile. "Here, this one's yours. I managed to spill less of it down my front." She takes a sip of beer to steady her nerves, but it goes straight down her windpipe.

Once Mary's coughing fit subsides, she hesitantly resumes the conversation. "I have one more thing to tell you, Cat. I'm still not sure if I should. But..."

"But?"

"You have a right to know."

"Now you got me worried."

"Your medical records -- I've seen them."

"Isn't that sorta illegal?"

"Not necessarily... but in this case it seems highly irregular. I was surprised to find them on a colleague's desk."

"Whose?"

"DI Agarwal's." [d10000ethnicity=Indian, d6=m]

"I don't know the name."

"He's been investigating a series of [SL crime, 1d8=]burglaries, so I wouldn't expect you to do. I've read your rap sheet, naturally."

"Naturally. But why would this bloke...?"

"Precisely. There's no reason for it. I had to look inside, just to make sure it was actually you."

"And..."

"Does this symbol mean anything to you?" Mary fishes a pen from her jacket and draws on a napkin.

[Int/Occult 11+: 2d6+1=10, not quite]

"It looks like some sort of magical sigil, but other than that, no. Why?"

"It's... it's implanted in your chest. Some sort of metal or plastic. There was a copy of an X-ray. Here, I snapped a pic on my phone."

[This is the above-rolled Event: PC negative - strike / fear. Cat gains 1d4=3 Madness, putting her at 22. For reaching 20 Madness, she now needs to make a saving throw to avoid a Dark Vision. The rules allow for an automatic failure if the player so desires, and this seems a most appropriate time.

Dark Vision:
1d6=Sight. The insights come visually.
1d8=The nature and powers of a magical object or effect.
1d20=Minor bleeding from eyes and ears for a minute.

Which Object/effect? (1d10): 1-5 artefact, 6-8 alien rock codex, 9 energy drain, 0 other; d10=6]


Mary's crude sketch only tickled at the edges of Cat's awareness, but seeing the bright white outline of the shape on the image of her chest screams at her memory. She's seen it before -- on the stone sphere in the cave. Her vision blurs and the room starts to slide. She grips the edge of the table hard. The rush builds in her head, she mumbles an excuse and runs to the loo, hides in a stall, bleeding from eyes and ears. She tries to staunch the blood with inadequate squares of loo roll but half her consciousness drifts back to the cave, to the stone.

It's all over in a minute or two. She cleans herself up and goes back to the table.

"Sorry," says Mary, I... I didn't think it would hit you so hard."

"Yeah, it was... shit, it's not important right now. Or it is, but maybe not in a bad way. I need to go back to Epping Forest. To the cave."

"What? What cave...?"

"Fancy a field trip?"

"It's a bit late."

"Hmmm. I suppose it can wait till daylight."

"I have to work."

"You do! That's fine, I'll go alone."

"I don't think--"

"OK, not alone. I got a mate who's looking after me."

"This isn't the name you gave me is it? The one you aren't sure you should trust?"

"What? No. He's a friend from way back. and a bit too level-headed to get mixed up in this voodoo bullshit."

"Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine."

"Only there's blood on your shirt..."

"I'm fine now. Really. Never better."

"OK. Just, you need to be careful. You're still wanted for questioning, and if they take you in..."

"Yeah. Shit. I'll be careful."

"Good. I'll see about this Elgin, and pay a visit to Sadowski. You will stay out of trouble, and out of sight. I'll call you in a few days."

[Q: Any problems getting back? 50/50 (4+): O2 C8 - no]

* * *

[Scene 18]

6 October


The next morning, Cat and Amit take the tube back to the Epping. Cat is taciturn for the voyage, only opening up once they get into the forest, when she tells Amit everything that was said and, especially, that happened at her meeting with Mary.

"So we're back here because you... had a vision?" asks Amit.

"I know how it sounds, but with all the weird shit that's been going down lately... and since I'm sober now..."

"Yeah, but... just... shouldn't we wait to see what that Elgin geezer says?"

"I don't trust him yet. If I do this, then we can compare it with what he tells us."

"You're really mental, you know that? A clever bint, but mental."

[Wis/Survival 4+ to find the path again: 2d6+1-1= success (I'll stop rolling now in daylight)
Q: Is anyone about? unknown: 1d6=6: O1 C5 - no]


They follow the fairy-path (so Amit calls it, if only to make it seem less frightening) back to the cave, ready their weapons and torches, and go inside, progressing unhindered to the stone chamber.

"You stand guard," says Cat, handing over the gun.

"Are you sure you're sure about this?"

"Yeah. Weirdly, I am."

"And sure you'll be able to sleep?"

"I stayed up all night for this. I'm surprised I'm still going now, to be honest..."

Cat spreads a blanket on the ground near the centre of the chamber where the stone is buried, and lies down so her head is roughly over the stone itself. She closes her eyes and -- true to her word -- drifts right off into slumber, into dream.

[At some point before this scene I had rolled on some of the Roots of the Evil tables (SL pp. 75-78) to flesh out the Circle a little bit. I also rolled up the bare schema of the Mythos for the campaign, including the identity of a single god/entity (ibid. p.66 ff.) with the epithet 'Speaker of the Sleeping Mirrors', about which one of the cult priests had a vision/revelation. I am keeping the world mysterious by not figuring out anything beyond what is immediately needed (the cult's current Scheme involves trying to summon or contact this entity). So, to set up this scene--

Q: Is the stone Codex one of the 'Sleeping Mirrors'? Likely (3+): O4 c1 - yes, and...
Q: Does it work for her because of the implant? 50/50 (4+): O3 C3 - no, but... the implant makes things worse...
+Event:  Horror - PC - Communicate / Power
Q: How will it be worse? Powerfully / Disgusting
Q: Is there any knowledge/benefit at all to be gained? Unlikely (5+): O5 C1 - yes, and... (I combined this with the Horror event -- she will gain knowledge or power by horrific means)]



The clammy air hits her first, and the smell of rust. All round her is the constant thrum and whine of machinery. She can feel the vibrations coming up beneath her feet. Her vision then resolves corroded metal walls, floor, ceiling: a narrow metal corridor, or perhaps a duct. Feeble yellow lights are recessed in the ceiling. Pools of light alternate with deep shadow, stretching an impossibly long way before her. It's the same in front and behind, so she sets off in the direction she first was facing.

She comes to a T-junction, and peering down it reveals light coming in the far end from outside. She walks towards is, and soon emerges onto a metal platform enclosed by a shabby railing. The vista before her causes Cat to swoon, and she grips the rail for fear of falling. Below her a great heaving machine extends in all directions to the dim horizon. The sky above is still more gnashing thrashing machinery, and great columns of metal connect the two.

A staircase of metal latticework leads down from the platform for about 50 yards over the void to a boxy metal building. Cat heads downward, walking deliberately lest she stumble, holding onto both guardrails so tightly her fingers ache.

The rust smell assails her nostrils as she enters the structure. She walks for an age through mechanical halls, over walkways, up & down staircases, but always through enclosed areas, never emerging out again over the yawning gulf.

[Q: Is she alone? unknown d6=5, unlikely: O6 C4 - yes, but...
Q: What does she find? Frantically / Feeble]


The omnipresent noise has faded into the background of her perception, and a new sound startles her. Something is moving ahead! She quickens her pace to the end of the gangway, and glimpses moving shadows in the chamber beyond, and hears an intermittent mechanical scuttling.


She peers in, and almost cries out from horror and disgust. A spindly-legged metal monstrosity is picking apart human(?) corpses and sorting pieces of flesh into brass receptacles.

[Madness+1d8=2
Q: Does it react to her presence? Unlikely (5+): O1 C5 - no]


She watches dumbstruck as it repeatedly clacks over to the reeking pile of carcasses, extends a mechanical grasper, pulls off bits of meat, and clatters over to deposit the morsel in one of the vats. She thinks it may have looked straight at her with one of the lenses in its 'head', but it pays her no mind after then. She backs away numbly, and looks for another path.

Cat explores further, winding her way through machines and over walkways until at last she chances upon a straight, long passage with strong light shining from the end, so bright it hurts to look at it after all this time in the gloom.

The corridor empties out into a vast, tubular chamber, where it is almost perfectly silent. The whole of the space is made of the same spongy metal as the artefact. Cat feels her feet sink slightly into the surface with every step. [Threateningly / Tranquil]

A single spot of red is the only thing that mars the perfect complexion of the metal room. Cat moves towards it, and after a minute's walk it resolves into a humanoid shape on its knees, thrashing franticly. She approaches the figure to find a nude flagellant[Gladly / Damaged], kneeling in a pool of blood and fluid, scourging itself with a knotted black cord. The flagellant's skin is red, raw, and glistening, save for the arm which wields the scourge. The flagellant looks at her, bright green eyes staring out from a ruined visage, and  she is transfixed by its gaze. She starts to shift, losing her identity, merging consciousness with the sexless being before her, feeling everything it/she/they feel. After what seems an eternity, the whip lapping at the shreds of (t)he(i)r mortified skin and exposed muscle begins to make sense, and she learns its song.

[Cat gains a randomobvious spell: Truths Written in Red

also +1d6=1 madness, +2 for spell level =3 (up to 27 total)

Q: Does anything happen in the normal world whilst she's dreaming? Unlikely (5+): O1 C6 no

How fast does time pass in the machine realm? (1d8)
1-4 normally
5   1/2 as fast
6   1/4
7   2x
8   4x


d8=3, normal

Q: Can they make it home ok? Certain (2+): O6 C2 - yes, and...

They both make their Physical saves, taking 1 damage each for the bad air.]


Cat slowly comes to realise she's lying on her back in the cave. Amit is standing over her, checking the time on his phone.

"What happened? Did you, y'know, dream."

"M-more like a nightmare. How long was I out?"

"About 40 minutes."

"It felt like a lifetime."


next post: more "allies" and a touch of magic

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Silent Legions solo - Part 5: Carvings in stone and flesh

When Cat and Amit walk into the dark, dingy pub, Motörhead's Ace of Spades is blaring over the sound system. Cat has no doubt she'll hear it at last once more before they leave -- it's that kind of place. It's barely been open an hour, so there's only a handful of punters in place. Cat finds a seat and gives Amit a tenner to go to the bar. "I'd go with you," she says, "but I think I hooked up with one of the bartenders at a party. And I'll be buggered if I can remember her name."

Cat finds a place to sit, and blows out the candle stuck in the old Jack Daniels bottle (it's that kind of place) in hopes that the darkness hides her face a little.

Amit soon joins her. They've only been seated for about 4 songs when Cat's mobile rings.

"Hello?... yeah, I'm here... last booth on the right, by the pool tables. Cool, see you soon." Cat puts her phone away. "He doesn't know there's two of us," she says to Amit.

"I'm way ahead of you."

Amit goes off to the back of the pub, and within seconds has been invited to play pool by some friendly metalheads.

[Scene 14

At the end of the last scene, I had asked the Oracle:
Q: Is the meeting a set-up? unknown d6=4: O1 C7 - no.
Q: Does anything happen before the meeting? unlikely (5+): O4 C2 - no, and...

To determine the substance of the meeting, I rolled a random Socialite challenge. 1d6: 1-3 want, 4-6 fear; 3
1d20=They want help, to advance in their profession.

I had a suspicion that he was going to be an important NPC, so I rolled him up as a 1st level Scholar character (with 1d20 Madness for his cult connections)
Elgin Radcliffe
male, Age 41
Class/Level: Scholar 1, XP:0
Background: Banker*
Wealth: Average
Madness: 4
Str 9 Int 14 Wis 9 Dex 11 Con 9 Cha 13
AC 9, Att +0, HP 3
Business 0, Culture/home 0, Language 0 (Sanskrit), Occult 1, Profession/financier 0, Research 0, Science 0
*Office Clerk for skill list


Reaction roll=6, neutral]


When Elgin walks in to the pub, Cat sees at once why he'd said not to meet anywhere too dressy. Even in old jeans and a t-shirt, the ornamented biker jacket and shiny patent cap scream leatherbear. He's got more facial piercings than all the bar girls combined, with studs and rings even peeking out from his four-day growth of scraggly beard. He goes right over to Cat's table and slides unceremoniously into the booth.

"Ay up," he says.

"Hiya..."

"Alright, talk."

"Uh... ok... so there's a cave in the woods with... uh, something the cult needs your help to decipher. It has something to do with this."

Cat takes the artefact from her bag and places it on the table between them.

[Q: Does Elgin know what it is? unlikely (5+): O2 C6 - no]

"What is it?" asks Elgin, a trifle uneasily. "What's it do?"

"Damn. I was kinda hoping you'd know."

"I mean, I can probably find out for you..."

"Yeah. Um, there's been a few d-- people are getting murdered over this thing," says Cat as she puts the artefact away again.

"I don't doubt it. How did you come by it, if I may ask?"

"It's a long story."

"I've plenty of time."

"You might want a drink for this."

"Right y'are, love. What're you having?"

When Elgin returns from the bar, Cat gulps down the dregs of her first pint, takes a deep breath, and launches straight into her narrative, leaving nothing out: the break-in at her shrink's office, Vera's murder, getting the artefact from Mike, trying to meet the Jesuit, Mike's murder, her shrink's murder, the helpful DI Wang, her shrink's murder, the thing that chased her, and finally her and Amit visiting the cave. By then it's her round.

"They're after you now," says Elgin as Cat is sitting down again. "They're not likely to give up. Nor to let you live, if you just try to bargain. But you'd probably figured that out by now." [UNE: knowing - discourse - antagonist]

"Yeah. Sorta."

"Maybe we can help each other. I have some friends that might appreciate what you have there. Provided we figure out what it does."

"Friends?"

"The Circle's not the only party interested in... such items."

"Oh. Fuck."

"Show me to the cave, and we can see what can be learnt. Then we can approach my friends with a better bargaining chip -- they'd love to ger one over on the Circle."

[Note on ethnic origins: I used London census data to make a 1d10000 (in Excel, to save my sanity) background table. I don't remember what I originally rolled for Elgin, since it got deleted when I saw the typo above ('ger one over') and suddenly I heard all his lines in a thick Yorkshire accent (non-UK folks, think Sean Bean). BUT, one of my pet peeves in literature is long passages written with every word in "dialect" ("Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin."), so apart from syntax and vocabulary choices, you'll mostly have to supply the accent yourself.]  

* * *

[Scene 15: Respite ends]

4 October

The next morning, Cat, Amit, and Elgin convene on the platform at Mile End to take the tube back out to Epping Forest.

[Wis/Survival 5+ to find cave again: 5+1-1= success
Q: Are there enemies in the cave? likely (3+): O2 C4 - no, but...]


Luckily they remember the route they took to find the clearing, and before long are standing at the mouth of the mysterious cave. Cat pauses to retrieve the revolver from her bag. Elgin's eyes go wide at the sight of the gun.

"What?" says Cat. "The cult aren't fucking around. Neither am I."

Amit switches on his torch and they follow him into the cave. In the passage they stumble across the contorted corpse of the cultist they'd left there previously. Her face is frozen in an attitude of anguish, and her blackened tongue protrudes between swollen lips. [the cave's atmosphere is slightly poisonous: 1d4 damage per hour of exposure, Physical save for half.]

They shuffle quickly past, trying not to look. [1d3 Madness each: c3, a2, e2]

When they arrive at the chamber, the weird stone is nowhere to be seen.

"Ummm... what is it you were going to show me?" asks Elgin.

[Wis/Perception 6+: C 2d6+1=13]

"Look!" says Cat. Loose dirt!"

"They buried it?" asks Elgin.

"Looks like."

"Now what?"

"There's two kinds of people in this world," says Cat, "those with guns, and those who dig."

"Seriously?"

"One of us needs to stand guard. I mean, we can take turns; I'm not a total arsehole."

Digging with a cricket bat is sub-optimal, but fortunately the stone had not been buried very deep. They heft it up onto the ground, and Elgin plops down beside it to examine the carvings.

[He only need to roll 6+ Int/Occult,  since the cult did expect him to be able to understand it: 2d6+1=8, success.
But at first glance, he can only comprehend 1d6=5 symbols. I rolled them using the Mythic and Location Crafter word tables (but changing adverbs to adjectives)]


"These markings... I've seen these symbols before... they're indescribably ancient. That one's 'food', there's 'beautiful'... 'dry'... 'fame'... 'heavy'.... It's a message. but I'll need some time to decipher it."

"Let's get it out of here, then," says Cat.

"Damn, it's heavy."

"Let me," says Amit.

[Q: Is it too heavy to carry? Likely (3+): O2 C4 - No, but...
Q: What happens when they try to remove it? Develop / Dreams]


They get only fifty feet down the passage when Amit starts to feel strange. A dizziness overcomes him, and he passes out.

[Q: what are his dreams like? Mechanically / Enormous]

He dreams that he is in the centre of an immense whirring, clacking, crashing, wailing machine. All about him are cogs and levers and pistons and springs and he must run between them as they scream and vibrate and clash and with the barest mis-step they will shred him to gory tatters.

[+1d6=5 Madness, putting him at 21. He must roll a Mental Effect saving throw to avoid being swept up in a Dark Vision (SL p.173): d20=17, saved.]

After an instant or an eternity of terror he finds himself in the dirt, being slapped awake.
 
"Shit..." he gasps. "I don't think we're supposed to take it out of this cave."

"Or the cult already would have, I guess," says Elgin.

"Can you copy it all down?" asks Cat. "Maybe take pictures."

"Let's do both."

Amit sits against the cave wall, eating the jammie dodgers he'd brought as a restorative, whilst Cat photographs the stone sphere with her mobile and Elgin copies the inscription into his notebook. Then they roll it back and re-bury it in hopes the Circle won't know they've been back.

[Q: any encounters? unknown 1d6=3: O1 C5 - No.

Everyone takes 1d4 damage for the poisonous air, with Physical saves for half:
C fail, 3 damage (down to 4hp)
A fail, 3 damage (to 3hp)
E fail, 1 damage (to 2hp)

Q: Any problems getting home? 50/50 (4+): O6 C2 - yes, and...(roll an Ambush scene)]


By they time they leave, they're all feeling more than unusually tired, with headaches and low-grade nausea on top of general fatigue. They get on the tube and all head back to their respective homes.
 
* * *

[Scene 16: Ambush Scene

1d12=The Enemy’s minions attack at night, seeking to murder the PCs in their beds. Locked doors and other precautionary measures will give the PCs a little time to react.

So, this scene is just Cat, then.]


Back at the halfway house, Cat has an early tea (it's just gone 4pm when she finishes) and then marches up the steps to her room. She wedges the doorjamb under door so it can't open (her usual habit here) and puts the revolver on her bedside table (she'd tried it under the pillow once, and was too paranoid about it going off to fall asleep). She collapses on top of the bedclothes and passes out immediately.

[Set-up :
Cat's room is on (1d3-1=) the 2nd floor

Q: Do the Cult send another creature? Unlikely (5+): O4 C8 - no
Q: A trained assassin? Unlikely (5+): O1 C6 - no

so, 1d4=3 normal cultists

Q: Armed with guns? Unlikely (5+): O3 C5 - no

Their plan is Abnormally / Lethal - kill anyone they encounter

Q: Do they know which room is Cat's? 50/50: O2 C1 - no, and... go room to room
Q: Does anyone's screaming wake the house? Certain (2+): O6 C2 - yes, and...
Q: Anyone fight back? Unlikely (5+): no, and...]


About 3am, a trio of cultists in black tracksuits and balaclavas converge on the halfway house. They force the front door open with a crowbar and rush inside, where they proceed to go from room to room, killing anyone they encounter with their long, sharp knives. After they burst into the third bedroom they are discovered. Screams and shouts echo through the house as the residents attempt to flee. Several are cut down in their flight, but those who escape into the street are not pursued; their cries will be slow to wake the jaded neighbourhood.

Cat jolts awake when she hears the commotion, and knows they're coming for her. She cocks the revolver, aims it at the door. Soon enough the assassins are trying the doorknob, throwing themselves bodily against the door to break it down. Cat fires blindly through the door.

[I gave her a flat 15+ to hit something: d20=18 1d8=8 damage, killing the 1d4hp cultist. A morale check is needed, cultists have ML9: 2d6=11, fail.]

The report of the gun in her cramped room feels like it has just shattered her eardrums, but through the ringing Cat hears the pounding suddenly cease, and then feet scurrying away down the stairs.

She cocks the gun again, kicks the doorjamb out and carefully opens the door to see what she's done. A man is slumped on the floor with a hole blown through his chest, a bloodied survival knife beside him.

[1d20=2 Madness (up to 19) from killing for the first time]

She hasn't time to process the deed. Fear and adrenaline combine to give her acute clarity of purpose. Cat throws a few things in her bag with the gun and artefact, runs out of the house, and picks a random direction to walk.

[Q: Does anyone stop her? Unlikely (5+): O3 C4 - no, but...]

A voice behind her calls her name. She whips about to see Marvin, another resident form the house, failing to light a fag with trembling hands.

"Hey, Cat, what happened? What's going on?"

"I don't know and I don't want to know."

"Fuck me! I thought I heard a gunshot"

"I did too. I'm getting well away from that shithole. Maybe for good!"

[Cha/Persuasion 6+ to ditch him: 2d6+0=9, ok]

Cat keeps walking until she's far away, and not entirely sure of where she is anymore. Weariness threatens to overcome her, and she sits for a moment at a bus stop. When a night bus pulls up a minute later, she gets on it and just rides to the end.


next post: getting somewhere?

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Silent Legions solo - Part 4: Into the underworld

Cat collapses into a seat to catch her breath. No one really pays her any mind; to be honest, it's not the worst she's looked on public transportation before. Once she's breathing normally again she looks up at the route map on the wall to plan her next move. She's currently headed [1d2=] east, so decides she might as well take it to the end of the line at Barking; it's high time she looked up an old friend.

[Scene 12

After the successful Escape, it seemed like time for a Respite scene.

Respite: d12= Some hostile action against the Enemy, either by a Friend or a random foe, distracts them from the PCs for a brief time.]


Amit Kamal is a small-time hustler with ties to several south Asian gangs operating out of east London. Cat has no idea where he's living these days, but she remembers all the places they used to go when they were hanging out, so she figures it's just a matter of hitting up every Bangladeshi-owned off licence in Barking before she runs into someone who will help her find him.

And sure enough, her plan works.

[8+ Cha/Culture-Criminal to track him down: 2d6+0=9, success

UNE--
NPC Relationship: loved
Conversation Mood: sociable (= they go waaaaay back)]


* * *
Amit Kamal
male, Age 30
Class/Level: Socialite 1, XP:0
Background: gangster
Wealth: struggling
Str 13 Int 12 Wis 8 Dex 14 Con 10 Cha 14
AC 8, Att +1, HP 6
Combat/primitive 0, Culture/Criminal 1, Culture/Home 0, Language 0 (Bengali), Perception 0, Persuade 1, Stealth 0

* * *

The trail leads Cat to a restaurant. It isn't open yet, but she can see Amit and a couple of his mates inside sitting round a table and laughing at videos on their mobiles. She knocks on the window to get their attention. Amit jumps up from his seat and runs to unlock the front door. He throws it open, then stiffens, bows at the waist, and addresses Cat in his best RP accent. "Miss Morland! I see you've elected to spend the season in Town after all."

"Why, yes, my dear Mr. Tilney. Another season in Bath would be just too, too horrid."

They laugh and embrace as Amit's friends look on bewildered. He says a few words to them in Bengali, and then he and Cat step out into the street.

"Holy shit, Cat! I didn't know you were out yet."

"Yeah... I got into a halfway house and everything."

"I knew you could kick the habit, if anyone could. You should've let me know when you were getting released. I could've thrown you a welcome-home party."

"No one would've come, though. You do know you were the only person who ever visited."

"Shit. No, I didn't. I, uh, feel kinda bad now that it was just the once."

"Don't. It meant to world to me. Really."

Amit mumbles something, and the pause in the nascent conversation threatens to overwhelm them. Cat's not sure she can just beg a favour out of the blue, so wracks her brain to make small talk.

"What'cha been up to all this time?" she asks.

"Ah, you know: same-old."

"Yeah, I probably shouldn't be asking. How's the family."

"Mum's still mum, asking when I'm going to get married..."

"Ha. And you sister?"

"Still straight, Cat."

"Damn. A girl can hope."

"But how are you doing, anyways?"

"Honestly? Not great. I'm in trouble; these weirdoes are after me and I need protection. Think you can hook me up?"

"How do you mean?"

"A gun, obviously."

[He needs a 7+ Int/Culture-criminal roll to have a connection: 2d6+1=7]

"I know a guy, but it might take time."

"I ain't got a lot of that."

"My guy's not the most reliable, innit?" [UNE: prejudiced - doubt - retainers]

"How long?"

[1d6+1=6]"A  week maybe. No more."

"Shit. Got anywhere I can hide out maybe?"

[Q: Does he? 50/50 (4+): O2 C2 - no, and...]

"I wish I could help, but I don't know anywhere to hide a, well, a white girl. You know how it is..."

"I can hide maybe three days... how about I meet you after three days. We'll grab lunch or something."

"I'll have my people call your people."

"This is serious mate."

"Sorry. OK, three days. Let me give you the number on the mobile I'm using at the mo. Oh, and the spare burner, too."

* * *

Amit soon has to rejoin his friends; they weren't just loitering, but Cat knows better than to press for details. She takes the tube all the way to Victoria to pick up the artefact, and keep it with her to conserve her meagre funds. She spends three nights at different homeless shelters, afraid to go home.

[The Respite will last 2d6=7 days (until 4 October)]


30 September

Three days later Cat meets Amit in a builders' café, between the breakfast and lunch rushes.

[Amit needs a 10+ Int/Culture-criminal roll to have come through already: 2d6+1=6]

"Sorry, Cat, no luck yet. It's coming, but not early."

"Damn. Can you at least get me a knife?"

"There's real cheap ones at the Tesco in the housewares aisle."

"I mean a real one, matey. One I can fight with."

[6+ Int/Culture-criminal: 2d6+1=9]

"No problem."

"Ta. Can I ask another favour?"

"Do I ever say no?"

"Ha! No. Maybe you should sometimes. But this is easy, I just need an honest, unfiltered opinion: do I still look too sketchy for polite society?"

"Got a job interview or summat?"

"No. I need to renew my library card."


[Scene 13

Investigation scene: Obtaining the clue is trivially easy, but parsing it or identifying the importance of an object requires visiting a Place, where further information is under guard of one or more challenges]


1 October

Cat decides she should probably to go back to halfway house for appearance's sake. Besides, she needs to pick up some post as proof of address. The staff member on duty eyes her with abject suspicion as she launches into her excuse.

"I, er, met someone. Been spending a lot of time together. No, it's not serious. Not ready for that kind of commitment, either of us."

[8+ Cha/Persuade to avoid trouble: 2d6=10]

"Just call and let us know next time, m'kay?"

Cat tries to sleep there that night, and has bad dreams.

2 October

Cat puts on her one set of nice clothes and heads down to the British Library, getting there even before they've opened the doors. Luckily the little coffee stand is serving, as she needs some fuel for her visit.

Getting her card renewed is far easier than she expected [4+ Int/Persuade, success] and within 90 minutes she is collecting a stack of books in the 2nd floor Humanities Reading Room.

[Int/Research 10+: 2d6+1-1(unskilled)=10, success

Random Location (1d9) = Epping forest
Place (d4) = Ill-litten unnatural cavern

research takes 1d8-1=1 day]


Cat isn't expecting to find an Owners Workshop Manual for the artefact or anything, but she is certain that such an unusual and unsettling item must have left some record of its existence. She starts with Roman Britain, and follows vague and winding threads which finally lead her to a tantalising clue buried in veiled references in a footnote of a Medieval Latin chronicle, telling of a secret place where (she hopes) answers may be found.

3 October

Cat awakens to find a text from Amit: "We should do lunch."

[Q: Complications? 50/50 (4+): O4 C5 - Yes
Q: What? Interestingly / Ancient]


They grab lunch at a chippy near West Ham underground station, and take it to the mostly deserted park nearby to eat on an obliging bench. When they're finished, Amit hands over a canvas bag. Cat looks inside; her eyes go wide as pulls out a vintage (1860s) Webley .450 percussion revolver.

"What the actual fuck? Your mate rob a museum or summat?"

"I didn't ask. Best I can do on short notice. And... with limited capital."

"It's only got 4 bullets in."

"Yeah. He said not to leave a live round under the hammer. Bump it too hard and it'll go off, innit?"

"Shit."

"You don't like?"

"Can't afford to be picky."

"Speaking of afford..."

"Put it on my tab, won't you?" [6+ Cha/Persuade 2d6+0=6]

[Q: Is he in debt over this? Likely (3+): O5 C6 - yes]

"Look, Cat, I gotta ask, just what kind of trouble are you in? I seen you in a bad way before, but never like this. That one time at Durga's gaff when Tiny had a piece you freaked out and made him put it way up in the kitchen cabinet. Why you want one all of a sudden?"

"Trust me, you don't want any part of this. You'll sleep better not knowing."

"So dramatic!"

"I'm being straight with you."

"There's first time for everything."

"Not joking, matey. People have already been murdered."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah. This girl I knew from rehab. My shrink. A priest."

"Fuuuuck. What are you messed up in?"

"Something really, really weird."

"Weirder than that time--?" [knowing - report - fame]

"Yes."

"I didn't finish."

"You didn't need to. Whatever you were going to say, this is weirder. And worse."

"Fuckin 'ell, just spill it. How the fuck long have we been mates, for you to hold out on me like this?" [hostile - rage - knowledge]

"Fine. Shit. Just... just don't end up hating me."

Cat rummages round at the bottom of her backpack and produces a small bundle which she hands to Amit. He unwraps the flimsy grey cloth -- one of Mike's old band shirts, now so faded that the logo is just a few stubbornly clinging shreds of white -- and finds the sinister artefact inside.

[He must make a saving throw vs. Magic: d20=6, fail - unworthy]

He turns it over and over in his hands, feeling a bit queasy at the touch of the spongy metal.

"What is this ting?"

"Some sort of... some sort of magical device. I don't know what it does, not yet, but I need to find out. And find out why it's apparently worth killing for..."

"Shit. Here, take it back. I feel all creepy holding it."

"Yeah.... so, fancy a walk in the woods?"

"Sure, I guess. Where?"

"To find a secret cave in Epping forest."

"Like, Dick Turpin's hideout? I think that's a myth, Cat."

"No, this is something else. Something far older..."

* * *

[This next part should have been a new scene, but as I was using a hybrid structure rather than just Mythic I forgot to not it. The scenes mostly ended up just being for my own reference when I compiled a 1-page master reference sheet; I had to plot out the adventure on paper to keep track of all the events, NPCs, items, crimes, cults &c &c.]

Amit stops off at his flat (technically, his mate's flat where he's couch surfing) to pick up a cricket bat and a duffel bag to conceal it in, then they head for the tube. They spend most of the journey from Mile End out to Epping poring over the Ordnance Survey map that Cat annotated from her library notes.
They finally arrive at their destination -- the stop one before the end of the line. When they step onto the platform, they are struck by an all-too-surreal sight.

"You see 'em too, right?" asks Cat.

"Yeah..."

"Never thought I'd be face to face with a herd of horses when I got off the Central Line..."

Leaving the station, they walk up the road for about a kilometre to the edge of Epping Forest, then do their best to follow Cat's map; based as it is on an ancient account of finding the cave, they can't even trust the rivers to be in the same place. But perhaps something unseen is pulling Cat closer to itself, for within the hour they have walked a more-or-less straight path into the fairy glade, the sole place from which the cave may be approached so that it appear to mortal eyes.

[9+ Wis/Survival roll to find cave: Cat 2d6+1(wis)-1(unskilled)=12!

I had no opinions whatsoever about what was inside the 'Ill-litten unnatural cavern' (from the Location tag), so I made some rolls on the Kelipah charts--

Size: (1d3=) Substantial. The Kelipah is as large as a small town, with
multiple interesting features in it.

…is warped this way: Is a slow poison
The Flora is…: Produces strange music
The Fauna is…: Piscine or crablike

And to provide action for the scene--

1d6=3 challenges (SL pp. 126-9; each of the 4 classes has 2 tables, so...)
3d8= scholar (upper), tough (upper), investigator (lower)
3d20= 11, 18, 15
 scholar: A prehuman relic that actually serves as a kind of “book”.
 tough: Cult lieutenant operating with henchmen here.
 investigator: It’s been buried, with the nearby earth disturbed.]


The path before them is not the path they just walked down, nor is the terrain at all familiar. Cat fishes the antique revolver out of her bag, and Amit readies his cricket bat. Then by the light of the torch on Amit's mobile, they step tentatively into the yawning blackness of the cave.

[Q: Are the cultists far from the entrance? Unlikely (5+): O1 C8 - no.

7+ Wis/Perception to hear them in cave: 2d6+1=8

There are 1d4+1=2 cultists]


As they creep along the main tunnel, they pass many cramped side passages leading off in all directions. As they pas a larger one, Cat fancies she hears voices. They stop still and strain to listen, but cannot make out any words.

"Put out the light and follow me," says Cat.

[Stealth at -2 (creeping through the dark) vs. Perception: 2d6+0-2=7 vs. 2d6+0=6]

They move slowly up the passageway by touch. Fortunately, a light shining from a chamber up ahead soon appears, and as they crouch by the mouth of the passage they overhear [d6=m,f] a man and a woman talking.

"We'll not get anywhere with this unless we get Elgin down here," says the woman. [UNE: friendly - aid - skills]

"You're sure he will be able to read these signs?

"Who else could?"

"Won't he want the maxilla for himself?" [scheming - agenda - treasure]

"We can take care of him once we have what we need. But without him, we've nothing to go on."

Cat turns back to Amit. "Follow my lead," she whispers, then slinks forward into the chamber. There is no one besides the two whose voices she'd heard. The cultists are both about Cat's age, though she doesn't recognise either of them -- as absurd as the Circle of the Shadow Chalice was back when Cat used to hang with them, even then none of the members were trendy hipsters.

[Stealth 2d6+0-1(not much cover) vs. Perception 8+0, fail]

"What was that?" say the cultists as Cat steps out into the light, right where they are looking.

[Q: Are they armed? certain (2+): O2 C4 - yes, but... knives only]

"Hands up!" says Cat. [5+ Cha/persuade roll succeeds] "Amit, see if they're packing."

"Sure thing. But you should really cock the gun first..."

"Shit. Sorry."

[Q: Do the cultists try anything stupid? 50/50 (4+): O6 C3 - yes, but... not immediately
Cha/Persuade 8+ to interrogate: 2d6+1+1, success]


"So, I advise you two to start talking," says Amit as he removes their knives, "lest my associate decides to go all Get Carter or summat."

"We... we're just out hiking in the woods--"

"Bollocks. You can't find this cave unless you know how to look. Try again. Who's this 'Elgin'? What signs is he s'posed to read?"

"He's a scholar of sorts. We need him to decipher the markings on the stone. over there, in the middle of the cavern."

Amit goes over to examine the object, a football sized stone roughly incised with markings the likes of which he's never seen before. "Gee, Cat, looks like your gat's not the only museum piece in here. This thing looks proper ancient. What's it for?"

"Without a translation of the carvings, we don't know. That's why we need to bring in a specialist."

"Fair enough. But you think it's got something to do with a certain toothy artefact, innit?"

"It, um, I guess. Maybe. It was supposed to have been made here. So they say."

"So where do we find this Elgin character?" asks Cat.

"Either of you two got his number?"

They nod.

"Good. Hand over your phones. And unlock them for us. Ta."

The [d2=] woman hands over her mobile without a word. The man however tries a feint, and swings at Amit with clenched fist. He earns a cricket bat to the face for his efforts. He crumples at Amit's feet, and his companion rushes to his side.

[his surprise attack missed. Amit won initiative, hit for 1d4=4 damage dropping the cultist to -2hp]

"Oh my god oh my god oh my god... he's not breathing. You killed him!"

[1d20=14 Madness for killing another human being for the first time]

"Come on," says Cat, "we should get out of here. Grab her torch and let's leave. Earth to Amit! Come on, mate!"

"Yeah... uh... what about her?"

"She can find her own way out. I just don't want to be followed."

[Q: Does she try to follow? 50/50 (4+): O3 C7 - no]

It's a short walk back out of the cave, now that they are using a light. Cat is sort of sure that a person could crawl their way out in the darkness... but after what the cult did to Mike and Dr. Sonia, she doesn't much care.

They walk back to the glade, then out into the forest as they remember it. They head straight back towards the road, and as soon as Cat can find a signal, she looks through the woman's contact for an Elgin and makes a call.

[Q: Does he answer? unknown 1d6=6 doubtful. O6 C1 - yes, and...

So, just who is Elgin Radcliffe?
1d6=m; random name probably from Byakhee

SL random Actor generation--
Age: Aged or mature in their position.
Profession: Businessman, clerk, banker, or other white-collar job.
Memorable Quirks: Facial tattoos, piercings, or other aggressive body mods
Social Standing: An outcast, either from profession or personal qualities.
Relation to Situation: The person responsible for hiding it or investigating it
The Problem That Drives Them: Someone involved has dire blackmail on them.

I made a Reaction roll, though it applies to the cultist he thinks is ringing him up: 2d6=4, hostile]


The other end only rigs twice before it is answered by a man with a gruff voice and a thick northern accent.

"Dammit, what now?"

"Uh, I borrowed this phone," says Cat. "You don't know me... but if you recently agreed to meet someone from the Circle, I beg you to reconsider. They are planning to use your knowledge for their own ends, and then... well, you know."

"I'm listening." [react=7, neutral]
 
"Let's meet. I have something to show you -- the thing they're after. Maybe we can get to the bottom of this together. I'm tired of running." [6+ Cha/Persuade roll: 2d6+0=10, success]

"Yeah. Sure. OK. Where?"

"Uh... somewhere public. But not too dressy, maybe."

"Ha ha, not an issue. How about the Big Red on Holloway. Know it?"

"Sounds good."

"Get there early and get a booth. I'll ring from the bus stop to let you know I'm almost there."


next post: allies and assassins

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Silent Legions solo - Part 3: They will always find you

23 September

Cat has nothing to do the next day and no money of which to speak, so decides to kill time by going for a walk. Her steps drift towards Mike's church, consciously or not she can't say. But when she gets there she sees cops milling about, and crime scene tape over the rectory door. Cat keeps walking, and tries to act normal. She checks her phone, hoping that Mike had texted this afternoon and she's just not heard the ringer, but she knows in her heart nothing will be there. Tears come to her eyes unbidden.

[I prefer to end posts at a dramatic point in the narrative, so I'm putting the game mechanics from the final scene of the last post here.

The Oracle indicated a random Event would occur before the Jesuit's letter arrived. I rolled: PC negative - Mike - Violate / Stalemate, so the enemy paid Mike a visit.

I gave him a random Tough (class) challenge to overcome (SL p.129)
1d2 & d20 = A victim of occult powers transformed into a monster.
The visit is (1d6): 1-2 stealthy, 3-4 infiltration, 5-6 frontal assault: stealth]


Its stealth (+1) vs. Mike's Wis/Perception (+1/-1): 10+1 vs. 5+0: Mike is surprised; Its attack (claws or summat) hit, and the slaughter die was 1d6=6, so it inflicts triple damage.

Mike only had 3hp, so was killed messily]

* * *

[Scene 9

Q: Will Cat be stopped for questioning? unlikely (5+): O3 C3 - no, but... will be brought in after 1d4=1day
+Event: Introduce a new NPC

The new NPC will be a random Friend or Enemy from the Location Tags. Cat's halfway house and Mike's church are both in North London, so the tags are Averted Eyes & Drug Epidemic.

1d2=Drug Epidemic; 1d2=Friend; 1d4=Police internal affairs investigator

For the Met (London Metropolitan Police), Internal Affairs = PSD, the Professional Standards Department]



24 September

Cat is all cried out by the time the police arrive at the halfway house the next morning. They bring her into the station. She's not arrested, but she is formally cautioned.

The investigating officer comes in, a singularly joyless [d6=]woman in an unflattering navy blue suit jacket. [Personality: Calculating, Determined]

"We have you on CCTV leaving the church. You were the last person to see him alive."

"So you're looking for a blind murderer or what?"

"Don't get smart with me. The rectory was turned over after the crime. Things may be missing. Your rap sheet isn't doing you any favours here."

"Mike was helping me get my life back together. Why would I kill him?"

"I don't know. We only have your word on that. Maybe you thought he was too preachy and decided to teach him a lesson."

The officer opens the manila folder she's brought and slides a picture of the crime scene across the table. It shows Mike sprawled on his back in a pool of blood, half his face ripped away.

Cat turns her face away and tries to choke back more tears.

[+1d3=1 Madness from seeing the photo.

8+ Cha/Persuade roll to not get detained/arrested: 2d6+0=11, success
10+ Wis/Perception to notice anything unusual: 2d6+1=7, fail]


Eventually the police decide they have no reason to hold her, and she is allowed to wander back home.

* * *

[Scene 10 : the New NPC Event from above]

Later that night, another knock at her door interrupts Cat's attempts at reading her book. She's not surprised in the slightest when the judgemental night nurse tells her it's the police again.

With her hair pulled back by a sparkly scrunchie, form-fitting Empire Strikes Back t-shirt, capri-length trousers, and beat up Chuck Taylors, the young woman waiting at the front door looks more like a student than a cop. But the second she starts talking, all old those warning bells in Cat's head go off. Definitely a cop.

"Cat, I'm DI Wang. I had a few questions I would like you to answer. Is there somewhere we can talk privately?"

"Here? You're having a laugh."

"Is that pub up the road any good?"

* * *
DI Mary Wang
female, Age 36
Class/Level: Investigator 1, XP:0
Background: Police
Wealth: Average
Str 11 Int 15 Wis 14 Dex 14 Con 9 Cha 10
AC 8, Att +1, HP 5
Athletics 0, Combat/primitive 0, Culture/Home 0, Law 0, Perception 0, Research 0, Security 0, Stealth 0


* * *

[UNE--
NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: guarded
inquisitive - interest - contacts]


Cat is pleased to find that the table she and Mike always used to sit at is already taken. Even if he sorta became part of the establishment, she thinks it would still be an affront to Mike's old crusty-punk soul to sit a cop down in his place.

For her part, DI Wang is intent on getting Cat to open up. She comes back with a couple pints of real ale, and tells Cat some cheesy chips are on the way. And that she's started a tab. Then she gets down to business.

"You've had an interesting fortnight... a break-in at your psychiatrist's office, stumbling upon the scene of a murder, and now going to visit a murdered priest."

"Kinda an obvious connection to it all, though, innit?"

"Why do you say that?"

"For real? I met Vera in rehab. Mike's a former addict."

"So you think this is drug related?"

"No, not now, but in the past. Vera was clean now. So am I. So was Mike."

"So what then?"

"You'd not believe me if I told you."

[Mary needs to roll 8+ Cha/Persuade (unskilled, -1) + Cat's Wisdom bonus (+1) since it is in her best interests to tell Mary the truth: 2d6+0=9, success]

"Try me. If I thought this was straightforward, we'd be having this talk at the station, not down the pub. I think that there is a connection between these crimes, and it's one that involves certain bad actors within the Met. I need to expose them, or your friends' murderers may never be brought to justice."

"Fine. But I'm warning you, this gets weird. Vera was involved with this... this cult. I used to know 'em, but that was, like, a seriously long time ago. I'm not even sure if anyone I used to know is still with them. I kinda knew Mike back then, in passing. But later, he told me, they started to change, and get really serious, and... well, that's when Vera was part of it, and that's why she wanted out. Only..."

"This cult: what did they believe?"

"Fuck if I know!"

"What did they do, then? Worship the devil? Vampirism? Ritual magic?"

"Back when I knew them, it was mostly talking shit and drug parties. More the former than the latter, so I, uh, lost interest..."

"I'll need some names."

"I'll write down as many as I can remember. You'll understand if my memory's a touch hazy..."

[DI Wang will make contact again in 2d6=11 days]

* * *

[Scene 11

Escape: d12=The heroes need to literally run. The Enemy or some unstoppable force pursues them and they need to flee on foot or in a vehicle before it can catch them.]


27 September

Early on Monday morning, Cat once again heads to the hospital for her outpatient appointment with Dr. Sonia.

[Wis/Perception 11+ : 4+1=fail]

When she comes into the waiting room, the receptionist blankly tells her to go right in. Cat's too exhausted to notice that her demeanour is practically catatonic.

She opens the consulting room door, and immediately see the blood. Dr. Sonia is dead in her chair. Her head is thrown back at an impossible angle. Her gaping mouth is dripping blood all down her front and onto the floor. Her teeth have been removed and placed on the desk in a Y pattern. A sound wells up inside her, then erupts out of her throat, a voice like a chorus of demons shrieking slightly out of unison.

Cat runs out of the office. Someone -- or some thing -- stirs in the bushes outside, alerted by the unearthly screams.

[+1d6=3 madness (up to 10).
I rolled a random Labyrinth Lord spell to add colour to the murder scene, and got Magic Mouth.

Q: So what is the pursuer in this scene? Roughly / Macabre (an undead abomination)

Weak undead: AC8, HD 2, HP 11, claws+2, 1d4 damage, Move 30', skill+0, Madness 1d6

I ran the pursuit itself with the Location Crafter. The lists are--

Locations
special
Outbuilding
shrubbery
blind corner
walkway
special
empty lot
lot with one car
trees
trees
fence
random
fence
train tracks
back garden
street
shop
random
street
complete

Encounters
none
none
special
monster
none
monster
none
pedestrian
random
monster
random
none
special
monster
pedestrian
cultist
none
pedestrian
monster
monster

Objects
none
rock
none
random
flowerpot
none
none
stick
random
none
special
none
none
none
stick
hubcap
rock
special
none
random


I always start on Turn 0 so the turn number is the same as the number added to the die rolls (until one goes past the end of the list). This is essentially a running fight, but most turns last more than one combat round.]


Cat sprints past the motionless receptionist and bursts out through the front door onto the walkway to find a wild-haired, emaciated man of indeterminate age lurching toward her. It smells like he's been bathing in cheap cologne.

[t0: outbuilding - monster - none]
Cat does her best to run round him but he swerves into her path. She ducks just in time to avoid his grasping, outstretched arms. [She needed a resisted Dex/Athletics roll to avoid him entirely: 6+0 vs. 7+0, fail. His attack missed.]

[t1: blind corner - none - none
t2: lot with one car - none - stick]


Cat runs at full bore around a blind corner. Fortunately no one is there to get in her way. She gets halfway through a nearly empty parking lot before hazarding a look over her shoulder. She grabs a broken branch off the ground, sure she will need to defend herself from this maniac.

[t3: blind corner - monster - stick]
Another blind corner: Cat almost barrels into a planter. Her pursuer is catching up. [It wins initiative] He grabs for her. She feels a pop in her shoulder as she twists free [hit for 1d4=1 damage, putting Cat at 6hp].

Cat spins about and smashes him in the face with the end of her stick. The jagged wood catches him full in the forehead and tears up over the curve of his skull, ripping a flap into the scalp. No blood flows from the grievous wound, just a yellow dribble of an oily substance. [1d4=2 damage, leaving it with 9hp]

Cat isn't even sure she hurt him -- or it. If it were once human, it isn't any longer [+1d6=4 madness (to 14) for the realisation]. Cat backs away and from its clutching hands [it missed] and turns to flee.

[t4: trees - monster - stick]
She runs through the back parking lot and between the portacabin outbuildings, straight on into the woods behind. The thing is hard behind. She dodges amongst the boughs, but can't shake the pursuit. It grabs her sleeve. She yanks her arm away roughly, losing her balance and smacking into a tree. [She got to make an opposed Dex/Athletics roll to stay out of reach: 3 vs. 7, fail. Its attack hit for 1 damage, putting Cat at 5hp]

[t5: fence - monster - none]
Cat rights herself and kicks off the tree for speed as the thing lurches after her. She is suddenly face-to-face with a chain link fence. The thing stops just five feet behind her, its feet caught up in some roots. [Athletics 9 vs. 10, fail; but its attack roll was a natural 1]

She scrambles up the fence. Adrenaline propels her up in moments, and without thinking she launches herself right up and over, miraculously avoiding the razor wire. But the drop is further down onto a slope, and she lands hard. Pain shoots through her ankle, but she keeps running. The thing is already climbing up after her.

[6+ Str/Athletics to climb fence: 8=success. Evasion saving throw to avoid razor wire, d20=18, success.

4+ Dex/Athletics to jump down onto soft ground: 2d6+0=3, fail
Fall effects: (1d6) 1-2 1d3 damage, 3-4 Physical save or -1 phys. actions, 5-6 both
d6=4; Physical save 1d20=10, fail]


[t6: trees - monster - random
random = Very / Exotic: a random item has been abandoned here. Flipping through the rulebook at random, first object seen is: bladed weapon]


Cat looks back to see the thing tearing itself through the razor wire without flinching. It jumps down with alarming alacrity. Amongst the omnipresent rubbish (littering all of London's green spaces), Cat finds half a pair of garden shears [-1 to hit 1d4+1 damage]. She pick it up and swings viciously as the fiend draws near. The rusty blade rips into its face, tearing away its nose and most of its right cheek. The ruined skin hangs ragged and oily in a meaty strip, and the bone beneath glistens white. [4 damage drops it to 5hp]. It doesn't seem particularly fazed by the injury, but at least the vehemence of the blow staggered it back a pace, giving Cat time to run. [it missed]

[t7: trees - random - none
random: Dangerously / Large]


She sprints down and across the train tracks, and up the wooded hill on the other side. There is a row of terrace housing at the top, so she makes for the nearest back garden -- but is repelled by an enormous German shepherd chained in the yard, which bares its fangs and growls.

[t8: fence - random - random
item: Healthily / Delightful
encounter: Fortunately / Feminine]


The next garden along has a chain link fence looking out in to the woods. An elderly lady in a frilly dressing gown is on her back step, pouring dietary cat food from a large white bag into a pair of bowls. She stops short when she sees Cat about to scale the fence. [reaction roll (at -2) =3, hostile]

"Go away, or I'll call police!"

"Please, someone is after me!" [7+ Cha/Persuade: 2d6+0=4, fail]

"I'm dialling 999!"

[t9:train tracks - special - none
special: Barely There
t10: train tracks - none - none]


The next few fences are tall and wooden, and Cat doesn't think she can jump high enough with her twisted ankle. She catches a glimpse of monster. It's closer than expected. She runs back down the hill and along the train tracks for about two hundred metres until she sees a rough, trampled path leading up to a street.

[t11: street - pedestrian - stick]
She starts running down the street, doing her best to conceal the broken garden shear beneath her coat. She runs past another OAP out for a stroll. The little old [d6=f] woman literally clutches her pearls at the sight of the young deviant running towards her [reaction: 2d6-2=4, hostile], and Cat doesn't bother stopping.

[t12: random - monster - none
random=Hastily / Smelly (a chippy)]


Somehow the thing has caught up with her again. Cat tries to evade the pursuit [Dex/Athletics 6-1 vs. 8, fail] but it keeps gaining. Its hands grab for her but never come quite close enough [attack misses]. For some reason no one seems in the least put off by the thing in pursuit. Cat is beginning to wonder if it's really there.

[t13: street - none - hubcap (could use as missile, but elects to ignore)]

She runs into a busy street, dodging pedestrians who obligingly halt to hurl profanities at her.

[t14: random - monster - special
special: Exit Here]


Cat sees the sign for Harringay Green Lanes overground station, and feels a surge of adrenaline at the prospect of an escape. [Dex/Athletics 10-1 vs. 7, success] She drops the shears in a bin before entering the station. She has just enough time to touch in and scramble down to the train on the nearest platform. The doors close right behind her.

[Q: Does the monster follow? Unlikely (5+): O3 C6 - no.]

She turns to look out the window; her pursuer is nowhere to be seen.


next post: old friends