"Hey, Cat, you're finally awake."
"I'll put the kettle on."
"Elgin, are you... cleaning the kitchen?"
"Gerrit rang this morning, says he set up a meting with some representatives of the Message of the Austere Star. They're coming round here at 7:00 for an 'informal chat', as he put it. So I'm trying to make the place a little more presentable. Maybe you and Amit can pop over to the Tesco for some refreshments."
The Respite scene was set to end on the 16th, so:
Q: What happens next? (1d20) 1-4 ambush, 5-8 conflict, 9 resolution, 10-11 hook, 12-13 intro, 14-17 investigation, 18 socialite challenge, 19 investigator challenge, 20 scholar challenge
Conflict scene: An important Actor has a deep dislike for the heroes for some reason they can’t control. They refuse to give the help or permission the heroes need unless they can be convinced or bribed to relent.
NB It will take 1d6 days (from the 13th) for DI Wang to check up on Ball: 1d6=4 : 17 Oct.]
They aren't expecting a trap, but decide that a bit of caution is the best way forward. Amit has the automatic under his hoodie, Cat sticks the antique revolver under the settee cushions in easy reach, and Elgin has a pocket knife. The door buzzer sounds at 18:58 (Elgin had said they would be punctual), and Gerrit appears with [1d3=] two representatives of the Message of the Austere Star, for whom he makes curt introductions whilst Elgin takes their coats.
[Q: Which has the Conflict? 1-4 Yaiza, 5-8 Jeanette, 9-10 both; 3
Age: Aged or mature in their position.
Age: Aged or mature in their position.
British - Black - Caribbean]
Yaiza is an older woman, wearing a tailored suit jacket and matching pencil skirt. She looks down at the assemblage over her wire rim glasses with a sour air. Her English betrays even less of an accent than does Gerrit's, and Cat is reminded of the Star's Oxbridge origins.
Jeannette seems much younger than her 50 years would attest, but is only slightly less formal than her colleague; her floral print dress strikes Cat (correctly) as having been bought in one of those chichi boutiques that somehow stay in business despite only ever having six items for sale.
Cat and Elgin share the settee, whilst Amit perches behind on a stool at the breakfast nook. The guest are seated across the coffee table in an armchair and a pair of chairs from the kitchen table.
"I'm sorry for the primitive accommodations," says Gerrit. "But I keep this flat as a safe house, not a conference centre."
"If anyone's thirsty," says Cat, "there's, uh, there's plenty of beer in the fridge. I think maybe that was a miscalculation about how best to play hosts..."
Yaiza declines with a sigh, but Gerrit and Jeanette accept. Jeanette even conceals her disgust when Amit asks if she wants a glass or if just the bottle is ok.
"I'm glad you've agreed to this meeting," begins Gerrit. "I think we can reach a mutually beneficial agreement about the situation." [UNE: friendly - gratitude - last scene]
"So, this is the person the Circle are unable to catch?" says Yaiza.
"That's me," says Cat.
"And just what is your connection to them?"
"Uh, I used to know some of 'em, but that was another life ago. Now, it's just this shit."
"So she's one of them from... before."
"My dear Yaiza," says Gerrit, "she was never actually one of them."
"A hanger-on, then. Really, that's worse."
"No, they were all wankers," says Cat. "I ditched them pretty fast."
"In favour of what, exactly?"
"Nothing that has any bearing on the present."
"That's your assertion."
"Is that a question?"
"Perhaps," interjects Gerrit, "we should discuss our more immediate circumstances and interrogate the past at a later time."
"If we must!" sighs Yaiza.
"The artefact," says Jeanette. "May we see it?"
Amit looks over at Cat for confirmation, then wordlessly goes into the bedroom to fetch it. He brings it back and sets it on the coffee table, teeth upwards, metal glinting in the overhead lights."
[Q: What is their reaction to seeing it? Joyfully / Classy]
"My word!" exclaims Yaiza. "It certainly is everything you said it was, Gerrit."
"May I examine it?" asks Jeanette.
"Knock yourself out," says Cat.
[Is she worthy? Magic save 1d20=20, yes] Jeanette turns it over in her hands, curiously but otherwise unmoved.
"I assume you don't need me to translate the inscription," says Cat.
"Recte dixisti," says Jeanette.
"Let me see it, then," says Yaiza.
[Is Yaiza worthy 1d20=7, no; attempt to not show it: 2d6=6 vs. C's Pcn: 2d6+1=8, vs. E's 2d6-1=9, A's 2d6=7]
She can't hide her sudden revulsion when she touches it. "This--" she shudders, then replaces it on the table and starts again. "This is what they've been after, then. The cause of so much unpleasantness."
"How much do you know about it?" asks Elgin.
[Q: Do they know much? (=Oracle Odds) 1d6=5, unlikely (not much)
Q: How honest are they? 1d6=6!]
"Not a great deal, it must be said," says Jeanette.
"More than us," says Cat. [Persuade 6+: 2d6+0=6 believed] "What do you know?"
"We've heard rumours of this item, but no more," says Yaiza. "We don't know what it's supposed to do, nor by whom nor for what purpose it was made. We'll need to examine it in detail. If you let us bring it back for proper study, we'll be able to understand it. We have considerable resources." [knowing - records - knowledge]
"How stupid do you think I am? I'm not giving it away that easily."
"We'd bring it back--"
"Like fuck you would!"
"Really! I thought we were working together."
"Maybe we are. It's early days yet, so I'm not sure. And I doubt very much if your lot are, either."
"You'd do well to trust us, you know. Or at least listen. Your stumbling about blindly is almost as bad as the Circle's." [hostile - submission - the character]
"I got this far, didn't I?"
"If she isn't going to help us, then I fail to see the point of this interview!"
"This isn't going to get us anywhere!" says Elgin, exasperated. "Cat, I reached out to the Star because they have every reason to help us against the cult, and none at all to stab us in the back. It would be counter-productive for them. But you have to be willing to meet halfway."
"Fine. D'you guys know anything about the cave?"
[Q: Do they ? Unlikely (5+): O1 C8 - no]
"A cave? no. what's the connection."
"It's, uh, let me get my notes." Cat rummages through the end-table drawer to find the pad she bought at the BL. "It was mentioned in a medieval chronicle. In passing. A scholiast's footnote, even."
"Fraid so. But here it is: 'Atque hoc die veneficum, Sextum Rhemnium, in silva Eppingam in spelunca numinibus obsessa interfectus est, ut dentes rem metalli insoleti quasi maxillam triplicem ornarentur (And on that day the sorcerer, Sextus Rhemnius, was put to death in the a fairy-haunted cave in Epping forest, and his teeth used to adorn an object of strange metal, like a three-pronged jawbone).' That's literally all it said."
"And this Sextus Rhemnius...?"
"A dead end. I couldn't find him mentioned anywhere else."
"Disappointing. So none of us have any idea about its purpose." says Jeanette.
"What about this cave then?" asks Yaiza. "I assume you've found it. Why don't you fill us in. Perhaps that will assist with our research." [scheming - means - previous scene]
"You want to take a field trip? We can go tomorrow, if you want."
[Q: Agree? Likely (3+): O6 C3 - yes, but...]
"This is likely to be a major undertaking, yes?"
"I mean, you should prolly wear trainers, if that's your question."
"We'd need to make sure we had the right team put together."
"We're going to find a little cave, not looking for the source of the Nile. Besides, we go in equal groups or we don't go at all."
"There's no bargaining with you, is there?"
"I'd be surprised." [Persuade roll 7+: 2d6+0=11]
"Until tomorrow then. Where do we meet?"
"There's a coffee place two doors down from Mile End station. 11:00 to avoid the lunch rush."
"We'll see you there."
Their business concluded, they soon make their exit. Cat, Amit, and Elgin look at one another for a few moments before Amit breaks the silence: "Anyone ever seen Treasure of the Sierra Madre?"
[Q: Anything happen overnight? Unlikely (5+): O2 C6 - no]
The next morning, Cat gets up early to once again stash the artefact at the left luggage in Euston, then meets up with Amit and Elgin to buy a few supplies before heading to the meeting.
[Q: Do the NPCs try anything funny? Unknown 1d6=6, Doubtful: O4 C6 - no.
Q: Do the same 3 arrive? Likely (3+): O3 C1 - yes, and...
Q: Armed? Likely (3+): O1 C3 - no, but... just Gerrit (pistol, knife)
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]
Yaiza, Jeanette, and Gerrit are already at the coffee shop when they arrive. After perfunctory greetings, they head back to the tube as a group and take the train out to Theydon Bois, whereupon they follow Cat along the fairy path into the cave.
There are no signs that anyone has been there recently; the stone codex is still buried.
"It's under here," says Cat, her words echoing in the hollow chamber.
Elgin shows the pictures he took.
"Are you saying we came all this way to see a photo on someone's mobile?" says Yaiza.
"Dig it up if you like," says Elgin.
"I brought a trowel," says Cat. "I think we prolly ought to dig it out if we're to do this right."
The spherical stone is soon uncovered. Everyone crowds round to examine it more closely.
"Well?" asks Cat.
"Well what?" snaps Yaiza.
"What do you make of it?"
"I'd like to know what it's for." [inquisitive - interest - power]
"I can show you. But I have to warn you. It isn't pretty."
A long pause ensues.
"We're waiting," says Yaiza.
"It's not that simple. I need volunteers."
[Q: Does E want to go? 50/50 (4+): O4 C8 - yes.]
"Can you stand guard by yourself, mate?" Elgin asks Amit.
"No sweat. I brought a book."
"No," says Yaiza. "Equal numbers or not at all. As Cat has taken pains to point out. Gerrit, Jeanette, I believe experiments like this relate more to your skill sets than mine."
[1d3=Yaiza stays behind
Jeanette's stats as (1d12): 1-4 cultist, 5-7 1HD cultist, 8-9 2HD cultist, 10-11 PC class level 1d4, 12 high priest; 1d12=4 cultist. Gerrit has cult enforcer stats. I won't roll Madness for them, relying instead on the Oracle to determine their mental states.]
"Right, then," says Cat. "Let's get set up."
Elgin explains his translation as Cat and Amit spread blankets on ground round stone in a + pattern. In the angles between the blankets they place empty plastic takeaway containers and fill them with porridge oats. Yaiza rolls her eyes but is otherwise silent.
"Whose blood, then?" asks Jeanette.
"Mine," says Cat. "Despite my previous life, I still have veins left."
Cat cuts her left forearm, and bleeds over the stone. Amit bandages it for her with a roll of gauze. [1d4=2 damage, leaving her with 5hp. NB the damage is much higher than the simple cut would physically cause, but is in line with the other blood sacrifice spells in the SL rulebook.]
The four lie down on the blankets, heads towards the stone. "If I'd know this were a sleep-ritual," says Jeanette, "I'd not have had a double espresso whilst waiting for you."
"I brought a bottle of valerian, if anybody wants some," says Elgin.
"Is that a good idea?" asks Jeanette.
"Is any of this?"
The bottle of dank-smelling pills is passed round, with lucozade to wash them down. Then they lie back and drift off to sleep...
[Q: Does the blood being only one person's affect things? unknown 1d6=1: o5 C2 - yes, and...
Q: What happens? receive / conversation
Q: Is everything else the same? Unlikely (5+): O2 C6 - no.
Q: What's different? chamber]
"This looks like it did last time, but..."
"But what?" asks Elgin.
"We're in a different part. Like the entrance moved or something."
Cat heads up the stairwell, and the rest follow. At the top is a room with grinding machines in the centre, too loud to shout over. They follow Cat through a maze of dingy metal corridors which lead eventually out onto a walkway. Below them is an immense space [Ceaselessly / Horrible] filled with decomposing, possibly human remains. Now and then a new one falls from a grinding conveyor belt onto the pile.
[Madness +1d10: E+7 to 15, C+3 to 30
Q: How do the NPCs react? Politely / Natural]
Jeanette quietly murmurs, "Oh dear." Gerrit remains silent.
"Let's not go through this way," says Cat. There are no arguments.
They go back in to the corridor and try a new direction. It opens up into a series of interconnected chambers. Machinery thrums and whines softly. There is constant motion. Beside the static machines, the spaces between are [Frantically / Creepy] full of scuttlings and half-seen spidery things rushing about on the fringes of the sleepers' vision.
"Why did you bring us here?" asks Jeanette.
"So we're all on the same page."
"Did you bring the artefact?"
"Of course not. I --we-- don't know what it does."
"Fine. But is there something you wished us to see here?"
"I told you, this isn't the same exact part I was in before."
They continue forward into [Fearfully / Mysterious] a chamber filled with nearly opaque yellow mist, smelling faintly of the morgue. [Peacefully / Scary]
[Q: Must they go through? 50/50 (4+): O5 C7 - yes]
"Do... do we turn back?"
"I'm not sure we can."
"I can't see a thing."
"We'd best join hands."
"I will," says Cat, "unless anyone else wants to take over."
She takes their silence as assent. They follow her through the mist, each keeping a hand on the wall to their left. Eventually the wall falls away and they are left to proceed without any reference point.
[Q: How does it end? Hastily / Empty]
They creep forward through the all-pervasive mist for a few minutes or aeons, then there is a loud, resounding click as millions of holes open in the floor beneath them, and a with a hiss the mist is sucked through. A haze persists high above them, obscuring any ceiling, but the metal walls of this immense cavern are surrounding them can just be seen in the distance.
Before them towers [via https://donjon.bin.sh/weird/random/#type=alien_technology] an irregular cyst of cold metal.
[Q: Is this related to the receive / conversation result above? 50/50 (4+): O3 C7 - no.]
This looks like the same metal as artefact is made of," says Elgin, and touches it to be sure.
[Q: Does anything happen? Likely (3+): O6 C6 - yes : (as Dark Sorcery effect) Summons a hideous disease at the target site
+Event: Horror - NPC - Jeanette]
As Elgin pushes and prods the spongy metal, the skin on his hand begins to blacken and ooze. He pulls away with a yelp.
[Poison rules seem to fit better than disease here, so... (SL p.156) 1d8=Tissue necrosis. Interval 1 hour, First failed save inflicts 1d4 damage, Adds +1d4 for each failed Interval. 1d6=2 intervals total.
Elgin's Luck save is 13: d20=15!
Jeanette suffers a Dark Vision (ibid. p.173) - hearing - The place the PC needs to be for their purposes. - The PC can talk only of the vision for ten minutes.]
"Listen!" says Jeanette as they are tending to Elgin's gruesome injury. "That sound! We must follow it!"
She runs off. None of the others hear anything, but they don't want her getting separated from the group in this place. They run after her. She keeps pausing to cock her head and listen for the sound that none but her can hear, so fortunately it isn't hard to keep up. She is babbling the whole time about the sound and how it will reveal everything.
The cavern wall comes into sharper view, and Jeanette heads directly for a triangular opening and plunges into the darkness beyond. The rest pause at the threshold, but Cat steps defiantly inward. She walks forward slowly, hands outstretched, and her eyes finally distinguish a feeble yellow glow in the distance. She calls to her companions to follow.
The glow resolves into a doorway. Inside is a room lined with metal shelves, racks, and machinery. Another machine or being grows out of the floor in the centre. Its body is a conical, segmented column. Many whiplike metal appendages protrude from the body at all angles. A small, vaguely human-like head surmounts the column, which is at least 9' tall.
[Its reaction to Jeanette: 2d6=6, neutral
Average armoured Abomination (SL p.150), d6 Madness. C+2 to 32, E+5 to 20; Mental effect (14+) save for Elgin to avoid a Dark Vision: d20=18!]
The thing begins screeching and whirring and moving in an agitated fashion, each body segment twisting in opposite directions, the limbs and protuberances flailing.
The wound on Cat's forearm opens and her blood issues forth in a stream, floating up into the air to the creature's mouth. Its screeches resolve into words in her mind.
"You should not be here."
"we're lost. We aren't exactly sure where here is."
"More seekers after power. You're foolish to disturb our work." [UNE: knowing - examination - campaign]
"Seekers, yes, but only after wisdom. To stop those who foolishly strive for power."
"You understand it?" asks Elgin.
"Yes. Shut up."
"You trespass in the factory. You do not belong. You bring the tribute, yet you are not welcome. You will disrupt the work." [insane - chaos - recent scene]
"Show us the way out. We will gladly leave and trouble you no further."
"Leave through the shining portal. Do not return." [friendly - aid - current scene]
The thing's flailings on one side become more pronounced, though perhaps only Cat notices.
"It wants us to go this way," says Cat. "Come on."
"Wait! What did it say?"
"Later. Let's go before it gets upset."
She doesn't wait for an answer, but walks off between some machines. The others grab Jeanette's hand and follow after.
The corridor ends in a narrow walkway suspended between titanic structures. They clutch the corroded railings as they follow Cat trying not to look down at the impossible machine-landscape, 1000 feet below.
[Q: Is there one last peril? unknown d6=5, unlikely: O1 C4 - no, but... 1d4 Madness for view: C+4 to 36, E+3 to 23]
The dizzying vista would be sufficiently unnerving, but the almost sub-audible screams carried up on the breeze will haunt the travellers' psyches for many weeks to come.
After an eternity they reach the second edifice. The gateway before them is a baroque structure of the spongy, coppery metal. There is dim light within, and yet nothing can be clearly distinguished. One by one, they pass through...
[Q: Any problems? Likely (3+): O1 C3 - no, but...]
...and awaken on the ground in the cave.
"Shit!" yells Amit. "Are you guys ok?!!"
"No," says Elgin. "My hand's really bad. Smells like sepsis."
"Shit mate! What happened?!"
"Chill," says Cat, stifling a yawn. "We're fine. It was really weird. Different--"
"The hell, mate?!"
"See," says Yaiza, "I told you they'd be back. This panic is uncalled for."
"Back?" asks Jeanette. "What do you mean?"
"The stone is a gate of some sort."
"You all fucking disappeared!" says Amit. "This didn't happen last time!"
"The offerings," says Elgin. "They must have activated the gate."
"The blood disappeared with you," says Yaiza, "but the oats are still there."
"I told you not to get the Tesco value ones," says Cat.
[The bad air does 1d4 damage, Physical save for half; the air actually seeps in from the machine realm, so no one is off the hook.
C save 2 damage to 3hp
A save 1 damage to 5
E fail 1 damage to 2
J fail 3 damage to 1
y save 1 dmg to ? (assuming the NPCs have more than 1 hit point normally)
G fail 1 dmg to ?
Elgin's 2nd poison save: 17, no damage. He can't use his hand for a while, but he won't die...]
"I feel really ill," says Jeanette. "Can we get out of here now?"
next post: police procedural