Saturday, 23 April 2022

Silent Legions solo - Part 19: Full circle

 

13 December 2:12pm

Unlike their trip to Epping Forest, the woods through which Cat and her companions are now walking have long been without the ministrations of a warden. Progress is slow and involves rather more climbing over fallen trees than they'd hoped, but they eventually crash through to an old footpath. It's a bit muddy from the recent rain, but seems to be headed the right direction.

[Scene 23]

[Wis/Navigation 6+ not to get lost: No one has the skill (-1 penalty), but Mary has the best Wisdom: 2d6+1-1=6, ok

Q: What do they see outside? (via Big Book: Haunts)

sense table - Roll three times
Creepy Copses: path - hearing - squelch
Abandoned places: statue - hearing - mutter
Abandoned places: garden - taste - bland]


The path twists and winds through the cold winter wood until the treeline abruptly stops. Cat creeps to the forest edge, concealing herself behind a rotten log. Her companions spread out, finding their own concealment.

Beyond is an overgrown garden behind the sprawling hotel, which is still, in places, boarded-up. The flowerbeds are completely taken over by weeds, and the sole remaining wooden bench is mouldering with damp. A mossy stone statue of Venus stands atop a pedestal by a dead, once-ornamental hedge. From behind it they hear an excited voice [Delightfully / Festive], but cannot make out the words.
Then someone in wellies is squelching through the mud behind them. They wheel about to see an extremely petite and strikingly beautiful woman staring down at them [Very / Beautiful]. The simple dress of thin black cotton she wears seems out of place for a walk in the woods, and her long, straight, brown-black hair has remained somehow untouched by the all the brambles and branches. She's both physically smaller and possessed of a larger presence than Angharad, and her sweet smile carries a hint of awful malice.

[Q: What does she have up her sleeve? 1d6: 1 recently cast spell, 2 summoned beastie, 3 cultists within screaming distance, 4 evil artefact, 5 gun, 6 unearthly power; 1d6=6, noted.]
"Uninvited guests," says the woman. "Just what am I to do with you? I wonder...?" [mysterious - conundrum - knowledge]

"We're looking for Angharad," says Amit. "She's not been answering her mobile for days. We're here to make sure she's alright."

"Are you, now indeed?"

"Yeah, so if you know anything you'd best--"

"Be silent. You came uninvited, and presume to tell me what to do. Come with me now to the house so I can decide how to deal with you." [hostile - submission - current story]

"You threatening us, mate? You're outnumbered four to one."

"You do want to see Angharad, don't you?"

"Let's hear her out," says Elgin.

The woman walks with sinuous grace, heading directly for the hedge. Behind it are a man and woman in tailored winter coats are having an animated, if one-sided discussion. They stop short just before they see the woman, as if her very presence was felt. They look confused as the strangers come into view behind her, but wait patiently for her to speak.

"Eleanor, take our guests inside and offer them some refreshments in the Red Room. I'll be along presently."
Eleanor frowns a bit. "Really, Xanthippe, I've more pressing things to attend to than playing hostess to these... well, whoever they are. I didn't join up with you to run the hospitality department."

"You'll do as you're told."

"Yes. Yes, of course. Forgive my speaking out of turn. You lot, please follow me."

They do, exchanging quizzical looks with one another. She leads them in a back door, through the kitchen which shows signs of recent use, and through the dining room, which, save for two long tables in the centre, is full of dusty and dilapidated furniture. From the dining room they proceed down a long hotel corridor with damp, mildewy carpeting. She stops finally at the door to one of the suites, which bears a brass plaque engraved with 'The Red Room' in overly flowery letters.

The Red Room is so named from its crimson carpeting which matches the peeling Edwardian wallpaper and heavy velvet curtains. Shelves are built into one wall, holding leather-bound books and a few porcelain figurines. Four mismatched, overstuffed armchairs and a green velvet fainting couch are placed round a low mahogany table before the fireplace which sports corroded, and exceedingly dusty, faux logs. A modern space heater hums in the corner.
"Make yourselves comfortable," says Eleanor as she crosses to the old wooden standing globe and opens it, revealing it to be a drinks cabinet. "The bar is open. What can I get everyone?"

"Where's Angharad?" asks Amit.

"We should wait for Xanthippe."

Amit turns on the charm but she's having none of it.

[He attempts to use Folie à deux, but Eleanor gets a Mental Effect save as she is most assuredly tainted by the supernatural: natural 20]

"Please," he says again, with those big brown pleading eyes, "I jus--"

"You'll wait to speak to Xanthippe or she'll have your tongues torn out for your insolence. Now, the scotch is not quite top shelf but it's eminently drinkable. Who's joining me? No one? No takers at all? Really, you think we'd stoop to poisoning your drinks, when we could do so very, very much more... Still no? More for me then. Chin chin!"

Xanthippe reappears, having traded her wellies for velveteen slippers. Eleanor's demeanour changes ever so slightly. Her broad smile is the same, but the corners of her eyes narrow almost imperceptibly.

"I'll be leaving you to it, then?" she says, handing the second drink she'd prepared to Xanthippe. She strides out with her own glass, closing the door firmly behind her.

Xanthippe kicks off her slippers and sits cross-legged in one of the armchairs, childlike and terrible.

[10+ Wis/Perception to notice anything about Xanthippe: only Amit makes roll]

She looks over her guests for a good while before deigning to speak. Amit alone notices the peculiarity in her manner, for she never quite seems to make eye contact with anyone she addresses, nor even look in their actual direction when speaking.

[Q: Given that I know where it necessarily ends, how is this going to go down until that point? Dangerously / Flawless]

"I see you've refused our hospitality. I hope Eleanor hasn't put you off with her slanders against our liquor cabinet. She can be so middle class. Sure you won't reconsider...? Right: mox nox, ad rem. It's time you told me who you are, why you've come, and what you want with one of my votaries." [UNE: inquisitive - command - campaign]

"It's like we told you," says Cat, "we're Angharad's friends and we were worried when we couldn't get ahold of her. She was nervous about coming here, but I couldn't talk her out of it, and I didn't really want to go with her."

"I see. And how did you know where to find us?"

"We knew a guy to ask. Angharad wouldn't say."

"Interesting. And who might that have been?"

"An ex-copper called Frost," says Mary. "He also said you lot were bad news, and that we should forget all about you. And her."

"Did he really? How disappointing of him. But you haven't yet touched upon my first question: who are you four?"

"I'm Cat. That's Mary, Amit, and Elgin."

"Yes, her descriptions of three of you were spot on. But she never mentioned a Mary, and I'm sure she would have..."

"She's my mate," says Cat quickly. "I told her all about meeting Angharad, so she agreed to help look for her."

"Since you know who we are," interjects Elgin, "you know we got the ritual manuscript for Angharad, and I translated it for her."

"She'd mentioned."

"But the manuscript was woefully incomplete. It contained nowt besides the consecration rites and related preparations. What of the Silver House?"

"What of it?"

"What's the connection?"

"That would be telling."

"Where's Angharad?" says Amit. "Are you going to let us see her or not?"

"I've not decided what to do with you yet, let alone whom I'll allow you to see. But another outburst like that will not be tolerated."

"I've had enough of this shit," says Amit, pulling the automatic from his rucksack. "Now, how about some answers."

"So it's to be this way is it. Pity. I'd hoped to talk more."

"So talk."

"It's too late for that, now," says Xanthippe, putting her hands up to her face. She digs her nails in and pops out her eyes, then places them before her on the table with an audible click -- they're made of glass. The onlookers' initial shock subsides for an instant into realisation, to be immediately replaced by the uncanny feeling of her empty black orbits staring out at them. Then wisps of a dense green vapour issue forth from the empty holes, filling the room with a subtle but sour perfume.

The vapour swirls round Amit's head and he is overcome. The gun drops from his fingers, and he slides down in his chair. Mary is struck blind. She tries to flee but succumbs to the fumes after three steps. Elgin runs straight into the bookcase before collapsing in a heap. Only Cat makes it out the door, but there are two or three cultists waiting in the hall -- her vision is too blurred to tell. They threaten her with knives but she runs at them headlong. They catch her and hold her fast, but she doesn't stop biting and kicking and punching. She feels a sharp pain in her arm, then a cold steely puncture in her gut, but she doesn't falter. It's the vapour that gets her in the end...
[Too many die rolls & game notes make things unreadable, so I've collected them here.

For the sight of Xanthippe removing her eyes, 1d8 Madness all round:
A+7 to 28
c+3 to 41
E+1 to 38
M+6 to 21

This bumped both Mary and Cat over Dark Vision thresholds, and they both failed their saving throw to avoid. They'll remember these later, so I didn't have to figure everything out yet, but it seems that Xanthippe can only be defeated in a certain place with a certain item/substance.

Mary: Smell - The place the PC needs to be for their purposes. - blinded 4 rounds
Cat: Taste - The way to harm or foil a supernatural entity or its plans. - Compelled to flee at least 10 meters away from people. - struck mute for 1 minute

Everyone got Physical saves to resist the vapour (it lasts 3 rounds, so one roll per round). They all failed them pretty fast.

Elgin took 1 damage from smacking into the bookcase, and Cat 6 damage from being stabbed, neither of which I rolled, as it brings them to the state they were in at the very start.

The 1d6 roll from earlier in the scene revealed that Xanthippe had an 'unearthly power' to fall back on in an emergency. I just made up something suitably horrible rather than rolling for it.

At this point, my adventure has almost caught up to the start. The end of this scene marks a major GM decision point--

Q: Why/how does the party get separated? seize / heart... a bit on the nose, that one.
Q: Just one of the two? 50/50 (4+): O6 C7 - Yes.
1d2=Amit
Q: So what about Mary? draw / secret - she accidentally says something that piques the cult's interest]



[Scene 24 : Mary]
14 December 12:40am

Mary comes to in darkness on a cold concrete floor. Confused and dizzy, she can't remember how she got here. She drifts back towards sleep.

A door screeches open. A torch shines on her face. Footsteps approach. She holds out a hand against the light, but can't form words to ask a question. Someone seizes her uplifted hand. She is pulled to her feet, reeling, and blacks out again.

When Mary awakens things are [Quietly / Graceful] less unpleasant. She's mostly upright, sat in a sizeably cosy armchair. Someone is snapping their fingers in he face, and she is trying to twist away from it.

"I think she's actually coming round this time," says a voice.

"I'll go get [1d8: 1-4 Xanthippe, 5-6 Eleanor, 7-8 both; 2] the High Priestess."

Mary feels her head clear a little [drugged penalties -4/-2] and tries to take in her surroundings. She's in a candlelit bedroom, full of antique furnishings. The curtains are drawn, and there's a smell of sandalwood incense that almost covers a deep musty odour.

Someone is looming over her, a fuzzy-edged silhouette, breathing heavily, unmoving.
Mary is still trying to make sense of her situation when the door opens and someone comes in. The hulking shadow places a second chair in front of Mary's, and someone sits down to face her.

"Here, drink this, it'll help," says Xanthippe, proffering a cup.

Her head is still reeling, and she doesn't have the strength to refuse. The brandy burns on the way down but is fortifying as promised [allows free Phys saving throw: success. Penalties now -2/-1].

"Do you have a habit of talking in your sleep? You said some quite interesting things in your fits of delirium."

"Wha...?"

"You seem preoccupied with the 'First Knower of Scorn'."

"I, uh..."

"Before you try to dissemble, let me be very plain about one thing: you're only alive at present because your words interest me."

"What did I say?"

"Besides the name, little that made sense. But what might you've said?"

"I... I don't know. I had, um, dreams that it was trying to eat me. I guess. And then a ghostly woman said she wouldn't let it... That's kind of it."

"Is that all? How disappointing."

"It's the reason for the kitchens, isn't it?"

"The kitchens? I don't follow."

"The ones that Frost runs. The kitchens for people..."

"Frost? Really?"

"I think it's how he covers his tracks after murders."

"And he's kept me in the dark this whole time. You, my dear, may just prove useful to me. Perhaps you'd like to join my petite cabale..." [friendly - comfort - current story]

"What about my friends?"

[Q: Is it too late to save Amit? Unlikely (5+): O2 C3 - no, but...]

"Oh, you're going to be tedious about this, aren't you? 'Spare my friends and I'll join you', is that it?"

"Well, yeah."

[Q: How amenable is she to the proposition? Requires Cha/Persuade check of 1d8+4=7
2d6-1(unskilled)-1(daze)=10, success]


Xanthippe sighs, then snaps her fingers. "To the chamber, quickly. Bring her friend out at once."

The hulk moves off without a word.


[Scene 25: All caught up]
14 December : 1:29am

Elgin and Cat are throwing the bolt on the hotel's front door when someone behind them screams 'stop!'

They glance back over their shoulders, and see a hazy group of human figures at the other end of the hallway. One of them is rushing towards them, hands outstretched, begging them not to leave. Cat's about to meet their onrush with a solid punch when she realises it's Mary. Memory floods back as they take in the scene.

"Cat! Elgin! You can't leave yet! Amit's hurt."

"What? Mary, how-- what are you doing with them?"

"Cat, I can explain. Xan--"

"She's gotten to you, hasn't she? Get back, or--"

"No, Cat, listen! She's agreed to let you leave. But you have to take Amit with you. He needs to go to hospital."

"You're... you're staying?"

"Yes. I have to. It's the only way she'll let the rest of you go free. I'll ring you tomorrow and explain everything. Trust me, Cat, I'll be ok here. Xanthippe is going to help me fight the dreams."

"This is a bad idea."

"I don't think it is. Besides, we've no choice in the matter. Here, gimme a hug goodbye at least. We'll speak soon."

"Eleanor walks down the corridor towards them. Behind her, a pair of enormous brutes are carrying a bloodied Amit on a makeshift stretcher."

"We're taking my car," says Eleanor, jangling her keys. "I'll explain on the road."

* * *

"They were going to cut your friend's heart out. Fortunately they'd just gotten started. I don't think he's in any danger, but it would be best not to go to A&E. We can't have the police getting involved, now can we? So I'm going to drive the lot of you back to London, and you're going to have to nurse him back to health yourselves."
 
"Yeah, he'd prefer not to have to deal with any cops," says Cat.

"Good. We understand one another, then. If you don't mind me saying, you're all taking this quite in stride, so I gather you're not unused to, shall we say, proceedings of this nature. What, I wonder, is your interest in all this?" [inquisitive - interest - the character]

"As I keep saying, we were worried about a friend of ours. It's not going to get any less true no matter how many times you ask."

"A friend? Oh, of course! That Angharad person, correct? I'm being silly, of course it's her. I mean, who else would it be?"

"What did you do to her?"

"Do? We didn't do anything. She did it to herself. Or rather, the Chamber did it. Nasty business, that. But she was foolish. A foolish, foolish girl with rapacious appetites, and it doesn't do to ask too much from the Vhrhaiff-- ... the Vrhhch-- ... Vhrhaithphth-- sod it, why can't these things ever have nice, pronounceable English names? Xanthippe wouldn't let me anywhere near it; she said I'd probably go and ask for even more than that leather-clad hussy. As if! I like to think I have a bit more sense than that."

"Who is this Xanthippe anyways? What's her deal?"

"I believe I'd asked the same about you."

"We're independents."

"I see. Do go on."

"That's kinda it. We got messed up in some stuff with evil artefacts and secret societies, and we came out of it all alive. But damned if we didn't just jump back into the fucking middle of it all."

"So you're not beholden to anyone?"

"Just each other."

"Well, I'm afraid you're going to have to write off Angharad  -- bad luck, can't be helped -- but there's still time to save your other little friend."

"Save her?"

"From Xanthippe."

"What the hell is she?"

"The High Priestess? Oh, just your average member of the aristocracy. Has her history degree from Magdalen College, her father was a baronet or something, the family home is heavily mortgaged and in dire need of a new roof, and--"

"That's not what I meant."

"Of course you didn't. The truth is I've no idea. I'd thought she was as human as you and I. The eye thing is new. She doesn't see fit to tell me everything, and I've learnt not to ask."

"So how did you...?"

"Become her girl Friday? I ruined one of her schemes. She was so impressed she offered me a place. So I accepted -- rather than facing a horrific death, naturally. That's the abridged version, but all the salient facts are there, save one."

"Which is?"

"I aim to destroy her, of course, and take her place as High Priestess. Why else would I be telling you all this?"

* * *


It's barely an hour and a quarter taking the M25. Eleanor drops them off at Elgin's. She takes Cat's mobile number before driving off, saying she'll be in touch.

They install Amit in Elgin's bed, doing their best to keep him comfortable. He's barely conscious, and they soon drop from exhaustion themselves.

* * *

It was dark when the fell asleep, and as they slept through the next day, it's dark again when they awaken. Elgin runs out to buy bandages and antiseptic before the chemist closes. Cat sits staring at her phone until it finally rings.

"Mary! Are you...?"

"I'm fine, Cat. Really I am. How... how's Amit."

"I dunno. It's early days."

"Look, Cat, I know what you're thinking, but you have to trust me. It was necessary for me to stay. And I don't think it's such a bad idea. Xanthippe is going to help me. She's been very kind, now that things have settled."

"You trust that--?"

"No, of course not. Not yet. And she doesn't trust me either. But we can help one another. It would be stupid to let our suspicions get in the way."

"Mary--"

"Cat, I have to go now. There's a lot to do here. I just wanted to let you know I'm OK, and not to worry. There's a few things to attend to before we can leave the hotel, but then we'll be coming down to London to deal with Frost, and whoever is protecting him inside the Met. If the police won't do anything, I will."

~finis~




Post Mortem

This was my first attempt at a non-linear adventure. It was actually a lot easier to run than I'd expected, though I don't think it's going to be a regular occurrence. I think what made it easiest was the completely unknown date of the opening scene. I didn't have to worry about pushing things along to end at a particular point, and could just let it develop on its own. Knowing the point it had to reach did help inform the Oracle questions, but the vague start also meant  I didn't have to force anything to fit. For instance, I started out with the assumption that one of the cults from the first adventure had captured Cat and Elgin.

Long-time readers will recognise Eleanor and Xanthippe from my very first Silent Legions one-shot. I'd always thought Eleanor would make a good villain, though for a long time I wasn't sure it would necessarily be in this campaign. But then I needed yet another cult, and Xanthippe's petite cabale was right there in my old notes... I will assume that the events of Eleanor's adventure occurred essentially as stated (minus a bit of the silliness), and that it took place in Oxfordshire rather than the fictional Midsomer. I haven't decided what to do about Eleanor's stats yet (or Xanthippe's, for that matter), but she's certainly not still first level.

And speaking of levels, I am awarding a flat 2000xp to all my PCs for the adventure, so they'll all be 3rd level when the campaign continues. They all need a little downtime to improve skills and Amit needs to heal.

For witnessing a ritual, Amit suffers +1d6=4 madness. For nearly getting his heart torn out +1d8=3, to a total of 35 (before the reduction for gaining a level).

Mary's time will be more complicated. She still gets to reduce her Madness by 10 for gaining a level, but she'll most certainly gain more from being Xanthippe's newest votary. She'll probably get a few spells in return.

I haven't started the next adventure yet, but I've got an entire handwritten page of loose ends, so this campaign is far from over.


Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Silent Legions solo - Part 18: Invitations and invocations

 

meanwhile...

"Right," says Cat, passing the bottle of JD back to Amit, "I'd best ring Angharad before I get completely trollied."

She opens up Contacts on her mobile, then thinks better of it. "I'm gonna do this outside. Can't have you lot giggling and pulling faces at me across the table."

"Cat," says Elgin, "you might want to put on your jacket."

"Can't feel my face, mate. Not worried about the cold."

Cat makes the call as she wobbles down the pavement. Angharad picks up almost immediately.

"Cat?

"Yeah, uh, hi. I was thinking maybe we could meet tomorrow. For coffee or summat."

"Splendid idea! I know a place. It's quite exclusive, so I'll need to text you the address. They'll let you in if you tell them you're there at my invitation. I'm sorry it can't be somewhere neutral, but they have a new cheesecake with which I am simply obsessed lately!"
[Scene 20 : meeting Angharad]

The doorgirl in the rubber dress let Cat into the café without a word, but she still feels distinctly out of place. The baseline décor is that of a high-class lupanar from Victorian Soho, but with photos of latex models instead of oil paintings, and a bead curtain over the entrance to the Dungeon. It's weird but not her kind of weird. Of course, unlike the exhortation of the 'dungeon rules' placard on the wall, Cat's current kind of weird is neither safe, sane, nor consensual, so maybe that's not a bad thing.

Angharad is already there. She's just sitting at her table reading an old paperback novel, but somehow has the poise of someone posing for a painting. Cat's surprised for a moment to see that no one else is staring, but then she realises that it's simply not on here.

[Wis/Perception 10+ to notice anything strange (if there is anything): 2d6+1=11
Q: Anything strange here? unknown d6=1: O2 C4 - yes, but...]


Cat does note that one of the other punters is [Mysteriously / Fancy] a gothy bloke covered in occult tattoos but he doesn't seem to be paying Cat any mind. And he's left before Cat's even had a chance to read the menu. She and Angharad make small talk whilst ordering and waiting for their coffee and cake, giving Cat a chance to observe her. When the waitress has brought everything, Cat abruptly changes the subject.

[Q: Does Angharad seem her usual self? Certain (2+): O1 C6 - no
Q: How does she seem, then? Perfectly / Damaged]


"What's wrong?" asks Cat. "You seem... I dunno, off somehow."

"Just excited. And anxious. The fruition of my search is almost at hand, and every moment that passes seems stretched out to an eternity because of it."

[Wis/Perception 10+: 2d6+1=6, sounds legit]

"Makes sense. But why do you want me to come with you? I mean, we hardly know one another."

"I told you on the phone."

"Sorry, not buying it."

"I wasn't lying. I wasn't telling the whole truth, perhaps, but nothing I told you was false."

"And?"

"I had the idea you knew how to take care of yourself, that you've been to hell and back and came out of it reasonably intact." [insane - madness - campaign]

"Uh, yeah. Maybe in a literal sense, too."

"I don't fancy going in alone; I don't know these people I'm to meet, nor really anything about them. It would be safer if someone had my back."

"You'll go anyway though, even alone."

"I couldn't not. You understand obsession, don't you, Cat?"

"Of a sort..."

"Then my going alone, if necessary, needn't surprise you. But all the same, I'd rather not."

"You're asking me to make a major leap of faith. And it's your obsession, not mine, so I'm going to need more to go on than just an invitation. Especially since you don't trust the people you're meeting. Like, who are they, anyways?"

[Q: Will she say? unknown d6=6: O5 C8 - no.]

"I can't tell you. No outsiders are to know. They were very specific."

"So, is there anything you can tell me?"

[Q: Is there? Unlikely (5+): O3 C4 - no, but...]

"I really shouldn't. But, there's some... well, some nasty characters they keep on hand as go-betweens or servants or something. Them I've met in person. I don't like them. They give me the creeps. And I've had a lot of experience with creeps, mind, but these are something different. It's like they're only pretending to be human." [prejudiced - dislike - retainers]

"This is the part where I try to talk you out of it entirely."

"Oh, dear Cat, but then comes the part where you fail."
[Scene 21]

7 December 4:34pm

"...and so I said I need to sleep on it, and I'll ring with an answer tomorrow."

"And?" asks Elgin.

"And I don't know. I'm either in, or she goes on her own."

"We could follow her," offers Amit.

"I'm guessing that's not going to work."

"Anyone have any better ideas...?" asks Elgin

"Not especially," says Cat. "I already know what you'll say if I suggest bringing in the Chalice or the Star."

"What about that Frost character? We could try him."

"I don't think we can afford that," says Amit. "Even with the payout from Angharad. But we can almost connect the dots from him to the cannibal cult. What if we had Mary arrest him? Make him talk?"

"You think that'll work?" says Cat. "Even if she can take him into custody, she can't bloody well interview him about secret cults under caution."

"You've a better idea?"

"Not particularly."

"Ring her up then."

"You do it. You're best mates now and all..."

Amit makes the call.

[Q: Does Mary have enough evidence for a proper arrest? 50/50 (4+): O4 C7 - yes
Q: Does she have anyone she trusts backing her up? Unknown 1d6=6: O2 C8 - no.
Q: How does the arrest go down? Gladly / Nondescript]


Mary collects all the evidence she's accumulated on him and brings it to her boss straightaway, adding that a confidential informant has located ex-DI Frost's current whereabouts. It's been a fortnight since the discovery of the kitchen, so her boss agrees they'd best not delay the arrest.

Within two hours, Mary is following armed officers into the east London pub to make the arrest. It all goes down strangely by-the-book.
[Scene 21 : talking to Frost

Mary needs a Luck save (12+) to get in for a talk: d20=14, ok]



7 December 10:47pm

Whilst Frost is sat in the interview room, still waiting for his solicitor to arrive, Mary sees a chance to get in a quick off-the-record chat. She tells her colleagues she's going to take him in a cuppa. Guys like him never take her seriously, so she's volunteered to be the 'good cop'.

[She needs 8+ Cha/Persuade to get a Clue: 2d6-1(unskilled)=10!
Q: What does he say about the Silver House? UNE: friendly - promise - enemy]


He barely acknowledges her presence when she sets the cup in front of him.

"So I hear you're the guy to ask if I want to find the Silver House..."

His head snaps up as if he'd had an electric shock, and his eyes stare right into Mary's, almost pleadingly.

"The Silver House is nothing you want to be messing about with, I promise you. Forget you've even heard of it. I'd like to."

* * *

Mary texts Amit later to tell him it's not looking like their plan has worked. Frost has a good solicitor, and possibly allies inside the police.

[Q: Any fallout? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and...]

The next day, Mary's boss puts her on garden leave. Explanations are vague as to why, but point in vaguely threatening directions. Mary hands over her warrant card, and rushes out of the office to have a cry in a nearby park. Once she's finally stopped sobbing, she rings Cat and suggests a pub.

A couple days pass uneventfully. Mary is pretty much pissed the whole time. Cat and Amit babysit her so she doesn't do anything stupid. she's constantly going on about justice and solving the case herself and bringing down the corrupt cops.

There's no word from Angharad; her phone goes straight to voicemail every time Cat tries it.

When Cat's mobile does ring, she jumps and rushes to answer.

"Hi! Oh... Elgin, it's you. I hoped maybe Angharad...

"No worries, Cat. I'm calling because I had an idea. A maybe dangerous one, but an idea all the same. Why don't the two of you come round to mine? First dinner, then a little magic."

"Can we bring Mary? I don't think she should be left on her own yet."

"Sure, why not?"
[Scene 22 : a little magic]

10 December 7:58pm

Elgin greets them at the door, and says there's a pub by the river that does a proper eel pie. Besides, his flat is set up for later.

When they return, they see his dining room furniture has been all moved aside. A magic circle of salt has been made on the hardwood floor, surrounded by incense burners and candles.

"Help me light the candles, but mind you don't mess up any of the sigils. They're a right bitch to draw."

"Thissh isn't partishipatory, is it?" slurs Mary.

"No. The three of you are my safety adults if things go sideways."

[Elgin's ritual is for the purpose of getting a Dark vision (SL p.173). He will be focussing on the manuscript text he copied in order to obtain a useful bit of information.

He automatically gains 1d8=6 madness (to 35).

The Dark Vision--
Sense (1d6): Smell. Something olfactory cues the possessor.
Insight (1d8): The place the PC needs to be for their purposes.
Side Effect (1d20): Any occult entities there immediately focus on the PC.]


Elgin sits cross-legged in the magic circle as the other three take up positions on the couch. Elgin spreads the transcription he made of the manuscript before him in the circle and begins a droning chant. Mary is more interested in the bottle she swiped from the kitchen, and Amit is soon bored and playing on his phone, but Cat is entranced with the ritual. She can almost feel the energy pulsing through the room and the subtle changes in vibration as Elgin's hands describe ever more complex mudras.

Elgin's eyes are tightly shut, and he begins to feel himself elsewhere in spirit. The damp smell of a forest surrounds him, then is banished by more human odours. He smells clean linens, a spotless bathroom, industrial carpeting, bland cooking, disappointing wine.

Then the shadows peel themselves off the walls. They ignore the others intent only on breaking into the circle to get at Elgin.

[Q: Can they break in? Unknown, 1d6=1: O4 C3 - yes, but... they don't do terribly much harm

+1d6 Madness for all, but E is capped at +2 points (suffered 4 from them earlier)

C 3 to 38
M 5 to 15
A 5 to 21
E d6=6, so +2 to 37

A is over 20, so needs to make a Mental Effect save or suffer his own vision: 1d20=11, just

Q: What effect do the shadows have on Elgin? d30=fog/mist]


The shadows breach the psychic barrier and flit round Elgin. His olfactory vision is abruptly ended. HE opens his eyes, but cannot see.

Cat is on her feet, running about the flat and turning on all the lights. The shadows vanish.

"Shit, mate, what happened?" asks Amit.

Elgin is already up and turning on his laptop. "Nothing. They tried to stop me, but I have all I need."

"All I need is another drink!" announces Mary.

"Can she crash here?" asks Cat.

"Yeah, fine. Have her pour me something whilst she's up," says Elgin.

Cat runs towards Mary when she sees her tottering out of the kitchen, two sloshing mugs in hand. She takes one over and puts it down next to Elgin, who takes a sip without tearing his eyes away from the screen.

"Bloody hell! D'ya mind mebbe putting a bit of mixer in't?"

Cat goes back to the kitchen and hunts down some tonic to add to the gin. Amit meanwhile has decided that someone has to watch Mary, so is looking for some bin bags in case (when) she feels sick. Cat fixes him a drink whilst she's there. And herself one for good measure, before returning to Elgin.

"Here, this should be potable."

"Ta, Cat."

"Care to fill us in on what just happened?"

"I know what it is -- the Silver House."

"Good. What?"

"It's an abandoned building -- in this case a hotel. On a hill, surrounded by forest."

"Where?"

"I'll let you know when I find it."

"Ummmmm... maybe I should go see how Mary's getting on..."

[finding an abandoned/bankrupt hotel in England which is on a forested hill will require a 10+ Wis/Research roll; Elgin will spend Expertise to activate his Deep Gnosis class ability, in order to succeed automatically]
* * *

The next morning... er, afternoon

Elgin is certain he's found the one place in England that meets all the criteria for the Silver House: an abandoned hotel, on a hill, surrounded by forest. None of his research revealed that it was the site of a terrible massacre, as the manuscript said it must be, but then the sort of people he suspects they're dealing would be more than capable of providing one.

And it's just in the Chilterns, so it shouldn't be too much of a faff to get there by train --  neither he nor any of his companions own a car, or even has a driving licence.

Elgin explains all of this (over a breakfast of coffee and plain baguettes, they're all a bit hung over) and then they formulate a plan to make a surreptitious visit. They're not sure what sort of trouble they'll run into, so they make a list of equipment they intend to bring: 2 knives, hammer, hiker's walking stick, gun, 4 torches with new batteries, ordnance survey map, compass, canteen, first aid kit, chalk, package of sea salt, 6m plastic cord, protein bars, bottle of mid-shelf whiskey, a lighter, loose tobacco & rolling papers ("Mary, I didn't know you smoked." "I quit." "Uhhh..." "Now that I'm sacked, I unquit.")

* * *

They make their preparations the next day, then set out the morning after.

[Q: Can they book a B&B in a nearby village? Likely (3+): O6 C3 - yes, but...
Q: Anything happen to impede them? unlikely (5+): O6 C4 - yes, but...

Luck save to see if there's a tourist attraction between the B&B and the deserted hotel (just noticed that all PC classes have same Luck save progression, so 12+): 12, yes]


They have a B&B booked in a nearby village. It's a little further out than they'd hoped, but should be a good base of operations if needed. Their early train form Victoria is cancelled. They are able to travel on next one, but it's crowded and they don't get seats. Bloody typical.

They finally arrive, drop off their bags at the B&B, set out with their equipment pack (mostly in Amit's backpack) by bus. They get off on a lonely forest road, and when they're sure no one is looking, head into the forest.


next post: guess who?


Sunday, 10 April 2022

Silent Legions solo - Part 17: A slender hope of redress

3 December 3:41pm

Cat feels suitably chastened by Elgin's lecture about unsuitable allies, but also sees it as an opportunity to push her own agenda.

"I've told you guys all about Mary. I know she works for the Met, but she's in Professional Standards. It's her job to keep 'em honest. 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?', and all that. Sooooo... I was thinking maybe instead of just feeding her information from time to time, it would be easiest if we all got together and met face-to-face."

[Cat needs to make 2 CHA/Persuade rolls, 4+ for Elgin and 6+ for Amit: 7,6]

Elgin thinks it's certainly time to bring her in all the way, but Amit can't quite shake his reluctance. In the end he capitulates with "always interested to see your latest hopeless crush, Cat."


[Scene 16 : Meeting Mary]

3 December 7:08pm

Signal failure on the Hammersmith & City line has drawn out their nervous anticipation overmuch, but at long last Mary arrives on the doorstep bearing the promised takeaway.

Cat's introductions fall a bit flat. Amit's still anxious, but [Mental save succeeds] he has to admit that the chatty woman in his living room with the Wonder Woman t-shirt certainly doesn't act like she works for The Filth, so he manages to keep his nerve. Plus there's plenty of beer in the fridge to provide extra courage where needed. Come to think of it, she's been knocking them back pretty quickly, too.

Small talk was always doomed to failure. The conversation veers swiftly towards the mysterious Mr. Frost. Mary tells of her discovery of the kitchen, and tracing its ownership back to him, which eventually leads to her explanation of the waking dreams. She reluctantly shows off her still-livid bruises.

They all compare notes on Udar and Frost, and theorise about Angharad. Elgin shows off the photos of the manuscript he tried to take.

"why didn't you tell us this before?" asks Amit.

"I was still a bit too weirded out."

Mary is equal parts curious and terrified, but convinces Elgin to let her read his  rough translation of the text. She's almost relieved when it doesn't mention cannibalism. Almost.

Then the time has come to make their plans. Cat and Elgin decide it's best they try to figure out what Angharad's got up to -- without attracting the notice of any of the cults. Mary wants Amit's help to investigate disappearances in Brick Lane. Amit surprises himself by blurting out, "I was just going to make that suggestion." How much beer has he had?

As if in answer, Elgin announces the fridge is now bare. They all throw on their coats, stumble down to the off licence for spirits and mixers.


2 days later...

[Scene 17 : Amit & Mary

Investigation scene (50/50 for either table): The event is known only to a few, and an Actor must be persuaded or “convinced” to help the PCs learn about its details or gain access to the site where it occurred.

NB The investigation contains a lot more summary than proper narrative. The adventure took a detour into Police Procedural territory, which just isn't my bag.]
5 December 1:09pm

Monday lunchtime, Amit meets up with Mary for lunch in a pub near Whitechapel. He's got on a respectable suit jacket, bought ages ago during a brief stint selling mobiles and recently extracted from his parents' loft (and also dry cleaned). He finds Mary has beat him there and grabbed a good table. He's inwardly relieved that despite being dressed like an detective from an ITV drama, her work clothes somehow don't make her look any more like a cop than she did in mufti.

Mary has taken some notes from one of the cold case files that the coroner showed her, the disappearance of a [1d30=] 20 year old Bangladeshi [d6=] woman, [1d10=] 4 years ago. She was one of the rare cases reported missing by the family. She needs Amit to come along as translator, and the chief negotiator if it comes to that.

[Mary needed an Int/Research roll of 6+ to find family's new address: 2d6+1=8, success.

Amit uses Folie à deux to get them through the door.

Socialite Challenge: They want revenge, because they’re too weak to get it.]


Mary takes Amit to the family's new home, an (ex-?)council flat on Bethnal Green road. He charms their way inside. The family is understandably nervous that the police have stopped by unannounced, but Mary has Amit explain her job, and that she is here to right past wrongs.

They are soon showed a file of newspaper clippings. The 'facts' of the disappearance given in the press are not what really happened. In truth, the police badgered them and coached them on what evidence to give, threatening them with deportation if they talked to any journalists.

[Amit needs a 10+ Cha/Persuade roll to convince them to tell all: 2d6+2=8, spend Expertise to re-roll: 2d6+2=12, success]

The main fact reported wrongly was the time and place of disappearance. Their 'testimony' said (as the papers 'confirmed') that they'd last seen her that morning when she left for work. In truth, she came home after work to get changed and go out for the evening with a friend, a girl she'd been at school with.

[Q: Do they know who with? Likely (3+): O6 C5 - yes.

1d3=1 person, d6=f

Q: Is the friend also Bangladeshi? 50/50 (4+): O1 C6 - no. 1d10000=Turkish (1d6: 1 Turkish, 2 Cypriot, 3-5 British-, 6 dual nationality): 1, Turkish
Q: Do they know where she lives now? Unlikely (5+): O1 C7 - no.

The Other Character Is... d12=11 Someone who helped them out of a crisis = a close friend, on whom she always used to rely]


They remember the friend's name, but little else. Mary (through Amit) says they will look her up, and promises she won't rest until she sees the case solved.

Once they leave the flat, Amit seems to completely deflate. Mary takes him back to the pub for a quick pint to show her gratitude; she'd never have gotten in the door without him.

She needs station resources to get any further, and promises she'll ring when she has a lead.

[Mary's further research--
Q: Were the investigating officers anyone Mary knows? Doubtful (6): O2 C8 - no.
Q: Are they still active coppers? Likely (3+): O4 C1 - yes, and... still investigating missing persons
Q: Does the Turkish friend have a record? doubtful (6): O3 C6 - no.

Tracking her down requires an 8+ Int/Research: 2d6+1=7, spend Expertise 2d6+1=8, success

Q: Anything else happen to either of them that day? Unlikely (5+): O1 C6 - no.]



[Scene 18 : Cat & Elgin]
meanwhile...

Cat and Elgin are really feeling lost without Amit, who has all the contacts they might need. So instead, they take a trip to the British Library, where they request a pile each of esoteric tomes for perusal in the Humanities 1 Reading Room -- then spend 70 minutes in the café and perusing the free exhibition until they can be delivered.

[Research difficulty will be the same as determine in Part 14 (What Do Legends Say Of It? A few hints exist; difficulty 12).

Int/Research 12+: C 2d6+0=6, E 2d6+2=9]


They spend the entire rest of the day poring over obscure treatises in Latin (Cat) and Sanskrit (Elgin), but no matter where they look or how deeply they read, they cannot find any references whatsoever. It's as if the Silver House doesn't exist.
5 December 8:34pm

"You two are back late," says Amit.

Cat grumbles something defeatist as she plops onto the settee.

"So, how was your date?" asks Elgin.

"Shut up!" say Cat and Amit in chorus.

"Actually, though, it went ok," says Amit. "I wish more cops were like her. Or maybe I don't; my arse'd be in gaol by now, innit?"

"I deffo wanna hear all about it," says Cat, "but I was thinking we needed to talk to your mate Udar again."

"No worries. Let me ring him."

[Q: Does Udar answer? 50/50 (4+): O6 C3 - yes, but...]

The call is over in seconds, with Udar saying he can't talk now, but will try back later.

[Q: Does he? 50/50 (4+): O5 C5 - yes
+Event:  Move toward a thread - bring / affection]


Amit's barely put his phone away when Cat's mobile rings. She checks the number and answers, holding the phone just off her ear so Elgin and Amit can hear too.

"Angharad... um, hi."

"Hello, Cat. I was thinking about it, and maybe you might like to come with me. You seem like the kind of girl I wouldn't mind getting to know. And it would be selfish of me not to ask you along. There's so much to be gained."

"Thanks, I um, I'm not sure what to say."

"You don't have say anything now. But I need your answer in [1d8-1=] three days. Think it over."

"Yeah... ok."

"Goodbye, my Cat."

"Bye."

[Cat gets a 12+ Wis/Perception roll to gauge the tenor of Angharad's call: 2d6+1=7, no idea]

Cat stares at her mobile a few seconds. "That was... different."

"You OK, Cat?" asks Amit.

"I'm honestly freaked out a bit by the invitation. I haven't been giving off the wrong vibes when we've been meeting her, have I? I mean, Angharad's well fit, but I'm a strictly vanilla kind of girl."

"It'd be good to find out what she's up to, though," says Elgin. "Who she's dealing with."

"Why though?" asks Amit. "And why the change of heart?"

"Because, upon reflection, I'm not so sure just letting her walk off was the wisest move. These things have a way of coming back to haunt you. And at the very least, if there's another group active in the area, we need to know about it."

"Why do I have the feeling you two are going to suggest I invite Angharad out for coffee...?" sighs Cat.

By the time Udar rings back, they've decided they don't need his help, so Amit puts him off with a "Just wanted to see how you're holding up, mate". Their current plan is to pour enough liquor into Cat so she can ring Angharad back and make an invitation.


[Scene 19 : further investigations]

The next day, Mary texts Amit about her new lead, but says she doesn't need any more help at the moment. He's almost disappointed.

[Q: Does she find the friend? 50/50 (4+): O1 C2 - no, and...]

She hits the streets alone, making enquiries after the Turkish girl, but in vain. No one's seen her in weeks. Maybe went abroad, they say. Mary doesn't believe a word of it and keeps digging.

[She'll use her Leading Whispers class ability to follow intuition to a contact who can offer clues]
7 December 1:52pm

Mary follows a hunch, and looks up the property manager at the (second) missing girl's last known address.

[Cha/Persuade 6+: 2d6-1=8, ok

SL People Who Want Something: 1d20=They want help, to accomplish something here.]


"You're here 'cause she went missing, innit? I knew it! She ain't been by in ages, and I still got a package that was delivered when she was at work. It didn't have no sender's name on it, so I didn't know what to do. I just kept it in the post room in case she came back. It's been [2d10=]five weeks now"

"Did she seem unusual at all the last time you saw her?" asks Mary.

[Q: Did she? 50/50 (4+): O3 C5 - no.]

"Not as I could tell."

"Can I see her flat?"

"Uh... I s'pose if it'll help you find her."

Mary dons latex gloves as the property manager grabs the master key ring.

[Wis/Perception 8+ for a clue: 2d6+2=9, success.

Q: What is the clue? Efficiently / Creepy]


The flat is a studio, and so tiny it makes Mary's seem downright palatial. The state of it is exactly what one would expect from the flat of a single 20-something: dishes in the sink, DVDs on the coffee table, unmade bed, and a recycling bin filled with Tesco's Finest wine bottles.

But amongst the clutter Mary's trained eye spots something vital, a crumpled-up polaroid in the corner, as if it had been thrown there. She unfolds it and lets out an involuntary cry when she sees it is the picture of an eviscerated woman. A note scrawled on the back in biro: 'all your parent's money won't save you if you say another word'. [UNE: prejudiced - bias - wealth; +1 madness for the sight (to 10)]

She finds a torn-open envelope on the kitchen counter bearing a name and address but no stamp; the threat was hand-delivered.

"So," says Mary as she slips the polaroid and envelope into an evidence bag, "I don't suppose you have CCTV here?"

[Q: Do they? Doubtful (6): O4 C2 - no, and...]

"We, uh, we do," mumbles the property manager. "But it's a really old system, so it's been taped over by now. We only have a week's worth of cassettes..."

Mary admonishes the manager not to say anything about her visit, as it's not in the public interest to get the tabloids involved.


next post: circumventing unanswered questions


Friday, 1 April 2022

Silent Legions solo - Part 16: No solace, sleep

Meanwhile, at Mary's flat...

Mary has been puttering about, doing practically everything she could possibly find to do to keep her mind off going to sleep. She's done the washing up, cleaned the bathroom, folded the clean laundry, and even had another go at learning the plus-que-parfait. She wishes she could have had Cat round, even after the... awkwardness of the last visit. She's sure it won't happen again, but she also can't drink that much wine before work the next day. Not again, at least.

Some time after 1am she drifts off in front of the telly, and dreams.

[Scene 12 : the Event rolled in the last post
Event:  Horror - PC (Mary) - draw / Lady
Fleshing it out (1d10): 1-3 same as earlier, 4-6 ghost of victim, 7-8 both, 9-10 something else: 8]


She's in her flat, which is attached to her parents' house in Guildford. It's so smoky in her room. Someone is moving outside the door -- she's got to hide her fags. The door bursts inward, but instead of her angry parents there is only the shadowy suggestion of something malevolent. It's found her again.
She's out the window and onto the street in a flash and running, stocking feet pounding the uneven pavement. She's already in Hackney, St Leonard's glowing in the misty night like a beacon, if she can only reach it in time. The shadows cluster thick behind her and any one could unleash her unseen pursuer upon her.

[Evasion saving throw=natural 1]

She feels it close round her, heavy and foul. It throws her to the pavement, rips her open again, claws tearing for her liver. [1 damage in the waking world]

Then another presence, cold but calm. A diaphanous woman appears clad in spectral white, and banishes the thing with a word. She pulls Mary up, and they waft into a deserted shop. [Divide / Danger]

"I wouldn't let the First Knower of Scorn destroy you."

"Th-- thank you."

"That pleasure shall be mine."

[Magic Save to get away: d20=18!
+1d6=4 Madness (to 9)]


Mary screams herself awake. She immediately fumbles for her mobile and tries to ring Cat, but it goes straight to voicemail. She only leaves one message, but it's tearful and rambly. [Mental save 13+: d20=13, just succeeded]
[Scene 13 : various activities]

2 December 12:48pm

Amit, Cat, and Elgin sleep very late.

Cat listens to Mary's message when she wakes up and turns on her phone. She rings at once to apologise for being unavailable, and they make a plan to meet after Mary gets off work. Cat is on very good behaviour, and Mary (as expected) doesn't want to be alone. Cat says it's finally time she met Amit and Elgin. She'll talk to them tomorrow about it, when Mary's at work. But for tonight, all talk of madness and monsters is banished so they can focus on more important matters, namely beer, pizza, and their sci-fi marathon.

Elgin wakes up on the settee and lets himself out quietly. He needs to get back home to work on the manuscript, with the help of his personal library.

Amit rings Angharad to let her know they have the manuscript. He asks if she reads Sanskrit (she doesn't). He says they have a guy working on it, but not to worry, he's trustworthy [using Folie à deux class ability so she doesn't get peeved]. They arrange to meet the following evening to make the handover. With Cat and Elgin both gone, he plays video games the rest of the day.

. . .
The palm leaf manuscript comprises but 12 pages of writing. Elgin finds it slow going at first as it's written in deliberately archaising language with some passages in Apabhraṃśa. It takes most of the day to work through, and though some obscurities remain, he is confident that he's understood it.

The bulk of the treatise is a ritual for consecrating the Chamber of Desires Effulgent, and the specifications for constructing said chamber, including the blessings to be said over the sacrificial knife to ultimately be used in the Ritual of the Mirror, which calls forth a Deva to grant the desire of the officiant. This Mirror of Red Depths is also described. The preparations are manifold and perverse, requiring the sacrifice of a loved one, a new initiate, and an entirely sanctified building (the Silver House) located amongst isolated ruins, inter alia. The manuscript is sadly incomplete, lacking the rituals to consecrate the Silver House, and, most frustratingly, the instructions for using the Mirror.

[There were many die rolls to figure all that out.

Manuscript is (1d4-1 x100)+(1d100) = 12 pages

Wis/Language 8+ to divine meaning: 2d6+1=7, fail. Spends a point of Expertise for Deep Gnosis (auto success).

Magic Save (11+) to avoid Curse: 15, success

I used the Dark Sorcery tables to determine what the ritual needed: 1d2+2=Grand, requiring 1d4+3=7 things. The rolls (7d6 & 7d8 produced:
3x location (A site of a terrible massacre, Fresh ruins of a human community, An isolated elevation)
2x object (An entire sanctified building, An intricately-crafted focal object)
1x sacrifice (A family member or loved one)
1x action (Initiation of a new believer)

Q: Any general spell in the manuscript? 50/50 (4+): O4 C5 - yes.
The Silvered Blade of Sacrifice (L1, takes 1 week to learn)]


Elgin decides to photograph the manuscript...

[Q: Actually, can he? unknown 1d6=3: O2 C8 - no]

...but his digital SLR camera refuses to focus. He tries his mobile's camera, but it has the same problem. [+1d4=1 Madness (to 29)]

He begins a quick transcription for himself, and a rough-but-serviceable translation to hand over with the original.

[Q: Does anything happen before the meeting with Angharad? Unlikely (5+): O4 C3 - no, but... Elgin has his Horror Event that night. This was rolled in the first post of the adventure (Event:  Horror - PC - think / conversation) so the 1d6 Madness for is already on his character sheet.

Q: How does it start? perceive / power]


[Scene 14]

3 December 1:06am

As Elgin goes over and over the manuscript, he feels a sort of electric current in the room. The air gets heavy and difficult to breathe. The lights dim and shadows crawl further from the dark corners. They coalesce into several near-humanoid shapes and detach themselves from the walls to surround him.

"Searching, searching," they whisper. "Wanting, hoping? Whence your desire, Whither your intention?"

"Who are you? What are you? Egregores? Tulpas? Acid flashback?"

"Know you not? Yet you would call, yet you are calling."

"I did not summon you. I only sought wisdom."

"The Chamber beckons. All you seek is within."

"If I perform the rites?"

"The rights have been performed. The Chamber has been prepared."

"How?"

"The Fuligin Compact. They have set up the Mirror of Red Depths."

"Who are the Compact?"

"All who perform the rites, all who seek the Chamber, all who surrender to the Mirror and offer sacrifice, all who are perfected."

"And if I wish to close the Chamber?"

"Foolishness and cowardice! Whosoever would repudiate desire lacks the vigour to oppose the Compact. Give up the ritual to your betters, and do not interfere, lest their desires sweep you away..."
[Scene 15]

3 December 3:00pm

Angharad arrives at Cat and Amit's flat in a floor length crimson velvet coat. Elgin can barely suppress a smirk as Cat and Amit rush to help her off with it, ever the attentive hosts. When their eyes go wide as she reveals the dress she's poured herself into beneath it, he must feign a cough to hide his laughter.

But when they get down to business, their demeanours are soon serious. They'd not heard Elgin's account yet either. He sums up everything the manuscript said, and what seemed to be missing. He omits mention of his subsequent spectral encounter, but Cat can still tell that he'd been greatly unsettled. The stranger account becomes, the broader his accent.

"It's seriously dark stuff," he concludes. "Mebbe tha should reconsider. Nowt good ever comes of this sort of shite."

[Cha/Persuade 10+ : 2d6-1=9 partial success, someone else can roll]

Angharad pauses, obviously considering his words, but seeming unconvinced.

"How many people you think died over this already?" asks Amit. [2d6+2=9]

"I'll think about everything you said. But I doubt anything could change my mind now."

Elgin reluctantly hands over the archive box. She hands over a wad of cash.

Angharad leaves.

"So that's it?" asks Cat. "We just let her go?"

"It's her funeral," says Elgin.

"What about the manuscript though? asks Amit. "She can't even read it."

"I included a translation! And there's something really wrong about it. I didn't want it near me any longer."

"Maybe we should make some enquiries about it with the Cult. She'd only heard about the Silver House because one of her clients was talking out of class; and she was a member of the Circle."

"Really? Who?"

"Marjorie."

"With the ankh...?"

"The same."

[Q: Did Elgin know her? 50/50 (4+): O4 C6 - yes.
Q: Does he have any idea what happened to her? Unlikely (5+): O1 C7 - no]


"Hm. Haven't seen her for ages."

"Angharad thought she disappeared because she wouldn't share the manuscript with them."

"Then we'd best not let them know we've seen it, either."

"Huh. Yeah, you've a point. What about tapping the Star for information, then?"

Elgin launches into a lecture about the Star not being much better than the Cult, and to never forget it.


next post: a most unlikely alliance

Friday, 18 March 2022

Silent Legions solo - Part 15: We're really doing this...

Cat has some calls to make. Amit listens in, absently unrolling the wad of bills that Angharad had given him and counting it. He'd not asked how much it was. It was fat enough he thought it impolite. Especially as she'd said there's more to come.

The call to Elgin is quick. Cat gives him a name, voices her suspicions. He says he should have an answer in a few hours.

Mary, on the other hand, has a lot to say. And just wants to talk, besides. Cat doesn't have the heart to tell her to stay focussed, and lets her ramble. In the end, she does come back to the matter of the kitchen, and says she compared notes with reports of officers who raided the place plus the coroner's report, and has also done some digging into the ownership of the building besides. It's a tangled web of holding companies, but she's nearly joined up the dots connecting it to a certain ex-DI Frost ("I know, right?") who went over to the other side, and now operates out of the East End -- and she now knows his exact location, thanks to Cat. She's pulling all his old case files for further evidence of dodgy dealings whilst he was still on the force, and thinks she can bring him in on concrete charges before Christmas.

[Angharad's meeting with Frost is scheduled for 1d8=4 days hence.

Mary is using her Leading Whispers class ability to investigate.
Q: does she find trail to Enemy? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - yes, but... investigation reassigned from above, moved over to serious crimes -- Secret being protected (this will come up later)

Elgin stays up late looking at family history records: Int/Research 6+: 2d6+2=12 Cat's suspicion is correct]


. . .

Cat wakes the next morning to a text message from Elgin: You called it, it's a family name. There's a great-great aunt buried in a vault in Highgate. Fancy a little London tourism?


[Scene 11

Investigation scene: The Place where the clue is has been sealed up by public order, whether due to it being a crime scene, its advanced state of dereliction, its owner’s desire for it to remain undisturbed, or some other reason. Some group stands watch over it, such as police or hired watchmen, and they may be innocent bystanders to the situation.]
30 November 3:28pm

The burial vault is in the west side of the cemetery, so they can only visit as part of a guided tour. Probably for the best, as they don't want a giant Karl Marx staring down at them disapprovingly.

Elgin brings his good camera to snap lots of pictures, and gives Amit an older one to do the same. Luckily, they have ample opportunity, and playing tourist is a believable cover. Plus, Cat desperately wants a picture of herself at the tomb of Radclyffe Hall.

[Rolling with the best mods in the party:
Int/Perception 6+ to find the right place (even though they can't get inside the catacombs today, and know better than to ask): 2d6+2=9, ok
Wis/Perception 8+ to find fastest way out: 2d6+1=12]


The next day sees various trips to DIY shops and ironmongers, separately, of course. Elgin buys bolt cutters, some chain, two locks, and rope (as a certain kind of fetishist, he's done this before, so they're used to him down the shop). Cat buys a crowbar, Amit buys a hammer and chisel, and a crowbar of his own.
2 December 1:54am

Cat, Amit, and Elgin arrive separately with backpacks full of supplies. They meet on the north side near the church, then head down the road on the long, steep hill that divides the eastern and western halves of the cemetery. It's late, and there's almost no traffic. But this is London, so a car could come at any moment. They'd best be quick.

Elgin throws a rope over the wall.

[6+ STR/Athletics. 1d6 damage on a failure, with an Evasion save to roll with the fall for half damage. Partial success (3-5) = stumble/setback & roll for traffic passing (1-in-6)

C 2d6+2=6, E 2d6-1=9, A 2d6-1=5... (no traffic) 2d6-1=7]


Cat's feet slip a bit on the anti-climb paint, but she's over the wall without serious delays. Amit is up and over with surprising grace. Elgin nearly doesn't make it, but in the end they're all stood amongst the graves in the inky darkness.

[From here on out, there's going to be a fair few easy skill rolls. Partial Success on any of them (i.e. failure by up to 3 below the Target Number) will force an encounter check or complication.
Encounter checks are 1d6: 1 patrol, 2 lights in distance, 3-6 nothing

best Wis/Perception 10+ to hear anyone about: 2d6+1=10

Q: Anyone immediately about? unlikely (5+): O1 C7 - no.]
They pause and listen, and search the blackness for light or movement, finding nothing. Elgin lights a weak torch, and they set off. They creep forward, keeping off the path as much as possible, trying not to trip over gnarled roots, low and crumbling gravestones, and tangles of weeds.

[INT/Survival 6+ to follow their route properly: 2d6+0=5 partial success: wrong turn

1d6=2 lights in distance

WIS/Survival 7+ to get back on the right path : 2d6+0=7]


After a few minutes, it's obvious they've mad a wrong turn. Lights in the distance force them to hide behind a monument. They pass tense minutes in the dark, until the lights recede. Elgin relights his torch, and studies the map until he's certain he knows where they've gone wrong. They double back and find right route, still staying as much off the path as possible.

[Evasion saves at +4 not to trip & fall: C&E succeed, A nat 1 - takes 1d3=1 damage (to 9hp)]

Progress is slow and steady, but still Amit trips over an iron chain, stumbling and bashing his knee on a stone slab. Cat drags him to his feet and pulls him behind an immense stone coffer. They hide for a minute at least in case anyone heard Amit's swearing.
[Q: Anyone attracted by noise? Unlikely (5+): O5 C5 - yes.
+Event:  Horror - PC (Mary) - draw / Lady (see next post)

Dex/Stealth +1 (ample cover) vs. patrol's Perception rolls--
Patrol (both 2d6+1): 4,7
C 10, E 9, A 8]


Torchlight plays over the branches above their heads. They cower in the darkness as voices draw nearer, then footsteps crunching on the gravel path. The watchmen come close enough that Cat can smell their cologne on the breeze. But they pass by oblivious. When she can no longer hear the in-depth analysis of Arsenal's chances this year, Cat motions to continue.

They follow the watch at a great distance for a while, keeping the their lights just in view. Their path eventually brings them close to the catacombs. When they're sure the guards are nowhere nearby, they scurry up to the entrance. It's barred by an iron gate, and locked with a padlock and steel chain.

"Here," whispers Amit, handing Cat the bolt cutters.

"Do I hafta do everything?"

"You're well strong, Cat. Remember that party where you ripped Leila's bedroom door off the hinges?"

"Er, not really. I seem to recall hearing a rumour afterwards. I was seriously off my face that night."

"Ssshhhhh!" scolds Elgin.

Cat has them both hold onto the chain so it doesn't fall and make a noise.

[STR/Athletics 6+: 2d6+2=11]

The lock breaks with a dull crunch, then Cat pulls the door open just enough to slip through. It lets out a terrible creak, but the guards are too far off to hear [d6=4 no encounter]. Once inside, they pull it very slowly closed, and wrap the chain round again so it isn't immediately conspicuous.
[Q: Anything immediately weird inside the catacomb? Unlikely (5+): O2 C6 - no.

Wis/Perception 10+ to find the right grave (check until success, +1/further attempt)

2d6+1=9, d6=3 no encounter
again: 8+1=9, d6=2 lights

Perception check 10+ for guards: 2d6+1=8, fail

more searching: 10+2, success]


They move slowly and methodically, trying not to scrape their feet along the dusty stone floor. They examine each vault door in turn, straining to read age-worn inscriptions and rusting iron placards by feeble torch light.

At last they find the one they need, fortunately towards the end of the cavernous hall. They spend several minutes look for a secret catch, but there isn't any. [The cultist used magic to get in]

"Good thing we came prepared," says Elgin.

"This is going to make a lot of fucking noise," says Cat.

"I'll keep watch by the gate," says Amit. "I'll flash you with my torch if I spot anyone coming."

Elgin holds a dim light so Cat can set about opening the tomb.

[She needs to roll 8+: +1 for STR, -1 for lack of skill (I'm not sure which skill this counts as (Profession/gravedigger?), but it's deffo not on her character sheet): 2d6+0=8]

She uses the chisel to break up the concrete round the marble slab enough to get the crowbar under it, then prises it out. She teases it out slowly and gratingly, then uses puts all her weight against it so as not to let it fall flat on the floor. Elgin helps her lower it the last few inches, but it still makes an awful thud when they release it -- but better that than broken fingers.
[Str/Athletics 8+ (including E's help): 2d6+2=9
1d6=4 no encounter]


When the billowing tomb dust settles, they peer into the vault. A set of rough stone steps leads downwards.

[Q: what's it like at the bottom? Bleakly / Faded]

The brickwork vault is lined with coffins set on low shelves. A thick blanket of dust shrouds every surface, save for a few places where it has been swept perfunctorily away. In one corner is a pile of dead batteries, empty crisp packets, and candle stubs.

The great-great-aunt's coffin is at the very back, having been slid half-way out of its shelf onto a makeshift bier. The lid had been swept clean, and evidently used as a desk, for atop it sits an electric lantern, more candles, a pile of books, and an archive box.

[Q: Is there anything of importance other than the manuscript? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - no, but...
Q: Does anything guard the manuscript? Certain (2+): O4 C3 - yes, but... only triggered by studying (roll a Curse, SL p169)
Q: Do they make it back out without incident? 50/50 (4+): O6 C1 - yes, and...]


Elgin briefly peruses the pile of books; they're all ordinary books on eastern esotericism, mostly in paperback, all dog-eared and scribbled in. He elects to take them just in case the notes prove useful.

The true prize is in the archive box, a palm leaf manuscript covered in dense, blocky Sanskrit. Elgin can almost hear it whispering his name. He stares at it, letting the words dance through his vision, feeling the ecstatic rhythm of its song. Then Cat is tugging at his arm, pulling him out of the trance.

"Hey, Elgin, time to go. You can read that later over a nice cuppa. But we need to get out of here."

They pack up their gear, and Elgin stows the archive box carefully in an empty backpack. They replace the marble slab as best they are able, then slink away into the night.


next post: bad dreams