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.
"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."
"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."
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
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
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."
"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.
"Maybe. But I doubt it."
"What's your theory?"
"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."
"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--"
"--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?"
"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?"
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..."
"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."
"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."
"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.
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?"
"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]
* * *
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.
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
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)
5 1/2 as fast
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