Elgin rings Cat to say he has made progress with the translation. "Also, I have a friend who may be able help us. He wants to meet you. Both of you."
Respite (1d12=): Some cult or outside actor with a reason to hate the local Enemy finds it useful to keep the heroes alive as a weapon against their foe. An Actor in their service offers shelter to the PCs, sincerely wanting to aid them for very dark motivations.
N.B. I've been pretty loose with interpretations of the Silent Legions scene descriptions. Instead of rolling an Enemy off the Location Tags, I just assumed it's the Cult that's been the antagonist so far.
Age: Youthful, perhaps someone up-and-coming in their role.
Profession: Teacher, professor, or other education worker
Memorable Quirks: Remarkably well-prepared for whatever situation they find
Social Standing: Formerly honoured, but now in less repute
Relation to Situation: An unwitting pawn necessary to someone’s plans
Their Advantage in the Situation: Personal prowess and a capacity for great violence
Personality: Skilful, Direct
Archaeologist - palaeolithic
Language skill 1d3-1=1: Dutch, English, Russian, French
stats as cult enforcer, +1 damage
UNE to determine the substance of his conversation--
NPC Relationship: friendly
Conversation Mood: cautious
knowing - account - current story]
The meeting takes place in some crappy gastropub near Spitalfields. Elgin's friend is tall, fair, and lean, with severe features and intense blue eyes. His dress is almost casual, but his starched shirt collar, pressed trousers, and tweed blazer carry the whiff of Jermyn Street about them. He stands and shakes both Cat's and Amit's hands with a painfully tight grip, and says, "Gerrit Ball. Delighted to make your acquaintance." His English is impeccable in the way that only foreigners ever manage, but neither Cat nor Amit can place his accent.
"My esteemed colleague has, no doubt, told you that the cult won't rest until they get what they want, namely your death. Or capture -- you've no proof they aren't intending to take you alive. In fact, their failure to kill you makes me rather think they must find you somehow useful."
"Maybe," says Cat. "Maybe not. I've, uh, lived through some stuff that should've killed me already. Before all this bullshit, I mean."
"No doubt. Though perhaps this self-styled Circle, for all their vaunted power, are simply unable to get what they're after. Though their blundering does appear to cause rather a lot of bloodshed." [prejudiced - dislike - antagonist]
"To put it mildly..."
"But whatever interest they may have had in you is twice what it was before, after the, ah, incident at your flat." [knowing - effects - last action]
"How did you...?"
I have my sources. Moreover, I have every reason to want to see the Circle fail in their endeavours. All of them. And so, I should like to offer you my aid."
"I keep a spare flat in Highgate. You could hide there whilst I, and others of my acquaintance, decide how best to put an end to the cult's machinations."
"That sounds ominous."
"I don't mean it that way. It were rather best for all concerned to avoid any further violence, to show that you are not a threat, and to see them move with more discretion from now on."
"I might have something they want, but I'm not sure I feel safe letting them have it."
"No, I don't suppose you should be. Might I see the item? I do find these objects so interesting." [prejudiced - bias - relics]
"Um, OK." Cat rummages through her bag for a few moments then hands the artefact across under the table.
[For touching the artefact, Gerrit must save vs. Magic (14+); d20=11, he is Unworthy. 2d6+2=10 vs. Cat's Wis/Perception 2d6+1=8: she doesn't see through his poker-face.]
"Any idea what it is?" she asks.
"Ah, no. I'm afraid my knowledge of material cultures doesn't extend much past the chalcholithic. I might be able to find someone who could determine the use of this object, but it may take time to examine properly."
"Letting it out of your possession? Nor should I expect you to. I'll bring them to meet you, at the place of your choosing. Though it would be simpler if we meet at the flat, where we wouldn't have to shout over this awful music."
"OK, sure, I guess. But why are you doing this? Offering all this help?"
"Oh, come now. Surely you of all people must know that nothing in this life is free. I am doing you this favour, and someday I shall have to call it due." [scheming - means - future action]
- - -
[Q: Where is hideout? 1d4=outer ring; 1d18=Highgate]
"So," asks Amit, "how well do you trust this friend of yours?"
"I don't really have a choice," replies Elgin. [Location Crafter = Angrily]
"Shit, bruv. Why'd you...?"
NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: guarded
inquisitive - request - treasure]
"He has a knack for finding things that other, uh, interested parties are looking for," says Elgin.
"Like the artefact, for instance."
"Interested parties?" asks Cat. "Shit. Does he know about the cave, then?"
"I've not mentioned it."
"See you don't."
"He knew you had it, by the way, without me telling him. The artefact. It's good you showed it him. Proves you're trustworthy."
"Who's he working for?"
[Q: Does E know? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and...]
"They're a magical order known as the Message of the Austere Star."
"Pretty naff name," says Amit.
"It's a reference to a passage or incantation in an ancient manuscript their founder discovered. I haven't seen it -- they don't show it to outsiders -- but I wouldn't go making fun of their name if I were you."
"Gimme some credit. I thought we were all friends here."
"Fair dues. So, as I understand it from what I've pieced together about them, there was this chap who used to teach divinity at Oxford. I think he was, or had almost been, a priest. But his studies took a more esoteric bent, and he eventually began experimenting with the various theophanic rituals in some old books he'd got his hands on. And one of them worked. He introduced a few choice colleagues to his findings, and in 1948 they established themselves as a proper Order. They've been hiding in academia ever since, and recruiting members to their cause. Their ultimate aim is whispered to be a Great Summoning. God only knows what'll happen if they pull it off. But they'll have to work together to do it, and they're a right nest of vipers at the mo."
"They sound lovely," says Cat. "But at least they don't like the Circle."
"They see them as upstarts and parvenus."
"Didn't you just say they were founded in 1948?"
"Still older than the Circle. Plus they have resources: money, power, magic, that sort of thing."
"Why isn't any of this comforting?"
"The cult are currently out to get you. The Star is, at the very least, neutral. For now."
"So you think it's a good idea to wait here for them...?"
"You've a better plan?"
- - -
[the Respite lasts 1d6+6=9 days (to 16 October)
DI Wang rings in 2d6=6 days (on 13 Oct.)
Elgin needs 2d6=4 days for research
Q: Are there any weapons in the flat? unlikely (5+): O5 C1 - yes, and... a gun
1d12: 1-2 auto pistol, 3-5 revolver, 6-11 shotgun, 12 smg; 2 -- I arbitrarily decided it was a 9mm Browning (why yes, I did used to play a lot of Top Secret as a kid.)]
Gerrit's flat is modestly furnished and could almost be a holiday rental, though in place of the usual collection of tattered Mills & Boon paperbacks and tourism brochures, the sole bookshelf is stuffed with archaeological journals. Also, Amit finds a loaded pistol in the bedside table.
[Elgin's research: Int/Language 8+ to decipher sigils: 2d6+1(Int)=12, success.
9+ Wis/Occult to comprehend meaning: 2d6+1(skill)=3, fail. Spending a point of Expertise to re-roll a class skill: 9, success]
"I've pretty much cracked it," says Elgin, beaming.
"Don't keep us in suspense," says Amit. "What's it say?"
Elgin arranges his papers on the low coffee table, placing a few sheets ripped from a notebook end-to-end. Each bears a few hastily scrawled hieroglyphs copied from the stone sphere in the cave.
"It wasn't immediately obvious, but the inscription runs in a spiral round the stone. The rubbings are hard to follow, so I wrote it out in order. It reads, 'whoever would receive the sleep -- or perhaps -- dream-nourishment of the splendid one -- or ones -- must provide dry offerings -- grain, probably -- and libations of blood for the god, the great of summat-or-other'. And then the last few signs are a name, but without a phonetic complements it can't be pronounced."
"Huh," says Cat, half to herself, "maybe it was so awful because I went empty-handed."
"Went where?" asks Amit.
"I meant the dreamscape."
"You never did tell us about it."
"It was a lot to process. But I might have learnt something... interesting."
"Ee by gum, Cat, and I though I had a cryptic pronouncement to share!"
"Sorry. How about some show and tell, then? When I was -- I'm not sure how to say, dreaming I guess -- I met a sort of a wizard. Shit, that makes it sound corny. But this wizard looked right into my soul, and... and I looked into its, and... I saw how to cast a spell, I guess."
"To do what, exactly?"
"It should let me read any language. If it works."
"Seriously? That would've helped a lot with the inscription..."
"Um, I didn't want to risk ruining your notes. It's kind of a messy procedure."
"Messy in what way?"
"There's a bit of, er, blood involved."
"Blood magic! This couldn't possibly go sideways..."
"We'll try it on something completely innocuous, then. Amit, write a few sentences for me in Bengali."
"If I tell you what to write it kind of defeats the purpose."
Amit scrawls a few lines on a piece of paper and hands it over. "I hope penmanship isn't an issue," he says.
"I shouldn't think so. Let's do this in the kitchen though. Gerrit'd prolly kill us if we get stains on his carpet."
[Cat is casting Truths written in Red. She spends 1 Expertise to avoid accruing Madness automatically. The spell level is higher than her Occult skill, so needs to roll Int/Occult at 6+spell level (8) to avoid failure or additional Madness (SL p.35): 2d6+1=10 success. She takes 1d4=2 damage from blood loss.]
Cat takes a carving knife from drawer, grips it in her palm and pulls it down sharply.
"Motherfucker!" she screams, dropping the knife into the sink. "That hurts way more than you'd expect from the movies."
She smears the blood on the paper, soaking it through. When she looks down at the writing, the sea of unfamiliar lines and whorls starts to seethe and twist, and finally resolves into something comprehensible. Cat reads aloud: "Hey, Elgin, did Cat ever tell you about the time in sixth form when she tried to shoplift a bottle of white lightning on a dare and--"
Cat wads up the paper and throws it at Amit's head. He sidesteps it deftly and it bounces off the refrigerator. The blood has vanished from it before it hits the floor.
DI Wang calls to say she's got news, and suggests meeting at pub in Shoreditch.
[Q: Did she get info on Elgin? Certain (2+): O6 C4 - yes, but...
Q: Did DI Wang get good information from Sadowski? Likely (3+): O5 C8 - yes]
"What'd you do to your hand?" asks Mary as she gets settled in to their table.
"I shouldn't be allowed near a kitchen," says Cat "I'm a pretty lousy cook." She hopes the essential truth of the statement keeps any suspicions at bay. Fortunately Mary is intent on getting right down to business.
"Fist things first. I looked up Elgin Radcliffe. He's clean: no record, no cautions, nothing."
"Damn," says Cat. "I was sorta hoping there'd be something... something to go on."
"I shouldn't be. I guess I ought to trust him by now. Anyways, how'd the other thing go?"
"It took longer than I'd hoped to get in to see Sadowski. When I got there he was really... odd [Boldly / Abnormal]. Like, I can't believe he wasn't at a psychiatric care facility. He saw me without a solicitor present, and wouldn't stop babbling incoherently until I told the guard to leave us. He kept it up until I mentioned Vera by name. That seemed to snap him out of it. He asked bluntly if they'd caught up with her. I asked, 'who?', he said 'The Cult'. The person he was in there for kidnapping was one of Vera's superiors, and he was trying to get them to let her leave. I was blunt and said that we think she was killed because she had possession of a certain odd antique. He started screaming and crying that it was never theirs, but we were all doomed if they got their hands on it [UNE: hostile - rage - relics]. He calmed down a bit when I said it was safely hidden, and confirmed that we were indeed talking about the same, em... that thing. He said they don't understand how dangerous it is, or what it's really for, and that using it at all invites destruction. And the cult would probably use it to start a war against their enemies. He was less clear on who those might be, only that there were other such cults and a sort of equilibrium kept them from lashing out at each other."
"Great. I've a new, er, friend who's expressed an interest. And his friends and their magical order, or summat... What did he say it does?"
"He refused to tell me, 'lest anyone be tempted to invoke it'."
"He wants to know how you came by it." [inquisitive - interest - experience]
"Did you tell him?"
"You've only cursorily told me."
"If you talk to him again, mention Fr. Mike, I guess. Anything else?"
"Just that he'd be better able to help if I got him released, or at least sent to minimum." [scheming - compromise - superiors]
"Soooo.... what next?"
"I'm waiting for a formal meeting with this mysterious new group. And I have a another name to run by you. A foreign bloke [Wis/Language roll 10+: 2d6+1=9]. Danish I think."
next post: a field trip, with cultists