Friday, 29 January 2021

Silent Legions solo - Part 9: The truth, mostly

They leave the cave and the forest, and decide to convene at Gerrit's safehouse to discuss their experience (and relate it to Amit and Yaiza). Elgin elects to go to the A&E first to get his hand looked at.

[Q: Any problems? Unlikely (5+): O4 C8 - no.]

Yaiza takes shorthand notes of everything they discuss. Elgin finally gets back about 7pm, his hand wrapped in bandages. Yaiza still wants to hear his tale, so they order curry and continue the discussions.

Cat's mobile rings whilst they're waiting on the food to arrive. It's DI Wang. Cat ducks into the kitchen for sliver of privacy, not that they can't all hear her every word.


"We should meet," says Mary.

"Aw, hun, I can't make it tonight... really hung over from yesterday still -- or maybe I should say, 'from this morning'... I'll text you tomorrow.... kiss, kiss!" She hangs up and returns to the front room.

"Who was that?" asks Yaiza.

"Just a girl."

[Persuade 5+: 2d6+0=8, success]

Yaiza is too busy rolling her eyes to notice any deception on Cat's part.

[Cat, Amit, and Elgin recover 2hp each overnight; A&E are back to full, but Elgin's hand is out of commission for the next 4 weeks; Cat up to 5/7hp].

Cat texts DI Wang back before passing out for the night (and sleeping through most of the afternoon). They agreed to a late meeting in a pub by [roll on London hexmap] Bethnal Green.

[Scene 23]

18 October

Paranoia is starting to get the better of them, and they decide that Cat shouldn't go to her meeting alone.

Elgin is on too many anti-biotics to want to go out drinking, so stays home. Amit sets out after Cat to keep an eye one the situation, shadowing her at a distance to make sure no one following. He's made arrangements to meet some friends in the same pub so he doesn't look odd drinking alone. He's got Gerrit's Browning; Cat goes unarmed.

[Amit's Wis/Perception roll 2d6+0=10

Q: Is anyone following? Unlikely (5+): O5 C1 - yes, and... 1d3=1 person, d6=m
Q: Affiliation? 1d20: 1-12 Circle, 13-15 Star,  16-17 police, 18-20 other: d20=Circle
Q: Armed? 50/50 (4+): O3 C6 - no.
Q: Is she being followed to the tube or out of it? 1d2=to
Type/stats (1d12): 1-5 cultist, 6-7 cult enforcer, 8-10 the petty cult NPC, 11-12 the important cult NPC, 1; d12=3

Cultist's Dex/Stealth 2d6+0=9, spotted
Cat's Wis/Perception: 2d6+1=10]

Cat is scarcely 100m out the front door when Amit texts her, 'ur being followed'.

She texts back, 'i no. *know'. Then she sends a quick follow-up text to DI Wang: 'being followed. might be late.'

Rather than heading straight down the hill to Archway tube station, Cat makes a turn at the Karl Marx pub and crosses suicide bridge. She goes down steps beyond it, down the leafy path to the A1, followed by her pursuer and (she hopes) Amit close behind.

[His Dex/Stealth 2d6+1=9 vs. the cultist's skill 2d6+0=4]

Halfway down, Cat turns about suddenly to address the hipstery bloke on her tail. "why the fuck are you following me?"

He responds with absolute, almost inhuman calm. "We've been trying to find you for some time. You have something of ours, and we want you to give it back. I take it you don't have it on you. Bring me to it, now, and maybe you can walk away from this." [UNE: inquisitive - investigation - relics]

"Sod off."

"You seem to be labouring under the delusion that you somehow have the upper hand in this negotiation." [prejudiced - view - current scene]

"Yeah. It's not like me mate is about to blow a hole through the back of your head or something. Oh, wait..."

Amit taps the gun on the back of the hipster's head.

[Morale check: 2d6=3!]

"You're bluffing. You wouldn't dare. Not in broad daylight."

"I dunno. The traffic noise is pretty loud."

"You're not going to risk it though, are you."

"Y'know, you're right. That would be a shit idea."

Cat grabs him by the tour t-shirt for the band he's never seen, and heaves him down the steps.

[Initiative C 7, him 2; her attack gets a +2 bonus to hit, 1d20+4 total=14 vs. AC9, hit. STR vs. STR to resist: 2d6+1(Cat)=10 vs. 2d6+0=7. 1d6 damage from fall (half is subdual only) = 5 damage; he has 1d4=4hp, unconscious]

He careens down arse over tit and lands in the dirt beneath some bushes. Once it's clear he's not getting back up, Cat and Amit retrace their steps and head for the tube. They text Elgin to let them know he cult are onto them, and he might want to think up a new place to hide.

[Q: Any problems/witnesses? Doubtful (6): O5 C2 - no, and...

Questions asked in the last scene which are more pertinent to put here--
Q: Did Mary turn up any info on Gerrit? Unknown 1d6=2, Certain: O4 C3 - yes, but...
Q: Has she heard anything about Cat? 50/50 (4+): O6 C5 - yes]

* * *

"What happened?" asks Mary before Cat has even had chance to slide into the booth across from her. "You said someone was following you, then fifteen minutes later you say 'never mind, be there soon'. Was it a false alarm?"

"Uh, no. But I had someone keeping an eye on me. It's all better now."

"Who was it?"

"Just a mate who looks out for me."

"No, I mean, who was following you?"

"Oh! The cult, naturally. I might need to find a new gaff."

"If it's protective custody you're after, I don't think it would be a good idea. Your name keeps coming up at work."

"Are they still looking for me?"

"Duh! Dead strangers at the halfway house, your disappearance. Remember?"

"Shit. Sorry. This last little while's been unreal."

"Yeah. OK. Look, I ran that name you gave me, Gerrit Ball."


"His prints are on file from his naturalisation application, but past that, nothing."

"Damn. I guess I was fishing anyway."

"You want to tell me what for?"

"Not especially, no."

"It's like you don't want my help or something."

"No. It's nothing like that."

"What then?"

"You're safer not knowing too much. I'm doing you a favour by keeping you at a remove from it all."

"Bollocks. You're just making it harder for me to help."

"You're a copper. And as long as it looks like you're just doing your job, there's a reasonable chance you won't seem like a direct theat."

"Just doing my job is how I got involved in the first place. There's police involvement with one or more of these weird cults and before long they're going to catch on to me if I'm not careful. I need to find them out before they get suspicious, or... well, you'll be needing to find someone else to buy you drinks, for starters." [UNE: knowing - history - contacts]

"Fine. I'll tell you everything. And even introduce you to some people -- probably. Actually, I'm not sure yet. Let me try something first. I'll ask my, em, new interested party if they have any clout with the police, and say it would really really help if they could check to see if I'm wanted for questioning or anything still. They say yes, I'll ask them to make sure it's their people that bring me in and ask the questions, so they're sure to clear my name or some shit like that. So then I can tell you who the dirty coppers are, and maybe just how dirty. And then see if it's safe for you to meet people."

"Devious. I like it."

"Let's just hope it works, else we're stumbling about blindly -- which I've been accused of doing once already this week."

"So when are you going to tell me the rest?"

"When you come back with another round? And maybe some crisps."

* * *

Last orders comes, as is its wont, dreadfully soon.

"This has turned out really nice," says Mary.

"It has. Nice to have just... normal conversation for a while. After the first bit, anyways. But I'm afraid I can't linger. You should leave first. I gotta see my friend, and I don't think it's the best time to introduce you two. Especially with his mates here. No offense."

"None taken, 'hun.' Must dash anyway. 'Kiss kiss!'"

"Ha! Sorry about that; there were prying ears present. I didn't want to tip my hand."

"No worries, I guessed. I was so distracted by the cultist shadowing you on your way here that I'd nearly forgotten it. Been planning to give you shit about it all day."

Mary surprises Cat with a goodbye hug then totters out of the pub towards the tube. Cat stumbles over to Amit's table, wandering outside with his friends as a unit. Cat is eventually able to drag him away, and they head back to the flat. They ring Elgin from he front step to let him know they're about to come in, so they don't get shot.

[Q: Everything quiet there? Likely (3+): O5 C7 - yes.
Q: Anyone know of decent place to go? 50/50 (4+): O6 C3 - yes, but...
But (1d6): 1 far, 2 temporary, 3 expensive, 4 tiny, 5 occupied, 6 actually a terrible idea: 1d6=2;
Q: Whose idea? 1d12: 1-7 A, 8-11 E, 12 C: 1d12=2

Amit needs to roll 8+ Cha/Persuade: 2d6+2=9, success.]

Amit makes a few calls, and eventually cons a friend of his into letting them crash in the flat he usually sublets -- provided they out before [2d6=9 days] 27 October. Elgin is already packed. Cat and Amit throw their things together quickly; they don't have much, though Amit refuses to leave behind acquired the sizeable stack of Georgian-era novels he's bought at the Oxfam.

[Q: They make it to the hidey hole OK? Certain (2+): O1 C8 - no.

Scene 24 - Ambush

Ambush: The most competent available minion of the Enemy is sent to deal with the PCs in a drive-by attack or sniping attempt. They won’t bother to fire a control shot into downed PCs, so even the mortally wounded might survive, and they won’t hang around long enough to invite concerted response.]

As they are walking down the street away from Gerrit's, an SUV parked well behind them starts up, and drives down to overtake them. The traffic is against them (even at this late hour), but it catches up with them as they are walking down the hill. The tinted window rolls down, the SUV slows, and two blasts from a shotgun ring out. [attack rolls are 1 & 6] Buckshot peppers the pavement about 15 feet behind Cat. The SUV speeds up and races down hill.

Cat starts to run. Amit and Elgin struggle to keep up. Her pace doesn't slacken until she's turned into Waterlow park, and the other two aren't terribly far behind. They take a circuitous route through the park, and then stick to minor streets once they're out other side, eventually traversing Hampstead Heath. At length they decide it's safe to take a night bus into town, then another out east.

They reach Amit's friend's flat by 3am, find the key outside under the flower pot, then go inside and collapse: Cat on the settee, the others two on bare mattresses.

19 October

"So Elgin," says Cat as they are waiting for the takeaway at the end of the street to open, "what do you know about the Star's assets. Specifically, do they have any influence with the Met?"

[Q: Does he know? unlikely (5+): O6 C1 - yes, and...
Q: Do they have any police influence? Likely (3+): O3 C8 - yes.]

"They do, as you'd expect of people in their position. Why?"

"Ring Gerrit, then. I have a plan..."

"He's not the string-pulling type."

"what about Jeanette? or --ugh-- Yaiza?"

"They're probably who you want, but..."

"I know. But this will make things quieter. At least I hope."

"Alright, I'll see what I can do. No promises though."

He makes the call. [He needs to make a Cha/Persuade roll, difficulty (1d6+5=) 9+ : 2d6-1=4, no.]

"Well, what'd he say?"

"He said Jeanette or Yaiza will contact us in their own time, and it's not for him to tell them when that is. He was pretty sanguine about his safe house being compromised, though."

"That's something, I guess. What do we do now?"

"Unless you have any better ideas, we wait."

[Q: How long before they are contacted? 2d8-1d6 days: 6 days]

They spend a few days knocking about the flat. Elgin can afford to order in for food to keep them hidden. Amit calls in a favour or two to get more supplies: mostly beer.

Elgin tries to do research online, [Int/Occult 13+ : 2d6+2=11] but turns up nothing of interest.

Amit tries to drum up a new hideout, [Cha/Culture-Criminal 9+ : 2d6+2=11] with rather more success.

Cat texts Mary to tell her to hang tight. She wishes they could meet at a pub, even if there weren't any new leads to discuss, but Mary is adamant she stay hidden. The drive-by shooting made all the papers, but there are no credible suspects.

DI Wang, for her part, is busy snooping round the station. [She uses her Investigator class ability, Leading whispers, to drum up a clue. Following the lead requires (1d6) 1 Persuade, 2 Research, 3 Stealth, 4 Perception, 5 Security, 6 roll twice: Stealth

Stealth 9+: 2d6+1=11

Clue (as Rumour): Misc-terminology, Minor aid (+1)]

She spends a lot of time walking to and from the kitchenette (at least she's staying hydrated!) and finds any excuse to use the photocopier. All the extra motion pays off when she is finally able to eavesdrop on her colleague who had Cat's file. The conversation starts with the mundane (footie, mostly) but when they think no one is nearby turns towards more esoteric matters, hypothesising that with the new actor in play, it might be time to attempt use of the 'Veiled Sword'. [rolled on the Word Elements tables, SL p.78]

She passes the information on to Cat via text, which Cat shares with Elgin.

[What Do Legends Say Of It? (SL p. 81) 1d4= A few hints exist; Int/Occult difficulty 12 to know them.

Elgin rolls 2d6+2=12!

It's a/an (1d6): 1 entity, 2 group, 3 item, 4 spell, 5 ritual, 6 tome: item

When Was It Created? Sometime in the unfathomably distant past.
What Great Deed Was It Part Of? It somehow consumed the soul of a great wielder of it.
Why Was It Created? To blight and immiserate the wretch who was to receive it.
What is the Basic Curse Effect? It eats the wielder’s sanity, inflicting Madness points.
What Kind of Weapon Is It? A large hand weapon like a sword or axe. (appropriate!)
What’s Uncanny About It? It weighs something wrong for its size and material.]

"I've actually heard of it," says Elgin. "It's said to be an ancient weapon which bears a terrible curse, and eats away at the soul of its wielder."

"Sounds like a pretty naff idea, using something like that."

"Yeah, give me a spongy metal tooth thingy any day."

"Point taken. But hey, maybe let's not share this tit-bit with anyone. I'm not 100% sure of the source and I'm not willing to tip my hand just yet, especially not without knowing what it is I'm showing off."

"Fair dues."

[Q: Do any problems arise? Unlikely (5+): O1 C6 - no

* * *

Scene 25 - meeting with the Star

Q: Is it the same group as last time? likely (3+): O5 C8 - Yes.]

25 October

Gerrit eventually rings up to say the Star wants another meeting. Elgin texts them the address of the new hideout in Bromley-by Bow. The front room of the flat is set up the same way as they had set up for the meeting at Gerrit's safe house, but this time Amit is fully in the circle and they've bought a few bottles of decent(ish) wine from the offie. Yaiza, Jeanette, and Gerrit arrive as punctually as before.

[Q: How is the NPCs' mood? as reaction roll: 2d6=8, neutral

Amit uses Folie à deux (Socialite class ability) on Yaiza to make her favourably disposed towards him. The rules state that "humans tainted by the supernatural may make a Mental Effect saving throw to resist this ability for an hour". I haven't yet determined if she is or not (or if she's totally human, etc.) so I rolled her saving throw pre-emptorily: 1d20=4, a failure whether or not she was due one, so player-me can remain in the dark about her for now.

Q: Did the NPCs get anywhere with their research? Likely (3+): O6 C7 - Yes.
Q: Did they get more information about the artefact? 50/50 (4+): O1 C1 - no, and...
+Event: NPC negative - Yaiza - respect / existence : Jeanette makes her apologise]

"Before we get started," says Yaiza to Cat, "I feel I should apologise for our first meeting. I was unnecessarily harsh with you when I should have been conciliatory. I treated you like a child when you were no worse off than we were, and perhaps knew a bit more about the situation."

"No worries," says Cat. "Things are pretty fucked up. There's a... a significant body count, for starters."

"Yes. quite. And that threatens us all with exposure."

"You don't have any, uh, influence with the police do you? I had a thought about how to turn the heat down."

"We do, but if it were that easy..."

"Hear me out. Have your people bring me in for questioning. My statement can be whatever we need to make this go away, or even point back to the cult, or... well, anyone you're finding inconvenient." [Cha/Persuade 9+: 2d6+0=11]

"A bold proposition," says Jeanette, "though it may have some merit. But why would they want to question you?"

"I disappeared after the cult tried to kill me at my --ahem-- my residence. They killed a couple people trying to get to me, and one of them took a bullet as I was making my escape."

"And I suppose you'd like them to, ah, determine that it wasn't you who fired the shot?"

"I was hoping that, yes."

"It'd be best they do," interjects Amit. "Cat hid the artefact last, so if you want it to remain in play..."

"Of course, says Jeanette. I'd hoped this offer was a demonstration of trust, but on the other hand I have to admire your resourcefulness. Regardless, if we do arrange this interview, you can take it as read that any warrants or suspicions will go away."

"This could take a few days to arrange, says Yaiza."

"We need to move house again," says Amit. "But other than that our dance card is empty."

"Right," says Jeanette. "On to other matters. Elgin, some of this will not be news to you, but the time has come to give our new colleagues a glimpse of the larger picture. Before I begin, though, I find must congratulate you other two on your willingness to accept the reality of everything that's been going on."

"I first met the cult before they were legit. It's why I gave up on them."

"I'm still not so sure about this all," says Amit, "but some seriously messed up stuff has happened, and I can't just explain it away, so..."

"Understood. Now, where to start?  The world, as we know it, is but a small piece -- a layer, if you like -- of a greater reality. You've had some small experience with one of these -- meaning the machine realm we visited in the cave -- first-hand. There are entities of indescribable power -- call them gods, demons, or what have you -- dwelling in some of these places, which mages and mystics have tried to contact through the ages for knowledge, wisdom, or to gain some of that power for themselves. The adherents of the Circle of the Shadow Chalice are firmly in this last category. They are currently engaged in trying to contact, or perhaps even summon, the being called Tlluüb-yog-Lhoguriqvor in certain pre-human scriptures, and known more commonly as the Speaker of the Sleeping Mirrors. These 'mirrors' are in fact gateways, and the stone sphere in the cave is one of them. There's more. Much, much more; but I think this is more than enough to absorb for one day. And leads us back neatly to the problem at hand: how to stop the Circle."

"We tried taking that rock out of the cave," says Amit, "but no joy. I think maybe it didn't let us."

"Do we think they know what it does?" asks Gerrit.

[Q: Do they? Unlikely (5+): O4 C3 - no, but...]

"They must know the artefact's origin," says Jeanette. "The metal..."

"Of course," says Gerrit, "but that's assuming they've been through the gate."

"They tried to bring me in to look at the writing," says Elgin, "but Cat warned me off them."

"There are two ways through, though," says Cat. "With the offerings and without."

"Yeah, the first time she didn't disappear," says Amit.

"We can only guess at this juncture," says Yaiza.

"So, where does this leave us?" asks Elgin.

No one has a good answer for that, so they agree to look into things further, then part to make their various arrangements.

[I've alluded to rolling up the Speaker of the Sleeping Mirrors some time before Scene 18 to flesh out the Circle a bit, but I didn't want to reveal any more than was strictly necessary until now. Beyond generating this entity, all I know about the Other Gods is that there are (2d6+2=) 8 in total, three more independent entities and a pantheon of four. In my second adventure I have started to detail another of the independents, but no one has yet spoken its name. I am determined to keep things mysterious in this campaign as long as possible.  

Trait: relict, from a former age of reality
Portfolio: roads
Mode: See
Epithet: Speaker of the Sleeping Mirrors

* * *

It will take 1d6=5 days to set up Cat's "arrest".

Q: Anything important happen until then? 50/50 (4+): O5 C3 - yes, but...

1d4=Amit has to deal with mundane things in the downtime.
Int/Culture-criminal 6+: 2d6+1=7
Cha/Persuade 6+: 2d6+2=7; a few phone calls to the right people and it's all cleared up.

27 October - move into a new flat]

[Scene 26 - the "arrest"]

29 October

Jeanette rings Cat to discuss her "arrest", which needs to happen the following day. Cat tells her the plan she's cooked up, and the arrangements confirmed. Cat texts Mary the details to keep her in the loop.

30 October

Cat goes back to halfway house, ostensibly to ask staff about collecting her stuff. She starts right in with the insincere apologies, false promises, and arguments they'd be expecting, painting herself as the real victim here and innocent as a saint. She keeps one of them talking whilst the other goes into the office to call the police as she knows they are required to, given that she's wanted on warrant. She's unnerved at just how easily she's fallen back into her old junkie routine, and fortunately the police arrive before too long and take her to the station in handcuffs.

At first, Cat starts to think she's engineered her own demise; everything from the arrest to the beginning of the interrogation is done absolutely by the book. It's only when one of the [1d3=] two interrogators winks at her when asking for her side of the story that she realises it's going to be ok. They ask her a number of subtly leading questions and in the end her innocence is established. When they finally turn off tape, they mention that Jeanette says hi and that she'll be wanting to meet early tomorrow, so get a good night's sleep.

[Mary needed a Dex/Stealth 8+ to get a glimpse of the interrogators: 2d6+1=10, success. Cat's Wis/Perception roll is 2d6+1=4 so didn't notice her there.

Q: Is either of them the one who had Cat's file with the x-ray? Likely (3+): O5 C6 - yes.
Q: Does the x-ray come up during their conversation? Unknown 1d6=6: O5 C5 - no.
+Event:  Move away from a thread - escape/stop cult - make / Friend (see next post)]

Cat texts Mary from the bus. Once she's home she rings her so they can discuss it properly. Mary confirms she knows who the officers in question are, and promises to let Cat know anything else she can find out.

next post: a surprising conclusion

Monday, 25 January 2021

Silent Legions solo - Part 8: Misgivings and sacrifice

16 October

"Hey, Cat, you're finally awake."


"I'll put the kettle on."

"Elgin, are you... cleaning the kitchen?"

"Gerrit rang this morning, says he set up a meting with some representatives of the Message of the Austere Star. They're coming round here at 7:00 for an 'informal chat', as he put it. So I'm trying to make the place a little more presentable. Maybe you and Amit can pop over to the Tesco for some refreshments."

[Scene 21

The Respite scene was set to end on the 16th, so:
Q: What happens next? (1d20) 1-4 ambush, 5-8 conflict, 9 resolution, 10-11 hook, 12-13 intro, 14-17 investigation, 18 socialite challenge, 19 investigator challenge, 20 scholar challenge

Conflict scene: An important Actor has a deep dislike for the heroes for some reason they can’t control. They refuse to give the help or permission the heroes need unless they can be convinced or bribed to relent.

NB It will take 1d6 days (from the 13th) for DI Wang to check up on Ball: 1d6=4 : 17 Oct.]

They aren't expecting a trap, but decide that a bit of caution is the best way forward. Amit has the automatic under his hoodie, Cat sticks the antique revolver under the settee cushions in easy reach, and Elgin has a pocket knife. The door buzzer sounds at 18:58 (Elgin had said they would be punctual), and Gerrit appears with [1d3=] two representatives of the Message of the Austere Star, for whom he makes curt introductions whilst Elgin takes their coats.

[Q: Which has the Conflict? 1-4 Yaiza, 5-8 Jeanette, 9-10 both; 3

Age: Aged or mature in their position.
Profession: solicitor

Age: Aged or mature in their position.
Profession: flautist
British - Black - Caribbean

Yaiza is an older woman, wearing a tailored suit jacket and matching pencil skirt. She looks down at the assemblage over her wire rim glasses with a sour air. Her English betrays even less of an accent than does Gerrit's, and Cat is reminded of the Star's Oxbridge origins.

Jeannette seems much younger than her 50 years would attest, but is only slightly less formal than her colleague; her floral print dress strikes Cat (correctly) as having been bought in one of those chichi boutiques that somehow stay in business despite only ever having six items for sale.

Cat and Elgin share the settee, whilst Amit perches behind on a stool at the breakfast nook. The guest are seated across the coffee table in an armchair and a pair of chairs from the kitchen table.

"I'm sorry for the primitive accommodations," says Gerrit. "But I keep this flat as a safe house, not a conference centre."

"If anyone's thirsty," says Cat, "there's, uh, there's plenty of beer in the fridge. I think maybe that was a miscalculation about how best to play hosts..."

Yaiza declines with a sigh, but Gerrit and Jeanette accept. Jeanette even conceals her disgust when Amit asks if she wants a glass or if just the bottle is ok.

"I'm glad you've agreed to this meeting," begins Gerrit. "I think we can reach a mutually beneficial agreement about the situation." [UNE: friendly - gratitude - last scene]

"So, this is the person the Circle are unable to catch?" says Yaiza.

"That's me," says Cat.

"And just what is your connection to them?"

"Uh, I used to know some of 'em, but that was another life ago. Now, it's just this shit."

"So she's one of them from... before."

"My dear Yaiza," says Gerrit, "she was never actually one of them."

"A hanger-on, then. Really, that's worse."

"No, they were all wankers," says Cat. "I ditched them pretty fast."

"In favour of what, exactly?"

"Nothing that has any bearing on the present."

"That's your assertion."

"Is that a question?"

"Perhaps," interjects Gerrit, "we should discuss our more immediate circumstances and interrogate the past at a later time."

"If we must!" sighs Yaiza.

"The artefact," says Jeanette. "May we see it?"

Amit looks over at Cat for confirmation, then wordlessly goes into the bedroom to fetch it. He brings it back and sets it on the coffee table, teeth upwards, metal glinting in the overhead lights."

[Q: What is their reaction to seeing it? Joyfully / Classy]

"My word!" exclaims Yaiza. "It certainly is everything you said it was, Gerrit."

"May I examine it?" asks Jeanette.

"Knock yourself out," says Cat.

[Is she worthy? Magic save 1d20=20, yes] Jeanette turns it over in her hands, curiously but otherwise unmoved.

"I assume you don't need me to translate the inscription," says Cat.

"Recte dixisti," says Jeanette.

"Let me see it, then," says Yaiza.

[Is Yaiza worthy 1d20=7, no; attempt to not show it: 2d6=6 vs. C's Pcn: 2d6+1=8, vs. E's 2d6-1=9, A's 2d6=7]

She can't hide her sudden revulsion when she touches it. "This--" she shudders, then replaces it on the table and starts again. "This is what they've been after, then. The cause of so much unpleasantness."

"How much do you know about it?" asks Elgin.

[Q: Do they know much? (=Oracle Odds) 1d6=5, unlikely (not much)
Q: How honest are they? 1d6=6!]

"Not a great deal, it must be said," says Jeanette.

"More than us," says Cat. [Persuade 6+: 2d6+0=6 believed] "What do you know?"

"We've heard rumours of this item, but no more," says Yaiza. "We don't know what it's supposed to do, nor by whom nor for what purpose it was made. We'll need to examine it in detail. If you let us bring it back for proper study, we'll be able to understand it. We have considerable resources." [knowing - records - knowledge]

"How stupid do you think I am? I'm not giving it away that easily."

"We'd bring it back--"

"Like fuck you would!"

"Really! I thought we were working together."

"Maybe we are. It's early days yet, so I'm not sure. And I doubt very much if your lot are, either."

"You'd do well to trust us, you know. Or at least listen. Your stumbling about blindly is almost as bad as the Circle's." [hostile - submission - the character]

"I got this far, didn't I?"

"If she isn't going to help us, then I fail to see the point of this interview!"

"This isn't going to get us anywhere!" says Elgin, exasperated. "Cat, I reached out to the Star because they have every reason to help us against the cult, and none at all to stab us in the back. It would be counter-productive for them. But you have to be willing to meet halfway."

"Fine. D'you guys know anything about the cave?"

[Q: Do they ? Unlikely (5+): O1 C8 - no]

"A cave? no. what's the connection."

"It's, uh, let me get my notes." Cat rummages through the end-table drawer to find the pad she bought at the BL. "It was mentioned in a medieval chronicle. In passing. A scholiast's footnote, even."

"That's all?"

"Fraid so. But here it is: 'Atque hoc die veneficum, Sextum Rhemnium, in silva Eppingam in spelunca numinibus obsessa interfectus est, ut dentes rem metalli insoleti quasi maxillam triplicem ornarentur (And on that day the sorcerer, Sextus Rhemnius, was put to death in the a fairy-haunted cave in Epping forest, and his teeth used to adorn an object of strange metal, like a three-pronged jawbone).' That's literally all it said."

"And this Sextus Rhemnius...?"

"A dead end. I couldn't find him mentioned anywhere else."

"Disappointing. So none of us have any idea about its purpose." says Jeanette.

"What about this cave then?" asks Yaiza. "I assume you've found it. Why don't you fill us in. Perhaps that will assist with our research." [scheming - means - previous scene]

"You want to take a field trip? We can go tomorrow, if you want."

[Q: Agree? Likely (3+): O6 C3 - yes, but...]

"This is likely to be a major undertaking, yes?"

"I mean, you should prolly wear trainers, if that's your question."

"We'd need to make sure we had the right team put together."

"We're going to find a little cave, not looking for the source of the Nile. Besides, we go in equal groups or we don't go at all."

"There's no bargaining with  you, is there?"

"I'd be surprised." [Persuade roll 7+: 2d6+0=11]

"Until tomorrow then. Where do we meet?"

"There's a coffee place two doors down from Mile End station. 11:00 to avoid the lunch rush."

"We'll see you there."

Their business concluded, they soon make their exit. Cat, Amit, and Elgin look at one another for a few moments before Amit breaks the silence: "Anyone ever seen Treasure of the Sierra Madre?"

[Q: Anything happen overnight? Unlikely (5+): O2 C6 - no]

[Scene 22]

17 October

The next morning, Cat gets up early to once again stash the artefact at the left luggage in Euston, then meets up with Amit and Elgin to buy a few supplies before heading to the meeting.

[Q: Do the NPCs try anything funny? Unknown 1d6=6, Doubtful: O4 C6 - no.
Q: Do the same 3 arrive? Likely (3+): O3 C1 - yes, and...
Q: Armed? Likely (3+): O1 C3 - no, but... just Gerrit (pistol, knife)

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

Yaiza, Jeanette, and Gerrit are already at the coffee shop when they arrive. After perfunctory greetings, they head back to the tube as a  group and take the train out to Theydon Bois, whereupon they follow Cat along the fairy path into the cave.

There are no signs that anyone has been there recently; the stone codex is still buried.

"It's under here," says Cat, her words echoing in the hollow chamber.

Elgin shows the pictures he took.

"Are you saying we came all this way to see a photo on someone's mobile?" says Yaiza.

"Dig it up if you like," says Elgin.

"I brought a trowel," says Cat. "I think we prolly ought to dig it out if we're to do this right."

The spherical stone is soon uncovered. Everyone crowds round to examine it more closely.

"Well?" asks Cat.

"Well what?" snaps Yaiza.

"What do you make of it?"

"I'd like to know what it's for." [inquisitive - interest - power]

"I can show you. But I have to warn you. It isn't pretty."

A long pause ensues.

"We're waiting," says Yaiza.

"It's not that simple. I need volunteers."

[Q: Does E want to go? 50/50 (4+): O4 C8 - yes.]

"Can you stand guard by yourself, mate?" Elgin asks Amit.

"No sweat. I brought a book."

"No," says Yaiza. "Equal numbers or not at all. As Cat has taken pains to point out. Gerrit, Jeanette, I believe experiments like this relate more to your skill sets than mine."

[1d3=Yaiza stays behind

Jeanette's stats as (1d12): 1-4 cultist, 5-7 1HD cultist, 8-9 2HD cultist, 10-11 PC class level 1d4, 12 high priest; 1d12=4 cultist. Gerrit has cult enforcer stats. I won't roll Madness for them, relying instead on the Oracle to determine their mental states.]

"Right, then," says Cat. "Let's get set up."

Elgin explains his translation as Cat and Amit spread blankets on ground round stone in a + pattern. In the angles between the blankets they place empty plastic takeaway containers and fill them with porridge oats. Yaiza rolls her eyes but is otherwise silent.

"Whose blood, then?" asks Jeanette.

"Mine," says Cat. "Despite my previous life, I still have veins left."

Cat cuts her left forearm, and bleeds over the stone. Amit bandages it for her with a roll of gauze. [1d4=2 damage, leaving her with 5hp. NB the damage is much higher than the simple cut would physically cause, but is in line with the other blood sacrifice spells in the SL rulebook.]

The four lie down on the blankets, heads towards the stone. "If I'd know this were a sleep-ritual," says Jeanette, "I'd not have had a double espresso whilst waiting for you."

"I brought a bottle of valerian, if anybody wants some," says Elgin.

"Is that a good idea?" asks Jeanette.

"Is any of this?"

The bottle of dank-smelling pills is passed round, with lucozade to wash them down. Then they lie back and drift off to sleep...

[Q: Does the blood being only one person's affect things? unknown 1d6=1: o5 C2 - yes, and...
Q: What happens? receive / conversation
Q: Is everything else the same? Unlikely (5+): O2 C6 - no.
Q: What's different? chamber]

...and then they are standing on a rusty iron grating in a cramped space at the bottom of a narrow metal stairwell. The floor vibrates and hums with the rumble of distant mechanisms. The air is think and clammy and has a slight scent of acetone.

"This looks like it did last time, but..."

"But what?" asks Elgin.

"We're in a different part. Like the entrance moved or something."

Cat heads up the stairwell, and the rest follow. At the top is a room with grinding machines in the centre, too loud to shout over. They follow Cat through a maze of dingy metal corridors which lead eventually out onto a walkway. Below them is an immense space [Ceaselessly / Horrible] filled with decomposing, possibly human remains. Now and then a new one falls from a grinding conveyor belt onto the pile.

[Madness +1d10: E+7 to 15, C+3 to 30

Q: How do the NPCs react? Politely / Natural]

Jeanette quietly murmurs, "Oh dear." Gerrit remains silent.

"Let's not go through this way," says Cat. There are no arguments.

They go back in to the corridor and try a new direction. It opens up into a series of interconnected chambers. Machinery thrums and whines softly. There is constant motion. Beside the static machines, the spaces between are [Frantically / Creepy] full of scuttlings and half-seen spidery things rushing about on the fringes of the sleepers' vision.

"Why did you bring us here?" asks Jeanette.

"So we're all on the same page."

"Did you bring the artefact?"

"Of course not. I --we-- don't know what it does."

"Fine. But is there something you wished us to see here?"

"I told you, this isn't the same exact part I was in before."

They continue forward into [Fearfully / Mysterious] a chamber filled with nearly opaque yellow mist, smelling faintly of the morgue. [Peacefully / Scary]

[Q: Must they go through? 50/50 (4+): O5 C7 - yes]

"Do... do we turn back?"

"I'm not sure we can."

"I can't see a thing."

"We'd best join hands."

"Who's leading."

"I will," says Cat, "unless anyone else wants to take over."

She takes their silence as assent. They follow her through the mist, each keeping a hand on the wall to their left. Eventually the wall falls away and they are left to proceed without any reference point.

[Q: How does it end? Hastily / Empty]

They creep forward through the all-pervasive mist for a few minutes or aeons, then there is a loud, resounding click as millions of holes open in the floor beneath them, and a with a hiss the mist is sucked through. A haze persists high above them, obscuring any ceiling, but the metal walls of this immense cavern are surrounding them can just be seen in the distance.

Before them towers [via] an irregular cyst of cold metal.

[Q: Is this related to the receive / conversation result above? 50/50 (4+): O3 C7 - no.]

This looks like the same metal as artefact is made of," says Elgin, and touches it to be sure.

[Q: Does anything happen? Likely (3+): O6 C6 - yes : (as Dark Sorcery effect) Summons a hideous disease at the target site
+Event: Horror - NPC - Jeanette]

As Elgin pushes and prods the spongy metal, the skin on his hand begins to blacken and ooze. He pulls away with a yelp.

[Poison rules seem to fit better than disease here, so... (SL p.156) 1d8=Tissue necrosis. Interval 1 hour, First failed save inflicts 1d4 damage, Adds +1d4 for each failed Interval. 1d6=2 intervals total.

Elgin's Luck save is 13: d20=15!

Jeanette suffers a Dark Vision (ibid. p.173) - hearing - The place the PC needs to be for their purposes. - The PC can talk only of the vision for ten minutes.]

"Listen!" says Jeanette as they are tending to Elgin's gruesome injury. "That sound! We must follow it!"

She runs off. None of the others hear anything, but they don't want her getting separated from the group in this place. They run after her. She keeps pausing to cock her head and listen for the sound that none but her can hear, so fortunately it isn't hard to keep up. She is babbling the whole time about the sound and how it will reveal everything.

The cavern wall comes into sharper view, and Jeanette heads directly for a triangular opening and plunges into the darkness beyond. The rest pause at the threshold, but Cat steps defiantly inward. She walks forward slowly, hands outstretched, and her eyes finally distinguish a feeble yellow glow in the distance. She calls to her companions to follow.

The glow resolves into a doorway. Inside is a room lined with metal shelves, racks, and machinery. Another machine or being grows out of the floor in the centre. Its body is a conical, segmented column. Many whiplike metal appendages protrude from the body at all angles. A small, vaguely human-like head surmounts the column, which is at least 9' tall.

[Its reaction to Jeanette: 2d6=6, neutral

Average armoured Abomination (SL p.150), d6 Madness. C+2 to 32, E+5 to 20; Mental effect (14+) save for Elgin to avoid a Dark Vision: d20=18!]

The thing begins screeching and whirring and moving in an agitated fashion, each body segment twisting in opposite directions, the limbs and protuberances flailing.

The wound on Cat's forearm opens and her blood issues forth in a stream, floating up into the air to the creature's mouth. Its screeches resolve into words in her mind.

"You should not be here."

"we're lost. We aren't exactly sure where here is."

"More seekers after power. You're foolish to disturb our work." [UNE: knowing - examination - campaign]

"Seekers, yes, but only after wisdom. To stop those who foolishly strive for power."

"You understand it?" asks Elgin.

"Yes. Shut up."

"You trespass in the factory. You do not belong. You bring the tribute, yet you are not welcome. You will disrupt the work." [insane - chaos - recent scene]

"Show us the way out. We will gladly leave and trouble you no further."

"Leave through the shining portal. Do not return." [friendly - aid - current scene]

The thing's flailings on one side become more pronounced, though perhaps only Cat notices.

"It wants us to go this way," says Cat. "Come on."

"Wait! What did it say?"

"Later. Let's go before it gets upset."

She doesn't wait for an answer, but walks off between some machines. The others grab Jeanette's hand and follow after.

The corridor ends in a narrow walkway suspended between titanic structures. They clutch the corroded railings as they follow Cat trying not to look down at the impossible machine-landscape, 1000 feet below.
[Q: Is there one last peril? unknown d6=5, unlikely: O1 C4 - no, but... 1d4 Madness for view: C+4 to 36, E+3 to 23]

The dizzying vista would be sufficiently unnerving, but the almost sub-audible screams carried up on the breeze will haunt the travellers' psyches for many weeks to come.

After an eternity they reach the second edifice. The gateway before them is a baroque structure of the spongy, coppery metal. There is dim light within, and yet nothing can be clearly distinguished. One by one, they pass through...

[Q: Any problems? Likely (3+): O1 C3 - no, but...]

...and awaken on the ground in the cave.

"Shit!" yells Amit. "Are you guys ok?!!"

"No," says Elgin. "My hand's really bad. Smells like sepsis."

"Shit mate! What happened?!"

"Chill," says Cat, stifling a yawn. "We're fine. It was really weird. Different--"

"The hell, mate?!"
"See," says Yaiza, "I told you they'd be back. This panic is uncalled for."

"Back?" asks Jeanette. "What do you mean?"

"The stone is a gate of some sort."

"You all fucking disappeared!" says Amit. "This didn't happen last time!"

"The offerings," says Elgin. "They must have activated the gate."

"The blood disappeared with you," says Yaiza, "but the oats are still there."

"I told  you not to get the Tesco value ones," says Cat.

[The bad air does 1d4 damage, Physical save for half; the air actually seeps in from the machine realm, so no one is off the hook.

C save 2 damage to 3hp
A save 1 damage to 5
E fail 1 damage to 2
J fail 3 damage to 1
y save 1 dmg to ? (assuming the NPCs have more than 1 hit point normally)
G fail 1 dmg to ?

Elgin's 2nd poison save: 17, no damage. He can't use his hand for a while, but he won't die...]

"I feel really ill," says Jeanette. "Can we get out of here now?"

next post: police procedural