Awakened Boston - Shadows of the New World

Meeting the Hunters
Sean, Desmond, Keegan

Meeting with the Hunters – Sean, Desmond & Keegan

While you don’t pose the question directly, you’d expect someone to mention it if they’d noticed; yet none of the crew of WE show any awareness of the sudden changes of Jan 19. Vanessa expresses a feeling that ‘the people are coming closer to God these days’, but suggests that this has been coming for a long time. Emory counters that the Church is throwing its weight around more than ever. Drew doesn’t seem to have a strong interest in the issue, and Julio nods mutely when any of his co-conspirators speak, but his expression suggests that may not be in full agreement with them. Bill is working a late shift.

As the topic of religion rears it’s head, there’s a visible divide between Vanessa and Emory. “You can’t trust an ‘organized’ religion.” “But, how the people can know God if not for the church?” “They can pick up the book and READ it!” “And the priests, they are there to help interpret.” “And while the priests are doing that, the bishops are counting money and pressing hands with the pols.” “No, the bishops are to organize the church!” “Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!” “Ey, diablo!”

Despite Emory’s general distrust, his concerns tend to revolve around political issues and the Catholic church’s influence therein. “But I’ll give ‘em this”, he adds. “There’s factions in the church that’re more aware than most about the things goin’ bump in the night, and those factions are no strangers to Boston. There in and out of that Lady ‘o Victories. I’ve seen ‘em. Wish to hell they’d share what they know, but the Network can’t get ‘em to say a word.”

With the perfect segue offered up, you change the topic. There’s an excited look in Emory’s eyes when you ask about NetWork Zero. He offers to show you what they’ve got going on, but warns that he “can’t give you the keys to the kingdom just yet. Not unless you’re willing to go through a … sort of a … background check. I’ll need all your online IDs and your email addresses, and I’ll need to know who your internet provider is. Stuff like that. Think on it while you watch this…"

He types in a long URL and it becomes clear to Rio at least that he’s accessing a hidden TOR server. The page is slow to load, and after a long period of buffering, begins to play a video:

The video starts and the camera is brought up and pointed at what appears to be a hispanic male passenger in a taxi. He is gaunt, with a long, narrow face and sunken, bruised eyes.. The dense urban night-time scene behind the car is out of focus.

The cameraman speaks in what sounds like a middle eastern accent. The passenger has a slight hispanic accent.

cameraman: “Okay, are you ready?”
bq). passenger: “You’re going to keep your end of the deal? If you’re lying to me…”
bq). cameraman: “Yes! But I told you, when the camera is…”

The camera drops. There is a momentary blackness. The image reappears with the camera at a slightly different angle.

cameraman: “Now, are you ready?”

The passenger pauses for 4 or 5 seconds before lifting his eyes to the camera.

passenger: “The man you see is not a man. He is a tool. A disguise. I am using his skin so that I can find the uratha who killed the nego-al. When I do, I will tell the hive, and we will trap them and punish them. Climb in their skin and make them our tools.”

The cameraman pauses, then in a shaky voice…

cameraman: “Now, prove this.”

The passengers mouth seems to unhinge with a pop and the front half and four legs of what looks like an enormous brown, hairy spider squeezes out through his lips, with a dozen glossy eyes staring into the camera, his voice is high pitched and reminiscent of a cricket’s chirping]

passenger: “Take me to the kennel where you saw the …”

The video clip ends.

Emory smiles. “Any takers on that ‘background check’?”

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Player log

Declan tries to summon Etamin’s ghost. Something responds, or at least is detected. Almost indistinguishable from cornstalks. Very slight, blends very strongly with background somehow. Probably feminine. Tries to slink away. He summons it forward and it is a young black woman, mid-twenties, 5’8", slim, cute, bloody gash just below her sternum. Clearly not Etamin or Aganippe.

“Are they still here?” who? “the cultists”
“My name’s ”/characters/khole-reed" class=“wiki-content-link”>Khole" Was kidnapped by cultists, fears they will kill her.. well, actually they already did, but she doesn’t understand that yet.
Cultists: 5, white, one was a woman, wearing brown robes
“They grabbed me after work” “I work at the Tropical Island on Bodwin” A Dominican restaurant in Dorchester. Took a couple hours for the cultists to drive out with her, then dragged her through the woods, across a stream.
She’s nervous with us, keeps asking if we are with the cultists. But looks “into our souls” (reflexively) and seems to relax after looking at Alex.
What day was it? Friday, beginning of August.

We start to leave. Khole walks toward Alex in particular. She reaches up and puts her hand on Alex’s shoulder and disappears, Alex feels a cold shiver. Claims to still be Alex…. still knows her major, the name of Arathnos, etc. So, apparently still her.

Alex prefers not to have a “rider” so we decide to make a Soul Jar to carry her out instead. Declan uses Blackthorn’s flask (sigh) to make a jar that will last 24 hours. Several tries by both Declan and Aurigae (and a bunch of paradox, since this is vulgar) and eventually this succeeds.

Go to Naumkeag longhouse. Path back is slightly different.
Faint sound of crying from the round longhouse.

Aurigae looks through longhouse. Three sections. First section, crying woman weeping over three pock-marked bodies of children. Second section, trio of spirits (human-looking) around a fourth body, eating it. Third section, older looking figure sitting before a fire, blanket over his shoulder, chanting. Center courtyard has entrances to each chamber. Entrances covered with deer hide.

Looks like we could climb over. We do notice a spot on the roof where maybe there has been some traffic. This is above the “feast”. We put together a crude ramp to get up on roof more easily (and magically enhance its integrity).
We go up, over, and down into the courtyard. There are three entrances as expected. Go through entryway into chamber with the chanting man. He stops his chanting and looks at us. Arturo, Blackthorn, Darasgath, Rio enter.
“My people are dead, and my power is broken, how does the white demon attack me today? Why do you not let me fade and die?”
“The harm you have done is done.”
Why do you chant over your fire? “I seek forgiveness.”
He knows of the cultists. He also knows of our power as mages. He asks what we would offer in trade for information. We offer to preserve the memory of his tribe. “And if I demand more? If I want more than memory? I want my medicine society. I want my rituals practiced again.”
Rio offers to record his message in his own words, with his own likeness, to be distributed…
“That’s the problem. You don’t want to practice my rituals.”
Darasgath says he is willing to learn and do. He calls to his soldiers to invite us in and make us part of their society. They open their doorway hide. They are painted in blue. There are three of them “dining”. The rest of us give Darasgath funny looks but he goes and joins the feast.
(He fails his morality check and loses 1 Wisdom. No degeneration though.)
The chief is impressed. “Even your enemies were not willing” to do this.
“Your enemies made a pact with me. That if I let them use this place” and do their rituals here, it would liberate the knowledge of his people and make that knowledge widespread in the world. They were working with a demon that would make the knowledge widespread.

They do not like the way the world is changing, so they wanted to rewrite the history of the world. And in doing so, will write the history of the Naumkeag back. He knows they can do this, because it is the demon that destroyed his people.
Chief does not know how it is summoned or controlled, they do not share it. They called it “the Scribe”.

They have not come here for some time. “I do not know if they will return. They came with prisoners many times and did their rituals with them.”
When the demon did its acts to his people, it was carrying out the orders of the people who summoned it.
He doesn’t care about the demon per se, but he does want his practices to survive.

Rio questions the evidence for their claims. But the chief believes them, he felt the change.

They did their rituals once every turn of the moon.

Chief agrees to give the details of the ritual to Darasgath. Also offers that if his tribe’s knowledge becomes widespread, he might be able to provide elsewhere. But right now he is bound in the Wood. Chief also agrees to let us have safe passage, to do our rituals here, and to keep secret from our enemies what we have done. Darasgath goes with the Chief, the others of us are dismissed. Takes about an hour.

Rio and Blackthorn look in on the weeping woman. She is eyeless, her face is entirely blank except for a mouth. Expressing a question, “why?” Blackthorn responds. There is some kind of power expressed, feel a sense of remorse.

Desmond comes down, directs a sense of “calm” at her. She stops wailing, sinks to her knees, looks up blankly. Mutters, “they’re gone.” “The children. All the children are gone.”
Of the cultists: “they could not give me any answers. I wanted to know why the visitors came, and why they brought death with them.”
She wants “the world to forget that my children have died”. Maybe then they won’t be dead, they will still be in the world.

Note: the mage here who summoned the demon, in fact summoned the Scribe. (He had called it, “He who reveals wisdom in the fading moonlight.”) We realize we should go back and talk to him again.

Darasgath returns.

Leave the longhouse, hike back to where the mage was, at the magic circle we destroyed. A couple hours hike.

We know: he was part of the cabal “Appona’s Chariot”, and he participated in the ritual to summon the demon, although he was not the one who knew about it. “She read her mind.” “She was our leader.” “She knew the other one was thinking about it.” (Desmond sees a symbol in his head, something greco-roman, a woman on a chariot.) The member had been to Egypt. Maybe had learned about it there. He thinks so. Ask about the ritual. (Desmond sees a memory of holding down a person. The leader slicing into mid-abdomen below the sternum with a knife, pulling out the heart. Figure on the ground is scarred and bleeding, probably from several hours of ritual. It’s actually a very mundane ritual, not like an Awakened spell, at least as he remembers it. There is a series of names being called. Concept of a crescent moon granting understanding, concept that history is not a fixed series of events.)

“If they were never born, they couldn’t kill us. If that medicine society was never made, they wouldn’t be here. I think that had some… We wanted to just erase that part [of history] but I guess when you do that, you’ve got to write something else in its place. We didn’t really think about that.” Who wrote in that blank space? He supposes the demon filled it in. He doesn’t know what it was. (Desmond sees: victim in ritual, with a creature, not quite human, using her skin as a writing surface. Tracing in words. Image fades quickly.)

Desmond wants to remove Sheila Little’s memories. We discuss where to put them, so they will be trapped in the Wood rather than returning to her. Decide to put them in this mage — as a spirit he is capable of having memories, and he is trapped here. And he kind of deserves it….

This requires a ritual. 3+6=9 successes in 2 hours. Desmond puts her to sleep so she won’t remember the trip out.

We hike back to the exit/entry point. Four hours or so. Continue down the trail and… suddenly we are no longer on the dirt path, we are now stumbling down a stony embankment into a frozen stream – in the real world, not in the spirit world. (We had entered directly from the real world.)It’s dark.

Blackthorn releases Khole’s ghost from his flask.

Discuss what to do with Sheila. We ask Menelaus if the Dead Wrens could keep her safe, and he agrees. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Desmond makes a portal back to the cars.

~Hour and a half later, in Boston. Approaching midnight. Menelaus takes Sheila and leaves.

We go drop in on Bina.

Find out that Khole (the ghost) had originally disappeared in Aug 2012, about a year and a half ago.
Things to do:

  • Look up Khole’s history
  • Cross-reference Sheila’s writings with the dream journals and with history
  • Look into new history of the Naumkeag
  • Talk to Mysterium, look for info on the Scribe
  • Look in library in Salem for info on Scribe
  • Try to find leads on Pope (gray robe) or his cultists (brown robes)… what?
  • Try to find connections from Church of the Red Word

Desmond asks which church has gained the most benefit from the world change. Catholic?

  • Maybe look at religious makeup of Congress and government, did one faith get the biggest boost?

(It’s February 10th, 2014. The change happened January 19th.)

  • Desmond suggests we talk to the Hunter, Emory Clark — if there is a secret conspiracy cult within the church, he should know about it. If we can narrow it down between his different crazy ideas to pick just one….
    Rio tries to find online info along these lines. He does find references to Network Zero (Emory’s source) but all links pointing to it are 404’ed.

Later: we do find out that Sheila does not remember what was erased, although she still cannot speak properly.

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In the Wood of Empty Houses - Pt. 2
Dead and Gone

The cabal of Wintere’s Thorn and it’s guests trek their way back to the strange hut where Sheela Little was held captive and follows one of the two paths into the cornfield. There are no signs of any spirits at the mound there, but three toed prints that may have been made by the strange bird you saw (and which Desmond shot) are visible in its soft soil.

With the ‘discovery’ of a few shovels by Mr. Blackthorn and Aurigae, and perhaps a little magical aid, you make short work of the shallow graves (work which would have gone faster had Desmond put a little more back into it) and discover a dozen bodies in various stages of decay. Trisiphone backs off from the dig as soon as some of the more pungent remains are unearthed, and Sheela stays as far away from the affair as possible, babbling incoherently all the while.

Trsiophone quickly identifies the missing member of her cabal mate, Aganippe, and Aurigae likewise points out the body of his student, Etamin. Both of them, and all of the other bodies that still have flesh enough to hold the evidence, have large gashes beneath their sternums through which, it seems, their hearts were withdrawn.

The 10 other bodies unearthed have clearly been dead for longer than these two, as each one revealed is more decomposed than the last. To the forensic eye of Desmond, it’s clear that the oldest body has been dead for well over a year, perhaps two. Magical examination agrees with his assessment.

In most cases the bodies were buried with at least some of their personal belongings. Half of them have wallets or bags buried with them, but a search of these reveals nothing about their bearers. Every drivers license is blank; there is no name, no picture, no date of birth, or anything else beyond a hologram of the state seal and other marks indicating where the information would go. Credit cards and other items are likewise missing names and the like. Even the electric bill of one of the victims (who seems to have been somewhat behind in her payments) has an address printed on it, but only empty space on the line above this.

The cornfield is as still as a painting. Crestfallen looks abound, and Blackthorn’s flask makes the rounds in a series of toasts to the dead

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In the Wood of Empty Houses - Pt. 1
Discovering Sheela Little and the Ward

Following the instructions of the Hierarch of Salem, and the ‘orders’ of specter called Black-Eyed John, Winters Thorn and their companions plumbed the Wood of Empty Houses for its secrets, looking for the magi who’d gone missing near its entrance. With the aid of the Changeling Alturo they gained temporary control over one of the Unfed, who was set to watch the paths for ‘trespassers’, and bypassed the dire looking village of Naumkeag. They then discovered and liberated the fugitive Sheela Little (accused of killing and eating part of her boyfriend) who was literally chained to a desk, and is suffering from an unusual speech impediment. Finally the workings of a powerful ward were discovered; one which appeared to be the power that prevented Black-Eyed John from entering the Wood. With a ritual of their own Mr. Blackthorn and Alexandria decomposed the ward.

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When Last We Left Our Intrepid Heros...
Restarting the Awakened Boston Campaign in the Wood of Empty Houses

As instructed you mustered amongst the centuries old headstones of Mountain View Cemetery and waited for the Red Coat, the ghost solder, Black Eyed John, to meet you. Trotting from the ether on his spectral steed, he paused briefly to ‘inspect’ his troops and, declaring you fit for battle, lead you south, then east toward the shore of Quabbin reservoir.

Within site of the man made lake, John turned north again to lead you up the icy length of Egypt Brook, where you splashed in the shallow water and slipped over the frozen rocks until your guide stopped a dozen yards short of where the stream split in a Y. “There” he said, looking to the bank ahead of you, and drew his sword. “Chaaarrrge!” John spurred the flanks of his mount and galloped over the rocks and up the snowy slope, heedless of the slick ascent or the ‘soldiers’ he left behind him. Dutifully you plunged after him and ascended the rise where you felt yourself cross the threshold between here and there. On the far side there was no John in his tarnished red coat, no snow or ice, no babbling stream; only a beaten path snaking ahead of you below naked oak branches and between green pine bows swaddled in mist.

You are standing there now. You are standing in the Wood of Empty Houses.

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