Kapre Aswang

Session 33
Hotel Shootout

Mid Afternoon, Day Eight

The Awakened are in a secret bunker inside a high rise hotel on Spring Hill.  The room has to predate the apocalypse, nine burnished steel caskets, polished concrete floors and walls, a vault like door, and ceiling with discretely recessed lights.  It feels both utilitarian and top class.

Three of the steel caskets are open, their occupants slaughtered.  To Spirit Sense the others are empty.  It’s very quiet in the room.  The walls must be very thick.

Anthony:  “Do we want to hang around until this door opens?  Or do we want to just disappear, go back to the Tree?”

Belinda still has Exalted Perception active, aware of the world, of stars, and of space.  She can sense the cries and suffering of many people confined in a space somewhere below the Awakened’s feet and also feel a powerful, blood drenched presence over the road which seems to be aware of the Awakened, watching them back.

Belinda:  “So I think there’s people downstairs that may need help.  Whether we want to help them or not…”

Anthony:  “We can’t figure out how to get this door open…  So we’d have to come back through the front door if we were going to help anybody in this building.”



Investigations

Anthony looks inside the four sports bags which Saul had previously found and brought over to block the door.  They contain a mix of ammunition and cash.  There’s bullets, shells, coins, and notes.  Some of the ammunition is in boxes, some loose.  Much of the cash is blood stained.  It’s unordered and in random denominations as if collected from several hundred wallets.  Anthony starts consolidating the ammunition into two bags, leaving the money behind.  

Saul ponders the caskets in their three by three grid.

Saul:  “How many Blud Oth did we know of?”

Anthony:  “Six?  Seven?”

That tallies with Saul’s impression that Rick and his two brothers here were drawing strength from a few nearby sources when they fought the Awakened.  The opened coffins don’t have much inside them, some spare clothes and personal effects.  There is a screen, usb ports, and control panel inside each casket, but nothing outside, just bare burnished steel.  It seems as if they were meant to be controlled from the inside.

Looking up from packing the bags Anthony realizes that the control panel by the room’s vault like door has a three by three grid of buttons on it, numbered one to nine.  Six of the buttons are dimly lit, while three are dark.  The pattern of buttons which are dark matches the pattern of caskets which are open.  He stands and press a few of the buttons that are lit.  With a clank caskets unlock and lids open on smooth hydraulics.  Led lit panels inside the freshly opened caskets come alive and their corresponding buttons on Anthony’s wall panel go dark.  Anthony presses the last three lit buttons and the last caskets open.

The Awakened wander around, looking inside.  The empty feeling caskets really are empty.  Their inner upholstery has the freshly cleaned, crisp smell of a high class hotel.  Saul looks but can’t find any maker’s marks or logos, probably custom made by a discrete supplier.



Leaving the Room

Anthony looks at the wall panel again.  There are a couple of buttons with arrow symbols above the one to nine grid.  He presses one.

Thump, thump, thump.  

The sound of heavy pins in the vault door thumping back echoes in the room.  Slowly it starts to hinge outwards.

Startled voices echo from the other side.  “Hey what!”  “Oi Rick’s coming out!”

Saul readies his shotgun.  Belinda her uzi.  Anthony presses the other arrow button and the heavy vault door stops, swings closed again with a soft but heavy thump that cuts off the sound from outside.

A muffled knock sounds through the steel door.  Saul burrows his roots outwards detecting four humans gathering outside.  Their footsteps are heavy upon the infiltrated floor.  Saul senses vampiric blood diffused within their human flesh, an equivalent Puissance to Release Level One.

Saul:  At least four ghouls.

Anthony {exhilarated}:  “Well.  How many people could there possibly be in this building?  Lets go out and have some fun!”

Belinda {serenely violent}:  “Off we go then!”

Anthony:  “Are all your guns reloaded?  We’ve got a couple of bags here to prep yourselves.”

He’s got one bulging sports bag of ammunition over his shoulder, another at his feet.  The other two bags look deflated with only cash inside, probably strew around as well.  

Saul grabs the other full bag.

Belinda:  “Any uzi clips in there?”

They have a quick rummage.  They don’t find any clips, but they do find a box of 9mm bullets.  Most of the bullets seem like they’ve come from gun shops but some have definitely come from elsewhere, with Nato rounds (5.56mm and 7.62mm) in army issue containers mixed in among boxes of civilian .223 and .308 calibers.  There are even a few .50 machine gun rounds as well.  Most of the ammunition is loose, like the cash, it was probably taken from multiple sources.

Belinda settles for swapping out her partially empty clip to one she prepared earlier and shoving the box of nine millimeter rounds in her pocket.  Zipping the bags up Anthony takes one, Saul the other.  Anthony has his brush hook ready, Saul his austyr, Belinda her uzi.

Anthony:  “Ok.  About four of them you say.”

Saul:  “At least four.”

Anthony pushes the button.  The bolts slide back with heavy thumps.  The door starts to swing open.

Rough voice:  “Hey! Hey it’s opening again!”

Another rough voice:  “Rick!  Is anything wrong?”

As the door swings wider a ganger pokes his head into the gap.

Ganger:  “Rick?!”

Anthony swings down with his brush hook.  The blade carves right through the man’s neck and his head comes right off.  There’s a moment of horrified silence from the other side of the opening door then.

Ganger B:  “Oh Fuck!  Get the guns!”



Hotel Shootout

Saul steps past Anthony into the opening doorway.  From this angle he can see the back of one of the ganger guards as he runs for a door in the far wall.  The room outside seems to be some kind of lavish antechamber.  There are elevator doors opposite the vault as well as coffee tables, arm chairs and couches.  It is carpeted and has all of the five star glitz that the bunker room lacks.

Saul fires a short burst.  It’s a wild shot.  Bullets ricochet off the inside of the opening vault door, stitch their way through a chair and clip the fleeing ghoul in the back.  He stumbles, bleeding heavily, but keeps running for the door.

Belinda steps along side Saul and fires a three round burst.  The bullets punch though his back and he falls, only barely alive as he crawls through his own blood toward cover.

There are sounds of the remaining gangers scattering, bursting through doors, rolling over couches and grabbing for guns etc.  “We’re under attack!”  “Help!”  “They’re shooting people.”

Saul {laughing}:  “They left their guns behind when they went to investigate noises?!?”

Belinda:  “Rick would be so proud.”

As the door swings to halfway open Saul fires a single shot into the crawling ghoul, putting him down.

Belinda draws on the Tree to manifest some Petal Fall Hair.  She moves to the edge of the door, spots a gun toting ganger behind an armchair on the other side of the room, and fires a three round burst.  Stuffing flies as bullets rip through fabric, leather, and flesh alike.  The ganger groans, heavily injured.

In passing, Anthony lays hands on Saul, investing aura to bring peace from the dappled shade of Verdure, suppressing some of Saul’s vampire and human instability.  Then Anthony moves out around the opening door and charges across the room, swinging his brush hook down at the injured ganger, cowering behind the armchair.  The brushhook carves through the man’s chest and chair’s leather.  

The ganger is alive but only just, spending blood to heal he brings his shotgun up and shoots at Anthony.  He’s shaky, the blast misses completely, lead shattering one of the lights.

The other ganger has made it into one of the side rooms.  The door, wooden, has swung shut behind him but the Awakened can hear him yelling.  

Ganger D:  “Someone’s taken out Rick!  Quick!”

Using the almost open vault room door as cover Saul, raising his austyr to aim at the wooden doors on the other side of the antechamber.  He readies to shoot any gangers who may emerge.

There’s more yelling from inside the adjacent room.

Ganger E:  “What the fuck you talking about?”

Ganger D:  “Get your guns!  Hurry up.  We’re under attack.”

Ganger E:  “You’re fucking crazy.  How’d they get past you?”

Despite some noises no one emerges from the adjacent room.

The heavily injured ganger behind the arm chair spends blood to heal and pumps a fresh shell into his shotgun.  He has another go at shooting Anthony, but misses, still too weak to control the weapon properly.

Belinda joins Saul in lining up on the door across the antechamber, ready to shoot.

Anthony hits the injured ganger.  The ganger tries to scoot back but the blade catches him again and he goes down.  An ordinary human would be dying at this point, but as a ghoul he’s probably got enough vampiric blood in him to regain at least one health.  Anthony leaves him, crossing to the adjacent room’s door and smacking it open with the but of his brush hook.

A much more regular hotel room is revealed, with a shower door off to one side, bed’s and tv beyond.  One ganger is getting up from a bed, tv still blaring.  Another, wet haired and wearing a towel is emerging from the shower area holding a nine mill handgun.  The ganger who fled into this room from the antechamber is shrieking and and yelling at them.  

Saul and Belinda take their readied shots.  The ganger on the bed throws himself backwards as bullets thud home.  The yelling ganger is cut down where he stood (I think).  While the towel wearing one ducks back into the shower area.

Saul acts next (pretty sure I messed something up here).  He fires a short burst at the ganger behind the bed.  Feathers fly the ganger collapses in his own blood.  

The ganger who was cut down heals enough to roll over and try and shoot Anthony.  He misses, putting a hole in the wall instead  

Anthony:  “You’re gonna regret that!”

Belinda advances across the antechamber, manifesting more Petal Fall Hair.  She has line to shoot into the bathroom and does so, heavily injuring the towel wearing ganger.  He heals a bit returns fire with his hand gun, a three round burst which draws some blood from Belinda.

Anthony lets the door swing closed and crosses back to finish the collapsed ganger by the armchair.  It’s a massive slash that finishes the ganger ghoul’s life just before he could have spent blood to regain consciousness.

From the vault door Saul looks around the antechamber.  There’s no sign of reinforcements or movement from the fallen gangers.  He readies to fire back into the bedroom area if the door opens again.

Belinda readies as well.

Anthony crosses back and pushes the door open again with the end of his brush hook.  The towel wearing ganger is standing, looking at his wounds aghast.  As the door opens he tries to throw himself back into the bathroom.  Saul’s bullet hits the door frame where he’d been standing.  Belinda’s three round burst takes him through torso.  Somehow he keeps to his feet and retreats.  Anthony charges into the room and swings down to finish the ghoul who’d fallen behind the bed. 

There are muffled whimpers from inside the bathroom.

Anthony:  “You in there.  You can walk out guns down or we can walk in guns up.”



Questions and Screams

Towel wearing Ganger:  “Alright.  I’m coming out.”  

He staggers out empty handed and bleeding heavily.  Spending the last of his vampiric blood to keep himself standing.

Ganger:  “Who are you people?  How’d you get in here?”

Anthony:  “We used the back door”

Ganger:  “What fucking back door!?  What are you talking about?”

Anthony:  “How many of you in this building?”

Ganger {pauses}:  “All the people getting the blood.  All the regular ones, the trust worthy ones.  Maybe thirty or forty of us?  Plus the slaves.”

Anthony:  “How many of you that aren’t ghouls?”

Ganger:  “It depends what you mean.  It’s sort of like payment.  On the top level, we get blood regular, but all the shit kickers down below, they might get some, they might not.  But every one has to have had a taste to get in the building.  You can’t betray the masters.  It depends on how quick you use it up.  Some people make it last, some use it up first day.”

Anthony:  “So how many of you drink your own blood.  You know, go down and bite a slave and get your own.”

Ganger:  “Oh I know what you mean, like the chosen?”

Anthony:  “Yep.”

Ganger:  “Oh maybe twenty, thirty.  But the chosen, they’re all asleep.”

Anthony:  “Which floors?”

Meanwhile Saul has lost the battle with temptation.  Arms streaking green he starts Devouring the soul from one of the fallen.  In Flow State, Belinda is quick to follow suit.  Torn screams echo from dead souls.  

The injured ganger pales further, flinches back.  “What the fuck are they doing!?”

Anthony:  “They’re just drawing the blood.  Our way is a bit different to yours.”

Ganger:  “Oh shit.  Yeah man I’ll tell you anything you want to know.   Just don’t do that to me.”

The dead ganger’s souls yield a mix of fragments and some put more resistance than others.  Belinda and Saul spend down their manifestations to fuel their Devour attempts.  The screams continue.

Ganger:  “All the people that have been turned they’re upstairs.  They’re upstairs in the best of the ordinary rooms upstairs.  This room’s special, for Rick and his boys.  Us candidates, we’re supposed to guard them during the day.  You know they sleep?  I’m not even sure I want to be turned.  They’re so vulnerable when they sleep, you know?.”

Anthony:  “Yeah.  We do kinda.”

Ganger {sycophantic cringing}:  “Whatever you guys are.  I’ll follow you!  Just don’t hurt me!  Don’t do whatever the fuck you’re doing to them!”

Anthony:  “I don’t think you’re quite…  cut out for our side of the fence.”

One of the ganger’s souls puts up quite a struggle Belinda fights it, drawing more power to drag it back and rip it apart.

Anthony: “Argh, amateur hour in the yard.”

Belinda {approaching the next temptation state}:  “Well excusee me.”

Ganger:  “Well… ah…  are you guys taking over or something?”

Anthony:  “We were just passing through and saw an opportunity.  Nothing to worry about.”

Ganger:  “Well don’t let me get in your way…”

Anthony:  “So what about the army guys?  How many of them hanging around?”

Ganger:  “No.  No we don’t do anything with the army as far as I know.  What do you mean?”

Anthony:  “Oh I thought I saw an army guy I recognize walking in the front door.  Or have you guys got people in the army?”

Ganger:  “I don’t think so.  That’s…  I wouldn’t know.  Maybe Rick?”

Anthony:  “Rick won’t know.”

Ganger {paling further}:  “Oh fuck.  Yeah no I didn’t think we had anything to do with them.  They’re still out there somewhere aren’t they?  I heard that on the long night there were some army guys that got overrun.  You know by the guys that got turned, that were recruited before things went to shit?  I came in after that.  Fucking zombies everywhere and I just heard to come here you know, get work and get paid, somewhere safe.”

One of the Devoured souls yields a fragment of Wits.  Saul Absorbs it, raising his human instability a bit.  With an act of Will he resists the Temptation to Devour the remaining victim, leaving him in Flow State.  Belinda Devours the remaining souls.

Anthony:  “So working on the theory that…   that room is now empty.  Who’s the next step down and where are they?”

Ganger:  “I…  I dunno.  I guess it would depend on how many of the masters were in there.  Rick’s dead?  Is that what you’re saying?”

Anthony:  “I don’t know Rick off the top of my head.  Let’s just say that three, three or four of them that were sleeping in there…”

Ganger:  “Well I think there’s like six or seven of the Masters.  They…  they worship the scary lady.  You don’t fucking go near her.  Not if you can help it!  You know sometimes people take slaves over to her and she’ll just take the slaves, the messengers, the guards, everyone!  But I guess it’d be some of the vampires?  But you know they all come from different gangs and shit.  I don’t know who’d end up running the show.  It’s like they worship her.  Her and the Masters.”

Anthony:  “So what’s your name?”

Ganger:  “Kurt.”

Anthony:  “Righto.”  {turning to the others}  “What do you think we should do with Kurt.  He’s got a lot of information we could probably use about what’s going on, but I don’t want to spend thirty minutes having a chat with him right here.  Gotta make sure the people we left in the train station got away too.”

Saul: “Well…   Just kill him I guess.  That’s the easiest solution.”

Kurt:  “Nah!  I can!  I can!  I don’t know what I can do for youse, but I can help you somehow!  Don’t kill me!”

Saul:  “Did he tell you where the other vampires were?”

Anthony:  “Yeah up, in the penthouses.”

Saul {turning to Kurt}:  “Can you take us up there?”

Kurt:  “Yeah!  Yeah!  I’ll take youse up there!  I mean they’re sort of…  You know because they were gang kids and shit they might not…  I might have to sort of persuade to get you up.  They get a bit touchy about letting people close, you know?  Rick and his boys, they liked us guarding the front room ‘cause we weren’t.  You know, we’re just loyal to them, we don’t have any of those pre-existing loyalties and shit.”

Saul:  “Are you loyal to us?”

Kurt:  “Yeah yeah!  I’ll be loyal to you!”

Anthony:  “Righto.  Well we’ll start at the top then.  Does this lift go all the way to the penthouse or is this a single entrance?”

Kurt:  “It’ll go up, if the generator’s running, usually we can’t leave during the day.  Umm…  I can ring down to persuade them, get it started somehow.”

Saul:  “Is there anyone else on this floor?”

Kurt:  “Nah, just us five.  We just stand here, guard, just literally to stop anyone coming through the lifts.  I didn’t think it was necessary, but however the fuck you guys got in I don’t know.”

Belinda:  “You didn’t fail your job…”

Kurt:  “They didn’t tell us anyone could come out from the inside!  It was easy duty.  You get a bit of blood and some ammo and shit and fuck all chance of anything happening really.  You know, you got to climb up the lift shaft to get in here and its a bank vault!  It’s like guarding a bank door!”

Saul:  “Well you get that lift working, and get us where we want to go, and you’ll be rewarded for it.”

Kurt:  “Yeah all right.  I’ll do my best.”

Saul:  “If stop being useful to us…   Well, you’ve seen what happens.”

Belinda is just getting onto the last of the dead ganger’s now.  Soul torn screams echo from the bathroom.  Anthony goes to help.  Kurt looks at Saul.

Kurt:  “Can I wait until the screaming stops?  Kinda hard to persuade ’em.”

Saul:  “Yeah alright.”

While Anthony and Belinda finish tearing the last soul apart Saul goes round collecting the ghoul guard’s firearms.  He gets a handgun, a couple of shotguns, a rifle, and an army issue austyr.  Stripping out the ammo he leaves most of the guns behind, only slinging the austyr over his neck.

During his search Saul has time to appreciate the quality of the furnishings, etc.  He notes a plaque over the vault door which reads ‘The Prince Welcomes You’ but has been scratched out and scrawled over with a large swastika.  The rooms off to the side of the antechamber were obviously meant as sleeping area for retainers.  They’ve suffered under ganger occupancy with left over food and trash lying around, dirty beds, etc.

While he does this Saul asks Kurt more about the vampires.  Kurt tells him that Rick and his boys were quite businesslike, paying gangers in blood and ammo for things they want done, as well as food, drugs, and slaves.

Kurt:  “They got lots of slaves.”

He tells Saul the vampires are standoffish and cliquey.

Kurt:  “They all love each other.  You know the head of each gang has a lot of power over the others.  They’re never gonna turn people like us, it’s a fuckin lie.  Like I say I’m not sure we should turn.  Us ghouls, we’re people who survive.  We got our own hotel and food, you know stuff like that.  There’s a lot of hangers on, you know get a taste every now and then, but its a big score for them to get blood!”



Intercom Shenanigans

Silence descends as Belinda and Anthony straighten from their last victim.

Kurt:  “I’ll ring down now then shall I?”

Anthony:  “Yep.”

Kurt gulps and goes over to the lift.  Inside he lifts the emergency phone, the panel for which has already been opened.

Kurt:  “Hey ah.  Can you guys start the generator up?  We gotta come down.”

Phone voice:  “What?  Nah mate, fucking not starting that till sunset.  It’s worth my fucking life!”

Kurt {botch on subterfuge}:  “Ah nah, we gotta come down.  Tom’s ah…  real fucking sick, and we don’t want to catch it whatever it is.  You don’t want to catch it do you?”

Phone voice: “You can wait three hours.  Lock him in a room, leave him alone, I don’t fucking care.  I got my orders mate.”

Kurt looks at the Awakened real scared like.

Anthony:  “Is the guy you were just talking to at the bottom?”

Kurt:  “Yeah yeah.  In the basement, you know where the operations for that sort of shit are.”

Anthony:  “Alright.  Which one’s Tom?”

Kurt points to one of the soul Devoured corpses.  Anthony drags it over to the lift.  He opens the access hatch in the roof and pushes the corpse up through.  Climbing after it among the cables he pushes the corpse down the shaft.

One second, two second, thump.

Anthony:  “Now you’re going to call down stairs.  You’re going to say that Tom went a bit crazy and he just jumped out of the elevator.”

Kurt:  “Yeah alright.  I’ll give it a go.”

Trembling he lifts the handset back up.

Kurt:  “Ah…  It’s me again.  Tom’s just gone a bit mental.  He jumped out the fucking elevator.”

Phone voice:  “You said he was sick!”

Kurt:  “Yeah yeah he got up and he…  he ran for it somehow.  He was desperate to get down.  Can youse let us down?”

Phone voice:  “No!  What the fuck are you talking about?”

Kurt:  “Fuck!  You gotta fucking let me out!  You don’t understand how important this is!  If you don’t let me down I’m gonna die!  We’re all gonna die!”

Phone voice:  “No we’re not letting you down the lift mate.  You can stay there.”

The conversation devolves into swearing and crying.

Anthony:  “Kurt right?”

Kurt {looking up}:  “Kurt yeah.”

Anthony:  “So is that lift the only way to get up and around?  Fire stairs?  Emergency exit?”

Kurt:  “I.. I think the rest of the hotel has the normal stuff like fire stairs and access and things, but its the only way for this bit.  It’s like a secret floor, you know?  I guess they weren’t real concerned about fires, you know all that concrete and shit…”

Anthony: {sighs}  “So how do we get to the basement.  You know where all the people are, all those slaves.”

Kurt:  “Ah..  Well they’re in the lower carpark, you know.”

Anthony:  “So does this lift go all the way down there?”

Kurt:  “Yeah, when it’s on.  Or if you get to a lower floor there’s the fire stairs.  You can take them down too.”

Anthony:  “How many floors up are we?  Seven?  Eight?”

Kurt:  “Ah..  I think it’s about eight?  I think the whole building’s got about fifteen and we’re right in the middle.  I think it’s between seven and eight.”

Anthony:  “And the generator’s where?  In the basement?”

Kurt:  “Yeah, yeah.  I mean its manned.  We keep it separate obviously, but the control room’s down there.”

Anthony:  “How many people in the basement.  How many guards in the generator room?”

Kurt:  “Oh not that many, five or six?  A lot more with the slaves of course.  Ten or fifteen more for the slaves, you know, keep them down.  They tried to rush us once so…   we had to shoot a lot of them, but this is a different batch.  They go through them quick, the vampires.”

Anthony:  “Yeah they usually do.”  {pause}  “You got any rope?”

Kurt:  “Ah, not me…   There’s…  There’s bed sheets?”

Anthony:  “Six floors worth?”

Kurt:  No no not six floors worth.   They are big beds…"

Anthony:  “Start tying.”

Under supervision Kurt starts stripping the hotel beds and cutting sheets into strips.  After a bit he’s starts up suddenly.

Kurt:  “Oh!  You can’t forget the creepers!  When you’re talking about the guards you can’t forget the creepers!  The one’s that come back from the Lady, you know the Master’s Master.”

Anthony:  “Oh right.  They’re like the big bone ghouls.”

Kurt:  “Bones yeah!” {shudders}  “You can’t… yeah, just don’t forget about them.”

Anthony:  “How many?”

Kurt:  “Oh, three of four.  They don’t talk.  They just watch ya.  They just watch ya all day.”  {after ripping a few more sheets}  “I heard someone say one of them was someone they new you know, went over.  When they come back they’re not the same, you now, real blank eyed.”

Anthony:  “We might have to go, come back differently.”

Belinda:  “mmm.”

There we leave it for the week.  Thanks for reading :)



Status

Anthony:

Flow State at Release Level 5.
Uninjured but Slightly Fatigued.
55 Malevolence with 29 Aura nearby:

2 Petal Fall Hair.
8 Imbued Might.
1 Spirit Sight
1 Verdure (on Anthony, suppressing human taint).
1 Verdure (on Anthony, suppressing werewolf taint).
1 Verdure (on Anthony, suppressing zombie taint).
1 Verdure (on Saul, suppressing vampire taint).
2 Verdure (on Saul suppressing human taint).
1 Bestial Sense Transformation (Cat’s Eyes)
1 Celerity.
2 Fortitude.
3 Potence.
5 Seed of Life.

Note: should that 2pt Verdure on Saul be a lvl 2 investment? (ie: 3pt).
Also: I’m pretty sure there was a lvl 1 verdure on Belinda’s vampiric taint? Placed when leaving the train tunnel.

Very High Instability:

Human Taint level 4 (suppressed to 3, erratic behavior).
Zombie Taint level 3 (suppressed to 2, hungry).
Werewolf Taint level 3 (suppressed to 2, silver burns).
Vampire Taint level 1 (the sun seems bright).



Belinda:

Flow State at Release Level 2.
Slightly Injured but Well Rested.
34 Malevolence with 4 Aura nearby:

1 Spirit Sight.
1 Mind’s Reach.
1 Celerity.
1 Potence.

Moderate Instability:

Human Taint level 3 (erratic behavior).
Werewolf Taint level 2 (Silver Burns).
Vampire Taint level 2 (Blistering Light).
Animal Taint level 1 (Things smell good).



Saul:

Flow State? at Release Level 4.
Slightly Injured but Well Rested.
?? Malevolence with 10 Aura nearby:

1 Infiltrating Roots (Rick’s sarcophagus).
7 Shadow Cloak.
1 Spirit Sense.
1 Mind’s Reach.

High Instability:

Human Taint lvl 4 (suppressed to 2, no noticeable effect).
Vampire Taint lvl 2 (suppressed to 1, sun seems bright).
Zombie Taint lvl 2 (Sooo Hungry).



The Tree:

Growth:

Stage Five
1 / 60th toward next stage.

Realisation:

The Tree, 15m Tall.
Air and Space, 150 meter radius.

Expanse of Dark Water (30 points worth).

Beach of Amethyst Sand (15 points worth).
Hillock Roots Cave, sealed (11 points worth).
Leaf Dome, hinged (9 points worth).

Adaptation:

Celerity (interplay leaves and branches).
Protean (shapes in the bark).

Reserve:

18 Tree Aura.
41 Essence.
1 Primal Essence of Blood and Entropy (vampiric).
6 Primal Essence of Fishyness (bound spirits).
469 essence worth of Soul Fragments.

Expected Sources:

Belinda’s Household: ~ 10 Essence (solid, familial).
Bardon Colony: ~ 50 Essence (trust and awe).
Indro Colony: 0 (evacuated).
Enoggera Barracks: ?? (influx of indro folk).
People at the Tree: ??
Valley Survivors: ?? (Erin talking up evac offer).



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Session 32
The Raid

Two Hours After Noon, Day Eight

The three Awakened are in a high rise hotel room having been shown first class post apocalyptic service by the new rulers of the City.  The gangers who’ve been looking after them so far are the humans and ghouls who haven’t managed to get turned yet, the low end of the new hierarchy.  

Having posed as emissary’s from Melbourne the Awakened are nominally supposed to be waiting for Rick, leader of the ruling Blud Oth ring, to wake.  Saul, with his Flesh of Darkness still active, is peeking from behind blackout curtain to scope the building next door with is, apparently, headquarters for the Blud Oth.  It’s bright outside.  He spots a man on the street below who, on a triple botch, looks very similar to the army lieutenant they spoke to in Bardon the other day…  The guards don’t seem to have any problem with that man entering their building.  A glimpse however is all Saul gets as he has to step back quickly from the burning light.

Saul:  “Think I just saw that Army bloke go in.”

Xander:  “Why would the army be here without all of their guns?  If they’re leaving people outside during the day?”

Saul:  “That’s a good question.”



Exalted Scouting

From his glimpse Saul got the impression that the hotel next door was about ten stories high with balcony’s on each floor.  Distracted by the familiar looking man however he didn’t note any alternate ways in or weak points in the security.  Despite the apparent thickening around the seminary down the street however, the Gauntlet at this location is still only level two…

Xander: {to Belinda}  “Do you want to try using Exalted Perception to find Rick?”

Belinda’s Release Level is sufficient that investing a single aura activated the Exalted state.  She becomes aware of the cosmos as if it were midnight.  Cries of the World is active but no one is currently thinking of them.  She gets a faint glimpse from the past of the phoenix manifestation lifting away from the seminary down the street and flying off to the north east.  She gets a sense of vampiric corruption, twisted power, from that location now.  She also now perceives that traces of alien energy, black motes of the type spewing from Mt Cootha, are leaking from the seminary grounds. 

Those things noted, Belinda starts to focus on Rick.  She has his name, has seen another member of his coterie in the past, and his suspected resting place is close by.  Belinda burns two aura.  A clairvoyant vision of the building next door swims into focus, about half way up and inside the building she encounters some resistance.  Belinda spends two more aura to increase the vision’s power.  Pushing through the resistance her vision reveals…   a dark room (literally).  She gets the sense that it is in the center of the floor that is half way up the building.  Rick seems to be lying in some kind of heavy steel box.  There is the sense of multiple layers surrounding him, a box within a box of a room within a box of a building.  Belinda breaks away at that, sharing the image over Mind’s reach.    

Saul:  “Did you see the army guy?”

Belinda:  “I didn’t see any other guys”

Xander:  “Is that glimpse enough to Spirit Step?”

Belinda is confident that she can.

Xander:  “Well no point going through the front door if we can just go through the back door..”

Saul:  “Sure.”

Belinda:  “Straight through the middle.”



Return to the Tree

Saul:  “May as well cut to the chase I suppose.  I’m not going out in that shit.”

Xander:  “Certainly avoid the guards on the front door, and give me an opportunity to find a more…  solid vessel.”

Saul:  “You’re gonna bring Anthony?”

Xander:  “It’s three hours past noon, should be under control.”

Saul and Belinda discuss which of them should Spirit Step, estimating each other’s Malevolence and control.  Belinda leads them back to the Tree, leaves from her hair opening their way through the gauntlet.  She still has Exalted Perception active and gets a clearer glimpse, as they step through spiritual space, of the nearby callous in the gauntlet, sensing an abscess underneath it that leads down from the world into the Void beneath.

They make it to the Tree.  Zach is still in rapt contemplation, while Sandra and Tyler are sitting on the sandy beach, looking quite bored.  The giant leaf is still intact and the cave sealed.  Nothing much seems to have changed in this very small world.

Saul:  “I’ve never spent so much time at the Tree.  Been here a lot tonight.”

Tyler:  “Oh hi!  Is there…  Are we going anywhere?”

Saul:  “Ah not yet.  Just sit tight.”

Tyler:  “Oh…”

Saul:  “Just making sure you’re alright.”

Tyler:  “Ok.  Um…  do you know if that water is safe to drink?  Because we’re getting a bit thirsty but I don’t know about drinking standing water.  You know they say you should always get running water or something?  That…  looks a bit swampy…”

Belinda glances at Saul.  The Awakened laugh.  

Saul:  “Ah…”

With his occult knowledge Saul tries to work out if the water is safe to drink.  Belinda starts calculating the cost to Realize a fresh water spring.  Saul thinks it should be fine.  When he realized the water he was just envisaging it being dark not dirty, and there is a very small chance that the Tree would Realize life forms like parasites or bacteria, not unless some of those wriggling Soul Fragments in the reserve got away anyway.

Saul:  “Yeah its fine.  Lap it up.”

Tyler:  “Oh ok.  Yeah, ah, thanks!  We been getting a bit thirsty.  Um…  Is there anything you want us to do?  I mean that guy seems to…  He’s good company and all, when he’s not just staring at the Tree, but…”

Saul:  “Nah.  Just relax.  Go to sleep if you can and make the most of the peaceful moment.”

Tyler:  “Ah alright.  Yeah, well I guess we don’t have to worry about zombies or anything…  do we?”

Saul:  “You’re safe here.”

Tyler:  “Alright!”



Preparations

While that conversation is taking place Xander wanders over to the Leaf.  He causes the Tree to Realize a fold in the Leaf so that it hinges open on a vein to reveal the spare vessels inside. 

Climbing in Xander lays down between the comatose bodies of Jenifer and Anthony.  Preparing to switch vessels he pauses and takes a moment to spend a Will and attempt to condense his Petal Fall Hair manifestation into a Seed of Life.  He is successful.  A small seed appears in Xander’s grasp maturing into a tiny green plum, level two with size and aura stats of 5.  Then Xander’s Aspect transfers back into it’s original vessel.  Xander slumps into a coma like state and Anthony sits up, Awakening.

Anthony:  {stepping out of the Leaf dome}  “I hear we’ve got some fun in the offings.”

Saul:  {chuckling}  “About time you woke up.”

Anthony:  “I just needed a restful day to…  sort myself out.  Now I’m good to go again!”

Saul:  “Alright.”

Tyler and Sandra are looking at each other wide eyed, whispering, “He came out of a Leaf!”

Saul is keeping an eye on Anthony, making sure he doesn’t Devour the humans.  His Malevolence has dropped quite a bit.  Taking into account his Will, which is at the limit’s of human capacity, and a little Verdure, Anthony’s Temptation state is lower than Belinda and Saul’s.  His Malevolence is still high enough however that his manifestations and investments have not yet dissipated.  He’s pumped with Aura and ready for action.

Belinda might have Absorbed a fragment of Resolve?  apologies the recording was noisy and I couldn’t quite make it out.  

Preparations done.  The Awakened begin the Step back down to Earth.



Into the Dark

Belinda manifests some Petal Fall Hair, Saul some Infiltrating Roots.  Together they open the way down through spiritual space in a single step.  The slight hindered Belinda felt to her Perception before doesn’t seem to interfere with Spirit Step.  She brings them out into a dark room, stepping onto a concrete floor and into the side of a steel box.

Belinda:  “Oww.”

The room is pitch black.  Only Belinda and Anthony’s Petal Fall Hair is producing any light.  Anthony manifests some Proteanic Flesh and invests it to undergo his Cat’s Eye transformation.

Last in, Saul is aware of another large steel box on his other side.  He also hears the quick tap of chitenous footsteps and a swoosh through the air at him and throws himself down.

Saul:  Duck!

Something passes over his head in the darkness.  A figure looms over him, about eight foot tall.  It’s not saying a word, just attacking.  He gets the feeling it was rushing toward the other two and encountered his shadowed form in the dark.

BOOM!

Saul lets the tall figure have it with both barrels from his sawn off ten gauge.  Despite its attempt to sidestep Saul catches it square in the chest.  Slugs tear through tear through some kind of black chitinous exoskeleton as the muzzle flash reveals an elongated humanoid figure whose arms end in mantis style blades of bone.  The blast causes a massive wound, splattering ichor like blood and fragments of chitin.

The flash of light also reveals the room to Anthony.  The Awakened are in the middle of a grid of nine steel boxes.  Each is about table height, three meters long, and wide enough to fit a large human inside comfortably.  Their grey burnished finish speaks of expensive, custom made electrical appliances.  The rest of the large room seems unfurnished, plain concrete with no windows and a plain, vault style, steel door.  It’s a room made to be checked over with ease.

The humanoid attacker stumbles back, mauled but still standing.  It’s black carapace remind’s Saul of the alien centipede things they’ve seen crawling around.  It’s horrific, but very proportional.  There is a graceful art to its form, nothing of a zombie’s misshapen horror.  It’s a ghoul, with vampiric blood diffused through it, but this is more profound and powerful state than the ganger ghouls the character’s have seen running around.  This thing’s Blood Puissance is the equivalent of Release Level Three.

Saul:  “Fuck off!”

He steps around the end of one of the steel boxes to clear a line of fire for the others.  

Belinda fires a three round burst from her uzi into the darkness where she just saw the creature.  Despite its swift attempt to dodge her bullets catch it.  The chitinous exoskeleton however deflects the lead.  Belinda steps back to clear room for Anthony.

Anthony draws five Essence from the Tree, Manifesting two points of Petal Fall Hair and three of Might. He rushes forward, swinging his brush hook at the bone scythe ghoul’s torso.  It tries to dodge back but he catches it in the side, spending some of his Imbued Strength to tear through the ghouls chitinous armour.  Blood and ichor spurt as it collapses back, unmoving.

Saul:  “That’s a..  dramatic finishing move.”

It’s another vampiric minion killed before it can spend all its blood.

Anthony:  “Get that door open!”

Belinda:  “Do we want to open that?  Oh, for the light?”

Saul:  “Where’s the guy we’re after?”

Belinda:  “In the box next to me.”

Saul:  “So why are we opening the door?”

Belinda:  “Light.  I can’t see.”

Saul:  {shadow cloaked}  “Do we need that much light?  You’re glowing.  Should we really open the door and expose ourselves to more enemies?”

There is a moment while the trio consider the rows of metal caskets around them, seen only dimly by the gentle green glow of Belinda and Anthony’s Petal Fall Hair.

Anthony:  {to Saul}  “In that case, if you want to flip the lid…”

Saul:  “I’m happy in the dark.”

Anthony:  “Fair enough.”

Saul:  “Well I can’t see any better than you can but this is the one?”

Anthony laughs.  Belinda nods.  Saul starts feeling around for a hinge or mechanism to open the steel casket.  He gets a good idea of it, but this thing is built like a safe with internal hinges and the lid inset into the side.  He can’t find any combination dial or keypad or method for opening it.

Belinda:  “Is there a keyhole or something?”

Somewhat Malevolent, Saul is slightly distracted by the temptation to Devour the soul from the fallen ghoul, but he finishes running his hands over the casket.  There is no apparent way in.

Belinda moves across the room to the vault like door, searching for a light switch or control panel by the glow of her hair.  She finds a keypad by the door but it’s too dim to make out numbers or symbols.  It does seem very swish, like the touch controls on a top of the line kitchen appliance.

Anthony tries to lift the whole casket.  He’s ripped and pumped with Potence and Gift of Might.  Just from its size the steel box would weigh over a ton, but here’s no sense of give at all.  Anthony is confident that it must be bolted into the concrete floor.  



Rise of the Sleepers

The overhead lights come on.  I didn’t actually say this in session but this is when it should have happened based on me (mostly) forgetting to apply darkness penalties from here on out.  Must have been controlled from within a casket.

From behind the Awakened comes the sound of safe style bolts thudding back.  The lid on last casket in the row deepest into the room cantilevers open.  An led glow from the inside illuminates a big, muscular and bald human figure as he sits and starts to haul himself out.

Baldie A:  “What the fuck!?”

Spirit Sight reveals the tracery of crimson power and pulsing core of an actual vampire, about the equivalent of Release Level Three.  The dude has a swastika tattooed on one shoulder and ‘666’ on the other.

Saul swaps shotgun for styraug and fires a short burst into the rising vampire.  Some of the bullets sprang off the casket’s steel lid, but most find flesh.  The vampire screams in pain and surprised outrage.

Baldie A:  “Brothers!”

Saul lets his assault rifle dangle and cracks open his shot gun to load in two fresh shells.  He starts to step to the right as he does so for a better shooting, but with Mind’s Reach realizes he’d be obscuring Belinda’s line of sight.

Belinda:  “Stop getting in the way!”

Saul steps left instead.

Belinda:  “I’m trying not to shoot you!”

She fires a three round burst from her uzi into the rising vampire.  Her bullets find flesh as well and the vampire groans, sagging back.

Manifesting more Gift of Might and Petal Fall Hair Anthony rushes in.  His brush hook swings into the gap between casket and lid, catching the vampire in the neck.  With brutal strength the blade cuts through.  The vampire’s head separates, falling outside the casket and rolling away across the floor.

Saul stares at the decapitated body.  The other eight caskets are closed still.  He manifests three points worth of Infiltrating Roots down into the casket beside him (Rick’s).  Through the infiltrated steel and cloth Saul can feel a muscle bound vampire, awake but laying still.  The sense Saul gets is that this one is also the equivalent of Release Level Three.  The vamprie seems to be investing his blood and enhancing his strength as rapidly as he can.

Saul:  He’s ready to burst.  Don’t know how many more of them there are, or if all these coffins are filled.

He brings up the shotgun and steps around the casket to get a better angle if the lid opens.

Anthony:  “Let me distract him a little bit then!”

He reaches down to begin Devouring his decapitated victim.

Belinda moves from the door to a position where she can shoot into Rick’s casket if it opens, resisting the urge to join Anthony in ripping apart their victim’s soul.

The screams of a torn soul fill the room (yes even headless, its not a physical thing).  It seems these Blud Oth might be physically tough but have very little Will.  Chunky fragments of Potence, Stamina, Strength, and a Sanguinous (a power new to the Awakened) start flowing into the Tree.

Inside the casket Rick’s body increases in size and sprouts a new arm.  Saul also notices he’s lying with a sledgehammer beside him and that the casket seems well appointed on the inside with a screen, usb charging points, etc.  The other Awakened share this awareness through Mind’s Reach.

Positioned to cover any of the caskets, should they open, Belinda gets a sense (Spirit Sense + Exalted Perception) of another vampiric presence in the row of caskets closest to the door.  The other’s seem empty, an impression she shares through Mind’s Reach.

Saul:  “Should I try to delay this guy?”

Anthony:  “Yeah.”

Belinda:  “With the Roots?”

Anthony:  “It’s worth a shot.”

Belinda:  “It does mean using energy…”

Saul manifests five more points worth of Roots down through the casket.  His Malevolence is pushing into dangerous Temptation states, but it should drop with rest.  It’s not like that time he exhausted his Will entirely.

Belinda:  “Just be careful going back through the Tree.  Because, you know…”

Saul:  “Ah.. like I said before I don’t care that much!”

Anthony:  “We just need to get there first.”

Belinda:  “Exactly!”

While Belinda considers if Zach could drink from the Tree, (no, but it is a magical material so Isobella might be able to do something with it by using it as quintessence), Saul ponders the best way to Entangle Rick.  He doesn’t want to alert the vampire as he knows Rick is likely in some kind of Gestalt with his blood brothers, but he does want to prevent Rick from bursting out simultaneously with the other vampire in the room.  He considers readying an entangle but that would come at the expense of a readied shoot.  With some Mind’s Reach debate he settles on using Entangle to seal the steel lid of the casket to its sides, successfully investing five points worth of Roots this way.  It’ll take quite a bit of pushing for Rick to get out.

Meanwhile Anthony finishes Devouring the soul from the first Blud Oth brother, Devouring the blood that it didn’t get the chance to spend as well, which converts to raw Essence flowing into the Tree.  

Saul and Belinda keep covering their respective caskets.  With glances they ascertain that the other boxes do not seem to contain vampiric presences. 

Inside their caskets Rick and the other Blud Oth vampire continue investing blood until they’ve achieved full four armed war form. Simultaneously with his mate Rick tries to burst from his box. It resists his strength however. The entangling roots weakening by one point (horrible strength check). Surprised, (botch on second minor action strength check), Rick slips and slumps down inside his casket. His brother bursts out alone.

Ready, Belinda fires a three round burst into the lonely vampire.  It doesn’t manage to dodge but soaks most of the damage with his meaty flesh as he scrambles out of the casket, waving his sledge hammer in one of his four arms.

The fully pumped, eight foot tall, Blud Oth charges Belinda, scrambling over another casket on his way and swinging down at her with his sledge hammer, only to miss completely.  Belinda stays calm firing another three round burst into the meat tank vampire as she steps back.  It shrugs off most of the damage.  With Celerity Belinda steps back again, increasing the distance between them to four meters.

Shadow Cloak swirling, Saul steps in from the side and gives the vampire both barrels at close range.  The blast catches the big vampire square in the ribs.  It hasn’t seen Saul in the darkness so can’t even try to dodge.  The damage is more than enough to drop an ordinary human but this meat tank Blud Oth vampire remains on its feet.  It’s not just strength and size it’s drawing through the link with its brothers, they seem to be siphoning away its pain as well.  Saul calmly breaches his sawn off, loading two fresh shells from his pocket.

Brush hook swinging, Anthony charges the sledge hammer wielding meat tank.

Anthony:  “You know hammers are for nailing idiots to crosses right!?”

Blud Oth Vampire:  “You fuckin cunts!  You fuckin….  ambushing cunts!  Who let you in here?  I’ll break your skull!”

The vampire tries to dodge but Anthony’s blow catches him in the side.  Spending some Gift of Might Anthony rips the blade through the side of the Blood Brother, whose meaty flesh fails him.  He falls, down but not out yet.

Rick tries again to break out of his casket.  With a muffled thud the lid lifts, three more strands of the entangling roots breaking.  A second thump and the lid flies open.  Rick clambers out using all four arms.  He races toward his fallen brother.  Leaping onto the casket between them he swings down at Anthony with his sledgehammer.  

It’s a pretty wild swing and Anthony tries to side step, but somehow the heavy metal head of the hammer manages to connect.  Anthony soaks most of the damage but the blood brothers have managed to deal their first wound to a player character!

Rick:  “I have the high ground!”

Anthony:  “You have the high ground, which means I need to cut your feet off!”

The fallen vampire is healing but its not enough for him to wake.  With Spirit Sight the Awakened also note this is depleting the blood within his body, unlike the healing they’ve seen from conscious Blud Oth previously which seems to come from their brothers.  The fallen vampire probably doesn’t have enough blood remaining to get back into the fight.

Controlled, Belinda fires a three round burst up into Rick who is still standing on top of a casket.  The bullets hit but he shrugs them off.  Belinda shifts slightly to the side for a better angle next time.  

Saul steps around to shoot again, giving Rick both barrels.  Boom, the blast echoes off the roof.  It’s not a botch, so it doesn’t catch Anthony, but it’s not a hit either.  Rick didn’t try to dodge, he probably hadn’t seen Shadow Cloaked Saul at all up until that point.

Anthony swings his brush hook into Rick’s knee.  The big vampire tries to dodge, but he’s been faked out by Anthony’s words and fails.  With Might Anthony carves through.  Rick’s soak completely fails and, even though Rick is huge, Anthony cuts his leg completely away.

Rick:  “Arggggh!”

The vampire staggers, slipping down next to the casket and holding himself up with his arms as Anthony continues his blow.  The brush hook cleaves through and catches the fallen Blud Oth, slicing open his chest, ending his chance for survival.

Rick:  “Arghhhh you bastards!  BROTHERS!  Get Revenge!  Remember them!  Remember their faces!”

Snarling in defiance he tries to sling the sledge hammer one handed while holding himself upright.  Somehow he manages to connect, cracking the hammer head into Anthony’s side and cracking a rib through the body armour.

Rick is healing.  Conscious, he is drawing the power for this from outside, rather than spending the blood remaining within.  It looks somewhat like the way that the Awakened draw upon the Tree.  With his occult knowledge Saul guesses that Rick is pulling from his brother Blud Oth members rather than a domain and that they must be somewhere nearby (within the City).  Saul however isn’t at the Tree and does not yet have Exalted Perception, so he can’t track the flow back to its sources. 

Belinda unleashes a medium burst, stitching Rick with bullets.  He shudders and goes down, collapsing next to the casket in a pool of blood.  The flow of healing strength from his brothers is severed with his consciousness, but blood within him may yet bring him back.

Saul resists the urge to Devour fallen Rick’s soul:  “I’ll leave that to the experts.”  

He checks the room, finding no other presences, and investigates one of the open caskets instead, finding it to be quite plush upholstered inside with modern conveniences like a screen and usb ports.  The caskets are obviously high class, custom made, pieces of machinery.

Belinda:  “So they’ve been here a while.”

Anthony:  “This is a Sabbat safe house.”

Belinda:  “It doesn’t seem so safe.”

Saul:  “Yeah.”

Anthony hits Rick again, a wound big enough to keep the Blud Oth down.  



Aftermath

It’s quiet in this bunker like room.  Seems as if that vault door might be soundproof.  Quiet that is until Anthony falls to Devouring Rick’s soul.

Screams echo as chunky fragments of Potence, Strength, Brawl, Stamina, and a new power Sanguinous, flow into the Tree.  

Belinda starts helping Anthony, especially Devouring the quintessence from remaining blood as they move to vampire fallen beside Rick and then the one decapitated in his casket.  There is barely any resistance from the souls of any of the Blud Oth.  They seem to have an underdeveloped sense of individual Will.  Intellectual skills and knowledge also seem lacking, and on the social side Intimidate is the only fragment being yielded.  Their souls are fairly hefty however, the fragment’s large, as the Blud Oth are mature level three entities, much more powerful than the level one and two fledgelings the Awakened are used to eating.

Anthony:  {over the screaming}  “Saul you want to see what you can do about that door?  Unless we’re going to disappear from this room?”

Belinda:  “There’s a screen right here.”

Anthony:  “Nah it’s locked from a keypad outside.”

Saul:  “What are we trying to get out of here?”

Anthony:  “May as well go for a wander around the hotel.”

Saul:  “Are you ready?  We’ve made a fair bit of noise so there could be gangers waiting on the other side.”

Anthony:  “Just about.”

Belinda:  “If we’re not going soon then why am I spending?”  (referring to the way she’s been spending down her Petal Fall Hair manifestation on Devour).  

Anthony:  “Positive returns.”  {he’s sounding quite Malevolent and keen for more fighting}

Saul considers if he could take some of the remaining vampiric blood with him to use as a reagent for rituals.  But he’d need some kind of vessel to store it.  There might be other constraints.  Perhaps Isobella could advise him for the future?  She works with Blood Stones and the supernatural storage of such.

After a botched Devour roll the screaming of the last vampire’s soul takes a frenzied edge.  It’s close to escaping Anthony’s grasp despite its low Will.  Belinda and Saul step in, arm’s streaking with green they halt its escape, ripping its remaining soul to pieces.

The dead bone scythe ghoul remains.  It looks like a hastily flesh crafted creature but there is a art to it, a sense of symmetry and proportion that hints of scary capability.  Even as a ghoul the puissiance of it’s borrowed blood is high, as high as the Blud Oth vampires.  It yields fragments of Dexterity, Celerity, Potence, and Brawl.  As well as a wriggling sliver of Vicissitude.

Saul investigates the room further.  The other caskets remain sealed, but feel empty to Spirit Sense.  There is a pile of five or six sports bags in one corner, which prove to be filled with choice loot, particularly ammunition.

Saul starts to take the bags over to the vault door to help block it.

Belinda:  “Maybe we should leave them…   We could try and rip a lid of a casket.”

Saul:  “Nah, just want to block it.  We can come back.”

He manifests some roots around the door and looks around for anything else in this bare bunker of a room he can use as a barricade.

There we leave it for the week. Thanks for reading.

Next Session: Hotel Shootout

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Session 31
Ambush Detected

An Hour After Noon, Day Eight

In a railway tunnel halfway between the Valley and the City, at the entrance to a previously unknown side branch,

Sandra: {struggling in Erin’s headlock} “No! We have to go forward!”

Spirit Sight reveals Erin investing some of her (limited) internal supply of vampiric blood. It’s probably Potence. There seems to be no chance of Sandra escaping Erin’s headlock as the square faced ex street kid drags the other survivor back along the rails.

Belinda steps onto the tracks in front of the struggling pair, levelling her uzi at the stalled train ahead where, with Spirit Sight, she glimpsed the movement of unknown ghouls.

The other valley survivors, Vic, Tyler, and Maureen are looking a bit cock-eyed at the struggle between Erin and Sandra. They’re not in the Mind’s Reach gestalt.

Erin: “She led us in and there’s people on the train! We’re out of here. It’s a fucking trap!”



Foiled Ambush Negotiations

Maureen and Vic grab Sandra too, together with Erin they haul the desperate woman further back down the tracks.

Tyler pulls a molotov from his rucksack. Rag stuffed bottle in one hand, lighter in the other he stands just behind Belinda’s shoulder, facing the train.

Saul readies his austyr. Aiming up on the train ahead he steps to the south side of the tunnel to let the struggling survivors pass, manifesting more Shadow Cloak to blend further in, (Erin is currently holding the only light source, an electric torch).

Xander too pulls a bottle from his rucksack, cat’s eyes gleaming in the dark.

A ganger jumps down from the train ahead, specifically from the north side conductor’s door. He’s smiling and looks confident, with a little vampiric blood diffused throughout his flesh, and a sawn off shotgun held down to one side.

Ganger Leader: “Whoa ladies and gents! There’s no need for such accusations!”

This ganger looks like he would have been a junkie lowlife before the fall, scrawny and tattooed. Now he’s looking better fed and dressed than most of the survivors he’s walking towards.

Xander doesn’t let him finish his speech, lighting the rags of his molotov he hurls it at the ganger. Flames arc through the darkness. The bottle strikes the top of the ganger’s head, despite his attempt to dodge. The bottle itself draws blood as it shatters, but miraculously (explosion damage botch) the fuel all splatters to the ground behind the ganger ghoul.

Whump.

Ganger Leader: {staggering forward in shock} “Whoa! What the fuck!”

Belinda: {uzi ready} “What are you doing here?”

Ganger Leader: “Hey hey you’re the one’s attacking me!”

Belinda: “Yeah, but what are you doing here.”

There’s a pause as the flames crackle behind the ghoul and he stares at the uzi levelled at him, Belinda’s calm demeanour, her and Xander’s body armour and, probably, the larger number of people than he was expecting. He’s still alone, no one has gotten off the train behind him.

Ganger Leader: “We just want the ugly bitch.” {points at Erin in the retreating scrum} “She killed some of our people. We want them back and we want her. We’ll let the rest of ya’s go.”

Belinda: Am I shooting?

Saul: Yeah fuck ‘im, Erin’s ours.

Xander: “Sorry but she’s with us. So, you know, if you want to take her then there’s the rest of us you’ll have to take as well.”

Tyler: {raises his molotov, still unlit}.

Ganger Leader: “Fuck!”

Belinda: {still sighting on him} “What do you want to do? Take all of us on?”

Ganger Leader: “Look, it’s simple. You can hand her to us now and there won’t be repercussions…”

Belinda: {laughs}

Ganger Leader: {pointing at Erin and co} “My Masters will wipe them from the face of the earth tonight if you do anything to hurt us now.”

Xander cocks one eye toward the tunnel ceiling, calculating how many hours they’ve got until sunset. He shrugs.

Xander: “Ok.”



Fire Fight

Belinda opens fire, a controlled three round bust which takes the ganger through the chest even as he tries desperately to dodge aside. A human would have gone down from such a shot, but because this ganger has vampiric vitae within his flesh he remains concious, but with heavy wound penalties. His botched dodged roll also sees him step back into the flames behind him.

Ganger leader: “Fuck!! You’ll regret this!”

On the south side of the tunnel Saul keeps watch on the opposite side of the train, ready to shoot any gangers that might come out.

The leader staggers, pants leg burning.

Ganger Leader: “Get the fuck out here! I’m on fucking fire!”

Paradoxically he staggers to the conductor door, trying to lift himself back into the train. The gangers inside reach out to drag him up in with them, leaving a trail of blood. The Awakened can hear him yelling at his buddies from inside the train.

Meanwhile Erin is still dragging her people away down the rails, back toward the Valley. Tyler looks like he really wants to throw his molotov, holding the bottle up high.

Erin: “Get back! Get back!”

Tyler: "I’ll cover youse, you go, go!

Saul: Could put a grenade round in there.

Xander: No.

Saul: Yeah it’d be a waste.

Belinda: “Tyler get back.”

Tyler: “You sure? I got this!” {the bottle is shaking} “I’m ready! I’m ready!”

Belinda: “How about you guard the other way, in case there’s some in that train at the beginning of the tunnel.”

Tyler: “Oh. Oh alright. I’ll go back.”

With Tyler turning to follow the receding scrum Belinda remains on the tracks, lined up and ready to shoot anyone who pops out of the train.

Xander draws his hand gun, stepping to the north wall of the tunnel, behind a signal box, to cover the north side of the train.

Saul manifests more Shadow Cloak and advances along the south wall of the tunnel, still covering his side of the train with his assault riffle.

Behind them Sandra tries to break free but fails utterly.

Erin: {to the other valley folk} “Yeah keep going back. They’ll cover us!”

She sounds quite confident the Awakened can handle it.

Vic, (the other valley ghoul), moves away ahead of the valley survivors. He’s got a molotov in one hand and a lighter in the other.

Tyler ends up helping Erin and Maureen drag Sandra down the tracks. Sandra is screaming in distress.

A ganger ghoul with a rifle leans out of the southern side conductors door. He tries to take a shot at the retreating group but both Belinda and Saul have line of sight as he emerges. Belinda fires first. Her three bullets rip through the ganger and he tumbles out. Again such a wound would have taken down a human completely but leaves the ghoul crawling in his own blood on the tunnel floor.

Belinda: It wasn’t a horrible shot.

Saul: Horrible for him.

Belinda: Well we are trying to teach them a lesson.

Saul: ^Nah, we’re trying to exterminate them. We don’t want them getting away."

The downed ghoul has crawled clear of the front of the train and into Xander’s line of sight. Cat’s eyes gleaming Xander fires his handgun across the rails. His shot hits true, but somehow the ghoul manages to soak the damage and keep crawling.

Another ganger ghoul leans out of the north side conductor’s door. He hoots a handgun at Xander, but the dwindling molotov flames don’t provide enough light for the unenhanced ghoul to see Xander clearly behind his signal box. The bullet goes whining away down the tunnel as the ganger ducks back inside the train.

Maureen stumbles on the track (botch grapple), falling as Erin and Tyler drag Sandra further away. Her rucksack spills to the side with the sound of breaking glass.

Erin: {to Tyler} “Get Maureen.” {to Maureen} “Leave the bag!”

Sandra is still struggling, but there is no way she’s getting out of Erin’s grip. Erin hauls the traitor further into retreat.

Belinda: We could always light the bag and throw it.

A third ganger, this one without the flush of vampiric blood, leans out of the north side door to take a shot at Xander. He too misses completely.

Saul: Been a while since we’ve gone up against guys with shooters.

Another bloodless ganger pops up inside the drivers compartment. He tries to smash out the windshield with the but of the shotgun he’s wielding, but he only manages to fracture the glass.

Belinda puts a three round burst into the ghoul crawling on the ground south of the train. He jerks and goes still.

Manifesting Petal Fall Hair, Xander advances along the northern wall, crossing the mouth of the side tunnel they were supposed to go down he goes forward until he can see up through the north side conductor’s door. The two gangers who just shot at him and their leader are all clustered around the opening. Pulling a molotov from his rucksack Anthony lights it and hurls it in It shatters.

Whoosh!

Shrieks of pain and horror echo as flames explode in the staff compartment. One of the gangers manages to leap back and avoid most of the damage, the other two are liberally splattered and on fire.

Ganger B: “Argh! Put it out! Put it out!”

Xander steps back into cover behind the nearer corner of the side tunnel. As he does so he feels slight resistance with Spirit Sense, the broken remnants of a ward of concealment bound within the brickwork.

Manifesting more Cloak of Shadows, Saul advances along the southern side of the tunnel. Relying on his cloak to conceal him he looks up through the conductor’s door on his side. The gangers inside are still shrieking, rolling on the floor and beating at the flames.

Ganger C: “W.. What should we do? They’ve got machine guns and armour!”

Ganger D: “It’s not what they said! It’s not what they said!”

Saul switches from austyr to shotgun but finishes his turn rather than take a movement penalised shot that would announce his presence.

Erin and co drag Sandra further away. Maureen’s left her petrol soaked rucksack behind and both she and Tyler have gotten back into the fray while Vic forges the way ahead.

Erin: {calling back} “You guys good? You want help or should we just get out?”

Saul: Just hold up there.

Xander: Wait back there for a minute. We’ll see how much longer this issue remains.

Erin: Alright.

Saul: Make sure she’s disarmed.

Erin: Yeah. I’ll try to make her talk.

They can hear the thud as Erin pushes Sandra up the wall some distance away down the tunnel.

Erin: “Sandra what the fuck! I thought you were my friend! Why would you be working for them? You know what they’re doing?”

Sandra: {crying} “They’ve got Bobby!”

Back the gangers stagger away from the flames, piling through the internal door into the passenger compartment. Their leader can barely walk.

Leader: “Fucking help me!”

The ganger who had been trying to smash out the windscreen grabs the leader on his way to follow the others.

Belinda advances from her position on the tracks in front of the train. At first she heads toward the south side but Saul warns her.

Saul: Careful, might be some shotgun blasts.

She switches, slipping around the north side between Xander and the flames. She can now see the gangers retreating through the carriage. They’ve split into two groups the less injured pair in front, with the leader and his supporter staggering behind.

Belinda: ^Who the hell is Bobby?"

Erin: Her little brother I think. I don’t know much about him. There were a couple of people with her when they all got snatched together I think.

Belinda: Is he down the tunnel?

Erin: Dunno. I’m trying to get it out of her. I think they might be holding him to force her to trap us. Like, I don’t think she escaped, but I’ll get it out of her? Who are those guys? How’s it going down there?

Xander: Just tidying the mess.

Erin: {distinct mental wince at the thought of the Awakened ‘tidying’ people up}.

Xander eyes the flames billowing out of the conductor’s door on his side. He considers jumping up through them, but races past instead, leap frogging Belinda to advance along the outside of the carriage.

One of the gangers inside spots him.

Ganger: “Hey hey hey! Fuck! The side! They’re fuckin goin round us!”

Having gotten ahead of the gangers Xander ducks in close under the side of the train, handgun ready so that he can shoot anyone who might pop out.

Saul races up the other side of the carriage. His Shadow Cloak conceals him as he reaches an open passenger door on his side at the end of the carriage. Shot gun raised he waits for the ghouls to catch up, succumbing to the Temptation to manifest a little more Cloak as he does so.

The first ganger looks out the northside windows but doesn’t spot anyone as he races down the aisle. He reaches the door between carriages and hauls at it, trying to open it by the flame light flickering from the other end of the carriage.

The next ganger spots Xander. He runs to the forward, north side passenger doors and leans out with a handgun to take a shot. Xander is ready for him and faster, putting a bullet in his chest. It’s a solid injury, without vampire vitae within him, the ganger curls and falls from the train, lying unconscious in his own blood.

Belinda: Erin have you figured out who what and where?

Erin: I think the vamps have got him. The whole thing’s a set up. They let her go and told her to lure us here.

Belinda: Find out where they let her go from.

Erin: I think that tunnel. They let her go from that side tunnel and told her to lure us back.

Belinda: Is that where she was kept?

Erin: Dunno, she doesn’t seem real clear. It’s almost like, I dunno, I think she’s telling the truth but its almost like she can’t remember.

Belinda: Alright, take her back and tie her up.^

Erin: Alright. Ah… How are you guys going back there? Do you need a hand?

Belinda: No I think we’re good.

Erin: Alright. I’ll tie her up. Honestly I’m starting to think that she didn’t really… I mean obviously she was trying to do us in, but she was trying to save her little brother… you know?

Belinda moves to check the side tunnel with Spirit Sight. Aside from the broken wards it seems clear. There is no one for at least fifty meters.



Emergence of the Shadow Lord

Saul steps into close to the open passenger doors on his side of the carriage, shotgun levelled.

Saul: "Alright Fuckers, Hold it there!

His Shadow Cloak is at level Five with Flesh of Darkness active so he’s looking pretty demonic. His shotgun is also a double barrelled sawn off ten gauge…

Ganger: “OH FUCK! Yeah yeah we’re not doing anything! Don’t hurt us!”

Saul: “Yeah you, stop fucking round with the door there and step back with the others.”

Despite standing lower than them he manages to pull of the intimidation, aided by the swirling darkness.

Ganger: {stepping back} “Alright! Just don’t hurt me. I’m loyal! I’m loyal! Don’t fuck me up! I thought we were supposed to stop them?”

Saul: “Drop your weapons.”

The trio of surviving gangers do so, kicking them gingerly over to Saul.

Xander: Erin I need you to bring some rope down here.

Erin: Ah, we’re improvising. I"ll send Tyler down. We’re cutting up the haversacks.

Xander lays hands on the ganger he shot, who’s bleeding out on the tunnel floor. Spending one point of his Petal Fall Hair Xander closes the man’s wounds just enough to stop the flow and stabilise his condition.

Belinda is not quite Malevolent enough to need to activly resist the Temptation to Devour the soul from the dead ghoul near the front of the train. She climbs up into the carriage, covering the three gangers there with her uzi.

Saul hauls himself up into the carriage without tripping or blowing his cool. He looms over the captives, shadows writhing.

Saul: “What’s down the tunnel?”

Ganger: “Ah, one of the pens. Nothing important, just a side project. How come you don’t know? I thought we were supposed to kill them? Did we do something wrong? Why’d you attack us?”

Saul: “Ah… Wasn’t so much you did something wrong, it was your Masters.”

Ganger “Fuck! Aren’t you?… Who are you?”

Saul: “We’re the ones who are coming to replace your Masters.”

Ganger “Oh fuck. Um… Are you from Melbourne?”

Saul: “Ah…”

There’s a slight pause.

Saul: Do we know the names of their Masters?

Xander: The Dark Priest?

Saul: Erin do you know the names of the vampires round here?

Erin: No. Mostly we just see the gangers driving round and shit. That Audrey, the woman from the brothel that we captured? She was telling us about her master, someone called Zhou? But… ah.. I don’t know if he’s in the City or where he is…

Xander: Zhou the… necromancer?

Erin: Ah… I don’t know. Apparently he owned a lot of stuff in Chinatown, in the Valley. Yeah. She wasn’t a very nice person so we cut her legs off and…

Belinda: {laughs Malevolently}.

Erin: {continuing} …I don’t know but she reckons she’s got nothing to do with all this stuff. They reckon there’s tunnels and stuff under the City now.

Belinda remembers that the Dark Priest’s name was Hugo Lamb.

Belinda: Tell them we’re friends of Hugo’s from out of town.

Saul continues as if nothing just happened.

Saul: “Yeah we’ve come up from Melbourne, and its been a hard fucking slog getting here,” {chuckles Malevolently} “So our patience is pretty thin.”

Ganger Leader: “Whoa whoa. If we’ve done something wrong you’ve got to talk to Rick and them, you know, the bosses… Ah… I know there’s some kind of strife between the Masters and stuff but… We’re just rank an file mate. We… you know. I’ll serve you! You’re the Shadow mate, I just wanna be turned! Like, I just don’t want to be human, don’t want to become a fuckin zombie, you know? I just… I’ll do whatever you want!”

Saul: “Well you can tell us where your Masters are, where Rick is.”

Ganger Leader: “Yeah yeah. They’re at that, you know, the top of the hill, that place where the singing choir dudes were? A couple of nights ago we finally drove them off. Um… You know the really tall lady? The really scary one? The Masters’ Master? Well she’s been in there ever since. We’ve just been looking after the cattle, making them dig, whatever.”

Saul manages just the right air of intimidating empathy, to get the leader to spill his guts.

Ganger Leader: “Don’t even know why we’re making them dig. It’s crazy mate, but that’s what we been doing. The boyz, you know the nazis? The bosses? They been telling us, ‘move these people here’, ‘do this here’, ‘kill these people’, ‘ambush those people’, you know? We just fucking do whatever they say! They’re the bosses! I try not to get too close to the Masters. One of them Masters went off on his own, took a whole bunch of people away. The lady Master… anyone who… a few people thought it’d be good to get close… yeah, its not. You don’t want to get close to her. She does things to people. She does bad things to people. They come back different. But yeah, we just do what we’re told. Just following orders. If you can give us… what the Black Priest was giving out, that’d be great!”

Saul: “Yeah well, we’ll see about that. Where have you been getting your blood from?”

Ganger Leader: “Um, the bosses. You know, the nazi boys, Blud Oth, Rick and his boys? They go through a lot of fucking slaves though…”

Saul: "Alright. What’s down the tunnel? Exactly.

Ganger Leader: “Some kind of… I don’t know what was there before things went to shit, but it’s some kind of private train station or something, underneath one of the hotels? I never heard about it before, but… we got a… there’s an access there that leads down into some fucking thing, an old sewer or something. We had ten or twenty slaves down in there a couple of days ago digging. I don’t know what really for, but they got five or ten meters in…”

Saul: “What with spades?”

Ganger Leader: {laughs ingratiatingly} “Yeah mate! We hit a couple of Bunnings and a hire shop in the Valley. Got a fair bit of equipment now. First up we had ‘em digging with anything. When the Masters, when Mr Lamb said dig, you fuckin dig! We were diggin in the early days, before we rounded up enough slaves. But you know there they dug about ten meters, after jackhammering the concrete out of the way, dug about ten meters into the hill and… we were told to take ’em somewhere else, dig there too. It’s like that. We got dozens of these little fucking sites around under the city. Sometimes its like ‘join this basement to that basement’ and sometimes its just ‘dig that way’, but… um… ever since the Lady drove those singing fellas off the hill they seem a lot less interested. yeah.”

Saul: “So there’s no more traps or guards?”

Ganger Leader: They did not tell us anything. They told us it’d be that Erin bitch and maybe a couple of her people and that all we’d need would be a couple of guns. They told use they didn’t have fucking guns! Like yeah… We were not expecting you guys. It was supposed to be easy, just bring her down and shoot her."

Saul: “Is Bobby down there?”

Ganger Leader: “Nah. There’s no slaves or anything. Who’s Bobby?”

Saul: “The slave used as leverage.”

Ganger Leader: “Oh I dunno. We were just told this morning, ‘got a job for ya. Wait in this train. when people come past with that Erin bitch, shoot her dead.’ She got a couple of my mates you know, fucking shanked ‘em. She’s a fuckin menace! Don’t turn your back on her. She fuckin hates vampires!”

Saul glances at the others.

Saul: So what are we doing?

Belinda: We could kill them.

Xander: We kinda need to know where their base is.

Saul: It’s up on the hill.

Xander: Yeah, and maybe where a couple of these pens are at the bottom.

Saul leans toward the gangers.

Saul: “Is anyone down there at the moment?”

Ganger Leader: “This one? No, I don’t think so, not for a few days. They’re all fuckin workin up the hill now, most of ’em.”

Saul: “Do you know where the other pens are?”

Ganger Leader: “Yeah a few. But shouldn’t you… If you’re from Melbourne… don’t you want to talk to the Lady and stuff?”

Saul: “In time. Dunno if you’ve noticed, but the world’s gone to shit and things have become a bit confused.”

Ganger Leader: “Yeah mate yeah! I never knew about any of this shit before things blew up!”

Saul: “Just got to make sure our bases are covered, but yeah, if you hel pus out we’ll make sure you’re alright.”

Ganger Leader: “You’ll give us a chance to turn? ‘Cause it’s getting hard…”

Saul: “Yeah. We’ll do what we can for you.”

Ganger Leader: “Alright. Alright! You hear that boys?!”

The gangers seem excited, the leader confides.

Ganger Leader: “Just between you and me… Rick and his lads… They’re arseholes to work for! And I don’t think they’ve turned anyone. It was Mr Lamb that was doing that in the early nights and that dude with all the piercings. I haven’t seen him round for ages now, fuckin, not since the world went to shit. It was much easier to get turned in the early days. Now it’s only the first wave, you know, the lieutenants and things, and they’re getting picky. If you turn us, we’ll fucking serve you! We’ll jump at the chance! Nowadays you can’t even… You gotta beg just to get a bit of blood. Just to get a fix!”

Saul chuckles.

Xander: Well I think we need to figure out a way to get the rest of the information from these gentlemen about where everyone is holed up. Top of the hill sounds like…

Saul: ^You want us to do that now while its still daylight?

Xander: No, ah.. We can certainly look at where they are.

Saul: Alright.

Continuing with the gangers.

Saul: “What exactly were your instructions?”

Ganger Leader: “Wait in the train. When the bitch and her friends come past pile out behind and shoot ’em. Just ambush them straight up, bring back her head.”

Saul: “Kill everyone?”

Ganger Leader: “Yeah. They never told us why they were coming or anything. Just said they’d be here today. We been on the train all morning.”

Xander: “Which of the bases were you taking the head back to?”

Ganger Leader: “Spring Hill, the big hotel. Rick and his boys are there, they got a lot of slaves under that.”

The Awakened remember that last time they drove into the City they heard gunfire from Spring Hill. Later that night an angel lifted off from there and swept down over Roma Street Parklands to destroy the Black Priest’s church. Saul also remembers that Isobella has mentions the Silver Lodge chantry as occupying a Rent in Spring Hill, and that she mentioned trading with them for things she couldn’t do as a vampire. When the Awakened were driving back from Wivenhoe they also saw a massive pheonix type manifestation lift from somewhere near the CBD and arc away north east, probably making landfall somewhere near Redcliffe. It struck them at the time that the phoenix and angel looked like similar types of manifestation.

Also, before the fall, Mikael, the Prince’s investigator met Anthony in a bar on Spring Hill and tried to get him to spy on Isobella because he suspected she’d stolen the psychic girl Zoe from Zhou, (she had, Zoe was an early case of Infection). Anthony got the feeling that Spring Hill was Mikael’s hoe ground. That meeting was also the last time they heard from him. He didn’t answer his phone and was missing during the events of the long night.

Ganger Leader: “I’m Paul by the way, Paul. Ah… Do you need anywhere to stay? How did you get here anyway? It’s day time…”

Saul: “Well. Some of us find it easier to move around in the day than others.”

Xander: “But it does make us a bit peckish. Is there a slave pen around here somewhere?”

Paul: “Yeah. Well, one of the main ones is under the government building on King George Square.”

Xander: “Oh yeah, beside the church.”

Paul: “Oh up from it a bit, but that got burned down, the church that is.”

Belinda: {all innocence} “How’d it get burnt down? Do you know?”

Paul: “Oh something to do with those fellas on Spring Hill, but we got them in the end. Killed a fair few when we broke in.”

Saul: “What were you supposed to do after dealing with these guys?”

Paul: “Dunno. Wait for orders I guess. I mean we’d go back and see if they’ll give us a reward or something.”

Saul: “Spring Hill.”

Paul: “Yeah, we would have gone back to the hotel and seen if Rick or one of his boys would give us a bit of blood. You know, job well done and that, kind of think we’d have deserved some. Then… Well there’s various shit going on in the City you know, other people like us that serve the Masters. It’s pretty good. You go outside the City and you’ve got to watch out for zombies every fucking where. In here… It’s alright.”

There is a bit of a pause while the Awakened consider what to do. Both Belinda and Saul are Exhilarated, but the gangers aren’t hostile any more so they aren’t too tempted to massacre them.

Xander: "We do have a human one out here that we can just take back to interrogate some more if we need to…^

Saul looks at the three on the train.

Saul: “You guys got radios or anything? How do you communicate?”

Paul: “Nah. In general it’s pretty free and easy, like, we got a little squat, over on Charlotte street, you know? In one of them posh fuckin skyscrapers. We just come down at night and see if there’s any action we can get in on. Maybe if you can get some guard duty or something, you know, you’re more likely to get some blood. But… other than that you just hang around… loot places… do whatever the fuck you want, you know? It’s getting a bit boring to be honest, but it’s too scary to go north, and across the river is too dangerous. We just do odd jobs and shit. There are people that go out. They go into the suburbs and catch people for the Masters, sack a Bunnings, that kind of shit.”

Saul: “What’s out there? Zombies?”

Paul: “Yeah.” {sombre pause} “I don’t like zombies. They give me the creeps. I just hang around the city, if there’s anything needs doing we’ll do it… Been pretty easy so far. Are you guys… ah… do you want to meet Rick? I could give you an introduction.”

Xander: “Probably not tonight.”

Saul: Definitely not tonight, but today maybe?

The Awakened laugh Malevolently over Mind’s Reach.

Saul: We gonna do it?

Belinda: It’ll take some time to get there. If he recognises us…

Xander: I think we’re best off either sending these guys on their way or just taking them out.

Saul: Definitely can’t send them away.

Xander: Yep.

Belinda: We could tell them that Erin is actually under your protection.

Xander: We should probably take care of the three in the train and just keep this human one to ask questions of later.

Saul: And that guy over there? {nods toward to the one sprawled on other side of train}

Belinda: He’s dead.

Xander: This heavily injured guy does seem to know the most.

Saul: Alright. Don’t want to try and go after Rick?

Xander: Today? I think we should.

Belinda: {noise of agreement}

Saul: In that case we might need him to lead us.

Belinda: He’ll at least get us past the cars.

Xander: Righto.



Parting Ways

Paul and his two buddies are still looking at Saul, no idea how close they just came to dying.

Saul: “Is there a way we can get to the hotel?”

Paul: “Yeah, well, usually we just drive. I got a car.”

Saul: “Can we get there with minimum sunlight?”

Paul: {pauses} “I don’t know the diggings well enough, but I’m starting to suspect they’re trying to join things up. I dunno if you could go under the ground yet. I know they joined some basements, but… that’s more for the boys who’ve been turned… I wouldn’t go down there, might step on someone’s toes, you know?”

Saul: “Alright.” {and to Xander, over Mind’s Reach} Do you have Verdure?

Verdure is indeed part of Xander’s Aspect, so although he can’t currently use any of the powers he Absorbed into Anthony’s body he can lower Taint while active as Xander. He looks at Paul.

Xander: “How long would it take to get there driving?”

Paul: “Oh, probably ten minutes to get to the car and five on the road. The roads are still pretty good on the hill. They’re a bit rat shit down in the city now that the water’s been over them a couple of times. They lost a couple of slaves, a lot of slaves, when the flood came back again. The original pens were under the Myer Center, you know? It just went under.”

Belinda: “Is your car above ground or underground?”

Paul: “It’s jut outside Central Station. You can park wherever you want now. I mean… If we do go now though… Even if you guys are happy in the day, I don’t think Rick and his boys are as powerful as you. I don’t think his followers will let you in, you know? I don’t know how that would go down. I mean…” {he looks over at his dead mate} “Are youse happy with what Rick’s boys and the Masters have done? I mean… I’m with you! But… Where do youse stand?”

Saul: “Well we’re a bit unsure about what’s been going on. With the chaos of things lately.”

Paul: “Alright. But you’re not unhappy with… us taking prisoners and things?”

Saul: “No, you do what you gotta do.”

Tyler comes walking down between the rails. It looks like his ears are burning.

Tyler: “I got those ropes. Ah… Is everything… You’re looking pretty comfortable…”

Xander gives him a short whistle and tilts his head back toward Erin in a clear invitation to fuck off."

Tyler: “Alright alright. Yeah here, here.” {handing over strips of rucksack material} “Make sure you tie them cunts up real good!”

With that he walks back up the tunnel, throwing the odd loathing glance back. From the look on the gangers’ faces it’s mutual.

Saul: So you’ll get them to take you?

Xander: We’ll go with that. It’s always better to know where your enemies are.

Saul: I’ll just wait here.

Xander uses Verdure on Belinda, investing Aura from his Petal Fall Hair to suppress her vampiric Taint one level so that she won’t take damage from the sunlight.

Xander, Belinda, and the four surviving gangers prepare to head off.

Erin: Tyler’s just come back, is everything all right?

Xander: We’re tidying up some other lose ends we left last time we were in the City.

Belinda: We’ll try and see if Bobby is where we’re headed.

Erin: Alright, I’ll tell Sandra that. She doesn’t know where he is, says they’ve got him but didn’t tell her where.

Belinda: The side tunnel should be empty.

Erin: Oh ok. I might even take her down there so she can see for herself. But ah.. So you guys are going with him? Will you be alright?

Belinda: Take Saul down the tunnel just in case.

Erin: Yeah that’d be great!

Saul: Take Saul?!

Laughter.

Erin: Err… Would that be alright Saul?

Saul: Ok yeah, I’ll take you down the tunnel.

Erin: Thank you! Err… So you guys don’t want any backup?

Xander: At the moment we’re just going for a drive to scope out locations. Saul, maybe if you would say you’re just going to send your ‘ghouls’ on ahead? To pave the way before Rick wakes up?

Saul: My ghouls?

Xander Yeah us.

Saul: Oh yeah alright.

He turns to the gangers.

Saul: “If you take my companions here to the hotel, I’ll join you later.”

Paul: “Yeah sure. We’ll take you there! But… Like I say, it might be hard to talk our way in. There’s a bunch of fellas who’ve managed to get in with Rick and his boys. They see themselves as elite, you know, among us who’re still human. It’s different from those who’ve been turned, but these guys can be a bit… stuck up. But yeah we’ll take you… err… your people there and… see what happens?”

Saul: “Alright. Your cooperation has been noted.”

Paul: “Oh good, good. Well. We’re with you! Paul my name is, and this is Nick, and Rex, and that’s Ray.”

Saul: “Yep.”

Paul: “We’re looking for a chance to turn. It’s the only way to be safe!”

He turns to Xander and Belinda.

Paul: “If you guys would like to come with us, we’ll take you up to the hotel.”

Xander is passing Ray, the guy he healed and tied up, to Tyler, who must have come back down at some point.

Xander: “Ok, one second.”

Paul: “Err… What about Ray?”

Saul: “You don’t need him do you?”

Belinda: “He needs medical attention.”

Paul, Nick, and Rex exchange horrified glances. None of them dare to act.

Paul: “Yeah… No… Ah. We don’t need him.”

Saul: “You can say goodbye to him now.”

Paul: “Yeah right… Ah… Ok. Well, if you guys would like to come with us?”

Supported by his two remaining mates Paul climbs down out of the train carriage and leads Belinda and Xander away down the tunnel toward Central Station, abandoning Ray to the Tyler’s clutches.

Xander: “Wise decision.”

Paul: “Yeah well… You gotta roll with the times I guess. We’re with you!”



Saul and the Survivors

Back at the ambush site Tyler leads the bound Ray back to Erin and co while Saul stares at the dead ganger on the tracks. He’s aware that it may have started to develop vampiric powers, perhaps even Obtenebration, but resists the urge to Devour its soul. The last fragment of Obtenebration he needs is already in the Tree

He heads down to Erin and the others. Sandra is looking exhausted and ashamed, hanging in the others’ grip. The captive ganger Ray is looking very nervously at Shadow Cloaked Saul with his Flesh of Darkness.

Ray: “If you’re hungry I can…”

He offers his bound arms. Saul can see fresh blood letting scars on his wrists.

Ray: “But… ah… you won’t drain me dry or anything will you?”

Saul: “Nah, you’re right for now.”

Ray: {big sigh of relief} “But how did you… These guys… They’re not friendly to our… you know.. your kind.”

Saul: “That’s what you think. You don’t tell me who’s friendly to me and who isn’t.”

Ray: {hyperventilating} “Alright alright yeah yeah.”

Saul looks at the survivors. They seem remarkably unaffected by his appearance, and surprisingly supportive of Sandra, even though she just tried to lead them to their death.

Vic: “We’ll go down there. We’ll prove it to you.”

Saul: “I don’t think there’s anything down there but lets go have a look.”

Saul herds Ray down the side tunnel a few paces ahead of the rest. The captive ganger is shit scared and shaking. Saul is still getting the Mind’s Reach bonuses to alertness because Erin is there and she’s been added to the gestalt too.

The tunnel seems well made. After an uneventful walk they come to a spot where an access to one side is lying open.

Sandra: “Yeah, I came up here! This is where they let me go. You’re sure they’re not just down there? They don’t have Bobby?”

Saul: “Yeah.”

Sandra: “Well… What can I do? What can I do to save him then? If they were lying to me… Where is he then?”

Saul: “Could be any number of places. We can do what we can to find him, but, you should probably be prepared for the fact that he’s already dead.”

Sandra: “No. He can’t be dead! We’ve been through so much, it’s not possible! I’ll find him. I’ll find him!”

She starts having a go at Ray, struggling against her ropes to get at the captive ganger ghoul.

Sandra: “You tell me where he is. Tell me where they are!”

Ray looks sort of embarrassed, sort of like he doesn’t care, and much more scared of why Saul has separated him from his mates.

Erin: {holding Sandra back} ^What are we gonna do with that fella? Do you want me to add him to the other two I’ve got? He’s not a… I mean he’s just like me isn’t he?"

Saul: Yeah pretty much.

Erin: Well we won’t be able to treat him as rough then.

Saul: Yeah. Just take him in and see what you can do for him.

Erin: You want us to get anything in particular out of him? Or just hold him?

Saul: Just hold him.

Erin: Alright. Yeah we can do that. Listen. We’re gonna have a problem with Sandra. I think the boys, Maureen… Any chance you could take her with you? Otherwise I think she might get stabbed.

Xander: Ah…

Saul: Fair enough. I can understand that.

Erin: I dunno how you’re getting around, but is it something you could do? ‘Cause I sort of feel for her. I mean, I don’t know what I’d do if I had someone that close who was being threatened, but… ah… We can’t rust her.

Saul: Yeah.

Erin: She knows a few places. You’re just about the only people I can think of… I mean she’s talking about trying to find her bro again and if she ends up in their hands she’s just gonna spill everything she knows, aside from what she’s already blown about where we hide and shit. We don’t have that many places…

Saul: Yeah.

Erin: I dunno. I mean… I don’t want to kill her. I think it’d do horrible things if we start killing our own people and we’re fragile enough as it is. But… We can’t trust her… We can’t just let her go.

Saul: Leave her with me.

Erin: Yeah? You won’t… You won’t eat her will you?

Saul: No. Not unless there’s a real need for it anyway.

Erin: Oh good {sighs in relief} The other two… will they be alright?

Saul: Yeah they’ll be fine. They can hear us talking now.

Erin: Yeah right. And… uh… Can I do this any time? Can you’se hear me if I just sort of yell at ya’s in my head?

Saul: Well. You can try and we might hear, but it’s not guaranteed.

Xander: Not yet. It’ll be on the cards.

Erin: Oh ok. Well we might take these two back. We’ve got a couple bars and basements and things we can hold them in. Can you’se find me again? Like you did this morning?

Saul nods.

Erin: Alright. In that case… We’re gonna have to leave the Valley, like, if they’re gonna come after us this hard… You know, even if this didn’t work, but I dunno where to go, like it gets… The floods are real bad, even in the Valley it gets pretty wet.

Xander: How much do you trust the people you’re with?

Erin: Well I would have… This morning I would have trusted them with my life. But… Sandra turned pretty easy. All of us have people we care about. Well, most of us. I… you know… Most of ’em are good people.

Xander: Would you trust them to go somewhere with a bag over their head? If they didn’t know exactly where they were?

Erin: If they were taking me?

Xander: No no, if you were taking them.

Erin: I don’t know if they’d trust me enough…

Xander: Well we know a safe place for you, where Isobella is.

Erin: {brightening} That would be awesome!

Xander: But i’s our place. So if you trust them…

Erin: So they’d have to go blindfold?

Xander: As you said, Sandra turned pretty easy.

Saul: {nodding toward Vic, Tyler, Maureen, and Sandra} Is this everyone?

Erin: No no. There’s at least… ten or twenty of us all up, but sort of scattered. We didn’t want to gorup up ‘cause shit goes bad real easy. We’ve lost a few, you know? So we try to keep separate as much as we can, don’t sleep in the same place, move around a bit. But we talk. I can get them together.

Belinda: I’d get everyone to gather their supplies.

Saul: Yeah.

Belinda: Then see who will willingly go with you, blindfolded with earplugs as well. Because it is our place, Isobella is there and we don’t want anyone to know where.

Erin: I’ll put it to ‘em. Don’t know how many we’ll get, but yeah… We can’t last. There’s just too many of them in the City for us to be staying so close, and its too dangerous with the zombies and things, sort of stuck. I imagine some will take it some won’t. I’ll but it to ’em. Ah… probably tomorrow would be the earliest I can reliably get around everyone.

Xander: Three hours after dawn tomorrow, keep your mind open.

Erin: ^Alright, and we’ll have this cunt tied up for you until whenever you like, and if you guys could take Sandra with you that’d be great.

Xander: I’ll leave Saul to handle that.

Saul: Well we could just take some of them now.

Xander: {laughing} Drop them at the Tree.

Saul: Yeah, Erin and two others, leaving the other two to spread the word. It’s easier to manage just a couple at a time. Taking eight or ten people would just be too hard.

Xander: Yeah, eight or ten are better off driving.

Saul: ^Yeah, we should take Erin and one or two of the others. I’m going to be Spirit Stepping to join you anyway."

Belinda: Just have to tell them to stay out of the cave.

Saul: Yeah. Have to make another one.

Saul tells Erin to send the others back to spread the word and he’ll take her and one other with him.

Erin: Would you take Sandra?

Saul: You and Sandra?

Erin: Well… I think I’d be better off convincing people to come. If you leave me, could you take Sandra and Maureen? I don’t think Maureen’s got anything to come back for.

Saul: Yeah alright.

Erin: ‘Cause I think the quicker I can get Sandra out the more likely someone… doesn’t shiv her.

Saul: Alright.

Erin: Um, yeah. I do still want out. I really want out! But I think I got a better chance of convincing the others to come with us. There’s only three of us so far drinking the blood and we’ve got a bit more… pull.

Xander: Make sure everyone stacks up all their food and water ‘cause it’ll need to come.

Erin: So it’s a one way?

Saul: Yeah.

Erin: Alright. Yeah there’s people got different stashes and shit. I don’t know everything what they’ve got. Some people won’t come just ‘cause they think it’s a trap or something, you know.

Belinda: Well, split it evenly among the stayers and the goers.

Erin: Yeah alright. Alright! {looks at Saul} “So you’re staying in the tunnel?”

Saul: Yeah.

Erin tells Mauren that she’s got a chance to get out, but asks if she’ll take Sandra so that Sandra doesn’t get stabbed. Maureen looks at Shadow Cloaked Saul. She seems like a tough old bird but she starts making excuses; got stuff to get, need time to think it over, could help convince the others…

Saul: “Well someone’s gotta take the step. Someone has to trust in us so everyone else can follow.”

Aided a little by his cloak of darkness he’s impressive.

Tyler: “Yeah alright. I’ll do it! Fuck it! Whatever you got, lets try this shit!”

He gives Sandra a hard look as he takes custody of her.

Erin, Maureen, and Vic start heading back down the tunnel toward the Valley. They take Ray the ganger with them. He doesn’t look too happy to be going, looking back as if the Lord of Darkness would be a better option.

Ray: “Ah… Aren’t I staying with him? I’ll go with him!”

Vic {one of the other Valley ghouls}: “Nah buddy, not at all.”

Saul is left in the dark with Tyler, Sandra, and a corpse just around the corner from which the soul could still be Devoured…



The Hill

Meanshile Belinda, Xander, Paul, Rex, and Nick are walking along the tunnel toward the City. It’s kind of peaceful. There is the slightly surreal feeling of being in a place you would never usually be allowed, but other than that it doesn’t feel post-apocalyptic at all, until they get to Central Station. That has been trashed. There was obviously a lot of panic, rioting, looting and massacre here, with rotting corpses tying among trash and shattered glass.

The three gangers seem used to it, callous even. It’s the same when they pile into their car and drive up the hill. There are wrecks on the road, broken glass, burned out shops, and human remains, but the gangers just ignore it all driving past as if it’s the new normal.

The hotel on Spring Hill is a skyscraper type, right near the top of Roma Street Parklands. Paul pulls up on the street outside.

Paul: “We better walk from here. There’ll be some trouble if we try to go in and use their car park or anything.”

Xander: “Righto, lead the way.”

Belinda: “Walk we shall.”

There are a couple of large looking lads on the hotel door. One is armed with a shotgun, the other an assault rifle.

Large lad: “What’s this then?”

Paul: “I got some fellas to see the bosses.”

Large lad: “You can’t come in here in the day time mate. You know better than that.”

Paul: “Oh, well they really said it was important.”

Large lad: “I don’t give a fuck. No one comes in in the day mate.”

Xander: “So you’re the guy Rick’s got standing in the way of messages from Garouche and Hugo. Is that how this is gonna run?”

Large lad: “Well… Look that’s a bit different, but you’re not gonna have a message from Hugo, he’s fuckin dead mate.”

Xander: “Really? Because I’ve got a spear in my back yard that says he’s not.”

Large lad: “That’s beyond my pay grade. I’m not supposed to let anyone in. Can youse come back when someone’s awake that can handle it?”

Xander: “You’re awake. Can you handle it or not?”

Large lad: “Look… Nah, you’d know who to talk to. If you were serious you’d know, you wouldn’t just show up at the fuckin door like this.”

Xander: “I know what time of day it is. And I know I’ve had a cunt of a time getting up here from Melbourne with the other guys.”

Large lad: “Reeeally.”

Xander: “Rick led the way but some of us had to follow up behind.”

Xander is quite convincing, both guards are looking worried. The larger looks at his mate who minutely shakes his head.

Large lad: {turning back to Xander} “Look. I can hear that this is important. What if we put ya’s up? It’s only for a few hours…”

Xander: “Is there a foyer, or have you got a room for us?”

Large lad: “Well I can’t let you in the building, but what if we put you up next door? We got fresh food, or the best of the fresh food that’s left. Rick can talk to ya’s when he’s awake an has a chance. But you know, it’s worth my life to let youse in. If I let someone in during the day I’m fucked. But we got the best shit the fucking five star restaurants had in their storerooms! We’ll send people over and look after you good, but I got my orders and I know what they do to people who don’t obey.”

Xander: “So what’s the difference between this foyer here and that foyer there?”

Large lad: “I’m not allowed to let people into the building. Supposed to shoot anyone that tries. And if you’ve really got important messages that’d be bad ‘cause then you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone.”

Xander: “Well no, you wouldn’t be able to tell.”

The large lad shrugs. Physically he looks confident, despite being human, and despite Xander and Belinda’s weapons, body armour, green skin and hair.

Belinda notices that the other guard’s assault rifle is an army issue austyr. Anthony can see other people inside the hotel lobby, a couple more guards at the elevators and some toughs lounging to one side of the foyer. Neither of the Awakened have the sense that the foyer area is particularly strongly guarded, nothing that would be a threat to them anyway.

Large lad: “Is there anything we can get you?” {bit of a leery look at Belinda} “Any.. err.. thing you’d want me to send over?”

Xander: “Am I gonna have to explain this story to fifty other guys in the foyer of this other building?”

Large lad: “Nah nah nah it’s only this one. Rick’s left orders that no one can enter here. It’s not the whole City that’s locked down or anything. We’ll give you good hospitality. We’ll send someone with ya’s and set youse up if you just wait a little while.”

Xander: Saul we’re not gonna make it inside this building, but we’ll make it pretty close if we come at it hard and fast.

Saul: Alright, I’ll try and get back to the Tree.

Belinda: {to guards} “I’d just like to mention that the people we’re working for aren’t that patient, to wait hours for a response.”

Xander: “You got the message that people can’t come in. I’ve got the message that we get in or we didn’t get in and who turned us away, that’s pretty much the story I gotta give.”

Large lad: {after some thought} “I’ll go with the evil I know. But I’m only following orders! I’ll look after ya’s the best I can!”

Xander: “Righto.”

Large lad: “It’s really on Rick’s orders…”

The large lad calls over some of the lounging toughs and gets a couple to take Belinda and Xander next door. Their guide turns out to be a friendly, inquisitive type.

Guide: “You guys some kind of big shots?” and “Getting the royal treatment?”

The hotel next door also contains gangers, both ghoul and human. It looks like the Blud Oth are using this building to house all the closest of their hanger’s on. Their guide lets it be known that Xander and Belinda are honoured guests and should be shown the best service. The next ten minutes or so consists of a bunch of really rough fellas trying to put on five star service. They’re shown up to upper story rooms. A good feed is cooked up. A demonstration is given on how their room has a working big screen television and movies they can watch over the hotels internal network, etc.

Xander: “What about Ulyana? Is she here as well? I mean after Hugo…”

Guide: “Oh the Master? Oh yeah she is. But… ah… you don’t want to draw attention to yourself with her mate. She’s nasty. People disapear if they catch her eye. It doesn’t matter how important ya are, she’ll just take ya if she takes a gleam to ya and ya won’t come back.”

Xander: “Righto. We’ll see what the story is with that then.”

Guide: {suddenly in a hurry to get away} “Yeah, like I say, enjoy!”



At the Tree

Saul meanwhile has been opening the gauntlet using aura from his Cloak of Shadows. He hasn’t blindfolded either Sandra or Tyler. They look suitably awed as spiritual space opens before them. Leading them through Saul takes them to the Domain in three steps, bringing them out just beneath the Tree.

Zach is awake. He’s perched up on a root staring at the twisted bark. He looks dreamily at Saul.

Zach: “This is just… just like the essence of nature or something! This is unreal! I’ve got the feeling this could teach me all the secrets that I’ve been trying to grasp and just haven’t been able to understand!”

Saul: “Yeah it’s pretty cool. Are you good?”

Zach: “I… think so. Just trying to comprehend it all. I have this feeling like it could teach me how to be true to my nature. I’ve been trying for twenty years to grasp this stuff and haven’t seen any improvement. This is unreal!”

Zach has barely glanced at the new arrivals.

Saul: “Alright, I’ll leave you to it. These are some guys who’ll be staying here for a bit.”

Zach: “Oh, ok. Are they… alright? They’re ok people?”

Saul: “Yeah, it’ll be fine. Just don’t bother them and they won’t bother you.”

Sandra: {staring around} “Yeah, oh.. um…”

Tyler: {at the same time} “Ahhhh yeah ok… If you say so… What the fuck just happened?”

It occurs to Saul again that he’s about to leave two people who’ve just been in a week long conflict with vampires alone in the Tree with three actual vampires and two people who are in a torpor like state. Saul calls on the Tree to Realise some roots, which emerge through the sand around the bodies of Anthony and Jennifer and then sprout a giant leaf to enclose the inactive Vessels safely. It is a truely massive leaf, way too thick for a human to break through with their hands.

Tyler: “Holy Fuck! This is… This is fucken… fairy land and shit!”

Xander: Is there a door or hinge in that?

Saul: Nah, you can find your own way out.

Next Saul has the Tree Realise some more roots to seal Faith and Ivy, both currently in torpor, safely into their cave. He leave wakeful Zach outside with Tyler and Sandra, even though he knows that with a Blood Puissance equal to Release Level One Zach is unlikely to develop more powers even with this chance to comprehend Protean by studying the Tree.

Zach seems very happy to try, turning back to study the way the bark twists.

Sandra’s legs give out. She collapses onto the beach, still staring at the Tree and the little world around her.

Sandra: “You…”

Saul: “That’s the way. Relax here for a bit. Just don’t disturb the Cave or the Leaf.”

Sandra: “No…”

Saul: “Just relax for a while and we’ll be back soon.”

Tyler: “Yeah alright. We’ll wake up soon. Alright man.”

Saul: “Won’t be long. Just lay back and nap. Chat with Zach if you want.”

Tyler: “Alright… yeah.”



Hotel Stakeout

Saul spend some Essence from the Reserve to open his way back down to Earth.

Saul: {stepping through spiritual space} You ready? Not in sunlight?

Xander: No, we’re in a room, a darkened room. {moving to stand closer to the bathroom}

During this time Xander has used his Will (weaker in this body than he’s used to) to maintain his Malevolence somewhat. He’s lost some aura and fails to Circulate it too. Belinda has drawn more Essence to maintain her Release Level, manifesting it as Petal Fall Hair.

While they wait in their upper floor room the pair have also become aware with Spirit Sense of a presence up the road a bit, right on the crest of Spring Hill where the old hospital turned seminary should be. It feels a bit like the defiled church did, ominous and laden with vampiric power.

As Saul steps down through spiritual space he notes a place in the gauntlet near where he is coming out which is significantly thicker than he’s become used to. It’s not enough his emergence into the hotel room though so shadows merge into reality as Saul steps forth. His Shadow Cloak is reduced but his Flesh of Darkness is still active.

Belinda: “Welcome back.”

Xander: “There’s a couple of bouncers at the door next door who aren’t real keen to let us inside during the day. We’ll either have to go in hard or wait around till nightfall. I think going in hard is the best option.”

Saul: “Yeah. Ok. So is it just one?”

Xander: “Two guys, with other guys in the foyer. None of them looked…”

Saul: “Just ghouls?”

Xander: “Ghouls, humans, nothing particularly interesting about any of them.”

Saul: “Alright. Is that the only entrance?”

Xander: “I didn’t really get the chance to walk around the building.”

While they’re talking Belinda switches the partially depleted clip from her uzi for a full one. Xander is still carrying his rucksack. There are five molotov’s left inside.

Saul crosses to the window to peer out at the neighbouring hotel and scope it, but his roll results in a tripple botch!…



There we leave the session for this week. I kinda need to think about that one :)
Thanks for reading.



Status

Belinda:

Rash at Release Level 4.
Uninjured and Well Rested.
10 Malevolence with 10 Aura nearby:

6 Petal Fall Hair (tree aura).
1 Celerity (tree aura).
1 Potence (tree aura).
1 Spirit Sight (tree aura).
1 Mind’s Reach (tree aura).

Moderate Instability:

Human Taint level 3.
Vampirit Taint level 2 (suppressed to lvl 1).
Werewolf Taint level 2.
Animal Taint level 1.


Saul:

?? at Release Level 3.
Slightly sunburned but Well Rested?.
22 Malevolence with 8 Aura nearby:

4 Shadow Cloak (void aura).
2 Potence (tree aura).
1 Spirit Sight (tree aura).
1 Mind’s Reach (tree aura).

Moderate Instability:

Human taint level 3.
Vampiric taint level 2.
Zombie taint level 2.


Xander:

Restive at Release Level 4.
Uninjured and Well Rested.
10 Malevolence with 10 aura nearby:

6 Petal Fall Hair (tree aura).
1 Verdure (tree aura, invested into Belinda).
3 Seed of Life (tree aura)
1 Proteanic Cat’s Eyes (tree aura).
1 Celerity (tree aura).
1 Spirit Sight (tree aura).

Low Instability:

Human taint level 2.



The Tree:

Growth:

Stage Five.
1 / 60th toward next stage.


Realisation:

15m Tall
Air and Space, fifteen meter radius (15 points worth).
Expanse of Dark Water (15 points worth).
Beach of Amethyst Sand (15 points worth).
Hillock Roots Cave, sealed (11 points worth).
Leaf Roots Dome, sealed (9 points worth).


Adaptation:

Celerity (interplay leaves and branches).
Protean (shapes in the bark).


Reserve:

10 Tree Aura.
103 Essence.
1 Primal Essence of Blood and Entropy (vampiric).
6 Primal Essence of Fishyness (bound spirits).
330 essence worth of Soul Fragments.


Expected Sources:

Belinda’s Household: ~10 Essence (solid, familial).
Bardon Colony: ~50 Essence (trust and awe).
Indro Colony: 0 (eliminated).
Enoggera Barracks: ?? (influx indro folk).
People at the Tree: ??
Valley Survivors: 5 to 20? (talking about offer).



Next Session: The Raid

View
Session 30
Spirit Steppin

Sunrise, Day Eight

In the Domain itself there is no Sun. Lighting is indeterminate as the Awakened have not yet Realised a specific arrangement to mirror the sky or create their own distinct sources for day or night. There is only the Tree, with amethyst sand, and dark waters at its roots.

It is quiet in the Domain. There are no neighbourly voices or sounds of movement. The waters are still. The only sounds come from the rustle of leaves and the slight scritching of zombie and feral fragments of souls, wriggling within the Tree.

Belinda: “Well they shouldn’t be there.”

It is Cries of the World which give the two Aspects a sense of time passing in the City, the ‘outside world’ with which the Domain is congruent. Leaving their alternate bodies stretched out in the sand, Belinda and Xander Spirit Step down to Earth.



Breakfast

In Bardon it is a cold and foggy morning, the first such since the fall. The Red Moon is waning, a blur behind the fog, sunk a little more than a third of the way down from the apex of the sky.

Xander has the niggling feeling that he’s forgotten something. It’s nothing major, it just feels like he’s left behind. He’s carrying a lot less gear than he has become used to as Anthony, perhaps having borrowed just some pants from his other body.

Belinda, using Exalted Perception, has brought them out on the hardwood floor of her open plan kitchen / dining room. Clara is there, making breakfast for her two boys.

Clara: “Oh. Hello.”

Clara seems unphased by their appearance from thin air, but then she’s never really said anything about all the supernatural goings on, including her own father’s reverse aging from deathbed frail to a strapping youthful vigour. She is however staring at Xander now.

Clara: “Do I know you? You look… very familiar.”

Xander is a gallant gentleman who appears to be in his mid thirties. He has calloused hands and some scars from handling cats, dogs, and wild animals.

Xander: “Greetings. My name is Xander. I used to run a veterinary clinic over in Ashgrove. Did you have a pet by any chance, before the world fell to shit?”

Clara: Oh no. I lived on the other side of town. It’s good to… meet you. Sorry for staring. Err…. Would you like something to eat?"

The Awakened eat and chat. It’s household talk mostly. Clara mentions that Gary’s stripping crews are getting far enough out to feel uneasy and starting to experience diminishing returns. Apparently some of the neighbours are starting to say they should have another try at finding stores or larger supplies. Throughout breakfast Clara keeps looking at Xander. There is definitely a sense of recognition there.

About half an hour after dawn they hear some diesel engines off to the east. It sounds like a convoy of heavier vehicles heading south over Bardon, probably skirting around government house like the Awakened do when they go in that direction.



Checking in on Lisa

About an hour after dawn Saul wakes. He uses Domain Dreaming to use Cries of the World to check on Lisa.

Lisa is on an oval with about thirty other people. They’ve been broken into teams of four or five and are handling sand bags. One team builds a pile while another pulls it down and a third passes the bags back to the first for building up again.

The trainee’s are being pushed by a drill Sergeant to go as fast as they can. There is much sweating and concentration as the Sergeant keeps yelling arbitrary commands to change direction, change the order, to go faster ever faster. He’s pushing them to their limits.

Another Sergeant walks on to the field. With him are a line of huge footballer types, big Maoris, Tongans, and white boys alike.

New Sergeant: “Listen up you maggots! These men are zombies! Those trucks are safety! RUN!”

He’s pointing to a couple of GWagons parked across the oval. The trainees are looking at their drill Sergeant, at each other, at the bags in their hands, while the footballers are already charging toward them.

It’s carnage. Only a few of the trainees quick enough to run when they were told. The rest get brutally tackled, or smashed to the ground. The sergeants are wading in among the mess, screaming till their faces are red.

Sergeant 1: “YOU’RE FUCKING DEAD!”

Sergeant 2: “YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO ORDERS!”

Sergeant 1: “YOU SHOULD HAVE KEPT YOUR EYES OPEN!”

There’s a lot of pressure testing; yelling in peoples’ faces, forcing them to stand and say “YES SIR! NO SIR!”, assigning pushups as punishment for failure to keep up, etc. Saul notes that Lisa seems to managing pretty well. She’s one of the ones who made it to the truck and seems to be handling the combination of extreme effort and alertness pretty well.

He leaves the glimpse there, opting not to disturb her with Mind’s Reach.



A Morning at Home

The Awakened relax for an hour or two, watching their neighbours’ daily routine. It looks like the Bardon colonists are quite well organised now. Groups of people form up and head out to strip houses, while others stay behind to process the stuff being brought in or continue work on the barricades. It looks like they’ve repurposed a couple of utes for the stripping crews and a couple of houses and front yards as processing centers.

Saul: “So what are we doing? Are we gonna go get Erin?”

Xander: “I’m feeling a bit… under prepared, compared to the rest of the household. Perhaps a brief moment?”

Saul: “Ah yes. Welcome to the party. We’ve been dealing with a lot of wild animals lately.”

Xander: “Yeah the human and not so human kind. If I ever get back over to Ashgrove and find whoever it was broke into my clinic I’ll really tear them a new one.”

Saul: “Speaking of which… You want a gun or something?”

Xander: “Yes. I have had some experience with tranqs and rifles and things like that.”

Saul: "Alright. Come to the basement.

Liam is downstairs, reading a book in front of Isobella’s room. He says hello and makes casual small talk while Xander takes a hatchet, body armour, army issue 9mm handgun, twelve gauge lever action shotgun and clips and ammunition to suit.

Belinda gets the 9mm ammo that Saul dug out for her the night before. She refills all the clips she has for her uzi and puts thirteen bullets back.

Belinda: “I’ve got one hundred and fifty bullets, surely that will be enough for the next fight… you’d think.”

Belinda thinks to ask what they had had in the BMW and Xander realises that the thing he’d been forgetting was the turtle he (as Anthony) and Saul picked up from an abandoned pet shop the day before. The BMW was so trashed that he thinks it has a fair chance of escaping. There is also a bag of (presumably now dead) goldfish in there with it, and a tidal swamp just outside.

Xander: “It’ll get out.”



A Call

As the Awakened are finishing tending their gear one of Clara’s boys come down, one of the little mongrels that threw that football through the window the other day.

Boy 1: “Hey Saul! That cop car you guys took, the radio’s going off it it, someone’s trying to talk to ya’s. I thought I’d better get you. I don’t know how to operate it but me brother’s trying to talk back to ’em.”

Saul: “Alright thanks. I’ll go have a look.”

Saul heads upstairs, remembering that out of the three cop cars they acquired they gave one to Ivy and then abandoned one at Indooroopilly to Spirit Step back quickly. Luckily they’d set all three to the frequency Ivy’s colony have been using to communicate.

Saul also realises that when they were talking to the Enoggera army guys yesterday it was the CB radio in the four wheel drive that they were driving at the time which they set to the frequency they army guys suggested. That four wheel drive got abandoned in Toowong yesterday after they got it stuck in flood waters. So they might have missed a morning check in that the army guys said they would do. Saul does remember the frequency however. He makes a mental not to tune another radio in.

Note: The army helmet from the Cabarlah army dudes they fought out at Wivenhoe is still sitting on the kitchen table. It is tuned to yet another frequency…

At the cop car Clara’s other son is trying to talk to Zach, one of Ivy’s vampires who was turned as a teenager some twenty years ago and doesn’t seem to have properly grown up.

Zach: “Who are you? Are you one of the Neighbourhood Watch guys?”

Boy 2: “Nah it’s Andrew…”

Saul: "Here give me that.

Saul grabs the hand piece before the kid can blab about where he is.

Saul: “This is Saul.”

Zach: “Oh Saul! It’s Zach, its Zach! Just letting you know the army’s outside! They made us an offer, or they made everyone here an offer. They’ve got trucks and things. I think everyone here is gonna take it… I can’t… go anywhere and we wouldn’t want to anyway. You said they were hostile right? T… to our kind?”

Saul: “Yeah. You don’t want to go with them.”

Zach: “Right right. I don’t want to wake Ivy but I’m gonna have to. I just thought I’d talk to someone. Um… It looks like everyone here is gonna go. Most of the normal people here were sort of really regretting not going with you guys the other night. I… I can’t really blame them but… what should I do?”

Saul: “So how many vamps are there?”

Zach: “Me and Ivy and Faith. And like Pete, a couple people who’ve been with us a lot of time and a couple of new fellas that’ll probably stay with us. I don’t think anyone else is gonna stay. I dunno. There might be some people that stay with us. I should wake Ivy up shouldn’t I? Pete’s out, that’s all, usually Pete would decide this kinda stuff.”

Saul: “Yeah well if you can wake her up wake her up,”

Zach: “Alright.”

Saul: “but there’s probably not much you can do, you’re better off just letting them go.”

Zach: “Alright. Umm… how hostile… If they hear anything about us are they gonna come kill us?”

Saul: “Probably.”

Zach: “Fuck!”

Saul: “You’re gonna have to move. But, ah, we might be able to help you with that.”

There is a pause as if Zach is trying to think.

Zach: “Look we might have somewhere we could hide but if I call for help or anything… maybe you guys could drive down? Or… or talk to them? You’ve talked to these guys before haven’t you?”

Saul: “Yeah we have.”

Zach: “Have you got anyone who could drive down and maybe make sure they don’t try to hunt us out? ‘Cause I don’t know what… I mean we sort of been keeping quiet but… especially in the first couple of days we weren’t too quiet about… how things were.”

Saul: “Sure.”

Zach: “We had to do some things to save people, you know? And it’s pretty obvious if you’re jumping six and seven meters at a time that you’re not human…”

Saul: “Well. Like I said, you’re gonna have to move. If people want to go with them just let them go. It’s not worth trying to stop them.”

Zach: “Right, right. Ah…”

Saul: “If you just hang around there for a moment. I’ll talk with the others and I’ll call you back. We’ll see what we can do to help you out.”

Zach: “Right, right. I’ll keep this walkie talkie on me, but… there’s only so many places I can use it. It doesn’t… it might not reach when I go back deeper in. I can’t go outside or anything to get good reception.”

Saul: “Well there might be a police car parked right outside the rooftop entrance.”

Zach: “I can’t go out there. I… I.. I’ve tried in the past.”

Saul: “It’s right outside.”

Zach: “Yeah I can’t. I’ve really tried in the past.”

Saul: “Alright”

Zach: “Ah… You know what I mean? Ivy can, or a little while. She can take it but… I can’t.”

Saul: “Well when she wakes up just let her know that it’s there. But yeah just hold onto that radio. Don’t try to stop anyone or anything. If they want to go just let them go.”

Zach: “Right. I’ll wake her up. We’ll just basically hide.”

Saul: “Yep.”

Zach: “Alright. Fuckin Pete’s out. Dunno where he’s gone, but everyone’s gonna go from the sound of it.”

Saul: “Oh well. Plenty of fish out there.”

Zach: {nervious laugh} “I guess. I hadn’t thought about that. Alright thanks. I’ll… I hope I’ll speak to you soon.”

Saul: “Alright, won’t be long.”



Consideration

Saul has remembered that the last time they were at Indooroopilly he left a point’s worth of Infiltrating Roots behind on the second level when they Spirit Stepped away. He uses Domain Dreaming to use Cries of the World to try and glimpse that manifestation.

It’s dark. The shop spaces are still divided up for people to sleep and cook etc, but there are almost no people where he left his roots. He gets the vague sense that there’s a crowd up the other end of the building, up in the food court, and that someone with a military style bearing is talking to them.

Saul heads back down to Belinda’s basement.

Saul: “We’ve got a situation at Indro. The army’s arrived and most of the people there want to go. Zach just called us on the radio. He’s in a bit of a panic about it. I just told him to stay put and let anyone go that wants to.”

Xander: “Do we have that much we can do in this situation to help them?”

Belinda: “Not before dark.”

Saul: “Well… We can’t really help the people leaving.”

Xander: “I mean we can offer them one of the houses around here as an alternative place to spend their time. The army’s more likely to go back and ransack the entire building when they get the opportunity.”

Saul: “Yeah they’re not safe staying there.”

Xander: “Especially if they hear that…”

Belinda: “Do we want to offer them a place here?”

There is a pause while the Awakened consider it.

Xander: “Will there be any issues between…”

Belinda: “…Isobella.”

Saul: “I forgot to ask.” {chuckles} Oh yeah I forgot to ask if any random vampires came in from across the bridge… but yeah what do you reckon?"

Belinda: “If there’s no one from across the bridge then sure.”

Xander: “I think it’d be polite to offer them somewhere to stay in the short term. If they turn out to be a bit inconvenient to have around we can always ask them to shuffle off.”

Belinda: “Or force them.”

Saul: “That’s true.”

Belinda: “But we don’t have any vehicles that can transport them through daylight.”

Saul: “We do… kind of. It just depends on how resistant they are.”

The Awakened discuss using the APC or else using Spirit Step to take the vampires to the Tree.

Belinda: “Do we really want to show them that? I was thinking of putting them down on the other side from all our humans.”

Saul: “But still as part of our community?”

Belinda: “Yeah.”

There is another considering pause.

Xander: “Indooroopilly. Shall we go over and politely talk to the army? Or are we better off leaving the army to their own devices during the day and going over to pick everyone up tonight?”

Saul: “Ah I was thinking I might just Spirit Step there, grab them, and bring them back here or leave them at the Tree until night time. It’s probably better to get them now because the army might go back if they hear something.”

Belinda: “I don’t know about leaving them in the Tree with an unconscious Anthony.”

Xander: “That’s ok. I’m…”

Saul: “He’s off in his own little part…”

Belinda: “A cage. We could make a cage out of roots.”

Saul: {chuckles} “And even if you do end up Devouring them I don’t really care. It’s more Essence anyway, a risk I’m willing to take.”

There is some Malevolent laughter.

Saul: “If the army find out that there are vampires there pretty quickly, then they may well go back…”

Xander: “And burn the place down.”

Belinda: “They’ll probably come to us as well. We told them where the other people were. They will go back over everyone, including Lisa.”

Saul: “and if we’re going to help Erin out we need to do that quite quickly.”

Xander: “Well if you and Belinda want to use your more… mobile Aspects. I will prepare for a trip to the City.”

As Belinda draws on the Tree to manifest aura in preparation for Spirit Step, Saul heads back up to the cop car and gets on the radio.

Saul: “Zach you there?”

There is no answer.

Saul: “Come on Zach. Pick up.”

Zach: {static} “Saul {ssss} I can sort of hear you. There’s {ssssssss} static down {ssss} though.”

Saul: “Alright head to the second level.”

Zach: “Ah {ssss} down in {sss} storerooms {sss} trying {sssssss} out of sight of people.”

Saul: “Who else? Is the army still there?”

Zach: “{ssss} got Ivy and Faith {sss} moving people out now and {sss} everything {sss} taking.”

Saul: {aside} “for fuck’s sake.” {to Belinda} Can you find where they are with Exalted Perception?

Belinda: Give me a second.

Belinda has manifest enough Petal Fall Hair to hit Release Level Four, enabling her to try and glimpse Zach directly. She is successful. The first aura she spends gives her a hazy glimpse of the trio in a concrete passageway. She spends two more, resolving it as a corridor underneath the car park. It’s well under Indooroopilly, a part of the shopping centre she’s never seen before. The vampires seem to be entering some kind of pumping station.

Belinda passes this to Saul over Mind’s Reach. He lifts the radio hand piece.

Saul: “Just hang tight. Stay there and we’ll be with you in a second.”

Zach: “{ssss} {ssss}”

Saul: Dammit. Let’s go.



Stepping Out

The Tree calls to the Awakened. Belinda opens the way there in two easy Steps.

Xander has calculated that his other vessel (Anthony) won’t have calmed down enough to be fit for company until well after lunch time. His Aspect remains on earth, in Xander, leaving Anthony sleeping in the sand. Drawing on the Tree has increased Belinda’s Malevolence enough that she’s now Exhilarated, tempted to kill anyone hostile as long as there is enough privacy to so do. She lets Saul open the way back down.

Saul: “Well that’s how I’ve been most of the time.”

Saul’s Spirit Step is successful. They emerge into a utility room under the bowels of Indooroopilly Shopping Center. There are three vampires in the room, Zach, Ivy, and a delicate looking woman who appears to be in her mid thirties.

I didn’t have exact figures during the session sorry, but to Spirit Sight Ivy should seem to have a Blood Puissance of 2, Zack of 1, and Faith 0 (possibly one of those ‘Thin Bloods’ you heard about before the fall).

Saul: “Good work Zach.”

Zach: {jumps} “Woah! What the hell man! How did you even find us? I was talking to you on the radio liek two seconds ago! What the fuck!”

Saul: {laughing} “Yeah good work holding on to it. You guys ready to go?”

Zach: “How’d you get through the army? They’re up there!”

Saul: “Don’t worry about that. You ready to go?”

Ivy: “Ok… yes. Ah, I think that’s probably a good idea. They’ve brought semi-trailers and they’re really looting the whole place. They’re taking everything we piled up.”

“Ok.” {aside} “Dammit, guess we’re losing that police car.”

Belinda: {laughs}

Ivy: “So… How did you just do what you did? Is it safe?”

Saul: {manifesting Roots} “Yeah, it’s gonna get you to safety. As long as you’re ready to go cause we’re going now.”

Ivy: “Alright. Yeah, well, we could hide here, but this is the best spot we know in Indro and there’s thirty or forty of them up there and they’re going through everything.”

Saul’s roots have spread throughout the floor of the concrete pumping station. It’s going to take more power to carry unmarked vampires so it takes him a little longer to open the Gauntlet.

Ivy: “This thing he’s doing… It is safe isn’t it?”

Belinda: “Mostly yes. I just did it to come here.”

Ivy: “Where are we going exactly?”

Belinda: “Somewhere safe, away from the army.”

Ivy: “Pete is out there too, somewhere. We couldn’t raise him on the radio, but will we be able to contact him later?”

Saul gets and extraordinary success. His shadowy roots open the Gauntlet and most of the way to the Tree in one hit.

Belinda: {stepping into the opening space} “We can try to… later.”

Ivy follows, looking a bit worried as Belinda turns to Saul.

Belinda: “I don’t like getting my feet wet.”

Saul manifests a few more roots into spiritual space and brings them out into the Domain. They emerge at at the trunk, just on the water line. The indeterminate lighting turns out to be fine for vampires. The bodies of Anthony and Jennifer lie in the amethyst sand. The leaves of the Tree rustle overhead.

Ivy, Zack, and Faith look around with very wide eyes.

Ivy: “Ok that’s pretty powerful stuff… You guys have your own world!”

Saul: “Shhh! Be very quiet. You don’t want to wake these two up!” {pointing at Anthony and Jennifer} “Yeah, you just sleep. Don’t do anything or fuck around with anything. Just sleep until it’s dark and we’ll bring you back.”

Over Mind’s Reach Belinda and Xander consider if they’ll be aware enough of their alternate vessels to notice if the vampires try to drink their blood. Xander seems confident they would notice, Belinda not so sure.

Saul calls on the Tree to Realise matter, growing intertwined roots into cocoon like walls which displace the sand at one end of the beach up into a hillock to make a small cave, about three meters by two inside.

Saul: “This is where you’re sleeping today.”

Somewhat awestruck the vampires obediently go into the cave. They seem more comfortably under cover.

Ivy: “Thank you!”

Saul: "Just go to sleep. Don’t, whatever you do, do not disturb those two. It’ll go very badly for you if you do.

Ivy: {sounding worried} “We’ll respect that.”

Saul: “We’ll be back to bring you down to Bardon when it’s night.”

Ivy: “Oh Bardon. Oh ok. Thank you! That was… We really weren’t expecting them to be like that. We thought they would come to get people but the really seemed to be ransacking the place. I think you saved our lives.”

Saul: “Yeah. We’ll see you later, as long as you don’t disturb those two.”

Belinda notes the way Faith is basically hiding behind Ivy, very shy, while Zack is looking around in fascination as Saul starts opening the way to earth.



Back Home

Back at Bardon, Xander has gotten ready and prepped a vehicle. He chooses the other fourwheel drive they got from those guys at the servo during the night of the fall, the one without a winch. It seems someone, probably Quentin, has already cleaned, serviced, and fueled it up. Xander puts in a first aid kid and waits for the other Awakeneds return.

Halfway back to Earth Saul botches, but Belinda saves them from drifting down into Obtenabratory darkness.

Belinda: “Lets just go over this way.”

Saul: “Errr yeah. Guess I really want to visit the Void.”

Using Xander as their target they emerge into the street.

Belinda: “Hi!”

Their appearance doesn’t seem to draw attention. The mechanic across the way is swearing as he pulls shrapnell riddled tanks off of harleys, but he doesn’t seem to notice their emergence.

Saul: “Alright, so they’re back at the Tree.”

Xander: “Ok.”

Belinda: “Keep an eye out on Anthony, he’s probably the best bet for protection.”

Saul: “Hopefully they behave themselves. Should be alright.”

Xander seems unconcerned.

Xander: “Where did you say we were going to meet Erin? At her place in the valley?”

Saul tells him they were going to meet them in their assault on the tunnels at midday, but that she was hoping the Awakened could join them as soon as they could. The trip to Indro didn’t actually take that long, its still four hours or so until noon.

Belinda: “Might take us that long to get there.”

Saul: “Unless we want to Step again…”

Belinda: “Has Erin seen us Devour?”

Xander: “mhmm, all of her friends…”

Saul: “..assuming you can find them Stepping would give us a better chance. If we drive we don’t know what the fuck we’ll come across along the way and we’ll probably end up abandoning the car like on our last few adventures.”

There is some discussion of whether they’re likely to encounter flood waters again. Belinda starts recollecting exactly when they’ve encountered water over the roads. They reckon that the waters at Garouche’s nest peaked at midday yesterday, and that they’d dropped a meter or so by sunset when they left. Toowong roundabout was dry a couple of days ago when they took the buses from Indooroopilly to Enoggera, but flooded some days before that. They also encountered flooding and flood debris on their first attempt to travel to the City, but Xander argues that might have been an initial surge due to the apocalypse.

Belinda is definitely starting to talk about the flooding as if it is a regular tide. Having been a manager in life however she’s not used to making calculations herself (botch). Xander used to own a boat, he’s been out fishing. He knows that tides relate to the position of the moon, that the tide is full when the moon is overhead or on the other side of the Earth, and that low tides are when the moon is on either horizon. He almost falls into the trap of ‘knowing’ that this means there are two highs and two lows per day, but looking at the Red Moon which is almost halfway down to the horizon, the Awakened realise just how slowly it travels across the sky.

Xander: “Well we have a long period of low tide ahead of us if we want to drive anywhere. It could be another day or two before we have to worry about high water levels. But our last set of driving expeditions have not been particularly fruitful…”

Belinda: “We have lost a couple of cars…”

Saul: “To save resources for the community maybe we should not take another car just to ditch it.”

Xander: “If we do need another car I’m sure we can find one at the other end. Plenty of car yards in and around Fortitude Valley.”

Saul: “Yeah.”

Belinda: “Wonder if the Tesla’s are all charged up?”

Saul: “Might even be able to find a ferry.”

Having decided to Spirit Step the Awakened spend a couple of hours resting at home to allow Belinda and Saul to drop their Malevolence. It’s an uneventful period.



To the Valley

The time to leave approaches. Belinda, well rested, manifests some Petal Fall Hair, Malevolence building, until she reaches Release Level Four and can use Exalted Perception to attempt to glimpse Erin.

She gets one success (just). Erin swims into focus. She’s in the same room as last night, with some of the same people with her. She’s got a couple of handguns on the table in front of her which she’s cleaning and loading. Some of the others are making and serving a frugal meal of flat bread and tinned beans. There are rucksacks of molotov cocktails along the wall..

Xander: “She said they met a guy who knew how to drain the blood…”

Saul: “That was Tio.”

Belinda: “He was looking for Roarke.”

Belinda adds Erin to Mind’s Reach, nominating Saul to talk to her as he did so last time.

Saul: Erin. It’s Saul again.

Erin: “Oh. Oh hey!”

Saul: So you guys are getting ready.

Erin: {looking around} “Yeah. As ready as we can. We’ve had a couple of guys pull out but there’s still four of us going.”

Saul: Why’d they pull out?

Erin: “Too scared. I mean if they’re too scared to go that’s fine, wouldn’t want them chickening out on the way, know what I mean?”

Saul: Fair enough. Well we’re ready sooner than expected so…

Erin: “Alright! Where abouts are you? Can we meet up?”

Saul: Yeah we can join you whenever. Pretty much straight away…

Erin: {slowly} “Alright.” {looks around room again}

Saul: {chuckles}

Erin: “Ok… I guess we’ll see you soon.”

Saul: Are you guys ready to go now?

Erin: “Yeah. If we wait any longer we might lose a couple more. The longer people have to think about this… you know?”

Saul: Alright. Well hopefully we can change their minds. We’re gonna be with you shortly so just make sure everyone’s ready. You know if you get startled don’t pull the trigger or anything.

Erin: “Ok. What are you gonna…”

Saul: Like I said, we’ll be there soon.

Erin: {to the room as Belinda starts opening the gauntlet} “Ok listen up. We got some people coming in and I don’t know how, but apparently they can see us. Just don’t shoot them ’cause that would be bad. Trust me, that would be really bad.”

Xander: We’ll be there in just a moment.

Petals fly as they Step forward. Belinda takes them most of the way to the Tree on the first step. They emerge onto the sand in the second.

The Awakened see five comatose bodies. Two in the sand (inanimate), three in the cave (torpor).

Belinda: “Our own little graveyard here. How charming.”

There’s no obvious damage to the Aspect’s two alternate vessels. Saul gives Anthony a bit of a kick to wake him up.

Belinda: {to Xander} “Are you swapping?”

Anthony’s Malevolence has dropped somewhat, but Xander feels that there is enough left that if he were to swap back he’d probably still feel a strong urge to kill everything in front of him that wasn’t a fellow Awakened.

Xander: “Yeah no.”

Saul: “Alright. Do you want to take anything of Anthony’s?”

Xander: “No no, it’s something of mine.”

Saul: “hehe, same thing.”

Xander takes the Seed of Life from the gear on Anthony’s body. He leaves the brush hook. While they’re at the Tree both Xander and Belinda take the opportunity to manifest more Petal Fall Hair and invest it into Celerity and Potence etc.

Saul starts opening the way back to Earth, guided by Erin’s incorporation into Mind’s Reach gestalt. It’s a steady trip back with Saul manifesting Roots and consuming them as they go. Pausing just below the surface of reality one last effort sinks his roots through the Earth’s gauntlet and brings them out into a basement.



Mission Briefing

Belinda: “Hi Erin!”

Erin jumps, turning to see them stepping out between tables, both heavily armed and armoured.

Erin: “Ahhhh Hi!”

Belinda: “We’re ready.”

There is a clatter as one of the other survivors drops something behind the bar.

Survivor: “What the hell! Erin! Who are these people?”

Belinda: “Friends?”

Saul: “So ah… Why don’t you introduce us?”

Erin: “Oh right. Yeah sure. This is ah… Sandra. She’s gonna lead us there. She managed to escape the other day. This is Vic. This is Tyler, and ah Maureen. This is Saul and Belinda and ah…”

Xander: “Xander.”

Erin: “Oh hi. I… don’t think you were with them the last time I was there.”

Xander: “I was a very recent find.”

Erin: “Oh. Ah, you don’t have that… ah… Donald fellow with you?”

Belinda: “Not this time.”

Saul: “He couldn’t make it.”

Erin: {looking a little less worried} “And is Isobella alright?”

Xander: “She and Quentin and Curtis are doing very well.”

Saul: “Relatively.”

Erin: “Oh that’s great. Ah well. Sandra says a couple of the people we knew, three or four people with her, they got snatched a couple of nights ago. The vamps, fucking gangers, musta known where they were holed up, you know? They’re in the tunnels, apparently they’re not all kept in one place, the group sizes are pretty small. Well she’s gonna lead us to where they’re kept, to one of the encampments. We got a few hours until the vamps are gonna be up but it’ll be dark and they’ve got bully boys and we’re expecting some trouble.”

Saul: “Do you know how many of them there are?”

Erin: “Nah. City’s crawling with them. I’ve seen five and ten gangers roaming around together, you know, driving around in cars and stuff. They terrorise the streets at night. Even over here you can’t… you can’t move around at night, it’s too dangerous. But ah… in the day its not so bad. There’s not so many people above ground in the day.”

Xander: “Let’s see if we can help you find your friend’s friend, and tidy things up a little bit in this part of the world.”



Into the Tunnels

Erin’s survivors arm up. They take a rucksack each, leaving two extras. Erin offers these to the Awakened, each contains about seven beer bottle molotovs, carefully wedged in with rags. Xander takes one of the sacks, Belinda refuses.

Belinda: “I don’t need to catch on fire.”

Saul also shakes his head and Erin shrugs, slinging the last sack so that she’s carrying one from each shoulder.

They head up stairs and out into the Valley. It’s deserted, and not looking real flash, with bullet holes and smashed in shop fronts, trash and riot debris blowing around.

Saul: “Usual Valley at four am sunday.”

Erin leads the small band, sticking close to the sides of buildings and looking out carefully every time they come to a road. The survivors are quick to cross any open space. She doesn’t lead them directly to the train station but toward the city where there’s an embankment down to the tracks just before the tunnel that goes to Central Station.

They scramble down the sides (I missed an opportunity for climb checks!_, walking along the tracks into the tunnel’s mouth.

Saul manifests Roots, immediately investing the aura into Potence.

It’s quiet in the tunnel. There is a train stopped on the other track. It looks like it might have been halted in the early stages of the apocalypse. One of the doors is pulled half open and it looks like there was a massacre on board, lots of blood smeared on windows and the smell of rotting corpses.

They walk alongside for a bit as the daylight recedes behind them. It’s dark enough to be a place where zombies might congregate during the day, where vampires won’t burn in the light. The pupils of Xander’s eyes widen, his proteanic cat’s eye retinas gleaming as Erin produces an electric torch. Belinda follows close behind.

The Malevolence that both Belinda and Saul built up while Spirit Stepping has dropped a little in this time, but it’s not enough to drop their investments too. Xander uses his Will to hold his Malevolence up.

Erin consults with Sandra as they walk.

Erin: “How far do you think it was?”

Sandra: “I’m not sure, it was dark.” {glancing back, then whispering} “Erin, can we really trust these people? Waht if they’re part of it? We still don’t know who told them where we were hiding.”

Saul eases back behind the group, manifesting his Shadow Cloak. The aura of darkness crawls across his body, obscuring his face and blurring his image into the shadows of the tunnel.

They come to a junction they’d never noticed in life. A spur line curves away from one of the tracks into a branching tunnel.

Sandra: “I think this is it. I don’t know, it was dark and I was sort of in a panic when I came out, but I think it’s under here. There’s a dead end and there was this access hatch that I crawled out of. I just followed the track until it came out into open air.”

Belinda and Xander get extraordinary successes on their Perception checks, especially Belinda. Perhaps they were already becoming suspicious? There is another stalled train on the track ahead, in the direction of Central Station. Through the windscreen Belinda has glimpsed someone ducking down out of view. With Spirit Sight she’s seen the diffuse flush of vampiric blood through that person’s flesh, similar to the flush in both Erin and Vic, who are both ghouls. She has the sense that the one she saw is not alone.

Erin, Sandra, and the other two survivors don’t seem to have seen anything. Sandra is still pointing down the side tunnel.

Belinda: Hey Erin. Are there any more of you down here?

Erin glances at Belinda and shakes her head slightly. The Awakened get the impression she’s just realised that you don’t need to speak aloud into the Mind’s Reach gestalt.

Saul brings his styr aug up ready.

Erin: Why? What’s…

Belinda: There seem to be some other ghouls on the train.

Erin keeps looking down the side tunnel, with only a quick glance at Sandra.

Erin: Are there any behind us?

Belinda: We’ll have to have a look.

Belinda manifests more Petal Fall Hair as she looks back discretely.

Saul manifests more Shadow Cloak, taking it to its maximum effect level as he steps off to one side.

Xander manifests Petal Fall Hair. He’s really feeling the lack of powers in this body with which to use it.

Xander: Luckily I have Circulate.

Belinda’s glance is enough to assure her there is no one for fifty meters or so behind them. There are some signal boxes and niches in the walls and things, but she is confident no one was concealed by them. The train they walked past earlier however could have hidden a lot of enemies if they were willing to hunker down among the bodies on board.

Belinda: It looks pretty clear, but I’m not close enough to see in the train…

Erin: {after a pause} Alright. We’re gonna go back. If Sandra runs… I’ll try drag her with us. If anyone comes out you shoot them. They’re definitely ghouls?

Belinda: That’s the energy they’re giving off yes.

Erin: Alright then they’re none of ours. Only three of us have tried it.

Erin puts her hand on Sandra’s shoulder.

Erin: “I think we’re gonna… gonna just call it here.”

Sandra: {stiffening} “No! I… You can’t! You’ve got to go forward!”

Erin: {grabbing Sandra, calling to her comrades} “It’s a fuckin trap! We’re out of here!”



Here we end the session :)
Thanks for reading.



Status

Belinda:

Restive at Release Level 4.
Uninjured and Well Rested.
13 Malevolence with 10 Aura nearby:

6 Petal Fall Hair.
1 Celerity.
1 Potence.
1 Spirit Sight.
1 Mind’s Reach.

Moderate Instability:

Human taint level 3 (an excuse for erratic behaviour).
Werewolf taint level 2 (silver burns).
Vampire taint level 2 (bashing damage per scene in sunlight).
Animal taint level 1 (things starting to smell good).


Saul:

Restive at Release Level 4.
Uninjured and Well Rested.
13 Malevolence with 14 Aura nearby:

10 Shadow Cloak
1 Spirit Sight.
1 Mind’s Reach.
2 Potence.

Moderate Instability:

Human taint level 3 (an excuse for erratic behaviour).
Vampiric taint level 2 (bashing damage per scene in sunlight).
Zombie taint level 2 (soooo hungry).


Xander:

Anticipatory at Release Level 4.
Uninjured and Well Rested.
8 Malevolence with 11 Aura nearby.

5 Petal Fall Hair.
1 Spirit Sight.
1 Celerity.
1 Bestial Senses (cat’s eyes).
3 Seed of Life.

Low Instability:

Human taint level 2 (no noticeable effect).



The Tree:

Growth:

Stage Five.
1 / 60th toward next stage.


Realisation:

15m Tall.
Air and Space fifteen meter radius (15 points worth).
Expance of Dark Water (15 points worth).
Beach of Amethyst Sand (15 points worth).
Hillock Roots Cave (9 points worth).


Adaptation:

Celerity (interplay branches).
Protean (shapes in the bark).


Reserve:

10 Tree Aura.
129 Essence
1 Primal Essence of Blood and Entropy (vampiric).
6 Primal Essence of Fishyness (bound spirits).
330 essence worth of Soul Fragments


Expected Sources:

Belinda’s household: ~10 Essence (solid, familial).
Samaritan Colony: ~50 Essence (trust and awe).
Indro Colony: 0 (eliminated).
Enoggera Barracks: ?? (new influx).
Ivy’s coterie: 3 to 5?
Erin’s survivors: 4 to 6?



Next Session: Ambush Detected

View
Session 29
Out of the Pit

Sunset, Day Seven

The storm still rolls overhead, rain pounding down around the characters as watch the pit, waiting for their prey to emerge.

Saul is on the rim of the ampithetre nest of debris, austyr assault rifle ready, but sweeping glances back over the oval and out across the flood waters too.

Belinda is half way down the inner slope. Perched on some timber with her uzi at the ready, she has consolidated her remaining ammunition into two clips, twenty rounds into the clip in her gun, thirteen in another.

Anthony is also halfway down, he has his brush hook ready and one of the buckets of acetone balanced on the debris beside him.

All three Awakened ignore the soulless corpses of their previous victims, dogs and vampires both, which lie scattered throughout the nest around them,.

Down in the pit itself fuel spreads over mud, the tanks of the last few tanks having been ruptured. Flame flickers sullenly in the shelter of previously burned cars. The rain keeps petrol vapours from reaching them . A tall cylinder of liquid petroleum gas stands at an angle, dug into the center of the pit. It’s accompanied by the other bucket of acetone, lid on against the rain. Debris have been piled and stacked around the edges to make the initial part of the slope steeper, a trap to keep them in.

Through his Roots Saul is aware of the nine vampiric presences beneath the mud, aware too that the three most powerful are aware of him in return. It’s a standoff.

Saul: “Fucker knows we’re here.”

Anthony: “Well we weren’t being quiet at all.”

Saul lines up on the location of one of the powerful presences. Sharing perception through Mind’s Reach, Belinda lines her uzi up on another.



A Brief Fire Fight

The Awakened don’t have working phones or watches, the different day length would have made a reading meaningless anyway. Saul’s vampiric taint is high enough however that he feels when the Sun sinks below the horizon. It fells like a curse being lifted.

Saul feels the Blood stored below the surface of the mud drain rapidly as the three powerful presences invest it into themselves. Each presence, the equivalent of an Awakened at Release Level Five, is investing five Blood Points per turn. Some of those investments must have been Celerity because very quickly the melded vampires are taking two turns per round. After they’ve invested fifteen or twenty points each into buffs Saul feels the Earth Meld itself start to come undone.

Saul: “They’re coming!”

The earth rejects a whole bunch of vampires up into the pit, dog and human bodies both, with soil flying everywhere.

RATATATA!

It was a dog shaped vampire which emerged from the spot Saul lined up on. A huge dog, some kind of old European hunting breed, but with a massivly thick pelt of fur, almost like a lions mane, an oversized maw, teeth, and fangs. Saul sweeps it and the two fledgeling, human shaped vampires beside it with a long burst from his austyr. The other fledgelings, another vampire dog, and the gas cylinder all catch bullets from the overspray.

Both dogs prove hellishly quick and tough, dodging and shrugging off most of the damage. The fledgelings seem surprised to be forced out of the ground into a hail of lead. The two caught squarely in Saul’s burst are cut down immediately while various of the others are injured or mauled.

Thunk Thunk Thunk.

The sound of bullets penetrating metal is distinct. Saul is just noticing that one of the powerful vampires must have stayed beneath the soil when the cylinder ruptures. With a pwhsssssss it cartwheels into the air, the jet of gas spreading in a momentary white cloud until it reaches the sullen flames.

WHUMP!

A bloom of fire washes up and out over both Belinda and Anthony, burning their flesh and lifting the stack beneath them. Parts of the nest’s ampitheatre slope give way under the impact, collapsing outwards in a spill of debris. Somehow all three of the Awakened keep their footing, riding out the impact and avoiding getting caught in the slide.

Within the steepened walls the vampires, human and dog alike, burn. None of the fledglings survive the explosion. Both petrol and acetone turn the mud into a pit of flames, fighting back the rain and filling the air with the smell of burning flesh.

Only the two dogs move down there. Finished with his main action, Saul takes a minor to cause his Roots to burst up from beneath the mud, trying to Entangle the closer, less injured beast. It side steps desperately, noticing the roots even as they emerge. It’s not a complete dodge however, a few tendrils wrap around its hind leg, tethering it down, even if only for the moment it will take to pull free.

Belinda fires into the tethered beast. Her bullets rip into its pelt, finding the flesh beneath.

The beast staggers. Spending blood to heal it rips free of the entangling roots and leaps up the northward wall of the pit, scrabbling with oversized claws to pull itself from the flames. It tries to climb further away, up the inner slope of debris, fleeing but not yet overcome by rotschreck. The shifting debris however are treacherous and the hound slips. It’s hind leg gets caught between two logs.

The other hound has taken much more damage from the explosion, and has been splattered with burning acetone as well. It heals what damage it can, the bullet wounds, and leaps, scrabbling to climb out the south side of the pit. Trailing flame and succumbing to the red terror it climbs for freedom, making it almost all the way up the inner slope.

Anthony raises his brush hook and runs toward the trapped hound. He’s intention is to deliver a heavy blow to the vampire beast’s neck, but his foot slips! His leg plunges into the gab between debris and he ends his move on one knee.

With celerity the trapped hound takes a second turn for the round, pulling itself free and climbing away desperately to the north. It slips and falls over the outer wall of the nest, falling five meters onto the soggy turf at floodwater’s edge.

The more heavily burned dog, trailing flame, climbs southwards in its frenzy, leaping from the nest and fleeing about six meters into the floodwaters.

Second round. The two dog’s initiatives are going backwards because of their wounds and the size of their successive action penalties. The vampire still melded into the mud beneath the pit succeeds its rotschreck check and stays there, hidden from the flames.

Saul moves along the rim of the nest to gain line of sight on the dog fleeing southward. He shoots. The dog can’t dodge. Bullets thud home, penetrating its thick pelt and spilling blood into the water, but not doing enough damage to drop it. Saul calmly swaps out his empty clip for a fresh one.

There is a spill of jumbled logs to Belinda’s south. She up to the northern rim of the nest, trying to get line of sight on the other fleeing hound. It’s right under the wall however, so she readies a short burst for if and when it appears.

It acts next, sprinting away. Belinda fires on it, interrupting its move. Bullets thud home. It struggles a little further, but falls on its side in the water.

Anthony pulls his leg free and climbs for the rim but slips again!

With Celerity, the dog fleeing south spends blood to heal as it sprints into the flood waters, dissapearing from Saul’s line of sight.

Also with Celerity, the dog in the north struggles back to its feet. Spending blood to heal it too sprints into the flood waters and is lost from sight.



Aftermath

Flames crackle from the pit as both acetone and fuel burn against the rain. The upholstery in some of the cars is now on fire, billowing black smoke, but it looks like the bulk of trees and debris making up the nest itself are still too wet to burn.

Anthony: “Oi you gutless piece of shit down there! If you don’t come up I’m gonna rip the guts out of every single one of these pricks lying on the ground over here!”

In a state of Perfect Introspection the brush hook wielding Awakened descends the inner slope to Devour the souls of the fallen.

Anthony: “When I’m done here I’m gonna come back with an excavator and dig your arse out of the ground!”

He seizes a charred arm stretching from the flames and hauls a fledgeling’s corpse up out of the pit. The unearthly screams of a soul being torn to pieces ring out over the school yet again as fragments flow into the Tree.

Saul and Belinda resist the Temptation to join in. Saul keeps watch from the rim of the nest, standing guard against the possible return of vampire hounds, ferals, or other threats. Belinda descends, uzi ready in case the vampire under the pit does emerge. She keeps close to Anthony as he circles the pit, pulling corpses from the flames to Devour their souls. He’s more than Malevolent enough by now that after he finishes this feast he’s almost guaranteed to go off looking for a place to hole up and digest. Her plan is to Spirit Step him to the Tree.

The fledgling’s souls yield fragments with the type of traits mad Garouche obviously favoured in his victims, Wits, Dexterity, some Stamina, Survival, and Athletics too. The powers are mostly Protean, which break into Essence because the Tree has already Adapted it into itself. There are also a couple of small fragments of Animalism, an as yet untested power. There is also vampiric Blood remaining in the fledgeling as they died too quickly to spend it, a relatively rare situation. Anthony Devours that too. The Blood Points turn to Essence which flows into the Tree.

The vampire melded under the mud holds Anthony’s attention. Saul theorises that even if they could get at it they wouldn’t be able to Devour its soul because it has veered into a D’ivers.

Saul: “He’s split his soul between multiple forms.”

Anthony is still keen to try, wondering if the school might have a tractor somewhere on the grounds (it doesn’t).

Anthony: “It could be an agg collage!”

Saul: “I could try a grenade if you want, but they’re precious.”

Anthony: {after a pause} “Nah. If the gas canister didn’t bring him up…”

Belinda: “Leave him there. I’ll Spirit Step us to the Tree.”



Signs of Life

As Anthony is finishing up there is a short break in the rain fall. Saul gazes further into the night. Across the floodwaters he sees lights moving on Mt Gravatt. It’s a vehicle, possibly with a spotlight mounted on the back.

It’s too far away to see or hear clearly, given the conditions, but Saul thinks it is a car or ute rather than a truck or military vehicle. He passes the image to the other’s over Mind’s Reach.

Belinda: “Do you think there’d be another colony at Garden City there?”

Saul: “Could be.”

Belinda: “If they’re going out exploring, you know, they might be a bit more helpful.”

Saul: “Yeah. But dunno if they’re exploring or chasing someone down, or…”

Belinda: “Yeah…”



Home Sweet Home

Anthony finishes devouring the last of the charred vampires. His Malevolence is incredibly high. Belinda assists on the last few victims, Absorbing a fragment of Composure as it flows through.

A dog howls forlornly in the distance as the screams dwindle to an end. There are no drones around, and no other sounds of gunfire.

Spending aura from her Petal Fall Hair manifestaion Belinda uses Spirit Step to start opening the way to the Tree, hauling Anthony away from his fixation on the vampire still hiding under the mud.

Saul assists her a little in opening the gauntlet, but leaves most of his Infiltrating Roots in place, intending to check up on the earth melded vampire later using Cries of the World focused on his (persistant) manifestation.

Despite a near slip, Belinda steps them safely through the Gauntlet and the intervening spiritual space, bringing them out on the beach of amythest sand, overlooking the black water roots.

Belinda sighs in releif. it’s nice to be home where they don’t have to worry about eating people.

The Tree looms above them, fifteen meters tall, filling the Domain’s small bubble of physical space. The Awakened now have access to Realisation. The Tree is now maintaining their local Manifestations and Investments, and will do so even after their Malevolence drops. They can now spend Essence directly from the Reserve and that Essence maintains their Release Level at Five (current max).

Anthony: “Well I’m done.”

He and Belinda stretch out on the sand, quickly falling asleep.



Checking Up on Lisa, and the Pit

Saul stays awake for a while, contemplating the dark waters. After ten minutes or so he draws on the Tree to use Cries of the World, focused on the Roots he left in that pit in Corinda, on Earth.

He becomes aware of the rain, of heat from the fire. The mud around him is salty and soaked in blood and ash. The vampire presence is still melded in with him. Saul gets the sense from it of both a patient hunter, waiting for a chance to leave, and an insane megalomaniac, brooding vengeance.

The glimpse ends. Saul waits another half hour or so and then uses Cries of the World again, this time focused on the mark he Bestowed upon Lisa. He gets an exceptional success, seeing her clearly.

Lisa is sitting on her own to one side of a more crowded area. She’s patching a shirt, seems like she’s waiting for Saul’s call. He brings her into Mind’s Reach gestalt.

Saul: Lisa.

Lisa: Hi!

Saul: How’s things?

Lisa: Not bad, it’s just sorta sinking in a bit. There… a lot of unhappy peopole here, a lot of depressed adults, kids that can’t find their parents, things like that.

She says the base has hundreds of people who’re too shell shocked to do much more than sit around, moping, waiting to be told what to do. Then.

Lisa: But ah… I signed up for the militia! It’s a bit differnt. I get to sleep in the barracks instead of down in the tents. Should start training tommorrow.

Saul: Ok. So did they ask any questions when you signed up?

Lisa: Oh more of the same, what kinds of things I’ve seen, experiences I’d had. I just stuck to my story, walking dead I’d seen on the road, you know. There was a lot about what kind of skills I had. I’ve been told to really try and get into the marksman class. It’s a bit rougher if ya just… unskilled with firearms. You get put on a rake aparently, gotta pin the fuckers down for the people with guns.

Saul chuckles. Lisa tells him she’s going to try for marksman and thinks she should have a good chance. That training should only last a couple of days, after which she should be on Search and Recovery duty.

Saul: Alright.

Lisa: Ah… I’ve been hearing some stories from other people, hadn’t realised how bad things got in the city… you know, when things went to shit. Those zombies sound pretty bad. People sort of getting torn apart by big crowds of them and things like that… I dunno. Have you guys seen much of that?

Saul: Yeah, a little bit. It’s pretty brutal.

Anthony: {sounding incredibly Malevolent} Yeah it was… crowded for a while in town.

Lisa reiterates that she hadn’t known it was that bad. She’d thought the Glass House Boys goin mental was bad enough. She urges them to be safe, even though they’ve got more going for them than ordinary humans, telling them she’s heard stories of waves zombies pushing down fences and things by sheer weight of numbers.

Lisa: I was talking to a girl who holed up over in Lutwyche, in a pub. She reckons they just piled up, trying to get inside, just piled up against the plate glass windows until they cracked. You know? The crowd just broke in… She reckons hardly anyone made it out of there…

Saul: Yeah we’ll do our best to keep ’em away…

Anthony: …keep everyone in one piece.

Saul asks her if she’s found out anything more about the camp, what’s going on and who’s really in charge.

Lisa: That Colonial Kirby. I’ve heard him speak now. I don’t think he’s using any Gifts or anything. Any of the Gifts or Rites I’ve seen Dave and people use, you know? I don’t think he’s using any of that, but I dunno…

Saul: You’ve seen him in person?

Lisa: Yeah, he said a few words this afternoon to the recruits. He looks tired. Real tired. But he seems… pretty ordinary really.

She tells them that the soldiers love him. That she’s heard the Colonial kept things together in the long night when things when to shit, when polititians were acting crazy and units were being told to fire on each other.

Lisa: I didn’t realise things could get that dire that quick in Brisbane but… they reckon he sort of countermanded a lot of the bullshit and got things together. I think he’s just… he’s one of them, you know? I don’t think its magic, I think he’s just the right man in the right spot. But.. like I say I don’t have the Gift myself or anything…

Saul: Fair enough. We can only hope he’s a normal human {chuckles} That’d make things a lot easier…

Talk goes back to Lisa starting training the next morning. She asks if she can skip her morning contact, since she’ll probably be in training.

Lisa: …crack of dawn stuff aparently. and They reckon they try to get you all working like a team and… I’m sure I’m fitter than most people but…

Anthony: Hard to run and think and talk at the same time.

The Awakened tell her that’s fine. That they might look in on her but no need to talk or distract. She seems releaived and asks how things going back at Belinda’s place.

Belinda: Oh it seems pretty quiet there since you left.

Saul: Doing alright. You haven’t heard anything about the place?

Lisa says she hasn’t, other than talk of operations moving southward. Saul tells her they did encounter a group and Lisa asks how it went.

Saul: Alright. We kinda made a deal. They reckon they’re gonna leave us alone for the moment.

Anthony: We’re not gonna fuck them up if they don’t fuck us up.

Lisa: Oh ok… You… Are you alright Anthony?

Saul: {Laughs}.

Lisa asks them what the squad they encountered look like.

Lisa: Do they know what they’re doing?

Saul reassures her that they seem confident and do actually have firearms, and an APC. Lisa seems relieved.

Lisa: Ah ok. Some of the stories going around… trying to fend off zombies with rakes and things. I don’t know how much to believe. They tell a lot of bullshit and things to the new fellas you know?

The convo winds down and the Awakened and Lisa say their goodbyes. Looks like they might check on her in the morning, but not nessesarily talk.

Saul: {just as signing off} You haven’t heard any explosions or gunfire tonight at all have you?

Lisa: Err… No. Just… I mean they have a gun range and do some training but… not much. I think they’re trying to conserve ammo. They’re definitely looking for people who already know how to shoot rather than teaching from scratch.

Saul: Yeah alright.

They say their goodbyes.

The Earth rotates and the Domain with it, separated by spiritual distance. Saul doesn’t have Exalted Perception yet so he can’t easily look around in the Umbra, but he uses Cries of the World to check on his roots again.

He gets another good view. The storm is starting to break up, settling into lighter rain with a little of the Red Moon’s glow showing through the clouds over head. The vampiric presence is still waiting. Saul gets the feeling that it can sense his Roots and is waiting for him to leave.

Saul: Well. He’ll run out of blood before I do…



Visiting Isobella

Still restless Saul Spirit Steps back to Earth.

Saul: Just need to get more ammo.

For a guide Saul uses the mark he Bestowed on Quentin, emerging behind the hundred year old ghoul, who is doing the dishes in Belinda’s kitchen.

Quentin: “Oh, hello! Didn’t see you guys come back.”

Saul: “Hey.”

Quentin: {visibly realising Saul just stepped out of thin air again} “Ah… Curtis and Isobella were looking for you earlier. Isobella spoke with him and he seems quite eager to take your offer up.”

He’s refering to the Awakened’s offer to replace Curtis’s amputated arms by taking him somewhere unspecified.

Quentin: “And… I don’t want to jump the queue or anything, but I’d be interested too.” {points to the stump of his leg} “But if its a limited resource or anything… Curtis is definitely a priority.”

Saul: “Yeah alright. We could do you. Can’t do anything right at this moment…”

He glances upward estimating over Mind’s Reach about how highly Malevolent Anthony is at the moment and just how small the space at the Tree is.

Saul: “But ah… How’s things with you?”

Quentin: “Oh it was pretty quiet today.”

Saul: “No drones?”

Quentin: “We did have a flyover, but that seems to have been all it was. Just at lunch time, about an hour or so after you went out.”

Saul: “Alright.”

Quentin: “Is everything alright?”

Saul: “Is the APC still well concealed?”

Quentin: Yes, yes definitely. The kids wanted to find and mess around with it before, but they weren’t able to see it. Mistress put wards up so…"

Saul: “Yep. Ok good.”

There is a pause as Quentin looks at Saul and Saul muses over Mind’s Reach.

Saul: We should really take that to the Tree…

Anthony: What do you want to take? A whole car?

Saul: The APC. How much better would it be if we could ambush people with it.

The three Awakened laugh over Mind’s Reach. Anthony suggests dumping some Roots at the gates of the army barracks…

After a second Saul returns to the conversation at hand.

Saul: “Well That’s good. How’s Isobella?”

Quentin: “Ah yes. I think she would like to talk to you too. She’s finished the wards that you set her and she seemed interested in getting those Blood Stones made… If Possible… If you’re willing?”

Saul: “Yeah ok. I’ll go talk to her.”

They head downstairs. Isobella is at her desk in her basement room, dowsing a map. Saul’s Spirit Sight is still up, as he’s only just left the Tree, and he gets a pretty good look (extraordinary success). The pendulum is raising traces of energy from the map. It’s an energy Saul hasn’t seen before, almost like an aura of the world. Isobella seems to be using some kind of sympathetic magic to map out the thickness of the gauntlet and find Caerns and Rents, almost as if the energy were contour lines.

The gauntlet doesn’t just exist in one direction however. Saul is used to thinking of it as the barrier between the World and the Tree, but Isobella is mapping it in different directions, and performing some kind of multi-dimensional maths as she does so.

The map itself is of the City and Mt Cootha. It seems as if she’s trying to check on the One Tree Hill Rent without getting any closer to it.

Saul: “Isobella.”

Isobella: “Hello! How are you this evening?”

Saul: “Alright.”

Isobella: “You look… well travelled?”

Saul becomes aware of his torn clothes, singed hair, muddy, smoke stained, and blood splattered skin.

Isobella: {continuing} “I’ve set the wards you requested, on the armoured vehicle, the house, and around your basement storage room especially. Have you… spoken with Curtis?”

Saul: “Not yet.”

Isobella: “I relayed your offer to him. He seemed very interested, very keen to go. Um… Would it be possible to have a little bit more blood? I had a little bit left over last night so I’ve made a start on a Blood Stone, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I had, um… a reserve to drawn on.”

Saul: “Yeah sure.”

Isobella: {sighs in relief} “Thank you!”

Her eyes gleam silver as she looks at Saul.

Isobella: “Is everything… Alright? You seem… quite powerful again. Not as I usually see you. Is there anything we need to worry about?”

Saul: “Nah. Not really. We just had a bit of a… Well we went exploring a bit.”

Anthony: Ask her who this Garouche guy is that I want to rip the head off!

Saul: {chuckling Malevolently} “And ah… We found some vampires…”

Isobella: {looking hopefull} “Oh?”

Saul: “I think they were Sabbat vampires.”

Isobella: “Oh.”

Saul: “Yeah. Does the name Garouche mean anything to you?”

Isobella shows obvious signs of recognition and serious concern (Well I was trying for that anyway).

Isobella: “Oh.. He is indeed a Sabbat. A nasty customer. Um… Is he in league with Olah?”

(Olah is the nine foot tall tzimisce that the Black Priest freed from One Tree Hill Rent on Mt Cootha.)

Saul: “Dunno. We didn’t establish any connections, but we found his nest.”

Isobella: “He’s very much in favour of… They call it the Shovel Head strategy, for taking over cities. He spawns large numbers of newborn kindred and just treats them like cannon fodder.”

Saul: “Yeah we killed a lot of newborns.”

Isobella: “Oh… those poor people. Ah… Is he still a threat? Is he likely to find us here?”

Saul: “I dunno.”

Anthony: I fuckin hope so!

Saul: “Maybe. We couldn’t nail him down, although we tried.”

Isobella: “Be warned. Killing him is not very effective.”

Saul: “Yeah.”

Isobella: "You have to find all… He can turn into…

Saul: “His soul can split.”

Isobella: “Yes! You have to kill every single one! It’s very likely that when he came to Brisbane he will have left parts of himself in Melbourne, possibly may still have parts of himself in Europe. It’s debated. He is considered impossible to kill.”

Belinda: Ask if we get all the bits in Brisbane will he be out of Brisbane?

Saul: “So if we eliminate the parts of him that are here it would take him some time to get back at least?”

Isobella: “Yes. Yes you can fight him back. And… I don’t see anyone travelling long distances now…”

Anthony: I’m sure he’s only got one soul! Might take me all day but I’ll get there!

Isobella: {cont} “The other thing you should know is that the process… He is insane. Long term division like that has made him very… unstable… even for a Sabbat. Powerful, but Insane.”

Saul: “Who isn’t?”

Isobella: “Oh no he is… strange. He can do very strange things. There was a time when he tried to make a sculpture, in Prague, out of human bodies. Which, even for the Sabbat, would be frowned on in a public place.”

Saul: “Did you know he was in Brisbane?”

Isobella: “No. When I heard that the Blud Oth, a neo-nazi gang, were here I worried that Hugo might have brought Garouche as well. They are both Sabbat from Melbourne. But I was hoping that he hadn’t come.”

Saul: “Well he has. One of him at least. He seemed to be trying to build an army of feral vampires and zombies.”

Isobella: “Oh! Are you saying he can manipulate zombies?”

Saul: “It seemed like that.”

Isobella: “That is not good news”

She goes on to wonder if such control could be an effect of Disiplines he knows or of Magic, saying that Garouche is a Shamanic practitioner.

Isobella: “In my house we would call it craft rather than Art, but… sometimes the old ways have secretes more closely connected… They can intuit ways to do things before we can rationally calculate.”

She speculates that, if they could find a way to control zombies with magic, then she could configure wards to make them all safer.

Isobella: “But I would need to experiment, and we don’t have a safe way to contain them. Plus the effect on our neighbours if they discovered such experiments would be…”

Saul: “…disturbing.”

Isobella: “Yes. Unfortunately he’s unlikely to have any note or papers, even if he is doing it by ritual.”

Saul: “We think we found his nest and there was nothing there…”

Isobella: “Yes. He’s a beast not a rational person.”

Saul mentions that Garouche had been talking of getting revenge, but he wasn’t sure on who. Isobella is interested, saying she hasn’t heard that Garouche had a grudge against Ruairc in particular. Saul asks if he had a connection with Olah.

Isobella: “No. But I’ve only been here a couple of decades. I was brought in to assist Prince Ruairc in holding Olah down, but my knowledge of the Australian power figures is not particularly great. I think Garouche should be more modern than her. My understanding is that Zhou put Olah down, crucified her, more than one hundred years ago, whereas most of the Sabbat in Melbourne came in during the sixties and seventies. It was independent before that. Unfortunately… those who refuse to support the council and the Masquerade were easy pickings for the Sabbat.”

There is a bit of a somber pause then Isobella brightens.

Isobella: “Well! Are you willing to donate some blood?”

Saul: “Sure.”

Liam comes forward with the bowl, knife, and a clean towl.

Liam: “I have it ready sir. Which arm would you like tonight?”

Saul sits and lets Isobella’s ritual assistant open a vein in his arm, managing to suppress any unfortunate violence reflexes. Blood spills into the silver bowl. Saul’s healing, as an Aspect of Roots, is less efficient than that of the Aspects of Leaves. He donates a total of four Blood Points, manifesting and spending eight aura to heal.

Isobella seems quite happy with that. Saul gets the feeling she’s noted that his healing is less effective and so doesn’t want to press for more.

Isobella: “This will help me greatly. I will add it to my stone. Thank you very much.”

Saul: “Glad to help.”

Isobella: “When would you like Curtis available?”

Saul: {glancing heavenwards, estimating Anthony’s Malevolence} Probably not for a couple of days, or… Tomorrow?"

Isobella: “Alright. In the day? Or at night?”

Saul: “Night.”

Isobella: “Indeed. Whatever you think best, I’ll pass it on to him.”

Saul asks Isobella what she was doing. She confirms that she was checking for changes to the One Tree Hill Rent.

Isobella: “I don’t know how the spiritual world has changed. With Olah freed the Essence of the World should be draining out through the Rent, but it doesn’t seem to be. It’s almost as if… wherever we are now is richer somehow. As if the flow has reversed. There is an alien energy coming in through the Rents. I don’t know what this means for the Caerns. They may be influenced? affected? I don’t know.” {helpless laugh}

Saul: “Do you know where this energy is coming from?”

Isobella: “As far as I can tell the new Void… errr Space around us is rich in this strange type of Quintessence. I’m not sure. It doesn’t fit with what I knew. This whole… event is beyond the scope of the paridigm of reality as I know it.”

She goes on to say she wishes she could consult with experts from the other Traditions of magic, even though they might be “imicable” to members of her “House”.

Isobella: “Even though Rents are something I have specialised in for some time now, I never contemplated that the whole World could shift like this. I don’t know if we’re in some kind of Domain, or an Alternate Universe, but as far as I can tell the Rent hasn’t worsened. It’s just… err… that the flow has reversed.”

She pauses, then asks tentatively.

Isobella: “If we have the capacity, one day, I would like to check some of the Caerns in the area, to see if they are leaking.”

She explains that Caerns should leak Quintessence, being places where Spiritual Worlds come close to the Physical World, the Prime Plane.

Isobella: “I’m interested to see if this alien energy is going from the Prime Plane into the Spiritual Worlds, and whether Quintessence is still flowing outwards or…”

Saul: “Where are these Caerns?”

Isobella gives him a run down of several Caerns (and another Rent) around the City. If you end up asking her for more info I’ll do up a proper dump, but for now these are the ones she mentioned.

A minor Rent in Spring Hill caused by the suffering of early convicts and later experiments on injured servicemen. The Silver Lodge’s Chantry was built over it and they kept it sealed as part of a treaty with the Prince.

Potentially a minor Caern in the territory Zhou owned. He’s said to have referred to it as “The Dragon’s Nest”, but she doesn’t know if that’s indicative of the contents or just reflects Zhou’s love of dragons.

There is a minor Caern in Grange which was owned by “a compatriot”.

A medium Caern out near Redcliffe, which she believed to be the remains of an ancient Spirit Home and an Aboriginal Sacred Place.

A major Caern in the Glass House Mountains, Gargen, which she believes is a Spirit Home with an active and formidable resident. She noted it was sacred to the local werewolf packs (the Glass House Boys).

The major Rent in One Tree Hill (of course). Which the Prince held under treaty with both the Lunatics and the Glass House Boys.

Isobella: “They left it to us as long as we didn’t… as long as we kept it sealed. They’d have had some idea of the damage Olah could do to a werewolf pack.” {grim smile}

Saul: “Yeah. We’ll keep it in mind.”

Isobella: “If possible… I would not mind making a trip to Grange. I believe, if she is still alive, that I have a compatriot there.”

Belinda: Grange?

Saul: The place we robbed.

Isobella: {continuing unawares} “It would be good to see how she’s going, but not if it would be too much trouble. I would want to do some calculations first too. It’s not good to go without preperation.”

Saul: {chuckling} “I think we may have already been.”

Isobella: “Oh?! Do you know Chandra?”

Saul: “Ah No. Not really.”

Belinda: We may have some of her books…

Anthony: Is that that nutcase Spiral that we went to over there?

Isobella is still trying to work out how they could have met Chandra, as she didn’t attend the Opera very often, while the Awakened are realising they’ve still got books and loot from Isobella’s house, as well as Chandra Ultavi’s stashed in another room.

Saul: “Yeah, no, I think we’ve been there. I think Quentin suggested it as somewhere to go looking for help.”

Isobella: “Oh… Was she… in residence?”

Saul: “No.”

Isobella: “Oh.”

Saul: “There was something strange about the place, but we couldn’t work out what it was. I think we found a few books there, we’ve got them upstairs.”

Isobella is very interested, mentioning that Chandra comes from a different, very old, Tradition, and that she’s consulted with her on professional issues several times. She asks if she could be allowed to study the books.

Saul: “Yeah of course. By the way… we brought back some stuff from your house as well…”

Isobella is delighted. The next twenty minutes or so sees her taking possesion of Chandra Ultavi’s books as well as her own. With her own texts it is like she’s getting back old friends that she never thought she’d see again, “Oh it survived!” and “This will make life so much easier!”. With Chandra’s books its like she’s been handed new treasure, “Many nights of study ahead!”

Isobella asks several times if they saw any sign of Chandra surviving. Saul tells her they did not, but also that they can take her there.

Isobella: "I would very much like to do some experiments on this strange energy. I wonder at what it means. Not all of the Domains behind Caerns are empty. Some… may be able to feed.

Saul leaves Isobella pouring over Chandra’s books, trying to decipher the ancient Indus Valley language they’re written in.

Once more he uses Cries of the World to check in on that Root Infiltrated pit down in Corinda. The vampiric presence is still under the ground, waiting for his presence to leave before making a break for it. There is no sense of other animals sniffing around, vampiric dogs returning, or anything like that.



Evening Movements

Saul goes out to check on the community. It’s quiet. A couple of people are up talking in the shelter of one verandah, and Saul can smell some lingering barbecue smoke.

Overall the street looks secure. The sentries at either end are alert and perched up on their roof tops. The colonists do seem to have been inspired by the werewolf attack. The perimiter fence is in the process of being reinforced with angled bracing timbers and heavier facing.

Saul asks a sentry about the lad who got injured in the attack and then healed by Anthony.

Sentry: “Oh yeah he’s alright. He really bounced. Musta looked worse than it was.”

Returning to Belinda’s house Saul restocks on ammo, taking thirty eight rounds of 5.5mm ammo from their basement stash for his austyr and seventeen 10guage shotgun shells.

Belinda: I need a hundred, hundred and fifty or so 9mm rounds. A few boxes should do.

Saul: Too easy.

He grabs five boxes for Belinda (150 rounds), and ten rounds for himself. Then he heads out again to investigate the GWagon, having realised they never got around to unpacking it.

A couple of streets away its still hidden in the largest garage they could find that was a safe distance from the house. The wards are still intact and seem to have done their job of keeping everyone away. Saul resists the radiation poisoning from the two large, embryo containing canisters in the back of the GWagon while he rummages around sorting out supplies.

He uncovers a few more boxes of 5.5mm rounds, some sleeping gear, some rations (probably contaminated by now), and some electricians tools. There are no grenades. He opts to leave it all of the other stuff in the truck.

Returning to the house Saul finds Curtis and has a chat, telling him to be ready tomorrow night.

Curtis: “Oh thanks! I’ve been trying but it would be so good if you could bring my arms back somehow!”

Saul: “We’ll see what we can do.”

Curtis: “Oh that’d be unreal! I’ll take whatever risks need to be taken. They said it’d be dangerous, but to be useful to the Mistress again and able to help around here would be awesome.”

Lastly Saul notices Stix is up and around. He’s found a bottle of alcohol somewhere and is headed into the back yard to look at the moon now that the rain has cleared off. Saul joins him for a drink.



Midnight (part one)

Essence flows into the Tree.

About ten points from imediate family. The Awakened glimpse:
p(. Isobella in her study, pouring over books.

Clara safely asleep in bed.

Stix staring up at the Moon, Saul’s body unconcious beside him.

Fifty points or so flow from their neighbours in the Samaritan colony:

Two people chatting: “grenade! A fucking Grenade!”

Gary Choi sitting at a table with a hand written list: “bout four weeks ahead, but we’re eating as fast as we can gather now.”

The mechanic muttering in his sleep: “Need a welder!”

Another fifty points flows from the Enoggera barracks. It’s a less intense but wider flow as the rumors spread from the indro refugees into the larger population:

Lisea sleeping in a bunk.

A fat guy playing cards: "Indooroopilly I tell you. Hundreds of people! They’re all huddled in the dark like sheep!

From Indro colony flows another fifty points:

“Buses! Should have taken the buses. No future here.”

“Shut that baby up!”

A couple of points flow in from miscelanious stragglers:

Erin McArthy stuffing rags into a beer bottle: “Oh yeah there’s good ones, just not the ones we’re gonna burn!”



Erin

Anthony gets Belinda to focus in on the glimpse of Erin using Cries of the World, sharing the imagery over Mind’s Reach.

They see that Erin is in a basement set up as a bar. There are half a dozen other people with her and several crates of empty beer bottles. They’re talking about launching some kind of raid as they fill the bottles with petrol and stuff them with rags.

The Awakened get the sense that this basement is somewhere east of Saul’s location, probably in the Valley somewhere.

The people are dressed in scavenged clothes, layered and as sturdy as possible. Most are carrying some kind of weapon, axes, iron bars, and cricket bats are common. Already they have the air of hardened survivors.

Spirit Sight through Cries of the World allows the Awakened to see vampiric blood diffused throughout Erin. A ghoul, she’s obviously found a fresh source of sustenance as she was empty the last time they saw her. Two of the other survivors with her are flush with vamp blood as well.

The Awakened get the sense that the small group’s plan is to raid some tunnels and rescue people. A couple will be going forward to perform the breakout while the rest wait near the tunnel enterance with molotovs to burn anything that pursues the vanguard.

Erin: “If we take any vamps down hard enough we’ll drag them back with us too.”

There are no signs of Bestowed marks or the influence of other Awakened.

Saul: Should we talk to her?

Anthony: We should tell her where we are. I’m sure Isobella would like to see her.

Belinda adds Erin to the Mind’s Reach gestalt.

Saul: Hey Erin. It’s Saul. Remember me?

Erin: {jumps} “What the fuck!” {turns to her friends} “Something weird’s going on, I’ll just be a second.”

Saul projects an image to her of what he looks like.

Erin: “I remember you! How are you doing this?”

Saul: It’s a pretty complicated trick. Just getting in touch because it looks like you’re in a bit of trouble at the moment, struggling a bit, and we’re kind of the same.

Erin: “Well, doin better than I was a few nights ago. You guy just kinda… left! When I came out there were bodies everywhere! Torn off arms and things… Is Isobella alright?”

Saul: Yeah. She’s here with us.

Erin: “Oh that’s great!”

Saul: So you can come join us.

Erin: “Yeah… Yeah! We need somewhere to go. We’re kinda stuck between… a lot of hostile shit. Where are ya’s?”

Saul: We’re in Bardon.

Erin: “Oh, not far from Isobella’s. I dunno if we’ll be able to get there or not. We’re on the other side of the City and the City is pretty fucking hostile. The RBH is prety fucking hostile too… lot of zombies around there, sort of north of the City.”

Saul: Who’s we?

Erin: “Oh just a bunch of different people who’ve survived in the Valley. Ah… We met this guy a while ago… He wasn’t a bloodsucker, like… you know… but he knew about them. He told me how to get the blood out of them, to drink it, but on my own! How to do that without needing their… cooperation.”

Saul: Ok.

Erin: “So we been doing a bit of that! Cause there’s vampires all over the fucking city and we need some kind of edge. Somehow, it seems like as long as they don’t bite you you won’t get infected, so far… A few of us are trying it.”

Saul: Ok. Is that guy still with you?

Erin: “No. He’s looking for some guy called Roarke? Tio his name was, Tio. To be honest… We’ve got… a couple of vamps… in the basement.”

Saul: Ok. You’ve been feeding on them?

Erin: “Yeah”

Saul: Good on ya.

Erin: “Yeah… We cut their arms and legs off…”

Saul: {chuckles Malevolently}

Anthony: Sounds like a good way to deal with vampires!

Erin: “Yeah. Well they weren’t real nice people so… They were running a brothel and weren’t real nice to the girls so when things went belly up… they didn’t come out real well. I kinda got involved after. I was able to tell them how a few things worked and… Well anyway we got some friends that got caught, in the City.”

Saul: Yep.

Erin: “Well ah… We thought they were dead, but one of them got away. Apparently they’re being held underneath, digging. We’ve been trying to thing about… breaking them out.”

Saul: Being held for what?

Erin: “Slaves. Slave labour. And I think the vamps in the City are feeding off ’em too.”

Saul: Alright. Well let me talk with the others and we’ll see what we can do.

Erin: “Yeah ok, um… Getting a car across the City is pretty hard and I’m not sure… with all that between us. You’ll have a hard time getting to us or we’ll have a hard time getting to you. Maybe in the day? If you just blasted through? Is it better for us to come to you or you to us? How are things for you? Have you got plenty of food?”

Saul: Probably a bit of both. We’ve got plenty of food. We’ve got a good situation here, just a matter of getting you over here. We can look at that, get back to you soon.

Erin: “Yeah, uh we were gonna head in the morning… um”

Saul: To try and release your friends.

Erin: “Yeah… um… You guys are… pretty violent. It’d be really good if you guys came along. Do you reckon you could get to us by then? Or should we hold off? Maybe too much time? I don’t want to leave it another night in case maybe they get moved or…”

Saul: Probably lunch time at least.

Erin: “Alright. We’ve heard they’re being held under, you know, Central Station? That the tunnels start there and run back under the hill. I’ll see if the others are alright with us holding off till then. I dunno, like I say, dunno if you can get there.”

Saul: We got ways and means.

Erin: “Alright. We were gonna try use the tunnel, you know, from here.”

They over hear the other survivors interupting her.

Survivor: “Hey Erin! What are you doing? Why you telling people things?”

Erin: “Nah don’t worry these guys are good. They’re violent as fuck if we can get ’em to come along…” {to Saul} “Yeah, no, we’re gonna try break in using the tunnels from Fortitude Station.”

Saul and the other Awakened agree to meet up with her tomorrow. They realise they won’t be able to use Cries of the World alone to spot Erin unless she’s activly contributing to the Tree at the time, but Belinda is planning on developing Exalted Perception with tonight’s chance to Assimilate so she thinks she’ll be able to use that instead.



Midnight (part two)

The contact with Erin ends, as does the influx of Essence.

Spurred by Anthony’s Malevolence, his Aspect looks for a second Vessel. Anthony has focused more on developing Introspection than Extrospection however and fails to find anyone suitable souls of dead or dying people. Saul and Belinda’s aspects search for it. Belinda’s finds a vet, killed in hir surgery, while Saul’s finds the lingering soul of a truckie, drained by a vampire he saved while driving contraband during the chaos of the long night.

Belinda’s Aspect is very interested in the vet, but passes it to Anthony’s aspect who merges with it, Awakening Xander. The Tree realises a new body for the vessel according to the template of its soul, ( This should have consumed 10 Essence sorry and taken all night, I’ll adjust the pool).

All three Aspects pass on the truckie, whose soul finally disperses into the night. There is some consideration of merging with it just to Devour it down for parts, but no one takes the final step.

Saul: Would have been interesting to see what contraband he had.

The Awakened turn to Assimilating Essence.

Xanthony (the Aspect of Leaves formerly know as Anthony) confirms that, even with a second vessel it still only gets five points to Assimilate per night. It Ameliorates two points of vampire Instability from its Anthony vessel and gains the second dot in Extrospection (Bestow) and the first dot in Protean (Bestial Senses).

Saul Ameliorates five points of human Instability, finally getting rid of the whispered voices on the edge of his mind: “Been looking forward to this for a long time.”

Belinda Ameliorates one human Instability and gains the fourth dot in Extrospection (Exalted Perception). She immediately has a vision of the future.



Revelations

Belinda’s mind expands. The planet spins in the Void as she floats, comprehending Time, Space, the nature of the Tree as a Domain dependent on the physicality of the World. She gains an intrinsic understanding of the concept of Maya, that some things exist because others think of them. The Domain exists because the Prime Material believes in it. The Domain is dependent on the World, but she senses that if the Domain were to grow more powerful, much more powerful, it might Transcend that dependency and become a Prime Material, an independent World supporting its own existance.

She also glimpses the future, the Earth shattering in two orbits of the Black Sun as great tendrils of anti-light come through the Rents and lash around, shattering continents and consuming the Essence of the world. She doesn’t feel that the Domain could survive unless it achieves independence before then.

Belinda: You guys saw that right?

Saul: It’s a future, not nesesarily the future!

Xanthony: Close off all those Rents in the meantime…

Belinda: We can try.



Midnight (part three)

The Awakened do not Absorb any Soul Fragments from the Reserve this night.

The Tree tries to consume Primal Essence in order to grow. This is something the Aspects can prevent. At first they are inclined to do so, but feeling out how it works, and perhaps spured on by Belinda’s visions of an ultimate deadline, they let it try. The Tree manages to consume one of the Fishy Primal Essence, growing 1 / 60th of the way to Stage Six and gaining 1 Fishy Corruption.

The Tree then gets a chance to Ameliorate Corruption. It manages to do so, Ameliorating the single point by consuming an ordinary Essence.

Midnight is finally over.



More Exalted Perception and Acquiring Vessels

Belinda uses Exalted Perception to make another Cries of the World search for a suitable vessel despite it midnight having passed. She finds the soul of an acadamic who died when torn apart by dogs. The academic has almost no combat skills and is physically weak, but it might make a good research assistant for Isobella. Belinda’s Aspect of Leaves Awakens it, rebuilding its body at the Tree from the template of its soul.

Not finished Belinda then uses Exalted Perception to look closer at the Red Moon. She sees it as a planet orbiting the Black Sun. It’s a big planet, perhaps two to three times the mass of Earth. She gains a sense of how the other stars are not very far away, how the Earth was captured by a local planet’s gravity well when it emerged, how the combination of the two planets rotating around each other even as they spin on their axis causes the Moon to creep so slowly across the sky, waxing and waning as it does so.

Belinda zooms in Red Moon itself. It is a large planet, perhaps two to three times the mass of the Earth. Its surface is a wind blown red desert with great canyons and dust storms. There are pyramid structures in the shelter of the rift valleys. She glimpses a great chain of saurial creatures dragging stone toward one, and that’s as much as she can see with the successes rolled and aura spent.



Settling In

Xanthony tries out swapping between his two vessels, confirming that each gains Will and Health independently, and that inactive vessel’s body rests while the Aspect is active in the other. Absorption is per vessel. Instability builds independently in each vessel. The Aspect’s innate powers can be used from either vessel, but other powers are limited to the vessel which acquired them.

Xanthony seems to plan to use its Xander vessel as a stay at home crafter of Seeds of Life. In the meantime it converts a whole bunch of dross Fragments into Essence, crushing the wriggly ones as needed. Also crushing the spiritual parasite currently infecting Anthony.

Saul wakes with Stix looking at him. It’s getting cold in Bardon now that the clouds are clearing from the midnight sky. He goes inside to sleep.

Belinda / the academic and Anthony / Xander all sleep within the domain.



Breakfast at Bardon

Morning comes. The Black Sun rises once again. At the Tree Anthony’s Malevolence has dropped, but is still too high to risk being around civilians. His Aspect switches to Xander.

Xander: “Belinda, could I get a lift to Bardon please?”

Belinda manifests some aura and opens the way with Spirit Step. She emerges with about six Malevolence and a couple of points worth of Petal Fall Hair left. With the excess she uses Exalted Perception yet again, this time looking for the spot where the truckie died. It turns out to be in Laidley. The truck is still by the side of the road. It seems to be carrying an industrial amount of marijuana in bales in the back. I think the Awakened were somewhat disapointed that it wasn’t something worth more in the post apocalypse world.



Here we end the Session.
Next Session: Spirit Steppin

View
Session 28
The Pit (cont)

Two Hours before Sunset, Day Seven

The afternoon storm still pounds around the characters. Water trickles down through the amphitheatre of piled trees and flood debris on which they’re climbing.

Saul is up on the rim, keeping watch. Belinda is down in the muddy pit, investigating the circle of cars which make the bottom ring of the pile. Anthony is crawling in a narrow space under the pile itself, having brought to bay one of the fledgeling vamps they scared from cover.

There’s not enough space for his brush hook, Anthony has opened his butterfly knife. The fledgeling slips as it tries to dodge away in the confined space and Anthony stabs him, cutting deeply. It tries to stab him with its sharpened stick. Heavily malevolent, Anthony ignores the feeble blow, cutting the vampire again. It grabs him and tries to bite, but its weakening quickly now, bleeding out, its fangs don’t penetrate the Awakened’s skin. Anthony stabs it again, rips the knife out. It’s a brutal cut. The vampire goes limp.

Screams rise through the debris as Anthony Devours the vampire’s soul. Belinda and Saul look at each other.

Anthony: There is still another over there.

Belinda: I think there’s more in the pit.

She’s been inspecting the cars, crawling in the mud to find where she can pierce their petrol tanks.

Belinda: Are you just going to go from one to the next?

Anthony: {mid devour} No one else around to worry about.



Burning them out

Finding the sweet spot Belinda forces her parang up into the fuel tank. Petrol floods out down her blade and onto the mud under the car, spreading out to mingle in the rain.

Belinda: Anyone got a lighter?

Anthony: {checking the now soulless corpse in his hands and coming up empty} No joy. Does the car start?

Belinda: Well I’m not gonna try the one I just crawled under.

Belinda crawls into the the next car along. Its roof and windscreen have crumpled under the weight of debris above, but the key is in the ignition and the motor fires up. She presses in the cigarette lighter.

Belinda: You might want to get out of there.

Anthony slithers back into the open. As he climbs out of the pit he draws on the Tree to manifest Petal Fall Hair and invest it into Verdure, temporarily lowering his Temptation State and Taint Levels while increasing his Release Level. The feeling of dappled shade gives the heavily Malevolent Awakened a sense of relief.

Anthony: “Why do I walk into any combat without investing in this?”

Belinda pierces the tank of another car with her parang. She goes back to the running vehicle to retrieve the, now red hot, lighter coil, but there’s fuel spreading out under that car so she crawls between the back seats. Ignoring the corpse of a fledgeling vamp they shot earlier, she stands in the boot and jumps up onto the inner slope of the pile.

She throws the lighter down into the pit. It hits the mud but fails to catch the fuel alight, coil dimming rapidly. The smell of fumes is getting stronger, but the rain is pelting down hard. Belinda climbs back down to investigate the next car for a lighter, while Anthony crawls under one of the others to cut a fuel line.

Saul: What the hell are you guys trying to do?

Belinda: {brightly} I’m trying to light up the center.

Saul: Why?

Belinda: Because I think there’s something in there!

Both Saul and Anthony remain convinced that the vampiric presence infused throughout the mud in the center of the ampithetre is the result of some kind of ritual, but they go along with her plan. Once again a red hot lighter arcs down.

Whoof!

Blue flames roll away from the point of impact over the mud. A wash of hot moist air rolls over the Awakened in their various positions up the inner slope of the pile. It’s not an outright explosion, but fifty litres or so of fuel burns steadily against the rain, especially in under the cars and debris. Yellow flames billowing black smoke wash the pit with color.

Belinda and Anthony climb upslope. Belinda’s slips, her foot jarring down into a hole between branches, but she heaves it out and scrambles after to join Saul and Anthony up at the rim. They wait, ready to jump clear, but the flames don’t spread to the pile itself. The wood seems like it is just too wet to catch. Anthony eyes the cars to see if any of those ruptured tanks will explode as the flames under them heat things up.

The remaining vampire under the stack starts screaming in incoherent fear. He’s a fair way from the burning fuel but the Awakened can hear him crawling frenzidly under the pile toward the outer edge, only to stop, too scared to run out into the storm clouded afternoon sunlight. The Awakened have now officially observed the Rotschreck phenomina.

The fuel burns steadily, without any explosions.

Saul: “Do you think we should get off here?”

There is some nervious laughter, to the backdrop of the vampire’s screams.

Anthony: {Pumped on Potence and Gift of Might} “I’m confident that I can get down quickly…”



The Calling

Saul feels a pulse of spiritual aura expand outward from the vampiric presence under the mud. It’s small, the equivalent of a single point of aura, but it ripples out in all directions. It feels like a calling, one that might reach hundreds of meters rather than kilometers or more.

P(. Belinda: “I did say there was something in there!”

For the moment more nothing happens. The rain beats the flames back from the exposed surface of the pit, but those under the cars keep burning merrily. One of the ruptured fuel tanks starts hissing as it heats. A big billow of yellow flame and smoke jets out from under that car. It billows black smoke.

Belinda: “We should get down now! Maybe we should leave?”

Anthony: “No I think we’re good where we are. Especially if that calls in other things. We want them coming up to us.”

Belinda: “Ok…”

Anthony: “If the wood catches on fire, we’ll deal with that.”

The billowing continues. Anthony watches, while Belinda holds her uzi ready. She considers consolidating the dregs of ammo in her different clips but its too wet, and there’s too much risk of dropping bullets into the stack so she decides against it. Saul faces outwards, keeping watch over the oval, flood waters, and area surrounding the ampithetre nest.

The pack of dogs from before emerge from the school grounds, racing across the oval toward the nest. There’s about thirty animals, the kind of dogs found in yards, a couple of large ones but mostly medium or small in size. Saul checks that his grenade is still loaded.

Boom!

Metal flies as one of the ruptured fuel tanks in the pit blows open. None of the fragments come close but heat and steam wash up over the stack.

The panicked screams of the vampire under the stack reach a peak. Two ragged fledgelings come bursting out of the mud in the middle of the pit. Its a supernatural emergence, as if the earth itself rejects them. They too are panicked, the flames and heat having overcome their fear of the sun. Burned by both the fire and the light they leap for cover under the debris.

Anthony: “Fuck these things grow like trees too!”

One ragged vampire gets away, the other is a hair slower. Belinda’s uzi and Saul’s austyr bark once each, bullets thud home. The slower fledgeling, now crippled, struggles to pull itself underneath the logs but Belinda is fast enough to get a second shot in. It jerks and goes still, blood draining out over wet wood.

This is where I realised I’ve been neglecting to give the characters the chance to Devour the unused Blood Points from the fledglings they’ve been slaughtering. It’s rare for a powerful vamp to go down with any blood remaining, but these fledglings who can only spent one or two points per round are dying way too fast to do much.



The Dogs

The fires are dying down. The explosion exhausted that previous billow of flame. There are now dogs snarling and jumping and growling around the outside of the pile. They’re unable to climb the steep outer slope, but some are crawling in through the piled debris. They can hear them yapping and scratching and burrowing under.

Belinda: “What do we do now?”

Anthony: “We wait for the dogs… Or you people with guns could use them…”

Saul: “You want we should kill ’em?”

Anthony: “Doesn’t look like they’re running away, not this time.”

Saul: “Don’t think I want to waste that much ammo…”

Anthony: {Shrugs, raising his brush hook}

Saul: “All right, fine. I’ll plug a few.”

Belinda: “A grenade right in the middle would do…”

Belinda faces inwards, readying to shoot any dogs which might emerge from among the debris on the easier inner slope.

The fuel fires flicker. The rain falls. One of the dogs seems to be licking the vampire cowering under the stack. Its broken screaming calms.

Anthony starts climging down the nests inner slope, intending to devour the soul of the fledgeling they just shot to death.

A dog emerges from the debris near him. Saul shoots, blowing a big chunk out of it. It’s not dead, but, being a mundane animal, it won’t be getting back up and should bleed out in the next few minutes. Belinda holds her fire, deciding to save bullets, allowing Anthony to move in and swing the final blow with his brush hook.

Saul daydreams for a minute about having some kind of mythical axe that would return to his hand whenever he threw it. {cough} Aspect of Heartwood {cough} Enchant {although where you would find a returning effect to load in I don’t know}

Anthony finishes getting back down into the muddy pit. He’s looking to cut the fuel line on one or two of the cars whose tanks remain unventilated, unphased by the bit of fire still flickering under one of the earlier wrecks.

Three more dogs burst from the debris. One is halfway up the stack heading for Belinda, the other two are right near Anthony, leaping down at him.

Belinda shoots, dropping the dog charging up at her.

Saul shoots at one of the ones leaping at Anthony. In doing so he risks catching his companion in the crossfire, but his aim is true, dropping his target.

Anthony swings on the remaining dog. It tries to twist aside, but, empowered with Potence and Gift of Might his blow catches it anyway, carving deep to kill it outright.

They seem to have broken the moral of the pack. The dogs among the debris are wimpering and growling, but don’t seem keen to come out.

Saul turns to shoot one of the larger dogs on the oval outside and spots a flicker of motion from the south.



The Ferals

It’s a group of about ten ferals running along the edge of the flood waters toward the vampire’s amphitheatre nest. They’re about sixty meters away. Hunched and awkward but fast, they’ll arive in about three rounds.

Saul: “Ferals coming.”

He finishes the shot he was aiming up, and one of the bigger dogs goes down, bleeding out into the rain soaked grass of the oval.

Down in the pit Anthony considers the bodies strewing the ampithetre, considering whether dogs would be worth Devouring (perhaps fragments of Streetwise, Presence, or Manipulation?). He hefts the body of the dog he just cut down, throwing it halfway up the slope in front of him he begins once more to climb toward the rim.

Climbing up to the rim Belinda takes aim at a distant feral, Saul joins her. The skill they got by Absorbing fragments of those army guys from Wivanehoe allows them to aim like snipers if they have enough time. Saul’s ausstyr has a scope and a better base range increment than Belinda’s uzi so while she settles for reducing the range penalty, he can go for a penalty free head shot as well.

Belinda’s uzi barks first. She puts a single bullet into the body of her chosen feral. It keeps rushing forward like an idiot.

Saul’s shot strikes the head of the feral next to it, blowing away a chunk. A human would go down, staggered if not killed outright, but these ferals are already dead. Animated by wyld grey energy it too keeps rushing forwards.

Meanwhile Anthony has stopped halfway up the inner slope to Devour the soul of that fledgling who didn’t make it under the stack. It struggles surprisingly strongly. While the ferals are not put off by its torn screams the dogs most distinctly are, scattering in fear. The vampires hiding in the piled debris beneath their feet also seem distinctlyterrified.

Hiding Vampire: “No No No, what are you doing? Leave him alone! Help! Help! Pull me back under! Pull me back, please!”

Fragments begin to flow into the Tree, including one of Animalism, a gangrel power with the potential to explain how the dogs and ferals were summoned.

Unphased by the screams and shouts Belinda lines up another shot, aiming for the head now that the ferals have rushed closer. Her shot rings out. The feral’s head blows apart. It falls, left behind by its companions.

Saul follows suit. Another feral falls. The reduced mob keeps charging foward.

Inside the pit, fuel keeps leaking from under the car whose fuel lines Anthony cut. It hasn’t caught fire yet, but spreads out over the mud and water as the rain pounds down, getting closer to the space under the other cars where flames flicker still.

Anthony keeps devouring. Noticing this victim too yielded a fragment of Wits Anthony comes to the conclusion that the frenchman from Saul’s vision must have a distinct preference for athletic, fit, quick witted types.

Belinda and Saul take close ranged shots. Two more ferals fall, and now the remaining half dozen are at the bottom of the stack.

Able to see the whites of their eyes Belinda unleashes a three round burst, feathering the trigger with manual skill as her uzi doesn’t have a selector switch. She misses, first time trying it after all, and swaps out her near empty clip for one that has about ten round remaining.

Saul slings his styr as the ferals climb towards him. Leaning down at an angle he brings his sawn off ten gauge shot gun to bear, trying to catch two ferals in the blast as he gives them both barrels. The nearer feral takes hidious wounds, enough to kill a human outright, but it keeps climbing with face and chest torn and ripped. The one behind it takes less lead. It too keeps on coming.

With the potential to rip one more small fragment from his victim’s soul Anthony breaks away, unlimbering his brush hook as he climbs up to stand shoulder to shoulder on the rim with Belinda and Saul

Note I messed up here. This should have needed a Will check as it is quite a basic Temptation to keep Devouring once started and Anthony’s Temptation State is quite high. I actually messed this up all night as he was tactically not going after the last little fragments on most victims. I’ll have to slow that down and get rolls as we go next time.

The remaining few ferals claw their way to the top of the wall. Two of them grasp at Saul, penalised by nearly a full round of previous actions, one misses outright while the other he dodges. Saul breaches open his shotgun, hot shells pop out and he feeds in two fresh ones. Boom! To the chest of the feral right in front of him. It’s blown backwards, off the stack. Its mate takes a scattering of shot as well. Balancing on the logs Saul steps back behind Anthony.

Antony swings a heavy blow at the head of one of the uninjured ferals. It too falls back over the wall, head and body landing seperately.

Belinda fires a three round burst into the last uninjured feral. Bullets thud through its chest but it keeps on coming as she steps behind Anthony from the other side.

There are now three ferals left. Two on the right, one on the left. The rain is still falling. Flames flicker under two of the cars in the base of the pit behind them, while fuel spreads from another.

The feral on the left leaps at Saul who just manages to dodge the claw swipe, but puts his foot into a gap between logs and falls.

The feral on the right goes after Belinda, who dodges, her Celerity buffering the penalty she would otherwise take for doing so.

The last feral swipes at Anthony, who also manages to dodge without slipping on the unstable footing.

Prone, with his foot stuck, Saul keeps hold of his empty shotgun with he left hand and draws a handgun with his right. It’s his plain handgun, not the flashy golden plated one. He fires at point blank range. The feral finally falls, collapsing on top of him.

Anthony swings a straighforward blow into the feral in front of him. With his massive strength he carves it open. It falls.

Belinda fires one last shot into her feral, dropping it too.

Belinda: “Yay I get to kill things this time!”

Whump!

The whole pile shudders as the fresh fuel ignites behind them. A blast of wet steam rolls over them and the last dogs emerge from under the stack, whining in terror as they flee.



Interlude

The storm clouds keep rolling overhead, thunder rumbling. Darkness glooming. Fire once more burns on fuel over mud, spluttering against the rain. Black smoke, reeking of plastic and paint billows from the car.

The vampiric presence remains below.

Rolling to his feet, Saul swaps out a partial clip on his styr and reloads his shotgun.

Saul: “Gone through more than half the ammo I brought.”

Belinda: “I should have shoved more in my pockets.”

Belinda spends some of her manifestation of Petal Fall to heal her wounds and draws Essence to replenish it.

Anthony begins Devouring the ferals who made it over the wall.

Antony: {as soul torn screams ring out} “There are still two live vampires under the stack…”

Saul: {standing watch once again} “Don’t want to embarrass myself climbing round.”

The ferals yield Protean (from the wyld infection), which breaks down to Essence on entering the Tree, as well as fragments of Dexterity, Wits, Athletics, Brawl, and Survival.

One of the dead dogs is a german shephard. Devouring its soul yields fragments of Stamina, Survival, Athletics, and Presence (woof). Its soul howls in torment as it is ripped apart.

Anthony is now has seventy five Malevolence, on top of his initially high Instability…

Anthony: “I’m looking to pick fights.”

Saul: “Don’t look at me.”

{Evil laughter from both of them.}



In-Terror-gation

The fuel fire dwindles, again its not enough to set the whole stack on fire. It doesn’t look like its going to force any more vampires out.

There are still three undevoured dog corpses in the nest, and six feral corpses strewn along the waterline outside.

Antony seems surprised the other two didn’t kill the cowering vampires while he was Devouring.

Saul: “I’m not going down there, staying up here.”

Antony: {slinging brush hook} “Righteo.”

The two fledgling vampires are as deep under the debris as they can get.

Saul: “Hey! Come out… We won’t hurt you.”

He too is Malevolent as fuck and not trying very hard to sound convincing (Intimidation check).

One of the hiding Vampires: “Just leave us alone! We haven’t done nothing! Just following orders, not my fault they made me do horrendous things! Just go away. The sun burns! The fires burn!” {muffled crying}

Belinda: “What’s under the mud?”

Vampire: “Ah… The master!” {seems to choke on some kind of compulsion not to speak} “He’s really scary. Run away if you can or he’ll turn you like us, or worse, like the dead.”

Belinda: “How do we bring him out?”

Vampire: {chokes} “I can’t tell you. But run away! Run away before the sun goes down!”

The Awakened exchange glances.

Belinda: “This sounds like an invitation.”

From the opposite side of the stack.

The Other Vampire: “You can’t betray the Master like that! Shut up!”

Anthony starts climbing down toward the place that vampire’s voice came from.

Vampire A: “Sun burns, scary out there. I’ll just stay here. But I’m telling you the master will rip you to pieces.”

Belinda: “What makes him scary?”

Vampire A: “He’s really powerful. And he can turn people. He made me like this… whatever I am now.” {Voice rising} “Bit me and made me die. They buried me! I rose but I can’t bear the Sun! The whole world is crazy! Just want to leave but I can’t. He makes us drink the blood! You don’t understand. He makes us do it!”

Saul: {calming} “What’s his name?”

Vampire A: “Garouche. Calls himself Garouche, the Frenchman. He’s got two big dogs who follow him everywhere.”

Meanwhile Antony has crawled in under the logs after the other vampire, the uncooperative one. His butterfly knife comes out as he plots the best path through the debris. He gets quite close before his victim spots him.

Vampire B {the uncooperative one}: “Oi! What are you doing? Don’t come here!”

Anthony: “Well you’re not being helpful…”

Belinda: {Laughs}

Vampire B: “No No NO!” {To vampire A} “You tell him! You tell him the Master will get youse all if you hurt me!”

Garouche’s pack must have been hunting south of here, both these guys seem to have accents that are too low class for this suburb. It’s not that I suck at doing posh manerisms at all… honest…

Anthony: “Your master will get us all?”

Vampire B: “He’s real mean I tell you!”

Anthony: “I’ll take my chances.”

As he works his way forward his victim has been squirming back. Both have to plot their way around logs and through gaps, sometimes moving left or right, up or down to find a way. Anthony steadily closes the gap.

Anthony: “You’re not going to be able to do this until the Sun goes down. I’m going to rip you to pieces.”

Vampire B: No No don’t do that! You tell him, you tell him to leave me alone. You other people sound nicer!"

Belinda: “I don’t think your friend is going to help you.”

Vampire A: “No I’ll do anything you want just don’t… don’t hurt me!”

Vampire B: {getting stuck, voice rising in panic} “Leave me alone!”

He pokes a stick at Anthony between two logs as the Awakened gets even closer. Anthony bats it aside but doesn’t manage to grab it. The vampire pulls back. There are a couple of big logs between them, but Anthony manages to slip around and slash at the vampire with his knife.

Anthony: “Poke me with a stick! Usually I’m a nice guy, if you caught me on another day this would have gone very differently for you!”

He slashes a vicious wound into his victim. The fledgling vampire tries to grab and bite, but doesn’t manage to draw blood. I’m getting de ja vu. Penalised by his victim’s wild struggles, but hideously strong Antony stabs the vampire again, driving the knife deep and slashing open its guts. He starts Devouring the fledgling’s soul.

Screaming rings out yet again.

Vampire A: {sounding worried} “What’s going on over there? Don’t come near me!”

Belinda: “Don’t worry about it.”

Saul: “Well… Unless you start giving us some useful information that’s what’s going to happen to you…”

Vampire A: “Oh my god! No No, please don’t do that! If I tell you will you let me go? Let me go once the Sun goes down and I’ll leave, I swear!”

Belinda: “What about your Master?”

Saul: “Yeah. Tell us what you know. If it’s enough we’ll let you go.”

More screaming in the background as a fragment of Protean flows into the Tree and breaks into Essence.

Vampire A: “I’ll go, I’ll go! Ah… After the fall I holed up in my house with my Mum and Dad. They came in the night and dragged me off. Don’t know what happened to my folks but they buried me. They drank all my blood and buried me. I woke up in the night and… It’s sort of weird, but I… I was so thirsty I had to drink his blood. They had this big bowl and I drank and it made me want to follow him. But I didn’t really want to if you know what I mean… It makes you do it!”

More screaming and fragments flowing into the Tree. Anthony gains some more vampiric taint as he Absorbs a fragment of Fortitude from the flow, gaining his first dot. Belinda manifests two more points worth of Petal Fall Hair.

Vampire A: {shuddering at the screams} “Just don’t do that to me! Whatever he’s doing just…. don’t!” {crying}

Saul: “Yeah well, it’s real tragic hearing about your life story and how things went bad for you but… heh… you’re not really helping us here. We need some real information.”

Vampire A: “What can I tell you!?”

Saul: “In case you haven’t figured it out we’re here to kill your Master, so…”

Vampire A: “Well… He’s French! I think? He’s got two big dogs and…”

Belinda: “How many people are in the pit? Or how many things?”

Vampire A: “I think… Well not everyone comes back up at night. I think there’s maybe fifteen of us? I don’t know how many you’ve killed already. The fire… I could feel it. I panicked, I shouldn’t have come up! I panicked! I don’t know how many are down there. Sometimes people come back too late… He pulls us under the earth before the Sun can rise. Sometimes people come back too late. They have to hide in the cars… I don’t know about that…”

Saul: “Do all of you always come back here?”

Vampire A: “I try to.. Cause he doesn’t wait. Once he pulls you down. I can’t go down myself. Once he pulls you down that’s it. You know… You got to find somewhere to hide from the Sun. I hate hiding in the cars, it’s dangerous. The Sun! You know? It’s so close! But he’s really powerful. He’s got two dogs. They’re scary. They’re not like dogs, they’ve got human eyes…”

Belinda: “Are the dogs down there?”

Vampire A: “Yeah. And sometimes people don’t come up. He buries the victims from the night. You know? We go out and get people for him. He buries… He drains them all and buries them.”

Saul: “What here?”

Vampire A: “Yeah. He pulls them down with us. Sometimes they dig their way out at nightfall, like I did, changed… you know? Whatever I am? Sometimes they’re just…”

Saul: “Feral?”

Vampire A: “Yeah! Just Feral, no brains left, can’t talk. He controls them somehow. They run around but they don’t touch us.”

Saul: “How many are there?”

Vampire A: “Dunno. I mean… Most people go feral, very few retain their brains… I don’t know. He sends us out in packs, two or three packs a night and we’re expected to bring back as many people as we can. If he selects them he buries them. If he doesn’t he feeds them to the dogs” {pause} “It’s not good. I don’t know.”

Saul: “So were you sent up against Indooroopilly bridge?”

Vampire A: “No. I got told never to go that way. Only a few nights ago they got me. I don’t know what happened, but they told me…”

The screaming mercifully stops, two last fragments of Craft and Dexterity flow into the Tree. While he’s been talking Saul has been scavanging the fledgling corpse on top of the pile. But it’s not carrying any possesions, not even shoes. It’s just wearing muddy, torn clothes, as if its body had already been looted.

Vampire A: {continuing} “Mary Anne was sort of my pack leader. She… ah… she said I should never mention it. He’s not real… sane… I’ve seen him rip a man’s head off just for looking at him.”

Saul: “Bare handed.”

Vampire A: “Nah, with his… claws… cut his throat.”

Saul: What time does he usually get up?"

Vampire A: “Dunno. He’s usually out before ah… He usually watches to see who’ll rise and who’ll be feral, and who is just a corpse…”

Saul: “Who’s this Mary Anne?”

Vampire A: “Just someone he got before me.”

Anthony emerges from under the stack. He and Belinda start calculating how many they’ve already killed from among the fifteen possible vampires. He crosses the pit and starts crawling in toward the spot where Vampire A is hiding.

Belinda: “I don’t think he believes you.”

Saul: “There’s got to be more you can tell us.”

Vampire A: “I really… I don’t know much more! I mean what can I tell you ? What else do you want to know?!”

Belinda: {as Anthony draws closer} “How many were with you tonight?”

Vampire A: “Ah… Almost all of us? I mean I don’t know!”

Belinda: “Did the dogs go with you? The two big ones?”

Vampire A: “They went down. Ignal and Zoot he calls them. The rest of the dogs stay around the school.”

Belinda: “Were any of the others worried about the fire?”

Vampire A: “I don’t know. I mean it’s not like you can talk to each other when you’re underneath. It’s like being underwater, you know? I just woke up and had a sense of the heat, and coming out into it. I’m hurt! And I need help. I mean I need help!”

Some branches crack, revealing Anthony’s approach.

Vampire A: “Woah! No NO NO! Don’t come down here! This isn’t… That’s him! That’s him isn’t it! That’s the one making them all Scream? Just leave me alone! Just let me go! I’ve been good! I’ve told you everything!”

Anthony: {After a pause (temptation check?)} “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you a two minute head start.”

Vampire A: “But the Sun!”

Anthony: “Yep. Your two minutes has just started.”

Vampire A wines in stress. He moves closer to the outside of the stack. With the storm and being so late it’s actually quite dark already (weak sunlight), but he just can’t seem to force himself out. He looks back at Anthony through the debris and tries again, this time gathering the Will to emerge, shrieking onto the oval.

Even through the downpour the weak sunlight scorches him. He shrieks, flailing, running to the south, stumbling and splashing into the flood waters as his flesh blackens. Screaming incoherently he falls, disappearing with a splash. It’s not clear if he died and fell or deliberately dived into the muddy water.

Saul: {Shouting after him} “Head to Indooroopilly! You’ll find some help there!”



Preperation

There is still an hour and a half until true sunset. The fuel has burned away, there are just one or two small smoldering glows in the shelter of car bodies, etc. Everything else is too wet to burn, although there is still a charred hand sticking out of the mud.

Belinda observes that there are still two accessible cars with unruptured fuel tanks.

Saul: “Maybe we should sharpen some of those logs into stakes? Set up traps…”

Anthony: “I was thinking the same thing, rip out a bunch of logs so its not an easy climb…”

Saul: {chuckling} “Yeah, make it a killing field.”

Belinda heals Saul’s minor injuries, consuming and then manifesting some Petal Fall Hair to keep her Release Level up.

Anthony realises just how long it’s going to take for his Malevolence to drop. It’s at level thirteen, taking seven hours per level to drop to level ten, then an hour per level to drop to level 5, then ten min per level to drop the rest of the way. This is different to what I quoted in game, but it’s what I’m going with :)

Belinda realises she actually needs a little more Malevolence to stave off aura dissipation until after sunset.

Anthony: {pointing to corpses strewn along flood water’s edge} “Just go devour some ferals!”

Belinda heads out to do just that, becoming steadily more Malevolent as she Draws Essence to tear fragments from dead souls and pass them into the Tree. She doesn’t Absorb any, looking for something in particular.

Saul, slowly and carefully, climbs down into the pit. He manifests eight points of Roots into the mud, infiltrating all of the exposed area to a depth of one meter. The water in the mud feels salty and poluted, no good to drink, even through his roots. Extending his senses downwards his infiltration reveals nine distinct vampiric auras. Three are equivalent in strength to himself at Release Level Five. The other six are at Level Two.

With exceptional success Saul gets the sense that the three level five auras are actually linked. Protean is now part of the Tree so Saul recognises the three auras as D’ivers, when one person splits into multiple animals using Veer (the fifth dot protean power).

He also realises that some of the vampiric presence in the mud is actually from occult effects from rituals. One allows Meld to be extended to include other people (drawing the fledgelings down), the other stores Blood Points in the mud itself. He thinks Garouche might have ten extra blood stored this way.

Considering if he can disrupt the rituals Saul realises that if he had developed Haustorial Hunger he could be Devouring the blood and melded vampires through his Roots. He manifests another three points of Roots, extending the infiltrated area in under some cars.

Saul: “Nine down there that I can detect. Seems to tally with what old mate was saying. Some of the most powerful ones are the Master and the two dogs. He seems to have a reservoir of Blood there as well.”

Belinda finishes devouring the ferals and climbs back up into the nest.

Saul starts pulling debris away from the edges of the pit, making the sides steeper and covering up the crawl spaces under cars etc. He squelches around in the mud, snapping branches and encountering difficulties. Craft is not his area of expertise.

Belinda: “What are you looking for?”

Saul: “Just trying to make it hard for them when they pop up.”

Belinda: {succeeding an Intellect Craft check} “Well look at that thing over there…”

Together they do some more work. It’s definitely harder to climb out of the middle now, and most of the crawl spaces under cars etc are blocked.

While this is happening Anthony uses Domain Dreaming to go to the Tree. He starts sorting soul fragements in their reserve and breaking down small ones and ones they have plenty of into Essence. The fragements torn from feral souls are, like zombie and vicissitude fragments, alive. They squirm and must be broken with an act of Will. Crushing so many wrigglers, even the most strong willed person can slip up. Anthony finds himself Infected!

Until midnight, when he can just Assimilate the spiritual parasite away, Anthony will have to resist wyld infection (which is slightly different to zombie). In total though the brush hook wielding will monster breaks down enough fragments to produce seventy three points of Essence.

Saul: If we go through that in this fight…

Anthony: Yeah, we’ll be in trouble.

Saul: {laughing} Better be worth it!

Finishing his construction work Saul Devours the souls of the remaining dogs. It’s actually been a fair while since they were shot, but they would have taken some time to bleed out so, its fine. Saul’s Malevolence raises as fragments of Animal Ken and Manipulation flow into the Tree, even one fragment of Resolve (a well trained puppy?). The last dog put ups enough of a struggle that Saul actually lets its soul escape.

Belinda manifests some more Petal Fall Hair, since her Malevolence is now high enough to hold till after sunset. She raises her Release Level to Five (max), enhancing Dexterity as she does so.

Belinda: So we’re all going to be camping out at the Tree for a while after this…

Anthony: For a few days yeah.

Saul: {laughs}

Anthony: Actually. I should look for a new vessel…

Belinda takes the time to consolidate her uzi ammo into one clip, careful in the rain. Saul gives her his ten remaining hand gun ammo, also 9mm.

In this game, unless its magnum ammo, I’m going purely by diameter. Handgun rounds are ok in same caliber submachine guns and assault rifles and vice versa, despite a lot of real world people saying that’s a recipie for disaster. Just gonna keep it simple and wait for a botch :)

Anthony raises the idea of whipping over to investigate the school quickly. They’ve got about an hour left till sunset at this point. Saul stays behind, standing guard. Belinda and Anthony head on over.

There are a few dogs lingering under the school buildings, but they slink away quickly upon the (highly Malevolent) Awakened’s approach. Torn limbs and gnawed corpses litter the ground where they’ve been denning.

Anthony and Belinda manage to find the science classroom pretty quickly. They also find the supplies area, uncovering:

1x Small jar of oil with a lump of dull grey metal in it.
2x Twenty litre buckets of Acetone
Some bottles of Kerosene and Ethyl-Alcohol cleaning fluids.
Some small strips of Magnesium
A tall bottle of LPG gas (for the bunsen burners).

(in game I said acetylene not Acetone, but I meant the flammable solvent not the welding gas, as for why the school has sooo much acetone… I don’t know…)

Anthony: “You take the buckets.”

Belinda looks at him with his strength empowerments, but he silently shoulders the gas canister.

Belinda: “What about the jar?”

They take that too.

Belinda: “Shouldn’t we take some beakers and rags? For Molotov cocktails?”

They take them too.

They get back over the oval without incident. Saul climbs down to help them haul the stuff up into the nest. Carrying the gas bottle, Anthony almost slips in the rain, but that little bit of Athletics training he got during that weekend hunting pigs at Dave’s place saves him from dropping anything… explosive.

They dig the gas bottle into the mud in the middle of the pit. The other stuff gets various arrangements.

Belinda: “Where should I put these buckets?”

Then the Awakened wait. The hour passes. Belinda and Saul’s Malevolence drops a bit, but not enough for their aura to start dissipating. Anthony’s Malevolence stays right where it is, and will for several more hours yet.

Then the sun sets. Here we end this session. Next week should be fun! :)



Next Session: Out of the Pit

View
Session 27
Into the Pit

Three hours before Sunset, Day Seven

Rain from an afternoon storm falls around Anthony, Belinda, and Saul as they finish devouring souls from the scattered corpses of thirty or so ferals.

Belinda {who Spirit Stepped here from the Tree}: “So where are we?”

Anthony: “Just in the back end of Graceville somewhere. Saul’s been leading the way…”

Saul: “Yeah. Looking for that place where the feral vampires were gathering.”

The end of the street is blocked by flood waters. There is a school to their right, from which the ferals had come charging out. It’s a pretty rich area. Saul thinks {perception} that some of the play equipment he can see in the school is a likely match for stuff he glimpsed twisted in among the vampires’ ampithetre like nest of debris. He also thinks {streetwise} that there would be council parks along the creek behind the school grounds.

Note: I fucked up here saying that the storm eliminated the penalty he would have taken to perception for being in sunlight due to having level two zombie taint. While that is true I actually changed taint a bit between here and the last session so the sunlight penalty is actually at level three now anyways…

Saul: “Reckon we need to check out the other side of the school.”

Anthony: “We all reloaded?”

They do so. Saul only has seventeen shells left for his shotgun. Then they go to get back in the car, which is clawed, dinted, and splashed with gore. Its windscreen, side, and back windows are all smashed in, and there are holes stitched through the roof (from the uzi) and scattered through the bonnet (from shotgun blasts).

Belinda: {all innocent like} “Don’t know who did that… We probably shouldn’t drive this back across the bridge”

Anthony: {quite malevolent after all that devouring} “Why not?”

Saul looks around for other cars. There are several parked on the street, but no bmw’s, suv’s, or other vehicles with keys left handy.

Saul: {somewhat doubtful sounding} “We could thrash this one a bit more.”

Belinda: “Maybe we should walk across the school.”

Anthony: {botching his mechanical assessment} “Nah, what do you mean? This car looks fine!”

They jump in. Anthony takes them up over the curb and, engine revving, pushes through the school fence. The front bumper rips off. The bottom of the car scrapes as they go over and through the shrubbery and into the school yard, trailing a length of wire mesh as they go.



School Tour

They drive down through the playground toward the school’s sports fields. As they pass the rows of raised school buildings a pack of dogs rise from among the space underneath. Stiff legged they slink, snarling at the car and cringing away from it as the Malevolent Awakened pass by. There are bits of bone and torn clothing scattered around the area where the dogs have been denning.

Saul looks up at the school buildings above. The class rooms look abandoned, there’s no sign of fortification or habitation in the last few days.

Ranging from small rat dogs to backyard bruisers the pack is obviously too frightened to attack. For the last half hour they’ve been hearing the screams of souls being torn and Devoured after all. Something keeps the dogs from scattering completely however. There seems to be a thread of spiritual aura running between them. It bears the stench of blood, a vampiric power. With an extraordinary perception success Saul gets the sense that this power emanates from down and across the sports grounds. It’s the direction they’re headed. He shares this vision with the others through their Mind’s Reach gestalt.

Sure enough, when Anthony drives the suv down a slope (and this probably should have been through another fence) the Awakened spot the mound of debris from Saul’s vision. It’s on the other side of the sports grounds, right at the edge of muddy flood waters which extend for at least a kilometre behind it, an inland lake immersing all of Rocklea with Mt Gravatt on its far shore. The mound itself is huge. Twenty meters across, and five meters high. From here they can’t see the nest like amphitheatre inside, it just looks like a pile of debris.

Anthony: “This look like what you saw?”

Saul: “Sure this is it. Can’t imagine another place would end up this way.”

Anthony: “Well we’ve still got daylight so let’s have a look.”

Saul: “Alright.”

Anthony drives them out across the oval. Nothing attacks them. He pulls up a few meters before the mound and they get out. It looms above them. Whoever put this together must have been strong. The base seems to be mainly cars, but some of the debris piled ontop seems quite large, including many uprooted trees with thigh thick trunks.



Into the Pit

There is no apparent way into the mound, but the debris offers plenty of gaps to squirm into and hand holds for climbing over. Anthony slings his brush hook over his back (guitar strap?) while Belinda puts her shotgun and parang through her belt and moves her uzi, on its strap, to her back. Saul readies his steyr aug assault rifle and stands guard while the other two climb.

Anthony manages ok, but there is some snapping of branches and cursing as Belinda {minor botch} crashes back down.

Belinda: “I’ll just wait here.”

Looking down from the top Anthony confirms the mound is indeed a ring. The inner slope is less steep than the outer. There is a circle of muddy ground down in the middle, about three meters wide. It looks churned, like a mass grave, with bits of scorched bone and a withered hand extending from the mud into the storm clouded sunlight. Spirit Sight shows Anthony that vampiric power (physical aura) is diffused throughout the mud. There are also a few glimers of weaker vampiric presences in half crushed the cars that ring the open ground. It seems like those vehicles form the bottom layer of the debris nest.

Anthony: “This is definitely the right spot. There’s ah… a couple of people.”

Saul: {calling over} “How many?”

Anthony: “It’s a bit spread out…. Ten ish? Plus some dirt… I’m gonna head down and see if I can reach any.”

Saul and Belinda: “Maybe we should come up first!”

But Malevolent Anthony is quite eager to get to the feast in front of him. He descends the (easier) inner slope while the other two climb the outer. A bit of debris comes lose in Saul’s hand half way up and he falls, taking one bashing damage. Belinda climbs up alright, getting over the rim just as Anthony’s feet hit the churned earth and he feels just how powerful that vampiric aura below is.

It’s at least the equivalent of Release Level Five. There seem to be other auras underlying it, but Anthony tripple botches his Intellect Occult perception check! He becomes convinced the difuse aura must be from a ritual or spell, something that spread out can’t possibly be a vampire. It’s too strong anyway… Much stronger than the fledglings they encountered in the city, stronger than Isobella, it can’t be in the open out here. It must be like Isobella’s blood stones.

Anthony: “They’re just storing it for later.”

By this time Belinda is about half way down the inner slope. She holds position there, readying her uzi. Saul has made it to the top of the ring of debris. He looks down at the vampiric dirt below, trying to gauge if the aura within was as strong as his memories of the Prince or Black Priest. He too botches his perception check and can’t be sure.

Meanwhile Anthony, hopped up on both Potence and Gift of Might, clears away some branches and rips the boot lid off one of the cars. Rain and cloud weakened Sunlight pour in on a pale and emaciated dude in ragged jogging clothes who is curled up clutching a sharpened stick with a blanket over him. A vampire, he starts to burn. Invisible flames blacken his flesh, his skin peels off as the sun combusts the vampiric blood within. He wakes screaming. In frenzied desperation he tries to crawl over the back seat of the car, back into the shadows of the debris pile.

Belinda has (risky) line of sight and is ready. She raises her uzi.

Anthony: “No, no I’ve got this!”

He grabs the fledgeling vampire’s feet and easily hauls him out of the car into the middle of the ring.

Vampire fledgeling A: “Ah! It Burns! Ah! Ah! Leave me alone! Leave me alone! I haven’t done anything wrong! I did everything they ask!”

He thrashes helplessly in Anthony’s grip, becoming incoherent, unable to get away as the Awakened holds him up for the sun to burn to death. With Spirit Sight Anthony realises the sunlight will burn away the fledgeling’s very spirit unless he is quick. He draws on the Tree and his arms streak with green to Devour the burning vampire’s soul. It screams.

Anthony: “The Sun is shining! The Plants are growing! Vampires are burning in the streets!”

He resists the temptation to Absorb any fragments right now. The first, a fragment of Protean breaks down into Essence as it enters the Tree. Several others, including a fragment of Animalism flow after.

Saul has taken position just inside the crest of the ring, where he can either pop his head up to look outwards or stay focused on events inside. He considers manifesting darkness to give Anthony more time to finish Devouring his victim. But Anthony drops the burning vampire, who could only yield one more fragment anyway. He turns to the other cars as sunlight corrodes away the last remnants of his fist victim’s soul.

There are sounds from within the pile around him. At least two vampires have woken up. Anthony can sense their auras rapidly squirming deeper into the tangle of debris. One aura remains still. Anthony crosses the ring to rip the back door off that car. Metal squeals, reveling another fledgeling vampire, this one dressed in torn and muddy corporate style work clothes and curled up in the seat well. There is a short spear, a sharpened stick really, lying on the back seat.

Anthony drags this vampire out into the light as well. It too wakes screaming, but tries to bite him in its frenzy. He has a firm enough grip to hold it off however and tosses it into the middle of the ring. Burning it rolls to its feet to leap at Anthony.

Saul had been considering sending his Infiltrating Roots down into the pile after one of the vampires who he can sense below, but seeing the fledgeling in the pit getting to his feet Saul fires a single shot from his assault rifle. The bullet rips through fledgeling’s shoulder, staggering it.

The fledgeling leaps, but Anthony is ready. He pushes it away before its fangs can close on his flesh.

Belinda had slung her uzi and started climbing for the rim of the nest. But hearing the shot she turns. Drawing her handgun she fires down on the fledgeling fighting Anthony in the pit. Her bullet takes it clean through the chest, dropping it. Its blood leaks into the rain and mud.

Belinda: “Err is that blood going to strengthen the thing in the ground?”

Anthony: {grabbing the fallen fledgeling to Devour its soul} “No, its nothing!”

More Essence flows into the Tree as a fragment of Protean passes through Anthony and breaks down. A couple of smaller fragments flow in as well. Anthony races to rip as many pieces free before the sunlight burns them away. A fragment of Resolve tests his… resolve to abstain from more Absorption today but he resists. The charred corpse rolls still.

With a gleam in his eye Anthony goes after one of the vampires who has crawled deeper in under the debris pile. He rips the door off the car in front of it and crawls through.

Belinda: {Mind’s Reach} Err… I think there is something in the middle…

Anthony: It’s a bunch of dirt.

Against the resistance of branches he pushes open the car’s opposite side door.

Belinda: No, I do think there is something there.

Anthony: Well you and Saul take care of it then…

Saul: What do you mean? I don’t see anything…

The fledgeling that Anthony is chasing seems unable to squirm any further. He turns at bay in a small space between branches, twisted metal, and other rubbish, poking his stick at Anthony as the Awakened tries to crawl out of the car after him.

Vampire Fledgeling C: “Stay back! Stay back!”

Belinda: {to Saul} Do you think we could tear open a fuel tank?

There unfortunately we end for the week. Sorry for the short session.



Next Session: The Pit (continued)

View
Session 26
Ferals!

Mid Afternoon, Day Seven

It’s very humid. Storm clouds build out to sea. The Black Sun burns bright. The Red Moon has descended about ten degrees down from overhead. It’s waxing from half towards gibbous as its night line retreats and the red storm on its surface spins into view.


Ferals!

Saul and Anthony have been hunting gangrel south of the river from Indooroopilly. The once wealthy suburbs here are half flooded. With the bright sunlight hindering them somewhat because of their taint, the pair have been driving down each side street looking for signs of the park and amphitheater style nest of debris that Saul saw in an earlier vision. They each have Spirit Sight up. Anthony, buffered by the aura available in his Seed of Life, is at Release Level Two. Saul, maintaining Mind’s Reach, is at Release One.

In Corinda they’re surprised by a pack of ferals charging out from the grounds of a school. This location is actually a very good candidate for the gangrel nest. The street dead ends ahead, but Saul knows that Oxley creek runs behind the school with riparian bikeways and council parks.

Saul sees the incoming feral at the last moment. He brings up his shotgun, pointing across Anthony at the oncoming madman.

Saul: “Hey! Fuck off!”

The feral shows no sign of human intelligence, just slavering bloodlust as it slams into the car. The driver side window breaks. It reaches for Anthony with protean clawed hands. It smells of corrupted desert spice and its eyes are dilated. Spirit Sight shows a wild grey energy surging within.

It’s dead, but not a zombie, and there are more, many more, wild human figures racing out from the school grounds behind it.

Saul lets the reaching feral have one barrel from his ten gauge sawn off. The blast deafens Anthony and blows the feral’s chest and neck apart, dropping it instantly. Shot rips into the charging crowd behind it, doing damage without producing any signs of pain or slowing or taking cover. These are definitely not the figures Saul saw attacking the bridge in his vision the other day.

As Saul manifests an aura’s worth of Infiltrating Roots into the bodywork of their BMW Anthony leaps up onto his seat. Standing half out through the sunroof he unlimbers his brushhook, ready for the next of the oncoming feral charge.

Note, yes I did fuck up the timing on this first round. The perception at the end of last session, which saw them surprised, should have should have formed their initiative for the first round this week… oh well.

Belinda is at the Tree, on her beach, the sand of which is actually purple, being made from grain sized amethyst crystals. She hears the commotion via Mind’s Reach and looks through Anthony’s eyes to see the charging ferals. She gets up.

Because she’s at the Tree Belinda is at Release Level Five. She manifests five aura’s worth of Petal Fall Hair, immediately investing one point into Celerity and another to activate Spirit Sight. Then she uses Spirit Step, with Enhanced Intellect, to begin opening her way to Earth.

The ferals hit the car. Anthony swings his brush hook into the first of them. The brush hook gives him reach advantage, but the feral doesn’t even try to dodge. Anthony carves a wound in it which would kill an ordinary human, but the twisted, stinking creature ignores it as it reaches up for him.

Anthony staves off its grasp with the haft of his weapon. The next few ferals clamber up over each other to get at him. Their claws dig into the side and roof of the car but they don’t quite manage to reach far enough for Anthony to have to shove them away himself.

More of the ferals flow around the car, both in front and behind, seeking a way up or in. Even more are charging out from within the school grounds, leaping the waist high fence, running in a crouch, or on all fours. There’s more than twenty already in sight and Saul thinks there might be a few more still thrashing through the shrubbery behind.

Saul: “Alright, what are we doing?”

Anthony: “We’re in a car… with guns…”

Saul: “This might use a lot of ammunition.”

Anthony swings down hard into one of the ferals clambering up toward him, carving a wound into its head but not quite killing it.

Note I should have penalised this attack as being halfway through the sunroof he wouldn’t have been able to make enough space to attack the closest feral comfortably with his long weapon. Next time.

Anthony drops back down through the sunroof into the driver’s seat. He jams the BMW into reverse. With a sickening thud he accelerates. The suv lifts as the wheels go over at least one feral, another clings to the passenger side of the vehicle, while a third claws its way up over the back.

Belinda manifests another five aura into Petal Fall Hair and Spirit Steps again. She’s now approaching Earth’s gauntlet. Having left the Tree her Release Level drops to Three, supported by her manifestation alone.

As the street blurs past, Saul looks from the feral clawing toward the sunroof to the one clinging just outside his window, to the pack charging up the road after them. He angles his shotgun into the feral on the side. BOOM. Glass and flesh flying it falls away, damaged beyond the point that the energy within can sustain.

Saul: “Fuck yeah! Those army boy’s shoot skills have made a real difference!”

He manifests some more Roots, reaching Release Level Three and Enhancing his Wits. Saul tries to Entangle the feral clambering over the back of the suv. He fails. There is only enough material in the BMW to hold two aura worth of Infiltrating Roots so the excess manifestation goes down into the road beneath.

It is left behind as Anthony keeps reversing and the ferals keep charging. They’re surprisingly fast. The three currently in the lead manage to catch up, clambering up over the bonnet of the moving bmw. One of those manages a blow on the windscreen which fractures, but doesn’t break it. The other two are less securely on. As Anthony forgoes a main action to keep his foot on the accelerator, they fall into the crowd. The BMW reverses further down the middle of the street.

Saul manifests two more aura as Infiltrating Roots. This time he successfully Entangles the feral crawling toward the sunroof, binding it to the car. Breaching open his shotgun and loading in two more shells Saul takes stock (well that’s a maneuver he could have used).

Although similar, the grey energy animating the ferals is not the unlife of zombies. In the Occult knowledge Saul has Absorbed are a triat of underlying concepts: Stasis, Entropy, and Change. For some reason the ferals seem more of the Wyld to Saul, rather than being creatures of the Wyrm like zombies.

Belinda manifests three more aura worth of Petal Fall Hair and steps through the gauntlet. She emerges atop the moving car. Managing to keep her footing she glances down. The feral near her feet is Entangled so she fires a short burst from her uzi into the feral perched on the bonnet. Celerity buffering her penalty for successive actions.

Gore splatters. The body of the feral on the bonnet jerks. It rolls off and is trampled by the pack racing close behind. Belinda jumps down through the sunroof into the car. The feral on the back struggles to break free of the entanglement, but the final stubborn point of aura invested keeps it tethered, unable to lunge after her.

The new leader among the running ferals manages to leap up onto the car. Crouching on the blood smeared bonnet it smashes through the wind shield as one or two others manage to get their claws on the BMW but not quite up onto it.

There’s a sharp left bend coming up behind them now where the road goes around in front of the school grounds. Anthony eyes it with one hand on the wheel as he accelerates backwards, leaving the pack behind again.

Shattered glass in his lap, Saul puts his shotgun into the face of the feral coming through the windscreen. He pulls the trigger. Huge gibbets of flesh are blasted away, bone is exposed, but where a human would die, or at least fall crippled, the feral is still going strong. Saul manifests more Infiltrating Roots and Entangles it to the bonnet.

Clicking her uzi to single shot Belinda leans forward between the front seat. Her shot takes the feral clean. It collapses, unable to sustain the parody of life anymore, but lashed to the bonnet still by Saul’s Entanglement.

Anthony slows for a second, letting the ferals get a bit nearer as he lines up for the curve. There’s about twenty or so ferals still, just meters behind the car. They charge, mindless and tireless, wearing ragged clothes streaked with mud.

Saul: “So what are we doing?”

Anthony: “It’s too far to indro.” {thinking of hazards ahead like water and the rail bridge}

Saul fires both barrels into the crowd. Lead rips through the ferals. The first one goes down hard, a couple of those behind it stagger and fall, others take the shot and keep on coming. He manifests some more Roots which infiltrate down into the road and are left behind.

The feral on the back is struggling to break free of Saul’s first Entanglement. Belinda stands up through the sun roof and unloads a short burst into it, destroying it. She’s at twenty one Malevolence over six Will, the highest she’s ever been. Anthony is forty two over nine. Saul is Intense.

Anthony manifests some Imbued Strength as he keeps driving backwards. That cornor is getting close and he’s going to have to take it at some speed to stay ahead of the pack.

Saul reloads and blasts again with his shotgun. A few more of their pursuers go down. He manifests a few more aura worth of Roots, which go down into the road. There are now several small patches of Infiltration behind them.

Still standing through the sunroof Belinda slings her uzi and switches to her pump action shotgun. Her first blast takes down the feral she aimed at. The ones running behind it take a scattering of lead, with another feral falling to the side.

Anthony takes the corner confidently, going in wide with a firm grip he swings it around, still in reverse, maintaining enough speed to stay ahead of the pack. A second right angle corner looms ahead as the pack charges over the footpath behind.

Seated facing backwards Saul blasts again through the space where the windscreen used to be. He takes down the new lead feral and several others from the mindlessly charging pack. Calmly Saul breaks open his shotgun and loads in two more shells.

Belinda swaps back to her uzi. Changing clips she sweeps a long burst over the dwindling pack. More ferals fall. Their bullet riddled bodies litter the road behind.

Unfortunately my recording fails here.

But I seem to remember that Anthony made the next corner. Belinda and Saul kept blasting away. To the end the ferals kept mindlessly charging forward in pursuit of the ‘humans’ in the car.

When gunfire had reduced their numbers enough Anthony threw the BMW into drive and rammed forward through the crowd, crushing a couple of ferals beneath the vehicle. There may have been a round or two of brutal melee. The Awakened ended their attackers without much threat to themselves.

Faced with a street of scattered carnage the Awakened fell to Devouring the fallen. The afternoon storm breaks overhead. Rain sheets down around them as the torn screams of the ferals’ souls fill the neighborhood.

Anthony took the lead in Devouring. Saul and Belinda took it in turns to stand guard and support Anthony. In this way Saul still used up all of the Infiltrating Roots he manifest along the road, leaving only two aura worth of Roots in the (trashed) BMW.

The weren’t interrupted during the half hour or so it took to Devour all the fallen. At the beginning they heard some restless barks from within the school itself, but these fell silent some time after the screaming started.

The souls of the ferals were tattered, like those of zombies. However, unlike zombies that the Awakened have encountered so far, the ferals’ Wits, Dexterity, Strength, and Stamina seem to have been reinforced with some of the fragments torn from their other mental and emotional traits. Only a limited selection of skills were left, mostly focused on the physical aspects of hunting and survival, with just the odd wisp of knowledge here an there from whatever the victims were in their past lives.

Each feral yielded only six essence worth of fragments. Importantly though each yielded a fragment with one Protean exp. This seems to be derived from the wyld force animating them, not a disipline so much as a permanent mutation. Because the Tree is in the process of Adapting Protean into itself these fragments were immediately sacrificed. They were enough to complete the process. The Tree has adapted into a more shape shifting form and the Awakened can now learn Protean as an innate part of their aspect rather than a discipline acquired by their vessel. The few remaining fragments of protean turned to essence as they hit the Tree.

I forgot to mention this but the fragments show some signs of life. They go wriggling into the Domain’s reserve. Because of the sheer number of ferals which attacked there are quite a few fragments in the Domain’s reserve now, although raw essence is much depleted.

Surrounded by corpses, with the storm pouring down over them, we leave our characters for another week. It’s about three hours until nightfall. The school lies in front of them. Will they push on or head back? Their Temptation states are quite high…

Thanks for reading



Anthony:

Ecstatic Abandon at Release Level Five
Uninjured and very slightly Fatigued.
54 Malevolence with 15 aura nearby:

1 Petal Fall Hair
6 Imbued Strength
1 Celerity
3 Potence
1 Spirit Sight
3 Seed of Life.

Very High Instability:

Human taint level 4 (mind whispers, -1 perception).
Lycanthropic taint level 3 (rage issues, silver burns).
Zombie taint level 3 (-1 perception and move in sunlight).
Vampiric taint level 1 (sun seems bright).


Belinda:

Rash at Release Level Two
Injured and a little Fatigued.
11 Malevolence with 5 aura nearby:

3 Petal Fall Hair
1 Celerity
1 Spirit Sight

Moderate Instability

Human taint level 3 (an excuse for erratic behaviour).
Lycanthropic taint level 2 (silver burns).
Animal taint level 1 (scents smell brighter).


Saul:

Flow State at Release Level Two
Scuffed and a little Fatigued.
21 Malevolence with 4 aura nearby:

2 Infiltrating Roots (in the bmw)
1 Spirit Sight
1 Mind’s Reach

High Instability:

Human taint level 4 (mind whispers, -1 perception).
Vampiric taint level 2 (sun deals a bashing per scene).
Zombie taint level 2 (sooo hungry).



The Tree:

Growth:

Stage Five.
0 / 60th toward next stage.

Realisation:

15m Tall.
Air and Space fifteen meter radius (15 points worth).
Expanse of Dark Water (15 points worth).
Beach of Amethyst Sand (15 points worth).

Adaptation:

Celerity complete (quickened interplay of branches).
Protean complete (twisting shapes in the bark)

Reserve:

8 Tree Aura
39 Essence
1 Primal Essence of blood and entropy (vamperic)
7 Primal Essence of fishyness (bound spirits)
237 essence worth of Soul Fragments

Expected Sources:

Belinda’s household: ~10 essence (solid, familial).
Samaritan colony: ~40 essence (awestruck neighbours).
Indro colony: ~ 45 essence (renowned, larger pop).
Enoggera Barracks: ~45 essence (indebted subgroup).
Misc: 0 to 5 (various outliers and mavericks).



Next Session: Into the Pit

View
Session 25
Armed Negotiations

Ten Minutes into Day Seven

It is dark and cold. The Red Moon has climbed two thirds of the way up into the sky, and waned until only a thin crescent of its day side can be seen.


Realising

Belinda has Spirit Stepped to the Tree. Upset about getting her feet wet in the expanse of dark water she calls upon the Tree to Realise a place to stand. Consuming fifteen points of Essence from the bountiful reserve she causes fifteen cubic meters of pristine white {or purple?} sand to come into existence, creating a beach that fills one half of the fifteen meter diameter space around the Tree.

The roots remain beneath the sand, but the dark water is displace. It flows to the other side of the small space, doubling in depth. This means that the Tree, which is fifteen meters tall, now grows on boundry between land and water.

Belinda comes to the understanding that the sand, the water, the very air and wood of the Tree itself, all of the matter currently within this space is magical material, created as it is from spiritual essence. The grade of the materials is currently low, but she senses that with time, perhaps decades or even centuries, the quintessence within them might flow and concentrate to naturally form deposits of higher grade materials.


Theorising

Back in Bardon, while Anthony heals Saul’s remaining injuries, he ponders if they could Graft Regeneration into Curtis and Quentin and then take them to the Tree to allow them to regrow their missing limbs.

The problem is with what they would use to fuel the power once it was grafted in:

Grafting Devour + Giving them a Seed of Life – would return Essence from the Seed into the Tree.

Grafting Draw Essence + a Manifestation power – would allow the follower to draw freely, which is a little uncontrolled for Anthony’s tastes, only a little better than just grafting Assimilate or Absorb into them.

Bestow seems to give followers a reservoir they can draw from. Anthony has the realisation that Quentin probably consumed the point of Aura in his Mark unconsciously using his ghoul power to reverse his aging. This seems like a much more controllable method, as the Awakened can decide when (and if) they refill a mark. Anthony thinks they could (probably) replenish a Mark via a clear enough Cries of the World glimpse.

He and Saul also have the realisation that if they were to take Curtis to the Tree anyway then they could directly use Realisation to create new limbs. These new limbs would not be genuine human flesh, they’d be a living, low grade magical material and might end up with wood traits, so it would be a bit of an experiment all around.


Tea and Blood with Isobella

Anthony and Saul decide to have a chat with Isobella. She’s downstairs, of course, studying away in her room. Quentin is cleaning his gun while standing guard. Liam is acting as her assistant. All three of them seem delighted to talk with the Awakened. Curtis is… somewhere else.

Saul: “You still want that blood?”

Isobella: {delighted} “Oh. Yes!”

She sets Liam to sterilising a silver knife and bowl, indicating she hasn’t been biting or giving blood to her ghouls for fear of infection.

Anthony: “How is Curtis?”

Isobella: “He’s alright. A little affected, it’s hard to be injured when things are happening.”

Anthony: “We were considering alternatives for him…”

Isobella: {eager} “Do you have something?”

Anthony: “I have something I would like to try. There is a risk he may die, which is low. The risk of nothing happening is moderate, while the risk of a change to his physicality… We have some intrinsic powers similar to wood crafting for… prosthetics.”

Isobella is very interested, mentioning that if the injury had happened before the apocalypse she would have gone to the Silver Lodge to trade for regrowth or prosthetics. She asks about what would be involved.

Anthony: “We have to take him away.”

Isobella: “Oh. Where, may I ask?”

Anthony: “Somewhere… secret.”

Isobella: “Oh. Well could I come with you? There are limits to magic enabled by the Blood, but I do like to observe other Traditions.”

Anthony: “There won’t be anything to observe. You’d run the risk of being obliterated without a trace just to see him lying on a beach.”

Isobella: “Oh… so that small risk is quite dire in consequence?”

Anthony: “Yes.”

Isobella: “Hmm. Well I will put the offer to him. I won’t take such a trip myself, a long life allows time for small but severe risks to pay off.”

Anthony: “It is a small chance, would require critical failure across multiple resources.”

Liam comes over to Saul with the knife, bowl, and a handkerchief, asking if Saul would like him to do the honours. The risk of someone doing him damage raises the Exhilarated Saul’s hackles a little bit, but he manages not to see Liam as a threat as the ritualist assistant makes an expert cut into Saul’s wrist.

A point worth of blood flows out into the bowl, causing one Lethal wound.

Isobella: {suddenly, with eyes gleaming silver} “Wait! Wait!”

Liam clamps off Saul’s wound. Isobella inspects the blood in the bowl closely, her eyes gleaming silver again.

Isobella: “This isn’t as potent as I thought it would be.” {she thinks for a moment before turning to Anthony} “Could I try some from you?”

Anthony assents. His Release Level is up because of the point of Aura in the Seed of Life he’s carrying.

Liam: “I’ll prepare another bowl.”

Liam places aside Saul’s blood. He gets out another bowl and begins the process of washing and sterilising the knife again. Expertly he bleeds a wound’s worth of blood from Anthony which Isobella inspects.

Isobella: “Oh yes, this is definitely stronger. I think this relates to the way your apparent strengths seem to go up and down. This effect you produce to heal… how far can you push it?”

Saul: “Come with us to the city and find out.”

Isobella: “I’m risk adverse I’m afraid.”

Anthony manifests some Petal Fall aura to push up to Release Level Five.

Anthony: “This is as high as I’m willing to stretch myself in the current environment.”

Again Liam takes some blood. Raising Spirit Sight Anthony can see that the blood is more potent, a higher grade of magical material if you will. With eyes flashing silver again Isobella inspects the blood. She takes a small sip.

Isobella: “Oh yes. This is much better. Can you hold this state? The blood coming out of you now is like that of a powerful vampire, while that which came out of Saul earlier is almost human.”

Liam drains several more wounds worth of blood from Anthony while the Awakened heals the damage caused. Soon they have a few brimming bowls and a delighted vampire.

Note I fucked up in game using an old version of the innate vampire ‘drink blood’ power which potentially creates a mana-engine. Raising Release Level should raise apparent grade of the blood as indicated here, not the number of blood points per wound as I indicated in the session. Apologies.

Isobella daintily drinks her fill. There is still quite a lot of blood left.

Isobella: “May I work on my blood stones tonight? Or is the need for wards more urgent?”

Anthony: “Wards. The army could be here tomorrow, given those drones.”

They ask her about her own preperations. Isobella discloses she’s had her ghouls dig a concealed hole under the closet in her basement room for sleeping during the day. She’s written wards over hole, the closet, and her room to divert human notice and deny entry.

Isobella: “We did think of relocating as you suggested. If the army searches abandoned houses however… It’s better to make use of the preparations we’ve already made.”

Saul and Anthony request that she lay further wards around the basement where they store their weapons, and around the Light Armoured Vehicle across the street. Saul asks if her wards can deter drones but Isobella indicates that those she could lay in one night are limited to deterring humans. She mentions that, in the past, for more powerful rituals she would have had to trade with the Silver Lodge to purchase quintessent reagents of higher grade than her own blood, or that sometimes the Prince would donate some of his blood.

Isobella: “A matter of great trust.”

She’s not sure if the Awakened’s blood will be stable, indicating she’ll use her own blood as material for the wards and drink theirs to replenish her loses.

Anthony heals his wounds and replenishes his Seed of Life with two points of the remaining Petal Fall manifestation. Because the aura in the Seed remains to keep his Release Level at Three he is then able to Circulate most of his remaining Petal Fall manifestation into the Tree. The first points of green Aura flow into the reserve to mingle with clear essence, soul fragments, and darker lumps of primal force.

Isobella offers Saul a chance to observe with Liam when she sets the wards.

Isobella: “My Tradition is different from Abyssal Mysticism, more Hermetic, but you may learn something.”

Saul: {to Anthony} “We doing anything in the morning?”

Anthony: “Worrying about the Army, possibly hunting gangers or gangrel…”

Saul: {to Isobella} “Sorry, I might have to get some rest.”

Isobella: “Of course. Any time you wish, or if you encounter difficulties in your practice you can talk to me.”


Heading to Bed

Saul reloads before sleep, pocketing ten more shotgun shells for his sawn off, refilling the magazine on his handgun and looking for more ammo for the army issue assault rifle. There’s none in the house so he slips over to the LAV. There is still some gear in the troop compartment. He hauls it into the house, finding the small arms ammo he needs plus some spare clothing, bedding, camping supplies and rations, all of which he unpacks. There are no grenade rounds however, the lieutenant must have been hogging those.

Then they sleep, refreshing some of their Will and healing remaining bruises and fatigue.


Morning – Day 7

After a good rest dawn breaks, cloudy with rain looming. It makes the Awakened realise again how dead the plants beyond the immediate environs of their house are.

Saul and Anthony inspect the barricades, finding that folk from the colony are already at work reinforcing the damaged fence and blasted cars.

One of their neighbours, a tatooed looking dude, aproaches.

Dude: “We, ah, put those bikes in front of your house, but, ah… Could I have ’em?”

Saul: “What would you do with them?”

Dude: “Think I could do ‘em up, get maybe one or two working using pieces from the others. Then… we’d have ’em? Just something to do really, keep my mind off things.”

Saul: “Sure, do your best. Just try to keep them out of sight so they don’t attract attention.”

The dude’s a bit wide eyed about the implications of that, but seems happy enough, scurrying away to get started.


Contacting Lisa

With the Black Sun about an hour into the sky Saul raises Mind’s Reach, adding Lisa to the gestalt easily because of her Mark.

Saul: Morning Lisa.

He has a look through her eyes, seeing that she’s in a cafetera queue with a tray full of food.

Lisa: “Oh!” then I’ll just…

Saul: It’s ok, remember you don’t have to vocalise.

Lisa finds somewhere to sit and leans over her food to eat while she thinks at the Awakened.

Lisa: Spent the night in Ashgrove, got marched in at daylight. There’s a lot of people here. I got assigned a tent in a football field of tents. There’s four other people in my tent.

When the Awakened ask how hard it was to get in.

Lisa: They asked a lot of questions, especially about contact with sick people or people who’ve been bitten. They took my weapons! Left a few in my room, if I come back I’ll need them. They seem pretty keen for me to join the militia.

When Saul asks if the army is searching for any specific supernatural groups.

Lisa: Got the impression they know about leeches, but not wolves. I wasn’t gonna tell them!

Saul: Did they search you?

Lisa: Not as badly as you thought they would! Did a medical in my undies. The tattoo passed, they were mostly making certain I hadn’t been bitten, no infected wounds.

Anthony: Anyone fail?

Lisa: Not that I saw, there were only a few other stragglers at Ashgrove last night.

They ask her about the drones but she doesn’t know. She says she’s heard they’ve been doing a lot of searching.

Lisa: Securing servos and supermarkets, finding survivors and gathering them in. Got told they’ve done the north and the east and that the south is next.

They encourage her to join the militia.

Anthony: More opportunity to move around.

Saul asks her about the hierarchy.

Lisa: They seem pretty keen on their commander…

Anthony: Can people get out?

Lisa: Dunno. No one’s tried to that I’ve seen. Everyone seems real glad to be in here.

Anthony: Just a warning, we have another one in there, called Amelia.

Lisa: Oh, like me?

Anthony: Err…. Yes {successful subterfuge check}.

Lisa: Oh. Well what’s the warning?

Anthony: She’s a bit… odd, might sneak up on you from behind and give you hugs. If you see anyone muttering to herself… you might want to let her know you can get a message to us.

Saul: Just yell out to us in your mind. Not like you’ll be in danger… {successful subterfuge check).

He instructs her to keep her eyes open for what the army’s plans might be after they’ve secured the area and who they consider a threat.

Saul: But don’t ask too many questions. Probably don’t ask at all. If you hear that they’re headed for Bardon today or anything just cry out to us.

Lisa: I think the search and rescue crews were going out as I came in, strings of a couple trucks with armoured vehicles in front and behind.

They wish her well, ending the contact there with promises to contact her again that night.


Gunfire in the Rain

Over the next couple of hours some gentle rain settles in. About mid morning Saul and Anthony hear gunfire from the direction of the Bardon shops, a few three round bursts then silence.

Anthony: “We should go have a look, could walk up.”

Saul: {vampire taint at level 2} “Kinda still want to stay out of the sun.”

They briefly consider taking the police cruiser or even the LAV and pretending to be army. Anthony dismisses this as unfeasible, while Saul realises they left one police cruiser at Indro when they Spirit Stepped over to deal with the Glasshouse boys.

They go to take Isobella’s suv, but its jammed with loot. Leaving Clara and Stix to unload it they take one of the white four wheel drives they took off those guys at the servo during the long night.

Since Belinda’s still relaxing at the beach Anthony, with just a little trepidation, slips in behind the wheel. He takes them out, and (somehow) finds a street from which they can view the shops without being obvious themselves.

There is a convoy parked in the middle of Bardon’s main street. It has a Light Armoured Vehicle in the lead, chain cannon ready, then a troop truck, then another troop truck, and finally a GWagon mounted with a .50 calibre BMG machine gun. There are gunners manning both the Lav and the Gwagon, while fifteen or so men and women haul cartons from the shops on either side into the trucks.

Some of the people are obviously soldiers. They’re wearing combat gear and carrying assault rifles and seem to know what they’re doing. Others are probably militia. They’re dressed more piecemeal and only a few are holding firearms, the rest carry modified garden tools like shovels, pitchforks, and heavy steel rakes.

Anthony: “Did you reload your grenade launcher?”

Saul: “Maybe we should pull back, out of sight.”

Anthony puts the four wheel drive in reverse. The back up until houses are between them and the oblivous army salvage crew.

Saul: “Do we want to hit them? They’d call for help and I doubt we could take care of them quickly enough to stop that. It’d bring a lot more of them down on us…”

Anthony: “Well, if they keep this up they’ll be at our street this afternoon. Tomorrow at the latest. So how do we approach them?”

Saul: “I don’t know… Anything we can do to slow them down?”

Anthony concentrates for a moment, raising Spirit Sight and trying to feel out their surroundings. He gets prickling sense of zombies nearby but nothing intense or specific. Saul tries too, but he’s hindered by the whispers of his human taint on the edge of his mind. He can’t feel any major clusters, but gets the feeling there might be the odd zombie out there, sheltering from the sun under houses, maybe inside shops?

Anthony: “Well, don’t think we’ll be able to overpower them. Not with four separate vehicles.”

Saul: “No, not before they ask for help.”

Anthony: “So do we go back to our street and wait for them to turn up? Or surender ourselves now saying ‘oh thank you’!”

Saul: “We could just approach and see what happens… or we could Spirit Step into their compound now and try and take over…. but I doubt that would go well.”

Anthony: {Shakes his head}.

They discuss back and forth a bit, considering how much time jamming their radios somehow would buy (not much), and how many of the people in their street would leave if the army came (lots).

Anthony: “If we approach this group we can say we heard gunfire and would like to be left alone. See if we can arrange a meeting with their captain or lieutent… Shall we go over the hill?”

Saul: “Carefully and peacefully.”


Negotiations under Flag of Truce

Saul rips a bit of fabric and ties it to make a white flag. Anthony manifests two aura worth of Petal Fall Hair, pulling his hoody up and his hat down to disguise the transformation. Combined with the effect of his Seed of Life this puts him at Release Level Three. Saul brings up Mind’s Reach and manifests two points of Infiltrating Roots into the four wheel drive (all the vehicle can hold) to bring himself up to Release Level Two, enhancing Manipulation with the consequent bonus.

They drive slowly down, flag held high out the window.

All of the salvage crew stop to look. From his gestures, one of them seems to tell most of the others to get back to work. Ten or so of them do so while four of the soldiers fall in around him. He walks toward the Anthony and Saul, holding his hand up for them to halt. The gunners in Gwagon and Lav seem alert, bringing their weapons around near to, but not lined up on, the four wheel drive as Anthony rolls to a stop.

Anthony: {out the window} “Which group are you with?”

Army dude: “I’m Lieutenant Lionel Fullerton with the CBF. Have you heard of us?”

Anthony: “Oh! You’re the Can’t Be Fucked guys from over Enoggera way!”

Lieutenant Lionel: “Err…. Well we don’t like to say it like that, but are you looking for refuge?”

Anthony: “Not so much. We’ve got a bit of a commune over the way {vague wave} and we don’t want to be disturbed. Heard the gun fire and came out to investigate.”

Lieutenant Lionel: “When you say commune… how many people?”

Anthony: “Oh twenty or so, just a few families.”

Lieutenant Lionel: {nodding} “You don’t have to worry about the gun shots, it was just an Infected. Do you know them?”

Anthony: “We’ve seen them.”

Lieutenant Lionel: “Well they’re better off being put down.”

He asks if Anthony and Saul speak for their whole group and is assured they do. That they’ve already run into other soldiers from the CBF and that they just want to be left alone.

Lieutenant Lionel: {squinting into the car} “Well I must say that’s pretty strange. You’re the first group that hasn’t been looking for somewhere safer… May I ask why you’re so confident?”

Anthony: “Just well organised.”

Saul: “Already had some run ins with zombies and shit. If we stick together we’ll be alright.”

Lionel: “You know they come in big packs? We’ve found larger groups of survivors before, found one lot in a Bunnings. They did alright the first couple of days but when we got to them they were totally surrounded. Once the zombies are onto you its like they swarm or something. One attracts two, two bring four. Before you know it you’ve got a whole crowd outside your gates… You do have… You are inside or something arn’t ya?”

Anthony: “Yeah.” {nodding like that should be self evident}.

Lionel asks if they have a radio, which the fourwheel drive does. He suggests they turn to channel [blah] (not the Fire Lord guys’ channel).

Lionel: “We got people listening to that. You get in any trouble, just give us a call.”

He pauses for a second as if thinking.

Lionel: “You right for food? You weren’t relying on these stores or anything right? We got a lot of mouths to feed.”

Anthony: “Yeah, we heard from Andy” {the guard they met on waterworks road a couple nights ago}.

Lionel: {no sign recognition} “If you run out you can always come in. You look pretty competent.”

Saul: “We’re doing alright.”

Lionel takes a closer look at them. Saul is carrying his shotgun, with the austyr stowed out of sight. Lionel still doesn’t seem to see Anthony’s Petal Fall Hair, too impressed by the uzi and body armour I guess.

Lionel: “We could use competent people like you. A lot of the people we’re rescuing… They’re not doing well. We need people like you, need to get the ratio up of active to passive people. Supplies are only going to get tighter.”

The Awakened once again demure.

Saul: “So what’s your plan? How far out you going to go?”

Lionel: “Well… we dunno. Look that night the sun didn’t come up, that was a mess. Politicians, the higher ups in the army, they were the first to be infected. Dunno what went on but heard there was a lot of violence, maybe some units opening fire on each other in the confusion. But the Colonel… He pulled us together. Said we focus on forting up. Said no contact from the others, Canberra gone, Sydney an anarchhic hell hole, that tidal wave smashed the shit out of everything. So we’re local. We do search and rescue and we expand out. There’s some problems with the city… I don’t relly know what, haven’t been there myself, but we’re not to go too close. We’re just to systematically strip the surrounding suburbs, bring in all the people… work something out from there. We been working pretty hard, fences as good as we can get. Gunna be the best bet you got in Brisbane I reckon, unless Amberly forted up.”

He looks almost purged after such a rush of confidences, eager to convince them to join.

Anthony: “How are you dealing with zombies? You must have thousands walking in.”

Lionel: {suddenly deadpan} “We shoot ’em.” {a moment} “And we don’t take sick people. At all.” {another moment, another look} “You got any sick people?”

Both Anthony and Saul assure him they don’t.

Saul: “What do you do with the bodies?”

Lionel: {shrugs, points his chin towards the shops} “Leave em. Don’t have time to bury them. If they’re near base we burn ‘em, but we’ve only got so many hazmat suits. I don’t want to handle those bastards.”

He makes another push to recruit them.

Lionel: “It’s a new world my friends. If you bring all your people to us, people like you who can get your hands on shit like that. I don’t know where we’re going to go eventually, but you’ll definitely do well with us.”

Anthony and Saul demure again. Lionel asks for the location of their colony.

Lionel: “It’s just if you guys are gonna be a bit touchy… Well… We’ll want to know where you are.”

Anthony: “It’s not that were touchy or anything but… Have you done a lap around Kelvin Grove lately?”

Lionel: {perks up} “No, that’s beyond my search perimeter. What’s out there?”

Anthony: “Loonies. Ran into a bunch of guys looting shops up there and they were pull guns first and think second.”

Lionel: “Oh yeah, we’ve met people like that. Ended up taking some in.”

Anthony: “Yeah well, there’s a reason we came out in the car.”

Lionel: “Yeah… We’re not like that.” {bit of a rabid look} “We got some discipline. Things were crazy but the Commander welded us together again.”

Saul: “Have you seen him?”

Lionel: “Oh yeah, I’ve seen him, but there’s a few hundred of us soldiers, more active militia… It’s not like I have lunch with him every day or anything.”

Anthony: “He’s a Colonel isn’t he?”

Lionel: “I… don’t really know. First thing he did was remove all our old ranks and give us new ones.”

This seems likely to be true. Saul and Anthony have noticed that all the soldiers have had badges of rank stripped from their uniforms. Two of the vehicles have insignia as if they came from different bases originally. Lionel however seems to have opened up for another rant. Slightly red faced he continues.

Lionel: “Weirdest thing that infection picked out the highest ranks first.”

He tells them a story about how, when the long night fell he’d been assigned to guard some political do in the city. How his unit had to try and escort them out in the chaos.

Lionel: {wild eyed now} “They turned on the bus… It was a fucking slaughter house!”

Saul: {laughs Malevolently} “Sounds pretty good to me… A chance to shoot up some polititians.”

Lionel: {Laughs with him, then stops shamefaced} “Yeah! Well… When you see them eating each other its not as fun as it sounds.”

Saul still looks like he thinks it might be fun. Anthony gives Lionel directions to the colony, which are accurate to within a couple of streets. It’s sounding like he’s ready to end the conversation.

Lionel: {distracted by Anthony} “Oh well, you would have been seeing us this afternoon then. About twenty people you say? Just give us a call if you get any problems, crowds of zombies, people driving around shooting shit up, whatever… just give us a ring.” {points at the LAV with another evil chuckle} “I don’t think anyone’s gonna fuck with us!”

They start to say their goodbyes. Lionel makes one last push to recruit them.

Lionel: “You want to come in then you just come in. We’re not crazy… Honest. We’re sane!”

Saul: “So you’ll be alright with us just doing our own thing?”

Lionel: “I’ll be straight up with you. I’m just gonna report it to my higher ups. They’ll work it out. You’re the first to refuse rescue, but we’re not a prison, not gonna take you in if you don’t want to be rescued.” {again the chuckle} “Fuck, I mean we’re shooting sick people that are desperate to come in so…”

Anthony: “Sounds like a fair deal. Let’s just make an arangement. We’re not going to shoot first or anything, but if you want to come into our part of the world, just give us a call first. That way if we hear gunshots, we won’t come out to take a look.”

Lionel: “Sure. Well, we are working in the area today. Got a couple more shops to clear and houses to visit. I think you were on my list, one of the more promising groups actually. You sure you don’t want to come in?”

Saul: “If that offer of food and supplies still stands we wouldn’t say no.”

Lionel: {considers for a second} “What I’ll do, I’ll slip you some boxes from here, but when I report to my bosses they’ll sort out what they want in the longer term. You’ll probably have to come in, help us search places, you know, if you want more supplies.”

Saul: “Sure, just as a one off is appreciated.”

Lionel has his lads slip the Awakened ten cartons of food and drink from the stuff they’re salvaging, filling the back of the four wheel drive. The Awakened take their leave.

The issue of what to do about the army seems put off for another day. The Samaritans remaining ignorant of their potential salvation.


Deciding to go Hunting

Anthony and Saul drive a few streets away and pull up. It’s not even noon yet. On vampire taint two Saul is suffering a bit from the sun, but the tinted windows and covering himself with a blanket are allowing him to get by. They decide to hunt gangrel.

Saul raises Domain Dreaming and from the Tree (in spirit) uses Cries of the World to glimpse the manifestation of Infiltrating Roots he left across the south side of Indro bridge.

It seems pretty quiet. There’s a zombie stumbling around on the Chelmer side of the river, but it doesn’t seem to hold much threat. The bridge itself is much the same, with bullet riddled barricade of cars across the center, and a more solid barricade on the Indro side. Saul can see a guard moving around on the second story of the Indro gatehouse. He’s got his rifle but seems a bit bored.

Anthony: “Do you remember where all those vampires you glimpsed were congregating?”

Saul: “Ah… not really.”

Saul remembers it was a park with an ampitheatre type nest made from flood debris, with playground equipment twisted into it. He can think of a couple of places where such a park could be, but it was a rich area so he never spent much time there before the fall.

Anthony: “Well we’ve got several hours and nothing better to do…”


Traveling South – If it’s Flooded…

They head south with the Red Moon high over head. Taking the government house route around the Bardon landslip (and army dudes) their Spirit Sense prickles to the feel of the odd zombie, and those wards. When they get down the bottom of the hill they discover that Rainworth road has muddy water over it, which looks like it’s risen from the river all the way up through Rosalie.

The water is quite shallow over the path they want to take. Anthony carefully drives through. They turn south over the ridges of Auchenflower toward Toowong.

The Toowong roundabout is also under water. This is much deeper, coming from Milton and Sylvan roads. Anthony backs up and turns around. They backtrack and turn off to go around the top of Toowong Cemetery, over the foothill of Mount Cootha, which is still spewing black spiritual particulates into the sky.

Halfway around the cemetery they encounter a pack of dogs, snarling at each other and worrying at a body on the road. These are starving pets turned feral who have acquired a taste for human flesh. Saul raises Spirit Sight but there is no sign of vampiric ghouling or the influence of Protean among them. They scatter before the four wheel drive.

Coming down past the botanic gardens they come out on the western side of the flooded roundabout and make their way south over Toowong without incident. Somehow they end up on Moggil road heading toward Taringa.

Note I really messed up here as the streets around Toowong Village should have been flooded too. Perhaps they were on Miskin street instead?

Anyway they encounter water again in the valley between Toowong and Taringa just on the south side of Brisbane Boys College. The trip south has taken significantly longer today, it’s already a couple of hours after noon. Anthony pulls up and the pair look at the murky brown water lapping over the road in front of them.

Saul: {botch} “Just drive into it, she’ll be right.”

Anthony: {also botch} “Sure, why not?”

It turns out the water is quite salty. Salty and cold as it flows over the bonnet, stalls the engine, and floods in through the floor boards. They climb out and splash around in scummy, muddy, estuarine flood waters, using the four wheel drive’s winch to pull it back out.

But it won’t start.

While Anthony pops the hood and pulls of distributor caps etc, drying and shaking and tapping, Saul scopes out cars parked on the roadside, checking to see if any have their keys inside.

Anthony: {after failing to start the vehicle} “Might need to keep the bonnet up for half an hour or so, should evaporate most of the water.”

Saul has been thinking back, trying to remember if the apocalypse happened on a school day. He suggests having a look at the headmaster’s place on the school grounds.

Leaving their vehicle the pair walk up to the administration block. There is a small car park in front with vehicles in it, and crows pecking at a thing that turns out to be a decrepit zombie. It looks like it has been run over. With broken back, and eyeless sockets, it scrabbles feebly at the gravel. It’s wearing quality clothes.

Anthony unlimbers his brushook. The first swing misses, but his second takes the zombie’s head right off. While Saul checks out the cars Anthony devours the zombie’s soul, getting a couple of fragments, including one of Medical knowledge which he Absorbs straight away.

Anthony: “Apparently this was the school nurse!”

Saul finds a BMW X3 suv with keys dropped on the ground beside it.

Saul: “Must have been what that zombie was reaching for.”

Anthony: “We’ve upgraded!”

The pair drive down to the the water’s edge and tranship their supplies from the stranded four wheel drive, which still won’t start. After winching the four wheel drive further up out of waters reach they abandon it, and the two points of Infiltrating Roots within it.

Backtracking they work their way around the water via side streets in their shiny new suv.


Quick Stop at a Pet Shop

As Anthony and Saul drive they consider going back to loot the school.

Anthony: “Probably got a caffeteria.”

Saul: “Nah, fuck it. Those crows weren’t a good sign.”

This turns to a discussion of whether Odin’s crows would be a worse to see pre or post apocalypse and if they could find a squirrel to put in the Tree.

Anthony: “If we see a pet store I want to stop.”

Sure enough there happens to be one on their way which they spot as the come over Taringa.

They pull up and duck inside. It stinks. Nearly all the pets have dead. Anthony finds some surviving gold fish and bags them up, grabbing a tank for them as well.

He tells Saul its for testing the Domain’s environment.

On the way out they spot a turtle that’s alive. They grab that too and get on their way.


The Bridge

There’s no CB radio in the BMW. Someone pokes their head out of the second story gatehouse on the bridge as Anthony slowly drives past the street facing shops of lower Indro. He pulls up in front of the bridge and pokes his head out.

Anthony: “No CB today, had to change cars.”

Guard: “Oh it’s you guys! Fuck you going huntin again?”

They tell him they are and the bridge guards come down to move the key cars out of the barricade so they can pass.

Saul: “Anything happened since yesterday?”

Guard: “Nah, been real quiet. Had some walkers over there, but Ivy said we’re not to shoot at ’em, its a waste.”

They tell the guard they should be a couple of hours. He reminds them to flash their lights when they return. Saul remembers he’s carrying the security guard walkie talkie.

Saul: “Shit sorry, musta had it turned off.”


Searching South of the River

Driving down Honor avenue things have changed quite a bit in the almost forty hours since they were last here. The waters have risen on their left covering Tennyson, the Rocklea markets, and other low-lying lands to the east and south.

Honour avenue itself goes right down the spine of this slight rise that the river bends around. Having decided that the park must be near the water’s edge they work their way slowly south, driving into each side street to check it out then back up to Honor avenue to continue south.

Over the next couple of hours they work their way down through Chelmer, Graceville, and Sherwood. In Corinda they come to a place where a State School seems to have been half submerged by flood waters.

They are surprised when a feral human hurls themself into the side of the car!


There we end it for the week
Thanks for Reading :)



Status

Anthony:

Indulgent at Release Level Two.
1 Malevolence, 3 nearby aura manifest (Seed), 1 invested (Spirit Sight).
Uninjured and very slightly Fatigued.
Very High Instability.

Human taint level 4 (mind whispers, -1 perception).
Lycanthropic taint level 3 (rage issues, silver burns).
Zombie taint level 3 (-1 perception and move in sunlight).
Vampiric taint level 1 (sun seems bright).


Belinda:

Restive at Release Level 5 (at the Tree).
0 Malevolence with 0 Aura manifest or invested nearby.
Injured and a little Fatigued.
Moderate Instability.

Human taint level 3 (an excuse for erratic behaviour).
Lycanthropic taint level 2 (silver burns).
Animal taint level 1 (scents smell brighter).


Saul:

Rash at Release Level 1.
1 Malevolence, 0 nearby aura manifest, 1 invested (Spirit Sight).
Uninjured and a little Fatigued.
High Instability.

Human taint level 4 (mind whispers, -1 perception).
Vampiric taint level 2 (sun deals a bashing per scene).
Zombie taint level 2 (sooo hungry).



The Tree:

Growth:

Stage Five.
0 / 60th toward next stage.

Realisation:

15m Tall.
Air and Space fifteen meter radius (15 points worth).
Expanse of Dark water to one side of base (15 points worth).
Beach of White sand to other side of base (15 points worth).

Adaption:

Celerity complete (quickened interplay shade and branches).
Protean underway – 2 / 10ths progressed.

Reserve:

8 Tree Aura.
106 Essence.
8 Primal Essence.
95 points worth of Soul Fragments.

Expected Sources:

Belinda’s household: ~10 essence / night (solid, familial).
Samaritan colony: ~40 essence / night (awestruck neighbours).
Indro colony: ~ 45 essence / night (renowned, larger pop).
Enoggera Barracks: ~45 essence / night (indebted subgroup).
Misc: 0 to 5 (various outliers and mavericks).



Next Session Ferals!

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Session 24
BOOM!

Day Six, One Hour before Noon

Saul wakes in a cop car in the Indooroopilly Shopingtown carpark. It’s sweltering hot. With Cries of World he has heard Quentin’s call for help and glimpsed a confrontation taking place between the Bardon colony folk and four large, bestial bikies.

Saul starts the car, screeching over to the cinema doors, the only unbarricaded entrance into the building. While he’s doing this he raised Mind’s Reach, waking Belinda and Anthony, who were sleeping inside.

Saul: We gotta move. There’s Werewolves at your place looking for Lisa

Belinda: Should we Spirit Step and carry Anthony?

Saul: That’s probably a better idea. Faster.

A quick dash inside doesn’t give the Black Sun enough time to scorch him. Saul waves off one of Ivy’s inner circle on the cinema mezzanine level who approaches in concern as down jogs down the stairs and then the escalator.

Guard: “Anything wrong?”

Saul: “Never mind!”

Pushing through the crowded food court he meets Anthony and Belinda down on the second level of the shopping arcade, where they’ve emerged from the divided up sleeping areas.

Saul: “We all ready?”

Belinda: “Lets step aside. Ivy would be intriged if we just disapear in front of everyone.”

In one of the curtained off nooks Saul manifests and then spends his Infiltrating Roots aura pulling open a path through space toward the Domain. With two rounds of effort they’ve faded almost completely, and the Tree is almost within reach when there’s some kind of freak current of resistance. Saul almost loses his grip on the party. Belinda has Spirit Step too however. Manifesting Petal Fall aura she steadies their passage and the trio emerge into the Tree, leaving one point of Saul’s Infiltrating Roots in the floor of Indro shopping center.


The Tree

It’s Anthony and Belinda’s first time here in the flesh. They stare up at the ten meter incarnation of their corporate selves. The expanse of dark water laps around their feet as they stand on the Tree’s roots. The air they breath has been realised from spiritual essence. It strikes them how small a world this physically is. The temptation is to realise more, more space, more air, more existence.

Saul: “No time to wander, we gotta go!”

Anthony pauses them a second, taking the opportunity to break down some less desirable fragments into Essence, buffering their supply. Saul drops Domain Dreaming to improve his concentration, and brings up Spirit Sight. Belinda brings up her Spirit Sight as well.

Anthony: “Here’s a question. Are we going to attack them as soon as we get there?”

Saul: “Dunno. I don’t think they’re gonna back down.”

Anthony: “Righteo, that will change my preperations.”

Taking advantage of the Domain giving them full Release Level the brush hook wielding old man invests aura into Celerity and Potence. Belinda pumps Potence and manifests some Petal Fall Hair ready for use. The Tree is almost dry of normal Essence at this point and Saul’s Roots aura would remain behind if he manifested it here.

Saul: “Mind if I break down one of these bad boys?” {gesturing at the Primal Essence in reserve}.

Belinda: {sort of nods with a go ‘ahead’ type gesture}.

Anthony: “I just want to keep one of each type.”

Saul: “Yeah, research purposes. Alright!”

He breaks one of the fishy Primal Essence into a rush of ten Essence, manifesting it as Shadow Cloak aura that obscures his body. Manifesting Infiltrating Roots from the scraps of other Essence in the reserve he prepares to open the way back to earth.

Saul’s Malevolence is now running high. Combined with the Instability he’s carrying, and the Composure suppressing effect of level four Human taint, he has entered the Serenely Violent temptation state. Belinda and Anthony are Indulgent.

Saul: {remembering Lisa’s info} “I think their leader is probably Garret Rankin. Sound’s the most likely of the ones Lisa told us about. He runs the main pack, has a one eyed cat totem. Could also be Calvin White, Andrew Baker, or Tod Neives. The older one might be Andrew actually, for all the good it’ll do us to know.”


Stepping In

Saul gets a critical success on his Cries of the World attempt to glimpse Quentin’s situation again. He gets clear view of the end of Bardon colony’s street. Quentin’s hand is under his jacket, Gary’s hands are empty, but he looks steady so far. The older beastman is to one side, shotgun aimed steady at the rooftop sentry, who looks just about ready to piss himself.

The leader of the beastmen has turned from yelling at Gary and Quintin across the barricade of cars to trying to cajole Lisa.

Young Beastman: “Garret’s dead…”

Saul: {at the Tree – laughs} “Not him then.”

Young Beastman: “Calvin’s in charge now. He beat Frank. James is too old. He and Banik have disappeared into the hills. The Red Moon’s made Calvin stronger. Come with us. He can give you the Change. He’s Changing all the Kin folk…”

The glimpse is so strong that Saul can zoom out for a wider view. There are crows perched all around, watching. Some kind of spirit of crowishness rides among them, but it’s not strong enough to offer any physical threat. Various samaritans watch from further up the street. Clara, Liam, and Stix have taken position behind a car with rifles ready. They must have rapidly looted the basement in Belinda’s house.

Fixing his attention on the road behind the four werewolves Saul starts spending aura from his Root’s manifestation to Spirit Step. Space opens smoothly before them this time. He adds Quentin to the Mind’s Reach gestalt as they go.

Saul: {loading his grenade launcher} Quentin. We’re gonna hit them from behind. No fucking around. We’re just gonna waste them all.

Quentin: Holy Fuck!


Werewolves in Bardon

Saul brings them into the world behind the werewolves. The bestial men don’t notice as the trio of Awakened set foot onto the bitumen.

Anthony steps forward around one of their Harley Davidsons and swings his brush hook down into the thigh young leader’s right hand man. Blood splashes as the werewolf screams in pain and surprise.

Belinda steps to one side, uzi raised. Because they’re directly behind the wolves there is a danger that any overshot will hit Quentin, Lisa and co, so instead of sweeping their enemies with a long burst Belinda focuses a short burst of ten rounds into the beast man Anthony just sliced. Bullets riddle his torso, shredding his jacket, riddling muscle and flesh. That much damage would have have dropped a human, but these dudes are seven foot tall and heavily muscled. Belinda steps back, taking cover behind one of the other Harleys.

Quentin has gotten Saul’s message load and clear. The peg legged ghoul, who grew up in the conflict zones of 1920s Africa, pushes both Gary and the old dude away before crash tackling Lisa, covering her with his body.

Lisa: “What the fuck!?!”

With his Composure impared Saul’s initiative is not great, but everyone else is surprised so he goes next. He fires his grenade launcher into the werewolf just meters in front of him, stumbling back with the recoil.

BOOM

The grenade round itself impacts the beastman with some force. When it exploded it shreds him apart. The beastman beside him, already heavily injured, dies horribly. The leader goes down, critically injured but breathing still. Shrapnel tears into the grissled, older beastman off to the side. He keeps his feet, torn, bloody, and looking pissed.

The explosion doesn’t just catch the enemy. Saul himself takes the blast head on, ears rupturing and shrapnel tearing through his flesh, he’s left on three health. The large motorbike gives Belinda some cover but an unlucky ricochet spears into her, taking her to two health. Anthony also takes a few levels of damage.

Lisa is largely shielded by Quentin. The extra distance, cover from the cars, and awesome luck see them get away almost without hurt. The luck continues with both Garry Choi and the older dude from the colony surviving too. Garry managed to dive to the ground which saves him some damage, but the old dude just stands there while bits of metal fly around his ears, completely stunned but untouched. The sentry on the roof isn’t so lucky, taking a couple of levels of lethal damage from a stray piece of shrapnel.

Saul: “Gotta get more of these!”

Anthony: “There’s a whole army barracks down the road, although you did nearly blow us up…”

Saul: {grinning} “I did!”

Spending Petal Fall Hair on Regeneration as fast as he can manifest it, Anthony steps through gore and entrails to swing a heavy blow at the critically injured leader. The brush hook cuts deep into the downed beastman’s chest, carving through ribs, lungs, and arteries alike. Even a werewolf’s massive vitality can’t recover from such a blow. The young leader dies.

Belinda: “One left.”

She manifests Petal Fall aura and regenerates as she levels her uzi at the remaining werewolf.

Belinda: What do you think?

Anthony: He isn’t likely to be rational.

Saul: Tell him to drop his gun and stand down if he doesn’t want to be wasted like his pack mates!

Belinda: {uzi high} “Drop your weapon. We might be able to sort something out.”

She stands ready to unleash a burst of gunfire at the grizzled, heavily injured werewolf. While he staggers, trying to gather his wits Quentin rolls off Lisa and gets to his feet. Drawing his dirty harry handgun the ghoul levels it at the werewolf, ready to fire. Lisa follows soon after, rising to one knee and drawing a bead her sig assault rifle.

The werewolf regenerates. It’s an impressive amount of healing. They can see the muscles in his neck strain, but he successfully holds back his rage.

Grizzled Werewolf: “Whoa whoa!” {raising his hands as he drops his shotgun} “Where the fuck did you come from? Who are you people?”

Anthony: “This is our street.”

Werewolf: “Let me take my fallen for burial. I’ll leave. You can keep her.”

Saul finishes loading another round into the grenade launcher and brings it to bear on the surrendered werewolf whose eyes widen.

Saul: He can have ’em in a half hour or so.

Belinda: He’ll attack if they scream.

Saul: “Alright. For Lisa’s sake we won’t nuke you just yet.” {advancing} “You come have some words with us before you go, then you can take your pack mates with you.”


A Brief Interrogation

The last of Saul’s Shadow Cloak boils away, having protected him from the sun this far. Finger on the triger of his assault rifle he herds the captive werewolf along the street. Belinda, Quentin, and Lisa follow with their own guns levelled. Garry Choi, hands still empty, tags along to see what will happen. A few doors down from the carnage Saul gestures their captive into the front room of a partially stripped house. The others crowd in behind him.

The grizzled beastman does indeed turn out to be Andrew Baker, an elder member of the main Glasshouse pack. He keeps his hands part raised and his voice level, visibly trying to keep both himself, and the Serenely Violent Saul, calm.

Yeah I fucked up here too. Saul should have had to make Will checks to resist the temptation for violence several times.

Saul: “So what did you come here for?”

Andrew: “Calvin wants all the kinfolk.”

Saul: “Calvin White.”

Andrew: {giving Saul a ’how’d you know that’ look} “Yeah… He’s the leader of the pack now.”

Saul: “Yeah he was a good mate of Dave too wasn’t he.”

Andrew: “The fuck… Who the fuck are you people?”

Lisa: {finger tightens on the trigger}.

Among the carnage, Anthony has watched until the captive was out of sight, then settled to the grizzly business of devouring the souls from the three blasted werewolves’ corpses. The dead leader’s eyes roll back under Anthony’s hands. His soul screams, the first time that horrific sound has rung out over the Samaritan colony’s street.

Inside the house, Andrew obviously recognizes the screamer. Veins stand out in his neck as he loses control, raging, growing in fury toward his Crinos war form. The curse of Lunacy sweeps out from his transformation, twisting the air, but Belinda, Saul, Quentin, and Lisa are ready.

From point blank range they all open fire. The uzi, assault rifles, and .50 caliber revolver roar. Blood sprays, fragments of flesh fly. It’s more than the heavily wounded werewolf can sustain. He falls. Lisa is the last to cease firing. When her clip runs dry she raises her gun, looking down with a cold hard smile at Andrew’s bullet ridden corpse.

In death the werewolf is caught halfway between human and monstrous shape. Garry Choi turns away. Stumbling to his knees in the doorway he vomits out the contents of his guts. Saul thumps him on the back.

Saul: “You did good kid. Lot of weird shit out there for you to get used to, but like you’ve seen, a good bit of lead will take it down. Just keep that in mind.”

A second scream from a Devoured soul rings out. Saul turns to the other humans in the room.

Saul: “That sentry on the room needs seeing too, and you’d better check on the old guy as well. Don’t worry about the screaming its… uh… for all of us.”

He asks Lisa if there’s any last thing she wants to say or do to Andrew before he’s gone completely. She shakes her head.

Lisa: “I’m satisfied.”


Aftermath

While Anthony devours the souls of the three younger werewolves in the street outside Belinda and Saul together devour Andrew’s (more powerful) soul where he fell. Torn screams echo throughout the colony. Fragments flow to the Tree. Anthony Absorbs some of the Gift of Might as he Devours, while Belinda Absorbs some Stamina. I think Saul might have abstained.

Note: I messed up here too, because you killed them so fast they hadn’t consumed their reserves of spiritual strength. Remind me and I’ll throw some more Essence in the reservoir start of next session.

With that grizzly task done Quentin brings the wounded sentry to Anthony for some healing. Anthony manifests Petal Fall aura and lays on hands. The wounds close.

Sentry: “Thank you. Thought I was a goner. What were they?”

Anthony: “People, just people. You’ll have to react faster if you want to be a guard.”

Sentry: “They rocked up on bikes, had a shotgun out before I could do anything. I blew the duck whistle but didn’t want to shoot them, they weren’t zombies they were people… but what were they?”

Anthony: “On a different day they could have been friends.”

Saul searches the bodies. The werewolves were wearing jeans, tee shirts, and bikie jackets. They weren’t carrying much in their pockets. Saul gets the shotgun and a hand full of 12 gauge shells, a couple of sets of house keys, and a switch blade knife. He’s pushed through into Ecstatic Abandon now so doesn’t really car about gore and blood staining his hands. A colony kid, one of the ones who put a football through his window the other day, drifts over to watch him.

Kid: “What you doing?”

Saul: {succeeding Will check not to kill} “I’m doing an important thing here Jimmy. I’m looting the corpses. It’s an important skill. You want to help me? Give me everything you find so I can Devour it all!”

Kid: {backing away} “Ah… No… I’ll…” {runs for his life}.

Anthony: “Quentin get these people doing whatever you can to get the bodies buried and these bikes cleaned up. I’ll be inside.”

Quentin: “Yeah, I’ll try explain a bit to the others too. Should be alright…” {looks a bit fish-eyed at Saul}.

Saul: “We should take their heads off, put them on stakes.”

Anthony: “No. We should bury Lisa’s previous acquaintances with respect.”

He takes Saul inside and Belinda soon follows. They leave the colonists to finish cleaning up the corpses, blasted cars and bikes. The odd comment that Quentin overhears comes to them through Mind’s Reach.

“Should fix these up. Be cool to ride a Harley around.”

“They said there were others. What if they come back?”

“Fence doesn’t look so sturdy now.”

Saul monitors closely from inside the house, listening for any who might be particularly panicked, or inclined to incite the others to do something drastic.


Sunset Barbecue

The afternoon wanes. The moon rises a couple more hand spans up into the sky, waning down half way as the red storm rotates out of view. With time the Awakened’s Malevolence recedes. Peace returns to the street. At some point the spirit ridden flock of crows flies away.

Saul and Anthony are pottering around the house. Belinda is abed, determined to catch up on her sleep. Garry comes over. He seems a bit nervous, asks what those things were and if the colony is going to be alright.

Saul: “Did those things seem like they were a problem for us?”

Garry: “Well there were explosions and those guys had lot of wierd shit going on.”

Anthony: “Put it this way, everyone here has seen their old neighbors and workmates trying to eat them, a least these we can talk to.”

Garry seems boosted by the confidence of the Awakened. He tells them that they’re putting on a bit of a barbecue at the Samaritan’s house, invites them to come over and join in, maybe talk to the everyone about what happened. Anthony and Saul do so. They tell it to people straight.

Saul: “Might have gotten complacent, but the dangerous shit out there is gonna be a threat. We’ll deal with it.”

There are some expressions of unrest.

Anthony: “Well anyone who wants to leave can. You can take a bag of supplies and head out…”

Colonist A: “But is there anywhere we can go?”

Anthony: “Well, we’ve done a couple of laps…”

Halfway through his sentence a young kid suddenly exclaims.

Kid: “Daddy! Daddy! Look! A Drone!”

Sure enough there’s a silver drone hovering about fifty meters overhead, and another in the distance making a sweep over the sunset lit suburb.

Saul: {softly} “Well shit.”

Colonist B: “Wow! Someone’s out there!” {happy relief}.

Saul: “Yep, like those four dudes on motorbikes.”

Colonist C: “How bad is it gonna get? Is it better to stay or go.”

Anthony: {considers for a moment} “Well… We probably don’t need to go anywhere tonight…”

The colonists seem reassured. The barbeque turns to more typical socialising as people cook and eat their fried spam, home made flat bread, and tinned bean salad. Anthony takes advantage of a quiet moment to pull Quentin aside.

Anthony: “That drone was probably the army. They’re not conscripting people yet… but they’re likely to come during the day. You might want to go a few houses over or somewhere safer…”

Quentin: {nods seriously} “I’ll give her a heads up.”


Basement talks

By the time the barbeque winds down it’s well after dark. Even late sleeping Isobella is up. Saul finds her in her room in Belinda’s basement.

Saul: “About those wards…”

Isobella: “Yes?”

Saul: “Seeing as your more or less here to stay, do you think you could do any around the place?”

Isobella: “Oh yes, I didn’t want to intrude. What kind and how strong? Obviously you’re not going to want your neighbours to forget the house is here?”

Saul: {looking tempted} “How much blood would you need?”

Isobella: "Well I like to do some research on how potent your blood is compared to mortals first, and I’m still looking to replenish my blood stones… "

Anthony: {from the steps} “How about we just try it tonight and see how we go? I think this may be urgent.”

Isobella is amenable but the reserves of raw Essence in the Tree are low. Anthony and Saul decide to delay until after the midnight reckoning.


Kitchen Convos

Some time later Belinda, having slept for a few hours, has wandered out for a hot cup of tea or something. Saul broaches the topic of the army as the three Awakened sit around in the kitchen.

Saul: “What do we want to do? Try and take them over?”

Anthony: “Something to be considered.”

Belinda: “We don’t know what they have.”

Saul: “Can try and find out.”

Belinda: “Toowomba has the fire guys…”

Anthony: “That’s another thing. I think the local base is a more pressing issue.”

Belinda: “But whether these ones have unworldy defences?”

Saul: “What if we sneak in? Or maybe send someone in as a refugee with a Mark on them so that we can establish Mind’s Reach?”

Anthony: “If the army were to come and say ‘we have a base’ I imagine at least half the street would consider leaving.”

Saul: “Don’t want to get to that stage. Don’t want to lose our population base. If we can sneak in and get some idea of who’s behind them and what they’re doing… I think a mark would be one of the easiest ways.”

Anthony: “I’d be interested to hear what Amelia’s first night was like.”

Saul: “Yeah, if she’s already in charage of the place, and if we can make a deal with her, if she’s amenable to deals…”

Anthony: “She seemed friendly enough on the bus.”

Saul: “Yeah but flighty. I think we need to do something about the army now, maybe while everyone is disrupted. We’ve got a lot of buses but don’t know where to go. Dealing with the army might be an easier solution, more productive anyway ‘cause they’ve got good gear…” {grins}

The others consider it a while.

Anthony: “We can either try and take the army barracks or the city.”

Saul: {surprised laugh} “The City!?”

Belinda: “The barracks is easier.”

Saul: “Did you have something in mind?”

Anthony: “That tower on Ann Street, but the barracks is probably easier.”

Saul: “We can at least explore it.”

Anthony: “So how do we get a couple of people inside without losing the entire street?”

Belinda: “Soon as they go in they’ll give away our position, and what they’ve seen.”

Saul: “Well… Lisa seems like a pretty stout person, pretty capable. If we brief her on what we’re trying to do she might be amenable… Also if she’s in the army barracks the wolves can’t rightly come after us…”

Anthony: “Seems like the best plan. Certainly we won’t get Quentin or any of Isobella’s people in, and any of the other humans would be…”

Saul: “liabilities.”


Evening proposals

Saul and Anthony go looking for Lisa. Belinda goes back to bed.

Belinda: “Wake me if it’s important.”

Lisa is still awake. She was upstairs cleaning her weapon and staring outside, looking wired

Anthony: “How are you feeling?”

Lisa: “Worried. It was so sudden. The crows… I’m worried they’ll come back.”

Anthony: “We have a proposition for you…”

They explain that they haven’t been entirely forthcoming with the people around them, that some of the armed forces survived and are based just north of Bardon.

Lisa: “Oh. Why haven’t you told anyone?”

Anthony: “They’re not the army anymore, just the most well armed.”

Saul: “We don’t know who is behind them, if you know what what I mean. You know about werewolves and vampires and such.”

They explain a little of what they know, that the person who seems to be running the base was apparently a mid ranker before the night of the fall, and that they don’t know how he pulled the surviving forces together.

Lisa: “What do you want me to do?”

Saul: “Well you seem like a capable woman who can handle yourself. You’ve seen what we can do to help you. We think you could work your way in there and work out whose behind the show.”

Anthony: “You’d be safer inside too.”

Assured that the Awakened don’t think either the Glasshouse Boys or the Lunatics are running the place she asks them how they’d contact her, by magic? They tell her yes and she asks if they’d come if she called for help, like the did today. Again they tell her yes.

Lisa: “I’ll do it. I don’t want to lead more trouble to here anyway. The people in this street… They’re just ordinary.”

She cautions them to be careful, that if the young bloods are in charge of the pack now they might come for revenge, that the crows will report what happened here today to the pack, that Banik is good with spirits and used to use them in his work as a private investigator.

Anthony and Saul ask her about the pack. She says Calvin was a young blood, quite wild, and that the elder wolves used to kip a lid on things. She doesn’t believe what the young werewolf (Tod Neives) said about Calvin White being able to bring the Change to kin folk.

Lisa: “The Change is Gaia’s blessing. It either happens or it won’t. They’ll be putting spirits or something into people…”

Lisa asks them how she’ll get into the barracks. They tell her she can just drive up to the boundary. That the barracks is still actively taking in refugees. Together they come up with a cover story. Sticking as closely to the truth as posible she is to say that she came down from Kilkoy like she really did, but that she found refuge in Sherwood (south of the river from Indooroopilly). She’s to say that those folk turned out to be nut cases who tried to drain her blood, so she fled north, having heard about the barracks and safety.


Late Night Tattoos

It falls to Saul to Bestow the mark on Lisa.

Saul: “This will be a bit intimate.”

Lisa: “What?”

Saul: “Well they’ll search you. It might have to go in a sensitive place…”

He explains that the link they’ll be using is a tattoo like mark which allows the Bestower to hear the receivers thoughts, see what they see, feel what they feel, more or less.

Saul: “It’s like the crows, how we knew Quentin was in trouble.”

Anthony: “Think of it like a butterfly stamp.”

Lisa seems to understand the intimate nature of the link but is unconvinced the mark itself needs to be intimately located.

Lisa: “You said it’s like a tattoo… Can anyone tell that it’s not? If its magic and they have magicians won’t they find it wherever it is?”

Saul and Anthony call in Quentin to show Lisa the roots mark in his armpit and reassure her they’re not just being weird. Saul notices that Quentin’s mark is drained of its point of aura. The mark itself still exists, and still acts as a beacon for Saul, it just seems less vital than before. He hadn’t realised it was possible for the mark to lose its contents. He also notices that the ninetyish year old ghoul, who has been dry of vampiric blood all week, is looking a lot less haggard than he was a few days ago.

Anthony: “To make Lisa more comfortable perhaps you could perform the ritual on Quentin again to illustrate that there is no harm.”

Saul: {reluctant} “The ritual takes quite a lot out of me…”

Anthony: “Would refilling do that though?” {holds out his Seed of Life} “This takes a lot out of me to form, but pouring Essence into it is a case of concentration.”

Saul gives it a go, discovering that he can indeed refill the mark without having to spend Will. Quentin didn’t seem to have noticed the difference, and they still arn’t sure why the Aura drained away in the first place (it should have been persistent), but they’ve unlocked a new usage of Bestow.

Lisa does indeed seem reassured, but she still doesn’t seem to see the need to hide the mark. She elects to get it placed on her back, between her shoulder blades. Saul successfully spends a Will and invests one point of Aura. Shadowy roots appear on Lisa’s skin. He tries to form them into a depiction of Dave’s bearded face. With no previous experience at drawing and one success on a craft roll he manages a caricature that is recognisably a human like but it ain’t no photo quality tat.

Saul: “It’s Dave’s head alright.”

Lisa: {looking slightly suspicious, slightly touched, as she pulls her shirt back down} “Alright.”


Sending Out the Spy

Lisa is keen to head out immediately. Saul and Anthony decide to follow her as far as they followed the buses last night, just in case they run into anything along the way. Both the Awakened are keen not to drive, so they wake a somewhat reluctant Belinda who climbs sleepily behind the wheel of Isobella’s suv.

Lisa takes her four wheel drive. She asks if she should take her guns and Anthony encourages her to do so.

Anthony: “Show your competence, you’ll probably get guard duty.”

They throw some food, water, and other kit in to make it look like she’s grabbed what she can and fled. Then they set out.

The roads are quiet, they’re route familiar. They dont encounter any zombies as they head north over Bardon ridge. When its time for Lisa to drive forward alone Saul brings up Mind’s Reach, adding her to the gestalt.

Saul: We’re in contact and can see through your eyes. You can talk to us as if we were with you in your mind.

Lisa: {concentrating as she drives down and over Ithica creek} Thank you. Err…. Is this permanent?

Saul: It’s not. But if you’re desperate yell and we’ll be listening.

Anthony: Otherwise we’ll check in an hour after dawn and an hour after dusk.

They watch from the other side of the valley as Lisa’s headlights crawl up toward Waterwork’s road. When she gets close enough heavy duty spotlight snap on, bathing her car in light. Mind’s Reach show the Awakened Lisa’s hands on the steering wheel as she pulls up, half blinded by glare, in front of a light armoured vehicle.

A guard walks over and talks to her. The Awakened listen as she spins her story of flight. The guard is sympathetic, but tells her that they don’t take refugees directly into the barracks at night. She’ll have to follow a gwagon over to a holding area in Ashgrove shopping center. He seems impressed when he sees Lisa’s sig assault rifle stowed securely but within easy reach.

The guard tells her that she’ll have to surrender her weapons and equipment to accept refuge, but he urges her to join the militia, tells her that they’ve just about finished sweeping the suburbs north of the base.

With an act of Will Saul holds Mind’s Reach up for ten more minutes as his slight Malevolence drains away. The Awakened watch through Lisa’s eyes as she follows along behind the military vehicle, getting to Ashgrove without incident.

The shopping center seems well secured with a spotlit perimiter or razor wire and soldiers standing guard at vehicular posts. The inside of the supermarket has been cleared. From the rows of bedding laid out the facility has more than enough capacity to process the two bus loads it would have received last night, altough there are only a few other refugees and the soldiers here tonight.

Mind’s Reach drops before the Awakened get to see much of Lisa’s entry process, but the BCF personnel seem friendly here too. Again she’s encouraged to sign up for the militia once she gets accepted into the base. The soldiers seem impressed with her demeanour, the fact that she’s armed, and able to travel at night without becoming a quivering mess.

Reasured the Awakened head back to their home, making it without incident.


Midnight at the Tree

The Red Moon is two thirds of the way up into the sky, a shadowed disk with none of its day side showing. Anthony, Belinda, and Saul meet in spirit at the Tree.

Over one hundred and sixty points of Essence flow into the Tree.

Almost everyone at the Bardon colony contributes, what with all the explosions, werewolves, and soul torn screaming. About fifty points of Essence flows in. The Awakened glimpse Isobella in her study, Quentin and Curtis sitting up talking, Clara and her kids asleep. The sentry at the end of the street is looking at the stars, shivering both from fear and the bitter cold. Various of the colony folk are asleep, or awake and talking in the houses along the street.

“What else could be out there?”

“Are we ever going to be safe again?”

The Indooroopilly shopping town complex contribute as much as Bardon, a less intense flow but from a larger population of people. Glimpses here are of people sleeping in spaces now less crowded, or sitting around propane stoves heating late night drinks.

“Do you think they really made it?”

“Maybe we should have gone too?”

Essence flows from the Enoggera army barracks too. Both an intense flow from the refugees that the Awakened transported last night, and a weaker interest from those barracks residents that the newcomers have talked to. The Awakened catch glimpses of bunk beds inside permanent, army style tents, people whispering to each other in the dark.

“Mummy I want to go home.”

“Took so long to let us in.”

“Wonder if they’re alright. They were just driving around like there was nothing wrong!”

A few other threads of contribution flow in, but the Awakened aren’t listening for anyone in particular. Nor are they searching for the death cries of potential vessels. They are in fact contemplating the wealth of fresh Essence brimming in their reserve alongside the older Essence, Soul Fragments, and units of Primal Essence.

They Assimilate four points of Essence each. It’s almost completely used to lower Instability. Belinda manages to clear her vampiric taint entirely becoming the first Awakened to do so. She also drops her lycanthropic taint somewhat, while Anthony drops his vampire taint to level one. Saul manages to drop his human taint to level four, regaining the use of his full Composure, Wits, and Intellect. He ameliorates a little vampiric taint as well, but enough is left that the sun will still scorch him.

Although tempted, none of the Awakened take the opportunity to Absorb Soul Fragments. Perhaps they’re maturing in regards to their management of Instability?

The Tree grows. Consuming twenty three points of Essence out of the three hundred plus points worth in the reserve is enough to take the Tree to the next stage. Then consumption stops.

The Tree burgeons into Growth Stage Five. Physically it is now fifteen meters tall. As a Domain it has achieved the full circle of the Essence Tier of Existence.

The Players can now achieve Release Level 5.

They can learn and use 5th dot powers.

They can Assimilate 5 points of Aura per day.

Incarnations of the Tree can now be planted in the physical world.

The Tree now condenses Essence into Primal Essence (very slowly).

The Tree no longer consumes Essence to grow. It must now consume Primal Essence to grow further, requiring 60 points to reach growth stage six. Primal Essence is consumed using a nightly [growth stage] roll, which the Awakened may constrain if they wish.

The Awakened seem somewhat surprised by the changes.

Anthony: “We’ll need to find a different way to convert Essence to Primal Essence.”

Saul: “Or just get more. We could hunt other Awakened…”

Anthony: {stares hard at the single unit of dark Primal Essence the got from Devouring the Black Priest}.


Here we end the session
Thanks for reading



Status

Anthony:

Indulgent at Release Level 1.
No Malevolence with 1 Aura nearby, (in a Seed of Life).
Slightly Bruised and Fatigued.
Very High Instability:

Human taint level 4 (mind whispers, -1 perception).
Lycanthropic taint level 3 (rage issues, silver burns).
Zombie taint level 3 (-1 perception and move in sunlight).
Vampire taint level 1 (sun seems very bright).


Belinda:

Restive at Release Level 0.
No Malevolence and No Aura nearby.
Injured and a little Fatigued.
Moderate Instability:

Human taint level 3 (an excuse for erratic behaviour).
Lycanthropic taint level 2 (silver burns).
Animal taint level 1 (scents smell different).


Saul:

Exhilarated at Release Level 1.
No Malevolence with 1 Aura nearby, (in Quentin’s mark).
Quite Injured and Moderately Exhausted.
High Instability:

Human taint level 4 (mind whispers, -1 perception).
Vampiric taint level 2 (scorched by prolonged sunlight).
Zombie taint level 2 (so hungry).


The Tree:

Growth:

Stage Five.
0 / 60th toward next stage.

Realisation:

15m Tall
Air and Space surround it (15 points worth).
Expanse of dark water spreads from its base (15 points worth).

Adaption:

Celerity complete (quickened interplay shade and branches).
Protean underway – 2 / 10ths progressed.

Reserve:

~170 Essence.
92 points worth of Soul Fragments.
8 Primal Essence.

Expected Sources:

Belinda’s household: ~10 essence / night (solid, familial).
Samaritan colony: ~40 essence / night (awestruck neighbours).
Indooroopilly colony: ~ 40 essence / night (renowned, larger pop).
Enoggera Barracks: ~40 essence / night (indebted subgroup).



Next Session: Armed Negotiations

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