Day Three, Mid Afternoon
The characters get back into the car after they finish devouring their zombie kills and looting the house above.
Kelvin Grove Scavengers
They continue on their way to Chandra Ultavi’s Grange address. They end up (botch nav) taking the known route down Padington, through Red Hill and out onto Kelvin Grove road, looking to turn north. A botched luck roll means they run into a band of scavengers looting the retail strip shops at the top of the hill in Kelvin Grove right where they want to turn onto the road.
There’s a ute with six or eight young men working to strip the shops while a few more stand lookout. The men look like they would either have been uni students or office workers (jeans to business slacks). They’re mostly armed with tools, shovels, crowbars, sledgehammers etc, but Saul notices that the ute’s driver has a rifle. He makes sure his own shotgun is loaded.
Belinda glances at the other characters, “Shall we stop and interrupt them?” She pulls forward into the intersection.
“Hey!” yells one of the lookouts. He walks forward with his hand raised. Belinda rolls to a stop.
“Sup fellas!” Evan yells out the backseat window.
The leader of the scavenger band approaches him, the other scavengers walk over, a couple of them stepping around in front of the vehicle casually holding their makeshift weapons.
“Haven’t seen other survivors in a while! Are you guys going all right?” The leader sounds like he’s trying to be friendly, but he’s eyeing off the characters body armour, uzies, rifles, shotguns, chainsaw, knives, etc. “Where youse from?”
“Brisbane mate!” Evan says sarcastically. “Are you guys alright?”
“Yeah, we’re right, we’re from the neighborhood.” The leader of the scavengers is still trying to sound friendly, still eyeing off the character’s guns. He seems to be considering something. “Are you guys with a group?”
“Massive group!” says Evan says instantly, and somewhat threateningly.
“Ah,” says the scavenger leader. “So where you going?”
Can’t quite remember what Evan said exactly but it was basically another sarcastic fuck off type response. The leader steps back. “Well you guys seem shifty as fuck. Maybe you should just keep moving on.”
The men in front of the vehicle step back too. But Evan says something, again I can’t quite remember what but it seemed both sarcastic and threatening. The leader ends up telling him to stay the fuck out of Kelvin Grove. Evan suggests he’s the more heavily armed party. The leader says if he wanted Evan dead he’d be dead.
Saul intervenes a bit, asks what they should do if they wanted to talk with people from the scavanger’s group on some other day. The leader of the band says if they came back to this spot a bit more friendly and politely armed there’d be someone from his group they could talk to.
The characters pull away, headed north on Kelvin Grove road.
They don’t get far, the bridge over the creek in valley between Kelvin Grove and Newmarket is blocked with debris.
From the condition of the banks it looks like the tsunami (or whatever it was) pushed up the creek below, possibly even flooded over the bridge, but with a tradie’s eye Evan realizes the blocking debris has been deliberately arranged.
He whips out a detached rifle scope, starts scanning the slopes as Belinda rolls to a stop, thirty or forty meters short of the bridge.
Evan: “This could be a trap.”
Anthony: “More likely its the organised group we saw before trying to stop people coming into their area.”
Everyone has a look around. Evan spots some good potential vantage points for snipers on top of buildings on the Newmarket side of the creek, as well as some on Kelvin Grove hill, but he doesn’t spot anyone watching from them. Belinda senses some zombies about a hundred meters away moving down in the creek bed itself. As far as anyone can tell the bridge though is clear.
Saul is the first to get out, walking forward and setting to work hauling wreckage aside. Evan and Anthony follow suit, while Belinda edges the car through the gap they make.
There is a little debate about whether to rebuild the blockade. They decide to leave it open, both in case they need it heading back, and as an indicator. If it is rebuilt quickly, they reason, then the builders are watching the area closely.
Driving away Evan wants to stop and check some of the potential sniper points out for signs of habitation. “We don’t always have to look for trouble,” Anthony tells him. They continue on through Newmarket and into Grange without further encounters.
House of the Necromancer
Rolling into the street for the address they were given the characters raise Spirit Sight and Mind’s Reach. They notice a subtle ward on the street, meant to deflect attention from the address they’re looking for, which turns out to be a driveway running up an easement between neighboring house blocks.
Turning into the driveway Belinda encounters a cold stop type ward. She draws on her Malevolent Soul and pushes through it, reaching Release Level two. The driveway leads down between trees. It seems Chandra Ultavi’s property is in the center of a triangle of streets, surrounded on all sides by normal looking house blocks with trees growing wild toward their back fences. The drive goes through what is basically a small belt of encompassing forest emerging into a clearing that looks out of place in the middle of the city.
A small neat bungalow sits in the middle of the clearing, with the gravel drive going up to its front porch and thicket of bamboo sweeping out from either side of the house to forest’s edge. Belinda turns the car at the end of the drive so that it is facing back the way they came. The character’s get out.
Saul, shotgun ready, approaches the house. With some excellent perception successes he and the others detect the faintest traces of black wind flowing from houseward. It’s the same kind of alien void energy as is pouring out of Mount Cootha in torrents.
Anthony: “Do we knock or walk in?”
Evan: “We knock, wait… do we know this person?”
Saul explains who they’ve come to see (a necromancer vampire, reclusive member of the prince’s pre apocalypse ruling court) and Evan nods. “I think we should knock.”
Anthony tap on the ordinary (but high quality) looking door with the but of his brush hook. Evan taps a light tune, the door meets his professional approval.
Saul meanwhile is looking around for murder holes, spots some discrete cameras positioned to get front and side angles of anyone approaching the porch. He points them out, Evan waves.
No one answers the door, so Belinda rings the doorbell. It seems to have no effect, but Saul and Evan (again with excellent perception) hear the faintest of chimes from deep in the house, probably from below ground.
“May as well wait a bit,” Saul cautions, but no one comes to the door. The afternoon sun slants down into the clearing. Saul asks, “Shall we have a look around the back?”
“Yeah,” says Evan. “Before we break down the front.”
They wander around the side of the house. The thick wall of bamboo planting seems like its meant to stop this but the characters push through. They discover a formal zen style garden behind the house. Echoing the tree line, a white circle of gravel has been raked into patterns which harmonize with a moss covered spiral of stepping stones leading to a paved circle in the center. The effect is almost like a large mandala. In three key points around the circumference stand shoulder height, black stone statues of Anubis. Each holds upturned hands out, and on their palms each holds: a block of crystallized salt, a sheaf of wheat, and decaying pile of metal rust.
Evan: “Oh good, more occult stuff to mess with!”
Those with the best perception feel that the faint traces of black wind they felt out front are actually coming from the paved circle in the middle of the occult garden.
Saul turns to the house. On the back veranda is a rocking chair with a small table beside it holding a japanese style teacup. There are also more discrete cameras. Saul isn’t fussed. Walking over the ex vagrant picks up the cup and stares at it, drawing on the Tree to trigger Reverie. He gets the image of an old, pale, ascetic, indian looking woman sitting in the armchair in the dark, drinking tea and enjoying the beauty of the garden. Underlying echoes to the vision suggest she has done a lot of this before.
Belinda tries the back door, which is locked. Anthony taps on the window. When no alarm goes off he tries to smash it, but the glass proves resistant, with an embedded mesh. Evan unloads his shotgun and steps up raising its but. The other characters step well clear as he smashes the window inward.
Belinda: “Hello? We did try knocking!”
Anthony crawls in and opens the door for the others. They find themselves in a neat, clean living room. All the furnishings are of modest appearance, but very high quality. Beside a comfortable armchair a copy of War and Peace lies open. Saul grabs this on his way through
In the display room standard kitchen the fridge is on but empty. There are plentiful supplies for making tea.
There is only one bedroom, which is very neat and tidy, and looks unused.
There is another ward in the hallway, meant to deflect attention from the study door. The characters notice it relatively easily. Inside the study there is an old fashioned, solid wood writing desk, and custom made shelving for a range of books, tomes, and scrolls. Anthony begins grabbing down the books with a glimmer of vampiric power in them. “I’m sure Isobella will want to read these.”
Both Anthony and Saul completely fail to recognize the language most of the texts are written in. This makes the only title written in french stick out more. When Anthony goes to grab it it levers downwards. Behind him the writing desk slides aside on smooth hydraulics revealing a hidden stairwell.
Anthony: “I guess we’ll go that way. Ancient languages… there is no such thing.”
Saul: “Guess all these others were just made up by the illumanati.”
Evan: “She is the illumanati!”
Evan leads the way down. The stair’s come to a clinical sliding door from under which cool air wells. The door has a keypad. Saul gets Evan to try the page number that War and Peace was left open too, nothing happens. They try the page number backwards, again nothing.
“Failing three times is never a good idea,” Evan says, refusing to try any more variants.
Belinda knocks on the door, no answer.
Evan knocks on the door, no answer.
Evan: “Might be better to break it down rather than fail three times…”
Anthony: “Off you go son.”
Evan flips his shotgun around and raises it, ready to smash the but end down on the door.
Belinda (as all the other awakened plaster themselves against the corridor walls): “Err… could you please unload that first?”
Evan unloads the gun and uses it to smash open the door, breaking the locking mechanism. After carefully examining it for hidden dangers they slide the door open. A large room is revealed, about half the width of the house above. The walls are made of cold room paneling. The floor is tiled and slopes to a central drain. Two stainless steel dissection tables stand in the middle of the room under operating lights. While the far wall is full of square hatches. A desk to the side of the room holds handwritten paperwork, while a cabinet next to it holds operating tools, especially a lot of needles and suture thread. There are discrete speakers mounted into the wall above, and I messed up sorry, there also should have been some security monitors here .
Everything is neat and clinically clean. Anthony gravitates to the hatches in the far wall. The first dozen hatches have tags with handwritten numbers attached to them. While Belinda and Evan stand ready with their knives Anthony slides opens one of these. With a blast of chill air a morgue tray slides out. On it is a human body, a male I think, dead but well preserved, with one arm surgically removed. Spirit Sight reveals vampiric magic holding traces of life force within the flesh of the corpse, although the soul itself has long since dissipated. There is a hospital tag attached to the corpses toe. The number on this is the same as the number on the hatch. Pulling out other hatches with tags reveals the same thing. There are a dozen corpses stored in this morgue. Each has been preserved with magic and refrigeration. Each has had a limb or some organs (y cut on torso) neatly removed after death.
Evan starts investigating the paperwork. The papers seem to be medical records with tag numbers cross referencing hatches and corpses. Cause of death seem to be things like car accidents, heart attacks, etc. Date of death in all cases is within eight weeks of the apocalypse (none since – whatever the old earth date would be now). There are reference numbers listed after the cause of death, one per patient. There are only four of these numbers overall, with different patients having the same number. They check, but the numbers do not correspond to the limbs or organs which have been removed.
Evan checks if the corpses have been drained of blood. Discovering that they have not been drained. There is some lividity but the preservation magic seems to have stopped the blood in the corpses from fully undergoing normal post death processes.
Anthony tries Devouring a corpse. There are no soul fragments, but he is able to get a return of about four essence from the remaining life force and the vampiric preservation magic itself. He and Belinda steadily work their way through the stored bodies, adding to the Tree’s reserves, increasing their Malevolence, and leaving the corpses deader than dead.
Saul has a look at the papers too, spilling a bottle of cavicide all over them, which makes the ink run. He still manages to trigger a Reverie however, seeing a a vision of the old indian looking lady writing notes at while a corpse lies on the table behind her with a y section cut in torso. The lady is absentmindedly munching on slices of liver from a surgical dish on the desk beside her. Having glimpsed this Saul has another look at the corpses with y section cuts, trying to see if there are similarities between the people who’ve been cut this way. He doesn’t find any however.
Robbery and Ransack
Saul: “May as well ransack the place then…”
Evan: “Pretty much fucked up all her research anyway.”
They head upstairs to loot.
It’s about four hours after noon at this point. Judging from the last few days this means its also about four hours until the black sun sets. The characters don’t find anything too amazing upstairs, despite Evan knocking some holes in the walls. They get some clothing, jewelry, cash, kitchen appliances etc.
Saul focuses on some of the jewelry, using the question “where is Chandra” to trigger another Reverie. He sees a vision of the indian looking woman in the bedroom dressed in opera going clothes. She takes off the necklace Saul is using as a focus and walks out through the house into the back garden. Barefoot she steps onto the spiral path under a starry sky showing the first faints stains of pre-apocalypse apricot dawn in the east.
Evan: “What I want to know, is where does she keep her garden tools?”
Saul: “Do you know where we can get hold of a backhoe?”
Into the Spiral
Anthony walks the spiral path in the garden, within the perimeter formed by the three Anubis statues. With Spirit Sense he feels the faint traces of black wind flowing out against the spiral. An occult pressure of containment builds the further he walks in. In the middle, a small circular area paved in obsidian, he can sense a sort of overlay of another world. A cave formed by an overhanging ledge of sandstone, with three figures around him in the same spacing as the Statues on his side. The wind of oblivion seems to be seeping out from that space. The center of the spiral a plug between two worlds.
If he just had a little more understanding of his innate powers Anthony feels as if he could step between the two worlds. As it is the seal holds him out. He turns to walk back out along the spiral but has to push against the containment force. His malevolence is still high and his will more than enough to resist the effect, hunching his shoulders and drawing on the Tree he forces his way out. It gets easier step by step.
Uninvited Sleep Over
Back with the others Anthony tells them what he sensed, saying it felt like the Rent in Mount Cootha. Saul suggests that this other world is probably where Chandra is. Mentions that he’s on the verge of being able to develop Spirit Step himself, but that he’s not too keen on being going alone.
Anthony: “We know that vampires are usually only active at night. Want to see if anyone comes to check out the house after dark?”
Saul: “I’m good with laying down here for the night.”
Belinda: So should we get extra weapons out of the car?”
Saul: “Maybe Evan should get his bone thing out, don’t feel comfortable leaving that laying around.”
Anthony agrees. He sits down in the rocking chair, but not to drink tea, while Evan retrieves his lance. Saul and Evan get distracted looking at the house’s off grid solar panels and (large) battery bank. Evan manages to disconnect the inverter and dissassemble the battery bank down into three racks, each the size of a normal house’s battery set up. They manage to load two of the racks onto the top of the suv and chuck the inverter into the back, leaving the third rack leaning up against the side of Chandra’s house.
Meanwhile Belinda has a hot shower, her first in days, while there is warmth left in the system. It turns out the house also has an off grid rainwater tank and rooftop hot water system. She borrows some of Chandra’s clothes to change into, some clean jeans and a button up shirt, slipping her bullet proof vest back over the top.
Saul backs the suv right up to the house’s front step. He investigates the pantry, but there’s no food, just tea. There’s only one bed in the house. He claims it to take a nap.
Rocking in the chair Anthony enjoys the view, and the afternoon sun, which he hasn’t seen for a while. He flicks through one of the old tomes from Chandra’s study but, unable to make heads nor tail of the language it’s written in, ends up dozing.
Night falls. There is still no moon, but the few stairs there are are bright, red, gold, and blue twinkle down at them from over the surrounding trees. The characters prepare for visitors, but its very quiet. They can hear some night birds, fruit bats, etc. No one approaches the house from either direction.
A Rustle in the Bushes
About three hours after sunset Saul becomes convinced that someone is skulking through the shrubbery (perception botch). “There’s someone in the bamboo! I’m going out!” He slips away, quite stealthily, following faint rustles and glimpses of movement through the trees and the back yards of a couple of neighbors before realizes he’s following a stray dog.
He notices an eerie similarity of the houses which back onto Chandra’s property. All of their lawns are well maintained, although wilting now after the long night of the apocalypse. All of them have allowed shrubs and trees to grow wild toward their back fence line, contributing to the belt of forest ringing Chandra’s property. Peering some windows while he’s out and about Saul sees evidence of previous occupation, children’s toys, furniture, etc. But all the houses seem to have been abandoned in good order sometime in the last couple of days.
Heading back toward Chandra’s place Saul meets Evan, coming out to look for him. “What are you doing mate!” Evan diverts them into checking out garden sheds, also noting the uniformity of the neighbor’s yards. They find several tools, but no lawn mowers, stealing a heavy duty hedge trimmer to take back with them.
Midnight At the Tree
The Tree drinks in essence from those who are thinking of the awakened. Its around a 50 point influx, slightly less than the night before, but still more than the characters are used to seeing.
Among the influx Saul senses some essence from Lisa (the wife of Dave the werewolf who ran pig hunting tours on his property out near Kilcoy). From the Tree Saul raises Spirit Sight to track back her essence for a glimpse of her situation. Lisa is driving through the night, thinking of the characters. She is worried and grieving, has the feeling of someone taking a long shot. She’s somewhere between Kilcoy and Brisbane (closer to Brisbane) and headed the character’s way.
Saul: “She’s grieving, so old mate’s gone. Does she know where Belinda lives?”
Belinda: “Yep. I signed up for the weekend with my card and address.”
Anthony: “Was she a werewolf too?”
Saul: “Nah, I think she was kin to wolves though?”
Anthony absorbs a soul fragment to get even stronger (dot 4), pushing his human instability so high (level 5) that he’s starting to hear whispers in the corners of his mind from un-ameliorated fragments.
Belinda absorbs a human soul fragment to bring her dexterity up to average.
Evan absorbs two zombie soul fragments, crushing both of the parasytes with his will, to bring his Stamina up to dot 4. I think he may have also absorbed a vampiric fragment of Fortitude?
Saul absorbs a fragment of occult from the vampire Maen Bok, gaining the Abyssal Magic ritual Lesser Shadow Servant, and bringing his knowledge up to dot 3. He also absorbs a fragment of Obtenebration from Maen Bok, gaining his fourth dot and the Comforting Darkness ritual. I think this brings Saul’s vampiric taint up to level three again (burn in sunlight) but, undaunted, he also absorbs a fragment of human intellect, gaining dot three, above average intelligence.
Each character assimilates three points of essence from the Tree. Belinda and Evan use theirs to ameliorate down three different taints by one point each, while Saul drops his vampiric taint by three (still leaves him vulnerable to the sun). Anthony ameliorates two points, but uses his third to cultivate his first dot in Innate Celerity.
The Tree then grows, putting on size and weight. It is now 27 / 40th of the way to its fourth growth stage. In reserve it contains 54 points of raw essence, and 58 essence worth of soul fragments.
Back to Kelvin Grove
A few hours before dawn is due Anthony stirs. “It doesn’t seem like anyone is coming back. We should go back to Isobella and tell her that this… exists. For that we’ll need to talk to her while the sun is still down.”
The others agree. They pack up and leave Chandra’s place a ransacked mess behind them. On the roads all is quiet. Anthony suggests they should check up on that apartment they left the university lecturer in (Mrs Nagey) and see if they can see how she went.
Belinda: “Just give me directions.”
They head back in toward Kelvin Grove, encountering nothing along the way. The bridge however is blockaded again. There are no lights or signs of watchers so they get out and clear a path.
Saul: “Let’s just throw this stuff over the bridge.”
Evan: “Nah, if it helps any group…”
Anthony: “You do know a blood cult controls the university.”
They argue while they work. Evan of the opinion that the scavengers were too lightly armed to be part of a group controlling a whole suburb. Saul pointing out how confidently their leader had ordered the characters to stay out of Kelvin Grove. Anthony, that the characters themselves have only just given a couple of firearms over into the hands of ‘their’ survivors back in Belinda’s street.
It devolves into an argument over the merits or arming or not arming their own people.
Belinda raises Mind’s Reach and Spirit Sight to keep lookout while the three men toss the barricade rubble over the edge of the bridge. No one attacks them. Job done, they get back into the suv and drive on.
A couple of streets over, on the edge of Kelvin Grove they pull into a familiar apartment block. As they climb the steps they can hear a rhythmic bang, pause, bang from the apartment across from the one the stranded uni students had been holed up in.
Anthony pauses on the outside, brings up Spirit Sight and tries to sense through the door. There is a zombie behind it, banging its head as it blindly, and repetitively shuffles forwards.
“Sure, why not.” says Anthony, preparing to go in.
“I’ll go first,” says Evan, pumping Fortitude, and generating a point of aura to gain one dice of armour from Greenwood Flesh.
He stands square in front of the door while Saul stands to one side with shotgun ready. Anthony stands to the other side. He twists the handle, but it is blocked. Together Anthony and Even kick in the door, revealing the zombie of an unknown young man with heavily bitten neck.
The zombie lurches at Evan, missing. Evan brings his kukri down, cleaving into its skull. The zombie falls.
In the room behind is another zombie of a young man, recognizable as Yang, one of the infected students the characters declined to heal. Yang has been strapped to an overturned table. His blood mouthed zombie reaches futilely for the characters with its one free arm. On the other side of the room the corpse of a young woman, Elena, lies slumped against the wall. She was the other infected student. Someone has shot her through the head.
Anthony steps toward the zombie of Yang and swings his brush hook, but misses. Evan is close behind, splitting Yang’s skull with his kukri. While Saul keeps watch Anthony devours the tattered souls of the two fallen zombies. Their torn screams echo in the small room. Elena has been dead long enough that the remains of her soul have already dissipated.
Belinda looks around the apartment. She finds some overturned bowls, towels and empty medicine packets, but no sign of Mrs Nagey. Other than that it looks like the apartment has been trashed. It’s stripped of all food, medicine, water, etc.
Anthony: “Looks like she’s gone. We should be too.”
The character’s leave, headed for home.
There we leave it for the week. Thanks for reading :)