Tuesday, 2nd August
We come back to most of our characters hanging around outside Isobella’s house in the early morning sunshine, having been asked by the Bailiff to see if they can established if their guardian has indeed poached Zhou’s psychic.
Donald had decided he wan’t having anything to do with attempts to gain entry to the house where Erin was staying, “I make bad decisions where she is involved”. Like a sensible young man he drove to work instead.
Donald meets old Friends
Stopping into a servo Donald has just put the bowser nozzle into his little car’s fuel intake when the hears heavy bikes rumbling past. Delighted and astonished, Patrick (the Lunatic bikie who shot him) swings into the servo with some other bikies behind him. Donald can sense now that Patrick and at least two of the other bikies are werewolves. Patrick invite him on a little trip which soon sees Donald heading south through traffic in the passenger seat of his own car.
With Patrick’s permission Donald calls in sick to work and manages to slip in a text to Saul; “ran into old friend going south”. He also raises his greenwood flesh aura, raising his release level to 1, which seems to interest rather than alarm the wolves.
They head south on the m1. Leaving the city Patrick apologies for having shot Donald, saying the snitch turned out to be someone else. Donald tries to mend fences and improve their relationship a bit, but manages to irritate the bikie a bit.
Donald gets the impression Patrick is straining a bit to appear jovial and friendly, that something important is happening and bringing Donald along gives Patrick a chance to save face. The word “Messiah” might have been mentioned, as well as something about the time having come to “waken the old ones” and “change the world”. Asking if Donald has encountered the night folk of the city Patrick assures him, “those blood suckers don’t know shit!”
Stopping for pies at yatla Donald notices one of the bikies nudge another and wave goodbye to the last waning sliver of moon hanging high in the sky above them.
Halfway down through the gold coast they turn westward off the highway onto a road that runs toward mullwilliba. The trip becomes a series of turns onto long roads of ever decreasing quality until the little hatchback is bumping along two wheel tracks through private forested land with a beat up old ute and some heavy bikes behind them. Donald’s best guess is that they’re somewhere south of the Laminton Mountains, over the border into new south wales.
The track opens into a clearing which contains a domed hill thirty of forty meters high and a couple of hundred meters across. Someone has obviously been keeping the flanks the hill slashed down to rough grass, but has left a crown of bunya pines around the top. There is also a dilapidated farmhouse about two thirds of the way up the slope.
Patrick swings the car off the track to park it among the vehicles around the edge of the clearing. There are many people, mostly bikers and ferals, dragging branches in from the scrub, unloading cases of whisky and rum from utes, cutting and stacking wood into piles, etc. Donald eyes them, “I’m gonna be the bon fire”, noting that some of the more feral looking ones seem to be just walking in semi, or fully naked from the forest itself rather than arriving in the vehicles behind them. All of the people seem to be fit and young, if weathered, appearing to be between twenty and thirty five.
Answering greetings and queries about whether Donald is “the one” with a grin and a gruff “I hope so!” Patrick leads Donald through the activity and up slope past the farmhouse. He stops short of the ring of bunya pines, “wait here”, and heads up respectfully. Donald can sense a resonance of power from the hilltop within the circle of trees.
Patrick returns leading a woman dressed in cutoff jeans and a cotton shirt who looks young, although sun beaten and rough. Patrick seems to be hovering around her with incongruous care, as if she were a fragile, respected elder, introducing her as Larissa. When Larissa opens her mouth she even sounds old to Donald, “come here child”.
He comes forward and finds that, despite Larissa’s confident steps she has milk white, blind eyes. Drawing a little essence to raise spirit sight Donald finds her looking back at him with spiritual sight of her own. She is indeed a werewolf. Donald’s estimate of the primal, wild power within her is that she’d be about the same (spiritual) strength as himself were he to achieve release level six, and Patrick about release level four.
Note: Tree’s current level is 2 (ie character’s max release level). Disclaimers, it’s not a linear scale, no one has tested how the spiritual power of equivalent, werewolves, and awakened compares in terms of combat effectiveness. For interest: that would put Larissa at spiritual power roughly equivalent to powerful vampires like the Prince and Erh Zhou, and Patrick in the same range as strong vampires like Isobella and William Negis. But, similarly, no one has tested the combat effectiveness of spiritually equivalent vampires and werewolves .
Larissa seems pleased with what she sees in Donald and asks him if she can draw some of his blood. With so many werewolves below and Patrick right next to him (spiritual power about equal to Donald at current full release), Donald doesn’t exactly refuse. Larissa pulls out a worn switch blade and nicks his wrist. She smears the blood around on her palm for a while, staring at it with blind eyes and sniffing it before finally licking it. She looks up with a delighted, wild grin. “He’s one,” she tells Patrick, “It will be as prophecy says. Rise the Black Sun and Break the Moon’s Chains. The Promised Rains will come and bring us Meat IN PLENTY!”
She throws back her head and howls, a wild joyously savage sound to come from human throat. Patrick joins her and the howl spreads through the scores of werewolves and humans in the clearing below until the whole forest echoes with the tribe’s unholy exultation.
Larissa thanks Donald and heads back up to the circle of bunya pines, saying she must prepare. Donald, his nicked wrist having already healed, sort of looks at Patrick with an air of somewhat letdown expectation, “is that it?”. The bikie werewolf throws an arm over Donald’s shoulder, leading him downslope in the early afternoon sunshine. “Nah,” he says. “Tonight we party. Tomorrow we take over the world!”
Despite the early hour bonfires were being lit and much hard liquor was being drunk. Primal drumming on hollow logs was filling the air along with howling and yips and general bacchanalian merriment.
Easygoing Donald joined right in, soon becoming separated from the revealed looking Patrick. Being werewolves the folk around him seemed used to drinking massive quantities of hard spirits to get even mildly drunk. Being an awakened Donald was able to match them bottle for bottle.
He also soon found that many of the biker chicks and feral women seemed to be very very into him. Dancing led to sex, lots of sex, behind the wood pile, in the back of a ute, out in the open, in the churned grass by a bon fire. The women seemed to want to have his babies, and once they’d gotten his seed were happy enough to pass him along for the next. For his part Donald was happy enough to go along for the ride(s). The revel around seemed to be going down the same path, a blend of dancing, drinking, and orgy.
Between bouts Donald thought he should find out more about what the wolves were about. Questioning the women he goes with brings him the information that the Lunatics worship Cernnunos / “the horned god” / “the green man” and that they see gaia as just another “old one”, one with the “wrong ideas” about how to manage human kind. The people he spoke with seemed to be expecting their god to wake, or emerge, or somehow come to power this night. “Tomorrow we take over the world” may have been mentioned again.
Sex in a Sacred Place
Donald had the thought that maybe it would be best to slip away, rejoin the others before apocalyptic stuff started happening. First though he better see if there was anything else he should see if the others thought there was anything more he should find out, “better call ”/characters/saul" class=“wiki-content-link”>Saul ", me muttered to himself in a lull between biker chick. He dug out his phone and found that (somehow) he actually had reception so far out in the scrub.
Saul, seeming a bit bemused, suggested that finding more out about the circle of bunya pines might be a good idea. He brought up Mind’s Reach to keep an eye on Donald telepathically. Donald, for his part, led conversation with the next woman who came on to him around to the bunya ring, and like kids on a dare she led him up the hill.
There seemed to be some kind of keep out warding on the circle of pines itself, but Donald was able to push through it easily enough with his malevolent soul (and the woman with him seemed untroubled). Once within Donald could feel the resonance much more strongly. A primal sort of essence practically practically seeped out of the air and Donald felt as if he could almost devour it directly.
Evan, through Saul’s telepathy, egged him on. Even, “Take over the circle”. Donald, “you do realism I’m surrounded by two hundred drunk werewolves, fully half of whom are stronger than we are?” (he’d been using spirit sight a bit more). Evan, “We’re a Tree, pretend to be the Green Man.” Donald, “…”
As the woman with Donald shed her clothes she she explained that the place was a sacred ‘ caern’ a thin spot between physical world and a spiritual world that the tribe protected.. She explained (as she pushed Donald up against a tree) that Larissa, the elder werewolf, lives ‘ beyond the veil’ in the spiritual world and claimed that the coming day would allow the tribe to “wake” or “unbind” or “attract” Cernunnos itself from / to / through the caern’s spiritual realm. After that they were too busy to talk much.
When that bout was over Donald gathered his clothes (yet again) and decided the time had come to slip away. He snuck down past the revels, got to his little car (which was almost parked in) and (after marking his current location on his phone’s map with a gps pin) headed home, having just enough fuel to reach the nearest servo. By nightfall he was back in the city.
Back to Isobella’s place
In the morning, while scoping Isobella’s place, Saul glanced up at the sun and this was enough to trigger a vision that the sun was rapidly receding away from him. That combined with an elevator lurch gave the overall feeling that the earth was now in freefall toward… whatever.
After looking at the security, (brick walls, security cameras, automated gate with screened intercom), the characters pretty much decided to come back later. Saul, “should we be doing this during the day?”. Anthony, “shall we just try the front door some time after she’s awake?”.
They spent an uneventful day, and when evening came (with Donald now back among their number) they went to Isobella’s once again.
Quentin Gray, Isobella’s ghoul chauffeur, answered the intercom. Recognizing them he buzzed them in. The front door opened into a stairwell with (seemingly) no access to the first floor. Quentin met them at the top of the stair, looking neat, but pale and strained.
He led them through the second floor of the house, past bedrooms, to a generous kitchen and living area telling them Isobella was “still in isolation”, and asking if they could wait while he let her know they were here, (using a internal phone mounted at a control panel in kitchen).
The First Case.
From one of the front bedrooms came a sickly cough. Anthony drifted over to investigate, cracking open the door to see Curtis Frazier (Isobella’s sunglasses wearing human bodyguard) lying in bed looking very ill. Having spent a long time in hospitals Anthony recognized a crippling fever when he saw one. Spirit Sense gave him the feeling there was something in Curtis causing the illness and Spirit Sight revealed a gray shadow weaving itself into Curtis’s brain stem, draining the vitality from his flesh and devouring chunks from his soul.
Anthony tried infusing some Scent of Life into Curtis. That regenerated some of the vitality in Curtis’s flesh, strengthening him against the spiritual invader but not fighting it directly. Anthony sensed that it would continue its efforts to take over Curtis’s soul causing him to sicken again rapidly, but for now the fever broke, his breathing eased, and Curtis stirred toward a more natural sleep, or even wakefulness. When he turned over his movement revealed a sickly infected bite mark on his neck, black with streaks of blood poisoning.
Curtis said something, and the sound of his voice brought Quentin hurrying into the room. At first he was politely hostile, “you can’t be in here”, but then he saw how much better Curtis looked and hope came to his tired, strained face. “Did you do this?” he demanded. Anthony nodded, but he pointed quizzically to the bite mark, and Quentin slapped one hand over his own (unblemished) neck. “We are the mistresses servants,” he told Anthony, “but more importantly – Can you do that again?” When Anthony indicated he could Quentin rushed back to the phone. “Healed,” The character’s overheard, “much stronger”, and “no she’s in the other house, Ben’s gone down with it as well”.
Into Isobella’s sanctum
He must have gotten approval because he typed a code into the house’s control panel and a concealed door in the end of the hallway opened, sliding aside to reveal a long concrete tunnel sloping down into the ridge the house was built into. By gawking, Evan (who’d been inspecting the panel with tradie interest anyway) was able to catch the first two digits of the code Quentin entered, a nine and a four.
Quentin led the characters down the corridor about sixty meters to another hydraulic safe room door. A ‘keep away’ ward pressed against the characters at this door, raising their malevolent souls, and a young looking man (ghoul), whose voice they recognized from the phone, met them, introducing himself as Liam Roche. He led them through the short central hall of a six room bunker, past a small laboratory, a storage room with fridges and stainless steel cabinets, a study / library, some kind of ritual room, a bathroom, and finally into a small room with bunk beds.
At the back of the crowd Evan slips into the study for a bit of a poke around. The tradie finds a lot of books, many seemingly on local history especially on “”/wikis/mount-cootha" class=“wiki-page-link”> One Tree Hill". Much of his interest is taken by a large map on the wall, full of technical details including coordinates, terrain elevations, and other kinds of more arcane detailing, it details Mt Cootha and the areas surrounding.
In the sleeping room they find Isobella tending Zoe Nelson, Zhou’s human psychic, who the characters had last seen at elysium, and whom Mikael had asked the characters to enter the house to find. Isobella looked exhausted as corpse pallid as only a vampire can. To Anthony’s spirit sight (still active) she looked depleted. There were faint marks on her wrists where blood letting attempts had obviously not healed fully. Zoe however looked dead. No vitality remained in her flesh. The shadow in her brain stem had filled her flesh with gray unlife energy and completely taken over the tattered remains of her soul.
Isobella implored a reluctant looking Anthony to heal Zoe if he could. He stepped forward to investigate more closely and the corpse’s head rolled, eyes opening to reveal pallid white, arms reaching and teeth snapping shut on air as Anthony leapt back. Isobella rushed to restrain Zoe, talking to her as she held her down and glancing up at Anthony for help.
“This… may not end as well,” Anthony told Isobella letting the aura he’d gathered for Scent of Life return to his hair and reaching with naked hands instead.
Isobella nodded grimly, “Do what you can. I’ve tried everything. Blood only works temporarily and I’ve taken as much as I dare. I’ve only one stone left and I must keep in case of…”
Erin walked out of the adjoining bathroom at about this point, holding a basin and towel, looking very surprised to see the characters. “You should probably go back into that room,” Donald told her, and she turned back just as Anthony Devoured the parasyte in Zoe. His hands and arms streaking with green as wriggling soul fragments flow into the Tree. Zoe’s corpse’s screams echoed as her tattered, parasitised soul came apart. Her body fell back, an empty husk of flesh, deader than dead.
Isobella wept, cradling the girl’s corpse. Anthony and the other awakened contemplated the possible consequences of letting live spirit parasite fragments into the Tree. Quentin pushed forward, ‘Could you look at Ben as well?’ This made Isobella look up, “As well?”. And Quentin nodded, “he’s in the other house. ”/characters/isobella-s-business-manager" class=“wiki-content-link”>Abigail is tending him, but it’s pretty bad."
Once again Isobella implored Anthony’s help. “It could be very important. Zoe called me for help when when other people in Zhou’s collection began to get sick, but it was I who drew on my people for blood.” Anthony – “I’ll need an hour,” and “You’re going to have to change your feeding habits.”
Isobella nods, pale faced – “”/characters/ruairc-o-ruairc" class=“wiki-content-link”>The Prince will have to know." Anthony starts to argue against this but Isobella insists – “If this is more than a isolated phenomena he must know”. She points out that she maintains an atypically small household. The prince’s blood dolls for example include some of the most influential people in the city. Anthony cedes – “Alright, but this is a very big favor you’re starting to owe us.” She acknowledges it as she turns away to pull out her phone.
In there somewhere Isobella also asked Anthony if the other awakened (there at the time) were likely to be able to help, he answered something like, “not… with the healing.”
Evan confronts Isobella as she goes to call the Prince. Evan – “You owe us for this. What can you give us?” She looks at him a bit in surprise – “What do you want?” Evan – Can you give us training? Occult training?" (with the player pointing at Celerity on his character sheet). “Yes,” she agrees. “I can train you.” She turns away to make her call.
Meanwhile Anthony has slipped away to call the Bailiff. Mikael’s phone rings through to voice mail however and Anthony leaves a simple message (over Evan’s telepathic protests) – “It’s Anthony. If you listen to your messages… Its six fifty-five tuesday. Call me please.”
Meanwhile the Prince is so loud on the phone to Isobella that the characters can overhear (or was this Donald using auspex?). She tells him her supposition that feeding directly risks infection of the blood doll. He tells her that things are already hectic. He’s already got thralls down sick and, “The ”/wikis/the-haslangs" class=“wiki-page-link”> Haslang’s are going nuts, Mikael’s nowhere to be found." Overall he sounds happy to hear from her rather than suspicious or angry about the conflict between her and Zhou over Zoe.
During this time the characters moved up out of the bunker / safe room / sanctum and into the regular house. The characters meet Abigail Pratt, (a ghoul) who has dragged her husband, Benjamin Pratt, through a secret passage that opens into the house’s first floor. they meet her on the stairs and a glance at Benjamin with spirit sight is enough to confirm that he is totally gone. Just like Zoe the spiritual parasite within him has drained away his human life, devoured most of his soul, and taken over the tattered remnants.
He is seemingly unconscious. Anthony tells Isobella and Abigail that Benjamin is too far gone. Grimly Isobella nods. Anthony Devours Benjamin’s tattered, parasitised soul. Once more the torn fragments enter the Tree wriggling and alive. This time Anthony is able to get a nebulous impression of some kind of force behind the parasyte in much the same way as the Tree is behind the awakened.
The characters leave Isobella and Liam comforting a devastated Abigail on the stairs. They find Quentin with Curtis (Isobella’s last surviving human retainer). The body guard is starting to show signs of fever again as the ongoing efforts of the parasite within him weaken his recently healed body once more. He is not near a crisis point yet however.
Anthony goes off into a bedroom to try and take a nap, (planning to force himself to sleep with his formidable will).
Left to their own devices the other awakened wander into living room. They decide to check the news, looking for cases of missing or ill people. Instead they find a breaking news broadcast – “NUCLEAR WAR!!!” Nuclear detonations have been detected on the India Pakistan border, in the midst of a four day monsoon storm there. There is little of any other type of news at this point. Donald – “Well… That just blows me away…” Evan – “Looks like my barricading might come in useful after all.” Donald – “And we all laughed at you…”
Saul suggested they might want to nip back to home and pick up Stix, as well as their guns. Donald goes with him. They get there uneventfully and Stix is willing to come along, “Have you seen the news man!?” Saul tells him shit might be going down locally too (while loading shotguns and counting out spare ammo). Stix looks a lot more worried, “I’ve never been involved in the rough stuff!” But at Saul’s urging he went looking for a weapon.
Meanwhile Donald raided the garden shed, grabbing the chainsaw (and I think dinging an achieve for the first person to actually say zombie?) but for some reason leaving the machete behind. By this time Stix had returned with one of the stakes Evan had been using to line his trench / man trap. Saul raised an eyebrow at each of the pair’s weapon choices but didn’t object. He gives Stix one of the shotguns (sawn off 12 gauge breach action) and shows him how to use it.
All three jumped back in the car and got back to Isobella’s place ok. Quentin buzzed them trough the gate and right into Isobella’s spacious underground garage. Which also connects directly to the, otherwise unused, first floor of the house.
Anthony manages to fall asleep, reaching the Tree. There he is able to use his will to pin down a couple of the wriggling zombie parasite soul fragments and break them down into raw (clean) essence. He wakes.
First Case – revisited
Anthony returns to Curtis’ bedside. The grey unlife energy of the parasite has burned brighter, causing a stronger drain on Curtis’ body’s vitality. Anthony senses the effort of will with which the, now unconscious, man has resisted. He floods his body with Scent of Life, healing it. Even though this doesn’t directly harm the parasite Anthony senses that it only enough strength to keep trying to drain & devour Curtis one or two more times before it burns itself out.
Raising the Stakes
Anthony counts the essence he had to consume to perform this healing against the (admittedly recently augmented) pool remaining in the Tree. Isobella asks if he’ll be able to help others. He indicates that she’s really pushing the favor. She says its very important, especially if other (or all) vampires have become infectious. She says that the characters are unique, the only examples of their kind she’s ever encountered (with Evan exclaiming that that means she knows they’re not vampires). She points out that “all of my blood arts and rituals have failed”, suggests that the characters effectiveness might be crucial. Isobella -“Observing you might be our only chance in the world to find a countermeasure.” Anthony (sarcastically) – “No pressure.”
In here Isobella pretty much admitted to being a magician saying, “I am a scientist, have been for more than a hundred years,” and mentioning her bloodline, the Tremere, as being a pillar of strength in the Camarilla, “advising Princes, dealing with occult problems”. She seems confident that, given a working example and time, she can devise a ritual or physical method to combat the infection / parasites.
Evan once again bails up Isobella. “Hang on. You owe us for this. What will you give us?” Isobella – “Yes I’ll give you whatever I can, but what do you want? Do you want money? Do you want power?…” Evan – “What will you give us?” Isobella – “WHAT DO YOU WANT!” Evan – “err… Training? What do you guys want?” Donald – “We would like an orange… A blood orange obviously… Each”. Isobella, gestures at the immediate situation – “I will train you. I will open my library to you. Go downstairs to my study and read as much as you want!”
Anthony asked Isobella to ring the Prince and have him send over as many of his infected human followers as possible. Isobella looks a little worried, but makes the call.
It’s getting later in the evening now. The group take curtis down into Isobella’s sanctum, leaving Quentin to guard the main house.
Saul stays upstairs with him and the two chat as they wait for the Prince’s people to arrive. Turns out Quentin has been with Isobella a long time, more than 80 years, having grown up in colonial Africa and been involved in some of the conflicts there after the first world war. Saul gets some tips about observation and deduction from him (gaining his first dot in investigate).
Donald takes up Isobella’s offer to use her library. He finds many books on blood magic and hermetic principles, a lot of which seem to have been recently rifled through as if Isobella had searched for forgotten tidbits that might give her a lead. Her main workspace is taken up with detailed maps of the city and mt cootha in particular, as well as texts on geomancy, ley lines, caerns, and rents. There seems to be a lot of focus on rituals which can obscure and close rents, (places that drain quintessence from the world), including methods which involve staking powerful supernatural creatures in place to hold the gap closed.
Finally Tio rings to say he’s at the gate with a mini van full of infected followers of the Prince. Quentin buzzes him in to the underground carpark, while Anthony, Saul, and Donald go out to meet him.
Far from seeming sad or stressed the irish werewolf has sparkling eyes – “Got eight of ‘em for ya. Watch out for the little buggers, if you let ’em bite it’ll spread!” He helped them unload eight hooded and bound people from the back of his minni van then jumped in the driver’s seat again – “Gotta get back. Things are going to shit out there!”
He took off again, and as the garage door closed the characters studied their delivery. Five of the infected were too far gone, their flesh completely dead, the unlife parasites riding their brain stems having completely incorporated the remnants of their souls. The three remaining victims were in the various stages of infection. Anthony chose the least infected and they shifted him aside (still hooded and bound). Turning to the rest the old man began to Devour. After a moment’s hesitation, Donald and Saul pitched in to help.
As the garage echoed with the screams of soul death the awakened experimented with their ability to Absorb a single soul fragment during the Devouring of each victim. They found that it required an act of will to squelch wriggling soul fragments from unlife zombies. That some of the zombies carried fragments of their human self untouched within, (sorry I messed this up in game, I’ll change a couple of those fragments in the reserve from zombie to human in type).
They also found that the sense of the force behind these zombies was of different feel or flavor to those behind Isobella’s people, or even Zoe. The sense they got of the force behind. Donald seemed relieved, “so its not the ”/wikis/the-awakened-of-the-volcano" class=“wiki-page-link”> Volcano". If anything the forces or domain presences behind the zombie / spirit parasites seemed unformed, amorphis, nebulous, and dispersed.
While devouring the two victims who had not yet succumbed fully to their spirit parasites Anthony investigated the chance that he could Devour only the parasite as a method of freeing the victim’s soul. He was unsuccessful, devouring both victim and parasite in each case. But he made enough headway to believe the technique might be possible, estimating that it would require successful occult finesse (Intellect + Occult, 4 to 6 successes req) to devour parasite away from victim. I’ll try to write up techniques, but this counts as a partially developed one.
Easy going Donald turned out to be remarkably bad at devouring (high social but very low will). While the others devoured three victims apiece, (Saul gains, second dot shoot, third dot stamina – Anthony gains, third dot wits, third dot stamina), Donald found it very hard to overcome even a zombie’s will (admittedly even dead souls resist devouring with everything they’ve got). When he finally did start ripping soul fragments free forcing a live one to Absorb proved to be a struggle too! A struggle that ended with a fragment beating his will (botch), and wriggling inside his brain…
We end the session with midnight approaching on a night the Lunatic werewolves seem to think is the eve of the apocalypse, with three of our characters standing in a garage full of soul devoured corpses (and one very scared sick man), and Donald being INFECTED.
Actually, as a post session note, I’m gonna say Donald’s earned an exp point in Composure (which should bump him to dot 2) as a role play bonus for the amount of weird shit that happened to the medic this session – remind me bout this next session.
Donald is: Anticipatory at Release Level 0 (no aura, no essence spent), full will (3), uninjured, with three points of zombie instability, 1 point of human instability, and 2 points of vampiric instability.
Evan is: Restive at Release Level 0 (no aura, no essence spent), full will (5), uninjured, with six points of human instability and one point of vampiric instability.
Saul is: Restive at Release Level 0 (no aura, no essence spent), full will (5), uninjured, with two points of vampiric instability, and five points of zombie instabilty (lvl 2).
Thanks for reading :)