Sunrise, Day Two
At the Tree
Evan heads to bed, dreaming of the Tree as normal, and meeting the dreaming forms of Anthony and Belinda there who are assimilating essence to gain Seeds of Life and Scent of Life aspect powers respectivly (Belinda is also ameliorating down a little vampiric essence).
But access to new powers is not the only consequence of the Trees growth breakthrough. They Tree is now a physical space, a pocket plane, and they notice Saul at the Tree in his actual body. He’s wandering in an afk daze, but actually physically at the Tree.
Belinda, Evan, and Anthony decide to bite the bullet. They sacrifice the celerity they’ve acquired from their souls into the Tree itself to initiate its adaption process. The Tree shivers and quickens, seeming to become slimmer, more lithe with more movement in the interplay of shade and branches. Uptake is quite successful, when the initial sacrifice is done the adaption process is five sixths complete. Only four experience points failed to convert, decaying to raw essence instead.
Anthony and Belinda wake.
Anthony immediately sits to concentrate on creating his first two cintamani, materializing one which is empty and small, like a dried lentil and then another with one point of aura invested inside, looking more like a shriveled pea.
Belinda goes out into the crisp morning air to see if she can pop up the fence before the day gets uncomfortably bright, (her vampiric taint at level two). The Black Sun rises above the rooftops in the east while she works, with the red moon hanging, now more than halfway down toward the western horizon, shadow once again creeping across its face. Repair attempts… don’t go so well. More of the fence is down, and there is a rotting arm sticking out of the earth under the palm tree tangled in barbed wire now. Belinda goes inside.
Dusting dirt from her knees she answers a knock at the front door. Garry Choi and some of the more active folk from across the road have come over. He explains that the samaritan house has run out of water and they’re planning on make that run on a grocery store that he was discussing with Charlotte yesterday. He asks if they’d like to come along.
Being the only active character who can currently go out during the day without burning to death Belinda tries to persuade Garry to head out later on… after dark, “We’d attract less attention at night”. Garry seems dubious. He’s heard rumors that its more dangerous at night, that there are things out there that are faster in the dark… He doesn’t think he could persuade anyone to go out at night.
In fact he asks them again if they’ve heard of any evacuation centers opening, or of places they should be heading to. “It seems weirdly calm in our neighborhood but I’m hearing its real bad out there.” He sounds Belinda out about if she’d mind if they posted some at either end of the street to keep watch for trouble. Belinda indicates she doesn’t mind, but that the people from her house probably wouldn’t take turns themselves. Wandering past Anthony suggests the lookouts atop the roofs of the houses at the ends of the street just in case something happens. Garry seems like he takes that as a sensible suggestion.
The scavenger party heads out in a several vehicle convoy. Belinda and Anthony go have breakfast.
A couple of hours later the convoy comes back. Hearing urgent shouts and the banging of doors Belinda goes over, discovers one of the men was injured – “a shambling bastard was lurking in the cold room” “was on him before we could react” “had to really hurt the dude to get him off”. Its clear the injured man’s been bitten fairly severely in the face and neck. She tells the survivors to carry him to her house.
She convinces them without really telling them much, just sort of intimating she’s got medical supplies or a medically trained person over there. They carry the man into the (now clean) living room, laying him down in the same place on her hardwood floor where Belinda herself bled to death long ago. She then makes some attempts to persuade the rest of the folk to leave, privacy, room to work, but they’re boofy and excitable still. There are too many people wanting be helpful, heating water and fetching towels and offering their own opinions etc, for Belinda to shoo them all out the door.
Anthony lays hands on the bitten man. Spirit Sense makes Anthony sure that a zombie spiritual parasite has taken root in the man’s soul. Drawing a little essence from the Tree Anthony uses Scent of Life to heal the wounds and clear the earliest stage of infection.
He tries to do this discretely, his hat is covering his hair and bandaging in advance of the effects of Scent of Life. But the deception fails. The samaritan house folk are happily amazed to see magical healing, but perhaps not as shocked as may have been expected. Garry pretty much lets slip that there’s rumors among the people in the samaritan house that the people from Belinda’s house are… different, “I mean you guys are heading out at night with no worries…” Even the appearance of heavily armed Evan, woken by the commotion, isn’t enough to phase them.
The injured man breathes easier, seemingly healed. But Anthony knows from his experiences in Isobella’s house that the battle against the parasite has just begun. They persuade the man to stay with them for more treatment throughout the day.
Two hours later the parasite makes its first (and weakest) surge attempt to take over the man’s soul. The injured man doesn’t seem to be able to muster much will to resist, Anthony clears the infection’s progress with Scent of Life.
At the four and six hour mark the man’s resistance is ok (for a human) but the growing strength of the parasite’s surges mean Anthony has to draw strongly on the Tree to use Scent of Life. He conserves effort a bit, no longer clearing the infection progress completely between surges. Evan and Belinda nap to visit the Tree to break down some of the most disposable soul fragments there and make more raw essence available.
The day drags on. The sun chases the moon through the sky, slowly catching up, even as the moon wanes to a crescent.
Against the eight hour surge the man fails to resist at all. Of course its the strongest surge yet. The parasite keeps getting more and more forceful even as it gets closer to burning out. Antony has to channel more raw essence into aura for Scent of Life than is available, just to keep the man from turning. A random soul fragment breaks down in answer to his need as Anthony pushes the infection’s progress back just enough to keep the man from the brink.
At this point the Tree’s reserves are looking shallower than they’ve been in a long time. Evan sounds Anthony and Belinda out about maybe just letting the man take his chances alone against the remaining two expected surges. Anthony however is confident, both that the man would lose to the parasite without help, and that he can get the man through. He assures Even that its ok to spend this much of the Tree’s reserve. Once more the characters nap, making some harder choices now about which fragments to break down to ensure they’ve got enough raw essence to make it through.
The tenth hour surge hits. The man, who’s unconscious at this point, completely fails to resist. Anthony heals him back to the brink.
The moon sets, dropping below the horizon with the sun only an hour or two behind it.
At the twelfth hour the parasite makes its final and strongest surge for control. Again the man fails to resist at all. Anthony calmly spends the eleven points of effort needed to hold him back from the brink of turning with scent of life.
Pushed beyond its limits the parasite dies in that last paroxysm of effort. Anthony leaves the man unconscious on infection progress 9/10, which now represents general illness type damage that will heal with rest. In the early evening gloom they transfer the man back to samaritan house. His kid is ecstatic and the other members of the survivor colony are heavily impressed. Expressions of thanks and friendship, invitations to dinner, offers of help in the future etc abound.
Finally extracting themselves from the thanks of the folk across the road the characters regroup in Belinda’s house a couple of hours after dark. For them this is the start of their wakeful period.
Considering the information Quentin gave them about people and places from before the apocalypse, they decide to go check out the Prince’s guest suite and offices in the CBD before heading across the river to Isobella’s storage unit in woolloongabba. Anthony seems to think that shouldn’t be too big a trip, “forty minute drive”, but Evan isn’t so sure stressing the amount of damage and potential difficulties they might encounter.
The armored sedan from elysium is their vehicle of choice. It’s tank isn’t quite full so they pour in one of the ten liter tins of fuel. Evan decides not to take the bow and arrows this time, but grabs a couple of boxes of spare ammo for his shotgun. He also makes sure his chainsaw goes into the car.
Belinda jumps in the driver’s seat and they pull out. Once again the contrast between the calm normality immediately around their home and the slight, hackle raising anticipation of menace in the streets beyond strikes their senses. The sense that there are creatures out there in the darkness that they might conflict with, that any ordinary humans must be hiding away, cowering through the night.
Leaving bardon they take the road that runs the ridge line of paddinton. Its very dark without the moon. The red, gold, and blue stars above are clearer, but far less numerous than the old silvery stars of the milky way. Storm debris, earthquake damage, and the occasional abandoned car revealed by their headlights mean they drive slowly with their windows down. Its quiet, but there is some evidence here of human activity. Some larger obstructions have been dragged off the road in places, and there are tire tracks through the leaf litter that covers the bitumen etc.
Heading down through the restaurant area of paddington it feels more deserted. A southerly breeze brings the smell of mud and rot from rosalie and the river. Their road ends. The bridge over the inner city bypass that links paddinton to caxton street has collapsed. Belinda puts the sedan in reverse, takes them back and then down the on ramp to the inner city bypass. But the bypass is blocked by an abandoned traffic jam, vehicles in disarray up and over the hill. As Belinda reverses again Evan spots a tanker truck, but it would take a lot of work to get it out from among cars and other trucks. He makes a note for later retrieval.
Belinda takes them down the other way, toward the river and coronation drive. The stadium looms large in the night, as does the brewery, but the roads are blocked by debris and many of the buildings are down. This is more than storm damage, more even than flood damage, it looks like old news reports of the aftermath of a tsunami. The water has retreated, but there’s mud everywhere and the washed up remains of roofs, walls, and vehicles stink of rotting flesh. Even a four wheel drive would have difficulty crossing the debris field left behind by the flood, or tsunami, or whatever has happened along the river’s edge.
They sit at idling for a little while with the wreckage in their headlights and consider the possibilities. Anthony is still keen to at least get into the city. Evan is sure it’ll be impassable. They decide to go back up the paddinton ridge line, cut north across red hill and then around kelvin grove and down into herston and past the rbh on the road which is on the opposite side of the creek line from the inner city bypass. Once more Belinda turns their car and they’re on the way.
The roads over red hill are similar to paddinton, quiet with storm debris, minor earthquake damage , and the sense that any humans out there are hunkering down hiding from the menace lurking in the dark.
Driving on the road around and behind the hill of kelvin grove the characters hear someone out in the darkness scream. It’s a very familiar type of scream, the particular sound a person makes as their soul is devoured.
Belinda stops the car and as they all pile out she raises aura and activates Mind’s Reach so that they can gain the benefits of shared perception. More normal sounding shrieks and crys of “stay away” draw the characters to the down hill side of the road. Evan leads the way past the side of an apartment block with both long knives drawn. The characters are moving quickly but quietly. Anthony has raised spirit sight and is aware of shambling figures converging through neighbouring yards toward the sound of that scream as well.
From the back of the apartment block the characters can see down over a low retaining wall into the property that fronts the street below. In the darkness among the stumps of an old queenslander a cluster of zombies feast on a fresh human corpse. A girl clambers higher on the roof of a car staving off another zombie with a broom as she lets out more normal sounding shrieks.
Belinda is the first down over the wall. She unslings her uzi, firing a short burst at the head of the closest eating zombie as she runs across the lawn, under an old hills hoist clothesline. Her target falls, brains exploding. Stray bullets riddle the bodies of zombies around it to little effect.
Evan leaps further, sprints ahead as the zombies rise, red handed, to meet this interruption to their grisly feast. His first cut is unlucky and the closest zombie, dressed in a business suit, gets a hold of him.
Anthony charges to the side to intercept one of the new zombies closing in. He wields his police baton, and, as advised, aims for the head.
The feasting zombies close on Evan, after another unlucky blow, an infected student grabs him from the side. He’s having to use his strength to try and break free, and pumping dexterity to squirm and dodge each zombie’s bites. One finally gets its teeth into him however. It’s more than a physical wound. Evan feels a drag on his soul (successfully resisted) as the zombie tries to Devour him alive.
Belinda closes with the other feasting zombies, switching to her hand gun, steadily dropping zombies with headshots as she draws the bloody cluster off of Evan.
The girl on the car is still pushing with her broomstick at the zombie clambering up after her, “In the head!” Belinda calls, “Stab it in the head”.
Anthony finishes his zombie, but there are more shambling in from neighbouring yards toward the underhouse area, attracted by the noise. Raising aura he sprints toward the cluster, belting one of the one’s grappling Evan from behind.
Evan shrugs free of the zombies hanging off him. Dancing between their grab attempts he decapitates the zombie on his right with his kukri, and cleaves into the one on his left, a blow so mighty it sends this zombie’s head flying two and carries on to split the skull of the one next to it.
Working her way to the girl on the car rooftop Belinda switches to her knife to minimise noise. But it deflects off the skull of the reaching zombie and she looses it in the dark. She switches back to her handgun, but that jams. The girl gets grabbed but manages to kick her attacker free.
Anthony smashes with his baton, cracking the head of the last remaining red handed zombie. It’s the ones drawn by the screaming that close in on them now. The characters retreat to either side of the car, splitting their attackers and thus defeating them fairly easily.
The yard is strewn with bodies, the girl gibbers and cries about her friend who was killed, something about how they’d only been trying to dash home. To Antony’s Spirit Sight the Devoured corpse is deader than dead, no trace of her soul remains. The grey tattered souls of the zombies steam from broken corpses, brighter human fragments shine in their bellys.
Anthony calls to the other two awakened to take the surviving girl up to the car while he settles down to recover what essence he can from zombie remains. Its surprisingly hard at first, he looses a couple, but soon the mouths of the infected corpses are opening. The familiar screams of tearing souls echos into the kelvin grove night.
That’s were we left it for this session.
Thanks for reading :)