Tuesday, 2nd August (still)
11pm, Isobella’s house
Stix relaxes in the living room, watching tv and contemplating the shotgun he’s been asked to carry.
In the Sanctum
They discover that Isobella’s library seems mainly focused on two topics, blood magic (in a hermetic paradigm), and an eclectic mix of geomantic texts (ley lines, feng shui, dragon lines, werewolf caerns, etc). Our trio focus on geomantic stuff, including the detailed maps of One Tree Hill ( Mount Cootha) stuck up on the walls. They read:
That the physical world animistically creates or enlivens spiritual world(s). That at certain locations ( caerns) the separation is ‘thin’ allowing essence (she calls it quintessence) to seep from linked spiritual enclaves into the physical world at that location. Calculations in Isobella’s notes indicate she believes this is due to a pressure dynamic, high essence density enclaves / domains / spirit world into sparse physical world. That most enclaves are shrinking, and that no new enclaves have come into existence for over a thousand years. Side notes suggest that other supernatural entities (inc werewolves and mages) draw most of their power from caerns, unlike vampires who can gain strength from blood.
Additionally there is a lot of research material on Rents which seem to be tears in the fabric of the physical world allowing spiritual essence to drain out into the Void / Oblivion. This seems to be the true front of Isobella’s research, using blood magic rituals to repair or close rents. The only effective method mentioned however seems to be staking a supernaturally powerful person into the rent as a sort of plug. The biggest example studied in the notes is Jesus Christ, (who apparently was or is a vampire), crucified to seal the Golgotha rent. Isobella’s notes indicate Mt Cootha is a rent and have specific calculations on ritual needed to keep it sealed. The characters didn’t manage to penetrate these specifics however.
As a side note the characters found reference to vampires as ‘creatures of Oblivion’, and to practitioners of Obtenebration as ‘Abyss Mystics’. It seems that to perform ritual magic a vampire needs both occult knowledge and a suitable supernatural discipline. Isobella’s, the Tremere, discipline seems to be Thaumaturgy.
Donald particularly focused on searching through for other references to caerns and rents. He found references to the following: Spring Hill, a caern labeled as under control of the ‘Silver Lodge’. Mount Gravatt, a caern labeled ’Dragon’s Nest’. Highgate Hill, marked as a minor rent. The Lamington Mountains Caern, labeled Lunatics and Cernunnous with a question mark and note “original occupants genocided?”. I forgot to mention in game but the map position on Isobella’s notes is vague (calculated from spiritual pressure gradients), but the area marked as possibly containing Laminton Mountain Caern does include location Donald was taken to.
Upstairs the parasytes in both Curtis and Harry make another push to take them over, but with Anthony drawing essence from the Tree to heal them the parasytes fail. The parasyte in Curtis reaches its limit and burns out, the one in Harry looks like it has one last (and strongest) push left in it.
Downstairs the Infected Donald manages the stave off the first (and weakest) take over attempt from the parasyte soul fragment within him as it nestles deeper into his brainstem.
Midnight at the Tree
The characters try to power nap access it. Evan Absorbs one of the zombie fragments, successfully pinning the little wriggler down and gaining some strength without becoming Infected. Donald Ameliorates most of the zombie instability he’s gotten from the fragment currently Infecting him. This destroys the parasyte, meaning he’s found a unique way of beating Infection. Donald, “Phew I was worrying about that”
Wednesday 3rd August
Just after midnight Stix wanders over to Saul and Quentin, “hey a coup means when they overthrow a government doesn’t it?” He shows them the news, which, while still reporting the nuclear detonations on India Pakistan border is now focusing on the overthrow of the British government by an alliance of extreme right wing political groups. In particular the leader of one group is giving interviews claiming that the country’s secret vampire masters have lost control of the old established order, and the takeover is essential to save everyone. It seems many people have been killed in fighting as army units come in on different sides. Comments from the news about the continued ‘puzzling silence’ of various world leaders on both detonations and coup seem a little more pointed. Apparently crowds are gathering outside hubs of political leadership in some countries.
After tuning in an app on Quentin’s phone and having a listen to the news himself Saul decides to fetch the rest of the ammo from Donald’s car, downstairs. He lugs boxes around the other characters (Anthony upstairs first, then the others down in the bunker), “make sure you take extra bullets”. Pretty much everyone puts a handful of extra ammo in each pocket, and Saul puts the remaining ammo in a satchel to keep close at hand. Evan asks after his machete but Donald left it behind, the chainsaw is in the car though so Saul heads back to the garage to get that.
Saul is just lugging the chainsaw up the stairs into the main part of Isobella’s house when the world lurches. Everyone gets the sensation that they’re in a free-falling elevator. Saul feels that the void on which his obtenebration draws is suddenly much closer, that the world is in free fall through it. He suddenly gains the ability to use smothering shadows as if he had is second dot in obtenebration.
In the sick room Isobella turns to Anthony in horrified shock, “Where is the sun!” Anthony, “Isn’t the sun bad for you?” Isobella, “It’s gone. I can’t feel the sun!” Her phone goes off, priority connection, the Prince is yelling down the line with bangs and heavy machine gun fire in background, “Lass, Hugo’s making his move! Get to the hill, we’re tied down here. And watch yourself, I’ve got Blud Oth and baby gangrel crawling up my arse so he’s called in reinforcements from Melbourne.” A larger explosion cuts the connection.
Climbing the stairs Saul hears a heavy security grill thump down over the front door below him. From the security monitors in the kitchen Quentin calls, “Mistress we have intruders.” On the screen a tall asian looking man with extensive piercings, pointed teeth and a long tongue perches atop the streetside wall, holding a wicked looking kukri and grinning at the camera while gangers, cloaked in shadows, flow over the top of the wall around him. It’s Maen Bok!” says Isobella, looking at the screen, and then. “We can’t afford to be stuck here. We’ll break out from the garage.”
She looks at Anthony and Saul, “follow us if you can.” She pulls a stone from her clothing which, to Anthony’s spirit sight, pulses with vampiric power and crushes it in her fist. Vitae flows into her and she immediately spends some of it. The characters feel her vampiric presence go from strong to as powerful as the Prince.
Meanwhile Isobella’s people move quickly, even Curtis, rolling from his sickbed. From one concealed cupboard Abigail hands out body armor, while Quentin distributes uzies from another, (and hoists a go bag onto his back). Abigail hands Anthony the last bullet proof vest. “It was Benjamin’s,” she tells him, “you may as well take it.” Quentin gives the spare uzi to Stix, (who is juggling a shotgun in his other hand). Isobella and her people charge down the stairs toward the garage while Anthony races the other way, into the tunnel that leads to Isobella’s sanctum.
Saul and Stix cover the upstairs hallway from the concealed door while old man Anthony sprints sixty meters down the tunnel, opens the second safe room door, races into the study and tells the other awakened what’s going down.
Anthony grabs a few more occult texts while he’s there. Evan looks around, says something about the place being breached anyway and tears Isobella’s maps from the wall. This starts a looting spree with Belinda and Donald grabbing books as well. Each of them chose to go for geomantic texts rather than Isobella’s texts and notes on blood magic.
By the time the characters get back up into the main house fledgeling vampire gangers (cannon fodder) are climbing in through the windows of the front rooms. Saul throws the chainsaw to Evan and charges down the hallway toward the stairs. Vampire gangers jump him from either side, and the first blast from Saul’s big double barrel shotgun is… less impressive than he might have hoped.
The uzi does a bit better (Saul musta grabbed that off Stix), and as one of the injured gangers tries to grapple Saul at the end of the hallway Donald barges in with a surprisingly solid body check knocking the fledgeling vampire down the stairwell. Anthony leaps after the kid, grabs him while he’s still sprawling, and uses devour to rip fragments from his soul, incapacitating him. Belinda follows, stabbing Anthony’s screaming victim as she passes (to make the devour easier) she goes down ahead.
Upstairs more gangers are climbing in through the bedroom windows, one of them a lieutenant in a sturdy leather jacket. Saul, Stix, Donald, and Evan are bottling up in the hallway between the bedroom doors and the stairwell while they take down their attackers. Someone lets off one of the smaller shotguns, blowing a sizeable hole in one of the attacking ganger vamps (a girl) but catching Donald in the blast as well, (“who did that!”). The gang leader grins and throws a short length of metal tubing into the middle of the characters. Recognising a pipe bomb Evan tries to catch and throw it back, but (botch) the pipe bounces from his reaching hand and hits him in the forehead (single bruised wound) before dropping among the characters’ feet. There is a moment of indrawn breath as the attacking gangers dive back into the bedrooms on either side, but the little bomb doesn’t explode (yet).
Donald, Evan, and Stix pile down the stairs after Belinda and Anthony (who is just finishing devouring his victim). Saul stays long enough to blast the gang lieutenant with the ten gauge shotgun, dropping the kid. The pipe bomb goes off, doing… surprisingly little damage. Even more gangers are climbing in the bedroom windows however, regrouping with their injured mates. Saul jumps down the stairs after his friends.
Downstairs Belinda goes ahead. The hallway leading to the garage is splattered with blood. A severed human arm lies in her path, automatic gunfire and screams echo from the garage itself. She proceeds quickly but cautiously, opening each storeroom door she passes and covering the room with her shotgun. Ganger’s outside pound to get in, but the windows of these ground floor rooms have metal shutters and the rooms are still clear.
The other characters catch up with her as Belinda enters the small L shaped tunnel from house to underground carpark. Carnage greets their eyes. Isobella’s four wheel drive is out of its bay with its nose turned toward the garage’s back wall. The driver side door is open and Quentin lies in a pool of blood, heavily wounded with one leg hacked off at the knee. In the middle of the room Curtis staggers, struggling to raise his uzi with one arm missing. Liam is also down, while Abigail rushes toward Isobella who is backed among the other other cars having just dodged a slash from the kukri of the powerful vampire, Maen Bok.
Nearly depleted of vitae Isobella punches at Maen Bok with enhanced strength. He dodges, and his proximity to Isobella causes Belinda and Donald to hesitate in firing on him (I think I remember that right) as they don’t want to catch Isobella in the blast from their shotguns. Evan pull starts his chainsaw and charges in, but it’s an awkward weapon and very hard to land a blow on a dodging opponent.
With great celerity Maen Bok takes his second action for the round, and whirling hacks Evan’s leg off at the knee (Donald, “he’s been trunkated!”) before stepping through the garage’s supernaturally dense shadows to reemerge behind Curtis.
Back in the downstairs hallway, Saul reaches the garage passage, hotly pursued by four gangers. He slams the sliding door in their face and they pound on it, unable to find the mechanism to open it from the concealed side.
Winning the next round’s initiative (I think I’m going to have to relook at the initiative system), Maen Bok brings his kukri down on Curtis, severing the human body guard’s remaining arm. As Curtis, his arm, and his uzi hit the ground Maen Bok steps through the shadows again, emerging behind Abigail.
“Shot!” Calls Donald, pulling the trigger on his shotgun. Maen Bok dodges, but Abigail takes some stray lead. Belinda moves to snatch up fallen Quentin’s uzi. She empties the clip at Maen Bok, injuring him and putting a couple of bullets into Abigail as well (turns out Abigail is a very tough ghoul, luckily). Dropping the chainsaw Evan sprawls down over the bonnet of one of the cars and brings his shotgun to bear on Maen Bok to good effect. Anthony ducks through the carnage to lay hands on Quentin, Liam, and Curtis, using Scent of Life to bring each man back from the brink of death.
Back at the other end Saul nods to Stix, who, being a normal, (non-malevolent) human had been cowering toward the back. Stix slides open the door and Saul lets the ganger’s who’d been pounding it have both barrels from his ten gauge. Stix then follows that with a wild spray from his uzi, emptying his whole clip. The two gangers banging on the door are cut down, as well as another behind them. The ganger halfway along the hallway staggers, almost down. He turns to flee and his mates at the bottom of the stairs crowd back up in fear.
In the garage Abigail leaps back from Maen Bok and empties the whole clip from her uzi into the powerful vampire, and (miraculously) he goes down! (five levels of damage after soak).
While Isobella and Abigail look at the others in exhausted shock Anthony runs for Maen Bok’s body and begins the Devouring process before he can heal. Even blasted into unconsciousness however the shadow worker proves very resistant (the same reason Isobella wasn’t using Thaumaturgy on him before). It is not until Belinda, Donald, and then Evan rush to join in the efforts that they manage to start breaking down Maen Bok’s soul.
A veritable flood of soul fragments result, including both Obtenebration and strange (also wriggling) Vicissitude pieces, as well of fragments of abyss mysticism rituals (occult knowledge). The characters take turns in absorbing choice picks. With Donald gaining his first dot in Potence, and Evan in Obtenebration (did Belinda and Anthony gain here?).
Back at the entrance to the house Saul drags in the fallen ganger fledglings before slamming shut the door. More devouring follows, Saul gains his second dot of dexterity and second dot of Obtenebration, while Donald gains his first and second dot of intimidation. (I’m definitely missing some people’s gains I think).
Isobella staggers over while they’re still finishing their first victim. She points at one of the (undevoured) gangers, “Can I have that?” When Saul nods she lifts the unconscious vampire (she’s still supernaturally strong) and bites savagely into its neck, drinking it dry. Looking a little better she goes back to her people and promptly feeds her ghouls most of the blood she just gained so they can heal, (well, all except Curtis, as a human Curtis is just screwed – although I think Anthony may have done a little more healing here as well?)
When the devouring is done done Saul robs the lifeless bodies, getting about three hundred dollars in cash and a pipe bomb (which I think he left behind?). He also takes a nice heavy duty leather jacket from one of the corpses, which has the gang’s burning knives symbol emblazoned on it. One legged Evan claims Maen Bok’s kukri.
2:30am, the Road to Mount Cootha
Amazingly everyone has survived. Isobella says that she has to get to One Tree Hill. Evan suggests that they should clean out the house since the police are likely to arrive in response to gunshots etc. Isobella is dismissive, “the prince will sort that out”, reiterating that she must get to One Tree Hill, “everything else is a distraction.”
Still heavily injured (and maimed) Curtis and Quentin are loaded into a different car along with Liam who Isobella orders to drive them to safety. Isobella asks the characters will help her, saying that what she has to do is very dangerous but very important (she’s not terribly coherent at this point though). The characters agree. The uzis are reloaded and redistributed to Belinda, Anthony, Donald, and Stix . Although I think Stix (who just gained his first dot in shoot) was going into the car with the injured to get to safety?… Anyways, the upshot is that Isobella, Abigail, Anthony, Belinda, Evan, and Saul all pile into the four wheel drive.
The back wall of the garage opens revealing an escape tunnel through the ridge, which Isobella drives down. Emerging into the (remarkably orderly and undisturbed) suburbs a couple of blocks from her house, she turns toward Mount Cootha.
The normal stars are missing from the sky above and the red stars have become streaks. On the radio the news is talking about the “unexpected eclipse” which seems to have made the sun disappear over on the other side of the world. The news is also still talking about the coup, the political paralysis, and the nuclear explosions, etc. Isobella seems to be thinking hard. She swears when she sees thin lines of glowing aurora hanging in the air above the city, curving around Mount Cootha and into a spiral out to the east, over the bay.
She gives somewhat distracted answers to the character’s questions, probably getting across that it is her duty to keep a rent on One Tree Hill closed and possibly mentioning the name Ulyana Olah or “the ancient one” whose living sacrifice is currently holding it shut. She definitely should not have referred to the rent as a portal sorry, that was just me getting confused by cross talk of warrens and steven erikson stuff.
Turning onto waterworks road Isobella seems to come to a decision, “fuck it!” she mutters, swinging into a servo. She gets out and strides inside. Through the glass the characters see her point at the cashier who goes slack jawed as if hypnotized. He comes out from behind the security screened counter and Isobella lifts him by the neck, biting into him and draining him dry.
While this is happening a car pulls up at the pumps and a dude gets out and starts opening his fuel tank etc. Saul slips out of the car and approaches the fellow. Just when you think he might be warning the dude away Saul shoves his sawn off double barrel shotgun into the dude’s guts, “get inside.” Saul herds the fellow into the servo, where Isobella thanks him with a somewhat sad smile before draining the dude dry as well. She wipes her lips daintily when she’s done, looking much healthier. They leave two pallid corpses sprawled between the racks of chips and magazines and return to the car where Isobella uses her silver knife to open a vein and feed Abigail. When that is done they all set off once more
Meanwhile Anthony, Belinda, Donald, and Evan take a little nap, willing themselves to sleep (apparently) so that they can visit the Tree. Anthony releases his twenty point stack of malevolence (from lots of healing done) and absorbs a soul fragment to gain his third dot in strength. Belinda absorbs a fragment to gain her second dot in brawl, while Evan absorbs a zombie fragment to gain his third dot in brawl (successfully crushing life from it with his will). Anthony methodically crushes most of the other zombie fragments to kill and convert them to raw essence, discovering a couple hiding among the tree roots trying to merge together. I also forgot to mention that the vampiric vicissitude fragments are also alive… Evan, after some consideration of a wooden peg leg, and still saying he’s worried that Isobella might notice they’re different from vampires, spends five raw essence to regenerate his leg, (can only be done while at the Tree).
3am, One Tree Hill Spirit world
As they draw closer to mount Cootha Isobella’s stress seems to rise again, they pass the planetarium and start climbing the hill, then Isobella turns into a side road. They pass over a ward and the gravel track seems to stretch and waver unnaturally through dead and twisted trees, spiraling down into a valley that is not on the maps. Isobella is swearing constantly now and muttering things like, “It’s inverted!” and “She must be awake!”
At the Tree Anthony, Belinda, Donald, and Evan suddenly get the sensation that their bodies have leapt further away, from the physical into a different spirit realm. They will themselves awake, coming to in the back of the car just as Isobella’s headlights (which are flickering and unnaturally weak in the pressing darkness) reveal the bone gleam of a fallen tree across the track ahead.
here we end our session.
The Tree has grown 17/30th the way to level Three. It has a fair bit of essence and fragments inside.
Anthony is restive and unwounded, with one malevolence and eight total instability, and has used two will.
Belinda is calm, unwounded, has five total instability, two malevolence, and one aura.
Donald is anticipatory, lightly bruised, has eight total instability.
Evan is anticipatory, lightly bruised, with fourteen total instability.
Saul is rash, unwounded with nine instability and three will spent.
Thanks for reading :)