All posts by Stephen

Legacy, Session #4

Our heroes and Nikolai make there way to a sewer entrance and enter the labyrinthine network of tunnels running under Chicago. They hope to find the technocrat that has been hounding Nikolai and rescue the rat – Keta – whom they have learned is in actuality a wererat. It takes some coaxing and some lucky guesses, but the gun that Kenny has befriended manages to continuously point them in the right direction to find the technocratic lair. Gia, however, notes with increasing worry that the swarms of rats inhabiting these lightless tunnels seem to be following them. It’s disconcerting enough that both Lily and Gia capture rats and reach into their minds to see if something is afoot.

Something is afoot…and it’s madness! A frantic, churning beat pulses through the minds of the rats, linking the entire swarm together. Lily and Gia are drawn in, unable to pull themselves away from the chaotic rhythm. And through this unnatural connection, Gia senses something else – something more clever and full of malice than these rats. And they’re getting closer.

Finally able to free her consciousness from the hive mind (mostly), Gia peers through stone barriers with her Ethergoggles and spots not fewer than seven powerfully built humans closing in on the group from all angles.  Gia searches for an exit, but they’ve been cornered – too far from any manhole to reach the safety of the surface. As the assailants approach, they are preceded by music – a distinct chorus of baseball bats and tire irons clinking against walls and ceilings in unnerving harmony. Even as worried as they are, the group has the wherewithal to notice that the melody seems incomplete – missing beats from time to time. Perhaps Keta is the missing member?

But there’s no time to fully consider the situation. Hulking wererats round corners and the group has no escape. They’ve identified the weakest one, but even if they can force their way through, the other rats will be on them in seconds.

“Go,” says Nikolai, gravely. “They will not hurt me. Rescue Keta, put her somewhere safe, and then come find me. Go, now!”

With few other options presenting themselves, the group of mages turns on the smallest wererat – wearing a ragged tanktop and wielding an aluminum baseball bat threateningly. Silver – it occurs to Kenny – is supposed to be deadly to werewolves. Would the same be true of their rodent cousins? Kenny commands the bullets in his gun to become silver and then fires. Somewhat to her surprise, the wererat does indeed recoil violently. Beating a hasty retreat it shifts back into a rat and disappears among the thronging mass around their feet. They run – their escape following by a terrible roaring behind them.

Eventually they find their way to an old steel door and move through it. Flicking on the lights, they find a hallways that hasn’t been maintained in decades, but seems to have been used recently. Moving further in, the find a broken down security station with records tracking the coming and going of personnel and supplies. The last entry appears to have been from the 1940’s. They then move into a lobby with three doors leading to Storage, Operations, and Personnel. At the gun’s suggestion, Kenny calls out for Agent Mitchell. His call is answered by thudding footsteps approaching from Storage – footsteps accompanied by the unmistakable sounds of an automaton. The gun tells them not to worry – that’s just MurderBot, coming to make sure they aren’t deviant mages of some kind. Kenny thinks that’s fine. Gia points out that the group is in fact made up of deviant mages and so things will likely not be fine. To buy time, Kenny asks the hallway leading to Storage to please become sealed and it does so.

The group goes to Operations for answers. What they discover is that this abandoned installation used to be a supply station for a space station referred to as the Playpen, somewhere out beyond Neptune. Whether it still exists or not is unclear – once again records haven’t been logged in decades. Kenny awakens one of the computer terminals and the other two helpfully provide more power, for which the computer is extremely grateful. It informs them that the installation currently has two very defective and dangerous robots in it – referred to by station staff as MurderBot and LoveBot. LoveBot is psychotic – an unsympathetic killer. MurderBot on the other hand was put in storage when it failed to killed deviant mages – apparently taking pity when it learned that one of the mage’s had a small child.

The group returns to confront MurderBot – with Lily taking point and mustering as much teenage adorableness as possible. MurderBot lived up to his reputation, becoming immediately protective of her and the group. It let them pass, bringing its considerable armaments to bear on the entrance in case wererats came through. It also offered Lily a lolly pop that it produced from inside its cracked chassis.

The group then moved down to Storage – finding themselves on a catwalk overlooking a massive chamber with rows upon rows of shelves. Gia’s goggles were able to make out the faint readings of both Keta and Ruth – the Tradition gunslinger from the police station – but no sign of Agent Mitchell or LoveBot. The group moved into the chamber cautiously…

Legacy, Session #3

As Gia does what she can to help the injured policemen and Lily keeps an eye on the police captain, Kenny takes Shanna up to the roof to look for the Man in Black and Shanna’s companion, Ruth. Unfortunately, neither of them are there and from the roof they can see an encroaching army of news media, including a couple helicopters. Kenny and Shanna duck back inside.

The four mages head downstairs and slip out the back entrance and make for Emma’s apartment. On the way, they talk to Shanna. She and Ruth are Celestial Chorus and were sent here by the Council to retrieve Emma’s body. Shanna tells the group that long ago, Emma was a fairly big deal in the Traditions, but things happened and she went her own way. The Council respected her wish for privacy, but was also aware that her work had filled her body with dangerous energy and that when she eventually died, that would need to be dealt with. Shanna and Ruth were to bring her back to their Chantry in Iowa for a proper burial. But things are not going to plan.

With Ruth missing, Shanna is rather embarrassingly helpless. She has a bag containing an assortment of religious paraphernalia. She does not have a wallet, phone, etc. This was supposed to be a quick operation and Ruth is the one who normally takes care of ‘practical things.’ Lily is disgusted by the thought of a 20 year-old without a phone.

At this point, they get a message from Max, who was helping track down the ‘N’ from the police captain’s phone:

Nikolai Potenski

3140 S Canal St

Owns the Red Steak restaurant

N and the captain are in touch about twice a month.

 

The four of them spend the night at Emma’s – its built in protective enchantments outweighing the morbidity of the blood stains on the walls. The next morning they all have breakfast and ask Shanna a bit more about the Council’s involvement. Kenny also awakens the two guns (Ruth’s and the MiB’s) and finds out a little about them. After that, they set off to the lawyer’s to find out more about what Emma’s actual wishes are. Shanna stays behind to try to contact Ruth. On the way they text Max to ask him what the will said before he modified it, but he strangely doesn’t get back to them super-fast.

To find out more from Arron Johnson, Gia uses her powers of mental manipulation to change her own brain into that of Jane Smith, fictional professional security expert. She’s there to look into any breach’s in Mr. Johnson’s security and he’s happy for the help. While investigating his vault, Gia also taps into his mind to better retrieve his fading memories.

Emma had the will drawn up many years ago, shortly after Kenny went his own way. Since then, she had it changed only twice, to include Gia and then Lily. The original didn’t have the part about her grandson Max (surprisingly). It instead said, “If you’re reading this then I will already have made arrangements to have had by body cremated. There are reasons it is important that my remains are undisturbed and I trust that you three will make sure they are protected. Thank you for being my friends and for giving me hope that I am leaving the world a better place than when I got here.”

They text Max to let him know that they know and conveniently at that moment get just those words from Max, along with his regrets that that message didn’t send an hour ago, when he told it to (uh huh…). Kenny has his phone break into Max’s computer and overwrites old-lady faces onto everyone’s head in Max’s porn collection.

The three of them decide to check out the Red Steak and discover it to be a fairly good steak house with a soup kitchen for the homeless in the back. Both are run by Nikolai, who is a massive Russian man in an ill-fitting t-shirt and a faded Cubs cap. While they’re eating, Lily sneaks off to investigate the place. She unlocks the upstairs to find Nikolai’s living space, a cozy loft filled with occult books and objects, mostly Russian. Overall it has a fairly positive energy. Lily swipes an ushenka that makes the wearer feel pointedly upbeat, even in the most inclement of weather. She then unlocks the basement and finds a fairly terrifying space, with cots along the wall and a medical table in the center, featuring very serious looking restraints. There’s also a small bathroom and a number of locked cabinets. Lily gets the hell out of there.

After their meal, the three of them talk to Nikolai under the pretext of wanting to volunteer for the soup kitchen. Gia does a small amount of discrete brain-probing during that to establish that Nikolai does know Susie and has a very protective sense towards her. Gia also learns that Nikolai has a very stubborn mind that is hard to probe.

They wait until the shop closes for the afternoon and then confront Nikolai about Susie directly. Nikolai tells them a lot and the four of them come to a deal:

A couple months ago, Nikolai became the target of what sounds like the Men in Black. They apparently came for him in force and he somehow drove them away. Since then, the one in charge has been harassing Nikolai and trying to draw him out. As a part of that, two of Nikolai’s friends have been killed and he’s pretty pissed about that. Now they’re after Susie, but unable to get to her directly, they’ve kidnapped Susie’s pet rat, who it turns out is a wererat. Susie is a troubled young woman and is basically inconsolable without that rat. Nikolai could lead the group to Susie to ask about the whole corpse-stealing thing, but he’s pretty sure they won’t get anything out of her without the rat. So, if the mages can get the rat back, Nikolai will show them to Susie. No problem, right?

To find them, Kenny starts talking to the technocrat’s gun again and because he’s some sort of gun-whisperer, he gets the thing to do its best to describe how to get back to the technocratic base. It’s apparently under a nearby park, in the sewers, and it has what the gun casually refers to as ‘guard beasts.’ This may not be easy.

Wendigo’s Rift

A little bit of background. This was a one-shot I ran over Christmas break in 2015. It was my first test of the random character creator I made – meaning that all of these characters had their stats and a couple personality traits created at random and then the players built a character out of that. It was lovely.

 

In an average home in the suburbs of Saskatoon, Canada, Chloe sat alone in front of her computer, her tapping and clicking becoming ever more frustrated. Chloe was a bit of an oddity. Her husband, Henry, had passed away a few years ago and her son – a struggling journalist – had bought her a computer to help her cope. She had attempted to strengthen her connection with Henry Jr by getting more interested in games and the internet. In time she found League of Legends and became hooked. Now 58, Chloe played League constantly and was – quite frankly – a badass at it, crushing her way up to Challenger, leaving a trail of broken teenagers in her wake. About a year ago, her passion for the game had led to an Awakening, a game of nearly divine inspiration that had transported her body and soul into the match. After that victory, the boundaries between the game and reality had become rather muddied and Chloe didn’t mind one bit. Little did she know that her passion had punched a hole through the Gauntlet and into the Digital Web itself and the communal passion of the League community, transforming her house into and extremely powerful mystic Node. Unfortunately for her, others took note and didn’t think taking it from a woman in her late 50’s would be much trouble.

It was. Chloe used a combination of physical talent and her connection to the Digital Web to put up a damn good fight and when finally she seemed overwhelmed, teammates came to her aid. Inspired by her purity of purpose, a Euthanatos cabal allied with her to defend her home. Traveling with them was Mia, an Awakened violinist the Euthanatos had picked up on their travels. Mia had a knack for cultivating magical spaces and when the fight was won, she set to work shielding the house from prying eyes and developing it as a powerful Tradition sanctum. Chloe and Mia became housemates and the Euthanatos were able to use the sanctum as a base of operations for their efforts throughout Canada. Mia cultivated the magical energy while Chloe mostly kept to herself. The only thing Chloe really asked for in return for sharing her space was that she be generally undisturbed and that nothing mess with her internet connection.

But there it was again – a slight delay in her skillshot. Lag. Fucking lag. Which might not have been the worst thing in the world if Tryndamere wasn’t killing her base single handedly while god-damned Riven chased Udyr through the jungle again for No. God. Damned. REASON. Fucking FUCK!

Downstairs, unbeknownst to an increasingly apoplectic Chloe, there had been a knock on the door. Mia answered, to discover a pleasant man who seemed the very embodiment of business casual. “Hi, I’m Landon. Can we talk?”

Mia was suspicious. They didn’t get visitors. “We can outside.”

Landon looked slightly sheepish, “I’m from the Akashic Brotherhood and I think you’re in danger.”

Mia let him in.

Landon however, was not from the Akashic Brotherhood. He wasn’t a tradition mage at all. And actually, he wasn’t really himself on that particular day. Or, put another way, he was usually someone else. A few years ago, Landon’s life as average joe business man had been threatened by a subtle Awakening. His shifting view of reality caused him to seek professional help. The shrink assured him that he was merely experiencing stress from work and fixed this stress using hypnotic therapy. His therapist – as it turned out – was also a werecat. A werecat with an agenda. Centuries ago, the Wendigo werewolves had driven the Bastet from their den-realms in the north, greedily stealing resources to help them in their own war against the Wyrmbringers from the west. Powerful seals had been put in place, cutting off the cats from their totems and magic. The location of the seal had been completely barred off from their kind. Some of the Bastet had scattered, intent on finding new places of power.  But some had merely retreated into America to bide their time until they could find a champion to unseal their magic for them. A powerful and confused willworker fit that bill nicely. The Bastet used hypnosis and spirit Gifts to hide Landon’s nature from him, while building a second personality within him – a powerful blood mage loyal to the Bastet. Part way through Landon’s training, the Bastet learned that the Wendigo had found a new powerful Caern and were about to claim it. With that power, the Bastet would lose any hope of breaking the seals. Half-trained, Landon’s second personality was activated and he was dispatched.

Landon knew only a part of that and of that part, he shared only a part with Mia. Werewolves nearby. Something should be done. Mia went to get Chloe to discover her agitated by both the lag and her loss. Together they went into the basement to investigate the node and found it normal as ever, a beautiful pool of energy connected to the house’s power lines. But regardless of the node’s health, something was very wrong indeed. None of their phones had a connection. And when they tried to leave, the door would not budge. This would not do at all.

At this point, the door to the hallway bathroom filled with a blinding light and a man came stumbling through. Haggard and heavily armed, he found himself looking down the barrel of Chloe’s pistol – Henry – and a modified squirt gun – Henry Jr. The man – Nolan – was surprised, but not overly so, given the last few years of his life.

Nolan, you see, was a Void Engineer. As a combat specialist working for that adventurous branch of the Technocratic Union, Nolan had been dispatched to investigate the Digital Web when it was just beginning to form itself from the swirling energies of the Void. Things had not gone as planned and Nolan had found himself trapped in a realm of video games made real. His body had atrophied while his reflexes became incredibly sharp – the only things saving him from over-the-top gory annihilation day after day. For years he had searched for a way back to earth and finally he had found one. But the door was being sealed by alien spiders and he would need help to overcome them.

Not realizing that these people were deviant Council mages, Nolan introduced himself as a Void Engineer and fortunately for him, Chloe mistakenly remembered the Void Engineers as a part of her own Virtual Adepts. An alliance was formed then and there – an alliance built on a variety of deceits.

Deceits or not, the group’s common cause was real enough. Nolan lead them back through the door into the spirit world to show them their otherworldly assailants. On the other side, the inside of their home was quite different – a beautiful wide-open area reflecting Mia’s style and sensibilities. The center of the house had a powerful beam of radiant energy extending ever-upward into the clouds. The only trace of Chloe’s influence was a high-tech desk with several monitors immediately adjacent to the node.

The mages were different as well, aspects of themselves expressing more strongly in the spirit world. Mia’s violin was tinged with traces of the digital web, featuring glowing edges and an energy bow. The custom watch that Landon used to draw blood had become and entire glove and – to everyone’s confusion – he had cat ears. Chloe looked generally like herself, although Henry Jr crackled with power. Nolan looked unchanged – this was his existence.

It became immediately clear that they were under assault. Spiders as big as them raced along the outside of the house, incasing it in increasingly thick webbing. They would need to be stopped. Opening the door in the spirit world proved possible, but presented them with a nearly impenetrable barrier of silk. Landon – eager to prove his value – had been trained by the Bastet specifically in destroying magical barriers. All it took was a little blood. Pricking his hand, Landon rubbed his bloody palm across the webbing and it tore away like so much cotton candy. The spiders responded quickly, surrounding the hole and daring any mage to emerge into their waiting pincers.

Mia, however, could investigate just fine without daring that gauntlet. Closing her eyes, she began a concerto, a beautiful melody that carried her spirit beyond the boundaries of her home…and took her body with it. Opening her eyes on a roof across the street she saw clearly the group of spiders, as well as a vicious werewolf with a very intimidating sword watching the events unfold from just down the street. Another quick tune and Mia returned to her friends to tell them the news.

To fight an army of spiders, the mages would need an army of their own. Chloe turned to the node and confidently started the game she knew all too well. Her twisted understanding of the situation resonated through the node and called out to the nearby spirit world, enticing spirits of all kinds to come fight for her and earn a feast of quintessence. They answered the call, spirits of wind and rain and fashion and technology. But when each of them entered the node, they were transformed into the homogenous army Chloe needed. Minions.

The spirits marched out to meet the spiders and a fight ensued. The minions weren’t much of a match for the spiders, but they provided sufficient distraction for Nolan and Chloe to unleash a torrent of bullets from their various weapons, tearing two of the spiders to pieces and forcing the rest to retreat. Minions continued to push past the doorway and the werewolf leapt to confront them – dicing them with ease. It rushed the doorway and was hidden by a gust of snow-laden wind. The mass of fury and fangs slipped invisibly through the door, but not undetected by Mia, who never needed sight to understand her surroundings. Realizing almost too late that the spider’s webs had hindered many of the chantry’s defenses, she quickly played a melody that reinvigorated the gongs guarding the doorway. They went off, staggering the werewolf and revealing him briefly. Chloe let loose a blast of energy from Henry Jr., further disabling the rampaging monster. Landon, who had spent this time bathing in energy from the node, unleashed a powerful blast that caught their enemy full on an in an instant destroyed him, leaving only the werewolf’s sword wobbling slightly where it was jammed into the flooring.

The group was relieved and elated, but also wowed by the efficacy of Landon’s attack. As well they should have been, for werewolves are far from easy to kill. They could not know that for years the Bastet had been filling his body and soul with silver – the one thing truly lethal to the vicious Garou. Landon’s blood and the magic that flowed from it were anathema to the enemies they now faced. Landon, wisely, declined to fill them in on this matter.

For the slain minions, existence took on a grim horror. Torn apart by spiders and wolves, they did not disperse and rejoin their respective Incarna in the higher spiritual reaches. Instead, they were drawn back into the node and reinvigorated. Marching forth again, they understood that it was now their obligation to fight and be destroyed by enemies until these mages won or were destroyed.

With the wolf dead and the spiders in retreat, the group emerged from their dwelling. After some defenses had been repaired, Mia took up her violin once again and traveled on light-hearted melodies through the streets, looking for their aggressors. She traced the essence of the beasts through the power line all the way to the hydroelectric dam at the city’s edge. Their she saw that in the spirit world, the dam was constructed not by man, but by beavers, and powerful beaver spirits guarded it on masse. Its construction blocked even Mia from entering it, but she could hear men talking through the walls. Two of them would defend the dam while two went to the home of their spider allies to rally more support.

To Chloe, this game was not exactly what she knew, but was close enough. She could use her minions to keep pressure on the enemy Nexus-Dam while the four mages found this spider encampment and destroyed it. Mia made quick work of finding the spiders’ lair – the spiritual shadow of the city’s technical institute was overrun with them. As they prepared the leave, Landon considered what the Bastet had taught him about the relationship between the wolves and the other spirits. The spiders were oftentimes at odds with the wolves so he reasoned that either the wolves were forcing cooperation, or they had bribed the spiders. He made sure to take along a duffle bag of water bottles, filled with powerful Tass from the node.

Wolves are very fast, but Nolan’s years in the spirit wilds gave him a sixth sense for finding paths and avoiding distractions like spiritual storms and, in this case, a Dreamspeaker in deadly combat with a dragon – trying desperately to save his mother from her cocaine addiction. The dragon was the addiction. He would have to fight that fight alone – Nolan and his allies had their own problems.

The group arrived at the lair and were confronted by a swarm, but a combination of Landon and Chloe’s combined business savvy earned them an audience with Pamiuq, the spider queen. The colossal spider descended from her perch in the dean’s office and told them that she and her brood had made Saskatoon their home for many years, but the wolves had grown too powerful to oppose. When the Wendigo had learned of the power in Mia and Chloe’s house they had offered Pamiuq a large share of the spoils in return for helping to take it from the mages. But even if they succeeded, part of the deal was that the spiders would leave Saskatoon for good. It was a deal of necessity for Pamiuq – but not one that pleased her. The mages offered a permanent alliance and an ongoing tribute of Tass if Pamiuq shifted her allegiance. A better deal to be sure, but Pamiuq could not side against the power of the wolves without proof that the mages could win this fight. Drive off the two wolves approaching from the North – she said – and not only would Pamiuq join them, but she would release into their custody another mage she had caught trespassing earlier. The group set off to prove their mettle.

Setting up an ambush on top of the spiritual reflection of a 7-11, the group didn’t have long to wait before two dire wolves came running down the street. Energy weapons sizzled, bullets tore through thick hides, and one of the wolves was badly injured before the fight even started. The other shifted into its war form, picked up its injured ally, and retreated amidst a barrier of spiritually animated debris. As it left it fired of several shots from a shotgun, giving Nolan a painful reminder that his time in the Digital Web had left him frail.

The group returned to Pamiuq victorious. Mia, however, was unable to stay with them. Having thought to track the retreating wolves, she saw that they had doubled back and were rushing towards the house. Chloe, unwilling to lose to a backdoor assault for the second time today, asked Mia to fall back and rally the Euthanatos to defend the base.

Pamiuq was true to her word. The spiders joined the minions marching towards the dam and the spider queen brought forth a cocoon from which she released a woman. When the woman stood on wobbling legs, both Chloe and Nolan were taken aback. This woman was the most reviled woman in all of Canada, a Quebiqua leader responsible for countless acts of terrors and against Canada.

To be fair, Alena was not thrilled with the situation either. Having been raised in Quebec, she had fought for independence all her life. When she had Awakened she been adopted into the Celestial Chorus, who taught her to channel the communal love of all of Quebec into the power to better the world. But to the Chorus’ disappointment, Alena’s nationalistic motives would not bow to metaphysical ones. The only way she saw to better the world was with a free and independent Quebec. After Alena used her new power to incite violence against the Canadian government, the Chorus captured and exiled her, placing her under a powerful gaes never to harm another citizen of Canada and banning her from re-entering the country. But Alena would not be deterred. She hired a Dreamspeaker to find her a spiritual escort through the Penumbra and over the border into Canada. That endeavor had met its end when Pamiuq’s brood had eaten Alena’s coyote guides and cocooned her. That had been months ago.

No one was much a fan of this development (although Landon was rather surprised that Canada had violent separatists), but all of them could agree that rampaging werewolves – especially Canadian rampaging werewolves – could not be allowed to steal such power. And so the four of them set off towards the dam.

On the main road to the dam, the streams of minions and spiders were encountering equally endless waves of clay men, animated by the combined magic of the wolves and beavers. At the point of their eternal struggle, Chloe sensed an ambush. Subtlety and guile were not the strong suits of this team composition and they charged in. A werewolf shaman in the trees unleashed a devastatingly cold onslaught of wind, driving everyone but Nolan from the road and numbing them terribly. Nolan’s attention had lapsed, but was protected by a well-timed crescendo from Mia back at the house. The wolf attempted to leap over the road, but Nolan’s training and years literally living an FPS gave him the ability to be one step again and he blew the beast out of the air. Helping him considerably was his early choice to begrudgingly allow Landon to infuse his bullets with blood.

Off the road, a massive werewolf had unleashed a blinding fog on the three numbed mages and pounced on them. Only a well-timed shot from Henry Jr saved them from its initial onslaught. It attacked Alena, whose intuition just barely allowed her to roll out of the way. She might have retaliated, but mistakenly assumed that these Lupus Garou were Canadian citizens and was paralyzed by indecision. The wolf punished her with a backhand that sent her flying. The impact might had killed her, had it not been for the reassuring strength of her people, flowing through her at all times.

Chloe attempted to fire off another shot from Henry Jr, but in the confusion hit Landon instead, reducing him to a quivering lump of uselessness. Not willing to give the mage another shot, the wolf pounced on Chloe, tearing her hand badly and damaging Henry Jr. Things looked bad, but the fog cleared in the nick of time and Nolan expertly found his shot, dropping the wolf dead to the ground.

Licking their wounds (in Landon’s case literally) the group lead their waves of allies to the dam’s door, where a terrible battle with clay men began. Landon added some of his blood to each water bottle of tass, priming them to explode in dramatic fashion. Then together, they climbed onto the top of the dam to look for a less problematic way in. What they found instead, was beavers. Many massive, 500 pound spirit beavers, heaving masses of fur and hate, razor teeth gnashing madly as they rushed across the dam to confront the intruders. Chloe sent one to its grave with a shot from Henry and then made way for the others to add to the defense. She took point again just as the line of beavers reached them. One reared up crashed into her, but she grabbed its furry wrists and held her ground. More beavers had come up from the other end of the dam and Alena took position to rebuff them. The beavers – Alena was certain – were not Canadian citizens.

In the middle, Nolan used the energy weapons strapped to his arm to start burning a hole in the top of the dam. Landon used his blood to weaken the spiritual energy holding the dam together. Chloe wrestled one giant beaver off the dam, but it took her with it, toppling into the deep water on the safer side. Alena called upon the communion of Quebec to foil several beavers, but in the end met a similar fate to Chloe. With beavers bearing down from both sides, the two remaining mages blew a hole through the top of the dam and fell heavily into a massive central chamber. With beavers raining down around them, they were confronted by a veritable beaver god, an Incarna that Landon recognized as not only the wolves’ totem, but also as a manifestation of the seal that kept the Bastet’s magic contained.

Preparing to detonate the Tass, Landon screamed and Nolan to run, but there was no way through the ring of giant beavers. With no way out, Landon let a drop of his blood fall towards the bomb, beginning a chain reaction. The Incarna bore down on top of them, it’s ten-foot teeth certain to end this fight. Nolan hefted the bag of Tass over him and the Beaver’s teeth crunched down on it, severing his wrists. In the beast’s mouth, Landon’s blood found the Tass and the beaver exploded, destroying the spirit dam and ending the Wendigo’s dominance in the area.

Epilogue…

  • The mages return to their house, safe from immediate threats.
  • Alena attempts to sneak off, but Chloe makes sure to sick the Euthanatos on her, determined to keep the terrorist far from Canada and her son.
  • Nolan – his hands lost – makes a hasty exit in the real world before anyone can figure out that the Void Engineers aren’t part of the Traditions. He will be back.
  • Freed of the corruptive influence of the Wyrm-tainted beaver incarna, the two surviving Garou and a multitude of beaver spirits are free to find new paths.
  • Pamiuq is now in an alliance with the mages, taking 20% of the node’s Tass each week, and helping provide defense and an unbeatable internet connection.
  • Landon returns to the US, where he blissfully forgets that any of this ever happened.
  • Quietly, cautiously, a number of Bastet return to Canada to begin reclaiming their lost power.
  • The Dreamspeaker is scarred forever in his battle with the dragon, but in the end defeats it. He is needed elsewhere, but will remain in Saskatoon to help his mother recover emotionally and physically for as long as his duties permit.
  • The Euthanatos work with Chloe to repair Henry Jr.
  • The minion spirits are released. They will never again be so quick to accept offers from Mages.

Campaign – Team Lucky Cat!

Prologue
In the charming, downtown mall of Charlottesville, Virginia sits a quiet occult bookstore named Lucky Cat Books. The proprietor is Tala, a middle-aged Filipino woman whose beauty is matched only by her knowledge of the occult. She has two employees who help her run the shop. Jade is a recent UVA grad who works at the Lucky Cat who spends her night building her burgeoning DJ career. Bella is a strange girl – a college drop out who got deep into witchcraft and never looked back. All three are mages, and all three are feeling ok about how life is going.
Until one day, when Tala hears of a new treasure-hunting reality show taking applications for teams of three. There are an assortment of prizes tempting would-be competitors, but Tala’s main interest is simply the chance to stand in the spotlight. And with the talents of her and her friends/employees, she figures they have a decent chance at winning. After talking it over, the three of them send in an application. They get in and just like that they get some friends to watch the shop and head to San Diego to find their 5 minutes of fame.
San Diego
Tala, Jade, and Bella arrive in San Diego and are taken out to a ghost town in the dessert to wait with a massive crowd of would-be adventurers. Trying to stay cool, in the blistering heat, they idling check out their competitions. Among the families and groups of bros, their interest is vaguely peaked by a group of goths, trying harder than most to stay out of the sun. They also unfortunately spot Kyle, one of Jade’s ex’s from UVA. They try to avoid him, but an awkward reunion happens and Kyle wishes them luck before returning to his two frat brothers.
The group also tries to mingle with the production staff. They approach Sammy, a gangling young man with long, curly hair who pleasantly offers them some lemonade. Bella promptly declines by knocking it out of his hand. She then lays on the guilt, browbeating the poor young man about how horrifically hot it is and how terrible an experience this is for her and her friends. The caterer/aspiring actor is no match for Bella. He doesn’t know a lot, but does know that some other staff were out here earlier hiding things. He can’t tell them where they were, but…um…seeing as how you didn’t rink any lemonade, maybe you should pay close attention to the nearby small lake? You know, because you’re probably thirsty? So it might be a good place to head once things start. And then Sammy escapes.
Finally, the ostentatiously large flatscreen that dominates the central area comes to life and they’re all treated to a personal message from Richard Branson, billionaire and owner of this competition.
“Hello adventurers!” he says with a beaming smile. “In 15__, the conquistadors had driven last of the Incan people to the city of Vilicamba, in what is now Peru. Eventually, they tightened the noose and the Incan civilization was lost to time. Until now! I have in my possession the journal of Nikolas _________ a Spanish soldier who was there when Vilicamba fell. His journal recounts a harrowing tale as he and his men were ordered to pursue the last of the Incan royalty and priests into the Amazon rainforest. The Incans carried with them not only the treasures of their empire, but also their most holy artifacts – artifacts that Spain believe contained strange, magic powers.
“Nikolas and his men spent years hunting the Inca, always one step behind. Eventually, they caught up at a mythic city in the rain forest that they called Chaya. What happened there is not recounted in this journal – only that the city was wondrous and that most of Nikolas’ men died there. After their escape, Nikolas and the four other survivors split up the map, vowing never to see each other again or try to return to Chaya.
“That is where Nikolas’ story ends, and your’s begins! You have all gathered in ten cities around the world. At each location, we have hidden two boxes, each containing a fragment of Nikolas’ journal giving some hint as to where one of his companions may have traveled to after their parting. If your team can find one of those boxes and bring it back to the organizers you’ll have won yourselves a spot on the greatest show in history. You’ll be starting the adventure of your lives, with a chance to win a million dollars and a place in history, not only for your discoveries here, but also as the first human beings to step foot on a comet as next year Virgin Galactic will fly the winners to comet ____________ as it passes near earth in two year’s time. So exciting.
“And with that…begin!”
The crowd around the mages goes crazy, groups running this way and that, scrambling for advantage. Trying not to draw attention to themselves, they move over to the lake…more of a large pond really. They aren’t alone, as several other groups scoured the foliage along the shoreline. Out in the middle, the groups spots something floating, like a makeshift buoy. Something there? Jade volunteers to swim out to investigate. With her athleticism and some chill music to slow down her breathing and heart rate, she should be able to stay under the water and hidden most of the time.
As Jade heads out, the others notice another group grabbing a rowboat from the shore and planning to head out. This group is three very powerfully built, slightly older men with a military look to them. They’ve noticed the buoy too. Thinking quick, Tala attempts to lure them over by playing the pretty-woman-needs-help card. With an enviously stunning figure, heaps of charm, and flashy clothing it’s a card she excels at playing. Two of the men head out on the boat, but one of them comes over the help Tala, slowing their overall efforts. The one helping Tala is very polite and introduces himself as Hank, an ex-Navy guy. Tala claims that she saw the edge of a box under a fallen tree and Hank eagerly shows off by attempting to move the tree by himself. This will take a while.
Meanwhile, Jade reaches the buoy unseen, dives, and discovers a box tied to the bottom. Seeing the boat arrive above her she quickly unties the box and replaces it with one of her shoes. With someone about to dive in on top of her, she takes her prize and presses herself against the bottom of the boat, hoping to remain undetected. The nazy guys find the shoe, much to their disappointment, and head back. Jade hitches a ride, trying her best to stay hidden and hold her breath. When they reach the shore, Jade is forced to show herself and stumbles to her feet, preparing herself to fight to keep the box. No fight happens though – the navy guys are courteous and frankly impressed that she swim that distance and held heard breath for so long. They make it quite clear that they regard her as a badass and wish her and her team the best of luck before heading off to look for one of the remaining prizes. Hank realizes that Tala duped him with her feminine wiles and feels sheepish about it, but also congratulates her.
The mages head back to the organizers tent and are greeted as the first victorious team. They’re shown to an air conditioned trailer and meet Tom, their guide. Guide goes through some of the details of the reality show:
  • This is free-form and not staged. There won’t be games or anything like that. Every team gets $100,000 for travel and the first team to find Chaya wins.
  • Team Lucky Cat is free to head out whenever they want.
  • Tom will travel with them, but isn’t allowed to help. He’ll be recording, taking confessionals, and when absolutely necessary ensuring the team’s safety in dangerous parts of the world.

They learn that Tom is also ex-military and all around a pretty chill guy. They also choose to stay for a few minutes to see what other teams win in the San Diego group.

As they wait, they open their box and reveal:

(Nikolas’ note on Leandro)

So…Nepal? How exciting!

The next team to show up in a group of hope native americans, lead by an extremely gregarious young man named Ahote. Bella says hi, but is a bit thrown off by Ahote’s friendliness and the rest of his team’s wariness.

The third team is the goths! The mages don’t introduce themselves though – that group seems a little standoffish. At this point, there’s some commotion and they get Tom to tell them that there was an accident with the fourth box. Apparently a group of college kids found it, but were assaulted by another team. They were rescued by the navy guys Lucky Cat met earlier. Now the orgnaizers are trying to figure out what to do while the authorities look for the assaulting team. An ambulance rolls up and Jade has mixed emotions as they see Kyle taken away, with what looks like a few broken bones.

After things settle down, Tala does a Tarot reading to discover what the most auspicious day for travel is. It turns out it’s still a few days out, so the team takes a couple days to relax, shop for cold-weather gear, and research Spanish explorers.

—————————–WORK IN PROGRESS—————————-
Bratang
Fly to Nepal. Taxi waiting to take them to Bratang. The village elder meets them, shows them to lodge. Shady Columbians. Prashanth. Friendly Canadians pushing their Tea. The Tea is definitely off. Next day they find a Sherpa and head out. Looooooooooooooong trip up the mountain. They realize they’re being tailed by another group and that groups has rifles (wtf) and no guide. Bella’s scrying. Tala tries to slow them down. They arrive at the burial site to find Xiaomei and her Guide. Tala investigates. Jade tries to steal Xiaomei’s hair for Bella, but gets kung-fu greeted. The Ukrainians arrive. Everyone jumps off the cliff and two Ukrainians follow. Tom helps Bella and Xiaomei helps Tala. One has “bad luck” and splats a tree. The other throws a grenade that Tala disables for a second, but then blows up to kill the Ukranian. Everyone makes it to the bottom. They find the journal. Bella translates. Xiaomei thanks them and goes on her way. The others return. Tala tells the Indian girl that Prashanth is a jerk. They make plans to head to Norway.
Skulsfjord
The locals are pissed. Everything is on lockdown. An african team was mauled by wolves. Block and Tackle are there. They meet Bridgette, who is icy. They meet Wallace the dog. The go to the pub and learn the Ballad of Leandro. They meet some other teams. Catty french girls. FBI, one of which is bald. People get drunk and crash. Next day, they go to the next town over to get on a chopper. Zorn follows them. Pepper trick. Mind meld. Werewolves! Bridgette! They don’t take a chopper. Instead they go find a shaman to help them with wolves and get a Sjoflut. Return to town. Talk to Bridgette. Organize moot in the mountains. Put Tom to sleep. Meet the Get. Bella agrees to a blood pact. She can summon two Get and they won’t kill her. They swear that when they find Caya that they seal it from the modern world. Block and Tackle ask for help – Lucky Cat tells them about the african clues and make plans for the Phillipines. Tell Tom about naked rituals.
Manila
They get inside info on the Phillipines from Tala’s distant relatives. They head there and things are bad on the plane. There’s a typhoon over Manila that should turn the plane back, but it doesn’t because the pilot fucked up and doesn’t have enough fuel. Things get bad quickly. Tala prays for luck, Jade slows time, and Bella mind controls the pilot into letting a WWII vet fly. Things work out. There, they find Prashanth again, continuing to be him. They take off for the devil’s mountain. They end up finding a cave where everyone was…but no one is. Time magic reveals what happened with Tango. The group finds the rift and decides to descend.
Kilindani
World of the dead! All Incan, even though they’re in Asia. They’re chased by a spectral panther, heading for a bubble of light outside a city. They leave bread crumbs to find their way back. Approaching the bubble, they’re saved by Euthanatos. They’re welcomed by It-X guy. They explain what’s going on and the other supernaturals present. Bella scries Tango, Raphael, and the Umoi. It-X guy switches with his mech so she can help deal with Tango. Bella gets into one of Tango’s minds (through the comb) and gets him to run away, but the demon retrieves him. Then Bella gets him to screw up the ritual. Things go to shit. Euthanatos guy gets the Umoi to come with him, but is accosted by birthday monster. Indian girl, Euthanatos master, and mech ride out to face it. The demon assualts the bubble, killing It-X. What happens to her? Everything becomes terrible. The Indian girl comes back with the Unmoi. Mages lead the group back to the river and to escape. Tom has things explained to him. It-X manages the cleanup. Euthanatos takes the Indian girl.
Dar el Salam
Group heads to Tanzania. Mafia Island. They go to museum, meet creeper who gives them offer. They contact Xiaomei, who steered clear and is now in Skulsjord. They ask for Bridgitte. She doesn’t know much about africa, but recommends maybe looking for Ajaba? Travel to mainland. Contacted by Japanese team. Go on Safari (with great luck). Find a mokle, then the corax. Wereduck?! Learn that the african werecreatures have faught Father Night and now the new order. Learn more about Empty Men. Decide to try to trap the guy. Ask him to come to the mainland (better feng shui). Set trap in hotel. Japanese bodyguard is captured, but tracked through his hair. When they show, fire alarm is pulled while the mages go to their staging boat. They send in the werelions (watching through scrying). Lions kill one guard, but the other is a demon. Beats them up. Business Lion screams a lot. Jade slows time, helps Lion hold out until the shark shows up and devours the demon. They all run (especially cheetahs).
Bogota
Rokea vomits up the demon into a devil’s trap on the beach. Business lion determines that the demon could break free of his controller with sufficient power, which will require a soul. (Was that his or Bella’s?) They decide to let the demon keep his other souls as a show of good faith. The demon explains about the prisoners. Offers to rejoin Severo and spy. Group wants to fly to Bolivia. Jacob wishes them luck. Ambushed at the airport, Jacob is shot. They run to their plane, tripping up their pursuers. Board plane, eat hair, take off. Weresnake intervenes, tears door open. Tom and Jade try to stop them. Snake spits at them. Grabs Jade and they tobble. Jacob dives after them. Bella sniffs venom, goes blind. But gets Nagah to let go of Jade. Jacob catches her and returns to plane. Groups goes to Boliva.
The Amazon
In Bolivia, things are locked (sort of). Go Lucky Cat! Safety protocols after Manila. Out on the town, the group is shot at! Seemingly aimed specifically at Bella. They escape. They learn about the gang, but decide not to pursue that. That night, Bella’s mind is invaded by ‘the surgeon.’ Drives him out with dinosaurs, like you do. Jacob returns, reports on Amazon. The next day, everyone is going to be flown into the Amazon in order of execution. They chill with Canadians. Link up with Xiao Mei (details). The next day, Xiao Mei’s plane explodes. They go anyways.
The Waterway
They land and start on the river. There’s a war on. They find a massacre. Fomori. Werewolves. They find an injured man (wolf). They appeal to the panther. (how did all of this work?) Panther wants help against the pursuers, Tala blesses him but they can’t do much else. Jacob stays behind to help. They dive into the cave, setting it up to collapse after them.
Traveling through the cave. They find evidence of both groups. They find Victor’s skull. They take the correct path. And then…a night club? Jade goes in, gets trapped. The others are outside. Severo approaches. Tom fires, but gets torn up. (Sjoflute gets destroyed) They retreat into the club. Kyle is there. Jade uses her celebrity to get backstage. Danger Mouse is on stage. Severo comes in and blows things up. Duel. Groups appears on stage. Demon is there, wrecking things. Demon turns on Severo, but is wrecked. Jade applies some harmony and they WUB WUB Severo out the back wall. He’ll be back. Danger Mouse retreats into a vinyl disc. The group takes the disc, puts the crowd to sleep, and retreats. They release the demon after getting his message.
Chaya
They go through the door and find Chaya. A lush jungle! Part spain, part Inca, part carribean. They identify the focal points and resonance. First to Valencia. Asks Nikolas about Severo. Umoi takes over. Starts arming the populace – going to war. Sends them on a sloop to Protection. Vinyl disc is greeted by soldiers, taken to bed. Then they meet with the admiral. Admiral explain about how some of them left with Severo, never to return. Admiral goes to get curiosity (panther) and asks them to get angry Umoi. They do so, in helicopters. Then to comfort island on back of quetz. Battle plan. Lucky Cat shirt launcher. Umoi will assault, mages will flank.
Finale
 They fly. Caught by Tango’s demon. (There’s a fight? Tom is misogynist) Keep going. Confront Severo and ngihtmare boy. He shoots them down by unweaving the Umoi magic. They’re caught by Xiao Mei. Big fight. Spectral raptors vs abomination. Raptor wins because of shirt launcher. Awesome ending fight sequence. Everyone wins.
Loose Ends
Yes, seal vs new people. Bella wants to talk to Curiosity more. Tom will fake the cave collapse.

Legacy, Session #2

The mages take a flustered and uncomfortable Max to a nearby cafe. They order some food and Max starts up the conversation, hands still fixed on his iPhone (pew pew). Lily, annoyed, breaks Max’s iPhone with a Hermitcally empowered spitball, but Max replaces it with another from his pocket. Very nervous and chatty, he wants to know about who ‘Susie’ is and how the mages know that “his grandmother” isn’t at the police station. Gia is having none of his tomfoolery and quickly forces a confession. She offers up that someone named Susie stole Emma’s body last night, but then demands the truth from Max.

Max concedes and tells them what he knows. Max is a Virtual Adept and one rather concerned about the rise of the Tradition Rogue Council. He tells the group (a reminder to some) that fifteen years ago the original Council was killed and the Traditions have been leaderless ever since, which is terrible in some ways, but also gives younger mages a chance to make more of an impact. Over the last few years though, a rather shadowy group called the Rogue Council have been trying to bring back the old structure, directing and coordinating Tradition endeavors from some hidden location, probably in the spirit worlds. Max isn’t against the Rogue Council per-say, but referencing the Virtual Adepts’ relatively recent defection from the Technocracy, he has a healthy distrust for shadowy cabals controlling vast organizations. All of which is to say, he intercepted a Rogue Council transmission sending a couple of mages here to retrieve Emma’s body and thought he might get here first and see what was up.

At about this time, he brings up that police scanners are going nuts. Something bad is happening back at the police station and he hacks into their security feed to find out what. He passes out phones to the others so that they can tune in – although he gives the one with the cracked screen to Lily.

On the third floor of the police station they find a older, disheveled man wearing a police lab coat. A number of officers are in the hallway, shooting at him. The bullets are hitting, but the man continues to advance. This looks bad for the police. The group decides to head back to find out more while Max backs them up from the diner, via phone.

Reaching the police station, they discover a host of squad cars outside, but a meager two guards remaining at the front entrance. They sneak around to the conspicuously unguarded rear entrance and Max offers to unlock the card reader. What they find is the coroner, terrified and running for that exit on a badly injured leg. He is being chased by the former population of the morgue – naked and with what looks to be a hunger for brains. Lily fires off some magic, but it isn’t strong enough to hold them. Kenny yells at the floor, demanding that it become tar. The formerly-dead are caught in it. They disgustingly tear themselves free, but by that time the mages and coroner are safely outside. Gia calms the coroner, who tells them that there was an emergency announcement inside the station and when he asked officers rushing by they claimed that a man named Tommy was back. Tommy was a junkie who died at the station a few months back and was supposedly haunting the place. At that point, the morgue burst open and the coroner’s charges began attacking him.

Gia gives the man a thorough looking over to check for zombie bites and then sends him off to a hospital. She notices that his life-force seems slightly diminished and that a larger,life stealing effect seems to be emanating from somewhere on the third floor. At this point, Max warns them that more people are showing up. A Fed is walking through the front doors that Max suspects is Technocracy and two women are sneaking in another entrance, who Max suspects are the Rogue Council mages.

Lily climbs a tree to get a better look at the third floor and Kenny tells one of the walls to turn into glass so she can see. What she sees is awful. Police are strewn about the hallway, unconscious and slipping towards death. Walking past them is the disheveled man who is apparently Tommy. At the other end of the hall, by the stair case, stands a very odd pair. One is the Man in Black. Cool, composed, in a business suit, and firing a semi-automatic pistol into Tommy. Next to him stands a weathered looking woman in her 40’s, fading blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun. She too is firing a pistol into Tommy, their combined fire keeping him at bay, but not for long. Each shot blows away what appears to be the ash of human remains, revealing for a moment a younger woman trapped inside Tommy, screaming for help. But each time, the ash reforms, sealing her away.

Lily can see that whatever Tommy is, he feels more like a magical side effect than something intentional. His power is tied to something larger, beyond her perception. Gia asks Max to focus on finding whatever that is.

Behind Tommy, the last races of life fade from two police officers. In that moment, a dark force animates them, lifting them back to their feet and propelling them towards the two gunmen. The Man in Black shoots one in the head, his enchanted bullet tearing through the magic animating the body and dropping it to the floor for good. He switches aim to the other, but the woman deflects his arm. In that moment, Tommy lets loose a shockwave of dark energy that slams the Man in Black against the wall, staggering him. Things are looking bad and our heroes spring into action.

Gia throws her goggles to Lily, letting the treebound sleuth see through walls. In addition to the insanity on the third floor, she sees the morgue zombies making their way to the stairwell, the police captain on the phone in a second-floor office, and a strange young woman praying over a candle in the second floor hallway. Gia begins using the power of science to hype herself up, flooding her system with adrenaline. Kenny climbs a tree to the roof, demands that the roof part for him, and then reaches down to help.

More officers are slipping into death and rising again, but Lily fires a force field through the glass to hold them back for the moment. The gun-wielding woman helps the fed to his feet and pushes him up to Kenny. Tommy unleashes another blast, throwing the woman down the stairs. Kenny jumps down and goes after her. As Lily struggles to hold the force field in place, Kenny grabs the now-unconscious woman, runs back up the stairs, and raises her up to the fed, getting both of them to the roof. He then runs back down to see what’s up with the praying woman.

Gia, now super-pumped, takes a tree to the roof and tries to help the injured woman, but can’t do much. “Protect Shanna…for just a moment longer…” she says. Gia jumps down and ends up on the stairs, trapped between animated police officers above and morgue zombies below. Kenny has the fed’s gun and the other woman’s, but doesn’t want to fire with Gia in the middle, so he wades in with his fists, asking his clothing to be kevlar for a while.

There is quite a fight. Kenny and Gia force their way through the morgue zombies and take up a position in front of Shanna – the praying girl. Lily has snuck in through the front and made her way to the second floor, joining her friends. Kenny only has one shot left in the woman’s dessert eagle and is waiting for a shot on Tommy. The animated officers are making that difficult and Gia tries to fend them off with a fire extinguisher. She throws it into the middle of them and Lily tries to detonate it with a word of power, but can’t hit the mark. The officers, close in around Gia, the horror of their otherworldlyness threatening to suffocate her. But Lily lands her second spell and the extinguisher explodes in shrapnel, blowing a hole in the officers. A moment later, Shanna completes her spell and the hall is filling with blinding, holy light. The officers are stunned, the zombies are destroyed, and Tommy is staggered. Kenny takes the shot, striking Tommy squarely in the face. Ash explodes with a definite finality and the young woman trapped inside him tumbles down the stairs.

To everyone’s surprise, the police officers that were thought to be dead begin crying for help, many of them severely injured by the extinguisher bomb. Gia does what she can to help them, Lily directs her attention to the hiding police captain, and Kenny turns to regard Shanna. Lily calls Max, who is o the run after the Technocracy traced his signal – but he offers to look into the phone number the captain called.

With all these victims, the captain, Shanna, the news media outside, and the two rooftop fighters unaccounted for there are a lot of loose ends and not much time…

Chronicling Mage

I have run a lot of role playing campaigns. Especially Mage. And now, more than a decade after I started, I’m sad to sometimes not remember some of them. It’s a bit late, but I’m going to do my best to start trying to go back through time and record those games, in addition to keeping a running log of the current one. I’ll try to get one of the old games recorded every week or two. If I can remember enough and keep this going, this blog will have a ton of memories stored in it.

Mage – Legacy, Session #1

Last night was the beginning of a new and wonderful campaign. I’m going to try to keep a light journal for it, to help keep my thoughts straight and because memories. If anyone else stumbles across this, I hope you enjoy it.

 

So without further ado, the beginning of Legacy, a story set in Mage: The Ascension.

Lily, Kenneth, and Gia are all fairly successful tradition mages in 2015. Kenneth is an older Dreamspeaker, with a knack for talking to technology. Gia is a Son of Ether, focused on neurology and through that pushing at the gates of true artificial intelligence. Lily is attending a prestigious Order of Hermes academy in upstate New York and while she gets into trouble more than most students, no one can question her aptitude. But before they carried themselves with their current confidence and sense of self, there was a time after they had just Awakened where they were confused and lost. And each of them had been found by Emma Forester of Southside Chicago. A kind old Mage who spoke little of her past, Emma had a habit of taking in strays, teaching them the real truths of this world, and sending them off with a sense of purpose and clarity.

Now all of them found themselves back in Chicago, summoned by a lawyer bearing the sad news of Emma’s passing and bidding them to attend a reading of her will.

The three of them met that morning, with Gia excitedly telling Kenny how much Emma had talked about him while Gia had been trained by her. Lily was more subdued, staying just outside normal awareness. And lastly, a well-dressed teenager fixed on phone games had come in, fingers tapping away and a steady stream of pew-pews and explosions adding an aggravating ambiance to the affair.

At 10:00 Aaron Johnson opened his door and let them in, although Gia noticed that his greeting to the kid on his phone was less warm – perhaps even suspicious. With the four of them seated (and the kid’s phone almost muted – but not quite) Aaron began the reading of the will. Emma spoke directly to the three students gathered there, leaving her possessions to them, but more importantly her legacy.  She said that she had done much in her life, but these three students were the accomplishment she was most proud of. And then, at the end of a somewhat long and emotional will comes the sentence, “At to my grandson Max I leave my earthly remains.” The End.

“Cool,” says the kid over his phone.

Mr. Johnson gives them the keys to Emma’s apartment and informs the kid that the coroner will be ready to release her body at 6 tonight. Max takes off. The other three talk to the lawyer some more and learn that Emma didn’t die of natural causes. Three nights ago she was shot in her home, but Mr. Johnson doesn’t know much more beyond that. He gives them the phone number of Evelyn Thompson, the detective working the case.

The three students head over to Emma’s. On the way, Kenny asks his phone to do some snooping and it comes back having had a brief chat with some computers over at the police station. He hasn’t learned much, except that the bullets from the case are “a little weird.”

They enter Emma’s home, a place they all have their own fond memories of. Those memories are somewhat tarnished by the bloodstains on the floor and wall, already mapped out by police forensics lines. The place is in complete disarray, ransacked. Lily and Gia do a thorough investigation, something they are both amazing at. They discover two bullet holes in the wall and conclude as the police have that the assailant was standing close to Emma and was slightly taller than her. They find a large Adidas footprint in the pooled blood. Importantly, they find that as thoroughly as the place was ransacked, they can’t find anything at all missing – and Lily would know. Also, Emma’s wards against misfortune are intact – their was no randomness to this incident. Gia slips on a pair of high-tech goggles to take a closer look and finds that there are no traces of gunpowder and in the wall there isn’t even a hint of bullet fragments.

They also find a photo album that seems to be of all the wayward mages that Emma took in. They’re all in there, along with five other people.

In the meantime, Kenneth calls Detective Thompson and unnerves her with how much he knows about the case, but learns where the body is currently and the name of the coroner. Then he wakes up the wall and has a conversation with it, mostly about how it’s been shot and how much that sucks.

In the bedroom, they find one object that even Lily doesn’t recognize. It’s an old medal, a commendation for valor that Kenny identifies as a fairly specific medal linked to actions behind enemy lines along the French-German border during World War II. Kenneth awakens it and has a conversation. The medal belonged to Emma, but it wasn’t awarded to her. It was awarded to a man named Christopher who Emma served with during the war. Emma, apparently, was a doctor and later a soldier, but after Christopher died and the war ended Emma left that part of her life behind. The medal is the only reminder she kept and she kept him mostly hidden in a cubby in the wall.  The medal was also super angry, not only about Emma’s death but because that night he was manhandled by someone who was sweating profusely and as the medal put it, “Not the sweat of honest exertion. The nervous sweat of a coward.”

Lily analyzed the sweat, and learned that whoever left it was a young, Caucasian male with a bit of Adderall in his system. She took some skin cells to do a more thorough analysis later.

After taking care of some of Emma’s things, the group moved to the police station, intent on getting to Emma’s body before her grandson. Lily overpowered the desk officer’s mind with a Hermetic word of power and got him to give them guest passes and directions to the morgue. They arrived and met the coroner, who tried to show them the body and was startled and embarrassed to find it missing. He ushered them all out while he went to get the Captain, but Kenny left his phone behind to talk to the Coroner’s computer and Lily stayed as a fly on the wall, because people don’t notice her unless she wants them too. Lily learned that the Coroner left the office last night at 7:13 and that was the last time he saw Emma’s body. She also read a coroner’s report confirming what they had learned at the scene and that there were no bullet fragments in the body or defensive wounds of any kind. It also mentioned a strange pathogen in her blood that had been sent to the lab.

Kenny’s phone had a conversation with the coroner’s computer and through him met his girlfriend, the ballistics PC. Beign such a charmer, he’d gotten the ballistics PC to tell him a bit about the two bullets, which was completely unblemished and which the lab guys were completely unable to take filings from or identify.

The Captain went upstairs to review the security footage and Lily followed. At 1:07 AM, a girl in her 20’s with stylish clothes and a slick blonde ponytail showed up, at which point the Captain asked the others to leave the security room, saying that this might be related to a confidential federal investigation. He then watched as she walked into the morgue and left with Emma’s body. He made a call to someone who sounded like an intimidating type that the Captain works for. The Captain asked this person to keep better control over ‘Susie’ and then apologized and promised to clean up the mess. Lily then swiped his phone and got the number of this contact, which was listed only as ‘N.’

Having as much information as they felt they could get at this point, the three of them waited in the lobby for Max, who showed up at 6:00. They intercepted him grilled him fairly hard. Gia started off by consoling him with a head pat that allowed her to use her engineered hand to probe his thoughts, discovering that he’s a Virtual Adept with no relation to Emma whatsoever who is trying to steal her body. In the meantime, Lily stole three phones and a wallet from her pocket. He had an iPhone out and she swiped an Android, a Windows Phone, and a FirePhone. Kenneth tried to talk to the cell phones, but one freaked out and called Max, alerting him that something was up. Gia tried to keep him engaged, but the police captain showed up to tell Max that unfortunately his grandmother had been found to be the source of an infectious disease and the city was going to burn her for reasons of public safety. Max was pissed, but cops threw him out at which point our intrepid heroes insisted that they needed to talk and the whole group headed for a diner.

Moroccan Pork Shoulder Tagine with Spiced Couscous

photo (3)I’ve been cooking a bit, but haven’t posted here in a while. Things have gone well though, with me generally making dinners for the role-playing group I play Mage with on a weekly basis. This week was a Moroccan Tagine, which turned out splendidly. So flavorful! It was very delicious.

I made a few substitutions. I was feeling lazy and not up for extensive de-boning and trimming, so I replaced the short rib with pork shoulder, which I seared as whole pieces, but cubed before before putting it into the oven. Also, I don’t own a tagine, so this was all done with the wonderful cassarole dish some wonderful friends got me recently as a wedding present. The oven time was 2 hours instead of 2.5, but that was perfect with the cubed pork. Oh, and I may have used slightly more onion that this recipe calls for since I used a whole small yellow onion instead of half a large one.

Super-successful – will definitely make again.

 

Shrimp and Mango Curry Part 2: A Comedy of Errors

Today’s repeat attempt of the shrimp and mango curry had…let’s say hitches. Enough hitches that there’s no picture this time around, so we can all share the disappointment. When I went to the store the only thing on my mind was, “Don’t forget that potato.” I forgot that potato. Then when I tried to prepare the mango…Oryx made that look very easy – but it was not. Are mangos supposed to have unbreakable cores? I should investigate beforehand next time. My knife and I had a ~30 minute deathmatch against the mango that taught my fingers to fear death and left neither me nor my opponent in good shape. And then the shrimp. These ones were frozen rather than fresh, but the prep still went fine. Unfortunately, I had slightly more this time and I couldn’t cook them all in the pan at once. Also, while attempting to dust them with curry I instead dumped curry all over my stove. And then I tried to clean that up and the shrimp over cooked.

Laura assures me that it’s still tasty. You will never meet a sweeter person than Laura.

Shrimp and Mango Curry

MangoShrimpCurry

 

Recipe!

So far, this is easily the best food I’ve made. It’s the first dish where I would definitely go to a restaurant to eat it and I can’t wait to make it again (which is why I’m making it again tomorrow). It’s so good.

A couple of notes though:

  1. I forgot the potato. The result was that this was amazingly delicious, but not particularly filling. I’ll fix that next time.
  2. The recipe says to cut your mango into strips, but I (or rather, Oryx) just cut it into chunks because everyone knows that chunks > strips. I wouldn’t change that.