Demons Run

The rest of the polic station is alright, and the Chief assures us that he’ll just get some mages up to fix his wall. What are we going to DO?

The conversation shifts off the demon attacks momentarily and onto the cultists. They’re the best link we think we have, so Nat suggests trying to get their attention. She wants to graffiti the Dawnmother symbol around town, and then catch someone trying to change it to their symbol. To either question or follow them. The group ponders paying homeless people to do the painting and the monitoring. I think this is ridiculously dangerous and will just get those particular people taken and killed. But I’m overruled, and Remy buys paint and brushes. Then he convinces eight random people to agree to paint and watch the symbols around Manhattan. He tells them a bar to come to if they see anything. But then we don’t tell the bar, nor do we go to said bar. I’m not so sure about this plan.

Next, we go looking for Porter. We all head out to the military base outside of town. Dalish uses his authority to get us inside and we have some dinner in the mess while waiting to be seen. The general has time for us after dinner, so we head off to his office. General Burns used to be in charge of Porter’s unit and says it’s all classified. Dalish says he thinks Porter’s gone AWOL and has become an enemy of the state. Marybeth pipes up that he’s her brother. The general relents. He says that Porter was under his command for three years, but then his unit was reassigned to New Gnosis three month ago by Prime Wiest, for unknown reasons. He has not further information, other than he’s somewhere in the city. With Wiest dead, no way of telling whose orders he is following now. There were 18 men and women in his unit, and all of them were called into the city to serve Wiest. The general gives us a paper so that we can go to Records and get the names of the people in that unit. We are then dismissed.

Remy suggests checking in on the house before we do any more running around, so I send to Gerald. He replies back, repeating the words “Everything’s Fine…” over and over in a dreamy voice. We RUN back home. There’s a black plume of smoke, once again rising from my home. Rushing in, we find it contained to an outer wall, and Philomena is working to put it out. There is a Lot of Blood. Philomena shouts at us, and Klyce sends us all inside while he helps her. The house seems alright, until we get up to the study where everyone was sheltering. The room is covered in blood and demon gore. Marybeth’s mom, Klyce’s mom and sisters, Philomena’s parents are all there and okay. Gerald and Philip are gone. I start shouting for Gerald, when they tell me Philip chased the demons away, but no one had seen my brother. Nonononono!!!

I send to him again. This time I get a female voice back, saying Gerald is otherwise occupied. What? Dalish! How could that happen? How could someone else answer my sending?? It sounds like those succubus ladies we met! Dalish says she could be controlling or possessing him. Remy and Nat check his room, but there is simply the smell of sulfur and perfume. Dalish cleans the study of the blood while Remy checks Marybeth’s mother for signs of Grandfather, and Nat looks around at the remants of the fight. It looks like there were eight demons. The three closest to the family were obliterated, and the other five busted out the wall to get away. I try to send to Philip, to tell him the family is okay and ask where he is. The reply is a strange, chilling tone, saying he’s not done, yet.

We have to go find him. Demons are running loose in the city and he’s chasing them with a butcher knife. Klyce stays with Orrin and Philomena to protect the families, and we race north. HeyHey and Dalish fly above the streets to see if they can spot the wake of demons. They find two more alleys covered in blood. Then we hear a disturbance ahead and rush forward. There is a crowd surrounding another splattered mess.

Police are draped over Philip, trying to arrest him or at least restrain him. I toss up sparks to get their attention, and Dalish tries to use his authority to declare it a mage matter. They say he’s disturbing the peace. Remy tries name-dropping the police, but then Philip throws one of the men into a lamppost, probably breaking his back. We all freeze in shock, long enough for him to throw another man through a wall. Dalish rushes over to save the first man. Nat puts a couple officers to sleep. I fail to levitate Philip out of the mess. Remy convinces the last guy to just let go, then sames some curses and the officer who was pointing a gun at Philip disappears. Nat sends HeyHey through the broken wall to stabalize that cop, and tries to get the crowd to disperse. I rush forward, and tell Philip I just want to get him out of here, and Dimension Door us out of the crowd and ahead. He immediately takes off through an alley, and I rush back to tend to the wounded, praying to the Dawnmother to heal at least a little of the damage he caused. Remy wakes the sleepers and tells them to get medics for their friends, and we’re on the chase again.

By the time most of us catch up with him, he’s standing over a dead succubus and is back to confused, scared Philip. Nat wonders about casting speak with dead on it, but we go back and forth on it. It doesn’t have to tell him the truth if it knows she’s an enemy. Can we trick it? What questions should we ask? What could it answer? Dalish mentions that there’s a nest somewhere, and that takes high priority. We need to know which side it’s on, and if it knows where Grandfather is. What about Rictus? If we say they’re interferring with our investigation, maybe he’ll take us seriously. Maybe he can make it talk? Let’s take it home, at least. We shouldn’t do this here.

We get home, avoiding the police, and explain to Klyce what happened. Okay, we have a lot of pots on the stove. We have to take stock. We could talk to the newpaper/penny dreadful publisher, but he’s in Brooklyn. We need to go to the Hall of Records for the names in Porter’s unit. We could visit Professor Wiest and see what she will tell us of her father’s plans. We could try to get into his office in the Tower of Justice. We could talk to Rictus and the Succubus corpse. We start with this last because we have a body, somehow, still.

Dalish sends to Rictus, and we head downstairs to meet him. In my father’s study, it turns out. We lay the body out on the table for him to examine, and he does, at length. Remy mentions the nest we think is in the city. Dalish says there are many variations of these creatures that are hindering our ability to investigate the Black Knight. Dalish tells him about the trade of souls. Rictus reforms its head and then sets it back to normal, messing with time around it’s skull. He puppets an arm. He stabs it a little and smells the blood. Dalish explains the between place. Remy mentions one kidnapped my brother, and Rictus isn’t all that concerned about Gerald. He asks what we need, and we explain about asking it questions about the next and the cult. He asks where we learned of such a spell, and when we say Satiel, he nods. She made the spell, it turns out. He doesn’t have any better ways to go about it. He can’t force the truth without a soul present.

We then set to creating a list of questions. Where’s your next. Who’s your boss? Where is Mr. Pumbleby? What’s your plan? Where’s Gerald? Nat wonders about using detect thoughts, and if there’s enough of a brain left to do that. Rictus says no, but won’t stop her from trying. Nat settles down to cast. The detect thoughts doesn’t work, but the corpse does start talking.

Where is your lair?

The nest is unreachable by mortal man.

What is your connection to the cult of the anti-Dawnmother?

The Blood of the Dawn will usher in the Dusk.

How is Peter Pumbleby connected to you and yours?

He is the bridge between this world and the next. He will usher in the great dark.

Where is the ritual happening?

Within the nest.

How do you access the nest?

I teleport.

And then she went silent. We ask Rictus if he knows what Wiest was doing with Porter’s unit of 18. He was not aware of what he was doing with them, but they were quite a capable assassin squad in the south west and Central America. Nat asks if we can have his authority to check his home and office. He agrees, but warns that his daughter may not care about his authority. Remy asks for mana so that we can “deal with this like mages, and not Police Officers.” Remy asks for 150 motes when prompted, and Rictus give us 100. Saying we can revisit if needed. Then asks Dalish to stand very still and tosses the corpse through his shadow. He says he expects Dalish to stay in touch and then steps through his shadow himself. We divy up the mana and gather up to take watches and rest for the night.

Demons Come Home to Roost

We set up a private sanctum in my room, blocking the doors and windows with furniture. Taking watches and resting, to heal and recover. The time passes quietly. I leave a note for Gerald to go the school and stay there, it isn’t safe here anymore. When Marybeth wakes up, she remembers she was supposed to contact her handler, but had just been too exhausted. Nat offers to go with her, to tag along in her dreams. Marybeth tries to resist, but we insist. Nat makes some tea, and they both go back to sleep.

Nat wakes up vomitting. We really need to get her better herbs. She couldn’t follow Marybeth, but she did learn a lot about the monsters we’ve been fighting. Back before the breaking, the fae world and ours were nearly on top of each other, but now they orbit a void. Souls travel this void from one world to the other. At the breaking, some fae were trapped here in our world. They called out for help, for centuries they called to their people. Eventually, they were answered, by the demons in the void. These demons are siphoning the souls for power as they travel between worlds through the void. They come from somewhere further out, but the void gave them a new home, and they have been growing in power ever since.

Marybeth wakes up then. She says that Grandfather is taking advantage of loopholes in the contract. He has put it back in arbitration, to get himself in charge again. He is threatening to summon a greater evil upon the world if they don’t do what he wants. She confirmed that the curse is on her entire bloodline, and he was brought back with all her power, and his own contacts. He has convinced a chaotic subfaction to follow him. They are trying to bring her back to their home to remove the contract from her. If he gets it back, he can wreak more havoc on the world. She had been offering them the souls of those we killed, while her Grandfather had been killing innocents. We have to stop him from summoning this greater evil, and get her back to their home to defend herself. We insist on going with her, but she is afraid of us understanding the whole of it. So, we have Nat fill her in on what she’s already told us.

We’re all in. How do we find Grandfather? He must need mana. Where would he get it? The school? A refinery? A storage facility? He might masquerade as Marybeth in any of those places. Could Nat scry on him, just to see? Orrin cannot sense the other Marybeth. What about the bog witch? Then the conversation devolves into an argument about how he got into the Library. It doesn’t matter! He did it!

Nat tries to scry, but gets nothing. Dalish receives a summons from Rictus. Ugh! Where else might Grandfather be? What about that blood cult? There might be power there for him? Might as well check, it’s in this area of town. So, we head over there first.

It is still closed. Nat picks the lock to get us inside. It has been cleaned and repaired, but not very well. No one has been here in a very long time. There is nothing to find, so we head on to the school. I give Dalish back his phylactery since Rictus will want to see it. We make a plan of how to explain our presence to the groundskeeper to get me on campus, which I prompty forget when faced with him and the servires. I tell him we’re investigating a threat to the school and the city at large. I promise to behave, like I did the last time, and he gives me another day pass in.

Remy asks if Marybeth has been around since last time, but he says no. Remy asks about the fountain, but it isn’t running, the mana is kept more securly now. Marybeth asks him to banish her temporarily once we leave today, and he agrees. Dalish heads to meet Rictus and the rest of us head to look around the school. Everything seems pretty normal and quiet. Eventually, we head up to see Raltus. He tells us that things are just ask quiet as it seems. James is his only regular visitor. Remy consults with him on medical practices. Nat leaves Aleria a note, and when Dalish rejoins us, we head out.

Dalish tells us that the sacks have been destroyed, hundreds of them. And we’ve been tasked with finding and killing the black knight. This runs into a conversation of the morality of such an order. Are we actually going to kill him? Klyce, who previously had been all about following orders, but against killing, is back on his no death kick. Marybeth agrees. Dalish points out we’re still military, and these are direct orders. Remy wants to talk to him, understand what he is doing. Maybe we can capture him instead.

As we approach Marybeth’s old house, she turns into her accountant and begins to give us a tour as through we are going to buy the place. We head around the back and Nat once again lets us inside. The house is gutted and empty. Marybeth leads us to her Grandfather’s office and we begin a search in earnest, spreading out from there. Nat finds a compartment in the fireplace mantel, containing a series of papers in a strange language. Marybeth has a quick arguement and snatches them away, reading feverishly. The original contract, it seems. Remy finds a small iron box in another room with a strange symbol on it. We decide to take it back to my place to try and disarm it and head out.

The front gate is hanging open. Oh… no… I stop everyone and peak around the grounds. No one. We carefully head up to the house. The front door is wide open. Quietly, carefully, we creep inside. There are sounds from the dining hall. I gather everyone around the door. Ready? They all nod and I throw the door open.

There are two pig and four toad demons sitting at my dining table, feasting. Feasting on my servants! They’re talking to me, but I hear only thunder. I call forth the storm, screaming at them to get out of my house as I send lightning into the one who is speaking. Three of them leave immediately. The other, Thanks Me For My Hospitality!!! And before I can send another lightning bolt at him, he takes the remaining toads and leaves as well.

People are talking to me. I still hear thunder and wind. I let the spell drop. Yes. Yes, they all have family. Oh gods! Oh Dawnmother! Nononono. This isn’t happening. Why? We have to gather them up. I stride in and start gathering the parts, trying to match bodies. Gerhardt! Dalish! Help me! We have to tell their families. We have to give them proper burials. How? Where? What funeral parlor would their families use? How do I find them? I have to pay for it, I have to take care of their families. Klyce is talking at me again. We can’t give them back like this. We have to cremate them. Nat? Nat please help? We wrap the pieces and take them outside. The garden, they all loved the garden. I used to play here with them. Nat lines them up, and says the words and prayers. I try to pray to the Dawnmother, I don’t know what I say. Guide their fate or something ridiculous. Their fate is sealed. We start the fires. Nat asks about the neighbors, but I don’t care.

Then Klyce is yelling. Something is wrong at his house. He turns into an eagle and flies away with someone on his back. I max out my fly spell to get everyone still standing around and we fly after him. We arrive shortly after him. His living room is covered in gore and demon parts. Philip is sitting dazed with a knife in his hand and blood all over him. Klyce yells down for someone to come up to his sister Patty. I stop Dalish and go up myself. I just can’t clean up anymore blood today. Klyce asks me to send to Elizabeth to tell her to come home. I do and she’s busy but alive.

When they ask me to bring her down, everything is clean again. Klyce is explaining that there was an attack and Philip defended the family, but they are no longer safe here. Our enemies are attacking our loved ones. The shop will have to close for a few days while we sort everything out. Klyce asks if they can all come back to my place. Of course, but that doesn’t seem safe either, right now. We’ll all be there, we’ll keep them safe. He asks everyone else about their families. Marybeth says we have to go get her mom. No one else has family they care about in town. Klyce’s mom resists, but he eventually convinces her. As we head out, I send to Elizabeth again, telling her she’s in danger and to meet us at my address. We head to where Marybeth’s mom is staying to round her up, and I wonder if anyone has called the fire squad on the black smoke from my garden.

Darkness in the Mines

I swear it was dawn, but as we headed back up to the castle, it grew dark once more. There is chaos in the courtyard. The prisoners that didn’t go to town came here, and took a dozen more down into the mines. Nat takes charge and sets an elder of the town to manage the citizenry. She gets the men to building tents in the continued storm and the women and children inside to the banquet hall for shelter. After checking to be sure Nat’s family is alright, we all try to get a little rest. We have to go to the mines, but not in the exhausted state we’re currently in.

After our rest, and a bit of orange juice (Remy is still obsessed with the juice’s existence), we talk about what to do. It’s decided that we’ll go to the mines through a secret entrance from the castle, instead of the front gate. We head down carefully, because the crazed crossbolter has set bear traps all down the path. Fortunately, we don’t run into him or the strange bat-man. We find a phantom hound, like Dalish’s upstairs. Gerhardt dispells it so we can get by.

We get down to the mine level, but the chamber between us and it is full of the inactive undead, stacked like cordwood. Remy starts freaking out again. You’d think he’d seen enough undead by now, but I guess some people just can’t handle the creep factor after they’ve tried to kill you repeatedly. Remy starts flying and the rest of us start climbing our way through. One twitches, Remy shoots, and then all heck breaks loose.

I grab Marybeth beside me and dimesion door us out of the room to the far side. Dalish and Gerhardt join us after only a moment. There’s a huge explosion on the other side of the door, and Remy yells at us to get Nat. It takes some doing to get the door open after he exploded all the zombies in front of it, but we managed to pull her out and get her healed back to consciousness. Just in time for Remy to get himself out before we slam the door back shut.

Back awake now, and with all of us gasping for breath, wondering what we’re doing down here, Nat shares a vision from the night before. The guy we’re after is deep in the earth. He’s been here a long time and to stop the current disaster we have to break his body. But to finish him, we have to break his mind. Oh good, riddles to go with the creepy shadow monster.

The group has a bit of a fluff up with Remy about zombies again, until said creepy shadow calls out to him, saying it can work with a fear of zombies. We call out to it in turn, asking why it’s doing this. It says it got a gift and now must destroy the Bones, as they kept him trapped here. We try to figure out who he is and how he got free, but it’s no use.

We head on, and come across a group of people, beaten and tied. We call out to them quietly, and they say that the miners check on them every half hour or so. Deciding to set a trap, we cut their ropes and send them back to wait outside the zombie room. Marybeth and I sit where they were while everyone else hides. They show up on schedule, and though the fight is rough, we put them down.

The shadow starts talking again. He asks about the mage revolution, and we tell him the mages won. He was put down here before it started. When we mention Rictus, he seems interested. We try to make a deal, don’t go after the Bones and we’ll help him get Rictus. He won’t be disuaded, though.

We head onward, freeing captives as we go, sending them back along the paths we’ve cleared , and hoping for the best. Then we come across a group of miners that are still working. Some are badly mutated, but some are only slightly affected. Nat recognizes one as Philomena’s butler, Ulysses. She approaches him carefully.

Asking what happened, he slowly, painfully replies punishment. Then asks after the family. She assures him they are safe. She asks what happpened. Bad things go bad, but not him. Remy steps up to take a look at him. The mana exposure has caused severe damage. It seems the mana has weakened them, made them easier to control for the shadow. Nat delves a little into his mind, with his permission, to try and understand. The shadow takes the weak, but he doesn’t know where they go. He keeps working so he can keep control. He says he’s been here in this mine for a year now.

We try to get him to stop working and go wait with the others, but he won’t. He doesn’t want his family to know what became of him, begs us not to tell Philomena. Remy thinks maybe Triplehorn or Klyce can figure out a way to fix the damage. Nat says it’s too late, he wants it to end. While the boys argue, Nat steps forward, and stabs him through the heart.

I… I can’t look. I… we knew him. He was innocent… Not a monster… not bad. He… I… what… No…

Hard Times and Assassination

Hardin Klein explains that his mission is to figure out how to use mana without having to dig it up and refine it. The cost of doing so is growing too great. He asked them to find someone like Xin Yue for him to study, and the picked me. I’m furious, but there’s nothing to be done about it. He’s not planning any of the ridiculous experiments his underlings had been doing.

I try to explain my magic to him, but since most of it suddenly appeared one day, I don’t think it will help any.

Some comes from the earth, like Xin Yue. Some comes from the old goddess, the Dawnmother. Some may come from the evil eye of the dead fae god, Balor, but I haven’t tested that yet. The rest… Well, a hag in the woods said it came from murder, but I didn’t kill anyone when I got my magic. Honestly. I think she was referring to the Old War.

Poor Mr. Klein spent hours asking me questions and I spent hours explaining that I had no clue how I did it. I showed him what I could do, and talked about how I made the elements do what I wanted. I told him all about the Dawnmother and my prayers to her. I even explained Balor and the horrible, awesome power as we destroyed his eye. This went on for months.

Then, one morning, I woke up and something was wrong. Mr Klein hadn’t seen me for several days, and I had no memory of that time. He looked into my head and noticed my memory had been modified. I begged him to fix it and he did, though it took some doing.

Rictus had taken me away from the facility. He made me do things. But it wasn’t me! I didn’t have control! I can see in my memory, watching my body kill people. It’s foggy, but I think there were six of them over those days. Then he wiped my memory!

I think I had a bit of a screaming fit after I realized what happened. Some of it in Sendings to Dalish, some to my other friends. I’m not sure I was coherent at all, but they all agreed it was horrible. Klyce, as usual, was the most reasonable of the group.

He suggested I tell people about what was happening. Put pressure on Rictus to get him to stop wiping my mind at least. I wouldn’t be able to stop being his instrument of death, but at maybe he would stop messing with my head.

Mr. Klein looked terrified at the idea of going against Rictus. Aleria replied to my plea saying that Primes are above the law, and short of a Certimum, there’s nothing to be done. I asked Dalish to ask Rictus if he would meet with me, and if not, would he at least stop wiping my mind, I’d do what he wanted. Dalish passed the message along, then told me Rictus said it was better if I didn’t know what my body was being used for! That just made it ten times worse!

Next, Klyce suggested I try and gather political power to put pressure on Rictus. I asked Dalish if his party could do anything, and he apparently caused a scene at a meeting. One of the members did come talk to me, though. He said that I needed to get more political allies, and change the law which put Primes out of legal danger. He also talked to people on my behalf so I wasn’t stuck inside the facility all day every day. I got to go into the city on weekends.

It happened again. I lost a few days again. Mr. Klein wouldn’t help this time. He didn’t seem to understand what I was asking. I think Rictus might have broken his mind a little bit, too. I sent to Remy, asking if his party could help. They want to limit magical use and abuse. He got a representative to come talk to me. He insisted I join their party if I wanted their support, it would help with lobbying the other parties if I was a member and not just an independant. So, I agreed and the following weekend, I signed up with the Magical Regulation League.

But nothing happened. No one could figure out who it was I had killed even. I was still stuck trying to explain my magic to Mr. Klein. He continued to grow more and more despondant as it lead him nowhere. I didn’t lose any more days, though, before it was time for our Harvest Festival shore leave. I was so grateful when the day finally arrived.

Mr. Klein

My first full day in Atlantic City didn’t go terribly well. They had brought me to a small room in the basement, for my bedroom when I arrived. The next morning they took me to meet with Dr. Hardin Klein!

“Young miss, I am sorry that we have been reunited under such awkward circumstances.  I have been here, paying penance for my sins. The Primes have chosen to punish me by keeping me confined here, but in truth this is where I belong.  I must do whatever I can to make up for what I and my team did.

“All this war, murdering innocents by the thousands… All for mana.  If I can prove my theories are correct, and find a way to access mana without refining or moving it, then all this territory grabbing will be unnecessary.  We’ll have all the power we need, already in our grasp.

“Will you help me, Tristia?  Will you help me save this country from itself?”

I’m ashamed to admit, I kind of lost it then. I stared at him for a long time. Emotions raging through my brain and across my face. Fear, anger, relief, hope among the top ones vying for control. It took longer than I liked to find my voice. Everything was still spinning, but I had to try.

“You… Wha…?” I tried again. “You want me to help you? After everything that happened?” I know it wasn’t his fault, but it was his lab! I press on. “T..tell me what you’ve been doing down here. I want to stop the war, stop the genocide of Fae and Natives. We agree on that. Did you help make those Machines?  Was that you? Now you want something safer? Because people died?” I couldn’t stop. It probably wasn’t him, that’s not what he said. “What are you doing here? Why am I here? Why did they take my friends away?” I stop, I’m shaking again, like a child. Close my eyes and shut down for a moment, breathing. “What do you want from me?” I barely manage to whisper. 

“Yes, I know what happened.  The machine, it was designed based on some other mage’s work, a man named Garion.  I wasn’t involved in that, though that project seemed miraculous.  Recovering mana from summoned creations, that was rather ingenious, I still don’t know why that project was recently shuttered.  But no, my research is a different animal.  I don’t know what’s happened to you and your friends, but I want to help.  I know I have sins to atone for, that’s why I’m asking for your help, so that I have a better chance.  I am sorry for all that I’ve done, wittingly or not.”

“I don’t know why you’ve been sent here, Tristia.  Please understand that I did not request you to be sent here, not specifically.” He seems genuinely sorry, but I can’t believe it.

“Those machines were awful! Those creatures being murdered inside them were Sentient Beings! By the Hundreds if not Thousands. Summoned from their homes and slaughtered for their Mana. Garion was a horrible monster who tried to do the same thing to me!” I’m yelling now, furious, and he’s the only person to yell at. I shouldn’t yell at people, it’s not proper. It wasn’t his fault, but I was still scared.

Breathing. Calm. 

“They stopped using them because they all exploded at once, killing hundreds of soldiers who were near them.” I looked at him to see how he’s receiving all of this. “They sent me here because I don’t drink Mana like everyone else does. Like Xin Yue.” 

Calm, I have to stay calm. Angering him will not help my chances, but I wanted him to understand. 

“What are you working on, Mr. Klein? How do you want to use Mana? How can I help?” 

So, he told me, and I tried to listen with an open mind.