Into the Darkness

As we land back in Buenos Aires, Klyce transforms into a huge demon and charges Hank, putting him through a wall. Then, through gritted teeth, asks us to get Hank our of here or stop him. Nat traps Klyce in a ball of force and Hank comes back in. Through sheer force of will, Klyce calms himself and explains that having killed Hank in the big fight under the glacier, and then having brough him back, his vengeance is very angry. That Hank being alive is athema to him. Locke grabs Hank and they blink out. Far enough for Klyce to truly relax.

Nat wonders about going into Klyce’s brain to try and solve the problem. Klyce is open to it, since Nat was able to almost find the problem with his new step-dad. Then Dalish asks if Klyce can’t just tell the vengeance No, but it’s not that simple. Klyce says that he IS vengeance, and there’s no putting a stopper in it. The others go off for awhile about out godly connections until Klyce and Philomena head off to find a different hotel.

Then, as folk start going through the loot they found, I send to Hank that he can come back, and he does. The group has picked up a couple swords, a blowgun, a new robe, some fancy armor, a strange candlestick, a satchel of potions, a new necromancy spellbook, and three tomes that they think are really big business. It seems both swords would fit Klyce, but also both seem pretty dangerous. I’m a bit horrible to Remy about their looting while he’s trying to tell us about the worse sword of the two. I was just so angry about them looting while we were trying not to die from all the lava pouring in on us. Maribeth talks me down and offers to get tea with me later so we can chat.

The group decides I should have the weird robe, it can let off a brilliant light three times a day and stun everyone who sees it. That seems weird, but hey, maybe the Dawnmother will like it. Then everyone goes off to their rooms to READ for Three Days!!! We need to be after the last shard, we need to finish this mission and get back home! We’ve been down here so long and the elections are coming, and my brother is living with a demon and my parents are still missing! And they take three days to READ! I know I always want to run away and just not deal with things, but we told the queen we’d rescue the prince, and we told people we would find the Black Knight, and we’re supposed to be helping stop the city from exploding or imploding, I’m not really sure which at this point. Nearly dying twice a week is fun and all, but we have to get home.

We get back together after those three days, after Nat dug around in Klyce’s brain on the third night. Everyone is there, and everyone stares at Klyce when he and Philomena arrive. He is confused by our attention, but seems fine, so we settle in. They say that to books didn’t expend themselves and can be used again right now, if we want. I nearly explode. I am NOT waiting another three days doing Nothing! We have to get the shard and we have to go back. Klyce agrees with me, thank the gods. We give all the pieces to Nat and they snap together into a nearly complete mirror. She says she can feel a directionality, but cannot see a location. The others pull out books and try to sort out her feeling. It looks like Southern Argentna, where there’s a place called the Cave of Hands. It’s an ancient site with stenciled handprints, but one of the illustrations has a stylized purple bird on the edge. It looks like the one from the tablets Philomena found.

We have a locaiton now, and Philomena says she’s going to come with us this time, with no research left to do here. Hank says he thinks this is for us to do. They were only led here to help us get there, so they’ll stay behind. We head out on Dalish’s dead bird, with Klyce flying Philomena beside us. Several people spend our travel time reading those damn books again, but I don’t know how they can read while flying, I can hardly keep my eyes open for the nausea of it all. Somewhere along the way, Klyce gives Maribeth and Remy their youth back, I looked up one morning, pulling my mask aright, and they were young again. Maribeth looks much happier now.

On the evening of the third day, we find the canyon and Nat leads us to the mouth of the cave. There is a huge circle around it of no vegetation, and it is all the way out here where our magic is suppressed. It’s easier now though, we’ve done this so many times already. We head inside and the darkness is oppressive, and magical. Dalish has to cast Daylight on Klyce’s scorpion tail to allow us to see even a little bit. The hands start changing as we get deeper and deeper, into clawed, hideous things.

Our path comes to a dead end at a solid sheer wall. There are two stylized, purple amethyst parrots. I reach out to one and it feels hot. Nat looks around and finds small carvings on the other walls. Describing the people coming here to offer sacrifices. That this is the gateway to the land of the dead. Daish and Maribeth say that could mean the land of shadows, or smokey mirror, where they go to be forgotten. Seems pretty horrible to me. Nat feels a thinness here, and she cuts her hand, praying to the Dancer at the Crossroads. She pulls the mirror out of her pocket, smearing it with blood. There is a deep purple flas and a gateway opens. It feels like death, but we all head through. We’ve all died at least once, maybe this is where we belong.

Stepping through, every bit of moisture feels pulled from our skin and the darkness presses in even harder. We are standing on sand? No, looking down, it is powdered bones, we can see a few full pieces here and there. Dessicated corpses from eons past. Nat leads us onward for a long while. It feels like Old Town used to, up in Bangoria. The shadows stir and rise, and crowd in around us. I shout for everyone to close their eyes and light up the cloak. We need more than me, folks. And I begin praying to the Dawnmother as Dalish and Remy cast more Daylight spells on Klyce to keep the shadows at bay.

Dawnmother guide us. Dawnmother teach us. Dawnmother protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. I live only to serve. My life is yours.

Over an hour later, the shadows finally abate, but what we find is far worse. Three monstrous chained beings of flesh and eyes and mouths, with three young people trapped inside them just barely younger than most of us. That Voice comes again: Great Works require Sacrifice. Do the work and complete the sacrifice.

I thin there were more words, but I stopped listening as Remy translated them out for the rest of the group. Nonononono! We are not killing children! The monsters just stare at us. And the group erupts. No! We can’t kill the kids! Nat wants to go investigate, but Remy stops her. We have to talk this through first. What are we doing? He turns to them and speaks in their language.

Can you understand me?

Yes, mortal.

Why are you here?

To preserve and wait.

Why do you have these children?

To be their continuance and their end.

Where can we find the shard?

It will be revealed when all here are dead.

Who put you to this task?

Those you call gods.

Nat wants to see if the kids are still alive/thinking. She she looks in on them. They are sleeping and having happy, peaceful dreams. She pushes in, looking for how they got here. There were in a forest village with their parents when luminous beings arrived. They spoke for a time and then volunteered to be taken and brought here. The luminous being said a great work was to be done, and innocent young volunteers were needed. They would be lost to their families to protect a dangerous fae artifact. These three came willingly, knowing it would cost their very lives.

We all take a step back. Why are we even doing this? Why is the other group helping us do this? What if we just don’t? We don’t even know why Hank and friends are helping us put the mirror back together. We want to find the Black Knight with it, but why, actually. What are we going to do if we find him? What is all this for? We cannot kill these kids. There has to be another way. We’ve come this far, we have to finish, but we are not going to murder children to do it.

Remy turns back to the monsters.

What happens when they are taken?

They cannot but through death.

What if we kill you?

The children are freed.

Can they survive without you?

Yes.

Can you be destroyed without killing them?

Yes, if you so choose.

What purpose do you serve?

And to this, they do not reply. Nat tries to detect thoughts of the monsters. They are waiting. To see if we attack or sacrifice the children. They are linked to them, in life and death. If they children are killed, the monsters will die immediately. The children are weak, it would be easy to do. The monsters themselves are quite hardy and will not die easily. They have no weaknesses, many resistances, and are immune to poison.

But this is what we must do, the children must live, even if it means our own sacrifice to save them.

Into The Nest

Brack fell to the ground, blood gushing from his neck, and I ran up to Spare him from Dying. Remy starts shooting at something above my head and I duck to cover Brack’s body. Next thing I know, I’m getting stabbed, too, and there are crossbow bolts coming out of windows around us. Klyce runs up beside me and chokes out a guy that I didn’t even see, and Remy keeps shooting. Glancing up, I see a ghostly shadow leaving the body in front of me, and I scramble back, but it flees. I join the fray, Catapulting some rocks up at the men in the windows, but every time one falls, a grey shadow flees the scene. Nat manages to get a Mindspike on one before it gets too far, just as the battle ends.

Gerhardt patches me up, and then wakes Brack up. He has had enough of our dangerous life, and heads back to his shadowy one. Nat quickly searches the dead, they still look slippery, like all those years ago in the Bronx sewers. They have no identifying features, no prints, no blemishes, nothing, except a brand at the base of their neck from the Mageocracy. Assassins! What? Why? I, self-consciously, check the back of my neck, but there’s no sudden appearance of a brand there, thank the Dawnmother.

We chase after the spiked shadow demon, all the way down to Little Italy. It is about 150 feet below us, so we head back into the familiar sewers of New Gnosis. This is nowhere near the location of the Nest, but we have to check it out. When we finally get close, it appears to be a Magia hideout. No! Nonono! We do not have time for That entanglement. So, we head back up and out. Once outside, Nat does sit down to take a look inside, but only finds an old dusty room.

We head off to find a map and do some triangulation of all the abduction sites. They find a spot in Brooklyn, near some dockside warehouses, and about 200 feet downward. Okay, I can do this. I know where we’re going, I have some demon bones and the cultist’s necklace. I gather everyone around me, and close my eyes. Transportation magic hurts a heck of a lot more than I thought it would. Getting shot didn’t even hurt that much. I hold on tight to the lightning, and we make it through to the ritual room Nat has described to us several times.

There are footsteps in the hall outside, and the girls hide behind the altar, while the boys stand to meet whoever comes. Two robed figures carrying torches enter. Someone says, We just want to talk, but they start shouting instead. We’ve been found! To Arms! Bullets and spells begin flying, as they summon two bone devils to help. I manage to get a Storm Sphere off, thanks to some countering of a countr by Remy. The room fills with spells, bullets, claws, and lightning.

One of the men disappears, and Remy starts shooting down the hall. Dalish flies after the invisible man, but he gets attacked by a charging man in armor. Once the devils are down, we all move toward the hallway, and eventually take down the fake knight after Gerhardt dispells all his charms. Dalish captures his soul, while Maribeth defaces the symbols around the altar. A wall of fire erupts at the end of the hall, and Remy starts swatting at invisible things all around him.

We all retreat back to the room, while Dalish uses the captured soul to look ahead. There are six mages waiting for us in a room at the far end of the hall. Remy is trapped in a mental prison, and we have to wait a minute for him to be free. The mages do not advance during that minute, so we settle in for a ten minute Prayer of Healing to get people pumped back up a little bit. Dalish is watching them, so they send an Arcane Eye down to watch us, too. Nat puts up a Telepathic Bond so we can communicate more easily, and we make a plan. We’re going to go up to the turn in the hall. Gerhardt is going to cast his Sphere, and we’re going to use it as cover to attack the mages. Klyce will head in and take them on physically, while the rest of us stay back and lob spells.

When we’re all ready, Klyce, still in crocodile form, did I forget to mention that? He’s found a new favorite. Anyway, Klyce, carries Gerhardt and Nat down the hall, with the rest of us following behind. Dalish stays a ways back from the group because he’s keepig an eye on the room still. Before we can get there, they pop out and cast two fireballs on the whole group of us. I fall immediately.

I wake up in a different hallway, in Dalish’s arms. Unconscious girls can’t be choosers, I guess. The group is investigating a set of double doors at the far end of this hall. These doors lead into a mess hall. Remy and Nat head in to check the doors at the far end of this room, and find a kitchen, cold room, and bathroom. Doors on the right side of this room lead to an empty barracks, where we find a couple more phials of mana, as well as some magical items, which we promptly steal: A dagger, a sling, a ring, and a shield. Nat claims the dagger, I claim the sling, Klyce grabs the shield, and we put the ring away until we can identify it.

Heading through the doors on the left side of the mess hall, we find a training room, complete with straw dummies. As Nat and Dalish search around this room, four devils teleport in. Two covered in chains, and two armored females that remind me a little too much of the succcubi. The fight begins, and I pull up my Storm Sphere. One of the ladies doesn’t like this, and immediately puts me down. This time I wake up in the freezer with everyone sitting around identifying the magic items. Except mine. That’s okay though, it’s just a sling.

When we’re ready, we head back through the training room quickly, and Remy can see some extra layers of protect ahead. We pass through them, as though through a veil, and are confronted by ten more mages in the prison wing. Porter is there, and he calls out to Maribeth, as though she was her Grandfather, saying he won’t let him win. We shout back that she’s not Grandfather, we’re here because he’s been kidnapping and murdering people, including our family members. He says that’s Grandfather’s doing, and he can explain everything, but not down here. He’s trying to stop Grandfather summoning the horrible, huge, evil thing.

Then a sword appears through his chest, and Grandfather is standing right behind him, looking like Maribeth. He thanks us for finding this place for him, he was having all sorts of trouble with that. Then a bunch of demons teleport in among us all!

Cannibal Murder Cults… I mean… Gentlemen’s Clubs

I woke up when the fighting was all over. I remember being grabbed by the Black Knight. I remember Klyce climbing up the building nearby. Then, Nothing. I woke up to Nat standing over us all, fresh as the day she got to school. We’re in Remy’s hotel room, even. Not lying on the street in pools of our own blood. So glad Nat found us, that could have been really, really bad. What if the red-capped creepers had found us first??

We immediately start asking her about the drawings. She didn’t see them in her hurry to leave the infirmary and find us, but they were all part of her dreams. She asked which ones had happened, and we told her all about the man in the sewer who tried to kill us all. We ask for more details on what she saw, but it’s all a bit hazy and she’s not sure which have happened and which are going to happen. She really wants to go after her brother in the south again, but we have to take care of the murders going on first.

Nat mentions that the women who were eating the man were surrounded by men in masks, like from her other drawing. I think real hard, and have a vague memory of my own father wearing a mask like it. Late at night, when he would come home loudly drunk. I never asked him where he’d been, you just don’t ask things like that.

But, if he’s been wherever this is happening, we have to find out where it is. The others talk about asking him, or following him. But we have no idea if he’s even going anymore, and I have zero desire to talk to him. Hey Dad, are you involved in a cannibal murder cult? Could you tell me where? Um…. NO, Thank You. Maribeth mentions her grandfather had a similar mask, too, and maybe we could search his office. Klyce mentions that we could also ask Philomena about her father’s activities, seeing as how they had weird creatures living below them.

We all end up back at school in the morning, and we let Klyce do the talking. Philomena isn’t terribly happy about our implications about her father, but she lets it go on account of all the dead. She says there are lots of gentlemens clubs, and they all tend to wear masks for anonymity. She’s sure her dad is a member of one of them. She tells us that they are in the better parts of town, generally not advertised, but they tend to have a mark on the building somewhere.

We go round in circles talking about our plan and their plans. Why now? Are they building up to something? Nat says the darkness is increasing. They were trying to open gates in the rituals we stopped. The symbol is a fertility rite, are they trying to make more? We decide to look at the other sites from the night before. Remy decides to get all dressed up in his adult body and see if he can score an invite to a club or two in the nice areas adjacent to the dumping grounds.

Heading out to talk to our cop allies, they tell us there were four body dumps last night. One was not on our list of possibles. The cops say they don’t have trouble with fancy gentlemen in this part of town. All the sites are bloody messes, as we expected. At the freshest site, we head down into the sewers to look for the redcaps. They turn out to be quite a ways down and away from the bodies, but I can feel their hunger again.

With some light tossing and slow spells, we draw two of them out and end them. I can sense more nearby and call out to them. They talk to me, for once, actually answering, unlike the rest we have fought. They are hungry, but not working with the humans. They just want food. I ask why they don’t leave, and they say they can’t, it’s not time yet. They won’t tell me what that means, or about the war. I ask how to make peace with their people, and they say they must be fed. Klyce won’t attack them if they aren’t attacking us, so I tell them we’ll leave. If they start killing people, though, I tell them, we’ll be back.

We head back to sleep, and in the morning, when Remy arrives, he looks like death. Before he can fill us in, Dalish arrives as well. He tells us about his lessons with Rictus the night before. The tub of Garian goo, when fed to a non-mage, gives them the ability to cast magic. He’s not sure if it’s permanent or temporary. We discuss whether Rictus is looking to make Loyal Soldiers, or Suicide Squads.

Remy gets up the nerve to tell us about his night. There was drinking, partying, and then a circle of of men, where three fae women devoured several men before their eyes. Dalish wonders if there are multiple clubs like this, all feeding people to the fae. Dear gods, if they exist, I hope not!

Okay, so the horror show of our lives continues, but what do we do now??? Maybe we can get the knights to help us, they like fighting against magic. Maybe we can find the creatures before the next ritual? Should we try protection spells? Someone thinks there’s a banishment spell? Oh man, this is going to be terrible!

(authors note: sorry, I ran out of time last week to get this typed up.)

Finishing the Semester

Finally back at school after that horror show of a fall break. It seems strange to be wandering the halls and going to classes. What are we even doing here? Everything is chaos, and here we sit, learning about math and history. Oh history. We’ve got a new teacher, and he just makes fun of all the “rich kids” in the class. Klyce seems much happier with this, at least. I just tuck in low and try to avoid notice as much as possible – it’s just like every other class now.

A lot of the upperclassmen have volunteered for the war, so the halls are a bit more empty now. Maribeth talked to her brother before she left, and then moved into my dorm room. She says he was probably involved in the mana ring, and he said she should stay close to me. I don’t think his motives are good, but I do trust Maribeth.

Someone left Dalish unattended and he told Malden all about the spellbook we found. Everyone but Klyce got really mad at him, but Malden only took out the Dominate Person spell and gave everyone the paper and ink they need to get all the spells, so I don’t see what the big deal is. Everyone knows Dalish can’t lie to save his life.

After all the fights we had at Nat’s place, and with a war looming, I give into the peer pressure and start getting up early with everoyone else for extra physical training. I’m not so sure about this crossbow anymore, not after what it nearly did to Remy, so the boys start teaching me to use a staff instead.

Klyce wants to go spell hunting one last time, so we head to the stables. When we tell the servires why we’re there, they all leave in a huff. Dalish notices some conjuration magic in one corner, so we mess around with water buckets, feedbags, and a horse, but we can’t get anything to happen.

Looking over the horse, Dalish notices something odd about the teeth, and with my help to keep it calm, sees that there are runes on its teeth and writes them out. Maribeth looks at the bridle and notices some similar runes. Looking over the tack, we notice bits of runs on different pieces of each set. Apparently, I’m the only one who knows anything about horses, so I set to work dismantling the sets and create a single set with all the runes and kit up the rune-teethed horse.

Nothing happens, so Remy casts his detect and sees that it’s an illusion spell of some sort, and putting it all together has created a unified aura. Looking around, he also notices the conjuration in the corner is an unseen servant like he has, so we leave that one be for now. We try riding around on the horse. We try casting an illusion on the horse. Nothing works.

Looking around the stable a bit more, I notice there’s a stall with runes inside it, too. So, I lead the horse in, with Remy nearby. The horse screams in pain and its leg buckles. With help, I quickly get it back out of the stall and unbridled. Gerhardt rushes over with healing potions to help, noting a lot of scratches around where the saddle and reins were. While we’re helping the horse, someone grabs all the kit and puts it in the stall. Phantom Steed appears in the air and they all hurry to copy it down. When the servires come rushing at the sound of screams we glare at them and they wander off again, but we’re done for now anyway. I fear for that horse, even though we saved it. There are only two left in the stables.

Something is wrong with Remy, but it takes him awhile to tell us. We all gather up in the dorms. Remy tells us that Professor Garian has been taking him down to the catacombs and making him use a machine that conjures weird mana beings, like the ones we fought around here. The machine then drains them, screaming, of all their mana, collecting it to fill the Fountain. Garian wants to roll out this method of collecting mana to the entire country. He is also using it for personal gain, juicing himself with mana, trying to become a god? Remy says one of these creatures killed the guy in his head, the memories the wierd gods gave him.

We all argue about whether the creatures are “real” or not. Whether they are just manifestations of mana that somehow hold more mana than was used to create them, or whether they are real, live, sentient beings. We talk about how all the ones we’ve seen have been trying to kill us, so why shouldn’t we kill them first. We talk about the gate the ones under Philomena’s house were trying to open.

Once again we consider just walking away, it’s none of our business. Klyce says Remy should walk away, too. I’m worried that he won’t be able to, that something bad will happen to him if he tries. Then the suggestions go off the rails. Destroy the machine. Kill Garian. What if it’s worth it. Maribeth wonders if her brother knew about the machine. He’s gone now, but not all his friends are. Klyce wants to talk to them, find out what they know.

Nat wants to help Remy learn more about his memory man, so they share the tea her Baba gave her. I sit with them, to make sure they wake up. Remy says people in his dream worshipped the Tempest, and we’ve been at war with these creatures for a very long time. I stop listening at this point, distracted by what my dreams could mean in this context.

She approaches, Shining as the Sun

She approaches, Burning as the Sun…

Fire … Destruction

Death … Rebirth

World Without End