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Tales from the tabletops of RPG gamers the world 'round. Or, something to that effect. (Silk's posts only--visit for posts from the blog's other authors!)

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<p><em>This post is one of a series in the ongoing <a href="" target="_blank">Juniper Campaign</a> posts. If you’re new to the blog, you may want to consider <a title="Smile, You're on Camera" href="" target="_blank">starting from the beginning</a>, or reading the <a title="The Juniper Campaign Summary" href="" target="_blank">summary</a> to get caught up on events up to this point. </em></p>

<p>After stalling the police outside his house long enough for Shannon and Felix to slip safely out the back door, John heads back to Shady Acres, where his grandmother has been successfully transferred to the centre’s coma ward during all the other excitement. As expected, she seems to be sleeping peacefully when he arrives. John talks to her as he sets up her personal effects, telling her about the incident of astral projection and other associated weirdness at Shady Acres. He adds that he’s got a friend in trouble when his grandmother suddenly sits up in bed.</p>

<p><span id="more-860"></span></p>

<p>“Oh, a friend in trouble, yes, yes. I think there’s going to be more people in trouble. There was that man,” she continues, before John can react. “He ate that other man. Yes, yes.” She keeps going in this vein, ominous if nonsensical rambling about people in trouble, until John collects himself enough to interrupt.</p>

<p>“Uhh. Is this one of the episodes I missed? You know I don’t keep up with all your shows.”</p>

<p>She retorts promptly. “What are you talking about, you daft bastard? Who are you? What am I wearing?”</p>

<p>“I’m… John…” he says slowly, more confused than ever. He doesn’t get the chance for further conversation, though, because his grandmother slumps back into unconsciousness as abruptly as she awoke.</p>

<p>Not long after that, Dr. Johnson announces himself with a light tap at the door. “Good to see you again,” John says.</p>

<p>“Good to see you as well,” Johnson says. “Sorry to interrupt, but we need to have a serious talk.”</p>

<p>“Has something changed?” John asks.</p>

<p>“I’m afraid so, yes. She’s not in any immediate danger, but if you see here,” Johnson proffers a medical chart, “her white blood cell count is dropping. This happens sometimes with comatose patients–it doesn’t mean they’re not going to wake up, but unfortunately it makes them more prone to sickness, which could be very dangerous in her current state.”</p>

<p>John tiredly points up, towards the clean ward on the fourth floor. “I’m afraid so,” Johnson says.</p>

<p>“How does that affect visiting and quality of life?”</p>

<p>Johnson assures him that the transfer shouldn’t affect her quality of life. “In regards to visitation, you would need a scrub first. This would take two, two and a half hours, and you’d have to be wearing an environmental suit. Instead of just popping by whenever you like, you need to give us a bit of warning. But as long as you give us some notice, we’ll make sure she’s available to visit.”</p>

<p>“I see. This is worrying.”</p>

<p>“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Johnson says, “but this is a significant change.”</p>

<p>“Have there been any signs of brain activity?” John asks.</p>

<p>“Actually, it does look like she’s improving.” Johnson shuffles around in the folder he’s carrying and produces another chart. “As you can see here, her prefrontal lobe is experiencing sporadic activity. It looks like she’s dreaming.” He slides the paper back into the folder. “I do want to caution you not to get your hopes up, but any activity is better than no activity.”</p>

<p>“That’s good to hear. When is she going to be transferred?”</p>

<p>“We need you to sign some forms first.” Johnson hands John the paperwork that will authorize his grandmother’s transfer to the clean ward.</p>

<p>While he’s scanning the forms, John says conversationally, “you know, I’ve heard some wild stories about this place.”</p>


<p>“All sorts of stuff. That it was some sort of mobster hideout, or…?” He trails off.</p>

<p>“Not a hideout. I’m surprised you heard about that, actually,” Johnson says. “Originally, it was a retirement home set up by one of the major mob families, so their family members would have a place to go if they lived long enough for retirement. Apparently there was a killing back in the ’50s or something.” He shrugs, adding that the centre is pretty ordinary now; even the clean ward upstairs, he says, is bright and cheery.</p>

<p>“The top floor must be pretty nice, then,” John remarks.</p>

<p>“I actually wouldn’t know,” Johnson says. “They value their privacy up there.”</p>

<p>“Yeah, I heard some wild story about how it was a cannibal den or something.”</p>

<p>“Wow,” Johnson says, after a pause. “I’m not gonna lie, that’s a new one on me.”</p>

<p>“Mind if I hold onto these until the end of the day?” John asks, gesturing to the forms.</p>

<p>“You have about 72 hours before the need to move her becomes urgent,” Johnson answers. “Sooner is better. But take the time you need.” He and John say their goodbyes and Johnson makes his way out, leaving John alone with his grandmother.</p><br /> <a rel="nofollow" href=""><img alt="" border="0" src="" /></a> <img alt="" border="0" src="" width="1" height="1" />

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


<p>A little while after Agent Greenwood pulls away, Felix wanders back down the hallway. “Is she the woman on TV with the FBI badge? Because she sounds like the woman on TV with the FBI badge.”</p>

<p>“If not,” John says, “she’s a very good impersonator.”</p>

<p>“Well… thanks.”</p>

<p>“But, to fill you in,” John continues, “you need help, and apparently things will go better if you turn yourself in.”</p>

<p>“Okay, thanks. I’m seriously considering it.”</p>

<p><span id="more-846"></span>As they’re talking, they notice that there seem to be a number of people hanging around the house: one man is sitting on a nearby bench reading a newspaper; a second, young-looking guy in a hoodie is just loitering around; a third man is yelling into his cellphone. None of it is overtly unusual, but John’s is typically a quiet neighbourhood, and they all seem a little too perfectly inconspicuous.</p>

<p>“I think I’m going to not be by the window for a while,” Felix says, suiting his own words and shuffling backwards. “Sorry, I might not be leaving for a while. Can’t walk Duke.”</p>

<p>“That’s alright, he gets your share,” John says. “Isn’t that right, Duke?”</p>

<p>“What do we do, though?” Shannon asks.</p>

<p>“I can run support!” Felix says with an enthusiasm that suggests he’s trying to convince himself it’s a good idea. “From here! I can tell you about vampires and–”</p>

<p>“Or,” John interrupts, “when I leave, they send someone over with a lockpick to open the door and find you here.”</p>

<p>Shannon raises her eyebrows. “So are you suggesting that as an alternative, or are you saying that we should all just wait until they go away, or what?”</p>

<p>“Or we have to get Felix out of the house in plain sight.” Turning to Felix, he adds brightly, “which is good, because you’re small, and I have a big suitcase.”</p>

<p>“You don’t think they’ll notice the suitcase?” Shannon says.</p>

<p>“There is that,” John admits.</p>

<p>The group debates stuffing Felix into one of Duke’s old dog crates instead, but that seems even less likely to escape the notice of the Feds, since they’d only wonder why he needed to move the dog around in a crate. John points out that he was going to see his grandmother this morning anyway, and suggests that he could bring Duke with him, pretending not to know that Duke would be turned away at the door. It still seems dicey, though, especially since there’s the possibility that Duke might bark from the house and alert the Feds that there’s something else in the crate.</p>

<p>John seems to reach out a decision. He hands Shannon a spare key and starts packing the previously-mentioned suitcase.</p>

<p>“So… what are we doing?” Shannon asks.</p>

<p>“I’m going to take this suitcase and leave,” John says. “And hope that after a while you follow me.”</p>

<p>“They’re not <em>all </em>going to follow you,” Shannon points out.</p>

<p>“It’ll increase your chances, I hope.”</p>

<p>“It’s not a bad idea,” Felix agrees. “Thanks. Talk to you… soon.”</p>

<p>“You have my number,” John says. “Good luck.”</p>

<p>When John leaves the house with the suitcase, a pair of the loitering individuals approach him. Pretending he doesn’t see them, John gets into the van; they start to hurry when he starts the engine. Still pretending not to notice, John calmly backs out of the driveway, at which point one of the men finally shouts at him. “Hey, hey! Hold up there!”</p>

<p>John rolls down the window. “What’s wrong?”</p>

<p>The man flashes a badge. “Officer Paul Kennedy, police.”</p>

<p>“I have an appointment to make, Mr.–Kennedy?”</p>

<p>“<em>Officer</em> Kennedy.”</p>

<p>“Officer Kennedy,” John repeats. “Can we do this some other time?”</p>

<p>“Now’s the best time. You’re a person of interest in an investigation.”</p>

<p>John sighs. “I have to be present for my grandmother’s transfer. Can I go?”</p>

<p>“I’m afraid you can’t,” Kennedy says. “Step out of the vehicle.”</p>

<p>“All right.” John pulls the van over to the side of the road, steps out, and waits.</p>

<p>“Can we search your vehicle, sir?”</p>

<p>“In all honesty, the thing’s used,” John says. “You might find something in there I don’t know about.”</p>

<p>“That’s all right,” Kennedy says. “We’re looking for a very specific… item of interest.” John notes that a few of the other supposedly-loitering individuals have found some reason to wander closer while Kennedy talks. “You had a suitcase with you. Could you just open it up, sir?”</p>

<p>John doesn’t bother to hide his exasperation. “Sure.”</p>

<p>Felix, watching from inside the house, murmurs to Shannon, “that was a good call.”</p>

<p>She nods, and the two of them take the opportunity to slip out the back door. From John’s backyard, they make it into a lightly wooded area and to a nearby park without incident.</p>

<p>John, meanwhile, has obligingly opened up the suitcase to reveal some of his grandmother’s clothing and personal effects, which is clearly not what the officers were looking for. “Sorry to have inconvenienced you, sir. Have yourself a pleasant day.”</p>

<p>“Yeah, you too,” John says. “I hope your bus finally arrives.” And then, before the officer can retort, he gets back in the van and drives away.</p><br /> <a rel="nofollow" href=""><img alt="" border="0" src="" /></a> <img alt="" border="0" src="" width="1" height="1" />

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


<p>After Felix’s apparent brush with possession in the Shady Acres lobby and the subsequent discovery of Mary Louis’s presence in the coma ward upstairs, the group decides to keep investigating. Over the next several hours, they learn that there have been several odd deaths in the area, although none actually on the premises; that the Phoenician runes decorating the building apparently have something to do with eyesight; and that the place apparently used to be owned by mobsters.</p>

<p>Shannon also finds a relatively credible-seeming source that suggests there are spirits active in the area, even a few incidents similar to what happened to Felix. None of the activity is what one might expect from ancient spirits, and a neighbourhood haunted by little old ladies is starting to look entirely plausible. Felix, on the other hand, finds something entirely more dramatic: according to the sources he’s unearthed, Shady Acres is nothing more than a blood bank for vampires.</p>

<p><span id="more-844"></span></p>

<p>After all, Felix insists, the top floor is closed off by people “wanting their privacy,” while the fourth floor is restricted to comatose people with supposed immunodeficiencies–in other words, people who couldn’t object to being used as a midnight snack. John, of course, is a little concerned with the prospect that Shady Acres might be turning his grandmother into a bloodbag. Knowing more about vampires would be useful in any case, since if there really are vampires in Juniper we’re likely to run into them sooner or later.</p>

<p>The problem is, of course, that there’s a whole lot of (mis)information about vampires, and it’s hard to find any reliable sources on the topic. Much of what the group finds about vampires is “common” knowledge: they drink blood, they don’t care for sunlight, are more or less immortal, and are stronger and faster than humans. The group is still trying to separate any actual information from pop culture when there’s a sudden, sharp rap at the door.</p>

<p>“You wanna go sit in the bathroom or something?” John says in response to Felix’s alarmed look.</p>

<p>“Yeah,” Felix agrees. “Yeah, absolutely.” He disappears down the hallway, and John answers the door.</p>

<p>The woman waiting on the porch is tall, blonde, wearing a navy jacket and badge that says FBI. “Hello. John Porter?”</p>


<p>The woman introduces herself–although John would have recognized her from the press conference in any case–as Leslie Greenwood. “May I come in?”</p>

<p>“Of course.”</p>

<p>Greenwood steps inside and flips open a notebook. Shannon, in the next room, is making no attempt to hide her presence, but Greenwood either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. She’s focused on John. “I’d like to ask you about one of your acquaintances, one Felix Chen. Do you know him?”</p>

<p>“Yeah, I’ve met him a few times.”</p>

<p>Greenwood’s questions seem pretty standard: how would John describe Felix, when and where John last saw him, whether Felix seemed concerned with anything in particular, what they talked about.</p>

<p>“It was really just small talk.”</p>

<p>“Such as?” Greenwood prompts. “Sports? Maybe he was talking about what he was planning on doing that afternoon?”</p>

<p>“We were talking about that murder nearby,” John says. “Which I guess is kind of dark to look back on now.”</p>

<p>“Interesting. Now then. Do you know anything about his interests, particularly strange things?”</p>

<p>“I was vaguely aware of his interest in, you know, magical runes, monster stories, that sort of thing.”</p>

<p>“And do you know how long ago that started?” Greenwood asks.</p>

<p>“No idea.”</p>

<p>“Mhmm. Do you have anything else you’d like to add?”</p>

<p>“Well,” John says, “I don’t know if he had anything on his mind, but it couldn’t have been all that stuff. At least, it would surprise me a lot.”</p>

<p>“Well. Occult diagrams were found in his apartment, clothing taken from the bodies of the deceased was found in his apartment, he was spotted sniffing around the scene of the crime afterwards… It’s not looking too good for him.” She closes her notebook. “If you see him, I recommend that you have him give us a call. Better for him to come in on his own.”</p>

<p>“I’ll try to be diplomatic about it,” John remarks. “I’m sure you understand.”</p>

<p>“Of course, of course. But he’s very troubled, and we need to make sure that he gets the help he needs.” Greenwood hands John a card. “Be careful around him–he’s very dangerous. You wouldn’t want to go around protecting him; it could come back to bite you.” And with that none-too-subtle threat, she gives John a little nod and shows herself out.</p><br /> <a rel="nofollow" href=""><img alt="" border="0" src="" /></a> <img alt="" border="0" src="" width="1" height="1" />

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


Shannon ushers a very confused Felix out the front door. Once they’re out of earshot of security, she turns to him. “Okay, seriously. Are you messing with me?”

“I don’t know,” Felix says. “What did I do?”

Shannon studies him for a moment. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

“No!” he protests.

“Okay. So… do you have any idea why you might have thought you were a 94-year-old woman?”

“…No? So,” he says slowly as he puts the pieces together, “I suddenly started talking like a 94-year-old woman.”

“I’m gonna ask one more time,” Shannon says, “because I want to make absolutely sure you aren’t screwing with me.”

“Nope.” Felix is vehement. “That would require planning, and I, I’ve got nothing, sorry. I’ve almost been blood-sucked–”

“Not so loud!”

Felix drops his voice, but doesn’t miss a beat. “And now, the police want to ask me questions, and now, I’ve been a 94-year-old-woman and I don’t remember, and I don’t know, I just–” he stops, realizing that he’s been ranting. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I get it.” Shannon pulls out her phone and texts John with her dawning suspicion that Felix has just been possessed.

John, meanwhile, has just finished signing the last of the paperwork, and Patrick is assuring him that he’ll get a phone call once his grandmother has been safely transferred to Shady Acres. John thanks her for her time and then, checking his phone, rejoins Shannon and Felix outside. “Hi. Um… possessed?”

Felix declares that he’d really rather be somewhere else right now, so the group heads for the van. Shannon describes what happened as they’re driving back to John’s place.

“Has this happened before?” John asks.

“Not to the best of my knowledge.” Felix pauses. “Although since I don’t remember it, maybe I do it all the time. No one’s told me.”

“It’d be awfully rude if they didn’t,” John says wryly.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

“Well, um… I’m happy for you both?” John says. “I’m not really sure what to do with this.”

“Hope really hard that it doesn’t happen again?” Felix suggests.

“Well,” John says, “we have a name. Maybe she does this a lot. And it can’t hurt to look up a potential… exorcism, I guess?”

Felix shrugs. “It’d give me something to do.”

The conversation lapses as the group delves into research, hoping to find out more information about possession in general and this Mary-Lou in particular. Eventually, Felix looks up from his computer. “I think I found our old lady. It’s kind of upsetting, really. There was a woman by the name of Mary Louis who lived near there in the ’80s. She was at her friend’s funeral and she got hit by the limousine. She’s been in a coma ever since. And she’s there,” Felix says. “She’s 94 now. So… she’s apparently somehow still self-aware.”

” That makes sense,” John comments, “because according to my research this is more like astral projection than a possession. Sounds like she just kind of … borrowed you.”

“Creepy.” Felix considers that for a moment. “So she’s aware that time has passed, even though she might not know where she is.”

“She asked where she was several times,” Shannon points out. “If she was in a coma when she got there she’s probably never seen the place.”

“But she’s somehow cognizant of the time that’s gone by.”

“Apparently she measures it by how ugly the teenagers are getting.” Shannon shrugs. “So what do we do?”

“Tough question,” John muses. “I don’t suppose your research shows that she’s some sort of evil witch? Committing murders?”

“Not yet, anyway.”

“Well, maybe there’s something going on that’s preventing her from properly waking up.”

“I wonder how we would test that,” Felix says. “Or if it’s our place to get involved.”

“Hey, if we’d kept our noses clean, our candles would be dark right now,” John retorts, Hunter slang for “ignorant of things go bump in the night.”

“I was walking home, man!” Felix protests.

“I dunno your story. What’s your story?”

“I saw one of those icky water horse kelpie things lure someone into the river,” Felix says, which is enough to shut everyone up for a minute.

“Anyway,” John says after a moment, “I think we should investigate, purely out of caution.” But he also points out that we’ll likely have trouble getting in until his grandmother is officially a resident, and so talk turns to what can be done in the interim. John suggests following up on the Tuscany Tonguebeasts, and Shannon replies that they’ve likely fled. “Though I suppose there’s always the chance that they’ve just moved on to some other club. It’s a big city.” They agree that it’s still worth investigating; they know what the Tonguebeasts are and what these two look like, after all, so they’re not quite back at square one.

Before the group can get much farther, though, their attention is drawn to the TV. The news channel that John had left running in the background is broadcasting a press conference taking place in front of City Hall.

I want the people of Juniper to know that we will not rest until we catch this son of a bitch. We have experience and a cell with his name on it right now. We’re writing a profile, and have begun to interview his friends and acquaintances. We have discovered that he is a ‘loner,’ working an unsatisfying job as a copy editor.

The camera’s focus is a tall blonde woman, armed, wearing a navy jacket and a badge that reads FBI: VASCU. The news ticker introduces her as “Special Agent Leslie Greenwood.”

He was researching the occult, and we believe that he may have just … snapped. And the thing about people like this is that they get messed up very, very quickly. We need to have him caught and caught soon.

“Wow,” Felix says. “I suck.”

“Congratulations, I guess?” Shannon says wryly.

John smirks. “Your first stalker.”

Felix is ignoring their comments and frantically Googling VASCU. There’s not a whole lot of information, but what he does find isn’t reassuring: VASCU specializes in taking down serial killers, and they’re apparently very good at what they do. “I’m not sure I should be here,” Felix says, staring uneasily at his computer. “These people are pretty serious.” He pauses. “I guess I could just go to the police station and get it over with.”

“And hope they’ll hold on to you?” John asks. “It’s a federal case now. They’ll call the FBI for you.”

“I know that, but I’m probably gonna get caught. And there’s no reasonable way of proving I didn’t do it.”

“Well, at least one part of it you are completely guilty of,” John says.

“What, shooting the guy? Yeah, that was dumb.”

No one bothers to point out that his options were pretty limited at the time, since that will be precisely zero help when dealing with the police. And no one knows what to do about Felix’s new, exciting status as the subject of a high-profile federal investigation. But as long as everyone remains unarrested, there’s work to be done… b.gif?

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


<p>While John is still at the hospital and Felix is watching people say nasty things about him on the news, Shannon is elbow-deep in research material. She hasn’t head from John or Felix yet, after all, and her studio is still closed in the wake of Bella and Louisa’s deaths, so she takes the opportunity to learn more about the creatures that killed her coworkers.</p>

<p>Eventually, she finds some credible-looking information on creatures called Tuscany Tonguebeasts, who seem to be a match for what we faced, and sends it to John. In reply, John texts her his address and asks if she would mind checking on “Duke” (for the benefit of any listening wiretaps, of course).</p>

<p><span id="more-790"></span></p>

<p>The only response she gets when she knocks on John’s door is Duke barking, but when she makes a point of greeting the dog, Felix recognizes her voice and lets her in. “Thanks. Now I don’t have to hide in this closet.”</p>

<p>“You know, if we folded you in half, you’d probably just about fit. Hi.”</p>

<p>“Yeah, I am pretty little,” Felix says, unfazed by her teasing. “On the downside, remember that whole blood murders thing?”</p>


<p>“Yeah, the police found some of my spooky-rust research materials at my apartment and, uh, they kind of think I did it.”</p>

<p>Shannon sighs. “Of course they do.”</p>

<p>“And John saving that woman’s life has magically transmogrified into my accomplices trying to kill her. On the plus side, the photo they have of me kind of looks like a 60-year-old black man.”</p>

<p>“Thank God for small miracles, I guess. Where is John, by the way?”</p>

<p>There’s not much to say after hearing about John’s grandmother, so Shannon returns to the subject of the Tonguebeasts, summarizing what she’s learned: some think they’re related to vampires, mostly because they drink blood; their skeletal structure is a series of ladders and tubes rather than bones, which explains the prehensile tongues; and they usually have preferred feeding grounds, but tend to flee when discovered or attacked–which means we’ve likely missed our chance at them. Unless, of course, they decide to come after us instead. “Apparently they sometimes run away, but I’m not going to assume that they’ll just forget about us and everything will be wonderful and good. “</p>

<p>“I’m pretty sure everything won’t be wonderful and good.”</p>

<p>She hands him a prepaid phone. “So… now what?”</p>

<p>“I don’t know,” Felix says. “I don’t know how to be on the run.”</p>

<p>John arrives a short while later. “Still in a coma,” he replies when Shannon asks about his grandmother. “The doctors don’t know if she’ll wake, but I know my grandma. She’s strong.” Just then, Felix emerges from the hallway where he’d hidden upon hearing John’s car pull up. “Oh. How’s it going with day one on the run?”</p>

<p>“Uhhh… like rust?” Felix replies. “I don’t know what to do.” He pauses. “But you have other problems right now.”</p>

<p>In fact, John wants to head to Shady Acres right away, and asks if Shannon and Felix would mind providing a second opinion. They agree, nervous though Felix is about going out in public.</p>

<p>The party pulls up in front of Shady Acres to find a large, well-maintained building, decorated with Phoenician runes and occupying an equally well-maintained property. The group enters, and John introduces himself to the staff at the security desk, who ask all three of us to sign the visitors’ log. Felix signs himself in as Steve Gomez.</p>

<p>As he’s doing that, a sharp-faced woman steps out of the office just behind the desk. “Hello. And which of you is John Porter?”</p>

<p>“Hi, I’m John.”</p>

<p>The woman introduces herself as Karla Patrick, the facility’s director, and invites John into the office. She’s unimpressed when John waves Shannon and Felix to follow, suggesting that their business would be best resolved in private. John, however, replies that they’re close friends whom he’s asked to help him make the best decision, and Patrick doesn’t argue any further.</p>

<p>Sympathetic but businesslike, Patrick describes the facility’s features, focusing particularly on its hospital wards and ER-trained medical staff. John asks a few questions about the staff and their availability, and accepts Patrick’s offer of a tour.</p>

<p>Patrick shows the whole group around the first floor, which is split between administrative and low-level (e.g. clinic) medical functions. However, she politely insists that the other floors are intended for (prospective) residents and family members only. Shannon and Felix promise to wait, and Patrick accompanies John through the next two floors.</p>

<p>The second floor is for retirees, consisting mostly of apartments and a small shop. The third floor, where John’s grandmother will be staying, is a fully-equipped hospital with a ward dedicated specifically to comatose patients. The fourth and fifth floors are strictly off-limits; the fourth floor is open only to immediate family members, being dedicated to patients with dangerously compromised immune systems. Of the fifth floor, Patrick says only that it’s for more affluent residents who value their privacy.</p>

<p>Once they’ve completed the tour, John indicates that he’s prepared to start the paperwork. Patrick escorts him back down to her office, where they spend a half hour filling out forms.</p>

<p>Shannon and Felix, meanwhile, are enjoying a spectacularly uneventful wait in the lobby when Felix, who’s idly been watching the soap opera playing on the TV, abruptly says, “I thought she was sleeping with the other one. The one with the teeth.”</p>

<p>Shannon stares. “What?”</p>

<p>Felix ignores her. “The settings on this television aren’t right. Young man! Young man!”</p>

<p>The staff member that Felix is talking to looks more than a little confused. “Yes, sir?”</p>

<p>“This plant here just won’t do, it’s … where are we? Where is this?”</p>

<p>“Steve,” Shannon says. “Are you feeling okay?”</p>

<p>“Steve? Yes, where is he?”</p>

<p>“Um,” Shannon says, trying to decide whether she should be frustrated or alarmed.</p>

<p>This response doesn’t seem to be good enough for Felix. “Where is he? Are you deaf? Because I’m not deaf and I’m ninety-four!”</p>

<p>“Maybe we should go outside for a couple minutes,” Shannon says, since Felix is–to put it mildly–causing a bit of a scene. “You know, get some air?”</p>

<p>Felix looks out the window. “I’m not going outside, wherever this is. There are hoodlums! Like that young man with his pants halfway off his–Ugh! That’s repulsive! I’d like to die. They’re absolutely repulsive! They’ve gotten uglier!” He looks back towards the thoroughly baffled employee. “Young man! Is this a public building?”</p>

<p>“This is a private building, sir.”</p>

<p>“Are they allowed to be here? I have half a mind to go out there and tell them to stop loitering!” Felix places his hands on the arms of his chair and pushes himself mightily to his feet, looking surprised when he gets up quite easily. Thoughtfully, he raises a hand to rub his chin, then looks surprised all over again. “There’s hair there now.”</p>

<p>Shannon decides it’s better just to humour him until she can get him out of there. “Yeah, that happens when you get old. Look, do you want to go for a walk or something?”</p>

<p>“I’ve gotten hair in other places,” Felix says, ignoring her, “but I’ve never had hair there.”</p>

<p>“That’s … really more than I needed to know.”</p>

<p>Felix seems to have just noticed her again. “Why are you–no, I don’t want to go for a walk, there are vagrants out there. Who are you?”</p>

<p>“My name’s Shannon.”</p>

<p>“Mary-Lou. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” While Shannon is repeating the polite nice-to-meet-you nonsense, his attention wanders back to their surroundings, and he starts complaining about the plant again. Then, before Shannon can make another attempt to herd him out of the lobby, he collapses unconscious to the floor. She hurries over to him, but one of the building’s security people has also approached and is, none too gently, trying to shake Felix awake.</p>

<p>“… Why do all lobbies have these plants in them?” Felix asks, sounding dazed, but like himself. And then, “Why am I on the floor?</p>

<p>“You fell over after talking crazy,” the security guard says before Shannon can answer. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”</p>

<p>“What? I talked crazy?”</p>

<p>Shannon offers him a hand up. “Let’s just go outside, okay?”</p>

<p>“Okay,” Felix says. “Sorry to have inconvenienced you, security guy…”</p>

<p>“Let’s just <em>go</em>,” Shannon repeats, and shepherds Felix towards the door.</p><br /> <a rel="nofollow" href=""><img alt="" border="0" src="" /></a> <img alt="" border="0" src="" width="1" height="1" />

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


The party’s quest to stop the tentacle-tongued monsters¹ of Disco Nuit could generously be called a mixed success, but right now there’s nothing anyone can do except go home and hope for the best. Felix, of course, can’t even do that, since “home” is probably the first place the police will look. He accepts John’s offer of a ride and a couch to crash on, at least for now, and the two of them head back to the house that John shares with his grandmother.

After arriving back at his place and making sure that Felix won’t get eaten by his dog, John goes to check on his grandmother. She seems to be sound asleep, but she hasn’t taken her medication, and she doesn’t respond when John tries to wake her up. All her vital signs seem normal when he checks her over, but she still won’t wake, so he calls an ambulance.

Once at the hospital, he’s approached in the waiting room by a man who introduces himself as Dr. Bob Johnson. The prognosis: She’s had a major stroke, and the activity in her brain has dropped off as a result. She doesn’t require life support, and it’s possible she’ll wake from her coma in the future, but right now she needs round-the-clock care.

Johnson informs John that his grandmother qualifies for admittance at Shady Acres Centre for Elderly Living, a retirement-and-hospice centre that specializes in caring for vegetative patients. It’s staffed by a number of specialists, including Johnson himself; it is of course open to visitors; and admittance would be permanent “until and unless it’s no longer needed.” Johnson offers to put John in touch with the Centre’s director to arrange a tour and have any questions answered, but assures John that his grandmother’s admittance to this facility is “the best case scenario you could possibly hope for.”

All of which, of course, is starting to sound a little too good to be true. John starts by voicing the most obvious concern. “I can’t afford this,” he says, gesturing to the hospital.

But Johnson, it seems, has an answer for everything. His grandmother’s stay at Shady Acres would, apparently, be entirely covered by her medical insurance. Her hospital care is likewise covered, but only for the first 72 hours, after which she would either have to be transferred to Shady Acres or back home–which Johnson naturally recommends against. He offers to get the paperwork started.

John is already well aware that he can’t provide the 24/7 care that his grandmother needs. “Go ahead and start the procedure. This does sound like a good option, but I’ll just want to confirm.”

“Of course.” Johnson hands him a business card, and then leaves John alone with his grandmother. John talks to her for a little while, promising her that he’ll record her TV programs and telling her about the centre where she’ll probably be staying until she’s ready to come back home.

Before leaving the hospital, John calls his house phone–since Felix has, of course, destroyed his cell phone–to let Felix know what’s going on. For his part, Felix is understandably a bit nervous about answering the phone, in case it’s the police on the other end. Somewhat less understandably, he decides to hide his identity by answering the phone with his very best Christian Bale impersonation.

“Um,” John says–a perfectly reasonable response, all things considered. “Hi, Batman…?”

“Oh, it’s you. Hi.”

John tells Felix that his grandmother is still alive, still in the hospital, and that he’ll probably be pretty busy in the next couple of days making arrangements. “So, stay safe, make yourself at home.”

“Okay, thanks,” Felix says. “I’ll keep walking Duke.”

“Yeah, if you could record Coronation Street, that’d be great.”

They say their goodbyes–John figures he’ll be back in an hour or two–and Felix dutifully sets about recording every instance of Coronation Street he can find, which is how he stumbles across the following news broadcast:

We interrupt this program to bring you late-breaking news of an apparent serial killer. Jimmy Johnston reporting.

We have late-breaking news of two new attempted murders, for a reported total of four victims over the past 48 hours. The police believe they have identified a suspect in the mysterious alley-slayings.

The broadcast is showing a picture of Felix’s driver’s license photo.

“Oh, that’s not fair, guys,” Felix mutters. “That’s just kind of dickish.”

Fortunately, the photo on the broadcast lives up to the reputation that driver’s license photos have for being absolutely terrible, and the picture on the screen looks nothing like Felix and more like a sixty-year-old black man. That’s the only fortunate thing about the situation, though, as the broadcast goes on to prove:

Felix Chen is wanted for immediate questioning regarding the murder of two salsa dancers who were walking home from the club Disco Nuit. In addition, he was involved in another altercation during which, after following other individuals home from Disco Nuit, he shot a male with another woman who had been at Disco Nuit. Apparently one of his accomplices also attacked another female who had been at Disco Nuit; the two females had been together.

“Come on, guys, I pay taxes and stuff…”

His vehicle was found at the scene, on fire and full of bullet holes, after it rammed a florist’s shop and a post office. Police are saying that this could be cult-related as ‘esoteric magic-like books’ related to human sacrifice were found in his home. He is considered armed and dangerous. If you see this man, please call the police.

The broadcast flickers off and Felix slumps on the couch, trying to decide whether he wants to sulk or panic. He’s still doing that when, some time later, there’s a knock at the door…

¹ Yes, I know the monsters aren’t actually tentacle-tongued. b.gif?

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


<p>While Shannon and Felix were wasting time inside the club, John, who managed to get kicked out of the club before ever getting in, has been monitoring the club’s exit from across the street, looking for people who he can see with his eyes but not with his camera. He’s still doing that when Shannon and Felix finally emerge.</p>

<p>Since bothering the bouncers and schmoozing with the club-goers isn’t working so far, it’s time to adopt a new strategy. The group has no idea when, or even whether, the killer will emerge from the club with another potential victim, but no one is willing to take the chance that he (or she, or it) won’t. Since the fact that the killer doesn’t appear on camera is still the group’s best lead, Shannon and Felix follow John’s example, stationing themselves at various positions around the club in order to monitor the exit.</p>

<p>It takes a couple hours of waiting, but eventually they spot what they’re looking for. Two men, each with his arm around a woman, exit the club, one of whom Shannon recognizes as the man who invited her out for drinks earlier. All four seem to be having a very good time. The women are both visible on the groups’ cell phone cameras. The two men, however, are not.</p>

<p><span id="more-658"></span></p>

<p>John follows the group on foot, while Shannon and Felix each pursue in separate vehicles. When it becomes apparent that the men and their apparent victims are heading for a subway station, John texts Shannon and Felix with the route information before following the group onto the train.</p>

<p>At the second-to-last stop, one of the men and one of the women get off. John texts Felix and Shannon the location of the stop so that they can pursue, and stays on the train with the other pair.</p>

<p>As the subway car pulls up to the last station, John gets up to stand near the door. The woman likewise stands up, and the man walks her to the door of the car. When the doors open, the woman steps off the car and onto the subway platform, so John does too. The woman, however, stops on the platform; she’s still talking to her companion, who hasn’t stepped off the car but is instead waiting right between the doors, holding them open as they start to close.</p>

<p>The two aren’t making any attempt to hide their conversation, which sounds like fairly standard end-of-first-date material. The man assures the woman that he had a really good time tonight, and flirtatiously asks for a a good-night kiss. With her permission, he leans over and kisses her lips.</p>

<p>A moment later, her spine curves forward, and her eyes shoot wide open. He withdraws, wipes his face, and steps back onto the train as the door closes and the train pulls away. The woman collapses to the platform.</p>

<p>John steps forward and pulls her away from the subway tracks, shouting for help, then eases her to the floor and starts checking her for signs of life. She’s unconscious, her pulse is weak, and when he checks to make certain that her airway is clear, he finds that the inside of her mouth is covered in blood. John, a former paramedic, soon determines that her mouth isn’t actually bleeding; rather, it seems she’s bleeding from somewhere inside the respiratory system. Eventually, he manages to stabilize her at least enough that she can probably make it to a hospital–sirens can already be heard in the distance–and, that done, melts into the crowd.</p>

<hr />

<p>Felix and Shannon, both in their vehicles, follow the other man and his companion away from the subway station. Once it becomes clear that the couple is heading towards a particular apartment building, Felix and Shannon park their cars and continue following. The monster and his intended victim enter the apartment building and head towards the second floor. Shannon and Felix trail some distance behind, as if they’re only heading towards their own apartment.</p>

<p>Before too long, the man and the woman arrive outside the woman’s door. “Listen, I had a really good time tonight,” he tells her, launching into a version of the same speech that John overheard on the subway. It’s at about this time that Shannon and Felix receive a text from none other than John himself, warning them not to let the monster have its goodnight kiss.</p>

<p>Not wanting to do anything too rash with an innocent woman standing right there and figuring that the man won’t be doing whatever it is that he does as long as there’s an audience, Shannon figures it’s about time to call attention to themselves. Doing her best to sound annoyed, she glares at Felix as if he’s done something wrong. “Ow! What the hell was that for?”</p>

<p>“You closed this door on me!” Felix protests, following Shannon’s lead. “Ow, ow, ow, ow…”</p>

<p>The man doesn’t seem particularly alarmed by this interruption; he only looks faintly disgusted. Conversationally, to his companion, he remarks, “don’t you just love the breed of people that this kind of place attracts?”</p>

<p>She seems a little affronted. “Wait, what do you mean by that?”</p>

<p>“Well, you know, we’re trying to have a moment here, and these doofuses here are having one of their little couple fights.”</p>

<p>Hoping that they’ll continue to bicker, Felix mutters a complaint about the smug cremhole who just called his apartment a slum. Unfortunately, this comment seems to prompt the woman to decide that Felix is the doofus after all. Shannon and Felix are still staging their pretend fight as they continue down the hall, but it’s clear that they haven’t stopped anything: the couple is only waiting for them to leave.</p>

<p>Which is why Felix decides to whip out his pistol and fire it directly at the man’s chest.</p>

<p>Needless to say, the sudden gunfire startles, well, everybody, including Felix’s target. The man stumbles backward as the slug hits his chest and slumps against the wall, not moving.</p>

<p>Since apartment buildings are not a particularly good place to get into a gunfight, and since gunfights are something that neither Shannon nor Felix wants to explain to the cops, they leave the apartment and run for their vehicles. Felix is just getting into his car when an eight-foot-tall being lands on his hood.</p>

<p>The bloody wounds in its chest are about the only thing that suggest this creature is in fact the same being that we followed back to the apartment. Its arms don’t look normal, almost as if they don’t have bones. Its tongue is even less normal: it’s about a meter and a half long, covered in spines and leech-like suckers, and in the process of smashing through Felix’s windshield.</p>

<p>Felix manages to start the car just as a sucker latches onto his neck. Frantically batting it away, Felix slams on the gas pedal and aims towards the nearest building, hoping to throw the thing off the hood. He doesn’t manage that much, but he does manage to crunch one of its legs between the hood of his car and the brick wall of a post office.</p>

<p>Shannon, seeing all this from her car, grabs a hatchet off the front seat and hucks it at the creature. Unfortunately, the hatchet goes sailing past, and Felix has accelerated quickly enough that the creature is already too far out of range to attempt another throw.</p>

<p>The creature drags its barbed tongue down Felix’s arm. Felix, still trying to throw the thing from his car’s now-smoking hood, backs the car up and then aims it at another building. This time, though, the creature manages to hold on upon impact–at least until Shannon rams Felix’s car from behind, sending it flying through the shattered wall of the post office. It does not emerge.</p>

<p>Since there’s no time like the present to finally go for a weapon, assuming that “when you first decide to pick a fight with an unknown monster” isn’t an option, Felix reaches for the Tommy gun in his backseat. Shannon goes to take an identical weapon out of her trunk, pausing only for a moment to retrieve the thrown hatchet, which she jams into her belt as she goes to join Felix outside the post office. Felix, who has just phoned John to warn him about the “large wormy monster thing” whose night we’ve just ruined, puts his phone away just as an alarm goes off inside the post office.</p>

<p>When Shannon and Felix step inside, the post office is dark and, at first glance, empty. After a moment, however, Shannon spots moving out of the corner of her eye. Not willing to let the creature get the drop on them, she spins and lets off a short burst of autofire…</p>

<p>… directly into Felix’s smoking hood. (<span style="color:#339966;">Shut up, alright? I crit-failed a spot check.</span>)</p>

<p>“rust, sorry!” Shannon glances wildly around. “Where did that thing go?”</p>

<p>Felix looks back at his car, the engine of which is now on fire. “Clearly it didn’t go behind us.”</p>

<p>“Sorry. So where <em>did </em>it go?”</p>

<p>“Probably through that door that says ‘Alarm will go off if opened.’” Felix shuffles towards the door he just mentioned, which has indeed been opened, and peers into what looks like an internal courtyard. There are high fences all around and a gate across the way, but no sign of forced entry. There’s also no sign of the monster. Felix grumbles. “It’s probably just above the door, and once we step out it’s going to drop on us.”</p>

<p>“Probably,” Shannon agrees. “So are we going?”</p>

<p>“I think it’s our moral obligation to walk out into the courtyard and make sure. I really don’t want to, so I’d be open to explanations of why we shouldn’t.”</p>

<p>“Yeah, I don’t have any.” Shannon motions Felix away from the door. “Look, you’re bleeding. Ladies first.”</p>

<p>When the creature fails to jump out at her after she walks a few feet into the courtyard, she pauses for a good look. “Yeah, there’s a fire escape. I think it’s gone. We probably should be, too.”</p>

<p>They walk out of the post office and by Felix’s car, which is still blazing merrily. “I’m going to get nasty phone calls and possibly go to jail, aren’t I.”</p>

<p>“We might both be,” Shannon agrees. “I really don’t know what to do about that.”</p>


<p>“Well,” Shannon says, exasperated, “unless you want to think about it <em>to </em>the cops, we should probably just get out of here.”</p>

<p>It’s at about this point when John pulls up, to see Shannon’s car severely damaged, Felix’s car on fire, two shattered buildings, and Felix covered in blood. “Wild night?”</p>

<p>There are sirens in the distance, so there’s not much chance for discussion. Shannon’s car is still driveable, but obviously there’s nothing we can do to prevent Felix’s car from being discovered by the cops. John offers Felix a ride and a place to sleep, for now, and the group agrees to reconvene soon; there are, after all, two creatures still on the loose. In the meantime, with the sirens drawing quickly closer, there’s not much left to do but for everyone to go their separate ways and spend the rest of the night looking over their shoulders for monsters.</p>

<p>Welcome to the Vigil.</p>

<p><span style="color:#008000;">[This post is a continuation in a series of posts covering my group's ongoing World of Darkness campaign. This is the end of the Disco Nuit story arc, but the campaign continues, so check back for updates.]<br /></span></p><br /> <a rel="nofollow" href=""><img alt="" border="0" src="" /></a> <img alt="" border="0" src="" width="1" height="1" />

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


<p>Having retrieved the bag that one of the women was carrying when she died, the group reconvenes at Felix’s apartment to go through it. It contains two capes with brightly coloured, shiny interiors; a frilly silk shirt; a black corset; and a gold-plated <a href="" target="_blank">iron cross</a>. This certainly isn’t the clubbing attire they were wearing in the video, and Shannon’s never seen them wearing anything like it, but it does look like it would fit them. The labels on the two capes sport an elaborately stylized N, which no one in the party recognizes.</p>

<p>What little research the group has time for turns up a laundry list of things that their invisible critters <em>could </em>be, but no real leads; they have no idea whether half of the creatures they’re researching are even real. It’s getting late now, though, and the group is hoping to be back at the club by the time it opens, so they decide to leave their so-far-fruitless research for another time.</p>

<p><span id="more-653"></span></p>

<p>This time, they hear the club well before they see it. The bouncers are out in force, and people are already lining up to get in. The wide double doors through which the group entered earlier are actually the club’s main exit, and the entrances are to either side. John and Felix queue up at the entrance that Bella and Louisa had used the night before, the one marked Diabolique. Shannon joins the line for the other door, this one labelled Angelique.</p>

<p>It takes a few minutes, but eventually Felix is noticed by the man managing the door; one of the bouncers lifts the red rope and Felix, along with a few other people, are waved inside. Shannon is likewise allowed inside after only a few minutes of waiting. John, although he also manages to catch the doorman’s eye, is not so fortunate.</p>

<p>The doorman walks up to him. “No. Go home, change–into something that isn’t out of a Salvation Army bin–and then maybe we’ll talk.” John protests, but the doorman just walks away.</p>

<p>Since the doorman’s attention is already elsewhere, John decides to stay where he is, hoping he can at least get some information out of the other hopefuls in line. Before long, however, he is approached by two very large bouncers, who politely but firmly inform him that he’s in the wrong place, and ask him to leave the premises, eventually asking him to cross the street. Grudgingly, John complies. He lives far enough away that it doesn’t seem worth the time to go home and get changed in the hopes of being let in, so instead he parks himself across the street and aims his cell phone camera at the single exit, watching for people that he can see with his eyes but not with his camera.</p>

<p>Shannon and Felix, entering the club from opposite sides, emerge into a foyer with a cloakroom on one side, a boutique on the other, and the club proper straight ahead. They head to the boutique first, where they’re greeted by racks of loud, flashy clothing, including capes that match the ones they found in the handbag. They’re also greeted by a sales clerk, who speaks in a low, exaggerated tone of voice that he seems to think is dramatic.</p>

<p>Still trying to determine whether the iron cross that we found in the bag has any particular significance beyond looking vaguely gothic, Felix pulls it out and asks if it’s possible to get a matching one. The clerk leads him over to some jewelry racks that sport similar, but not identical, iron crosses and assures Felix that with these pieces, he’ll be able to announce to the world that he and his “lady of the night are most assuredly together.”</p>

<p>While Shannon is still trying to work out whether or not the clerk has just called her a prostitute, the clerk asks, “you <em>do </em>have the proper attire, right?”</p>

<p>“Proper for what?” Shannon says blankly.</p>

<p>“Oh! Do you not know what this club is all about?” Abruptly dropping the ridiculous affected voice, the clerk explains that the club is based on the vampire fad, and caters to people who “aren’t weirdos, but still want to play just a little bit of dress-up.” He adds that the dress code isn’t actually mandatory, but that most of the club-goers probably won’t “play” with people who don’t seem to be playing the game themselves. “This is, when it comes down to it, a nightclub with an odd fashion trap.”</p>

<p>Felix is perfectly happy with the prospect of these people not talking to him, but Shannon reminds him (once they’re out of the clerk’s earshot, of course) that they’re not likely to get very far if the other club-goers won’t have anything to do with them. Felix grudgingly agrees, and so against their better judgement, Shannon and Felix head back to the boutique and allow the clerk to give them fashion advice.</p>

<p>Once “appropriately” dressed, Shannon and Felix split up to explore the club itself. As expected, though, finding any more information about the two dead women proves to be pretty much impossible. There are rumours, most of which are about as asinine as one might expect, but neither the club-goers nor the bouncers remember seeing or speaking to them.</p>

<p>While Shannon is making rounds through the club, a man approaches her. “You look pretty uncomfortable, if you don’t mind me saying.”</p>

<p>“Oh, not so much.” Shannon waves a hand dismissively. “It’s just my first time here, so I’m kind of the new kid on the block.”</p>

<p>“Yeah, but let’s be honest here. You don’t really go for the whole vampire thing, do you?”</p>

<p>“No,” Shannon agrees. “It was a bit of a surprise.”</p>

<p>The man nods. “Yeah, I totally get what you’re saying. My buddies dragged me out here, and since we got here I’ve been hit on by five shirtless men, two very sad-looking people in trench coats, and one guy who I think actually <em>bathed </em>in sequins.” He pauses. “So, listen. I know this is a little bit forward, but uh, why don’t we go somewhere sane, get something to drink … “</p>

<p>“I appreciate the offer, but I’m here with a friend. I should probably go find him, actually.” Shannon makes a show of glancing around.</p>

<p>“Okay, it’s cool.” The man doesn’t seem particularly put-out by the rejection. “If you do decide you wanna hang out or anything, come find me at the bar. There’s only a couple … thousand … people here, but I’m sure we can find each other if it’s meant to be.” He says the last bit with a self-satisfied little smirk.</p>

<p>Shannon bids him a friendly but non-committal goodnight, then decides to take her own advice and rejoin Felix. After establishing that they have both accomplished precisely nothing, they decide to cut their losses. Shedding their ridiculous outfits in favour of street clothes, Shannon and Felix leave Disco Nuit and head off across the street in search of John and a new strategy.</p>

<p><span style="color:#008000;">[This post is a continuation in a series of posts covering my group's ongoing World of Darkness campaign. The next post is scheduled to drop on Thursday, January 23rd, so check back then if you'd like to read more.]</span></p><br /> <a rel="nofollow" href=""><img alt="" border="0" src="" /></a> <img alt="" border="0" src="" width="1" height="1" />

<a href="" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>


Having made it their mission to track down the creature or creatures who murdered Shannon’s coworkers, the party has just discovered, via the security tapes provided to them by Disco Nuit, that the murderers, whatever they are, aren’t visible on camera.

Unfortunately, “invisible on camera” doesn’t narrow the field much when playing “guess the supernatural boogeyman.” We spend a few more minutes discussing the possibilities, but the reality is that it could be almost anything. Practically speaking, we’re still more-or-less at square one: we have no idea who–or what–Bella and Louisa left the club with, why they were attacked, or how to find their attackers. Finding someone who remembers seeing them leave last night would be a bit like looking for a needle in a field of haystacks, but at the moment it still seems to be our best option.

The club doesn’t open for hours yet, though, and we want to keep working in the meantime. Shannon heads off to speak to Bella and Louisa’s families, wanting to offer condolences but also hoping to find out what they know.

Which, as it turns out, isn’t much. Louisa’s roommate isn’t home, or at least isn’t answering the door. Shannon does manage to talk to Bella’s family, but doesn’t get much new information: they knew Bella was planning on going out last night, but didn’t hear from her before she died; the cops say there was no molestation involved, and have apparently suggested that the girls’ deaths were the result of some sort of wild dog attack. Sensing that there’s nothing to be discovered here, Shannon offers her help if the family ever needs it, and leaves them to their grief.

John and Felix, meanwhile, pay a visit to the alleyway where the bodies were found. The alleyway, which is sandwiched between two apartment buildings, is empty but for a Dumpster, in which John’s dog develops an immediate interest. John suggests that Felix go into the apartments and start chatting up residents whose windows overlook the alleyway while he tries to find out what’s caught the dog’s attention. Felix, somewhat reluctantly, agrees.

He doesn’t have much luck in the first building, encountering mostly unanswered doors (and at least one slammed in his face). In the second building, however, an elderly woman answers the door. Felix starts by giving her the same lie that Shannon used earlier: he’s a private investigator looking into some recent deaths in the area. The woman seems happy to help, but insists that he’s no private investigator, since he has neither a fedora, nor a trench coat, nor a fat man following him around. Felix promises to work on the trench coat and fedora, but assures her that he does have a man who follows him around out in the alley, even if he’s not fat.

“One moment.” The woman marches back into her apartment and peers out the window, where she sees a seven-foot-tall man (John) and an impressively large dog (Duke) rifling through the Dumpster. Returning to the front door and Felix, she says solemnly, “he’s not a fat man, he’s a big man. He’s a villain. You should go arrest him.”

After a few moments of wild speculation about which James Bond villains John might be related to, and a riveting discussion regarding whether Hitler had a dog, Felix steers the conversation back to the subject of the two dead women. The woman replies that she didn’t see anything, but that she did hear thumps coming from the roof; she’s very definite about the fact that they came from the roof and not the floor above her, even though the roof is three floors up. When Felix starts to speculate on what might’ve happened, though, she says, “you’re the private investigator, you tell me!” and excuses herself.

John, meanwhile, discovers that the object of Duke’s interest is nothing more exciting than a pile of half-eaten cheeseburgers. It does seem, however, that the garbage has been professionally sifted through. He says as much to Felix once Felix emerges from the second apartment building. Felix summarizes his own discoveries, adding that he did attempt to check out the roof, but that the door leading to the roof was locked.

When Felix reveals that the door in question was not, so far as he could tell, connected to an alarm, John figures that it’s worth trying anyway. Mortified though he is by the possibility of being caught skulking outside of a locked door in the company of a man who reeks of Dumpster, Felix allows himself to be convinced that they should go upstairs and try the door again.

Once it transpires that the door is, indeed, still locked, John decides to unlock it the old-fashioned way. Once he’s forced it open, he and Felix head out onto the roof, and John closes the broken door as best he can behind them.

“I hope you didn’t touch that door with your ungloved hands,” Felix says. “They can track you these days, man.”

“That just tells them that I opened a door.”

“Yeah, opened it with extreme prejudice!”

“They can’t tell that from a fingerprint.” John pauses. “I think.”

The roof is mostly empty, but Felix spots a woman’s handbag languishing on the fire escape, and climbs down to retrieve it. Both John and Felix recognize it from the nightclub’s security tapes; Bella had had it with her when she entered and left the club. It seems prudent to postpone sifting through a dead woman’s belongings until he and John are no longer trespassing, though, so they retreat from the building with the bag in hand.

[This post is a continuation in a series of posts covering my group's ongoing World of Darkness campaign. The next post is scheduled to drop on Monday, January 20th, so check back then if you'd like to read more.]

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This campaign takes place in a setting that is more-or-less present day, in a world that more-or-less resembles our own, in the city of Juniper, Massachusetts (which is more or less like Boston). Like any big city, it has its share of murders. At least, they might’ve been murders; the police haven’t said much about the two young women found dead in an alleyway last night, barely a block away from the nightclub known as Disco Nuit, but they apparently have reason to suspect homicide. They’re asking anyone with information about the women’s movements last night to come forward.

The players don’t have any such information, but they’ve taken it upon themselves to acquire it (as player characters do). Shannon is particularly determined, since the two dead women, Bella and Louisa, were her co-workers. Her dance studio has been closed temporarily while everyone deals with the loss.

Not knowing where else to start, Shannon, Felix, and John head to Disco Nuit. It’s early enough that many of the staff who were working last night are only just finishing their shifts. Despite the hour, a set of large double doors is wide open, and the group heads inside.

John approaches someone polishing glasses at the nearest bar. The bartender is apologetic but unhelpful, saying that he served literally three thousand people last night. But, he says, the police have been pestering someone named Gerald, who might have more information.

Up the stairs indicated by the bartender is a hall that ends in another set of open double doors. Shannon, who creeps into the hallway to better see what’s going on, spies a room containing a few people in suits and a man with a French accent yelling into a phone. She pauses to hear what he’s saying, but he’s mostly going on about how people in big cities die all the time and shouting at his employees. Deciding that there’s not much to be gleaned from listening to the man yell about cocktail weenies and complain about the police, Shannon knocks on the door.

Gerald glances up, then down at a clipboard. “Yes, yes, come in! You must be–”

Shannon cuts him off. “Actually, I’m a family friend of–I imagine you heard about those two girls who died? I’m a friend of the families, and we’re conducting a private investigation into their deaths. We were hoping you could provide some more information…”

“Yes, yes, of course.” Gerald sounds faintly disgusted, but he waves Shannon inside anyway. He insists that he is “deeply distressed” to hear of the two women’s passing, but seems more distressed by the possibility that the families might decide to hit him with a lawsuit, stating that the two women left the club safely and “of their own will and volition, with no health issues that we could possibly be responsible for.” He does mention one thing of interest, however: the club’s security cameras saw them leave. When Shannon presses him for more information, Gerald does something surprisingly helpful: he has one of his employees produce copies of the tapes. These wouldn’t normally be made available to the public, but, Gerald says, he wants to “make it clear in the families’ minds how happy and healthy they were on leaving the club.” (In other words, as Felix remarks to John while the two of them wait in the stairwell, “there is epic chull coverage occurring.”)

Whether Gerald’s chull is covered or not, the party now has what it came for in the form of two VHS tapes. John suggests that everybody reconvene at his grandmother’s house, since he’s pretty sure she still has a VCR. His grandmother is sleeping when everyone arrives, so once John digs the VCR out of the attic, the group is able to watch the tapes without having to deflect any awkward questions.

The first tape, labelled “ladies entering,” shows just that. The women spend a few minutes waiting in line, but eventually enter the club through a doorway marked “Diabolique.” The second tape shows them leaving the club, apparently alone but for each other. They’re just as animated as they were when they entered the club, laughing and chatting as they leave, but now there’s a distinct difference in their body language; they seem to be having trouble keeping their spines straight.

It’s John who figures it out. “She’s not holding herself up there.” He pauses the tape. “She’s putting all her weight on that arm.” Now that he’s pointed it out, the rest of the party realizes that the women are leaning on people that the camera can’t actually see; there are even finger-shaped indentations visible in their clothing, although nobody can see any actual fingers.

“Do vampires show up on camera?” John wonders. “Werewolves?”

“They didn’t used to, and then there was Stephenie Meyer,” Felix answers. “Sorry, I don’t read enough real books to know.”

John, commenting that the women seem pretty lively, theorizes that whatever is with them must not be invisible to them. When the group watches the rest of the video, it does seem that the women are talking to people that the camera can’t see as well as to each other. They move out of view of the camera, heading off in the direction where their bodies were eventually found.

Having discovered everything there is to be discovered from the security tapes, the party sets about trying to figure out just how to track two invisible people in a crowd of three thousand. It sounds like a fool’s errand in more ways than one, but then, fools errands are pretty much what you get when you go chasing the things that go bump in the night.

[This post is the first in a series of posts covering my group's ongoing World of Darkness campaign. The next post is scheduled to drop on Thursday, January 16th, so check back then if you'd like to read more.]

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If you’re a newcomer to the blog, you might want to check out the first two posts in this little mini-series, located here and here.

Finally, the party arrives at the slave pens and the latrine in question. It’s … well … a latrine, which is to say, an inglorious hole in the ground that smells about as good as one might expect, surrounded by a floor that is none too clean (it appears that not all of the slaves bother to aim). After expressing the requisite amounts of disgust (Yrisi launches herself into the air, while Raven scoops up Fling and places the goblin on his shoulder) the party gets down to the business of investigating.

Not that there’s much to investigate; the only possible way into or out of this room, aside from the door that the party entered by, is the latrines themselves. And so, because every adventure has to start somewhere, the party peers into the toilet.

After a moment, someone detects a patch of wall or floor down there which is, well, differently slimy. Since scouting is important (read: no one really wants to climb into a sewer), Xeroz attempts to persuade Alarra to do their scouting for them.

Alarra looks to Yrisi in appeal. “Help. Puppy want me to go down hole.” Yrisi, however, just starts to laugh, in a way that is no help at all. And so Alarra reluctantly flies down into the latrine to take a closer look. Shortly thereafter, there’s a splashing sound, followed by a panicked raven who comes shooting back up out of the toilet at mach speed. “Something down there! Scary monster.”

Well, every adventure has to start somewhere, but we’d really rather not start ours in a sewer (aside from which, the latrine hole is designed for human slaves, and so Raven, the ogre, won’t even fit). So Xeroz decides that rather than going into the latrine after the monster, we should make the monster come to us.

“Hey, bird. Go fish out the monster.”

Alarra, of course, refuses, having gotten close enough to the monster the first time. When he doesn’t make any headway in persuading her, Xeroz pulls out a gold piece and flips it into the air, ostentatiously walking it across his knuckles.

Suddenly, he has the raven’s attention. “Can I have that?”

Xeroz, of course, informs her that she can have the coin if she goes back down into the latrine after the monster. He’s barely gotten the bribe out of his mouth before Alarra takes off again, without even bothering to inform Yrisi of what she’s doing. Yrisi, of course, has managed to get more or less the gist of it, and shuffles a little closer to the latrine to watch, anxious. She’s no longer certain this is a good idea.

Neither, it seems, is Vashra, who glares at Xeroz as they wait for Alarra to return. “You know, if you get her pet killed, she’s going to bitch at us. Forever. And it will be even more annoying because we won’t understand her.” Meanwhile, the raven is fluttering about in the latrine, attempting to distract the monster. Before too long, she succeeds.

Unfortunately for Alarra, so does the monster’s attack roll.

Her panicked squawks for help are followed by abrupt silence and a splashing sound. A glance into the sewer reveals an unconscious Alarra in the tentacles of an otyugh, which is a monster comprised of, well, of the materials one normally finds in a sewer.

Vashra, somewhat surprisingly, wastes no time in leaping into the sewer after the bird, shouting “storm yoooooooou!” all the way down. Weapon out, she lands on top of the otyugh. The rest of the party scrambles in after her. Yrisi, of course, is the first one to start moving once Alarra starts shouting (or at least she would have been, had she scored higher on her initiative roll) and flies down after them. Xeroz, figuring he owes the bird that much, likewise makes a jump for it. Raven, meanwhile, won’t fit into the latrine in any case, so he ties a rope to his leg and waits at the top, figuring that this way the party will at least have a way back out when they’re done. Rather than jumping headfirst into the muck, Fling simply waits for him to finish and scales down the rope to join the rest of the party.

The otyugh, meanwhile, is understandably unhappy with the fact that an armed, screaming half-fiend has just landed on its head, and that the half-fiend has apparently brought along friends. Since discretion is the better part of valor, especially when you’re a literal rust-monster, the otyugh retreats down a narrow corridor leading towards the sewer proper. The party gives chase.

A few flung javelins, magic missiles, general bashing at parts that may or may not contain a brain, and a whole lot of four-letter words later, the party has chased the otyugh into a widening room where the floor slopes down into a pool of black water. The otyugh has taken a few (thankfully ineffectual) swipes at the party members, but it’s mostly focused on running the hell away. It’s taken a fearful beating by this point and is making its slow, painful way towards the black-water pool. Xeroz wades in after it, paying no mind to the treacherous footing, and gives it another good hard whack before it can disappear into the sewer. The otyugh slumps lifelessly into the water and starts to drift away, carried by the current.

Alarra, still unconscious, is likewise floating inexorably away on the current. Yrisi, some ways behind her, decides not to give chase and risk Alarra getting any farther away from her. Instead, she recites a cantrip and the raven’s unconscious body floats through the air towards her. She cradles the unconscious bird protectively in her arms.

The party members head back in the direction they came, climbing (or flying) back up to where a waiting Raven greets them with, “You all smell HORRIFYING.”

Since they all do, in fact, smell horrifying, they decide that the best plan of attack is to put the murder investigation on hold while everyone takes a bath. Even this most noble endeavour, however, encounters an obstacle in the form of Sendric Truthers, who interrupts his own self-important posturing to comment on the smell.

If our intrepid adventurers weren’t in the mood to deal with him before, they certainly aren’t now. Xeroz makes this clear by enthusiastically shoving the Brightsword into a corner before tromping away. The rest of the party follows suit.

It’s Yrisi, however, who gets the last word (so to speak). As she walks past the Brightsword, she gives her wings a vigorous shake, much like a dog might shake out wet fur. This effectively halts any comment that Truthers might have made, as he is now too busy spluttering over the sewage decorating his once-fine clothes. Yrisi gives him the slightest of smirks as she walks by.

Because as long as your heroic quest through the sewers ends with you covered in crap, you might as well spread it around.

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It’s been long enough since I posted the first “episode” of this campaign (although these posts are actually all from the same session) that I feel obligated to link it again.

Xeroz continues towards the slave pens with Vashra, Yrisi and her raven trailing along. Needless to say, they attract more than a few odd stares as they make their way through the city. None of them are exactly common sights in Candle’s End, and Yrisi is still glowing, although the latter state of affairs lasts only until Vashra says irritably, “Hey, bird. Would you tell your mistress to put out the damned light? If this migraine gets any worse I’m going to have to give it a name.”

Yrisi obligingly dims the light and they trudge on. They do so in relative silence until Vashra, gazing ahead, says, “Oh, look. More freaks.”

A large group of people seems to have just dispersed near one of the city entrances. They’re a mixed bunch, from a variety of races and, as far as their clothing indicates, a variety of walks in life. Of course, some of them are more varied than others, and the pair that Vashra is focusing on certainly falls into that category. One of the two is an ogre, uncommon though certainly not unheard of in Candle’s End.

The other one is an alien.

More specifically, she’s a frost goblin. Goblins made a spectacular entry into this world some four hundred years ago, when they escaped their own dying planet by crashing large bits of it into this world and flooding the dwarven homelands. The dwarves, of course, were about as happy with this development as one might imagine. Some of them still aren’t over it.

Eventually the goblin and the ogre cross paths with the rest of the party, as player characters in tabletop campaigns are wont to do. In the conversation that follows, Vashra and Xeroz divine that a merchants’ caravan has just arrived in the city. The goblin, Fling, and the ogre, Raven Fireclaw, were acting as caravan guards, but now their contract has ended and they’re free to wander the city at will.

Xeroz explains their mission to the newcomers, while Vashra, not particularly under her breath, disgustedly dubs her migraine “Jommy.” Fling and Raven aren’t too sure what to make of Xeroz, who apparently attempts to solve latrine-based murders for fun, nor his companions the foul-mouthed half-fiend and … whatever Yrisi is, since the sum total of what anyone knows about her is that she doesn’t speak Common. They’re a little sceptical about getting involved, but somehow–exactly how is lost to the mists of time and this writer’s flawed memory–they agree to join Xeroz, Yrisi, and Vashra in their investigation.

[Meta note: to really appreciate this dialogue, it's worth knowing that the ogre has an INT score of 18, the highest in the party by a long shot. He also speaks in a cultured British accent and carries an honest-to-god monocle.]

As the party continues towards the slave pens, the ogre says conversationally, “so, bird, what’s your name?”

The raven (whose name, noted for expediency’s sake, is Alarra) eyes him suspiciously for a moment. “What’s yours?”

“Raven Fireclaw.”

“You not raven. I a raven.”

“Yes, I know, but my name is Raven Fireclaw.”

The raven turns its attention back to Yrisi. “Ogre thinks it’s a raven.”

Yrisi, who of course can’t understand any of her companions’ conversation, says dubiously, “well, I’ve heard that they’re not very bright…”

And so it continues.

Not long before the party arrives at the slave pens, they encounter a cleric of Torm who is–ostensibly at least–looking into the same problem they are. The cleric, whose name is Sendric Truthers but who styles himself the Brightsword, is a loud, gregarious figure who is committed, he says, to finding and rooting out sin. Naturally, he spends most of his time looking for sin at the local bars.

He apparently plans on using the same strategy this time around. The party members are appropriately disgusted with this approach, but also rather relieved, since at least it means they won’t have to deal with him…

And so it continues … next Monday, when I post the last installment in this little mini-series. That’s right, you won’t have to wait a year and a half for the next one (which I’m sure you were doing with bated breath. Mind you, given the contents of that final post, bated breath might not be a bad idea).

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This is a story that starts in a volcano … and ends with the party covered in crap.

Candle’s End is a mining city carved into, yes, the guts of an active volcano. Most of the PCs are just arriving, but one, a gnoll, has been here for some months already. Xeroz works at a Temple of Kelemvor, Lord of the Dead, retrieving the bodies of those who’ve died and preparing them for burial.

So it’s business as usual when Vashra, another Temple worker and a half-fiend (a rather foul-mouthed one; reader, consider yourself warned) returns lugging the body of a dead slave. There are a couple of oddities about this one, though. The first, as Vashra’s complaints immediately make clear, is the fact that this particular slave died in a latrine. The second is that he died from a terminal dose of mace to the face.

No friend or relative claims the body, and so the Temple’s acolytes bury it themselves. This isn’t particularly surprising. Many bodies go unclaimed in Candle’s End, and it’s unlikely that anyone would care so much about a slave. Of course, the same logic makes his murder a rather puzzling event. Who would care so much about a slave?

Vashra doesn’t know what happened. She had attempted to talk to one of the slave masters, “the one who actually gives a rust,” but he wasn’t around. Xeroz insists that they try again, since nobody else is going to bother pursing justice for a dead slave. Vashra grumbles and complains, but eventually allows herself to be persuaded–more to shut Xeroz up, it seems, than because she thinks (or cares) that it’s the right thing to do.

The slave pens are some distance away. Xeroz and Vashra haven’t made it nearly that far when Vashra stops, staring upward.

“What the storm is that?”

She’s gazing towards an airborne vehicle some distance away. It looks a bit like an oversized kite, large enough to carry at least a couple of passengers, and appears to be powered by a small cloud of translucent gas (what an experienced observer might recognize as an air elemental). The vehicle, known as an air skimmer, is a fairly normal sight in Candle’s End. The blue light trailing after it is not.

But Xeroz has never seen anything like it, and it’s getting farther and farther away in any case, so they keep moving. When they reach the bridge that spans the city’s East and West Shelves (the floor of the chasm beneath the bridge is known as the Drippings, and houses the city’s underprivileged and unsavory), they spy a raven strutting to and fro along the bridge, but it doesn’t fly away as they approach. Instead, the bird stops hopping around and eyes them. It sizes Xeroz up. “Puppy.”

Xeroz growls at the racially charged insult, but the bird isn’t done. It’s looking Vashra up and down, and after a moment’s pause, it says solemnly, “Ugly as storm.”

“Don’t mess with me, bird!” Vashra’s predictable tirade of insults, cursing, and threatened violence convinces the raven to revise its opinion. “Pretty lady.”

Somehow, the conversation survives this rocky introduction. Xeroz, hoping for some extra help, explains their mission. At least, he tries. The raven is not terribly bright, and both it and Vashra have an attitude problem.

Meanwhile, the blue light that Vashra had spotted earlier has been heading back their way, and now it lands on the bridge, only a few feet away. It–she–is under three feet tall, covered from head to toe in tribal tattoos, and has black, furred wings that wouldn’t look out of place on a gigantic butterfly. And yes, she’s glowing.

Vashra mutters something disparaging, including a few four-letter words and at least one five-letter one (“pansy”). Xeroz, however, seems nothing daunted. He asks the fae, if that’s what she is, whether the raven is her companion … and gets a blank stare in return. When she finally does respond, her words sound like complete gibberish.

[Meta note: She's actually a gloaming. I mention this now for expediency's sake, since it's much easier to call her a gloaming than it is to call her "that butterfly-looking thing with the funny tattoos."]

It quickly becomes apparent that the gloaming doesn’t actually speak the common tongue. She manages to introduce herself anyhow, and Xeroz, with the raven translating, explains their mission again, much to Vashra’s disgust.

The raven’s translation is spotty to say the least (“found dead man in hole. Want help finding who make dead”), and the gloaming, Yrisi, is a little taken aback at being so casually recruited to help solve a murder. But she’s already learned that traveling by oneself is a recipe for boredom, and since she’s only recently arrived from the Underdark, she doesn’t have anything better to do. She gestures for Xeroz to lead the way…

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