Murder in the Pines Update

Last time, the cabal found Whim's body and wound up getting hit by a car and slashed by a spirit while taking down Quentin Ester, the Banisher. After all that, they went to sleep.

Asmodeus and Falstaff, not injured, decided to do some research. They both looked into Aaron Murphy, but neither found anything of substance. Falstaff called one of his former co-workers in Page, AZ, and asked him to look up the name.

In the morning, Asmodeus dug into his library. He wanted a way to scry someone that couldn't normally be scryed, and found a ritual that supposedly allowed opening a gateway to the Supernal Realms and summoning down a Demon (in his case, Pandemonium and all). Meantime, Falstaff got a call from Page. The reporter told him that Aaron Murphy had been named as an alibi by a man accused of kidnapping and murder, as had three other men. Murphy had never been found, but the other three had corroborated the guy's alibi. They were William Hagle, Steven Janke, and Quentin Ester.

But still no data on Murphy himself. The cabal decided to dig into the house in Kentucky where Helen's cabal had died. They looked into house fires around that time, and researched until the found the address - and to their shock, it was the same house that they'd faced a crazed werewolf nearly a year ago.

They got in their car and headed out there. The house had been boarded up, and they quickly discovered a Shield of Chronos preventing postcognition. Fin, now the only member of the cabal with Time magic, tried to look back to the fire, but just saw fire and chaos and felt his magic disrupted. About then, the cops showed up and told them to move along. They headed back to the highway and got a room at a motel.

Asmodeus opened a portal into the basement of the house, but walking in, there was black mold everywhere. It quickly became apparent that this was no ordinary black mold - when it dropped on them, it started eating away their flesh. Falstaff cured them and then destroyed it, and Fin remembered hearing about this stuff. Toxicum Mold, it was called, and it apparently shows up when death is accompanied by magic (as well as in Philadelphia). They reckoned it was because a werewolf had eaten two old people down here once.

They went upstairs and scanned around, but it was pretty barren. Fin analyzed the spell on the place, and realized that there was Fate woven into it, that would disrupt any Time magic designed to look at the night of the fire. Falstaff looked out the window into the spirit world, and saw the scarecrow, the "Death of Growing Things" spirit, sleeping. He went to talk to it, roused it, and asked about happenings here, but the spirit wasn't able to tell him much, other than that the murder-spirit liked to come back here sometimes.

At this point, Bolg got a called from Bailiff. Helen had contacted him about the cabal's investigation, and he warned them that if she asked him to get involved on an official level, he'd have to. That would mean revealing that Helen was no longer officially Hierarch, and he didn't want to be put in that position. The characters retreated to through the portal to the hotel, and Fin cast an extended spell to pierce the time-shield (the others performed oblations to get Mana back). They returned through the portal, and Fin looked back.

He saw fire and chaos, and saw mages stumbling from the house, collapsing, dying. He saw one try to contain the fire with magic, but it failed. Then he saw Helen walk around the corner supporting one of her cabal-mates. The woman whispered something to her, and died. Helen stood up, turned around helplessly, and saw something that made her gasp in fear. She teleported away. Fin changed angles to see what she'd seen, and saw deep, heavy boot-prints leading away, apparently from someone who was limping. He also saw a small pine-sapling.

With this information, they went back to the hotel room and started planning their next move. A knock at the door revealed Balder, the Consilium Herald and Helen's son. He told them that Helen wanted to see them right away, and left. They realized that Helen apparently trusted them, else why send her son on this errand?

They headed to her house and sat down with her. She asked why they were investigating the Guiding Hands, and they told her that it apparently had something to do with Whim's death. She told them what she knew - she and her cabal had tracked a creature there, one that seemed human but shrugged off bullets, blades and magic, and just wanted to kill. They burned the place, but Luz, the Obrimos who had died in her arms, had apparently called down a Paradox that had doomed the cabal. The creature had limped away, and Helen, injured and traumatized, hadn't been able to follow it. But she didn't remember seeing the sapling.

She'd had Balder put up the time-shield so that Silas (former Hierarch - here, a refresher) couldn't comb the event looking for dirt. The cabal excused itself and talked things over, and then told Helen the truth about what they'd learned. Red Jester - whom she knew as Sam Deland - was alive and well and living in Chicago. She was distraught that she'd missed that, and wondered why he'd never contacted her. She told them that she'd have to report it to the Consilium, and she'd have to step down as Hierarch, at least for a while. Before she did, though, she invested in them special powers of investigation, powers that enabled them to keep looking into this and couldn't be revoked. The cabal then left for the evening.

They got another night's sleep, and the next day (9/10/05) Asmodeus decided to summon a Demon from Pandemonium. He built up the spell so that he wouldn't attract Abyssal attention, and managed to call up a Demon Bull. It demanded to know who summoned it, and wound up punching him in the face several times before he finally answered with enough confidence (Falstaff healed him up, otherwise he would have dropped). The Bull scryed Aaron Murphy, chuckling at the name but refusing to explain. "Don't want to spoil the joke."

They saw him, and Asmodeus dismissed the Demon. He then scryed for Murphy, but Murphy noticed and turned toward the scrying window. He pulled a gun from his coat and cocked it. "See this?" He nodded toward the wall of the nearby strip club. "Teflon-coated bullets. They'll go right through that wall. You're closing that window in 3...2...". Asmodeus closed it.

So now they know Murphy's in Cincy...but he knows they know. Next game in a month.

Murder in the Pines Update

We took a month of downtime, allowing the characters to have some vacation and spend some XP. The big change was the Falstaff finally joined a Legacy. Up in Cleveland, there's a cabal (the 6s and 7s met them once, and if you remember that I'd be impressed) which includes an Orphan of Proteus, so Falstaff joined up. As it turned out, that decision probably saved his life.

The characters met up at Skyline Chili again, but Whim didn't show. They were going to discuss their options as far as investigating Helen's cabal went, but when Bolg called Emory to see if he'd seen Whim, he found that her werewolf boyfriend was worried, too - he hadn't seen her all week. A call to Eye of the Storm (her mentor) revealed that her Fate-threads had just...stopped. Asmodeus scryed her, but couldn't find her. Either she was in the spirit world, or dead. Mixing in Death with the scrying spell allowed him to find her body.

It was lying in a ditch, mostly buried, near a park in the city. The characters portal'd there and investigated. Fin learned that she'd died of smoke inhalation and shock, but that she'd been burned pretty badly. He discovered that she hadn't seen much before dying (her eyes had melted) and her brain recalled nothing but pain, as though someone had deliberately tortured her before killing her to prevent this kind of investigation.

The characters also noticed pine needles in her fingers, but figured that the murder-spirit wouldn't just have killed her, he'd have had someone else do it while he watched. Falstaff called the paper and learned that there had been a house fire nearby last Saturday...the day she'd died. The characters found the house and Fin looked back in time (his use of XP over the break was to buy Time 2), and saw Whim there, burning. From the sheen of her skin, she'd already suffered some Paradox. She cast a spell, and the ceiling caved in on her. Fin cast a few more spells, and learned that the other person present, hiding behind the fire, was Quentin Ester, whom the characters met here.

Asmodeus scryed for him and found him making a garrote out of piano wire and wood. He noticed the scrying window and left. The characters contacted Bailiff and told him what was happening, and then Crescendo to come and get Whim's body. And then Asmodeus opened a portal to Quentin, who was already on the highway hitching a ride out of town.

The characters tried to subdue him, but after a few rounds of grappling, a car veered off the road and slammed into the mob, very nearly killing Falstaff, Fin and Bolg (Asmodeus was far enough away that he was able to escape harm). Quentin got hit, too, and attacked Bolg, nearly knocking him out. A woman got out of the car and frantically asked what was happening. Fin told her to get down and attacked Quentin with a Psychic Sword, but then the car lurched to life again and ran him down. Bolg, arm broken, drew his gun and shot Quentin with his off hand, dropping him. The mages grabbed the fallen (including Quentin) and headed back through the portal.

Back at their mansion, they chained up Quentin (Falstaff also stabilized him so he didn't bleed out) and called Bailiff. Bailiff didn't know much about him, other than that he was a competent fighter. Fin started poking around in his head, and learned that he was a Banisher (that word didn't come up, but for brevity's sake) and that he was working under another Banisher called Aaron Murphy. But when he tried to learn more, he hit a Memory Hole. He told the others to make sure nothing possessed him, and then opened it.

A swarm of glass shards (a spirit called Rainsliver, if you've read Predators) manifested and filled the characters full of glass shards. It killed Quentin and very nearly killed the others, but some fast healing from Falstaff saved them. The spirit discorporated, and left the mages bloodied, depressed and with their enemy dead.

Fin looked at his dead brain, and learned that these "Huntsmen" only targeted non-Thyrsus. They had once been out in Arizona, in the same town as which first spirits and then mages had disappeared. The cabal destroyed the body, and then reported to Bailiff. They also called and informed Emory of the news. He didn't take it especially well.

Next time: Further investigation into Aaron Murphy. And does this relate to Helen and her cabal's mysterious death?

in-game awakening

How would you handle this?
Would you start the Mage with 6 dots in Arcana right away, or just Gnosis?
Would you make an adventure out of it, or devote an entire session to awakening?
Would you gloss over the Awakening as something that happens between scenes?


Murder in the Pines Update

Recall that waaaaay back here, the cabal was out in the woods in Oregon, searching for the removed souls of six campers. They'd found them, in the spirit world, trapped in the water of Crater Lake...and then the werewolves attacked.

The werewolves in question were apparently Joe Cobb's pack, who had masked his lycanthropy from the mages (not an easy feat). Fin blinded and rendered anosmic several of the werewolves, but one of them still managed to gut Asmodeus. Their pack totem spirit, a death-looking thing with a big sickle, also appeared. Falstaff used Spirit magic to read its ban, and learned that the pack bond could be broken by someone who had worn the wolf-skin belt (which had been mentioned in connection to the Via Lunari, the magic tome they were there to find). But before he could use or relate the knowledge, the spirit stabbed him and left him bleeding to death. Whim cast a geas on one of the werewolves to protect the mages, but since that would involve betraying his pack, he didn't (you don't have to follow a geas, but you suffer Great Curse if you don't).

One of the werewolves flew into Death Rage and charged Emory, but Em flipped by him and sent him into the crater. Another tried the same thing with Fletcher, but Fletcher caught the edge of the crater and pulled himself back up. The pack retreated, and the two allied werewolves recognized this tactic - they were going to hit the mages later, since humans don't regenerate like werewolves do.

And indeed, that was a problem, since the only mage with Life magic was down. Fin reactivated his brain and shut off his pain sensors, and Falstaff woke up long enough to repair the damage to his lungs and heart, and then healed himself and Asmodeus.

Looking down into the crater, the characters saw the souls floundering (they also saw the werewolf Em had chucked in, but he wasn't any threat at the moment). Whim searched for the book and found strands of fate linking the werewolf to it - right there in the crater. Bolg lowered her down with Forces and she grabbed the book, and Fin tossed her the backpack with the canisters rigged to be soul jars. They collected the souls and went back to the surface, whereupon Falstaff opened a portal back into the physical world.

The cabal walked back to where the campers' bodies were and Falstaff reattached their souls, a long and laborious process. They convinced the campers to get the hell out of there. Whim, having detached the belt from the book (it was worked into the binding), tried it on, and then used Fate to trigger it. It turned her into a wolf, a wave of lust washing over her. Fin's Mind magic gave her back her cognition, and Asmodeus opened a portal home. Whim remained a wolf until morning, and learned that belt was only supposed to work at night (per Loki), and also that it was a fetish (also per Loki).

Fletcher accepted a $2 fee from Whim and got the hell back to Philly, citing "lessons learned" as payment (he doesn't do this for the money). She kept the book as part of her new Mysterium library. Asmodeus got some medical treatment and then went the heck on vacation.

But shortly thereafter, the cabal met with Bailiff about what they'd learned here. Helen was not rightfully Hierarch, but did she know that? Her cabal had supposedly died in a fire some years back, but Helen was a Mastigos. She must have known that Red Jester survived? But why hadn't Jester come forward? There were still too many unanswered questions, and in the end the cabal decided that they needed to know more about what happened the night the Guiding Hands cabal died before talking to Helen.

So that's the next, and last, story: "Guiding Hands and Murder in the Pines."

Murder in the Pines Update

The characters had a chase through the trains of Chicago last time, but this time they were miles from that. Leaving Echo behind in Chicago to do some mop-up with the Guardians (her player may or may not be joining us again for this chronicle; we'll see), they met up with Fin and headed to Denver to pick Fletcher up. Fletcher had been visiting with his superior in the Lodge of Scrolls, and learned that the photographs of the cairns were taken Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. He'd heard rumors about a mated pair of werewolves producing unihar there, but nothing concrete.

Anyhow, they picked him up and headed for Oregon. En route, Whim dreamed of Anna Frane. She stood in front of her, and asked what she wanted. Whim, a little taken aback, since her dreams weren't usually so direct, asked about the pictures; Anna told her pretty much what the book had said. She'd taken the pictures, but felt a menacing presence there, and then dreamed of being tortured on a wheel while voices asked her where the "belt" was. Whim asked where Anna was now and what had happened to her, and Anna responded that learning that would require finding her. Whim asked if she wanted to be found; she responded "Not by you." Whim noticed, too, that she was made up of millions of fate-threads, rather than flesh. Anna directed her to look on Youtube for videos labeled "Network Zero", and then collapsed into threads.

Whim woke up and Bolg boosted reception on Falstaff's laptop. They watched the videos (events here and here), and saw others with werewolves and even vampires, but couldn't track them back to anything. Fin called the Empty Suits and let them know about the videos, and the cabal continued on.

They arrived at the park and booked a room at the lodge. Asmodeus went the bar and found some guys playing cards, and foisted his Vice of Envy on the guy losing. The guy stomped out, and Whim found and propositioned him (Lust, you see). They went up to his room for a bit of fun. This actually becomes relevant later, I promise.

The next morning, the characters put up their spells and Whim attached a thread of fate to herself leading to the book, and they tromped off into the woods. They found a group of children being told a story about "nature boy," and how he'd run off into the woods after being teased and stayed there. Falstaff took the opportunity to make a scary noise and give the kids a jump.

A ways later, they struck off into the woods (Whim's guidance) and found a man hiding behind a tree. They talked with him, and Whim realized that he was instrumental to finding the book (and, based on her Augury spell, would try to stop them finding it). They started talking, and the man (Joe Cobb) claimed to be a "sorcerer." Prime spells indicated he wasn't a mage, but Asmodeus realized that the might be an un-Awakened user of magic, or he might be lying and using a Prime spell to alter his aura. In any case, he claimed to be the book's caretaker, but couldn't stay near it since it drove people mad. The mages asserted that maybe the book would be better left with them (or with the Lodge of Scrolls, per Fletcher), but Joe wasn't convinced, since he didn't know these people. He did block Fin from breaking into his memories, and asked him to refrain from doing that.

He agreed to show them why the book was dangerous. He led them to a campground where four frat-boys were sitting at a picnic table, drooling, catatonic...without souls. The book attracted spirits, said Joe, that ripped out their souls. Normally, he'd have warned these guys away, but last night he'd gone to the lodge to meet a friend of his, who'd wound up going to bed with some woman he'd just met. (See? Told you it was relevant.)

The mages decided that they could retrieve and re-attached the souls, and Joe agreed to take them to a place where they could step across into the Shadow easily. En route, he questioned all of them (except Fletcher, for some reason) about who they were and what they were doing with their lives, apparently to get a sense of who might be guarding the Via Lunari. He questioned Whim and Asmodeus closely, since they didn't give decisive answers. And then they arrived at the locus, and Fletcher took them all across, one by one.

Standing in the muck of the locus (resonance of decomposition) destroyed their shoes in moments, but Whim got a sense of where the souls were and they started climbing up the mountain...all except Asmodeus, who, shoeless, couldn't get purchase on the slick ground and didn't want to teleport. And then, a muscular man (a werewolf, actually) appeared behind him and jerked him into the physical world, whereupon he was immediately shot. Asmodeus had no desire to see this ambush through and, now a Master of Space, teleported to the cemetery Hallow. The murder-spirit greeted him there, and asked if he needed help. Asmodeus asked what it would cost, and the spirit said, "Actually, I think I just asked out of habit. I don't need anything from you people anymore." Asmodeus, sensing violence was imminent, teleported to the Guardian Angels to seek aid from Bailiff.

Bailiff dressed his wounds, and Asmodeus teleported to the werewolves' home. Emory answered the door, and when he heard Whim was in trouble, demanded that Asmodeus teleport him to help. He did, and we'll catch up with them.

Meanwhile, the others figured that he'd teleported home and kept on walking through the Shadow. Presently, things started getting spookier, and they came to a clearing wherein the trees resembled a wheel (remember how Stumph died?). They stepped into the clearing, and Whim saw a woman resembling Katharina Trump strapped to it, engaged in sex with a large man wearing a wolf-skin belt. As she watched, the man began to change into a wolf. She cast Great Curse on it, but couldn't tell if it had worked. It snarled at her, and she wound up with a derangement (narcissism, hasn't really come into play yet). The woman told her that she was a waste, that she was frittering away her time and energy following whims, and that she was useless. Whim decided that this was a waste of their time, and pressed on to find the souls.

On the other side of the crater, they found Asmodeus and a very concerned Emory. Emory told Fletcher to watch the other flank, and the cabal and the two werewolves climbed to the edge of the spirit-crater.

Down in the water were the missing souls, floundering for life. Fin prepared to call up the souls into containers (water bottles) for transport back to their bodies...and then we rolled for some initiative. Next session, we'll see why.

Murder in the Pines Update

The 6s and 7s cabal headed out of town in early August (this game takes place 8/5/05) on their way to the Pacific Northwest to hunt down the Via Lunari. Fletcher, the werewolf that they nearly killed last time, was going to meet them later (player was out of town) and Fin had stuff to do (player was out of town suddenly, but hopefully is going to blue-book what he was doing, otherwise he was wearing a tutu and dancing around).

They stopped through Chicago, which, as you'll recall, was Echo's hometown. They met with Kuklukan, Echo's point of contact in Chicago, who immediately had an assignment for her. Turns out a mage named John Butler, an Arrow mage belonging to an odd cabal called the Abbatoir, had gone rogue and fled. He was headed for O'Hare, and if he made it there, he'd be done. Since the cabal included both Arrows and Guardians, Kuklukan wanted them to find him and apprehend him - unhurt - and bring him back to the Guardians.

Privately, he told Echo and Asmodeus the truth. Butler was a Guardian spy and had learned something important. He needed to be brought in for debriefing, but Kuklukan didn't know why he was running. Something was wrong, and he wanted the characters to find out what.

Asmodeus teleported to the Abbatoir's Sanctum, which was, in fact, a fetish club called the Abbatoir. The place had a bizarre carnival theme, complete with a performance by Sardtori's Satanic Sideshow (the mages). He met the mages, including the Ringmaster (Chevalier), a Gypsy fortune teller (Madame Strega), a Haitian woman with a boa constrictor around her neck (Princess Kundalini), and a man in a red leather bodysuit with his face painted up mime (the Red Jester). When he mentioned he was from Cincy, he noticed Red Jester look away as though nervous. He questioned the cabal about Butler. They told him that he'd always been quiet and secretive, but they didn't know why he'd run. Kundalini mentione that, when drunk, he had once slipped into an accent, but she hadn't been able to place it.

Meanwhile, Echo plotted out a few possible routes from the Abbatoir to O'Hare and Whim, now a Master of Fate, pulled the cabal's fate toward their targets at an El station. They headed out to the station, and Asmodeus met them there. The group arrived first, and spread out at the station. Whim cursed the station so that people would stay away, reducing the human traffic. The next train let out four people. Bolg checked one - not a mage. Whim magicked herself to trip over the guy they were looking for, and stumbled into a skinny, nervous-looking guy who looked nothing like the man they were looking for. She tried to distract him, but he kept moving. Finally, she cast a Fate spell to make him trip, but he resisted (seriously, my dice were on fire last night).

Echo rewound time to let Whim cast the spell again - twice - and each time the mage beat her. Finally, Echo got sick of it, and drew her gun. The guy ran, she popped him in the leg, and he turned around and threw a Psychic Sword at her that, combined with the Paradox damage she'd already sustained, nearly dropped her. Whim finally got her "make him trip and fall" spell to work, and Bolg ran up and told him to stop in the name of the Abbatoir.

The mage claimed that he wasn't Abbatoir, he wasn't even an Arrow. He made a Guardian sign at Echo and Asmodeus, and said his name was Lefty. He was a Chicago mage, but not the one they were looking for (he also healed the damage to his leg, while they talked). Whim looked back in time; in response, he blinded her, but she heard someone talking on a phone in a Russian accent and saying, "When I see you, I'll be Lefty." Whim was convinced this was the guy they were looking for, some of the others weren't so sure. He led them into a more secluded area to talk about this, and then dashed off and hid.

They looked for him, but he was quite cunningly hidden. Suddenly, they all went blind, and he shoved past Falstaff to run down the track. Whim called down fate (Swarm of Locusts) and blanketed the place in darkness - also got herself a Branding in the process (I switched Havoc and Branding on the Paradox chart, because Havoc is so harsher). Falstaff grew a mole's nose to track him, and smelled him off the end of the track. They ran to the track's end (Whim canceled her spell), but then the train rumbled by them, and Whim looked up and saw a man fitting the description they'd been given.

Bolg fried the train's electrics, and Asmodeus cast Suspension on the mage. The others ran up to the train, and Falstaff boarded. Bolg used Light Mastery to make the car go black, and Falstaff got kicked in the face and nearly knocked out. Whim tried to geas the mage into cooperating, but called down an Anomaly Paradox - a black cat jumped across the tracks, and for the rest of the scene, everyone had to re-roll successes to see if they kept them (it's harsh, but totally appropriate). This pretty much hamstrung everyone, including their target, and he finally agreed to talk if Bolg got the train moving. They agreed, and the scene (and the Anomaly) ended.

On the train, the man (now tall, muscular and speaking with a Russian accent) asked if they were from Cincy. When they said they were, he said he'd expected Helen to send someone, but not this soon. They, of course, said, "Huh?" The mage then asked how much they knew about the Cincinnati Compact, the charter by which the city's Consilium ran. They knew that the Hierarch could not belong to a cabal, and that Helen's cabal (Guiding Hands) had all died some years back.

The mage asked for a moment to "change," and made Bolg swear as an Arrow not to harm or detain him. His shirt got wrinkly and his bearing got older and slight, and he introduced himself as Max. Max told them that in his time at the Abbatoir, he'd discovered that the Red Jester was also a survivor of Guiding Hands - meaning that Helen was ineligible to be Hierarch of Cincinnati. The cabal bond, magically sealed, for Guiding Hands stated that the cabal was intact until there was only one surviving member, and it had never been dissolved (Whim pointed out that she could dissolve it). Max didn't know if Helen was aware of Red Jester's survival, but didn't see how she could be ignorant of it.

The characters discussed the possibilities. What would Helen do to keep power? Would her son, Arathnos, kill to keep her in power? What would Silas - or Crescendo, for that matter - do if they found out? Max said he'd been trying to get to Bailiff to tell him, because he trusted Bailiff. But, since the characters knew (and at Echo's insistence) he said he'd go back to Kulukan and report. If anything happened that made him think that Chicago's Guardians were going to get involved, he'd go to Bailiff.

The cabal, meanwhile, decided that Helen was a good Hierarch and they didn't feel the need to help oust her. They would continue on their way to find the Via Lunari.

Before leaving, Max pulled Asmodeus and Echo aside and told them to get trained in the Masques. That was how he had gone from Sergei, the Good Death, to Max, the Opener of Ways. He also told Whim that throwing spells around like that was rude, and dangerous to boot. He did mention, though, that if she needed a focus for her curiosity, no one really knew much about the night Guiding Hands died.

Murder in the Pines Update

Guest starring Fletcher Conrad from this chronicle!

So we took a couple of days off from the last session, meaning it's now 7/23/05. Echo was out in Chicago on Guardian business (player couldn't make it). Emory had contacted Fletcher and told him that his friend Gwinn (Whim's real name, remember) wanted to find this book. Fletcher did a little digging and came up with the same reference that Whim had, and was intrigued enough to meet with her. Em did not tell Fletcher, however, that Whim was a mage.

So they all had dinner, and Fletcher felt her out for why she might like the book and whether she could afford his rates. At the end of the night, her reasoning - curiosity - was probably what won him over. He went back to his hotel, did some digging on her (and discovered that she was pretty much what she appeared to be, because "MAGE" doesn't appear on her credit record), and then started researching.

Whim went for a walk and had a dream. In the dream, she saw the bloody roots poking through the sidewalk, but they had spider-webs on them. As she watched, a spider with human eyes pounced on her and bit her. She woke up on a bus stop bench near the mansion.

Bolg, Falstaff, Fin and Asmodeus had moved their stuff back into the mansion, and then were hanging out drinking beer. Fin got a call from the Empty Suits, saying that there was a dead body on campus near the library. It hadn't been called in yet. Fin headed out there on his bike (a moving-in present from Asmodeus, who, BTW, had recently sold his club), and found the body.

The girl had been attacked and her throat torn out (sound familiar?). Fin searched her memories and discovered that she'd been walking back to her car from her boyfriend's dorm and had barely seen the man who'd attacked her. But here's the weird bit - he'd stuffed her into a nook under a ramp, as though planning on saving her. And the killer was nowhere to be found. Fin changed the cause of death from "bitten throat" to "slit throat."

Fin called the others, and they showed up. Whim looked back in time and discovered that the attacker had seemingly appeared from nowhere under the ramp, and had wrapped himself around her victim, much like a jumping spider. She noted that something magical had happened, but couldn't identify what.

About then, the cops arrived (which raises the question of who called them, though the characters never quite got around to figuring that out). Fin cast Incognito Presence on the group, but the cops still noticed Falstaff hanging around. As they found the body, he approached, and claimed that he'd received a tip, too. The cops were initially uninterested (sadly, they wouldn't remain this way).

Fin astrally projected and went to watch the cops at work. Falstaff peeked across the Gauntlet and saw - you guessed it - the murder-spirit. He motioned at Fin and made a slicing motion across his throat, and started walking toward him. Falstaff tried to yell a warning, and Whim tried to distract the murder-spirit, but it spat a pine needle at Fin's face.

Fin has a decent ability to resist mind-control powers. He should, he's an Uncrowned King. This went right through his defenses and made him bloodthirsty as all heck. He started by trying to mind-control the murder-spirit.

Falstaff's "warning," meanwhile, hadn't gone as well as he'd hoped. He'd said something about being able to see the dead girl's ghost, and the cops, not much in the mood for shenanigans, arrested him for being drunk and disorderly. Then they found a gun on him (yes, he has a permit, but still) and so he got stuck in the back of a squad car).

But meanwhile, in Twilight, the murder-spirit was sick of being attacked by Fin. He glanced at Whim and told her she might want to run, and then burst upwards, his legs merging into a tree trunk, the arms growing into branches, and pine needles erupting from his mouth and falling to the ground like arrows. Huge wolf-spider looking spirits with pine needles instead of bristles appeared, and started leaping after the characters. They ran. Falstaff, in the car, heard the murder-spirit say "Rise up, children of murder, and hunt. Take the blood of 6s and 7s."

Meanwhile, in his hotel, Fletcher had discovered a few interesting things. He read up on Peter Stumpp, and then found a later article from a werewolf trial in France that referenced Stumpp. It said that Katharina Trump was already dead when she was executed, and that her familiar or her Black Book might still exist. He also found an odd blurb online from a book of photographs taken by a (now presumed dead) woman named Anna Frane. This blurb, written about a photo of some cairn-like structures in the Pacific Northwest, mentioned nightmares about being lashed to a wheel and hearing voices ask "where is the belt?"

But about then, Fletcher felt something shift in the spirit world. He checked, and saw spirits hiding in his room. He looked out the window and saw the spider-spirits hunting. He asked what had happened, and the spirits told him the name of the murder-spirit (the big one): "Murder in the Pines." Fletcher, being Fletcher, set off to check this out.

Meanwhile, the mages weren't doing so well. Falstaff slipped his bonds and escaped the police car, and ran out to meet the other characters. He climbed into their car (Fin still unconscious, and still attacking the murder-spirit - astrally projected, he has no body and can't be harmed), but then the spider-spirits materialized and attacked. All four were bitten, and about then, Fletcher arrived. Both cars had stopped, Falstaff commanded two of the spiders to kill each other, but the third was still attacking (Bolg had already shot it once, while driving, which was pretty cool). Fletcher ran over and stabbed it.

Just then, Fin snapped back to his body (the murder-spirit had discorporated). Still bloodthirsty, he used Psychic Assault on Fletcher (the big scary guy with the knife). Fletcher flew into Death Rage, changed to Gauru, and if he had a better Initiative, this fight would have gone much worse. As it was, Asmodeus (who had teleported to Bailiff, but was watching through a scrying window) used the Suspension spell, and the mages sped off. Fin tried to fire a parting shot, but Whim altered fate enough that he paused, and Falstaff erased the spirit's influence on him. Fin lost a dot of Wisdom for his loss of control, and picked up the Irrationality derangement for his trouble.

Fletcher's rage abated, and he limped back to his hotel.

Falstaff healed up his compatriots, and asked to be dropped off at the police station to turn himself in. He made some claims about alcohol and so on, which can, of course, be corroborated (he's an Adept of Life, he can have whatever he wants in his bloodstream). The murder-spirit came to see him while he was in the lockup, however, and told him that the spider-killings were over; he was bored with them. He warned Falstaff that if he thought that the cabal was focusing on harming him, he'd kill them all - and he could.

Meanwhile, the others got together and discussed what had happened. Bolg and Whim had their usual disagreement about werewolves, with Whim finally saying that she'd work to patch things up but she didn't want a time limit or constant interference. The mages met with Fletcher, and laid their cards on the table. They agreed to have Fletcher keep looking for the book, but the consensus now is that the murder-spirit is a real problem. While Fletcher hasn't mentioned it yet, it's one of the more powerful spirits he's seen - and he's seen some real doozies in his day.

About 2 weeks of downtime to let the legal troubles with Falstaff sort themselves out, and then...maybe a road trip to find the Via Lunari?

Murder in the Pines Update

The chronicle picks up for the new story six weeks after the events of Lightning Genesis and Elusive Unity. During that time, Falstaff has worked more on becoming a respectable journalist (and is making progress). Bolg, now called Vulcan (though that may change, since there's already a mage of that Shadow Name in Cincy) has legal rights to Hades' house, meaning the group has a Sanctum again, albeit one with rather weird vibes. Asmodeus went out to visit Hades (we'll be talking about that, Aaron). Fin's been working on the house. Echo's been dealing with Guardian stuff (simplyendless, I'm having brain problems about specifics).

Whim has been seeing Emory. You'll note, though, that Emory's pack alpha forbade him from doing that, so this relationship has the potential to be problematic. Whim also started looking into weird items, in hopes of using Fate magic to "summon" them. She found a scholarly paper entitled “The Sorcerer, the Werewolf, and the Church — Using Myth to Further Political Goals,” talking about the Peter Stumpf werewolf trial in Germany, and mentioning a book called the Via Lunae, a book supposedly containing information about Stumpf's congress with the Devil and how he went about changing into a wolf. She's now looking for more on this "Lunar Way."

But, tonight, we begin on 7/21/05. It's Vulcan's birthday (or near it), so the characters are out giving him gifts and having chili at Skyline. Echo gets him a new gun. Falstaff renews his subscription to the paper. Whim gets him a monocle, because she thinks he's look cool with one. Fin...hell, I forget (hobbesthetiger?). Anyway, from outside, they feel something supernatural happening.

This probably happens often with mages, but it's worth looking into. They throw on various spells and peek outside. Falstaff notices a spiritual disturbance around a man across the street. Characters step outside, and Loki tells Whim that this guy just feels weird, spiritually speaking. She casts Interconnections on him.

Well, she tries. The spell is normally covert in aspect, but a big ol' Paradox comes in. Whim, not expecting it, doesn't contain it, and an Anomaly occurs on a crowded street. Fortunately, Whim is an Acanthus, so it's not as flashy as it would have been for, say, Vulcan. All of the mirrors within 60 feet of her break, even the ones in people's purses. The guy sure as heck notices this, and stares, mouth agape, at Whim.

Fin tries to read his mind, and gets as fear as his name (Quentin Ester) before a mental shield slams into place and he starts walking away. Fin notices, too, that his Read the Depths spell somehow became vulgar.

The characters follow Quentin and tell him that they don't mean any harm. There's some brief conversation (during which everyone sort of assumes that Whim did something on purpose), and Quentin explains that he was working in a Wal-Mart a few months ago when he saw this "tower." At this point, they figure they're dealing with a new Awakening and ask if there's somewhere more private they can go. Quentin says there's a bar he likes, so they go there to chat.

He tells them about his Awakening, pretty clearly to the Primal Wild. From his explanations of his magic, it's clear he's got some facility with Life, Spirit and Mind, and a good instinct for shielding himself. Fin, after asking permission, uses Know Thyself on him to make sure he's no possessed. The spell kicks up Paradox, again, but it succeeds, and Fin realizes his mind isn't being controlled. It seems, though, that any spell cast on him is vulgar - why?

Crescendo calls Echo, asking what the heck is going on (shattered mirrors are all over the police band). She explains, and Crescendo reminds her that new mages are potential spies and to keep an eye on this guy and on Whim. Vulcan calls Bailiff and asks what to do. Bailiff says to bring the new guy to the Guardian Angels sanctum - hard to be more secure than that. Echo balks a little at the Adamantine Arrow's claim to be "in charge of Consilium security," but they go.

En route, Whim, riding with Vulcan, gets a call from Emory. When Vulcan hears her say she's "in a car," he tries to tune in to the call, but Whim feels the spell and tells him he's being rude. She reveals she's talking to Em, and Vulcan disapproves, not because he doesn't like Em, but because he doesn't want Em going behind his pack's back (this could, after all, lead to trouble). Whim says that she'll try and get back into the pack's good graces; Vulcan gives her a week. Whim finishes her conversation with Emory - he's coming over tonight. He gets so aggressive on the full moon.

They arrive at the Sanctum, and Bailiff meets Quentin. He explains that the Consilium is a governing body for mages, but Quentin is under no obligation to stay and play this game. It's just safer. He offers Quentin (who's now calling himself "Nick," per the cabal's suggestion to pick a Shadow Name) a room, and then gets the cabal alone and tells them that there's been a weird murder in the club district. Since they're getting a rep as investigating this kind of thing, maybe they'd like to check it out?

They trek out the club district and find the circus of flashing lights. Whim scrutinizes the area, looking for pine-like resonance. She finds something similar spread out over the area, but figures it could just be because a murder was committed there.

Echo looks back in time and sees a hairy, naked dude kneeling on another guy's back, chewing his throat and drinking his blood. Then he gets up and runs away. No fangs, no obvious supernatural stuff.

Falstaff asks some questions of the cops, and then sneaks over and gets a blood sample from the trail leading away.

Vulcan monitors the police bands, but hears nothing of interest, except that the cops are kinda baffled by where the killer might have gotten to.

Fin uses Astral Projection and slips into Twilight, and finds the victim's ghost. He uses the Heal the Dead Mind spell that I wrote for Mysterium, and the guy remembers his death. He tells Fin that the guy came out of nowhere and pounced on him, bit him, and then everything went black. Fin asks if there's anything he can do for the guy, but the guy says just to find the guy who did it. "Already on it," Fin replies.

Whim looks for threads and finds one leading away (Fin does this with Death and Fate, too). Falstaff finds the blood trail. But it all dead-ends in an alley nearby. Whim traces the trail back to the murder-alley, but the trail begins under a dumpster. To Whim's House of Ariadne eyes, it looks like this killer was created in that alley specifically to kill, and then ceased to exist when he wasn't useful anymore. But the killing itself was random. That guy died because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Falstaff peeks across the Gauntlet, and sees something weird - the ephemeral pavement is cracking, as though weeds are coming up. He uses the Road Master spell to step across, and tries digging, but the murder-spirit taps him on the shoulder. The spirit notes that Falstaff is now on the spirit side of things, and Falstaff doesn't leave. The spirit attacks, using the Blast Numen.

Now, that's 35 dice for that spirit. I rolled 4 successes. arkhamhorror can just thank his lucky stars, yeah?

Falstaff cancels his spell and returns to the physical world, bleeding from pine needles. The cabal shares its notes, but it doesn't really have much to go on. Whim decides to walk home, wandering the city to figure out if these spiritual "roots" are a problem. By the time she gets home (with a naked werewolf waiting for her in the shower), she figures that these things are new, and that they have a kind of sticky feel to pine sap.

But this is forgotten in the wake of sex. After, she asks Em for help in locating the Via Lunae. He says that he doesn't really truck with old books, but there are werewolves of his tribe who do that, and he'll see about contacting them.

Fin and Vulcan swing by the Guardian Angels sanctum to pick up Fin's car, and chat with Bailiff. He says that Quentin isn't a Lich or a Scelestus, and while Crescendo might think everybody's a spy, Bailiff isn't willing to live his life like that. They'll just have to wait and see.

Oblations & S&M

OK, so let's pretend that there's a Legacy of mages that evolved from the S&M subculture and use pain and sensation as a means to enlightenment. What kinds of oblations would they use, do you think? Sex, duh, but what else?