Silent Legions banners and summary

In an effort to give my Silent Legions games some visual coherence thematically, I’ve had a banner for each arc that tries to reflect the past and forecast the arc. Here they are so far.

Greener Grass Nameplate

I used this picture, slicing different parts of it out to make banners, and not putting any text on the banners themselves. Still, for the writeups and play reports, we had the Adler text because it’s got that grungy typewriter thing going on.

 

Silent Legions, Grifton, 2

Silent Legions, Grifton, 3

Silent Legions AASB Banner

Coming soon to hangouts near you in June 2016!

 

 

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Star Wars: Returning to Circulation

Star Wars Pool of Force Banner

Fifteen years ago, two jedi and their padawan learners were sent to Ordullu Prime with a contingent of clones to investigate a possible Separatist secret weapon facility. While they were there, Order 66 came down. The jedi were attacked, the site was bombarded from orbit, and if any jedi survived on the planet with no space capability, they were left for dead.

Nyla Anjek was a Miraluka padawan (Iris). Her master, Seluria, was an impetuous young knight. He killed the clones that attacked him, but made a desperate effort to reach the communications equipment at the temple site, and orbital bombardment killed him. She ended up as a quasi-hermit staying with the Duballa, indigenous telepathic rock people.

Go Jang Bobo was a Gungan padawan (Gennifer). He saw His master Kerrick, a gruff but grandfatherly diplomat, gunned down by clones; Kerrick’s hope that there was a way around the violence slowed his response too much. Go Jang wandered the wastes looking for water, and found his way into caverns, where there was more and better water (though it was still meager.) He built a sand skiff for sailing the wastes, and a portable purifier to make the water tolerable at all. He fought the semi-corporeal energy raiders called the Kythas often in his travels.

Both felt the death flare across the stars as the jedi were extinguished. Nyla hoped to find out what happened, but Go Jang had a deeper sense of paranoia, and from that day grew reluctant to use the lightsaber or reveal Force training.

A Thread of Dream

Nyla felt the dreams of a Force sensitive, close enough to reach across the vastness of space. She pulled on the thread, finding herself in dreams of oceans, and drawing the young mind ever closer to the planet where she was stranded. As the life force came closer, she called Go Jang and summoned him back to the ruined temple; they might be able to escape.

They traveled to the site, fighting off Kythas with their sabers. The sail skiff was lost to a crumbling ledge, but they continued on foot and reached the temple site with time to spare, resting in the shade until the falling star of a shuttle burned down towards them.

The approaching energy mobilized all the Kythas near the temple to attack and drain its energy off. By the time the jedi reached the shuttle it was mobbed; Go Jang attacked those clustered on the back while Nyla (who could see with the Force through the clouded viewport, finally almost face to face with the soul she drew here) tried to get him to open the door.

The desperate pilot tried a massive thruster burn, which sated some of the Kythas, and as the jedi batted the Kythas away with their sabers, the pilot reluctantly opened the hatch and let them in.

Go Jang used his rudimentary memories of training with secondary systems to help out, spiking the repulsor grid to get enough altitude that the pilot could coax some direction. Redlining the almost-depleted energy, they managed to get enough distance and speed that the last of the Kythas slid off, and they headed towards space.

They met Trevin Silendel, a young scout from an ocean world who was intrigued by the weird and exotic beauty of Nyla and her strange sight and blindness.

Time Aboard Tranquility

They docked with a freighter named Tranquility and met the crew. Bear was a big grouchy man with a bushy beard, and Captain Ellrian was apparently trying to hold on to some semblence of civilization even out here. The captain asked how they came to be on Ordullu Prime, and for how long; one replied that they crashed, the other that they were marooned. The captain didn’t press the issue, especially upon hearing it had been 15 years, and seeing the lightsaber displayed on Nyla’s belt.

The jedi were given a room, to bathe and change into some lost and found locker items. A combination of the lower grav of deck plating artificial gravity and ready access to running water was a relief after fifteen years of dust and weariness.

They noticed the ship terminal could not access the Republic Holo Net, and the interfaces and standardization were different from fifteen years ago.

They met the droid, FX-82 a dented and chipper guy. He escorted them to supper (where his “comedy” earned him hurled objects from Bear, which might explain all the dents on his carapace.)

The captain brought them up to speed on the traitor jedi, and how they almost killed Chancellor Palpatine, who was now using enhanced war time powers and wearing a black robe in mourning the jedi betrayal of the Republic. Imperialists were gaining great power in the senate, which was increasingly symbolic (though he believed it could return to its true function.) Dark times? Depends on who you are. The New Order claimed to stand against the corruption, inefficiency, and gridlocked politics of the Republic, following Palpatine as he expedited solutions instead of dithering on about it for years with no action. The cloning facilities on Kamino suffered catastrophic and widespread repulsor grid failure, crashing into the sea. There were no new clones, but those that remained were integrated with other military to be the standing army of the Republic, ongoing.

As they approached Savaki Station, the captain offered to conceal any “contraband” they might have as souvenirs from their time on Ordullu Prime that they would not want customs to know about. He gave them a sizable box, and turned away; they put their lightsabers in the box and left it on the ship for him to hide. He also gave them cred sticks with 100 credits each, which irritated Bear to no end (as the ship was not wealthy.) Go Jang promised to buy the big man drinks, and that mollified him somewhat.

Savaki Station

They passed cursory customs inspection to enter the station, and bought clothes. They noticed all the customs agents were human, which was jarring compared to their previous experience. They bought new outfits, including a water pipe for Go Jang. As they headed to a bar, Nyla noticed they had been followed through the whole time by a trim young woman.

Once they got a few drinks from the droid barkeep to make Bear happy, the two jedi flanked their tail and hoped she would drink with them. They claimed it was Go Jang’s birthday. Her patience was worn thin; she was with customs, and trailing them while waiting to hear back on their possible records as it was relayed to the nearest bureaucratic node. She figured she’d have information in the next 20 minutes. Customs enforcers showed up in the background in case she needed them. Ruffled that she had been identified, she retreated from the jedi.

The barkeep droid poured them a couple drinks, and Go Jang noticed an address number in the space station had been etched into the bottom of the glasses, for his and Nyla’s both. They finished up at the bar and looked up the address; a secondary circulation exchange side corridor, off limits to tourists.

They slipped through security and found a man waiting for them in the steamy hallway. He said his name was Keller, and he was a smuggler with rebel contacts. He offered them a quick and quiet way off the station. They immediately agreed, and he gave them the box they had given Captain Ellrian, with their sabers in it. They climbed through a spacewalk tunnel into his ship, the Harpy, and left Savaki Station behind.

Welcome to the Rebellion.

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Silent Legions: Surface Tension (Session 4)

Silent Legions, Grifton, 3

From the Winstead’s parking lot, they readied themselves to return to the hospital. Terry stayed with the tactical team, bringing them along in the van. They would go to the hospital parking structure and serve as an extraction team and point of rendezvous if things went wrong inside.

The others took off their bulky armor and shed their most obvious weapons, sticking to pistols (Jason had a concealed wakazashi, and Truc took a shotgun in a case.) Then they headed to the hospital and called Arby, who came down from guard duty and let them in a service entrance so they could bypass security check points.

Crossfire

As they approached Helouise’s room on the fourth floor, two shooters pulled out shotguns, ready to fire into the crowd in hopes of hitting them. Truc dashed to a hospital room doorway and put one down with pistol fire. Jason shot the other with his big handgun loaded with silver. The injured shooter didn’t shoot, instead diving for cover and trying to get out another piece of equipment. Jason pursued him, slide tackled the guy, and broke his neck with a couple efficient strikes.

This put hospital security on high alert, with four guards closing in as the staff ducked and covered and guests ran into rooms to escape an active shooter situation. However, there was an explosive noise and screaming from Helouise’s room.

Truc tried to force his way into the room, but it was blocked; he muscled hard, shoving furniture and a bodyguard’s corpse out of the way. A massive insectoid monster had forced its way into the room, knocking over Helouise’s bed and killing the bodyguard, and now it had her in its clutches. Truc bravely assaulted the monster, startling it into letting her go.

Emilia raced into the room and dragged her mother behind the overturned bed, trying to pull a whip-like restraint off with limited success. Jason charged in over the objection of the hospital security, firing a shot at the bug monster that seemed to chip at its armor, but made it smoke and squeal. Security opened fire at his back, nailing him with several bullets before he fell into the room, kicked the door shut, and locked it. N0w they were trapped with the monster.

Backup

Meanwhile, as soon as things got noisy, Terry fired up the van and drove around to get a view of the outside of the situation. It took some honking, swearing, and traffic violations, but the van got around front to see the bug monster’s abdomen waving outside. Terry also noticed a group of men in suits calmly watching, and he had a bad feeling about them. So naturally he crashed into them with the van.

It was Ghoulaxis and some of his monsters. Ghoulaxis shoved the van back so it banged against a light pole. The assault team peppered them with frag and incendiary grenades.

In the room above, the monster assaulted Truc in unspeakable ways, slurping him into its body. Jason did some quick analysis of how to shoot without damaging Truc, and it bent his brain as he realized the monster could not possibly fit together right; he fired, and Truc was disgorged. Undaunted, the monster went fishing behind the upturned hospital bed, snatching Emilia and Helouise, and pivoting to swing them out over the drop as it was ready to fly away.

It ignored attacks from behind, and Terry fired at it from below, narrowly missing Emilia’s head. The monster leaped out, unholstering its wings and flying in a glide path down to the parking lot as hospital security shouted at them to open the door.

Getaway

As it released a blaring buzz to escape, Terry directed the assault team to shoot the wing area out. They all fired and the bug monster fell, crashing through a tree and landing on the pavement. Emilia was able to duck and roll, only minor scrapes and bruises. Helouise was killed, either in that crash or at some point shortly before.

Then one of the monsters that wasn’t killed by the mass of grenades fired out a flesh hook and dragged one of the assault team into the smoke, killing him messily. The rest of the team dove into the van, and Terry fired it up, driving as fast as he could towards the roach monster crash site.

As Emilia desperately checked on her mother, Ghoulaxis rose from the corpse of the monster somehow, and attempted to snatch her as a back-up plan to take a new host. She somehow dodged the swipe, and sprinted away. She got just far enough for the assault team in the van to pull her in and keep going, outpacing the bug-eyed monster.

The battered and abused van dropped its transmission near the exit, but they all put on black trench coats. The assault team scattered. Terry managed to sneak Emilia out, and they caught a cab and headed to the Donut Hole, a nearby cafe, to let the shakes set in and wait to hear from everyone else.

Meanwhile, Truc climbed down the outside of the hospital, since the window was blown out and he didn’t want to talk to security. He climbed one floor down and shattered the window with a tactical baton, and Jason climbed down and into the room. A wavering octogenarian assumed it was Obama and his death panels, and screeched at them as they took hospital gowns and tried to blend in enough to get through the tightening security lockdown. They made it out, over the fence, across traffic, and into the city to disappear.

Conclusion

Soon they were reunited at the Donut Hole. Condolences to Emilia for Helouise’s death, but at least Ghoulaxis did not use her for a host. Singleton strolled in and thanked them for their work, revealing that Ghoulaxis tried to take over the corpse but the effort was too much for him and he fell off this plane. His threat is subdued, for now, and for a good long time to come. He promised them they’d receive rewards in the days to come, that would not have his fingerprints on them. He left with a smile on his face.

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Ghostbusters of Gotham: Angle of Repose

Ghostbusters Gotham Banner

The Ghostbusters franchise in Gotham is less than a year old. It has had its turbulence and troubles, but they do good work and are known for it. Their past customers agree that when they bust ghosts, the ghosts stay busted, and the team are professional about it. Also, the Gotham Ghostbusters have four stars on Yipe! (in part because a steady stream of interns upvotes them, before disappearing.)

They have burned through 8 interns before their current intern, so they don’t even learn their names until they’ve lasted six weeks. Also, there was an unfortunate incident with the mayor’s mistress; she insisted she wanted to be a Ghostbuster, so they took her on as an intern to avoid political trouble. She sort of got a positronic stream through the head that kind of flash-fried her synapses during a ghost hunt that got rough. The mayor? He’s not happy about it. The founding members were sacked to keep the peace, and the current veterans are assigned by Ghosbusters Inc. to the struggling franchise.

Dr. Jay Hunt, (Stephanie) a tough middle-aged lady who has no interest in romance with people. All her attention and affection is reserved for the gear that keeps her alive in the field and helps her solve the mysteries. A brilliant scientist, she manages the technology and theories of the Ghostbusters. Baseline humans find her unnerving.

Claire Morris, (Kristy) a savvy thrill seeker who ends up talking to clients and collecting invoices because she’s the most personable of the Ghostbusters.

Max “Number Nine” Dominguez. (Miller) This curious young man signed up for the Americorps volunteer program to do office work and was assigned to the Gotham Ghostbusters. Expecting to find an office cubical to work on scheduling and maintenance or whatever, he was slapped into a jumpsuit with a fission reactor strapped his his back and thrust right into the seedy world of Ghostbusting. He survived five weeks so far, and has gotten the hang of this, and hopes someday soon his teammates will care to learn his name. He’s not sure why they call him “Number Nine.”

The Gotham Ghostbusters are based in a building that used to be Nummymuffins Bakery. Doc converted the oven area to the interdimensional holding grid. One reason Nummymuffins went under was they experimented with expanding into bagels as well as their other baked goods, but massively overstocked due to a clerical error. The Ghostbusters used the mountain of bagels as part of their experimentation; Doc made an interdimensional holding space, and they filled it with the bagels. When they insert a peel into the space and withdraw it, they still get reasonably fresh and mysteriously steaming bagels. To make sure this isn’t toxic, Doc reguarly takes surprise blood samples from staff and visitors to analyze, writing the results in her lab’s log books.

They also got the delivery truck with the building. It has a bench seat, so three of them can ride up front to get to a job. There’s racks for gear in the back, and also a bench seat with a pole and a squeegee in case someone has to sit in the back and try to de-slime as much as possible on the way home. The truck has the Ghostbuster logo painted on it, but they haven’t removed the horn-like croissant (the bakery sold croissants before it ventured into dangerous bagel territory) and instead of a siren it players songs like “Hot Cross Buns” and “Muffin Man.”

“Fragile Strength: A History of Elegance”

With “Muffin Man” blaring, they pulled up to the Bertinelli Gallery of Fine Art. Bela Chanson met them, desperate for their help; she was the curator. She was eager to get them in there, but they took their time suiting up, and noticed (not subtly) that she smelled of pee. Yes, she said grimly, she peed herself; now go get the ghost!

They took in all the incredibly beautiful works of glass art, and heard the bonging resonance of a big wind chime with glass chimes. A ghost of a homeless man was rubbing around the wind chime, enjoying the feel and sound of it. They got up to the third story of the open gallery, and got a trap in position on the catwalk by the chimes. Then the ghost noticed them.

Claire tried to converse with the ghost, and it vomited ectoplasm all over her; she opened up with the positronic stream, wrangling the ghost, and the others helped.They maneuvered the ghost into the trap with no fuss, no muss. Very professional work. Minimal damage to the exhibits (though the ghost trap did add some iridescence to nearby displays.)

As Claire arranged for Chanson to pay their fee of $5k, Nine helped by waving the steamy ghost trap around. Doc wandered off on her own, checking to see a flickering faint reading on the PKE meter. She discovered the source of the problem might be from one of the displays, an orrerry made of glass. She took a picture with her phone.

They left, and she showed the picture to Nine, who had some background in the occult. He recognized it as being a three dimensional construction from a text written in the 1100s in Alexandria, “Syvok Celestial Tunings.” Must have been just accurate enough to make a pinhole for dimensional seepage that could activate a ghost.

Testify!

The next morning, the Ghostbusters headed to City Hall where LexCorp was sued by the government for experimentation on humans using ectoplasmic technology. The DA, Ann Wellson, appreciated Doc’s testimony that the Captors were in fact dead. LexCorp transformed volunteer soldiers into hybrid interdimensional beings who capture people and store them in an interdimensional “gut” to be absorbed for energy or regurgitated as a captive. Doc testified that the kills the host, rather than creating a hybrid life form. The result is an echo, shaped energy, interdimensional but no longer technically alive.

After finding a way to deliver that expert opinion in a way that made the jury tear up and want to call their loved ones (something about the fragility of life and the corporate greed that transforms it into a walking death for violence and profit) the defense got to try and discredit Doc. They threw shade on the Ghostbusters as a model, and Doc buried them in facts, figures, spreadsheets, and anecdotes until the lawyer slunk away with no further questions. Dr. Elizondo, the one who made the captors, seethed at Doc. But there was little he could do, and it looked like the jury was swayed.

In the hall, DA Wellson thanked Doc and the Ghostbusters, and suggested they might get a fruit basket from the mayor’s office this Christmas. Victory!

Lining Up a Job

They deserved Panera for lunch after that ordeal in court, so of course they sent Nine to pick it up. After lunch they interviewed some prospective clients.

Ms. Markilini was dreaming of her German shepherd, then waking up to hearing cats fighting outside. Was her dog finally free of the apartment and harassing the cats he always barked at? Claire referred her to a pet psychic, and she left happy.

Mr. Connor Danfeld came in, a nattily dressed man. He was butler for Mr. Simeon DeLant, who had a huge hedge maze four generations old by the manor house. A number of deaths occurred in the hedge maze over the years, often sensationalized into supernatural events. Danfeld was worried now, however, because his nephew was visiting and disappeared into the hedge maze two days ago. The police searched it, but found nothing. He feels strongly that Leopold is still in there, and wants him rescued if the Ghostbusters can manage it.

The Ghostbusters liked the heft of his pocketbook, regardless of the strength of his story, so they dismissed the rest of the interviews (who were chronic hopeful customers with problems that would likely keep.)

They took the truck over to the DeLant estate. As they got out their basic investigative kits and hung them on Nine, he took a big pack of equipment including a positronic pack and thrower, because he was young and strong and liked to carry stuff.

Mr. Danfeld greeted them and set them to work, disappearing into the manor house. While they were suiting up, a FedEx delivery truck came with a live delivery for the caretaker, who insisted it was a mistake and sent them away, looking furtively at the Ghostbusters and retreating. Huh.

A Maze Ing

Nine looked the maze over, and noticed a strong raven motif. His occult background swarmed with raven lore; they carried the souls of the dead, for one, and kept secrets. In fact, the maze could represent the lock between life and death that they solved to carry souls from one world to the other. Pretty deep stuff.

The maze had stairs down and bridges up, elaborate enough it was not easily solved. It also had many expensive and esoteric flourishes, and in some places fences built into the hedges, and topiary animals; crazy stuff. The maze “center” was off center, a plinth with four stone ravens pointing in the cardinal directions. As they progressed in, they found the PKE readings were higher inside, and there was a concentration somewhere (that wasn’t the center of the maze, or the “center” of the maze.)

Nine cheerfully doled out extension cords and other cabling to keep track of the way back, and they eventually found the high point of the reading; Doc was sweet-talking her gear, coaxing its best performance out of it, telling it what she liked, and that was making the other Ghostbusters somewhat uncomfortable. Then Doc fell down in a concealed hole.

The illusion of turf flowed away, and there was a conical pit of nodules of solid ectoplasm like golf balls. She was slipping to fall into it, but she grabbed Nine by the ear, and he was tipping over, but Claire managed to pull them both back by kicking the back of Nine’s knee so he keeled over backwards with the pack, dragging Doc to safety. Something like antlers was at the bottom, and it spit stones to stun them and knock them back into the pit, but they resisted. The illusion re-cloaked the pit.

They had one positronic thrower, and something like a plan. Claire warily approached the edge, avoiding hurled ecto-gravel, and insulted the thing’s mother, successfully offering bait and frustration enough that it launched up out of its pit to come after her. Nine blasted at it with the thrower, but the shot went wide, pulled off course by the dimensional pinhole, and it swept around in the pit igniting the ectoplasmic gravel! The burned ghost monster skittered off through the hedge (being intangible) as a dimension-threatening column of flame burned and twisted over the former pit.

Thinking fast, Doc recalibrated and repurposed a trap and the positronic pack, then gave it to Nine to throw in. When the pack hit the flame, its harmonic shielding held for the seconds it needed to, until the pack was through the dimensional pinhole, and Doc used the trap like a trigger to detonate the pack. The breach sealed (instead of triggering a nuke on this side) so that was nervous work done quickly and well. They caught their breath and headed back to the truck, following their cables.

Bug Hunt

Nine thought through his occult lore, but remembered a nature film on the ant lion larvae and how it looked and acted just like the thing they just encountered. Not a ghost, maybe not even an interdimensional alien or summoned entity. Someone might be messing around with bugs and ectoplasm. Time to talk to the caretaker!

Now equipped with proton packs, they approached the stable where he lived. They noted the auxiliary reinforced power generator attached to the building. Bigtime science could be happening in there. Using their goggles, they saw the ectoplasm stains where the ghost fled the hedge maze and ran into this building.

Claire knocked on the door, and the suspicious caretaker answered; Nine kicked the door open so they could rush in, but it was braced, so he went flying back. The caretaker sprayed them with some sweet and sticky spray (obviously a scent lure or something like that, marking them as prey.) Claire struggled with the caretaker, then kneed him in the groin. He doubled over, and the ghostly ant lion barreled towards the sticky lure all over the Ghostbusters.

Nine and Claire opened up on the spectral ant lion, and as the throwers squirmed and lashed, they busted electronics and tossed sparks at chemicals. Doc managed to drag the caretaker away by the hair as the others sucked the ghost into the trap and reeled it in fast, then they all sprinted away right as the building exploded. The stone walls contained much of the blast, but they were still knocked flying.

Aftermath

The police were very pleased that the spectral ant lion was captured and could be used as evidence. Turns out the caretaker was none other than Dr. Graham Lydecker, a once prestigious but disgraced scientist working on a breakthrough that would put him back on top in the scientific world. Even with the fires and explosions, the Ghostbusters got the job done (even if they couldn’t find or rescue the boy.) Victory enough for today!

[We got a lot done in about two and a half hours!]

ADDENDUM: FATE OF THE INTERNS

As we were playing, we riffed off the previous 8 interns and what happened to them. By the end of the session we had a complete list.

  1. Power surge, barbecued like Frankenstein’s monster.
  2. Fell into an interdimensional portal.
  3. Wandered off. Didn’t return.
  4. Opened a full ghost trap once. Later, trapped a ghost and then was attacked by a second ghost.
  5. That’s why we don’t eat glazed donuts.
  6. Licked something that should not have been licked.
  7. A trap opened, he yelled “grenade!” and jumped on it.
  8. The mayor’s mistress got her head caught in a positronic curl and got flash-fry lobotomized.
  9. IN PROGRESS
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Chalice Anthology

Chalice Anthology ecover

I have released the Chalice anthology! You can get it from Lulu in paperback or ebook format. Special thanks to Vandel J. Arden for the excellent cover!

For the standard hype, check out the entry on Lulu. You are here on my blog, though, so you might want a more personal take.

The Spyra story at the beginning was my take on doing a Sherlock Holmes style mystery, only having some problem-solving twins instead of the iconic sociopathic genius. Also with blackpowder and magic. The focus shifts off figuring out who did what, and more to how to salvage the situation with a minimum of damage to those involved. That’s different than solving a crime. The connections of the Spyra twins are just as important as their intellects. I also really enjoyed having a networking clever man and a highly dangerous and impulsive warrior woman as the twins.

Blood Like Jewels grew out of my game-play experience with the video game Thief. When playing the game, you are most skilled if you can slip through unseen, or escape pursuit; ideally they don’t realize you were there until after you’re gone. But that’s hard. Sometimes it’s easier to whack everybody and then examine the site at your leisure. And both methods (as we affectionately called it, Thief or Thug) create emotions in the player. I wrote those emotions out into complete characters, inextricably linked but antithetical. I also made a coming of age story for a young thief, and played with the idea that the past only reluctantly gives up its secrets, and touched on the power of community and the inevitability of change. Also interesting to me in this one is that the moral center of the story is not the spy, Sight, but instead the young thief, Spider. Decisions made at the climax are certainly frustrating, but may be of interest as the various actors face what they can accept, and what they cannot.

Finally there’s the Lure of the Book, where I enjoy toying with a mashup of the Cthulhu mythos notion of dangerous literature and cosmic indifference and body horror and dangerous dreams, and mix it up with the Keepers from Thief. I also put in a bonus mash-up with a mind flayer, because it fits so  seamlessly. A challenge this story set for me was to write a character who doesn’t talk and hates thinking in words, and make him real and his setting real without full use of conversation and interaction that is my usual preference. It was difficult but rewarding.

These stories were too long to be short stories and too short to be novels, so I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I wrote them over a decade ago. Why bring them out now? I’ve been putting a lot of focus on the Blades in the Dark game, which draws from some similar influences. And, using Lulu to publish has never been easier. I want to share these stories, and I appreciate your interest in them. Thanks for taking a look!

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Dead of Night: North Island

dead of night coverWe played “Dead of Night” using the Call of Cthulu scenario “The Sanatorium” from Mansions of Madness (of course it had modifications and such too.)

Pete Bingsley (Slade) was a reporter with a need to uncover truth, however uncomfortable. His only reason for going to the sanatorium on North Island was that his editor singled him out one afternoon and told him to stay away from North Island. Given that sort of direct order, he had to take a look.

Alan Lancer (Simon) was a lawyer working for Mr. Randolph, a media tycoon. His wife, Carla Randolph, was institutionalized on North Island. Lancer was to verify she was being well treated and make sure Mr. Randolph was getting his money’s worth.

Welcome to North Island

Ebeneezer Waite sailed them to the island in his old boat; it seemed too small to handle the Atlantic swells, but they arrived at the island all right and tied up at the dock. Waite had some things to do for boat maintenance and unloading supplies, but he gave them flashlights (in case they needed them later; it was late afternoon) and sent them up the staircase carved into the rock of the island.

They mounted the stairs and faced the Sanatorium. It seemed odd there was no one to greet them. All the lights were on. As they approached, Lancer got a whiff of existential dread, but Bingsley spotted a more tangible threat. A crazy man leaped out of the bushes and attacked them, somewhat clumsily, throwing them both to the ground and racing away.

Responding to the racket, a plump grandmotherly figure who introduced herself as Blanche welcomed them and escorted them inside the magnificent foyer, explaining that Mr. Hawkins must have got loose from “art time” and was running around. He’d find his way back when he got hungry; there was tapioca pudding for supper, and everyone loves tapioca.

Blanche had a wristband, but she explained everyone did, and the computer could find them anywhere on the island. A very posh and expensive setup here.

They were escorted to the dining room and asked to wait, but Bingsley pressed on to the kitchen. After six o’clock, even a Continental supper would be in the process of preparation, but there was no one in the kitchen or pantry. Blanche insisted they would be having cold cuts. Lancer asked her a few questions, and she got chilly and withdrawn, asking him questions in turn about why he came to the island. She left them to their own devices, and withdrew.

We’re All Mad Here

They crossed the foyer and found a library, with a languid young woman smoking cigarettes. She told them they didn’t want to go into the adjacent room, but they did, and found a nurse dragged behind the couch with scissors stuffed in her eye socket, quite dead. They traded a bit of cryptic banter with the strange woman, then decided it was high time to contact the mainland and get some security going on here.

Where could they look for a proper phone? They headed out to the buildings they saw on the way in, and found Ebeneezer’s cluttered cabin. He had a short wave, but the frequencies were all blocked, some weird chewing static noise. Lancer took his flare gun, and they checked another cabin, finding Melba Conners’ living space. She had a laptop, but the internet connection was down. They could see her Facebook pictures, so they would recognize her and her cat Cicero.

They headed for the generator shed when an explosion caught their attention; the boat! Lancer ran over and saw the boat listing and burning and sinking. Great. Meanwhile, Bingsley found the out building with the power generator was unlocked. It had the satellite uplink and servers, but the whole setup had been smashed with a fire axe (which had been dropped just outside the building.) He collected the axe, and also realized the generators were low on gas and would have shut off at 1 a.m. They refilled the generators, getting another 12 hours.

The only outbuilding left was the prefab barn with the mowing equipment and tools and such. It was partly open. As they approached, a figure lunged at them out of the darkness screaming insults; Lancer fired the flare gun into the building, and it landed next to a fuel tank, which subsequently exploded. In the process of trying to subdue Hawkins with the fire axe, he might have gotten terribly injured a little bit. They left him on the ground, possibly dead, and returned to the house.

The Trail of Corruption

They circled around the library wing, unsettled as the young woman in the library seemed able to see them in the dark and the rain. They headed down the wall, glad of their flashlights, and found the back door.

It seemed some life-draining corruption had burst through the door and carved a trail off into the night. The mummified remains of the cat Cicero were in the swathe. They followed it inside to the laundry room, and found the half-drained shuddering remains of Melba; when touched, she let out a shriek and died. (One of the inmates leaned out of his room and told them to shut up, then closed the door again.)

They followed the trail down the stairs, noting how the walls and floor had been seared as though by some kind of acid. Once in the basement, they checked the rooms as they went.

One room had abstract paintings; for a moment Bingsley saw Egyptian pyramids in one of the pictures; a strange effect. They found a vacant restraint room, as well as a room with emergency supplies. Lancer picked up a ham radio, backpack, and a couple hand radios. Hawkins’ room looked trashed by a tantrum.

Then they found the room where the corruption first arrived. A big circle had been drawn on the wall in blood, with strange symbols all around it. The wall sagged as though partly melted and refrozen, and the symbols had been scratched out. A quivering man crouched in the corners, the tips of his fingers torn off by the violence of his scratching at the symbols to obliterate them. He babbled some nonsense about how hungry it was, and it was good other people were here, and it wasn’t his fault it was real, and whatever; Lancer tried to subdue him, but angered him instead, so Bingsley used a liquor bottle he had lifted from Ebeneezer’s cabin to knock the crazed man senseless.

Disorderly

Next to that awful room was a trim and tidy bunk for the orderly. Judging by his pictures, clothes, and workout gear, he was a really big guy, very strong. There were stairs leading back up to the foyer, and they took them. Once up there, they saw into the library, where the strange woman was beckoning to someone out in the rain and the dark through the window. The guests waited to see who she was summoning, and a lightning strike revealed Johnson, the orderly, twenty feet from the front door. He was missing his shirt, and he looked disturbed.

They retreated immediately down the stairs, then reversed when they heard a thin scream. They got back to the foyer in time to see J0hnson retreating into the night with the library woman tucked under his arm. They didn’t dare pursue.

Instead they headed upstairs, where they quickly found Dr. Brewer’s office. He was pinned to his desk with kitchen knives, ritualistically hollowed and slain. Fighting down the bile at the sight, they rifled the room some, and found it served as a panic room. Locking it down, they also found emergency equipment capable of cutting through the static. They called the Coast Guard and asked to be rescued; two cutters would go check it out, and a helicopter was coming for them, 15 minutes out.

They found the surveillance station in the office, monitoring cameras and microphones around the sanatorium. A feed from the road by the woods picked up the desperate mortal screaming of the woman the orderly dragged off, for over ten minutes before what could only be death silenced her horrible cries.

Then the chopper showed up on the cameras, so they risked a mad dash outside to the circle drive. On the way they saw Blanche, standing at the balcony watching them; later! They made it onto the helicopter, and were lifted off the island to tell their story to the cops.

Aftermath

Lancer found silence could be quite lucrative, and he simply kept his mouth shut and got a professional and financial boost.

Bingsley found paranoia a more comforting route. He wrote up all the detail he could muster, and mailed it to a dead drop with instructions to send a copy back to the newspaper where he worked, to some friends, and possibly other instructions. Then he wrote a sanitized (but still shocking) version to buck against the expensive cover-up that pretended nothing happened on the island. His editor invited him to go on a walk through the office, but pinned him to the wall in the supply room and said some very unkind things to him. The story was not printed.

No one may ever know what happened on North Island that fateful night…

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Silent Legions: Surface Tension (Session 3)

Silent Legions, Grifton, 3

Jason put in a call to Ralf Singleton’s law office to see if he could get an appointment on behalf of Helouise Havershaum. While they had lunch from the hospital cafeteria, Singleton’s office called back and offered them a 2:30 appointment the same day!

As they drove to his downtown office, Terry updated Amelia on the story thus far, including speculation as to the nature of the fomori threat and Singleton’s role in the story.

They got in through security, heading up to the 40th floor (of 60) and taking in the windowless earth-tone art deco with fountain atmosphere. They met with Singleton in an opulent meeting room with a black stone table. (While waiting, Truc helped himself to the fancy chocolate truffles, nervously eating, while Jason tried out the tea infuser.)

One of the Men Behind the Curtain

Singleton joined them, looking trim and expensive. He admitted that he was behind their peculiar luck; he had tracked each of them down after the Sears ruin incident and pulled strings to arrange for them to end up in different jobs. He had a spy keeping close tabs on Ghoulaxis/Gunderson, so he knew that Ghoulaxis would be targeting Helouise, and he knew when and where. He arranged for those from the Sears ruin incident (who rescued him) to be on hand to thwart the assault.

Back in 1998, he was a lowly enforcer. His people were attacking Ghoulaxis’ operation, and Singleton was the one who shot and killed the monster; the body shriveled, but the blood of the immensely powerful creature flowed into that pothole, and unknown to anyone, created a dimensional pocket or kellipot or whatever term you want to use. There, Ghoulaxis held on, neither living nor dying.

Decades later, Gunderson’s nearby dreaming roused him, and he got into Gunderson. That’s when all this trouble started. The Gangplank connects to his pocket dimension and allows his energy minions to take human bodies, if those taking the drug are strong enough dreamers. He’s now force-feeding massive doses to those who proved susceptible during the “recreational” testing phase, creating more monsters for his army.

Ghoulaxis was burning through Gunderson, the host body, and he needed Helouise as a new host. The host had to be a powerful dreamer. If he was denied his host, his presence would wither and he would be forced out of the dimension. His connection to Singleton was that he resented Singleton shooting and killing him almost 20 years ago, and wanted to make him suffer and eventually die because of that.

Singleton wanted to use Terry, Truc, and Jason (and now Emilia) to keep Ghoulaxis off balance and wary of an unrevealed foe. He was reluctant to involve more of the Powers, whatever that means. He already involved one other.

He provided them with detailed schematic plans of the Sears ruin where Ghoulaxis still lurked, showing where he had his drugged victims who were mutating into monsters, and the armored hard point of the pothole, which he zealously protected. Ghoulaxis projected energy from his home dimension through the pothole to control a body and act in this dimension, and he didn’t want anyone interfering with it.

Next Steps

Singleton left them with Frank, his underling, who could provide them with assistance. After Singleton left, they strategized next moves, and Frank chimed in from time to time. He offered them two assault teams of four men each, as well as access to military grade hardware.

They went down to the basement, to Armory Annex A, where there were many guns, melee weapons, explosives, and body armor. They loaded up with what seemed like a good fit, including customized body armor for Truc and Jason. Terry flirted with the thin woman who ran the armory, and she got handsy with him.

Since a battle at the hospital would be disastrous, they decided to strike at the Sears ruin and draw down his forces. Team A would use a heavy machine gun and flamethrower to attack the front of the ruin to attract security, then Team B would take a stolen semi truck and drive through the back wall to get at the sleepers; they were so poisoned and traumatized death would be a mercy, and cut the lifeline of reinforcement monsters for Ghoulaxis. Then Team C (the PCs) would cover Team B and act opportunistically if they saw an opening to hurt Ghoulaxis more. If Ghoulaxis showed up, they were to retreat.

Assaulting the Ruin

Team A was in position, and Team B split into a pair to steal the truck and a pair to get in position with Team C. They were spotted on the approach, and a flying monster crushed one of the commandos. They opened fire on it, downing it eventually, but a ball of meat came up out of its back and twirled, streaking some of them in a sort of amniotic mucus. Shotgun blasts brought the monster down, and the meaty ball was shot open to reveal many grub-like squirming things.

The stolen truck trundled towards the back of the building and was attacked by two more bug monsters; Team C managed to bring one down more or less, and the other got on the truck roof. The driver used an explosive to kill himself and hit the monster at close range, and the flaming truck drove into the wall.

As they approached the breach, a missile streaked down out of the dark night sky, penetrating a sky light and going deep into the Sears ruin. The explosion was massive. They held back, unsure about proceeding, and there was another strike. It seemed like someone was using a drone to drop military-grade missiles on the building!

The last commando with them took his flamethrower and headed up to the breach, spraying napalm inside. He jogged back and reported that there was a chemical tank (it exploded) and the dreamers were likely toast. They retreated.

Loose Ends

After a couple hours driving around losing any possible tail, they rendezvoused in the Winsteads parking lot and got back into their vehicle. (No one asked them to give the guns and armor back.) They went their separate ways, sobered by the implications of a new faction getting involved and firebombing the Sears ruin.

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