SILENT LEGIONS: Greener Grass. Part 3.

Greener Grass Nameplate

Session One and Session Two notes.

So Terry, Truc, and Arnie settle in at Arnie’s house in Irvine to review the security tapes. Arnie ordered food from a number of delivery places, so there would be something everyone would like. (This includes Epic Takeout: Polyamorous Comfort Food. A fusion restaurant that offers the most tasty and unhealthy food from every tradition!)

The Killer Revealed

Turns out the night of Buck’s death, a car parked at the QT and four thugs crossed the street towards the professor’s place, wearing knit caps that were probably ski masks. One was about the same broad-shouldered size and build of the guy that tried to kill Truc.

Less than 30 minutes they were back, with a big cardboard box (probably containing the wall safe) and a duffel bag (most likely loaded with stolen books.)

They got most of the license plate, so Terry called it in to his buddy on the front desk, Fred. They arranged for hoagies to be delivered to his desk as well. Since Fred wants to be a detective, he was eager to find out who the car might belong to, and he’d have something by the morning.

Advancing the recordings, they saw a skinnier figure in a trench coat chain smoking and watching Truc in the townhouse, also moving out of sight when Truc left (probably to get his plate numbers.) Surely the housing development security cameras would be able to figure out what that guy was driving, if they could get the footage.

Next Steps

Terry gave the others the safety talk; they could be targeted, so avoid going anywhere on foot or going to familiar places. Arnie took the talk seriously, getting out his granddad’s Luger that he kept for sentimental (and now self-defense) reasons.

Terry headed home to his shotgun apartment Downtown while Truc stretched out and slept on the couch at Arnie’s place.

Arnie researched the Plantagenet explosion from 1988 until he drifted off at the dining room table.

The next day (Wednesday, January 13) Terry planned to put in a full day at the office to let everyone looking for him catch him, and keep an ear to the ground.

He was met at the front desk by Fred, who narrowed down possible owners of the car to one real suspect; Wayne Teller, a.k.a. Savage D. This guy had a huge rap sheet, full of violence and an ever-shifting but massive cast of accomplices and contacts. His addresses were all suspect, but he did business at the Shinycat, a rave pit on the Strip.

Terry wasted no time calling Truc and filling him in, noting that he could go check out the Shinycat if he felt like it–but from a car, under no circumstances wandering around or going inside.

To the Shinycat

Truc was grouchy about being woken up, so he woke up Arnie too. After a brief chat, Arnie had Truc bring in all the books from the car, and let him borrow the car to go check out the Shinycat. Meanwhile he cataloged the books from Buck’s library, to close the loop on that and get the estimate to Buck’s sister.

Truc parked in a nicer area some distance from the Shinycat, and checked it out on foot. It used to be a massive mechanic shop for semis, and the interior was adapted to be a big dance floor, with seating in the mechanic pits, balcony, and offices. Truc killed some time at Dimz a Dozen, a local coffee shop, then went to get some information about Savage D.

Helpful Friends

Truc figured he’d start at The Kidney Stone, a pawn shop run by his buddy Doc Trevor, a charming man who refused to take off his comfy bathrobe while at work or play. Doc knew of Savage D, and warned Truc that he was violent, bad news, and asked him not to work for the thug (since many of his associates came to bad ends.) Truc killed some time socializing in the pawn shop, then headed to Pink Spot’s nearby lair.

Truc brought a delightfully sweet and caffeinated brownie for Pink Spot, and shared some with Cornelius, the thug on guard duty. Once he mounted the blinged out camper van so he could access the second floor directly, he met with Pink Spot, who was rocking his silk pajamas and anticipating riding his new blinged out moped both on the street and in the mall. Maybe a sidecar. He was also eager to show off his new workers, Bambi and Perks.

Anyway, he knew of Savage D; a ruthless killer, who was trying to break into the profession. Shinycat was a “tourist trap of criminals” where people who were not so much “in the know” would look for contractors. Savage D was charismatic, but not loyal. A dangerous person to know.

Also, Tuesdays are Ladynights and Wednesday there was inspirational speaking (or something like that) so he would probably be there Thursday, tomorrow, for explicitly “rave night.” Also, “Emotional Mouth” was scheduled to play.

Truc thanked Pink Spot, and headed out, loaded down with a gift of a sack of quarters with pink nail polish spots on them. He could spend them at the local arcade or laundromat and the coins would find their way back to Pink Spot. Great.

Truc returned to Arnie’s car to find the tires slashed. He headed to a nearby chop shop, where it turned out he knew the bouncer, a big fighter called One Two who had a glass eye. One Two called in a favor for his buddy, getting a flatbed truck to pick the car up, bringing it back and fitting it with new tires. In exchange, the boss of the shop, a tough mechanic named Carlita, suggested now Truc owed her one and she’d call on him for help sometime.

Truc headed back to Irvine and Arnie’s house, planning to arrive in time for great leftovers for supper.

Friends in Law Places

Meanwhile, Terry plowed into the caseload of burglaries assigned to him, conducting phone interviews. His morning was interrupted by a furious call from Detective Sanders, the lead on Buck’s case. He was furious not just that Terry poked into it, but that Terry apparently hired a private detective (an outsider) to get into it as well. After a hostile exchange, Sanders hung up.

Later, Special Agent Weldon Waters dropped in. He was apparently doing corruption investigation in Grifton, making people used to having their way quietly feel uncomfortable. He wanted to know what Terry was into; it was making some people squirm, and Waters wanted in on the investigation to help out.

Terry told him about Buck’s death, and Kimball’s death, and the death under the bridge, and how it connected. Sobered, Waters agreed to help, and said he’d find the private detective’s name to help out, a gesture of solidarity. Terry noncommittally agreed.

Later he talked to Anna Duwitt, from the Seville Precinct. He asked her on a date, she suggested the Pigsicle (a nice upscale-ish place that serves all kinds of meat on sticks, with drizzles and sauces aplenty. A great place to flirt.) Oh, and he asked her to see if she could figure out who called Sanders.

She called back before the end of the day, and told him it was some guy named Elliott Keys, with an office in Irvine.

Eventually Terry headed back to Arnie’s place. On the way, he got stuck in traffic behind an overloaded trash truck, and his car’s defroster pulled that wafting stink in and heated it for him.

Consulting the Local Busybody

After a delightful supper of re-heated take-out, they looked up Keys’ website and found it underwhelming. They decided to check with the “village elder” in their part of Irvine to see if she knew his rep.

Shortly afterwards they arrived at Sister Stacy’s house, and her granddaughter let them in. While Truc and Terry were entertained by the granddaughter, Arnie went in to see Sister Stacy herself.

The 80 year old woman was wearing a bikini and trimming her bonsai trees in a room with the sprinkler system running to water the plants. She enthusiastically chatted up Arnie, and when he asked after good local private detectives, she gave him a list including Keys; upon further inquiry, Keys was too drunk to be a cop, and had a number of high flying corporate types who had him on retainer. A clever enough setup.

Meanwhile Terry and Truc got to hear about the hot-but-distant granddaughter’s scientific project, collecting photos of clouds to substitute for ink blots in personality tests, accessing a different (more natural) picture of the subject’s mental state. She was somewhere between a scientist and a beat poet, and while Truc was bored with the crazy, Terry left only reluctantly.

Into the File

They returned to Arnie’s house to dig into Savage D’s file to look for banking information or an address. While Truc quickly lost interest in the endless papers, Arnie zeroed in on a girlfriend that kept coming up in Savage D’s interests. She went from a flat with lots of roomates to her own trailer to a corner apartment with no visible means of support. That was likely a good way to find where Savage D lives.

Terry followed the money to a launderer nick-named “Bermuda” who could make money disappear and reappear mysteriously. The launderer had made enough mistakes that he was also a criminal informant with the police, in a somewhat ambiguous role. He handled Savage D’s money, which was entirely off the books, and could likely be a key to dealing with the thug.

Terry reflected that dealing with the trigger man was not particularly satisfying; someone hired him, and that was the person of interest in this case. But how to identify, much less punish, a figure proving to be so elusive?

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WARHAMMER. A Malign Influence

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The adventurers included:

  • Othric. A dwarven pharmacist, nicknamed “Rick” by the humans.
  • Thorgrim. A dwarven protagonist, goon enforcer for the dwarven community.
  • Sevn. A dwarven slayer, beyond redemption and seeking a good death.
  • Kurt Semmler. A human outrider, messenger and courier for the College.

They were socializing at the Sprocket, a building that used to be a supply shed for the stables. Now the stables are a workshop, and the supply shed is where the College provides cheap food, beer, and flirtbait to keep the rougher element of their employees and contractors out of the way of their betters.

That’s where Mackle found them.

Trouble in the Morrsgarden

Mackle was working with a team to clear out a damaged pump system feeding one of the waterfalls and reflecting pools in the world-famous Moorspark of Nuln (a sprawling yet manicured cemetery park temple area dedicated to the God of Dreams and Death.) They joined him on the work site, passing the black roses and fanciful mausoleums and statuary.

The waterfall itself was cunningly worked into stone. Apparently birds and fish had been dying after contact with the reflecting pool the waterfall fed. They climbed into the access hatch and descended to the pump mechanism.

Mackle showed them the mechanism was jammed up with masses of vermin. They were fist sized and malformed; the adventurers realized they were giant mutated lice. They climbed into the pump because it was warm and moving.

Grim, Mackle explained there was a big deal funeral in two days, and this all had to be sorted out by then. If there was a real threat, then it would have to be dealt with. They agreed to help figure out where the vermin were coming from, and find the warpstone that they must have been in contact with to change so unpleasantly. Hefting blankets and sacks, as well as their weapons and armor, they descended into the darkness.

Following the Trail

Kurt was pleasantly surprised by how un-cramped the sewers were here. He had not seen their cathedralesque majesty before, and was not fully aware of how the refugee community had engineered so much of Nuln (including its sewers.) Still, he was their tracker, and he led them along the back trail of the activity patterns of those mutated critters, until they found a grating.

A barrier had been clumsily built across the tunnel. It was sturdy, if crude. It was fifteen feet tall, of the twenty feet of head space in the tunnel. The inside had spikes protruding, too far apart to deter people, and two feet long.

They climbed over the barrier, and were horrified as a swarm of mutated lice jumped them. After a brief and crunchy interval of heavy slashes and splats, they dispatched all the lice except the mass swarming Orthric. They viciously chewed his flesh, but he hurled himself against the walls and floors and finished them off. Afterwards they took a short rest so he could heal his unpleasant injuries.

Continuing, they found stairs leading down to a bigger chamber. There were also cracks in the walls, that the lice could move through; their tracks didn’t go into the bigger chamber. Kurt’s nose told him what he was smelling was bog octopus.

Steeling themselves, they advanced.

The Bog Octopus

The flood control chamber was built like a theater or public bath, with needless beauty and flourishes. Columns around the sides, stairs down into a central pool under a dome with a shaft leading up from the middle.

Sevn wanted to get this fight started; a bog octopus was a pretty good death, all things considered. He kicked the remains of part of a corpse into the pool. Sure enough, the creature latched onto supports with 3 or 4 limbs and heaved its bulk into view, snatching the belligerent slayer and rubbing him against the wall like a stick of sidewalk chalk.

The battle was wet and unpleasant. Kurt hung back shooting, until the mass of tendrils flopped over everything and it was time for bladework. Thorgrim charged in with gusto, but one tentacle got him, then another–before they could rip him in two, Orthric cut one down. Still, as they maimed half the monster’s tendrils, it decided to retreat–and it dragged Thorgrim with it, down to a horrible messy death far under the murk.

Shaken, they mourned their fallen comrade and continued to the chambers on the other side of the room.

The Birthing Pools

They found a shallow pool in a chamber, with an iron stake in the middle of the pool and shackles hanging from it, like something would be restrained to slump in the pool. They cautiously investigated, and heard movement; they found a connecting chamber to a very similar pool, but this one had a dwarf chained to it.

They freed him from his shackles and got his story; he was Thorgrim, a dwarven mercenary who had been jumped outside a tavern after a bar fight by a bunch of skinny guys with some sort of knockout drug. He woke up here, his equipment in the corner. He pulled it all on. He also had a warpstone pebble in his hand.

They dropped it, and it rolled towards the pool; it had a rune etched into it that matched the rune on the stake. Even if the victim threw all the warpstone away, it would roll back into the pool. The pool was a deliberate attempt to mutate its victim! And there was more than one.

An unpleasant sibilant voice echoed from the shadows, telling him to get back in his pool. The mutant charged, indescribably unpleasant, and they fought it; it vomited acid on Orthric, crisping his beard and wrecking his gear, but they hewed away at it and slaughtered the massive squishy thing.

It had warpstone studs in its flesh; they pulled those out, and fished pellets out of the birthing pools, getting a hefty haul of the forbidden mutagen.

Feeding Time

Then they heard a clatter of metal on metal, and some skittering speech in a strange language. Using their keen hearing, they oriented on the source of the noise, following a tunnel to find another crude barrier (but this one with a door on it) and two cloaked figures putting a sack of severed body parts into the corridor. This must be how they fed the mutant.

They seemed exasperated that the mutant didn’t show, so one dropped the cloak and entered the tunnel to investigate. It was a hunched rat-thing! Skaven!

Well, they needed proof of this. So, Thorgrim charged the one by the door, almost killing it outright, and Sevn charged the one inside, physically discorporating the rat-thing. They were both sprayed with the musk of fear.

The survivor scrabbled to escape down the tunnel, towards the rest of the adventurers. Kurt failed to lasso it, but Orthric chopped it down handily.

Feeling they had pressed their luck sufficiently, they hefted the bodies and retraced their steps.

Wrap Up

Mackle was sobered, but impressed at their efforts. He gave them 50 crowns, and promised 100 more if they’d return tomorrow and sort this out once and for all. They made preparations to do just that, including Orthric procuring a barrel of devilfish repellant…

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Duskwall Heist Deck

I present to you the Duskwall Heist Deck.

Duskwall heist deck nameplate

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/duskwall-heist-deck

This deck is designed to help the GM make up heists on the fly. There are two kinds of cards inside.

One type involves obstacles. Each card has a Duskwall flavored obstacle that defends a heist site, complete with questions to get you thinking about customizing it. The back side has suggestions to make the obstacle more or less difficult. There are 50 cards in this section.

The other type has an important person on one side, and a potential treasure on the other. You can use the person side to draw potential employers and targets. You can use the treasure side to see what the scoundrels might be after! There are 40 cards in this section.

To round it all off, there is a free .pdf with suggestions for how to use the deck to set up a heist, or for other improvisational purposes. Take a look!

http://tinyurl.com/zzwoyny

Special thanks to +John Harper, who was supportive of this idea! I hope it will be really helpful to GMs who want to show off the haunted city of Duskwall in all its sordid glory.

Special thanks to Miller Ramos, who did the expert layout and design.
UPDATE!
Now the deck has a .pdf version! It has 30 obstacles (without scaling suggestions), 20 people, and 20 treasures. It is not as fully featured as the print deck, but you can get it immediately for now shipping costs. Check it out here!
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Great Randomizer!

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WARHAMMER. An Immodest Errand

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The characters:

  • Marise Devereaux. A Bretonnian noblewoman, currently apprenticed to Hella Goldblatt to become a member of the Elector Countess’s musketeers in Nuln. She has an entourage, even: Ella Rieger, Erik Beer, Louisa Seff, and Helga Geiger.
  • Kurt Semmle. A tough outrider, Nuln native.
  • Sevn Coppervien. Dwarven slayer, seeking a good death in battle.

Noble back channel negotiation got this crew recommended for different reasons, for a mission on behalf of a mysterious noble. A less mysterious noble, Tom Hauser, met them in the snug of the Staggered Stag with a mission.

They were to take a light carriage decorated with the heraldry of Morr, and travel to the town of Wurstheim and back in one day. The round trip was about forty miles, but it must be managed swiftly. They were to pick up a paramour for a noble, and get back in a timely fashion, as his wife would only be out of town for a few days and he had many needs to satisfy. They agreed to the mission, and got a good night’s sleep at the Stag.

The Journey to Wurstheim

Marise was ready to go bright and early, well before dawn. She had told her entourage they could stay in town (and given them some money to spend) so they were content. However, she was the first one to the stable. She bullied the stable staff into preparing the coach, so when Kurt swaggered up and Sevn pried himself away from his breakfast, they were only a little behind schedule.

Kurt was an expert coachman, so he sat on the buckboard in the pouring rain while Sevn and Marise sat inside the coach.

They passed the northward journey without incident; even the toll station was uneventful.

Upon reaching Wurstheim, a logging town, they had lunch at the Gretchin Pot before heading over to the town’s single stone building.

They were allowed in, to pick up the “Priestess of Morr” that they had come to transport (a paper-thin deception to add some subterfuge to the arrangement.) Uta Westheimer was a statuesque beauty with creamy skin, her face hidden behind a veil.

Jealousy

As they headed back to the Pot to get the coach and head out with no further delay, they were confronted by Hannes Wasserman and two of his buddies. He was a huge man, and he unleashed a passionate plea for Uta to stay in Wurstheim; the noble did not love her like he did, and would use her up and discard her, etc. She found this most distressing, but was not sympathetic to him. Out of ideas, he resorted to violence, charging her guardians.

Sevn slew two of the thugs (one of them because Kurt lassoed him as he was trying to flee, so he didn’t escape the dwarf’s charge range), and the other got away. Uta was badly shaken. Town guards ran up to see what was going on. Kurt showed them the coins the thugs had tried to steal, and let the guards take them for safekeeping. The guards suggested they should stay in town unless there were questions ::wink:: and left. Moments later, the coach was back on the road, headed south to Nuln.

About half an hour into the trip, they stopped at a stream to get most of the blood and viscera off. Kurt sensed incoming foes in the forest, possibly friends of Hannes; they got back on the road. Uta was still upset, but they were to transport her, not keep her happy.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest

A falling tree almost took out the horses, but Kurt’s expert handling saved them, and calmed them down enough to not panic as four beastmen raced out of the woods and sprang at the coach, scrabbling up with an assault.

The battle was sharp, but brief. Three of the beast men were brutally slain, the last escaped into the woods to blow his horn and summon others. Meanwhile, Kurt had been slashed in the gut, and his survival was in question. He got enough medical attention to keep his guts in, and slumped on the buckboard as Sevn and Marise desperately tried to drag or chop the tree out of the way so the carriage could make it through.

They barely shifted it enough, and took a chance on ramming it through and risking damage to the carriage or horses if it didn’t go well. After all, if they stayed put, they were certain to face worse damage.

They made it through, and headed back to Nuln, where they turned over the carriage and traumatized mistress and got paid. Hooray!

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SILENT LEGIONS: Greener Grass. Part 2

Greener Grass Nameplate

(Part 1 is here.) Terry, Truc, and ViX sat around the table after Barber left. ViX shrugged and got up, explained she had no interest in dying for something like this, and left to go on a purchasing trip in Indochina.

Meanwhile, Arnie Laukkanen was a perpetual student with varied cultural interests. Born into a wealthy family, he had access to money, and he had gone on various trips with Buck, to Finland and elsewhere. He thought of Buck as a typical academic, sure, but one who experimented with various mind-altering substances and knew how to enjoy life.

Arnie was out of town when he got the call from Dixie, so he arrived a day late. He was interested in purchasing Buck’s library, and Dixie gave him permission to box it up and estimate its worth. He found the townhouse was still a crime scene, so he called Dixie back. She referred him to Terry, and Terry got a call on his cell in Nine Coffees right after ViX left. Sure, Arnie could meet them Downtown.

Let’s All Go to the EPA

As they waited for Arnie to arrive, Terry and Truc decided to go to Downtown Island and meet with Dr. Lilly Cook–maybe they could even get into Buck’s time slot, as his meeting was to start right about then.

Arnie agreed to drive, and they headed out. One of the bridges was closed down to one side, and mounted cops were out directing traffic; the cops were checking something out under the bridge. News radio didn’t feature the incident, so they shrugged and continued on to the island, eventually finding a good parking spot in a parking structure and heading across a skybridge into the Filex Building.

They entered the half-floor of offices dedicated to the beleaguered EPA. Wilcox was at the front (normally his office was further back, but staff shortages that day.) He politely and firmly deflected their efforts to get a look at Cook’s schedule, or get back to the offices.

While Terry kept him busy with questions, Truc headed back; Wilcox called another receptionist to intercept and steer him out again. At that point, Terry called it good, and asked Wilcox to send him Cook’s schedule for the last week. The assistant coolly agreed, and Terry took Arnie to the depressing bagel shop / break room on the first floor.

Meanwhile, Truc flirted with the receptionist, Bridget Hester (“Like in ‘Scarlet Letter’ she suggested slyly.) They went down to the bagel shop and she cut in line, because she has that kind of power here. Truc got her talking about her boss; a dragon lady, focused on results at the expense of people, and on and on.

Meeting Dr. Cook

Bridget even pointed her out when Dr. Cook passed through the lobby. Truc texted Terry, who darted after her and caught up halfway through the lobby as she headed for the private executive elevator.

She was going to brush him off, but he flashed his badge and that got her attention. She said she was coming from an all-morning meeting with trustees, she did not choose to divulge what company. Terry asked her about Buck, and she said she had never heard of him or had him on her schedule.

She seemed to think something wasn’t right, so she memorized his badge number and noted he wasn’t from Downtown Island precinct. He agreed, he was working on something about a friend of his who was murdered. She didn’t bat an eye at the mention of Professor Buck, so Terry let it go at that, and they went their separate ways.

Truc made his excuses, but held on to Hester’s business card with her personal number on it, and they headed out.

On the way to Buck’s place, they filled each other in on their connection to Buck and reason to be along on this grim ride.

Buck’s Townhouse

They returned to the townhouse to give Arnie a look at Buck’s book collection. As soon as they walked in, Truc noticed some things had been moved. An intruder had come in and checked the books he was boxing, and given the place a once-over.

As Terry inspected the already-scratched lock for sign of further entry, Truc took a stroll outside and found cigarette butts under a tree, and footprints matching the footprint shape on the carpet inside. Someone was waiting out here, maybe watching him box up books the night before. In looking around, Truc saw a QuikTrip just across a grassy stretch and the road, with a camera pointed in this direction.

Arnie didn’t see anyone in scanning for pedestrians or suspicious parked cars, so he returned his attention to the book collection. He pulled out the most valuable books and boxed them up first. (He also blunted Truc’s suspicion he might be too conveniently interested, by showing some of Buck’s picture albums that show them together years ago.)

A QuikTrip

Reluctant to seem too competent, Truc engaged in some exaggerated estimations until Terry asked him what was going on, and Truc eventually more or less dragged them over to the QuikTrip for the camera footage.

There were some college town toughs hanging out in front of the QT messing with their smartphones, and Truc pretended to be in a phone conversation about what happened at Buck’s place, to lure them into conversation. They didn’t know much; the thief was already caught after hitting nearby houses, and local squatters avoided townhouses because of connecting walls.

Meanwhile Terry talked to the QuikTrip employee on duty, a struggling business student, and got his permission to take a look at the security system. It recorded to the cloud and looped after four days, but Terry figured out how to download a copy to a drop box. Now they might get a look at whoever was watching from the trees. Maybe even a look at Buck’s killer.

Kimball’s Lab

They had time for a quick jaunt over to the University to look into Kimball’s lab at Marlbeth University.

Arnie put in a call to his fraternity to have a buddy get some digital rendering bros on deck for later footage examination. Then they headed over to the science building, slipping in between classes to get into the classroom lab Kimball had been using.

Dr. Kimball was not only head of the science department and a popular teacher, he was also a sought-after consultant for various chemical companies in Grifton. The man was a well-regarded expert.

His laptop was missing, maybe someone mixed it up with theirs, a note asked for its return. They grimly figured that wasn’t likely. There were signs of intrusion on the classroom lock.

Arnie did find the actual log book of experimentation from over the weekend; Kimball had been busy. As a man of science himself, Terry looked the entries over, then started copying salient details into his notebook while Arnie used his cell phone to take pictures of the pages.

The black stone had variable radiation, which should not be possible. The testing was done over and over on various machines as Kimball got frustrated with it. He was trying to get spectrograph readings, and it was all inconsistent. The stone was black, unless energized, then it glowed green. He kept the sample with him, rather than leaving it here.

They slipped out the back as a class filed in, around 3:00.

They relocated to a dark corner of the student lounge (since it was still pouring a chilly unpleasant winter rain outside) and went over their facts so far.

Then they decided to split up, to get their cars from Downtown and handle any personal business, reconvening at Arnie’s house in Irvine to review the footage.

Dangers

Arnie seemed to hit every red light on the way home, but otherwise nothing too untoward.

Truc got to his beat-up car, and as he was driving it away from Nine Coffees in Downtown rush hour traffic, the car died. He managed to get it out of the intersection, and as he popped the hood to inspect the engine, he saw it had been tampered with.

At the same time, a man in a trench coat and hoodie approached, and shoved him out into fast-moving traffic! Rather, tried to. Truc rolled with the push, and tried to smack his attacker, who turned and ran. Truc tried to keep up, but wasn’t ruthless enough to push through the more vulnerable people in the crowd.

His attacker headed down a dark alley; Truc decided to follow. He vaulted a fence, and was just wondering if he’d lost his quarry when the attacker fired on him from a fire escape, using a silenced pistol. The bullet grazed Truc’s arm as he leaped behind a dumpster.

As the attacker retreated loudly up the fire escape, a motorbike roared down the alley towards him. Truc sh0ved the dumpster in the way, and retreated back over the fence, calling Terry. Truc headed into a bank lobby, and Terry told him to give the guard his police business card and explain Terry was on the way to pick him up. The plan worked fine, Terry got some gauze and a quiet place to wait, and Terry was on his way.

Of course, timing is not ever convenient. Terry was feeling good about his cases not having any developments as he took a look into Buck’s death, but the desk officer at the precinct told him that Special Agent Weldon Waters was looking for him, checked in twice this afternoon. Didn’t want to call, wanted to speak to him in person when he arrived. Hm. Terry took his card.

Then he got the call from Truc, and he used his police light to get over there fast. Of course, en route he got a call about a crime scene, and he turned it down because he had something else going on–and during the call the siren is in the background. That might take some explaining later, but for now Terry winced and pushed on, picking up Truc and heading to Irvine.

There had better be something damn good on that security footage.

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Edge City: Hell Strikes Back

Edge City banner

We had Geneveive, Adrian, Lydia, and Kinselton. They had just rescued the Director. It was about 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 25, 2010. They were in the basement of the Mumford Block new construction.

An Inside View

The Director got his wits about him after some vomiting. He admitted to some surprise to see them; he thought Pillars would come get him out. She apparently broke some of the rules of Hell in her long time on Earth, and is increasingly in danger of being found out the longer the Embassy is in operation, so she’s had a bit of brinksmanship in her relationship with the Embassy. She was more or less forced to give up the Director, and she’s in survival mode.

Also, about half the Wilters are hosting Lords of Air. They brought in something they called a baalor (powerful demon made of flame and shadow) and fed it human sacrifices for a couple weeks; apparently they squeezed its energy out through the Embassy and strengthened its connection while it was concealed and safe on Prime. It is hosted in a human shape, but its energy burns through them pretty fast. Then today they moved it out to do its work, so the Director expected a change in circumstances directly.

Better Check In

Genevieve reached out telepathically to Daniel. She found that he was at home, but on alert; something was wrong. Then there was fire and he checked out to deal with it.

She checked with Graves, who had taken Echran and relocated through the gate in Favian Manor’s basement, retreating to Favian Church. Echran observed the house staff coming back and having to hesitate, repelled; they were possessed with Lords of Air. They directed human agents to storm the house, but Graves and Echran retreated rather than standing their ground. (Graves was putting together an elaborate method to reach her, but the telepathy worked fine.)

Next Genevieve reached out to Burninator, finding him badly drugged and kept unconscious, a television playing somewhere in the background. She focused, and determined he was somewhere in Torpedo Bay.

She reached out to the Gray Ghost, and found that a very surprised alter ego had been ushered out of a meeting by Marcher! He had contacted her family, and told everyone to get to safety. She was just deciding whether or not to shut him down when Genevieve contacted her; Genevieve suggested she go somewhere safe, something big was going down. The Ghost grudgingly agreed, but planned to ride out in the jet to assist against whatever was up.

Genevieve touched on Hammerhand to find him in intensive care breathing through a tube, very angry! He thought Adrian attacked him with magic, almost killing him. He was at a work site downtown moving rubble, and the wizard came out in costume, taunting him then shooting him. The wizard cackled for the cameras of the news crew covering Hammerhand’s efforts, then ran off. Genevieve assured him it wasn’t Adrian, and said she’d get back to him.

She searched for Grim telepathically, but could not find him. At all.

Genevieve targeted Emma, and found her breathless and alarmed. Ellis was in bad shape, and Emma was hurt, but they went to the Barnacle Bar and were being hustled to a boat. The Lords of Air used a disorienting attack, then the Claws came for them in the house. The Elder Sign around Emma’s neck repelled possession, but they got into Grim–until he resisted the influence, and held everything off while they escaped.

Genevieve checked on Mugsy; he repelled the Lord of Air possession because of the Elder Sign in the wheelhouse, and was currently totally freaked out and sailing the yacht eastward hard, headed into the open sea at top speed.

Adrian pulled on his connection with his familiar Snowfall, who escaped the house (albeit a little dazed.) She oriented on them, and caught up by the time they reached Fortress Square.

Into the Storm

Storm clouds gathered over the city and thunder growled as they snapped into action. They told the Director to hide in the basement, then Amy stole a church van from a couple blocks over, and they headed Downtown; they could feel the energy building there.

They arrived at Fortress Square and entered the square itself, seeing Marcher standing on a rooftop with so much magic strapped on he looked like a disco wizard. He had a staff made of braided bone, a sword made of lightning, a half-mask of bone, bandoleers of teeth, a reptilian robe, and all sorts of other baubles and trinkets.

Meanwhile the baalor soared through the clouds, insubstantial but closing in on Marcher’s mystical challenge. The mantle’s magma shifted underfoot with the attracting power of the hellish monster that approached.

Marcher briefly talked tactics, then the baalor was upon them; it landed in lightning that passed the lightning rods, rooftops, twenty stories of buildings, and mauled a crater in the courtyard. Its mushroom cloud resolved to wings of smoke and shadow, then its compressed dimensional slit of a sword flared out, and the tendrils of its binding whip that helped anchor it on Prime.

The Baalor

Marcher offered up some fighting words in its foul tongue, then attacked, assisted by Adrian and Kinselton. Genevieve resolved her Orb into its sword form, prepared to burn out some of her own life force to sever this powerful demon’s connection to Prime. Lydia noticed when the baalor caught her scent and lit up; she was the one it was here to kill now that it had spotted her. Marcher was just in the way.

After a brief but horrific battle,  Marcher let that deadly whip close around him with lethal force. While it was engaged, Adrian mystically enhanced Genevieve’s movements, and she raced in and slashed at the whip’s cable; she cut through it, impossibly, severing the baalor’s connection to the reality-altering energies that allowed it to exist on Prime.

The demon screamed, and Lydia telekinetically yanked Marcher free of the whip and over to the group, while Adrian dug deep and put up a powerful mystic shield to protect everyone. The Veil crushed closed once more, ejecting them from the pocket dimension it had projected around itself, and destroying the baalor’s pattern on the dimension.

Marcher’s Ongoing Tutoring

Marcher survived the attack by giving up the powerful staff; it was crushed to fragments protecting his body and life force from the whip’s effects (since arcanist shield magic was useless against it.) Marcher asked the others to go on, so he could talk to Adrian in private.

He explained that in Paris, scores of wizards died. Right around the time Adrian got back from the Glim Rift, Onaga appeared in person and slew piles of wizards. Marcher got to Edgarton using magical ways and means, figuring the provocation must have started here.

Marcher also took Adrian to where the baalor was destroyed, and dunked him in the ambiguous dimensional juices left behind in the Periphery; a touch of Hell slid along Adrian’s bones. The dark wizard gave Adrian a stone to meditate upon, that contained within it a lesson Marcher left him; now he could attempt transformational magic, for it required the touch of Hell to work.

Marcher limped off to disappear for a good long while, and Adrian rejoined the others.

Robot Rescue

Genevieve checked in with Daniel to find him wrecked and fading. The demons cornered him, captured him, but rather than submit to capture he blew up his own house (because of course he did.) He barely survived to get down into the hidden cave under the house, but his flesh was all burned off and his limbs badly damaged.

So, Amy dropped them off by the secret cave entrance, ditched the church van, stole an ambulance from the first responders trying to put out what acted like a chemical fire on the house, and rejoined them. Genevieve and Adrian lugged Daniel out, with Adrian magically lightening him so they could do it.

It was time to part ways. Lydia and Amy would go to Adrian’s yacht and reassure Mugsy, more or less safe at sea. Kinsleton had his own agenda to follow. But Genevieve and Adrian had to take care of Daniel.

They went to the yacht club to ditch the ambulance, and move through a mirror. Genevieve took Daniel to the Gray Ghost’s Mausoleum, to the cybernetics lab Evans had built for a previous project. They hooked Daniel up to life support.

On the Yacht

They stepped out of the teleport, and Mugsy threatened to shoot them, a bit incoherent in his paranoia. Lydia an Amy talked him down, and he was almost hysterically grateful to not be alone and hunted by demons on the yacht. They slowed things down, Lydia went downstairs to recover while Amy looked after the yacht, and Mugsy took on mastiff form to stand guard and calm down.

The Battle of the Barnacle Bar

Kenselton did not spot a boat that might have Emma on it in the waters around Edgarton, so he refocused on the Barnacle Bar (where Emma had found help to get out to sea.) He saw the pirates had sniper nests set up to defend the bar, and it was barred, but with a number of tough guys inside. Looping his investigation further, he spotted a demon several blocks away monitoring the site; a closer look confirmed it was one of the Claws of Marribus.

Suspecting if he engaged a pile of them would pop out and jump him, he retreated to a sniper position and transformed in front of the startled pirate. He explained the situation, and the sniper called in a tactical team that flushed the demon to the street, where an armored truck ran over it and slowed it enough for lots of tasing and stuffing into the back of the truck.

Then two more Claws erupted from cover. One was gunned down, giving the other one (and the one in the truck) a massive surge of power. While the one in the truck battled free, the other one slaughtered pirates until brought down by snipers.

Kinselton confronted the one that burst out of the truck, slamming it with the Dread Curse and disorienting it long enough for snipers to pour excessive firepower into the ragged corpse. Job well done.

Touching Base With the Ghost

The Gray Ghost returned to the Mausoleum with the Ghost Plane and talked updates and strategy with Genevieve and Adrian. The Ghost agreed to look after Daniel, and Genevieve and Adrian had renewed determination to close the Brass Embassy and eject the powers of Hell.

The Ghost had been “Bermuda Triangled” in the wake of the baalor’s flight path, and missed out on the battle. However, the Ghost checked to see the yacht was intact, and Favian Manor not on fire, before returning.

Adrian and Genevieve stepped through the mirror, emerging in the hospital that protected Hammerhand.

Fallen Hero

Adrian used magic to cloak himself in Daniel’s appearance, deeply unnerving Genevieve. The pair closed in on Hammerhand’s room, but it was guarded by half a dozen Wilters (and 3 of them were possessed by Lords of Air.)

The Lords of Air sassed them, hoping to provoke an attack on the Wilters they inhabited. While the Wilters that were NOT possessed got increasingly nervous at their brash peers, the Lords of Air denied them access to Hammerhand.

Furious, Genevieve and Adrian/Daniel left. They contacted Lydia, who teleported to them and moved them to the yacht, then jumped straight into Hammerhand’s room and retrieved him to the yacht.

Genevieve healed his grievous wounds as he struggled with the sudden dislocation. Hammerhand talked about how Mister Mystery had attacked him in front of the camera crews; Adrian had a chance (as Daniel) to see the wounds, and note that the broken runes in them were Arcanist work, but not his “handwriting.” And of course he would have wiped the confident nova out from concealment, with no witnesses. Of course, the point was to smear Adrian and make it difficult for him to operate publicly. The impostor had a staff and owl and decent impersonation.

Genevieve checked Hammerhand’s mind, saw the grainy images of his memory of the incident; he wasn’t lying, only misled.

Hammerhand agreed to trust Genevieve, who insisted Adrian was off-plane and innocent. He would just stay away from the press on the matter. He was visibly shaken to learn that many Wilters were demon possessed.

He flew back to Edgarton, leaving the others on the yacht.

 

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SILENT LEGIONS: Greener Grass. Part 1

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Professor Barnabas Buck was murdered in a home invasion, stabbed in the chest, his townhouse rifled. The police contacted Dixie Norton, his sister, as next of kin. Faced with the daunting prospect of clearing up the details of his life, she called a bunch of people in his address book to see if anyone was willing to help.

Three of them met her for lunch at The Spread, a slightly racy coffee shop near his home in Marlbeth.

Detective Terry Fox. An indifferently skilled property crimes detective with good connections in the department and a refined sense of survival and self interest. He knew Buck from when they were both in the army in the late 80s.

Truc “Rigs” Trang. A tough slaughterhouse worker with a hobby of illegal bare-knuckle boxing, and a past working as a burgler. He once broke into Buck’s house, and instead of going to jail the prof put him on the path to gainful employment and familiarity with a social worker.

Victoria “ViX” Wallace. She owns a low key shop known as the Blue Bottle in Irvine, selling herbal compounds and alternative medicine to hippies and psychedelic travelers. She supplied Buck with exotic compounds for his colleages’ research into altered mental states, and he funded an expedition where the two of them went to Central America chasing legends of dream roots.

According to them, Buck was an optimist and a people person. But he had a dark side; he was certain the future would have failures and darkness, he had a dismal side. He also suffered from compassion fatigue as people disappointed him far too often. He was kind of a ninny. He got into drugs instead of just passing them along. And, he was a bit grabby with the pretty ladies. Still, all in all he was a decent man always on the lookout for another “fixer upper” person he could help.

Anyway, Buck’s sister Dixie was grateful for any help they could offer with packing up his townhouse. Buck’s friends were very kind to her; she got the contact information for a non-terrifying Uber driver, and a relaxing mixture to help her nerves (she bonded with ViX right away.)

Buck’s Place–The Scene of the Crime

They arrived at the townhouse and bypassed the police tape, casually surveying the mess and helping themselves to the beer in the fridge.

Terry noted the police work was pretty sloppy; post-its for scale and numbering, the detective probably took pictures of the scene with his cell phone. (His card was on the table; Det. Fletcher Sanders with the Saville precinct.)

ViX checked out the bathroom, finding the “secret stash” of illicit pills and emergency cash in the toilet water tank, and some tame porn.

Truc relied on his background on a burglar to quietly find an untouched man-bag that neither the thieves nor the police had discovered. Inside was his appointment book, among other things. Also, Truc noted that there was a wall safe ripped out of the wall, from behind a painting in the “guest room” upstairs.

And Truc remembered there were some moleskine journals prominent on a shelf (that had been tossed on the floor.) There had been nearly 20 of them that the professor had used for his personal reflections and research on an annual basis. They were gone, which made no sense in a burglary.

After a quick run to the alley behind a local liquor store to get some boxes, Buck’s friends took a break to enjoy a beer and consider how this simple burglary didn’t quite make sense.

The Appointment Book

Sifting the last bit of the appointment book, they saw some unusual activity.

  • January 4, Monday. Busy day cleared with no explanation.
  • January 6, Wednesday. “Barber, 9 Coffees” at 10:00 a.m.
  • January 7, Thursday. “Kimball, Lab” at 4:00 p.m.
  • January 11, Monday. Busy day cleared with no explanation.
  • January 12, Tuesday. “Cook, Filex Building” at 10:00 a.m.

Buck was killed on the night of Friday, January 8. His friends were standing in the dead man’s apartment rifling his things in the afternoon of Monday, January 11.

ViX called Dixie back to ask about entries in Buck’s address book (which is how she found all them, after all.) Fox was impressed at her cunning as she told Dixie the idea was to let people know he would not be coming to scheduled appointments.

  • “Dr. Alex Kimball” was faculty at Marlbeth University.
  • “Dr. Lilly Cook, EPA” at the government building on Downtown Island.
  • “Nine Coffees” is a known coffee shop Downtown, but “Barber” just had the entry “Dowler Bridge.”

They called Dr. Cook but talked to her assistant, Wilcox. He said she wasn’t available, and took Terry’s information so she could call him back.

They reached a consensus that “Barber” was probably a fixer-upper “troll” living under the bridge. Intrigued, they decided to see if they could find Barber. They took more of Buck’s beer, and headed out. Both Terry and Truc drove.

Dowler Bridge

On the way, Truc called one of his underworld buddies, Pink Spot (a pimp, and fence.) Truc asked if any books showed up, like from a professor. Spot only knew about the professor that was all over the news, just got killed in a hit and run in Marlbeth an hour ago. Truc turned on the radio, and called the others on the phone, telling them to do the same. According to the news, the victim was Dr. Kimball.

As they got close to the bridge, they got snarled in traffic. Some truck driver T-boned a cattle car, and now emergency services had jaws of life and rifles to sort out the screaming cattle pinned in the intersection. Terry used his police light, putting it on the roof, and drove on the sidewalk to get out of the congestion.

They parked in an abandoned lot by the “closed for service” light rail station, and climbed down into the ravine that Dowler Bridge spanned. Approaching the bridge, they found about two dozen homeless in the area, tending burning trash barrels and lurking in the shadows.

They closed in in a man loudly talking to himself, his dog, or someone on bluetooth (turns out his name was Bluetooth.) They said they were looking for Barber, and that frightened him. So, Truc threatened him while DiX offered him beers. He said they needed to talk to Haywood Farley, the man in the yellow plaid coat. As they looked over at him, Farley took off. Because Bluetooth was only partly useful, instead of him getting both beers, Terry took one back. Yeah, what do you expect from cops?

From Farley to Barber

Truc ran Farley down, knocking him flat and straddling him. Farley peed in self-defense, and also brandished a knife, but that was no protection. They questioned him about Barber, and he explained.

Some men dressed in black came down here to find Barber. They knew enough to look for his yellow coat. But he had loaned it to Kathie Decker, and the assassins stabbed her to death instead. Now Farley wore the coat in case the assassins came back; he would see them coming, and escape. The knife he had was the one used to kill Decker; it was left behind when the homeless ganged up in the assassins and chased them off.

Terry took a liking to Farley, surprised he was so clever. Farley explained he used to be a hedge fund manager, but his wife got cancer, then he got sick, and now he’s homeless. Life’s rough all around.

They insisted they needed to talk to Barber, and they were friends of Buck, and he was killed. Also another professor. Terry, as a policeman was investigating. Farley compromised, taking ViX only, to a nearby alleyway.

While the men waited, ViX was escorted to an alley where Barber sheltered in a candle-lit dumpster. He got her phone number and said he’d call her in the morning; for $1,000 he would tell his story. But he didn’t trust anyone right now. She agreed, and returned to the others. They parted ways for the night.

Nine Coffees

The next morning they met at Nine Coffees, downtown. Terry fronted most of the money for the $1,000 to pay Barber, and Buck’s stash covered some, and the rest was grudgingly managed by ViX.

Since they last met, Terry went to the precinct station in Seville and asked to see the case file on Buck’s death. He charmed his way past Anna Duwitt, the secretary, and they planned to have dinner and drinks soon.

The file yielded little useful information, taken in haste. The murder was shortly after 10:00 p.m. on Friday, January 8th. The open door attracted the attention of a neighbor, Elliott Ross.

The file also indicated that the night after the murder the police caught Carl Edwards, a home invader, in the act of stealing from a residence three streets over from Buck’s place. Edwards swore he was not responsible for Buck’s killing, but as of 4:00 that afternoon, forensics confirmed the knife was probably the murder weapon. Less than a week until the arraignment, no bail posted.

When Terry looked at the pictures, he saw the lethal injury was one thrust to the center of the chest with a knife; a quick, deliberate kill.

Truc had actually spent several hours boxing things up before going home last night.

Barber called them, and found that they had money for him. He strolled into the coffee shop, cheeky and cleaned up (so he looked like a hipster with his full, flowing beard and flannel.)

Once he saw the money, he was ready to tell his story.

Barber’s Story

Barber saw a team of armed professionals scanning an area for something, and collecting samples. Investigating in their wake, he found flakes of some kind of black mineral.

Trying to monetize the discovery, he approached an open-minded academic, Buck. Together they went scavenging for more of the mineral, getting a decent haul. Buck was going to get it analyzed. He bought all Barber had found off him in one purchase. After Buck started making inquiries around, that’s when the killers came for Barber, and caught up to Buck, and his doctor friend.

Demonstrating a dramatic flair, Barber rose (after taking their money) then told them the site where he found the black mineral was Plantagenet Chemical. Then he swept out.

All Grifton natives know about Plantagenet Chemical, a factory that exploded in 1988 and famously polluted a huge area of factories and slaughterhouses. So, that pronouncement had an ominous edge.

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