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Thursday, 18 April 2019

Front Towards Enemy

Previous Session: B+ Student

Jack the Crooked and Tess the Spooky meet up for a coffee. Jack doesn't feel safe unburdening herself to Earl Snr. or David, but her close cousin will understand. She feels just about strong enough to tell her about Sofia - maybe it's the time and distance between that encounter at the restaurant.

She tries to explain how she became 'beholden by accident' but truth is she put herself in a dangerous position and couldn't talk her way out of it. She'd persuaded herself it would work out, but now that she knows that the rest of the guys are intending on hunting Velasco, she knows she's messed up. If they hunt him, they'll end up hurt or dead.


Tess concentrates on Jack, holding her cousin's head gently to attune to the connection between her and Sofia. It's mid-morning, so they're hoping that whatever they discover will give them enough time to intervene.

It's painful for Jack, like someone's digging into her brain, though Tess doesn't pry into all the private stuff in there. She just follows the strain connecting her soul to Sofia. Leading her all the way to the Peabody Hotel in Monroe, just across the road from the County Hall. Tess also gets a sense of what she's planning next, sending a new pack of werewolves into Grand Falls to help take control.

They leave a note for Earl Snr. with a friend in town, just in things go pear-shaped. Both to explain what they're up to and to apologize for the mess. They leave for Monroe, dressed in gym gear and with their heavy-gear stowed under a spare hoody in a big gym bag.

Miriam Franks
Park Ranger in Grand Falls
They know they'd better actually put some time in the gym, for best cover story. They bump into Miriam Franks, who they know from the park service up in Grand Falls. She's working out seriously, but stops when she notices them. She's friendly with Jack, but treats Tess with caution (she's heard plenty of weird stories about her).

She's staying here and doing the long commute for a week or so while her place is being fumigated. It sucks, but what can you do. They chit-chat a little bit more; about the park - Miriam's surprised that the change on that trail went through the council so quickly, it doesn't usually work that way (quick change for actual good policy); and a little bit about goths, even they grow older - she jokes that she thought Tess was still 17 (or a Vampire!).

**

They finish up after doing half an hour (Tess isn't really up for a full work out anyway!) They head up to the penthouse suite on the 4th floor, but get out on the 3rd (they don't have the key card to get them up to the top floor anyway), and make their way to the back stairwell.

There, they put on those spare hoodies, and don sunglasses and a baseball cap. They're doing their best to not get caught for whatever carnage they cause upstairs.

Listening at the door, they don't hear anything, so Jack opens it using the card spoofer she has that works just-so on most hotel doors. The main room of the suite seems empty, there's a room service trolley in the corner just inside the door. But as they enter they spot a snoozing Ocho on the couch alongside the heavily curtained window.

There's a long moment of disquiet and confusion between Jack and Tess. Their plan might've covered some eventualities, but still Tess pauses as she starts the walk over to Ocho with her fire axe. Actually murdering someone in cold blood like this - someone who's been mesmerised just like Jack.

To their left is the master bedroom, but for some reason they reckon Sofia won't be in there. The spare room alongside the bathroom is where they'll find her. They see a key ring on the central table, a brash set belonging to a pick-up, they'll find a werewolf or three in the main bedroom.

Caught between three fires, and with Jack realising that Sofia will know she was here one way or the other, their pre-planning runs out of road and they lose their cool. Jack walks over to Ocho and pulls the trigger of her shotgun in his face.

*click*

It's either not loaded, or Earl Snr. made it safe behind her back! The thought goes through her mind about the same time as the butt of the shotgun slams into her nose. Ocho is on his feet, having woken up, taken the weapon out of her hand and gone into action in a split second. In the time it takes Ocho to turn the gun around, Jack gets out her backup .38 and shoots into his chest. He makes the same mistake as her though, and when he goes to shoot her back nothing happens, and he collapses back to sit on the couch.

*

Tess runs for the side bedroom, to confront Sofia with her power, and/or the axe! Sofia's there alright, standing in the middle of the room, feeding on a young bellboy. Her eyes glance up at Tess, but she's in the middle of drinking and she's not afraid of Tess.

Tess runs at her swing the heavy fire-axe and Sofia steps to one side, and the axe slams into the bellboy's neck, killing him instantly. Sofia is next to her impossibly quickly and is at her neck, drinking deeply from her.

Tess is caught, and can't use the fire-axe at this kind of range effectively. So she reaches out with her power, opening the heavy curtains to shine the sunlight directly upon Sofia! It doesn't open all the way, but it's enough to startle Sofia into releasing her and she leaps backwards (they both do).

Tess is feeling sore now, still not fully recovered from the last few hunts and now with blood loss to worry about. She swings the axe at Sofia, not really trying to connect, but just force the vampire back into the sunlight. She gets the axe-head to bite deeply and in the sunlight it feels different, like it really hurt her. In return she gets a wicked set of nails raked across her face.

Outside Jack points the gun at her old friend. She doesn't want to kill him, so she tells him that she wants to give him a way out. He struggles with it, but she pushes - they're killing Sofia, there's nothing he can do to stop it and if he leaves now he'll be glad. He glances at a gym bag alongside the room service trolley and asks her if he can take that on the way out. She nods and he runs for it.

Tess' perceptions are starting to shift. Using so much power, relying so much on her innate destiny isn't a good idea. Her view of Sofia starts to change, and the sunlight darkens into complete shadow. Her mother stands before her now, whispering to her that "it'll be..."
but Tess' axe cuts her words off, along with her head. It all shatters into shadows and dust, and Tess tells her (mother) that "you're not my mother" with venom and fury that's been in her for all her life.

She collapses into Jack's arms and they make their way out and away - though without much of their disguise. Looking at them from the doorway of the master bedroom is a mostly naked, red-haired man (the werewolf they assume).

Jack drives Tess to the nearby ER, nothing else will do at this stage.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

B+ Student

Previous Session: Cookie Cutter

A junior doctor hangs around outside the rear-loading bay of a hospital – where people usually take their smoke breaks. He’s nervous, and looks out of place (carrying a medical cooler box). A new town car pulls up alongside, and he walks over to the door. A rough (though cleans-up-well) guy gets out of the driver’s seat and opens the door for him. The blood bags are regarded with disdain, but then a hand snakes out to grab him and pull him inside.


David catches up with Earl Snr. David's mother was Beth's (Earl's wife's) sister. When Earl found out about the ritual that side of the family was planning (David's father specifically) to undertake, he sought to quietly spike it - stealing vital component of the ritual - a book with extra ritual stages required to ensure its full success.
There's more to their story, even if David doesn't suspect. He was born a few years after Beth died. Earl Snr. had an affair with her and is sure he's the father.

Gemma Wallace
Concerned sister &
local 2nd grade teacher
Gemma Wallace, Mike's daughter calls to the Browning house. That's unusual, even in a small town, they haven't talked in years. Her father and Earl Snr. were good friends, but one day he didn't come back with Earl and he's never been seen since. (His werewolf head is displayed in Earl's workshop).

That she's calling means it's serious. Her brother Sawyer, who is a junior doctor at the general hospital in nearby Monroe. He's missing, he went missing in he middle of his shift a few nights ago. But since his car is gone as well, the police down there are writing it off as a burnt out, debt-ridden doctor just upping sticks and leaving town.

Earl Snr. the Expert promises he'll find out what happened to him. He's got no reason to suspect anything supernatural, but as he explains to David the Monstrous, these things tend to find their way to the Brownings' front porch. He knows that Gemma's daughter Alison is MacKenzie's best friend, so while there's still no reason for Gemma to suspect that there is some supernatural thing going on, that's three things for her family now.

Sally
Gifted forger from Jack's old crew
and master of intimidation
Jack, the Crooked needs to fix up some fake IDs for David - who's on the run from his family and doesn't want his real name to flag any alerts. He's introducing himself as 'Jamie' now. She calls Sally and arranges to drop into his place (an Italian restaurant) down in Monroe.

He thinks they owe each other - he's much more invested in the crew they were part of, but for Jack that was just transactional. She keeps all her illicit stuff in the Brownings, her dive of an apartment is clean as a whistle (from a legal perspective, at least).

They've gotten a set of spare keys for Sawyer's apartment, so they're heading down there now. They can take a look around the apartment before they swing by the hospital and get those IDs from Sally.

Detective Donahue
Thorn in Jack's side
Just as they're leaving town, an unmarked police car pulls them over. It's Detective Donahue, Jack's local law enforcement nemesis. He makes them aware that there are some undesirables moving contraband into town - although he wont' tip his hand at what he knows - he asks them if they could alert him to anything they see that might fit the bill. Earl Snr. is driving his son's truck, but plays the detective's fishing expedition with a straight bat.

They keep an eye on the rear view mirror on the hour's drive to Monroe - but they don't see Donahue's car darken their day again.

***

Sally's happy to set 'Jamie' up with a driver's licence from Utah, maybe a credit card at a push (maybe even a library card - Sally reckons he looks weird enough to have some wicked books on his history!). They'll be back tomorrow to pick some stuff up

They open Sawyer's apartment - not technically breaking and entering as such, right? It's a mess, but as they enter, Jack spots a familiar looking baseball bat (marked with some black electrical tape) leaning against the kitchenette counter.
Ocho
The actual tough guy
in Jack's old crew

Then, some rummaging sounds from what they assume is the bedroom. Out comes this young guy, tough and wiry - whose wariness drops a little when he recognises Jack, but he doesn't know Earl Snr or David so he's angling for some kind of advantage.

Jack introduces Ocho, who used to be in the same crew as her and Sally. David muddies the waters even further when he notices the shoebox Ocho is carrying and wonders if they can have it. It's three against one in any case.

Ocho has the baseball bat in his hand now, and Jack sees him look for a space to put the shoebox down. It ends up on the round table just behind him, and he gives the bat a quick flourish, ready to bust some heads.

Jack talks them all down off the edge and presses a little on what Ocho's doing here. Ocho knows the guy is toast, so he's just taking some stuff. Waste not, want not, right? They arrange to meet up later at Sally's place.

When he leaves, David doesn't understand how they didn't put Ocho for more. He obviously knows more than he told them. But Jack shrugs off the criticism. Let her handle her old crew. They dig around the place themselves, and turn up medical stuff - some blood bags paraphernalia and anti-coagulants. Obviously Sawyer was up to no good.

An awesome cover from 30 Days of Night
Art by Ashley Wood
The next day they start to dig deeper in town. Researching the hospital, and strange patterns in disappearances and deaths they find that about 50 years ago there was a worrying pattern, which has begun to reveal itself again in the last few months. Oh, and they see that Velasco, their friendly neighbourhood vampire was a sponsor of the hospital for a decade 40-50 years ago.

Genevieve
County Clerk in Monroe
Earl Snr. goes into the county hall, maybe he can pick up some extra details there - try to piece something together. Inside he queues, and Genevieve at the front desk calls him over - she's got some news on that application he had to renew his driver's licence. Seems like his previous one hasn't been renewed since 1982, and that means he's been driving with a valid one for a couple of decades now!

They really do need him to return the previous one before they can issue him with a new one. Although she warns him that the Mayor himself saw the paperwork and would like to have a chat with him as some stage about the issue. Earl says he doesn't have his old license with him, clarifying that it's in the car (no, of course he didn't drive here without it!). So he wanders out, and doesn't come back.

Jack drops in to speak to Sally again, to pick up the IDs for David (along with the quick-and dirty CDC ones that'll allow them to do some poking around at the hospital).

She's not her usual cool self. Typically she can sit through something like this without getting nervous, but she's talking non-stop. Sally and Ocho are happy to talk with her, Sally from his spot across the booth from her, and Ocho leaning against the counter.
She's realised that Sally hasn't set a price for the IDs. Which means there's a price.

Ocho brings over the refilled carafe of wine from the counter. She scooches over to make room for him - realizing that now she's trapped, but can't fight this.
Sally said he thought that she might want to join them, the crew. They're set for bigger things than they ever could've imagined.

Sofia
Vampire
In she walks.
Pale and beautiful, and cool as you like. Right up to the booth.
She knows who Jack is. Has heard a lot of good things about her. She doesn't introduce herself, but encourages Jack to drink the wine that's in front of her.

She'd love it if Jack joined them. Her talents and contacts will be incredibly useful for their enterprise.

Jack tries to clear her mind, asking what the pay is like. Sally smiles and the woman tells her it's $1000 a week, plus extras for dangerous duties.

She stammers, that's more than they ever took in working before. Caught in the woman's mesmerizing stare, Jack drinks the wine. And it's only then that she introduces herself as Sofia.

Jack is uneasy, trying to figure out where her loyalties lie. Almost as if Sofia can read her innermost thoughts, she reassures Jack that she won't have to burn any bridges with her friends. Just keep them out of 'our' way and they won't come to any harm.

** 

David can't believe that Jack's left Ocho and Sally off the hook like that. She hasn't gotten any real answer out of them about their involvement with Sawyer's disappearance. He's mollified by the production of the fake IDs though. There's that at least. But he's more suspicious of Jack's connections than ever now.

Talking to Sawyer's colleagues, they paint a picture of a well-liked and conscientious doctor. All too happy to help out with them whenever they were stuck for time - obviously he was using that to get access to equipment and systems he shouldn't have.

On the hospital CCTV they catch a glimpse of Sawyer heading to the back loading bay, and on another angle they see a town car drive that way - managing to get a clear shot of the plate. There's no sign of what happened to Sawyer, but he doesn't go back the way he came.

David wanders into county hall, and sweet talks Genevieve into giving him the details of that town car - spinning a sob story about being a hitch hiker who left his rucksack in it. She grumbles but brings up the record. Telling him flat-out that it's Salvatore Usardi's - and even pointing out the restaurant he can probably find Sally in!

Jack tries to convince them all that they should leave town. They've tipped their hand to Ocho and Sally - they're both well aware what they're investigating. With all of the clues pointing to Velasco, she starts asking those awkward questions about how much they can really trust a vampire after all?

Earl Snr isn't so sure, he'd like to talk to Sally - if he owns the car then they can apply some pressure directly. But they agree to do some more research. Jack drives back in the new Mustang she's just been given by Sofia (complete with legit ownership papers) - that and a roll of $50s is her signing bonus.

*

They have access to a vampire hunting diary from the region from the 1880s - and the details aren't encouraging. Most of the weaknesses of vampire are shown to be wishful thinking. Only direct sunlight is effective at curtailing a vampire's power. Then decapitation is required, maybe with a little bit of help from fire.

They consider visiting Velasco, or just burning down his house entirely. But slowly come around to the need to find out if Sally is the vampire or merely a pawn.

Earl Snr and David come up with a ritual to prevent a vampire from passing a set of seals. They'll arrange for Jack to meet up with Sally again and while he's inside they'll finalize the ritual with the seals on the doorways and see what happens.

Jack speaks to Sally over the burner phone she got. She convinces him that it's in all their interests for him to sell Velasco as the killer. As the guy who hired him to deal with Sawyer for the blood.

The ritual has no effect on Sally and when he exits the back door Earl Snr and David are there waiting for him. They talk, and slowly draw out the story - but he wants to be sure that they're going to finish the vampire off before he gives them Velasco's name - he can't take the chance that he comes looking for the rat...

Next Session: Front Towards Enemy

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Cookie Cutter

Previous Session: No Right Turn

A young girl approaches a well-kept house with a box of cookies, the mailbox says 'Thompson'. Her friend doesn't want to call at this house, but she's insistent and walks up anyway. The door opens as soon as she rings the doorbell. A voice calls out from the kitchen, inviting her in. The girl walks inside and into the kitchen. A minute passes, and then a strange shadow appears and a terrified scream rings out...



David Browning has shown up in town. He's a cousin (on the other side from Jack). The Monstrous escaped from his family, the Cult, almost as soon as they revealed his destiny and his powers came into their own. His father used to live here, and they used to visit, but stopped coming regularly as soon as his grandfather passed away. He is very weird, and not conventionally charming at all; going from deathly quiet to a bundle of nervous energy as soon as attention moves to him.

His Dark Power is inside his head. Like a devil on his shoulder, expecting his experimentation to end at any moment - he will turn towards his destiny soon. He doesn't know much about its intentions, or what part he plays in those plans.


  • When he and his family were in town, staying in the Grand Hotel, Jack the Crooked broke into their car to rob the valuable artifacts inside. His father caught her and they were about to do something horrible to her (a ritual was mentioned), marking her for their future attention and control. But he broke her out (not knowing anything about this weird part of his life) and let her go out the back fire escape. No cops were called, as his family didn't want any of the weirdness getting out.
  • Tess the Spooky's powers are tied to his own. She always knew he was weird, but his family siphoned off her dark powers when she was just realizing them - to fuel the ritual that would forge him as a vessel for a demonic force.
    She has kept him at a distance, emotionally at least. Their close relationship (she used to babysit for him and even showed him her powers) allowed the ritual to go well. But maybe it's that part of her that feels like it's missing.
  • Earl Jnr. the Wronged saved him from a hunter. Last time David was in town with his father, Earl Snr. was concerned and sent him to look after David. He spotted an ambush and t-boned the other hunter's car to allow David to escape.
    David lost a friend to a possessor spirit - the weird girl next door (Sarah) was acting weird, and with his new burgeoning abilities David thought he could solve the problem by enacting a kind of exorcism to get rid of the spirit. The spirit recognized him and took Sarah away - her body was found later in the foothills, the coroner said she died from exposure. 
***

David meets Jack in her usual drinking hole Jugs. It's the dingiest of dives, and never has any tourists in it, except maybe for bikers passing through. So it's popular with a certain class of clientele. The two cousins are surprised to see each other, and they catch up a little. Complaining about jobs (and the lack thereof) and the way the town is. When he tells her he came here to get away from the weirdness, the conversation moves to the Brownings - given that Jack just found out she's surprised that David seems to know. Hanging around with them isn't what she would call a 'haven of normalcy'.

MacKenzie Jones
Avid cookie re-sellerKirsten's & Rod's daughter
Rod Weston comes into the bar, just off duty and having a quick beer before he heads home. He comes straight over to join Jack but he doesn't know David (who introduces himself as Jamie).

He glances at his phone, like he's expecting a call from his wife any moment now. They're worried about their 8-year old daughter MacKenzie. She's been acting up the last while and they need to go into school to meet with her teacher and the principal in the morning. (They realise that she's go the Jones name, probably because of rumours and hearsay since Tess' interaction with Rod).

They need to wheedle the details out of him. He asks Jack what age she was when she first threatened to slice someone open with a box cutters? Jack doesn't answer - but David blames her friends, it's bad influences that always cause this things.

Rod laughs - that Alison Wallace is definitely trouble! He's definitely joking, but when David nods earnestly he switches tack, he's sure he's not left any work lying around that might've caused it.

He's getting up to leave when Earl Jnr & Tess arrive. Rod gives Jack a look, like he suspects he's arranged for Tess to ambush him. After the last time, he has no desire for another run in, and if there's something likely to have Kirsten reaching for a box cutter, it's Tess.

As he's awkwardly disengaging, he gets a call from work, and Jack walks him outside (so she can overhear). There's a disturbance at the Thompson house - he'd better get over their quick. In a town this size, there's no way to get over there quicker than him, but Jack gives Earl Jnr. the heads up - she knows he's interested in Mrs. Thompson (after he beat her up in the diner a while back).

Mrs. Mavis Thompson
Person of interest, despite
her kindly appearance
They follow him over there in Earl Jnr's pickup. There they see Rod on the porch comforting a bedraggled looking Mrs Thompson in her dressing gown. They decide to take advantage of that preoccupation and sneak inside the house for a look.

David keeps watch from the car, he feels a dark thrill growing inside him, as the Dark Power gets a feel for the what's gone on in the house. It wants more.
Tess can sense something from the house, almost as if there's a spirit inside, created by the evil acts which have occured and festered within.

She can tell that Mrs. Thompson has been freed after some time in captivity, but whatever's responsible for those acts of evil is no longer here.

Earl Jnr. and Jack vault the fence over the backyard, out of sight of the front porch. Earl keeps an eye out for Rod, just in case he does decide to investigate, or to intervene if Jack makes a noise that grabs his attention. Jack gets in, easy peasy. The house looks in a terrible state - like it hasn't been cleaned in months. Dust balls, spiders and grime cover everything.

The stairs is in a similar condition, but there's signs that a body has been dragged through the dust, and upstairs in the main bedroom it's worse. Someone's been stuck in that bed (without restraints) for weeks at least. The smell is revolting.

Jack is going back out when she checks the kitchen, which looks pristine. On the table, there's a heart-shaped locket. She recognises it as Marcie's, who works at the diner. With a sense of dread she goes down into the basement where she sees Marcie's remains in a skip bag. The body is mostly devoured, as if by a creature with giant claws and a maw to match.


She's talked to Marcie recently. She's been calling in sick the last few days. But this body has been here longer than that.

**

They sneak out and exchange notes with the others. The little devil inside David revels in these details, and wants to see the carnage, but he just nods along with the others as they decide what to do.

Tess decides she needs to read Mrs Thompson's mind, to find out exactly what's happened here. She walks up, breezing through Rod's good instincts (with a healthy does of luck) asking him what's gone on, but using that to prompt Mrs Thompson to think her answer.

She sees glimpses of something attacking her, overwhelming her in a horrible dark mess. And then it leaves, having taken another form. That of the young girl scout, MacKenzie Jones. Flouncing down the stairs with her boxes of cookies, to rejoin her friends on the way home.

They return to the Browning house to hit the books, to find an answer to how to defeat this Doppelganger. Earl Snr's library turns up a couple of useful avenues of attack. Firstly, that oak wood directly attacks the Doppelganger's ability to change or maintain its form. Piercing the body with a stave or wrapping it in oak rods could force it to revert to its original shape.

Secondly, even though it can take on a new form after studying its victims, it can only maintain it in the longer term through taking some kind of treasured keepsake from them. If the keepsake is destroyed in a ritual fire then that form will be lost to the Doppelganger.

Armed and forewarned they debate their approach. If they try to take the child in the open, it will raise every red flag, and they probably can't survive that. They have to be sure of what they're dealing with, so no stabbing with spears until they know. Every moment they wait gives the Doppelganger another chance to switch form, let the trail go cold and wreak even more havoc.

So they decide to strike in the middle of the night, in the Weston-Jones house.

*

Jack breaks in, as quiet as she can. If Rod hears them breaking in, they mightn't survive the encounter. She waves the others in, Earl Jnr. and David will take Rod & Kirsten's bedroom, with her and Tess taking MacKenzie's. She double-checks to make sure they're all wearing their masks and have no identifying signs showing.

Earl Jnr kicks in the bedroom door, shouting at Rod to not make a move. Bleary-eyed the deputy went for his gun before he even woke up, but his brain catches up and he moves his hand away from the bedside locker and in the air. Kirsten cries out in panic, but quietens down as soon as David's gun tracks her.

Earl ties them up with the oak saplings, keeping a careful eye on them for any changes or reactions, but there's just confusion, and worry as the parents hear the other hunters enter their daughter's room.

Jack and Tess enter MacKenzie's room, they see her curled up in bed and then her eyes open. There's a moment of uncertainty from both sides, and then she scrambles out of her bed and towards the window. They rush to grab her before she can climb out the window and then they tie her up with another set of oak saplings.

Kirsten Jones
Realtor, and very
concerned mother
They put her on the floor near the door and wait, as time stretches out unbearably. She struggles and screams for help. But then she stops as Earl enters to help out, sitting on her to put on plastic restraints. Jack is searching the room for the collection of keepsakes, eventually moving out and into another room.

David steps back into the doorway of the parents' bedroom to check on them. Keeping a gun pointed at them, sitting on the bed. Past Tess in the doorway of MacKenzie's room, he can't see what's going on inside it. Rod is staring at him, but throttles down the aggressive intent when David points the gun back at him.

Earl's nearly done when he sees the girl's limbs slowly change. Morphing into slender washed out grey legs, with wicked claws at the ends of them. He doesn't spot the long stinger emerge above him, but he leaps off, bringing his trusty peacemaker to bear. Firing just as its claws rip his chest open.

It moves to escape, but Tess calls forth a magical ritual to bind it in place until Earl can get back in the fight. When he does she releases it and directs a hateful hex at it. Earl takes a stinger in the chest, and that makes him very woozy.

Jack finally finds the keepsakes, about two dozen carefully wrapped in a disused briefcase in the home-office. She hesitates at how to destroy them, but David joins in throwing them on the floor and stepping back to unleash black flames from his fingertips. Jack searches the house for the real MacKenzie, finding her curled up in a ball in the attic.

With nowhere to run, the Doppelganger charges at Earl, leaving him bloody and at death's door, but it is slain itself by the combination of attacks by the Browning siblings.

Jack deposits the unconscious girl on her parents' bed.

On the way out, David whispers in Rod's ear that he'd better not chase them. They just saved his daughter from a monster and they should be thankful. David thinks he's impressed him, but Rod just stares to take in every detail (specifically David's shoes).

They run for it.

Next Session: B+ Student

Thursday, 21 February 2019

No Right Turn

Previous Session: The Brownings

A couple of hikers are making their way through the raw and untamed mountain wilderness. They look content, even if they are a little tired. One of them looks confused as if the path they’re picking out isn’t quite what they expected. The other one is checking for a signal on his cellphone, but there is none. When he turns around to make a comment about being deep in red neck territory, the first hiker is gone, just a baseball cap is left on the mossy ground...


The Brownings head to the Vagabond for post-op apple pie and coffee. Not Earl Jnr. (the Wronged) though, he's off tending to some personal business. Tess (the Spooky) spots her old flame Rod Weston in the corner with his family. She gives Rod a friendly wave and mouths 'hi sweetie' at him (not in the slightest bit creepy at all). Rod's pretty wife (not a local, and you can tell) looks suspiciously at her and says something to Rod, who grimaces. He doesn't explain, but he does excuse himself from the table, just ruffling the hair of his 8-year old daughter, to wander over to the Browning's table.
Rod Weston
Sheriff's Deputy &
Old Flame of Tess'

He tips a non-existent hat to Earl Snr. (the Expert), ignores Tess and grabs Jack's (the Crooked) attention with a light hand on the shoulder. Jack's friendly towards him, he's one of her friends on the force and they head outside for a quiet chat.

He quickly fills her in, wondering if he could ask her for help - he's not going to ask Tess and would prefer if she weren't involved. His wife, Kirsten's brother Aaron and his friend Pete are here from Seattle and were hiking up on the high trail, but they haven't returned. Their cell isn't taking any calls and they were supposed to return last night. He's trying not to worry Kirsten, and he's got to go back on duty shortly.

Jack tells him it'll go to servicing the debt she owes him. When she returns to the table to fill them in, Tess has already read Rod's mind and surprises the hell out of Jack by telling her Paw what's going on.

Last time they called they were at the Silver Pool (on the Green Trail).

Erik Newman
Barista at the Vagabond
& gossip extraordinaire
Erik, their barista, who's in the habit of dropping by people's tables when things aren't busy sees Rod and his family out the front door and then stops to chat to the Brownings. Without much of a preamble, he dives straight into it, telling them that the hikers never really intended to come back last night. They were going to go off trail, be adventurous and head towards the peak.


That troubles Earl Snr., what the locals call the Ghost Foot Trail was trouble enough without straying off it. Anyway, he's annoyed that he's not even finished his pie, or wiped the gank from those dead Grumpkins off his boots yet, and already they're in another mystery. Timmy Rice's house is up there, out left of the trail, but is well away from things now given that they cut the new Green Trail cause the old one was always getting overgrown.

Erik is surprised that he gets no gossip back from them, even after he pushes Tess a bit, promising that anything she tells him would be safe as houses! *humf*

****

Earl Snr. knows he could give Debra Sage a call. A local tribal leader of the Ute, she has been fighting with County Hall for a couple of years to close down the Green Trail entirely. He reckons that she knows something more than she's letting on, even if their previous encounters would suggest he doesn't have a lot of credit with her. She called him out about that mountain goat extermination rampage of his, and with his experience he can be a bit blasé about Ute concerns.

Debra Sage
Local Ute elder
Her campaign to have the trail closed down fell on deaf ears, even if Earl Snr.'s danger sense is going when he recalls that the objections were couched in terms of there being sacred land in the vicinity.

He calls her, but has an awkward moment as it's not evident that she's taking his call. She does pick up, but doesn't quite give him everything he expects from the conversation. It's obvious that she is hiding something, although she's not responsible. She advises him not to go off-trail up there, even when he asks about clean-up. "There won't be any bodies to recover"
Then when he pushes about what might be up there, reassures him that it won't go off trail itself.

Earl Snr. jokes that if he ends up dying up there, he'll come back to haunt her. Drying, she retorts that she'll have a dream snare up waiting for him.

Their pick-up is still loaded for bear, so they head up the trail and park by the Silver Pool.

***

Up there, Tess engages a spirit inhabiting a tree along the trail. It's sense of time is a little bit off what she's used to, but does remember a couple of people who left the trail just here. Jack, still not up to speed with that Tess is doing asks a couple of stupid questions about how she knows all this gets a light slap in the back of the head from a nearby branch.

This tree spirit warns her about the greater Forest Spirit deeper off the trail, preventing people from reaching the mountain peak.

They head into the trees, Tess leading the way.

Earl Snr uses his tracking skills, there's no proper trail to speak of here, barely animal trails. Eventually, about an hour in, they come across a blue baseball hat, a Seattle team's colours.

Tess clears the ground, as best she can, using a loose branch to inscribe into the moss a series of mystical symbols. Her ritual allows her to see into yesterday, when the missing men were here.
In a haze she sees them standing close to each other on the trail. Smells their sweat with a tinge of fear they don't yet recognise. Pete is turning the map around, like maybe he's had it the wrong way around the whole time, but then he feels something on his back and legs. He glances down to see branches and roots grabbing him, and then once he's on the ground another one - formed like a hand, grabs his face and brings him down the deep gully alongside the mossy track. Aaron sees this in horror and quick as a dart, he runs...
From her description, Earl Snr. recognises the type of creature it is. A powerful manifestation of a greater spirit. Nothing to mess around with. They debate what to do, but he's advising that they retreat to the boundary and then communicate with the spirit; maybe it'll be willing to give up Aaron.

Tess wants to try to find him now, or maybe to go down that gully to see if the other guy is ok...

After a short while, Earl Snr.'s advice (usually right, to be fair) wins her over and they head back. But then they hear a terrible scream from deeper in the forest. Not the way they came, but further north. They stop, now strung out along the track. They can sense it coming, they feel its presence all around them, until they see its physical manifestation.


This creation of flesh and bark speaks to them, its voice is like the wind in the leaves, but insistent and powerful. It tells them to get out. Now! Or the others won't be the last to die. None will escape!

Earl Snr starts to back away, he thinks they can get to the pickup truck if they sprint for it. Maybe there's something back there that might help drive this thing away if if follows them out.

Tess won't be driven away like this, she reaches into her pocket to take out a zippo lighter, showing it the easy fire she has available. It strikes her without hesitation. Maybe it's fearful, maybe it's furious; but it's not waiting around to give her any chance. Thorns rip at her, and roots erupts from underground to grab her legs and branches seek out any gap in her defences, pummelling her into submission.

Jack grabs her and pulls her free and they run for their lives, not stopping until they slam into the body of the pickup truck. Breathless, they debate another plan...

Earl Snr. looks at the flatbed of the truck. There's a jerry can of gas there. That'd make one hell of a mess of this forest spirit. But he has a moment's hesitation; one, that a forest fire in the high summer is nothing to mess around about - people could die, homes be destroyed and more. Two, if this spirit is preventing the Peak from being disturbed, maybe that's the is keeping the Great Hunter from being awoken. And that would be a much bigger problem!

Earl Snr. wants to return to his sanctuary, to come up with a better plan based on some serious research. Jack wants to threaten it with fire, see what they can prise out of it. Tess really would prefer to burn it down, but really would like to find Aaron alive, so she calms down a little and goes back over to the 'friendly' tree spirit she communicated with early to try to find out a little more.

**

Tess is just opening up her mind to it, when the Forest Spirit erupts out in front of her and grabs her, tearing her away from the trail and deep into the forest.

Without a second's thought, Jack and Earl Snr. chase after her. It takes an age to find her, and it's almost dark. Tess is nestled in underneath some exposed roots. Moss is already growing on her (impossibly!) and roots are pressing into her - horrifically they would start growing into her given just a little more time.

They rip her out, speed is the most important thing for them now. And the pick their way back out to the trail over the next few hours. They're all muddy and scraped and dog-tired. They can sense the spirit following them all the way. When they get into the truck, they sense its acceptance; maybe this one can escape.

*

Tess needs medical attention quickly, her wounds aren't critical, but she needs stabilising. They drive back to the house where Earl Snr. can tend to her.

In the infirmary, which takes up half of the double-garage/barn Earl Snr. has set up out back, he's reminded of the last time someone died here. Mike Wallace was bitten by a werewolf and he couldn't be saved. Earl Snr hopes it won't come to that with Tess.

Jack is amazed at everything in the sanctuary. A whole set of tools to cope with this hidden world she never knew existed before. The mounted wolfshead is particularly gruesome. Earl tells her it'll stay in that form if you cut it off immediately after death with a silver blade!


Jack visits Rod to break the bad news. Of course she can't tell him everything. But seeing the state of her clothes he believes her when she tells him that there's no hope. Thinking on her feet she sends him in the wrong direction (way out of the Forest Spirit's domain) when he says they'll have to search for the bodies.


Velasco
A non-predatory vampire
Earl Snr. knows that their only real option is to try to put their shoulder to the wheel to help get Debra's council proposition through. But they don't have that kind of power. So Jack and a still tender Tess over to see what Velsaco, their friendly local neighbourhood vampire.

It's a dark, brooding house in town. Somewhat set alone in the streets, and definitely not fitting with the usual design and look. Of course, in Grand Lake, there's plenty of space and every house is different. But this is still odd.

They remember this house growing up. No one wanted to go inside, though everyone was dared to multiple times. Tess did go inside once, selling cookies or something, and he invited her inside for a soda. While he was in the kitchen fetching it, she snuck upstairs to take a look around, but somehow he was there waiting for her, and ushering her downstairs to get her refreshment.

He brings them into the kitchen. It's clean, everything is cold and metallic. He says he's just having something to...eat. He takes a bowl out of the microwave and starts drinking from it, like it's a cup. They bring the lack of conversation around to Debra's motion at the council, and he agrees to make it happen. No questions, just a confirmation that they will both owe him for it.

They agree. He's very deliberate about getting that from them. So they leave. And after he sees them to the door, they glance back as they walk away. Every time they look back he's there, watching them. Until, the last time they glance back he's gone.

Next Session: Cookie Cutter

Thursday, 24 January 2019

The Brownings

The Brownings live in the small town of Grand Falls, Colorado, located on the shore of the Spirit Lake where the north inlet runs into the lake. They've been hunting monsters in the mountain range for generations...


Earl Snr., "Paw" Browning is The Expert. An older man with a lined face and wearing outdoor clothes. Not too charming, but sharper than most would expect from an old man. He's often right and always prepared.

His haven includes a lore library, an infirmary and is protected by wards.

  • He got Tess out of trouble with his sage advice. She'd used her powers unwisely back in high school and turned Rod Weston into a stalker, mirroring and intensifying her own crush. Poor boy is still trying to shake off the bad reputation that generated for him, even though it was so unlike him.
  • His dark secrets are being protected by Jnr. He went off on some wild hunting trip which decimated a local protected species - Jnr covered up the traces, but still isn't sure if there was some associated monstrous activity or whether Paw's imagination just got the better of him.
  • Jack acquired a singular item for Earl Snr. She stole the 'Brigham Clockwork' which generates a mystical ward from the house of Rex Harrison III, the mayor. 
> He lost Beth, his wife, in the house. Years ago when the kids were very young, shortly after Earl Jnr. was born. 

> Both he and Beth were monster hunters before, but he was only tangentially involved - the terrible tales he heard from his father never really stuck with him. The night before it happened he dreamt of the Man of Shadow. That night when he saw a stranger approach the house he tried to do a ritual to keep him out, but he didn't have the expertise or the preparation.

> His father told him some really crazy stories, that he really only started to believe after Beth died. He passed along tales he heard from locals, from the Ute tribe who named the lake, who said that those who hunt in the mountains become the hunted. 

****

Tess Browning is The Spooky. Earl Snr's daughter, and a few years older than her brother Earl Jnr. The woman has dark eyes and wears goth clothes. Makes up in weirdness what she lacks in toughness, She is telepathic, can hex and has the sight.

That power comes with some serious downsides though - secrets, mood swings and hallucinations hint at its unsavoury source.

  • Earl Snr. taught her how to control her powers, insofar as she's able to at all. After her love spell on Rod went too far, he reined her in.
  • She used her powers on Jnr., to warn him to run out the back door when the Sheriff came looking for him. She knew the questions he'd have to answer following Tommy's and Reggie's demise would be too much for him to deal with (and possibly land him in jail).
  • Jack saw her using her powers for her own selfish reasons - what happened with Rod wasn't quite as innocent as Tess says (or her father believes). 
> The night when Mom died was the most terrifying of her life. The whole house shook, and black smoky energy imploded to take her away. 

> She dreamt about it and tried to tell Mom & Dad. But they just tried to calm her down (obviously they didn't believe her). That's why she tried to push her powers so much later on, she now knows that she couldn't have helped.

> She moved away for a while, to Boulder. She came back because of the dreams, in which she saw a tornado of crows destroying everything. 

***

Earl Jnr., is The Wronged. In his late 20s, the veteran marine wears surplus gear (albeit in good condition) and has hurt eyes. Tough and charming, but not weird at all. He knows his prey (possessor spirits) and swears Never Again, and what doesn't kill him. His signature weapon is a hand cannon.

He lost Tommy (his boyfriend) and Reggie (his best friend) to a baleful spirit years ago; he was in denial and selfish.

  • Earl Snr. help Jnr. to recognize possession when it happens. He's not going to let something like that happen ever again.
  • Tess stood between him and what he needed to find out. She hid the fact that she knew there was something weird going on with Reggie when she was possessed. She saw Reggie enacting a magical ritual, but worried about Jnr.'s obsession and lied to him about seeing anything.
  • He saved Jack's life when the Dempseys were chasing her. Her wiles weren't enough, but his silver bullets had been.
> His best friend Reggie (Regina) got possessed by some mysterious spirit when they were just out of high school. She seduced and then murdered his boyfriend Tommy in a fire. At least she kept him from escaping. 

> After that he ran off to be a marine, and a complete badass. He did a couple of tours. One jarhead buddy called Samuel didn't quite come back right. 

> When he fled the fire where Tommy died, he saw Reggie's face change - that's when he knew. It was Pete's face, who worked in the garage (and was a rival for Tommy's affection) but who hasn't been seen since.

> He worked with a powerful local vampire, Velasco. A mob was moving in on the territory (especially with a view to taking the vampire's house and priceless paintings) and Earl Jnr. took care of them (and not in the Mary Poppins kind of way). 

**

Jacqueline "Jack" Diggs is The Crooked. A cousin to the Browning siblings, and a few years younger than them. The young woman has watchful eyes and wears street clothes. Not very weird at all (it's all new to her) but sharp as a tack. She's a burglar, but with friends on the force and has a firm home ground advantage here.

A police detective, Donahue, has made it a personal goal to put her away - he's just a good cop. Rex Harrison III, the mayor, is someone with special powers who she took advantage of. She discovered the real underworld while burgling the Dempsey house - they're werewolves and came after her.

  • Earl Snr. is her moral compass. Not sure how that's working out, with all the burglary though...
  • She used to hero-worship Tess when they were younger. They were (as far as their age difference allowed) close cousins. There was also a bit of sneaking around and spying on Jack's part. 
  • She saw Jnr. completely lose his cool one time in Randy's Diner. She didn't know what to make of it at the time (PTSD guess) as she didn't know anything about the supernatural. It took three guys to pull Jnr. off the 75 year-old Mrs Mavis Thompson. 
> Detective Donahue is a straight up-and-down, by the book good cop. He hates that she has friends in the Sheriff's office who turn a blind eye. With her contacts in the community, he's never able to pin anything on her.

> She's a 1st cousin through Earl Jnr & Tess' mom. Her mom was Beth's sister. That side of the family thinks Earl Snr. killed Beth and buried the body somewhere. A few years later, her own Mom killed her Dad in a domestic dispute (actually in self defence) and she was fostered.

> She was warned off going anywhere near the vampire Velasco. His big, richly appointed house would be prime for burglary. But he can't be all bad. He doesn't feed off or kill humans. A tall, almost emaciated white guy.

Next Session: No Right Turn