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.

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 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

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