GURPS: Red Sky

Death Curse, Chapter 1

It is February 12, 2016, seven weeks since the investigations faced off against Adelle DeWitt. In that time, they have fallen back into their lives – Jack and Howard have found their caseloads to have radically increased as the chaos that infests the city seems to have increased almost exponentially, while Content Not Found: matias-torres relocated to OKC to keep an eye on his mother and to try and uncover what his father, Eduardo, is up to and why the vampire seems to have moved to this area himself. Sofia has found her own workload to be considerably increased as she has effectively taken over her mentor’s duties at OU and, for all intents and purposes, is the professor. The two OSBI agents are also actively dodging ATF Agent Moretti who has been asking questions that imply she is sniffing out a connection between the two men and the arson-related destruction of the OBI building in downtown.

Jack has been spending all of his limited free time at the Trailer, feverishly attempting to decipher the combination of a large box he has found. In the course of his investigations, Jack will have determined that this puzzle serves as one of the tests for a would-be Schattenjäger. Schattenjäger is a German word that translates literally as “Shadow Hunter” and it is the title used by a German family of supernatural investigators. The Ritter family of Bavaria is descended from Inquisitors, Jesuits, and Witch-hunters, and claims that some ancient charge to “serve the light” has shaped its destiny. There have been strangely few spellcasters in the family – according to what he has read, the few who were able to use magick were not powerful enough to merit entrance into the White Council – but he did find numerous references to the ‘Eyes of a Schattenjäger,’ which Jack expects are what his Supernatural Senses was called. The current line started about 1210, the date of the first entry in the prayer book kept in the Trailer although circumstantial evidence strongly indicates that it goes back much further. The family’s patron saint is St. George, and it is in possession of a talisman of ancient design, which is alleged to have powers. Although it has broadened its outlook over the centuries, the family has strove to achieve its mission of hunting down and destroying supernatural evil. In 1993, however, most of the family line was exterminated by a coalition of supernatural entities (mostly vampires of the Red Court but with more than a handful of warlocks who had eluded the White Council.) Jack is directly descended from one of the survivors. Based on his best guess, Jack suspects that there are “tools” within the box that will enhance his capabilities against the supernatural but all of the reading he has done indicates that once someone starts on this path, they very rarely die in bed. Having a genealogy that goes back to 1210, he can count on one hand the number of people who died natural deaths. Most of the entries read like ‘killed by a revenant in Aachen’ or ‘gambled with a Fae lord and lost’ or ‘missing; believed eaten by Red Court vampires’ and so on. He successfully deciphers the combination but hesitates opening it when he realizes that this is effectively a binding oath to God and St. George to be an implement of righteousness and to stand against the Shadow.

Lee is floundering as his dreams have started to be infiltrated by images of Faerie and of events he does not remember but are too vivid to be imagined. He has also managed to get involved in an underground fight club where he is rapidly racing up the ranks due to his scary combat skills. Aoibheal continues to be an uncomfortable fixture in his life and somehow, Lee keeps getting dragged into weird misadventures with her. She has taken him to help her steal some moonrocks from a city of fire and once, they stole into a castle seemingly built of glass to kill a hideous-looking man-beast thing gone wrong. Far more troublesome to him is his sudden, unexplained anger management issues. His general flakiness of late has caused no small amount of conflict between him and his partner.

In response to a phone call from Detective Boscorelli, Jack arrives at the Boom(er) Boom(er) Club where he recognizes the newly promoted detective speaking with two women, one of whom he recognizes as Adina Levy, a friend of Sofia’s. The other woman is unfamiliar to him. Adina looks distraught and pale. Bosco explains to Jack that he has been poking around the Club (like a good maverick cop!) because there have been a couple unsolved disappearances and he is convinced that there is something hinky going on. He observed the two women – Adina and her sister, Rivka – arguing and then the two reacted with shock and horror to something they observed. Bosco investigated and then called Jack. He leads Carter to a stairwell leading down to a cellar. Inside the cellar are nine bodies, all of girls or women of a certain age. All are dead. And all have five circles over their hearts. Jack curses.

Howard is across the city, meeting with Dr. Fall, and trying to figure out the source of his sudden rage issues. This is only his third or fourth session and he started them in the hopes he can figure out what is wrong with him so he can clear up the conflict between him and his partner. As it nears the end, he receives a call from the Oklahoma County Crisis Intervention Center where James Ross is being held. The ‘Red Circle Murderer’ is awake and ranting in an unfamiliar language to the doctors. Lee heads out.

Mat is with Allison Sanchez, having accepted a job with KFOR as Allison’s cameraman where he quickly learned they are of a similar ‘crazy reporter’ mindset. They are on the Southside, intending on doing a gangland expose, when both see a handful of crazed-looking homeless vagrants with actual swords attacking a man! Ally recognizes the man and rushes to intervene, prompting Mat to follow where he is quickly set upon by several of the vagrants. They rush him, one grabbing his arms while another rams a yard of steel into his stomach. The pain is excruciating and he starts to slide into unconsciousness just as a big SUV squeals to a stop nearby. Armed men, led by an individual Mat thinks he recognizes, open fire, dropping the crazed vagrants. Mat hits the ground and passes out.

Sofia is at Neutral Grounds, attempting to relax following a stressful day at OU where several of her students were disruptive. She is unsurprised to see the usual ‘strange types’ crowd at the coffee house but is slightly taken aback when a man identifying himself as Thaddeus Solomon III introduces himself and asks if she might be able to assist him in uncovering what is going on with his grandfather. They chat for a time, exchanging stories, and she learns that her mentor has evidently not reached out to his family in more than nine months. Sofia agrees to see what she can do. Suddenly, a trio of foul-smelling vagrants with their mouths sewn shut enter Neutral Grounds and bare ragged-looking swords. They lunge toward Sofia but the coffee shop’s wards flare up brightly, hurling the men back into a wall with such force that they are knocked unconscious. Lei checks on them before securing them and contacting the police. Everyone is confused but Sofia is absolutely convinced that she was the target…

Back in that cellar across town, Jack glances over the corpses and wonders how this could have resumed when suddenly, the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Four foul-smelling vagrants wearing rags emerge from the shadows and bare steel. Despite being warned to stand down, they spring forward, clearly intent on kill Agent Carter but Jack is not going down without a fight and Detective Boscorelli doesn’t hesitate to unload with his pistol as well. It is a near thing – Jack’s suit is ruined and his second chance body armor is badly damaged, leaving him wounded slightly as well – but in the end, all four of the attackers are down, dead or dying. Upstairs, Carter hears a woman cry out and rushes to investigate. He finds two more of the crazed vagrants on the ground, bleeding out from knife wounds, while Rivka Levy is feverishly applying first aid upon her badly injured sister. Jack flips out his cell and calls for emergency response.

Arriving at the Crisis Intervention Center, Lee is greeted by Doctor Smith, the harried medical physician who called him earlier. The doctor leads him to Ross’ room and, indeed, the man is ranting in tongues. It takes Lee a moment but he finally recognizes Cherokee, having heard his partner use it at least once. Suddenly, the lights flicker and five foul-smelling vagrants wielding swords appear around a corner. Doctor Smith, who has stepped away to get something, is promptly run through, and a fierce fight ensues with Howard unleashing Ævenchos upon his enemies. They fall, some missing limbs or gushing blood from terrible injuries, and Lee is lightly injured himself but his natural durability combined with his second-chance armor prevents any of the wound from being life threatening. The first thing he notices once the fighting has stopped is that James Ross is missing.

Swimming in and out of consciousness, Mat is barely aware of where he is. When he finally starts to come to, he realizes he is in the SUV with Allison, the black guy they rushed to rescue, the big Indian Mat now recognizes as Robert Mankiller who he met over in the desert, and a few of the armed men. They reach the Devon Tower which has more armed security than he would have expected, and Allison and Brandon help Mat limp into the elevator, all under the watchful eye of Mankiller … and the unwavering guns of the men with them. They ascend up fifty-one floors and enter a luxurious penthouse office-suite where an unspeakably gorgeous woman approaches. Mat recognizes her from his flash-forward but she is not near anorexic in this era and walks with a decidedly feminine allure. When she touches him, he nearly drools on the carpet and is so turned on that he can’t think straight. Mankiller identifies him as Mat Torres and the woman – Lady Raith – murmurs her surprise before pointing out that she has a guest. It is none other than Eduardo Torres who is staring at Mat with unblinking eyes. “What a lovely surprise,” the Red Court vampire says with a smile that has no trace of humanity in it.

Sofia returns to Bavinger House and is surprised to discover that Doctor Solomon’s car is present. She enters quickly and catches him loading up material, as if he is gathering stuff for a ritual somewhere. Without hesitation, she launches into him and calls him on the carpet for abandoning his duties, both as a mentor and as a grandfather. This causes him to scowl and prevaricate, but Sofia is having none of it this time and continues to hector him. Suddenly, he rounds on her, his eyes inexplicably turning reptilian, and he snarls a Word of Power. Magic slams into her.

And everything goes dark…

  • I’ve been looking forward to running this arc since the beginning and we’re off to an auspicious start. Mat was very nearly killed in the opening fight – he had to make a death check and is still hovering at -17 hp despite a really good first aid check while staring down his Enemy (and desperately wanting to have life-ending sex with the White Court vampire); Jack is down to 5 hp; Howard is … well, he’s okay. He took 4 hp of damage but with that sword of his, he can recover that easily enough. And Sofia is unconscious. So things look bad
  • As is my wont in these sort of split up scenes, when a fight starts, I hand out the attacking NPCs to the players not involved in the fray. In this case, though, the dice disliked Mat and rather liked his opponents so I had to accelerate my time table to keep him from getting killed outright. Even still, his injuries are so severe that he realistically should be out of the story arc and in a hospital bed somewhere so I’m having to rethink some things to figure out a way to bring him back in.
  • That said, I find these fights where I hand out NPCs for other players to run to be more fun than me just rolling the dice. So far, the Players seem to enjoy them too, especially when things look bad for the PC. Thus far, I haven’t seen any of the players running the bad guys pull their punches in any way and, in fact, have to gimp these NPCs sometimes.
  • Once again, I forgot my own rules and let the faceless, nameless mooks survive longer than they should have in the fights. When they hit 0 hp, they should have went down. Need to find a way to remind myself of that.
  • Mat’s dice kept trying to screw him over. When he made the opposed check vs Lady Raith’s sexual mojo, he critically failed which was amusing and, naturally, led to a number of off-color jokes about him no longer bleeding in the torso.
  • We got a later start than I would have liked due to a late player (who was unavoidably detained by work) but ultimately, it ended where I wanted it to so next week will be very … interesting.



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