GURPS: Red Sky

Death Curse, Chapter 2

Sofia Torres snaps awake. She finds herself magically bound, her hands wreathed in a glittering halo of witchfire. Something is inhibiting her Gift – she guesses it is the witchfire – and her magical implements appear to have been stripped off. Looming before her is Doctor Solomon, complete with his reptilian eyes and a malicious smile He thanks her for pressing – he had grown tired of pretending to be that which he was not – and then demands to know who else she has been in contact and who else knows. Sofia, not entirely sure what the hell he is talking about, insults and prevaricates. This prompts “Solomon” to scowl and declare that they will do it the hard way. He reaches for her face…

And Sofia begins to scream.

Barely clinging to consciousness, Content Not Found: matias-torres witnesses Lady Raith and Eduardo Torres square off suddenly, with the latter clearly intent on advancing upon his son and the former establishing that Mat currently belongs to her. Perhaps they might reach an accord that will change this but until then, the “baron” is to keep his hands off. During this … discussion, Brandon slips closer to Mat and steadies him (which Mat is very thankful for) and then interjects quickly thanking Lady Raith for offering them guest-right and pledging to be good visitors. Raith is momentarily taken aback and then laughs outright as she did indeed mispeak by declaring Eduardo her “other guest.” The vampire Torres is not amused, especially when Lady Raith declares that, as a Raith, she will honor the old ways, a clear indication she’s willing to fight with the Red Court vamp if necessary.

And then, Mat realizes that Brandon is very, very warm. He (Mat) hears the flutter of wings and sees a shadow of something with wings behind him even though he has clear line-of-sight of a reflective surface. Most of his injuries just fall away, healed in some miraculous manner and Brandon slumps against him, very nearly unconscious. All eyes are upon them both…

Howard Lee is still at the Crisis Center, having just learned from his boss, Agent Curtmantle, that his partner is heading to the hospital but with non-life threatening injuries. Curtmantle instructs Lee to secure the site and find out what he can – backup will be arriving soon to take over. In the middle of this conversation, Aoibheal appears, dressed in what looks like a Sherlock Holmes getup from the 1890s, complete with deerstalker hat. Once his phone call is ended, Lee greets her as “My Lady” (unaware that, to the sensibilities of the Fae, he has just acknowledged her as his liege lady) which causes her to smile broadly. She is also delighted at his use of ‘calculated violence’ and walks him through utilizing the restorative properties of Ævenchos, his Fae sword. At no time does she ask for recompense which, if Lee knew anything about Fae, would terrify him. But instead, he blunders on, oblivious to how much Debt he has accrued with her.

He briefly borrows Aoibheal’s magnifying glass, though it turns out to be something else, apparently created from the eye of a giant insect, and asks for her aid in identifying the symbols carved or burned into the frame of the bed. She advises him that these are White Council wards intended to monitor or neutralize the patient but all have been burned out. Of the missing James Ross, there is no sign. In mid-sentence, Aoibheal stops speaking and stares to the south-east. Without a word, she strides toward a convenient shadow and is gone. Moments later, the sound of sirens advises Lee that his backup has arrived.

Responding EMTs took one look at Jack Carter and insisted he go to the E.R. with the badly injured Adina Levy. He’s there now, waiting for the doctors to finishing stitching him up and then release him so he can get back to work. Agent Curtmantle, his supervisor, enters and quickly debriefs him, revealing that Lee was also attacked by these strange homeless types with the sewed up lips. They exchange notes but, in mid-sentence, Curtmantle stops talking and looks toward a southern wall with a frown on his face. As far as Jack can tell, it’s just a wall. His supervisor excuses himself and heads out to make a phone call.

Observing Adina being rushed to surgery (now that they’ve stabilized the worst of the damage), Jack also sees her sister, Rivka, following and talking to someone on her phone in Hebrew. He follows, intent on eavesdropping and overhears her demanding to be transferred to her father, Deputy Director Levy, while advising that this line is not secure. Jack makes a note to do some research later.

Back at Bavinger House, the pain abates and Sofia has total memory recall, her thoughts having been knocked back into their proper alignment. She demands to know who she is addressing and “Solomon” states that she may call him Nihancan. That is not his truename of course, but it will do for the moment. This entity states that the meat it is wearing is gone although it did resist for a time. Nihancan expresses its surprise at how weak this meat was and is looking forward to wearing a woman for a time, especially one as powerful as Sofia.

Suddenly, a gong sounds and Magister Katerine declares that someone is at the door and they are wearing gray cloaks, implying Wardens. Nihancan blinks – his eyes go back to normal – and he advances up the stairs to get rid of his visitors. Katerine then manifests an image of herself alongside Sofia and gestures for Torres to be silent. When Nihancan returns, Sofia sees why as the thing wearing Solomon’s meat looks in her direction and roars, ‘Where is she?’ An instant later, one of the Warding Candles flare, indicating someone has used the Travelling Room (which is a sort of shortcut to the Nevernever that Doctor Solomon had to use to compensate for his weakness with magic.) This is an illusion wrought by Magister Katerine, but Nihancan does not recognize this and convinced that Sofia has gone to seek Warden aid, he (or it) rushes from the room, leaving Sofia time to start working herself free from her bonds.

Long moments later, she feels an impossibly strong spell go off. The very house seems to tremble with the power and she knows that using that much magic unprotected would destroy her so how has Nihancan accomplished such a thing? He departs the House soon after via the Travelling Room, just as she frees herself.

In Lady Raith’s loft, there is a tense standoff as everyone stares at Brandon’s miracle of healing with varying degrees of interest or horror. Suddenly, the elevator dings and Doctor Solomon emerges. Immediately, Mat’s danger sense tingles – he notes the doctor’s eyes are reptilian and his hands look badly burned somehow – and he is already moving to protect the barely conscious Brandon with his own body when Solomon slams his staff upon the floor. A shockwave of raw force picks them up and throws them into a wall along with most of the shooters. Not Lady Raith or Eduardo, both of whom are pushed back but manage to stay on their feet. Robert Mankiller is knocked down but springs up instantly and charges forward, a hazy outline of a melee weapon appearing in his right hand.

And in that instant, Solomon (or Solomonander as Mat IDs him from this point on) speaks a Word of Power. This Word is fundamentally … wrong somehow and carries with it a visual distortion as it radiates outward. Allison Sanchez and all of Raith’s shooters go to their knees or simply fall, howling with agony, and Mat himself is buffeted by this sense of wrongness. He sees Lady Raith grimace as too pale blood drips from her eyes and nose and ears. Eduardo’s flesh mask is torn free and he howls in pain, retreating with inhuman speed – Mat will hear glass shattering an instant later. Mankiller, however, freezes in place, his expression going slack. When Solomon(ander) speaks another Word, Robert reacts, smashing Lady Raith with that hazy almost weapon that seems to sort of only be half here. The blow is so tremendous that she is hurled through a wall – there is the sound of things breaking … metal and plaster and glass and bone.

The barely conscious Brandon pushes the hilt of a sword into Mat’s hand and whispers, ‘Defend them’ before passing out. Half-drawn, the blade of this weapon is pure light, like a sun given form, and both Solomon(ander) and Mankiller visibly recoil from it. Mat rises just as Solomn(ander) hurls a wall of fire serpents at him; diving away, Torres hears the sound of … something ripping and when the illusion of fire (he suspects, since it did not actually burn anything) vanishes, he sees that Solomon(ander) has torn open a Gateway to the Nevernever. On the other side is a mountaintop, wreathed in black clouds and with dozens of crucified figures though not all of their moans sound pained. Solomon(ander) and the docile-looking Mankiller step through the Gateway and are gone.

Lee arrives at the E.R. and finds his partner dealing with over-exuberant doctors and nurses. They quickly catch each other up on what has recently happened and are discussing their next steps when Curtmantle rejoins them, a confused and concerned look on his face. He reveals that there has been and … incident at Devon Tower involving Doctor Solomon and he is going to go there to check it out. Lee he wants to check in on Solomon’s associate, Ms. Torres; Jack is given the option of sitting this one out since he’s injured but he insists he’s okay. The two agents start battling hospital bureaucracy to get Jack released.

At Bavinger House, Sofia takes a moment to try and figure out what the hell is going on. From Katerine, she learns that yes, Solomon has been acting strange but until the Magister-In-A-Painting heard him acknowledge that the master of the house is dead, she was forbidden from assisting. It is clear that Katerine now acknowledges Sofia as the ‘Mistress of the House’ and the magister puts up illusions showing all of the Solomon’s recent work so Sofia can begin trying to decipher what the thing wearing her mentor’s body was up to. She also takes a few moments to effectively ‘scramble the combination’ of the House’s wards in an attempt to prevent Nihancan from returning.

For a moment, Mat is considering using this sword of light to take out Lady Raith – she is badly injured, after all, following her brief sojourn through the wall, but the moment the White Court vampire looks at him, his aggression and intent falter before the face of her glorious sexiness. Sure, her skin is so pale that it nearly gleams and her eyes are wholly silver and his pants are now two sizes too small, but those are little things, right? Henry Bishop steps in between them, glowering at Mat as he reminds his mistress that she extended guest-right to this man. “Get out,” she snarls in an unbelievably sexy voice and Mat obeys with a soft “Yes, my lady”, dragging Allison and Brandon out of the loft.

As his brain clears, he realizes with horror that his mother could very well be in great danger since that was her mentor who just attacked! Once on the ground level, he and Allison manhandle the unconscious Brandon into the nearby parking garage and Mat notes the large SUV that Mankiller brought them here in. Luck (or overconfidence on the part of Lady Raith’s men) has the keys still in the ignition so they abscond with the large truck. At Allison’s suggestion, Mat drops her off at their KFOR truck – she’s clearly freaked out and trying to come to grips with everything that happened – and then Mat races toward Bavinger House. He calls Lee along the way, intending on having the OSBI agent check in on his mother ASAP and discovers that Lee is already en route but not confident of actually finding the place. Unlike them, though, Mat has a token that allows him to get past the misdirection ward; he and Brandon enter the House where he discovers his mother now remembers who she is. Their reunion is not a tearful one but rather a highly charged, angry and confused emotional shouting match.

Eventually, the two OSBI agents are brought in and they (along with Brandon) stare at the strangeness of the House with the eyes of non-wizards. Stories are exchanged and Brandon reveals that he has been following Solomon for some time, ever since he noticed the man had two shadows. They agree that checking out one of his most frequent destinations – Fairview, Oklahoma – is the way to go and split up briefly to gather equipment before meeting at Neutral Grounds. Jack deviates to his Trailer where he unlocks the Schattenjäger case and dons some of the magical gear inside (taking the other one along.)

On to Fairview they go, opting to use the stolen White Court SUV. Just as they enter the small community, Jack’s danger sense warns him that something is wrong. He has just enough time to realize that there is a freaking Claymore mine hidden at the side of the road before it detonates with such force that it flips the SUV onto its side. Shrapnel from the explosion tears through the inhabitants and a quartet of men lunge into view. They are dressed in rags and their mouths seem sewn shut, but more importantly, they are holding rocket-propelled grenades! As one, they aim and fire!

And Sofia jerks suddenly. She’s back at Bavinger House, still shackled by the witchfire bonds. The Warding Candle flares up and Katerine advises her that Nihancan has just departed. Sofia’s reaction is an expected one:

“What the fu…”

  • And so begins the Grand Experiment. I’ve long wanted to run a game that has a ‘groundhog day’ element in it like this and am hoping that this works out like I’m hoping it does.
  • Points awarded: 2. Bonus to WxMAN principally for coining the name “Solomander” because he could not recall Nihancan.
  • Regarding Nihancan, this is clearly not the actual Arapaho Trickster because the literal meaning of ‘Nihancan’ is Spider and this guy has a serious ‘snake’ thing going on. In fact, it (he?) openly told Sofia that this was not his ‘truename.’ The name (which I mangled over and over during gametime) is pronounced nih-haw-thaw. Will need to take that into account next week.
  • Gigermann is well aware of how much trouble Lee is getting into with Aoibheal and continues to keep him blissfully ignorant. By my reckoning, he asked Aoibheal for three things in this single session – knowledge about how to use Ævenchos’ healing abilities, knowledge of the wards on Ross’ bed, and use of her ridiculous magnifying glass. Coupled with his greeting of her as “my lady,” he’s seriously up the creek and the player knows it. We’re going to see how bad it gets before everything blows up in his face.
  • Amusing note: Jack’s player informed me that his character is going to start digging into what the hell is going on with his partner. This has the potential of being really quite amusing as well as possibly lethal for one or both. With Jack now a full-on Schattenjäger (or Shadow Hunter), he might get the ridiculous idea in his head to try and kill Aoibheal. As she currently has no stats, that could be very … interesting. Alternately, she might just sic her Knight on him…
  • The players seemed to have far too much fun playing around with the misdirection ward on Bavinger House and thus, their inability to actually find the house…



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