So, where we left off, the Sons of the Saga learned via the Rite of the Questing Stone that the Child of Secrets was in the nearby town of Marlinton. (As a footnote, I'm aware that normally the amount of information they have on the Child is normally a little too vague for RotQS, but for the sake of giving them a means to move the story along I drastically cranked up the difficulty and they still got it.)
Marlinton's a little community of just over a thousand people tucked away in the mountains, not too far from the cave. The pack all hopped in Berry's car and headed out there, considering plans to track down the Child of Secrets. They ponder the possibility that it might in fact be a literal child, which means they could check via the schools. However, it was late enough in the afternoon that the local elementary and middle schools had already let out but early enough that the high school kids were still on the bus heading back -- the county high school is a half-hour drive outside of town. So schools are out.
In reviewing what they know about the town, they discover that there is an Odd Fellows Lodge in town and figure that even if it's the modern 'members-only bar' sort of lodge, it might still be a good place to find a spirit of secrets and the like, which would make for a good lead. They find a quiet spot to step sideways, discovering that there are actually a decent number of buildings in town that are mostly solid in the Umbra. Being a somewhat isolated community, a good bit of the town is made up of buildings 80 or more years old, many of which are registered historic places. Including the Lodge building, in fact.
So they go inside and poke around, and they find a mostly-humanoid spirit sitting behind the desk (well, more accurately, growing out of a chair behind the desk), wearing a dramatic robe like it's prepared to lead some sort of secret society ritual. It claims to represent the administrative functions of the lodge, keeping track of members and the like. It's kind of deflective and dodges some of their questions, but it doesn't know who the Child of Secrets is. But they also ask a few questions about the town, looking for more places where they could find a spirit that knows what they want to know. Specifically, hot spots of spiritual activity that are still relatively secluded and might host a spirit of secrets. Claudiu comes up with the idea to try the local Catholic church confessional, and the spirit behind the desk mentions the old train station that served as part of the Visitors' Bureau until it burned a few years prior but hasn't been fully rebuilt yet. To thank it for the help, Claudiu asks the spirit to induct him into the lodge, which it does by improvising a ritual on the fly and having Claudiu 'sign' by writing his name on the desk with a quill that draws gnosis out of him to provide the 'ink.' (which serves as a form of chiminage). As they leave, the spirit gives them the tip "don't be afraid to retrace your steps and talk to old friends."
The pack splits into two groups. Claudiu and Berry decide to go check out the church, while Jerry and Åke check out the train station.
The train station is mostly populated by spirits of neglect and decay, but as Jerry and Åke poke around they find something strange in the empty building, what looks like a disassembled power outlet that's giving off sparks. They poke at it and a Wyrm-corrupted electricity elemental bursts forth, leading to a fight where they managed to bring it down between the two of them. But the station is otherwise bereft of leads.
So in the church, which is still pretty solid in the Umbra, Claudiu ducks into one of the confessional booths while Berry keeps watch outside. And sure enough, after a few moments of sitting there he sees a humanoid silhouette through the little window, and an almost cartoonishly-stereotypical Irish voice on the other side asks him how long it's been since his last confession. They dance around the subject a bit, where Claudiu tells the spirit on the other side that he's more worried about future sins, needed violence, that sort of thing. The spirit is friendly but accommodating, calling Claudiu "my son" a lot. They're not really getting anywhere, lead-wise... until Claudiu realizes that despite the accent, he recognizes the voice in the other half of the confessional.
It's Roy, the Nuwisha.
Cue a sudden shift to Crinos form, and Claudiu's arm punching through the wall between the two halves of the Umbral confessional booth to grab Roy by the neck. Roy immediately tries to gasp out as best he can that as a gesture of goodwill, he's willing to give them the gun back. Berry, summoned by Claudiu, comes in and rips the door off the booth where there's Roy, wearing priest's robes. Claudiu's grip shifts from Roy's neck to his collar so they can talk, and they start demanding some answers. A few highlights, because even if I could remember the whole conversation verbatim I'm not exactly going to type out a transcript:
- He insists, first off, that he's not following them or anything. Not really. He actually lives in Marlinton proper, saw them on the street, and decided to get into a spot where he'd run into them.
- He's also pretty knowledgeable about the cave, and congratulates them on retrieving the Moonstone. He knows what they're looking for, and thinks he knows who it might be. There's a local musician who tends to play original songs at the coffeehouse that suggest she has visions of the future. He gives them a vague physical description of her. He suggests she might be at the Open Mic Night at the Marlinton Opera House (which is a real thing) hosted by the local coffee shop.
- By the way, he stashed the gun in the donation box at the church. After all, guns ain't cheap and this one's full of shiny, expensive silver. But when they give him grief about it, he agrees to retrieve it himself. Claudiu, at one point, asks him what lesson he was trying to teach them with the gun. They give some half-joking interpretation suggesting that Roy just wanted to be a jerk, but he shuts them down by telling them "No, the lesson is not to give a gun full of silver bullets to somebody you don't know well, because even if he isn't a BSD or something like that he might be planning on letting you find the cave first and then shooting you in the back of the head so he can take credit for the discovery." Uncomfortable silence follows.
Through their bond with the pack totem, Claudiu and Berry tell Jerry and Åke what's going on as the two of them and Roy use a mirror to step sideways in the confessional where nobody will notice them. (Of course, it's the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday, the church isn't exactly jumping at the moment anyways.) Roy gets the gun and gives it back to them before heading out.
The pack regroups, and upon hearing the description Åke (who's a musician in his off-hours) is pretty sure he's heard of the musician they're talking about. All he really knows about her is that she's your typical coffeehouse acoustic bard by the name of Deborah, but he's sure he could pick her out of a crowd if he had to. So they decide to go to the Open Mic and see if they can talk to her.
Which segues into a quick recon of the outside of the Marlinton Opera House. They're not too worried about trying to break in ahead of time, though Jerry sniffs around outside with Sense Wyrm just in case and finds some traces of Wyrm-ish influence but nothing particularly strong or recent. The pack kills some time in town, trying to stay out of the way so as not to draw any attention, and shortly before the doors open for the event Jerry and Claudiu head into the building in the Umbra in case there's any spiritual presence following Deborah that they have to worry about. Åke and Berry mingle with the crowd in the physical world as folks start filing into the building.
Right away, though, the half of the pack in the Umbra spot a nasty Raptor bane (a spirit of conquest and dominance, often attracted to abusive boyfriends and serial rapists) following someone in the crowd. With the Gauntlet between them they can't exactly figure out who it's following but Jerry and Claudiu decide to go ahead and engage. It tries to make a run for it, but Claudiu has a Fetish knife he uses to pin its shadow -- and thus the spirit itself -- to the floor while he and Jerry manage to discorporate it. Can't be too careful, after all.
And we left off there, with the show getting ready to start in the physical world.