Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cave of Secrets: Cannibalism, Skulls, and Bickering

Sorry for the lateness of this post, but I've been busy with personal stuff (among other things, finishing a story that's got a bit of a deadline). This one picks up right where the last one left off, so while I will have some lead-in here it might behoove you to go check the last entry. This was a longer session thanks to some serendipity in schedules, so this will be a longer post than most of the recent ones.





So where we left off, the Sons of the Saga were poking around the Umbral side of the house where Florence Slavin lived decades ago, finding signs that something Very Bad was going on. They made their way upstairs to investigate a noise to find a frankly ugly and somewhat deformed Hispo-form Garou (Sean's new character) among the remains of a handful of slain Banes (likely other Scrags). He's decked out in little skulls and talismans and even carries a wolf skull on a cord slung over one shoulder.

Jerry immediately tries to Sense Wyrm and notes that despite his strange appearance and off-putting nature, this guy does not smell of the Wyrm. Åke wants to kill him, first thing[0], on the assumption that he's a Stump despite his alpha's assessment. The stranger shifts into lupus form and Wants-to-Know gives him a once-over (recognizing a fellow lupus by body language and such), and discover over a lot of mutual "Who are you and what are you doing here" that this strange newcomer is in fact a Gaian Garou:

"Rebel" Ray Miller -- Lupus Bone Gnawer Philodox. Ray was orphaned and adopted as a cub by the Millers[1], out near Roanoke, VA. (More details will come as they are revealed over the course of the session)

It turns out that once upon a time, the Millers were semi-regulars in Marlinton and Florence Slavin left a map (leading to the house) and a key with them, just in case. Ray, who is believed to have quite the destiny ahead of him, was tasked with bringing this stuff to town given what's been going on lately. He knows that Florence left something hidden in the Umbral reflection of her old house somehow. Specifically, the attic. And he was trying to head up there, but the entrance to the attic doesn't seem to exist on this side (the obvious solution is that one must enter the attic, and then step sideways).

Jerry asks Ray what's on the other side of the Gauntlet, and Ray (assuming the Sons have already seen what's over there) says that there isn't much. Jerry then peeks across the gauntlet and sees a human corpse, mutilated and possibly eaten. He asks Ray if he did that, and Ray says that he didn't do it but there's a regional Bone Gnawer legend about a man-eating Garou serial killer known as "The Scavenger" that this matches with. That said, The Scavenger hasn't been heard from in decades so who knows. Wants-to-Know uses Pulse of the Prey to determine that the Scavenger isn't anywhere nearby at the moment, so they decide to file him away on their 'to-do list.'

Getting back to the matter at hand, the Sons of the Saga agree that whatever they came to the house to find, they will need Ray's help to get to it. They return to the physical world and as they get ready to open up the attic through a ceiling hatch, they get derailed by a conversation about Ray's past. As it turns out, he's an adopted Bone Gnawer. He's in fact originally of Spiral stock, but he was rescued by Gaian Garou when he was very young, long before he would have undergone his First Change and danced the Spiral. And in the end, the Bone Gnawers would be the only ones to take him in, and they proceeded to arrange for him to be raised by and around the Miller Kinfolk family.

To reassure the pack of his Gaian nature and good intentions, Ray uses the Call to Duty gift to summon a Glade Child (about as Gaian as a spirit can get) and order it to act naturally, hoping that its reaction to him will be enough to vouch for him for now. And it does the trick, as Jerry offers Ray the opportunity to walk with them for a time and if things work out, they'll see if maybe he'd be a good fit for their pack. Ray's fine with that, and the pack gets back to dealing with this attic business.

Jerry goes first, in case there's anything dangerous up there (deciding that if anything's going to come out of the hatch and decapitate anyone it might as well be him), and finds dust and boxes and old junk. He also finds, however, a full-length mirror set into a nearby wall. The frame around the mirror (and around the hatch, on the attic side) is festooned with runes and glyphs. Some of them are recognizable as Garou glyphs, but others are completely indecipherable.

So they decide to experiment with using the mirror to step sideways, and they find it's actually a lot easier to do so than it normally should be. They also find that on the other side, the attic is much larger. It's the size of a barn with a number of living quarters, enough for 8 people to stay in reasonable comfort. There's also a command room of sorts with maps and things scattered around on tables. This is obviously some sort of safe house.

Poking around a bit more, the pack finds a locked steamer trunk in the corner and Åke suggests to Jerry that it's probably what Ray's key opens. So Ray opens it up, we play the Legend of Zelda chest-opening sound, and they find what appears to be a collection of Florence's notes and books and things. On top is a journal with the Iron Rider glyph on the cover, but the text is a mixture of magical diagrams and a lot of math. But this is definitely the rest of her stuff that they've been looking for.

While they're up in the attic, Åke decides to experiment with the mirror a bit. He peeks across the Gauntlet and determines that peeking means you're seeing out of the mirror on the opposite side (likely because of the disparity between the sizes of the two versions of the room). He then steps back across and tries to return to the Umbral attic directly, using a different mirror[2]. Not only is it harder to cross over that way, but he discovered that you actually fall out of the mirror on the other side when that happens.

By now they're figuring out how to get Florence's stuff back across the gauntlet, and with some more experimentation they found out that as long as you use that special mirror, you can bring stuff back and forth in and out of the attic.[3]

So there were two questions afoot. One was how to get the trunk back to the sept without being noticed. The other was what to do about the corpses in the house. With some back and forth about the Veil and letting families have closure and the like, they decide to leave the bodies and let the police sort that out rather than just vanish them.

Getting the trunk back to the sept is easy, but tedious. They can't haul it back in the Umbra, but they can drag it to a nearby road, have Åke get his car, and take it as far as they can go to carry it back.

So they get back to the sept unmolested, Åke hauls the trunk to the pack's little workspace in the cave, and Jerry introduces Ray to Raptor Strike. They fill him in on the house and the hidey-hole in there, and what they've learned about Florence, and the possible appearance of the Scavenger. Strike suggests that it might have been Gaia's will that they all found each other in the hosue like that, and welcomes Ray to the sept before he warns them about reports of increased Bane activity in town.

So now that they have more material to go through, the time has come for a little more research. With Ray assisting (after they caught him up on what's been going on), the pack determines that individual railroad spikes from Florence's set can have power (that's bad) but if you have all of them you can do something greater than the sum of the parts, which means keeping at least some of them away from the Spirals will stop them from tapping into the full power of the magic (that's good). As they go through the notes, they try to figure out how easy it would be to corrupt the spikes to resonate with the Wyrm and what that would be likely to do.

Ray, at one point, offers an alternative to some of the research. He grabs the wolf skull he carries and simply asks it about that. It begins speaking in an unholy, scratchy voice, much to everyone's terror, and explains that the spikes are like a magnet and it wouldn't be that hard to attune them to something else. In time they could be redirected to summon and empower Banes. (that's bad) Ray asks it where the rest of the spikes are, and it says that aside from the one claimed from the tannery site, the rest are still in town. (that's good) Ray asks it where the rest of the Spirals are, but it fades out rather than answer.

So, obviously, the Sons of the Saga are obviously concerned about the talking skull. Ray, first off, insists that he didn't make it. He explains, in a way that is nowhere close to properly reassuring, that the skull belongs to his dead biological brother who was not rescued from the Spirals and was killed in an attack on the Millers' homestead. Ray killed him and something trapped his spirit in the skull and turned into what's basically a very creepy fetish.

Neither Åke nor Jerry is entirely okay with this. Wants-to-Know just sees it like a literally-Magic 8-Ball. Ray treats it as something more akin to a Baneskin, in its construction, but everyone's still more than a little freaked out.

While Wants-to-Know asks Ray more questions about the skull, Åke and Jerry want to get things back on track. Åke tries to determine through the notes if there's any way that the spikes could be turned towards the Garou's benefit, especially if freed from whatever the Spirals are doing to them. (Admittedly, I'm like "What, empowering Gaian spirits and making it harder for Banes to take hold isn't enough?" when he asks that) They also try to figure out from Florence's notes if the spikes will still retain power if removed from their original locations. (Long story short, it looks like they retain their power but not as much)

They come to the conclusion that they just need to start fresh with the remaining spikes. Don't worry about what Andy Stump had or didn't have marked on his map. Just go through the rest of them systematically. They do decide, however, to start with the ones that hadn't been marked on the map. Which is somehow the same as 'starting fresh?' I don't know.

During all this, Bury the Hatchet turns up to meet the newcomer Bone Gnawer and to ask him some questions about what they saw at the house. He confirms that the Scavenger is a real thing, but he hasn't been heard from for decades and can't possibly still be alive because by now he'd be maybe 150 years old, if not older. Before going back to make some preparations back at his home sept, Bury the Hatchet vouches for Sons of the Saga and tells Ray that if he wants to do some good around here, the Sons seem to be in the thick of it so it'd be best to stick by them.

So after that, the pack decides to wait a couple of days and start with the 'museum' run by the local historical society, as there's a spike in there someplace. The building, however, is closed for the winter. They find a convenient spot to step sideways and see about means of breaking in. For reasons unknown to man, wolf, or Gaia, Åke decides this is the time to jump down Jerry's throat about his earlier offer to let Ray walk with them, because he's somehow interpreted it as a literal pre-emptive offer to join the pack.

And there's honestly no way of glossing over it. The argument goes on and on in circles long enough that Ray and Wants-to-Know actually have time to break into the museum, find the spike (which is located in a storage room in a display case, having once been part of an older exhibit), and come back without their absence even being noticed.

By the time they come back, somehow Jerry and Åke are on some new argument that's so stupid and pointless I don't even know or care or what it is. I'm sorry, I've been trying my best to keep personal commentary to a minimum and this write-up has obviously been very trying in that regard. Whatever it's about, it's a stupid, pointless argument that nobody outside of it actually gives much of a shit about because it's actually holding up the game at this point.

And after all that, Jerry actually has the nerve to be annoyed at Wants-to-Know, who points out that Ray isn't a member of the pack, has little obligation to Jerry in that regard, and was going to break into the museum regardless. So why shouldn't someone from the pack come along to keep an eye on him while everyone else is busy fighting? Jerry, begrudgingly, lets it drop.

And we leave off there, with the pack headed for the newspaper office where the next spike is.





[0]-- Admittedly, this seems out of character for someone eager to have coffee with a Bastet who tried to lure his pack into a pit of crap-smeared punji sticks, but whatever.

[1]-- These are the same Millers from the recently-released W20: Kinfolk. Too bad the book didn't come out before I started running Cave of Secrets, or else I'd have worked the Millers in much sooner and much closer. But ah well, that's how it goes, innit?

[2]-- In general, we assume that unless something happens, the various members of the pack have reflective surfaces of some sort with them most of the times for simplicity's sake. The rule in W20 that you need one is still technically in play, which does mean that it's possible to somewhat trap someone in one world or the other by completely stripping them of any reflective surface.

[3]-- I've spelled out, mostly because I worked out all this plot before we had any proper 20th anniversary rules for Kinfolk with hedge magic and the like, that Florence was a hedge witch who practiced the Path of Plot Device.

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