Sunday, March 12, 2017

Cave of Secrets: Burn It All Down (WtA)

So after over a month of not being able to play Werewolf (due to scheduling issues, as I've mentioned before), we finally got the chance to sit down this past Sunday for an extended (and rather bloody) session. And I can't think of any more clever preamble, so here we go.

So where we left off, the pack was in the middle of attacking a still taken over by the Stumps. Ray and Åke had just lured a handful of Wyrm-tainted rednecks to a corner of the property where they proceeded to take them apart both figuratively and literally. And just before we faded to black with a 'To be continued,' a newcomer entered the fray...

The guy that comes out is massive, 6 and a half feet tall if he's an inch, with leathery skin and a general build that wouldn't look out of place on a Glabro-form Garou. His eyes glow red and when he demands to know what the hell is causing all the ruckus, there's an unnatural timbre to his voice.[0] So yeah, big-ass fomor.

Jerry, fastest of the group and close to the house, swiftly moves to deal with the threat. His claws rip open Francis, though not enough to bring him down right away. Jerry gets a faceful of that unnatural gaze, but is able to tamp down the fear that rises within him. While Åke moves to intercept a couple of the other Stumps around the Still itself and Ray advances on the house, buckshot filling the air, Wants-to-Know manages to sneak up behind Francis and stabs him in the back with his Fang Dagger.

Francis drops and Jerry turns to deal with some of the other Kinfolk guarding the still, claws whiffing as he swings at someone who's just slightly too quick (and/or lucky) to get hit. And while everyone's turned their attention to the mostly-mundane, non-Fomor Stumps, Francis rolls over so he's facing the rest, and gets a surprise attack... as he opens his mouth and a barbed tongue snakes out, spearing Wants-to-Know like a mutant stingray's tail, ripping out of him and sending blood spraying through the air. Ray immediately dives at Francis, Hispo jaws going right at his face and ripping that tongue out at the root, basically tearing Francis' throat open from the inside. (He keeps the tongue, by the way, as a trophy)

From there it's a simple enough matter to deal with the other Kinfolk. None of them have any special abilities or silver weapons, though the Sons of the Saga do take more than a couple of decent hits with from the buckshot. Crushed skulls, ripped throats, decapitations, a spine peeled from a back... this massacre made the slaughter in the middle of town oh so long ago look like a slap fight.

So now surrounded by blood and gore and carnage (even moreso once they find what's left of the family that owned the still before the Stumps showed up -- well, what wasn't eaten, at least), they immediately go to making sure everyone's okay. Which mostly consists of making sure that pellets are being ejected by regeneration and unsuccessfully trying to find any non-tainted moonshine on the premises to clean out Wants-to-Know's wound.[1] But they do the best they can, Åke uses Mother's Touch to help Wants-to-Know deal with some of the damage dealt by Francis' barbed tongue, and the pack moves on to cleanup.

While Åke and Wants-to-Know basically get to burning everything they can, figuring the site is just too tainted to be useful to anyone, Ray and Jerry step sideways to deal with the Bane that was riding Francis and has certainly been dumped back across the Gauntlet. And sure enough, they find it, surrounded by a handful of other Banes of hatred and pain. Ray basically tears the big one apart and he and Jerry clear out the rest.

So back in the physical world, once everything's burning, ready to explode, etc., the pack takes off as they hear sirens coming.

Now, the Stumps' claimed still was on top of a hill only a mile and change away from the Cave of Secrets. So naturally they not only heard but felt the explosion when the still went up, and when the pack shows up shortly afterwards, everyone's just staring at them, wide-eyed. Strike isn't around at the moment, but Aedan (whom the pack first met a long-ass time ago and has popped up here and there since) expresses some concern for the carnage and all that, and points out that people are naturally going to be a little freaked. And because of the proximity to the still, it's being suggested that Garou stop passing between the sept and the town for a bit; if you head into town, better stay there for a day or two just in case). But once he's gone, they try to figure out what to do with the fomor tongue that Ray picked up, and Åke goes to find a tire from the exploded trucks not too far away to fill with salt and put it in there, to basically preserve it and cure it and make something out of it (probably a thong to use as a strap for some of Ray's gear and knick-knacks).

Strike eventually tracks them down and tells them that they did a good job taking out the Stumps at the still. He wasn't expecting anything as... dramatic as what they did, but he congratulates them nonetheless. So with that, the pack decides to take the rest of the day to recover and celebrate the small victory. In particular, Ray and Åke try to track down the Fianna for group-drinking purposes.

So the next day, while figuring out what to do next, the Sons of the Saga decide to officially accept Ray into the pack on a full-time basis. And they try to assess the situation, figuring that destroying the still sent a message to the BSDs and hoping that they'll be able to have a definitive showdown. They decide to suggest to Raptor Strike that maybe now's the time to hold a moot to keep morale up, see if they can get Noah's[2] Rite of Passage out of the way, that sort of thing. Ray and Åke go to talk to Strike about this, but find him on a sat-phone, having a very disturbing conversation.

Once he's off the phone, he fills them in -- there's been some sort of ritualized murder in town, at the Opera House. Seven people have been killed, and two of them have had their hearts pierced by railroad spikes. Ray and Åke, obviously, are extremely concerned. They rightfully assume a connection to the spikes they'd been looking for, and have to explain a few things to Strike because he doesn't know the full story with them. But they come to the conclusion that this is clearly some sort of trap as part of a plan to get the rest.

The two of them go back to check on the railroad spikes they have, filling in the rest of the pack on the way. They get to the chamber where they keep that stuff and find that the spikes they have are all standing on end. For fear that there's some sympathetic link being formed or something, Jerry uses Sense Wyrm and discovers a faint echo of a Wyrm-ish connection in a couple of spots among where the spikes are standing. They figure out, pretty quickly, that there's an invisible 'circle.' The four spikes they have, as well as the Wyrm-spots, collectively make up six places on that circle. There's an empty spot unaccounted for, likely representing the spike they hid in the wall of the Lodge.

They try to see if the spikes match spots on a map, trying to see where it all lines up, but they can't move them. It's like trying to lift Thor's hammer. Jerry tries to turn the spikes to water (or at least ice) with Wuxing to see if they can be moved or destroyed (as he's certain that the Spirals are going to use the spikes they have to do something horrible to the caern at range), but it just doesn't work. Jerry then comes up with the idea to do a slight tweak on the Rite of the Questing Stone, where he wraps a string around the spikes, connects that to the stone used in the Rite, and waves it over a map. The stone swings in a figure 8, effectively circling both the Lodge building and the Opera House. It also confirms a connection going on between the spikes, and the pack is concerned that the Spirals are trying to summon them or open a portal or something.

The pack goes and retrieves Deborah in case the Cave or her own abilities can help out. She's a little grumpy and annoyed; she's been trapped at the caern for a while, hasn't been able to return to her home, and she's really feeling underappreciated. But she does agree to help. The Cave doesn't have any useful information, but when she interacts with the invisible circle, she can see the other spikes. In particular, she can see the grisly murder scene at the Opera House, where seven people have been killed. Their bodies are arranged such that if all of the spikes were there, the invisible circle of them would basically 'put' the spikes through each of the victims' hearts. And when she steps into the center of the circle, she gets a vision of Florence Slavin building that extradimensional space in the attic of her old home. The pack concludes that the Spirals must be doing something similar.

They decide to go back to the attic space in case there's something there they've missed, because they can't see any options other than to risk springing a trap and it's effectively paralyzing them. Deborah asks if she can accompany the pack back to town and maybe they could take her back to her own place, and all crash there since they should stay in town at that point anyhow. Jerry doesn't like the idea (and figures that Strike would agree), basically concerned that the huge Spiral metis the pack encountered (also a long-ass time ago) is going to drop out of the sky and murder them all the moment Deborah leaves the caern with them. Åke thinks they should consult Strike before unilaterally making a decision, but Jerry still disagrees with the idea. So Deb basically says "fuck this," tosses them the keys to her place to crash there anyways, and stomps off back to her hut. Åke decides to go talk to Strike and get his opinion anyhow. Strike says that if Deb feels comfortable going back to town with the pack, things should be fine as long as they keep an eye on her, and that the Spirals aren't going to act openly in town -- especially with a metis who almost certainly stands no chance of passing for human. Jerry feels like they'd have to either keep her with them the whole time (thus risking putting her in danger), or divide their forces so someone can watch her 24/7 (thus possibly putting them all in danger).

Åke decides that maybe they can recruit Deborah's brother Walter to help, and goes to try to talk to her. He finds her bitching to her brother about everything and gives her this spiel about how they're all just worried about her, and all that -- to be frank, to me it came across as less "trying to make you feel better" and more "this is why you shouldn't be upset." He suggests that they can go to town, that Strike says it's okay, and that Walter can come along and keep an eye on her. Walter seems to like the idea as well.

There's a problem, though. Åke's activated the Persuasion gift, and Deborah can sense it. She doesn't understand Gift lists, game mechanics, etc., but she does know that Åke is trying to back up his words with supernatural influence. To put it mildly, she's more than a little offended -- she's upset for legitimate reasons and his first instinct is to try and convince her to not be upset using werewolf magic. So he tells him to go fuck himself and not talk to her again, and slams the hut door shut. Åke, in turn, puts just so much effort into being all "alright, fuck this, I didn't even care anyway" that it would be adorable if it wasn't such a tense moment (between the scene and the fact that it was late in the evening and people were tired).

And we left off there.

[0]-- At the time, we joked that it was time to cue a Borderlands-style title card [link], that read: "Francis Stump; His name's Francis and he's lived this long, that tells you something"
[1]-- For those of you unfamiliar with the system, there's three types of damage. There's bashing, which is the sort you get from being punched or hit with a bludgeoning object. Generally heals quickly, doesn't break the skin. Then there's lethal, which comes from being stabbed, shot, etc. Takes longer to heal, can cause permanent damage. Werewolves, however, can regenerate bashing and lethal damage, recovering from it like Wolverine. The tongue that speared Wants-to-Know dealt the third kind of damage: Aggravated, generally from supernatural sources like Garou claws or targeting a given creature's weaknesses (fire and sunlight for vampires, silver for werewolves, etc.). This doesn't regenerate, and requires supernatural powers or simply time to heal for werewolves. (Left on its own, aggravated damage on a werewolf heals like a gunshot does for a human being.) So at least narratively, even a little bit of aggravated damage is (or at least should be) Serious Business.
[2]-- Bury the Hatchet's nephew.

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