Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cave of Secrets: Dead Things (WtA)

So, before I get into this blog post, couple of quick reminders. This weekend I'll be at Anthrocon in Pittsburgh, PA. In the absurdly unlikely event that anyone who reads this might be there, feel free to say hi! Also, I'm appearing in an anthology that's coming out this weekend as well!

(On a related note, this week I'll be getting in a Doctor Who session, but it might not get written up until I get home because it's literally the night before we leave for the con.)

So as I've mentioned previously, the reason it's been so quiet on this front is because one of my players had a minor medical crisis. He's doing better now, so we've been able to dust off the dice and the gaming table and sit down for some sessions. Which means that, in case you somehow missed the title of this post, I've got a Werewolf session for you!

(It's been a while, so to facilitate refreshers here's a quick link to the last post.)

So where we left off, Åke and Rebel were on their way out to the site of Noah's murder. With the help of the tree spirit they spoke with before, they have an easy enough time finding it. They can find Noah's scent and get the impression that he's spent a lot of time there. There's also his blood all over the place, and as near as they can tell someone got the drop on him and killed him pretty quickly.

Somebody who'd been lying in wait, in fact.

They couldn't find any details regarding the attacker, but did find some tracks leading towards the road.

While this investigation (including the bit at the end of last session) was going on, Jerry and Wants-to-Know head out to the first of four funeral homes in town, the Lantz funeral home, because it's on the outskirts of town[0]. The plan is that they're going to go in, talk to the owner, and see if one of them can slip away to sniff around the place and find traces of Noah's scent. And Wants-to-Know (who, I must remind the audience at home, is wolf-born and relatively young and thus doesn't have a lot of experience with human society) is going to be doing the talking.

Wait, what?

So they get there and talk to a guy who's about 40 named Doug, who shows them into his office. Wants-to-Know, being led through the funeral home, immediately asks "what those boxes are for," because he's a lupus without a lot of experience in human society. Doug is concerned and a little suspicious, but they quickly recover with the claim that he's distraught and hasn't spent any real time in funeral homes. Then Wants-to-Know says he's here to make arrangements for his brother, who 'died in the recent attacks.'

Which begs the question, which recent attacks? Because there was the fight at the caern (which nobody in town knows about) about three weeks ago. And a couple of weeks before that, all those Stumps that were killed in town. But Wants-to-Know, not having much experience with human society, doesn't get at first that human funerals are often resolved quickly. Jerry, realizing his mistake in having Wants-to-Know do the talking and keenly aware that even in low-tech Marlinton the funeral homes have security cameras, looks out the window for a power line he can use Wuxing to screw with.

So while Wants-to-Know is covering by saying that his brother's body was just found (which kind of rules out the only other option for 'recent attacks,' the killings with the spikes at the Opera House three weeks ago), while Jerry uses Wuxing to turn the metal in the power line's transformer to metal, causing the whole thing to short circuit and knock out the power.

So if Doug was already suspicious that he was dealing with people looking to steal jewelry or chemicals (or possibly necrophiles), the fact that the power suddenly goes out doesn't do much to assuage him. He asks Jerry and Wants-to-Know for a moment to call the power company and report the outage, while he takes the phone and has a quiet conversation. Wants-to-Know cranks up Heightened Senses to hear Doug describing the two of them to the police. Doug, noticing them looking at him, speaks up and pretends to be talking to the power company. He hangs up, and Wants-to-Know asks if he can use the restroom.

Doug offers to escort him, and for his own safety asks Jerry to remain in the office for his own safety since the building is going to be dark. He closes the office door and quietly locks it, but Wants-to-Know uses Open Seal to make sure Jerry can get out. Jerry, understanding the possible depth of the problem, communes with his ancestors to gain enough of an understanding of the law that he can BS his way out of this, possibly by threatening the funeral director and his wife with unlawful imprisonment or some such.

On their way to the restroom, they run into Doug's wife Rebecca, and Doug tells her that someone named Maynard from the power company is on his way over about the power outage and that they have a special guest in the office. He leads Wants-to-Know to the bathroom and quietly locks him in there, and goes into the back to get his shotgun in case these guys give him any trouble.

Wants-to-Know just unlocks the door with Open Seal and wanders out, trying to be all nonchalant and come across like there's nothing wrong. Rebecca tries to keep it together, and within a couple of minutes someone pulls up outside in a cop car. Deputy Maynard Savage comes in, and starts asking Wants-to-Know some questions.

The deputy starts by asking his name. So Wants-to-Know introduces himself, using his deed name and not any actual attempt at a human alias because he's a lupus without a lot of experience in human society, and when he realizes how that sounds he quickly covers by saying it's 'foreign.' Doug comes back, notices the deputy has arrived, and quietly sets his shotgun aside in a dark part of the hallway without really being noticed. Which is why when the deputy asks Wants-to-Know about why he's there and Wants-to-Know says it's to get his friend's body taken care of, he immediately says "I thought it was your brother?"

Deputy Savage asks where the other one is, and when the office is indicated he goes ahead and opens the unlocked door (thus blowing any plans to bluff and BS the cop on what was going on). Fortunately, Jerry has a name, and tells him as such. He then tries to explain away Wants-to-Know's weird behavior and the inconsistencies ('brother'/'friend') as trauma.

Then the deputy asks where the body is. They both freeze. They both recover and Jerry makes up a fake name for the body. At which point Deputy Savage is like "I didn't ask that, I asked where the body is." Jerry says "the hospital." The deputy asks "Which hospital?" Jerry makes the roll to remember the local hospital is Pocahontas Memorial.

Then Jerry, realizing that the cop can officially follow up on this, 'comes clean': He spins this tale about how this has all been part of a prank that's gone completely off the rails. He manages to sell this pretty well, and the two of them get a stern talking-to from the deputy, who agrees to let them go if they leave now.

So they get the hell out of there. Jerry proceeds to declare a new rule: Wants-to-Know doesn't get to talk to 'normal people' any more. Your humble narrator figures this is because -- and let's all say it together -- Wants-to-Know is a lupus without a lot of experience in human society. So rightfully assuming that either the deputy or Doug is going to call every other funeral home in town and warn them, they figure that their attempts to investigate the others are likely to be pretty well screwed. So they decide to hit the coffee shop while Wants-to-Know uses the pack's totem connection to relay to Rebel and Åke what's just happened (as much as Jerry quietly wishes he wouldn't), and when the pack regroups they can figure out a new way to investigate the funeral homes.

Just for the record, as much as I'm teasing everyone about all this, I'd like to go on record that all of my players were howling with laughter (I'll show myself out) at all this, and these antics -- while very in-character for Wants-to-Know -- contributed to a fun and entertaining session.

So back to Rebel and Åke[1], who by now have found where Noah's body was apparently loaded into a vehicle. Rebel decides to perform the Rite of Spirit Awakening and then they step sideways to speak to the spirit of the road (specifically, Route 28). He and Åke manage to rouse it from its slumber, and ask it if it remembers anything about the vehicle hauling Noah's body. It gives them a rough sketch of the tire tracks (including tread and spacing, indicating vehicle size, likely a pickup truck) in the dirt. They ask if it can describe anything else about the vehicle, and it just points to the tracks again -- being a spirit of the road, it only really knows what things that touch the road look like. It only really knows that Noah's corpse was hauled away because he'd been dragged across the road's surface as part of being loaded. It also explains that the vehicle in question drove south to the community called Huntersville before it lost it because Route 28 ends where it meets Route 39.[2]

Rebel and Åke get Jerry and Wants-to-Know to meet them in Huntersville so they can comb the place for clues just in case the vehicle stopped there instead of passing through. After what happened before, Åke comes up with a cover story for them that someone wrecked up their yard and they're looking for the guy. They split into two groups (Åke and Wants-to-Know in one, Rebel and Jerry in the other) and take advantage of the winter to boost their chances of finding the truck that hauled Noah. Wants-to-Know and Jerry use a partial transformation to give themselves a wolf's nose and cover it up with scarves (hence the 'winter' thing) to smell for corpses. So each group has one who looks for tires and one who smells for bodies. A couple of hours of combing the area doesn't turn up anything, though they remember there's a taxidermist's shop (which might also have formaldehyde) not too far away.

So they head over there, which is also a gun shop.[3] Wants-to-Know pokes around outside, finds a truck that roughly matches what they're looking for, but can't find any sign of a corpse ever having been in it. Inside, Åke pretends to be a guy from out of town who recently looked back and does some hunting, and starts asking the owner, Rick, about the taxidermy he does. Does he have limits of what he won't do, can he do something the size of a full deer, etc. He also tries to talk guns with the guy, though Åke doesn't know enough about guns to come across as more than someone who just knows guns from TV or movies. The guy's friendly enough, and offers to recommend some hobbyists who might work on commission if Åke needs a full-sized deer done up. But it's pretty clear that the taxidermy thing is a dead end, and we leave off with the pack trying to plan their next move.

[0]-- Or at least what passes for outskirts in a rural area like Marlinton where everything is just clusters of houses and a couple of businesses spread out over the county.

[1]-- If it matters at all, I actually ran this coming scene before running the scene at the funeral home (which runs parallel to the meeting at the junkyard last session and the murder scene investigation), but for the sake of continuity have made the executive decision to weave this all together in roughly chronological order.

[2]-- For the sake of geographical context, Route 28 splits around Huntersville and meets Route 39, which is perpendicular. Taking 39 to the east basically goes into a section of Virginia that's mostly springs and spring accessories resorts. Taking 39 west goes back into Marlinton proper.

[3]-- Just for the record, for verisimilitude I use actual Marlinton-area businesses and information when possible. I could only find one taxidermist's shop in the area (which doesn't have a website or full listing of its own) and multiple websites list the place as a gun shop (or at least that the owner has a gun dealer license). So while I am taking liberties, I'm not trying to play up a particular stereotype. Reality does that enough for me.

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