Campaign of the Month: November 2014

Shadowrun - The Rat's Nest

The Lady in Red and Chrome

[Recording Session, Session ID SEA#0007]

The camera activates in a large room, dimly light by weak orange light bouncing off walls painted in sickly green and tasteless beige, slow bluegrass music is playing in the background of the bar. The air is heavy with smoke and humid with the spectre of sweat. Even the volatile vapors of booze don’t seem enough to kindle the damp and empty hearts coming to this place, as few as they may be.
“Glad you could stop by, Doc.”, Frettchen says slowly, her voice raspy and ravaged from the grey bite of nicotine and burned tobacco. “Say, won’t you lend your lungs to me?”
The virtual doctor looks puzzled, but regains his posture after a few seconds. “Greetings, Miss Aidee… What… What can I do for you today?And why are you wearing a suit?”
“Just call me Valerie, Doc. No need for formalities today…”, she says, killing the cigarette, lighting another in fluent movement of her hands, letting go of the tumbler of bourbon for a second. “There’s this case I’m working on, and I need an expert opinion. An opinion on a sharp lady, dressed in chrome and red.”
“Case… Valerie.”, the projection repeats with a slow nod. “Are you intoxicated?”
“You ask the wrong questions, doctor.” she mutters and then, leaning in closer, adds “For fuck’s sake Doc, don’t be such a bore, just play along! I had a great day posing as a police officer and I’d like a nice conclusion, so…”
“Excuse me, you did what?!”, he seems startled. “You do not need a psychiatrist, I am afraid you need a priest!”
Frettchen sighs. “You’d rather have me talk about those two junkies and how I beat the shit out of them and cut their arms off or what?”, she sincerely protests, crossing her arms.
He gives her a long, silent stare, then points at the bottle of bourbon, resting on the table. “I’ll have one of those, ‘Detective’.
“That’s my boy.” A few quick comlink commands later he has a virtual version of bourbon and promptly takes a sip.
“I… Look, Val. The cases you take? That’s above my paygrade. You remember this time, when you got out the jumper cables to get your answers? That is not my world. I have a family to take care of!”
The elf flashes a quick, delighted smile. “Wow, you’re fucking amazing, man!”, then slips back into role.
“Nothing of that sort. I’ll only take your time and opinion, then you can crawl back to your domestic life and enjoy your feast of grass with the other sheeple.”, she jabs at him amicably as his forehead curls in worryful frown.
“Can it, Detective Federal Slave. You’re just lucky your superiors gave you a longer leash than mine. That aside, tell me about her. Is she a client, or a suspect?”
“Aren’t we all a bit of both?”, the elf asks through the curtain of smoke woven by her own breath. “She has a real vengeance problem. Is haunted by old grudges. Killed or scarred most of her former husbands over the last 20 odd years. She’s a sly one, no one ever got anything on her. I need a profile. Something to work with. You are the only guy I know with enough brains to figure that shit out.”
The shrink’s hands make nervous steps along his glass before he picks it up and buys time by savoring digital flavor. “Do you have any lead why she does what she does?”, he asks. “Psychopathic tendencies are rarely default.”
“My partner and I did some digging, but most things we found are unreliable or vague. Her behavior seems often the result of general malevolence, a fear of being left alone, replaced or simply boredom. Surprisingly human notions, for someone like her.”
“Are you sure we’re talking about your client here, Val?”
Frettchen lets out a short laugh, more of a snort and lights another cigarette, after the last took a dive head first into the ashtray. “Don’t sass me, Doc. Just help me out on this one.”
“My advice would be, stay away from her. People like that are hard to read, and even harder to treat. If you must, make a slow and cautious approach, do not dig in too old graves or you’ll end up in a rather fresh one, Detective.”, the doctor suggests, driving the ghosts of the pasts away from his face with a gulp of the cheap but efficient booze in front of him.
“So, how’s the husband?”, he changes the subject and Frettchen gives him a content smirk.
“He still puts up with me and all my bullshit. So yeah, things are fine. Never regretted marrying him, never will.”
The wailing guitar at the bar’s small stage grows silent, as a new song is about to begin, though the hunched alcoholics in this place don’t pay much attention to the tunes creeping through these walls.
The elf kills the last smoke and her face lightens up in a flash of genuine joy, before she’s rocked by ample wet coughing.
“Ugh, Jesus Fucking Christ, these things are horrible… I had to smoke half a pack to fuck up my voice like that…”
She tries to soothe her sore throat with the rest of the cheap booze in her tumbler and her grimace becomes a silent, but convincing witness to the quality of that idea.
“Anyway, thanks Doc, that was fun!”
“I am glad to deliver, Miss Aidee, basic role play is part of my service.”, he responds kindly and a bit proud of himself. “Do you want to conclude this session?”
“Yeah, I really need some mouth bleach and a steak sandwich. Gotta catch some sleep, too, morning shift and stuff. See ya later, Doc!”

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Unexpected Things
Slicer's Log

Slicer‘s busy hacking away at a huge patch of brambles that are threatening to overgrow the side of a small house, standing on a clearing in the woods. In the background is a small barn, it’s red paint still fairly bright against the dark trees.

When Toy told me a while ago that a crazy green-haired elf had messed with her and Zach, I told myself not to get my hopes up. One, there must be more than one green-haired elf in the world and two, even if it was Frettchen, I couldn’t call the Blood Rumblers and ask for her phone number or shit. I did make some drives through Blood Rumblers turf, though, hoping for a chance meeting. There were one or two meetings, but not with Frettchen and I didn’t stay around and ask them.

Yeah, shouldn’t have bothered. Frettchen thought it would be a good idea to ask for a job at the clinic, I was on duty there and yeah. Fuck, this is so cheesy. If anyone did this in a SIM flick, people would laugh. Reunited by chance after seventeen years, cue romantic music. Jeez. We’re not so good at the whole romantic stuff, but we picked up right where we left off. I get a kick out of telling people that, yes, that is my wife. Everyone looks so shocked, it’s awesome.

Speaking of shocked. I stumbled over this abandoned house years ago. Sometimes I come here when the Nest gets on my nerves and I need a few days of quiet. It’s not much, but no one has ever bothered me here. And yeah, it reminded me of the farm we stayed at, back in Florida. I asked Frettchen to move in here with me and for once, she had nothing snarky to say. Actually, it took her a couple of seconds to think of anything to say and man, that was a fucking long wait. I was pretty sure I had made a damn fool of myself, but when she said yes…no drug has ever given me a high like that.

Frettchen had a run-in with a cyber troll, someone who fucked with her by hacking into everything electronic she wanted to use. Suddenly her microwave wanted to kill her, snack machines shot soda cans at her, traffic lights switched to green when she was in the middle of the street, that kind of stuff, ranging from annoying to deadly. She thought it was Zach, after all she had almost killed him, and fucked up his container, but Zach had nothing to do with it. It took a bit to figure out, but Christine, that Ford America Zach drives, is alive in some kind of way and she was pissed that Frettchen has driven a bike through her windshield.

Anyone sane would have tried to wreck that car. Frettchen asked her to come live with her because: car who wants to kill her = fun. I gotta admit, that worked out okay for now. But that car is fucking creepy. She has some serious issues with jealousy. We did some digging in her past and looks like she killed a lot of her former owners, probably when they were thinking about getting her replaced. It’s like living with a tiger or whatever, something that’s dangerous and not really tame. Shouldn’t have been surprised that Frettchen loves that car.

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She Followed Me Home

[Recording Session, Session ID SEA#0006]

The camera flickers to life and presents a close shot of an Elf’s face exploding with joy.
“Heeey, Doc.”, Frettchen greets the virtual psychiatrist’s projection as she giddily sits on top of a muscle car’s hood. The vehicle radiates with a raw, menacing presence, depsite the fact it’s just a huge red Ford, parked at the seaside. “I’ve got good news, even better news and great news!”
“Good evening. Well… I suppose start with the good news, then, miss Aidee?”
“Alright…”, she says, unable to wipe the grin off her face. “Solved the cybertrolling, so you and all other utilities are in relative safety now. Went to that annoying little shit’s crib and trashed it good. Thought he wanted revenge, ‘cause I stabbed him once or twice…”
“Excuse me, did you just say you stabbed someone?!”, the doctor asks, far less shocked than you would expect.
“Yeah… let’s not dwell on that! I had a talk with that funny little agent of his, and it claimed he’s innocent, so I had this hunch, kinda sorta.”
She pats the car with affection usually reserved for beloved pets. “This one here? I think she’s alive! Aliiiive!”, she almost whispers. “And in a constant state of psychotic urge for action, carnage and vengeance! And she wanted to come back at me for planting a Harley right into her face… Windshield, whatever! Isn’t that awesome?! And now we’re friends!”
The doctor passes on the digital high five and rests his forehand in the palm of his hand instead.
“Miss Aidee, while a remarkable old-timer, it seems to be a perfectly normal Ford Americar. Your… tendency of personifying objects, while a good, stabilizing approach to improve your mental health, begins to worry me…”
“Psh, right, says the personified object…”, Frettchen protests.
“Anyway…”, the software continues, “I must also confess… I’m not trained to be a diary for your accumulative record of crimes. I have little counsel to offer on these matters.”
“Duly noted, Doc. Point is, this roaring beast of a car followed me home, and I’m gonna keep her! Gotta ditch the Honda, I think…”
The doctor clears his throat. “That seems, all things considered, reasonable. Is there anything else you want to talk about?”
His question was sprinkled with hope for a ‘Yes’ and also a silent plea that he didn’t just jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
“Yeah, let’s move on…. I got a new job at the local clinic. I’m a medic again! Off the streets, though. Boss said they don’t have a proper ambulance and I’d be needed most where the butchering happens anyway.”
She sighs contently and lets her cybernetic legs dangle in front of the radiator grill, as if tempting a sleeping beast. “He’s an okay dude, I guess. Bit of stick in the mud when it comes to clinic rules, but it’s all fair enough.”
“So you did enjoy being back in the saddle, so to speak? It could be an important step to come to terms with your past.”
“Eh, Doc, my past… It’s a wave of shit I enjoy riding on. Just have to be careful I don’t fall off the board, you know? But yeah… It’s nice. Yelling at patients, doin’ some stitching and annihilating coffee with the other burnouts. Good counterweight, I guess..
The grin sneaks back into her face as she goes on. “And you know what’s the best part of aaall this?!”
“Please do enlighten me, Miss Aidee.”
“I got my husband back!”
Both of them have to let that sink in for a few seconds.
“Yeah, that’s right, against the odds and with the best french greeting we could pull off we reunited after 17 fucking years. He’s a sheriff here of some sort. It’s weird to see how old he got, but he’s still a well oiled, thoroughly maintained high performance machine, if you get my gist.”
Her thoughts drift off for a few moments as her grin grows even wider and she lets out a dirty laugh.
“Jesus, it’s so good to have him back… And you should see the look on people’s faces when they hear we’re married… Oh wait, you can!”, she says gleefully and shows footage of the doctor’s face, frozen in utter disbelief during the last session.
“I am… Glad that you reclaimed some happiness. You should keep this man close, he seems genuinely good for you. Is there anything else on your mind?”
“Nah, I think that’s it. I want to take my new monster for a ride. Kinda feel in the mood for a BBQ , too…”

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Cleansing

[Start Audio]
….
[no time stamp]

This is hard to put in words.
Spirits, so much has happened… Metaquests are nothing for light hearts, that much I can tell you.
But let’s do this from the start. One of the very important points on my long to-do list was to clean the old fertilizer plant. I owed it to Glitzy, the little earth spirits, myself…
And by ‘clean’ I mean really clean. Letting the astral space recover, heal spiritual wounds and all that. The Draco Foundation happily threw a dead president’s money at me for doing something good, so the hardware for the job wasn’t a problem.
The mechanical part went as well as expected, but there were two angry toxics who didn’t appreciate our efforts.
Sometimes… Well, sometimes, I think too simple. I was expecting trouble, sure, but when I started this, a dirty camping trip with my friends, some bonding and beating up evil spirits was kinda what I had in mind.
Instead, we had to literally kick ass and take names.
True names are a powerful thing. We found the home plane of Ytong and his big sister and Chris helped us getting there to either turn them, or end them. Well, the plan was to do a practice run on Ytong, mainly because he didn’t seem too far gone.
Pro tip: do a spellcheck when recovering a true name, ‘cause ours wasn’t Ytong’s but that of his older sibling, so we basically showed up on a Vespa to a monster truck race.
I’m tough to break. In body as well as in mind, but I have to give that fairy tale world we got thrown into a lot of credit for trying.
Couldn’t use my powers, had no real plan, and everything, cutesy as it was in appearance, was trying to kill us.
It’s kinda humbling and an enlightening perspective to walk the boots of, well, normal, non-magical, people, using your brain and what limited advantages you have. Guess that’s part of the experience-package when you’re on a metaquest.
We did good. Together and each in our own, might wanna call it unique, way.
Everyone pulled their weight and when one of us stumbled, the others picked them right up.
You’re probably waiting for me to spill the darker stuff. Gimme a few minutes, okay?
I need a drink.

[End Audio]

[Start Audio]
….
[no time stamp]

Alright.
I wouldn’t really call myself an optimist. More like, confident or stoically positive and/or determined..
But at times it’s hard to convince my people that we aren’t going to die, or fail. ‘specially when Zach has another episode, not to mention Nebraska’s “let’s do shit!” attitude that would easily legitimate a redefinition of the phrase “blind actionism”.
Stan and Jet usually just need a little nudge in the right direction to roll with whatever we come up with.
But it’s tough work anyway.
I really wasn’t at my A-game on this one. I tried to keep it together but I’d lie if I said my head was clear. And with my powers stripped I was probably overly cautious and bent on survival.
So here’s a quick summary of the less horrifying shit that went down:
Nebraska almost got lost in the metaplanes when fairies tried to kidnap her. Also, her face almost got eaten by a giant frog mutant. Straight up cut that fucker’s head off.
I faced my worst childhood nightmare, we got strongarmed by a witch (more than once, but I’ll get to that later), got sliced and stabbed by metal bird feathers, I almost choked on a spoon, on purpose, killed myself twice, also on purpose and duked it out with a Cat 8 toxic. There was also this thing when I ate magical apples that let you see the past and future, for a price of course.
Not exactly business as usual, but something I can roll with.
No, the real pain started when I found Rook in one of the many layers of this metaplanar clusterfuck. Maybe she was just a figment of my imagination, or a trick by that other Crow to get me, but having my partner back only to lose her again… It’s like waking up from a vivid dream… This primal, desperate anger when you realize that whatever you had a few seconds ago…well, you never had it to begin with.
We made it, though. Well, obviously.
My people showed what they’re made of, when push came to shove. They cleansed the spirit’s lair and made her vulnerable by being the conduit for some kinda artifact. It drained them, but it also send them home, with some scars, but alive.
And I got to punch a toxic spirit out of existence after giving another one a shot at redemption.
But you know what they say… claiming your victories is just a clever way of forgetting your failures.
And that’s where the true pain continues…
Back on our plane, the first thing, after making sure my crew was okay, was to break it to my girl that for the apples we needed to turn Ytong, I had to play one night of spiritual callboy for Baba Yaga. You know, that witch.
Believe me when I say there are far worse ways to pay a powerful being like her. She even had the decency to shapeshift into a younger, far less creepy version of herself, so, yeah, it wasn’t horrible at all. Also, knowing Kiki’s tradition, I figured it wasn’t something that would strain what we have too much.
Fuck, was I wrong. It hit her hard. Way too hard for something like this.
I mean, I do ridiculously dangerous shit all the time, get stabbed and shot on a regular basis and generally live a life that’d make insurance agents pop an artery if they ever found out.
We patched things up, but the dents and cracks are there.
To add injury to…injury I guess… I got the bill from Baba Yaga for one of those apples I ate by accident. Yeah, just work with me here, okay?
I got cursed with aggressive and negatively charged psychometry or something, or frankly: I relived the really, really bad things peopled experienced simply by touching them.
As an empathic healer, I’m used to that kinda backlash, but Spirits, this was tough stuff. Don’t think I would’ve last a week like that.
So the next hook right into the guts for her was that we wouldn’t be able to even touch each other.
Lotta tears and screaming and despair.
I can relate, but that’s not how I roll.
Get up, dust yourself off, come up with something. There simply is no quit in people like us, as my Dad always said.
Didn’t want to leave everything behind or throw myself into a null-zone, so I used my Crow-nections to meet up with Baba Yaga, trying to soften up this tally a bit.
As the trainee of one of the best diplomats, – by which I mean con-artist – I’ve ever met, I know when I walk into a no-win situation. I was in for a full-force kick to the balls. All I could hope for was that I at least get a cup.
That actually worked. Now I owe seven services to her. She can call them in at any time.
Don’t worry, got some failsafes written into this contract. Can’t hurt my family in any way, won’t straight up murder people… stuff like that.
Isn’t the worst gig, though everybody who knows this seems pretty worried.
But… you know.. Get enough things breathing down your neck and you become kinda numb to those kinds of concerns.

[End Audio]

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Buy now, pay forever
Neil's Journals

I’m tempted to name the new wing of the clinic after Fog. He’s not a regular patient himself, his adept powers see to that, but people in his company end up with us very often. Fog runs into danger in the knowledge or hope that he can handle anything life throws at him and most times, he’s been right. The thing is, people follow him. He inspires loyalty and even though (or maybe because) he doesn’t realize it, he’s a natural born leader. And most people are far less equipped to deal with the stuff Fog takes on. So they get hurt. But they still follow him next time because they see Fog going all in for them and doing his best to protect them. And Fog’s best is usually very good indeed.

This time, Fog’s project was to clean up the fertilizer plant where John lives. He got some money from the Draco Foundation for this and it would have been hard work, but nothing out of the ordinary. Except for the two toxic spirits. So they decided to go on a metaquest and either kill the smaller of the two spirits or turn him. They had his spirit formula or so they thought and would deal with the more powerful spirit later.

Turn out that the spirit formula was for the powerful one. I’m not sure what exactly happened, but in the end they did turn the weaker spirit and killed the powerful one, but not without paying a price. Magic is never for free. Nebraska is at the clinic right now, she suffered a SURGE effect and has patches of snake skin all over her body. As far as I can tell, it’s harmless, but I doubt the reaction of other people will be. She’s taken it pretty well, Nebraska has a talent for bouncing back even from the worst things.

Stanley suffers from a compulsion to wash his hands. Not exactly a problem at work, but when you live on a garbage dump, it’s hard to feel clean at the best of times. Zach has a phobia to water. Showering or even drinking is almost impossible. He solved the drinking problem by using a straw. It hasn’t rain so far, but in Seattle, that’s only a question of time. Jet seems to have some kind of allergy, but we haven’t yet pinned down what causes it.

Fog came out of all this clean. It might be that the price he’s paying is that the others pay for him. He also made a deal with a spirit on the meta plane, who took the form of Baba Yaga. Even if you don’t believe that she is Baba Yaga, the form she chose should make you wary. Fog angered her and a day or so after they all came back from the quest, she cursed him with uncontrollable psychometry – as soon as he touched anyone, he got flashbacks to all the bad things that happened to those people. Not a good thing to have even at the best of times and worse when you are planning on sneaking into Glow City to free your partner. Especially when the plan might involve a lot of hand to hand combat. He made another deal with Baba Yaga and now he owes her seven services. At least he got her to agree to certain terms that should prevent the worst, but, well, deals with spirits are always something to be nervous about. Especially with a spirit you know nothing about except that she’s very powerful.

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Illusions
Rook's Log

I dreamt about Fog. The dream felt so real that, waking up, I was for a moment confused why he wasn’t here. I cannot shake him, however much I want to.

I had almost managed to forget him because hoping that he’d come for me was poison. Then he pops up a couple of weeks ago and leaves me with his voice, telling me that he’s got me. That he won’t leave me behind.

Well.
I’m still here.

I’m not falling for this partner-bullshit anymore. I don’t know why I ever believed it. It’s a comfortable lie, I guess. But when it really counts, I’m on my own. Fog just hasn’t figured it out yet, but he will, sooner or later. He’s always been good at surviving and relying on others is not how you do it. I know that now.

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Water, Water Everywhere
a view from a scrying glass

the bowl has misted over again and the hands give it an angry shake, with some mumbled curses in Russian

The group wakes up in a cave, covered in black, oily slime. Next to them are two more persons in the grip of the dream eaters they encountered before. The rest of the cave is covered in slime, animal and human bones, trash, some old wooden chests and stinking mud. There seems to be no way out except for murky water at one end of the cave. For some reason, Rook is still with them.

The first oder of business is killing the dreameaters. It turns out that they don’t deal well with decapitation. The two men they had captured don’t wake up, though, and one of them simply disappears. Zach rifles through the trash and the chests and finds a cornucopia covered in green slime. He instantly feels sick when he touches it, but the light in the cave gets a tiny bit brighter and there’s a breath of fresh air. Everyone but Fog who touches the horn has that sick feeling.

He decides to clean the horn in the water and the water gets a bit cleaner around it, too, but he gets a nosebleed. Also, it seem sthat the cornucopia can swallow enormous amounts of water. When he takes it out of the water again, it’s empty and they find that someone mad enough to do it, like Nebraska, can stick their arm right inside up to the shoulder.

They decide to try and touch the toxic spirit with the cornucopia since it seems to clean up the cave. Right on cue, the spirit appears and while Zach plunges the horn into the water, it attacks Fog with a wave and tries to drown him. Zach disappears suddenly and the horn falls into the water, but Nebraska dives after it and catches it before it’s gone, gets caught herself by Fog, who gets pulled above water by Rook. She tells him to let go, to get the cornucopia and run. Stanley grabs the horn just in time before Nebraska disappears, too and hands it to Fog. All the time, the spirit does its best to drown them or get them to let go of the horn. And all the time, the cave looks brighter and cleaner.

For a minute, Fog follows Rooks advice and gets away from the spirit. But he gives the horn back to Stanley and then to Jet who both rapidly collapse and disappear. By now, the cave and the water are clean and the spirit is only a shadow of its former self. Fog is now all alone, Rook is gone too. He takes the cornucopia, runs up to the spirit and starts bashing it over the head. The fight doesn’t last long before the spirit dissolves into a puddle of water. Fog has a moment to breathe and to wonder how he will get back, before he too disappears.

the hand touches the surface of the water in the bowl and destroys the image of the empty cave

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Breakout
a view from a scrying glass

Fog wakes up again strapped to the bed, in a lot of pain and heavily drugged. He loses track of time, but when he’s fully awake for the next time, his ribs hurt much less, so he probably was kept unconscious for quite some time. This time, he’s in a wheelchair and again strapped down,Dr Munroe does not want to risk another escape. The good doctor tells him as much and shows him what happened according to the CCTV cameras: Fog escapes from his room and everything happens like he remembers it, but he never reaches the roof. Instead four attendants tackle him and only stop punching and kicking when he’s unconscious.

Rook is brought in and she’s livid that Fog again involved her. She was this close to getting out of the hospital but that’s now off the table. Fog tries to tell her that everything they imagined is real and that he won’t leave her. All this does is make Rook snap, she jumps Fog. The attendants grab her and she gets a beating much harder that necessary to be to subdue her. After Rook’s been taken away, Dr Munroe warns Fog that everything he does will have consequences for Rook.

The others drive in the rough direction the spell is telling Zach to go and after some time, enter a huge forest that is not normally there. The road takes them to an enormous hospital that none of them have ever seen. They ask for Fog and between them, they can come up with his first name, a description and the first letter of his last name. That’s enough to get them an appointment with Dr Munroe, after two hours of waiting. He tells them that Fog has been at the hospital for the last six year and that he won’t get out in the foreseeable future. They try to tell a convincing lie that would allow them to at least see Fog, but fail miserably.

Zach asks if they can write a Get Well-card and Dr Munroe agrees to deliver it, if Fog’s condition allows it. So Zach goes off to the gift shop and choses a card and a candy bar. Since an attendant is following him around to make sure he doesn’t get lost, he ducks into the restroom to cast an illusion spell on the file that he saw on Dr Munroe’s desk. The first spell fizzes out, the next one works, just not like he wanted it to. The file turns into a pumpkin with an audible pop

This at least does something to lighten the tense mood in the doctor’s office – Stanley had tried to pull his narcoject pistol on Dr Munroe, who spotted the movement and has his finger on the alarm button under his desk. No-one acknowledges that they are at a standoff and the tone stays civil, if a bit frosty. The arrival of the pumpkin is a welcome distraction. Jet picks it up and Dr Munroe is confused enough to take his hand off the button. Both Nebraska and Stanley take the chance to jump him. After a short scuffle, they overpower him and take him hostage. He agrees, after a reluctant pistol whipping by Stanley, to take them to Fog. The attendants who’ve been alerted keep their distance at Dr Munroe’s orders to solve this as peacefully as possible.

Fog, meanwhile, has a chat with Crow. His mentor spirit warns him about Rook, he says it’s not exactly a good idea to get her involved. He also helps Fog to free himself, but will not or cannot open the door. A commotion outside gets Fog’s attention and he spots Zach walking towards Dr Munroe’s office. Zach also spots Fog, but doesn’t want to give it away to the attendant still following him around. The others arrive and get Fog out of the room. The first thing he does is punch Dr Munroe as hard as he can, breaking his nose and almost knocking the man out. The others, especially Jet, are pretty uncomfortable with that and with taking the doctor hostage in general, after all he looks and sounds perfectly like Neil. They recognize that he’s their ticket out of here, though.

Despite Crow’s warning, Fog makes a short detour to get Rook. She’s pissed and it takes some convincing, but in the end she comes along. It’s her best shot at getting out of the hospital, she knows that. They make it out of the building without further problems, apparently no-one wants to risk the life of their boss. Before they get into the car, Rook turns round and with a few well-aimed punches and kicks she takes Dr Munroe down. He may or may not be dead, at least he doesn’t move and no-one takes the time to check.

About half-way through the forest, thick fog starts to fill the car. They stop, but cannot open door or windows and the fog rises quickly until they are swallowed by it.

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Cuckoo's Nest
a view from a scrying glass

the hand shakes the bowl that has filled with white fog and after a bit, the water turns clear again and shows pictures

The group wakes up at Christopher‘s lodge, but Fog is missing. Christopher is badly hurt, he tells them that Fog attacked him and has run off. Zach tracks Fog’s commlink, he seems to be on his way to the chemical plant. Christopher has already called for an ambulance and Stanley patches him up, after that they leave to look for Fog.

Fog wakes up strapped to a hospital bed. He gets takes to see his phychiatrist, Dr Munroe, who explains that he has been at the hospital for the past six years, suffering from delusions. Apparently he had a setback and again believes that he’s an adept and a scavenger in Glow City, a believe they had worked hard to get rid of. Fog plays along, especially after Dr Munroe tells him that Rook is also a patient an the hospital. The way he tells it, Fog has involved her in his delusions, but she is now cured.

The attendants take Fog back to his room. Since he learned that escape from such an illusion is possibly by dying when the dream eaters caught them earlier, he looks for a good way to die, but first he wants to see Rook. The room is not helpful, but when he gets dinner, Fog simply swallows his spoon. The attendants, according to plan, come in to help him and after a brawl he can make it out of the door. The doors are locked, but hitting the fire alarm helps with that. He makes a run for the common room and gets tackled by several attendants. It’s a close call, but he makes it and gets to Rook.

She isn’t exactly pleased to see him and only asks why he always gets himself into so much trouble. Since it’s clear that she’s not coming, Fog makes his way up on the roof. He hesitates before jumping, but he has no way of telling if this is really an illusion. He takes the chance and has just enough time to regret it before he hits the ground and dies.

Zach has come up with a plan: he is going to use one of the spells he gleaned from Baba Yaga’s spellbooks to locate Fog. Actually he is going borrow Fog’s eyes and then he’s going to track the first unusual or unique thing he seems. They have also figured out that they are in an illusion because Redmond is totally empty of people. Also, they cannot read anything. So they drive to Kiki’s and Zach works his magic. He seems only a white ceiling, but someone with a watch reaches across Fog field of vision to fiddle with the IV and Zach decides to track the watch. He also prepare two more of each spell. The spell tells him the rough direction and they drive off, towards Snohomish.

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Grendel
a view from a scrying glass

The group makes their way down towards the shore and enter a small copse of trees. One after the other, they simply sit down and close their eyes, seem to fall asleep. From the treetops, freakishly slender creatures with oily black skin climb down and begin to cover them with cobwebs. After a while, Stanley wakes up, then Nebraska, Jet and then Fog, all fairly distressed and even more when they discover that they have been put in a cocoon. At least they woke up soon enough that the threads are easily broken. The creatures have hidden again, just out of sight. Zach is still asleep and Fog uses Jet’s pocket dragon to get the cobwebs off of him. Zach wakes up screaming and Nebraska, who has been barely keeping it together, runs off deeper into the woods. They catch up with her on a clearing and for the first time, they spot the creatures, hiding behind the trees. Fog makes it clear that the creatures are to leave them alone, on pain of pain and they seem to understand. At least, they let the group go.

They have come up with a plan: Fog will try to talk to Ytong. He thinks that the spirit might be able to find his way back, since he wasn’t born a toxic spirit. To make it extra convincing, they need another one of Baba Yaga’s apples. So they use the mirror to call on her, a call she answers using a bowl filled with water. It takes some negotiations but in the end Baba Yaga agrees to give them an apple and even bring it round in exchange for some of Stanley’s future memories. He allows her to chose whatever she likes, as long as it is not more than one day and one night. As insurance in case they all die, she takes some memories from them all and promises that they will get them back if they should survive the quest. Zach loses the memory of his sister, Nebraska of Eric, Stanley of his best friend and Fog of Kiki.

At the village with the longhouse, they meet a couple of people who are only too glad to tell them about their woes. A monster comes every night and kills anyone unwise enough to leave the house. The group promises to help, after all this is what they came for and the people of the village agree, although they do ask if they are sure.

At dusk, everyone goes inside and the group is left alone to wait. Fog gives the apple to Nebraska and asks her to make sure that Ytong eats it. Zach goes into hysterics because he does not want to put his life into Nebraska’s hands, but there’s no going back. An awful stench announces Ytong’s arrival. Fog actually gets him to listen and Nebraska actually throws the apple right into his mouth. For a moment, he dissolves into sludge, deluging the group. When he takes shape again, he seems if not convinced, then at least willing to give them a chance. He asks what they are going to do about ‘her’, pointing at the spirit formula Fog holds. The group has a ‘oh crap’-moment and Ytong vanishes, he is not going to get into this fight for them.

A thick, white fog rises from the lake quickly coming up to their knees. They climb on top of the longhouse, which now looks as if it has been abandoned for decades, in fact the whole village looks like that. There is no way out for them and all they can do is wait for the fog to rise until it swallows them.

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