The Shenandoah Reports

That's What Friends Are For
As they find out more about the situation, the group wants to bail, but loyalty keeps them going

At the mall, the group goes through the song and dance to get Plotius to help, and realize that the obvious solution was right in front of them- the wall itself. Few people know, but the wall is not only an expression of free speech, but it is also a point where the veil between worlds is quite thin after a long time as the focus of much Will in action.

The images drawn every once in a while by local artists? Sometimes, they’re just innocent expressions of unrealized Will. Other times, they’re portals, making use of the massive battery of energy to pierce worlds. It does have it’s dangers, however, and the way that Plotius emphasized this made the group think that this was something they wanted to table for now.

Heading to Kai’s studio, they hoped they’d find something that would at least let them know what they were getting into. Using Alucard’s infrequent help of Kai with classes, they were able to pretty easily get past the manager he’d left- the man had seen them around enough to take them at their word. Pressed a bit more by Kassandra, he admitted that he’d been more than a little concerned as he’d not heard from Kai in a couple of weeks.

They learned little from what he was willing to show them, however, an obstacle that Hugo solved with his growing powers, convincing the manager that he should leave since he’d had such a long, trying day.

Once they were able to get upstairs in the studio, they worked with his computer a bit, but didn’t find anything that was of note, even after finding his password taped under the keyboard. Bad practice- but it almost convinced them that there was nothing to find. Alucard’s new investigational powers and change in focus from just hitting everything came in useful as he was able to locate a second computer- one that they were not able to crack. And indeed, when they tried, the computer erased itself. They knew that it had also sent out a signal, so figured they had little time before there was some sort of response to their snooping. But their investigations had also turned up a hidden safe, and Hugo didn’t think they should leave without trying to get past that, for anything of value would surely be sanitized if someone knew they’d been there but didn’t find them.

There were no magical alarms or other paranormal security precautions- and so it was a simple, more tangible trap that caught them- the simple needle trap. But the poison was of a different payload, and Hugo started to almost immediately feel his mind splintering. His recent work in that arena both helped and hindered him; he was able to self-diagnose what it must have been- one of a class of toxins that Henry had told him about that target the psyche, and he’d actually used to help expand his abilities. But in this uncontrolled environment, and in the dosage taken, he was having a hard time purging it. In the end, he was saved by Alucard’s quick thinking and abilities- Kai wouldn’t leave such a trap around without having some way to neutralize it, and thankfully, Alucard was able to find it.

That done, they found a flash drive in the safe- hardware encrypted. Still not knowing if someone was on the way, they decided to decipher this particular puzzle somewhere else…

The Battle's Done, and We Kinda Won...
Everyone's cheering, so why isn't anyone happy?

A long time coming, the group should feel some measure of success at stopping Harris. But the fact that they couldn’t bring that to a ‘final’ conclusion stuck with them. Especially after losing Nickodemus in the bargain. Though Hugo seemed ok, and assured them that he was, that close call made them realize that they were perhaps underpowered. But, as is usual in such cases, they were victims of their own success. Their ability to identify and take down the threat- even with their lack of wizardly support- convinced Ramirez, and by extension The White Council, that the area was in good hands. And with no Wardens to take up the mantle, they left Hugo as their liason once he contacted Beatty on awakening. Their charter was to assess, investigate, and protect- until they couldn’t. And the White Council would send in help in those cases.

But somehow that wasn’t the vote of confidence it should be.

The White Council was also able to intervene on Alucard’s behalf, and his standing was restored- something that many in the Order were not too keen on. And their star was on the rise. But with only the four of them now, it seemed like a lot to lay on their shoulders. Which begged the question- where was Lumin? Where was Kai?

An e-mail pointed to more serious things, though they knew not how to take it… other than it must be from Snoddy. And he seemed more paranoid than usual. After figuring out his needlessly cryptic message, and jumping through many hoops, they determined that he wanted to meet.

Snoddy? Setting up a meet?

Maybe it wasn’t so needlessly cryptic after all. So they met him on the mall. Well, not him. He was still as paranoid as ever. But someone that gave them a flash drive and a note.

“This is all I can do. Good luck.” – S

The key that they’d deciphered earlier to get the location and time of the meet unlocked the file on the drive- and a whole lot of trouble.

Apparently, Kai had been following his own agenda- one that started with the Warden’s help, to look into his past. Someone showed up that made it not seem even less benign that they had thought- Sir Windsor Beck. Head lawyer for Haring and Drake- the law firm that Blackthorne worked for. Maybe their case wasn’t as closed as it seemed to be. Snoddy had apparently been running support for Kai in some tit-for-tat information gathering for someone in the DC area. Someone that definitely didn’t want to be known, and someone that even Snoddy wasn’t going to look into. Things went bad- real bad. Kai had gone undercover to get the information, and had gotten blown. What they saw on the surveillance footage wasn’t something fit for casual consumption, as the reconnaissance seemed more like a hit, and Kai barely escaped- only to get whisked away by a rift into the NeverNever.

With no magical heavy hitters, this was going to be tricky. How were they even going to get into the NeverNever… let alone deal with anything there.

It seemed it was time to call in one of the few supernatural favors they had, and pay a visit to Plotius at the wall.

Stick a fork in it, Morton
When all choices are bad, what do you do?

As Hugo made an arrangement to meet Drexl and get the money for Trish’s ransom, he received a call from a number he didn’t recognize- for an unlisted number, that was happening more than made him comfortable. Andrew Morton, a representative for Councilman Harris called to congratulate them on their strides to clean up Charlottesville, and arrange a meeting to discuss finishing the job, and a mutually beneficial relationship. It seemed that Councilman Harris didn’t agree with Mac’s latest decisions, the way that business was being handled, and the information that he was seeking. He was also interested in the information that the group had retrieved from the warehouse. Hugo told him in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t deal with anyone other than Harris, and to call back when he could make that possible before hanging up.

About the time that they had retrieved the money from Drexl and had to decide how they were going to handle the situation, Hugo received another call- this time from Raymond Harris himself. He offered to meet them to arrange the transfer of information for Trish- and that Mac would be taken care of also. But in the meantime, Hugo had availed himself of having a direct line to Wizard talent again- and Ramirez was able to tell him from materials that they had retrieved from Drexl that Harris didn’t have her- she was still at Mac’s club. Drexl had also been able to tell them that the club was a fortress, and always open- it was going to be a bloodbath one way or another assaulting it to get Trish, and it was very likely she’d be killed if they didn’t follow Mac’s instructions.

The group had two choices- either trust Mac’s intentions, and that he was very interested in covering his tail by taking Harris out, or trust Harris’ intentions, and that he would be interested in trading honestly for Trish. In either case, one of the bad guys would be left holding the cards. That’s when Soup came up with a third choice- to get enough firepower to back them up, make the trade, and kill Mac in the bargain. An intricate plan unfolded…

Arriving at the club with a briefcase full of cash, the group was let past several layers of normal security- the entrance had a high end security scanner, and while they were scanned, they were in an enclosed space, with guards watching their every move. Though there was magical security- the downside of it being a club was no threshold. So veiled, Soup slipped in beside Hugo, Kassandra, and Alucard. Once in the club, they were escorted through a sea of innocents dancing on the floor to the rear of the club. Alucard saw that the club was laid out specifically to deter anyone that might be trying to get to the back quickly, with dead spots and switchbacks to make it impossible to take a straight path, or even to go if you knew where you were going. But being subject to public codes meant that it had weaknesses related to adhering to fire codes, and they were taking them right to where they needed to be to exploit it. There were still intricacies to work out, but so far things were going according to plan.

As anticipated, they made Alucard wait outside, completely ignoring Kassandra as only eye candy, and completely missing Soup. Near the back of the club, there was a hidden trap door underneath the DJ booth that led down to a hidden lounge underneath the dance floor. The glow from the area underneath blinded them as they descended down the stairs, and as their eyes adjusted, they could see that the area was longer than it was wide, with a bar next to the stairs (with a man making drinks, no less), a sectional that ran along the walls with LCD TV panels embedded above them, and a long, minimal coffee table running the length between. Standing in the space there were two huge guards and Ephraim Law. Mac, Trish, and one other man they didn’t know sat on the couch. Other than Mac, everyone else in the room was tense. But he said relaxed as if he didn’t have a care in the world, watching a game on TV.

As Hugo took the briefcase to lay it out on the table, Kassandra maneuvered to give the unseen Soup space to pass. Then, all hell broke loose. Soup protected Trish, keeping her out of the line of fire as he took the man beside her out as he tried to rise, pulling Trish away from Mac. But Mac wasn’t interested in her, pulling a nickel plated revolver even as Hugo lashed out at Law, having seen him in action and deeming him the greatest threat. He found that the man’s secret was a demon that possessed his body, and as they tangled, Law fled through the Nevernever, but not before taking a shot at Hugo. The bullet seemed on target as it hit him in the head, but did nothing. Mac gaped at the sight, and took a shot with his revolver, also hitting Hugo in the forehead to no effect. In the meantime, Kassandra made short work of the other three, taking them out with precisely placed blows, as Hugo unleashed the power from the shots that he had taken into Mac with spectacular effect.

Up above, Alucard had maneuvered himself to be close to the exit door. It was there as a necessity as a fire exit, but it was sealed against code. But that didn’t last long, as Alucard gathered himself and kicked it open, pulling the non functional door bar off of it and making a bloody mess of the guards around him. The calvary came in the now open door, Warden Ramirez, his junior Warden Bethan, and Kai making short work of the Mac’s security measures in the now panicked crowds.

After the fight in the basement, Hugo fell insensate to the ground. Ramirez took a look at him, but was unable to figure out what might have happened to the man. They took his unconscious form and Trish and beat a hasty retreat before the authorities came on the scene. Before they were back to the Sanctum, Hugo awoke, a bit worse for the wear, but still with no tangible evidence of the trauma he had received. But he was out of it enough that Soup had to field his call from Morton. Morton made threats on Harris’ behalf, but they were half-hearted; Harris had already left Charlottesville, and it appeared that the group had carried the day.

Caritas in Veritate
In which the path to truth is found in a charity

After Soup found the keycard at Drexl Wallace’s estate, the group decided to pay another visit to Harris’ Charity. All roads seemed to lead there, and they were running out of other options to get to the bottom of the crimson snow epidemic. They came up with a plan for Alucard to attempt to take an extra shift at night, then head down into the basement area, and hopefully get through the secured door there with the keycard. Hugo also attempted to make contact with his handler on the White Council, but wasn’t able to secure any help for the mission. He left a message, with a report of what they had found and what they were going to do… but they couldn’t wait for a response.

For once it seemed that things go according to plan. Alucard was easily able to get the night guard to switch with him- his want of an extra shift to get extra money raised no eyebrows. They decided to strike a couple of hours past midnight, and as they put their plan into motion, everything seemed quiet. Nickodemus shorted out the CC TVs, and they made a beeline through the offices to the secured door. Nickodemus took a look at the door again to make sure that nothing had changed, and after they were sure of this, they swiped the card, and were rewarded with a simple click. They opened the door into a sterile light shining on tiled floors and plain walls. Nickodemus probed before them for magic, and came up against a hotspot of magic- some sort of sensor. By interspersing these magical sensors with technological ones, the designers of the area where they were had effectively left the short cuts out of the equation- they could not short out the cameras without setting off the magical sensors. But the cameras covered the area they had to go through. But they had not counted on the combination Hugo and his growing mental abilities, and Soup’s faerie magic. Utilizing the cloak and veil with Nickodemus’ magic, they were able to disable the cameras, one at a time.

Finally coming to the end of the corridor, they breached one final door before coming into an area that was a strange mix of a drug den and a medical facility. Unfortunates drugged out on crimson snow were being bled dry by an elaborate set-up to distill their saturated blood for some purpose. There was also a darkened pit in which they heard growling at the other end of the floor, and guards patrolling the hallways. But the group had the feeling that this was just the tip of the iceberg, kept going, veiled by Soup, to see what else they might find.

Heading up the stairs, they came into a warehouse area, patrolled by even more guards. It was surrounded by a catwalk and office space upstairs. There were several guards patrolling the warehouse floor, but once again they made their way through, veiled by Soup’s magic. As they made their way up the stairs to the office areas, things became a bit more murky- literally. Some sort of darkness that they had a hard time penetrating inexplicably covered the whole office area- walking through it was even a difficult task. They attempted to continue their sneak, but it was quite hard to do so in the dark. So Nickodemus decided to cast a light.

In the office surrounding them were a combination of faerie creatures, apparent vampires, and a mage. Not what you want to run into in the dark. One of the faeries barreled through the thin drywall, cutting off the group’s escape. The vampire wanted to know what they know and how they found out. He let them know that they knew of the group’s coming from the moment they used the keycard, and that he knew it was Mac’s extra card, cursing the man for his carelessness. But for all of that, he seemed pleased at the way that things turned out, and stated that if the group wouldn’t tell them what they needed to know, they could find out from their bound spirits.

Nickodemus decided not to wait on that, and let loose with a powerful spell, hoping to take out of a few of the faeries and neutralize the mage. A beam shot forth from his hands as he channeled it forward, cutting two of the fairies in half with the concentrated light as he drew a line towards the mage. But she was ready for him. As the light outlined her, he could make out everything, from her startlingly green eyes to her skimpy leather outfit and chains and piercings- more befitting some Harajuku Girl than a true mage. But the outfit belied her power as she held forth her hands to catch the channeled energy. The light from the beam began to be snuffed out as the two mages battled for control of powerful magical energies. In the darkening light, the teeth of her master could be seen as he bared his fangs in delight seeing her bearing down on Nickodemus. Strands of darkness invaded even the light on Nickodemus’ end, and he knew that he couldn’t beat her. His choices were few- ground out the energy, in which case everyone would take the brunt of the resulting blast. Or internalize it, and die. But in these two choices, he found a third.

“I curse you…” he whispered. And everything went blindingly bright. There was an explosion centered on Nickodemus, and beams of light streaked out from his person, going not just through the office space, but spearing through the drywall separating the catwalk from the warehouse and caressing the guards. One became transfixed as he ran through the door, instantly turning to ash. But the others were not far behind him, as their inhumanity was burned out of them. In proportion to the portion of their mortality given up to supernatural powers, they were burned from the inside. The vampire lord streaked out of the warehouse, screaming as he ran through the boarded over window into the night.

As the light subsided, and the group could once again see, they saw piles of ashes, and wrecks of humans with half or more of their bodies missing in a macabre display. The mage was strangely untouched… but her eyes stared out into nothing, her mind gone. And of Nickodemus, there was no trace.

They made their way back through the warehouse into the basement. The power of Nickodemus’ death curse had apparently made its way down here also, but was weaker by the time it did. The addicts had the drug burned out of their system, and were in various states of panic. But the calvary had arrived- Ramirez, Warden of the White Council from the West Coast, and one of his subordinates had made short work of the guards that were left. They had also uncovered what was in the pit- transformed vampires that had gone out of their minds. One of these they actually recognized from the pictures in Drexl Wallace’s house- it was his son Colin. They were able to convince the Wardens of the importance of recovering him. Nothing was promised after so long, but they said they would do what they could. And if not, they would put him out of his misery. The mage, they killed. They also searched the grounds, and found definitive information that could possibly, with a lot of work, help to implicate Harris.

Still they had no more information than when they came, though the felt like they had done a great good. But it was still disappointing. That is, until Hugo received a call from Drexl Wallace. Mac had taken Trish, and wanted the group to meet him at his club… to ‘discuss’ the situation, what they had found, and what they planned to do with it… and to bring payoff money from Drexl so that Mac could get out of town.

The Devil You Know
Where the group makes a deal with the a crime kingpin looking to leave his old life behind.

Soup was able to break into Mac’s room on Drexl’s Wallace’s estate and find a keycard- one that he hoped would let them into Harris’ charity.

In the meantime, Hugo and the others were having a conversation with Wallace himself, both to distract him from Soup’s covert operations, and to discern Wallace’s true involvement with the Crimson Snow. Hugo, with subtle cues from Kassandra, was able to reason out that Trish, Wallace’s daughter was the reason that he’d tried to leave the life behind. That, and the death years ago of his son Colin made him see that he needed to make a better environment for her. But his old associates weren’t so willing to let him fade into the background. Mac was for all intents and purposes running the show, which explained his stay in the in-law suite, and the presence of his crew in force in the house. But the detente between them had become strained when this new drug hit the streets and Mac made other alliances that made a lot of scrutiny come down on Mac and his operations- scrutiny that the group had started. As long as they were able to keep Wallace- and by extension Trish- out of any fallout from Mac’s fall, Wallace was willing to give them as much help as he could.

Wallace let them know he couldn’t do anything overt because of the presence of Mac’s men, but told them where his room was (not knowing that Soup had already cleared that area), and where his other hangouts were. He also confirmed that there was a link between Mac and Harris- something that the group had suspicions of, but hadn’t been able to ascertain for truth.

This bit of information, along with the keycard that Soup lifted from Mac’s rooms let them know where they were going next- Harris’ charity to clean up loose ends and hopefully get some solid evidence.

Down on the Upside
Investigating the drug-dealing gangster takes the group in unexpected directions

After piecing together the fact that Ephraim Law had killed their most solid lead, the group decided that they should go after the tenuous link that they had to Law – Drexl Wallace. They decided that they didn’t have enough information on Law or Wallace, and that this investigation should be key. Hugo prepared to do the bulk of the investigation, but was surprised when Alucard weighed in that he would like to help. His brief touch of the investigative arts had seemingly convinced him that the blunt weapon approach wasn’t the only way to solve a problem. Either that, or the fact that investigation could produce more targets than stumbling around blindly. Nickodemus and Soup used the opportunity to prepare magically and procure reagents. Kassandra in the meantime contacted some of their other contacts to help in the research and investigation.

As the group gathered together with the results of the research, they determined some pretty daunting details. This information in hand, they determined that their usual frontal approach wouldn’t work- they needed an in. And Wallace’s dossier provided just that, in the form of Jefferson Green. The group still hadn’t taken him up on his admitted debt to them for saving his life.

They found that Green apparently took his debt seriously, as once Hugo identified himself, they were fast-tracked onto his schedule. He conference called them at the Sanctum, but he was a bit less ready to help when he found out their target. They talked for a while about Wallace, and he did help them a bit- filling them in on the fact that he had indeed been in the right side of the law for a while, and bare circumstances surrounding the death of Wallace’s son and his relationship with his daughter. But Kassandra could tell that he was prevaricating, and was warring with different loyalties- that Wallace wasn’t just a client. But he did agree to set up a meeting with Wallace with some reservations. Hugo promised that they would be on their best behavior.

If not by Kassandra’s intuition, they would have been able to tell that Wallace and Green shared more than a casual relationship by the fact that his call to Green was answered by an invite to a late lunch that very day at Wallace’s estate. Green’s limo picked them up from the Sanctum and they traveled to Wallace’s house. During the drive, they talked a bit more about Wallace, but they were not able to get much more out of Green. Hugo asked specifically about William “Mac” Moore, Wallace’s associate from the dossier. Green definitely did not look thrilled to have that name sprung on him, and was very unwilling to talk about him. Kassandra did get a different feeling from him on this regard- not that he was protecting Wallace, but himself.

They arrived at the estate, and though there was little in the way of security present, they did know from their research that there was some security if they were unaware of the form that it took, so were more happy than ever that they had not taken the violent approach. The house was decorated in a functional manner- not as if someone had put time into decorating. It was nice, but had a feel as if someone had gone into a furniture store and bought the display. Sterile, if a word were to be applied to it. The only exception that they saw in their brief time through the front portion of the house was a veritable shrine that held a picture that they knew was Wallace’s late wife, framed on either side by pictures of his son, Colin, and his daughter, Trish. Though there was nothing out of the ordinary or alarming, Nickodemus felt as if there were a malevolent presence permeating the house, growing stronger toward the rear of the house.

About that time, Drexl Wallace came out to greet them. He was a large man- he looked as if he would be home on a football field, approaching Alucard’s considerable mass. He also filled the room with more than his bulk, but a radiating presence, and a seemingly genuine smile that widened as he saw Green. Greeting his friend, he let the lawyer do the introductions, appraising each of them in turn. He nodded politely at the names, before leading them into a sun room to talk more freely. Soup took advantage of the change in venue to veil himself, and go off towards the area that Nickodemus had mentioned to investigate while the others availed themselves of Wallace’s hospitality. Fresh drinks and light snacks were served as they talked; Wallace gave a much different impression than they had expected, looking at his past a list of criminal endeavors that he was allegedly involved in. As Hugo attempted to talk around the subject, Wallace’s demeanor shifted as he focused more fully on his words. Finally, he held up a hand, and stood abruptly, indicating that he’d like to talk more plainly. He told his lawyer and friend that he might want to excuse himself, and he’d see that his guests were returned to their home. Green was taken aback at first, but then realized why he was being asked to leave- to remove the officer of the court from the room. He left as he was bid, but not before a parting shot admonishing the group to behave.

Green was not the only one to leave the room. Nickodemus had surreptitiously communicated to Soup the feelings that he had received from the atmosphere. So warned, Soup felt around with his lesser magical senses, and was able to pick up on the traces. So, with that, he veiled himself, and set off to investigate.

The house was as he initially sensed it was- sterile, as if something was missing. There were areas where it was not so. A room that had dolls and posters of princesses from classic cartoons and furniture that looked as if it were from a fairy tale- a little girl’s room, though his daughter was in her early twenties. Another that looked a bit more appropriate to his dead son’s age, though it was cold the shadows gave it an ominous cast, though the cleaners apparently kept the room immaculate for it had no dust nor cobwebs anywhere.

But for all the life that those two rooms brought, there were only feelings of darkness as Soup ventured towards the back of the house, and it grew in intensity, leading him to where he needed to go. As he neared the rear, he began to hear talking, interspersed with raucous laughter. Almost in the middle of the malign energy, but apparently unaware (or uncaring) were several rough looking individuals- cleaned up for work in the neighborhood in business attire with coats thrown over the back of a sofa, ties loosened around their necks, and sleeves rolled up. But for all of the expense of dressing them up, whomever made the effort might as well not have bothered, for they would never be mistaken for anything but thugs in suits. They were gathered around an impressively sized LCD that took up most of the wall and a gaming system as the football players ducked and dodged their way across the screen, and they stood between Soup and a door to the rear of the house. Veiled as he was, getting past was tricky but not undoable, and soon he was out of the back door, into a walled-in breezeway leading to what was apparently the in-law suite. Inside the small domicile, he found basically a one bedroom dwelling. Though making his way through carefully, he ran afoul of some magics, and definitely found the source of the dark energy, but in the end found a keycard that tingled with energy as he touched it. Was this the key to getting into the room at Harris’ charity?

Digging in the Dirt
The group tries to get to the bottom of the attacks, and ends up in a seamy part of town

After returning to the Sanctum and comparing notes, the group realizes that everyone was attacked other than Nickodemus, who says only that he was out of contact, so they wouldn’t have been able to find him. Letting the cryptic statement go, Soup realizes that only Kassandra had actual interaction with her attackers and left them alive. Searching her clothes and person, they are able to find fabric which Nickodemus fashions into a tracking ritual. It takes them to a pretty rough part of town; posing as a repairman, Nickodemus is able to find out that the man isn’t there, but he offers to stay, pulling off his hobo con, to see when the man returns. The group agrees, as Soup sees someone that he recognizes- the man that he followed from Tracy’s apartment when they had their encounter with Gersic.(ref: Mind Games)

They were able to keep him from recognizing them- he seemed to be in deep conversation with someone across the street from the apartments. But soon enough he left, and they were able to surreptitiously follow him to Friendship Court apartments. Once there, they are able to see the typical traffic outside of the apartments in a different light: there is a security detail out front, and other security walking the grounds. Alucard took out the one tail they had on them- apparently their arrival hadn’t gone unnoticed- but with the person on them gone, they had a small window in which to operate.

They made their way into the apartments, and Soup led them, veiled, to the apartment that he saw their mark go into. After some rather interesting tactics to get into the apartment and expose security that involved Hugo posing as a Mormon of interest, Hugo talked to the man in charge, D. L. Hawkins. Apparently, D. L. was a semi-reformed criminal mastermind, that used his wit and contacts to help keep the people of Friendship Courts safe from a predator that had been preying on the underclass. The police were either involved, or just didn’t care, so that left it up to D. L. The man that they had been chasing was his messenger, scout, and evangelist, Deveaux. He owed D. L. for help rendered- not in the normal way of owing, but felt and obligation. It was obvious he believed in D. L., and what he was doing. His encounters with the group had indeed been coincidental: he was in the area and noticed them leaving after the fire, and was at the other apartments to talk to a possible convert- someone that had only started down the path. The path to what? Crimson Snow addiction. Apparently anyone that became addicted seemed to disappear. And the one person that they had managed to find had their neck ripped open as if by some animal. D. L. knew who the person was behind Tracy and the distribution. Deveaux had seen Law doing some cleanup- Ephraim Law who was the hand of Drexl Wallace- big time dealer and gangster. Not the right hand, in the silken glove. But the left hand… the mailed fist. As an interested citizen, D. L. knew that the group that moved on Harris before had some sort of conflict with him, and he was more than a little sure that the path would lead from Law, to Wallace, to Harris. Where he couldn’t get involved, maybe they could?

The group left on good terms, and just in time, too. As they were returning to the van, Hugo received a call from Nickodemus- the fake policeman that had assaulted Kassandra was on the move. They gunned the van’s engine (not very fast for a VW, but still), and hoped to get there before Nickodemus got into too much trouble.

When they arrived on the scene, all seemed quiet. Nickodemus approached the van as if he were offering to wash their windshield, and let them know what had transpired. The fake cop came out, and got into his car. Another man walked up, and leaned over, talking to the cop through the driver side window. They talked for a bit, there was a flash, like a cigarette lighter or something. At least, that’s what Nickodemus assumed, as the man was smoking when he backed away from the car, holding up his hands as if to say I’ll leave or something. Then he waved the guy off as if it wasn’t worth it and walked away.

The car was still there, idling, as if the man was waiting for something, so the group decided to move in. When they checked out the car, however, it was apparent what the flash that Nickodemus had seen was. The man had two precision holes, one in his stomach and the other in his head. Kassandra was able to tell that this was indeed the man- and that he was red court infected, which made the fact that the man was able to take him off guard and kill him like that even more impressive. They questioned Nickodemus a bit more about the killer, and were able to piece together a description- though he hadn’t gotten the best look, they were pretty sure it was Ephraim Law.

No Rest in Victory
While the party takes care of business, someone uses the opportunity to strike!

After their experiences in the Nevernever, the group decides to take care of business that had been left undone. Soup needed to refresh his ingredients for his potions, and Hugo had a meeting to finish the business of the late Warden. Alucard had his first day of work at his new job to consider, and Hale wanted to meet with him for lunch. And Kassandra had to meet with the detective on the case of the murders at Monticello a few nights before.

From some of his work for the Warden, Hugo knew that Graeben, an occult supplier out of The Quest Bookstore had semi-regular office hours at the Twisted Branch, and that he could schedule his appointment there so they could ride together and Hugo could make introductions. Nickodemus dropped them off, saying that he had things of his own to take care of, but would be back to pick them up. Everything went well at their respective meetings; Soup was to check back in with Graeben, as some of the things were more esoteric and would require ordering. But he was sure that he could get them at a good price, and so it was that the pair left with upbeat spirits, knowing that they had handled their respective errands. At least they had upbeat spirits until they saw that they were being tailed. As Soup started to turn down Second street, Hugo dragged him onward, noting that there were other people waiting down the street. He wasn’t sure what could be done- Second street was pretty well traveled, but it did have alleyways off of it, and he didn’t want to take the chance, so they went into Urban Outfitters. Apparently, their shadows didn’t know downtown as well as Hugo did, because they were able to go downstairs in the store and out the backdoor, motioning Nickodemus to come towards them. Their trail noticed what they were doing and tried to compensate, but by the time he got there, they were already in the van, leaving the scene.

Alucard’s first day at his new job was pretty much what he expected- boring. He got to know people and routes, and was introduced around, but his job pretty much consisted of being a presence at the door as the clients came in. As the clientele at the charity included people who were really down on their luck, it was just good practice to have security stationed there. Then, every hour he did a walk around inside the premises to check the doors and make sure that the door to the warehouse was closed. There was a sense of deja vu as he remembered having been here before. But other than that, his day was pretty laid back- to the point where he tried to occupy himself by varying his scheduled walks and even counting steps. The lunch with Hale went well also- his mentor had just wanted to congratulate him on getting the artifact, and to let him know that though the directors were a bit perturbed at someone so young being in possession of an actual item of power rather than merely guarding a site, he was, so far, able to convince them of the rightness of the choice. Heading back to the charity, he finished his shift, and things became really quiet as the clients and the workers began to trickle out after 5. It was a lot different at a job that required him to be inside, but he found that after he stopped paying attention to that, the time did fly, and before long, his relief was at the door.

Walking towards his car, he had just enough time to smile at the fact that the day had gone so well when he noticed a shadow behind him in the light from one of the parking lot lamps. He then noticed that it wasn’t likely to be a coincidence- the light over his solitary car was completely black, leaving his car in shadow. Instead of immediately confronting his stalker, he walked towards his car as if oblivious, looking for a weapon. But the only thing he had was his mag light. That turned out to be just enough, as with that, and a little bit of intimidation, he was able to incapacitate 3 of the assailants, and run off the last one.

As soon as Kassandra made it to Monticello, she realized that something was wrong. The guard wasn’t on duty, and the door to the main house was ajar, light spilling from it. She did see the detective, so parked next to him to talk to him, and see what was going on. Her instincts warned her that he was part of the problem, not on her side, so she led him to the door, biding her time to make her move while keeping him unaware and seeing exactly how many people he had after her. They seemed to view her as just as a credible threat, as in the end, there were three others with him. She fought valiantly, killing three of them, but the fourth got the better of her. She had little hope of her fate at his hands, but heard him being called off by a familiar voice. She was warned against continuing her investigation into Harris, and a picture was dropped next to her. She rolled over, and saw who it was, and whom the picture was of, just before the two men walked away.

A Consuming Fire
History reveals itself in stark outline as the story draws to a close

As the wizard took his last breath, a quiet descended upon the hotel. The threatening visage faded from the faces of both spirits, as the soldier’s face returned to more human-like proportions, and the claws at the end of the woman’s fingers faded into blood red fingernails. They turned towards each other, the woman caressing the man’s face with the back of her hand. His shoulders straightened a bit, though it was still apparent that he carried a heavy burden. He turned towards the group, bowing in thanks as the woman motioned towards the half locket Hugo still held in his grasp.

As Alucard neared the room, he felt the lighter growing warmer, to the point of being uncomfortable to the touch. The man recoiled, looking up at Alucard, but as the guardian pulled out the lighter, the woman placed a calming hand on the man’s shoulder, pointing to the lighter. With a word, she gestured towards it, concentrating until it grew hotter in Alucard’s hand. In seconds, it became too hot for him to handle, and burst into flames. As he dropped it, it consumed itself before hitting the ground. The man calmed, but still looked warily at Alucard.

“This is Wade Bannister.” A voice broke the silence, and it took a bit before the group realized that it was the woman speaking. Her voice came from her, but her mouth did not move as she spoke. “And I am Madame Kletoraska. The ‘Furd Hely’”, she paused, correcting herself, “The ‘Fontaine’, was once my hotel- that is, before Ed Lyman and his ‘friends’ burned it to the ground. They were searching for Wade, you see. Though I bore no children, he could not have been more the son to me. And when I found that he and Katherine were in love, I encouraged it. A mother wants to see some light in her child’s life, and he’d had such a time of it.”

“But I should have known that such a beautiful thing was destined to a heartbreak of and ending,” she said, sadly, and a chill wind flowed over the party at her words. “When Wade destroyed those cannons,” she began her voice more ethereal as she gave herself to the flow of her memories, “he gladly gave the credit to Ed, which Lyman took as his due. But it didn’t turn out well for him; others knew that it wasn’t him, and he was swept aside, shamed for attempting to take credit for something that he’d had only a small part in. After drinking heavily, he came to punish Wade, but overheard Katherine warning me about his intentions, and telling me to warn Wade. Katherine, who was his betrothed. Katherine, who was the only thing holding him to any of the good things in life, like morals and decency.”

“Storming the hotel, he drove everyone out- everyone but Katherine and I; he had special plans for us.”

“Tying me up, he set the place on fire and took her. I thought it was the end, but Wade had found out, and rescued me. But Ed was waiting.”

“They beat him so, and called him the foulest names. I didn’t know a man could take such a beating. But he heard Katherine screaming his name, and that drove him to superhuman feats. His flesh hung in strips from his powerful frame, and blood ran from his body like rivers of flame. He fought with seemingly inhuman strength, but even with that fire, what could one man do against so many?”

“In the end, he still struggled towards his love, calling her name. She tried to go to him, but Ed kept her from his side, even at the end. Said he had plans for her.”

Wade had calmed by now, and was kneeling close to the locket that Aiden had dropped.

“That was his half of the locket. Hers should be in her room- this room- somewhere.” He looked from the locket to Madame Kletoraska with hope in his eyes. “Find it, and find her.”

“Put us all to rest,” she implored. “Please.”

It was not too much of a stretch to find the other half of the locket. Alucard found that even with the lighter destroyed, he still retained a little of its power- fading, but enough for this task. Once conjoined with the other half, the scene abruptly switched, and they found themselves in a small rustic house. Coals smouldered in the fireplace, and haunting music echoed through the space, set to a counterpoint of a lone rocker squeaking with the back turned to the fire. As they approached the rocker, they could see set in stark relief in the door past the chair, a bedroom with a lone, four post bed, the diaphonous veil wafting in a wind, the crumpled white bed sheets, illuminated in the light from an unseen window. Misery emanated from that room, perhaps pointed to by the ominous dark stains on the bed linens.

Moving around the chair, they could see a withered and miserable woman huddled in it, her spare frame wasted from starvation as her eyes stared into nothing. Her unkempt hair hung limply framing what looked to have once been a beautiful face, now thin and skeletal. Even as they waved a hand in front of her face, her lax expression changed not a bit. This changed, however, once Alucard brought out the locket and held it in front of her. The chill in the room disappeared as her eyes opened wider. Her lips, forming an ‘o’ of surprise gained color before their eyes, turning a deep, ruby red. And not only her lips, but color returned to her cheeks, and a lushness to her figure. She reached to touch the locket, and as her delicate hands made contact, Alucard no longer felt the locket in his hand. There was a strange sensation as at passed through his flesh, but nothing more than that. She clutched the locket to her like a lifeline, holding it for a long moment, her eyes closed as she was suffused in memory.

Then, suddenly she looked up, scanning the area as if someone called her name. Light shone through the front door, and as they all turned, they could see Madame Kletoraska and Wade standing in the threshold, fully restored. He smiled, and she ran to him with all of the speed she could muster. They embraced for a long moment, then, after looking into each others eyes, turned to leave. But at the end, Wade looked back to Alucard and nodded his thanks. As they disappeared into the light, there was the clinking sound of something hitting the ground.

“They thank you, for though the world could not contain their love, they are hopeful that the afterlife can. And with his happiness, I am also fulfilled, so I thank you, too.” She pointed at Alucard. “You are more than you appear, and more than you allow yourself to be. May you learn that as you learn more about the man whose legacy you hold.”

She gestured to a circular object left by Wade’s passing. “For you,” she said simply, before finally fading away to her final reward.

Campaign Notes: Alucard gains The Unconquered Rage of Chaos, every gains Significant Milestone.

Ghostly Echoes
Unheard voices from Charlottesville's history struggle to be heard

The blue hour- that scant period of twilight that separates the brightness of day and the darkness of night- was upon the group as they visited the construction site. Though it looked peaceful, there was the feeling of sun unseen turmoil in the air. They checked the guard’s shack, and saw that though a bare light burned dimly within, the place hadn’t been touched in a while, as evidenced by a swarm of ants over a moldy unfinished sandwich in the corner. Soup was able to determine looking at the wall that this was indeed the place- the permit was for some retail construction, though it seemed that the project hadn’t reached even the stages to lay the foundation.

There were a few construction vehicles present, though they were old, and many holes in the ground- it was quite similar to the dig on 7th street that they had left the previous night. But there was something more here than met the eye. Newly recovered from his use of The Sight the night before, Nickodemus was in no shape to use it again, and indeed the group didn’t want him to. So he opened himself up to the spirits of the place instead, seeking information from beyond. Something happened in this place- something bad. But he couldn’t make anything else out, other than that the threshold between this place and the Nevernever was very thin here. As if things crossed over regularly. He began to hear the strains of a piano, and the sounds of some party or grand ball- but no one else heard it.

In the meantime, Alucard had been performing a bit of mundane investigation. It was hard with the amount of traffic in the area and with the deepening dusk. But he lit the lighter unconsciously to help him make out the tracks in the dust. As the light from the flame spilled over him, he felt an urge to smoke to clear his mind. Even as he felt the urge, he struck it as odd. He never smoked, and considered it a dirty habit. But the light did help him to see that one set of footprints were heavier than the others- more recent, as in today’s passage. As he neared the end of the trail, he began to hear the same things that Nickodemus had talked about- but not as clearly as the fledgling Wizard.

No one else was able to see what he saw, and indeed, they thought that it was pretty far-fetched with the amount of traffic that he would be able to make such out. But Hugo had a plan to use himself, Nickodemus, and Soup to triangulate the location of the weakest point in the veil, so that Nickodemus could try again from that point to open himself and see what he felt.

It worked better than he could have planned- in the exact location that Alucard had shown them the footprints just ended, the veil had been recently rent to the Nevernever. Standing on that spot, Nickodemus felt as if he was in another world. The sounds and smells were so close that impulsively, Nickodemus channeled into that point as well, rending the veil between this world and the next. With it open, the others decided that they might as well take the plunge, especially now that they heard the sounds coming from the open portal.

On the other side, they found themselves in the foyer of a grand antebellum hotel, with vast stairs stretching before them to a ballroom floor. Immaterial dancers ghosted across the floor, and music and chatter filled the air. No one seemed to be aware that they were there. The locket that Hugo had taken possession of seemed to lead them to a particular room upstairs- but just as they started to make their way there, zombies stepped through the apparitions, dissipating the spirits, moving in time to a counterpoint in the music. The beat seemed to come from the same area that the locket pulled towards, so Hugo and Soup made their way quickly in that direction as Alucard, Kassandra, and Nickodemus endeavored to hold off the zombies.

Alucard made great use of the rotting furniture as a first line of defense, as Kassandra threw any who made it onto the stairs back down into his killing zone. Finally Nickodemus charged the grand chandelier above the ballroom with energy as he pulled it from the ceiling, dropping it on the bulk of the zombies. Quickly, they drew a circle around the struggling zombies, and closed it, watching in relief as they fell to the ground.

In the meantime, Soup and Hugo had come upon an interesting tableau in the upstairs room. They saw the wizard from the night before in mortal struggle with an apparition of a woman. The woman more a harridan attacked the wizard with claw and magic. The wizard seemed to be fighting against himself, even as he fought the woman, and it was unclear who they should help. But one thing that was apparent was that the wizard was struggling to keep the beat going for the remaining zombies. Quickly, Soup and Hugo decided that the wizard was the obvious threat, no matter what was going on, so they had to neutralize the zombies at the least. Hugo struck against the wizard’s mind with his abilities, forcing his hand to fully extend and throw the small drum to Soup, who caught the toy adroitly, continuing without missing a beat. The wizard turned towards them in rage, but it wasn’t just his face they saw- but the face of someone else, just as distorted in rage, but not towards them. The other being brought the wizard’s hand down as he struggled to cast against Hugo and Soup, and made him kneel. Without the distraction of the zombies, the woman’s apparition was able to kill the wizard as he collapsed to the ground. The spirit that had possessed the wizard stood up, and they could see him for the first time. A black man, he was strangely garbed in a Confederate soldier’s jacket, rent by the bite of a whip. Flesh hung off of him in rags that mirrored the jacket he wore, and rivulets of blood ran down his legs, only to disappear before they touched the ground. The pair turned on Soup and Hugo with menace in their glowing eyes, just as Nickodemus, Alucard, and Kassandra arrived on the floor.


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