Sunday, March 15, 2020

Hootennany

It all started on April 30th, 2021 - Hootenanny, and days away from the end of the semester. The skits and silliness of Hootenanny seemed a little dark this year; the theme was ghost hunters, and was a little on the nose at times. The study group was lampooned at least once, as were the Men in Black, and more than one of the previous adventures. Even the host of Lurk Until Dawn was there as a guest. After Hootenanny, the crew headed for a well-earned rest, feeling collectively bone-tired. Between fighting monsters and studying for finals, it's time for a good weekend snooze.

Early the next morning, however, it was immediately obvious that a good rest wasn't in the cards. Sirens filled the break of dawn. As the students awoke, they found hallways empty, and rooms ransacked... and occasionally, splashed with blood. The power was out; only the sound of distant screams can be heard. Checking their cell phones, a number of the group realized the date was a bit off. It was more than a year in the future, the day after  their own graduation, Sunday, May 8th, 2022.

James grabbed his tools; Will grabbed his weapons. Priya headed for her truck, but managed to attract the attention of a gremlin, which she dispatched easily. She picked up Will and James, and hearing the sound of gunfire on the other side of campus, let Will (a better driver) take the wheel.

Meanwhile, across campus, Alistair found his car totaled, though was able to pull out his weapons and equipment. He bolted for where he hired the others would be, only to be stopped by a huge, winged demon! As the demon swung its mighty blade at him, he dodged and tumbled, staying mostly unharmed until Will executed a beautiful tail-slide and, using the tail end of the truck, bashed the demon into a wall some 30 feet away.

It was only then that Will noticed the limp form in the bushes - Michelle, his girlfriend, dead.

James grabbed the massive demon blade, then quickly jumped back into the truck as more demons jumped the fence and headed towards them. Picking up Will's car, they headed away from campus, picking off demons, gremlins, and imps as they got in the way. The demons chanted, faint on the wind: "Convergence! Convergence!"

Outside campus, the streets were littered with the dead, the demons, and the wholly unnatural. As they served between wrecked and burning cars, the only other human visible far down the street is mobbed and killed by a pack of gremlins right before their eyes.

Trying to get to the Risen Church, they were forced to detour into a residential area - a fire truck was turned over in the street. As they inched between two cars, just avoiding the corpse of a fat man, they saw one vehicle - a green truck - held a man that was still alive. James and Will managed to pull the bent door off, and carefully removed the young man. Inside a nearby house, they found a couple, a man and a woman, dead... They healed the young man as best they could, and hid him in the building, going he would survive.

When they reached the Risen Church, they found nothing but the burned out husk of the building. They continued through town, realizing something terrible was coming - a monstrous demon, 60 or 70 feet tall! It moved slowly towards them as they fled. Finally, they decided to return to campus, using the last vial of Ley Line juice to see where the lines were - they were obviously bending and writhing through the student center! Climbing up, they fought a number of flying demons, and used the candlestick to destroy the überdemon. James found himself batted halfway to the grave site, but managed to pull himself tough and rejoin the fray, taking on two lieutenants and a plague demon, and winning. Will and Priya fought waves of imps, as Alistair fought several horrible wraiths. He stopped once the roof was clear to cast a spell, a question of a deity. Once cast, he found himself in a stark, white room; a pleasant yet monotone voice asked him to state his question, which he did: how can they prevail? The answer was... Strange. Unexpected, perhaps.

Finally, as they ran out of bullets or strength, they fell, one by one...

...only to awaken from their shared nightmare with a certainty that they've just glimpsed the future. It is the morning after Hootenanny, and the world is still safe... for now.

The wounds sustained somehow remained, though, as old scars; thankfully, finals went well, and they headed into summer break with relief.

Oh, but you want to know the answer to the question, don't you! The strange woman's voice answered, after a short pause:

The talkative mage must follow his dreams
The dreamers hold the key
And the clockwork policeman's elderly friend
Who swam against time's dark sea
The Spanish berserker must learn of the truth
Before a Wells's run dry
Battle the witch and the bitter cold
But forget not the Eye of Phi
So find the quiet runner's friend
Old enemies, return to the dead
The Dutch spear-woman, tunnel bound
To stop this Convergence, you said?

Enter hell.
Stop the spell...
End it well?
Who can tell?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Just a Little Darkness

The students took a little while to spend some of their new-found wealth on new toys; after a shopping spree, they started looking around for someone that might have some holy water. Real holy water, that is, not the weird stuff Alistair keeps making.

After asking around a bit, they found a fellow interviewee of the Lurk Until Dawn show, one Rev. Michaelse, of the Risen Church of Longview. It's a little church, fairly conservative, but well-liked. And, more importantly, the Reverend believes that demons walk the earth, and indeed has battled them himself!

The church was guarded by one Bob, the usher - a man built like one of LeTourneau's earth-moving machines. He seemed to be the janitor, as well, and kept the church spotless. The Reverend was in a meeting with the Church Secretary, Mrs. Eliza Dolouse. As they exited his office, she kept up a string of prattle - "...just need to buy a few more bottles for service on Sunday, not the good stuff you know, just good enough that Mrs. Applebottom doesn't complain, you know how she loves to complain, oh and I think I'll get a few more boxes of tissues as the ones at the ends of the pews are running low, such a good sermon last Sunday Reverend..."

She scuttled off to her car, leaving Rev. Michaels to speak with the students. As it turned out, he didn't have any holy water - there's not really such a thing, it turns out. Just normal water, though sometimes that's enough... After listening to some of the student's stories, he finally nodded, and handed over a fairly ordinary candlestick. "I've used this myself - it's a very powerful artifact, that allows you to dispel the demons that walk among us!"

The talisman, known only as the Candlestick, can banish demons, if Rev. Michaels is to be believed. To activate it, it must be defiantly held above one's head, directed towards the demon; then, roll Spirit at -1. On a failure, the wielder is Shaken, and the talisman is unusable for 24 hours; on a failure with 1 on the Spirit die, the wielder takes 2d6 damage (directly, ignoring armor); on snake-eyes, the talisman is destroyed, in addition to the other effects. They agreed to weekly meetings with the Reverend, in trade for being allowed to use the device.

A few days later, Alistair got a text from a Veronica Nails, who asked for the group's help. They agreed to meet, and she explained that she had accidentally spilled some chemicals on herself while working in the Organic Chemistry lab. She was afraid that the lapse in lab safety would be enough to ruin her already faltering grade, and didn't want to go to the professor directly... but she felt very strange, and not in a way that getting chemicals spilled on her would be expected to make someone feel.

The group immediately set off to investigate the professor's office; after some breaking-and-entering, they managed to unlock a very expensive filing cabinet, and revealed that the professor did a little on-the-side chemical testing of materials sent to him by Homeland Security. No one knew enough about O-Chem to decipher which write-up pertained to the chemicals Veronica may have spilled on herself, but they could tell that they must have been fairly unsafe...

After carefully locking everything back up, they moved on to the lab; inside, they found the chemical, and managed to isolate some of it. They waited until the next day for Alistair to buy a book on organic chemistry, and conducted a ritual of knowledge. Now much better at O-Chem, he carefully studied the chemical; while he wasn't able to isolate the exact chemical makeup, he was at least able to tell that it was very, very dangerous, being highly toxic... and able to be inactivated with high intensity ultraviolet light.

After a very spirited discussion on where and how to find the correct lighting (including, but not limited to, using X-Rays), they finally agreed on taking Veronica to a spa for a fairly inexpensive 20-minute tanning bed treatment. Veronica was only barely persuaded, as her eyes had turned entirely black - though her night vision was awesome!

She relented, and after an uneventful 20 minutes in a tanning bed, she was happy to report that her eyes were no longer bothered by light; indeed, her irises were returned to normal!

Unfortunately, the treatment only seemed to last a day. Undeterred, the students moved to plan B: subjecting her to half an hour a day of intense UV light, created by using the TIG welder! While her tan-lines were very uneven, the treatment worked - no more light sensitivity, and no more all-black eyes.

LeTU Meets The Wolfman

Our erstwhile heroes received a hasty call from Professor Maclanahan to discuss an important new investigation, meeting at a swanky club with a biology professor named Dr. Wayne LeGrevellec. Dr. LeGrevellec showed the students a video of a woman in a lab coat, attacked by some sort of creature, a wolfman perhaps. The creature slammed the woman's head on the table, knocking her unconcious, then grabbed some vials, ripped the hard drive out of the computer, and took off. Dr. LeGrevellec explained that he works in the off-site lab with a few other LU professors, and from speaking with his colleagues, is fairly certain that the attacker was Dr. Allen Miller, who worked in that very lab. The woman, Dr. Miller's research partner, survived the attack but is under observation at the hospital due to a concussion. The attack occurred last night; he isn't entirely certain what Dr. Miller was researching, but he had gotten a fat grant from a private firm, one that had invested in many professors' research. Presumably, Dr. Miller became infected with his own experimental gene therapy and may be undergoing radical mental changes as well as the obvious physical one. While campus security believes the attacker is someone in a gorilla suit, it's pretty obvious that it's no suit.

After answering a few questions, Dr. LeGrevellec handed the group a slip of paper with the addresses for Dr. Miller's lab and home, and his lab assistant's name (Aubrey Wright), and closed by saying that while he and GlenMac are too conspicuous to openly investigate, students are largely overlooked, and should be able to investigate without much trouble.

Together, the students went to visit Aubrey Wright in the hospital; they found her arguing with the doctor, who wanted to keep her for further observation. Finally, she convinced the group to assuage the doctor's fears... by getting them to convince the doctor they would keep an eye on her. After a little persuasion, she was released, and somewhat warmer towards the students. Somewhat.

She wanted to go straight to the lab, and after running some blood tests on herself, was much calmer, and suggested they go investigate Dr. Miller's house. After peering in some windows and trying the door (locked), they found a fake rock in the garden. Bingo! The key to the front door!

Inside, Ms. Wright went through some mail, heading towards the study; the students fanned out, leaving James to keep an eye on her. Apart from a mean-looking full-size poodle in the back yard, and a rather more luxurious house than most (any?) LeTourneau professors, there was little to uncover. The house was there to be fancy, not to be lived in, it looked like. In the den, Will found some important looking papers, but apart from a header that read "SH 211 B, Lab 2" and "SH 211", as if referencing different labs, there wasn't a lot to go on.

After befriending the dog, Priya snooped around the doghouse - the heated doghouse, with its own running water - but found only a squeaky toy. Ms. Wright refused to go anywhere near the dog, as she rather hated it...

After one final sweep of the house, they decided to head back to the lab. A printed note on the door announced that the room was under lockdown, but the students waltzed in, sure that they could find Dr. Miller. Everything had been cleaned up, and the computer replaced, though yet to be set up. The students snooped around, carefully investigating, until finding a trickle of water dribbling out from under a cabinet. Nothing useful was in the cabinet, but when Will dragged the cabinet backward, the wall behind it moved too, revealing a only-just-now-awakened Dr. Miller!

He greeted them, and kept them talking for a few minutes, all too eager to spill the beans... he had been hired by EyePhi to develop what he was sure was some sort of weaponized werewolf drug. He was given some strange ash and a few other chemicals, and after much trial and error, was able finally perfect his - er, the - concoction. Well, almost. It seems that while the user would retain his or her humanity, there was a substantial amount of hair growth.

About this time, the students noticed Dr. Miller was rather bulkier than when they entered the secret lab... and then long, curling hair grew out of his body, as his grin turned a little more feral. Oops.

Will, Priya, and James took the front lines, frustrating the wolfman in doctor's clothing by blocking his (quite powerful!) attacks, and occasionally landing some decent blows. Unfortunately, the damage seemed to just melt away; only silver can harm a werewolf! Or at least, this werewolf. Alistair dashed for his car, realizing he needed his silver bullets. Will took a hit, and Priya narrowly avoided getting slashed, deciding to back out of the fight and look for something helpful. Remembering Alistair shouting something about silver, she grabbed a bottle of colloidal silver from a shelf, and dumped a few ounces onto her spear. She tossed the bottle to Will, and got a good stab in! Will sprayed down his katana, and passed the bottle to James; together, they hacked and smashed, wearing down the wolfman's defenses... then slashing him through the heart, and finishing him off.

Just as the wolfman shrunk back down to dead-human-sized Dr. Miller, Ms. Wright (having heard the commotion) entered the lab. She didn't seem too bothered about the corpse of her former collegue - in fact, she was quite willing to help "sweep it all under the rug", if only they would hand over the hard drives and bottles of serum they found in Dr. Miller's desk. After some thought, they decided they would do just that, and quickly left. Well... almost. James, feeling adventurous, pick-pocketed the hard drives from Wright's pocket, without her noticing a thing.

Back at school, they called up GlenMac, and soon, Dr. LeGrevellec arrived, all too happy to "clean up any mess", including the possibly back-stabbing Ms. Wright... And, for their help in the matter, each student was awarded $500.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Light and Shadows

After the last adventure, there were a few lingering details to go over... killing a man does that, as it turns out. There was an informal hearing with those present and a judge; the judge agrees that Niles Henry was, indeed, a serial killer. Evidence gathered showed that along with Krista Levens and Dawn Ramirez, Niles Henry had kidnapped at least two other girls. He kept a detailed journal, and frequently wrote how he hoped to be found, and relished the thought of a fight to the death. It was obvious that no matter what, Niles Henry would have used lethal force.

After hearing the evidence and testimonies, the judge thanked the group for their quick action, but warned them against future vigilante behavior. "This isn't the first time your names have come up, and while this court finds your actions to be excusable homicide, future courts will view similar action as a pattern vigilantism."

Finally, the judge ordered those of the group not already attending sessions with a psychologist to do so.

Monday, January 20, 2020

To Stop A Predator With Extreme Prejudice

As Priya, Will, and James returned from Martin Creek Lake, their phones suddenly lit up with an Amber Alert - a 10-year-old girl named Dawn Ramirez went missing from a nearby school the previous day. Suddenly, on the side of the road, they spotted a little girl with long brown hair and a sad face standing on the side of the road. As the car drove past, the four heard a faint voice calling, "Help me... help her..."

The students quickly got GlenMac to pull over, and went to find the girl; about the same time, Alistair texted them that he had arrived in town, and they sent their location. 10 minutes later, he arrived; Priya volunteered to watch his car, as GlenMac had rented the boat and needed to return it, and couldn't hang around any longer.

Exploring the wooded area where the girl was last seen, they stumbled onto an old crime scene - tattered yellow crime scene tape was tied around a few trees, and a small funeral wreath was leaned up against a tree. Thinking back, they remembered hearing about another little girl who had gone missing, and was found dead (see: Sophomore Fall, Sanctuary).

A little phone-Googling later, and the public details were uncovered: eleven year old Krista Levens was snatched from her front driveway, assaulted, and eventually murdered. A week after her disappearance, her body was discovered, buried in a shallow grave. The murder was never solved; the article ends with a generic note about kidnappings: "In many cases the victim often knew the assailant," but even so, there weren't even any "people of interest" in the case, and it was still open. One of the articles had the family's address.

After some discussion, the students decided to head to the house, for lack of other clues. The house was vacant, and obviously had been untouched for a while. A beat-up "For Sale" was the only feature in the front yard. Looking around at the houses, they saw a woman peering out at them - the standard nosy old lady, it seemed. They trooped over, and found themselves invited in for a lovely (cheap) cup of coffee and some (dollar store) cookies. They learned that Mrs. Levens had committed suicide, and that Mr. Levens had left shortly afterwards, but unfortunately, the woman (Lillian Smythe) had been out of town with her husband when the kidnapping and murder occurred.

Managing to extricate themselves, the intrepid heroes went back outside; in looking at the house, they saw a curtain move as if someone were standing behind it; unwilling to break in, Alistair called the number on the sign and set up a meeting with a realtor. After borrowing some ghost hunting equipment from GlenMac, and eating a lovely lunch nearby, they met back up with the realtor and headed inside. The woman was flustered and ill-prepared, but willing to cut a deal, as the house had been on the market 7 months; she talked with Priya, while the guys explored. James saw, suddenly, the girl from the roadway; she waved him over, and pointed out the window at the house across the street, shaking her head sadly. Alistair, a room over, caught a burst of activity on his equipment; by the time he got to the room, the girl was gone. James showed he and Will where she had pointed, and realized there was a man entering that house, carrying some groceries... after entering the building, he began playing classical music, very loudly.

Quickly thanking the realtor, the group hurried across the street and knocked on the door. The man answered, said that he wasn't interested, and slammed the door in their faces. That's when Will and Alistair hear the cries for help. Eager to rescue the girl, James slammed into the door; Will ran around the building to look for another way in. On the second strike, James kicked the door off its hinges, smashing the frame. Inside, the man was ready for him, holding a large butcher knife.

James slammed into the man, whacking him with his favorite wrench; the man fought back, but was unable to land a blow. Alistair swung and missed; Will, hearing the noise, charged in, just in time to see James bludgeon the man across the head, then land another heavy blow on him when he crashed to the ground. There wasn't much left of his noggin at that point...

The three spread out through the house, but found no sign of the little girl; finally, they moved a throw rug in the kitchen and found a cellar entrance. Inside was Dawn Ramirez! Will picked the lock on the handcuffs, and Alistair helped her out of the house, away from the rapidly spreading pool of blood.

Reluctantly, James contacted the police, explaining that they had found the girl. The police arrived to find Will and Alistair comforting the poor girl, while James stood confidently on the porch. The lead officer, Officer Jones, asked James what happened; James walked him through the events. "We heard really loud music, so we came over to complain, and heard cries for help. We gained access to the building," at this point walking inside, "and found the trap door over here."

The officer stepped inside, and once his eyes adjusted, he saw the man on the floor, his head caved in, clearly deceased, and yelped, "HOLY CRAP! Uh... uh! Sir, I need you to exit the house, right now!"

He went over his story again. "Tell me what happened to the man inside."

"Oh, well, when we knocked, he slammed the door on us, then we heard the cries, and I opened the door," (the officer couldn't help looking at the shattered door, hanging loosely from its broken frame) "and that guy was inside with a knife. We fought, and he lost, and then we found the trap door and the girl!"

Alistair, too, was interviewed, and put on his best shell-shocked expression; his story matched James' well enough. Will told the officer interviewing him how he had run around the building to look for another way in, and when he heard the sounds of fighting, ran back to the front door, and saw the man dead. The officer blinked. "You found him dead? Can you elaborate?"

Will shrugged. "Welll... He was in the *process* of being dead..."

Another officer interviewed Dawn; after taking the four stories, three officers - with a fourth left to guard the students - quietly conferred. It probably helped that when asked for ID, the three showed their LeTourneau school IDs. Finally, Officer Jones waved them over. "Now, let me get this straight. You three were studying, and upon hearing the loud music, came over to ask the fellow to turn it down. You heard cries for help, and... " - with a glance at the shattered door - "gained access to the house, where the man inside attacked you with a knife." Here the officer paused and flipped a page, giving the three a significant look. "After you defended yourselves against his attack, you found the girl, trapped and chained. Does that sound about right?"

The three nodded hurriedly, realizing the officer was giving them a way out. "Good, good. Well, I know where to find you if I need to ask any more questions. Oh, by the way, why don't you go ahead and call this number" - he handed James a slip of paper - "and give 'em your name. Now, you get on home, and get some rest, watch some TV - it's been a rough day for y'all. I'm sure some reporters will be around to ask you questions about this later."

As it turned out, the number was for Crimestoppers - Dawn's rescue lead to a $2,500 Crimestoppers reward! The next day, they picked up a newspaper, with a picture of the three of them:

LOCAL STUDENTS RESCUE KIDNAPPING VICTIM
James, Will, and Alistair, all Juniors at LeTourneau University, rescued a kidnapped girl and solved a year-old murder case. "We heard cries for help, and we knew we had to do something," said James. His friend Alistair added, "We felt lead to the place where she was held hostage."
Niles Henry, a soft-spoken civil engineer at a small Longview firm, lived across the street from the home of Krista Levens, found dead last year after a six day search. According to Lakeport PD, Henry was pronounced dead en route to the hospital from injuries sustained in fighting the heroic students.
Dawn Ramirez has been reunited with her family; Matthew Levens, Krista Levens' father and only surviving relative, wept openly when he learned of the death of his daughter's killer. "It won't bring her back, but I can sleep better knowing that monster is dead."

Just below the fold was a headline from another familiar story:

DEAD END - CULT DEATHS CASE GOES COLD 
Investigations into the November Cult Murder has stagnated, says Agent Peregrine Cycle; until new information on the whereabouts of Xulián Bruxo and Raoul Tolemo can be uncovered, the case is in limbo...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Little Fishing Trip

GlenMac had the students early Saturday before school started; Alistair couldn't make it, but Will, James, and Priya were present. As they helped him load equipment, he reminded them of the history of the "Lantern of the Deep", and how it came to be located - as far as he knew - in Martin Creek Lake. He described the artifact as a simple bulls-eye lantern made from blue-tinted glass. Feeling bad for bringing them back to school early, he offered some "directed study" credit - worth a +1 Academics on the next exam.

The January air was cool, but the lake was quite warm, almost bathtub temperature, due to the nearby power station. As they arrived in GlennMac's car (pulling a small boat behind it), the park ranger on duty gave a word of caution - a gator or two had been spotted in the lake, and he hadn't gotten a chance to haul the beasties off. "Just keep your eyes peeled."

Once the boat was launched, GlenMac steered it near the power station and began dropping buoys in a grid. Maybe it was the fog, maybe it was the threat of gators, maybe it was the harshly-lit power station, or maybe it was the overcast skies and the strangely calm lake, but something puts everyone on edge. After a few tips on underwater safety and how to do a grid search, the students drop into the water. Priya and Will make it look easy, but James got a bit of water in his mask. No big deal, just annoying...

The water was dark and murky; visibility is barely a yard. Near the bottom, very little light filters down. Slowly, the trio searched the silty lake. After several minutes of searching, Will caught sight of something - an alligator! He fended off its first attack, but the next bite ripped up his arm! Priya, hearing the disturbance through the water, quickly surfaced, located the fight, and swam quickly to assist. James eventually heard the commotion and joined as well. Together, the three managed to spear the gator to death.

That threat dealt with, the three returned to searching for the lantern. Priya received a vision of a slimy, silt-covered creature, locked in watery combat, the lantern in its grasp, and something silvery around its neck. Not long afterward, James saw a feeble blue glow, hidden in silt; reaching for it, he was startled by a hand reaching up out of the mud! A creature, man-shaped, its clothes and features covered in silt and mud. James immediately grappled the creature's arm, pulling on the lantern and keeping his foot in the thing's face. The two battled back and forth, the creature trying to shake him off, and James hanging on with dogged determination, trying to whack the creature hard enough to make it let go of the lantern. Will and Priya found the two, and joined in, slashing at the creature with their spears. Every blow they landed seemed to heal itself almost immediately, until Priya managed to land a blow on the creature's arm. Its grip weakened on the lantern, and James pulled free. Priya, remembering her vision, grabbed for the locket as the creature fell back to the lake floor, nothing but silt and sludge.

The lantern suddenly freed, James felt a sudden gust of wind, and found himself staring out across the lake, a young man sitting in a boat nearby. He recognized the man from the photo the group found - Rodya, the third man in the photo!

Rodya was holding a lantern - The lantern, in fact. Another man stands on the shore, holding a gun. He called out; for some reason, James knew it was Russian, yet could understand it: "Rodya! What are you doing? You are throwing away your life for these... Americanski! These capitalist idiots! Don't you understand, the Motherland needs power like what you are holding!"
Over the deadly calm, Rodya calls back, "Maksim, the power you chase ends only in death! USSR, Communism, me, you... everyone. This I have seen! And so, I will protect the Lantern - from you, and anyone else who wishes to use it for power!"
With that, he spread his arms; the Lantern began glowing brightly, and Rodya leaned back, falling off the boat and sinking beneath the waves. Maksim tried to run forward, but was stopped by an invisible barrier. Cursing, he slammed his hands against it, causing it to flash blue momentarily, then with a scream of anger, spun on his heel and fled. Rodya, protected and enhanced by the Lantern, sank into the lake, deep into the dark silt at the bottom.

A heartbeat later, James watched the revenant turn to muddy silt and slip back into the water. Even its tattered clothes faded to mud and vanished. Together, the three swam back to the boat, handing the lantern to GlenMac, who placed it in a padded case.

The locket Priya found contained a single photograph - somehow protected from the water - of Rodya kneeling beside a young, smiling Monica Dragic.

Though GlenMac asked a few questions on the way back, he saw the students were rather pensive, and the conversation eventually died out. Just as they were nearing town, everyone's phones suddenly began beeping, buzzing, and vibrating - an Amber alert. Glancing down to turn it off, the intrepid heroes realized it was actually in Longview, TX! A 10-year-old girl named Dawn Ramirez had gone missing from a nearby school...

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Tale of Two Curses

The next morning, Alistair happened to catch sight of the News Journal's front page: a known drug dealer - specifically, the same that worked for the Ring, and sold Alistair some drugs (a drug? One drug? It was only a single dose) - was pulled from his parked car and beaten. The police labeled the attack as drug gang violence, despite the stash being destroyed rather than stolen. There was a handwritten note left on their hood claiming "the Lord's retribution."

That evening, the group joined the Sword of Adam at the prearranged meeting place. Dan, the leader, introduced himself; the others seemed much more at ease, talking and laughing. Dan handed out masks, and told everyone that they were heading for the 'mushroom building'. Once inside, they found a group of four co-eds in the middle of a ritual! The Sword of Adam smashed the various items involved, and began harassing the women. Alistair recognized the ritual as a simple knowledge spell - basically, the same one he had. The women were planning on cheating on a test...

The group balked when Dan ordered everyone to attack the women. Dan spat back, "Are you kidding me? They're witches - real, evil, and utterly corrupt! Get them!"

The other members of the Sword of Adam attacked the women, cornering them; the study group (we really need a name for you guys) split, half slowing down Dan, and the other half assisting the young women. The attackers went down quickly, but Dan was out for blood. After a rather drawn-out fight, the rest of the Sword of Adam were put down, and Dan was knocked unconscious. Priya spotted his necklace again, and using some tongs, yanked it off his neck. After a little discussion, the group smashed the talisman, destroying the curse.

Gradually coming to, Dan realized just how wrong his actions were, and swore to rectify his actions. In fact, in the coming weeks, he dropped his engineering major in favor of theology, and became a strong campus advocate for peaceful dialog.

During Dead Week, one Professor Henry Jones contacted the group. Knowing they had some talent with the supernatural, he asked that they act as expert witnesses, and back up his story to a potential client, purchasing one Book of Tassqaa. The story he told them went like this:

A book was discovered by a professor of history and acheology, Dr. Havier, hidden within an Arabian desert dig: the Book of Tasqaa. It was recovered with a handful of other artifacts; while the workers at the dig didn't seem to mind the artifacts, the book upset them greatly. They warned the doctor against so much as opening it, let alone reading it. Nonetheless, he dared read the book; he took it to his tent, and poured over the pages. That very night, the crew heard the screams of Dr. Havier; they rushed to his tent to find... nothing. The side of the tent was ripped open, and Dr. Havier was gone. The crew refused to continue work unless the book was returned or destroyed.

Dr. Havier's assistant, Mr. Belack, took the book back to the States, to Boston University. He, too, was warned not to read the book, and for a while he listened. Eventually, however, his curiosity got the better of him, and he decided to read the book. The next morning, another professor came to use the room he was in, and found it locked; eventually, they had to force the door, where they discovered... no one. The book was on the desk, closed; not a trace of Mr. Belack was ever seen again.

The book stayed in the possession of the University for over a decade. During a recent cleaning and renovation, the book was sold, along with many other objects. Dr. Henry happened to be visiting, and purchased the book with his own funds. Unlike the others, he was unwilling to read the book; he understood its dangers.

That said, he had a buyer - a collector from Washington - and Dr. Henry was afraid that he was going to read the book. The visitor was expected the following day, at noon.

Alistair argued strongly against selling the book, suspecting it to be highly dangerous, but Dr. Henry was quite adamant that he would sell it. Finally, unable to convince the man that it was too dangerous to sell, the group relented, and agreed to meet him at an office in the bank building downtown.

The next day, just as the group arrived, there was a terrible crash of a window shattering! Upstairs, they found Dr. Jones and a secretary standing by the door to an office; inside, a chair was tipped over, and the window was broken, the glass fallen outside... but no body.

Alistair railed against the stupidity of allowing someone access to the book at all, eventually pulling a gun on Dr. Jones. He explained that his secretary had buzzed in Mr. Ihkterah, who had spoken with Dr. Henry for a few minutes, then asked for a bottle of water; he turned to grab one, and the man had grabbed the book, opened it, and in an instant was thrown bodily out the window! He muttered, "He was just... but where did he go?"

There was no body outside, obviously; just the broken window. Seemingly, the man had vanished into thin air. Alistair tried reading the book's past, and discerned the origin of the book - or at least a man's hand making it. Priya, sighing heavily, said she didn't really believe in any of that nonsense anyway, and she was going to read the book. She opened it up... and it was blank. Nothing happened to her. Turning, they found Dr. Henry had carefully slipped away; following him to the elevator, they recognized the ring on his finger as the ring on the finger of the man that made the book! As it turned out, the professor had just invented a story, hoping the danger and intrigue would be enough to fetch a high price for the worthless book he had created. Dr. Havier, Mr. Belack, and especially Mr. Ihkterah never existed.

And with that, it was finals. A little extra work was required, but no one failed. Next semester was shaping up to be something rough, though...