Meeting Born in a Bowl
- After caring for the wounded and reviving Born in a Bowl, the posse and Weematai talk with her. She informs them that Papa Rattlesnake is spent from the fight, but they should leave straight away.
- On the way out the posse are attacked by three giant horned snakes. They bite Abigale, knocking her unconscious. The rest of the posse is able to prevent her from falling through the deadfall and kill the snakes.
- They reach the boats and submarine outside. Will, the huckster, levitates Abigale into one of the canoes. Born in a Bowl, horrified at his gamble with evil spirits as she says, strikes him.
- Weematai directs them to a safe grotto nearby. The posse sits down with Born in a Bowl to give her the remains of Sees Far Ahead and explain why they have come to seek her out. Anafiel also explains his personal involvement with Grimme.
- Born in a Bowl takes the jawbone of Sees Far Ahead and says that his presence lingers and they may be able to communicate with him. While Weematai prepares a sweat lodge for the ritual Born in a Bowl reveals herself to be a powerful shaman and offers to help Anafiel in his struggle with Grimme. She comes away exhausted, but manages to put obstacles in Anafiel’s mind against the evil spirit.
- While the posse continues to wait, they ask Born in a Bowl how they should return to the Necessity Alliance if Stalks the Night is chief and unlikely to allow her to return. Born in a Bowl says that she will rally other loyal Indians in the Maze to force Stalks the Night to back down and should not need the help of the posse.
The Reverend’s Fate
It is here that the mystery of what you and your friends had been fighting against becomes clear. Up to this point in the journey there have been several clues hinting at the true past of the Church of Lost Angels and you already knew many of their nefarious objectives from your own experience in the Rock Island Prison and Agent Hellman’s testament. But now we are about to understand it’s origin and it’s purpose. We are about to know everything.
When all is ready and warm steam thick in the air you all gather in the makeshift lodge. Born in a Bowl cups the jawbone of Sees Far Ahead in her hands and instructs us to sit with her around the low fire. Then, in a low voice, she begins to chant. You sit still, uncertain what is the proper thing to do in this situation, but a clear mind seems to be the right state to be in.
However, you soon became exhausted. You try to focus on her chanting, but can hardly hear her and keep your eyes open. You must have fallen asleep, because the next thing you know you are waking up. However, you are no longer seated in the lodge, but on top of a mesa, the day warm and the sun already high in the sky.
You rise up slowly, exhausted, and reach over to a pool of seawater to wash out your wounds from the previous night. The saltwater stings horribly, but it is slightly better than letting the dirt fester.
It is at this point that you glance down and inwardly gasp. From the reflection in the water you see that you are not yourself; you are Reverend Ezekiah Grimme, wearing the familiar cassock and collar. But something is different, this is not the “Grimme” you recall that always wore that permanent stern look. This face is gentle and softened, although right now it is etched with fatigue and sadness. You are beginning to understand that this is a vision, a vision of California shortly after the Great Quake.
Suddenly, you hear the sound of arguing and prop yourself up on your staff, sighing at another repeat event. You make your way over to the people, the survivors of your flock. They part, revealing, to your disgust, a corpse cut open and torn apart. The people look up at you and have truly tragic looks in their eyes. They wear mixtures of anger and supplication on their faces, lined with fatigue born from weeks of hunger. You cannot help but feel pity for them and at the same time you are at a loss for a way to help them.
A man, Garret Black, stands over the corpse, making the most noise and arguing that they are all starving without end in sight and that they should eat the man he had killed the other day.
You vehemently refuse and Garret curses your foolish piety, saying you are going to kill them all. He draws his knife. You raise a pistol, fire, and Garret falls.
But the calls for cannibalism do not die down; they only grow in volume and hatred. Some of the survivors rush at you. Others jump into the melee to throw them off, those still loyal and slightly sane. They fight with makeshift weapons and when they do not find those they claw and rip at each others throats.
Horror rises up in you at the sight of the death and madness of all the people you once served. You cry out to the Lord for guidance, for deliverance, but there is only silence. Streams of blood flow over the rocks and turn the ocean red. They all die, you die, until there are only thirteen left alive that proceed to gorge themselves on human flesh and blood, in a rush of madness, hunger, and shame. As you watch now from above you feel profound sorrow and a sense of failure. Andrea Baird abused when she was a young child, James Lewis haunted by his actions in the war. You thought you had helped all of these people.
Night comes. A shadow passes over the crimson moon. It surveys the scene of carnage and for some reason seems pleased to no end. You feel the combined depravity and souls of the thirteen pulled towards your remains and they begin to pulse and accumulate flesh, until your body, Grimme’s body, stands among the thirteen once more. But this thing is not Grimme, it only takes his appearance to corrupt the good he once stood for; the man Ezekiah Grimme is dead. This is an evil being created from the fallen souls of the thirteen that gave up their virtue for survival.
The thirteen all look at their own creation in great shock. Their red faces and flesh encrusted hands tremble and many of them fall to their knees, begging for forgiveness. But it does not bring down wrath upon them; it smiles instead and gives them a blessing. It says it will show them a new way. Thus the Church of Lost Angels is born.
It is here that you emerge from the vision. Your entire body is numb and reeling from the impact of the event you not just witnessed, but were a part of. You felt everything Grimme felt, including his death and then his remorse. Then you felt the intense darkness that was the abomination that followed and felt the intense hatred it felt. All four of you experienced it. It is at this moment that you appreciate how critical it is for you all to stop it, not just for you and your friends, but also for every single person.
- At this moment Sees Far Ahead speaks through Born in a Bowl. He says that Grimme, The Elders and the Church of Lost Angels must be stopped; they serve the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, namely Famine, and aim to turn the land into hell.
- He reveals how to destroy Grimme’s doppelganger and the evil powers within the Church of Lost Angels for good. If the heroes can kill all thirteen of the Elders within one hour of each other and destroy the cathedral in the City of Lost Angels in the same hour, the Elders will not be able to regenerate and will die. Since Grimme’s doppelganger is their combined souls he will perish as well.
- When the heroes ponder how they can destroy the cathedral and kill all the Elders within an hour, since the thirteen are spread out across California, Sees Far Ahead reveals the existence of seven earth spirits. They were imprisoned years ago and if the posse can form a pact with them by smearing the blood of their hands on each symbol of the spirit, the lightning bolt petroglyph, the spirits will be free and trigger The Flood on the next location where the heroes draw their blood.
- Abigale remembers seeing the symbol from the cave near Shan Fan and two other markings of the spirits on a map at the locations of Quarrytown and Isle of Ghost Tears. Sees Far Ahead warns them that he has not heard from the spirit near Shan Fan for sometime.
- The posse also recall that on August 23rd there is an annual gathering of the Church of Lost Angels and it is possible that all thirteen Elders will be there.
- Sees Far Ahead says that Grimme cannot be harmed, “save with his fang’s twin.” The posse takes this to mean the true Grimme’s staff.
- At this point Sees Far Ahead acknowledges Grimme’s doppelganger in their presence. While he says this set of circumstances may prove useful towards completing the mission it is simultaneously problematic since the evil spirit will be aware of the plan and the details as they unfold.
- Abigale asks Sees Far Ahead if her brother James is beyond redemption. He says that he does not know, although it would be difficult for someone to break his or her soul free from the amalgamation of the thirteen.
- Once the posse has no further questions Sees Far Ahead says that the four of them have been appointed the task of freeing the earth spirits and bringing to an end the Church of Lost Angels. He asks the posse if there are committed to seeing it through. They all agree.
- The vision ends and Born in a Bowl speaks in her normal voice. They discuss amongst themselves the road ahead and decide to head to the first petroglyph at Shan Fan after they secretly return to the Necessity Alliance the next day to retrieve the mazerunner.
- In order to avoid detection from Stalks the Night’s warriors, Anafiel drives Max and Will over to the mazerunner in the submarine at night. Will creates a distraction while Max starts up the boat. All of the posse leave without incident and say a kind farewell to Weematai and Born in a Bowl.
The Haunting of Shan Fan
- As the heroes pass through the channel leading into the bay of Shan Fan they pass by a seemingly deserted sampan. When they draw up to the boat they find a man unconscious and all mundane attempts to revive him fail. Many other boats close by are also filled with inert people, while closer to the city things appear as normal.
- When Anafiel prays over the man he awakes, parched and famished. He has trouble staying awake and only has time to explain that he must have crossed “The Line” and fallen asleep like all other people who stray too far from Shan Fan.
- When the posse cross the bay and walk through Shan Fan to The White Lotus Society they notice that the place is uncharacteristically clean for Shan Fan, people are happy and oblivious to the point of creepy, and smiley faces are a reoccurring theme. The people praise “Leader Norton” and his pacifist mandate for the city and seem extremely content with their lives as long as they do not leave Shan Fan.
- When the posse reaches The White Lotus Society they meet Herman Ellington, who is also acting strangely. When questioned, he brings them to Shu Lu’s charred lab where she and Pennington-Smythe are lying on cots unconscious. Ellington explains that they were trying to explain the phenomenon, when they became comatose while trying to leave the city. On the subject of Shan Fan, he says that after the war Kang negotiated for peace and Norton, who Ellington also speaks highly of, was made ruler of Shan Fan and moved into Tam’s Estate.
Even though Ellington is the sanest man you have met so far today, even he sounds disconnected and somewhat loopy. How you can make sense of this, you still have no idea.
“All of this is of course to prepare for the Coming of…” Ellington falters.
“You were saying?” You reply.
“Nothing, nothing. I believe you said you had a report on one of the missions?”
Abigale steps forward. “No, you were about to say something.”
“A slip of the tongue. Now let me see those photos you talked about.” She reluctantly hands over the plates from Fellheimer’s Folly. Ellington merely glances over them. “Yes, yes well done. I’ll look at them later. You may have…five thousand dollars.”
Everyone is taken aback. Does he even have five thousand dollars?
“No, keep your money,” says Anafiel, naturally. “Besides you only asked for a maximum of four hundred.”
“Did I? Well, I suppose…still, what’s mine is yours…”
From the corner of your eye you see Anafiel raise his hand, close his eyes, and whisper something. There is no time to ask him what he is doing because the next moment Ellington is giving a bloodcurdling scream.
He holds his head in his hands and drops to his knees.
“It’s all right, it’s all right,” You sooth, and kneel down next to the now quivering man.
“The singing! The singing’s stopped! Why, why has it stopped? The child…it’s voice was so beautiful.”
- Once Ellington overcomes the withdrawal of euphoria he explains that the strangeness started just over a week ago. Kang had already left and Norton was in charge. Then a “child”, born of the earth, appeared at Norton’s estate. Norton became enamored with it, as did an increasingly number of people and they felt an obligation to protect the child. Eventually the whole of Shan Fan came under its spell. Now everyone is trapped in Shan Fan and cannot leave the city without falling into a coma.
- Ellington has never seen the child, but he believes it resides with Emperor Norton in the estate. He mentions that fire at the estate is forbidden. The posse guess that the “child” has a weakness or fear of fire.
- Ellington says that he had a vision of a lightning bolt symbol and the posse wonder if they can reach the petroglyph without crossing “the line” and falling into the same state as Shu Lu and Pennington-Smythe.
- Ellington warns that previously he was not in control of his thoughts and words and that the child may be able to see through the people in Shan Fan. Furthermore, people usually fall under the spell after falling asleep. The posse understands that they need to solve the case quickly before they are discovered or sleep deprivation sets in.
- Ellington knocks himself out with one of Shu Lu’s plants before succumbing again to the spell. The posse leave, intending to eventually meet with this child.
“By the way I’m not giving you five thousand dollars!”