Reporting on The Flood

The Descent
The beginning of an investigation of a subterranean civilization...
  • The undead retreat, the battle is won, and the heroes meet up with Jane to bring her up to recent events, explaining the need to get into the postpiles, preferably without Agent Clemens’ knowledge. Jane informs them that there is a door into the postpiles that they have so far been unable to open, even by force. Hopefully entry inside will reveal a way to stop the nightly attacks from the undead before the Union Agency is overrun.
  • Agent Clemens interrogates the heroes, asking them why they have come and the means of their arrival. They tell him about the portal in Quarrytown, but make it sound as though they stumbled across it and Agent Clemens appears to believe them. Furthermore, they tell him about the mysterious figures they saw in the distance surveying the battle and positively compare them to a sketch that Agent Clemens has of the ancient people of that area.
  • Jane suggests that the heroes take a shot at opening the door shortly before Agent Clemens splits them up to prepare for the next battle. Agent Clemens offers the harrowed Anafiel a position in the Agency, which he does not refuse or accept at the moment.
  • Alone together, Abigale tells Jane about the witch from Shan Fan and the child. Jane does not recall seeing such people so she inspects the civilians, sheltered in a small building, and nearly misses the witch. She catches Jane’s glance and, appearing surprised, drinks from a flask and suddenly Jane finds herself easily distracted from the woman.
  • Returning outside, Jane tells Abigale about the strange encounter. While walking away they hear a door open and glancing behind her Abigale catches sight of the witch and a moment of recognition passes between them before she quickly returns inside.
  • Back together Jane and the heroes approach the door. A scientist is also there surrounded by several gizmos and enraptured by an underground map of passageways.
  • Ray puts one of her own gizmos over her eyes and sees a glowing eye on the door that fixes onto Anafiel. As he draws closer the light of the eye brightens until a green, slightly transparent hologram of an ancient man appears out of the door for all to see and speaks unknown words. After folding his hands in prayer Anafiel is able to understand the language.

The mad scientist has gone from gob smacked silence to a frantic frenzy, pulling out what you can best describe as a thin silver spyglass viewed from the opposite end and waving it all about the transparent figure while muttering rapidly under his breath bewildering words such as “quantum disentangling” and “light-emitting diodes”.

Anafiel understands the image’s first words, although it speaks with varying inflections and a muted personality. “What is your business here?”

“What is this place I am approaching?”

“The great and glorious city of Nib! What is your business here?”

Nib…The word rings familiar, the name of a past civilization, cryptically mentioned by the future Jordrava as a place significant for understanding the thing you are facing. Perhaps a glyph is here, perhaps not, but turning back now when you have all come so far would be disastrous. There are things here that you need to learn.

Anafiel furrows his brow for a moment before deciding on a neutral response. “I am here to restore the balance of the living and the dead.”

The hologram regards him for a moment before responding in delight; clear even to those unable to currently understand the language. “Ah! A soul counter! You are most welcome here. Whom may I call or is your business is private?”

“My business is private.”

The hologram flickers and fades. The light Ray sees emanating from the door flares a blinding white and she rips her goggles off. You hear a faint noise, almost like a low hiss and the door splits in two down the middle and slowly opens outward, revealing a pit of darkness.

Lighting a match and leaning forward you see a few steps descending downward. As you begin to notice ice crystals covering the steps a cold wave passes through you and the others and lingers all around. A moment later you hear the sound of raindrops on the canvas of the tent. The night had been mostly clear up until now.

  • Once the heroes distract the mad scientist they discuss the next course of action with Jane. While she advocates sending agents down with them and alerting Agent Clemens the others wish to continue their secrecy and go down alone. Eventually she, somewhat reluctantly, allows it while also promising to keep a lookout for the witch and the child.
  • As soon as the Ray, Abigale, and Anafiel enter the door closes after them. They continue down, Ray lighting the way, until they reach a faintly glowing purple river, crossing the middle of the path. There is a dock with a bell that Abigale rings and a small boat rowed by a thin humanoid male figure comes alongside. The man, speaking in the same language as the hologram asks for payment in exchange for “learning”. The heroes deliver a coin and get into the boat, which he begins to row down the river.
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Return to Devil's Postpiles
  • Due to Anafiel’s condition the heroes decide to arrive at Devil’s Post-piles during the day. However, as soon as they step outside they hear an alarm go off. A few moments later men flying through the air with rocket packs approach and open fire. They dive back through the portal and close it.
  • Deducing that the alarm goes off whenever undead appear, even Anafiel, they decide they need to cover of night and come back to Devil’s Postpiles after sunset. The alarms are going off and they see a fierce battle underway between an unknown force and the Union fort around the postpiles.
  • On the way to the fort the heroes see all sorts of undead creatures attacking and several zombies carrying a large package. On the hills in the distance three figures are seen overlooking the battle.
  • At the fort wall Ray teleports themselves across to the other side. Hiding besides a small building they see that the fort is crowded with several nervous officers from the Agency while an automatic gatling gun in the tower fires down on the outside. Inside the building they are next to they see several civilians inside including the witch cradling The Child in her arms.

You hear a shriek in the air and then…

BOOM!

The tower and gatling gun explode. Someone, just outside, is now raining shells down on the fort.

Everyone that was previously loitering around the fort on edge, jumps up, grabs any weapon on hand, and runs to the walls. The small group of men you saw playing poker leaves their card hands scattered on the table. From the building that you guessed were barracks several men and women run out, the last of which is…

Jane?

Jane?

What is she doing here? The last you saw of her she was departing on the same train as Sam Hellman. Why is she involved with the people here?

Regardless, you see a chance to stop hiding and get involved without argument. You all run towards her and the other officers firing down from atop the walls on the undead swarming by the entrance.

“Jane! Jane!” Abigale waves her arms up at the woman. She turns and her eyes widen as she spots you. She quickly comes down.

“Abigale, Anafiel? What are you doing here?”

“We were trying to get into the postpiles.” Anafiel says. “How can we help?”

“If that artillery fire would just stop we would have the upper hand for sure. Not sure how to get over to it with all this mess and without being seen, though.” She gestures at the groaning door behind her and the shrieks and moans of the undead. Another shell lands inside the fort, leaving a small, dusty crater.

“A small group of people should be able to sneak over and take it out. We could do it.” Anafiel volunteers.

“We’ve got dynamite!” Ray holds up her three sticks.

“Who are you?”

“Ray!”

“Uh, pleased to meet you.”

“What are these things and why are they attacking?” Abigale asks.

“Well, ever since the fort was set up we’ve had to contend with attacks from the undead while we’ve been trying to figure out how to stop whatever’s causing it. But a few nights ago two of the deceased junior agents joined their ranks and started coordinating the attacks. Since then it’s gotten worse every night.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll stop them,” Abigale says and Anafiel puts a hand on Jane’s shoulder. It’s been a long time and you all have a lot of questions for her, but no doubts.

“All right, let me grab a ladder and we’ll set you down over there.” She points at a section of the fort wall a distance away from the main fray.

  • The heroes quietly make there way to the artillery site and see several zombies and one undead agent coordinating the fire. Ray’s dynamite blows up the gun and Anafiel and Abigale get into a fight with the agent and the zombies. The agent flees after being severely wounded and six zombies surround Abigale. Ray activates her portal gun to transport Abigale back to the fort where she beheads the two zombies that came with her and reunites with Agent Clemens.
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The Glyph at Dragonhold
  • The angel continues attempting to force its way further into the church and the fire gets worse. Screams of people are heard coming from inside. When the heroes attack the barrier collapses and the angel flies into the interior.
  • Inside Max is with Monroe, who has been badly injured. After the heroes wound the angel it grabs one of the people inside, demanding Monroe. Anafiel steps forward, offering his life in exchange for the innocent man’s. Max tricks the Angel into believing that Monroe has already died and the Angel releases the man in exchange for being allowed to leave.
  • After saving Monroe’s life and catching him up on recent events the heroes and Max make their way down to the portal in the depths of Quarrytown. Opening the portal to Dragonhold they discover a door in front of them. A man by the name of Tony answers the door and says that he will take them to Sutton Thacker.
  • Hundreds of miles from where they started the heroes are lead to the large outdoor arena in Dragonhold. Sutton Thacker is putting on a performance with one of the largest maze dragons they have ever seen. It obeys his every command as it jumps through flaming hoops and performs other tricks. How Thacker controls the dragon is uncertain to the heroes, but with discomfort they recall how the ancients of Quarrytown controlled dragons.
  • After the show ends Thacker meets the three in his office. He tells them he has found a glyph and they discuss how they will share the portal when Tony interrupts, saying that some people from Lost Angels have arrived and wish to speak to Thacker.
  • The heroes exit the only door out of the office and see Andrea Baird standing outside with a few robed guards from Lost Angels. She immediately recognizes some of the heroes and after exchanging a few words laced with venom she enters the office, leaving a guard to watch them.
  • Abigale and Anafiel provoke the guard and he charges at them with a knife. Abigale hits the man’s back with the flat of her katana, knocking him out. A moment later Baird exits the office, now more angry than before. Thacker enlists Tony to carry the unconscious man back to the docks with the departing Lost Angels.
  • Thacker explains that he would make no deals with Baird and the heroes follow him and Tony to the glyph. On the way they see that the steam launch from Lost Angels has stopped dead in the water due to mechanical failure.
  • All five of them put on purple robes before heading into the water filled caves and after a few hours of travel they see the glyph out on a island connected to the main path by a wooden bridge.
  • Out of the corner of her eye Abigale sees Tony raise his gun at their backs. She calls out a warning and the shot misses. Thacker takes off, running to the glyph and Anafiel follows to stop him. Abigale and Ray face off against Tony, who transforms into a woman, and releases three bloody ones.
  • On the island Anafiel attacks Thacker, injuring him before he reaches the glyph. Thacker, enraged and cursing, uses his huckster powers to partially phase out of physical form and calls on the dragons.
  • Back on the bridge the woman extends a large tongue to swallow a bat and transforms into that shape, flying towards the glyph. Ray charges back towards the glyph and reaches there first, activating it with a cut on her hand.
  • Bright white light fills the cavern. The bloody ones shriek and dissolve. The bat flees. Dragons begin to fill the waterways in the cavern and Ray levels her gun at Thacker’s head, ordering him to call off the attack.
  • After a very tense conversation the three heroes realize that Thacker had no knowledge of “Tony’s” deception. Drenched with blood Abigale deeply apologizes on their behalf and Anafiel cures him of his injuries. As part of making amends they promise to find the real Tony. Thacker begrudgingly calls off the dragons and they return outside.
  • Under the pretense of offering to repair their steam launch Thacker and some of his men distract the messengers from Lost Angels still drifting in the waters near Dragonhold to allow the heroes time to infiltrate the vessel. Below decks they discover Tony’s grizzly remains as well as a map on the Maze, dynamite, and the picture of a painting of a glyph signed with the name “Pating Lee”.
  • Back in Dragonhold the heroes present their findings to a still disgruntled Thacker, who accompanies them through the portal with some of his men to study the mechanics of the portal.
  • The heroes ask Max to send a telegram to the White Lotus Society about the painting and they decide to make the next place they investigate Devil’s Postpiles.
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A Second Chance

The very next moment Abigale and Ray feel a heaviness fall over them. Every wound, every sore, every burden that had been buried in the subconscious of everyday life suddenly reemerges. They feel the dank air of the sea cave, smell the salt of the surf, taste the lingering flavor of their last meal, feel the ache of old wounds long thought healed, all sensations as vivid as the day they were born.

Anafiel however feels none of this; he is still pure spirit, his body occupied by another. In fact Abigale and Ray no longer see him even though they know he is near.

The two women choke back a sound as Grimme backs away from the glyph, smeared with the ichor of the chunk of flesh he pressed against it.

“We…we should leave.” Abigale manages to say.

“Yes…yes,” the voice murmurs in agreement, sending a chill through the dank air. Abigale and Ray stand aside and it purposefully strolls past, fingertips brushing against the sword hilts.

They return outside, the walls of churning water on their right and left, reflecting the color of the sky, a dull, gray uniform cloud layer. It walks ahead of them, starting up the path to the top of the cliff.

Abigale, Ray, and Anafiel feel the exact moment that the water changes, like an electric charge sent through the air, the moment when it almost drowned them before. In one fluid motion Ray lifts her portal machine and fires twice, shouting.

“Quick!”

It turns around, seeing Ray’s shortcut to the top of the cliff and runs back to them.

Ray and Abigale jump through, vanishing and reappearing just below the top of the cliff. It follows right behind them, then it falls backwards; Anafiel has remained behind and prayed for his friend’s safety, sealing the way.

It snarls viciously as the waters swirl around, white foamy crests hovering for a moment. The water makes contact and sends a shock of pain through Anafiel and he propels himself upward, out of the water towards the cliff top where Ray and Abigale watch.

“I WILL DESTROY YOU!” it screams up at them, a split second before the walls come crashing down. Anafiel sees a streak of red shoot out from his body, soar up into the air, and streak towards the south, Lost Angels.

For a moment the water churns and Abigale and Ray watch Anafiel’s bob up to the surface.

“You have survived.”

Ray and Abigale nearly jump out of their skins. So much time has passed and yet has not passed that they forgot about the Chinese ghost woman who pointed the way to the glyph. She looks past then at Anafiel with mild curiosity.

Ray lifts her gravity gun and levitates Anafiel’s body out of the surf, setting it down beside them. They kneel down next to it and a barely a moment passes when the body spasms and coughs up water.

Abigale leans towards it. “Anafiel…are you all right?”

“Yeah…yeah. I think I am…”

“What’s the password?” Ray demands.

The body freezes and a split second later shoves past the two women, taking off in a sprint.

The ghost woman shrieks.

“GET OFF MY ISLAND!”

Her small, petite face becomes a vision of terror with wide, fierce eyes. Her hair unravels from its bun, spreading out in a wide fan of tendrils framing her outstretched arms.

The fleeing body freezes before it is flung up into the air and then crashed back down.

“Wait! Wait!” Abigale and Ray jump between the enraged woman and the body.

She pauses, not out of regard for their lives, but rather out of perplexity.

“Why should I?” she hisses. “It is like the thing that terrorized me before.”

Behind them Anafiel floats up next to his prone body.

“What thing?” Ray asks.

“Something that is keeping this body alive.” They hear a familiar voice, so very different from what they had heard before. Ray and Abigale turn to see the Anafiel sit up.

“Anafiel!” They exclaim in relief and see him slowly stand to his feet. He gives them a small smile as they approach him. The ghost woman gives them all a piercing stare.

“I do not know what is transpiring here…but you all need to leave.”

Anafiel nods. “Yes, we will go now and trouble you no further. We do not intend to return.”

  • The three heroes return to Shan Fan to the White Lotus Society and inform Pennington-Smythe about the real danger of Grimme and their quest to visit the glyphs. He promises them some help, but has been bogged down with Santa Ana’s invasion of California that has just begun. They depart that very night to Quarrytown in the hopes to warn Reverend Monroe and go through the portal to reach the glyph at Dragonhold.
  • On the way they hears a call for help down one of the narrow channels. What appears to be a trapped injured woman turns out to be a Siren, a watery giant creature, ensnaring travelers. The heroes seriously injure the predator before they continue.
  • At Quarrytown they discover that the Reverend’s church is in flames. Going just inside they discover that one of Grimme’s angels tried to attach Monroe, but has been held up by a barrier in the entranceway. A fraction of the flaming sword’s attacks have been able to pass through the barrier, causing the fire.
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The Hunting Grounds

The Tree of Life

  • The heroes find themselves in a serene meadow, a lake in the middle, grass and flowers waving in the wind, and glowing clouds overhead. No trail appears, but the heroes sense the direction they are meant to go and begin to walk towards a dark forest in which they find they are not alone. Dozens of nature spirits, humanoid figures just a few inches tall with large hollow eyes and over large heads, start following them. Some even climb up on their arms and shoulders. The path takes them uphill and after a few hours of travel the forest clears, revealing the smell of foul air and clouds of smoke obscuring what lies above them.
  • Now the little nature spirits begin to grab onto the heroes’ legs and pull them back towards the forest. Anafiel picks one up, says a prayer, and speaks to the nature spirit who warns him about the fires above the safe place they are just about to leave. Anafiel assures the spirit that the three of them have a mission that will put out the fires and the spirit looks thoughtful for a moment. Then he calls out to the others, ‘Let’s go for a swim!’ and the nature spirits run down the hill and jump into the lake, releasing their human companions.
  • Emerging from the thick, hot smoke the heroes discover that they are standing on a branch of the largest tree they have ever seen. They notice that this tree is dying; all around fires rage, charred branches fall, and smoke in the shape of large snakes burrow in and out of the tree’s trunk and branches. The further down the tree they look the worse the damage, but no part has been untouched. Only at the very top does a small patch of light shine through the dark clouds.
  • The heroes make their way down the branch, still following the path. A few hours pass. They begin walking along a ridge when frantic sounds in the distance grow louder. A carriage thunders in front of them, an Indian man calling out in Hindi and whipping the horses. Close behind run dark, humanoid figures, eight feet tall with the heads of various vicious animals. About sixty yards away from the path the horses fall, the carriage crashes, and the manitous swarm the man and his wife and baby.
  • Anafiel draws his sword and races down to save them. Immediately the ridge, Abigale and Ray, and the path disappear behind him. However, the only thing Abigale and Ray see is Anafiel running down to save the family. The manitous kill the man and woman and turn towards Anafiel who begins to strike them down.
  • Ray starts firing bolts of fire down from the path and she too sees Abigale and the ridge disappear. Abigale draws her weapon and prepares to follow, but halts when she notices the confused expression on Ray’s face and realizes that her companions have lost the path.
  • Once Anafiel defeats four of the evil spirits the remainder flee. The spirits of the defeated man and woman return and the man says that since Anafiel defeated the manitou in combat they are now pledged to his service, just as they are to the manitou that defeated them. Anafiel orders the manitou to release the man and woman and they do so, immediately disappearing afterward.

Jordrava Speaks

  • Anafiel returns to the spot where he last saw Abigale and the path. He and Ray have no idea that Abigale can still see and hear them as they decide what to do. The man explains that he and his family have been trying to find a way to the top of the tree, to the hereafter, which has proven especially difficult and dangerous now. The man does know of someone who could help, a being named Jordrava who knows The Hunting Grounds and its paths well and even guides people to the hereafter…for a price.
  • Anafiel and Ray decide to let the man take them to Jordrava. Abigale could follow the path on her own and possibly return to the past, but she rejoins her companions to make sure she knows that they can return as well.
  • Talking with the man, it become obvious to the heroes that he has had a very hard life since his family’s death in a violent volcano eruption. When they ask if he knows anything about the glowing marks on their foreheads that have appeared ever since they arrived in The Hunting Grounds the man quickly answers no. He leads them into the tree, passing through a forest of enormous flowers and giant fungi hanging above them on the ceiling. Approaching one of the flowers he raps the petals with his oak staff and they open, revealing a large cavern containing a tent village. The man leads them to the largest tent, directs them to enter, and they meet Jordrava.

Is it a man? The form is human, but what would be flesh is not flesh at all. The skin is petrified and cracked. Looking into his eyes is like staring down into bottomless wells; just as vacant emotionally. If he did not move you would have thought your Indian guide had lead you to a statue. Yet the figure’s gaze is drawn and even on Jordrava’s rocklike face the intense dislike is very, very much obvious.

He turns to your guide. “I thought I told you to find the Gaun.” When the stone lips part and the menacing voice exits from them a fiery glow is all that is seen inside the mouth.

The man bows slightly. “Sir, I failed the task you gave me. But I found these three and they have the mark.”

“Indeed they do.” Jordrava glances back at the three uncertain humans before turning back to the Indian man. “Well I did not have much hope for you to start with and you have already given me more than I ever imagined you could deliver.” He motions to figures beside him. “Lead them to the hereafter.”

The man says not another word to the heroes and he and his family walk away. As they exit the tent Anafiel and Ray wish them good luck. They do not look back.

Now there are only four beings in the tent. A moment of palpable silence passes while the heroes and Jordrava exchange looks of caution and disgust. Finally Abigale speaks.

“What do you want with us?”

Jordrava leans back into his seat and his form becomes ever so slightly less rigid. “You must be halfwits if he found you wandering about. This is the only reason I have not killed you.”

“Is he with the mafia?” Ray whispers.

“I don’t think that exists here,” Anafiel hastily replies in her ear.

Jordrava chuckles. “Yes, definitely halfwits.”

“We only just arrived here. We haven’t had time to grow a wit,” Abigale answers apologetically. “What do you want with us?”

Jordrava motions at the green glowing marks on their foreheads. “You made a pact with the Gaun. They destroyed the mortal realm and also devastated The Hunting Grounds. I want them dead for that. Where are they?”

Abigale’s face pales, but she maintains her poise. “You mean the Earth Spirits? This destruction is not our fault or theirs. We made that pact over two hundred years ago in order to eliminate an evil on Earth. But we were deceived and the power of the spirits was controlled by an evil being that is called Grimme.”

“I know. You think you can make excuses? You still made the pact; meddled with powers that were far beyond your meager capabilities, that evil could easily wrestle from you. They destroyed everything. You destroyed everything.” Jordrava snaps his fingers and a giant golem emerges from the ground beside him. Abigale and Anafiel take a step back, but recognize one of the manifested powers of the Earth Spirits. Ray jumps and points at the thing yelling out, “What is that?”

Jordrava ignores her. “I’ve already consumed five of the earth spirits and I have been searching for the other two. You will lead me to them and I will destroy them also.”

Anafiel speaks up. “We don’t know where the Earth Spirits are now. And what are you hoping to accomplish? Revenge won’t stop this devastation.”

“At least I will have done justice. And you think you can stop this terror? You already failed once.”

Ray retorts, “But we have a plan! You see there was this path we were following that was going to lead us back to a time before this disaster started. We got separated from the path, but you can help us find it again. When we get back we will stop Grimme.”

Jordrava’s voice raises just slightly, but the darkness and terror of his tone increases so much that Abigale cringes. “You are failures and ignorant. The thing called Grimme was created by a dark magic controlled by the civilization Nib, powerful beyond your comprehension. I know there is no way you can defeat this abomination. You have never even understood what you are facing."

Abigale averts her face, but Jordrava can still see the guilt and smiles. Ray is only silent. Anafiel, however speaks.

“Give us a chance to set thing right. Evil has already won everything there is to gain in this time; whatever you or we do now won’t change that. Our only hope is in the past, but the only way to set things right is for you to help us return.”

Jordrava’s crusted, lidless eyes narrow and he leans forward. The scars on his stony face run deep and his fiery mouth echoes dark cynicism that could only exist after two hundred years of defeat and misery. “Know this: I have no hope. I know you will fail. You will fail if you try to find a majority of the glyphs. Grimme very likely already knows the location of them and any of his thirteen Elders can mark them as well. Once he marks a majority of the seven the power is his to control according to his evil desires. You only have a slightly less chance of failing if you seek out the remains of the civilization of Nib. Only their powers can remove the taint of Grimme from the pact you made with the spirits and then the spirits will answer only to you. It is located beneath the place you call Devil’s Postpiles." He closes his eyes and after a moment of silence reopens them. "Even if you decide to do this I still know you will fail.”

Jordrava stands up and snaps his fingers. The heroes blink. The tent has turned into a dark sea cave. Jordrava has vanished, replaced by Grimme.

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Out of the Past

Limbo

  • Following their deaths at the hands of Grimme, Abigale and Ray find themselves in a pit of tarlike substance and Anafiel with them.
  • Abigale and Ray swiftly back away from the person who triggers bad memories. After a few tense moments and explanation they relax and attempt to understand where they are.
  • The heroes climb out of the pit and find themselves in a closed, dark cavern, the floor covered with pools of blood. They catch a glimpse of a creature, hunched over, with yellow eyes, that dashes away through a portal, covered with a thin film of glowing mist, rising from the floor.
  • Approaching the portal is painful for Abigale, Anafiel, and Ray and they notice that each of them is slightly translucent to the other. Also, physical things in the room are very hard to touch and move.
  • Ray fixes the Motorola found in the pit and the heroes hear what sounds like a battle through the receiver. Just then a man with a prosthetic eye runs out of the portal and does not seem to notice them before he exits the same way.
  • The heroes notice that the ground around the portal is marked with rock salt. With some difficulty they brush some of the salt away and the portal turns into a passageway.

Somewhere in Time

  • Down the hallway they start opening doors and looking through rooms, and discover books on the subjects of The Reckoners, Grimme, Raven, and Stone. With some difficulty they open the reference on Grimme and see that an alliance from Europe wrote the book in the year 2098.
  • Once the shock of their displacement passes the heroes read, starting from the narration of their own search for the glyphs. The book chronicles how after their deaths Grimme’s pact with the earth spirits shattered the North American continent in 1881, transforming the entire area into a Deadlands. Since then, Grimme, the Servitor of the Reckoner Famine, has brought ruin to Europe and other nations. Almost the entire world is now a Hell on Earth. The four Reckoners, Death, Pestilence, War, and Famine have descended on the physical plane, Famine holding the most prominence.
  • Reeling from the knowledge of the state of things resulting from their deaths the heroes hear soldiers coming down the hallway. Abigale throws the book on Grimme to grab their attention and turns to the pages discussing themselves, underlining their names. The soldiers become excited and send for two people, Wemutai and Hollister.
  • Hollister is the man with the prosthetic eye and several other gizmos connected to the eye and head. Wemutai is an older and Harrowed version of the sweet, young Indian woman who Abigale and Anafiel met while rescuing Born in a Bowl. She wears the Aztec medallion and wields the staff of Ezekiah Grimme, the man.
  • Hollister uses one of his devices to make the heroes visible to the living and he and Wemutai explain how they arrived here. The year is now 2111 and the human alliances are losing badly against the Reckoners and their spawn, with the false Grimme leading the charge. Eli, Max, and Will continued to search for the glyphs, but they had no knowledge of Grimme’s deceit through the body of Anafiel and were consumed by Grimme’s staff. Lacy O’Malley was the human sacrifice used to trigger the breakup of America and The Elders were sealed away in The Hunting Grounds to ensure Grimme’s immortality.
  • In order to avert the apocalyptic state of the world, the present resistance groups have wanted to alter the past, but it proved impossible to send a living human back using their current understanding of time travel. They could, however, send a ghost back to the time of its death. To get intact, sane ghosts from before armageddon, they sent back “ghost traps” thought time. They were disguised as walkie talkies, advanced technology which would hopefully be useful enough to be picked up by heroes, but not potent enough to change history in an uncontrolled way. The walkie talkies were sent back to where they’d be found by the Twilight Legion. These “Motorolas” are what the heroes found, captured their souls when they died, and delivered them through the centuries to the current time.
  • Now Hollister wants to send the heroes back to their own time to avert the disaster. There is a portal to The Hunting Grounds located in The Forest, just outside the fort in The Great Maze where they are at now. Running calibrations from inside the fort, Hollister believes he can send the heroes back in the window of time between when Grimme triggered the glyph on the Isle of Ghost Tears and Abigale and Ray died. The heroes will need to navigate their way through The Hunting Grounds to their own time, which will be treacherous since the Reckoners now dominate this realm of the afterlife. A path of some sort should appear to guid them to their own time though.
  • A few moments later news arrives reporting that Grimme’s forces have advanced and The Forest has been taken. The only way for the heroes to reach the portal is for the army to launch an attack from the fort against Grimme and his hordes of faminites. The attack is a suicide run, but Hollister and Wemutai say that everyone is dead either way.
  • As they prepare for battle the heroes meet one of the most powerful allies of the defenders, Malachi, the eerie creature they saw when they first emerged from the pit. It specifically addresses Abigale and she recognizes that it is The Child. His power and assistance comes at a cost however; Malachi must consume a human soul once a month. Abigale shares a few moments with the strange being and asks him what she should do if they ever meet again in the past. Malachi asks her to kill him.

The Last Battle

The gates of the fort open and scores of Templars, led by Wemutai and Malachi, march ahead of you. The dust in the air feels thick and you don’t know if it is because you are incorporeal or a sign of the times, but the darkness seems to seep into the very center of your being. A crescent moon hangs low above the cliffs revealing swarms of faminites in the faint white glow. As far as the eye can see the parched earth churns with these emancipated abominations.

Approaching the front of the fort is the image straight out of Anafiel’s vision; Grimme leads the charge in Anafiel’s distorted body, yellow eyes glowing malevolently, and swinging Lu Dongbin’s sword and the cursed hickory staff.

You break into an all out run. The Templars raise their guns and mow down the advancing faminites, but as soon as one goes down another appears to emerge right out of the earth. Weematai and Malachi cut down swathes of the hell spawn left and right as they and Grimme draw closer together.

You and the others run through the carnage of the battle. There is a very disconcerting feeling every time you pass through a faminite, but you push on, attempting to keep as much space between you and Grimme as possible and still advance towards the canyon leading to the forest.

Weematai, Malachi, and Grimme collide on the battlefield. You keep running, but Anafiel pauses, turns, and raises up his hands. A bright, crystal-like sheen appears around Weematai and Grimme’s next strike misses. Not even a moment later Anafiel turns again and folds his hands in prayer. You begin to call out to him, but then Weematai’s arms and the staff glow a dazzling gold and her next two strikes both make brutal contact with Grimme’s face. Malachi pounces and Grimme falls to the ground.

He cries out. “Help me master!”

You hear a chilling neigh in the far off distance on the other side of the dark cliffs. After a moment of silence the crescent moon turn a sickly shade of green and a howling noise echoes through the canyon. Green, ghastly spirits swirl about and rush past and you begin to hear cries of agony coming from the soldiers behind you. You don’t turn to look back anymore; you won’t gaze upon the ravages of Famine if you can help it. This all must change.

You keep running. The dark copse of trees is ahead, drawing closer, but not nearly fast enough (Why do ghosts get tired?).

In the forest each tree casts long shadows, but after just a few moments you see the portal to The Hunting Grounds, a large glowing distortion against the background of the undergrowth. There is only a brief moment of understanding shared between all of you and without another second of hesitation or regard you leap into the rift.

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The Tragic Revelation

The Isle of Ghost Tears

  • The night before they plan to investigate the haunted island Shu Lu gives the two living heroes a small glass ball filled with liquid. The liquid will change color if Anafiel ever loses control of the Manitou.
  • When they come to the island the first thing the heroes see is a crazy old man, named Genja. Traveling into the island, they take a picture with the spirit camera from the top of a hill and then walk towards a beam of light coming from the center of the island.
  • They find a pagoda with inscriptions that detail the tragedy of a Chinese woman who was scorned by her fiancé and died in The Great Quake, and now haunts the pagoda. The harrowed Anafiel recalls the legend of the Chinese crying ghost, and informs the other members of the posse that they are nocturnal.
  • The heroes continue to a copse of trees where one of the unhappy spirits throws rocks at the heroes. They run after the spirit and encounter several other ghosts that charge at the heroes. Abigale tries to call out to them, but when the ghosts descend Anafiel attacks. After a few blows the ghosts retreat and the posse leaves the forest.
  • They continue to look around the island, but find no sign of the glyph. They decide to return to the pagoda at night to meet the spirit of the tragic woman.
  • Abigale and Ray talk to the ghost who reveals that she knows where the glyph is, although it is not accessible to the living. The ghost promises to reveal the location and allow access if the heroes find what has been killing off the restless spirits on the island.
  • Anafiel deduces that the cause of the disappearances could be that of a sin eater. The heroes draw a connection between the behavior of the sin eater and the old man on the island and decide to confront him the next day.
  • The heroes find the sin eater, armed with a shotgun and hiding among the graves on the island. They successfully strike it down and the captured spirits escape. The posse bring the body back to Shan Fan and bury it in hallowed ground in a Christian cemetery to insure that the sin eater will not return.
  • Back on the island the ghost leads the heroes to a cliff side and the water subsides, allowing them to reach the glyph in the sea cave. Anafiel marks the symbol with his blood and triggers the glyph.
  • On the way back up the cliff side the water rushes back in. Ray uses one of her devices and creates portals to transport the posse back up to the top.

The End

They lie by the edge of the cliff, Ray and Abigale gasping for air, as the ocean waves spray a light mist over them.

After a few moments, Ray speaks up. “S-sorry about… I’ve never tried that with so many people at once… it tends to…”

“That’s all right.” Abigale sighs as she sits up. “It’s a good thing you brought all those gadgets with you.”

“And you’ll never use them again.”

Abigale and Ray turn their faces towards Anafiel, but what they see brings a chilling disquiet that erases all the previous joy. On Anafiel’s usually kind face, there is an unfamiliar, murderous expression with a sadistic pair of eyes. A glint bolts outward.

Rays stumbles to her feet, but the katana catches her above the shoulder. She raises her other arm sporting the telekinesis device and fires, but the device only vibrates on her wrist, sending her feedback that it is overloaded.

Abigale raises her own katana and strikes wildly at the attacker, who neatly pivots, deftly parries the strike, and returns the blow a split second later to slice through her arm. She backs up, fear spreading outward from her very core, her entire visage frozen in alarm.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t tell you how the medallion works!” She shouts.

“I’ll eat it out of you,” says a voice no human could possibly utter in ones imagination. Anafiel would never utter such words together. The attacker lunges at Abigale and attempts to bite savagely into her already wounded arm, but she scrambles out of the way.

Both women struggle to stay standing; their legs feel like lead. Ray holds out her telekinesis device, Abigale plants her feet into the earth.

Suddenly, a wave of nausea washes over them. Their stomachs wrench in the most horrible hunger pains they have ever felt and they double over. The feeling rushes to Ray’s head and she collapses. Abigale pushes hard to keep the pain in her stomach and looks up at her attacker in horrifying realization. She looks for a split second at Ray, motionless, and turns in flight.

She stumbles and claws at the rocky earth as she struggles to move her aching legs, her entire left arm now soaked with blood. The attacker reaches out, slashes the katana across her back and she falls to the ground, now crawling away. It casually walks over, violently grabs her and flips her over.

“Abigale, Abigale…so naïve, so trusting.”

She looks right back at the thing, death hovering above. “Face stealer,” she hisses between labored breaths, her face wet.

“Face stealer? He stole my face. I stole his.”

“The earth spirits will never let you trigger The Flood.”

It smiles. “Oh, the Flood. Thanks for that by the way.” It leans closer towards her. “You always were the one I hated the most, this nobody who, for no reason at all, decided to be good. The words you spoke to me when you foolishly thought I was your tragic friend Anafiel; I wanted to rip your tongue out and eat it. Tell you what, I’ll give you a chance to say some more words, to deliver a soliloquy for your death. Go ahead.”

She closes her eyes and slowly breaths in and out her last breathes. The face stealer raises its sword.

Suddenly, she rolls over the side of the cliff, offering her body as sustenance for the fish of the sea. But her descent is cut short and she opens her eyes to find herself hovering high above the surf, the face stealer’s arm outstretched.

It raises its sword again, aiming for her head, but she rolls again and the strike falls short. With a snarl it waves its arm and she resumes her fall into the sea.

Salt-water rushes into her mouth and nose and the waves thrash her about. She struggles to move, but her injured and fatigued arms will not rise above her head and a few seconds later she is thrown against the rocky cliff side. Flesh bruises, bones fracture and break, but pain does not follow, there has already been enough pain. Now there is peace that only the darkness of permanent sleep can bring.

Back up on the cliff, the abomination that emerged from The Great Quake, first bearing Ezekiah Grimme’s face, now possessing Anafiel’s dead body, returns to Ray’s body and ruthlessly punches her in the face several times. Then it removes every gadget and gizmo from her arms. One of them gives off a whizzing noise as it comes off. Before the abomination can do anything the gadget gives a ping followed by a burst of steam that sends it careening off the cliff and into the sea as well.

Epilogue

Darkness was what came immediately before, then…

Gasp! You push yourself upward, up, up out of the viscous substance that surrounds you, until you feel air and take a deep, desperate breath to fill your lungs.

You take a moment to gather your bearings and find yourself standing waist deep in what looks like tar, in the bottom of a large pit. Above glows an ambient red light, but nothing else hints as to what could be up there. You see Abigale and Ray with you, dripping with black liquid, looking the same as you remember, but for some reason Ray is wearing a lab coat along with all her gadgets.

Down at your feet is a Motorola, but this one is open at the back, a glow emanating from inside. You remember your curiosity about the workings of the strange devices, but never could find a reason to justify opening them up against the risk of damage.

Just then the liquid near you begins to churn and you move out of the way. Another human figure bursts out, giving a similar, gasping breath.

After a moment the person stands, coming into the light, and you see…

Anafiel.

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Old and New Friends

Election Day

  • In the last few days leading up to the election our heroes continue to monitor the situation. Max does not find enough evidence to secure a jail cell for Kurtz, but she does find documentation on his bribery of the local paper. As this and more of Kurtz’s deeds become public, the townsfolk stage protests outside the residency that the sheriff subsequently controls.
  • February 24 is Election Day and Watson wins by a landslide. There is celebration all over town.
  • The next morning Roger Monroe finds our heroes. He says that he has reestablished contact with The Church of Lost Angels and they have asked him to remain in Quarrytown and establish a church. Monroe believes he should go along with their request and the heroes agree.
  • Monroe also tells them that the only other survivor of Garret Black’s entourage, the Guardian Angel Kate, died last night.
  • At the hospital Kate’s doctor explains to the posse that she lost her leg, but was expected to make a full recovery. There are no external signs for suspicion and the posse ask for an autopsy.
  • At noon Abigale swears in the new mayor, Luke Watson. He approaches Max after the ceremony to ask her if she would continue as sheriff and she does not decline.
  • Later the posse receives a visitor, Max’s quirky cousin and mad scientist, Ray. Despite her odd behavior the heroes trust her and accept her into their fold. Max decides to stay in Quarrytown as sheriff.
  • Disturbing results from the autopsy come in and show that Kate’s heart is now a lump of flaky coal. The heroes convey the news to Monroe, but he is equally baffled.
  • The next morning Jo, Abigale, and Max leave for Shan Fan to trigger the third glyph on the Isle of Ghost Tears. Things are coming back to normal since The Child incident, but some areas still lack the former rowdy and dangerous atmosphere. Abigale guides the others to The White Lotus Society.

Not Quite At Rest

Pennington-Smythe leads Abigale, Jo, and Ray to a small, back room. There are no windows, the only light comes from a couple of oil lamps in the room that cast long shadows around the bits of furniture and other articles.

“While you were in Quarrytown-“ Pennington-Smythe begins, but Abigale holds up her hand to silence him. Her face has turned the color of dry milk and her eyes are wide open, fixed on the person seated in the room.

Jo and Ray look perplexed at first and then slightly wary. The seated man stares straight-ahead, motionless, eyes open. He has short hair and a face covered with painful looking red blisters, but the shadows conceal most of his appearance.

Pennington-Smythe walks over next to Abigale who is shaking slightly. “It’s all right. He’s just coming out of it-“ At that moment the seated man jerks upright. Abigale jumps as well.

The man turns and looks straight at her. “Abigale!” His voice is slightly hoarse, but articulate.

She takes an inadvertent step back and continues to stare straight at him. After a moment of silence she speaks. “Who…who are you?”

“I’m Anafiel.”

  • Pennington-Smythe explains the shock of Abigale’s life and clarifies the situation for the rest of the heroes. They were about to burn Anafiel’s body when suddenly his eyes opened. What has happened is called “harrowing”. Anafiel’s body is still dead, but the person’s spirit continues to posses the body due to the power of an evil spirit called a Manitou that shares the body with the person.
  • Anafiel explains what happened after his death from his point of view. As he felt himself rise out of his body he saw the soul of the Grimme’s doppelganger go to the south. Then a Manitou appeared and offered Anafiel an opportunity to return to his body. Anafiel considered what is left to be done in the world and agreed to use the borrowed time offered to him. He says that he has considerable control over the Manitou at this time.
  • Jo accepts a proposition from Pennington-Smythe to join the Necessity Alliance in order to search for the locations of the remaining glyphs. After moving past her shock Abigale catches Anafiel up on recent events and they make plans to investigate the Isle of Ghost Tears the following day.
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The Spirit of Competition
  • After the heroes finish speaking with Monroe about his plan they continue to work towards a fair election in Quarrytown. Their biggest concern is dealing with Kurtz’s methods of intimidation.
  • That evening the posse stake out the candidate’s residence. Jo acts as a lookout for the hired thugs and uses the Motorola to alert Max and Abigale.
  • The later two enter the residence and meet with Kurtz under pretense before the group of thugs arrive, lead by a tall, tough woman named Lucy who has a mechanical arm. They eavesdrop on the conversation and hear Kurtz tell Lucy and her entourage that the Stetsons have been speaking out against him. Kurtz also pays additional damage fees to give the mayor and sheriff a “warning.”
  • The posse runs ahead to the Stetson carpentry shop to warn the businessman. Jo hires a young boy and aspiring pilot to alert Lacy O’Malley and they all wait in hiding.
  • Late in the evening Lucy and about a dozen thugs arrive. They start harassing Mr. Stetson and when the threats become physical the heroes emerge and start fighting. They see a stick of dynamite taped around Stetson’s mouth, which Lucy subsequently lights.
  • Max dodges and ducks several attacks as she runs towards Stetson and neatly strikes off the fiery end of the dynamite fuse with her sword.
  • Jo and Max deliver deadly blows against Lucy. The remaining thugs surrender and the posse take them to jail.
  • Lacy agrees to publish a story in the paper and make Kurtz’s dealings public. The posse also decides that Max should investigate Kurtz although they decide not to arrest him for the time being.
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Monroe's Plan

Trouble Out of Mexico

  • Searching around the ship and talking to the crew the posse find a translator to look at Captain Blood’s journal. Out of the many things written, the most disturbing describe an upcoming invasion of California by Santa Anna in the coming months. From what they can gather from the journal, the captive Aztec sorcerer, and what they have seen onboard, the army will consist of undead, under the control of an odd plantlike substance, all orchestrated by Santa Anna and another Aztec sorcerer named Xitlan, who unfortunately is also an “advisor” to the European ruler of Mexico, Maxmillian.
  • In secret, Max contacts the captain of the super ferry and they execute the captive Aztec soldier, against the arrangement for the Aztec’s release in exchange for information. No great strife comes out of the incident, however, when the rest of the posse hears of it.

He’s Gone

  • The two ships arrive in Quarrytown to much excitement and soon several boats surround the ferry to unload the cargo. Abigale scans the docks for her brother, but does not see him.
  • She does not find him at town hall either and nothing gives her a clue about where his is until the secretary gives her a note. Her brother writes to her about a plan that Roger Monroe has for defeating Grimme. Feeling inadequate, Eli has decided to leave in order to play a part to bring Monroe’s plan to fruition.
  • Abigale is stunned, but there is nothing that she or the rest of the posse can do to find him and mend bridges, they do not know where he is. In the meantime there is an election to prepare for.
  • Sentries posted outside the homes of the candidates report that thugs have been seen coming and going from the Kurtz residency late at night. The posse plans to track them the following evening.
  • Abigale successfully moves the voting location to the mining lifts while Jo talks to one of the two candidates, Luke Watson, about writing up a profile for distribution among the miners.
  • Jo goes to the Tombstone Epitaph office to talk to Lacy about publishing Watson’s profile. There he sees Lacy talking to Roger Monroe.

You stare for a few moments, forgetting all manners.

Is this really the same cowed and beaten elderly man you met just a few days ago? You can’t believe your eyes! He looks ten years younger, his back straight, eyes bright, and power behind each stride as he walks in front of you. Vigor practically emanates off of him as he eagerly invites you all to take a seat with him at the bar.

Everyone opens his or her mouth at once, but Monroe speaks first, addressing Abigale.

“Abigale, I’m sorry. You’re brother was going to be here when you got back, but complications came up and we couldn’t wait.”

“What did he get involved in? What is this plan he mentioned?” The lines of worry on her face run deep.

“Well, shortly after you left we met at this very bar, talked together, and I told him about this idea I was mulling through.” Monroe begins to talk faster and there are a few moments where he almost runs out of breath. “Now, I have researched stories and legends of a powerful Aztec medallion, an artifact that has power over the realm of death. Seeing that Grimme-“

“Don’t call that thing Grimme,” Abigale says flatly. “Grimme was a decent man who died a tragic death.”

“Ah, yes, slip of the tongue, I agree… What should we call…it?”

“Anything but Grimme. I call it the face-stealer.”

“Yes, well, seeing how “not Grimme” is some sort of undead, I believe we can use this medallion to defeat him. Maybe even bring back the real Grimme.”

None of you speak for a moment as you let the shock wash over. Another way to end the threat of the Church of Lost Angels…is that even possible? Your current plan sounds complicated and farfetched enough to account for all of The Elder’s safeguards.

“Where is this medallion?” Max asks.

“That’s where Eli came in. He offered to retrieve it himself and he sounded very adamant that he be the one to do so, so I allowed it. I don’t know where the medallion is, but I am certain that it does exist. A lesser spirit and servant of the locust god I’ve spoken of is guiding him to it as we speak. I was able to procure this spirit’s service after meeting its payment. We were going to have it wait for your return, but the spirit was very insistent and we did not want to lose it, so Eli left a few days ago. Don’t worry, it has agreed to stop long enough for periods of rest.”

Everything he has just said is astounding, but one thing has caught your attention. “When you say payment, what do you mean?”

“The spirit requires payment in return for its services, so I gave a year of my life. In other words I will die a year earlier then fate originally designed.”

At this a few of you exchange uncomfortable glances and Max speaks. “What are you going to be doing?”

“While Eli is looking for the medallion I will be in the City of Lost Angels.”

“You’re going back to that place?” Abigale sounds shocked, almost horrified and she conveys all of your reactions to Monroe’s latest words.

“Yes. I can do the most good there. The Elders trust me. This way we can keep up to date on their plans. We’ll need to keep in contact periodically, so I think we should meet in Perdition. It is still not affiliated with the Church as far as I know and it’s far enough away to avoid attracting attention.”

No one looks like they envy the Reverend. Abigale’s face falls, but she only sighs and says, “So this is the penance you’ve chosen. God forbid I take it away from you.”

Jo frowns and looks skeptical. “How are you going to keep your cover? Certainly Lost Angels has ways of detecting infiltrators.”

“Ah, that’s the thing. I designed the method of detection myself. It’s a soup that causes severe indigestion in people who harbor ill will towards the Church. I know ways around it.”

Your stomach churns for more reasons then one. You already have a bad feeling about this plan; so many things could go wrong. Monroe is going back to the bowels of hell itself and he does not even know exactly what this medallion does. Meanwhile, you all have been keeping a secret from Monroe; you already have a way to take out Grimme. But a backup plan makes sense and what Monroe has in mind is just as much as dangerous and unknown as The Flood.

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