Content warning: Infant mortality.
Finding his own Path
Now that the gang had made contact with Mordis, Harland reached out to the purveyor of exotic goods and acquired from him the ghost on an ancient spirit. It didn’t matter who it was…just that it was very old.
Mordis said he had the spirit of a midwife trapped in an ancient consecrated clay urn, but who was to say how helpful she would be [Acquire Asset, Standard quality].
With Elke’s aid (who we all noticed had moved into a nicer loft on Chaterwall, thanks to her Lifestyle going up) Harland cracked open the seal and sought to commune with the ancient spirit. However when the clay urn broke open, no vaporous form emerged. For a moment Harland wondered if he had been swindled by Mordis, but soon realized something else was going on.
The shadows in the room were stretching like tendrils of a rapidly growing vine. The pulled away from their origins and pooled in the center of the room, slowly forming the shape of a woman with uncommon features. She wore beads in her hair and possessed eyes that burned like furnaces.
She did not speak, but when Harland attuned she entered him and he watched the last moments of her life.
“Push, woman push! By the devils you must be strong.” Mardoen yelled as she stood at the birthing bed of the Skov Queen. The queen seemed far away, like she didn’t realize that she was giving birth to a child, but rather imagined herself dancing or swimming through the sea of stars.
The queen, like many other Skov had taken to smoking the leaves of the lotus plant, and these days would rarely have more than a few lucid moments during any given day.
Maroden, the midwife needed her to focus. Needed her to birth this child, for which she planned to abscond with. “Pay attention woman. This child is the future of Skov. She will be strong, and she will fend off the Deathless Emporer. She will succeed where you and your husband have failed. Now push!”
But it was all for naught. The child was still born. Trapped too long in the birthing canal and suffocated. Finally the queen was present and aware of her surroundings. She looked at Maroden, her eyes full of anger and sorrow, and then down to the bloody mess that was to be her child, and without saying a word, took the short bladed knife intended to cut the umbilical cord and jammed it into Maroden’s throat.
After the vision subsided, Harland free’d the ghost and the shadows in Elke’s room receded back to their respective origins. Due to Elke’s fastidiousness, no signs of the spirits presence lingered [Resist the consequence with Resolve]. Harland finally found what he was looking for, a path for his disciples to walk: the path of austerity.
Friends with Frost, Finally
Hix, happy go lucky now that she was freed from the Griders, headed down to the Charterhall precinct to let Frost know all about her unlawful incarceration. Instead however, she was met with a wide eye and startled inspector. One alerted to her presence he grabbed her and dragged her outside the building and outside of earshot from the Bluecoats inside “What in the Devil are you doing here? Don’t you know that you and your affiliates are wanted for the murder of over a dozen Irruvians?”
Hix, also surprised, asked Frost to calm down, and to hear her story…maybe over a drink? She told him that she wasn’t a part of the attack on the Red Sashes, because she was busy being held in captivity by the Grinders. She also told him that she didn’t want any of this, and somewhat surprisingly he believed her. Over the course of the night, Frost went from suspicious, to sympathetic, to finally admiring of Hix. She wanted to lead a clean life, but she also stood by those she called family. His own life was terribly lonely by comparison, and he wondered if some day, after she separated herself from all this crime, if he might be someone she called family. [Long term project to turn Frost into a close friend completed!]
She also gave him all the information she had gathered about how the Grinders were getting guns out of the city. Who they had paid off, and where they could be pinched. Frost went home with a new friend and a giant stack of paperwork to start going through. For him, that made for the best day he’d had in a while [Reduce Heat x 2, with the Devil’s Bargain to put the final tick on the clock that the DSS are know snitches, 4/4].
Protecting your Soul
Terrified that she had discovered not one, but two ways people had been creating Hollows (Bazso Baz by applying the pre-cataclysm circlet of the Empty Vessel near near death, and the Dimmer Sisters by nearly drowning people and then extracting their soul while it’s bonds to the flesh were weakened). Now that she knew the ways (or some of the ways) to create a Hollow, she would find a way to protect herself and her companions from it ever happening to them.
With Hix’s scientific mind, and her own knowledge of Spetrology they worked up the plans for infusing purified quart crystals with a resonant energy that would pulse at a frequency counter to any which would draw out a soul. Unfortunately, pure quartz is rare and only found in Severos. They would have to get in good standing with the Severosi consulate to obtain them!
Ritual questions answered
What effect does the ritual create and how is it weird? An amulet that protects the soul from extraction prior to death. In the ghost field, the bearer shimmers as if surrounded by a reflective barrier.
What must I do to perform the ritual? Perfectly infuse pure quartz with electroplasm at a specific resonate frequency, which can typically only be achieved with the fine instrumentation of a lightning tower.
What is the price and to whom do I pay it? Coin and favor. The Severosi consulate can sell the quartz, but they will only do so to those they trust [Faction status +1 or better].
What new belief, drive, instinct, or fear does knowledge of this ritual and its attendant occult forces instill in you? Every supernatural effect can be countered if you know the means.
The True Path
Harland gathered together everyone that he could for his unveiling of his new doctrine at The Six Arms. Tesslyn and Lizette, who he had rounded up, were there. As was Thistle, sporting his fine mustachio. Hix, Stras, and Elke came for support, as did a few others, most of which concealed their faces with spirit masks.
Harland was barefoot. He carried a tome, and had changed his mask. Just as the Hierophant and the Master of Secrets had masks which designated them as such, his bore the sigils and runes which he would later indicate marked his as The Prophet.
Once the small assembly was gathered, Harland spoke to them about his journey, about his time studying the ancient spirits with the Path of Echoes and how they had lost sight of their goals when they abdicated leadership to Vond Kardera, who craved only destruction.
Harland, however, had found a better way. By abstaining from all that you hold dear, but keeping worldly pleasures at bay, one could purify the soul, such that when you died your spirit would be reconciled and prosper.
Several questions were asked about how to live this new life and what sacrifices should be made. These were easy questions for which Harland had the answers. Then two of his acolytes came forward, both wearing their spirit masks and holding hands. The man spoke. This is Lizette, my wife, and the thing which I hold most dear. In front of everyone, we ask that you dissolve our marriage, so that we might be worthy to walk the True Path.
Softly, under the cover of her mask, those who listened closely could hear the gentle sobs coming from Lizette as Harland pronounced that their bond to each other was broken. [Indulge Vice, Devils Bargain that some in the crowd would speak of this and word would get back to the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh 1/4. Overindulging led to attracting attention, another Entanglement]
The First Doubter
“Umm… excuse me. Just a point of clarification. So if you live this life and your ghost is reconciled when you die, that is all great. But we still want to save the ghosts that have gone made as well right? We can still find a way to help them too, yeah?” Elke, of course, spoke on behalf of the ghosts which spiraled towards madness, of Ashlyn and Cavelle and Ring.
And the answer: No, those ghosts are not redeemable and should be destroyed. And so, even as the new religion is formed, the first schism had begun!
Also, Hix noticed that she was not particularly welcomed in the The Six Arms. The prostitutes and madam that worked there all looked at her with disdain for reasons she didn’t understand. The didn’t take any action now, but she could tell they were thinking about it [Hix barred from The Six Arms 1/4. This was a place consecrated to another god, one that did not truck with the Keeper of the Flame]
How to Create a Hollow of her own
[Before this downtime action I rolled the Entanglement Harland generated and got “Cooperation”. So whole Elke didn’t generate the entanglement, it seemed perfect that she be the one who got wrapped up in it].
Back in Bazso’s coal warehouse, she talked with him more about the Empty Vessel and spend more time working with the circlet. And having done so she finally discovered how she would create Hollows of her own [Long Term Project Complete]. While she was there, however Bazso asked a favor of her. One of his soldiers had died. He had used the circlet to carry off her soul, but from what he saw Elke do with Templeton, he wondered if she could use it to allow the young woman to say farewell a final time to her family. Suuuuuuure, she could do that.
The Break Up
Hix invited Salia out to a nice place for dinner, planning to wine and dine her. The even ended almost as abruptly as it started though. Salia arrived and at first delighted to see Hix, she quickly turned to asking questions. Where had Hix been? Why was Hix blowing her off? What happened?
Hix responded…by blowing her off again…”C’mon, can’t we just have a nice night out? Why do you have to ask so many questions?” This dismissal final gave Salia the courage (and the rage) she needed to tell Hix to fucking get lost. Hix didn’t care about Salia, and Salia was through caring about Hix! [Indulge Vice, Over indulge and loss of vice purveyor. On a more meta level, this was also us deciding that we didn’t want to depict Hix and Salia’s abusive relationship any more. The dice backed us up, but that’s the route we were going down anyway].
During the debate between Elke and Harland there was a great quote:
“Where did you find your enlightenment?”
“I bought it at a store!”
Finally, we got to see what Harland’s new faith was all about. So cool. This will piss off BOTH the Path of Echoes AND the Ecstasy of the Flesh. Nice moves Eric!
It was fun to see Elke and Hix on the same side of a supernatural fence. Normally they are so opposed to each other, but working on preventing the creation of a hollow was something Hix could get behind. Of course the fact that then Elke went onto finding out how to create one, well that will be an interesting discussion once they have it!
Cool to see Frost and Hix hitting it off as new BFFs. Frost really hopes Hix can get out of this life of crime and at this point he’s willing to risk his own ass to help her. Can she do it?
Snitches? Yikes, that is a rough reputation to gain. That one is going to come back in all sorts of ways. Can’t wait to see what it means in play.
What could have improved
With short sessions, it’s possible to never get around to the score. This was our second session of downtime and there was still coin and rep that could have been spent if they wanted to fore more downtime actions. It works for us but I think this is something that each group needs to sort out at the table. How quickly will we handle downtime and how do we depict the pressure to perform a score in the fiction. In this case, we still had a looming threat of the dean and sponsoring professors, so that helped with motivation, but I think it’s important to keep the world in motion so tension and scarcity remain in the game.