It’s the third session of my Monster of the Week campaign! Last session found here.
We pick up right where we left off: behind the Gas’n’Sip, with a “Subtractor” monster bearing down on the hunters.
Stuart has out his cell phone already and tries to snap pictures of this thing in action. Beatrice is backing away, trying to get a read on the situation. Galvan ain’t got no time for that. He grabs one of the car-husks sitting around out back — yes, grabs the whole damn thing — and uses it as a battering ram against the monster. A car’s heavy, tho, and has a lot of momentum, tearing free of Galvan’s grasp in the process. It passes partially through the creature — the thing’s semi-solid — and brings down big chunks of wall and doorway onto it, pinning it into place temporarily.
The unmanned car-husk swerves and tumbles into the garage beyond, touching off sparks and starting a fire.
Stuart puts away his phone having gotten what he could, and scans the area, looking for what might be going on besides a reality-destroying shadow-thing. And he spots it: someone’s making a break for it from the garage. Stuart draws his sidearm and fires, pop pop pop! The third shot hits his target in the shoulder, and with a yelp the man drops.
The group starts to beat a retreat as the shadow begins boiling back out of the rubble, Galvan in the lead, Stuart bringing up the rear. As Galvan and Beatrice confront the man out front, they see he has a hole in his hand and a silver sphere rests on the ground before. “Get the big one,” the man says, and the sphere zips towards Galvan, ripping into him as Galvan charges forward.
Beatrice uses some sort of arcane “whammy” ability and shoots a beam of white not-light at the orb, momentarily blasting it into a torus shape before it recovers. “On the other hand, go after her,” says Leon — yep, it’s the mechanic — and Beatrice recognizes his voice as the “auditioning” man who threatened her with a knife not too long ago.
After a few test-shots with text-laden ammo prove ineffective, Stuart comes round to join the other two. He sees Galvan bearing down on Leon as Leon makes a break for a nearby car. Stuart brings up his gun and fires, at least trying to delay Leon. Leon gets to the car as Galvan catches up with him; the interior of the car floods with flat inky blackness the moment Leon touches the handle; and Galvan brings his hammer-fist down, audibly breaking Leon’s back. Leon rolls to the side, moaning, but seems less affected by the broken back than you’d expect.
At the same time, Beatrice has tussled with the silver orb a bit, and is unaware that the shadow creature has surged up behind her. It’s looking grim, but Galvan threatens Leon with further pain if he doesn’t call his creatures off. “Skedaddle!” says Leon, and the creatures fold up and wink out of existence.
The group starts talking with broken-backed Leon, trying to get him to give them details about the “audition” he mentioned. He plays it cagey, talking about how most people aren’t real, not really real, as if that excuses the deaths that have cropped up recently, and treating Beatrice like she’s the one in charge, given that (as he puts it) she’s “able to toss around primal negation like it’s easy”. He can see that she’s pretty ignorant about these matters, though, and will answer her questions if she’ll just step into his office (indicating the blackness-filled car).
Stuart meanwhile quietly uses his phone to send some information to his contacts at MI-13 and has a brief conversation with them; they keep the channel open and install some apps to analyze the situation as it presents itself. They’re not entirely sure what’s up with the car, but they’re pretty sure it’s a portal and if Stuart’s willing to let Beatrice go in there it could provide some valuable intel.
Beatrice uneasily agrees to Leon’s terms and has him enter first because she doesn’t want him at her back. She opens a phone call to Stuart before she steps in, but it cuts out the moment she’s inside, unseen by her friends as it just takes a couple steps to be completely enveloped by the car’s blackness. While she’s away, Galvan and Stuart take a few measures to make sure the garage doesn’t go up in flames behind them (it had started to), and grabs some of the records from the office with an eye on continuing their investigation, modulo whatever comes from Beatrice’s conversation with Leon.
Inside the void, Leon is already a good ten feet away from Beatrice, and she’s not able to close the gap with him. Distance works funny in here. There’s a car-door-shaped white shape behind Beatrice; it doesn’t get any further away from her as she walks forward. They talk.
Leon reveals that he’s doing the audition to join with the Editors — spellcrafters, seemingly, who specialize in editing reality to produce one better suited to their goals. The “Cutting Orbs” are something Leon’s brought in as a “tool” for what he’s doing. He also refers to the “Hungry Shadow” as a tool, though he seems to admit he doesn’t entirely control or own it: “Let’s just say I’ve got it on a lay-away plan.” As far as the people who’ve been killed as part of this audition process go, Leon is glowery and tight-lipped: “They brought that upon themselves.” Oh, and Galvan is a harbinger of an apocalypse. There are many potential apocalypses, though.
All the while, Leon’s back seems to be straightening out. He’s healing as part of being in this void. Beatrice accuses him of this, and he shrugs and smiles, owning up to it. Finally, he says, “Look. You’ve screwed up my audition hard. I’m willing to reinstate our truce so I can salvage it, or I need six hours to take care of final matters and get out of town.” Beatrice isn’t quite sure how to respond to that and starts feeling out her options, when Leon opens up a white rectangle behind him, hand behind his back. “Six hours,” he says, and steps through. Beatrice quickly works out that if she dives through after him, she’ll be stranded who-knows-where and without her support — or she can turn around and go back the way she came. Safety wins out as a concern, and she takes the second option, rejoining her friends.
They talk about what she’s learned and go over what they’ve gathered from the shop. Also they get pizza, which this time doesn’t end up catastrophically burned by a stray magic spell.
Looking at the record of repairs they see that Bruce Gallow has brought his car in a lot. Like maybe it’s a lemon but more likely he’s been visiting Leon at the shop using car troubles as a cover. Cross referencing a few bits they get his home address and head on over. It’s afternoon, not end-of-work time, and there’s a mini-van in the driveway. Donning some of the trappings of a cover identity, Stuart goes to check on the house, ringing the doorbell. Nobody answers. Looking around he sees that something black is covering one of the upstairs windows. He heads back to the car, briefs the team, and repositions the car away from the house they’re about to break into.
They manage to time things such that nobody in the neighborhood catches on as they vault the back fence and approach the house from behind. There’s movement inside, which draws them closer, carefully. Sliding open the patio door is done easily enough — it wasn’t locked. They see the source of the movement: a shirtless man in his underwear — not Bruce — opening the fridge and getting out a beer. He calls out, “Honey, you want anything from here?” and doesn’t get an answer. Then he says, “Cool!” and closes the fridge, walking over to the bottom of the stairwell. A pile of leaking, opened beer bottles lies at the base of the stairs. He goes sort of blank-faced for a moment, drops the bottle he’s currently holding, and walks back over to the fridge, only to repeat the same process.
Looks like he got “eaten” by the Hungry Shadow, and he’s operating with a holographic brain stuck on a loop.
The team decides not to confront him just yet, and they head upstairs while he’s busy at the fridge end of his loop. Upstairs, they approach the master bedroom. The door’s closed. Half-ecstasy/half-discomfort moaning comes from behind the door. Stuart tries opening the door, carefully, quietly. The black, writhing silhouette of a woman lies on the bed, making the sounds. After a couple moments she breaks her inarticulate noises to say, “For fuck’s sake, ignore the damn doorbell!” and then resumes her writhing.
Stuart ponders what to do next — that’s a Hungry Shadow on the bed with what’s left of Janet Gallow — when he notices that it seems like someone’s in the bedroom closet. The Hungry Shadow gets wise to his presence right then, tho, so he can’t do much about it right away. It surges off the bed with a kind of shriek and races right at the doorway. Stuart slams the door! There’s a SPLUT sound, and the Shadow starts to seep through the solid mass of the door, slow and inexorable.
The team takes a side jaunt into one of the kids’ bedrooms that shares a wall with the master bedroom. Stuart points about where he thinks he saw someone in the closet, and Galvan… well, Galvan goes right through the wall, doing incredible structural damage, and dragging Leon back through it all. Turns out it was a load-bearing wall Galvan went through, and the ceiling in the master bedroom caves in as what’s left of Janet says, “For fuck’s sake, ignore the damn doorbell!” one more time.
Leon’s screaming now, too: “No, no, no! Not now, not yet!” He howls in pain and/or rage, and his arms begin to bulge with spherical growths. Hell no, that’s a ton of cutting orbs he’s trying to bring into the world! Galvan grabs Leon by the head and lifts him, squeezing… squeezing… Leon keeps screaming back, and even when his head gives way and goes soft, he’s still screaming, still very much alive. Eventually the head is too soft and he slides out of Galvan’s hands, a broken flesh-mess on the floor, and the spheres are waking up inside of that flesh, roaming around, causing Leon’s body to ripple. Stuart throws his coat on top of Leon, since it has text printed all over the interior lining, in hopes that it’ll work as a barrier to the orbs.
Beatrice does some quick thinking and consults her lore. Leon is probably remaining alive because of his link to the Shadow; if the Shadow can be destroyed, so can Leon. But how to destroy the Shadow? Well, theoretically, it could be destroyed by burning the inscriptions — Leon’s magic seems to be very text-driven — but it’d need to be all the inscriptions and it’s pretty likely Leon created more than one. But if Beatrice could get ahold of one of them, she might be able to work a spell that reached out to the others and burned them all at once…
Quickly, she rummages through the screaming Leon-corpse-thing’s pockets and pulls out a wallet. In the wallet there’s a picture of Bruce Gallow; on the back of it is scrawled something that hurts her eyes to look at, in a language she can’t read. Must be the thing. Now for the spell, as the Hungry Shadow pushes at the doorway to the kid’s room. Seems that there’s some kind of metaphysical barrier preventing it from coming in right away… but Beatrice has to act fast all the same. She crumples the photo, lights the picture on fire, and swallows the burning inscription. It hurts! And burns! And travels down her throat, where it begins to transmute from physical pain into metaphysical pain, settling right into her heart chakra, connecting out into the world, out to other parts of Grant Falls where Leon has stashed the other inscriptions, and they all go up in flames…
[EDIT: Left this paragraph out! Can’t believe it! Adding it now!] … and in so doing, a little part of Leon settles into her own being. She feels as he felt. So very much in love with Bruce, and Bruce with him. Bruce unable to leave his wife and family because the family means so much to him. Bruce wanting his relationship with Leon kept secret. Leon’s dabbling in magic intertwining with that relationship. Bringing him to destroy those who would jeopardize what Bruce wants. The woman from work who figured out their secret and threatened to expose them. The men — first Orson, then another — tempting Janet to stray, to seek a divorce, which would wreck Bruce and separate him from the kids. And ultimately Janet herself had to go, of course. But all born out of love, all of it, love that Beatrice now feels for Bruce, a gay man she has never and probably will never meet, a love twisted by magic and darkness and the appetites of the creature …
… The Shadow seems to recognize that this has happened, and breaks into the room, expanding outwards, scream-shrieking. Tendrils weave towards Stuart and Galvan; Stuart is forced to jump out the window to evade it, and tumbles down through an awning onto the patio. Galvan pumps shotgun blasts into the thing as it closes on him; he then grabs the entire bunk bed and slams it into the creature. It wraps around his arm and leaves it feeling a little… unreal… but then crumples under Galvan’s assault and withers away.
Leon stops screaming.
It’s clean-up time: Janet’s looping lover appears to have vanished during all the commotion upstairs, but this mess needs to be covered up. Stuart goes downstairs and rigs the furnace to blow in a few minutes’ time, and they clear out. When the house does go up, though, it’s HUGE, way out of proportion with what should have happened, and a rain of fire (see, Galvan spent a point of Luck, and that’s bad news when you’re playing the Summoned playbook) pelts the neighborhood for a good half hour afterwards. The group gets the heck out of dodge, but not until after they break into the police HQ that night and retrieve the evidence being held as part of the investigation into the missing bodies.
They destroy it (or at least don’t return it) after viewing it: Double Tee is working the night shift, and someone walks in under some kind of concealment magic; TT never notices that he’s there, and the magic makes it look like this person’s back is always to the camera, even when he’s moving in a way that it’s clear his back isn’t actually pointed that way. The bodies get moved out of the field of view, and that’s that.
As they head out of town, Beatrice contemplates what to do with the vial of harbinger-of-an-apocalypse blood she’s collected under assignment for the Order, and Stuart gets a contact from MI-13: “Job well done. We have a new assignment for you. We need you to hail a cab.”
This session wrapped our first mystery and debuted the use of an alteration to the Use Magic move that you can read about here. Tho Use Magic only happened once, I’m really happy with how it better fit the flavor of the game I’m trying to run. (Yay player feedback that it wasn’t doing that previously!)
Here’s the continuity list given as we roll forward to the next mystery:
- There’s at least one audition going on, for a group called the Editors.
- The Editors are near as you can tell some sort of supernatural edit-the-world/reality faction, and you have to audition to get into their ranks.
- Leon at least didn’t believe that people counted as real, given what folks like him and the Editors can do.
- Beatrice is maybe a potential candidate for being one if she wanted to commit to it. This seems tied to the “primal negation” she can hurl around (her big whammy).
- Galvin seems to be a Harbinger of AN apocalypse.
- MI-13 aka Stuart’s ex girlfriend wants the group to “hail a cab” as their next assignment.