Abilene Session Notes – 9 May 2015

Abilene Session Notes – 9 May 2015

November 20th, 1878

The little psychopath decided that we were going to investigate The Duchess that night.  And then she decided to blow the place to hell.  And those three demons didn’t take lightly to that at all….

The session begins with a cutscene:

The door to the church slams shut, and for a moment, there’s silence – relatively anyway.
There’s the wind.  There’s never not the wind.  Something wooden outside – maybe the outhouse door or a shutter, is clattering about with every gust.  The wind causes a draft as it sucks the warm air out of every tiny crack in the church and replaces it with the bitter cold.
The sanctuary is lit dimly by a few dozen votives scattered between the statue of the virgin in her alcove and the altar at the front.  The light from the two kerosene lanterns in the room, one held by Holden and the other hanging next to the door to the rectory, provide pools of brilliance relative to the shadows chasing each other around the rest of the large room.
You all smell like a bonfire, no one more than Onesimus, who is permeated with it and speckled with ash, char, and small holes burned in his clothes.  There’s the scent of lavender, probably from one or more of the candles.  And behind it all, almost unnoticeable to your battered senses, is the smell of death, rot, and decay wafting up through the floorboards from the creature in the cellar.
You’re beyond exhausted.  You began the day at the stockyards, rode fifteen miles, explored the town, fought for your lives against the assassins, encountered the zombie, and then the succubi and the fire.
And now this.  This dusty, cold, dark church.
You’re in here.
And they…are out there.
Waiting.

The party watches as the succubi wait in the darkness and debate their next move, exhaustion is setting in and they’re not sure they can face the threat in their current state.  During the conversation, Beth Farley comes out of the rectory in a robe and kneels in front of the church altar.

As the conversation goes on, they note two townsfolk in their night clothes join the succubi, obviously under their spell.  That convinces the majority of the party they must act soon before too many innocents are pulled into the fray.

Ed notices Beth behaving oddly and investigates, finding her naked under the robe, breathing heavy and holding a bowie knife.  As Ed moves to bring it to Ahiga’s attention, Beth slits her own throat and falls upon the altar.  The whole party feels that some unquantifiable safety net around the church break down at the desecration.

Holden picks the fight, sending blasts across the churchyard and hitting Rita.  Amber attacks Holden with a whip, while Chen sprouts wings and attacks Jacob in the bell tower.  The civilians are kept at bay by an entanglement from Seri.

The battle is swift but pitched, in the end, the civilians are unconscious, save one man who stumbles back to his home in confusion.  Amber is dead, and Chen fled into the night.  Rita is unconscious at the edge of the property, but Onesimus beats her to death with the butt of his pistol until her demonic body crumbles to dust.

The party gathers back in the sanctuary, covers Beth’s body, and brings the unconscious townsfolk in from the cold.  Ahiga leaves the building to sleep under the covered stable with the horses, and the remainder of the party succumb to sleep.

 

 

screenshot0017

 

Abilene Session Notes – 25 April 2015

Abilene Session Notes – 25 April 2015

November 19th, 1878

For those keeping score: the Marshall was on the take of the guy who ran all the crime, the brothel was a den of soul-sucking demons, and the missing preacher had an injun zombie chained up the basement chanting the name of a Very Bad Man.  Heh.  But wait…there’s more…

 

The party debates the zombie briefly, including taking note that it seems to shuffle vaguely East by Northeast, which incidentally is the direction of Detroit, KS.  The blood on the floor appears to be several days old, the zombie at least a week or longer dead.  Finally, Onesimus shoots the thing in the head, (re)killing it.

By that point, Seri had grown restless and left the church.  Ahiga and Ed following behind.  Seri scouts out The Duchess, going so far as to turn herself into a housefly and scout the interior.  She returns to where Ahiga is hiding at about the same point that the rest of the party catches up.  They debate for a few minutes longer before Seri heads into The Duchess, plops down a load cash at the bar to convince the bartender to serve whiskey to a young girl, and starts drinking.  The rest of the party piles in after her.

They’re met by Rita, one of the doves of the house, who everyone in the party finds strikingly, even unnaturally beautiful.  They are served drinks and are made as comfortable as any of them are willing to get.  It isn’t long, however, before Holden and Jacob are, quite uncharacteristically, giving up on their theories about The Duchess and wanting to leave, and Ed, even more uncharacteristically, has Rita in his lap.

Onesimus, recognizing that all is not right, attempts to get the party to leave, and Olivia says a prayer to dispel magics on Rita.  Rita shies away from Olivia’s cross, and the three men snap to from the thrall they were under.  With Rita demanding they leave, Onesimus ushers the party out the door.  As Seri leaves, she lights a large bundle of dynamite and chucks it into the bar.

The Duchess bar explodes, setting fire to the remainder of the building, killing the bartender and two local patrons instantly.  Onesimus races in the building to look for survivors.  He finds one on the ground floor and gets him out of the building.  He sees Rita unharmed, standing in the flames, looking at him accusingly.  He then races up to the second floor where he finds another survivor and tosses him off the veranda to relative safety.  He discovers a final body in one of the bedrooms, mummified as Farley and the man Ed found in the alley, and escapes out the window before succumbing to the smoke.

The few townsfolk brave enough to come out in the night make a half-hearted effort to fight the fire, but disperse when it proves to be ineffective.  The Duchess burns to the ground, thankfully not catching any neighboring building on fire.  The two survivors that Onesimus rescued give him their thanks and go their separate ways.

The party makes it back to the church.  As Onesimus closes the doors behind him, he sees the figures of three women in the dark at the edge of the church property.

 

screenshot0017

 

 

Abilene Session Notes – 11 April 2015

Abilene Session Notes – 11 April 2015

November 19th, 1878

I don’t think we expected to get anything out of Madame Chen, and we were right.  She was a cool customer, guilty as sin, but we weren’t going to get anywhere with her by talkin’.  We were definitely ruffling feathers though – you generally don’t send a ninja hit squad to be neighborly.

The grieving widow, introduced as Margaret Barnes, relayed the story that her husband Leroy often visited The Duchess on Tuesdays and recently his health has been degrading little by little every week.  She found his mummified body that afternoon in front of their house.

Beth Farley takes Margaret to the rectory to calm her down while the party examines the body.  Holden identifies that the body’s life-force has been extracted, and Onesimus identifies the corpse as having been drained by a succubus.  He also notes that a single succubus could conceivably go unnoticed in a town the size of Abilene, but more than one would likely produce bodies.

Olivia covers and moves the body to the dais and touches holy water to it and the body immediately catches fire and burns to ash.

Holden opens the doors to the sanctuary to let the smoke out, and gets a glimpse of a man under a tree in the church yard, roughly the same silhouette of the demon who has been answering his calls for power consistently since he woke, but at second glance he’s gone.

Olivia entreats the party to help her find Father Patrick O’Connor, who has not returned from a hurried trip to Detroit, KS.  The party debates the merits of searching for the priest, versus The Duchess, versus heading to Salina in their pursuit to find Johnny Wu.

Holden leaves the building and attempts to draw power to cast his Hunch, once again he is met after a disconcerting wait in a parlor that seemed more…real…than usual by Mr. Perkins, who deals the cards.  Holden notices a plain ring with a black onyx stone on Perkins’ finger that looked exactly like one that Holden had won in a card game in Atlanta some five years before.  He realized that he had lost the ring, but couldn’t put his finger on exactly when.  He asked Mr. Perkins about the ring, to which he replied, “I won it in a card game…”.

Holden returns to the present and attempts to get a Hunch about The Duchess – he gets the distinct impression that the Duchess isn’t a human place, but more of a den, or perhaps a hive.  He turns around immediately and tries to get a Hunch about Father O’Connor – he’s met with the stench of decay and rot, and a stylized image of a coyote, in the Anasazi style.

Re-entering the sanctuary, he relays his experience, and Ahiga immediately becomes agitated upon seeing the drawing of the coyote – she informs the party that it is the symbol of the Drowned Coyotes, a gang from out West, who she is hunting.

As the party discusses their next move, several of them hear the clatter of metal from the church’s cellar.  There, they find an indian man, chained by the wrists in an earthen back room.  The man is revealed to be a zombie, a gaping wound across his neck, eyes cloudy.  The man is muttering “Je’ she’a”, a native word for “whisper”, though used as a proper name.  He is whispering it very rapidly, and it sounds very much like “Joshua”.

On the floor is the symbol of the Drowned Coyotes, drawn in the dirt in dried blood.

 

screenshot0017

Abilene Session Notes – 14 March 2015

Abilene Session Notes – 14 March 2015

November 19th, 1878

The town was cold.  The town was dark.  The town was scared.  And you only had to mention the name “Wu” once or twice before the town Marshall shit himself and hid under the bed…

Holden asks Marshall Heller if he knows anyone by the name Joshua – the Marshall responds in the negative, but for a moment seems genuinely confused.

The party proceeds to The Duchess, where they question Madame Chen on the whereabouts of Johnny Wu.  She responds fairly noncommittally and provides the party with no real useful information.  They decide to stay the night at St. Mary’s and head that direction but are accosted by a small band of Asians.  After a brief conversation in Chinese with Ed, he attacks.  The party slays all of the attackers save one, who they question.  He reveals that Wu lives in a large mansion near Salina and only occasionally comes to Abilene.

Heller arrives and takes custody of the man, who no one believes will see the inside of the town’s cells.

The party arrives at St. Mary’s to find Beth Farley attending to a weeping woman over the mummified corpse of a man (much in the same way as the man who was watching the party when they first entered town).  The woman exclaims “my husband was killed by them whores!”

 

screenshot0016

Prelude: Ahiga and Chinese Ed

Ahiga…

 

You found Nizoni’s body in a barn outside Dead End, Arizona.  She’d been beaten, raped, but she’d fought back.  The band of men – a dozen or so in number – had stayed there for two days with their three captives.

The man at the trading post had traded with the men when they came through town.  He knew of them, called them the Drowned Coyotes.  Bandits.  Ghost Rock smugglers out of Lost Angels.  He said they were headed for Tombstone, though he wouldn’t say how he knew.  But he drew you a picture, a coyote, drawn the old Anasazi way, he said they all have one tattooed on the backs of their hands.

Weeks later, you arrived in Tombstone, sick from bad water you were forced to drink in the desert.  A Hopi man named Joe took you in and let you recover in the small house he shared with his aged grandfather whose name, as far as you could determine, was simply Grandfather.

You woke from a fever-dream one night to find Grandfather sitting quietly on the chair next to your bed.  He laid a papery hand on your arm.

“You will not catch the ones you seek this way,” he mumbled in passable Navajo, “I have had a dream.  Rest.”

 

For the next week as you recovered, Grandfather didn’t admit to the encounter, or, indeed, acknowledge your presence at all.  It wasn’t until you rose the morning you planned to leave and found him waiting with Joe and a young Chinese man in the home’s kitchen.

“Ahiga,” Grandfather says, this time in barely passable English, “I have had a dream.”

Joe slides a mug of coffee over to you with an ever-so-slight roll of his eyes.

“You will go to Abilene.  Raven has spoken to Lizard, who has spoken to Rat.  A guide awaits you there.  You will find what you seek.  But you must beware the howling wind.”

“I’m sorry, Ate,” you say, “Abilene is so far, how could those I seek be there?”

“Grandfather-” Joe starts, but the old man bangs his tin cup on the table.

In the distance you hear a steam engine on the Bayou Vermillion line blow its whistle.  Grandfather gives everyone a stern look with his blind, rheumy eyes.

“Abilene.”

“This man,” he points to the Chinaman, “has a destiny there as well.  You will travel there together and face it.  The men in town call him Chinese Ed.”

“Fwied wice.” says Chinese Ed quietly, but cheerfully.

“Why do they call him that, Grandfather?” you ask.

“Because he is Chinese.  And his name is Ed.”

 

 

Unable to afford train fare, you and Chinese Ed head northeast through New Mexico.  For months, the man’s only words to you in English are “Fwied Wice!”, but you rapidly work out a series of Chinese words and gestures to get through the days.  You come to suspect, however, that he has a perfectly keen grasp of English.  You don’t press the issue.

One snowy fall evening in the mountains, you’re set upon by a madman with a rifle, a psychotic cackle, and the benefit of high ground.  Before you even have a chance to react, Chinese Ed vaults up the outstretched branches of the pines as a feather on the breeze and snaps the man’s neck with his bare hands.

He takes a long time to come back down the mountainside, during which you make camp and get a fire started.  He comes to the fire quietly, almost unnaturally so, bearing an armload of mundane survival items he must’ve taken from the dead man above.

“Rifle dirty, broken.” he says quietly.  You nod.

“People treat you like a fool, say things they don’t want you to hear, when they do not think you understand.”

“I understand,” you reply.

“Joe told me your story.  You think your woman lives?”

“I must.”

He nods at that.  “My master’s name was Gai Phan.  Raised me like a son.  One of Kwan’s Traid, a man named Johnny Wu killed him.  Johnny Wu left Kwan and now is in Abilene, or so I hear.”

“All this for vengeance?” you ask.

“For vengeance,” he says, nodding.

Later, after you’ve tamped the fire and laid down to sleep and Chinese Ed has walked away from the light in order to better keep watch, you hear his voice from somewhere in the trees above you, “If your woman is dead, I will avenge her with you.”

 

 

It is the dead of winter as the two of you walk down a dirt trail through Kansas farmlands some miles outside of Abilene.  A young girl, perhaps in her early teens bursts from the winter wheat and onto the road.  She’s dirty, wearing boys clothes of a style found back east.  She has a bit of slate on a rope around her neck, and a massive, mangy-looking rat clinging to her shoulder for dear life.  She skids to a stop at your feet, looking from the rat at her shoulder to you with wide eyes.

She grabs up the slate, scribbles something on it with a piece of chalk, and holds it up to you.

“I’m sorry girl,” you say, “I do not read.”

The girl deflates slightly and holds the slate up to Chinese Ed.

“Fwied wice!” he says.

The girl turns red.  She starts shaking slightly.  Then, in a tiny, sweet, clear voice she screams “FUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!”


And then there’s the explosion.

Prelude: William and Olivia

Olivia…

 

He found you on the side of the road, covered in your husband’s blood, dying of exposure in the plains sun.  He was gentle, but dark, cold, and terrifying.  He saved your life, tended your wounds, took you to Father O’Connor’s church in Abilene.  Alistair Dent, the county sheriff.

 

Patrick O’Connor was a good enough sort, for a Catholic.  He let you stay at the church, helped you find work ministering to the ill, the injured, and the pregnant.  Most of the townsfolk you met accepted you, but a few accused you of being too good, and rumors began to circulate.

 

As summer turned to fall, things in Abilene started getting worse – the nights were darker, the bumps louder, and more people went missing or worse.  But it was also when you met Ronald.

 

Ronald Patton, a widower, ran a small farm ten miles into the nowhere from Abilene with his son.  His nephew William and his family are staying with them with plans to head out West that were becoming increasingly unlikely as the months wore on.  You met him the night he lost his foot in a thresher, screaming and slowly bleeding to death.  Patrick was giving him last rights, but you prayed for something different.  The bleeding stopped, the stump healing-over before your eyes.

 

“Well, Father…I didn’t realize you’d brought an angel with you…” he said, grinning, before passing out.

 

None of the witnesses ever really spoke of that night, but Ronald came to town as many Sundays as he could, and regularly came up with a broad variety of ailments to entice you out to the farm, where you were always welcomed warmly by the Patton clan, offered more than you could possibly eat, and a warm bed in a guest room that was far more comfortable than your pallet at the rectory.  An impartial observer might say he was courting you, but he knew of your recent loss and was never anything but a perfect gentleman.  Still, you often thought, he’s a good man, maybe in time….

 

It was one such occasion on a snowy morning in late November, 1878, that you found yourself drinking strong, gritty coffee at the Patton’s dinner table with Ronald, William, and Emily, William’s wife.  Breakfast had come and gone while you slept, and the children cast out into the cold to perform what chores were required of a farm in winter.  Emily was scrubbing out a pot at the stove and you were busying yourself darning a pair of stockings.  Ronald and William were tinkering with a large, complicated, rusty metal implement at the other end of the table.

 

“I think,” said Emily hesitantly, not turning from her work, “that the McAllen boy might be paying a visit.”  William grunted.  “I reckon he may be asking your permission to marry Rachel.”

 

With a grumbled “Dammit!”, William dropped the metal whatsit on the table and stalked off to the far side of the room to glare out the window.

 

“Well hell, Billy, she’s seventeen, what did you expect?” said Ronald.  “And what’s so damned good about the West anyways?  Whole damn place is run by the warlords anyway.  Ghost Rock ain’t no way to make a living, not with a family.  And this farm can support three or four families easy – you know you’re welcome to settle right here – especially now that I can’t work worth a damn it sure would settle my soul some.”

 

William stood silently at the window.

 

“Billy?”

 

“There’re riders silhouetted up in the hills,” he said quietly, an edge to his voice you’ve never heard.

 

“What the-?” Ronald got up to join him at the window, you and Emily rushed over as well.

 

“Bill,” Emily whispered, “Junior’s out there mending a fence…”

 

“I know.  I think we need to-” and then there was an explosion.  Easily the loudest sound you’d ever heard, it cracked the window and rattled the entire house.  When you opened your eyes you saw a massive plume of dust and fire rise up from a spot out in the fields toward the eastern edge of the property.  William snatched up Ronald’s rifle from over the door and bolted out into the snow, yelling his son’s name.  You grab your shawl off its peg and give chase….

 

 

 

Abilene Session Notes – 7 March 2015

Abilene Session Notes – 7 March 2015

November 19th, 1878

And so we returned to Abilene and told our tale, and the people were just a little less afraid.  Then we had to figure out our next move…

The next morning, Sheriff Dent leaves early with the Lindsborg refugees to escort them back to their homes.  Chigger relays that William took his horse and left in the night, leaving behind his belongings that he had loaned to Holden as well as his wagon.  According to the quixotic ranch hand, “he had ghosts following him”.

The party resupplies, pays Al for the damage to the stable, and heads for Abilene proper.  They arrive at midday to find the town quiet, people bustling from one place to another, heads down, shadows long.  Olivia heads directly to St. Mary’s, Holden diverts to commission a suit of clothes,  and the rest of the party gathers in a local watering hole called The Saddleback.

Olivia finds out from Beth Farley, a widow who helps keep the church tidy, that Father Patrick O’Connor had left two days prior to Detroit, Ks in response to an urgent letter.  Olivia search the rectory for the letter to no avail.

After Holden arrives at The Saddleback, he finds Onesimus attempting to question the bartender, but the party as a whole is a motley lot and are being met with a hostile silence from the bar’s patrons and tender.  Holden and Jacob take over and get very little more from the tight-lipped bartender.  A short while later, Thomas Heller, the town marshal arrives to “greet” the party (and find out what they’re up to).  Onisimus brings up the name “Wu” and Heller becomes extremely agitated and offers to continue the conversation at the town jail across the road.  Once there, Onisimus explains that he’s in town to cause Wu quite a bit of trouble.  It becomes clear from Heller, who is not in any way interested in helping, that Johnny Wu is some manner of crime lord who essentially runs the region around Abilene and Salina.  He also reveals when pressured by Jacob that when Wu is in town, he holds court at The Duchess, an upscale brothel operated by Madame Chen.

Meanwhile, Ahiga and Ed observe the bartender whisper in a patron’s ear and that patron leave in a hurry.  Ed casually takes to a nearby alley to observe, and discovers the bar and jail being cased out by a man several doors down across the road.  Ed burrows into the earth and springs up behind the man to surprise him, but finds only a mummified corpse leaning against the alley wall.

 

 

screenshot0015