Rule of Three

Urban Shadows - Session 3
Closed Circuit

Marlowe guards the unconscious Fodhla in St Vincent’s Hospital as she recovers from being hit by a tram. He’s joined by Maximilian, who has persuaded fellow vampire Lilian to cease backing Iannos in his play for the Arcadia Apartments. The two men don’t get along well, but Marlowe agrees to help Maximilian stop Iannos. Maximilian leaves to purchase Mandragora, as Marlowe has used up his supply warding Fodhla’s hospital room.

At the Flinders Street Ballroom, Ashcroft works on the wards that will bar Iannos from the Arcadia Apartments, while his hunter ally Solomon investigates ghost sightings around the tram network. Maximilian and Marlowe arrive, and with their help the mystic architect creates the wards. Before they can take the wards to the site, Iannos and two of his armed followers arrive, but Maximilian intimidates them and they leave. When Ashcroft tries to phone Solomon (who has a van), they learn he’s under attack by rats – at St Vincent’s Hospital!
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The three race to the hospital, and Marlowe can see ghostly forces gathering in the tram lines as they pass. They arrive and search the hospital to find Solomon fending off a swarm of foot-long rats in the basement. Maximilian scatters the vermin, and he and Ashcroft take Solomon to the emergency room while Marlowe checks on Fodhla.

Marlowe finds Fodhla vulnerable, her mandragora wards removed by cleaners, and the fae is menaced by a giant spectre dressed in a tattered tram conductor’s uniform – the same one that drove the tram into her. He tries to fend it off with magic, but it can’t be harmed – instead, he bargains with it, agreeing to free it from the Tellurian Circuit in the tramlines in exchange for Fodhla’s life.

With Solomon being attended by a doctor, Ashcroft and Maximilian go to the parking lot to get his van – and find Albion emerging from it, carrying a briefcase and a silver goblet. The wizard tries to tell them that he’s a friend of Solomon’s – when they don’t fall for it, he attacks them with his magics! Ashcroft snags the briefcase while a wounded Maximilian loses control and tears open Albion’s throat. As Ashcroft hides in the van, rats swarm from a storm drain to carry off the goblet – and a police car pulls into the lot, headlights picking out Maximilian feeding from Albion’s corpse…

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Urban Shadows - Session 2
The Underground Sound

The next morning, Ashcroft works on wards that will protect the Arcadia Apartments from Iannos and the winter fae. He contacts Solomon, a young paranormal investigator/hunter and his occasional apprentice, and tasks him with investigating Iannos’ activities. After further work, Ashcroft realises that the wards will require cold iron (which he has) treated with mandragora (which he doesn’t have), and that they’ll need to be charged by a wizard, so he sets out to find Marlowe.

Still reeling from the murder of his friend Allan, Marlowe agrees to find Fodhla’s cousin Dylan and get him out of whatever trouble he’s in. Through a fae contact he learns that Dylan is going to the old Mint in William Street; he gets there as the fae heads into Flagstaff Station, carrying a metal box, followed by Albion, a upperclass local wizard. Ashcroft catches up with Marlowe, and the two of them head into the station in pursuit.

Just before this, Fodhla met Albion at a tea house in Carlton to ask whether he had the Goblet of the Moon, a fae artifact that she has been searching for. His emotions and better judgement swayed by fae magic, Albion admits he has the Goblet; he tells her he’ll exchange it for access to the nether realms, then leaves for a meeting. Before she can follow him she’s interrupted by her father – Iannos, who wants her to join the Winter Court and help him with his plans. She refuses, and he leaves in a rage after letting slip that he is up to something.
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Marlowe and Ashcroft see Dylan and Albion get onto an out-of-date train that no-one else is boarding, and they sneak on board before it leaves. The train stops at an unknown underground station, with all exits barred and overgrown with weeds. Dylan argues with Albion about payment for the contents of the box – the secret map of the Tellurian Circuit within the tram network. Ashcroft interrupts (Marlowe lurks invisibly) and argues with Albion, but to little end; the wizard and fae leave the secret station, and the others have to run to catch the train so they are not stranded.

Fodhla follows Iannos to the State Library; a woman in a wheelchair comes out and hands him a thick set of papers and folders. Fodhla conjures up a wind to tear the papers from him, and manages to catch several of them – but in the process stumbles in front of a tram. She briefly sees the image of a twisted skeletal figure driving the tram, before she is knocked down and badly injured.

Leaving Flagstaff, Ashcroft goes to the Arcadia Apartments to discover that work has ceased due to bogus OH&S concerns. Marlowe heads to the State Library when he sees an ambulance cutting through traffic, and arrives in time to see Fodhla being taken to hospital. He follows her there, hoping to aid or protect her, and is watching over when the sun goes down and Maximilian emerges from hiding to get answers…

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Urban Shadows - Session 1
Dinner Theatre

On a cooler-than-usual September night, Fodhla is contacted by her cousin Dylan, who needs help. They meet beneath the Melbourne Star, and Dylan tells her that he’s being followed by a strange man. Fodhla questions him, and Dylan admits that he’s been dealing mandragora and doing jobs for vampires; he also infiltrated the occult Network of tram drivers to steal a map of the secret geomantic circuit rumoured to exist within the tram lines.

This last crime is what attracted the attention of Marlowe, who is the ‘strange man’ following him. Marlowe approaches the pair, demanding answers from Dylan, who reacts angrily when he realises that his cousin knows his pursuer. Fodhla tries to calm the situation but Dylan runs off; rather than chase after him, Fodhla takes Marlowe to dinner to discuss things.
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At a different restaurant, Maximilian and Ashcroft meet for dinner, each believing the other has summoned them there to discuss their current project, the Arcadia Luxury Apartments building being constructed in Balwyn. They’ve actually been brought together by Mac Cecht, a fae of the Storm Court and an old friend of Ashcroft. He warns them both that his rival Iannos, a powerful member of the fae Winter Court, wants to take control of the Arcadia Apartments. He’s not sure why, but he knows that the Arcadia Apartments are being built near the end of a tram line, which might mean Iannos could draw mystical power from the geomantic circuit. As Mac Cecht leaves, he tells them than Iannos is working with an ally – Lillian, a vampire elder and an old ‘friend’ of Maximilian.

Fodhla and Marlowe share a meal and she asks him whether he’s heard anything more about the Goblet of the Moon, a fae relic thought to be somewhere in Melbourne. Before Marlowe can answer, he gets a panicked call from his friend Allan, driver of the 96 tram, who’s being pursued by something terrible in Carlton Gardens. They drive to the Garden’s in Marlowe’s filthy car; when they arrive outside the old Museum building, a crowd is gathered around Allan’s body, which is covered in tiny ragged wounds. Marlowe sees a large rat disappear into a nearby gutter – and that his friend’s last act was to draw a crescent moon on the concrete in his own blood…

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The One Ring - Session 4
KInstrife and Dark Tidings (part 3)

Frida secures their prisoner while Beran and the Bride move quietly through the forest to the camp of the Southron outlaws – fifty or more cruel, ill-favoured men in the service of their warlord Valter. The outlaw chief seems to be hosting the runaway Oderic as an honoured guest, but Beran can see that the boy is being constantly watched and guarded.
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When Oderic goes for a walk in the woods, the two adventurers overpower his guard and confront him, demanding he return to face Beorn’s justice – but Oderic is defiant, saying he deserves a chance to find his own way in life, just as the adventurers have, and that the Southrons only seek a place to call their own. Beran can see that the young man is willfully ignoring the truth, and eventually leads Orderic to admit to himself that the southerners plan to sack the villagers of the Wilderlands, starting with Stonyford, and that he must help stop them.

Orderic proposes a plan – he will lead the Southrons to the Gloomy Ford, a day’s march from Beorn’s house. If the adventurers can get to Beorn ahead of the southerners, they can rally the Beorning forces and ambush the invaders. Beran and the Bride rejoin Frida and the three push themselves day and night, reaching Stonyford in two days and Beorn’s house two days after that. While they rest, Beorn gathers a force of thirty warriors from the local villagers, then sets off on his own.

The Beorning forces lay in wait at the Gloomy Ford, then strike the Southron horde as they pass! They have surprise on their side but are outnumbered, and the three adventurers find themselves in the thick of the fighting. Hard pressed and injured, they manage to break through the enemy lines to reach the rear, to see Oderic doing his best to fight Valtar. The warlord almost kills the young man, but is waylaid by the adventurers and brought down by a mighty blow from Beran – just as the giant bear that is Beorn appears and tears through the rest of the routed invaders.

Two days later, at the Carrock, Oderic is finally put on trial for the murder of his brother-in-law Rathfic. While no-one disputes that he did kill Rathfic, the adventurers speak on behalf of the young warrior, who did his best to defend his homelands despite his crimes. In the end Beorn decides that Oderic has suffered enough, and lets him go free. He goes off to seek his fortune, while the adventurers are feted (again) as heroes of the Beornings.

As winter approaches, the three heroes take their rest, waiting for spring and the chance for new adventure.

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The One Ring - Session 3
KInstrife and Dark Tidings (part 2)

At the village of Stonyford, Frida, Beran and the Bride persuade the village’s leaders that they travel at Beorn’s bidding and are seeking a fugitive. The villagers tell them that the escaped prisoner is one of their own – a young man named Oderic who murdered his brother-in-law, Rathfic.

As the adventurers ask more questions, they learn that Oderic was an orphan who was taken in by the warrior Helmgut and his daughter Brunhild. Oderic was never fully accepted by the village and held himself apart, even more so after Rathfic settled there and married Brunhild. About two weeks ago, the two men fought for some reason, and Oderic stabbed Rathfic to death, after which he was arrested by Helmgut for the terrible crime of kin-slaying. Beorn’s men took him away for trial; they fear that his escape is a sign of doom and evil.

The adventurers try to question Helmgut, but the old warrior is drunk and lost in his own misery. They then question Brunhild, who is in mourning for her husband and saddened by the loss of her foster-brother. Frida aggressively interrogates Brunhild, who confesses that Oderic was planning to leave Stonyford and wanted her to come with him. When Rathfic interrupted them, the two men argued; Brunhild attempted to separate them, Rathfic struck her and then Oderic stabbed him. Furthermore, she tells them that Oderic returned not two nights ago, whispering through her window; he told her of his escape and that he was striking west across the Great River to seek his fortune and never return.

Frida tells the village elders that Brunhild spoke with Oderic, and the adventurers take a boat down the River in search of Oderic. After several days on his trail, they track him to a forest near the Gladden Fields, and find signs that he has been captured by armed men occupying the woods. As they search further, they encounter a patrol of men from the South and do battle, taking one alive as prisoner. He tells them that Oderic is the ‘guest’ of Valter, who brings an army from the south to take the weak northern lands.

Now the adventurers must decide whether to find Oderic and bring him to justice, or warn the Wilderlands of invasion…

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The One Ring - Session 2
KInstrife and Dark Tidings (part 1)

As autumn turns to spring, three adventurers – Frida, Beran and The Bride – discover the bodies of two of Beorn’s thanes, murdered by orcs in a boat run aground on the Great River. It looks as if the two men were transporting a prisoner to face Beorn’s justice, and that the third man escaped in the ambush.

The adventurers bury the bodies and trek to Beorn’s Hall, where he receives their news with great anger and sadness. They sup with him and the local Beornings, and are awakened in the night by the sound of a great bear roaring in the distance. Come the morning, they find Beorn cheerier and surrounded by the helmets of dead orcs. He sets them a quest to track down the escaped prisoner, whoever he might be, and bring him back to face justice.

Mounted on Beorn’s horses, the adventurers search for signs of the escapee. They find the body of an orc, decapitated with a sword taken from one of the dead thanes, and follow this trail south to the Old Ford and beyond. Their journey is cold and difficult, with false leads and poor sleep, and they are weary when they find further sign of the fugitive just outside Stonyford – the village that hosted the Moon Festival two seasons earlier.

But when the adventurers attempt to enter the village, they receive a chilly reception from its leaders, who petition them to pass by and leave them to their sadness…

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The One Ring - Session 1
The Theft of the Moon

At the end of spring, the folk of the western Wilderlands hold the traditional Moon Festival to celebrate the end of the harvest. This year, four years after the Battle of Five Armies, the Festival takes place near the village of Stonyford, and a fellowship of adventurers attend to share in the merriment and take part in the competitions. The prize – the Sickle of the Moon, a great artefact belonging to Beorn himself.
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But before Frida and the Bride can take their places as trial-winners and perhaps win the prize, a hue and cry erupts – goblins have stolen the Sickle! Or so it seems at first, but Beran, Beli and the other adventurers soon uncover the truth – the sickle has been stolen by outlaws who are taking it north to give it to their master.

The adventurers give chase, pursuing the thieves for many days and more than a hundred miles up the banks of the Great River. Eventually they run the outlaws to ground on the Falrock, an island on the river, and do battle atop a great fallen log that bridges the isle and the river-bank. They overcome the bandits (most of whom seem to be slaves and thralls, rather than truly evil men) and their cruel leaders to recover the Sickle; they return it to Beorn and are celebrated by the villages that he protects.

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Monster of the Week - Session 3
The Plague Engram

Dr Cavendish rushes from the Yarra Bend Golf Course, back to his laboratory in Northcote, to treat Onyx’s injuries and their apparent case of super-rapid syphilis that was inflicted by the ghul. (Abul also has a minor injury, but it is easily treated.) Cavendish is confounded by Onyx’s illness; the syphilis isn’t just cured by penicillin, it ‘retreats’ – their diseased, rotting flesh regenerates before his eyes! But at the same time, it only regenerates so far and then stops, in a strange wavering state where the sickness comes and goes – almost like it was being imposed on Onyx, rather than a natural infection. Cavendish tries to make sense of the samples he’s taken – and tries to block out the eerie beat and loop of numbers that he keeps hearing at the edge of his awareness…

Across the street, in his secret B Wing offices, Agent Smint has a difficult phone call with his superiors, who haul him over the coals for his misuse of resources and disregard for secrecy. Before he can plead his case further, he’s interrupted by the doorbell – a stern middle-aged woman ringing for access to a place no-one should know exists. The woman demands the loss of her stolen property – an audio tape that was taken from the golf course – and is completely uninterested in excuses or claims to authority. Smint finally gets her name – Dr Eleanor Colfax, a psychiatric researcher at Thomas Embling Hospital, just next to the golf course – and tells her that he’ll need to collect the tape from B Wing HQ. She waits in a car outside, while he drives off – and parks just around the corner to call HQ. But Colfax follows him and confronts him – and when he draws a gun to intimidate her, she jabs him in the neck with a taser, grabs the tape and leaves.

In his lab, Cavendish discovers syphilis-like symptoms (boils, pus, gummas etc) erupting on the surface of his equipment – metal and plastic are becoming diseased! A gunshot from outside attracts Abul’s attention – she runs out to find a woozy Smint driving back to the lab. His superiors have disavowed him; the only hope for his career is to wrap this case up quietly, and he needs his allies to come with him to Thomas Embling.

The psychiatric hospital is a secure facility, with retinal scanners and plain-clothes security guards – and it’s currently in lockdown due to a fire. Smint’s ID gets them past the initial police presence, but the internal guards refuse to let them without appointments and approval. Onyx overwhelms the guard with their mental abilities, but suffers a seizure in the process, and is left behind as the others run into the (very pleasant) facility compound to look for Dr Colfax and the mysterious tape. Instead, they find a lot of confused and frightened staff, a number of firemen and a building on fire – and Dr Colfax’s office, a mess of audio splicing equipment, books on Fortean phenomena, scribbled and incoherent notes and a pulsating and diseased brain in a jar.

Onyx recovers and makes their way through the hospital, discovering Dr Colfax badgering an orderly to play her tape over the PA system. They capture her and force her back to the burning offices, extracting fragmentary information from her in the process. Colfax has devised a radical treatment for psychiatric patients, involving an artificial engram shaped by ghostly energies and magnetically imprinted into the brain. She trialled the process last night, using a stolen brain and the magnetic nexus contained on the tape to summon and bind ghosts from the old asylum’s lost cemetary – but Onyx realises that what she has actually summoned is the disease spirit trapped long ago by indigenous elders, and that everyone who hears the recording will turn into a ghul.

The brain lashes out with waves of magnetic force, turning the office into a deathtrap, and Cavendish is increasingly suffering under the psychic onslaught of the disease spirit within the engram. Abul uses her magic to expel the spirit – but it jumps over into Cavendish’s brain, paralysing him and slowly morphing him into a ghul! In the telekinetic chaos, Smint is thrown through a window to land outside next to Colfax as Onyx runs inside. Abul uses a live electrical cable to shock the spirit out of Cavendish and into Colfax’s brain; Onyx plays the tape backwards over the recording equipment, temporarily locking the spirit into place – and Smint shoots Colfax in the head, killing her and destroying the spirit.

In the aftermath, the four monster hunters make their escape from the Hospital before more police come – disavowed by B Wing, disgraced by their very public and violent escapades, disabled by their awful injuries. But still, they fight the good fight.

Someone has to.

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Monster of the Week - Session 2
Sickness Dreaming

Ambushed by the ghul-creature, Onyx attempts to fight it off, but is instead overpowered and bitten; Agent Smint tries to draw it away and is smacked aside for his trouble. The creature seems unfazed by their weapons, and threatens the two wounded investigators – until Dr Cavendish suddenly appears on the scene and drives it off with a burst from his flamethrower! The creature vanishes into the undergrowth between the golf course and the freeway.

Smint grabs the Walkman from the tree, noting that it’s been modified in odd ways. The tape within is lumpy with splices, and plays a strange throbbing beat overlaid with a woman reciting numbers. Abul treats Onyx’s injury with magical healing herbs – but the treatment is painful, and Onyx’s fragile psyche tips over into full-blown paranoia. They lash out at their allies and go chasing after the creature, using their psychic gifts to track it. Meanwhile, Smint gets B Wing to track the creature via satellite surveillance. Both roads lead to the Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Co-operative, a plant nursery located between the golf range and the bridge over the freeway.

Crazed by paranoia, Onyx draws a knife and yells at the VINC staff and customers; they respond by locking the gates to the centre, and screaming in terror when Onyx breaks them down. Smint and Cavendish attempt to calm the civilians – and the police that soon arrive – while Abul and Onyx search the main nursery building for the creature. They find it the hard way – it drops from the ceiling onto Onyx’s back, and despite the power of their psychically enhanced martial-arts, Onyx is badly injured and possibly infected by the creature.

Cavendish realises that penicillin might be the thing to stop the syphilis-tainted monster, but he doesn’t have any with him; he races back to his lab in Northcote, passing two fire engines on the other side of the bridge that appear to be treating a blaze at the nearby Thomas Embling Hospital. Onyx and the ghul continue to fight, but Smint decides on a different tactic – he and Abul tear out the hoses of the nursery’s irrigation system and use them to clothesline and then tie up the creature just as it overpowers Onyx. It’s not enough to hold the monster, but Abul draws a containment pentagram around it to keep it imprisoned long enough for Cavendish to return. He injects the creature with a massive dose of penicillin, which kills it.

In the aftermath, B Wing agents collect the creature’s corpse, but Smint is in trouble with his superiors for drawing attention with his cavalier actions. Onyx is critically injured and possibly infected with fast-acting syphilis, so Cavendish takes them and Abul back to his lab for treatment. The fire engines are still at the hospital, and on the edge of their awareness, Smint and Cavendish keep hearing that strange mix of white noise and numbers…

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Monster of the Week - Session 1
Local History

The call comes in to Agent Smint early on the morning of September 10th – a body has been discovered at Yarra Bend Park, not far from the secret B Wing offices in Northcote. The body is badly decomposed, as if it had been rotting for weeks – but has been identified as a park groundskeeper that was alive and at work just last night. Smint calls Dr Cavendish and Abul Abin Aziz, who come to meet him at the doctor’s lab, where Onyx is currently recuperating in the infirmary. After breakfast at the lab, the team decide to split up again – Abul and Cavendish head to the Victoria Police Centre in Flinders Street to examine the body, while Smint and Onyx go to Yarra Bend to investigate the crime scene.

It’s a wet morning in the Park, thanks to heavy rains the day before, and police have blocked the access bridge over the Eastern Freeway; fortunately Smint’s credentials let him enter and take charge of the scene. The body was found in the mini-golf area of the Yarra Bend Golf Course, near the centre of the Park; the sergeant on the scene tells Smint that the body was horrifically decomposed to the point of leaking fluids and falling apart. Onyx reads the sergeant’s memories of the body and realises that the groundskeeper’s decomposition obscured the fact that he bore defensive wounds – the man was attacked by something. Smint examines the scene and finds a strange footprint under part of the mini-golf range, long and thin like a kangaroo’s but with large claws at the toes. Before they can investigate further, the Golf Course manager, Roger Overton, arrives to petition the police to re-open the park for business; Smint and Onyx persuade the sergeant to take Overton away for questioning. With the police gone, they decide to search for whatever attacked the groundskeeper; Onyx knows (somehow) of a hidden gully and cave in the far reaches of the park, near the Freeway, and they set off to explore.

At the Police Centre, Cavendish shows his temporary B Wing credentials to gain access to the Morgue. The body is in a shocking state, flesh rotted away to bone and covered in sores and cankers, maggots crawling in its wounds. As medical science struggles for answers, Abul tries a different route and uses magic to view the man’s death; she has a vision where she sees him running panicked through the park at night, hiding in the mini-golf area and then being attacked, bitten and killed by a horrible creature – a pallid humanoid with spindly limbs, a distended belly, red slime across its legs and groin and a great triangular jaw filled with broken teeth. (Before her vision ends, she gets the sensation that some presence has become aware of her.) It reminds her of the ghuls of Arabic myth, which dwell in burial grounds and drink blood. Cavendish searches online to see whether there are any cemeteries in the Yarra Bend region and discovers the Wikipedia entry for the old Yarra Bend Asylum – its cemetery was buried and covered up decades ago by… a practice fairway of the Golf Course. He phones Smint with the information, and he and Abul get ready to join them. Just before they leave the morgue, he checks a sample of the victim’s blood and realises what has happened to the body – it’s been broken down by some strange, super-rapid form of syphilis.

Smint and Onyx explore the far corner of the Golf Course, now on the lookout for open graves as well as the cave. They find a strangely quiet region by the banks of the Yarra, and Onyx projects his senses back through time to see the course engulf the old cemetery not far from where they stand – and further back still, to a time when Aboriginal warriors and elders imprisoned the creature under a sacred rock on the same site. (Smint is unnerved by this, and his suspicious about Onyx return.) As they investigate the site further, Smint sees a glint of light from a tree, and realises that some kind of apparatus has been placed about three metres up, and that wires connect some of the trees. The two of them argue about who should investigate, but under some telepathic pressure Smint takes the lead, climbing the tree as Onyx waits below. He finds five trees connected by copper wires in the form of a pentagram, with red sealing wax at their junctures; the pentagram is connected to an old Walkman, taped to the tree, with a tape in it and PAUSE depressed.

Smint hesitates a moment, then pushes PLAY – just as the creature bursts from the undergrowth and lunges at Onyx!

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