(Ghek, Hnakra, Xat, Seroni, Carkoon, Zode; photo by me.)
Because we've been having a hard time scheduling my Oubliette campaign, I thought we might try having it on a weeknight. Sunday availabilities have been spotty-- especially since this is Sam & Tracey's special time of the year-- so we gave Thursday a spin. Verdict? Well, game was short-- seven thirty till about ten, with me getting in at seven to start preparing & James coming in last but immediately ready to play-- so there wasn't really as much of an arc & I over prepared, but there was plenty of time to get into character & advance the story somewhat. If we can do more frequent weeknights, that would be alright with me; anything that gets us playing. I had originally come up with the idea when Jenny was working super late; recently she's been home at a more reasonable hour, but still, it is nice to have another option on the table.
(The vampiric Carkoon; art by Guangjian Huang & The coupled Carkoon; Chelle & Glados by Guavi.)
If you recall, last session saw Tracey's character Blue Glory the Nightmare Lotus lose the fingers off one of her hands. Since Tracey & I were the only ones present, I was ready to run a brief aside about it, but just then Sam came home & James followed suit. Perfect timing! If you recall, Slumbering Heart Dwells in the Blue House, James' character, had his hand badly injured in Antiphon, as well; in this case, burned. While eventually he had the effects of the burn someone mitigated by a repulsor vambrace built by Sam's character Curie First-Light, one of the options that he sought after was the Crystal Cave, a sacred site that Blue Glory is one of the care takers of. Well, Blue Glory, with a successful Occult roll, modified by her Haven, figured out that the Blue House was a place like the Crystal Cave. Whether the Blue House was a place like the Crystal Cave where the mana had been "capped off" for some mystical use or whether the Crystal Cave was a place like the Blue House where the supernatural energy had been left untended, to decay & go wild was unclear. When Tracey & I had been developing the Crystal Cave, she decided it was a "feminine" manifestation, & theorized that there was probably a masculine manifestation as well. Blue Glory went deeper into the House, while Slumberheart went to go reunite with his friends & speak in the foreign tongue of Baal & Curie preoccupied himself with...arcane musings.
(The angelic Carkoon; art by Guangjian Huang & The staked Carkoon; art by Ayami Kojima.)
The Blue House opened like a flower to a bee for Blue Glory. She knew that the House would probably demand something of her, much as the Cave had demanded something from Slumberheart. In that case, the Cave had required that Slumberheart sleep with the goddess-delusion, the Four-In-One, with who knows what ramifications. It was a price too steep for Slumberheart. Blue Glory-- going into the shifting maze of hallways & doors-- found herself faced by...four incarnations of the Demon Prince Carkoon. Blue Glory & Carkoon have had a flirtation, but Carkoon has openly stated his intention to marry Miss Glass, a marriage of ambition & politics. I split up the roles between Sam & James & sat back to enjoy the vignette. Letting scenes like that play out is one of the things is something I really enjoy as a Narrator. Each of the Four probably matches one of the Trumps, if the Blue House works like the Crystal Cave, but the connections aren't clear for most of them. First, Blue Glory the Nightmare Lotus is confronted by a vampiric Carkoon, complete with chiropteran wings, who whispers to her a sensual call, a bestial & seductive chemistry. Next is the only Carkoon obviously connected to a Trump; the Lovers. A Carkoon & a Blue Glory, another Blue Glory. You know the way you can be in a dream, but also watching the dream from outside of it? A feeling like that. This Carkoon & Blue Glory seem happy together, but something about it feels sour to Blue Glory. There is an angelic Carkoon, both cold as ice but hot as fire, an intensity & an alienation. The last Carkoon is staked to a throne of skulls, & says that stake is the lynchpin around which the world turns; that only Blue Glory can remove it.
(The Blue Box; "Shine" by Sean Hart.)
Blue Glory turns, her back facing the vampiric Carkoon & the staked Carkoon, & they wink out of being. While we were getting ready for game, Sam & I tried to explain the notion of the alchemical rebis, of the divine or diabolical hermaphrodite, the sacred genderqueer. One of the things we used as a metaphor was Schrödinger's cat & the notion of superposition, & here it is again, as the waves collapse, leaving just the angelic & the lovers. Blue Glory thinks about it a little longer, & goes up to the angelic Carkoon, reaching out her hand to it, fingers touching. & just like that, like rubbing alcohol exposed to a vacuum, it evaporates, leaving behind a blue Box, but her hand uninjured. From a Narrator's perspective, there is a lot going on here. In her own personal spiritual journey-- as defined by the Crystal Cave, to be clear, since other paths are available-- Blue Glory the Nightmare Lotus is stuck. She's been stuck since she was Blue Glory on Dark Water. The Four-In-One represent a particular paradigm of the feminine-- maiden to lover to mother to crone. Blue Glory, still a virgin, has pledged herself to the role of the maid, & is resistant to moving past it. Like the Crystal Cave, the Blue House is sensual, sexual in nature, & Blue Glory notably didn't pick the Lovers. What she picked was a creature with a purity of purpose, of fierce function. She didn't fail a spiritual test, but she didn't pick the natural evolution. Thus: what's in the box?
(Doktor Ghek; "Edric, Spymaster of Trest" by Volkan Baga.)
Blue Glory comes up from the belly of the House to curl up around the box-- which even to her Auspex enhanced senses seems seamless, though there is something rattling around inside-- & fall asleep, emotionally drained. She wakes up to find a drunk Slumberheart & a drunk Carkoon passed out near her. They wake up, hungover, & Carkoon totally misses his cue that she needs to talk to him. The social phenom of the family Carkoon is not. Instead, they they go into the room-- with Curie, still fiddling with something on his chest-- comes along too. In the meeting room, the Champions of the Adeptus are meeting to discuss strategy. Ghek, first to greet them, seems much more reserved when last the met. He's a sort of "Mister Jekyll & Doctor Hyde," if that makes sense; it is his mad alter-ego that is possessed by the spirit of Belphegor.
(Pardoner Hnakra; "Baron," by Sparth & Seroni; "Trap Jaw" by Nathan Rosario.)
Pardoner Hnakra & Doktor Ghek are there; Hnakra's booming flirtatiousness is familiar, his massive bulk hanging suspended from cables. Nine feet tall & & half a ton, Hnakra is being seen to by some of his slaves. The party hasn't met Seroni, champion of the Ordo Rana. Seroni is huge-- most of Arioch's Alphas have the "Giant" merit-- & just...Frankensteined. When they flew across Antiphon they saw flashes of Black Lightning, which Curie reckoned was necromantic lightning, a counterpoint to his experiments with vitabaric lightning. Similarly, the projections under the Weeping Thern seemed caught in a state of un-death, & Curie does have some small experience with necromancy. Seroni is the opposite of Curie's golem-son Tesla; Seroni is held together by machines & black magic.
(Xat & Zode; art by by Manuel Albarran.)
A pair of Xat & Zode clones are there as well. "Hello!" they say cheerfully, "you've never met us, we're a different set!" The original Xat & Zode aren't extant any longer, & who knows how many clones are currently active; they're shy about it. Two of the Ordos-- Equus & Bos-- aren't represented. We know-- the Players & the Characters-- that the vampire Master Silk, the young boy, was once the child-champion of the Ordo Equus, but is now a hemophage; similarly, we know-- the Players but not that Characters-- that Tinidril is the master of the Ars Equus, but she has not yet been on screen, except in Slumberheart's hallucinations. Asked about this, the Champions demure, preferring to focus on planning their attack.
(Commisar Wondelone; "Lirianne" by Damon Westenhofer & Praetorian Pfifltrigg; art from Star Wars.)
Commisar Wondelone-- or perhaps that should be ex-Commisar, since she abandoned her post to follow Miss Glass-- & Hnakra represent the Hierarchy, the crypto-religion of Arioch. Grand Pardoner Eldil is on the side of Miss Glass-- he's not present because he's currently being pursued by heretics, hoping to draw them off in a diversion-- but there is a new "Grand Pardoner," the Anti-Pope Hru. Anti-Pope Hru's Heresiarchs are met by the Hierarchy. Praetorian Pfifltrigg is there-- he's James' favorite NPC-- & he discusses how the Adeptus will check the forces of the Demon Princes. They mention that Kaldane-- the surviving brother of Carkoon, the once-lover of Curie-- has somehow gotten the old heirs of the Witch-King, the Witch-Knights, to come down from their mountain retreats. The last of their kind, they are said to be titanic, roughly the size of an upright oliphaunt. "What?" says Slumberheart, who is distracted, drifting in & out of the conversation...because of course the invisible, imaginary Tinidril is back!
(Tinidril; "Inner Demons" photos by Jerry Bennet, modeled by Manchester, styled by Alex London.)
Increasingly inhuman, this time even the human-like features of her body are dissolved, & the "black goo" has spread over her body, taking on the look of an organic metal. She struts & preens, sultry & distracting. Slumerheart excuses himself & storms off, telling the hallucinogenic Tinidril to follow him. We'd previously seen the Blue House confrom to Willpower-- I asked Tracey to roll it when she was searching for the spirit of the place-- & so Slumberheart has no problem doing the same, with nine dots of Willpower & years spent living here. Up stairs & down, across hallways & always, in & out. He comes to a room with walls as thick as a bunker with three blue Boxes inset in the floor; one about eight feet long, another six & another four. He corners the pair of devils-- both nihilistic, death-obsessed-- & tells them he only has room for one in his head. With a flick, before any one can react, one of the Tinidril's snaps the other's neck. "Good," says Slumberheart, "that makes this easy." & with that, he throttles the remaining one, Thorning in the process. Remember how Alpha's work; they have two Virtues, two Vices, & either can be dominant at a time. Petal, & Thorn.
(Calot, Slave of Doktor Ghek; "Nekromantik" by Katarzyna Konieczka.)
When leaving the Isle of the Old Ones, the party traveled with Pardoner Hnakra, who gave them all a dose of Pollen, particular the variant called Charm. It was something like a cross between Ecstasy & LSD; there was a spiritual component, a sublime camaraderie, but primarily it was recreational. Still, that feeling flares up again, a "flashback" so to speak, & both Curie First-Light & Blue Glory the Nightmare Lotus-- & presumably Hnakra-- feel Slumberheart's hands around Tinidril's throat. Slumberheart comes in immediately afterward-- the door he exits opening directly into this room-- & as he does Curie has said something about creating a neutron bomb, a weapon to kill everyone while leaving the buildings unbroken. Everyone is looking at him like he's just made a joke about 9-11, or the Holocaust. One of the slaves-- one of Ghek's prosthetic'ed ones-- knows on the door, saying that the Heir wants to see the party. Whew. Saved by the bell.
(Miss Glass, before Levée; Delphine Chaneac in "Splice.")
As usual, Miss Glass is waiting for them naked, lying on a stiff slab. The Levée is for her intimates, it is a chance for her to seek their unvarnished opinions & for them to have one-on-one access to the would-be Empress. She asks Blue Glory to help her get her makeup on-- "really?" asks Blue Glory, holding up her stump of hand. "Don't you have the Merit Ambidextrous?" I ask? & she does!-- while Slumberheart helps her perfume herself & Curie assists her in dressing. When they first met Miss Glass, it was antagonistic, & she was dressed in black & covered in scars, but those have faded; Miss Glass' body seems somewhat morphogenic. It changes, but always retains a basic pattern; it just seems to have monstrous additions occasionally.
(Miss Glass, after Levée; "Vedas" by Nicholas Alan Cope.)
As they dress, Miss Glass seeks their input. What are the forces arrayed against them, how should they best approach the coming fray? The plan is for things to be a coup, not a revolution; they want to seize power without entering a protracted conflict or alienating the people. Which makes Slumberheart's idea of creating a bomb all the more distasteful. In fact, well-- remember how the Weeping Thern was surrounded by a blasted radioactive wasteland? Well, that is because the Arch-Prince, Malacandra, has access to insanely horrific weapons. In fact, the Arch-Prince has his heart connected to one of them, & if he dies, everyone dies with him in a nuclear firestorm. Miss Glass wants Curie First-Light to be in charge of finding the bomb, but he's off galavanting in Hubris territory, thinking of ways to summon the black ghost from Aubade's mines or how to harness the black death-force of necromancy to duplicate a bomb or...or...ah ha! Curie recently converted to the cult of the Hanged Man, after you know, actually hanging himself from a lightning rod as part of an experiment to change the alchemical nature of his being. Now Curie wants to pull an Odin, to deprive himself till he has visions...but oh! Miss Glass is in a hurry, the Champions don't want the Arch-Prince to have a chance to rally forces against them. That is alright. If it is just being on the flickering edge of life & death that Curie seeks, well, perhaps her pet Hemophages can help with that. Master Silk-- the former Shang-- they've met. Mister Fleece curie has seen, invisible whispering words of advice to Miss Glass. Miss Lace...why, it is Tinidril, eyeless, complete with that metallic goo covering her.
(Mister Fleace; art from Wheel of Time RPG & Miss Lace; Magic: the Gathering concept art.)
(Master Silk; Marshall Lee, by Sscindyss.)