Sunday, February 15, 2015

Manifest Destiny Session 2: Terror in the Woods!

Please forgive the lateness of this recapping of last session (which took place over a week ago now).  Life gets in the way sometimes, but here we are:

Dramatis Personae:

  • Dr. Rowan Ryder, disgraced alcoholic surgeon and inventor (whose player was absent this session, and relinquished control of Dr. Ryder to Eliza Ripper's player)
  • Eliza Ripper, P.hD, spy and occultist
  • Moses Packer, an ex-Quaker who's renounced nonviolence and now lives in the woods as a tracker
  • Amity Crawford, thief and artifact-collector

Arriving at the house of Brigadier-General William Clark, Dr. Ryder and Eliza were swiftly introduced to Moses Packer and Amity Crawford, who would be rounding out their investigative team.  They were also introduced to Pernier, a small, bushy-bearded Frenchman who had been traveling with Lewis at the time of his death.  While Clark strongly believes Lewis committed suicide, Pernier holds to the theory that Lewis was murdered.

That night, the Investigators are awoken by screams from Pernier's room.  They find him on the edge of death with his throat slashed, a blood straight-razor in his hand.  With his dying breath, Pernier manages to wetly wheeze "murder" and gesture vaguely towards the chimney.  Looking up the chimney, the Investigators spot the retreating boots of someone worming their way up the chimney.  Drawing her blunderbuss, Eliza takes a shot and then Moses pulls the man down into the room.

It's the shabby, unkempt fellow Ryder and Eliza had encountered earlier that day, now looking shabbier and more unpleasant then ever - some sort of skin affliction, resembling athlete's foot, coats his hands and lips.  As he dies, his chest erupts open, and a pair of fat, squirming, nobbly tendrils, each about a foot long, emerge and writhe about - one of them spraying Dr. Ryder with a puff of dusty material.  After taking a sample of one tendril, the Investigators swiftly cremate the body and its infesting, fungus-like material.  Disturbed by this, Clark admits that there may be more going on then he'd previously believed, and while he won't say much, he does urge the Investigators to get a few big dogs - "wolfhounds, or similar" - before they investigate further.

Before setting out, they buy a trio of mastiffs - Fang, Killer and Bandit.

A day's travel away from the Griner Stand where Lewis died, the Investigators are awoken in the night by a huge fireball streaking across the sky overhead and exploding somewhere nearby.  Deciding to investigate, after a few hours of exploration they encounter Levi Stone, a big, balding woodsman, "built like a factory that pumps out brick shithouses," is how I described him.  He's extremely friendly and offers to help the Investigators find the fireball-site, but urges them to join him and his family for breakfast first.  His wife Hannah serves the PCs some excellent biscuits and gravy, but the Investigators get a whiff of trouble when they notice a chain and shackle attached to the foot of the franklin stove in the corner.

They accompany Levi into the woods cautiously, as he gives them a tour of the region - pointing out local birds and animals as well as sites of interest such as an Indian burial mound.  "And here's the best sight of all," he whispers reverently as he leads the Investigators into a swampy clearing.  In the center of it stands a hideous, age-blackened totem pole with a single grotesque face snarling out of it.
"This is the Lord around these parts," Stone continues, "and he will have blood..." and he swings the hatchet he'd been using the clear brush, catching Eliza in the shoulder.  Amity drew two pistols and shot Stone twice in the back of the head, spraying Eliza with blood and gray matter.

After brief discussion, they decided to drag Stone's corpse into the clearing and lay it against the totem.  The ancient wood soaks up the blood like a dry sponge, and in a few minutes the totem is gnashing its teeth and pulling itself up from the ground.  Moses attempts to hack away at it with an axe and gets his arm nearly bitten off for his trouble before Dr. Ryder manages to rig up a molotov cocktail from a bottle of whiskey and toss the flaming bottle into the totem's mouth.  Before long the ancient wood is burning merrily and the Investigators manage to flee the scene without seeing the totem's ultimate fate.

From there, they found their way south to Griner's Stand, where they interviewed Priscilla Griner - she barely spoke above a whisper, apologizing for this claiming she'd taken ill.  Curiously, the dogs went nuts, barking and straining as soon as they got near the cabins, and the Investigators noticed a "fairy ring" of fat white mushrooms surrounding the property.

Eliza snuck around the back of the property as Amity and Moses talked to Priscilla and Dr. Ryder held the dogs.  Letting herself in the back door, Eliza discovered a room with smudged, occult-looking chalk drawings on the floor and a stack of books - Cotton Mather's account of the Salem Witch Trials, Joseph Glanville's Saducismus Triumphatus that inspired it, and a bound manuscript, clearly newly-written, written in scrawling block letters in row after row of overlapping text interspersed with carefully-traced diagrams of occult sigils and summoning circles.  The text is very hard to read but there's a note tucked in as a bookmark, big block letters spelling out:


The bookmark is at the 375th page of the manuscript, opposite a complex diagram of circles and triangles.  Eliza compared it to the chalk marks on the floor and found them different.

Confronting "Priscilla Griner" with the note, her tone changed from a whisper to a grating buzz, "You can't stop us," she droned, "We've already won."

Eliza and Amity opened fire, blasting "Priscilla" back in a spray of fluorescent yellow fluid.  Another blast and one of her arms separated.  Heaving its way out of Priscilla's dress and skin, a pinkish, fungoid creature resembling a man-sized dragonfly attempted to flee but was brought low by a final bullet and Moses' hatchet.  Oozing its yellow lifesblood out on the rough floor of the cabin, the thing shuddered and lay still.

Eliza went back to where Dr. Ryder was standing with the dogs, taking the leashes and trying to drag Fang, Killer and Bandit across the fairy ring.  Once they were across, the dogs went mad, rushing into the cabin and tearing the thing that was wearing Priscilla's face to oozing shreds.

The Investigators explored further but found little save directions to the Griner Farm, a ways downriver.  They resolved to go investigate that location as well.

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