Sunday, February 22, 2015

Manifest Destiny Session 3: Death on the Farm

We had an excellent session last night, and not just because the meal my girlfriend and I put together was spectacular.  Let's dive right in to the write-up, shall we?

Dramatis Personae:

Dr. Rowan Ryder, alcoholic inventor and surgeon
Liza Ripper, spy and occultist
Amity Crawford, art thief and cat burglar
Moses Packer, ex-Quaker and tracker

Following a final sweep of the Griner Stand, the Investigators packed up and moved downstream to the Griner Farm, proper.  While scoping the site out from the nearby woods, Liza decided to move closer and investigate the small grain silo on the property.  As she was doing so, Amity noticed a shambling, loping figure emerge from one of the farmhouses and shuffle towards the barn.  She let Liza know.

Moses and Dr. Ryder, also noticing the figure, decided to investigate the building the figure had emerged from.  The building was full of mold and mildew, and in one of the rooms they encountered two more human figures.  As they debated what to do about these two unresponsive figures, Amity and Liza joined them, and then they sicced the dogs on the figures and began shooting and clubbing the figures.  Finally responsive, the figures turned around and attacked, with one of the figures - Liza tentatively identified them as "zombies" - slamming the dog Bandit into Moses.  Eventually they managed to blow both figures' heads apart, at which point flailing, fungoid tentacles emerged briefly from the stumps of their necks before they slumped to the ground.  The tentacles matched the one that had emerged from the chest of the man they'd killed in Clark's house. 

They decided next to investigate the barn.  Liza snuck in the door and encountered a horrifying sight - a pile of carcasses - cow, horse, pig, even chickens, and worse still a pair of skinless human bodies - over and through which grew thick, ropy tendrils of fungoid matter, culminating in a a tumorous mass, three or so feet in diameter, crowning the mound of meat. 

Liza reported back to the rest of the group what she saw, and they determined to go in and try to destroy the fungal mass, with Dr. Ryder fashioning the axe handle he'd been carrying into a crude torch. 

They quickly learned that firing bullets into the fungus just made it angry, as it pulled a tendril loose from the pile of meat and began swinging at them, eventually catching Moses in a python-like grip as the tendril, as thick as one of his arms, coiled around him, constricting as it lifted him into the air.  A wet, membranous orifice dilated open on the main fungal mound and it lowered him into it, sealing around his head.  Moses twitched twice and then went limp. 

At this point, Dr. Ryder thrust the torch into the pile of corpses and ran, and they set fire to the barn from the outside before backing even further away. 

Hearing a call of "Griners, you'll pay", they turn, and see a native American man, dressed in European-style clothing but wearing warpaint and carrying a hatchet, charging at them, followed closely behind by a white man in a buckskin shirt.  Amity and Liza called out that they weren't Griners, and the white man tackled the native to the ground, shouting, "You hear that? They're not the Griners!"

Once the dust cleared, the white man introduced himself as Major James Neelly, a name the PCs recognized as having been Lewis' traveling companion, and the native American as Nashoba, a local Chickasaw.  Neelly explained that he'd had his own doubts about Lewis' death and decided to investigate further himself, and found his investigation dovetailing with Nashoba's search for truth regarding a sickness that's come over his village, one he believes Robert Griner deliberately spread.

One night, Nashoba explained, everyone in his village got up, walked out into the woods to the nearest burial mound, and began digging with their bare hands.  Come sunrise, they sit or lay listlessly, then once dark again they resume digging.  He believes this sickness came among his people during a visit from Robert Griner, selling grain and tools to the Chickasaw.  Nashoba believes he was unaffected because he was away from the village during Griner's visit. 

They realize there's one more building to investigate - the main farm house.  Dr. Ryder eases the door open with a stick, while laying flat on the ground; Amity, Liza, Neelly and Nashoba stand to the side of the door.  There's a brief noise like a puff of air and then a half-dozen darts or quills are sticking in the ground behind where Dr. Ryder was laying.  He manages to look up and sees a fungoid, insect-like creature, identical to the one that had been wearing Priscilla Griner's face, clinging to the ceiling, drawing back its scorpion-like tail to throw more spines.  Amity and Neelly open fire on the thing and, wounded, it crawls out through the doorway, up onto the roof of the porch and unfurls a pair of vast, leathery wings with which it takes off clumsily, flying away. 

The PCs decide investigating the house is more important than following the wounded creature.  Exploring the inside, they discover that the building's been pretty much cleaned out except for one room; in it, there are two tables, one supporting a trio of leaden cylinders, about a foot across by eight inches tall, as well as an assortment of unfamiliar scientific equipment, while the other has a couple bundles of paper on it.  A burlap sack sits on the floor in one corner.

The sack contained an assortment of copper goods - arrowheads, pectorals, bracelets, and tools - dug out of the local mounds.  Nashoba pulled a similar copper arrowhead from a pouch on his belt and explained that these simply aren't made any more - the existing ones are passed down, father to son, generation to generation since time immemorial, as amulets of protection against the Nota'mingo, a race of men who live underground and steal men's voices. 

Experimentation with the scientific equipment and the cylinders led to a startling discovery - that the soul, or essence, of Meriwether Lewis appears to be in one of the cylinders, and the equipment, when plugged into the cylinder, allow his essence to see, hear and speak.  He managed to explain to the PCs that he'd been on his way to Washington to deliver evidence that "the Damned Things" existed, had been in America for centuries, and were looking to exclude human beings from North America...but then he realized that he couldn't see his hands, he had no sense of having a body any more.  And then Meriwether Lewis, or whatever was left of him in the cylinder, began to scream. 

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