Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Changeling:Session 16

When last we met, the group pressed farther into the sewer system in search of the Hand Made Man, encountering some bizarre and frightening happenings along the way.

While everyone else investigates the rat-bear, Goom has been keeping watch over the red door.  Ashe hears the muffled echoes of silenced gunfire down the hall, he sees the paint on the door begin to fade and chip again – the Glamour which Alex had given it is wearing off.  Unconcerned, Goom turns his attention to the chains and restraints on the floor, summoning his strength to rend them from the platform.  At the shocked looks from Drake’s thugs, Goom comments, “I don’t like slavery.”  They raise their fists in support.

Down in the tunnel, the bear is in tatters and the rats are all gone.  The decision is made to burn the doll, and the SWAT team begins spraying it with a chemical, as well as setting plastic explosives to bring the tunnel down once the fire is out.  Seeing that they are unneeded here, the rest of the group decides to return to Goom, having just heard the sound of him ripping up the chains.

As they reconvene and start discussing what to do next, Goom’s hackles raise – something is coming.  Realising that they’re standing at the junction of several train tracks, they contemplate scaling the amphitheatre levels, but as the bottom level is 12’ high, it isn’t feasible.  From one tunnel then another, clanging starts, a sound all too familiar to Goom.  The mole people are back.  Weighing their options, they see the red door as the only likely solution – less certain death versus absolutely imminent death.

The whole of their company has returned from burning the rat-bear, and they ask the tattooed leader if everyone (non-dreamers included) can go through the red door.  He tells them that there is no way he is ever going through that again, they don’t know where it goes, and orders his soldiers to start blowing tunnel entrances and get ropes to scale the levels above them.

Alex, standing near the platform but not at the door, again spends a Glamour to activate the door, refreshing it again.  Goom tries to open the door, but cannot – Alex activated it, he must open it.  An argument ensues with the tattooed man, who grows more agitated the closer they all get to the door, insisting they stay to fight whatever comes through those tunnels.  Sneering, the man begins to grow, his muscles swelling, and he leaps forward almost thirty feet toward them, toward Alex.  The rest of the group books it for the door platform.

Realising his pact with the tattooed man, Alex realises that he cannot risk resisting the man’s orders.  However, the rest of the group made a promise that they would not abandon one another.  Weighing the consequences, Alex decides to fuck it, and sprints for the door, turning the handle of the door which opens with a sucking wind.  The tattooed man lets out a bloodcurdling wail, as Alia and Drake rush the platform, grab-tackling Alex through the door.  The soldiers and thugs give chase (The latter being bonded to follow Drake), following Morgan, then Wally, then Gareth through the door. 

Goom waits until the last of them go through, including the tattooed man who wails like a child as he passes into his nightmare.  The final few soldiers back through the door, shooting at the mole people who have started to crash through the tunnels like terrible rapids.  Goom shuts the door as he passes through.

Alia, Drake, and Alex are falling, feeling as though they are going in many different directions.  The space around them is flickering shades of bright whiteness, voices all around them as they cling together.  They see flashes of their own lives, and those of their companions, nothing overtly connected, just memories.  The farther they fall, the more surreal the memories become, twisting and warping as though in… well, a dream. 

It stops as they collapse on the ground in a room.  They are deafened by the silence that surrounds them.  They are in a space so silent they can hear their own blood rushing, hearts pumping.  They are in some sort of medical facility, and Alex feels it is familiar.  Down the hall is a junction where other walkways meet at a nurse station.  None of the typical sounds and smells of a hospital are there, only the visual.

As they get up, they realise they’re lying atop Morgan.  They help her up, and then Wally is beneath her, clutching his pistol.  The tattooed man is next, having returned to his normal non-Hulked-out state and he is freaking out.  As they try to calm him, another person appears on the floor, and they start helping them up, their entire party appearing one by one, like some sort of human PEZ dispenser.

Unsure of how to proceed, they discuss what to do if they encounter, well, anything.  Guns and bullets may be ineffectual here, but what about fire?  Gareth flicks his lighter, the flame leaving a trail through the air that slowly fades.  The tattooed man freaks out at this, saying that it will attract Them, anything they do to change this space will attract Them.  This, he says, is Their realm, the takers.  They are pure malevolence and time has no jurisdiction here, no rules.  If you get trapped here, he tells them, you’d be best off taking your own life, as that is far better than enduring their tortures.  Dream logic prevails, and they are to do nothing to alter the Dream, lest They notice.  When they came here before, he says, they had someone with them who could see the soft spots between this world and the Real.  He says it looked like purple light.

It clicks.  Wally has seen purple glowing spots in various places around Manhattan.  This is an ability he had no awareness of.  When this is brought up, the tattooed man freaks out again.  Wally tries looking, seeing that everyone has a fading purple smoke around them, but nothing more.  They decide to push on, Alex remembering that there is a lift and a stairwell near the nurse station.  As they approach the nurse station, the sound of a baby crying can be heard; they also see a glowing EXIT sign, though in the opposite direction of the crying.  Wally asks Alex if this is where his daughter was born, and the realisation hits him – that’s how he knows this place!  However, given his track record with Them teasing him with false daughters, they decide to ignore the crying and look for a way out.

Drake is the first to approach the stairwell, heading down.  Everything seems normal, until he reaches the next landing, where it opens up below to a hospital room with a bed.  In the farthest corner, it looks as though paint has been blasted over the wall.  There is a female figure asleep on the bed, her face stopping at her nose, and the rest of her head an explosion of vines and twisted hair that bursts back against the wall.  Alia is concerned that if they go down there, that the woman will wake, and so they go back up, past the level with the crying baby, to the floor above.

There is another door, and Goom pokes his head out.  Another hospital hallway.  There is a boy a ways down who turns and locks eyes with Goom, who recognises him as the boy who had knocked on Wally’s door, although his whole left side is horribly burned.  The boy flies back into a room, slamming the door.  All the way down the hall, doors start slamming, cascading toward them.  Goom ducks back into the stairwell just as the door in front of him slams shut.

The tattooed man says that It is becoming aware, and that the group is creating this.  Goom opens the door again, smelling burnt flesh.  A deep baritone voice asks, “What are you looking for, Oath Breaker?”  Alex knows he is the breaker of oaths, having reneged on his pact with the Tatman, and so he answers, “The exit.”  A dialog begins between the two, the Voice trying to make bargains with Alex, though Drake cautions and coaches him so that he does not say anything that will bind them. 

The Voice wants to see Alex, as he is unique.  It promises Alex all the stars, all the laughing stars, the stars that laugh.  Drake recalls those words from long ago, they are from “The Little Prince”, and he gives Alex the proper response from the story.  The Voice is offended by this, telling Alex that he is being fed words by one not worthy.  The wall opens up, melting into organic fibres and a yellow glow.  “Come,” it says, “I would know you”.  Alex refuses, saying he wants guarantees, though the Voice asks him what good promises are with an oath-breaker.  It offers him a friendly face, and one of the soldiers morphs grotesquely into Alex’s daughter.  Another changes to Meagan, another to Alex’s wife.  All of them stare blankly at Alex.  Alex asks for the guarantee that he and the ones he has brought with him will have safe passage out of this place and back to their own.  The Voice replies that it will not grant this, and Alex asks if it would make him twice the oath-breaker, as he has a pact with his friends that none of them will abandon each other. 

It considers this and says that they will talk again.

They head back down the stairs, although the three women will not move, no matter how hard they try to persuade them.  Their fellow soldiers take out guns, capping them each in the head, and one pulls out an incendiary grenade with which to burn the bodies.  The remaining company heads back down the stairs to the room where the woman sleeps.  They are all able to drop safely into the room, although Alia takes a tumble at the end. 

There is a doorway in the room, and as Drake opens it, the woman on the bed gasps.  Looking into the hall beyond, Wally can see a purple glow emanating from a window, and they all file out into the hallway.  The woman on the bed raises her hand, and whispers, “Wait.”  Alia hangs back, though Alex, Morgan, and Gareth all follow Drake and Wally towards the glow.  Alia asks the woman what she needs, to which she replies, “Please.  I can help.  With the Hand Made Man.”  Alia asks what the woman’s name is, and the woman asks Alia to name her.  Alia does not, but continues, asking if the woman is a prisoner.  She sits up, but is held back by the vines in her head.  She wants to help them, but… Down the hall, Drake realises that Alia and Goom have fallen behind and returns to the door, just in time to hear that the woman can help with the Hand Made Man.  The woman’s cost for helping them is her freedom, she wants out of this place.  Drake tells Alia to make the deal, get it done, get out of here.

The woman asks Alia to hold her hand, and then shoot her.  Alia concedes to name the woman, calling her Angel, and taking her hand.  Angel tells her, “The children are his way in, and there’s a bloodline… Your… mentor has kept it locked away.  She’s hiding it from you…”  She falls back into the bed, letting Alia’s hand go.  Goom fires, a double tap to the head, and smashes her with the iron chains he still carries from the train platform.  The book it to where the rest of the group stands around the glowing window.

Looking through, it appears as though they are at least forty stories up in a building.  Wally spends a Glamour, opening the way between worlds.  Where there had been no scent before, something hits their noses now, something Gareth recognises from his debauched clubbing days as scrotal sweat and plastic underwear.  Lovely.

Once again, Alex is bullied through the doorway, this time by a couple of M. Butterfly’s soldiers and everyone else follows.  They burst out of a closet door, glitter, feather boas, g-strings, wigs, and makeup exploding around them as they return to the real world.  They are in a dressing room and the sound of heavy bass music can be heard.

In front of them stands a black man in drag, just finishing his makeup.  “Well,” he says, recognition flashing on his face when he notices Gareth, “You know how to make an entrance!”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Changeling: Session 15

When last we met, our heroes descended to the sewers beneath Manhattan to fight the Hand Made Man. 

The gunfire is deafening, as all of M. Butterfly’s troops and the hired goons let loose on the spider-thing for a few seconds.  As the tattooed man calls for light, the spider can be seen twitching on the ground, slowly dissolving into a colourless liquid.  The soldier she’d been eating before is alive, though he’s wracked with spasms and his hair has turned white.  Two of the soldiers go to him, administering a syringe of tranquilizer which calms him down significantly, before they aid him up to the street level.  The tattooed man says that this reaction is normal for encounters with the Weird.

Goom takes a sniff of the spider liquid, really more of a goo.  It is odourless, not just clean smelling, but utterly devoid of any scent whatsoever.  Between that and the way it looks, they realise that this must be the same substance as the sphere Morgan found in her pocket after The Box.  Goom can also smell the sweet/chemical smell of the Sand, strong in one direction, softer but still noticeable in another.  They decide to follow his nose toward the stronger scent.

A soldier down the tunnel spots something and asks the group to come check it out.  It is the spider-thing’s web, although to Goom and Gareth it bears an unsettling resemblance to the Kevlar hammock Goom had knit some weeks prior.  Smelling it, Goom finds that it is also devoid of scent.  They ponder if this is what Glamour smells like.  They continue on toward the Sand smell.

Ahead is the sound of running water, lots of it, moving quickly.  As they enter another juncture onto a metal catwalk structure, they see a whirlpool and water flowing through gate mechanisms controlling the waterflow.  The water is acrid and smells of human waste.  The room seems to be an older portion of the Manhattan sewer system, likely not updated much from the time it was originally built.  As the water dies down and eventually clears out, they see that there is another tunnel beneath a padlocked grate.  Goom smells the Sand most strongly through that passage, or down another way.  Conversation turns to which way to go, as the best way is probably through the bottom, although they can’t be sure when the deluge will start again, and do they really want to risk drowning in shit?

As they discuss which way to go, someone comments about how old this area is, and how the metal they’re standing on must be really rickety.  Wally happens to look at the catwalk where he stands.  Before his eyes, the metal starts to corrode away, and he quickly looks anywhere else, stopping it.  Alia does the same, but is not quick enough, and ends up falling through, just catching herself.  Goom and one of the soldiers help her up, unscathed.  The soldier makes some comment about how the “Dreamwalkers” shouldn’t be looking at the floor.  Meanwhile, Wally and Alex take a ladder down to the padlocked grate to investigate it.  There is a way to jam the sluice to hold back the waste water, although it wouldn’t be guaranteed to hold.  The group opts to clear the less precarious passage first, following Goom.

There is a squish sound up ahead, and the group halts.  As the tattooed man scouts ahead, Goom takes a deep whiff.  It smells like… well, it smells like a vagina.  As they follow their mysterious leader into the next room, they are met with a cavern of flesh and muscle.  Goom and Wally try to will the vaginacave back into an actual wall, in the same way the metal had corroded just by thinking about it.  As Wally throws himself into it, mentally, Alia doubles over in pain, and the wall quivers, turning back to stone.  Alia yells that this is obviously her vagina, and could they stop.

The tattooed man comments that when he was down here before, fighting the Hand Made Man (for he was part of Yuri-ko’s original team) they saw some shit, but nothing nearly as weird as this.  Gareth asks for the man’s name, but the guy replies that they’re better off not being on a first name basis.  Weighing their choice of paths, the group opts to continue cuntward.  As they enter into the tunnel proper, they can see blood vessels and hear a heart beat.  Wally steps in something that emits a moan of pain and pleasure.  His foot is in the mouth of a man who is crying as he moans and licks at Wally’s shoe.  Wally steps away, disgusted, and Alia notes that the face is that of a past customer.

About 100 yards in, they start to hear many voices moaning and screaming, Alex noting that Alia’s is among them.  Down the tunnel crawl dozens of figures, pairs, all in mid coitus and fused together where their bodies meet.  Some are crawling across the ceiling and walls, others scamper at them on normal elevations.  In each set, the female figure is always Alia.  All of them, like Alia, have bestial claws.  Drake fires at the foremost set, tearing a hole through one of its shoulders.  The fight begins.

As the fuckbeasts come at them with fangs and claws, the soldiers, thugs, and some of the group fire at them, Alia opting to leap forward and go claw to claw.  One of the soldiers lobs a grenade, although it bounces into a hole before exploding, sending ripples through the flesh cave, knocking everyone off balance.  Although some of the soldiers and thugs suffer wounds, one by one the fuckbeasts are taken down, even Alia’s dog gets a kill in.  The remaining pair of beasts suddenly disappear in a puff of purple smoke, as does the fleshy tunnel, revealing a brick tunnel with a grate and archway.  The tattooed leader remarks that he’s never seen the Dream recede like that, it would seem as though the dreamer woke up, but…

Goom smells the Sand grow strong, then weak, strong, then weak, like breathing.  Proving that it wasn’t just a dream, they find a hole where the grenade went off, and twenty feet below is an old subway track.  They drop a rope and all climb down, Wally again taking an awkward landing.  Down the tunnel they spy a flickering light and hear a pipe banging, reminding Goom of what he’d heard when the Mole People attacked.  Instead of the Sand, Goom smells the strong scent of iguana, specifically iguana.  The lead group of soldiers approach the next tunnel opening and then start shouting, “Put it down!”

The room they all enter into is the same one that had shown up in the dreams of Alex, Alia, and others – a large room, the floor sunken, with arcing rows of seats like an amphitheatre and a convergence of several train tracks at the bottom.  This time, there are no candle-eyed Mole People, nor is Alex’s daughter chained at the bottom, although he clearly sees a set of chains and manacles.  The room is lit with hundreds of candles, lanterns, and so forth.

A wooden palate on train wheels sits in the center, and atop it is a door frame with another red door – this one, however, is not bright and new as other red dream doors they’ve seen, it is faded and peeling.  Sitting near it is a fat man, very fat.  He has a human face, but his body is a lizard’s, purple with green marbling, and he has one stubby wing on his back and one human leg instead of a lizard’s.  Surrounding him are beakers, jars, soda bottles, all full of various substances.  Wally recognises some of it as his product, likely dumped down the drain in a moment of panic.  Lizardman is breathing laboriously, eyeing each of them.  A company of eight soldiers surround him, all guns aimed at his head. 

Goom approaches, and senses that the lizardman fears nothing, as though whatever he feared had been trained away.  Wally also approaches, to inspect the containers.  The lizardman asks, “Do I know you?”  Wally doesn’t think so, but they discourse, and the man declares himself to be a half remembered dream, fading.  He wanted to build something, but something reached inside and built him.  He thinks he will wake up soon, and at that Wally steps away quickly.  Lizardman says he needs to finish his work and gestures to a container of Sand, saying it makes all your dreams come true.  Wally wraps his hand in his handkerchief and picks up the jar.  Lizardman keeps saying to finish it, growing more agitated, and one of the soldiers blows his head away.  Purple smoke emits from his corpse.

Gareth, Alia, and Drake hear the sound of autumn leaves rustling down a side tunnel, and they alert their protectors.  Another group of soldiers advance that way, and soon shout for their tattooed leader.  He rolls his neck, flexes his arms, and swordlike appendages spring from his hands, and he stalks down the tunnel.  Alia and her dog follow.  At the end of the hall is a giant FAO Schwarz teddy bear, a giant iron sewing needle piercing its chest, a golden thread, largely decayed, running through the eye and spooling on the floor.  The bear’s head is worn away but the body, stuffed with cotton and straw, is shaking.  Alia backs away and runs to the others. 

I imagine it like this, but more awful.  So much more awful...
Alex takes a moment to investigate the very real restraints his daughter had been held in during his dream before moving on to the door on the platform.  While everything in the cavernous room is aged, the blood and hair on the manacles seem less than a week old, by Wally’s best guess.  Alex tries opening the door, but nothing notable happens – he still sees the other side of the room through it, and no one else notices a difference.  When he shuts it and reopens it however… he feels something being drained from him, the door is stealing his Glamour.  As it does, the paint starts to refresh, becoming slick and new again.  Through the doorway, he sees a hallway made from haphazardly assembled planks, lines going at all different angles, very disorienting.  Standing on the other side of the door, though, Goom can see Alex. 

Still looking through the door, Alex sees a creature of dark blue and grey.  He feels as though he’s seen it before, but cannot recall.  He’s seen enough, for now, and the door is abandoned for the time being, as Alia runs back in to report about the bear.  Goom stays behind to watch the door while the rest of the group, plus four soldiers guarding Alex, return to the bear tunnel.  From beneath the bear, they hear a faint rhythmic clicking.  Wally and Alex try to walk around to the other side of the bear’s head, but the soldiers stop them and unload their guns into the toy.

Hundreds of rats pour out, screeching and running everywhere.  The bear deflates, the rustling and much of its bulk having come from the rat colony.  The clicking continues.  Wally finally approaches to investigate, looking under the bear’s head.  He finds a 10” plastic action figure, his arms and legs kicking at the ground.  As one of the soldiers takes an easy shot at the doll, Alia has a sudden jolt of realization.  This is the same doll that belonged to the little boy she encountered after killing the pizza man.