Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Is The End

Well, we're about T-20 minutes to the start of our final Changeling session.  The gaming group (also of Deadlands fame) will be staying together, although we'll be going on some sort of hiatus due to some GM family stuff.  All positive, just not conducive to gaming.

The game session will be up, as always, a million years after the last session, although I'll make some effort—I swear, guys!—to get it up a bit speedier this time, perhaps.

I've really enjoyed myself, and it is going to be really hard to leave behind this poor little tortured artist boy.  This character had been kicking around in my head for years.  I almost played him in another, though less moody, Changeling game when I was either just out of college or about to be at that point.  And that was approximately 7 years ago, so yeah...  He's had such a head canon life of his own, that M'Colleague and I have a nickname for him, Tennant Fae, because, well, he's always been "played by" David Tennant.

I'm a huge nerd.

So there you go.  This is the end.  Play us out, Jim...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Changeling: Session 20 - The Beginning of The End

When we last left our heroes, their worlds continue to fall apart as the Vanishers begin to make their move against them…

Drake barely has time to press his panic button before the flash grenade blows, shattering the windows, and mayhem ensues.  He is immediately knocked out, blind and deafened by the explosion.  Morgan, similarly addled, is able to register a hood being thrown over her head before she is able to call upon her Glamour, using the wind from the broken window to create a protective barrier of air around her.  As her hearing returns, she swears she can hear the choppy whir of propellers.  Her attackers shock her with something, and as she passes out, she swears the propeller sounds change to machine gun fire.

Down in Central Park, Goom lurks in the shadows, watching the pandemonium at the building Morgan had entered, unaware that Drake lives there.  A helicopter hovers outside, rappelling ropes dangling, and flashes of machine gun fire erupt from within it as the window shatters, showering the street below with debris.  Goom begins running toward the building.  The ropes have been swung into the building, and two body bags are being hauled into the chopper as more men rappel in and out.  There is a SWAT van in front of the building, and the street and park have been blocked off on all sides by police cars; police officers shout into phones giving the indication that this is not something that was planned.  Goom goes under ground.

Wally is still in Jimmy’s squalid apartment, watching TV while Jimmy fries eggs on the stove.  Local news breaks in to the broadcast:  In the penthouse of Charles Drake, a firefight has broken out among NYPD SWAT, Drake’s private security, and an unknown group of mercenaries with a helicopter.  Jimmy recognises the building, and yells, “God damn it!  There goes my paycheck!”  The story continues that the SWAT team was there to serve an arrest warrant to Drake for the death and dismemberment of a young woman, a possible prostitute.  Wally shouts, “What the even fuck?” as a picture of Meagan appears on screen.  It is unconfirmed if the mercenaries in the chopper are on Drake’s payroll, or if he has been abducted along with new billionaire celebrity Morgan Jones.  Another shout of “The ever-loving FUCK?!” from Wally, who rounds on Jimmy, getting him to explain what he knows, learning that Jimmy’s boss was contracted by Drake to snoop on Wally and others.  After a while, the news breaks regarding Meagan St. Paul, whose body parts started showing up months ago, but was apparently spotted recently in upstate New York going by the name Melody, and was declared missing earlier that day by her parents.  There is an interview with someone working for Drake’s company who swears that about four months back, Drake changed, almost a different person.

Alia and Gareth, who is riding high, return to their bar of choice just in time to see the Meagan/Melody story break.  Gareth is with it enough to comment to Alia that this is their friend from the support group who had gone missing.  They continue to drink.

Morgan and Drake awaken in pain, in the Chrysler Building office of Madame Butterfly.  They are in her safe room, sitting between two grates of iron bars, cage-like.  M. Butterfly and her tattooed attendant are also there, on one side of the bars near a large picture window, watching the drama unfold on a television.  On the opposite side of the room from Drake and Morgan are twelve armed men standing guard, and on either side of the doorway are the two chained tigers.  Yuri-ko explains that she had prior knowledge of Drake’s impending arrest, and so sent in her team via helicopter to bring them to the safety of her office.  Something is coming for Drake, whatever it was spoke to their “friend in the sewer”, Goom.  She assumes that the dismembered Meagan is the double they knew, but can’t say for certain.  She coughs, and there is blood on her hand.  M. Butterfly continues that she has a series of cages in this room and hopes to capture their pursuer, using Drake and Morgan as bait.  It would be helpful if the rest of their friends would come, too, to help fight, and Drake asks permission to use his phone.

Jimmy’s phone rings, causing Wally to jump.  It is Charles Drake, panicked and hyperventilating, imploring him to contact the others he had been watching and tell them to get the hell out of Dodge.  The line goes dead.  Jimmy passes the message along to Wally, who nods and leaves. 

Still at the bar, Gareth’s phone rings, an unknown number.  Despite Alia shaking her head at him not to answer, he picks up.  A man’s voice tells him that Mr. Drake says to get the hell out of Dodge, and the call ends.  As he tries to wrap his addled brain around it, Gareth’s phone buzzes again, this time with a text message from Goom, who tells them to meet at the Ramble.  Gareth and Alia both know the Ramble to be a spot in Central Park, and head out. 

His high starting to abate as they enter Central Park, Gareth is jittery, rambling on about a dealer he used to buy from who would do business around the Ramble.  Alia admonishes him to be quiet, since they don’t know if they’re going to actually meet Goom, whom they hadn’t seen in weeks, or if it is a trap.  Hiding in the shadows, Goom sees his friends approach, but before he can hail them, he notices movement in the trees.  Alia sees it as well:  vines creep out along the ground and around tree trunks, forming a gateway.  Alia grabs Gareth, pulling him along, as she shouts, “Goom!  The church!”

Goom stays and watches a figure emerge from the hedge, a twelve foot tall butcher, wearing antebellum style clothing and an apron, covered in blood.  He wields an oversized knife that drags on the ground behind him, leaving a trench in his wake.
I will festoon my bedchamber with his guts!
As he passes Goom, he makes eye contact, addressing him as “Private”.  Goom returns the nod, acknowledging the giant butcher as “Totenkopf”.  The thing ambles up the path, though clearly not following Alia and Gareth, who slow their retreat once they realise they are apparently in no danger.  Goom catches up to them and leads them to what he refers to as Goom Lair Alpha.  As they walk, they can hear shouts and gunfire in the direction the Butcher went.  Alia wonders if they should help.  “When,” Gareth asks, “have you ever known us to actually save anybody?”  They continue on.

Wally wanders until he locates one of the few remaining phone booths in the city with an intact phone book.  He flips through it, looking for his parents, to see if they still live in Queens.  He finds a name and address that match, and hails a cab.

Back in the Chrysler, Drake and Morgan watch on television as the giant Butcher comes out of the park and annihilates a cop with a swing of his knife.  Gunfire erupts and he swings at more officers before the picture cuts to a very ashen news anchor.  Madame Butterfly comments “Either tonight we will have our answers, or that is the face of your killer.”

Elsewhere in the city, Alex and his daughter Debbie are recovering from the trauma of their two Fae visitors earlier that night.  Amidst the sirens wailing throughout the city, they both go to bed, Alex never thinking of turning on the television.

Goom is about to start explaining what he’s been up to recently, when a white van rolls up along side them, side door opening to reveal black-clad men inside.  With Gareth spouting a litany of “No, no, no”, they rabbit, with the van pursuing them, though they swear the guys inside are gesturing for them to come in.  Goom manages to smash through a storefront door with the butt of his gun, and they make their way to a restroom with a sewer opening.  Goom leads them to a sub-level, an old tunnel made of old wood planks, and he explains that these are old cow tunnels that were used to bring cattle into Manhattan at the turn of the century.  They arrive at a heady wooden door, the entry to Goom Lair Alpha.  Inside, they can hear a girl sobbing.  When Goom obviously doesn’t know what’s going on, Alia pops her claws, and they enter with caution.

Sitting in an arm chair is Meagan, but different.  Her hair is short and blond, her face streaked with tears.  Goom and Gareth both notice that the neck tattoo their friend Meagan had worn is still present, but on the opposite side – this is not their Meagan.  When the girl sees Goom and his large gun, she screams, toppling out of the chair.  Gareth cautiously approaches her, saying that they are friends of Meagan’s, and the girl relaxes.  She introduces herself as Melody, saying that Meagan is dead.  Before she died, however, she’d given Melody a dream-catcher necklace which would help her find friends that could help her.  Knowing that Meagan thought Madame Butterfly was after her, Melody panicked when she saw an unmarked van outside of her dance studio earlier that day, and she ran, somehow making it all the way to Manhattan without the police noticing, even though they were looking for her as well.  She says that the necklace just sort of let her know where to go, and that’s how she ended up down here; the necklace seems satisfied now that they’re with her.

Gareth comforts her, offering a cigarette, and they both light up.  As the group tries to decide what to do next, they notice a sudden influx of roaches into the lair, and the insects gather together to spell out “PRIVATE”, a picture of a butterfly, and “NOW”.  Their decision made for them, Goom provides Melody with a Kevlar vest and hands both Alia and Gareth each a gun.  They return to the street and proceed to the Chrysler.

As they approach the building, they hear gunfire and helicopters.  About 500 yards down the road, they see the Butcher, slowly ambling towards them, his knife dragging and sparking along the road.  He is flanked by helicopters with search lights turned on him, and although he’s being peppered with automatic gunfire, he doesn’t react.  In a panic, Gareth, Alia, and Melody follow Goom into the building.  The lobby is full of Madame Butterfly’s heavies, but since the group is familiar, they are let through to the elevator without incident.

Press play before reading on...

When the elevator starts rising, Alia demands that Goom explain himself, and why didn’t that thing out there attack them.  He stops the elevator and starts talking.  He asks if they remember the pacts that they’d made with Madame Butterfly and with each other previously.  Alia and Gareth nod.  Goom continues on that M. Butterfly has transgressed against the Fae, what she calls the Vanishers, and that they are coming for her.  There will have to be a sacrifice, and we are that sacrifice.  He has made a pact with the Butcher, although before he can go into detail, the elevator doors open to reveal the Butcher. 

He has shrunk himself to about seven feet, still formidable, but able to fit in the lift.  Gareth and Melody cower in a corner.  The Butcher acknowledges them each by name, but he raises his knife when he sees Melody, saying that he does not know her.  They all defend her, confirming to him that she has value to them, and he lets it go.  He stays standing in front of them, right at the doors, with the four standing behind. 

As they ride up, the Butcher says, “Remember, Private, on pain of death.”  Goom nods.  The Butcher then advises them that they’d do well to get to the side, which the four do, ducking and covering as the elevator doors open on Yuri-ko’s office suite.  The elevator car is bombarded with bullets, but the Butcher just wades into it, blade swinging.

Eventually the hail of bullets stops, the area quiet except for the occasional low moan, and the group in the elevator cautiously step out.  The hall is awash with blood and dismembered bodies.  Alia and Gareth instruct Melody to keep herself hidden behind the receptionists’ desk while they do what they need to do.  The Butcher is coming back down the hall, knife dragging and sparking, and gestures to Madame Butterfly’s safe room, instructing, “Private, you first.”  Goom takes the lead, entering the room alone, Alia and Gareth just on the other side of the doorway, and the Butcher behind them just out of sight.

Goom is greeted with twelve muzzles pointed in his direction, the tigers growl.  Madame Butterfly asks if he is with them, and Goom noncommittally replies, asking if he is the sacrifice, or the whole group perhaps.  Yuri-ko wants to know if she should kill Goom or not, and Drake informs her that he’s the only idealist among the group, and that he’s clearly made pacts.  M. Butterfly asks Goom if he’s made pacts with the fae, but he won’t give her a definitive answer.  Meanwhile in the hall, Alia grabs Gareth’s arm and, with no resistance from the Butcher, begins backing them away from the door.

Drake and Madame Butterfly’s heavies open fire upon Goom.  As his body hits the floor, the primed flash grenade he’d been concealing rolls out of his hand, and detonates in the middle of the group of soldiers.  While they’re distracted, Alia steps in and pulls Goom’s body out of the room, and she and Gareth prepare to give him what aid they can.  As he’s about to enter the room, the Butcher asks if either of them would care to make a pact.  They adamantly deny him, and he shrugs, saying it was worth a try; he enters the room.

He greets Yuri-ko by name, and the tattooed man asks for his, which the Butcher gives as Totenkopf.  Totenkopf the Butcher asks for the Oathbreaker, chiding, “Yuri-ko, you expect me to step into your silly cage?  We have been merciful with you, but we can turn our attention back to you.”  He turns to one of the tigers, which is straining at its collar and chain.  He raises his knife, swings, and the chain is severed.  The tiger sits docile at his side.  Drake tries taunting the Butcher, hoping to entice him closer, but Totenkopf only grins at him, and releases the other tiger.  Still grinning, the Butcher steps forward to engage the twelve soldiers, and that’s when the other set of iron bars drops down from the ceiling, blocking the doorway.  The guards, now trapped in a cage with the Butcher, look back at M. Butterfly nervously.

The Butcher addresses Drake, saying, “You have chosen your allies poorly.  Are you aware that she is the one who invited me?  She framed you for the murder of your friend.”  Drake asks why Morgan is here then, but the Butcher doesn’t know, saying that she is merely collateral.  He does offer her a deal, presumably for her safe passage, but Morgan won’t take the bait.  He asks her that since they’ve got plenty of time, and since they’re not going anywhere, can’t they negotiate?  Drake steps in saying that if she deals, she dies.  Totenkopf offers to change the odds, and he swings his knife, beheading six of the guards.  The remaining six open fire, filling him with bullets, but he doesn’t react.  Drake and Morgan share a look of understanding, and Drake aims his gun at her.  Totenkopf kills the remaining guards.  “This box of yours is imperfect, Yuri-ko.  What is your intent?”

Madame Butterfly says that she will give him Drake, but in exchange he must send her back, back to before all of this happens, back to when she was beautiful.  As her tirade rises, the massive window behind her bursts open, the wind at the high elevation sucking and whistling.  The vine creature, which had previously appeared in Alex’s apartment, climbs into the room, casually tossing the tattooed man outside.  It grabs Madame Butterfly, and without hesitation, twists her head right off.  It breaks off several of its branches and drops them to the floor along with her head.  It then makes like a tree and leaves.

Ain't nobody fucks with tree man.  Ain't nobody.
Drake is able to reach through the bars, pressing a button that will release the first set of bars, allowing the Butcher to leave, but keeping himself and Morgan out of harm’s way.  He waits until he knows the building is cleared before releasing the rest of the cage.

Out in the corridor, Alia and Gareth have managed to tend to the worst of Goom’s wounds, and Gareth calls upon his glamour to revive his friend.  Goom is in pain, but no longer hemorrhaging blood.   The Butcher approaches them, telling Goom, “Consider your deal honoured, Private.  If you want to help your friends further, I recommend you partake of the Death’s Head blossom.”  Goom nods weakly, and the Butcher leaves, entering the elevator and riding down.

Wally’s taxi pulls up in front of his childhood home, and he asks the driver to wait.  He knocks on the door and is greeted by his mother; it looks as though she’s been crying.  “I was told to expect you,” she says, letting him in.  Wally says he isn’t surprised, but asks who told her in the first place?  She merely says, “He’s waiting inside.”  As they walk through the hallway, Wally sees evidence of a life that isn’t his – framed pictures and documents line the wall, giving a glimpse of all the things the other Wally has done—shaking hands with President Obama, awards, ceremonies.  After 2008, his mother no longer appears in the pictures, and around the same time the family pictures just change to press releases clipped from the paper.  The last item is a letter accepting him as a professor at Perdue.  Wally notices that his girlfriend from his old life, Allison, never appears in any of the pictures.

Before they go into the sitting room, his mother comments that he’s very different from her boy, which he acknowledges.  “Are you a good man?”  “Maybe,” he replies.  “I don’t know any more."  His mother replies, "I don't think my son is," and they walk in.  Sitting on the couch is the blue boy with compound eyes and gossamer wings.  It buzzes at Wally, “Ah, welcome.  The time has come to answer the question…”

At some point in the night, Alex awakens with the sense that something isn’t right.  He goes into the hallway to Debbie’s room, noting that the street sounds are loud, as though a window had been left open.  Her bed is empty, but there is a large lacquer box with a red door inlaid.  Alex calls for his daughter, but there is no answer.  Inside the box is a letter, which says “The time has come to answer the question,” and a map of Central Park with a location indicated.

One.  Session.  Left.