Campaign of the Month: March 2017

Nocturnum: Rebirth

The Problem of Lorelei (Interlude)

Herald of the Yellow Sign, Part I

Participants
Anita Blake
Sandra Stephens

Characters Referenced in Dialogue
Darrek Tinsley
Matthew Canaan

(This interlude takes place concurrently with Episode 4. For the Interlude, Anita was played by her original player, Julie)

For the past few weeks, Sandra has been seeing an old, very close friend named Lorelei appear in her apartment in spectral form, apparently in great pain, accompanied by a strange and disturbing energy. Lorelei died back in 2001 at the fangs of a vampire, due largely to the bravado of John, one of the original Cast, and her death is something Sandra has never been able to put to rest…but she never thought she’d see Lorelei’s ghost in agony, in her loft. Sandra called on Anita for help, and Anita, too, was shocked and disturbed to see Lorelei at all, let alone in this state. Lorelei, Sandra and Carrie were the best friends of Anita’s original Slayer, Kat, back in 2001, and Anita viewed all the girls as charges of a sort. She was as heartbroken as anyone at Lorelei’s death, and never truly forgave John for the series of events that led up to it. So, after getting her chops back in shape and doing some research and soul-searching, Anita has decided it’s time to get to work.

While the group is investigating the Night Stone, Anita finds herself anxious, itching for something to do and un-used to not being in the thick of things. She emerges from her office and sees Sandra sitting there, looking pale and tired, half-nursing her now long-cold latte. She’s never seen the young woman look so tired and worn down. Anita has noticed Sandra trying very hard the past week or so to be her old self; she also has figured out that she’s been going home to be with Lorelei, which is probably making things even harder for her. It occurs to her that now might be a good time to start actively working on this problem. What does she do?

If trying to channel Loralei doesn’t work, her next strategy would be to astrally project and try to communicate with her that way. she would probably want to find a safe and secure place to do that (her house, most likely) and have someone to watch her while she’s in the astral plane (a tender, basically, to ensure no one fucks with her body while she’s travelling). She would ask Sandra if she feels comfortable doing that, and if not she would likely ask Dana or someone else she trusts.

You walk up to Sandra and ask if she’s interested in watching over you while you try to astral project to investigate what’s holding and harming Lorelei and she replies, “I thought you’d never ask. I was wondering what was taking you so long. Should we do this at my place, where she is?”

“If we do it at your place I wouldn’t have to travel very far to get to her, which would be ideal. Do you honestly feel up to this? "

“It’s Lorelei. You couldn’t keep me from this if you tried.”

The two of you head to Sandra’s place, where you notice a sort of sick energy has begun to trickle down. Sandra’s face becomes more pale, drawn, almost aged as you head up to her door. She half-whispers, “It’s gotten worse over the past couple of weeks.” She looks at you and shudders. “Seeing her like this…It’s not…she looks bad.”

You enter the loft and the sense of horrid, sick energy is almost overwhelming, unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. The place is sick with it. It feels like walking into an emergency room after a major disaster. Lorelei is there; she’s stopped screaming, but now she’s rocking back and forth, staring blankly into the void. Her eyes flicker up at you, barely recognizing your presence. She acknowledges both you and Sandra. Bloody tears streak down her cheeks. The wound at her throat looks like it’s festering, which is bizarre—a spirit like her shouldn’t have blood, for tears or any other reason, and she sure as Hell shouldn’t have the ability for a wound to fester and turn gangrenous. There’s definitely a Hell of a lot more going on here that was at first apparent.

That’s when it hits you: spirits cannot talk about what happens in the realm of the dead. Whatever is happening to Lorelei, is trapping her and hurting her, if it has to do with the Death Realms, she actually can’t communicate it. You take all this in and think about your next move. What’s it going to be?

“I’ve never seen anything like this before, honey. I don’t know how much I’m going to be able to help her, if at all. Nothing about this is right. She shouldn’t be like this.” I sigh. “I’m going to try to see if I can talk to her, and at the very least check out what things look like on her end of things. If it’s something in the Death Realms that’s causing this, she won’t be able to tell me what it is that’s doing it. Part of the Rules. Is there anything you want me to tell her for you?” I pause. “I really don’t like the energy in here. We may need to do some major spring cleaning.”

“You know,” Sandra says, “I tried to go to Matthew when this first happened. Nobody was at his place. It was the day the new kids arrived—maybe the next day. It’s all a blur.” She shudders. “Just…just tell her I love her and we’ll find a way to help her.”

Her eyes well up. “She doesn’t deserve this. She should be in Heaven, not…not this! What did she do to deserve this? I’m trying. I’m trying really hard to keep my faith through this, but it’s so hard…”

She sniffles, and rubs her eyes with the palms of her hands, leaving streaks of mascara across her face. “Just help her. Please. Let her rest.”

I reach out and take Sandra’s hand and squeeze it. “I’m sorry it took me awhile to make myself available. I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now, but a lot of shit has happened, and there’s a lot more coming down the pike, it seems. Matthew’s currently on a personal errand for me, and before that he was dealing with me unloading the new Slayer into his hands, so that’s why he hasn’t been around. Thankfully now that Darrek is back where he belongs he’s helping manage the new recruits and the research end of things, which frees me up to be here for you. And you know I’ll do whatever I can, Sandra, but you also need to understand that I can’t make you any promises. Like I said, we’ve moved solidly into unknown territory here. Seems to be a lot of that going around lately…but I’m nothing if not determined. I will do everything I can to help figure this out and get Lorelei the peaceful rest she deserves.”

With that said, I stretch out on Sandra’s bed and close my eyes. “Just a head’s up, I’ve been told that it’s rather unsettling when I go astral. Don’t worry-I’m not actually dead. Just don’t let anyone fuck with my body while I’m gone, okay?” I then work on focusing my necromancy, spending a drama point for good measure, and project myself into the astral plane.

The world swims around you, goes gray, fades and zooms in and out like a broken film camera. It’s a disconcerting feeling—one you’d nearly forgotten in the years since you’ve attempted this. Then, with a brief sense of being stuck in a vacuum and a whoosh in your ears, you sit up, sudden and fast. You look behind you and get a brief lump in your throat as you see yourself, lying dead on the bed, with Sandra beside you.

“Help,” comes a squeak of a voice from the corner.

You turn to look and it’s Lorelei. The first time you’ve heard her voice in over 15 years, and she’s squeaking, “help me.” She’s trying to say something else as she weakly reaches a hand to you, but it’s muffled, nondescript. Silent gibberish. That bizarre sense of dark magic is here, and it actually stinks to you. You hold back a moment, regarding Lorelei, trying to determine your next move and get a handle on things, and two things hit you: First, she’s being held there by something beneath her, in the metaphysical sense. Second, what you’re seeing, that rot, that decay, the blood tears, the gangrenous wounds, you have seen it before, but never this slow.

Usually when a soul unravels it happens in an instant.

One thing is for sure; whatever you’re going to do, you’re running out of time, because she’s being slowly torn apart.

I reach out and take her hand. “Hi, sweetie. Sandra sends all of her love. I’ll try to help you. What a mess.” I sigh, and try to pull her to her feet. “Let’s see if we can get out of here, shall we? How about we head to the Hive?” I try to get her moving.

Something is definitely putting up an astonishing amount of resistance. You pull at her and it holds fast. She looks up at you, those horrific tears streaming down her face. You cast a glance at Sandra, who is gazing in horror at Lorelei and you realize that she can’t see you, only the girl. You turn back to Lorelei and place her arms around your neck, then wrap yours under her arms and start to heave. She’s babbling something, but it’s obscured by the rules of the Death Realms. Whatever’s doing this…it’s inhumanly strong.

You call upon every ounce of your Necromantic power and heave backwards with everything you’ve got. Lorelei lets out a scream that pierces to the core of your soul…and then comes free. You both collapse on the floor, and she lays there, heaving, coughing. She raises her head and looks at you.

“Tried…to warn you,” she chokes. “Don’t…help…me.”

That’s when a blast of horrible, eldritch energy strikes you, blowing you across the room (you take 60 points of damage—which probably means a survival check). On the bed, your body convulses, thrashes, then lays still, blood running from your nose. Off in the distance you can vaguely hear Sandra saying, “Oh, no, Anita, no. No, no, no, no, come back, come back!” And you can feel healing energy pouring into you, barely sustaining you.

That’s when you see him. Someone you never thought you’d see again. That’s when you see Alan. He’s gaunt, jaundiced, his eyes glowing with an unholy yellow fire.

You try with all your strength to rise, but you can’t get up. He’s more powerful than ever, but in a different way. You’ve got no answer for this right now. You can’t move, can’t even speak. He takes a knee next to you, leans down, and says, “It’s nice to see you again, my love. You have no idea what it was like, being trapped there. It seemed like thousands of years. How long was it, truly? Never mind; don’t answer that. I just knew I had to escape, and there was only one person with the power to help. I knew it had to be you. That’s why I chose her,” he indicates Lorelei, “and her,” he indicates Sandra.

“Only you had the power to help me escape from there, and it was a small matter to stick the girl into a crack and start draining her to power my new abilities. Now I just need to find a gateway back to the world, so I can serve my Mistress properly. It’s begun, Anita. The infection that will remake this world, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

He stands. “I am the second of her heralds. But I know my enemy, and I won’t underestimate you.” He grabs Lorelei and says, “I’ll be taking her. As insurance. And I may just need her again.” Then he waves a hand and traces a familiar symbol in the air:

1608442-yellow_sign.sized.jpg

There’s a surge of that sick energy, and he steps through a portal with Lorelei. He’s gone. When he vanishes, your movement and senses come back, like they’d been pulled from you and are forcibly rammed back into your body. You lurch, grunt, and find yourself on your hands and knees. Sandra is still over at your body, begging you to be all right.

(I made my survival check and failed my sanity check. Like, rollled down. Altogether it was like a 4 or a 5).
When I come to, I look up at Sandra in horror, and whisper, “Oh my God, what have I done????” I then curl into the fetal position and alternate between crying and laughing hysterically.

Sandra says, “What happened? Where’s Lorelei? Are you okay?”

When you don’t answer, she starts calling your name, gently at first, then with more force. “Anita? Anita, come on, talk to me. Anita! MOM!!!!” and she slaps you full across the face, which brings you back to your senses. “Tell. Me. What. Happened!”

“She was being held here on purpose, and slowly unraveled. That’s why she looked like she did.” I pause, and start to shake uncontrollably. “It was all a setup. He knew exactly what to do to get me to come here. After all of this time, he still knows me so well, knows exactly what strings to pull to manipulate me.” I fight back tears, but a few escape and run down my cheeks. “I hate that he still has so much power over me. That he can make me feel so weak and helpless. I fell right into his hands. He has Lorelei, he’s coming, and he’s bringing something even worse with him. It’s happening again.” I fight to stay anchored and not slip back into Madness.

“Who? Anita, take a breath, calm down, and talk to me. Who is coming? What was a setup? Where’s Lorelei? What the Hell is going on?”

“Alan.” I swallow the lump in my throat. “It was Alan. He used Lorelei as bait to get me to pull him free from wherever he was being held. He knew that I can’t bear to see you suffer. It was a perfect plan. I’m so sorry, Sandra. He has her, and it’s all my fault.” I break down, sobbing. “He’ll come after everyone and everything I care about until there’s nothing left but him. I can’t do this again. I can’t.”

Sandra grabs your face in her hands and forces you to look her dead in the eye.

“Then don’t,” she says, simply. “This isn’t your fault. How the Hell could it be your fault? If I hadn’t come to you for help you’d never have even known it was happening. But you know what? It’s not my fault, either. It’s his fault, that sick asshole. Don’t you start doing this. Don’t you start blaming yourself for the fate of the world. You’re a powerful woman, one of the strongest I’ve ever known. You’ve been a rock for me when I had nobody. But you’re not responsible for every bad thing that everyone does. He used you? Fine. It’s done. But he’s out there, now, and he’s still got Lorelei. Wake the Hell up and tell me, then: what are we going to do about this Hellspawned son of a bitch?”

I wipe my face with my hands, gather myself, and rise to my feet. “He said that he was going to look for a Gateway so he can get through, that he’s a herald of the infection that’s coming to remake this world, and that I can’t stop it.” I smile. “Of course, he said that I couldn’t stop Leviathan, either, and we all know how that ended.” I sigh. “He’s way more powerful this time, though. And he’s using Lorelei, somehow, to fuel it. I don’t know how.” I close my eyes. “He’ll go after the people closest to him first, especially if he thinks he can exploit them. We need to warn them.” I look at Sandra. “Daniel. And Darrek.” I pause. “Last time he almost ripped this city apart. We can’t let that happen again. And as usual, his timing is impeccable. Everyone’s at this stupid Conclave.”

Comments

As a side note: Alan Collins III was a former love interest of Anita’s, a Rosicrucian, and Darrek’s one-time mentor. He went bad, became a cultist of the Mad God Leviathan, and turned out to be the Big Bad of Season 3 of the original series. When last he was seen, the Elder God Nodens had dragged him off to be punished in some unimaginable hell in the Dreamlands.

The Problem of Lorelei (Interlude)
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