It was a busy night at Club Inferno, the kind that makes rent for months. That is, if Lamont actually paid rent. The crowd was wild, unfocused, and full of chaotic energy, just the way he liked it. Except…something was wrong. There was another presence here, intruding on his domain, and it was one he didn’t like.
His crystal blue eyes scanned the crowd and he ran a hand through his immaculate blonde hair, stretching his eons-old preternatural senses to their limit until….
There. That one. The aura surrounding her, green and yellow and red.
“Damn,” he muttered, and strode across the floor. Patrons parted like the Red Sea for Moses, astounded that the King of this domain would ever leave his high throne to mingle among them. He approached the astoundingly charismatic redhead, dancing at the center of the floor with abandon, her ghost-white, scarred face and jaundiced eyes strangely at add with the supernatural, sexual allure she put out.
All eyes were on the two of them as he clapped his hand on her shoulder. The band’s music reached its rough, goth-punk crescendo and a circle formed around them.
“Pittsburgh,” he said. “Or New York.”
She blinked, mocking innocence. “I’m sorry?”
“Take your choice,” he said. “One or the other, but you are not welcome here.”
She shrugged, pulled away from him, and began to sway to the music once more. “Regardless,” she purred. “I’m not leaving.”
He grabbed her again and made to drag her to the door. That was when the energy surged. Someone in the crowd giggled madly as a wave of energy, something maddening, something new waved over the masses. Another patron turned to a third, pulled a dagger, and stabbed them in the throat. Suddenly, the place was a war zone, people laughing hysterically while murdering their fellows. Tables and chairs flew across the room.
In the middle of it all, Lamont stood unaffected, his rage apparent in his aura but not in his expression.
“No,” he said, simply.
He reached out and touched the girl, whose eyes widened before she let out a bestial utterance that in no way resembled any sound utterable by human vocal chords, and simply dusted, as though she were a vampire.
Instantly, the maddening energy vanished, and the rioting stopped. Silence fell. Lamont stood for a moment, letting everyone absorb the things they’d done, then sauntered back to his throne. He clapped his hands and turned to security.
“You, there,” he said. “Clean up those bodies. And the rest of you…it’s a party! Let the festivities resume!”
The band kicked back up, and the crowd went back to their activities as though nothing had happened.
Lamont was not pleased.
Outside the club, another figure watched, this one lithe, swaying, blonde and beautiful. She glided back and forth before the door, before closing her eyes and inhaling the air, deeply.
“Pittsburgh,” she whispered, and smirked, then walked off into the darkness.
Darrek Tinsley wakes up in a debris strewn field, covered partially in snow. The sun is beating down on him, and memories of last night are still haunting him. A man shakes him, telling him that he is on private property, and needs to leave. The ghostly image of the gothic asylum where Darrek spent the evening is in the background, gradually fading from view. Darrek apologizes for trespassing, and walks back to his car to leave. He has numerous missed calls and voicemails from his wife, Emily, worried. After the insanity of last night, she is concerned that he is dead, or worse. He calls her back, reassures her that he is okay, and will be home soon.
In the mean time, Matthew Canaan is concerned that the new slayer, Hilda Heintz, has not shown up. He was supposed to pick her up from the airport hours ago. Finally, just as he begins to debate leaving or calling Anita for instructions, she shows up, accompanied by a muscular young Asian woman. Hilda introduces her as Jing Yun-Xun, and they discover after a brief conversation that she is going to Blake Investigations as well. They depart the airport together, heading towards the Hive Arcana in Oakland.
Meanwhile, Henry Anders is looking all over for Darrek, and is unable to find him. He isn't at any of his usual haunts, and even missed his morning lecture. As Henry is technically stalking Darrek, he can't really ask any of Darrek's collegues where he might be, so he decides to head into Oakland to the coffee shop, the Hive, that Darrek sometimes frequents. When he arrives, Jamie offers him a coffee, but says that she hasn't seen Darrek. She offers to let Darrek know that Henry is looking for him should she see him, but Henry nervously declines the offer and takes a seat with his coffee and tried to look inconspicuous.
Darrek is home now, and has a conversation about the events of the previous night with his wife. He discovers that his neighbors killed each other. Emily is horrified to learn that the insanity was citywide. After a shower and some much needed coffee, Darrek makes the hard decision to go to the Hive Arcana to see Anita.
At this point, Matthew, Yun-Xun, and Hilda arrive at the Hive Arcana, just in time to hear Anita arguing with a few Combine agents. The agents apparently seemed to think that Anita may have had something to do with the incident last night. That accusation doesn't seem to make Anita a very happy person. They are shown the door.
Matthew takes the two girls up to see Anita. Yun-Xun gives Anita a letter of recommendation from Klaus Kaltenbach, stating that she has been sent to Pittsburgh in his stead to help with some momentous event that various signs indicate will be occuring in Pittsburgh very soon. Anita sighs, and yells for Dana Green to bring up employment paperwork for Yun-Xun. After a conversation with Hilda, Anita informs Matthew that she will not be resuming her post as a Watcher, but rather Hilda is now in Matthew's charge. Matthew is surpised by this turn of events, but seems to take it in stride.
Danny Santana, having nothing to go on but the name of a coffee shop here in Pittsburgh, makes his own way to the Hive Arcana, where he has a cup of coffee and asks for Anita. He is directed to her office. After a rather confusing conversation about Pepsi machines and ghosts, Anita has Dana bring him some employment paperwork as well.
Around this time, Darrek and Emily arrive at the Hive. Henry tries to go unnoticed, but Darrek spots him. He recognizes the street kid as someone he has seen around, but doesn't go to speak with him. He goes to talk to Anita. Henry follows him, trying to remain inconspicuous, but Matthew sends a text message up to Anita saying that some homeless kid is following Darrek upstairs.
Anita and Darrek have a conversation about the events of the previous day, informing her that Daniel Morgan and Dr. Armedt are missing, and Henry listens in. Darrek mentions the street kid that has been following him, and Anita calls Henry into her office. Henry walks in, shuffling his feet with his head hung low. They ask who he is and why he has been following Darrek. After trying to make a joke about having a crush on Darrek, Henry admits that he has been following him because he saw Darrek the night his parents were murdered at the Point. Darrek and Anita begin to drink heavily.
Given the gravity of the situation, Anita call for all of the freshly hired members of the newly reborn Blake Investigations to meet in her office. It's a small office, so it's cramped, but they manage to make it work. Anita explains to them what is going on, that the wave of insanity that washed over the city last night was something new and terrible, and that they need to figure out what is going on before it gets worse. She posits that the event either originated in Club Inferno, where Matthew was last night, or in the Mayview State Hospital, where Darrek was investigating with Daniel and Dr. Armedt. Matthew tells the group what he saw in Club Inferno when everything went down, and mentions that there was another woman outside of the club with that same strange energy signature.
Anita "politely" insists that Darrek go to the Rosicrucians for assistance, and the group decides to get the new folks in town situated, and meet up later to discuss their plan of action. Hilda, Yun-Xun, and Danny go to stay with Matthew, and Darrek takes Henry home with him, after a polite request from Anita that he keep an eye on the boy.
Back at Matthew's South Side apartment, Hilda and Yun-Xun decide to spar to blow off some steam after their long trip. Danny asks Matthew a bit about his new companions, but Matthew doesn't have much to say, as he only met most of them that very morning. After polishing off a beer or two, Matthew and Danny join Hilda and Yun-Xun in their exercises.
At his home in Bethel Park, Darrek shows Henry to the shower, and heads out to buy him a fresh change of clothes. Emily makes lunch for them, and she and Darrek have some serious husband/wife talk about the boy, with Darrek vaguely explaining that he is obligated to Henry. After lunch, Darrek takes Henry to the Rosicrucian chapter house to figure out what to do, having learned from Henry that his father was a Rosicrucian named Lawrence Anders. They speak with Aimee Harris, the second in command to Dr. Armedt, and she tells them to keep away from the Mayview site until they have time to study the place and determine what is going on. She also says that the Rosicrucians have been looking for Henry, and that his father left him an inheritance. She then asks Henry to step outside so that she can talk to Darrek for a moment in private. Henry obliges.
Harris tells Darrek to keep a close eye on Henry, as he is an immensely powerful boy. Darrek is fuming, as he has been trying to learn the identities of the couple who were killed that night for two years, and the Rosicrucians had been giving him the run around, only to discover that they not only knew who they were, but that one of them was a fellow member and that they had a child. Harris insists that they thought the boy was dead, but Darrek is still immensely unhappy.
Outside, Darrek and Henry talk a bit. Darrek calls Western Psychiatric Hospital to determine the damage from last night, and is informed that there was some kind of lone gunman attack, but a full damage report has yet to be conducted. He then calls Matthew and informs him of what the Rosicrucians said, and tells him that he fully intends on ignoring their orders, and requests that they all meet up at Western Psych.
Once there, Darrek tells Henry that he is going to see Sam, the young man that killed his parents, and that he understands if Henry doesn't want to go in. Henry agrees that it would be a bad idea for him to go in, and remains outside with Yun-Xun, Danny, and Hilda. Matthew accompanies Darrek in to see Sam. As they are going into the room, Matthew sees his mother visiting another patient.
When they get to his room, Sam is sitting in the center of the room behind powerful Wards. He has some kind of symbol carved into his hands, and is muttering about "her" being here, and how she is coming to get him. Matthew sends a picture of the symbol on Sam's hand to Anita, who replies with "That's not good." At one point, Sam starts to channel the sickening strange energy that washed over the city last night, but Darrek manages to talk him down. Darrek and Matthew discuss the events at the Point two years ago, and posit that the "she" Sam is talking about is probably the Mad God Cassilda.
After calling the staff to treat Sam's wound, Matthew and Darrek go to see who Matthew's mother was going to see. Inside of a Warded, locked room, they see a man with two large wounds running down his back, his red hair mostly ripped out, with strange symbols on his skin that shift and change every moment. Matthew recognizes the symbols as being Prime, the language of the Angels and Old Gods, written in the Enochian alphabet, but they are changing too rapidly for him to read. Darrek recognizes the man from his ordeal the previous night, saying that the man claimed to be an angel in a psych ward.
Darrek receives word from the Rosicrucians that they have sent a team to investigate the Mayview site, and until their study is complete, he is to stay away. They also say that a temporary chapter leader is being sent down from New York. The group reconvienes, and decide to go to the Mayview site regardless of the Rosicrucians' orders. They pick up Anita on their way. When they arrive, they find that the study team has Warded the place quite thoroughly. Anita assures them that she can make some phone calls to bring down the Wards, but that it will take some time. The group decides to see if they can learn anything at Club Apocalypse in the mean time. Anita tells them to have fun, because she isn't going to set one foot in that place.
At Club Inferno, Matthew chats up the staff in an attempt to learn something new. None of the staff seem to know any more than the team, so he takes the gamble of trying to speak with Lamont directly. Lamont deigns to talk to him, and mentions that the woman from outside the club last night is a competitor of some sort, but will not elaborate on what that means. He says that what she is doing in Pittsburgh is none of his business, none of Blake Investigations' buisness, and that it is beyond the ken of the team. He says that the smart thing to do would be to get out of Pittsburgh, and offers to send the whole group to New York. Matthew, of course, declines the offer.
The rest of the group wanders through the crowds, keeping their ears open and hoping to hear something useful. They hear snippets of conversation, words such as "Lyssicus" and "Yhtill," and phrases like "The King, the Phantom, and the Stranger," or "The Sisters of Madness." Darrek recognizes some of these terms as related to the Outer Dark, and makes a note to do some research in Anita's library tomorrow.
Back at the homestead, Henry decides to use his magic to get some insight into the current situation. Darrek senses his use of power, and gives Henry a lecture on unauthorized spellcasting after lights out. Henry explains that he was casting a divination ritual that allows him to communicate with the soul of the land, and shows Darrek his mother's journal so he can examine the ritual. Satisfied that it is not dangerous, Darrek allows Henry to proceed. Henry casts the spell adeptly, and, sensing the excess magic he summon, quickly alters the spell to allow Darrek to share in his visions. They learn that Dr. Armedt and Daniel are still alive, for now, and that something alien and horrible is coming and it must be stopped at all costs.
Matthew is watching the news at home, and sees a news report about the incident at Western Psych. Noticing that the man attacking the hospital is dressed strangely like a comic book character, he calls Joe Knonaem to try to figure out exaclty what happened at Western Psych the night before, and Joe says that they will meet at the Hive tomorrow at 11am.
The next morning, the group meets up at the Hive and begins doing research. Darrek makes sure to keep the rest of the group misdirected to the "safe" books while he investigates the forbidden tomes. He learns that the symbol carved on Sam's hand is called the Yellow Sign, a boon and bane of the Gods of Hastur. He learns that Lyssicus is the alien Essence of this world, and that the Sisters of Madness are Cassilda and her sister Camilla, that the King in Yellow and the Phantom of Truth are their consorts,and that Yhtill is one of the cities, along with Carcosa, that they rule. He cannot find any references to the Stranger that the group heard about in Club Apocalypse, but he does learn these figures are collectively known as the Heralds of Yhtill, and that they are not Mad Gods or Great Old Ones, but something else entirely, though still alien and dangerous.
Satisfied with his research Darrek starts to clean up the books as Joe arrives, with a flashdrive that contains the security footage from the hospital. After introductions and a few INS jokes at Yun-Xun and Hilda's expense, he warns the group that the footage is hard to watch, and then plays it on a laptop. They see footage of stunning acts of brutality, with blades and barehands, and the use of chemical weapons that ravage the body and leave the corpses smiling, all committed by a man dressed eerily like the Joker from the Batman comics. At one point, he turns to face the camera, and it looks exactly like Daniel.
This revelation sends the members of the group who know Daniel into shock. They argue that it can't possibly be him, especially since he is currently imprisoned in some kind of phantom castle. They file this information away, and begin to make preparations to head back to Mayview, as Anita has informed them that all is prepared.
Once there, they find Anita, accompanied by two young necromancers who appear to be twins, and the demon sorcerer Silas. Hilda, Yun-Xun, and Henry are a bit uncomfortable around Silas, especially when he offers to tutor the boy in the use of his magic. Anita tells Silas to shut up, and they get to work. Silas, together with the magical prowess of Henry and Darrek, and an Essence boost from Danny, manage to bring down the Wards. Anita and the other two necromancers use their powers to stablize the ethereal manor, and the team enters to see what is going on.
The building is in severe disrepair, with crumbling walls, peeling paint, and cracked plaster. The entire building is filled to the brim with Sadicas and the power the group now knows to call Lyssicus, and the spirits of the dead are everywhere. They begin to explore, following Darrek's lead. But the place is different than when Darrek was here the other night, and the doors don't lead to the same places.
They pass through a door that vanishes behind them, and see an angelic figure, it's eyes bright with madness. It tells them that they should not be here, and leaps in to fight them. Matthew recognizes it as an Angelic Ethereal, a servitor spirit of the Celestial Choir.
A fight ensures. Matthew and Hilda draw swords and trade blows with the creature. Yun-Xun channels her Chi and batters it with a flurry of kicks. It attempts to slash at Matthew with a sword, but he easily parries. It tries to strike at Hilda and Yun-Xun with fireballs, but Hilda dodges easily and Henry holds back its supernatural attack with his own magic. Darrek and Henry cast minor spells at the creature, and finally, the Slayer ends its life with a flurry of slashes.
The battle done, the group dusts themselves off, and resumes exploring the manor…
To be Continued…
"Dammit, I did it with a German accent!" – Mike D. (Yun-Xun), trying to speak with a Chinese accent
"I'm going to Blake Investigations." – Yun-Xun
"Of course you are…" – Matthew
"Can you make a pot of coffee? That would be great." – Darrek, to his still-hysterical wife.
"I hope you're ready, 'cause sh*t got real last night." – Matthew
"What am I supposed to do with her?" – Matthew
"Umm… Watch her?" – Anita
"Welcome to Pittsburgh! We have a Hellmouth!" – Anita
"That must be really annoying." – Danny
"You have no idea." – Anita
Re: Darrek standing in the doorway of her office
"And this day just keeps getting better…" -Anita
Re: Upon learning why Henry has been following Darrek and who his parents were
" Do you still keep that bottle of Wild Turkey in the lower right hand drawer of your desk?" -Darrek
(Anita pulls out a bottle of Glenmorangie scotch) "I upgraded." -Anita
"Seriously, I was mad at you? Why? Oh nevermind, it doesn't matter." -Darrek
Re: Klaus sending Yun-Xun to Pittsburgh
"He sent her to warn us about everything that happened yesterday." – Matthew
"Why do I sense that we've picked up another pathetic life form?" -Emily
"He can talk and feed himself, there's no dealing with nappies, no smelliness…" -Darrek
"When I said I wanted us to have a child, this is not what I meant. And he definitely smells." -Emily
"Hey, I'm standing right here!" -Henry
"Matthew, since you are my Watcher, what are my living arrangements?" – Hilda
"Oh, sh*t." – Matthew
"Are you pursuing a blood vendetta against the man who killed your parents?" – Hilda
"What? No! Blood vendetta? No." – Henry
"Well, if you are, I don't mind, I just would like to know." – Hilda
Re: Henry casting a spell
"Ummm…. It's bedtime?" – Darrek
Great job, Robert! Thanks!