The group decides to adjourn to a pizza parlor for dinner, and are surprised when they arrive to see Danny having dinner with Harlan. Harlan informs the group that Danny was starting to get a bit of cabin fever, and he needed to get out. Since the FBI seems to have moved on (at least for the time being), Danny picks back up with the group.
Darrek shakes hands with Harlan and takes the opportunity to catch up with his old friend. They discuss the books that have recently been going missing from Anita’s library, and Darrek asks Harlan if he knows of anyone who could potentially get through the wards placed on the Hive Arcana by Silas. Harlan says that he cannot think of anyone off the top of his head, but promises to look into it.
Having had their fill of pizza and filled Danny in on the events that he missed, the group heads over to Frick Park to investigate the scenes of the chicken massacre and the murder of John’s former army friend. As they are heading into the park, they see a homeless man perched on the stone wall, ranting and raving about death and other nonsense. The group elects to ignore him and go about their business.
Darrek remembers the location of the chicken massacre from reading the news reports, and guides the rest of the group to the location. The group proceeds to give the area a thorough search. Darrek and Matthew quickly find signs that the site is a ritual circle designed to summon Essence. Darrek also notes that the ground is fully saturated with old blood. The rest of the group turns up a desiccated chicken head, as well as three boxes with duct tape, dog hair, and a packing slip bearing the name and address of an animal shelter, covered with male ejaculate stains.
As they are finishing up their search, Hilda notices two men approaching. One of them the group recognizes as Old Man Kuba from the photographs in Professor Atterman’s office. Old Man Kuba is smiling and waving, and chittering in an obscure Spanish dialect to the man next to him. The younger man who is accompanying Old Man Kuba informs the group that he is telling the group to “get the fuck out of here.”
Henry mentions that they are looking into the strange occurrences surround the death of Professor Atterman, and Kuba immediately switches to English. He tells the group that this place is sacred, but dangerous. He doesn’t want more blood on his hands.
More people arrive at the site, looking like they are searching for trouble. It is a young pretty boy and three tattooed thugs. They approach Kuba and his companion, Tito, and they begin to have a heated debate. They discover that the new comer is Sammy. Kuba accuses Sammy of delving into the Dark Arts, and Sammy replies, “I got rid of the bitch, didn’t I?”
Yun-Xun tries to interject and ask if “the bitch” is Shelly Atterman, but is ignored. The argument between Sammy and Kuba continues to get more heated until finally Sammy pulls out a rebar and physically threatens Kuba, The group moves in to defend the old man.
During the confromtation, Danny shifts into his lycanthropic form, which shakes the morale of the three goons. Yun-Xun takes up a defensive position in front of Tito and Kuba, and Hilda encourages the rest to run. The thugs take off, while Sammy walks away with a threat, promising Kuba that their business is far from over.
Having protected them, Kuba and Tito warm up to the group a bit, and agree to share some information. Kuba mentions a book and missing page once again, mirroring something that Shelly said in her ramblings. He also mentions a Professor Oddmuth. Tito says that he thinks Atterman had stolen a rare book from Oddmuth, but it was missing a page. He tells the group that he thinks Atterman was trying to purchase half of that page from some source when he was murdered. They also discuss Shelly Atterman. Tito seems to be less than friendly towards the woman, though Kuba mentions that he likes and respects her.
Henry and Darrek offer to assist Kuba with cleansing the sacred space of the corruption here, but Kuba refuses. Yun-Xun realizes that the murder of John’s army buddy happened near this area, and asks Tito about human sacrifice in Santeria. Tito gets very defensive and offended, and tells her that they don’t do that. Kuba says that the victim probably wandered into something he should not have, and paid with his life. Darrek makes a comment about taking care of the various problems plaguing the Santeria community if they don’t manage it themselves, in true Rosicrucian White Savior Complex fashion, which undoes some of the efforts the group has put into winning over Tito and Kuba. They insist that the group takes their leave, and their request is honored.
As the group heads to the site of the decapitation, Henry asks about snakes and snake skins, saying that he found strange snake skins in the animal shelter, as well as Shelly’s apartment, and he wonders if they could be related to how Sammy operates and if they might be involved in the sudden insanity of the people with which Sammy has had problems. In a small flash of insight, he realizes that the skins resonate with a similar energy signature to Sammy. He also realizes that while Sammy feels like he is infected with Lyssicus to the rest of the group, to Henry it feels subtly different. His heightened awareness of mystical energies afforded to him by his status as Protector allows him to see that it is like the power is not quite the same as the Lyssicus they have previously encountered, and it is coming from another entity, it is not actually Sammy’s power. When he explains this to Darrek, Darrek realizes that the difference could be explained by Sammy having made a pact with some Shade entity that the group has not yet encountered. At the site of the decapitation, they find nothing of interest, and debate what their next move should be.
They elect to return to the Hive Arcana to try to figure out who Professor Oddmuth is, and review the security footage they recovered from the animal shelter. As they leave, the homeless man they saw on their way in is still ranting and raving on the wall. Darrek pulls some bills out of his wallet, gives them to the man, and tries to engage him, asking if he has seen anything unusual, but he just incoherently rambles about “fisher king,” and the, “king of the world.”
Back at the Hive, the group goes into Anita’s library and pulls up the security footage they recovered. It shows the man they found killing animals in the shelter entering with E.J. Hastings, as well as a tall thin man with a ponytail and a woman with wild hair and a stack of books being lead on a rope lead. They enter the kennel and draw a chalk circle on the floor. The woman is let loose and begins tossing animals into boxes, as well as to the puppy killer. The group is disturbed by the images.
At one point, Darrek looks down to see that there is a notecard in front of him that says “This is very restricted information. Dangerous!!” He pockets the card and goes to ask Jamie about it, as it has a faint trace of magic about it. However, when he goes to retrieve it from his pocket to show it to her, it’s gone.
Darrek begins researching Oddmuth, while Henry tries to see if there is any way to fix magically induced insanity. Darrek turns up next to nothing, and thinks to contact Harlan to see if he has more information. Henry finds only scattered references to something called “Catharsis,” but nothing more. It also occurs to Henry that there was an arrest made in regards to the chicken massacre: a man by the name of Sam Guerva. However, he is unable to find anything more on Guerva.
Darrek takes out his phone to begin the process of getting in touch with Harlan, only to see the face of E.J. Hastings reflected in the black screen. Hastings tells Darrek to back off or that he will send one of his “pets” to deal with him. Darrek responds with sass, as he is wont to do. Realizing that his phone won’t help him contact Harlan anyway, since Harlan doesn’t have a phone, he puts it away. Emily is anxious to go home and re-acclimate, so he drives her and Henry home before heading to Club Inferno to find Harlan.
Darrek finds Harlan with relative ease, and asks him about Oddmuth. Harlan says that she is a collector of occult antiquities. He has never met her, but knows her by reputation. She tends to avoid trouble, though sometimes she sells things she should not. He gives Darrek an address on Stanwix street where she is known to operate. Darrek thanks him, giving him back the fifty dollar bill Harlan repaid him earlier, and then heads home, hopeful that he and Emily can finally have some intimate time together after their long separation during her hospitalization. He is disappointed to find her dead asleep, utterly exhausted by her recent ordeal.
Meanwhile, Yun-Xun researches Hastings. She finds some information that they already knew, such as his replacement of Shelly Atterman on the community board. She discovers that the community board meets once a month in different locations, and that they have no established office. The website for the community board lists contact information for the president of the board, but no other contact information. She also learns that Hastings used to work at a Carnegie Library branch in East Liberty under a man named Alfred Varage. He was basically a nobody before, never appearing in the news or making any noticeable waves.
The group reconvenes to discuss their next move, and come to the decision that they should check out Action Housing, where Letia Marsh lives. Henry requests Swedish Fish along the way, so they make a quick pit stop at S&S Candies in Mount Oliver, where Darrek purchases enough sugar to put a moderately sized African Elephant into a diabetic coma.
Action Housing is an eighteen-story apartment complex with an attached clinic. The clinic is currently under construction, and there are two security guards. Matthew and Henry notice that they are armed, indicating that they are likely off-duty police officers. The entrance to the clinic is to the left, with the residential wing entrance on the right. The residential wing is locked, and has a large call box with numerous apartment buttons on it. Matthew sees that Marsh lives on the 14th floor, and tries to buzz her, but there is no response. Conveniently, another resident happens to be going inside at that moment, so the group piggybacks on their entry.
Everyone but Yun-Xun takes the elevator. Yun-Xun insists on climbing the stairs. They arrive roughly simultaneously, though Yun-Xun is clearly fatigued and winded. They quickly assess the layout of the floor, and notice that the door to Marsh’s apartment is open. There is a cheery yellow light inside, and the sounds of smooth jazz fill the hallway. A woman peeks out of another door and kisses something about a king. Yun-Xun catches someone watching her through a hole in a door. A woman makes unpleasant and creepy sexual advances towards Henry.
Marsh’s apartment is clean and well lit, tastefully decorated, and filled with books. There is a faint smell of rot permeating the apartment, however. Darrek calls in, but there is no response. The apartment is small, only one bedroom and one bathroom. Yun-Xun heads into the bedroom while Darrek checks the bathroom. Yun-Xun finds a purse containing the normal items you would expect to find in a purse, including a work ID for the Carnegie Library Rare Books Division is East Liberty. Darrek finds nothing of note in the bathroom.
Hilda looks through the collection of books and finds one entitled The Darkblood Revelations. The dust jacket has a local address for the publisher. Matthew searches the kitchen and finds chicken feathers under the refrigerator, as well as a rotting chicken in the trash can. There is a band on the chicken’s leg that reads “Pittsburgh Chicken Depot.” There is also a business card on the refrigerator for Professor Oddmuth, complete with an email address and phone number.
As the group is reconvening in the living room to share what they have found, a disheveled woman enters the apartment. She tells them that no one comes into Marsh’s apartment anymore. Not since the “tall man” left it unlocked. Darrek turns on the charm and asks the woman about Letia. She says that Letia likes to read and that the “tall man” took her away on a rope. She says that the “tall man” has taken many women from here. She also says that the “joy girl” visits, and she loves the, “joy girl.” When asked who the, “joy girl,” is, she indicates the unusual track marks on her arms, which the group deduces look like snake bites. She doesn’t know Hastings or the name of the tall man.
Henry suggests to Darrek that they might attempt a locator spell to find Letia. The only locator spell that Darrek knows is a sorcery spell, but he agrees to attempt it. He takes one of Letia’s personal affects to the bedroom, closes the door, and casts the spell. The magics raised seem make the strange lady very uncomfortable, and she assumes the fetal position and rocks back and forth. The spell works, but seems to indicate that Letia is nowhere – she is not on Earth or any plane of existence. She is simple nowhere.
As the group leaves, they hear slapping noises in the walls, echoing their steps. They get in the elevator. The elevator stops between floors and the emergency lights come on. The call button doesn’t function. Yun-Xun climbs up and opens the top emergency access grate, and a pair of wet amber serpentine eyes greet them. Henry suggests forcing the door and crawling through the gap, but just then the eyes disappear and the elevator starts moving again. They happily exit in the lobby and head on their way.
Having contact information for Oddmuth now, Darrek calls her answering service and leaves a message requesting a return call to set up an appointment to meet with her.
To be continued…
Memorable Quotes and Great Moments
“Nice to see you, mate! How the hell have you been? And where’s the fifty quid you owe me?” – Darrek
Re: Hilda wiping grave dust off her hands
“Not on the bloody pizza! Go wash your hands!” – Darrek
“I think he was trying to protect you.” – Mike D. (Yun-Xun’s player)
“But it’s my job to protect him!” – Robert (Henry’s player)
“I just knew when he showed that picture that Henry would think he’s cute.” – Julie (Darrek’s player)
“Snakes…why does it always have to be snakes?!” – Darrek (Quoting Indiana Jones)
Re: Considering the potential of snakes attacking their home
“Do you think Omar would eat a snake?” – Darrek
“I don’t think we should let Omar eat any magical crazy-making snakes.” – Henry
“I agree with Henry.” – Emily
Re: When snakes attack
“It’ll happen at the most inconvenient time possible…like, when Darrek is in the middle of having sex with his wife.” – Julie (Darrek’s player)
“You really should know better than to say something like that in front of me.” – Jason (GM)
“Um…don’t Google ‘pup play.’” – Henry
“I’m like a Pringle. Once you pop, you can’t stop.” – Darrek
“Darrek, what’s Catharsis?” – Henry
“Ask Anita, she can explain it better than I can. Pauses And, what have you been reading?” – Darrek
“I did not know that you can boil candy.” – Hilda, re: British candy
Darrek introduces the group to his favorite confection from the land of his birth, Jelly Babies.
“There’s a lot of crazy in there.” – Mike D. (Yun-Xun’s player)
“It’s a very special episode.” – Robert (Henry’s player), re: Henry getting propositioned by an insane woman
“So, it’s not snakes at all. It’s been heroin the whole time!” – Mike D. (Yun-Xun’s player), re: the “joy girl”