Campaign of the Month: March 2017

Nocturnum: Rebirth

Episode Six

The Art of Madness, Part 1

Chronicler: Robert
Based on the Savage Tale, “Unexpected Guests” in Pinnacle Entertainment’s The Savage Foes of Solomon Kane, written by Rucht Lilavivat and John Goff.

Cut Scene

The children whimpered in their cages. The smell of urine and fecal matter hung heavy in the air. Their captor worked furiously, glancing back and forth between his work and the dead bodies on the floor, splayed in a hundred different configurations, some left as they fell, others quite deliberately arranged.

He was getting frustrated. The noise—the infernal noise, not just from the cage, but from his students, his protégés throughout the home—was driving him mad.

He snorted at the thought. It was more than possible he’d gone mad decades ago.

He tugged at the mask on his face, and reminded himself that it was no mask at all, but his actual face, then tried once again to turn his attention to the work before him. If he made just a slight adjustment here and there, then perhaps…yes. That might just do it.

More whimpering.

“Please,” a little girl said. “Please, we just want to go home.”

“That, my dear Camilla,” he said, “Is exactly what we’re trying to do. Send you home! But you must be quiet so I can complete my work!”

“My name’s not—”

He slammed his tool on the floor and spun. “Your name is Camilla!” he cried, then ran his hands through his mop of hair and took a deep breath. “Your sister is waiting. It’s best that you not question me.” He indicated the pile of bodies on the ground. “They questioned me.”

He turned back to his work.

A few moments later, his companion walked in. “We haven’t much time,” she said, hanging her elegant coat on the hook next to the door. “He’s getting impatient, and I’m running out of supplies to furnish his concoctions for him. What happened here?” she indicated the bodies.

“They questioned me,” he said. “And they wouldn’t stay still. Now they do neither.”

“Do you remember the time,” she said, “That you drowned forty girls, just so you could understand how their hair flowed underwater?”

“It was necessary,” he said. “As is this. Now, if as you say, time is short, I beg you to leave me to my work.”

She nodded, and took her leave.

Ten minutes later, the girl who was not Camilla uttered one last, bloodcurdling scream, and joined the macabre sculpture on the floor.

Episode Synopsis

It has been a few days since the group rescued the children from the clutches of The Joker. A new terrorist organization is taking credit for the attacks on Western Psych and Children’s Hospital, but the group knows better.

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Things have been relatively calm. Henry comes home from doing school work at the Hive one day to discover that Emily has brought home a new addition to the Tinsley household: an absolutely adorable female pitbull puppy named Omar. Henry promptly drops to the floor to wrestle with her, and she jumps on him, licking his face. Darrek receives seven invitations to an art opening showcasing an anonymous artist that is being held at the Warhol Museum in a few days time. Though the invitations were delivered care of the Rosicrucians, they have no idea who they are from, and the seers in the Order have been unsuccessful in their attempt to scry them.

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Danny spends some time talking to Amara, attempting to learn more about himself. She only provides him with a taste, telling him that there are creatures known as Garou that are to normal lycanthropes what her people, The Kindred, are to normal vampires. Danny is apparently one of the rarer breeds of this alternate variety of lycanthrope.

Yun-Xun and Hilda spend some time hunting vampires to blow off steam. They are pleased to be joined by Klaus on their excursions, and see him use his powers for the first time. His body transforms in ways that are sometimes grotesque, and sometimes beautiful. He grows additional appendages and uses inhuman strength to rip vampires’ heads clean off. He mutters something about “learning to channel my zen instead of my pain” when Yun-Xun mentions the dichotomy of his transformations.

A few days after Anita and her crew leave to pursue Alan and Lorelei, a very distraught, heavy set man appears at the Hive and knocks on Anita‘s door. Darrek intercepts him, and tells him that Anita is out of town, and asks if he can help him, being a contracted employee of Blake Investigations. He and Matthew take him into Anita’s office, where he introduces himself as Lewis Jameson. He informs them that his daughter Allison is one of the children who died in the attack on Children’s Hospital. However, the FBI and Homeland Security forces have failed to show a body. He says that there are thirty children who are reported dead, and the federal investigators are refusing to release the bodies, or even allow their parents to see them. What’s more, some of the parents have recently gone missing, seemingly without a trace. He tells the group that there are online support groups for the affected parents, but that their posts to public media sites have largely been removed almost instantly, so they have taken to communicating on the deep web. He wants Blake Investigations to find out what is actually happening with the children and the missing parents. After taking a list of what names and photographs of the missing he has, Matthew advises Jameson to keep his head down and try not to bring attention to himself or talk about what is going on until the group can get to the bottom of the situation.

As soon as Jameson is out of the office, Darrek gives a call to Joe Knonaem to see if he has any access to the case at this point. Joe informs him that the FBI and Homeland Security have all but exiled the local police on this case. Their files have all been confiscated, and they are given pointless busy work to keep them out of the loop. A few of missing persons reports have been filed regarding the missing people, but the federal agents pull them from the local police almost immediately. Darrek invites him to the Hive to compare what notes he has. Joe agrees, but after arriving, it becomes clear that he has nothing that the group doesn’t already know. He promises to try to do some discreet digging, but makes no guarantees that he will be able to find anything.

The group discusses how they can dig up more information, as they don’t really have a lot to go on at present. Darrek asks about the CIA contact that Matthew made, Timothy Ekloff, but Matthew says that he isn’t sure exactly how he can get in touch with him. Darrek contacts Dr. Armedt to see if anyone in the Rosicrucian Chapter House has any governmental contacts. Dr. Armedt assures him that someone likely does, but he would have to ask around. Danny suggests heading to the site of one of the disappearances. Henry suggests trying to enlist the help of a psychic who can read the past, as it may help to shed some light on the disappearances.

Darrek agrees with his idea, and goes to speak with Kay and Carrie. There is more than a little bit of tension between Darrek and Kay, but eventually when Darrek shares some of the details of the situation Kay agrees to help. However, she ends her explanation of what she would require by saying “kill them all.” Darrek, Henry, and Carrie are all flabbergasted by this, and ask her about it. She insists she said no such thing. Henry and Darrek take their leave, and Carrie and Kay proceed to have a very heated, hushed conversation. Unsettled by Kay’s comment, Darrek decides to take a different approach. He calls Jameson and asks him if he has anything personal of Allison’s that he would be willing to loan the group. He says that he does, and promises to stop by later to drop it off. Darrek tells him that he can leave the item with Dana if he or Matthew are not available.

Darrek then calls Emily and asks her if she would keep her psychic senses open at work to see if she can learn anything about the missing children and their parents. Emily readily agrees. He mentions the art opening at the Warhol, and asks if she would like to go with him and the rest of the group. She accepts the invitation, but ends their conversation by asking “Will there be slaughter?” She has no recollection of saying this, just like Kay earlier. At this point, Darrek is well and truly disturbed, and deeply concerned about what is happening.

In the mean time, the group heads out to the site of one of the disappearances. It is the home of one of the parents that have gone missing. Matthew scouts it out first, and notices that there is an unmarked car parked with a couple of suits surveying the home. The rest of the team catches up, and they decide to split into two groups. Henry, Matthew, Danny, and Hilda will sneak into the house while Yun-Xun and Darrek keep an eye on the unmarked car in order to alert the others if they have been found out.

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While the others are investigating the house, Yun-Xun asks Darrek what it is like being a father to Henry. Darrek briefly argues with her over semantics, and loses. The revelation that he is essentially a parent is shocking, and he takes some sips from a hip flask. Yun-Xun comments that children are life’s greatest joy then falls silent, leaving Darrek to his thoughts.

Inside the home, there is absolutely nothing amiss. The residents seem like they were perfectly mundane. There are no signs of struggle. Henry senses a very faint trace of Lyssicus, but the others cannot. They agree that it is likely due to Henry’s increased sensitivity to the mystic energies of the region. Suddenly, Henry starts to feel ill. He can’t place exactly what is wrong, but he takes his leave and goes back to the car while Matthew, Danny, and Hilda continue to investigate the home. Darrek feels Henry’s forehead to check if he has a temperature and notices he seems a bit clammy. He has Henry lie down in the backseat while they wait for the others. Matthew takes a hard drive from the family computer, and they all head back to the Hive to regroup.

When they arrive, Dana informs Darrek that Jameson dropped off a Raggedy Ann doll that belonged to Allison. Darrek takes it downstairs and starts working on researching a location spell while Matthew and Henry investigate the pilfered hard drive. They find nothing of interest on the drive. Meanwhile, Darrek manages to cast the locator spell using the doll as a focus. It indicates that Allison is somewhere in McKeesport, but the spell seems to get confused and will not give a more precise location.

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While this is occurring, Danny goes outside to have a cigarette. Outside, he sees the first man that he met in Pittsburgh, Harlan, waving at him and gesturing him over. He complies, and Harlan informs him that he need to come to the Lava Lounge posthaste. Danny agrees to meet him there and tells the group that he will be back shortly. Matthew and Yun-Xun insist on accompanying him, and he doesn’t protest. Once there, Harlan shows him that the demon bar in the back is gone. He uses his runic magic to temporarily reopen the extra-dimensional space the bar occupies, and it’s carnage. The floors and walls are covered in demon ichor, there are piles of corpses everywhere, it’s a charnal house. Harlan says that what happened Danny’s first night in Pittsburgh happened here again, only bigger. There were no survivors. He doesn’t know what it means, but knows that it’s big. He tells Danny to send his regards to Darrek, and then takes his leave.

On their way back to the Hive, Yun-Xun sees a large Yellow Sign underneath the Bates Street overpass, but no one else sees it and it is gone when she looks again. She begins to question her own perceptions, and feels extremely anxious.

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Back at the Hive, everyone exchanges information, but there are more questions than answers. Darrek takes Henry and Danny shopping for suits to wear to the art opening, taking Matthew’s recommendation for a good tailor. After their fittings, everyone goes their separate ways to try to get some rest. Matthew arrives home to find that there is a dossier on his table, and calls the rest of the group over after giving it a read. It is from Ekloff, and contains some information on Hastur from Delta Green.

According to the dossier, the King in Yellow is like a viral memetic disease, spreading from mind to mind and driving civilizations into chaos and insanity. While Delta Green has tried to purge all record of the events, they still crop up from time to time, along with copies of a play called The King in Yellow. Delta Green used to have a system in place called the Static Protocol to deal with these events. It was something of a nuclear option. Since the decentralization of Delta Green, the Protocol is largely forgotten. Henry becomes concerned that the missing children and parents were taken out by a cell of Delta Green that still remembers the Protocol, and that they might be targeted in the near future. The group discusses their options, but can’t think of any good ones, so they all head back to their respective homes to try to get some sleep. While watching a show before bed, Henry sees the Yellow Sign flickering on the TV, and yells for Darrek. Darrek goes to the den with Henry, but notices nothing unusual.

Sleep isn’t easy. Hilda and Emily have terrible nightmares, waking up screaming about Carcosa and how everyone will die, respectively. Henry is awakened by Emily’s screaming and runs full tilt into her and Darrek’s bedroom, where he finds her crying in Darrek’s arms. Darrek and Henry attempt to comfort her. She says that there is a kind of psychic cancer spreading throughout the Cabal of Psyche, that she feels like they are all going crazy, and apologizes to Darrek for her recent erratic behavior towards him. She is visibly frightened. Hilda rants about Carcosa coming, says that all cities are Carcosa, and other incoherent apocalyptic warnings.

Matthew sends Darrek a text message updating him with Hilda’s nightmare. Darrek makes everyone some Sleepytime tea to calm their nerves and suggests they take a mental break from their collective stress by planning a vacation. They discuss taking a trip to Mykonos once Henry is finished with school for the year. After they finish their talk and their tea, they all go back to bed. Darrek lies next to his wife but cannot sleep, his mind racing with fear, concern, and no small amount of guilt.

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In the morning, Henry wakes up feeling worse. Darrek takes him to urgent care to get checked out, but they say that there is nothing wrong with him. Henry theorizes that he is sick because the land is sick. Darrek agrees that it’s likely.

At the Hive, Darrek hits the books again, as he is convinced he missed something the day before. He begins looking through the book he was studying yesterday, and finds an entry about a pair of prolific serial killers from Italy in the 17th century, Delia and Alistair Borgia. They were remorseless, amoral killers. Alistair fancied himself an artist, using corpses and torture to express his “creativity,” and Delia poisoned people for the fun of it. There were rumors of an unnatural relationship between the two, but nothing was every confirmed. There is an illustration of the twins, and they look exactly like Delia and Alistair Borgato. Darrek calls Matthew immediately to let him know that they have been played.

To be continued

Memorable Quotes

“Well, I didn’t get the sh*t kicked out of me, so I’m not too mad at myself.” – Mike D. (Yun-Xun’s player)

“But the French are our friends now.” – Henry
“No, they’re not.” – Darrek

“Does that mean I can take a break from my paper on the War of 1812?” – Henry
“Yes, you can take a break.” – Darrek

“Wait…you have to write five pages on the War of 1812?” – Darrek
“Yes.” – Henry
“What the hell was so important about the War of 1812?” – Darrek
“I know, right?” – Henry

“Does anybody know any top ranking US government officials? Because the British guy does not.” – Darrek

“If you finish your paper by tomorrow, we can take Omar to the dog park on Saturday.” – Darrek
“Yay!” – Henry

“It wasn’t the CIA, it was Delta Green.” – Matthew
“Oh, those guys.” – Darrek

Re: Henry
“I’m not his father.” – Darrek
“You feed him, you clothe him, you give him a place to live, you make sure that he is educated properly, and you give him guidance. All things a parent does.” – Yun-Xun
“Oh God. You’re right. I need a drink!” – Darrek

Re: Matthew’s flask of single malt scotch
“Have I mentioned lately how truly beautiful you are?” – Darrek
grinning “I know.” – Matthew

Re: Drinking at the Stakeout
“Who’s driving?” – Hilda
“Me.” – Darrek, while taking a swig from Matthew’s flask

“I’ll take you to my guy. He owns a shop by WeinerWorld.” – Matthew
“Wait, wait. Tell me more about this WeinerWorld?” – Henry
“Give me back that flask!” – Darrek

Re: Emily
“It must be nice for you to have such an aim-able wife.” – Hilda
choking on his tea “Sorry, what?” – Darrek

Re: Darrek’s locator spell
“I thought you were going to tell me she was in hell.” – Hilda
“She might as well be. She’s in McKeesport.” – Darrek

“Darrek! Will you watch TV with me? I don’t remember CBS being so eldritch.” – Henry

Re: Yun-Xun offering green tea to the group while they discuss the dossier from Delta Green
“That’s the saddest and most ironic thing ever.” – Darrek
“Darrek, you don’t want green tea? It’s soothing.” – Henry

“This time last year, I would have dealt with this revelation by doing bath salts with Pedro under the bridge. Now, I am going to deal with it by eating every cookie in that cupboard.” – Henry
“Please don’t eat my Jammy Dodgers!” – Darrek
“I’m not going to.” – Henry, grabbing a bag of Chips Ahoy
“When did we get Chips Ahoy?” – Darrek
“Um, not everyone in this house is British. We don’t like your terrible cookies.” – Henry
“It’s true. I bought them last time I went shopping.” – Emily
“That’s cheating. And they’re biscuits, not cookies, for the record.” – Darrek

Re: Mykonos
“Suburb of Carcosa.” – Matthew via text message

“Darrek, I have a theory.” – Henry
“That you’re sick because the land is sick? Yeah, I figured that out this morning around 4am.” – Darrek

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