Session One: The Regathering. Earth’s own corner of the ancient Darkstorm War was over – although the reverberations would hinder higher-order magic and psionics for some time to come. Many of the great heroes had fallen, or had sacrificed themselves to forever close the Gates of the Silver Twilight– among them the White Necromancer, the Brick, Adrian, Neo, and Ogun the Iron Master. China has shattered under the weight of the Demon Floods and the War; while still supposedly a unified nation, it is in fact many smaller kingdoms and fiefdoms.
The White Necromancer lingering at the border between the final realms of death and the fugue plane, has passed a substantial portion of his power on to his young apprentice – and the youngsters long journey back to the living world has begun.
Darius Metaxis, the Castellion, had participated in a great battle against the forces of chaos: helping hold the Crossroads of the Eleven Planes against them – but he had been lost in the void in doing so.
Ranko, needing a place for her young son to stay – and used to operating out of the Maximilian Mansion, now an orphanage for the Children of the Silver Twilight, returned there, at least on a temporary basis.
The Hauntsman, “slain” during the Darkstorm War, returned as he always does – manifesting once more among the people he had chosen to defend. The Zombie Rave did not, however, give him a good impression of the world to which he was once again returning.
After a bit of confusion – and sensing a powerful mystical ritual underway (again) at the Metropolitan Museum, Ranko and the Hauntsman had their near-inevitable introductory confrontation when one found the other bending over an unconscious security guard. The real problem turned out to be that the Black Scarab had hired The Black Mist and Tantrum of Plunder (a mercenary group of super-thieves) to stand guard while he attempted a ritual summoning of Anubis. While Ranko and the Hauntsman managed to interrupt the rite, the villians escaped with little difficulty. Ranko – having fought Plunder before – was quite annoyed, as well as a bit transfomed by her absorption of a bit of the energy of Bast during the fight. It gave her a whole new look. After a few explanations for the police and Dr. Midnight, Ranko returned to the Maximilian Orphanage to explain things there – and to try and deal with the children.
3 XP all around.
Session Two: Viewer response on the Ranko show to the museum episode was pretty good: The Black Mist and Tantrum were sympathetic enough to have their own followings, and the audience always liked rematches. They’d be looking forward to the next encounter.
Ranko returned to the orphanage: not only was it probably the best place around to keep a probably super-powered child – such as her one-year-old son – but it had been her base of operations for a long time and she wanted to see Vasilko again. His little pack of underage werewolves was still there – if a bit larger. They had a long talk – although she entirely failed to put together the clues as to his having become a father.
The Hauntsman was drawn there as well by the concentration of powerful magical children – but neither of them expected the appearance of the new White Necromancer, or that something in the combination of gates and clashing magics would allow a minor demon lord to start bridging the dimensions in the west wing. It couldn’t manifest its full power of course, but it would still be immensely dangerous.
The Hauntsman made it there first: things of dream were his speciality after all. He started a ritual designed to bar the demons appearance, drawing on his own twilight magic. Unfortunately, the fine graduations in the magic of darkness weren’t the White Necromancers speciality – but he could easily locate a ritual of such power. Finding that it was in a children’s dormitory did not reassure him. Neither did the fact that most of the children were awake, collected in the far corner of the room, and were putting up all the small defensive spells they could manage. Sadly for the cliche’s however, he opted for getting some information instead of launching straight into a magical attack.
It was still disruptive enough to let the demon come partially through. The group managed to banish it, but nearly missed it’s attempt to leave several of the children magical amulets with a few charges of some sort of shapeshifting spell – and one of a contact spell which would allow them to call on it later. Surely the kids didn’t want to bargain with demons?
It would be something to look into in the morning. The Hauntsman opted to keep an eye on the six kids who’d gotten the amulets.
Meanwhile the White Necromancer left a note for the Chauffeur and fled – he didn’t need another argument or an explanation for why he wasn’t in school – and wound up embarrassing himself by dodging through the walls to avoid the Chauffeur’s drones straight into the werewolves room. They didn’t wear pajamas – and Vasilko still had enough of his old spirit powers to catch him even in ghostly form.
Of course, there were diversions in the morning. The White Necromancer had been teaching more than one student – and the younger apprentices were tinkering around with summoning spells. For some reason they’d settled on Dinosaurs – but kept getting eggs instead of Dinosaurs, so they kept trying again.
They had better than 90 before anyone stopped them. Ranko took one down to analyze it – and unsealed the old labs and (hopefully now un-possessed) danger room along the way – and it was a dinosaur all right. Just what they’d need. More of the damn things. He went to look up a paleontologist.
Meanwhile, Darius had arrived on earth – and was wandering about Manhattan evaluating how it would withstand a siege. The towers were impressively tall, but they just didn’t seem like they’d stand up to a determined attack. For example, those two armored fellows – or perhaps golems – seemed to be making short work of that one labeled “bank”.
The Chauffeur ran Ranko, the Hauntsman, and the White Necromancer out when the police report came in. It looked like the superhero business was heating up a bit again.
There was quite a lot of general destruction – and Armadillo got away, although they managed to capture the Ankylosaur after a relatively brief battle – but the worst was when Ranko used one of the Arrows of the Night her husband had given her. She’d forgotten just how powerful those things were… With near-impenetrable darkness laid over all of Manhattan for the next day things got fairly bad. Fortunately, the Hauntsman’s shadow hounds could come out in a magical night as well as a natural one, so they had some backup in dealing with the resulting mess. There weren’t too many casualties.
Once again, 3 XP all around.
Session Three: Unfortunately, in the darkness and confusion, no one had realized that Darius was a lost dimensional traveller – and was desperately in need of a little guidance. He wandered off on his own – and started looking for a castle to set up in. There was one in Central Park, but it was more of a mockup than an actual fortification. He eventually settled on a minature golf course, somehow reaching the conclusion that the people there were studying some form of warfare. Possibly it was just due to a lack of other explanations – but his offer to help build up the defenses, inquiries after who represented “the lord” in the area, and offers to buy the place – paying with the services of his Death Golems – caused some confusion. The police found the episode difficult to fathom as well, but eventually got hold of Ranko – who settled for helping Darius buy the place before going bowling.
Meanwhile some of the dinosaur eggs had started to hatch, the Super Bum had discovered – thanks to his random mystical senses – that foolish people were dabbling with the pools of dark magic left over from the Darkstorm War in pursuit of their own minor obsessions, curiosities, or insanities (and dealt with some stray kids, a drug dealer, and a crazed old man along the way), and Morgarif – a minor summoner who considered Ranko a rival – had attempted to summon something that could handle Ranko, called at random into the void between the worlds, and had unleashed Tetzcatlipoca and Camazotz – old enemies of Ranko’s Husband, Huitzilopochtli.
Of course, while Camazotz could use all the darkness magic about, Tetzcatlipoca needed a focus – and Ranko’s infant son would do perfectly. Then, once he had a body, he could unleash his power across all of New York City – changing every potential warrior into a Jaguar Knight. Once again, the rivers of blood would flow in sacrifice.
Unsurprisingly, Ranko, the White Necromancer, Darius, and the Hauntsman came in pursuit. Fortunately for them, Morgarif fled as quickly as possible, calling on more controllable elemental spirits to cover his tracks, while Camazotz – god of Treachery and Paranoia – abandoned his erstwhile “ally” as soon as matters started to become difficult. Meanwhile, Ranko, despite her misgivings about attacking her infant son – even if his body was hosting, and transformed by, a quasi-deity – managed to restrain Tetzcatlipoca for long enough for Super Bum to (rather unexpectedly) batter him into momentary unconsciousness, allowing the Hauntsmans prepared exorcism to work. Overall, a fair amount of teamwork and not that much damage. A great improvement over the last outing.
Unfortunately, the Darkmage – apparently under the influence of Tyrannon the Conquerer – had taken advantage of the portal Tetzcatlipoca had opened to return to Earth.
4 XP all around.
Session Four: After the battle with Tetzcatlipoca, Darius had wandered off again: he had a castle to build and a local lord to challenge. Whoever was supposed to be in charge of this city was clearly neglecting his responsibilities – and needed to be challenged. The only real defenders that the place seemed to have were clearly an unorganized militia, even if they were reasonably powerful.
Between his powers over earth and stone and the labors of his death golems, a massive, star-shaped, fortification soon arose around the perimeter of the miniature golf course – and the succession of people wanting to talk about permits, zoning, construction unions, wasn’t much of a hindrance. Trying to find the local lord was more difficult though. Finally one of the permit-checkers directed him to a local “servant of the lord” – Father O’Flanagan.
They had quite a lengthy discussion. Darius got a local history lesson, some information on what the current art of “war” included, and – while he soon deduced that he’d been misdirected to a priest – got rather interested in this “Lord”. Compared to the hundreds of petty cults and godlings of his own world, this “monotheism” thing made a lot of sense and was pretty dignified. This was actually a “Lord” he could get behind working for…
Meanwhile, at the orphanage, Thomas had gotten into Ranko’s stock of aztec feather talismans and had decided to first experiment and then to challenge Vasilko and his Pack to catch him. Unfortunately this led to children stuck to the ceiling, children suffering horrific hallucinations, werewolves trying to dig to china, and numerous other minor disasters. The War Gods toys weren’t nice – although the werewolves had rather enjoyed it; they played rough anyway. Ranko spent some time explaining to Tommy about (1) danger, (2) not teasing the werewolves, and (3) that from now on he’d have martial arts classes to distract him from dangerous tampering.
At which point a gravitational spacewarp opened up and they were attacked by… Sir Isaac Newton? On a crusade against Invocation magic?
OK, could be a clone, a construct, a psychic manifestation, some sort of avatar, or any of a dozen other things other than actually being Sir Isaac Newton, but why?
The battle was actually fairly short: Darius dropped a small castle on Sir Isaac (briefly stunning him; some sort of gravity-based force-field effect) and they managed to banish him temporarily – but it was pretty obvious that he’d be back. Checking the opponent files instant updates on the Rank Shows website gave them some information: Newton had apparently opposed Invocation magic since his researched convinced him that it was a serious threat to humanity. Apparently he’d been studying some Aztec materials at the time. He’d even founded his own little subgroup of the Royal Society – the Royal Society for the Elimination of Invocation Magic or E.I.M. These days the group was better known as Torchwood. Hadn’t that time-traveling doctor mentioned something about that bunch? He’d said that the producers got it all wrong though.
No time anyway. It looked like some serious bit of darkness magic was underway in… Central Park. Cleopatra’s Needle again. Well, it was the focal point for the major New York nexus. Once they go there they had a hard time finding it. There were kids, mimes, pushcart vendors, a medical student trying to learn higher-order magic (not him), teenage pickpockets (apprehended), sunbathers, and many other people, all of them wrong. Wait, the mimes were illusory? What a cheap bit of cover; you didn’t even need sound and nobody paid too much attention to mimes. Underneath there was – the remains of a ritual setup for collecting some of the loose darkness magic. Who in his right mind would want the stuff?
They traced it to a mercenary magician who was simply gathering the stuff for someone else. He was only hiding it because dabbling with Darkness magic required special permits. There were ordinances on the topic.
The group was more interested in the man who’d ordered it. He was a businessman who lived in a modest penthouse – with several expensive and highly-sophisticated robot guardians. Dealing with them was surprisingly difficult – and gave the businessman long enough to set up his circles of protection and start a summoning ritual using the darkness magic his agents had collected. Apparently he was tired of being second-best and was out for the raw power to deal with any of his rivals as he pleased.
Hopefully they’d be able to crack his protections before he could get anything working. He seemed to be a pure ritualist: if they could get past his prepared shields there wouldn’t be anything he could do about it.
3 XP all around.
Session Five: Actually cracking the sphere of protection proved unexpectedly easy: the power that his mentor had bequeathed him proved more than potent enough to break through a simple protective spell. That was a scary thought actually – the original White Necromancer had left him only a fraction of his power. Just how strong had his mentor been? Not to mention that, even with all that power, he’d been killed at least three times. Anyway, breaking the protection spell had disrupted the idiot ritualists concentration – and an aspect of the power he’d been attempting to tap into was taking possession of him, transforming him into a monstrous avatar of Onomakiri the Devourer, a monstrous creature of the outer darkness. Now they’d have to try and contain it while the Hauntsman set up another exorcism, even if it killed them.
It very nearly did. Everyone else was unconscious, and Onomakiri was already attempting to reach the Hauntsman, by the time the Hauntsman finished calling on the forces of light to expel the darkness. That left them with a mindless body for the police to cart off to the hospital and a lot of explaining to do.
Back at the orphanage, the summons was at last complete. The Dinosaurs were growing into their full – and unexpected – power. There was a reason why they had dominated the earth for a hundred million years.
Two of the youngsters studying necromancy at the Crypt were the first to go: they weren’t expecting the stupid allosaurus to blast its way through the protective barriers and start smiting them with lightning bolts. The others made it through the gate they’d created when they were trying to summon the White Necromancer back: it was still a trip into the realms of death, but it was less likely to be one-way. The predators went hunting – finding far easier prey than the scattering of dinosaur herbivores, most of whom had already been transferred to the city zoo. The predators would have been going soon as well, but the zoo had needed some time to set up for them (lucky zoo). Modern creatures weren’t always wrapped up in psionic shields and defenses – and so were easy prey for the predatory archosaurs.
With the alarms blaring, most of the kids hid in the old danger room and started pooling their defenses while the heroes set out to rescue the ones who were still outside and to try and do something about the dinosaurs. Meanwhile, back in the city, Darius was attempting to contain the herbivores; they were less directly hostile, but there was only one of him.
There were a couple of kids hiding inside the brontosaurs mobile force-fortress. One hiding. A few others taking refuge in the crypt. Super-leaping tyrannosaurs, mach-two raptors with bullet-like spittle, and lightning-blasting allosaurs, Nigh-unstoppable ankylosaurs capable of smashing warrior-demons with a single blow, stone-smashing ultrasonic honks from duckbills, and – for a change – peacefully fishing petranodons with no major offensive powers.
Overall it was a terrible mess – but they managed to avoid any other fatalities before they found that the Dinosaurs were actually fairly easy to dispel. They should have thought of that earlier of course – they were conjurations after all – but they had been pretty busy. They even got the two casualties back as ghosts when the White Necromancer went to the fugue plane to pick up the other kids and Ranko, who’d gotten stranded there when the allosaurus chased her through the portal in the crypt. They definitely needed a psychic powers expert and a few more teachers to keep the kids busy.
4 XP all around.
Session Six: With Darius busy recruiting students for his “School of Siege”, our heroes abruptly realized that they were in an orphanage full of children and it was Halloween. Oh well. Time to take them out. At least there were enough adults to split them up into groups of ten and still leave a skeleton staff, the Chauffeur could run overwatch, the werewolves were perfectly willing to come along and play guardians (although they had to be persuaded to wear costumes other than fur), and the Hauntsman could stick around to handle any problems that came up. There shouldn’t be much: after all, what could go wrong in a mansion overrun with random magic, hosting a crypt of death, filled with strange artifacts and spells, and watched over by the Hauntsman on the most shadowy and spirit-filled night of the magical year? Especially when Ranko had decided to invite an Aztec War God along when Trick-or-Treating with her infant son Isacora?
Come to think of it, did anyone have a time-travel effect big enough to skip the entire night?
Meanwhile, the White Necromancer had asked Monopole to make him some self-censoring computerized glasses to keep him from seeing anymore naked werewolves and had started advertising in the afterworlds for some teachers, Ranko had determined that the two “stray kids” who’d been “left on the doorstep” (and promptly “adopted” by the pack) were actually Vasilko’s – he’d apparently wanted to hide the fact for some reason – and was quite cross at him (making him extremely nervous), and the Hauntsman wanted to decorate – and soon discovered that Arioch the Deceiver, Lord of Illusion, Master of the Mind, He Who… (etc, etc, etc), otherwise known as James, their resident teenage illusionist, was decorating in his own fashion.
Of course, things went wrong. The first difficulty was explaining “Trick of Treating” to an Aztec War God. Oh well: “Offerings for his Son” on a “Holy Day” was close enough for their purposes. Unfortunately for the idea of a peaceful trip, they were near the mansion power nexus – and all the nut cases were out for Halloween.
The White Necromancer had problems with a (genuinely living and only a week old?) house that was eating people. It snatched a bunch of the kids with him – albeit not the ghosts – and dragged them into an underground maze full of bizarre (and mostly ineffectual or totally illusory) traps, bio-engineered zombie pirates, and other special effects for his latest epic – “The Zombie Pirates of Harlington Cove”. If it wasn’t for his general sloppiness about safety precautions, tendency to cast roles by kidnaping people at random – and his using kids this time – the Producer might be fairly tolerable. At least he’d set up a system to promptly evacuate any with serious injuries to the local hospital. The maniac would just start over somewhere else if he put a halt to it, so he settled on running safety overwatch and let Ranko get back to her own troubles.
Meanwhile, the War God had run into an anti-Halloween (Paganism!) Religious activist, who grossly upset and berated the children – so his son got a new pet cat. Back at the orphanage, the black sun of the underworld had started to shine around the crypt of the death – and something was coming through. The Hauntsman put up a barrier, but eventually decided not to interfere with – a ghostly German Hero/Villain from WWII? Why would he be coming back? OK, he was cross at the Indestructible Man, but wasn’t this leaving it a little late?
Secondarily, there was Arioch’s somewhat overenthusiastic decorating to consider – as well as an attack by that possessed businessman again: evidently the night had brought out the monster inside him again. Fortunately, being possessed by the forces of shadow also made him vulnerable to banishment.
Ranko had to leave her husband alone with the kids again when she discovered that someone was stealing the souls of other children. They chased down a minor demon-aspect, who used the souls of gullible children as scouts and servants, leaving their slowly-petrifying bodies as anchors to hold their spirits in the physical world. That called for actions from everyone – although they eventually had to rely on the War God to block the Demon from escaping long enough for them to bind it and seal it away. After all, killing it would be a temporary measure at best. At least that broke its grip on the souls of the local kids: hopefully the others would wake up someplace survivable.
When she got back, five of the kids had horses to ride. Apparently her husband had run into some junior thugs, and now the kids had some riding animals. There was a minor row after that, but he’d already given them to the kids: they’d have to talk it over with the kids tomorrow – maybe they could just trade them some real horses as replacements. New Rule: If you must take an Aztec War God Trick-or-Treating DON’T LEAVE HIM ALONE WITH THE KIDS!
They eventually traced the WWII ghost-summoning to some drunken skinheads, who’d apparently been led by someone who’d drunk themselves unconscious long ago – and had been possessed by the spirit Deathurge, A.K.A. Theodor Eiche, once the Necromancer-Commandant of Dachau. Great: he was back and – since it looked like he’d pulled through several ghosts – now he had a whole team of super-powered specters to help him with his latest plot.
Well, the War God answered some idiot would-be “Witches” using a spell they got off the internet and mildly cursed one or two people who were rude or were playing nasty pranks on the children, but at least nothing much else went wrong before they got him safely back to the mansion and to his own dimension.
3 XP all around.
Session Seven: What with the soul-snatching demon, explanations to the people taking care of the children’s slowly-petrifying bodies, and the black radiance of the sun of the underworld shining out of the crypt (When had that gotten unsealed? He’d thought that he’d filled it full of concrete) it was early next afternoon before the Chauffeur heard about the Horse-Boys.
Oh wonderful. Kidnapping, magical enslavement, and assault, all against a group of minors. Had Ranko never heard of accessory after the fact? She was continuously ON CAMERA for gods sake! He’d often thought that the be-damned war god would be the death of him, but chewed to death by lawyers wasn’t how he’d thought it was going to happen.
For some reason it reminded him of when he’d accidentally run over those two idiot super-villains from DAGGER back in his pizza-delivery days. At least he hadn’t been blamed for anything that time: the security cameras clearly showed them running out of the bank they’d been robbing and into the street without looking.
It was time for some legal research. Between the war, the usual heroic chaos, and Arioch keeping the official types from noticing anything too weird going on, there hadn’t been much time for that sort of thing – but they had 160 children imported from the Silver Twilight with peculiar DNA and no legal existence, a Siberian werewolf child (hmm… Hadn’t he been kidnapped by the war god as well?) whom Ranko – not knowing what else to do – had initially taken to the vet and gotten a dog license for, three young cybernetic terrorist-assassins, originally cloned by the Genocide Machines, de-programmed and de-cybered via werewolf transformation, three kids – probably presumed dead – saved by werewolf transformation without any kind of consent from their guardians, three revenants – kids they hadn’t managed to rescue until after they’d been changed to vampires and couldn’t be entirely changed back – Stefan, another master werewolf, Arioch (he was still underage wasn’t he?), most of the kids Genocide had been hunting had been sent home after the mess at Disney World except for Pamela Ritton (her parents had been killed in the war), and Steven Kadowiski (his parents hadn’t handled having a super-powered kid well). He’d made it a policy to unload the Chinese refugee kids and any other normals they acquired as quickly as possible; it wasn’t fair to keep them around the superpowered kids. He’d have unloaded the powered kids as well if it wasn’t for the fact that they kept needing superheroic rescues and that Adrian had left instructions that his mansion be used as an orphanage as well as a base.
There’d been a few casualties like Fymbulwyntyr (poor kid), but at least not many.
So that made… 174 youngsters. Of whom he was sure of the legal status (in the custody of the orphanage) on… Pamela and Steven. Well, Arioch and Stefan probably counted as runaways – and if there was anyone who was likely to stay out of sight, it was Arioch.
Well, at least nobody would be looking for the dimensional exiles immediately, and one more day probably wouldn’t make a difference for the long-term residents – although they’d damn well better get the three young werewolves back into the custody of their relatives, whether they – and Vasilko – liked it or not. The Horse-boys were the most urgent problem. They’d probably have parents, relatives, and police out looking for them after they disappeared on Halloween.
First things first. Check on who they were and who was likely to be looking; one runaway, one in state custody, one who’s father might be sober sometime, one in the custody of an aunt because his parents died in the war, and one (who’d been running with a street gang) with a divorced mother with six other children. All in the 14-16 age bracket. All now more-or-less permanently transformed… no, wait a minute – the powers and basic compulsions to be owned and to obey their owners would be virtually impossible to undo, but there was a shapeshifting power included. They just needed their master’s permission to take human form.
The kids wold have liked to keep their horses, but the “it’s just not right” argument had some impact. That made them his – and he could at least moderate the psychological effects somewhat. Hopefully from “pets” to “well-behaved”. Odd… It looks like Huitzilopochtli is perfectly willing to judge, transform, enslave, and maim or kill, but he doesn’t like to tamper with people’s minds: He’s slapped in a few compulsions, but their basic personalities, memories, motives, and all haven’t been changed a bit. They may change on their own – or at least adapt to their new situation and status – but he’s not forcing it. Maybe the man has some scruples after all.
Meanwhile, Ranko and the Hauntsman were off to talk to Huitzilopochtli in person. They took along a pile of law books to try and explain why you couldn’t just judge, transform, and enslave kids even if they were being a bit antisocial. He was training some students, but he hurried up and decapitated them to make room in his schedule. Ranko winced, but at least they were already dead, and would be fine tomorrow… Unfortunately, they couldn’t persuade him that there was a difference between law and magic, or that the books weren’t just strangely encoded grimoires.
Huitzilopochtli’s opinion was that it was obviously magic; you recited the strange formulas – or inscribed them if you needed a stronger effect – and you got what you wanted. Just another branch of magic.
Huh. Maybe he was right after all. They did eventually talk him into restraining himself a little – and into trying to straighten things out a bit, which he went off to do after giving them the grand tour. They didn’t really like the way that he seemed to find a way to interpret everything according to his own notions of the right way to do things – but after 26,000 years it was a minor miracle that he could adapt to anything at all.
The group concluded that they needed to hire an expert on superhero law. Also on civil rights, custody law, and werewolf law, since it didn’t look like Vasilko was in a very good position. Even if he was judged rational, the legal guardians of the three kids he’d bitten to save could charge him with kidnapping, enslavement, and lots of other stuff – and if he was judged animalistic, well – the only known way to break the bond between a master werewolf and a lesser werewolf he or she had transformed was to kill the master.
That changed priorities again. The horse-boys might lead to lawsuits and negligence charges. Vasilko could easily wind up sentenced to death. They’d have to locate the three younger werewolves surviving relatives and see if they could arrange at least temporary custody.
Session Seven Part Two: Getting Schooled: Meanwhile, Darius had his first class signed up for his “School of Siege”, and was explaining to the local police. Officer Stevens was just a “bit” doubtful. It sounded like he was opening up a paramilitary training facility! Was he recruiting minions to set up as a super-villain, trying to start a security corporation of some sort, or just crazy?
Darius informed him that it was only a school, it would be offering certification in siege, not paramilitary units, and that the first courses would be Combat Golfing, Death Golems (and possibly an Internship AS a Death Golem), Philosophy of Rocket Launchers, Castles and Crenelations, and Masonry for Miners and Sappers. The first two weeks would be devoted to developing the Combat Golfing curriculum, tuition would be 25$, and your first day came with a free sandwich.
Steven’s partner, officer Riso, nearly died laughing. Stevens did too after the combat golf research started: Darius hadn’t found a way to keep his explosive golf balls from detonating when hit, rather than on impact on a target. Fortunately for him, his armor was virtually impervious to such minor explosions – although the students were more dubious. Still, they had mostly been recruited from the SCA, LARP’s, and similar venues, and were perfectly willing to consider their 25$ “tuition” as “dinner with a show”.
Besides, who knew? Hanging about with a super-being, you might learn something.
The White Necromancer was down in his crypt. He supposed that the younger students were his apprentices now, and he really didn’t like losing two of them to stupid dinosaurs. Being a ghost was bad enough as an adult – there was a REASON why most of them only stuck around if there was something they felt they had to do and moved on as quickly as possible – it must be really dull for two nine-year-olds. Unfortunately, a straightforward resurrection seemed to be impossible. While the final fraying could be forestalled, once the silver cord was broken, it could not be restored. You could bind the soul to an animated corpse or to a construct – not too desirable that. (hmm… Was he dead? It didn’t seem like it: he thought that his body was just more-or-less in stasis until he could flood it with enough life energy to get it started again. OH. To keep it from deteriorating beyond repair during that six-month astral initiation-quest. That made sense).
He really didn’t want to tell them that the dead were dead. If being young and foolish was going to result in the death penalty, what were super-heroes for?
Maybe there’d be a clue in the section on soul-bonds. The Chauffeur had been wanting to know about breaking them. Which could be done by… Dying and passing on beyond the range of the bond. Reincarnation might work, but it’d have to be a real one – complete with Lethe and growing up again – to make sure of it. That would renew the silver cord – or provide a new one anyway – but the original “you” would be essentially gone.
That kind of sucked.
Wait! You could be reborn as a demon or…. No. That was just another kind of construct and a spell-bond, not really being alive. That was why demons and the spirits of the dead never really changed or grew unless they’d been transformed while still alive or were moving on and giving up their ties to the earth.
He wasn’t going to tell them it was hopeless. Besides – if there was one thing the dead had, it was time – and he’d only been looking for one day. The Tome of the Black Sun was about the last word in necromantic lore though… Maybe there’d be something in the black magic section. If he’d graduated – if he was actually stepping into Killion’s shoes – it should open for him now.
It did – and there was something. If you extracted someone’s memories and personality, then reincarnated them, kept the new infant’s mind blank until it hit the appropriate age (or you used magic to get it there), and then re-imprinted the stored memories and personality on it, you had something that approximated a resurrection. Of course you’d need parents to provide the body – and to not mind suppressing an infant’s mind – and a good way to extract and store the memories from someone’s mind – and some way to make sure that whatever effect you used to imprint them wasn’t dispelled – and to not mind the transfer-degradation (no wonder the people who kept making clones and coming back all went mad eventually) – and… Erg. No wonder it was in the “Black Magic” section.
But they were only nine years old. And Killion – and he – had given them enough power to endanger themselves and others and then had left them without guidance in using it. He’d told them that he would help them and they trusted him.
He’d put out some spiritual advertisements for good teachers and such while he was thinking about it. One thing about employing spirits: you didn’t need to worry about them getting killed.
Back with the Chauffeur, the first thing to do was to talk to the subordinate werewolves. There wasn’t any way to actually negate the soul-bond, but he could provide a counter-influence, at least on a temporary basis, and find out how they actually felt.
That was informative. He’d been fairly sure that none of them would hate the boy, but he hadn’t been expecting that much emotional attachment. He probably should have been. Vasilko had only been eleven himself, but he’d rescued them, taken them into his pack-family, cared for and fought for them, and been kind, affectionate, and considerate. He’d shown the clone triplets how to be people instead of being assassin-machines. Even a lesser werewolves powers were pretty nice. None of them wanted their pack-family disrupted, they liked it at the mansion, and their powers and the magical gadgets they’d been given would be near-impossible to fit into a normal setting. The soul-bond had sped things up – but the kid hero-worshiped Vasilko, the younger girl was only unsure (even as a human) because she didn’t know if she wanted to be one of five, and the four older girls – well, Vasilko was intelligent, superhumanly strong, healthy, and virile, confident and dominant, throughly masculine, a junior superhero, and – like most voluntary shapeshifters – as good-looking as he could imagine himself being.
No wonder so many normal people hated lycanthropes.
About the only major attraction-trigger Vasilko didn’t hit head-on was wealth – but he did have wealthy sponsors and lived in a mansion where everyone got the best tutors and support. He probably shouldn’t have asked. They were ALL underage and their relatives had custody. They’d have to be returned to their legal guardians regardless of what they wanted which… according to the lawyers… meant a serious risk of putting Vasilko’s head on the block for doing his best to rescue people and some consensual adolescent fooling around afterwards. That wasn’t right either, no matter how legal it was. Damn.
Well, he’d visit the relatives – it looked like an uncle and his wife in Oregon – and see. He’d take along some transfer-of-guardianship papers just in case it seemed necessary. That wouldn’t hold up for long against a challenge even if he could get the uncle to sign in the first place, but it would delay things for a few months. Some of the other kids begged him into a quick trip around mars and the solar system along the way, as well as a quick visit to the NASA Space Museum in Florida, but that hardly even gave him time to think.
He dropped the kids off for a fast-food lunch and went to see Aunt Elena and Uncle Ardis. They turned out to be quite well-off (Ardis was a bank manager), fairly pleasant, and not especially unreasonable. On the other hand, Ardis was so rule and habit-bound as to be virtually petrified and he’d mourned his brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and young nephew’s deaths in the Darkstorm War two years ago.
The Chauffeur decided to spin him a story about a trans-temporal rescue mission and to try to get his signature on a document authorizing him to make whatever arrangements he needed to make to save the kids. It took some fast talk and a bit of enhanced persuasiveness – and it wouldn’t stand up in court forever – but it would buy a few months if he couldn’t come up with some other arrangements.
He had the kids let the fellow who’d tried to rob the restaurant go when the police showed up to collect him (“Yeah, they’re students at our academy for gifted young magicians”), and got back to the orphanage/school (he’d better see about the paperwork on that). The younger werewolves could stay, at least for the moment.
There was a pile of paperwork on his desk; guardianship papers for the five horse-boys, signing them up for a corrective program for incorrigible delinquency. Pretty damned vague and open-ended about what measures might be used too.
He’d been kind of hoping that Ranko could get her husband to untransform them – it was way beyond his powers – but it looked like he’d just decided to apply a gloss of legality over it. The papers didn’t seem to be magical forgeries; he’d probably just applied raw force of personality to get people to sign. At least it showed some sort of willingness to be obliging even if the man did have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Well, it was a stopgap – and it looked like today that was about the best he could hope for.
Ranko had been spending a good deal of time talking with Vasilko. She was fairly upset about him not telling her he was a father – although that was partly because she knew that, as his guardian, she should have had a talk with him and given him a contraceptive and anti-disease amulet as soon as he hit puberty instead of leaving him to bumble around. She also had a letter from the vet about… rabies shots? Why? He was pretty much immune to – oh. She had gotten him a dog license when he first arrived and she had no idea what to do. Wait; why should that scare him? OH. Obedience Compulsion. He couldn’t disobey her or anyone else she’d delegated authority to (err… like half the adults around the orphanage?) – and that meant that there were a lot of things – ranging from embarrassing to fatal – that could happen to him on a trip to the vets.
Wait a minute. What was that report? Bodies in the park again? With no apparent sign of injury? Oh not AGAIN. Hadn’t they blown up the Darkmage’s bedamned demonically-possessed invisible lethal tower throughly enough the last time?
Off to search the park (Yes, Vasilko, you can come).
Yes, it was the killer tower again – but not nearly as powerful this time. There were also several bodies that had been drained. It looked like someone was trying the “convert-to-power-battery” spell on a woman and a couple of little kids – but it’d failed. What was… Deathurge and the Darkmage. They’d re-summoned the tower and drained back all the personal demonic power that had been invested in it. Then they’d tried to test the convert-to-amulet spell on some innocent bystanders – but it’d been blocked. A global ward? Powered by personal magic? Now who on earth could handle that? A human body loaded with that much life force would blow itself into a plasma!
The Darkmage. With a competent mind to back his/her powers. With competent backup. With minions, an actual plan, and the powers of darkness and Tyrannon to draw on as well as ambient magic. The Darkmage had nearly destroyed the solar system by accident while he was trying to be a hero. The potential for catastrophe on an interstellar scale. They’d better warn the Thunderbolts and any of the other teams they could reach – especially the Indestructible Man and the rest of the team that originally put Deathurge down if they were still alive and they could find them.
They’d have been better off with the lawyers.
Unfortunately, with Ranko wandering around central park by herself, Morgarif saw another chance to strike. This time he’d stick with the Phantasm Realms: creatures from there were a lot easier to manipulate than cranky godlings from the Hundred Realms.
He managed to get a modest “party of adventurers”. A “Dwarven Paladin-Dwarven Defender”, A “Druid with the Thorn Master Prestige Class”, “Master Stroke the Barbarian”, and a “Mystic Theurge” who used no other name. Eh, whatever. Phantasm Realms were notoriously malleable and unstable. They were probably just a reflection of some sort of popular craze. They were easy enough to convince that Ranko was some sort of succubus-demon-werecat thing. Something about “Templates”, whatever-the-hell those were supposed to be. They ought to be grateful anyway. A link with the real world would greatly increase their stability. Well, at least they seemed powerful enough to deal with Ranko…
Indeed they were. She was going down for the count so fast that she barely had time to put out a distress call. In fact, despite the groups unusual battlecry (“Hold Misguided Villainous LARPers!”) and somewhat greater numbers, the battle wasn’t really going that well. Evidently the four adventurers were pretty experienced at working together. The quartet even had some bizarre objection to the White Necromancer, the Hauntsman, and Vasilko. What was wrong with Blood-Path Magic, Necromancy, Twilight Magic, and Lycanthropy?
Fortunately, the Chauffeur managed to negotiate a cease-fire until the summoning-spell ran out.
Wait a minute! There was another master werewolf around. Stefan was so quiet – and made so little trouble – that he’d forgotten all about him. Hadn’t he arrived, challenged Vasilko for pack leadership, and lost badly? Why hadn’t he left again?
The Chauffeur sent for Stefan when he got back and probed a bit. Oh. Animalistic. Under a control spell. Fitted with a submission collar. Legally tagged as property of Vasilko by the police department (he must have had him officially tested). Several of his powers negated. Vaccinated and fixed. Was all that really necessary? Why had Vasilko gone that far? What had Stefan been trying… Oh. Two years ago Stefan had been 14 – adult for a werewolf – and he’d tried to emasculate Vasilko (11) and Theodore (6), and forcibly take all five girls – ages 8 to 11. Personally, he would have tried fewer restraints and more therapy (he’d start applying it now in hopes that he’d improve enough to get let off the leash) – but given how protective of his packmates Vasilko was it was understandable. He wouldn’t scold him.
He really needed to do something about Vasilko’s legal status though. He must’ve done some research about what he could legally do about Stefan after that challenge – and realized that his own legal status was indeterminate-leaning-towards-animal thanks to the conditions of his initial arrival. No wonder he’d been so cautious and tried to hide his becoming a father. How would the others class? The three youngest had started as normal humans, were presumed human, and would test human since their minds hadn’t broken under the stress. The triplets would be presumed human, but would test animal. Their minds hadn’t broken – and they were friendly, loyal, and caring – but they hadn’t had enough of a human mind of their own to dominate. That really wasn’t fair, but that was the law at the moment. Vasilko would test human, but might be screwed over by prejudice about werewolves, circumstantial evidence, and having transformed several underage humans.
He needed a really good lawyer. The definitions went back to 1890, since cases and precedents about werewolves were few and far between, and really needed some updating.
Session Eight: With things relatively quiet for the moment, The Chauffeur settled down to review options with his lawyers, The Hauntsman renewed his stock of ritual invocations and continued his business in the netherworlds, Darius continued teaching, the White Necromancer continued his research, and Ranko found herself at loose ends. Admittedly, the Werewolves were throwing an open party down in the old Danger Room to celebrate Vasilko’s release – after all, now that it’d been opened up again, it was the largest open room in the place, as well as being by far the easiest to decorate – but that was harmless eno – Ah. The old Danger Room? The one that had nearly trapped them all permanently in a layered series of mental illusions?
Ranko went and double-checked that the more dangerous functions were still shut down and couldn’t be reactivated, and pulled a lot more circuits just to be sure, but eventually decided to let them use it. It was mildly amusing – but the kids were sent to bed on time and the pack mostly retired early for some private celebrations. That left Stefan trailing around on patrol and Ranko bored… There was a bit on TV about some mysterious fiery being blowing up an old tenement, but not really enough information to identify it clearly – and it didn’t seem to be a general menace yet. Besides, the descriptions sounded a bit like an… Angel of Wrath? What would one of them be doing loose on earth? She eventually went and dragged the White Necromancer away from his research and drove into New York City for a night on the town – then had to leave him at the Game Coliseum Arcade (one of the biggest in New York) – while she went clubbing after she remembered that he was underage.
Clubbing led to a brief social encounter – and an invitation to go and steal something with Ladybug and the Black Mist (after all, “Ranko goes Evil and then returns to the light side” would be sure to boost her ratings), but things got interrupted when the bored kid who’d stowed away started pushing the Chauffeur’s buttons trying to find the one that would let him out of the car. Unfortunately, even without the Chauffeur there to augment them, his vehicles still packed plenty of weapons.
Meanwhile, the White Necromancer had spotted six lesser werewolves in gang colors in the Arcade. They were occasionally shaking down the younger kids for an extra quarter or two, but were behaving themselves otherwise. What the hell were they up to? And where was the master werewolf? There had to be one involved somewhere… He faded into the astral plane to try and follow them stealthily once they left. Wait-a-minute… Werewolves had astral senses. Better use his intangibility to move through walls and such instead of depending on astral concealment.
Anyway, it looked like they hung out in an abandoned apartment building with a bunch of normal human gangers and supported themselves with minor scams and petty crime. You know – it was beginning to look like werewolves weren’t really much like the way they were portrayed in the movies. Where the hell was the astral barrier coming from? Maybe something to do with that Angel? Not an angel… a demon-ward? But why put one up around a group of werewolves? (Hey, RANKO! Come in and get over here!).
Oh. To make sure that the quartet of warrior-demons didn’t get loose after they finished off the werewolves and the other gangers. That was a pretty stiff penalty for petty crime! Not to mention that most of them were as young as he was! The werewolves were trying to fight back while their friends fled, but didn’t have a chance… He and Ranko managed to banish the demons, and even save the werewolves thanks to their regenerative powers – but came within an inch of dying in doing so. Warrior-demons were lethal fighters. They decided to leave the werewolves alone – especially after they found out that Stefan had created them, and been abusive enough that even the loyalty-reflex wasn’t enough to make them miss him.
Tracing the summoning – and the trail of that Angel of Wrath – led them to another street gang. Oh GREAT. Now the street-gangers were using DEMONS to fight their battles? Why not just give them nuclear weapons? Ranko – a blood-mage herself, however indirectly – didn’t get far trying to persuade an Angel of Wrath that those who willingly consorted with demons shouldn’t be killed, but did manage to temporarily banish him (her? it?) before capturing the gangers. Whatever they’d been before, now they were demon cultists serving… The Darkmage. And they’d been given a target list – starting with the heroes and the orphanage.
They left the cultists with the police and headed home to warn everyone and set up a few extra defenses, to deal with a werewolf girl who wanted a baby, to offer Vasilko a job, to notify him and the other werewolves and the children that they should be ready to defend themselves and each other, and to deal with the White Necromancer’s mother – who was insisting on picking him up, getting him a checkup, and getting him back into school. None of that went over well – and she was especially upset at the news that her son seemed to be physically dead… The White Necromancer – somewhat cruelly – left it to the doctor to explain while he went to deal with some stray souls in his crypt.
Those turned out to be left over from Halloween. It looked like they’d gone free when the soul-stealing demon was locked away, but their bodies wouldn’t transform back until they’d returned to them – and they couldn’t find them. Considering that most of them were probably buried or hidden otherwise, that was probably a good thing. Apparently the few who had been able to find their bodies had died – so the others had come back to ask for help. Taking them out with the Chauffeur to try and trace their links with their bodies revealed something else as well: someone was activating the old dark magical and necromantic nexi – and bestowing minor powers on gangs and cultists – all over the world, and it reeked of the Darkmage’s power signature. Probably a diversion, but it was going to be a damned good one. WHY did it have to be a competent evil Darkmage?
Session Nine: Meanwhile, Darius had finally achieved a golf ball that was only primed when hit and didn’t usually explode until it hit something. Of course, the vast majority of the “students” had left as soon as he proposed that they play with the high explosives, instead of simply watching Darius repeatedly blow himself up. That left him down to seven students – the few slightly-crazy ones who either came with armor or went out to get some. His golf-ball-bombs weren’t actually designed to cause much real damage, but the unarmored students had gotten tired of being bruised, knocked flat, and stunned each time a golf ball malfunctioned.
Most of the rest of the group (except for Ranko, who had a cranky baby and new-mother syndrome; she asked the Chauffeur to pick her up as soon as she had him settled with the werewolves) headed out to search for the children’s bodies. Admittedly, it wouldn’t hurt the kids to wait – they’d already been out of them for a decade or so in most cases – but still, they were kids.
Tracing their links with their bodies was straightforward enough: the group had more than enough magical power to get the general directions. It looked like… somewhere in France, near Moscow, Mexico City, Romania, and Brazil. It looked like That demon really had been operating on Earth for quite a while. They picked up Darius – partially because they’d probably want his earth-moving powers to dig up the petrified kids and partially to keep an eye on him – and headed for Mexico City first.
That turned into quite a mess. Darius went into the weirdest form of “berserk” that any of them had ever seen; he couldn’t take all the shoddy architecture and embarked on a spontaneous program of urban renewal. Naturally enough, the police – and then the army – tried to stop him. Unfortunately, Darius was tougher than a tank, highly mobile, and could erect massive stone structures in moments: the would-be defenders own weapons were doing almost as much damage as he was.
Most of the rest of the group hadn’t wanted to fight with the local authorities, and had been forced to flee being arrested for being conspicuous unknown superhuman individuals in the vicinity of Darius’s rampage who weren’t obviously heroically fighting him (they’d hoped that being soothing would work better). Ergo, accessories. They went to look for the children’s bodies. If the locals wanted to deal with Darius on their own, they weren’t going to fight the Mexican army to make them accept their assistance. The links led to – a police station. The place had been used by the local “secret police” or equivalent a few decades before – and the sealed-off lower levels were full of nasty old magic. There were plenty of haunts as well, some of them strong enough to possess policemen and all of them irrational with the rage born of their torturous deaths. There was even some fool of a minor vampire who’d found the atmosphere congenial and had moved into the basement. No wonder law enforcement in Mexico was in such a mess… Trying to clean out the basement in the face of that much opposition produced quite a ruckus.
Meanwhile, Darius had found some respectable architecture – the pyramids of the Sun and Moon. Not to mention some youngsters who’d suddenly found that they could (thanks to the Darkmages global tinkering) start drawing on their power. Fortunately, they had no idea of how to use it effectively. Unfortunately, the Mexican army was still following Darius, and the firefight kept expanding until the Mexican government started broadcasting an open appeal for super heros to come and stop it – as well as an amnesty off to the Avatars if they’d come to stop it.
The Avatars were closest, and apparently decided that an Amnesty was worthwhile: even if they committed some new crimes next week, it would clear a lot of stuff off the books. Still, as long as they made a show of it, there was no reason to take it too seriously. Since the Mandate was about ready to leave anyway – taking along a bunch of street-children who needed to have their demonic power infusions negated – the “battle” was relatively short, ending with the Mandate withdrawing – in part due to frustration at inadvertently being involved with getting the Avatars a pardon for their past offenses.
The next couple of stops were fairly easy. The old KGB interrogation center outside of Moscow yielded several more petrified bodies cast into slabs of concrete – but nobody was using the place and there weren’t any objections to a bit of demolition work.
The tower of Gilles de Rais in France was a historical landmark and a tourist attraction, but it had been exorcised thoroughly long ago. Getting permits to do some digging would have taken forever, but tunneling underneath and filling in behind them was pretty easy.
Romania and Brazil would have to wait for a bit. They had private investigators poking around at the orphanage, probably from Uncle Ardis. Arioch had sent them away with an “everything is normal” illusion, but there were limits to that sort of thing – and the man would probably want to visit his nieces and nephews shortly. They had a woman coming by insisting that she’d only signed the guardianship papers on her son under some sort of duress or something: he didn’t deserve to be assigned to some unspecified by vaguely-ominous rehabilitation program for unmanageable juvenile delinquents, the were triplets wanted to be test cases on werewolf rights in an attempt to get some new precedents set before Vasilko wound up in court – figuring that, even if they wound up getting classified as animals, it wouldn’t change their situation much and that it might help Vasilko a lot, someone had been stealing military vehicles and had been interrogating technicians about where the newest and best ones could be found (probably Deathurge and Panzer), and several deceased teachers had turned up to answer The White Necromancer’s advertisements. He hired Khai Lung, an ancient Chinese tutor in politics, manipulation, and the martial arts (Ranko accidentally signed up for tutoring sessions Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:00 in the morning) and Eli Sun Waters – a hippy with some interesting views on communication. He refused to hire a Victorian tutor who thought that they were all disgustingly immortal and one fellow who insisted on turning everything into an exercise in the Socratic method.
Session Ten: Back at home, the Mexican government had wasted little time in complaining about the mess in Mexico City – and about Darius in particular. Since the databases pointed to Ranko and the Mandate, word got back to them pretty quickly. Darius reacted… oddly. He took it as a formal challenge to a “Gentleman’s game of Siege!”, headed down to the northern border of Panama and started fortifying it. All of it. Digging a moat – or a new canal – straight across the Isthmus. Evidently Darius’s earthly geography was still a little vague. Despite the efforts of the Panamanian police, shamans, and – later – military to dissuade him. It was only 110 miles across, and throwing up his wall and moat would only take Darius a day or so.
Not nearly enough time for any real legal or governmental complications – and he wasn’t really doing much of anything that would attract superheroes after he was persuaded to add enough bridges to let people in and out. Mexico did send the Avatars down, but they saw no reason to start a pointless fight in someone else’s country.
After a while, Ranko gave up and took some of the kids out to see Mexico City, while the White Necromancer tried to discourage Darius. Whether for good or ill, his attempts had little success until Darius – cutting through the hills – uncovered an ancient series of crypts. One of the creations of the Ru’Kahl Death Cult of 99,000 years ago. The people who’d exterminated human life in the Americas. The people who’d sealed the last survivors in cells and coffins warded against spirits. The people who’d created a reserve of mad souls, trapped in the primal darkness for a hundred thousand years, and left a guardian – Malingith. He, she, or it didn’t react well to being disturbed.
Meanwhile, in Mexico City, Ranko was trying to explain the concept of “street children” – and of NOT being able to give all of them a home – to the kids from the orphanage (thanks to the millenia-old availability of reliable-and-easy contraceptive charms and considerably greater prosperity there are a lot fewer street children on Earth-Emergence than on Earth-Proper – but there are always some). They didn’t take it well, and insisted on doing what they could for everyone. It was almost a relief when the White Necromancer called about Malingith.
Down at the border, things were a mess. Nobody was quite sure who’d started calling for assistance first, but the Darkspawn, Demons, insane Undead, and superheroes from Wyldstrike and the Guardians (after the White Necromancer got trapped in a crypt and caught a bad case of the worlds catchiest tune the group had started calling for help) had started piling up. While Wildstrike, Warp, and Yeoman were actually helpful for once, the Voice, Mara, Changeling, and Timewalker demonstrated their fine mastery of teenage overkill. Still, they eventually managed to drive off Malingith. Unfortunately, he took the undamaged sections of his tunnel complex – and an unknown number of trapped, tormented, spirits – with him into the dark realms. Still, everyone managed to get out before the tunnels sealed themselves.
And then there was another magical disturbance. Someone using personal energies – it felt like an adolescent male – to cast a global spell bestowing immunity to the Darkmage’s demon-cultist-transformation effect. The same signature as the spell that blocked the amulet-transformation effect. At least this one didn’t propagate back in time. Whoever-it-was seemed to be on the right side (as well as incredibly powerful), but he was also impossibly arrogant and reckless.
It took some doing, as well as a lot of record searching,but they eventually managed to pin it down to Alaska – and the old Mandate Records had a few cryptic references to a powerful mage up there. They borrowed a plane from the Chauffeur, took along Arthur (one of the Horse-boys who wanted an outing), had a few minor accidents along the way, and investigated a bit. It looked like there were some creatures with tremendous amounts of personal energy hanging out at a… quasi-colonial mansion (?) behind a veil of illusion and anti-detection. They decided to pay a call, found that the Elder Shaman was busy right now – and that the place kept re-arranging its floor plan pretty much at random. They stayed for dinner – and were a bit appalled at what their detection spells said about some of the staff. Who employed walking fusion bombs?
Session Eleven: Baked Alaska
Overall, the dinner party was more confusing than successful. They looked at some more rooms, accidently set up poor Arthur for near-mortal embarrassment, and Ranko acquired the Sword of Yoshima, an ancient Katana. Sadly, the “elder shaman” was in a deep trance – along with a circle of other fusion-bomb creatures – trying to precognitively sort out what the Darkmage might try and have spells ready to counter it. He did another personal-energy global spell – trying to block off the major magical power nexi – shortly after they gave up and left.
Unfortunately, at home the kids had been preparing for a siege. The Chauffeur and Monopole had been setting up some sensible security systems, but the children had been doing whatever came into their heads – and had set up hundreds of little booby-trap spells all over the place. None of them really had enough power to be very effective, but there were enough of them that they probably would hinder an attack. Thank god no one had let them watch “Home Alone”.
Back at the Crypt, the White Necromancer had a bigger problem. Two of the apprentices had tapped into the Altars power to set up triggered summoning-wards – but one had opted for demons (versus any attack on the Crypt or its guardians) and the other for lesser spirits of light (versus creatures of evil) – and they’d started triggering each other. Unraveling that little magical knot took some doing. The White Necromancer told them: NO DEMON SUMMONING FROM NOW ON.
The youngsters had to agree that that was a good idea.
Afterwards they checked the “To Do” list… There were those Vehicle thefts – probably Panzer – and only a few major vehicle-experimentation labs left to go. There was a march in support of minority religions which would pass nearby, two more sets of children’s souls to trace back to their bodies from that mess at Halloween, necromantic research to do, the legal mess with the werewolf triplets, and more. Still, most of it could wait. It looked like keeping Panzer from upgrading himself was the highest immediate priority.
They had enough connections to find out where the best experimental tanks were being kept, and headed down immediately. They managed to get the base commander to let them stand guard, but Panzer managed to get away with the tank anyway – although Hugin had to abandon his body and they managed to drive Das Impetus out of the young skinhead he’d been put in. They also managed to find out that Deathurge was headed for Cheyenne Mountain to launch a nuclear strike on Alaska. They placed a frantic call to the Thunderbolts, got the Chauffeur to pick up Fist of God and the Indestructible Man, got the security forces warned, found a minute for Ranko to visit her husband and swap out her weapons (a trip which had unfortunate consequences for the young skinhead Das Impetus had been possessing; the War God turned him into a cat-person) and headed there themselves – jumping into the Astral Plane to try and intercept the Whermacht there.
Unfortunately, Fenris, and Das Ubermensch had brought a division of WWII ghosts along to keep everyone busy, Panzer was blasting his way into the mountain on the physical side, and Deathurge was nowhere to be seen. While the White Necromancer and some Justifier super-soldiers fought Panzer – and eventually won, partly due to his total lack of enthusiasm for the fight – Ranko got badly kicked around by Fenris and Das Ubermensch before managing to turn a portion of their own army against them, Fist of God was blasted into a coma, and the Indestructible Man was tied up fighting a tank platoon. That left Ranko heading in to confront Deathurge in a complex full of nerve gas. Fortunately, she was immune. Unfortunately, he could summon troops faster than she could. Fortunately, she blasted the computers before he could launch more than three missiles. Unfortunately, she wound up unconscious and being prepared as a sacrifice in an attempt to revive the computers by necromancy. Fortunately the White Necromancer made it down with a few Justifier super-troopers before Deathurge could kill Ranko. Unfortunately, he still had far more troops.
Feeling that there had to be a way to break this pattern, they launched a coordinated assault – which wound up blowing Deathurge to bits. Unfortunately, that still left three missiles headed for Alaska – to the “Elder Shaman’s” place. Evidently the Darkmage didn’t take well to opposition… A frantic call to Timewalker and Mara took care of one, the Chauffeur caught another – but the third was too close. They got the self-destruct code, but had no way to use it until the White Necromancer decided to complete Deathurge’s spell and revive the computer.
That took care of the last missile – and they even managed to shut down the undead computer before it could vampirize too many power systems.
5 XP all around.
Session 12: Into The Depths
Cleanup at Cheyenne mountain was mostly a matter of explanation. The military wasn’t happy at finding the White Necromancer and Ranko standing in a devastated command center surrounded by bodies – including Deathurge’s unfortunate host- and a couple of the experimental super-soldiers that’d been sent in, but the Chauffeur eventually got the Indestructible Man out of the astral plane to back up their explanations. Unfortunately, Fist-Of-God had been killed holding off a couple of tank platoons.
Down in Panama, Darius had decided that Mexico wasn’t coming, sent them a letter stating that – since they hadn’t shown up, he considered himself clear of all obligations – had helped the locals convert his guard-towers and fortifications into nice solid housing, and gone home.
Dropping in at the Orphanage, Darius ran straight into the children’s multitude of magical traps. None of them were powerful enough to do more than trip him up make him glow bright red with illusory flames, but they were a passable defense-in-depth. He was busy coming up with advice on improvements when Ranko and the White Necromancer got back, failed to recognize him under the illusions, and assumed he was a super-villain.
Ranko, believing he was threatening her son, went a little berserk and threw him into the ground with tremendous force – and Darius decided to just keep on going. Down to the mantle. Where he found a lot of magma and some mineral resources before he decided to come back up. Right in front of the march in support of minority religions.
Somebody looked at the towering armored figure, dripping flame and molten rock, coated with diamonds, and still blazing with crimson radiance, and wanted to know if he was Satan. Darius – more than a bit unstable – decided that he was, turned on his aura of domination, and informed them all that he was indeed Satan, and was much misunderstood. He returned to his School of Siege and started converting it into Satans School of Siege.
Ranko and the White Necromancer decided to find Darius to cap their new geothermal vent. The White Necromancer called, got answered by “Satan”, and went to exorcise his phone. Ranko arrived, took one look and threw Darius out. Darius announced that “Satan respects property rights” and sent them off to buy Madison – er – Satan Square Garden and start some team-building exercises.
Meanwhile, the Darkmage’s cultists had been using the parade as a cover to get close – and were launching a two-pronged attack, deploying warrior demons, group magical attacks, and heavy weapons. The werewolves, teachers, and other employees took one side, but the White Necromancer went down before the massed psychic attack. Fortunately he’d held out long enough for Ranko and Darius to get involved – although no one accepted Darius’s claims of being entitled to give the demons and cultists orders due to being Satan.
They won eventually, although Darius acquired a Demon’s brain along the way, a hunting demon got set loose on the world, several cultists got away, and they had to advise their ancient Chinese teacher that – these days – you turned captured enemies over to the police, rather than maiming and enslaving them. Oddly, the insanity seemed to be contagious (perhaps Darius had forgotten to turn off his aura of domination). Ranko drafted several of the cultists to try and teach them to dance, the Hauntsman took a group to see if he could break their demon links (unfortunately he could only transfer them to another Lord of Darkness – so he chose himself) – and the White Necromancer, who had recently erected mental defenses, turned the rest over to the police.
Then he had to deal with his new pet cat-boy – a responsibility that he really didn’t want.
Session 13: Try, Try Again
In the depths of the Time Vortex, the Chauffeur was attempting his first experiment in time travel. The Brick wasn’t a lot of help with experimental technomancy – but he was handy in an emergency, so he’d brought him along, as well as taking the precaution of going to low orbit before starting. Still unused to how his procognitive abilities operated outside of time, he abruptly realized that he was about to run into himself and swerved wildly, thus averting that possible future.
Unfortunately, the Brick was impervious to his inertial dampers, as he was to so many other things. He exited both the helicopter and the time vortex – leaving him plummeting from the skies.
Not that that was a particularly unfamiliar situation. Glowing incandescently – impervious to burning off surface layers to dissipate energy – the Brick attempted to airswim towards an empty field. He didn’t want to hit anyone when he landed.
Down on the surface, Darius had decided that the LORD was due to arrive, took the new star falling from the heavens as a sign, and headed that way.
Ranko figured that it might be a crash or something, and that – inevitably, given her luck – it would be something that she’d have to deal with. Most of the rest of the Mandate was busy with projects of course; they’d come if it turned out to be important…
The Brick landed in a baseball diamond, and there was much confusion before someone set off another global spell. This one was designed to raise zombies across the globe… The counterspell from Alaska was targeted primarily at the earth, apparently an attempt to keep the Dinosaurs, oil deposits, and other fossils from rising. That was good – but the zombies would still be a disaster.
The White Necromancer began drawing on the power-reserves of the Crypt to weave a counterspell of his own. Darius began erecting walls to confine some zombies, while attempting to turn others against the rest – and then elected to Follow the Lord, even if he was a dolphin (well, that made sense: the world was three-quarters water and . Ranko, the Brick, and the Chauffeur headed off to trace the center of the spell.
Evidently sealing the nexi was having some impact on the Darkmage: he was having to unseal one to power each of his global spells. The Brick leapt into the sea to talk to the other Dolphins; they’d probably know where the zombie sharks had started from. This spell seemed to originate at… Easter Island. They should have known: the Darkmage had used that nexus before.
Unfortunately, once they got there, Darius fell victim to his obsessions and started repairing the old statuary and stonework rather than assisting directly – but assisted nevertheless, as the old geomantic structures started draining power from the nexus, rather than allowing it to drain into the zombie-raising spell. The Brick simply swam down through the rock, headed for the chambers at the base of the sacred volcano, while Ranko dropped in from above and the Chauffeur headed off to assist in an emergency in China. Back at home, the White Necromancer had gotten his counterspell up and running – turning the zombies against each other as his mystical contagion spread – and was helping the Werewolves and staff defend the Orphanage.
Down in the volcano on Easter Island there were more minions – but better co-ordinated, more powerful, and with more demonic support. They very nearly won, especially when disrupting the circle started hitting the chamber with random gouts of necromantic magic and reanimated some of the deceased cultists (Ranko had gone berserk again) as more powerful undead abominations.
The Chauffeur’s emergency turned out to be an attempt to seize and launch some of China’s nuclear missiles. Nobody’d managed to stop the Russian seizure and launch. They had to do something about the Darkmage! The entire global zombie attack had been nothing but another diversion!
Worse, there were a dozen nuclear warheads headed for Alaska, and the world was counting down towards a global nuclear war. They needed to stop a flight of missiles… Time to call for help again.
Fortunately they’d done this before. Unfortunately, this time there were more than three. The Brick managed to break one and brought another one down with an incredibly lucky shot. Ranko got her husband to teleport her aboard one and disabled it and managed to gate one into the realms of the dead (where she figured no one would care). Darius encased two in stone and hauled them out into deep space. Mara and the Warlock got a couple more, and the orbital defenses got some – but they wound up with one coming in hot.
The White Necromancer had built a layered sphere of spectral bone almost a thousand feet thick over the target zone, but it would still be a disaster – until the Brick decided to stand on top, catch the missile, and try to contain the blast. After all, he’d done it with other explosions…
Oddly enough, this worked. The Brick was the center of an open temporal rift. The blast tore it open and spent most of its force hurling the Brick through back time. Ranko and the White Necromancer couldn’t figure out exactly what had happened – but there was no death-signature. The Brick was probably back in his own era: he had a destiny to fulfill.
Darius, meanwhile, had decided that the Earth was too vulnerable to attack from space, and had started trying to build a fortified orbital wall around the planet. The Traveler and the other heroes managed to dissuade him eventually.
Session 14: The Lists Unlimited
Back on Earth, things were settling down. Thanks to cremation and decay near the surface – and to the shielding spell that kept the fossils and oil in the deeper strata from waking up – there hadn’t really been that many zombies with enough real structure to do that much damage. Thanks to prompt superhero response from the Mandate, the White Necromancer, the Warlock, and many others, they hadn’t had much time either – and between sheer distance and the protective spells which had become so popular during the Darkstorm War there hadn’t actually been many casualties or all that much damage.
That didn’t make anyone much happier about the episode. It was easy enough to detect the power signature. The various rewards hit 200,000,000 within the first eight hours and there were any number of denouncements.
They didn’t know who the reward was on at first – but the power signature signature matched the recently-countered demon-cultist-empowerment spell, and Dr Midnight linked it to the mess in central park – which the Mandate had been heavily involved in. The White Necromancer had been behind one of the major anti-zombie counterspells too. They had the Mandate in for a consultation shortly thereafter.
That revealed that the Darkmage had been responsible for the Darkstorm War, the Demon Cultists, the massive destruction in China, and the recent nuclear launches. That sent the total reward to 16,000,000,000 – plus a variety of medals, amnesties for lesser crimes, estates, blessings, honors, artifacts, and even harems. It also touched off a congressional debate about reprogramming some of the orbital defenses so they could fire at earthbound targets (the military was still pretty doubtful about that), increasing the funding for antimissile programs, and as to whether – as President Bush insisted – the Darkmage was an Islamic Terrorist.
Unfortunately, the White Necromancer got dragged away by his Mother for breakfast and school. He refused to shortcut through the Aztec realms of death, but Jason was waiting with a cab – and got towed along. It wasn’t like the boy really had a choice about following him. Unfortunately, getting Jason into school (and into his classes) – and catching up – meant explaining why they couldn’t be separated, which meant a trip to the nurse and a diagnosis of “superhero syndrome” for the White Necromancer, a verdict of “unsafe around other children”, a reference to alternative education funding, and the start of questioning Jason – perhaps fortunately interrupted by a supervillian attack.
Ranko got distracted by her husband’s presentation of a baby cat girl to Isakura – under an accelerated growth spell that would taper out when she was effectively about one year old… Apparently two of the pacts he’d accepted at Halloween had been for the would-be witches firstborn child – very classic she supposed – and he’d used some magic to obtain some playmates for his one-year-old son. Well, it had been before he’d read those law books, but still.
Ranko went to Japan to talk to her producer, got asked to get her husband to stop putting in stuff they had to edit out – and found that she was much better TV then the Zen group: they hesitated when confused, whereas she simply hit people. “Satan” had developed his own fan base and would be getting his own comedy special if she could get him to sign a contract – or at least a wavier – and that the fans would like more classical ninja and weapons, but that she should caution the kids at the orphanage about “imititatable behavior”.
Ranko abruptly decided that she had to finish her degree (Majoring in Psychology, Minoring in Paleontology) and set out to apply for Tokyo U – only to find out that Tokyo was overrun with minor magical beings
Meanwhile, the Chauffeur was busy compiling a list of the Nexi the Darkmage was probably controlling (Amesbury England, 3 in North America, 2 in New Mexico, and 1 in Antarctica), determining that Sedona was controlled by Red Jack, that Stonehenge had been sealed by the Night Watch, that there was a religious cult collecting power in New England, that one in Australia was being watched by a local hero and his cartoon conjurings (he left a contact link with the man), and that one in Antarctica was apparently set up as a runestone-controlled nature preserve… He was also wondering what – if anything – to do with orphanages new herd of horses – the War God had apparently decided to dump the ones with irreparable minds and had remembered that the children had been promised horses – when the call from the school nurse about the White Necromancer came in.
The rescue mission was actually fairly simple. While a surprise attack from Lazer – a thug wearing power armor and carrying a heavy military laser system (apparently simply a member of a mercenary group who all used the same name) and a followup from Robin – a slightly-crazy and easily-led werefox with psionically-enhanced strength, durability, and arrows – had been enough to take out an unprepared White Necromancer (and Jason hadn’t had a chance of course), the pair really wasn’t a match for Ranko and the Chauffeur even before they sent Robin into full-scale lunacy (they fixed it afterwards).
Session Fifteen: Castle of Black Sand: While the White Necromancer attempted to explain to his mother that he’d been expelled and that he’d be transferring to a school with a pretty minimal graduation rate and doubtful credentials (he panicked a bit and opted to simply disappear when the news that there was apparently a contract out on him caused her to faint), Ranko chased her son and his playmates across the rooftops (he’d apparently learned to transform into cat-form, and found that four legs were much more stable than two and climbed up when her roommate – thinking that they were normal cats – put them out in the yard in the absence of a litterbox). Meanwhile, The Hauntsman had been attempting to deal with the Knights of God who were out protesting “Satan” at Satan Square Gardens. Satan’s current responses included: (“Out for Tea. Satan will be back at 4″30”. Also “Satan likes French Fries” and “Satan Square Garden has poor architecture. Renovations will begin shortly”). Unfortunately, someone out there was calling up Angels of Wrath and turning them loose – and, since The Hauntsman had dispelled the demon out front “Satan” had trapped out front as an ornament, he was the only creature of Darkness in the area. Fortunately, The Hauntsman took refuge in a Church, where the Bishop of New York was discussing the problem of the crazy Satan-impostor down the street and the various (almost equally crazy) protesters he attracted. The Angel – not used to being summoned rather than being sent out with orders – was handily defeated in theological debate with the Bishop and sent along with The Hauntsman (after some fairly sharp questions about his Hounds and activities) to learn a bit of the compromises inherent in the material plane.
When the White Necromancer arrived back at the Crypt, he found that the lost child-souls were still hanging about – and had to agree with The Hauntsman: they’d waited quite long enough. Unfortunately, about that time Deathurge – who’d apparently hooked up with Dagger again – showed up. Fortunately, the various members of Dagger – while possessed of sufficient raw power to be menacing – were as incompetent as ever, despite the argument with the Angel over Necromancy and Blood Magic. The battle was relatively brief – but they did manage to send their local ghosts out to catch Deathurge and rescue his host before binding him away for awhile. If it had been another diversion, it had cost the Darkmage one of his better pawns. Still, it did inspire the group to reinforce the defenses a bit more.
Afterwards they went to pick up Ranko – rescuing her from kitchen duty – and went searching for some children’s bodies. They turned out to be in eastern europe, buried underneath a massive fortress, screened with a wide assortment of protective spells, and apparently being run by DEMON. Well, they really shouldn’t have expected to find a power nexus vacant – but normally DEMON was a lot more subtle than this. They were building an army of spirit-animated golems, preparing for some massive attack, and were teaching all of their soldiers demonic flame magic – and some of the more complex warding spells had a very familiar power signature. The damned Darkmage had probably promised to share the rulership of the Earth with them if he hadn’t simply taken over directly. Most likely DEMON was plotting behind his back in any case: groups like that were always ready to abandon any base that was uncovered – and they’d just gotten pretty blatant with their black magic. Even the local government – corrupt and bribed as it was – couldn’t ignore this kind of operation for long.
They crashed the party directly – and discovered that Jason had hitched a ride in the back seat and promptly went out in jaguar form to bodyguard the White Necromancer. Of course, he went down with the first blast, even before someone hit him with the psychic flames of death and a couple of spells designed to take out werecreatures. Fortunately, not being a true were, he wasn’t vulnerable to those. Still, the Chauffeur had to divert to hauling him back in and extinguishing him before he died. Overall, not much help. Maybe even a hindrance. If he was that strongly compelled to follow his master it was going to be a problem.Still, between the accidental summoning of The Paladin to help out with his Holy Words, the Hauntsman’s purification ritual, the Angel blasting things, the Chauffeur’s vehicle-mounted weapons, and the White Necromancer helping the spirits in the Golem Army resist their handlers, they eventually overwhelmed the DEMON forces – although it looked like some of the people in the depths got away. Still, they left enough information to direct raids against several other bases that were coordinating in an attack on Alaska. It looked like the Darkmage was still focused on getting rid of his magical opponents – but was getting more organized about it. Hopefully they’d be able to cut down on his potential resources enough before he got everything properly coordinated. The world didn’t need another Darkstorm War.
Sadly, there was nothing they could do for the people who’d been sacrificed to animate the golems but set their spirits free.
5 XP all around.