Storm Chronicles

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Matthew Surridge
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 8:57 pm

After each session in my Torg campaign I write up a detailed synopsis and send it around to the players. I've been meaning to post those here, and now I'm finally getting around to it.

I've been running the game on average once a month — less, over this past winter. It's difficult getting a group of players together, so I've got a 'group' of seven or so people and aim to get four at a table at any given time. Since the group's stories tend to sprawl a little, the first chunk of each session often involves shifting some characters offstage and shifting others back on. Also, we usually have a firm time at which one or more players has to leave, which means dramatic climaxes can end up a little squished; c'est la vie.

The first half-dozen or so sessions make a more-or-less complete arc, which I deliberately planned as a way to introduce as many different basic concepts as possible — at least a glimpse of all the different realities, some of the stock villains, a bit of an introduction to the way Reality works. Three of the players were in an oTorg campaign I ran for several years. and one's playing a new iteration of his old character. Which has made for some interesting plot points. Also: I managed to misread the Day 90 map at the start of the campaign, and somehow ended up under the impression that the Helsinki Zone was a Mixed Zone. This actually ended up being a useful misapprehension, so I'm glad it happened.

Anyway, here are the chronicles so far, one per post; comments welcome!

(The first synopsis comes from a post I wrote for Black Gate, the second part of my review of Torg Eternity; the .sig below has the link to that post, which includes game-mechanical notes.)
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

User avatar
Matthew Surridge
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 8:58 pm

Session 1: "Allies, Among Death and Witchery"

Christian Devalliere entered the catacombs of Paris warily. He’d escaped France after the invasion of the Cyberpapacy; a professor at the Sorbonne, he’d refused to name names to Pope Jean Malraux’s Church Police, and fled. Now based in Germany, he’d worked with the Resistance fighters in Paris to help set up an escape route for other academics fleeing the Church’s crackdown on “freethinkers.” But something had gone wrong for one of his good friends, Carl Sauvé; the Church Police had caught his Resistance contact, and now Carl was refusing to move unless Christian, someone he trusted, came to get him. More, Carl was claiming he had important information on a USB key about the nature of Malraux’s GodNet …

Christian strode deeper into the catacombs, past walls lined with bones. With Paris virtually under siege, nobody was tending to the catacombs, and he saw derelicts blitzed out of their minds on new designer drugs, heard two men noisily having sex down one of the dark tunnels. He came to where he was to meet Carl, a circular widening of the passage with a half-dozen slumped drunks motionless on the floor. He was early, but as he entered, one of the twitching shapes leaped up and grabbed him: Carl, unshaven, pupils dilated, panicked, on speed.

Christian tried to calm him. But then one of the drunks shrieked. Christian happened to be looking in exactly the right spot to see what was happening: bodies were stirring on the shelf-like top of the wall. Christian saw corpses covered in plant growth, vegetation knitting together putrefying flesh, fingers ending in bone claws. They dropped down to the floor, and lumbered forward. Christian retreated down a hallway as the creatures drew near. Then another figure strode into the bone-lined space, a cyberknight with the armour and insignia of Malreaux’s military order of Hospitallers. “Get them!” he cried, pointing to Christian and Carl, and the dead things moved to obey.

Elsewhere in Paris, Gaeira was a witch from Magna Verita, the home dimension of Jean Malraux and the Cyberchurch. Tired of living under his oppressive dictatorship, she’d decided to slip across the Maelstrom Bridge to Earth with the help of her coven. There, she’d been surprised to see how a world well behind her own technologically could be ahead of it socially — more open, more accepting. She’d drifted to Paris at about the same time Christian was leaving it, where she was stunned at how overtly she could practice her religion, how she could even find bookstores catering to the occult. (The books didn’t seem to do much, true, but still.) She made contact with the Resistance, helping them in some of their missions and casting minor spells. And so it went until one day she got a call on her primitive Earth smartphone from her Resistance contact: the Resistance had learned that a cyberknight had intercepted some information and was preparing an ambush for a crucial agent in the catacombs. This was happening now, and Gaeira was the only one near enough to get there …

Gaeira cast a spell to cloak herself in magical armour as she ran to the location in the catacombs she’d been given. She heard a man cry out: “Get them!” Cast another spell she began moving with an unnatural magical haste.

Ahead, Christian decided he had a few seconds before the lumbering plant-zombie-creatures reached him. Carl was running down the tunnel behind him, but he aimed at the knight carefully, drawing on the training he'd been given at the military academy he'd once attended.

Then Gaeira reached the fray, shouting behind her as a bluff: “Everyone! They’re here!” The cyberknight spun, confused. She shot him with a burst of three rounds from her Storm Surge shotgun.

A moment later Christian squeezed the trigger of his own rife. It was a good shot and should have dealt the knight a crippling blow. But — something happened, the world went a different way, and the bullet creased the knight’s skull without dropping him.

Maddened, the knight drew his sword, strode to Gaeira, swung — and Christian yelled “duck!” to the stranger who’d come to help him. She did, and the knight missed.

Elsewhere entirely: Pel was an elven bard who’d come over the bridge from Aysle to Earth. They’d followed a detachment of elves who’d joined the Army of Light directed by the Lady Pella Ardinay, which had cut through the evil things guarding the bridge between realms. Pel had never really been a part of the army; like many of the wild-natured elves, they’d accompanied the army without being truly within it. Although many of the more formal humans, with their brief lives and need to force sense and structure upon the world, had not understood that. Now Pel was exploring this world of odd wonders; they had spent most of these past weeks in the great city hight Helsinki, where the high science of Earth worked alongside the old magics of Aysle. They had found themselves a kind of familiar, who they treasured above all things, a wondrously knowledgeable spirit by name Siri, who dwelt in a prism of glass.

On this day Pel was wandering among pine forests well north of the city, where the axioms of Aysle — the ways of the world — had washed away some of those man-built things that were of Earth, and had brought forth new makings that were not new: ruins where there had been no ruins, plinths bare of statues, a crumbling wall of white stone. Pel pleased themself by flitting among the trees as elves do; and then they crested a ridge and saw below an encampment of goblins and Viking men and corpses that walked though overgrown with greenery. It was an army, encamping, preparing for some future descent upon Helsinki. At once Pel drew forth Siri and by her magic captured an image of the camp. Then they set back the way they’d come, hoping that as they’d unwittingly passed the army’s sentries once, they might do so again.

That wasn’t to be; as they went they heard a cry, and six Vikings cried to them to halt. Pel took to their heels, as behind them one of the Vikings winded a horn and the rest set out in pursuit. Pel hatched a plan …

First, Pel outran the Vikings, gaining distance. After a moment of confusion in which Pel thought they’d lost their path, they found the right direction and, racing entirely out of sight of the Vikings, made their way to the ruins they’d passed. There they cast a spell to disguise themselves as a statue. Finally, standing on a plinth, they struck a pose they hoped would fool the Vikings. A moment later the warriors blundered to the ruins, calling out to each other — “Where’d she go? Where is she?” And they moved on.

Still, other Vikings could be heard in the forest not too far away. Pel saw a small building among these ruins, and slipped inside, hoping to find a better hiding-spot. Among the flagstones, they saw a marble square with a steel ring — a trapdoor. They opened it to find a long flight of stairs deep into the earth, and descended, closing the trapdoor behind them. They aided their elven darkvision with the light of Siri as they climbed the long flight; by Siri’s timekeeping it was 34 minutes before they reached the bottom of the stairs, and there they heard a battle.

Pel slipped through the arch at the base of the stairs, and found a high hall rich in the feel of old magic. Rune-carved columns upheld a vaulted ceiling; the floor was a cunningly-patterned mosaic tile, save where a crack in the earth admitted a curling smoke of red and blue into the room. Just before that crack two figures out of legend battled. One was a dragonlike man or manlike dragon, in shape like a human but taller, winged, and in all a reptile; dragonlike, too, in the instinctive dread Pel felt upon seeing it. The other was an elf with white hair and skin so blue as to be near black. Pel had heard of such elves, a rare people known for their high magic and oracular power. As they watched, the dragon-man gained the advantage in their battle, gripping the woman’s left hand though it glowed with a magical flame and pushing it back; the dragon-thing’s other hand tightened on her right wrist, so that she nearly dropped the staff she held. The creature gave a rasping, hissing laugh: “Your soul for the Gaunt Man!” it cried.

Pel knew that name, the foul lord of evil to whom even the Dark Lord Angar Uthorion was but a servant. At once they cast the spell of Mage Hands, and though still at a distance from the combat pulled at the jaws of the thing, wrenching it back. Startled, it let go of the elf-woman, who at once struck it with fire and with red and blue lightning from her staff. The thing shrieked, and, burning, fled down one of the many tunnels branching off the high hall.

The old oracle, who named herself Krezmai, thanked Pel and named the beast she was fighting a ravagon, a hunter in the service of the Gaunt Man. Krezmai said that in exchange for the young elf’s help she would foresee for them.

Breathing deep three times of the mists arising from the floor, Krezmai said:

“You are a hero, driven on the winds of the storm of high Possibility. There is much of your future I cannot see, for you are a free agent, more than most. But I will say that in the near now, death waits above; seek a future below. You must go on, longer than you imagine, through the abysms of lands you never could have known. You must not fear to pass through doors, though they will take you far; space and distance grow confused in these vaults below the earth. When you find your quarry you will find allies, among death and witchery. You must not hesitate to flee when wickedness grows confused, and to make your way out you must go further in. You will find a sixfold path awaits; in that place there are no wrong choices, though all lead to danger; only I will tell you that to choose life is to choose a path that will take you most directly to your future — if you choose the way of the ice."

Pel followed the direction the oracle had pointed out for them. The walk was long, often through a narrow tunnel, sometimes along the side of a cliff that opened up into a vast deep dark lit by a miles-distant stream of lava. At last, after hours of walking along a path with no branching tunnels or side passages (though they felt, at times, as though there almost were tunnels, almost were other ways they might have gone, if they could have seen them to be confused by them), they came to a strange door. It was not of wood or stone but metal, and there was a metal box beside it with a glyph of a door opening. Pel pushed on that image and the door slid open. Before them stretched a long passage, pure white, lit by the harsh unblinking light of high technology; and far along it, perhaps several hundred feet away, Pel saw what looked like human bodies. They walked along, and saw that past the bodies was a wooden door in one wall and a landfall blocking the end of the tunnel. They saw blood smeared everywhere, around the bodies, upon the white glowing panels of the walls — and they saw one of the humans move, slightly.

Pel hurried forward, and tried to do what they could for the human — but it was too late. The man, who was of the ethnicity the humans called Asian, laughed; and said he had destroyed the tunnel and killed the other men, but though he was dying, he had saved his daughter, and that was all that mattered. For a moment, as Pel tried to stanch his bleeding, he seemed to grow more coherent. He pointed at the wooden door, with its black wrought-iron latch: “Do you know what’s through there?” he asked. “Hell. Hell is through there. But when you find yourself in Hell — you keep going, deeper and deeper in, until … you come out the other side.” And with that he died.

Pel searched the bodies, as by instinct, and found no gold, only the strange slick cards the Earth folk valued. Pel ignored them, and, as one does, took their weapons to resell. Some had knives of an unnatural yet non-magical sharpness, and the bard set those aside for themself. The man who had spoken to them had a Siri of his own, and when Pel touched it the glass glowed with the still image of a girl; his daughter. They put it in their backpack as well.

They faced the wooden door, beyond which lay hell. Carefully, they opened it a crack, and slipped through. Beyond was a vaulted stone room, built of heavy blocks, with low arches opening on to further darkness. Cobwebs and dust were everywhere. At the far side a set of stairs led up to another door. Before the stairs was a kind of dais, and on the dais was an elaborate black coffin. As Pel watched, the lid of the coffin began to move, as though something inside it were about to arise …

Pel raced through the room muttering “Nopenopenope,” past the coffin, up the stairs, and through the door.

On the other side they wedged the door shut with one of the knives from the hall and a skull — for the halls of the narrow passage were lined with skulls and bones. From nearby, Pel heard the sounds they’d already come to know as gunshots. Wandering to the end of the passage, where it joined in a T-shape with a much longer tunnel, a man ran into them. “Run!” he cried. “The knight’s after us!” Beyond him, Pel could see another man retreating before six of the plant-things they’d seen in the army’s camp. Beyond him …

The cyberknight turned from Gaeira, realising his true object, Carl Sauvé, was getting away. Gaeira took the chance to shoot him. He staggered, then went down. Still moving at a magical speed, Gaeira ran down the hall, shooting one of the plant-zombies as she came and running through the hole in the zombie formation left as it dropped. She feinted toward the corridor that ended in the door through which Pel had emerged, thereby confusing the zombies chasing them and fooling them into investigating the hall. Then, running on, she caught up to Christian, then to Pel and Carl, and any of the zombies still after them were left well behind.

Only, they had all run so far and so fast, downward into the earth, none of them knew where they were …
Last edited by Matthew Surridge on Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

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Matthew Surridge
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:13 pm

Session 2: "No One Leaves the Way They Came In"

As Christian ran to catch up with Pel and Carl, he heard the witch shout a Resistance code-word. Realising she was part of the Resistance he called back — and realised she’d cried out because she’d taken a wrong turn in the tunnels. He tried briefly to find her, but had no success before the gospogs shuffled into the light of his phone. Giving up, he ran on to find Pel. Carl had passed out, and Christian and Pel grabbed him and hurried on. They soon left the gospogs behind again, and when they judged the plant-things were finally lost, they set down Carl and Pel began to revive him. As they did, the two of them exchanged names and stories.

Carl soon came around, but neither he nor Christian could work out where in the catacombs they were. Carl, still jumpy, observed that it didn't look like the catacombs he knew, and began thinking out loud about the history of the catacombs, from their origin as quarries for the Romans through to the present. At his use of the word “quarry” Pel remembered the prophecy from the oracle: “When you find your quarry you will find allies, among death and witchery.” Clearly, the elf realised, that referred to the catacombs, and Christian and Carl were to be allies.

No sooner had they realised that than a strange figure emerged from the tunnel ahead of them into the light of Christian’s phone. A thin, scarred old man, Caucasian but with the grey colour of malnutrition, wearing rags, with long white hair in a fringe around an otherwise bald skull. He named them, distracted, muttering half to himself, saying: “Yes, now, yes, no, there is still time, will be time, to rescue other heroes. No. This way.” When Pel offered him food he said “No, no, this is not the time for it.” Asked his name, he said: “I am Altor, was, will be. I am a slave, we are all slaves, to time. Only still there is time, now, yes, time to save others.” He led them on into the tunnels and, seeing no better option, the three followed.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, an Electric Samurai named Toshiro took an emergency call. Toshiro had been a small-time street hustler until after the invasions. Then there came a day he saw an Electric Samurai fall to a group of Yakuza. Against his better judgement, he dragged the Samurai to safety — but found he was too late. As the samurai died, he begged Toshiro to carry out his mission. Toshiro did, using parts of the samurai’s non-functional armour to help him get past a group of jiangshi zombies. After that, others of the Electric Samurai found him and took him to their master, the son of an ancient traditional samurai family. The samurai master heard Toshiro’s story and, to the shock of the others, invited him to join the order, stating that Toshiro had the spirit of a Samurai.

So it came about that on that night Toshiro was given a mission to stop an assassination. A sniper had been hired to kill the head of a corporation, a man trying to put together an alliance of several corporations into something called the “Rauru Block,” which would resist the financial maneuverings of the Kanawa multinational. Toshiro did not understand the reason why the Samurai distrusted Kanawa — so far as Toshiro knew, Kanawa had provided the best security measures so far against the jiangshi — but, determined to incarnate the spirit of Bushido, he went to stop the killing as he was ordered.

The assassin had taken up position on one of the upper floors of a skyscraper under construction across the street from the building housing the Rauru CEO. Toshiro, in his Ion Gusoku, took the functioning elevator up to two floors below the floor across from the Rauru chief’s office; beyond the elevator core, the bare floors were open, with no walls yet in place, only thick support pillars and some wiring to temporary lights. Cautiously he climbed the stairs. The next floor was bare. On the next he saw a man flat on the floor, aiming a sniper rifle —

— and then, climbing the last stair, Toshiro brushed against an unbalanced palette of bricks, knocking a stack over and loudly announcing his presence. The assassin — in a fine suit, sunglasses (presumably with some sort of range-finding display), slicked-back hair, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth — leaped to his feet, whirling around. Recovering himself, Toshiro moved toward him, threw an offensive grenade, and ducked behind a pillar, intending to circle toward the assassin. But the sniper ducked behind a pillar himself, avoiding the grenade’s blast. As Toshiro ducked from pillar to pillar, aiming to flank the sniper, the assassin too threw a grenade — at the elevator. The explosion kicked up a cloud of dust, and Toshiro lost sight of the man.

Toshiro leapt from behind a pillar to complete his flanking move. The dust cleared — but the man was gone. Toshiro looked to the ruined elevator doors, and saw the sniper, now with his rifle on a strap around his neck, glance back to him. The assassin took out a thick flexible cable, leaped into the elevator shaft, wrapped the cable around the elevator cord, and slid down. Toshiro ran to the elevator, drawing his electric katana. He hacked through the elevator cord, but the sniper pushed off from the wall of the shaft with one foot and nimbly transferred to the back-up cable. Toshiro jumped to the back-up cable, gripping it in his gauntleted hands, and slid down himself.

At the base of the shaft the sniper dropped onto the elevator, in the building’s lowest sub-basement. He flipped open a hatch in the elevator roof, dropped through, and Toshiro could hear the ping of doors opening. Afraid that the sniper would send the elevator back up, Toshiro decided he was near enough the bottom of the shaft he could risk falling, and did. He dropped through the open shaft in the top of the elevator, hit the floor, and tucked into a roll that took him through the closing elevator doors.

Gathering himself, he staggered after the sniper. He followed the sound of the man’s footsteps into a maze of LED-lit concrete corridors, around first one corner, and then another, the footsteps growing ever fainter. Until he came to a door. Which slid open, revealing a large cave in which stood Altor, Pel, Christian, and Carl.

“Toshiro,” said Altor. “Yes. Now. You have stopped the assassin. You will not find him now, nor then. The man you needed to save you have saved. Now. Yes. There is still time to save another hero, or will be. Was and will be, now.” Altor turned away from the door and wandered down a nearby tunnel — a different one, Pel and the others knew, than the one by which he’d led them to the strange door.

Toshiro, confused, asked what was happening. Christian and Carl tried to explain what they could while Pel caught up to Altor. “Who are you?” they asked. “What are you … about? Are you from the world of Core Earth?”

“Earth, no, not then, not now,” murmured Altor.

“Are you human?”

“Human, yes … yes? … I was, or … am? I am and was and will be of the Race. Yes. No, not of Core Earth. Have I said that? Is it time to say that? Yes. It was the time … I am of the Race, of the world that was, is, that is called Tharkold.”

Meanwhile, Toshiro decided that the strange figure who knew his name was best trusted. Someone would come to investigate the noise of the grenade explosions soon, and it was therefore most likely that the Rauru executive was indeed safe. And in any case he had no idea now where to look for the sniper. If, on the other hand, it was true that Altor knew where to find other people in danger, as he had found Toshiro, then it was better for Toshiro to follow him. That decided, he and Carl and Christian followed Pel and Altor.

Altor, meanwhile, had led Pel to a wooden door. As the others gathered around, he opened it to reveal a partially collapsed vault of stone filled with chilled air. A man lay sprawled upon the stone floor, desperately raising up a brass amulet. Above him was the spectral figure of a warrior with a turban about to bring a ghost-scimitar down upon his head.

A shudder ran through each of the heroes at the sight of the phantom figure, and Christian froze as he frantically tried to understand what he saw in the room before him. Toshiro leaped to block the scimitar with his katana, but the ethereal sword passed through the katana blade with a flash of bluish and bone-white sparks, then went on to pass through the outer shell of Toshiro’s armour. Though the sword didn’t touch his flesh, it was clear the Electric Samurai could do nothing against this ghost-figure, and Toshiro retreated to stand by Altor.

Pel, meanwhile, had leaped to the fallen man and pulled him away from the ghost. “What’s happening?” they asked. “What can we do?”

“The amulet!” said the fallen man, half a shriek and half a whisper. Young, but with formidable muttonchops, he was dressed in a black, formal suit, now scuffed and dirtied.

Pel took up his amulet and brandished it at the ghost. They felt the power within it, and drew on their knowledge of magic to call the power forth. There was something not quite right to them about that magic, something not quite real, nightmarish and even hallucinatory — but the power came, and the ghost discorporated, its ectoplasm bursting and evaporating.

“Done, or will be done,” mutered Altor, walking on again.

Elsewhere, a woman named June leaned back against the side of an ancient tomb and stared up into the bright desert sky. A private investigator and adventurer from Terra, the home-world of the master criminal Doctor Mobius, she’d been hired by a rogue scholar named Maryam Mostafa to guard her as Mostafa investigated a strange new tomb complex that had appeared in the Egyptian desert. Mostafa, June had soon decided, was much as she appeared — an energetic tiny woman in a hijab and battered leather jacket, so intent on uncovering the secrets of the past that she tended to accidentally trigger the traps left behind by the ancients. Mostafa had hired June because she was worried about threats from the living world, specifically rival scholars who might try to steal her findings, so June’s work had consisted of driving out to the tomb complex with Mostafa and then absently watching the desert as an occasional rumble of stone from inside the tomb was followed by a crash and Mostafa calling back to reassure June that she was all right.

June herself had a secret. She had a secret identity as the June Bug, a heroine and crimefighter. The daughter of a brilliant scientist, a lab accident when she was a girl had given her the power to generate electricity from her hands. Years later, as a young woman, her father had been killed to get the prototype of a jet pack he’d been developing. June had taken the pack, and developed the sparks she could create into a powerful electrical weapon. Now, when the situation demanded it, she took to the skies wearing a helmet she’d cobbled together herself with a gas-mask and a binocular visor to disguise her identity. She was still seeking her father’s killers, a quest that had lately taken her across the bridge between worlds to Earth. She hadn’t gone much beyond Cairo, to this point, where gang wars were breaking out left, right, and centre.

Idly, June watched the sky, where a biplane droned across the sky. There’d been a few of those the last couple days. This one was drifting closer, though. As she watched, it dove down toward her — and opened fire with its machine guns.

June grabbed her pack and found cover just inside the tomb as the two lines of bullets tracked across the ground toward the jeep, which promptly blew to bits. As the echoes died away June realised the first plane had been joined by two others. She ran into the tomb, calling to Maryam. The archaeologist joined her as, outside, the planes landed and a voice barked orders, commanding whoever was out there to chase the woman into the tomb. June and Maryam decided to try to find a spot deeper in the tomb to hide or plan an ambush. Maryam guided June past the traps that littered the tomb, but the men chasing them weren’t slowed; the women heard behind them a grinding of rock, a crash, and a man ordering the others to pay attention to “the scroll,” which apparently was guiding them.

Maryam led June to a room far back in the tomb. Unfortunately, it was a dead end. June waited by the entrance, preparing to attack whoever was approaching, as Maryam frantically tried to manipulate a mechanism at the far side of the room. She stared at it for a moment, seemed to select something, reached out —

— and Altor screamed and reached up to his head. He tottered, muttering about time , the future, the changing future, possibilities unknown and unchosen —

— and beside him the wall of the tunnel opened; and Pel, Christian, Toshiro, and the others saw the Egyptian tomb.

(They had been walking from the ghost-haunted vault, still underground. The Victorian man was with them; he’d introduced himself as Ruthven FitzWilliam, of the Society for Resarch into the Uncanny. He’d been investigating reports of a ghost in a ruined fortress in the Himalayas, when he had fallen into the ghost’s haunt underneath the fortress. As Altor and the others showed him a way out, he eagerly followed them.)

June and Maryam ran into the tunnel as behind them the men who’d been chasing them ran into the tomb chamber: six of Pharaoh Mobius’ shocktroopers, guns drawn. They saw the heroes in the tunnel beyond, and began blasting away. Toshiro, hidden by the darkness and his armour’s chameleon plating, rushed them to take the brunt of most of the gunshots while Pel made a remarkable and nearly glorious maneuver to pull Maryam and Ruthven out of the way of the rest.

Toshiro survived being shot point blank, and attacked the shocktroopers with his sword. Christian with his trusty rifle, and June with her electrical powers, returned fire themselves. In moments there were only two troopers still standing. As they turned to flee June stunned one into unconsciousness with her electrical blasts. The other Toshiro disposed of with a grenade — which also collapsed the tomb exit.

June and Maryam had no choice but to go with the others, hurrying after Altor, who had already wandered off having ignored the entire fight. “Don't worry about it,” Toshiro advised the two women. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned with these people already, it’s that no one leaves the way they came in.”
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

User avatar
Matthew Surridge
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:24 pm

Session 3: "The Story … Is Not Over"

Tom Folton was what people were beginning to call a “realm runner.” A grad student when the wars broke out, he’d hurried back from his wanderings in South America to check on his parents in the hardpoint of Philadelphia. He got them out in the wake of a major attack by the lizardfolk called edeinos, but in the process Tom found that he was able to move back and forth from Core Earth to the new reality of the Living Land in a way most people couldn’t. And he found he enjoyed it. As the war went on, he began running missions for people, carrying messages and supplies for some of the communities resisting the attacks of the edeinos. Lately, though, he’d been moving around a bit more along the border between realities. Agents of the US government had shown up a few times trying to recruit him. They’d been perfectly nice. So far. But he didn’t trust the way things were going.

These were long-term concerns, though, not much on his mind as he drove through one of the veldt-like plains of the Living Land after completing his latest job. Instead he kept an eye on a figure flying in the sky above him, drifting closer. At first he’d thought it was a pterodactyl, but it was too large for that, and not large enough to be one of the other flying dinosaurs. In fact, as it drew closer, he thought it looked more like an edeinos with wings — but not much like that, either. Its head was too large, its movements different. And then it turned, and looked at him, and banked to follow him on his bike. And Tom remembered a story he’d heard from other realm runners, about dark hunters, cruel but intelligent creatures that sought out those who had a way with reality: dragon-men called ravagons.

Tom turned the bike and sped toward a forest canopy. The thing in the sky swooped after him. He tried to rev up the engine, to duck in among the trees at top speed — and then for a sick moment he did not understand how he was sitting on top of a fast-moving dead thing, did not understand the life he had led among some kind of tribe called “American.” The disconnection from his reality was just for a moment, just enough to slow down, just enough for the ravagon to draw close. Desperate, Tom planted a foot down and slewed the bike around, ducking under the ravagon as it sliced through the air overhead. Tom gunned the engine and blasted back out from under the trees. Up ahead he saw some low hills, and a crevice that seemed to offer shelter.

About two months before this, as the Army of Light prepared to set out to defend Core Earth against the forces of the dark sorcerer Angar Uthorion, a small group of barbarians from the Cold Reaches joined the expedition to the Otherworld. Among them was a grizzled warrior named Rhulan Marder. He had been in his life a reaver and a slayer. He had lived well, but at times it seemed to him he had lived twice; for he sometimes was visited with memories of another life, in which he was a great hero who fought the evils of strange realms in a conflict called the Possibility Wars. Now, greataxe in hand, he went to the fray alongside many younger men seeking glory, and for him this was simply what it was right to do.

They joined the army of the High Lady Pella Ardinay in a great underground chasm lit by massive torches. But as all the others prepared to march to the Otherworld called Earth, different orders came to the barbarians: they were to take a another path, to find a spiral castle, and take their post there to defend the place. “To defend wizards,” growled the barbarian captain to Rhulan. But Rhulan pondered on the familiar sound of this Earth, this world he seemed to know. This land in which, he thought, perhaps, he had fought long before.

They made their way through the underground to a kind of bubble in the earth, where a waterfall crashed down to the floor of a vast cavern, and a castle rose from an island in the middle of the waters: a twisted spiral tower, with other spirals projecting out to all sides. It was built of a dark stone that glinted red and blue. Inside, the barbarians found the wizards — only for a horde of the goblinlike humanoids called Lurks to emerge from the tunnels around them and attack the castle. For the next two months, the barbarians fought alongside the wizards against the Lurks and the mysterious cloaked mages that commanded them. Slowly, one by one, the barbarians fell. Until one of the wizards, weary almost beyond endurance, came to Rhulan. Valariast was his name, and he said he had a special mission for the barbarian.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Tom drove his bike through the narrow crack in the hillside. The ravagon, right behind him, had to stop. Tom got off the bike to push forward into the dark. The tunnel led on — but then there was a great crash behind him, and he turned to see the ravagon had clawed a massive boulder out of the hillside and opened a way for it to go forward after him. As Tom looked, it raised a claw and pointed at him: Tom felt a sense of dread, a piercing to his soul, as though something in him were marked. He staggered back, and the ground collapsed under him.

The sudden spill of earth took the bike away from him and dropped him down into the darkness far from the ravagon. He fell one way, then another, down a steep near-vertical slope, barely able to keep himself from plummeting, then stumbled into a small narrow tunnel. Taking out his phone, he scrambled on by its light, away from vague sounds behind him he feared were the ravagon pursuing him. The tunnel he crawled through led to another, that to another, that on to another — all of them downward. Every tunnel he tried that led upward curled around to descend again sooner or later. And always behind him he heard the scraping sound of claws on rock.

It was about this time, and not so far away, that June and Maryam ran after Altor, demanding to know who he was and what was happening. As always, Altor muttered to himself: “Now. Time, yes, soon, will be. Now.” And he kept walking forward. Carl Sauvé explained the situation to the two women and, seeing little alternative, they decided to continue with the little group. But it wasn’t long after that when all the wanderers under the earth felt themselves cross between worlds with a single step, as Altor led them to a fork in the endless tunnel. He went right, but Christian froze, caught up in a precognitive vision. He took Pel's shoulder and said that they could go to the surface and use their Siri to pass on word of the army they’d seen gathering near Helsinki. He led the elf down the left passageway as the others went along to the right.

In the Spiral Castle, Valariast said to Rhulan: “Your people fight bravely.”

“While they breathe they will fight,” said Rhulan.

“I fear they will not breathe long,” said the wizard. “No, not long at all. You must go. We will send you to the world called Earth. We cannot be sure where you will emerge. You must seek Pella Ardinay, or Tolwyn of House Tancred. Tell them we have held as long as we could. But the castle will be lost. If they wish to retreat, they must do so soon, or the way will not be clear. We have done … everything we could. You must find them. They are in a place called ‘England,’ though what manner of beast an ‘Eng’ is I know not. Find them.” Rhulan nodded. The wizard looked at him speculatively. “Do you know why we are sending you?” he asked. “— Here. Here is an amulet that will identify you to Ardinay. They will know you for our messenger.” The wizard brought him to a chamber with several robed mages, on the floor a magic circle ringed with runes that glowed with an eerie light. Rhulan stepped into the circle, and the world faded away from him.

On Earth, Tom scrambled through a narrow near-horizontal shaft that opened suddenly onto a larger tunnel crossing at a diagonal up and down. Stepping out of the tunnel, intent on the sounds from behind him, he almost stepped into two other people — one an armed man, apparently from Core Earth, the other an elf. Tom had never seen an elf before, but had seen videos brought out of Aysle. He froze for a moment as they avoided him, then as though to ask him something — just as the ravagon began to emerge from the tunnel. Tom instinctively scrambled back and away, and again felt the ground give way. He had enough time to see the ravagon glance down at him and then turn up, pursuing the other two. Then once again Tom had to concentrate on managing his scramble down the near-vertical slope as rocks fell all around him. In the end he reached a horizontal floor, and paused for a moment, gathering himself in the darkness.

Close by, Altor paused as a glowing circle appeared on the floor of the tunnel before him. He did not seem surprised. June pushed Maryam behind her as Ruthven, intrigued, stepped forward. Toshiro paused and let his armour blend into the shadows. Carl took a step back. In the circle, a human form appeared: a grizzled barbarian warrior with a massive two-headed axe. “Now. Yes,” said Altor, satisfied.

“Fascinating,” murmured Ruthven. “Occult teleportation across … dimensions? Sir, I greet you. I am Ruthven FitzWilliam, of the Society for Research into the Uncanny.” The massive warrior remained silent, glaring at him. “Who may you be?” ventured Fitzwilliam.

“Pella,” growled the barbarian. “Tolwyn.”

“Hello, uh, Pella,” said June.

“This En … Enga … Engaland?” demanded the barbarian

“England?” repeated Ruthven. “No sir, it is not.”

“Where?” asked Rhulan. Ruthven pointed down the hall toward Altor, who had begun to walk on once again.

“In that direction, I suppose,” he said. “At least, that man is the only one who seems to know a way forth from these tunnels.”

While they had been talking, Carl Sauvé had heard something echoing nearby. He wandered back down to were the passage had split, and found Tom, sitting on the ground at the base of the rockfall. “Ah,” said Carl. “A man who looks normal. You’re from Earth, yes?” Tom acknowledged he was, and in response to Carl's questions, said that he’d seen Pel and Christian up above, chased by a lizard creature. He asked Carl if there was a way out, and Carl said that they were following a man who seemed to know a way … somewhere. As it was clear that Pel and Christian could not return by the way they'd left, which was now a steep cliff, Carl and Tom, seeing no better choice, joined the group which was now moving on.

It wasn’t long at all before Altor brought them to a ladder. He led them upwards, his skinny frame scrambling with surprising energy. It was a long climb up a shaft of something that looked like concrete — slick, oddly smooth, dark concrete. After sixty metres or more of climbing, the shaft ended at a strange circular space. The circle, maybe ten metres around, was the centre of a four-way junction of large passageways. Each passage had shoulders five feet or so up, resembling sewer tunnels or a subway station; everything made of the same slick concrete, but fallen into pieces from long disuse, the roof cracking, chunks of concrete here and there with lengths of twisted rebar sticking out (and yet not like the mass-constructed lengths of steel of Core Earth, but an unknown metal twisted into oddly skeletal-like shapes). Every visible surface was carved with glyphs and symbols and magic writing in unknown and disturbing alphabets. The tunnels ended maybe ten metres or so beyond the circular intersection, and they could see the night sky and dark mountains beyond.

As Maryam and Ruthven began to examine the writing, Toshiro climbed up onto the shoulders in the circular room, Carl sat by the open shaft and lit a joint, Rhulan wandered down one of the projecting tunnels, and June and Tom went along another all the way to where the tunnel had collapsed. Where the floor ended was a fifty-metre fall to the floor of a mountain valley. Another similar tower seemed to be on the other side of the valley from the structure they stood in. Between the two buildings was what looked like a ruined village of some kind. There were a few lights, here and there, and maybe ten or twelve buildings standing — all constructed from the same unyielding brutalist concrete, all massive and brooding, all made up of angles that were oddly wrong, that should not fit each with the other.

Which was when they heard Maryam cry out: “Wait, what are you doing?”

They turned. Altor had pressed a splayed hand against one of the signs etched into the concrete. The stone had given way, opening five receptacles into which his fingers fit. There was a whir like a dentist’s drill and the ends of his fingers were shredded. He smiled, tears running down his face, as a ball of crackling energy began to manifest in the air above the opening to the shaft. Rhulan at once leapt to the attack, jumping to the sphere of light swinging his axe. He disappeared, but as he entered the light, it faded and a shape fell backward out of it. A shape that spread its wings and landed with a thump that seemed to shake the whole of the tower. It was a technodemon, ten feet tall, that glared around at all of them and growled “Pav scuts.

It grinned then, and bellowed “Kneel, monkeys!” At the menace of the thing Carl Sauvé fainted. The others all felt a shudder run through them at the sense of dread the thing instilled, the sense of wrongness that was all around it. In place of its left hand was a writhing mass of chains like a whip. One of its eyes was gone, and a mass of shining circuitry surrounded the socket. Toshiro threw a grenade at the thing. It barely noticed. Tom ran forward, shooting almost at random, hoping to confuse it; he succeeded in distracting it enough for June to hit it with a blast of her electro-rays.

The electricity caught it in its head, stunning it. It pointed at June, and the barrel of a cybernetic blaster rifle burst through the skin of its arm, firing a ray of heat that barely missed the heroine as she took to the air dodging frantically. Toshiro, aiming more carefully, hit the creature with another grenade; and then Tom, grabbing one of the lengths of rebar, stuck the metal through the leathery skin of the demon’s wings. Before the creature could turn on him, June taunted it: “What’s the matter? Can’t you catch a flying monkey?” Enraged, the demon charged her — but she dodged easily out of its way, so it ran off the edge of the tunnel. And that was when it understood the rebar stuck through its wings kept it from flying. June and Tom watched it hit the ground — and heard a cry from behind them as far below the demon stood, unhurt by the fall, and began to trot off to the tower at the far side of the valley.

Behind them, Altor had fallen as the demon hit the ground. The others gathered round him as he looked up, still gently smiling, for once coherent. “I was its thrall,” he gasped. “It transferred its wounds to me. It’s all over now, over for me. This was always going to happen. Always. I knew. I’m a … precognitive. That’s why they keep us, why they take us as slaves. We have our mind powers … I knew this would happen, all this. It made me see … it changed me, made my mind always look ahead … I have been unstuck in time, unsure when I was. Now time’s ending, for me … it made me free it. But the story … is not over …”

So saying, Altor died.
Last edited by Matthew Surridge on Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

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Matthew Surridge
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Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:41 pm

Session 4: The Demon Ruins

Pel and Christian fled the ravagon up the tricky slope, stones sliding away under their feet as the dark hunter rose up after them. A boulder fell out from under Christian’s feet; he tumbled into a nearby tunnel leading down into the darkness. The ravagon — which Pel recognised, now, as the creature they’d seen before — told Pel: “I will know you,” and then turned to pursue Christian. Christian yelled “Keep going!” to the elf and fled deeper into the tunnels. Pel took him at his word, and made their way up the slope.

They emerged through a large sewer system on to what seemed a Core Earth city street — and which also seemed something else entirely. The castle-like sky-scraping towers were covered in vines. While most of the men and women on the street were normal humans, a few were built more heavily, their bones thicker, their clothes rags. Pel withdrew into an alley and used their familiar, Siri, to speak with their friend Lena. Quickly, they told Lena about the army north of Helsinki, and sent Lena the picture they’d taken (after Lena instructed them on the right commands to use to make Siri do their bidding). Pel also learned how to use Siri to tell them where they were: in a place called Jacksonville, Florida, in a Mixed Zone where both Living Land and Core Earth axioms worked. It was at about this time, as Lena ended the call to spread the word about the Army of Dark, that Pel heard gunfire. Looking out into the street, she saw a gigantic creature crashing into one of the glass towers, one of the creatures called ‘dinosaurs’ that were so like dragons with the minds of dumb animals. It was enraged by men in green uniforms attacking it with gunfire. Pel turned to flee …

… while, elsewhere, Maryam Mostafa, trying to understand the weird technology of the place where she and the group had been led by Altor, slid a stone in its housing within a sigil etched in the concrete. And the realm runner Tom vanished, and Pel appeared along with the cyberwitch Gaeira, who had been wandering the barren tunnels under the earth. Ruthven FitzWilliam observed that Mostafa had activated a device that had sacrificed one to retrieve two, in occult terms a good bargain; he could not say where Tom had gone, but two people had been retrieved according to some occult principle of sympathy: two recent acquaintances.

After some discussion and explanations the group decided to descend to the strange ruins below, and search for the technodemon they’d fought. June Bug lowered them one by one, and as she did two voices called to them from the village beyond, seeking their help. The group set out through the ruins of an occult prison; as they went June found a gizmo like a handheld net cannon that she gave to Gaeira, who seemed most comfortable using the strange piece of technology. The group also found bodies from a number of cosms — Nile shocktroopers, Ayslish lurks. Then they came to two large buildings, one built of strange twisting spires, another of human bones. A man in the uniform of a high official of the Nile Empire came to stand in the doorway of the spiring building on their left hand. In the doorway of the other building were two cyberpriests, one in black, one in the pure white and silver robes that Gaeira recognised as belonging to the Ordo Malleorum — an order of cyberpriests dedicated to studying the occult in order to use the black arts to destroy witches.

In a fractious three-way conversation, the group learned that there were pain-screens around the buildings keeping the inhabitants inside. The Nile official, an engineer named Hemon, and the cyberpriests had sought shelter in their respective buildings in the middle of firefights with various other forces in the ruined prison-city. Hemon believed he knew how to shut off the pain-fields, and promised to reward the group if they listened to him. The cyberpriests offered to aid in the fight against the technodemon. But when a cry from another building reached them, June went to investigate. She found a building that looked liked an insect’s eye, and just within the bounds of a pain-field a heavily tattooed woman. The woman, who named herself Sharp, said she and her allies (men named Blind-eye, Bright Boy, and Sterret) were scavengers of the waste beyond the city. She said they’d come to the city because they were sure they knew where “the good stuff” was hidden. She offered to give a cut to June and whoever else would help them get free. June said they were trying to track down and destroy a technodemon. Sharp looked at her in bafflement and asked “Why?

June left the scavengers to return to the rest of the group, but after a little more discussion with Hemon and the cyberpriests the sound of an explosion further on in the ruins drew their attention. They ran past three more buildings to find another belt of ruins, with two more structures between them and the far tower they’d seen from the tower where they’d fought the demon; the second tower, they noticed, was now surrounded by a nimbus of strange black energy, distinct against the stars. A quick search turned up evidence that the explosion had been a Core Earth grenade. And it drew a shout from one of the buildings behind them, where it turned out the Vice-President, Special Operations, Kanawa Saint Petersburg was imprisoned. Toshiro presented himself as a Kanawa agent and had a brief conversation, interrupted by another grenade. June, at the moment engaged in an aerial reconnaissance, saw the explosion but saw no sign of anyone who’d set it off. The Kanawa VP, meanwhile, warned Toshiro that someone else was free in the ruins.

Investigating the second explosion, the group found a strange object, a rod a little shorter than a baseball bat, made of a kind of stone or crystal covered with writhing green-and-orange quasi-luminescence. The group decided to investigate the remaining structures standing in the prison city; in a pit holding a structure built of a chitinous material they found a group of Edeinos warriors who claimed to have been sent to explore the prison-city by Baruk Kaah himself. In another structure they found an Ayslish wizard, the left side of his body dead, his right living. He mocked them, incidentally mentioning that the city was a mix of prison and dumping-ground where the Tharkoldu disposed of their unwanted experiments and all the summoned creatures they could not banish. At the same time Pel began a conversation, spoken at first and then psychic, with an unseen entity who claimed to be from Core Earth and who said he had been drawing their attention with the grenade blasts. The man told them that the rod was a crucial part of the Decay Engine, the machine the technodemon was trying to rebuild. He also told Pel that he was free, not trapped behind a pain screen, but that something else was free as well. His words were soon cut off in a scream of pain.

Meanwhile, after the Ayslish wizard Ethriast mentioned that possibility-rated entities from each of the different realms had been summoned to the city, Toshiro was trying to work out who else was present. He counted off each of the realms they’d encountered so far — who was left? As he did this, the fog built; and, at his question, stepping out of the fog came a man in a rich black suit, a red rose in his lapel, wearing a cape lined with red silk. He was pale-skinned, with a pronounced widow’s peak. “Of course,” said Ruthven. “The pain screens only activated when someone living entered them, trapping them in the building. But someone who wasn’t living wouldn’t be trapped at all. Would he?”

A fight began with the creature, a vampire who identified himself as Victor Manwaring. Pel tried to cast a spell that would give themself and Ruthven magical armour: “Don’t do anything reckless,” they said and gave him a kiss — but the spell, greater than Tharkold’s Magic Axiom could support, failed to work and, briefly, Pel felt themself become like a feral creature of Tharkold.

Ruthven for his part attacked the vampire with his magical amulet, branding the vampire’s chest. Manwaring turned into mist, and June taunted him for turning to fog. “The game will be played at a time of my choosing,” he insisted, but Toshiro named him a coward and this taunt drew Manwaring’s ire. He appeared in front of Toshiro, and Gaeira wielded the net-launcher to bind the vampire to the armour-clad samurai. An electric burst produced a gratifying scream, but at the same time the technodemon launched itself from the tower nearby, flying to the first tower.

Gaeira, who had taken up the green-and-orange rod in a bag, remembered where it would fit in the stone glyphs of the first tower. Ruthven, hearing this, said he believed he knew its principles of operation. June Bug carried him and the rod to the tower, the weird science of her jetpack somehow supercharged by the energies of the rod or of the occult energies of the Tharkoldu: she and Ruthven were across the city in a blink, June dodging the demon in a stunning display of aerial acrobatics as she dropped Ruthven in the tower. He set the rod in its place and a wave of force spread out across the city, leaving the psychic voice saying “You weren’t supposed to do that …”
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

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Matthew Surridge
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:58 pm

Session 5: "To Go Forward Or To Die"

Tom Folton wandered the underground tunnels in which he’d found himself ever since Maryam had unintentionally activated the occult device in the Tharkoldu tower. Then he reached an intersection and saw a light coming toward him: the light of Christian Devalliere’s cell phone. The two quickly spoke, Christian warning Tom that a Ravagon was pursuing him. They hurried on together, through the ominous silence of the underground, through dark abysms opening on first one hand and then another. Until they reached a wooden door with black iron hinges; and they opened it, cautiously, to find a chamber with stone walls, cobwebs, torches, a cask, a skeleton in jester’s clothes, and no other way out. The door slammed shut behind them; Tom began to light torches, to see in which direction the smoke would flow. But with the third torch he took from a bracket, a section of the stone wall opened, revealing a spiral stairway.

The two of them climbed the stairs, which led higher and higher up, to end at another wooden door. They opened that one to find a large room filled with clocks and clockwork, steam-driven mechanisms of various sorts, and huge alchemical alembics. And a man at the far end, tall, black-clad, and gaunt. At a mere look he inspired them with fear; yet he invited them to enter his home of Illmound Keep, freely and of their own will. Tom asked if they really had a free choice, and the Gaunt Man assured them that they always had a choice; even if the choice was only to go forward or to die.

They entered the room and had a conversation with the Gaunt Man, who openly claimed to be the cause of the invasions of Core Earth. He explained that he was a kind of scientist, fascinated by fear and by those who thought they could resist it. Accordingly, he ran experiments as the chance arose. Tom, who had wandered to a window through which he could observe the jungles of India and feel the heat of the night, observed that the past 24 hours of his life had been a constant fear with peaks and valleys. To which the Gaunt Man said “You, sir, are beginning along the path of wisdom; what else is life, after all, but a journey through fear?”

The Gaunt Man then presented them with a choice. He indicated two doors. Through one they could return to their old lives, such as they were; Tom to his parents, safe and sound, Christian to his life in Paris. Through the other, they might save the heroes they had met from a terrible death outside of all reality. If they did not take that door, then the heroes would surely die, but they themselves would not suffer; they had their chance instead to go back to the lives they’d always known. Tom and Christian chose the door to the heroes in a city outside of reality, what the Gaunt Man called the City of Shackles. As they crossed to the door the Gaunt Man called out “Parok!” and the ravagon that had been chasing the two of them entered the room. The Gaunt Man nodded to it, and said no more would be required of it that night — “but perhaps you will all meet again in the future.” With a last look, Tom and Christian passed through the door …

In the City of Shackles, after activating the device, Ruthven was thrown back into June as a wave of energy washed across them and out to the edges of the city. June struggled to keep conscious and aloft as they were pushed out of the tower; she was briefly above the city, almost pulled away from it by some force of darkness in what had once been a sky. For now they, and the city, were suddenly in a strange other realm where there was no sky, no stars or moon, only a weird black void that pulled at June and the semi-conscious Ruthven, who gripped tight his mystic amulet. June drove her pack at full power back downward, toward her friends in the ruins at the far side of the city. At first her flight was terribly slow; then she pulled away from the void beyond the city and was pulled by something like gravity; then she slowed again, reaching the ground, as though by some force of raw possibility that had drawn her directly to the others. Each of them were sprawled unconscious on the ground, and June and Ruthven collapsed beside them, barely noticing that Pel and Gaera had not been pulled into this otherspace.

It was at that moment that Tom and Christian stepped out of nothing to join them. Christian began speculating on the Gaunt Man’s motives as the others began to stir and wake. The heroes shared their stories — then paused as they heard automatic weapons fire from across the city, in the general direction and distance of the building housing the cyberpriests. As they debated what to do, a weird green light began to shine from the tower where they fought the techno-demon, followed by flickering orange lightning, and then black light wreathing about the whole. June flew up into the sky to see what was happening to the cyberpriests, and saw muzzle flashes from a gunfight — and spotted a Nile Empire shocktrooper cautiously making his way toward the battle. More disturbing, though, was what she saw above her: a writhing in the darkness of the sky like a swarm of some kind, creatures pressing against some protective membrane, trying to force their way into the city.

June rejoined the others and they debated their next move: investigate the attack on the cyberpriests, or find cover for themselves? They elected to seek cover at the demonic structure that had housed the vampire Manwaring (himself mysteriously absent since they had woken). But as they moved toward it, a dark shape flew down to them: evidently the first creature had broken through the sky. Christian shot it, Toshiro blasted it with a grenade, June zapped it with her electricity; it kept coming. It looked like a bat-winged human shape with devil’s horns, entirely black and faceless — yet something drew it onward, toward Tom, the most accomplished manipulator of reality among the group.

As most of the group fled toward the structure seeking shelter, Toshiro placed himself in the way of the thing’s attack. It ignored smoke pellets Toshiro dropped to confuse it, and lashed out at Tom only to strike Toshiro instead, due to his cunning maneuver — and though it did little physical damage, it tore a kind of possibility from Toshiro, as though the potentiality was draining from his world. June flew in at top speed and grabbed Tom as Christian took careful aim. As Toshiro fought the demonic thing, Christian pulled the trigger and flattened the creature. Toshiro hurried to join the others in the shelter they’d found — but stopped when he heard a voice calling for “Kagawa.” It was the name he’d given to the Kanawa operatives.

Toshiro called back, urging them to stay put, and found cover. He froze, allowing his armour to hide him. Kuznetsov, the VP of Special Operation of Kanawa St. Petersburg, called back that this was not possible as they were under attack by demonlike entities. He and his agent were seeking cover, and believed the structure ahead of them was their best option. They proceeded to the building where the rest of the heroes were waiting. A brief discussion ended with Kuznetsov pledging to reward the group in exchange for asylum, which was grudgingly granted. Meanwhile, Toshiro felt a sword at his neck. Appearing around him was the Aylish wizard, Ethriast, and the Lurks who were his minions. Ethriast ordered Toshiro to take them to whatever sanctuary his friends had found — and as Toshiro complied, faceless demons arrived and tore into the Lurks. Toshiro and Ethriast hurried to the demon structre, arriving just ahead of the demons. The heroes slammed the door shut, and Tom locked it with a drop of his blood that established what a computer voice called a “DNA seal.”

The room they were in was a small atrium with a long corridor leading away. A grate under their feet revealed what seemed to be a torture chamber below, with dead bodies impaled on hooks in the walls. Light came from strips of something like purple-indigo neon. The group discussed their next move; Ehtriast surrendered at once, and pledged to help them find some way out. Toshiro explained to the Kanawa agents that he was a Kanawa Corporation operative in deep cover.

They discussed the meaning of the Gaunt Man’s intervention, and what their ultimate plan should be. They agreed that it was important to kill the technodemon, but beyond that? Ethriast recounted a legend of the creation, saying that all things came of conflict between Creation and Entropy; the High Lords, he said, were agents of Entropy, but the demons outside — and the place-beyond-places they were in, an Entropic Vortex — suggested the technodemon was operating at some level even beyond the High Lords. “He’s going over the High Lords’ heads to their supervisor?” asked a startled Kuznetsov.

The group decided to explore down the hall, hoping to find a way out or at least a computer terminal that might hold records or answers. Toshiro and Kuznetsov’s bodyguard were in front and Maryam behind them trying to find traps. They passed two closed doors; they failed to get into one (the numeric keypad by the door turned into a mass of saw blades and drill bits seeking to extract blood) and continued on to a large room filled with spiderwebs — and a computer terminal at the far side. Maryam suggested throwing an inanimate object into the room, and Christian threw in a torch he’d picked up in Illmound Keep.

The stick of wood was trisected as it fell across the threshold. Closer inspection found a web of monofilament cables strung across the door, and as they realised this a fist-sized chrome spider emerged from the masses of webs. Ethriast tried to destroy the webs in the doorway, but more spiders appeared as the heroes shot at the one they saw. A grenade from Toshiro scattered one of the masses of webs and revealed a swarm of the creatures. The heroes retreated quickly down the hall, Kuznetsov spectacularly covering their retreat with pinpoint bursts of fire from his submachine gun. Tom desperately tried to open the other door in the hall, eventually giving the pad a drop of his blood to allow it determine a DNA match to the blood that had sealed the outer door.

Inside the room was a lab very like a morgue, with bodies on slabs and another computer terminal at the far side. Some of the human bodies were partially crystallised; others had been torn open from the inside. Small flakes of crystal fluttered in the sky like motes of dust in sunlight through an old window. Everyone put cloths around their faces and entered the room, keeping their hands in their pockets as much as possible.

Tom tried to access the computer, accessing a confused face on the screen — a demon’s skull that demanded a chip. After a quick search he found a microchip embedded in cyberware in one of the corpses. He pulled it out and tossed it to Christian as the corpse sat up. Toshiro attacked the thing, which merely looked at him as he drove his sword deep into its shoulder. Meanwhile Christian plugged in the chip, and found himself psionically drawn into a virtual-reality world of a bright grid of light against utter dark; a cathedral of bones sprang from the grid, rising far above his head to an architecturally impossible height. Before the altar was the demonic skeleton, which demanded freedom. Christian, pondering how once again it came about that there was always a choice, struck a deal with the thing, giving it access to his cell phone, which it could use to transfer its consciousness to some broader system as soon as Christian found one …
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

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Matthew Surridge
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Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:25 pm

Session 6: Strife's End

When Gaeira had seen the wave of force emanating from the demon’s tower, what had happened was this:

Recalling a spell she had been studying to create magic portals, she instinctively summoned it to mind and began to try to cast it to avoid the approaching shockwave, which was disrupting the demon city from its connection to the world. She knew the spell was far beyond her, and yet it seemed her only escape, hopeless as it was. But beside her was Pel, who was reconnecting to the magic-rich reality of Aysle even as the wave billowed out from the tower, and in connecting creating a kind of reality storm surge. In the chaos of magic and reality, the spell found a kind of power source. Gaeira opened a portal, and she and Pel fell into it.

The passage was painful, and far longer than the spell was supposed to take. Rather than simply stepping through the portal to another place nearby, the two of them felt stretched and tested and, finally, deposited again somewhere neither had ever seen. Somewhere they could sense was within Core Earth. Gaeira collapsed at once into near-unconsciousness, only dimly aware of her surroundings. Pel, whether because they were an Elf or because they were from Aysle and thus more attuned to magic, or both, was much less affected. They looked around, wide-eyed.

They were in an underground chamber, clearly very old, and built of ancient bricks and carefully-laid stone, unlike most of the subterranean passages they had seen of late. In the large room were statues and tapestries against the wall and curious monuments and cunningly-wrought lamps. These things were mostly coloured red and blue. The tapestries bore representations of storm clouds. The lights of the lamps were flowers growing from trees of copper and blue steel. Spheres of glass held imperfections like stars, matching icons in the tapestries of starry spheres. All these things seemed to hold terrible symbolic power within them, as though the visible concretisation of some legend from old time.

Pel saw that they and Gaeira stood on a stone floor etched with a circle with runes about it, like a wizard’s summoning circle; and in the circle with them was a man, a tall slender albino with long white hair. “Who are you?” Pel demanded.

“I’m Jack,” said the albino. “I’m Jack Champion. You know me. You heard my voice.” He was the mysterious speaker Pel had heard earlier, in the city. But he did not understand why Pel and Gaeira were there with him now. He had used his magic to pull himself back to this place — but them?

Pel explained that Gaeira had cast a spell that had brought them to the chamber, and Champion deduced that a magic feedback and linked their spell and his own magic. “But then,” said Pel, “where are we now?” For a moment Jack was evasive; and then, from a passage nearby, came two men dressed like knights, bearing swords and guns: they were in full helmets, and wore armour of what Pel recognised as the strange Earthly substance named Kevlar, though it was worked into the shape of fluted plate armour. With them was a woman, a tall, plump woman in a blue gown, a red cloak, and a blue veil over her face.

‘At last,’ Pel thought to themself, ‘someone in this strange reality who dresses sensibly.’ The woman identified herself as the Adept of Storms. She chastised Jack Champion for various unspecified failures, and in response to Pel’s question asked them if they were prepared to be a hero. If not, they would be blindfolded and left, safe but alone, on a city street from which they could find their way home. If yes, they would have the chance to return to their friends in the demon city and try to save all the worlds of the Possibility Wars. Pel said yes — as did a groggy Gaeira.

The two of them were outfitted with various gear as the Adept explained who they were: the Eleutherarchs, a secret society founded hundreds of years ago by a woman who called herself Gloria Tempestas. A kind of mystic, she journeyed to the City at the Heart of All, called sometimes Cynosure, or Tanelorn, or the Forever City. There, she was enlightened, and returned to found the Eleutherarchs, who were dedicated to exploring the nature of reality itself and preparing for the coming of a great evil that would wage a war against the world to become the godlike being called the Torg. That war was now upon them.

Jack Champion, an agent of the Eleutherarchs, had been sent to Russia to investigate some minor fluctuations of reality. Now something much worse had happened, and the city they the three of them had come from had been ripped away from reality; it both existed and did not exist. The masters of reality among the Eleutherarchs feared that an opening to the Void had been made, which might mean the end of all things. Pel, Gaeira, and Jack would have to return, find the device that had caused this, kill the demon that had made the device, and then undo whatever the engine had done.

Pel asked if the Eleutherarchs had any holy items that they could use against the powerful demon. The Adept brought them to a glass case holding a sheathed two-handed sword. She told them its story: decades ago, the Eleutherarchs had communicated with a spirit in the space between the worlds. That spirit, a woman warrior, had aided them in a great battle then waging all across the Earth; she had sent them her sword. That was the sword she looked at — which she recognised as the blade Strife’s End, called the Maelstrom Blade, the legendary weapon of the human knight Tolwyn of House Tancred who a century ago had disappeared from Aysle in battle with the terrifying dragon called the Carredon. Since the end of the war on Core Earth, the Second World War, it had never allowed itself to be used. Pel could try again now; and when she did, the sword allowed itself to be lifted, and drawn, and Pel had an empathic sense of connection as the sword accepted them as its bearer.

Pel and Gaeira selected other weapons they thought their friends might use. Jack Champion, meanwhile, somewhat against his will took a weapon himself to fight the great demon, a familiar artifact kept for him by the Eleutherarchs: a black gun etched with glowing red runes. The Adept then brought all of them to another underground chamber, where they saw a beautiful crystal like a red and blue gemstone in the shape of an axle and two wheels. The Adept named it Rota, the First Wheel, which had been brought by Gloria Tempestas from the Forever City. Rota was, the Adept explained, a powerful item called an Eternity Shard. It could power the portal spell, and allow the three heroes to return to the demon city. Gaeira cast her spell as Pel reached out to the Shard with their spirit and sense of reality. Possibilities opened to them; again the spell came clear in Gaeira’s mind; and the portal opened.

Outside of reality, the barbarian Rhulan was struggling against Ahravoth, demon lord of entropy. When Rhulan had leaped into the flash of light, he had disrupted the demon’s corporeal manifestation on Core Earth. Now he faced the greater part of the demon lord’s essence, battling it outside of space and time. If he had been only an aging barbarian of the Cold Reaches he would have been overwhelmed at once. But somehow he had become a part of something larger: another version of himself, one who had fought the long Possibility Wars of some other world elsewhere in the Infiniverse, and had grown mighty in Honour and Reality, enough to face the Duke of Hell in battle.

But even this greater Rhulan could not win a final victory alone. The part of Ahravoth that had made it through, the part the heroes had fought earlier and that had activated the machine that had torn the City of Shackles away from reality, that avatar of the demon lord was still free, and was clearing the way for the Void, the primal essence of entropy, to destroy everything. Until Rhulan noticed another portal opening, a tunnel through extradimensional space from Earth to the City of Shackles. Quickly, he realised that he could send an avatar of himself through that portal — the piece of Rhulan that belonged to this iteration of the Possibility Wars. That Rhulan could destroy the demon’s machine. And so this was what Rhulan did.

And as for those heroes still in the City itself:

As Christian turned from the terminal in the wall, holding up his phone, the lights flickered and then came back on — but the light had turned a strange, nameless colour. Toshiro saw that no-one around him was moving. Except something strange was happening to his armour. A voice in his ear, echoing with baleful subsonics, whispering like a creature of hell, muttered about the primitiveness of the armour. After a few seconds it told Toshiro that it was Necronidus, a demon killed and forced into the Grid, the cyberspace of the Tharkoldu; it was a kind of undead AI. It had made a deal with Christian, but had fooled him.

Christian had agreed to carry Necronidus on his phone until it could find a larger system to it. Which Necronidus did at once, knowing that the electric samurai’s armour would fit it at least a little bitter than the tiny primitive cell phone. Necronidus explained that it intended to continue its existence, which necessitated the destruction of Ahravoth. That in turn necessitated getting Toshiro safely out of the building, which was now being overrun by the Void Wraiths the heroes had briefly fought outside. Luckily, Necronidus had access to the mysterious experimental devices the demons had created in the City of Shackles, and had triggered a machine that caused a surge in the Magic Axiom of the building — which then had allowed him to activate another item, freezing time in the demon’s torture chambers. It guided Toshiro out of the building, to where it sensed a portal (perhaps drawn by the fluctuation Necronidus had caused in reality) appearing.

Toshiro watched as Pel, Gaeira, Jack, and Rhulan stepped out of the magic portal.

“You carry Strife’s End?” Rhulan asked Pel.

"Yeah! I know, isn't it nuts?” they said brightly.

The heroes compared notes, and realised they all had the same goal: to destroy the demon and its machine. Necronidus told them who it was.

The City of Shackles was a place where the demons imprisoned things too grotesque even for them, and also where they experimented on those things to make ever more terrible weapons of war. Fifty years ago mastery of the city was given to Ahravoth, Demon Lord of Entropy. Even by the standards of the demons Ahravoth was a lunatic, and the position was viewed as both punishment and a means of keeping him out of the way. But as warden of Pancarcericon, the City of Shackles, Ahravoth sought out the mysteries of the Void. Drawn by the Nameless One, he summoned pieces of entropy he gave form as Void Wraiths. They overran the city. Some of Ahravoth's pride of lesser demons rebelled, and stole the Decay Engine that summoned the things. They hid it, and when Ahravoth went to seek it, set a trap that caught the demon lord in one of the city's occulttech prisons: the Abysseract. The wraiths killed the demons, and everything else in the city except for one young thrall of Ahravoth who'd fled as the chaos mounted — Altor, whose psionic gifts meant that he was a slave to Ahravoth across time.

The technodemons expunged Pancarcericon from their reality, but the Possibility Wars had pulled it back to the real when the nuclear explosion in Moscow created the Blasted Lands. The now-aged Altor then set into motion a scheme to rescue his master while also possibly thwarting his plans, gathering heroes to open the Abysseract and free Ahravoth. Meanwhile, various Possibility-rated entities from across the realms were drawn to the ancient site of power, where the Void Wraiths lay quiescent and other entities loathed and feared by the technodemons lurked in their ancient prisons. Ahravoth, Necronidus concluded, was about to activate the Decay Engine again and summon the Void, the embodiment of Entropy, which would wipe out all the worlds of the Possibility Wars. Luckily, the undead AI continued, it knew a way he could be stopped. In the central monitor building of the city, the Ommatidia, there was a device he could use to get the heroes into Ahravoth’s tower where it had constructed the Decay Engine. Then all they’d have to do was kill it.

The heroes agreed to this plan and set off through the ruins, heading diagonally directly toward the central structure. Pel led them, hiding as much as possible between pieces of standing walls. To no avail: while they were still well over a hundred metres from the Ommatidia they heard a cry, and then three hrockt spears flew toward them. Toshiro and Rhulan slowed to fire back at the distant Edeinos, Toshiro with his submachine gun and Rhulan with his light crossbow. No-one to either side was hit, though Toshiro evaded a spear only by the instinctive selection of a possibility. The heroes ran on, Gaeira and Pel casting armour spells upon themselves. The Edeinos were faster than the heroes, but still couldn’t catch them before they drew near to the Ommatidia. The lizardfolk changed their path, aiming to intercept the heroes on the other side of the building.

Then, from beyond the central structure, a Nile shocktrooper ran up, gun in hand, yelling back that he’d found them. Without slowing, Rhulan fired his crossbow and killed the shocktrooper, and as he ran past the slumping form dropped the weapon to grab his body. Rounding the corner of the Ommatidia he flung the corpse at the three Edeinos coming from the other direction. This stymied the Edeinos priest who was generating endless spears, leaving him vulnerable to a well-placed grenade from Toshiro. He died, and one of the other lizard-men was injured.

As the heroes hurried into the Ommatidia, though, they saw other forms hurrying up to it, from the direction from which the shocktrooper had come. First of these forms was Jean Durtal, the cyberpriest of the Order of the Hammer. Gaeira shot at him as he came, dealing him a heavy injury, then with the rest of the heroes she hurried into the Ommatidia — Pel first using a spell to take Rhulan’s crossbow in a disembodied magical hand.

Inside, they found a confusing black architecture of columns, arches, abysses, chains, smoke, and flickers of electricity leaping from bits of steel and iron; much of the place was built out of a kind of shellac like something secreted by a monstrous bug. Necronidus directed Toshiro up a flight of twisted stairs to a computer terminal, as something pounded on the door behind them. Pel followed him up the stairs, Rhulan waited by the door, and Gaeira and Jack Champion stood to the side, guns trained on the doorway.

Which opened, as Jean Durtal overrode the (to him) primitive technology of the doorway. With him were the two surviving Edeinos; fixated on Gaeira the heretic, he had simply ignored him and they, shocked, let him pass to open the door. Now, seeing the mammals who had killed their priest, or Optant, they charged to the attack — Durtal staggering in after him, his GodMeeter drawn, its sub-AI chip calling on all the wicked to submit to the church of Jean Malraux.

Durtal called to his gun to fire a smart round, but missed Gaeira as the Edeinos atacked Rhulan. One had his spear turned aside by the barbarian’s shield, while Rhulan found a possibility in which the berserk bare-handed attack of the other one missed him. Pulling the larger Edeinos out of the line of fire of his friends, Rhulan struck back, hitting both of them and dazing both, as Gaeira sent a wave of magical energy at Durtal, stunning him. She shot the cyberpriest, who clung desperately to the slightest possibility of survival — as Pel used her magic to take his GodMeeter, while also firing a quarrel from Rhulan’s crossbow into the smaller Edeinos, killing it. Jack Champion missed a shot and Toshiro had his gun jam, but with his other hand he finished inputting the commands Necronidus had dictated.

Space warped around them.

The weird energies of the Ommatidia rolled up n-dimensional space-time, and they found themselves in the chamber of the demon’s tower, the room of the Ommatidia now behind them arcing up into a non-Euclidean quasi-sphere. The Edeinos were dazed. In front of them was the weird machine June and Ruthven had affected, now almost restored to working order by the twenty-foot tall technodemon facing them. As he whirled to them, the basic reality of Tharkold reacted to Necronidus’ meddling with time and space, trying to force the heroes into its bestial ways. Most of them resisted. Rhulan drew on a connection he barely knew he had to the basic nature of Aysle itself, wrapping himself in its world laws and axioms like a cloak; but Pel found themself again overwhelmed with the ferocious laws of Tharkold. The slender elf screamed, striding forward in an attempt to intimidate Ahravoth — and as she did she drew the mighty sword Strife’s End.

The demon recoiled, screaming in fear. Its wings were caught in its own Engine. Gaeira shot it, and Jack Champion shot it again though it used its mastery of possibilities to ignore the damage. But Toshiro threw a grenade that not only hurt Ahravoth but further damaged the Engine. As Rhulan strode forward to engage the demon in hand-to-hand combat the roof of the chamber was torn off, revealing a boiling blackness above filled with void wraiths which at once began to spiral down to the demon’s chamber.

Rhulan struck the demon a blow filled with spiritual power, dealing it great pain. Pel reconnected to their reality and struck the demon prince a terrible blow with Strife’s End. Toshiro ran up to grab its leg and funnelled the electric power of his gosuku armour into it. Finally Gaeira took aim, and shot over all their heads, hitting Ahravoth in the skull. So powerful was the demon it did not immediately die — but was knocked back into its own Decay Engine, in which it discorporated; and as the wraiths closed in the Engine imploded.

Space warped again —

— and the heroes, finally, found themselves again in a valley on the side of the Ural mountains, with the first light of dawn emerging behind the peaks to the east.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

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Matthew Surridge
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:13 pm

Session 7: Nightmare and Glory

With the demon lord of entropy defeated and dawn breaking over the Urals, the Storm Knights discussed what to do next. Tom, used to scavenging and foraging in the Living Land and its wonders, decided he wanted to explore the Blasted Lands. June and Maryam found that Hemon and the Nile shocktroopers had arrived in Orrorsh through a weird science tunnelling machine, and decided to use it to get back to Maryam’s dig site in Egypt. Everyone else climbed aboard a small Cyberpapal plane Gaeira and Christian were able to hotwire, keeping the autonomous pilot system working while disabling the various tracking devices and Church-specific software.

They flew to Berlin, where Christian and Carl Sauvé disembarked to bring the information Sauvé had to the Resistance. Rhulan got off there as well, determined to continue on to Ardinay’s court at Oxford. He told Pel that he would prepare the court for the coming of the elf who bore Strife's End. First, though, Pel and the others wanted to go to Helsinki, to take part in the coming battle against the Dark.

(Before each of the heroes parted, Jack Champion gave them contact information for the Eleutherarchs. Each of them would be able to reach out to the others as needed.)

Communication had recently been lost with Helsinki, as the Mixed Zone had collapsed into an Aysle Dominant zone. They found the city entirely transformed to the Ayslish axioms as they arrived, a city of stone and wood and cobbled streets, with plumes of smoke rising from hearthfires. They landed a little north of the city and went to find rooms for the night, settling at the Juniper Berry Inn, frequented by a number of non-Ayslish travellers as well as several Ayslish warriors wearing chain mail — and tabards that Pel recognised as the sign of the House Gerrik.

Jack Champion paid for rooms for all of them with a small emerald (one of a number of low-value gems he carried as a form of universal currency); there was a brief moment of confusion as Pel, having drawn closer to Ruthven on the plane ride, asserted that they and Ruthven needed only one room between them — which surprised Ruthven. They ended up with separate rooms, though Pel went to have a long conversation with the occultist, discovering that the act of sex had a much different meaning for a Victorian than for a free-spirited elf.

The next day, Gaeira went to explore the magic shops of the Ayslish city, while Toshiro repaired his armour and cleaned and maintained his gear (including a submachine pistol Pel had given to him from the Eleutherarchs, which he’d dubbed ‘Ruth Bader Gunsberg’). Pel went to visit their friend Lena, the tattoo artist to whom they’d sent the picture of the dark army north of Helsinki, and found that Lena and her shop had been changed along with the rest of the city. The previous night, talking to Ruthven, Pel had been struck by the differences between worlds and realities; now they were struck by the wrongness of their reality where it should not be, speaking to their friend who could not now recall or understand the things that had been natural to her only a day before, and struggled to find words to explain Pel’s picture or how she had received it.

Lena told Pel that she’d brought the picture to the local authorities, and scouts had found the Dark army gathering north of the city, led by the cruel frost giant jarl named Vasstryn. Luckily, Duncan Gerrik, the oldest son of the Duke of House Gerrik, had a small fleet in Helsinki’s harbour. Some time before, Gerrik had led his ships eastward on a mad rush past Oslo to harass Uthorion’s fortifications along the coast of Sweden and battle the Dark navies in the Gulf of Bothinia. Now, faced with this new danger, Gerrik had pulled his marines ashore and had led them some distance north of Helsinki proper to prepare for the coming battle. For herself, Lena was excited by having had a part to play in the story of the great battle to come, and asked if she could accompany Pel further. Pel, fearing for their friend’s safety, suggested instead that Lena be their agent in Helsinki, gathering rumours and information. Lena agreed.

Lena told Pel that someone else had come around asking for them — a man named Nicholas Chase, a Victorian, who was investigating the provenance of the photograph that had proved the existence of the Dark army. Lena had told him about Pel, and Chase had asked her to have Pel call on him if they returned to Helsinki. Pel returned to the inn, pondering their next move, still disconcerted by their friend’s change, by the simple fact that Lena was now acting in a way that Pel would have considered normal only a few months ago.

At the inn, Ruthven, Toshiro, and Jack Champion were sitting at a table drinking together. The albino with the black runegun was focussed on some inner struggle of his own, while Ruthven spoke in elliptical half-phrases of his feelings about the peculiar conversation he’d had with Pel the night before. Toshiro was himself largely silent but nevertheless the Victorian occultist found the Electric Samurai a sympathetic audience — in what Ruthven left unsaid the two men found a common ground in a masculinity based on meaningful silence. Thus when Pel returned and asked to speak with Ruthven in private Toshiro shared a wordless stare with the occultist.

In a corridor nearby, Ruthven immediately suggested to Pel that he take them to Orrorsh, to see the glories of Victorian civilisation for themself; perhaps, he said, that would make clear the sort of person he was, the sort of stock from which he came. Pel noted this suggestion, then asked Ruthven if he’d ever heard of a man named Nicholas Chase. Ruthven had. He explained that there were monster hunters in Orrorsh, most of them known for their gunplay and use of special alchemical ammunition — for being direct, violent, often brutal, and typically unsubtle. Chase was considered perhaps the greatest of all monster hunters; but he was very very subtle indeed.

Pel, Toshiro, Gaeira, Ruthven, and a still-quiet Jack Champion went to Nicholas Chase’s rooms at the peculiarly-named Jolly Prancing Horse Inn. After asking for Chase at the bar, the innkeeper sent a maid to his lodgings, and she returned with an older, portly man in a suit and waistcoat with a golden watch fob. He introduced himself as Archibald Parker, Chase’s associate. Told what the heroes’ business was, he led them up to Chase at once.

Chase was a slim man with an aquiline nose and a piercing gaze, smoking a pipe in a dressing gown. Parker introduced them. Chase deduced that Ruthven had explained who he was, and questioned Pel closely about how they had happened to be in a position to take the picture of the Dark army. Pel explained that they’d wandered north of the city on a whim, and Chase promised to explain his questions — but first asked if the heroes were prepared to brave a great danger to defeat the Dark. Ruthven and the others said they were, and Chase outlined what he knew.

He explained that he’d traced the journey of an occult item from Mumbai to Helsinki. The item was a kind of seed, of a thing called a Nightmare Tree. When the Tree grew to full maturity, it would overlay the axioms of Orrorsh upon the axioms of the local reality, creating a Mixed Zone. Chase believed that the planting of the Tree was part of a plan to give the Dark army victory over the Light, unleashing horrors upon the defenders of Helsinki when the axioms changed. And that was why he wanted to learn how it came about that Pel had discovered the Dark army — were the circumstances that had led to the massing of a Light army part of a plot to gather the Light’s forces, then destroy it? It seemed to him now that this was unlikely. If Vasstryn and whatever collaborator had provided the seed had indeed hoped to defeat a major army of Light, then they may well have assumed that their forces would be uncovered one way or another before long.

Chase explained further that he and Parker had traced the seed in Helsinki to an estate in a wooded area northwest of the city; whatever it had been before the axiom wash, now it was a desolate ruin. Chase and Parker had been by that afternoon, and had been ordered away by a group of toughs. The monster hunters had been planning their next move when the heroes had arrived — for their rooms were being watched, and they were unsure how to get to Gerrik and his forces without being attacked and likely overwhelmed by numbers. Chase proposed that the group now go the estate at once, and seek to destroy the tree before it became active. The heroes agreed. "We seek to keep Aysle and Orrorsh from mixing," observed Toshiro. "That seems to be the theme for the day.”

Outside, Chase hired a carriage and the group set off down cobbled streets stained blood-red by the setting sun. Once they had left the main part of the city, they saw behind them a single black-cloaked rider on a black-cloaked horse. They came to the ruined estate, bordered by a freestone wall; a manor house was visible, almost overgrown by tall grass and shrubbery, and behind the house the shadow of a tall, twisted, black tree — a thing that at a glance was at its most basic level wrong and ineluctably diabolical.

The group chose to leave the black rider behind them, and set off into the estate, circling around the house. As the moon rose, they were attacked by three tall, burly men in labourer’s clothes; and as the moonlight touched the men they changed, horribly, their skin stretching and bones snapping as coarse fur grew upon them and their jaws distended into wolflike muzzles. Jack Champion was struck down at once. Toshiro struck one a mighty blow with his electrified katana, and was surprised to see that a slash which would have slain an ordinary man on the spot barely affected the beast.

Pel realised the battle was a distraction from their goal. They ran around the corner of the house toward the Tree. Spreading from the trunk of the Tree were lines of blood making a great seven-pointed star in a circle. At the points of the star were candles and dead bloody birds. At the base of the tree’s trunk was a nude old woman, a dead bird in her mouth.

Pel, the sword Strife’s End in their hands, flung the massive blade toward the Nightmare Tree. It was a great and glorious throw, a deed that activated the magic power of the blade and drove it like an arrow to the Tree. The ancient occultist leaped to intervene; the sword blasted through her, driven by its supernatural mission to eradicate evil, and struck deep into the Nightmare Tree which burst into a black flame — followed, as it writhed its way up the tree, by a pure white fire from the heart of the swordblade so that in moments the tree was the heart of a silver pyre.

The werewolves collapsed. Gaeira found a curious silver bracelet on the wrist of one of them, and took it as the fire died and the tree turned to ash. Pel took up the sword again and the heroes left — not knowing that inside the house were a few youths, captured by the werewolves and meant for food or for service in the crone’s rituals. They had seen the glorious sword-strike into the tree, and they would remember, and spread the word of the great deed.

Meanwhile, upon the road back to the heart of Helsinki, the heroes saw the black rider, silent, turn and ride away.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

User avatar
Matthew Surridge
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby Matthew Surridge » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:22 pm

Session 8: The Mystery Of The Blue Flame

On the morning of what came to be called the Battle of Helsinki, the mage Alastor of the Wyrm Quadracephalic was at work upon his arcane formulae in the camp of Duncan Gerrik when his nephew Jared entered his tent, bringing with him a beautiful woman. Alastor had learned enough of the new world of Core Earth to note from her features that she was from the realm of Asia (or, according to some sources, Eastasia; in this as so much else, testimonies suffered from individual variation). Alastor noted she held back a little, Jared gripping her by the wrist in a gentle yet determined manner. Jared asked Alastor to cover for his absence for the rest of the morning; he was going to help his friend, the lady Ja-yoon, with some problem. He swore he would return for noon. Alastor genially agreed, and in fact no-one came seeking Jared before noon — but neither did Jared return, and soon Alastor was visited by (first) Jared’s sergeant and (second) Jared’s sister Shanna, both upset by his continued absence.

Late in the afternoon, as Alastor was about to conclude that there would be no battle that day, there was a sudden commotion in the camp. The elderly wizard was soon told that sentries had detected motion from the enemy: the Dark Army approached. Alastor took his place on the flank of Gerrik’s lines; it was traditional for wizards in Ayslish armies that rather than try to fit the unpredictability of wild magic into structured battle plans, magicians were given latitude to fit their own workings into the overall unfolding of the battle. And so it fell out that, when the hordes of Vikings and Lurks and Wights rushed forward, Alastor was one among many resisting them and undoing the malevolence of the Dark wizards.

More: once, after much fighting, in the darkness of the night rent by flickers of fire and magelight, Duncan Gerrick himself was thrown down in battle, and a Wight advanced upon him with a ball of lightning growing between his hands. Then Alastor rushed forward working a spear of lightning of his own. As the Wight warlock unleashed the bolt he had summoned, Alastor’s bolt stopped it and turned it back upon the evil one, destroying him. Gerrik leaped to his feet, clapped Alastor on the shoulder, cried “Ardinaaay!”, and led the heartened army of Light against the cruel Frost Giant jarl in the vanguard of their enemies. There were many reversals after that, of course, and much bitter fighting, but in the end the Army of Light won. Though there was still no sign of Jared. Alastor found a colleague, a diviner named Curtius, and asked him to seek Alastor’s nephew magically; Curtius promised he’d do so by dawn, when Gerrik intended to assemble the army for a prayer of thanksgiving for the night’s victory.

Meanwhile, Toshiro, Pel, Gaeira, Ruthven, Jack Champion, and the two Orrorshan monster hunters Nicholas Chase and Archibald Parker returned to Helsinki from the burning of the Nightmare Tree. Pel and the others decided to seek out Duncan Gerrik to tell him what had happened and to help with the battle. The hunters, on the other hand, had reserved passage on a ship whose captain had promised to sail at once if the battle broke out, so they decided to hurry to the port. Mindful of the mysterious black rider they had seen earlier in the night, Toshiro went with them to guard them. No threats emerged, though the docks were a scene of frantic activity: torches burning, longshoremen working and cursing, ships casting off, crowds whirling this way and that trying to get aboard as contradictory rumours were shouted here and there.

Chase gave Toshiro his address in India, and they were gone. Toshiro wandered among the confusion, finding an exhausted harbourmaster taking a moment to breathe between the demands on his time; Toshiro struck up a conversation with Harbourmaster Applewood, who said he knew nothing of what was going on at the front beyond the rumours circulating about. When Toshiro mentioned he would be going to the battle to find his friends, Applewood asked him to take some news with him, as messengers sent earlier had returned no answer. A dead body had been found at the docks that morning, bearing the badge of House Gerrik along with another badge that appeared to be some sort of family crest: a four-headed dragon.

Toshiro agreed to take the news of this unfortunate’s death to the authorities in Gerrik’s camp, and set out northward through Helsinki. As he did, though, someone came running into the harbour screaming about an attack of the Dark on the Juniper Berry Inn — where Toshiro and the others had their rooms.

Toshiro hurried to the Juniper Berry, finding it totally destroyed. A number of bodies were scattered about, most disemboweled, many headless, all of them not so much mutilated as half-obliterated. The innkeeper stood, face white, staring at the ruins of his home and business. Toshiro spoke to him; heartbroken and in shock, he confirmed that Toshiro’s friends weren't at the inn, and described a creature — twice the height of a man, with parts of its flesh wrought of metal — that could only be a technodemon.

While speaking to the innkeeper, Toshiro was approached by a slender woman, in her 40s, white-skinned and black-haired; she said she wanted to buy the Blue Flame and she would pay $5000 for it. Dressed in formal clothes of eighty years ago, the snivelling woman gave her name as Alexandria Josefsson, and continued to insist on buying the Blue Flame. Toshiro suggested going elsewhere to speak of it; she agreed, pointing to a dark alley not far away. Toshiro decided to spring the trap, and indeed, after he led her into the alley she drew a heavy pistol, a Luger, and demanded Toshiro hand over the Blue Flame.

Toshiro spoke quickly, promising to bring Josefsson to the Blue Flame, which he claimed to have stashed nearby. Leading her out of the alley, he whirled, ducking away as Alexandria waved her gun threateningly. In a blur he drew his katana, striking at her neck and holding back with the edge a centimetre from her neck. Josefsson dropped her gun, and began babbling about the Blue Flame, some sort of gemstone of vague power. Apparently others were after it as well: she blubbered something about the fat man having arrived in Helsinki.

Toshiro had her take him to her rooms, which coincidentally were at the Jolly Prancing Horse inn where Chase and Parker had stayed. Her rooms were spartan, with only basic travellers’ gear from the Nile Empire — a suitcase, a change of clothes, and the like. Toshiro bluffed her again, promising to work with her. He learned that Alexandria had dreams — to use the Blue Flame, whatever it was, to become an Overgoverner, then perhaps Pharaoh herself. Unsure what to do with her for the moment, Toshiro decided to take her with him to the battle, and hope he could track down the others.

They set out, Toshiro covering Alexandria, holding her jacket over his arm to conceal the machine pistol he was pointing at her. They soon arrived at the aftermath of the battle, reaching a vast cleared field among the forests north of the city where the wounded and dying were being attended by priests and doctors. Gaeira, Pel, and the others were nowhere to be seen there — but Toshiro did spot an older man in robes sewn with the now-familiar design of a four-headed dragon.

Alastor, helping tend the wounded, was surprised by Toshiro’s approach, and saddened by the news of his nephew’s death. As he began to ask the Electric Samurai for more details, Alexandria nervously insisted that they speak somewhere more private. Alastor led them to his tent nearby, and Toshiro explained what he knew and what Harbourmaster Applewood had told him.

They were interrupted by Curtius, arriving with a frantic look. He told Alastor his nephew was dead, involved with great and terrible forces, then said “oh, I’m too late” — and a gunshot blasted off his head. Behind him Alastor saw a slightly-built woman with metal eyes and what appeared to be a metal right arm. In her left hand she held a scourge with lightning flickering among the lashes of barbed wire. Her right hand held a rifle of some kind, which she dropped as she ran toward the tent calling out to the “heretics” to surrender; a slim gun-barrel mounted on a delicate mechanical assembly rose out of her arm.

People in the busy field nearby were screaming, shouting, and running for cover. Toshiro threw a grenade at the woman, and knocked her back. For a moment Alastor thought she had been knocked flat and injured unto death, and then the world rewrote itself and he saw it was not so, that she had been injured by the explosion but not so terribly. She resumed running toward the tent, and Toshiro turned over a desk and took cover as a beam of light drilled out from the metal barrel mounted on her arm. The light burned through the fabric of the tent and straight through the wood of the desk, narrowly missing Toshiro.

Alexandria scurried to the back of the tent and sneaked out under the canvas as the woman fired again, and again missed Alastor and Toshiro. Toshiro hurried to the front of the tent, and shot the cybernetic woman with his pistol; again what was real selected for a world in which she survived the attack. But then Alastor took a hand. The wizard cast a lightning bolt at her, striking and slaying her at once. “Call that a beam of light,” he muttered. “That’s a beam of light.”

The wizard and the samurai went to see if there were any clues on the body of the woman who’d attacked them, Alastor fascinated by her eye of crystal and steel. As they considered her, they were joined by Ramys, the lover and colleague of Curtius, who cried out in grief on seeing Curtius’ body. Ramys told them that Curtius had told him some of what he’d learned, and then hurried over when he’d found out something important; Ramys did not know what that was, and his own divinatory magics had been too slow to warn him that Curtius was in danger. Ramys was willing to share with them the notes that Curtius made, though — notes about the death of Jared of the Dragon Quadricephalate, and about some mysterious power that had to do with that death, a force called the Blue Flame.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

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Re: Storm Chronicles

Postby mathey » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:02 pm

Really enjoy these session writeups! Reminds me a bit of Moorcock and Grant Morrison stories in the elaborate and surreal cosmology.

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