Locking Up the Ring Disc in Safe Place
Daniel is still carrying the copper disc ring he took from Benny earlier that day (see the second “City” session). The ring is critical for facing down the Outsiders and is one of the main reason that he and James Fendler, both Venators were sent to Las Vegas (and also a main reason that the Venatori Umbrorum are in town, providing unwitting cover for the Venators.
James was murdered by the Outsider called Vanguard (who is currently possessing the body of Jacob Huxhold, one of the Warlock’s two lieutenants in the Tower). Vanguard knows about the rings and Daniel only got the second ring disc seconds before Vanguard showed up, plus Daniel believes that Vanguard may already have the first ring that James had been trying to buy from a couple small-time thieves (see the second “Street” session and all of the Act I sessions for more details).
Daniel wants to get the ring somewhere safe as soon as he can, so he decides to head to the Venatori Umbrorum headquarters in an office building in a business park in suburban Las Vegas. Since Marcovic and Alois are going to begin the tracking spell to find Cass Williams (Sammy Beck’s daughter who he believes has been kidnapped for the purpose of being ritually sacrificed), he decides to head out now while they’re busy. Tom goes along with Daniel to help protect him (and because he wouldn’t be much help with the thaumaturgy ritual).
They get to the office building containing the Venatori Umbrorum headquarters, including the Venatori Umbrorum Temple which has some safeguards against magical scrying or invasion. That’s where Daniel intends to leave the ring disc.
The Effects of James’ Murder
Several Venatori Umbrorum members are standing around when they get there and it’s clear that they’re demoralized and scared because of James’ murder. Patrick Uman, the leader of most the Venatori Umbrorum delegation in the city pulls Daniel aside (Daniel outranks him, but is a field agent rather than being directly attached to the local delegation). Patrick asks Daniel exactly what is going on. Patrick knows enough to know that Daniel is of a higher degree within the Venatori Umbrorum order and also that his mission is secret, so he should know better than to ask so directly and forcefully. Daniel is sympathetic (he can see how rattled Patrick and all of the other Venatori Umbrorum members are), but he also has to balance that against his mission and the higher cause he’s dedicated his life to: The Oblivion War and the necessities of keeping that secret even from the Venatori Umbrorum who aren’t part of the Venators.
(I compel Daniel to not give too much information with the understanding that it will place the Venatori Umbrorum in danger; we negotiate that he can still tell them enough to help calm and boost the morale of the group.)
Daniel tells Patrick that he can’t tell him everything, but assures him that he is doing something important and that Patrick is also playing a very important role (Daniel strongly implies that this situation could bring Patrick to higher attention and lead to promotion to higher degrees and secrets). (Daniel rolls Presence and rolls really high, Patrick is refocused and bolstered.)
Patrick then asks Daniel if they are safe and Daniel assures him they’re as safe as they can be, though nothing is ever guaranteed. He tells Patrick they need to be calm and be prepared
An unwanted Hitchhiker
Meanwhile, Tom is hanging out in a common room with several Venatori Umbrorum. Tom’s master Bear (who is still mad at him for the treatment of the Spider Host) pulls his attention to one of the Venatori who keeps eyeing Tom nervously. Tom sees that he is possessed by a spirit of some sort. (After a compel of his Trouble aspect of “Spirit Bridge”) Tom points at him and says he’s possessed. The other Venatori Umbrorum members are startled and look uncertainly between the two.
The possessed man, named Joey, tries to make Tom seem crazy and pull on his status as one of them while Tom points. (Tom rolls much better so) the Venatori Umbrorum members converge on Joey, grabbing his arms and pinning him
Calming the Mob
Daniel and Patrick emerge just in time to see all of the Venatori Umbrorum grabbing and holding a man while Tom points at him. One of the crows of Venatori Umbrorum yells out, “He killed James!” (This startles Tom as much as Daniel).
Daniel immediately takes charge (with his high Presence, he grabs their attention easily). He asks Tom what is going on and Tom tells him that Joey is possessed by some sort of spirit. Daniel has one of the Venatori Umbrorum run and grab Annette, a “sensitive” Venatori Umbrorum Minor Talent with the ability to read auras and detect magical influences (Daniel introduces the character on the spot with a FP and a minor declaration).
Once Annette gets there, Daniel has Annette, Tom, and two Venatori Umbrorum “guards” take Joey to a room to interrogate and examine him.
Leaving Las Vegas
Annette confirms that Joey is possessed and threatens to exorcise him (a maneuver I set up for Tom). The spirit freaks out, begging not to be exorcised, or at least not until they were outside of Las Vegas.
Tom intimidates the spirit into talking. He isn’t naturally good at it, but the spirit knows he’s an emissary of Bear (+1 from Aegis of Power) and Annette’s looming threat of exorcism adds some weight (free tag) and he convinces it to talk.
It tells him that Las Vegas is becoming increasingly unstable and dangerous and that it’s screwing up the realms of the Nevernever that touch it. There’s a void or vortex at the center of the city that’s almost impossible to escape for spirits (that’s why he was trying to hitch a ride in Joey). It also says that there’s a name that’s beginning to pop up more and more often among spirits of the attached regions: The Defiler. The spirit doesn’t know who or what the Defiler is, except that it’s very, very bad news and somehow tied to the spiritual “black hole” at the heart of Las Vegas.
Daniel gathers the rest of the Venatori Umborum together to give them a pep talk. He can tell from their faces that it won’t be easy (James’ murder and Joey’s possession both act against him, raising the difficulty to 6), but Daniel gives a variant of the speech he gave Patrick (part of something important, be calm but prepared, etc.) and he reaches them (he rolls an 8!).
After that, Daniel goes into the Venatori temple and buries the disc ring in a warded and protected box in a chamber below the floor.
Tracking Spell for Cass
Alois and Marcovic decide not to perform their ritual in the Aria, so Alois rents some otherwise empty warehouse space.
Some initial exploration makes it clear that Cass is behind some sort of threshold or ward and so scrying won’t be easy (Complexity 14 to overcome the wards without drawing attention to them).
They begin their preparations (Alois uses Resources to find a good space, Marcovic uses Lore to research the ritual — especially when opposing wards).
Then they both work on getting into a focused, meditative state purified of distraction (both roll Discipline; Alois’ difficulty is much higher at first as he deals with his two Minor Mental consequences, but I let them clear after his focusing and meditation).
Finally they begin the ritual itself. Alois sets up a proper circle (a lore maneuver, which is enough to bring their Lore up to 14 and begin the ritual).
There’s no pressure on the casting itself, so Alois casts slow and careful until the spell is complete.
Immediately he feels a pull from the general direction of downtown (whether the Strip or Fremont Street is impossible to tell until he gets closer) and sees a number of flickers of ghostly movement out of the corner of his eye. He knows that once he gets closer he’ll begin to see ghostly reenactments of where Cass has been,
They wait a bit for Daniel and Tom to arrive (they’ve added a bit of extra Complexity in the spell to give them a little extra time to wait for Daniel and Tom and to follow the trail).
The Summoning Pit
Alois leads them to the edges of the Strip where he sees his first full image of Cass, meaning she’s been at that spot recently. She is struggling against something or someone (the assailant doesn’t show in the image, only Cass) then the image flows backward in time a moment to show Cass walking then apparently be grabbed and pulled to the side.
Alois follows the trail further until he sees Cass laying down seemingly floating a few feet above the road. Ghostly blood is pouring down her face and her eyes are glazed. Alois just figures out that she’s lying in a car trunk (the car isn’t shown in the images, only Cass) when it flows back in time a moment to show her being shoved down hard and her head hits something hard and the blood begins to flow.
Then the trail crosses off the Strip and into Fremont Street ( Red Court territory). They only hesitate a moment before following. It isn’t quite night time, but it’s getting late and there’s a real risk of being stuck in Red Court territory after dark.
Alois sees Cass again, now standing again, though clearly leaning against some invisible support. Her eyes are glazed and in the hazy, pseudo-subjective visions of the tracking spell it’s clear that she has suffered severe invasive mind magic. The vision rewinds a few moments to show her being pulled upright out of the trunk.
This last vision happened just outside of an old hotel that’s been converted into offices. Around the back there is a short corridor to a doorway. The debris piled in the corridor makes it appear that it hasn’t been used in years (like when they put up new walls inside to convert the hotel to offices, this door now leads nowhere). But the vision goes down the alleyway before abruptly cutting off at what is clearly a powerful ward. Tom can also smell fresh blood, also making it clear that the old debris is a camouflage.
Alois and Marcovic study the ward; it’s a nasty piece of work, with a strong ward coupled with alarms and a vicious landmine. They decide to unravel the spell together. Marcovic creates a shield of earth in front of them to take the brunt of the landmine when it goes off and Alois uses wind to attack and tear apart the ward itself (adding extra power to take out the alarm as well before it triggers).
As soon as Alois’ counter-spell hits the ward, a nasty blast of flame smashes against Marcovic’s earthen wall. Marcovic blocks it completely, but if anyone unsuspecting had triggered the ward, that blast would have been fatal (more evidence that the wizard who created this ward is a warlock who willingly breaks the laws of magic).
After that, the group heads to the door. They aren’t certain what’s on the other end (though none of them can hear or smell anything on the other side). Alois uses a small, but complex spirit spell to grab the bolt inside the door and pop it open (a high difficulty spell). Inside is a small room (no more than 10 feet by 20 feet) with no obvious doors or other exits. But now that the ward is down, the image of a now gagged and bound Cass being seemingly dragged through a wall (as well as the smell of blood leading to the same spot) makes it clear that there is some sort of hidden door.
They find the hidden door, which opens immediately into a winding stairway that goes to a room directly below where they are standing. The small of blood, fear, and piss is almost overwhelming and Daniel’s ring lets him know that there have been very powerful Outsider presences in this room, though there are none now.
In the small, dingy room, Cass is chained onto a filthy mattress on the floor; her eyes are open and staring at nothing. She looks terrified and barely aware of their presences. On another part of the floor is an ornate circle drawn on the floor, clearly part of some sort of ritual.
Daniel is a Venator, who focus on finding and destroying rituals to summon Outsiders, and he immediately recognizes that this is, indeed, an Outsider summoning ritual. Alois and Marcovic, between the two of them, also piece together that the ritual requires human sacrifice (presumably the reason for the kidnappings and Cass’ fate if they hadn’t found her) and further that there is a further piece of the ritual that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the direct summoning and instead seems to be involved in some sort of entropic unraveling effect on a regional (city-wide) scale. They can’t tell beyond that what it does.
Daniel crosses to Cass and calms her down enough that he can remove the gag. He tells her that Tom is going to change into a bear to break her chains and that she doesn’t need to be afraid. When Tom changes, she whimpers, but doesn’t panic. Tom easily snaps the chain as if they were made of aluminum foil. Then Daniel asks Cass a few questions, mainly asking if she can describe her attacker. She can and she clearly describes Max Gray, the lieutenant of the Warlock in the Tower. They don’ ask any more questions for now as she’s clearly suffered.
As Daniel and Tom are helping the battered Cass up the stairs, Marcovic and Alois decide to leave a nasty surprise for the summoner if he tries to use the circle again. Marcovic uses earth magic to turn the ground beneath the circle at a depth of a few inches to dust (destabilizing the ground and causing subtle warping, but not being obvious yet). Then Alois changes the markings subtly (subtly enough that it will be hard for the summoner to detect the changes — Alois spends two FP on the subtlety to make it harder to detect!). Unless the summoner is really observant (Difficulty 7 to notice), he’ll get a nasty surprise when he tries to cast the ritual again.
A Family Reunion
The group takes Cass to Billy’s Diner, where Sammy Beck, her father, is waiting. They bring her in and he runs to her, gingerly helping her sit and obviously heart-broken at what he sees. Billy Miles, the owner of the diner and a man of considerable faith, wanders over, too. Marcovic gives them what information he has about resources and then they leave them alone to their reunion. She’ll have a rough road ahead of her and may never recover fully.
Confronting the Warlock
They have strong evidence that Max Gray is the summoner and that Jacob Huxhold (the Warlock’s other lieutenant) is possessed by Vanguard the Outsider. They decide that a visit to the Tower is in order.
The Tower is the Warlock’s power and one of the most mystically charged and dangerous places in the city, for all that it’s in an unobtrusive garden and maintenance building on the spot where the original Flamingo casino once stood before being rebuilt.
Daniel has heard that the Warlock is a wine connoisseur, so he buys a high-quality expensive bottle or Merlot. They also approach slowly and openly (the equivalent of knocking politely, though the Tower didn’t necessarily have such clear doors).
They are quickly met by Rami Carrister, a known focused practitioner with a gift for wards who is a supernatural security specialist-for-hire as well as a professional through-and-through. She is not friendly on seeing Daniel (he has an aspect about seemingly incriminating dealings with Max Gray before). Daniel reassures her (buying off the compel) that he is there on business that will bring certain dealings of Max Gray to the Warlock’s attention. Then she tells them the Warlock is busy, but they convince her that this is something he’ll want to hear.
Finally, she agrees to lead them to the Warlock, but she gives them a list of instructions as they walk. Don’t interrupt the Warlock at any time. Do not speak until spoken to. Be polite like your life depends on it (because it just might). If he pauses, wait for him to think before jumping in. And don’t make eye contact; sure they know about soul gazes, but for some reason it’s particularly dangerous with the Warlock and can literally be fatal.
She gives some more specific instructions until they reach an unassuming door, seemingly a janitors closet, in the middle of a utility corridor inside the garden and maintenace house. She opens the dorr and they see what is clearly a portal leading to somewhere in the Nevernever.
Rami gives them a last piece of instructions: “This is the heart of the Tower; inside there the reality of that realm itself responds to his very thought. He could take on Senior Council member and probably win inside of there.”
With that cheery thought, she gestures them through.
Heart of the Tower
They step through into the interior of a vast stone tower, but it appears inverted. They are standing on the ceiling and the window in front of them is clearly upside down. Out of the window is a seemingly endless wasteland. By subtle but unnerving motions in the floor (or ceiling as it were) it seems that the entire tower they are standing in is suspended upside down over the floor of that wasteland.
The Warlock is standing at the inverted window looking out. He doesn’t seem to notice them at first, but they remember Rami’s instructions and wait without a sound. Finally the Warlock turns around.
In this, the center of his power, the warping of his spirit is more clear. He is no longer truly human. While he is rational and controlled (unlike the raving monsters many warlocks become), he is purely sociopathic. He looks at them as if they were no more significant than a mildly interesting math equation. he is also clearly distracted by something that seems to be taking most of his concentration.
“I see you,” the Warlock says in a cultured, but unaccountably chilling voice. “Why have you disturbed me?”
In carefully respectful terms (even Alois manages to keep his mouth under control this time), they tell him it’s about Max Gray. The Warlock waves a hand in annoyance and says he knows Max is plotting but he is too busy with absolutely critical matters to take care of it now.
Then they mention that max is the one who’s been summoning Outsiders for the outsider trafficking. The Warlock seems confused and asks them what Outsider trafficking. He seems to be the only supernatural power in the city who doesn’t know. Surprised, they nonetheless fill him in. He becomes increasingly concerned, then finally afraid. He stares out the window, furiously thinking and tracing what seem to be math equations in the air.
“The Defiler!” he finally says, “that explains the pieces that haven’t been fitting.”
He doesn’t offer any explanation of who or what the Defiler is and they don’t ask.
“Go,” he finally says, “I need to take care of this. You may take care of Max Gray as you see fit. As of this moment he is officially exiled form the Tower and stripped of all the protections of that association under the unselie Accords and the Compact. He now falls firmly under your jurisdiction, Warden Marcovic. Please also inform your White Council’s Gatekeeper that there is an Outer Gate in Las Vegas and that if I fall, he is to do whatever is necessary. Please also tell ”/campaigns/welcome-to-las-vegas/characters/134692" class=“wiki-content-link”>Marduk, the Summer lord of the Fae in Las Vegas to visit me at his earliest convenience; we have matters to discuss."
With that, they’ve clearly been dismissed. They leave and immediately on exiting, Rami informs them that Max and Gloria Pierce (effectively the acting head of the local Paranet and, Rami informs them, the recent ally and lover of Max) have just fled the Tower. The group has guaranteed safe passage out of the Tower but are not to linger at this time.
With that the group leaves the Tower. They now know all the pieces of the Outsider trafficking, though most of the major players are still on the loose (Eric is in the sutody of the Skotakis clan, the Red Court are still on the loose, and Max Gray, the summoner, has fled (though he is no longer protected by the Compact or the Accords and so is in a dangerous position).
Thus ends Act II. Join us next session for the beginning of Act III, in which both story lines come crashing together in a deadly climax that will determine the fate of Las Vegas (and possibly much more).