Sunday, August 11, 2013

Deadlands: Love is Stronger Than Death, parts 1 and 2

Yesterday we played Deadlands! And then again today, actually. So here's what happened:

We open in Novygrad, in the cemetery. The characters have been awakened from a sound sleep - well, not so sound, but never mind - by a disturbance in the churchyard. Hideous, dog-like things are digging up bodies and eating them. Mark, Lillie, Suzi and Shortstop are at the churchyard, and Nikolai joins them (Mark notices that he's fully dressed, unlike the others, who pretty obvious just rolled out of bed).

Nikolai casts a Blast spell and kills several of the creatures, and the others attack the characters. Shortstop kicks one, Mark shoots another dead, and Suzi wraps Mina Devlin's whip (which she acquired here and first used here), and the wolf sits and looks blank-eyed. In the distance, the characters hear a rooster crow - odd, since it's the middle of the night.

Putting this aside, Lillie throws her own Blast spell, incinerating the rest of the wolves, including the one Suzi captured. The characters identify these things as cemetery wolves, scavengers that eat carrion, but that can't enter consecrated ground. How'd they get in here, then?

Mark notes that Nikolai seemed well-prepared for this, and Nikolai mumbles a reply - he seems out of it. The characters spread out and find a scent of rum on the cemetery gates. Mark goes into the church to look for Pastor Jacobs (Lillie's one-time fiancee and current enemy, though they tolerate each other well enough for living in the same town), but can't find him. He finds a note saying the pastor has gone to visit family.

This rings false to Lillie (who happens to know Jacobs' family is back east), so she casts Hunch. She sees a man made of shadows rip the gate off the hinges, then extend a shadowy whip from his hand, grab the pastor, and throw him into a grave. Suzi takes his Bible and uses Mind Rider, and sees the pastor in a dark place, pounding on something above him. Figuring him to be buried, Suzi tells the others, and they get started digging.

Meanwhile, Shortstop has gone to the saloon to check on the chickens (he heard the rooster, too). He sees a black rooster that he's never seen before in the yard. He uses Beast Friend, and the rooster (who has a surprisingly deep voice and threatening manner) informs him that he's there at the behest of "the mistress." Asked to describe said mistress, he describes Suzi, but notes that this is just one of her forms.

Shortstop, not able to parse this, takes the rooster with him back to the churchyard.

Back there, they townsfolk have dug up the pastor, who by some miracle (hee!) is still alive. He manages to gasp "Nikolai!" before he passes out. And where is the town's patron, anyway?

The characters ask George (one of the deputies, who acquitted himself well in the first story and got promoted to wild card) to go to Nikolai's house to check on him. He does; meanwhile Shortstop and Suzi question the rooster (whom Shortstop has nicknamed "Bob"). The rooster says that the he is here to protect Suzi, and in fact grows calm when Suzi holds him, but flips out when anyone tries. When asked what he's meant to protect her from, he says "night ravens." He also finally nails down the "mistress" - Maman Brigitte.

The characters head back toward the saloon. Suzi grabs Nikolai's favorite shot glass and uses Mind Rider, but sees nothing (and suffers a crisis of faith into the bargain). And they hear a gunshot coming from up the hill, near Nikolai's house. They charge up there and find George, leaning against the gate, bleeding out. Suzi uses her healing miracle and saves him, and he says that he didn't see who shot him. The characters enter, and find Nikolai, asleep in bed. Informed what's going on, he summons his servants, and at Lillie's suggestion, says that they'll all take rooms at the saloon tonight.

They leave the house, and note huge ravens atop it. Mark shoots at one but misses, hitting a window. The characters head for the saloon, where everyone has a drink. Nikolai notes that this isn't his glass - which is why Suzi's Mind Rider didn't work, she wasn't using an object with any connection to Nikolai. She tells them a little about Maman Brigitte; she's a death loa, she likes cigars and hot rum with peppers.

"Like that?" asks Nikolai. Suzi looks down - that's the drink she's made herself, without noticing.

End of Part 1. 

Suzi doesn't remember making the drink, and it's becoming obvious that a new loa is showing an interest in her. But it's late, so everyone goes to sleep in the saloon, except Mark, who goes to the jail, as he feels is his duty (and gets a bennie for Heroic).

There, he dreams of being in his old town, with everyone he ever knew slaughtered around him, including the other characters. He sees Annabelle, the witch who did it, and levels Justice, his shotgun...but she turns around, and then falls dead. There is no vengeance, nothing he can do to find peace. And then his shotgun crumbles away to nothing...and he awakens, feeling exhausted.

The others, though, wake in the saloon feeling refreshed, including Nikolai, who says he's felt dazed and drunk the last few days. Suzi decides to go on a vision quest and speak with Erzulie. She does, and meets the loa in an opulent bedroom.

She asks Erzulie why Maman Brigitte is suddenly interested in her. Erzulie tells her that she gained her interest when she used the whip. Suzi says that she might be interested in this new path, and Erzulie (known to be a jealous loa) says that that's fine, which means it totally isn't. Suzi asks if Erzulie will help her, and the loa says she will. Suzi awakens, unsure of her path.

Lillie goes and teaches her school, Shortstop is assigned chore upon chore by Master Chen, and Nikolai stays in the saloon doing some paperwork. At the end of the day, the characters regroup, and Lillie casts Hunch to see if she can figure who stole Nikolai's glass.

She sees the shadow-creature enter the bar and grab it with its whip-like hands...but now she can see a person underneath all that darkness. She thinks that person is Spencer Jacobs, the pastor. Concerned, she informs Nikolai of this, and Nikolai decides to have everyone in attendance when they speak with Jacobs ("everyone" here meaning "adult PCs").

Shortstop, meanwhile, is training, when Chen comes to find him and tells him his friends need him. He goes shuffling off down the road, confused as to why the chores, and then the training, and then the advice.

In the saloon, Jacobs enters and sits with the characters. He opines that there has been entirely too much black magic, here - that, of course, is why we're having all these troubles. He's reluctant to talk about his own experiences, but when the characters press, he tells them he was at his writing desk, and then he saw Nikolai, and then he woke up in a coffin.

Suzi approaches, puts a hand on his shoulder, and uses Dispel. Jacobs, apparently in response, pulls a gun and shoots at Mark.

Lillie lunges across the table and casts Armor on Mark, in just enough time to deflect the bullet. Nikolai flings cards...and casts Blast on the immediate area, damaging everyone (including himself!) except Suzi.

The four fellows at the next table all stand in unison. Two go across the room to the gun check, one attempts to grapple Suzi. One shoots Mark, wounding him, and another leaps on top of Lillie. Shortstop arrives and fires his slingshot at the one with the gun, but misses. Suzi gets one guy to snap out of it, and then whips Nikolai around the neck. She feels an immediate resistance on a magical level, but isn't sure why. Nikolai yanks the whip out of her hands, and she runs over to him and kisses him, trying to snap him out of it.

He blinks, and the smiles and says, "j'taime, mon belle Suzi", and they both vanish into the shadows. The others snap out of it immediately. Lillie sends Shortstop for the doctor, and gathers up Mina's whip.

Suzi and Nikolai reappear, somewhere dark. She asks him who he is, and he says his name is Jean. "I've known you for years," he says. "I saw your grandfather die. I'm here for you now."

She asks him why, and he replies, "Love is stronger than death." She asks his full name, and he replies, "Jean De-" before Nikolai finally shakes off the spell.

Back in the bar, everyone reconvenes, and Suzi and Nikolai exit the storeroom (Nikolai can't actually teleport too far). Obviously, this problem extends far beyond Nikolai - the preacher, Nikolai and several of the townsfolk are under someone's intermittent control. Lillie offers that the whip might be a problem - it seems to correspond to several of the more unfortunate events. Nikolai says that he doesn't remember much, but when the whip went around his neck, he heard a man and a woman arguing in a tone of voice that reminded him of his parents fighting. He also remembered meeting a man in Denver, who dressed in black and carried many trinkets, much like Suzi. He'd been drunk, though, so the conversation escaped him.

Suzi, unsure of what all this meant for her, decided to commune with Erzulie again. The loa told her that Maman Brigitte had a husband, and that Jean Decoudreau had loved her for a long time, but that he had his own loa following him. Suzi decided (I think) to stick with Erzulie; Maman's path was interesting and tempting, but would ultimately involve changing everything about who Suzi was.

Nikolai used Hunch and found the name "Decoudreau" as well. He gave that to Mark, and had Mark contact the Marshall's office in Denver. Lillie took the whip to the blacksmith, and had him burn it. Shortstop went home, and asked Master Chen why he'd had him train all day. Chen tried to explain, and then demonstrated the way of Quickness, saying that his English wasn't good. Explaining was too hard - the only way for Shortstop to learn was to train.

Mark sent a telegraph to Denver. It came back shortly: Jean Decoudreau murdered outside of Denver eight months ago.

Next time: The exciting conclusion!