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Episode 3.3 - The Tell-Tale Hearts

14 October 2008

Friday evening, some time after sunset, Rip gets a text message on his mobile phone. It reads simply: 'Help. Room 316, Archway Hotel. Meadows.'

Of course they have no option but to check it out. But they'll go in armed, and wary of a trap. Jonathan Meadows is the man who pays their wages, but they've never seen him in person. They drive up to the hotel, which is located right on the edge of the Archwood, home to Hunter's Arch. Outside the hotel it is darker than it ought to be. Several lights seem to be out of order. From the corner of his eye, Rip sees movement in the nearby forest.

It is the same inside. Only a handful of lamps appear to work, some are flickering, some simply dead. It's quiet, as well. Too quiet for a Friday night. They make their way to the second floor and find the room in the east wing of the hotel. They listen at the door, but there is no sound, so they knock.

'Who is it?' a voice whispers, male, maybe middle aged. Rip states his name. 'Can you prove it?' the voice asks. Rip slips his ID under the door. A moment later the door is opened, warily. A man peers out, not too tall and rather gaunt. He looks relieved to see them and invites them in. It is dark in the room. Meadows explains that the hotel has been surrounded. By beasts, and since sunset by some other creatures. He hasn't dared to leave. When asked about the reason for this, he picks up a small cloth bag from a sideboard. It is visibly beating. 'It might have something to do with this,' he says.

'Is that what I think it is?' Rip asks. 'Yes,' the man says. 'I had to call in some favours to obtain it. Trust me, it'll be much better if it was where it belongs.' Of course this leaves our heroes in something of pickle, as the missing heart was the only thing that was keeping Hunter from killing Rip...

While they're talking, Chris is puzzled by a ticking sound. He moves about the room, trying to figure out its source, but it seems to be coming from Meadows himself! He comes right out and asks the man: 'Why are you ticking?' Meadows looks a little surprised, but says: 'I suppose you ought to know. You see, I'm not a stranger to missing hearts myself.' He unbuttons his shirt and in his chest they see a gaping hole, and inside it clockwork! At first they suspect he is a robot, but he assures them he is entirely human, except for his heart, made by a blacksmith far north, more than 250 years ago.

It's time to leave. No point waiting for Hunter's minions here, they might as well make a break for it now. There is a fire escape that comes out near the parking lot. Terry decides to take this, while the others take the stairs and head for the front door. He has to pick a lock, but soon peers through to see a couple of vaguely reptilian figures standing near their car. The other have reached the first floor landing as they hear glass shatter and someone scream. Something's behind them... They soon reach the ground floor and see the figures near the car. Chris pulls his pistol and takes a shot at one. Meanwhile Terry has climbed quietly down the fire escape, and surprises another of them, while Rip and Meadows try to sneak to the car unnoticed...

The fiends are amphibious Krathaar demons, the very same they met on their first trip to Hunter's Arch. The one that was shot charges for Chris, while another attacks him from behind, the one that they'd heard inside. A brawl ensues. The creatures are tough, but luck is on the side of our heroes. Terry finishes one off with his wrist blades, while Chris throws his assailant to the ground, pulling out his pistol again to finish it off. Terry is soon on the scene to kill the last one. Meanwhile Rip and Meadows have gotten the car running. The place will be crawling with those creatures in a moment, so they drive off to the manor.

Once there they discuss their options. Meadows suggests that they seek the help of one of the other old gods. Birch, he says, is supposedly the most benevolent. They decide it's worth a shot, and set out to visit Birch Temple the next day. There is a lot of movement in the wood, but they make it to the clearing without trouble. There they call out for Birch, and instantly she materializes, an etherial, female figure. They explain the situation to her, and she seems sympathetic, but unsure if she has the power to oppose Hunter.

Suddenly there are wolves around the circle of ancient birch trees, and something else moving in the shadows... And Hunter is there, at the edge of the circle, but unable to step into it. 'Give me the one owed to me!' he calls. But Birch stands firm, stating that Hunter can't touch them while they're protected by her. 'Well...' says Hunter. 'Perhaps we can make a deal. I'll spare this life, if you give life to another that perished in your temple long ago.'

Birch hesitates for a moment, then nods. With a wave of her hand, something begins to materialize in the center of the circle: a beautiful, pale woman, entirely naked. The sun begins to burn her skin the moment she is flesh, and she darts into the shadows of the wood, screaming. Suddenly Birch is gone, and Hunter, and the beasts. The four men stand alone in the clearing.

Meadows looks as if he'd seen a ghost. 'That was Maria D'Arbon, the vampire we killed in this circle more than 250 years ago...'

GM's Notes

Another session filled with big plot twists! I just love 'em. Not sure if the players loved this quite as much, as any ideas they might have had about dealing with the three gods were pretty much ruined. ^_^

Ok, a pretty short and simple scenario for the most part, but it still took a full three hours to play. Honestly, half of that must have gone into the fight scene! (Obviously I didn't describe every detail.) I'm not sure how that happened. I've been trying to fine tune the combat mechanics. This time the fight was actually a little more varied and challenging, but it's still obviously way too slow...