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Episode 3.6 - The Dark Before the Dawn

29 March 2009

After D'Arbon's hideout is destroyed, there's silence in the underworld. No big events, for days, then weeks. Spring turns into summer. The solstice draws near. Then, late one night, Terry, dozed off in front of his computer, is woken by the sound of an alarm. A motion detector at one of the portals has been triggered. On the monitor he sees someone there, dressed in a dark robe, laying down candles and beginning some kind of ritual. Soon similar figures appear at the other two portals. He alerts the others. They send Chris to the Birch Temple, the closest of the ancient holy places, to see what's going on, and capture the mysterious figure, if possible. He runs the distance through the forest, but as he gets there, the rite has already ended. The hooded man is still there, though: a vampire. He grapples it, cuffs it, and drags it back to the manor for questioning.

Torturing vampires is not new to our heroes, and they soon get answers. The vampire was working for D'Arbon, who's alive, hiding in underground tunnels in the wood, not far from Hunter's Arch, with what's left of her troops, seven vampires according to the prisoner. It appears she's in cahoots with Hunter. The ritual had something to do with opening a portal, but the vampire doesn't know much about the specifics. They manage to get the location of the tunnel entrances before killing it, and decide to investigate immediately, using its robe as a disguise to gain entrance. They find the place easily enough. Terry goes ahead, the robe covering his demon features, while the other two follow a little way behind, armed to the teeth. The tunnel is cramped and dank, and mostly empty. At last they come upon two robed vampires sitting at a table. Terry walks in, grunts a greeting, and gets behind one of them before they suspect anything. He takes a swing at it with his wrist blade, but misses. The vampires are up, leaping for him, but with one coordinated move he decapitates them both. They examine the rest of the underground lair, but it's empty. D'Arbon is no longer here, and there are no clues about her whereabouts.

It is morning by the time they're back at the manor. While they're having breakfast, Rip's mobile rings. It's Swallow, the local CID sergeant. Apparently there have been break-ins during the night at all three local churches. Nothing has been taken, but candles were left behind, laid out in pattern similar to what they saw at the ancient portals, suggesting a similar ritual. There are no other clues to be found, but they warn Swallow that something could happen on the solstice. That was when Coyote, following in D'Arbon's footsteps, was going to open the portal a year ago. Rip hits the books, but there is not much to be found that they don't already know, except for a vague reference to someone called, simply, the Builders, who supposedly built great portals many ages ago. If only they knew where the portals would open. The patterns formed by the three ancient sites and the three churches, forming two triangles, might be a clue...

Rip has a dream that night. He is standing outside an old manor, in surroundings that seem familiar, yet alien. He enters through the open door, and finds a man, clothed in 18th century attire, seated by a fireplace, writing in a journal of some kind. He knows, instinctively, that this is the baron of Birchland (whose ghost they once), one of the original Gatekeepers. The man tells him the answer is in his journal, in the poems transcribed there. Rip awakens.

Two poems are indeed included in the pages of the book they own. One Birchland heard from the mouth of a possessed child, the other he heard in a dream. They speak of groups of three, three 'relics of mystery' and three 'sacred by God's hands', and of two centres. This would seem to point to the centres of the triangles formed by the portals and churches, as they had suspected. They locate the places: one is in Weeping park, in the very centre of town, the other to the north, in the old cemetery. In the park they find a statue of the baron. Some crude symbols have been carved on to the base, which Rip recognises as ancient protective symbols. In the cemetery they find an old grave marker, the name long since eroded, but similar symbols are still visible. The solstice is the following night, just before dawn. All they can do is stake out the places and hope to stop any ritual D'Arbon might perform before she can open the portals. Rip finds a spell of silence in his books, which should be helpful. They call Swallow and ask him to have his men posted at the churches, in case more rituals will be performed there. As the hour approaches, Terry and Rip stake out the cemetery, while Chris teams up with Swallow at the park, staying low in Chris's car.

It begins in the cemetery. A single vampire appears, followed by two of Hunter's wolves. The vampire is just beginning a chant when Rip fires his crossbow at it, and dusts it. The wolves leap towards him, but Terry attracts their attention, an axe in hand. He cracks one wolf's skull open, while Rip sets the other on fire with a flame thrower. They run for the car and head for the park, as fast as they can.

Meanwhile Chris sees a group approaching the statue in the park: D'Arbon, and four other vampires. D'Arbon begins a chant while the other vampires stand guard. Chris leaps out of the car, flame thrower at the ready. Two of the vamps approach him, but he sprays them with fire. Swallow calls up backup. The weapons of the policemen do little damage to the vampires, but they add to the confusion. Rip and Terry are already pulling up in their car. They see the situation, and Rip heads straight for D'Arbon and the two vamps in front of her, forcing them to leap for cover. He stops the car, and begins to cast the spell to stop D'Arbon from finishing her chant, while Terry goes after the other vampires with his already bloody axe. (He stays in human form, because of the police present.) The spell is successful. D'Arbon, seeing her plans have been foiled, tries to dart away between two police officers, but while Chris and Terry are finishing off the others, Rip climbs on top of the car to get a clear shot, and fires his crossbow... straight through her heart.

As the sun rises, our heroes pull up at the manor. Suddenly there are flashes in the sky above. Something is plummeting down towards them. It strikes the ground near them: an angel. A dead angel.

GM's Notes

The grand finale of the third season. The big fight could have been a little tougher, perhaps, but it was a longish session as it was. And I couldn't really let the portal be opened, now, could I... We never got to know D'Arbon's full plan. I, for one, would have been curious to find out. Perhaps I never will, now.

And, like any good season finale, we end with a real twist...