True Names, Mood Wanes
|True Names, Mood Wanes|
|Part of Hail to the Pumpking|
|Casualties and losses|
|None||Jack's spirit formula is no longer secured.|
Jack's spirit formula is secured in preparation to destroy him once and for all.
Due to his nature as a spirit, Pump King Jack is difficult to properly kill. Babylon's been trying to get close to him and earn his trust in order to get her hands on his spirit formula, but with little success. After some time, the Black Lodge took notice of a shadow spirit growing concerningly powerful and aided some runners in containing the threat. Mr. Herenight in particular has researched the matter considerably and prepared three alchemical lanterns filled with traces of Jack's astral signature, presumably to aid him zero in on the spirit formula. Babylon doesn't trust him, however, and has decided to find it behind his back.
Still In The Meat
The runners are invited to a private Matrix room, since neither Herenight or Jack use the 'Trix and as a result it's secure from the greatest threats to this rogue operation. Though few of the runners have leads on possible assistance, including Witchblade who offered some useful contacts to Seattle's universities as well as Mana itself, the few scraps of assistance came from Dennis Smith recalling dealing with a member of the Gate of Ishtar some years ago. A small, private group of metaplanar adventurers, they proved too cagey and few in number to find, with trails gone cold in the sprawl. Aside from that, however, Malia Strongoak does suggest that Jack's formula is most likely still in the Metaplane of Man, though probably in the deeper layers such as Id. Stargazer engages in a ritual with Babylon, summoning a great, powerful spirit of guidance to tell them of Jack. A vivid, lifelike vision is granted to them in a cloud of starlight, almost traumatizing Babylon in the process with the vision of Mary and herself clad in coffins and blood crystal. With little else to go on with such an eldritch topic, the team assembles and pops some Shade to enter the Astral Plane.
Upon entering the sprawling cities of the metaplane, Mara is almost immediately besieged by the local spirits, now formed into a literal lynch mob. It seems that her past acquaintance's spirit had done plenty to dirty her name and now her notoriety comes to play in grave amounts. Stargazer intervenes, presenting a tiny piece of wood acquired from a Great Form Water Spirit called Wusan for her forthcoming nature with spirits. Babylon interjects as well as a spirit champion and they earn a single minute of reprieve as an acknowledgment of those that she has found purchase with. Quickly, the guidance spirit flies the team into a sinkhole of familiar appearance beneath a river bridge. Gravity takes place over their astral forms as they approach and Tahki uses her Levitate spell to move the team around on narrow platforms occasionally protruding out of the sinkhole's bedrock wall.
Once they reach the bottom, the team comes across a powerful barrier blocking the portal deeper into the metaplanes. A gate to keep the rest from coming through, Mara manages to sleaze through but comes back upon realizing the rest are bashing their head against the painfully sharp mana barrier which punishes feebler attempts. Tahki levitates them back up to another ledge where a passageway leads them to the office of a gum toad, one which Babylon has met before during the events of Made in Abyss. A small tribe of anansi gesture the team closer, beseeching them for aid and apologizing for disturbing their affairs. Having arrived to a foreign plane, they had to request the gum toad's aid, but fell victim to his merciless rates of service and are now in severe karmic debt to him. Should the runners provide the tribe's freedom, they swear to pledge their allegiance to the runners at their darkest hour.
Upon negotiating with the gum toad, however, and two creepy-looking tsuchigumo guards, the team realize why the demon is such a piece of drek. He requests karma as well as a vessel to inhabit from a colleague of his, both of which are great costs. The team refuses and just threatens to kill him and take the key to the portal from him, but he openly admits that while he could be killed by the team then and there, the key is elsewhere and they'd never get their hands on it. Infuriated by the impasse, refusing to trust the gum toad's mere word regarding his offer, Babylon notices a more sultry-looking horned woman in the gum toad's office. Upon assensing her, the mage realizes it's an avatar spirit of her mentor, Seducer. Talking with the avatar for a moment, the spirit understands their plight and, as one following the same mentor, the spirit offers to help them out in exchange for feeling something truly mortal: discipline. Not wanting the anansi to remain enslaved to the toad, Babylon agrees and lets the spirit tear away her inhibitions, further deepening her affinity to her mentor spirit. The avatar whispers sweet nothings into the gum toad's ears, offering no doubt a sweet bargain, and convinces it to relinquish the toads as well as the key.
With the anansi escaping and the key opening the path to the portal, the team advance deep into Id. Mara encounters another Avatar Spirit, this one belonging to War, which was drawn to the threshold between the surface and Id due to continuous conflict among spirits in the region. Mara considers her conversation with the Dweller on the Threshold before and tells the spirit what it wants to hear: that she's going down there to kill spirits. War seems overjoyed and offers Mara its sponsorship. As the gigantic flaming spirit absorbs itself into Mara, the team falls into yet another sinkhole and reach the graveyard of Id, lined with a mana barrier and a palisade of skulls. Depressive shadow spirits called shades protect the area, preventing entry from the party members -- unfortunately, the runners aren't in a talking mood with shadow spirits.
The shades drain hope and will to live from Stargazer and Mara, but even as they begin swarming Babylon and Stargazer, Tahki's distracting spells wreak havoc on the spirits' senses and powerful punches from Mara's astral form destroy the shades' ribs. Just as things seem their bleakest, Stargazer goads all four shades to herself and drops a giant comet on herself, destroying the spirits and nearly killing herself in the process. With the death of the guardians, the mana barrier shatters, earning the injured but living party passage to the sanctuary of the spirit formula.
Upon entering the chapel, guarded very loosely by an Avatar of Repose posing as a gravedigger, the team try to break the blood crystal growing from the altar with no result. Tahki starts kicking the coffins open, causing the bodies within to confront Babylon one after another. Juliette Burns, her mentor, Cecilia Cross, her dear friend, Asdrubael, a living legend of the Ancients and Mary, the orphan girl in Sophocles killed by Garry Foreman. They all do a number on her mental state, memories conjured up into literal figments, but each weakens the protection on the final, fifth piece: a spirit formula that'd grown onto a piece of Babylon's psyche, her concept of empathy. Refusing to touch the true Babylon, the spirit formula emerges emaciated from the shattered crystal and agrees to come to the real world as long as it's not with her real self. To touch her would make Babylon only more susceptible for Jack's influence. The gravedigger outside knows of a way out, but that the figment Mary had made her way to it as well.
To no surprise, the two Shadow Spirits that'd posed as Jack in Sophocles during the real spirit's absence are there, together with Mary. She's infuriated with the team just showing up and disrupting her rest, intent on killing them and preventing them from leaving her ever again so they can stay together.
Fortunately, the anansi show up and distract the spirits long enough for the runners to escape as thanks for being freed -- Babylon tries to drag Mary with her, but barely dodges a violent lashing out as the figment reveals itself to be a wraith, a violent shadow spirit in disguise. With a furious spell, Babylon detonates the wraith to kingdom come and escapes, making sure the formula is embedded into her banishing focus for safekeeping.
The formula is safe for now, but the issue is that Jack's ritual to inhabit a mutaqua as a vessel is still on-going. Moves must be made as soon as possible and they only lead in one direction.
Jack must die. He has to be tracked to Yellowstone and fought fair and square in his powerful new domain where he is at his strongest. It's going to be a risky maneuver but to end the threat he poses for good is going to be all or nothing then and there.
- 30 Karma
- 22 CDP
- Mara may buy off "Spirit Bane: Spirit of Man" and may take "Mentor Spirit: War" and "Focused Concentration" at half price
- Babylon must take "Independent: Demanding" because Seducer removed her sexual inhibitions and may also optionally take "Chosen Follower" at half cost. In addition, she may do Ritual of Change for Gomorrah
- Stargazer must spend 5 Karma to rebuy a point of Edge, but may also take "Reckless Spell Master" or "Death Dealer" qualities at half cost
- Tahki may take "Guts" at half cost
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
"So, this was really my first real adventure in the Metaplane of Man, and it was super fun! I mean, sure, we nearly got killed several times, and there were some nasty spirits roaming around to boot, but what is life if not to flirt with death? It was crazy seeing Babylon interact DIRECTLY with her mentor spirit, Seducer. I mean, I don't know what I would have done if Chaos had been there... He keeps pushing me to switch to the side of Chaos, but you know I wouldn't be here without the Goddess' teachings. But he really makes a good point now and again, and with him in my life, things are even more interesting. Not sure how Babylon is going to confront Jack now that she has his formula, but I would give my right eye to see it go down..."
What an interesting tangent. I'm not sure of the specifics, but it seems that the free spirit Jack is closely tied to the runner Babylon. We ventured to the metaplane of man to acquire his spirit formula with the spoken intent of destroying him. I have to say it was a very magically expansive group and one I was proud to be part. We were moments from including a member of the black lodge in our endeavor, but with luck and forethought, we turned from this path. I can't say that I'm eager to visit this metaplane again, though, after my dealings with the avatar of War, and the persistent nagging I feel there, I feel certain that I must make good on my promise to deal with the gum toad.
- Tahki - A bit impish and unpredictable. I can't accurately guess the flavor of their magic, but they were competent enough with illusions while we had it out with a group of shadow spirits. I'd say they were as curious as I was about the contents of the coffins we found in the chapel. It's hard to say if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
- Stargazer - If I had to guess, her magics are related to the stars. A troll, noble in her own way. Perhaps an overdeveloped sense of justice - particularly without all the facts. I don't hold it against her, though. Admirable to do what you think is right with the information you have. Her assured morality and brilliant astral form does call in to question certain beliefs. I wonder. In the end it was she who took the formula, to her office of all places, though with assurances that it would be safe under the protection of a AAA corporation.
- Babylon - Few seem to have more open secrets than this one. Mentored by what I gather is the seducer and I guess that she may practice black magic, though it's not a subject that came up. Despite the traditions abysmal reputation, she doesn't seem that bad, though I do have concern for seducer's hold on her. In the end, the formula was forced into a focus she owned and she was trusting enough to let another member of the group keep it safe. Still, the ends to which she seems to have been pushed don't bode well for her, lending more credence to the caution preached about black magics.
This was a unique experience... the metaplanes seem to hold more than I had thought given the research that I had previously thought. I owe Babylon much, for her assistance a few weeks ago, as well as for her tutelage about magic. So I thought this was the least I could do. However between summoning Cosmos for guidance and the trip itself, I felt as though I was suffering from a chest cold almost the whole time. There are layers of connections and intricate relationships between spirits that seem as though they need to be navigated very carefully. My companions were very interesting... Tahki seems very interested in causing the most chaotic option at all points. Part of that might be this Chaos entity that she kept referring to, however when it came time to engage with magic, she was very good at distracting those who were assaulting us.
Mara is... well I suppose my problem is that I do not have an end to that sentence. She is a capable mage, and clearly powerful, especially once she was joined by that spirit of War that we came across, but we don't know anything about her, other than that the spirits of Man did not care for her. I put my word and reputation on the line to protect her when we first arrived, and perhaps I didn't make the greatest impression. There are certain old stories from back home that make me wary. Babylon making a deal with that Seducer spirit to get us a deal with the gumtoad was ill-advised in my eyes, but I suppose it gave us a chance to get through the barrier without injuring ourselves.
There was a brief moment of... I suppose bliss is the only word that I can have to describe it, it felt as though I was finally in space, but then we were out and into someplace horrible again. Perhaps that is what motivated me to do what I did. We were in a desperate spot and I was able to get Babylon and Mara out of the area before I brought down comets on myself. I felt more than mana flowing out of me, and at the end of it, it was only because of Mara's healing that I was able to survive.
There is still much to be done, but perhaps this magical talent I have is not the curse that I once thought it was. There is more out there, and if I can help those who have helped me, then perhaps I should embrace it more. I will have to think on this in my time off guarding this focus.
Finally, after months of planning and waiting the wheels are in motion to deal with this Jack matter once and for all. I must say I'm rather proud of myself - assembling a team like this and working behind the back of the Black Lodge to acquire the formula before Herenight could get his hands on it. The quest was a harrowing one, but we pulled it off in the end, even if it involved swearing vengeance on that gum toad and making a pact with Seducer in the process; I find my inhibitions a small price to pay for not being bent over a barrel by that creature, and soon we will return to take vengeance on the anansi's behalf.
It was good to have Tahki along, she has been a good friend to me for some time now and was an asset on the journey; I do hope that she got something out of all of this and enjoyed the trip to the metaplanes despite the risk it entailed. Mara I have not worked with before, but her reputation for sorcery preceded her and she proved to be both skilled, knowledgeable, and willing to put herself at risk in combat with those spirits - I'm sure she will make a valuable ally when we return to deal with that gum toad, especially after she made that pact with the spirit of war. Stargazer was lovely to work with as always, and proved exceptionally courageous when she called down those comets upon herself and the spirits to save Mara and myself, not to mention taking the formula to keep it safe. All without asking anything in return too... I owe her a great debt for that.
I cannot say the formula itself was what I expected, even after the vision granted by Cosmos - to find that it was a piece of myself, some facet that formed the core of Jack's ability to empathize with metahumanity... well, it has me doing a lot of thinking. To see those apparitions there as well, especially the one of Mary Jane... it was harrowing to say the least. I fear what will happen next, now that the formula is in hand. I suppose we can only wait to find out how this will all turn out.