So, Amaeren Colby and her cohorts, sans one, made it through the Living Lands to Philadelphia, which was a relief. Tyche was kind of crazy for the duration of our trip through, and I guess we have to go back through it again…but I digress.
Two weeks ago (so the session on March 26), we found the skinchanger that we hadn’t encountered since Aysle that had come back to haunt us. He had, several days previous, kidnapped Grace’s family and held them for ransom: Grace’s symbiote, “Rosebud.” Albert (our master of things…crazy and Ourosh) had determined that if what he could glean from his reasearch and the notes of a man named Leon (who I suspect now was part of the Order of Cincinnatus, or something, which is probably why he told me my brother wanted to see me…but I digress again) that the skinchanger could only be unraveled using a ritual and the blood of a true shapeshifter–which was what Leon had been following across the broken United States of America back to Philadelphia. (Note to self: ask Kurst why Leon was following him.) So that gave us something to do, and an excuse to get an Edenios shaman-type to help us (Strange life help get rid of Corrupted Life? …that’s about right, Enoch, yes, thank you) find “corrupted life” (the skinchanger) and the “strange life” (the shapeshifter).
So we crossed the Mississippi and made it through the very nasty barrier between Core Earth and the Living Land. The fairy didn’t fare so well, and the Kadandrin (Amarant) had to burn most of the possibilities he’d earned in the previous scene to make it through as himself and not a stick-wielding savage. Most of us had some possibility energy burned out of us in the transition (even me — I rolled decently, but the axiom difference was way high, so I still lost a possibility even with my incredible total in Reality). And then began our strange trek through the Living Lands, which I won’t bore anyone who happens to be reading this, I’ll just get to the good parts. After explaining sleeping to Enoch (the Eidenos that’s decided to guide us until he can watch us probably get pwned by “strange life” and “corrupted life”) and what we ate, we walked for a few days (how can you tell? The sun never sets.) until we finally found the shapeshifter (“strange life”) in a clearing. Albert gets naked and blessed by Lanla…then goes to chat.
The first thing the shapeshifter says is something along the lines of “My god man! Where are your pants?!” Perfect Victorian accent.
Brief hilarity ensues, then the shit hits the fan. Skinchanger shows up, having eaten an Eidenos, among other things.
Combat ensues, including everyone except for Odette (our Cyberpapacy heretic God-wielding Xena-when-no-one’s-lookin’ sixteen year old girl-child) and me ending up backhanded into trees. The only reason Odette and I didn’t suffer that fate was because we knew we were useless in this fight…and were covering Albert during the fight so he could make the amulet to unravel the skinchanger. (I should mention that the fairy was completely unconscious during this particular section of the game because of player absence that week).
And then Albert drops the bombshell: someone with incredible faith has to plunge the amulet into the skinchanger’s heart.
Well isn’t that just frakkin’ peachy? Odette’s elected, since faith is definately her money skill. But even her faith isn’t enough. So I run up behind her, shove our Eternity Shard into her hand and tell her to use it to help.
So it works. And we’re betrayed. Betrayed by cute little Odette, who’s apparently possessed and not really herself. Or is herself. Or something. None of it makes much sense yet, other than she walked up a Dimthread with Wraith to go see the pope. With our Eternity Shard, the Starfire Wheel. The weapon of hope.
Albert and I look at each other, say a bad word, and run for the Dimthread…and bounce off.
That was the 26 March gaming session. Then there was last night.
Last night found us at the beginning still in that clearing, with a goo-covered skinchanger (now bereft of all the skins he’d stolen, now just an old man in a yucky pile of goo) and the shapeshifter staring at us. And Amarant’s RI is going crazy in his brain and has changed his administrator password. The fairy’s babbling nonsense in my ear and the shapeshifter wants to know what we’re going to do with goo-man. We’re definately thinking about killing him. Shapeshifter looks at Grace, who the skinchanger had hurt the most.
“You strike me as one that’s like Decker. You’d say something stupid like ‘Don’t kill him, he could be useful. He could be saved.’ Or something like that.”
Grace had been ready to kill what was left inside of the goo, but damn her black and white Nile Empire morality. She couldn’t do it. And what the shapeshifter said stopped Albert or Amaeren from doing it for her (never mind that Amaeren is suddenly wondering how the shapeshifter knows her oldest brother). So we tie up the old man and decide that we’re going to take him back to Philadelphia with us; the shapeshifter is going to take us there.
What does Amarant do? Picks up his plasma rifle and hands it to Amaeren.
“This has a blast radius of approximately thirty feet. I’m going to walk out into the mist. When I’ve reached a safe distance, shoot me.”
…right. I’ve just lost cute thing and now I’m going to kill you? I tried to coldcock him with the rifle and missed. Grace tried to knock him out, too, and failed. So we tied him up, too, and set out on our way.
Enoch is very confused. He doesn’t know what to do. I think…that he’s started to like us and isn’t sure what to do about it. We end up leaving him at the border of the Living Land and Philadelphia after three of us told him “thank you” in one voice.
The shapeshifter has introduced himself as Kurst but hasn’t given us any explanation of anything since apparently (and I believe it!) the jungle has ears. We walk into the killing fields outside of what’s left of Philadelphia and he holds up this coin toward the city. When we ask him what he was doing, he told us that he was letting Decker know he was back.
Amaeren is trying not to show how excited and nervous she is at the same time. That goes out the window when we get into the center of the city and to the museum-cum-command center and Andrew Decker walks out the doors of it and down the steps wearing this…almost ridiculous monk’s robe. It’s the first time she’s seen anyone from her family in months–only the third or fourth time she’s seen one of her brothers since the original bridgefall the year before.
Kurst: “I found some strays.”
Amaeren glomps Decker and hugs him like she’s not going to let go and babbles something about Tolwyn saying he was alive and here and then it trailing off into something less than coherent.
Decker: “Right. Strays.”
Massive plotdump ensues about the nature of the war, the beginning of the war, and the revelation that we’ve actually already encountered easily the scariest High Lord, the Gaunt Man, and seen what a maelstrom does. And we pick up a new member to our crew (the replacement character for Odette’s player), a girl from Tharkoldu named Minlei (though we don’t exactly know where she’s from yet, just that Decker’s sending her with us). At some point, Decker looked at Amaeren and said “You can trust these two as if they were me.” with indications toward Minlei and Kurst. Grace looks at Amaeran. Some minor dialogue ensues which ends with Amaeren saying, “He’s my big brother. I’d trust him with my life.”
Grace: “But would you trust him with ours?”
Amaeren: “That depends on how stupid you’re going to be.”
We eventually ended up in the tactical communications center for the Order of Cincinnatus, which is apparently this secret organization dedicated to ensuring the safety and protection of Earth…in part by ensuring that leaders remain humble and no one individual garners too much power (in hindsight, now that I think about it, it kind of sounds like the Harpers…no wonder that was tugging in the back of my brain last night). Decker mentioned more than once that the Order was one of those things that Amaeren “wasn’t ready for” when she left on assignment for the USMC in Germany.
So we’re in the tactical communications center; Minlei and Tyche and Grace are working on putting Amarant’s brain back together again (he’s been fighting with his RI the entire time, trying to regain full control of his capabilities). And Grace and I…notice stuff. Like a familiar face on one of the screens.
Amaeren feels a lot more relief than she probably should have, but considering how guilty she felt when she left Egypt…
So she wanders up behind Decker, taps him on the shoulder, and casually asks how long he’s been talking to Grant.
Decker: “About five minutes, why?”
That, of course, wasn’t what she meant. In the meantime, Grant has gone pasty on the screen and is all like, “You’re alive!”
And then Amaeren walks out of frame. And he tells her to get back here. And she does.
Grant (the Spider): “You know, you shouldn’t get your carriage drivers eaten. It’s rude!”
Yeah, that didn’t quite register until later, after we broke the news to Frederico DeSoto (yes, Odette, Fred is alive! — Kristie twitched for a good five minutes) about what happened to Odette. Of course, Grace and Amaeren didn’t really want to tell DeSoto about what happened…but…yeah.
Amaeren: “We’ll pick you up.”
Grant: “No, we’ll meet you in France. You need to go to England first. Decker, did you get that last data feed I sent you?”
Grant: “He can explain, then.”
Apparently, Grant didn’t rescue DeSoto from certain doom in Ourosh so he could march off and get himself killed. Apparently, they’re in Jerusalem, and DeSoto has reformed the Knights Templar. Decker takes credit for helping with the name.
Long story short, my brother has lots of explaining to do at some point here, more than what’s come up in front of everyone else thus far.
More hilarity ensued after we left the TacCom center and headed back upstairs for dinner. Albert and Minlei argue about how to fix Amarant’s brain. Tyche and Amarant fix his brain in the midst of the arguing. Grace and Amaeren start drinking and watch with some measure of annoyance (Grace) and mild amusement (Ren). And then Decker comes back and tells us why we have to go to England again: Draconis is breaking free. All the fey have disappeared, except for one–Tyche. Only a fey can open the door to where the others went, and Queen Mab is desperately needed to help secure the Darkness Device again.
So we have to go to England, via Canada, before we go to France and get back our Eternity Shard–and our Odette, perhaps. Though even that’s not as it seems, since Odette was once Mariah…and that’s another thing none of us really understand quite yet, I don’t think. She set out to fix what was going wrong with the Pope when she parted company with Decker, Kurst, and the rest. Seems that either there’s a triplecross going on…or that she’s failed.
Something’s said about contacting a member of the Order if needed, and then Amaeren asks how we’d find them. In response, Decker flips her a coin–the symbol of the Order.
Yup. Lots of explaining to do…